Monday, December 24, 2007

No Christmas for Me

Well, it looks like there will not be a Christmas for me this year. At least not in the manner that most people celebrate. I will be without my family or my friends tonight and tomorrow morning. Santa will not come to my household.

This week I was on-call for work, which is not such a big deal...except that it meant that I was available for an upgrade on Saturday. It should have only taken 3 hours. But an unforeseen issue caused a problem. So, I was up for 42 hours straight...31 of which were spent on this one upgrade and the subsequent issues. And even today again since 7:30am...and continuing now. Lots of other personnel were brought in from the company I work for as well...so it isn't like it was a mistake on the agency's or my part. We all worked until there was at least a good plan in place.

But the result is that I've been busy for a full 2 days...and my family traveled north to Kansas City for Christmas with my parents without me. I think they should have fun there, but I can't help but wish that I was there too.

I could of course try to rush up there after I finish the last tasks I have today for work. But that would put me there after the kids where in bed, and I'd just be there for a couple hours before we'd have to take off again...but this time in two cars. And 1/2 my relatives have left back for Iowa this morning. So, really there is not much point, while I'm still exhausted and a little sick now, to travel.

I'm not feeling sorry for myself though...and don't expect that of any of you who read this either. The birth of Christ is still the point of this holiday, and I will praise Him. So, Happy Christmas to you all, good will to people, and blessings! Appreciate the truly good and pure things you have in your life, because life here is short...and meant to be lived as Christ.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Guess it doesn't matter

I guess my sacrifice, advice, and willingness to stand with people who I thought needed me didn't really matter. Instead I am essentially called a hypocrite, and while they claim to appreciate my friendship...they would rather everyone (including me, I have to assume) to leave them alone, because they are not here to please anyone...they don't fear man...they just fear God, but of course without the litmus of anyone else. Even if I did have sins in my life (as if any of us don't), it doesn't invalidate my observations or understandings...but apparently it does to them. That is a great way to invalidate everyone else's experience, wisdom, or opinions. They probably don't think they are doing that. So, I put my heart out on a limb, and it was handed back to me with a note saying that they don't want to hear any more. Can you appreciate a friendship and tell them to bugger off at the same time? I don't know...as those notions seem opposed to each other. I'm not sure also how exhortation to follow God's ways is actually narcissism either. I guess it doesn't matter...whatever I say that is counter to their decisions is unacceptable to hear now.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

On Friendship

I haven't written for a while about friendship, so I thought I would do so again. Usually I write about friendships when something sparks an issue, but this time there is nothing really acting as a catalyst for my writing...just some thoughts.

Up front, I realize that my outlook on friendship differs from most people's in this country, so far as I can tell. Usually what people in general seem to consider friendship, I would instead consider to be merely an acquaintance with a person. And surprisingly (or perhaps not surprisingly) people in general consider what I call friendship as something reserved only for the person they are married to or dating.

I think this blurs a lot of truths about relationships, feeds a lot of negative stereotypes, and robs people of the possibility of having authentic and reciprocal friendships at all (and perhaps a decent marriage too). And frankly it amounts to people using each other, only being friendly when they need something, and other issues with being taken for granted.

Part of the paradigm could be identified as the the difference between being a 'friend' that catches up with people, or being a present friend that keeps up with another friend. If you are always catching up with people...then I truly doubt that you are actually friends. Perhaps you like each other, and appreciate each other's company at times, when it is convenient. But that isn't friendship.

Real relationships keep up. They make time for each other so that they can share in each other's lives. Sure...there are time when we have busyness catch up with us. Being busy and taking care of life when it comes up is not a bad thing. But if you are ALWAYS busy and simply don't have time for people...having to 'catch up' all the time...then consider that you are not really friends with those people, or at least presently you are not being a friend to them. You are robbing yourself of a friendship, and robbing them of a friendship.

We honestly have very few chances in life to make real, close friends. People are myopic about their life, job, spouse, hobby, or some other commitment of time for the most part. So, I feel like there is always ample opportunity to make acquaintances, and easy to keep those acquaintances for the most part.

So, I hope that you all take from this that there is more to friendships than is generally thought about. Take time for each other...be vulnerable with your feelings...support and depend on each other...encourage each other...be part of each other's lives. None of those things should be exclusive to a marriage. Real friendships keep up with each other and are reciprocal.

You generally have a very limited time on this Earth, and you don't always know how much time you actually get. Don't waste your relationships.

Friday, December 07, 2007

'Tis the season for being busy

Tis the season for being busy. Work, family, holidays, Christmas shopping, obligation, expectations, travel, workaholism, etc. My own busy week is a reminder of this 'acceptable addiction' to work and busy-ness. In a number of C.S. Lewis' writings he mentions that distractions in life, keeping a person busy, and rationalizing your actions are seemingly innocent, but in reality are some of the enemy's best tools against our relationship with Christ. And in the midst of being distracted we justify everything from idolatry, to many other sins.

To borrow from a sermon that I'll list a link to at the end of this e-mail....this is a question of which kind of person we are from the examples of Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-42.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

In this story, you have to take into account that a woman's place in Jewish culture was to take care of the home, the meal arrangements, cooking, etc. Women didn't get to sit with the teacher or rabbi and learn from them. So, Mary breaks from being busy with preparations for a meal, taking care of the house, taking care of the family...to do something that is forbidden in their culture...sit at the feet of Jesus and spend time with him. Martha gets upset at this, and goes to Jesus directly to get him to tell Mary to take her place helping her with all the work. But Jesus says that Mary has chosen what is better, and that will not be taken from her.

Which person are we? Are we Mary or Martha? Do we reject the conventions of the world we live, revolt against the busyness of all the things that always need to be done, and take time to have what really makes a difference in our lives (like Mary)? Or do we become myopic and consumed with the 'preparations' of life...all its tasks to complete...and put that obstacle in front of faith and relationship with Jesus (like Martha)?

Once we have those obstacles in front of our relationship with Jesus...how much do we become willing to justify? How must sin? How many unwise choices that seem fine in the world's eyes? We we rationalize more and more poor choices and sin, we prevent ourselves from receiving the life that Jesus freely gives...and then sit in wonderment about why things seem so unfair in life, or so complicated.

After all...the devil waits like a predator looking for whom he may devour. But we are supposed to have our eyes fixed on the Lord, and let go of the anxieties of this world, let go of the distractions, let go of the appetite for 'stuff' the world has to offer.

Our value, our identity, our source of love, and our source of energy is Christ. And out of that comes the outpouring of life and goodness into the rest of the areas of our lives. So, my friends, this season remember what is truly important. If you are 'busy', remember that life is not about busyness. If you are distracted by 'stuff' or sin, remember that Christ wants to forgive you and replace that with life and love. If you are apart from your relationship with God...that he is the only place that love is derived from. And if you are apart from the relationships God has given you in your life, remember that our time on the earth is short and easily squandered.

Remain in Christ, and He will remain in you. And from there (and only there) will your life spill over positively to those around you.

Blessings,

Evan

BTW....here is that link:

11/18/2007 – A Better Way, Greg Boyd – sermon length is 51:20 minutes
Luke's story of Mary and Martha is very relevant for our culture: like Martha, we are obsessed with working and producing, even in the church! It's clear that Mary's "better way" revolts against simply "doing" and prioritizes a relationship with Christ. When that's in place, the kingdom will naturally flow from us. But the opposite is not true. We'll never get a relationship with Jesus by focusing on what we do. Greg also ties this important lesson to marriages.
http://media.whchurch.org/2007/2007-11-18_Boyd_A-Better-Way_64kbps.mp3

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

On Being Transformed

This weekend in the message from church on Sunday and in conversation with some people whom are close to me, and whom I respect their direction, I have come again to be reminded of something that is very simple, but yet overlooked so very often in our lives as believers in Christ.

Often times we want to take our lives, our desires, our families, our friends, and definitely our plans...and try our best to make them good or set things in motion the way we would want them. Then after we have put our own plans into action...we want God to bless that...or more prudently, we want to put God into the plan we set in motion. Now, I'm not judging the 'rightness' or 'wrongness' of our plans in life...as I'm sure that all people do what they believe is right...and do what they believe is doing their best. So, those things aren't in question.

Prov 14:12
There is a way which seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.

But I think that real 'success' in managing life, and having abundant life (as well as avoiding tons of sins and snares), comes from putting God first in our lives...as a real Lord of who we are. Putting him in front of our families, our friendships, our work, our hobbies, our desires, our hopes, our dreams, and our plans. If we do this...and get our value, worth, and love from Him first...then that overflows into the rest of the pieces in our lives. And in terms of plans...it may open our eyes to what plans God would like us to be part of...and perhaps that would change our minds about our own plans in many things. Of course if we don't do things that way...then the likelihood of us not being fixated on our own ways and plan is pretty much nil.

Prov 1:7
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge...

Everything trickles down from there....our acknowledgment of God is the beginning, not the middle, and not an afterthought to try to get blessed.

John 4:14
Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

And I don't believe that just means myopically 'being saved'. This is the outpouring for us to live this life in His Kingdom...even here.

So...when we think that life is not good...or that life is taking control of us...or that we are just being swept up in things...or that we must be doing something wrong. Perhaps we have, indeed. Perhaps we are merely reaping the consequences of the life, or plans, or ways, or even sins...that we chose. It doesn't seem so 'mere' after you realize that you've been living on your own, only inviting Jesus in when it is convenient for you, or when you are ready to share your plans with him. Put him first...and let him guide your paths. Not the other way around.

Anyway, my friends...this is what I've been learning with pain in my own life and with 'my' plans. We to be transformed by Him, and take all thoughts captive, and be blameless in our actions, and express love that points people back to Christ, not away from Him.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Reposts from Greg Boyd - "The Worst Heresy"

The following are reposts of some entries on Greg Boyd's blog, starting with a picture of Jesus washing the feet of prominent political figures of our time that stirred up a lot of controversy.

Evan






(original link to picture)




I'd like you to consider something.

The New Testament defines agape love by pointing us to Jesus Christ (I Jn 3:16). To love someone is treat them like Jesus has treated you -- dying for you while you were yet a sinner.

The New Testament tells us that the command to love (= looking like Jesus Christ) is the greatest command, encompassing all others ( Lk 10:27; Rom. 13:8, 10; Ja 2:8). It tells us everything else in the law hangs on our fulfilling this law (Mt 22:27-40). It tells us that love is to be placed above all else (Col 3:14; I Pet 4:8). It tells us that everything we do is to be done in love (I Cor. 16:14). It tells us that nothing has any Kingdom value apart from love, however impressive things may be in and of themselves (I Cor. 13:1-3). It tells us that the only thing that ultimately matters is faith energized by love (Gal. 5:6). And it tells us that this love is to be given to all people at all times, including our enemies (Lk 6:27-35) . Indeed, Jesus makes loving our enemies the pre-condition for being considered "children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked" (Lk 6:35). We're to "be merciful as your Father in heaven is merciful" (Lk 6:36).

This is simply what it means to look like Jesus Christ.

Now follow me: If love is to be placed above all else, if everything else is to be considered worthless apart from love and if everything hangs on fulfilling this one law, how can we avoid the conclusion that refusing to love even our enemies is the worst heresy imaginable? To miss this all important point renders whatever other truth we may possess worthless.

In this light, we have to ask, who is the worse heretic: Michael Servetus who was burned alive for denying that the Son of God was eternal, or Calvin who had him burned alive? Burning someone alive is not loving them, doing good to them or blessing them (Lk 6:27-28, 35). And without love, whatever other truth Calvin may have been defending becomes worthless. If we're thinking biblically, how can we avoid concluding that Calvin was not only a worse heretic than Servetus, but that he committed the greatest heresy imaginable?

But I don't mean to pick on Calvin. Throughout church history from the time of Augustine (who first justified persecution in Jesus' name), millions of people were tortured and murdered for their alleged heresy. Yet, if we're thinking biblically, how can we avoid the conclusion that the Church that carried out this barbarism in Jesus' name was far more heretical than all the heretics it persecuted?

Ironically, while millions were tortured and murdered for having "heretical" views on things like baptism and communion, there's not one episode I know of throughout church history of anyone so much as having their hand slapped because they lacked love.

Yet, everything hangs on this.

Finally, while we have an obligation to distinguish between what is and is not the Kingdom of God, we have to carefully guard against self-righteousness. Rather than feeling righteous by contrasting ourselves with Calvin or any other Christian persecutors from the past, we have to ask ourselves: Are we guilty of the worst heresy imaginable? Do we do everything in love? Do we place love above all other considerations?

Do we love Osama Bin Laden?

Think about it.

Live in love, as Christ loved you and gave his life for you (Eph 5:1-2).

-- Greg Boyd (from "The Worst Heresy Imaginable!")




The last two blogs have generated a bit of a stir. Good! If what I’m saying about the centrality of Calvary-looking love is right, we need a major paradigm shift on how we view orthodoxy – which in turn should effect who we see as the “heroes” of orthodoxy.

My contention is that, while we can and should continue to appreciate the theological insights of people who were involved in torturing and killing people, we should not regard them as heroes of orthodoxy – for they were guilty of the worst heresy imaginable. If we continue to esteem killers as heroes, we can’t help but have our vision of the beautiful Kingdom polluted. Of course, none of our heroes are perfect. But I would think, at the very least, they should not be guilty of the worst heresy imaginable. If we wouldn't make a person who denied the Trinity a hero of orthodoxy, we shouldn't make anyone who kills in Jesus' name a hero either.

A few have questioned my claim that Calvin was responsible for Michael Servetus’ murder. One person argued that Calvin actually tried to stop his execution.

It’s true that Calvin didn’t want Servetus burned alive. He advocated for him to be beheaded. But there’s no reputable Calvin scholar I know of who denies Calvin wanted him executed.

Calvin himself had told his colleague Farel that if Servetus ever returned to Geneva, he’d “never permit him to depart alive, provided my authority be of any avail.” After the burning, Calvin said, "Many people have accused me of such ferocious cruelty that (they allege) I would like to kill again the man I have destroyed. Not only am I indifferent to their comments, but I rejoice in the fact that they spit in my face." Elsewhere Calvin said, "Whoever shall now contend that it is unjust to put heretics and blasphemers to death will knowingly and willingly incur their very guilt.”

Even Calvin’s staunchest defenders (such as B. B. Warfield) grant that Calvin was ultimately responsible for Servetus’ death. They simply minimize his culpability by saying he was “a man of his times.”

I regard this response to be very weak. Jesus and the early Christians lived in very violent times yet refused to conform to them. And there were many Christians during Calvin's time (the 16th century) who argued that the use of violence is inconsistent with the teachings of the New Testament – including Calvin’s former friend Sebastian Castellio and all the early Anabaptists. Not only this, but by most accounts, Calvin’s enthusiasm for the use of force to uphold what he regarded as right doctrine and behavior went far beyond most other religious leaders of his time – including, very often, his own Geneva council.

For those who are interested in doing further reading on this topic, here’s a few works I’ve read that I’d recommend:

* Roland Bainton, The Hunted Heretic. I was fascinated with Servetus when I was at Yale and had a number of talks with the elderly Bainton on his book during this time. This man was a walking encyclopedia on the Reformation. (As a side note, he was close to 90 when I met him, yet was sharp as a whip and rode a bike all around town!)

*John Fulton, Michael Servetus: Humanist and Martyr. An excellent overview of Servetus’ life, thought and death (which Fulton sees as a martyrdom)

*Perez Zagorin, How the Idea of Religious Toleration Came to the West. A very scholarly work that includes a good section on how public outrage toward Calvin's murder of Servetus contributed to Christianity finally become a religion that tolerated religious differences. Sebastian Castellio played a major role in creating this outrage.

*Bernard Cottret, Calvin: A Biography. Argues that Calvin was directly responsible for 38 executions in Geneva (other scholars argue he was at least indirectly responsible for as many as 58).

*Robert M. Kingdon, Adultery and Divorce in Calvin's Geneva. Kingdon is one of the foremost scholars in the world on Geneva under Calvin. This book, published by Harvard Press, relies entirely on original sources and presents an incredibly harsh picture of Geneva under Calvin’s rule. For example, a number of children were imprisoned, tortured and even executed for being disrespectful to parents (though I'm not certain I got this information from this work).

My point in all this is not to pick on Calvin. His defenders are right in at least one respect: Almost all segments of Christianity were killing enemies at this time, and Christianity had been engaged in this sort of barbarism for a thousand years by the time Calvin came on the scene. Tragically, Calvin's murder is not at all unique in the history of this religion. My point is rather that we need to clearly distinguish the Kingdom of God from all such barbarism. And to do this, we must stop making heroes of Christians who killed enemies rather than loving and serving them, as Jesus taught.

-- Greg Boyd (from "Did Calvin Kill Servetus?")

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Blog Tag - albums I'd recommend

I've been blog-tagged by Brooks Hanes to list 3 albums I'd recommend purchasing, if you don't already have them. So, here is my picks (with links!), brother man:

1. "Mute Math" by Mute Math - These guys are pretty amazing. They mingle hard-edged pop with loops and even a bit of reggae, and come out with an album where I am genuinely interested in pretty much every track on the disc. A couple of the guys are from the Springfield, MO area (where I presently live), and the others from New Orleans and Texas. Their shows are excellent...so not only would I recommend their CD...but also their concerts.

2. "Dwell" by Vineyard Music (Casey Corum, Robbie Reider, Sheri Keller, Dave Fife, Jessica Ketola) - This is one of the single most influential recordings in modern worship for perhaps the last 10 years. This CD may not seem any different on the surface than any other worship music recording, but it is aimed at regaining a connection to arranging music that is pleasing as a listening and a worshipping experience (which unfortunately most worship music is cliche and not especially interesting or talented). This aims at regaining a connection to the rest of the music world.

3. "Full Attention" by Jeremy Riddle - Another heavily influential disc in this change of direction with worship music to be concerned about arranging, engineering and using musicianship to engage people in worship. This man has an amazing heart and honesty toward God.

So, there you all go! I hope you enjoy.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Fiction of Life

Walking in the mist
Of my own assumptions
Taken by
The glory of my ways
Just 10 steps
To make it all better
Pick and choose
They say there's no one way

So I walk
Down the road of good intentions
Taking little tastes
Of all the sweet sins here
Turning down
The help of my good brothers
I'm the puppet
And the puppeteer

This is all fiction
Shadow of the real
There is nothing to find here
Nothing to feel

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Circles

From loved to unloved
From attended to ignored
Life moves in circles

Seeing people often
Seeing people seldom
Life moves in circles

Solid in this faith
To wondering why we're made
Life moves in circles

Thinking things are grand
Turning inward yet again
Life moves in circles

From standing well and good
Hiding too sick to move
Life moves in circles

Can't go another round
Can't find what can't be found
Life is too short for circles

I wish I could stop
Moving in
circles

Sunday, October 21, 2007

On Being Alone

I did something today that I haven't done in 20 years. I went outside to the furniture on our deck and I took a nap in the sunlight. It was a nice 72 degrees with a breeze and clear skies. It was very nice.

At the same time it was very lonely. Things are still somewhat up in the air with many people at church, so after the service was over...I just felt very much like an outsider. So I opted to just go home and take a nap. I did really enjoy the nap in the sun. It was peaceful.

But at the same time I realized that when I was young, I had lived in the country about 6 miles from any friend that I had in high-school. My nearest sibling was 6 years younger than me too. So, I spent a huge amount of my time alone. In the summer I would walk through the woods near our house, and in the winter I would make forts in the snow. Otherwise I stayed in my room a lot listening to music, or I played video games. Either way...at the time it never occurred to me that my life was any different than anyone else's.

When things appear normal to you, it doesn't then occur to you to question it. It is only by comparison that we realize things about our own lives. This simple lesson is one that many people never understand.

I now realize that I was alone all the time. And now I don't really like that feeling in comparison to being around people. Some people grew up around people most of the time, so, they like bits of alone time. But either upbringing, it is still not a good things to separate yourself from people as a practice for lengthy time periods. I've been convinced that we are social creatures, and need others.

That is not being needy...nor it is being co-dependent. It is too bad that people don't often understand that either. Wanting to be with your friends is not a bad thing. It shouldn't be made into a problem.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Evaporated

What I've kept with me
And what I've thrown away
Don't know where the hell I've ended up
On this glary, random day
Were the things I really cared about
Just left along the way
For being to pent up and proud

Woke up way too late
Feeling hung over and old
And the sun was shining bright
And I walked barefoot
Down the road
Started thinking about
My old man
It seems that all men
Wanna get into a car and go
Anywhere

Here I stand - sad and free
I can't cry and I can't see
What I've done
God...what have I done

Don't you know I'm numb, man
No I can't feel a thing at all
cause it's all smiles and business
These days
And I'm indifferent to the loss
I've faith that theres a soul somewhere
Who's leading me around
I wonder if she knows
Which way is down...

Here I stand - sad and free
I can't cry and I can't see
What I've done
God...what have I done

I poured my heart out
I poured my heart out
It evaporated. . .see?

Blind man on a canyons edge
Of a panoramic scene
Or maybe I'm a kite
That's flying high and random
Dangling a string
Or slumped over in a vacant room
Head on a strangers knee
I'm sure back home
They think I've lost my mind.


-- Ben Folds

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What is this about?

A number of people have been concerned or at least wondered about my postings of recent. I've been very frustrated with a number of things with life, church, and work as of recent. Quite a number of my expectations have been blown.

But part of this whole thing turned into an observation of some of the 'advice' that I would get from people. It was truly amazing how many people made every suggestion that is essentially stuffing it, without, of course, saying to stuff it.

I don't know why people believe that there is something wrong with acknowledging all the evils in the world, or that many things really indeed are unfair or depressing? The real problem would come in when people simply don't deal with the things before them...and not by stuffing them...but instead by changing their circumstances, adopting new expectations, or perhaps starting a new thing in their lives.

But I think that this is how you know who really cares about you. Those that tell you to buck-up, or just to focus on positive things...they just don't really want to hear you. Those that want to walk with you into change and positive improvement...those are the friends who you want to hold on to, because they are the ones that really care.

Thank you to those of you that cared enough to offer your time to me. It makes a difference.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

I hope things change for the better

I've received a number of e-mails concerning my recent postings from people who know me and had conversations with others about postings of this nature. I've chosen to lay out a number of depressed and sobering thoughts. Not all of the thoughts are necessarily mine, but all of them embody things that I'm at least in the presence of.

I've been wrapped up in my own disappointments, blown expectations, and opportunities taken away...that I've not spent enough time finding joy in the things are there, or people who are there, for me. I've essentially taken for granted a number of people in my life. And to those that I have, I apologize.

But the situations are still there...people still choose to make poor choices...ones that are detriments to their lives even when they think it will amount to the opposite. We are such an arrogant people. We are so self-centered and so self-isolating. We create our own loneliness and most people have zero understanding of community.

Well, this is too big a subject to discuss in this meager blog. I just needed to say that things will change.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

But not for you

I lie awake once more
Staring at the ceiling
Between brief naps
Always interrupted

Recalling the days
That are always in passing
Knowing that all this
Just slips away

Try as you might
To get all you time
To actually matter
But you fail the same

For people do not want this
They want the superficial
They want the easy for them
All for them and nothing else

This is the game
To find the ones that want
For more than this
For something actually shared

This isn't just a woman
That is the question
This is about the real
The real relationships

It the non-self-serving ones
The ones that offer themselves
For the friendship they have to give
Rather than the fair-weather ones

The fair-weathers insulate you
From the things they know that you
Disagree with in their walk
Putting up walls to do what they want

Such a sad and selfish culture
To push people into convenience
To use them, and be the close one
Only when they are in need

But not for you

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Laughter is madness

Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind. For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.

I said to myself, "Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good." But that also proved to be meaningless. "Laughter," I said, "is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?" I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom.

So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. For people may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to others who have not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.

Those who love money never have enough; those who love wealth are never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.

Frustration is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure. It is better to heed the rebuke of a wise person than to listen to the song of fools.

I find more bitter than death the woman who is a snare, whose heart is a trap and whose hands are chains. The man who pleases God will escape her, but the sinner she will ensnare.

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, "I find no pleasure in them"

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Regardless of the cost

Things are in confusion
Words drift past be as leaves on the wind
I understand, I hear you
But rationale has taken its place
No more will I be bothered
By the comments of another person
Their advice is just a glorified
Piece of their opinion
I'm making my own choices
I don't need the advice of others
I choose what is wrong and right
History holds no value to my path
Other people can be there for me
Or they can choose to look away
But I will do as I wish
Regardless of the cost

Monday, September 24, 2007

Shackled

For so long my life's been sewn up tight inside your hold
And it leaves me there without a place to call my own

I know now what shadows can see
There's no point in running 'less you run with me
It's half the distance through the open door
Before you cut me down
Again
Let me introduce you to the end

And I feel the cold wind blowing beneath my wings
It always leads me back to suffering
But I will soar until the wind whips me down
Leaves me beaten on unholy ground again

So tired now of paying my dues
I start out strong but then I always lose
It's half the distance before you leave me behind
It's such a waste of time

'Cause my shackles
You won't be
And my rapture
You won't believe
And deep inside you will bleed for me

So here I slave inside of a broken dream
Forever holding on to splitting seams
So take your peace and leave me alone to die
I don't need you to keep my faith alive

I know now what trouble can be
And why it follows me so easily
It's half the distance through the open door
Before you shut me down
Again
Let me introduce you to the end

'Cause my shackles
You won't be
And my rapture
You won't believe
And deep inside you will bleed for me

Though you know you care

'Cause my shackles
You won't be
And my rapture
You won't believe
And deep inside you will bleed for me

And my laughter
You won't hear
The faster
I disappear
And time will burn your eyes to tears

-- Keith Kane

Monday, September 17, 2007

Love's Lament

We have forgotten
We forget what love is
What it is intended to be
Merely feelings it is not

Press down that heart
It is deceitful, and does not let up
Feeling is the easy part
The virtue is cut out

The Lord has words for love
Found in his commands and ways
Too often lost in the ways of the world
Too often missed in the business of life

My heart is on my sleeve in the open
Right there too be lost, won, or neglected
We trade the good and pure, for the easy and corrupt
To love is to be in pain

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The unquenchable desire to sin

I don't want to be one of you
But I don't have much choice in the matter
My heart is through and though
Made of the same stuff as everyone else
We convince ourselves of the worst things
We let ourselves believe exactly what we want
Throw closed doors in the way of the rushing truth
Until we can't even hear him knocking
But we have what we want
And we feel happy about it
We think at this point that we are healed
But we are just left deaf and blind and numb

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Book of Job endorses God's responsibilities for disasters?

I've had a few discussions on this very topic. It is a pretty difficult subject, so I'm glad Greg decided to approach this question and respond to the blog the other gentleman wrote.


------

The 35W Bridge Collapse and the Book of Job
By Greg Boyd

On my August 9th blog, I argued that there’s no reason to suppose that God was involved in the collapse of the 35 W bridge. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the amount of blog activity this has generated.

On one particular blog a person argues that my view is inconsistent with the book of Job. He writes:

[Boyd’s] view fails to make sense of texts like the biblical book of Job. In Job, it’s very clear that Satan caused all of Job’s suffering. It’s also very clear that God controls every move Satan makes—such that when Job says that “the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away” (Job 1:21), the narrator says that “in all this Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:10; cf. 1:22). In other words, even though Satan was at work to destroy Job’s life through a series of calamities, Job did not err when he said that the Lord was ultimately behind everything that happened to him. (http://www.dennyburk.com/?p=832#more-832).

This blogger is raising two points from the book of Job against my theology:

1) God controls every move Satan makes.

2) Job’s statement that “the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away” (Job 1:21) is a view the narrator endorses.

Hence this blogger concludes that God, not Satan, was the ultimate cause of Job’s sufferings. And so, by implication, God, not Satan, was the ultimate cause of the 35 W bridge collapse.

I beg to differ. I’ll briefly make four points from the book of Job against this argument.

1) First, it's interesting that Satan was not one of the invited guests to the council meeting of the “sons of God” (1:6-7; 2:1). Indeed, Yahweh is surprised to see him! He asks Satan, “Where have you been?” and Satan answers, “going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it” (1:7; 2:2). Far from controlling “every move Satan makes,” Yahweh didn't even know where he was! Now, I grant that we’re dealing with epic poetry here, so we shouldn’t press the narrative for metaphysical details about the going-ons of the heavenly realm. But at the very least the point of the passage is to show that, unlike the sons of God (the angels), Satan is not under Yahweh’s control. Indeed, Yahweh has to protect people like Job from him (1:10).

2) It’s true that Job didn’t sin at first, even when he said “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.” But that’s not the same as saying the author of this work is endorsing this theology. Consider the fact that at the end of this book the author depicts Yahweh commending Job for speaking “right” (koon), in contrast to Job’s friends (42:7). Yet, Yahweh strongly rebukes Job for the theology he espoused throughout this work (chs 37-41) and Job himself says “[s]urely I spoke of things I did not understand” (Job 42:3) and repents of it (42:6).

How can Yahweh say Job spoke “right” when he nevertheless corrects his theology and Job himself repents of it? The Hebrew word translated “right” (koon) has the connotation of “straight.” Yahweh commended Job for being honest, not for speaking theological truth. So too, the fact that the author says that Job didn’t sin or accuse God of wrong doing (1:22; 2:10) in the first part of the book when Job exclaimed “the Lord gave and the Lord takes away” does not mean the author is endorsing his theology.

3) If you examine what Job actually says about God throughout this book, it's very clear the author has no intention of endorsing his theology. For example, throughout the narrative Job depicts God as a cruel tyrant who controls everything. “When disaster brings sudden death,” Job exclaims:

[God] mocks at the calamity of the innocent.
The earth is given into the hand of the wicked;
He covers the eyes of its judges –
If it is not he, who then is it?
(Job 9:23-24, cf. 21:17-26, 30-32; 24:1-12)

According to Job, God mockingly laughs at the misfortunes of the innocent and causes judges to judge unjustly! Can anyone imagine a biblical author endorsing this perspective? Of course not.

So too, consider verses like this:

What is the Almighty, that we should serve him?
And what profit do we get if we pray to him?
(Job 21:15)

From the city the dying groan,
And the throat of the wounded cries for help;
Yet God pays no attention to their prayer.
(Job 24:12)

When victims of injustice cry for help, Job says God pays no attention to their prayers. Are we to believe that this is the view the author is recommending?

Yet Job’s depiction of God is even harsher when he considers the injustice of his own state. For example, Job cries out to the Lord:

Your hands fashioned and made me;
And now you turn and destroy me (Job 10:8).

Bold as a lion you hunt me;
And repeat your exploits against me…
Let me alone;
that I might find a little comfort (Job 10:9, 20)

You have turned cruel to me;
And with the might of your hand you
persecute me (Job 30:21).

And to his friends Job testifies:

…God has worn me out;
he has made desolate all my company.
And he has shriveled me up…
He has torn me in his wrath, and hated me;
He has gnashed his teeth at me;
my adversary sharpens his eyes
against me (Job 16:7-9, cf. 11-17).

With violence he seizes my garment;
He grasps me by the collar of my tunic… (Job 30:18)

Are we to believe that these are theological insights the author of this work is recommending to his readers? Are we to view God as our “adversary” instead of our “advocate” (cf. Jn 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7; I Jn 2:1)? Are we to believe that our comfort is to be found when God leaves us alone (Job 10:20) rather than when he is with us? Doesn’t the God Job describes in these passages sound much more like “a roaring lion… looking for someone to devour” – in other words, “your adversary the devil” (I Pet 5:8)? Of course it does, which is why Job later confesses “I have spoken of things I did not understand” (Job 42:3) and proclaims, “I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6).

When the despairing Job complained, “Your hands fashioned and made me; And now you turn and destroy me” (10:8), he was simply expressing, though in somewhat less pious terms, the same view of God when he earlier said, “the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.” Though his willingness to submit changed to rage as his despair deepened, his view of God remained the same thoughout this book. In essence, Job consistently expressed (in increasingly impious language) a mistaken, omni-controlling, Calvinistic view of God. And this is the theology God rebukes Job for and that Job repents of! It’s not the view the book is recommending.

4) As a final piece of evidence that the book of Job isn’t recommending Job’s omni-controlling theology, consider what God says to Job when he finally shows up at the end of this book. In the concluding speeches, God no more acknowledges Job’s omni-controlling theology than he does the omni-controlling theology of Job’s friends. Yahweh doesn’t say, “I’m God and I have the right to bring misery on whoever I want.” Rather, he refutes this theology and puts both Job and his friends in their place by alluding to two facts: humans are ignorant about the vastness and complexity of the cosmos (chs. 37-38) and humans are ignorant about the enormity of the powers of chaos (Leviathan and Behemoth) that God must contend with (chs. 39-41). Yahweh chides Job by basically saying, “Do you have a clue as to how vast and complex this creation is?” and “Do you think you can do a better job fighting the forces of evil I contend with?” (On this, see chapter 4 in my book Is God to Blame?)

If God was controlling everything, then there obviously would be no point for God to bring up the unfathomable complexity of creation or his warfare against powers of chaos. If God is controlling everything, such matters are utterly irrelevant. In fact, if God was controlling everything, there’d be no point for God to show up at the end of the book and correct Job and his friends – for this is basically the theology they both espouse.

God’s appeal to the complexity and war-torn nature of the cosmos is significant precisely because it shows that God is not an omni-controlling deity, and that because we humans have next to no understanding of this complexity or the spiritual battles that engulf it, we should not be quick to attribute catastrophes to God.

In fact, we should follow Jesus example and not attribute catastrophes to God at all (Lk 13:1-5).

A lot more could be said, and needs to be said (see my aforementioned book if you’re interested), but this blog is already way too long. Hopeful what I’ve said has been adequate to refute the view that the book of Job depicts God as controlling “every move Satan makes” and the view that Job’s statement that “the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away” (Job 1:21) is a view the author of this book endorses.

And, hopefully, this has further helped readers accept a theology that doesn’t credit the collapse of the 35W bridge and the death and suffering it brought about on the Almighty.

God is not our adversary. Satan is.

Monday, August 27, 2007

God's Warriors - The Heretic

This is an interview that Christine Amanpour did of Greg Boyd for a special called "God's Warriors" that aired on CNN. Greg did a wonderful job of representing a problem I agree is epidemic in Christianity right now.

Happy Days in Government

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has resigned. :-)

President Bush is expected to make a statement about Gonzales at 11:50 a.m. from his ranch in Crawford, Texas, where he has been vacationing. [AGAIN!]

...

Although Bush had long stood by Gonzales, many members of Congress from both sides of the aisle had called on him to quit after the firing of several U.S. attorneys in 2006.

"Alberto Gonzales was never the right man for this job," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Monday. "He lacked independence, he lacked judgment, and he lacked the spine to say no to Karl Rove." Rove, another longtime Bush official and his top political adviser, also resigned this month.

"This resignation is not the end of the story," Reid warned. "Congress must get to the bottom of this mess and follow the facts where they lead, into the White House."


Attorney General Gonzales resigns, officials say
(CNN, August 27, 2007)

This is shortly after Carl Rove had also resigned. Ahh...I wonder what other legal bogs are pressing this series of resignations? And I wonder what media zoo will ensue once they would like the spotlight off of them? Guess we will wait and see!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Fake Christian Caring

I've had it with fake Christian sentiment. I'm tired of people greeting me and then greeting me another day like they've never seen me before. I'm tired of people seeming interested in who you are...but then they can't remember your name the next time you see them. I'm tired of being invited to activities, especially work ones, were you meet a whole bunch of people for an activity, but then you might as well have never met anyone at all.

I'm tired of acquaintances who act all friendly, but then couldn't give a crap about you. I'm tired of people who only come to you when they have a need, but otherwise are all about their own life. I'm tired of relationships where you always get the short end of the stick.

I'm tired of being part of this crowd that is dead to the idea of community and authentic friendship. I'm tired of the completely irrelevant conversations about the weather, the world's most recent tragedy, or how busy you all are with whatever.

I'm tired of people not interested in their elder's experience, or those that think the only way learning happens is to experience something (usually something wrong). I'm tired of people making excuses for their own willful and habitual wrong. I'm tired of people who act concerned when you are in need, but they really don't want to help you out, instead they just want to know about it.

I'm tired of finding all this crap most of the time in the church. Tell you what...if you really don't give a shit and want to know who I am...don't greet anyone and certainly don't feign interest in people. Number of us aren't going to stand for that anymore.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Why your freedom of speech means essentially nothing

Do you actually have freedom of speech if you only have it in the privacy of your own home? Even people in communist nations and religious nations have that.

Update: Here is the Presidential Advance Manual (PDF) itself.

White House Manual Details How to Deal With Protesters

By Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 22, 2007; A02

Not that they're worried or anything. But the White House evidently leaves little to chance when it comes to protests within eyesight of the president. As in, it doesn't want any.

A White House manual that came to light recently gives presidential advance staffers extensive instructions in the art of "deterring potential protestors" from President Bush's public appearances around the country.

Among other things, any event must be open only to those with tickets tightly controlled by organizers. Those entering must be screened in case they are hiding secret signs. Any anti-Bush demonstrators who manage to get in anyway should be shouted down by "rally squads" stationed in strategic locations. And if that does not work, they should be thrown out.

But that does not mean the White House is against dissent -- just so long as the president does not see it. In fact, the manual outlines a specific system for those who disagree with the president to voice their views. It directs the White House advance staff to ask local police "to designate a protest area where demonstrators can be placed, preferably not in the view of the event site or motorcade route."

The "Presidential Advance Manual," dated October 2002 with the stamp "Sensitive -- Do Not Copy," was released under subpoena to the American Civil Liberties Union as part of a lawsuit filed on behalf of two people arrested for refusing to cover their anti-Bush T-shirts at a Fourth of July speech at the West Virginia State Capitol in 2004. The techniques described have become familiar over the 6 1/2 years of Bush's presidency, but the manual makes it clear how organized the anti-protest policy really is.

The lawsuit was filed by Jeffery and Nicole Rank, who attended the Charleston event wearing shirts with the word "Bush" crossed out on the front; the back of his shirt said "Regime Change Starts at Home," while hers said "Love America, Hate Bush." Members of the White House event staff told them to cover their shirts or leave, according to the lawsuit. They refused and were arrested, handcuffed and briefly jailed before local authorities dropped the charges and apologized. The federal government settled the First Amendment case last week for $80,000, but with no admission of wrongdoing.

The manual demonstrates "that the White House has a policy of excluding and/or attempting to squelch dissenting viewpoints from presidential events," said ACLU lawyer Jonathan Miller. "Individuals should have the right to express their opinion to the president, even if it's not a favorable one."

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said that he could not discuss the manual because it is an issue in two other lawsuits.

The manual offers advance staffers and volunteers who help set up presidential events guidelines for assembling crowds. Those invited into a VIP section on or near the stage, for instance, must be " extremely supportive of the Administration," it says. While the Secret Service screens audiences only for possible threats, the manual says, volunteers should examine people before they reach security checkpoints and look out for signs. Make sure to look for "folded cloth signs," it advises.

To counter any demonstrators who do get in, advance teams are told to create "rally squads" of volunteers with large hand-held signs, placards or banners with "favorable messages." Squads should be placed in strategic locations and "at least one squad should be 'roaming' throughout the perimeter of the event to look for potential problems," the manual says.

"These squads should be instructed always to look for demonstrators," it says. "The rally squad's task is to use their signs and banners as shields between the demonstrators and the main press platform. If the demonstrators are yelling, rally squads can begin and lead supportive chants to drown out the protestors (USA!, USA!, USA!). As a last resort, security should remove the demonstrators from the event site."

Advance teams are advised not to worry if protesters are not visible to the president or cameras: "If it is determined that the media will not see or hear them and that they pose no potential disruption to the event, they can be ignored. On the other hand, if the group is carrying signs, trying to shout down the President, or has the potential to cause some greater disruption to the event, action needs to be taken immediately to minimize the demonstrator's effect."

The manual adds in bold type: "Remember -- avoid physical contact with demonstrators! Most often, the demonstrators want a physical confrontation. Do not fall into their trap!" And it suggests that advance staff should "decide if the solution would cause more negative publicity than if the demonstrators were simply left alone."

The staff at the West Virginia event may have missed that line.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Did God Cause the 35W to Collapse?

I've heard a number of people are that have implicated God in this disaster, and a friend of mine who blogged about the 35W tragedy also...which I'm happy that he chose not to implicate God, though he does very much believe as John Piper does, whom Greg is referring to in the following blog repost. John Piper has a history of claiming that God is behind tsunamis that killed thousands, and that God would be justified in killing any of us at any time. Not a very good view of the example Jesus brought to us as the real view of the Father? Eh? Anyway....read on.


"Why the 35W Bridge Collapsed" by Greg Boyd

As all of you know, I’m sure, a little over a week ago the 35W bridge in Minneapolis collapsed. This is the most traveled bridge in Minnesota. It was a tragedy, though the fact that only 13 people died and/or are presumed dead is really amazing, especially given that this happened at the peak of rush hour. The catastrophe is rendered especially poignant by the fact that it involved the failure of human-made structure we instinctively trust. Like the Titanic, this collapsed bridge has become a symbol of our perpetual vulnerability.

It’s also an occasion for theological reflection. A prominent local pastor in the Twin Cities reports that the night of the collapse his eleven-year-old daughter wanted to pray that people wouldn’t blame God for the event. He told her this was a good prayer since “blame” implies God did something wrong. He assured her God let the bridge fall, in part because he wanted people in Minneapolis to “fear him.” But, he assured his daughter, God isn’t to “blame” because he did nothing wrong (www.desiringgod.org/Blog/745).

In this same blog the pastor discusses Luke 13:1-5 where Jesus responds to two catastrophes: Pilates' slaughtering of some Galileans and the fall of the tower of Siloam that killed 18 people. About both events Jesus asked his audience, “Do you think these people were more guilty than anyone else? No. But unless you repent, you will all perish” (vs. 3-4, my paraphrase). This pastor interprets Jesus to be saying that “everyone deserves to die,” for “all of us have sinned against God.” And this, he insists, is “the meaning of the collapse of this bridge…”

What is more, this pastor argues that catastrophes like this one are God’s “most merciful message,” since they mean there’s “still time to turn from sin and unbelief and destruction.” For this reason, the message of the collapsed bridge is “the most precious message in the world.”

Now, I respect this pastor as a man of God, but this teaching honestly concerns me. I’ll make four points in response to this blog.

First, his interpretation of Luke 13:1-5 assumes that God was somehow involved in Pilate’s massacre and the falling tower of Siloam. He thinks Jesus was teaching that the ultimate reason the Galileans were massacred and the tower fell on people was because “everyone deserves to die,” and Jesus was simply saying to his audience; “You’re as guilty as they are, and you’ll die too if you don’t repent.” But where in the text is there any suggestion Jesus assumed God had anything to do with either of these catastrophes?

In fact, if you read on five more verses, you come upon another catastrophe Jesus confronted: a woman who had been deformed for 18 years. Rather than assuming that God was somehow involved in this deformity, Jesus says this woman was bound by Satan (13:16). He then manifested God’s will by healing her.

This is what we find throughout the Gospels. They uniformly identify infirmities (sickness, disease, deformities, disabilities) as being directly or indirectly the result not of God’s punishing activity, but of Satan’s oppressive activity. So it is that Peter summarized Jesus’ ministry by saying he was anointed “with the Holy Spirit and power” and “went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil” (Ac 10:38).

In light of this, I see no reason to accept the assumption that drives this pastor's exegesis.

Second, while I agree with this pastor that all people are sinners who deserve to die, I wonder how the death of Christ factors into all this. Scripture teaches that Jesus died “not just for our sins, but for the sins of the whole world” (I Jn 2:2). If so, then why is God still in the business of physically punishing people for their sins by sending catastrophes? Wasn’t Jesus’ sacrifice enough?

Certainly God has the right to punish people by taking back the life he gives when he sees fit (e.g. Acts 5:9-10). But in the light of Calvary – and the entire ministry of Jesus – why should we think that this is his post-Christ ordinary mode of operation? Isn’t the Good News good precisely because, despite our sin, Jesus came to give us abundant life (Jn 10:10)?

Third, and closely related to this, the model of God bringing about disasters to punish people is rooted in the Old Testament. Here we several times find God using nature and human agents to punish people. (Though even back then this wasn’t God’s normal mode of operation). But in these contexts, God first gives ample warning about a coming judgment and he tells people exactly what he is doing. Punishment without teaching is not pedagogically effective.

Imagine a parent saying to their child, “I’m going to spank you whenever I want to but not tell you why.” It just doesn’t work!

Now, God is no longer working within the framework of the Old Covenant in which these judgments have meaning, so we have no reason to think God is still trying to teach people lessons by sending disasters. But even if were to suppose he was still operating this way, where are the warnings and the teachings? If God was in fact collapsing the bridge to make people in Minneapolis “fear him,” as this pastor claims, why didn’t God establish a context where the people would understand what God was up to and have a chance to repent?

I can make my point this way. How many non-believers in Minneapolis do you think interpreted the bridge collapse as an expression of God’s wrath? And of these, how many were moved to turn to God out of fear? I’m thinking it's probably close to zero. If God was trying to get people to fear him, it simply didn’t work. But it did cost a number of lives and inflicted misery and sorrow on many more. It was a harsh spanking without any helpful instruction, and thus was unhelpful while being costly. Is this the way the God revealed in Jesus Christ operates?

Fourth, and finally, if you accept that angels and humans are free agents who thus have the capacity to go against God’s will, there’s simply no need to appeal to a vindictive divine purpose to explain why catastrophes like this collapsed bridge happen. As Scripture depicts the matter, the world is oppressed by rebellious, evil powers that in a variety of ways and at a variety of levels have corrupted nature. As I’ve discussed at length in previous blogs, nothing in nature operates exactly the way God originally intended it to operate.

On top of this, we humans have allowed ourselves to be co-opted in the epoch long battle these powers are waging against God, so we too have become corrupted. We thus don’t have the right priorities, which in part is why bridges we build sometimes collapse. Think about it. To give one illustration, we are generally much quicker to spend billions of dollars on war than we are making sure people are safe (and adequately fed).

There’s undoubtedly plenty of blame to go around for why this bridge collapsed, ranging from fallen cosmic powers to a wrongly prioritized government to the wrongly prioritized people who elected these officials into office without holding them sufficiently accountable. But if you accept that God created a world with free agents, the one being you don’t need to blame is God.

If, on the other hand, you don’t accept that the cosmos is populated with free agents who can therefore make decisions that are contrary to God’s will, then you have an even greater problem. (This is the camp the pastor whose blog I’m discussing is in). For in this case one has to explain how everyone can deserve to die when everything every person has ever done, however sinful, was part of God’s great plan from the start!

Not only this, but if angels and people don’t have free will that can go against God’s will, then it’s no longer adequate to say God “allowed” a bridge to fall. You have to say God “caused” the bridge to fall. Other agents may have been instrumental in bringing about the collapse of the bridge, but they only did what God’s sovereign plan decreed they do. So one is fudging words to say God “allowed” the bridge to fall and that God is not to blame for the bridge falling.

In the end, this view requires that we accept that God punishes people with catastrophes – and then eternally in hell -- for doing precisely what he predestined them to do. Good luck making sense out of that!

I suggest it's far more biblical, and far more rational, to simply say that in a fallen, oppressed world, bridges sometimes collapse -- and leave it at that. Rather than trying to see the vindictive hand of God behind catastrophes, it’s wiser to simply acknowledge that the world is an oppressed place where things sometimes go tragically wrong and focus all of our mental and physical energy turning from our self-centered ways to carry out God’s will “on earth as it is in heaven.”

That, after all, was what Jesus was getting at in Luke 13:1-5.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Ahh...Apple releases a beautiful new iMac

Apple has released their new iMac, and I'm pretty excited about it. They have made a number of updates and enhancements to that product, including the new aluminum casing. Also, iLife has been updated with a number of really useful new features...as well as a new application for their business applications, Numbers.

Frankly Pages kicks Microsoft Word and Publisher's butt, Keynote so completely kicks Powerpoint's butt...that now with Numbers added to their iWork bundle, businesses need to take notice. Also Apple Mail will connect with Exchange servers for e-mail. Think about an easier computing experience.

Here are their product pages:
iMac
iLife
iWork
MacOS X 10.5

Thursday, July 19, 2007

President Exec. Order Supersedes the 5th Amendment

Let's recap what the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states:

"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

Two days ago the President, George W. Bush, gave this executive order rescinded the 5th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America by ordering that a person in the United States can be deprived of life, liberty, and property without due process of law, by order of the Dept. of the Treasury, in cooperation of the Dept. of Defense, against those they believe pose a threat to the reconstruction of Iraq.

Executive Order: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq

(Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, July 17, 2007)

Where is it we live?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Ecumenism and the Pope's Recent Comments

Recently Pope Benedict made a few comments concerning the protestant church, mainly that they are not 'real' churches, because they do not buy that Peter was the first 'Pope' (though Peter himself denied that he was to be followed in the Bible, and pointed people to Christ, and Peter is never mentioned in any early Christian Church writing as having any such position in Rome) or that Peter is the foundation of the Christian Church (as Christ is mentioned as the only foundation of the church...the cornerstone...by Peter himself).

This brings up an interesting question concerning ecumenical movements that are prominent in the emergent and 'emerging' churches. Essentially the Catholic Church has denounced the validity of anything that is not Catholic, and those who follow those non-Catholic churches. In my opinion it should have been the other way around a long time ago...the Christian Church should have ousted the Catholics..as it is time to recognize that the Catholic Church is not Christian, regardless of their using Christ's name.

If they were Christian, then they wouldn't pray through a dead woman as the liaison to God (Mary as the Mediatrix). Or pray to or through other dead persons, like the Saints. They wouldn't resort to rituals to earn their hope of salvation through the organization of the Catholic Church, which holds people's salvation over them like a carrot that they actually hold. There are a thousand other doctrines they hold that could be spoken of here that have nothing to do with the Christian Scriptures, but all to do with traditions they have made up through the years.

So, not to merely pick on the organization of the Catholic Church, but there are hundreds of other 'protestant' churches that make up their own rules and beliefs outside of the Christian Scriptures as well, or who believe in a Jesus of their own design.

In the midst of all this, in the midst of not even being able to agree about the identity of God...why a push for unity among people in the church? What is the basis for that unity? If it isn't Christ, as described to us in the basis for Christian practice...which is the Christian Scriptures (the Bible)...then it would seem that they are just pushing for unity for the sake of the cheap unity that disagreement about Christ himself gives. And what is the point of that?

My take is the take that the apostles had. You can't make up your own version of Christ and be a Christian. There is no unity in Christ outside Him being God and the only foundation of the Christian Church.

Quick note about Buffalo, NY

On Thursday I flew to Buffalo, NY for work. Got to Buffalo in the evening.

Rental car was a new Ford Mustang, which has more blind-spots than a cardboard box, practically. The inside of the car looked like the inside of those toy truck you let your toddlers noodle around the driveway in. The windows roll down just slightly when you open the doors, and back up when you close the doors. That has to be an icy/winter-weather nightmare. Powerful gas-sucker built like Fisher-Price put it together.

I didn't really do anything outside of work other than hang out in the pool at the hotel a little bit. But I didn't really have much time outside of work. The weather there was pretty cool overall.

It was nice to get back to Springfield though. My friend Josh picked me up and drove me home as well. The heat and humidity was actually a welcome thing. It was great to see my girls too.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Does the music matter?

This weekend has been a bit frustrating for me as a musician. I'm supposed to be playing on the worship team for church, but I wasn't able to make the practice this week because of a conflict with work, and church didn't opt to shift the practice from the time they chose. The issue isn't that though...instead it is that I'm so appalled by the chosen tunes being done poorly that honestly...I'm embarrassed to play the songs as they are from the recording of the practice. Sound vain?

Is it more humble to play poorly executed music if you knew that people would cringe if you did that to non-church cover-tunes in a coffee shop or concert? Or songs that are in the wrong time or playing the wrong chords? Some people would argue that this is 'worship' and therefore as long as the people are 'able' to worship that the fact that the chords are all wrong shouldn't matter. Well then...my question is return is: then why are we playing music? Can't we 'worship' just fine without music? Or without these specific tunes?

I think that we choose the songs that we do specifically because we believe the choices DO matter. And since I think that it is reasonable to give my best musicianship that I'm able (not that I'm really all that good in the first place) in serving people with music (to bring people into a place where they can comfortably connect to praising God in song), I therefore think that the music we have chosen should be played well. We have a number of really accomplished and good musicians in the church...so I see no reason to simplify arrangements, dumb down the arrangements, or simply get the arrangement wrong. Doing so isn't 'creative license'. It is just bad music.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Just another example of Cheney's evils

Dick Cheney, who recently stated that the Office of the Vice President isn't part of the Executive branch of the U.S. government, looks for complete lack of accountability for a reason...because they want to do whatever they choose. Here is just one of many examples:

Leaving No Tracks
(Jo Becker and Barton Gellman, Washington Post, June 27, 2007)

In Oregon, a battleground state that the Bush-Cheney ticket had lost by less than half of 1 percent, drought-stricken farmers and ranchers were about to be cut off from the irrigation water that kept their cropland and pastures green. Federal biologists said the Endangered Species Act left the government no choice: The survival of two imperiled species of fish was at stake.

Law and science seemed to be on the side of the fish. Then the vice president stepped in.

First Cheney looked for a way around the law, aides said. Next he set in motion a process to challenge the science protecting the fish, according to a former Oregon congressman who lobbied for the farmers.

Because of Cheney's intervention, the government reversed itself and let the water flow in time to save the 2002 growing season, declaring that there was no threat to the fish. What followed was the largest fish kill the West had ever seen, with tens of thousands of salmon rotting on the banks of the Klamath River.

Characteristically, Cheney left no tracks.

The Klamath case is one of many in which the vice president took on a decisive role to undercut long-standing environmental regulations for the benefit of business.


I realize that there are real people who depend on income from those farms, but I don't think that it is then responsible to not only bust a whole fishing industry and all the people who depend on that to live, but also create an unsustainable environmental policy for not only the fish, the people who want to enjoy the outdoors, all the animals that depend on the river, the fishing industry, but ultimately...also those very farmers that are being 'helped' in the short term. Everything in that situation will be hurt by Cheney's actions.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

iPhone Reviewed

The Apple iPhone is due to go on sale this Friday, and it is great to hear someone review it from the standpoint of actually having used it. It is pricey, but it solves a lot of poor design issues that exist on pretty much all 'Smartphones'.



I'm a Sprint user, so no iPhone for me, but my hope is that as people adopt iPhone...the price will come down, the shortcoming will be quickly solved, and availability will hit other carriers....the availability on other carriers issue being the one that will change the slowest, if at all. Perhaps AT&T's cellular network will get better than it currently is.

Walter Mossberg, who carried the phone and tested it for two weeks, said that it was "certainly the most beautiful and the most radical 'smartphone', or handheld computer, that [he has] ever tested." His biggest problem with the phone is that AT&T is the only carrier.

Testing Out the iPhone
(Walter S. Mossberg and Katherine Boehret, The Wall Street Journal, June 27, 2007)

Why a 'Windows machine' is obsolete

Microsoft's latest OS has made it very clear how they feel about the user experience: lets release a high-priced, begrudgingly slow, and insanely large version of the same thing that has already been on Windows for years....except now lets put tons of lipstick and rouge on it (i.e. copying MacOS X and KDE like crazy, but Tammy Fae make-up job the whole thing), and then force all people to get it with a new computer purchase. So, essentially you bought your new Intel Core 2 Duo system with 3D graphics and 2 GB of RAM running Vista, but it runs slower than your Pentium M with 1/2 the hardware running Windows XP.

Many people are asking the question if they really want to deal with a Windows OS as a whole, or if they really are looking for just a few applications that only run on Windows? Along come technologies like Parallels Coherence on the Mac that don't require you to deal much with Windows if you don't prefer to:



Microsoft's anti-virtualization stance: forget DRM, think Apple
(Ken Fisher, ars technica, June 24, 2007)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Science and the Nature of Reality

A couple weeks ago Slashdot and others had a bunch of postings on the Creation Museum, and the general opinion of the readers there was that creationist arguments (of which there are many, btw) are just one argument advocating magic, which ends up degrading not only into that strawman argument, but usually a bunch of ad-hominems about Christians being stupid and crazy...hence why they make up and believe this stuff.

Most people into scientism (the belief that science explains all details of reality) accept a great deal on their own faith too, and feel fine believing that giant-squids are prehistoric, extinct creatures (despite reports of dead ones being netted, etc)...until of course the Japanese shot film of live ones in 2005. So this, in and of itself, should be the lightest example of belief that reality in scientism may be different from the way reality actually is. But I digress.

Here is a good excerpt from a blog posting from Greg Boyd, writing from a conference about science and faith:

In today's session we had a fine discussion with another leader in the field of the dialogue between science and theology, Dr. Howard Van Til. For years he taught Physics and Astronomy at Calvin College, but then got into a good bit of trouble for teaching naturalistic evolution and he ended up retiring early in 1997 (I believe). He was a delightful, humble, very honest, and extremely irenic person. We discussed a wide range of issues, only one of which I can mention right now.

As we did the previous day, we discussed a great deal about whether science must be committed to naturalistic explanations and, if so, what implications this has for our understanding of the relationship between science and theology. I (and several others) argued that the issue really isn't whether science should or should not be committed to naturalistic explanations. I think it obviously should be. The issue is whether science needs to regard its naturalistic explanations as COMPREHENSIVE OF ALL REALITY.

If a miracle occurs, or seems to have occurred, I argued, I have no problem with scientists looking for a natural explanation. This is simply what they're paid to do. In fact, I have no problem with the scientist sometimes FINDING a natural explanation for an alleged mircle. I'm sure many times people claim to have experienced a "miracle" when in fact they've only experienced something a-typical, and there's a perfectly good natural explanation for why this a-typical event occurred.

What I have problems with is when some scientists claim that the whole enterprise of science hangs on the belief that all occurences MUST have a natural explanation -- that is, that nothing supernatural ever happens or ever can happen. In other words, they think naturalistic explanations are comprehensive of all reality. If someone thinks THIS belief lies at the core of the scientific enterprise, then, so far as I can see, there's no possible way Christian theology can be integrated with [their version of] the scientific enterprise.

But there's absolutely no reason for scientists to claim this. And there's absolutely no warrant for scientists to claim this. And many respected scientists don't in fact claim this. Yet, like Philp Clayton before him, this seems to be what Howard Van Til was (humbly and tentatively) claiming.

Look, the belief in God as a transcendent personal being IS a belief in the SUPERnatural. To try to integrate this belief into a framework where the supernatural is carte blanch dismissed is simply to try to integrate a belief in God with atheism. It's a contradiction. It doesn't work. End of story.

Fortunately, the scientific community as a whole is (so far as I can see) moving toward a more humble position. The more we learn about the world, the more we discover mystery. And this, I'm happy to say, leaves plenty of room for theology and science to talk to each other and learn from each other.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Office of the Vice President Denies that it is part of the Executive branch

It is simply amazing that so many people in the Bush Administration can be convicted of crimes, and the Office of the Vice President STILL pull stunts like the one that gets this response from the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform:

The National Archives has informed the Committee that your office intervened to block the inspection. According to a letter that the National Archives sent to your staff in June 2006, you asserted that the Office of the Vice President is not an "entity within the executive branch" and hence is not subject to presidential executive orders

Or this:

In January 2007, the Information Security Oversight Office took the appropriate step under the executive order and asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resolve whether the President's order applies to your office. According to the Director of the Information Security Oversight Office, you responded to this request by recommending that the executive order be amended to abolish the Information Security Oversight Office.


Or even this:

Mr. Leonard [(Director, Information Security Oversight Office)] also said that your office proposed a more drastic change after the National Archives continued to press the matter by seeking an opinion from the Attorney General. According to Mr. Leonard, your office urged the inter-agency committee considering revisions to the executive order to abolish the Information Security Oversight Office which he heads. Mr. Leonard said that your office also proposed a change to the definitions in the executive order that would exempt the Office of the Vice President from oversight.


Or these questions:

What is the basis for your view that the Office of the Vice President is not bound by Executive Order 12958?

Is it the official position of the Office of the Vice President that your office exists in neither the executive nor legislative branch of govemment?
a. If so, when and why did you adopt this view?
b. Has your office asserted in any other contexts that its nonexistence in the executive branch justifies avoiding oversight or accountability?


What happens to a government by the people, of the people, and for the people, when parts of it remove themselves from even the private and confidential oversight of the very same government of the people? Nothing good.

Here is the letter to the Office of the Vice President (PDF) detailing the whole issue.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Wow, was I wrong.

Recently I've had a number of conversations go sour on me...people taking friendships for granted, people taking the 'friendship-of-convenience' route (i.e...since I don't live in Rochester now...the friendship isn't important to them), and some discussions that have become unreasonable even in the face of evidence (generally people making science their religion, even when their position has been proven incorrect in science).

That all wore me out emotionally, in all honesty...and took a lot of joy out of my relationships, discussions, and study.

How dare real life get in the way of my agendas? How dare a messed up world act messed up? How dare a people in sin behave badly?

What an idiot I have been for expecting things in the world to go my way or even a sensible way. The sermon at church this morning reminded me about the nature of things. Wisdom leads to suffering, as does leadership. This is something apparently that I've forgotten when I decided that I wanted things to go my way and be non-stressful.

I apologize to the true friends who stick by me.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

SiCKO

Documentary on health care in the United States:



Yes, it is Michael Moore. But would you watch it first and be judgmental later?

Other clips:



Tuesday, June 05, 2007

AT&T...a monopoly again...at last

I'm not sure what this has to do with anything I've been posting. My friend just showed me this Colbert Report clip concerning AT&T. It is funny how anti-trust laws have come full circle in just about 20 years from one monopoly into the next. Mmm...yummy Republican politics in action (we'll save the term 'conservative' for people who deserve it).

Monday, June 04, 2007

Crazy Springfield Drivers

I've driven a number of places in my life, and a few of them in much bigger places than here in the Springfield, MO area...such as San Diego CA, Minneapolis MN during rush hours and traffic jams, San Jose CA, Chicago IL, Kansas City MO in rush hour, etc. But I have to say that for insane and completely awful drivers and driving...Springfield, MO takes the prize.

I am amazed at the number of near accidents I witness and/or am almost part of. Literally I am witness to accidents and near accidents every single day here. I've nearly been part of more accidents in the past 5 months here as in the entire 9.5 YEARS I lived in Rochester, MN. The congestion of traffic is pretty annoying, and people for whatever reason drive the worst ways they can for fuel economy, safety, and traffic congestion.

For example, I can see that we are a mere 200 meters from the next stoplight...which has been green for some time. I know it will turn yellow long before I could get there...even if I raced to the stoplight. But for whatever reason...everyone around me still races to get to that light...even as it turns yellow or is red already. They are still racing to that light. What is the point of that?

Also, the lights are there to space traffic out at the appropriate speed listed as the speed-limits. But the distance between lights is often long enough that if you drive 15-20 miles over the limit...you can catch the group of vehicles from the previous light. Well, this is exactly what many drivers try to do...which often makes it even more congested than normal. Again, what is the point of that?

People take a lot of back streets because the main roads really aren't able to take the number of vehicles that are on them. But instead of adhering to the 30-40 MPH limits, people try to drive 50-60 MPH. Now a lot of these are inlets to neighborhoods...or actually are neighborhoods! What is the point of endangering people walking or kids who might venture into the streets because you want to drive highway speeds in neighborhoods?

So...every morning I exercise patience and drive the speed limit and obey all that traffic laws to the best of my ability. And every morning driving turns into this game like the opening sequence of the movie Office Space with Peter dealing with traffic...for the OTHER drivers. People are racing around me like bats out of hell, but I get to the same stoplight as they do. Rinse and repeat. All they are doing is driving unsafe and consuming way more fuel than I am.

Springfield drivers need to listen up...obey the traffic laws and speed limits. Drive conservatively and safely. Need to get to work on time? Take off 5 minutes earlier. Sick of fuel costs? Drive more conservatively and save fuel (or get a smaller vehicle).

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Been sick

Well, I've not been so sick for a number of months. Thursday I caught a nasty cold or paraflu that a couple co-workers had earlier in the week. I had a fever, hitting 103.5 F at one point, for two days. I slept Friday almost the day solid. Saturday evening my fever broke and my headaches started to subside.

But the virus had settled in my muscles...my forearms, wrists, hands, shoulders, back, abs, calves, and thighs. At first I figured that it was just that achy feeling you get from being sick, and that I was just stiff from being in bed for a couple days.

Sunday morning I felt great, as far as headaches and such from being sick. But my muscles were weak and stiff. I figured I'd just stretch out, take a couple acetaminophen tablets, and then go to church (I was supposed to run sound). I hobbled around and ran the soundboard...felt pretty decent, though sitting and standing was awful...and a guy prayed for me and such.

But past that it became very apparent that my muscles were weak and that it was painful to do even simple things like climb stairs or open a door. I quickly noticed another problem too: my hands and fingers didn't have any dexterity to them. So, that means that I haven't been able to play guitar, and even typing on the computer is difficult. I have to two and four finger hunt-and-peck, rather than type normally.

Anyway...those wondering where I've been to...pretty much nowhere.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A Conflicted Memorial Day by Greg Boyd

My Memorial Day was spent far from the rest of my family just simply because we live 9 hours south of them now. Every year we would visit their gravesites on Memorial Day, listen to the president speak on television, and have the family over for a nice meal.

My father was in the Marines, but I don't think that I could ever serve that way. Since I became a Christian, I never could reconcile military action with Christian practice. It confused me more how most Christians seem to believe that it is okay to go shoot up people in other countries for the cause of 'freedom'.

I think that Greg again does a good job speaking about this, because I too always feel conflicted on Memorial Day. I hope this explains my position on conflicts to my friends who are also not in agreement with the war happening right now...that they wouldn't lump all non-liberal Christians in with the often war-mongering and fear-mongering religious-right.


---------------------

A Conflicted Memorial Day
by Greg Boyd


Hope you all had a happy Memorial Day. (Isn't that something of a misnomer -- a happy time remembering people killed in war?)

Memorial Day honestly leaves me conflicted.

On the one hand, I am very happy I live in a country where I’m free to engage in my own "pursuit of happiness” (as in “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”). I also appreciate the fact that I live in a country where the governed people get to choose (to some degree) who governs them. For all its flaws, I think democracy is better (though not more scriptural) than dictatorships. And I can’t help but appreciate the young men and women who have laid down their life to protect this way of life. I benefit from their sacrifice, so it seems appropriate to remember them.

On the other hand, my Lord’s words and example have taught me that its better to love your enemy, do good to them, pray for them and bless them than it is to ever kill them. I’ve been taught to never retaliate but to always return evil with good. I’ve been taught that violence is cyclical, and that if you live by the sword you’ll die by the sword. By submitting myself to this teaching, I’ve come to actually see its wisdom and beauty. I’ve come to see taking of human life as demonically arrogant – demonic, because it expresses hopelessness in another, which is the opposite of love (I Cor. 13:7), and arrogant, because only the giver of life can justifiably take it.

To be honest, I’ve now come to see war as sheer insanity, and every fiber of my being revolts against it. I’ve gotten to the point where I’d rather die than participate in any of this, for any reason. And I grieve for all who do participate in it, for any reason. The fact that I personally benefit from some of the killing, because some of the killing is (at least supposed to be) to protect the “American way of life” doesn’t alter this assessment. Jesus is my Lord, not the American way of life. My allegiance is to the Kingdom of God. (And, in any case, as a white person I continue to "benefit" from the often barbaric and dishonest conquest of my ancestors over the American Indians and the enslavement of blacks -- but this doesn't mean I should approve of it).

I know some readers will immediately wonder, “But what about Hitler? This sort of thinking would let evil take over the world," etc. Some may in fact experience outrage at my (Jesus') suggestion that violence is never appropriate for Kingdom people. Some may see it as positively un-American and cowardly! In response, I'll simply say six brief things:


1) I totally understand and even empathize wit hthe objection, and the outrage. But Jesus’ way of life is SUPPOSED TO BE scandalous to the world. The earliest Christians refused to fight in wars to defend the Roman empire and refused to pledge allegiance to the Roman empire. And this was one of the reasons they were despised and martyred. I think this is how its SUPPOSED TO look.

2) To act on the fear of evil taking over by killing one’s enemies rather than doing good to them is to simply say that Jesus was wrong and to reject him as Lord in this area of our life. This is not what a faithful disciple does.

3) We who have committed our lives to Christ are called to be faithful, not practical. Jesus’ choice to die rather than defend himself with violence is our example, and his choice certainly didn’t look practical on Good Friday.

4) The notion that we can “save the world” or “fix the world” through violence is the s lie that has fueled almost every war – and it has never, in the long run, worked. Every attempt to save or fix the world through violence simply ensures that violence will raise its ugly head again in the near future.

5) The idea that we can and must ‘save the world” or “fix the world” through violence is predicated on a mistrust of God's providence. Do we believe in the providence of God or not? Whether we obey him when it seems impractical to do so reveals our faith -- or our lack of faith.

6) I grant the obvious -- that this world is the kind of world where it seems that violence is necessary. Common sense usually sides with the violent. But Kingdom people are called to manifest a different world: a world in which God reigns; a world that reflects the character of the loving savior rather than the vicious roaring lion. No wonder the New Testament tells us we're supposed to be fools.


So, y memorial day leaves me conflicted. I want to stand in solidarity with those who have lost loved ones in wars defending the American way of life. I want to respectfully acknowledge the depth of their sacrifice and acknowledge that I personally benefit from their sacrifice. But I also want to revolt against the demonic arrogance of violent-tending tribalism, manifested on all sides of any war, that makes bloody wars seem unavoidable. I want to scream, "there is a much better way to live. It’s the way of Jesus. It’s the way of self-sacrificial love. It’s the way of non-violence."

God bless the families of our fallen soliders. Good bless the families of the solidiers on the other side. God bless the families of the innocent victims caught in the cross fire. And God bless all of us by influencing our leaders to end this war, and every potential future war. Maranatha.