Friday, December 30, 2005

Predictions for 2006

I'm not a prophet, so hold your stones. I'm a perceiver. By that, I mean I rush to assumptions based on sketchy, arbitrary obversations.

In another life, I'd be an economist.

Here are my projections for America (and the blogosphere) in 2006:

  • USC will pound Texas in the Rose Bowl, causing hundreds of thousands of Texans to question their ridiculous obsession with football. President Bush declares a state of emergency in Austin. UT president Larry R. Faulkner declares UT-Austin, "is really a film school, anyway."

  • Interest rates begin a moderate decline, fueling more fire to the real estate boom. The Guvenator sells off all state land holdings for $2 trillion to keep California's welfare state afloat for another year. State spending promptly triples. Former governor Jerry Brown pitches the idea of toll roads at every stop light. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom pitches the idea of a heterosexual marriage tax. Former Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates offers to "crack a few heads" in Sacramento -- free of charge. Actor William Baldwin threatens to leave California forever if the budget is cut, prompting the state police to offer free escort to the Nevada border. Nevada protests.

  • The cost of a barrel of oil will continue to decline. Millions of Americans will continue to complain about the cost of a gallon of gas on their way to the local SUV dealer.

  • Heath Ledger will win the Academy Award for his role in Brokeback Mountain, because nothing is more Hollywood than a gay cowboy. However, it does not receive support from the gay community because cowboy fashion is "so 1994."

  • The Minutemen on the Arizona border lose their talk radio signal in a moment of panic and turn their guns on each other. Hundreds of illegal aliens turn south, vowing never to raise families in such a violent country. Dozens of Scottsdale lawn care companies file for bankruptcy due to the lack of cheap, tax-free labor.

  • Apple launches their OSX platform on Intel's X86 architecture. Apple fanatics rave about a leveled playing field, industry experts predict global domination, and millions of Americans admit they didn't know Apple made anything else besides the iPod. Apple improves their share of the world's OS market from 3.5% to 4%, causing their stock value to triple. One ardent Apple user, an avant garde artist in Eugene, Ore., discovers the spreadsheet. His brain explodes 30 seconds later.

  • Microsoft changes little, continues to ignore glaring security weaknesses, still makes a gazillion dollars for essentially the same OS they stole from Apple over 20 years ago.

  • The Pirates of the Carribean sequel races to record returns as the summer's hit movie, thanks to more of the swishy swashbuckler played by Johnny Depp. Hollywood insiders praise the movie for promoting gay piracy.

  • CBS News breaks the story that President George W. Bush actually voted for Mickey Mouse in the last presidential election. In response, Bush shrugs and confesses a belief presidential policy doesn't really affect him.

  • The Hollywood Actor's Guild bans the use of phone answering machines by guild members, "because we're really tired of being embarassed."

  • When approached for a sequel to "The Passion," actor/director/producer/theologian Mel Gibson is stunned to learn there's more to the story after Christ dies on the cross. "I guess I should have really finished the book before picking up the camera," he will say through a press release.

  • U.S. Sen. John McCain, the self-appointed American Sports Czar, declares bowling a dangerous sport in need of federal regulation.

    In the blogosphere ...

  • The Pyromaniac, Phillip Johnson, continues with his more mellow writing style. Bored hordes of readers fishing for a reason to become indignant stop reading altogether. The U.S. Surgeon General gives Johnson a special award for lowering blogger blood pressure across the globe.

  • Adrian Warnock continues his search for angry, battle-ready cessationists. The Gad(d)about makes a glib -- but very friendly (and charismatic) -- reference to Don Quixote.

  • The Thinklings continue to humor themselves with dignity and class. Dan at Cerulean Sanctum is offered to be "Thinkled," only to see it rescinded because he doesn't speak the foreign language of Texas. An investigation uncovers the reality Texans speak plain English, just at 2/3 the rate of normal Americans, and often conjoining words not often considered phonetically possible. UT fans blame the incident on biased California voters.

  • Brad at Broken Messenger continues to write the best theoblog in the blogosphere.

  • One prominent Republican blogger will express concern over a minor White House policy, causing him to lose his rightwingrepublicanelite credentials and is ridiculed by the Real Republican Club. (OK, this happens pretty much every day).
  • Wednesday, December 28, 2005

    The importance of comedy relief

    Every writer knows you cannot recreate Romeo and Juliet without Mercutio.

    Comedic interludes relieve tension in a story. They are the distractions that keep the drama boiling without boiling over. They sustain catharsis when our more dour emotions would otherwise become too much to bear in one sitting.

    I've always related to the Mercutios of the world because I see so much emphasis on the serious things of this world as if God were not in control. I love to make people laugh because it distracts them from the sorrow that is our sinful state, and hopefully reminds them how silly this world is.

    People -- even Christians -- spend so much time dwelling on things they could never possibly understand. This is why I think Douglas Adams is a genius.
    There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.
    - Douglas Adams
    I do not mean to confuse laughter with the joy of the Lord. The joy God gives us is a welling-up of the soul, and is not something we can create or manipulate. It comes from knowing things are settled and our responsibilities are much less than they appear to be, because God carries our otherwise enormous burden for us.

    But even laughter is God-ordained. In Ecc. 3:4, He has set aside time for both weeping and laughter.

    Neither is this to say all laughter is spiritually clean. There is a perversity of laughter that mocks the things of God, that takes license with God's nature and revels in the things of this world.

    But laughter by itself is not against the nature of God. Even Jesus took delight in children and condemned the actions of the apostles who attempted to scurry them away.

    There is no record of a court jester in the Kingdom of God, but in this world, I'd like to think that is part of my role as servant of man. I do not wish to take your eyes off God, but if they are already averted to an elsewhere gaze, allow me to shake you out of your trance and remind you that you are under no obligation to bear the weight of this world.

    Allow me to remind you that you are not God and it's generally in bad form to immitate Him in that manner.

    Tuesday, December 27, 2005

    One quote to define The Gad(d)about, 2005 ed.

    I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.
    - Douglas Adams

    Post-game wrap with Santa

    Klaus feeling weight of change

    By Gil Gadabout
    Disassociated Press

    THE NORTH POLE (DP) -- A little confused but mostly relieved to be headed for a short vacation, Kris Kringle -- aka Santa Claus -- loosened his belt before sitting at the press table.

    "The 'missus' keeps threatening to enforce an Atkins Diet around the house," he joked to terse laughter from the gathered press horde. "I guess I've moved beyond 'jolly' to 'wobbly.' "

    That Kringle can still crack jokes at 350 years of age is a medical marvel few care to attempt to explain. Kringle said carrying the burden of Christmas giving is not getting any easier, and humor is his only recourse.

    "I probably have the only sleigh in the world with missile radar, but even that doesn't protect us against some whack job with a ground-to-air portable missile launcher," he said.

    North Pole officials hinted Rudolph was off the reindeer lineup this year out of fear his nose might create a signature over Middle Eastern skies. One senior elf insider believes reindeer will eventually be phased out because of the potential for harm.

    No official from Kringle's inner circle would confirm or deny the rumor.

    When asked about the best of the good and worst of the bad, Kringle would only shake his head.

    "There are men with no shame out there, but I know you're more interested in celebrities and politicians," he said with a finger wag at the hundred or so in the audience.

    Elf Iben Isen, Naught List adviser, said a sliding scale for people in the media has always been part of the process.

    "We can't really penalize actors and athletes for public indiscretions," he said. "They're already doubly punished by media scrutiny. And, let's face it, these are not among the brighter professionals. Santa has a big heart for the mentally challenged."

    Gift tracker Ollie Oxenfree said gifts for the ultra-rich are quite a bit different than standard fare.

    "We wish we could give out things like a charitable heart or good sense, but those gifts even exceed our unlimited budget," he said. "So we stick with things like out-of-season fish or a good pair of shoes."

    Kringle expressed concern about the growing North Pole compound, with high-tech taking over, and the concern about the condition of the nearby water plume.

    "Wooden dolls aren't even a novelty these days. It's getting to the point where maybe kids would prefer Santa was robot and the sleigh was a drone."

    - 30 -

    Friday, December 23, 2005

    In Memoriam: Curtis "Cowbell" Jones

    Curtis "Cowbell" Jones

    We have lost many beloved entertainers this year, but perhaps none more influential than Curtis "Cowbell" Jones, the underappreciated but oft-imitated drummer of the early 20th century.

    The date and place of the first "trap" set is debatable, but pinpointing the first inclusion of the mounted cowbell is without question. Jones pioneered this modern staple of drumming on the 1934 recording of "Scataroo To You" on Hambone Wilson's Jamboree Jungle.

    Jones' career spanned nearly a century, and was probably the first session drummer -- a career that became known for his raucously tinny bell ride sounds. He has been credited as the first American to include Caribbean rhythms in American popular music, previously considered undanceable.

    Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen, once a student of Jones, found it difficult to quantify the elder drummer's impact.

    "I remember struggling how to count off 'Pyromania,' then I put on 'Scataroo To You' and inspiration came like a rush," Allen said. "I doubt that song would ever have been a hit if I had not found such a brilliant muse."

    Allen lost his arm in an automobile accident in the 1980s, but continues to utilize a cowbell sound by triggering an electronic pedal with his left foot.

    "Curtis could play a fast cascara pattern against a rhumba clave on the cowbell with a stick in his mouth. He really was a cowbell master," Allen added.

    Use of the cowbell has taken a hit in recent years, particularly after one Saturday Night Live episode panned the use of the bovine rattle in the Blue Oyster Cult song "Don't Fear the Reaper."

    However, the cowbell has been integral in dozens of hit songs from diverse genres, including:

  • Guns N Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle"
  • Motley Crue's "Dr. Feelgood"
  • Loverboy's "Working for the Weekend"
  • Sir Mix A Lot's "Baby Got Back"
  • Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music"
  • The Bangles' "Hazy Shade of Winter"

    It all points back to cowbell innovator Jones, said former Twisted Sister drummer AJ Pero.

    "Nothing rocks like a cowbell," Pero said. "Ping rides are fine for sissy ballad bands like Journey, but in Twisted Sister, you needed a cowbell to cut through the guitars. I owe my career to Curtis Jones."

    The cowbell continues to influence a new generation of drummers, and Jones' use appears to be timeless.

    Alien Ant Farm drummer Mike Cosgrove credited an eclectic Jones track -- the odd meter "Mama Rhumba" on Dinky Brolo's Slow Boat to Cuba -- as the inspiration for the challenging beat to the band's song "Rubber Mallet."

    "I had just bought a cowbell, which I attached right between my hi-hat, snare drum, and first rack tom. Then I started messing with this (Jones) feel. It felt stiff at first, but as I played it in practice, it started to flow."

    Jones is survived by his wife, Tambora, and two children, daughter Maracas and son Curtis "Kazoo" Jones Jr.

    Donations will be accepted in lieu of services to: More Cowbell Foundation, 1234 Countdown St., New York, NY 12341.
  • Santa Pre-Game

    John Carney over at Lake Neuron posted a link to his Christmas pre-game chat with Santa.

    This is going to work out well, since I traditionally get the official North Pole press invite to the post-Christmas interview. We provide full coverage here at The Gad(d)about.

    Wednesday, December 21, 2005

    What does Godly obedience look like?

    There were some interesting comments to my post about obedience to God reflected in my dietary habits. The primary concern was associating such a fleshly (and often times vain) practice to matters of the heart. If approached the wrong way, it could very well become an issue of legalism.

    I certainly did not mean to endorse diet and exercise as a means to grow closer to God. If anything, I see my gluttony as one example of how I've been short on discipline my entire life. This is not about my will, but about my heart's sinful intent to indulge when I should be fasting -- in the spirit. It's a metaphor for the reality of my often straying heart, cheating on God with desire for the things of this world. Being overweight by itself doesn't mean anything spiritually.

    Brian Colmery responded on his own blog by noting how he would like to establish patterns of discipline in his life at a young age. I wish I had this kind of foresight at 25.

    This New Years millions of empty resolutions will be made to better oneself, often in the midst of recovery from a night of hedonistic indulgence. I don't know if this is a statement about the wayward attitudes of America or the fact we have so much of the pleasurable things of the world to entice us.

    One thing I know is God does not want our empty promises, nor does He want us to better ourselves in vacuous methods. We can beat our flesh all we want, but if God does not have our hearts it is all vanity. When we try to obtain Godliness on our own will, we are fighting against the singular message of the Gospel: We cannot make the first step towards Godliness on our own.

    However, God's commandment to obey did not fade away with Christ's victory over death. It is still better to obey in good conscience, though ultimately only Christ's sacrifice is our sanctification.

    It is a paradox that has confounded men for 2000 years. Worse, hyperfocusing on obedience on one side and grace on the other has had the Church out of balance the majority of this Church Age.

    When I think of examples of true obedience in the Bible, they span across all generations, and there is one simple theme: A genuine love of God. God calls, His people hear His voice, and they show up. It is simply responding to God's call.

    Showing up, as the wisdom of Woody Allen declares, is 88 percent of life. In God's Kingdom, showing up is 100 percent of life. This is pretty much all God requires of us, particularly in this Church Age where we have the revealed Christ and a path of grace to heaven.

    When I think of my own disobedience, I think of my daily faults of not showing up: not showing up for prayer, not showing up to read or hear His word, not showing up (with a heart of thankfulness) every time God's providence leads me to His waters, not showing up when God has work for me to do.

    I do not think of my disobedience in terms of my fleshly sin, because the sin of my flesh is a merely reflection of what's already going on in my heart. Fleshly sin should come as no surprise to me because my heart has already decided not to show up at the feet of God when I awake in the morning.

    But freedom from fleshly sin is easy to come by. The Spirit convicts me and turns my heart repentant. The bigger problem is the closed eyes of my heart, that darkness that has lurked in me since I took my first breath in this world.

    So here we begin to see a better picture of my spiritual immaturity, which is an element of taking license with God's grace. Grace is my only path to heaven, but if my heart is not intent on obeying His commands, I am dishonoring Christ's sacrifice.

    There is no easy path to Godly obedience, because nothing of God's nature is natural to man. Sometimes we might imitate it, but the kind of obedience God requires comes first from a heart that longs for God's perfect rule in our lives, that daily kneeling at the foot of the throne declaring He is the Lord of our lives. It is the difference between taking what God has given us freely and giving to God because we desire to please Him.

    Monday, December 19, 2005

    Try! this CD

    The newly released John Mayer Trio's Try! is a CD I did not anticipate. Upon brief listening, I should have.

    John Mayer, previously known for writing lighter, adult-contemporary versions of Dave Matthews Band's frat-boy funk, has shifted gears with his new group. He has shed some of the spotlight to share it with two fine musicians, bassist Pino Paladino and drummer Steve Jordan. These two session musicians with jazz chops come with rock credibility. Paladino was The Who's replacement for John Entwhistle. Jordan, the Late Show Band's original drummer and 70s jazz-fusion notable, has played with legends such as Keith Richards and Neil Young. Those of you who aren't musician geeks might remember Jordan's stint as house band drummer for the Blues Brothers.

    While the rhythm section brings credibility to the music, there's no mistaking this group is about John Mayer -- less as a songwriter and more as a player. What stands out to me is Mayer is indeed a fine guitarist who could have had a quiet but very successful session career. His chops are considerable, but he brings much more sensitivity and personality to otherwise standard blues stylings. He's not Jimi Hendrix or Buddy Guy and he's certainly not in the elevated air of Scofield, but he's not trying so hard to imitate them as he attempts to honor these types of players with his own voice.

    The music itself is representative of a different era, the power trio. If comparisons to Cream or Jimi are obvious, the JMT players do not seem opposed. They revel in it. This is not your ordinary jam band. There are no signs of excess, no 15 minute journeys into self-absorbed anti-melodies. In another day, these would be under-five-minutes radio-friendly tunes with no small amount of airplay. Two covers, one of Jimi and one of Ray Charles, are personalized on an otherwise original lineup up songs. There are identifiable melodies and hooks -- elements typically missing from "jam band" albums.

    There's a sense of recklessness about this live disc that is part of its appeal. The music is very tight, don't misunderstand, but the sound mixing is not going to make audiophiles very happy. The crowd does not respond at appropriate times -- and responds and inappropriate times. Falsetto background vocals at one point crack off-key through properly tuned instruments. Frankly, it's a real live album, and not the compilation of best performances one finds on more corporate releases. It's all the charm and intimacy of a club gig.

    Try! pays homage to great power trios of the past, but it is more like a mass audience-friendly version of Jing Chi, the charmless blues trio from Robben Ford. But where Ford, Jimmy Haslip, and Vinnie Colaiuta indulge themsleves in exotic directions, JMT attempts to engage an audience not well versed in jazz theory and playing over the bar. Considering the impeccable choice of talented musicians who cater to simplified rock, JMT makes Try! accessible to the masses without dumbing down the music.

    In another day, that was considered genius.

    Friday, December 16, 2005

    The joy of pastoral secrets

    I used to think I was avoiding an early heart attack by not working with my father. After three years under his wing in my early 20s, I "escaped" to the "less demanding" field of journalism.

    Over a decade later I'm discovering a couple nice things:

  • My father has mellowed a great deal
  • My father is in much better position to pay me and teach me
  • I enjoy having a lot of work and working at my own pace.

    Daily and weekly deadlines aren't really a part of my normal schedule any more. If I want to take a two-hour lunch to hang out with the pastoral staff at their secret hideway, I can do that now.

    That last part is a location to which I have been sworn to secrecy. There, a Chinese buffet which might as well have a little First Century fish carved into its decaying wall paper, the religious movers and shakers of Gilbert, Ariz., meet to gripe, joke, and generally behave without fear some busy body will be organizing the next church split.

    I am privy to this location because I know so many dark secrets about my pastor, it's pointless not to include me. He probably fears blackmail.

    I had lunch at this place not long ago. I was supposed to be meeting with the senior assistant pastor. The worship leader came along. Not long after that the senior pastor showed up. Then our friendly Lutheran pastor stepped to a back table to read a book that's probably not favorable for Lutheran pastors to read.

    It was a slow day at the buffet, but at any given time you could probably crash into one of several dozen pastors. The things they say never leave the doors.

    My blogging friend Brian is learning a little about this. If you are a pastor, you are privy to what the "sixth C" is, and in a place like this Chinese buffet, you can laugh about it without fear of judgement.

    I once read a faux letter of resignation (written by one pastor for another pastor going through a very rocky time in his church) that read as if it were written by secular comedian. Nothing foul, but a little blue, which only made it funnier.

    Pastors do gripe some, but they know they're not going to get much sympathy from other pastors. It comes with the job.

    If you are in a church, and I hope you are, you would bless your pastor by going up to him after Sunday's sermon and say this:

    "Pastor, I know I haven't always been the best servant of this church. My tithes are inconsistent, and I'm usually "busy" when stuff needs to be done. When you asked for Sunday School teachers, I said I would do it, then I came down with a rare form of laryngitis that allowed me to scream at the youth pastor for showing a PG movie over the weekend, but I could not speak to teach the children myself. That was something of a white lie. When you asked for help to deliver food for our ministry to the poor, I couldn't do it because I was playing a Doom marathon. But all of that is in the past now. I just want you to know I'm in your circle now. I've got your back -- and I'm not carrying a knife. Promise. Let's build God's kingdom together."

    When the pastor catches his breath from laughing, I guarantee he will appreciate your show of support.
  • Wednesday, December 14, 2005

    The Re-Emerging (and Receding) Creech

    Rick Creech has re-emerged with a blog about weight loss.

    I think this is a fascinating blog topic because someone's weight loss can inspire so many others. I wish I had this blog a few years ago. Between August 2001 and April 2002 I lost 97 lbs. Then I got married and put on about 110.

    I wish I were kidding.

    About the weight gain, I mean.

    My weight loss experience was a story unto itself. It came at a time when God was changing me in rapid ways. He was teaching me discipline, and my weight loss was more of a 10-month sermon than anything. There was one fundamental rule I learned about discipline -- how to acquire it:

  • Discipline comes in short, daily steps.

    This lesson has come in handy in practically every area of my life. In years past I would "porpoise," going from committed to something to falling out to committed to burning out in anything that mattered ... school, relationships, work. And diets.

    So I started this diet in Aug. 2001 under the inspiration of this principle. Instead of jumping into another fad diet, I decided I would start working out. I used to be something of an athlete, so working up a sweat was never the problem. The problem was getting off the sofa and doing something about it.

    I knew my limitations and my tendency to be flaky, so I gave my self one simple rule: Get to the gym. There was no other rule. If I got to the gym, looked inside the doors, and went home, it was still more exercise than I would have received otherwise.

    I did that once or twice, but my conscience eventually got the better of me and I decided to walk on the treadmill for 10 minutes. I did this three times a week for six weeks.

    This is where I think God uses our human nature for our best interest.

    I lost 18 lbs. in six weeks doing the most minimal exercise. I did not change my diet in any meaningful way, other than becoming conscience of portions. I still ate fast food, etc. Just the fact that I put my body in motion melted away some of the fat on my body.

    Then I got excited and decided to implement a diet, but I absolutely abhor diet systems. As is my nature, I conjured up my own. The first thing that had to go was Coke, of which I could easily consume a 12-pack a day. But I was also aware of my limitations, so I adopted water -- not diet drinks -- as my supplement and created rules of when I could not drink Coke:

  • Not in front of the TV
  • Not in front of the home computer
  • Not at work
  • Not in the car

    I could still have a Coke at a restaurant, I just couldn't take one for the road. I could still have a Coke at a friend's party or church function, I just had to leave it there whether I was finished or not.

    I lost 14 lbs. the next four weeks, and my weight loss enthusiasm was overflowing. I created my own low-carb diet -- I grilled seven or eight chicken breasts each Sunday night and at them for lunch. I had protein bars and a piece of fruit for breakfast, and another protein bar and piece of fruit for an afternoon snack. I was so full by the end of the day, I stopped eating dinner ... once my Coke intake was so limited, my caffiene-fuled late nights were over and I was usually in bed by 10 p.m.

    I averaged about 10 lbs. lost each month, and eliminated eight inches on my waste. I went through two belts because there weren't enough holes in them. My XXXL t-shirts looked like dresses on me by February.

    Where I erred is when I got caught up in my own weight loss and forget about the still small voice in my head that led me into this to begin with. Instead of keeping it simple, I ended up going to the gym six times a day, 90 minutes at a time, pulling "total body workouts" in addition to my floor exercises and treadmill routines. By the time I met my wife-to-be, I had burned out on the gym and stopped going. Eating out became a regular thing, and I began drinking Coke like an old habit.

    The rule of gaining discipline still rings true to me, though. Now that I'm 324, Rick's new blog has got me thinking about that lesson and how everything else in my life -- financial discipline, spiritual discipline -- has become unraveled since I wrestled my weight loss plan from God and found no strength to complete it. Not that God needs a nanosecond of my effort to change me, but I do believe He desires our obedience more than he desires to give us forgiveness.

    I'm not a very obedient person these days. I suppose to outward appearances, I'm not the worst Christian, but I know in my heart there are things I can do to better honor God with my life. Like that song, I want my life to be a song to honor God.

    God does not need an army of skinny Christians. That's not my point. But for me, I can see elements of a disobedient heart in my diet. It's a small picture of a big problem.

    So I think I'm going to join Rick in the weight loss plan. I need some more time to think about what's reasonable with my new schedule, but expect to see something soon. My hope is it will be more about the goodness of God than about me fitting in 32-inch Levi's.
  • Tuesday, December 13, 2005

    When artsy writers go bad

    Selling out has been remarkably easy. I was expecting a cosmic struggle between good and evil -- you know, Perretti style. Instead I said the magic words "I want to make a decent living!" and my heart quickly caved.

    OK, so I'm not exactly building Trump Towers yet. But I am learning the finer points of property management. For example, tenants have a sense of humor. Some tenants think it's funny to write a personal check for rent, and then claim ignorance when it bounces. The money was there, they say, and it's still there right now, even though they are incapable of getting a cashier's check from the bank. This is hilarious to a property manager, let me tell you. This is especially funny when the tenant does it every month ... and then calls and leaves nasty comments on voice mail because he's being evicted. What is downright laugh-out-loud funny is when the same tenant hires a lawyer in an attempt to get his security deposit back. What a hoot.

    Another clever comedic rouse is when a tenant calls to complain something is broken. Normal people call when the sink is stopped up or when the shower won't work. Tenants call when their cable is out, even though we have nothing to do with cable. This leads to a 45-minute conversation about obligations of a landlord with the tenant. Apparently, somewhere in the constitution or the Landlord/Tenant Act, tenants are led to believe they have a right to free HBO. "Well, we just plugged it in and we got it for free when we got here, and now it's not working, so we assumed you provided that. Get it turned on again or we'll call a lawyer!"

    Tenants threaten to call their lawyer every day. It really hits the funny bone.

    So I've just been yucking it up for the last 10 working days, learning about this new comedy troupe called The Tenants. They will be right up there with The Groundlings some day soon, I'm sure.

    Thursday, December 08, 2005

    How to criticize a Christian leader

    By following these guidelines, you, too, can join the growing market of ANTI-CULT LITERATURE. These guidelines will help you form strong arguments to blow away the ministry of anyone who even remotely disagrees with you. Grace be damned!


    Idenitfying Target A should be simple enough. Just find someone who's enjoying some recently acquired notoriety as an original thinker. This is ideal, because not only can you capitalize on people's instinctive fear of something new, it's easier to get published because you can ride on the coattails of your target's notoriety.


    You need to immediately redirect their words through the prism or grid of your system of theology. Presuppositions of their system of theology, no matter how accepted or allowable in the mainstream of evangelical thought, are critical before you begin writing. Acrostics utilzing inflammatory and misrepresentative wordplay are usually the best place to start. For example, when criticizing a five-point Calvinist, try a play on "TULIP" by characterizing them as a heartless Judaizer with the word "THORN." You will get extra humor credits among those who agree with you.


    Target A may be a hard target because he or she may be mostly orthodox, and may even preach an orthodox Gospel. However, we cannot let disagreements over methodology get in the way of sound doctrine. Turning Target A into a heretic takes a simple argumentation technique:

    Target A quoted Suspect B;
    Suspect B quoted Supsect C;
    Suspect C was discipled in the camp of Heretic D;
    Therefore Target A, Suspect B, and Suspect C are all heretics, since they obviously are in line with Heretic D.

    Now you can dismiss anything else Target A says, because they are a heretic and their sanctification has been shown devoid. This technique is especially helpful when you can take quotes out of their original context.

    4. Ignore Matt 18:15-22

    First, if Target A is published, you are simply responding to a heretic in the same medium he or she chose to air their bad doctrine. Secondly, they did not first consult you before they aired their offensive material. They didn't even mention you or quote your good doctrine, so you are not bound to this order by Jesus.

    Obviously, Jesus did not have the opportunity to speak to the Anti-Cult Ministry, since it did not exist in his age, so the Bible is silent on the subject.

    Putting Christmas in its proper place

    I get irritated this time of year, and it has nothing to do with commercialization or crass advertising or even ridiculously bad Christmas music.

    Mostly, I am uncomfortable with the exaltation of Christmas as a religious holiday, though it is a Christmas cultural tradition, and not something carrying Biblical endorsement.

    Do I think it's good to honor of the birth of Christ? Of course. It also carries weighty doctrinal concern, specifically acknowledging the virgin birth and divine appointment of the Son of God.

    What I think is wrong is when we get carried away with the spiritual significance of the day. In America, Christmas is the Christian holiday, while Easter is downplayed. Biblically speaking, the four Spring Festivals in the Jewish Calendar proved prophetic, and I am baffled how these have lost their weight in the Hellenized and Latinized Christian Church. (And, yes, I would love to see us return to our Jewish heritage for Spring Festivals, as well as some kind of corporate recognition of the Fall Festivals).

    Christmas, short for Christ Mass, is essentially a Catholic tradition. I can think of few other non-Biblical Catholic traditions we Protestants have carried over. I suppose because the Bible is silent on such a celebration, we've decided not to offend tradition.

    I think of the season in cultural terms, and I'm happy any time true Christian faith is expressed in any serious terms in a secular forum. But I refuse to belabor this day to complain about any missed meaning or lack of spiritual importance in our culture. At least in American, Christmas in its most pure form of celebration still looks like something out of Walt Disney's imagination. So much of its tradition is pagan, wrapped in shiny colors and bright designs.

    Absent Biblical guidance, corporate celebration of Christmas is purely subjective, in my opinion, and to criticize churches who do not is a shaky position.

    It just so happens that Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, and some churches are cancelling regular services to return the day to families who wish to celebrate Christmas privately. If someone wants to criticize the corporate Church for allowing too much emphasis on individualism and not enough emphasis on community, I'm right there with you.

    However, keep in mind this day has become so family-oriented because we've made it that way, and it's a message that's reinforced in thousands of pulpits -- even in those churches with a corporate Christmas celebration.

    Wednesday, December 07, 2005

    Seven sevens meme

    John at Blogotional has tagged me for the Seven Seven memes. This one looks pretty easy ...

    1. Seven things to do before I die
    1. Have at least one kid.
    2. Play drums with Tower of Power.
    3. Learn Spanish.
    4. Drive a convertible Corvette from San Diego to North Carolina.
    5. Hit a Major League fastball.
    6. Beat my brothers in a game of driveway basketball.
    7. Make the perfect batch of chili that my father will have to (finally) confess mine is better than his.
    2. Seven things I cannot do

    1. Draw. Not even stick figures.
    2. Stay organized.
    3. Remember names.
    4. Write with the precision and beauty of a Page 1 WSJ feature reporter.
    5. Run a mile. I'm really out of shape.
    6. Eat Krispy Kreme donuts. They make me ill. Dunkin Donuts, on the other hand ...
    7. Understand quantum mechanics.
    3. Seven things that attract me to my spouse.

    1. She laughs at my jokes.
    2. Even when I'm caught up in the world, she's alert to the need to pray.
    3. She's really fun to just stare it.
    4. She calls me on my stupidity, but she does it gracefully.
    5. She doesn't get uptight when I want to play the occasional video game.
    6. She cracks me up, even when I try to be angry with her.
    7. She treats others with more care and respect than she is returned.
    4. Seven things I say most often

    1. There's no such thing as "fair."
    2. Oh, that's acceptable ... NOT.
    3. I'm a doctor, not a pack mule.
    4. I'm a doctor, not a bus boy.
    5. I'm a doctor, not a garbage truck.
    6. [nodding head yes] Noooo.
    7. How does my hair look?
    5. Seven books I love (American Lit. category)

    1. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    2. For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
    3. Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon
    4. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
    5. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
    6. Generation X by Douglas Coupland
    7. Life After God by Douglas Coupland
    6. Seven movies I watch over and over again (or would watch over and over if I had the time)

    1. Shawshank Redemption
    2. Memento
    3. The Game
    4. The Big Lebowski
    5. The Princess Bride
    6. Usual Suspects
    7. American History X
    7. Seven people I want to join in, too
    I've learned my lesson in passing memes, but here are a few people who might not complain:
  • Brad at Broken Messenger
  • Brian at Sycamore
  • Teem at Totem to Temple

    I'd lay this at the feet of Jared and Dan, but they're attempting to overcome procastination deadlines for their books.
  • I have NOT left the building

    I am currently a real estate mogul-in-training, so my father hasn't released me to have my own computer and desk yet. Maybe sometime next week. In the meantime, my brother has loaned me a 1-year-old laptop that has more viruses than a refugee camp. I'm debugging, defragging, and generally deleting junk I didn't even know existed. My early diagnosis is its terminal. This is par for the course for any machine my brother touches. If you ever wonder who's brave enough to download that malware cursor icon program, I know the most common victim.

    Posting should pick up more next week. I also owe John @ Blogotional a "Seven Sevens" meme. That's in my que, it's just not finished yet.

    I also owe my good friends, Rob and John A., an e-mail. Apologies, fellas. Lots of personal updates not fit for print on my blog. Lots of changes around here. I hope to get it to you by this weekend.

    Friday, December 02, 2005

    Honest observations from a former journalist

    Today is my last day as a journalist. This marks the end of a 12-year career that, if I hadn't told you about it in this blog, you would never have known about it.

    If things go as planned and I become a real estate mogul, I promise to never sully the carpets of a newsroom ever again. I can't wait to finally have the chance to air all of my petty grievances (without consideration for editorial policy) in what will likely prove to be a daily routine of epic letters to the editor.

    In honor of this day, I offer to you a few pithy quotes on things I learned about journalism and being a professional writer:

    - If you are on deadline and are facing a blank page, just about any kind of distraction seems interesting. Even the guy in the next cubicle, whose moronic stock markets tips would bring about another market crash if ever put into practice, seems fascinating.

    - If you want to write a book but can't come up with ideas, pretend there's yardwork waiting for you and a wife who thinks it needs to be done immediately.

    - If Watergate happened today, Woodward and Bernstein's editor would spike the story because of the unlikelihood they could land good art.

    - Unless they could think of a way to compile the thousands of inches of copy to produce something less than 15 inches, and then tell most of the story in a snappy 3-column color graphic.

    - News reporters know sports. Sports reporters know gambling. Feature reporters are just waiting for the next government PIO job to open up.

    - In the Hall of Dumb Questions, asking the survivor of a tragedy, "So what does it feel like to be alive?" is the benchmark for obtuse displays of human indignity.

    - Journalism Rule #1 you won't find in the AP Style Guide ... You cannot write a tornado story wtihout this quote from a witness: "It sounded like a train."

    - No government or business story is complete without finding a fringe academic to lend credibility to the most remote minority opinion. This is called "providing balance."

    - If you're not finding any news at city hall, you're not trying very hard.

    - The best investigative reporting starts with diligent beat reporting.

    - And for my wise old J-school professor ... I don't plan on being around to provide the only justifiable slammer in newspaper headlines: "Jesus returns!"

    Thursday, December 01, 2005

    What is a Reformed Charismatic?

    Apologies for digging out my archives again, but I've been struggling to answer Adrian Warnock's challenge to explain what a Reformed Charismatic is.

    I keep coming back to a single issue: The one defining line between a Reformed Charismatic and the type of Charismatic whose theology brings criticism from those within traditional orthodoxy is the status of their doctrine of suffering.

    Now, I do not want to put a burden on all Reformed Charismatics. There are some that believe physical healing was included in the atonement, and there are some that don't. I remain undecided, and I tend to side with those who argue healing in the atonement would have to provide an absolute guarantee of physical healing in this age, since Christ's atonement was the perfect sealing for the wound we caused in the fall of man. Healing in the atonement offends my understanding of the doctrine of suffering, but I leave room for argument for those who believe otherwise.

    That said, I do believe all power given to the Church today takes us back the Cross. It is the source of our power, and I believe all charismatic practices come with a mandate to make central the Cross. Any charismatic practice that downplays the core message of the Gospel -- faith in Christ, through the grace of God, redeems us for eternal life in heaven after physical death on earth -- is out of character with the very intent of the work of Christ. Any charismatic practice that places more importance on the flesh is in conflict with the Gospel message, which is explicitly a guarantee for future hope, and no guarantee of an easy life in this age.

    I don't want to rehash how I understand Biblical suffering, because I've already written on it. Here is an essay I wrote in May, entitled "My grounding: The doctrine of suffering" ...
    Acceptance or denial of charismata has never defined Evangelicalism. It is probably one of the most misunderstood elements of Christianity today. What does separate some Charismatics from the mainstream is specific doctrines relating to the methodology of charismata, and I'm not talking about "tongues."

    The greatest weakness of the categoric Charismatic churches I'm familiar with is the lack of emphasis on the doctrine of suffering. Simply put: When God does not heal or even offer a relief of pain the person they pray for, the temptation is to blame the person for whom they are praying as lacking in faith. Without discernment that is the case (and it does fall under a possibility - Matt 13:58), I find this an especially unloving practice.

    If the person was brave enough to seek prayer for that ailment in the first place, I have a hard time believing God would not accept that faith as sufficient in most cases. God's requirement for sufficient faith is not stringent. (Matt 17:20)

    No Christian can always offer healing, but we can always offer love. If we have a proper understanding of the doctrine of suffering, we might also offer understanding to those who do not receive healing:

  • Our flesh is condemned to pain, suffering and death the moment we are born. This is product of Original Sin and God's judgment. (Gen. 3:17-19)

  • We may suffer because God loves us, and uses our suffering to conform us. (Heb. 12)

  • We may put ourselves in harm's way because of our sin. (Gal. 6:7-12)

  • In some cases, we may even be persecuted because of our faith. (Just read the New Testament from Matthew to Revelations).

    To deny this doctrine is to put the greatest burden on those that are already afflicted, which is all of us (but some more than others). One would have to assume we possess the power of healing, that God has somehow surrendered his authority in this matter, which is stopping just short of saying that we are also gods. It denies the very purpose of our existence on earth, which was defined for us the moment Adam and Even fell in the Garden of Eden.

    Some Charismatics like to point out that Jesus had a perfect record when it came to healing, and so should we, we just need to "claim it." I see a much different model in Jesus' ministry. Jesus, as God in the flesh, also had perfect discernment. I believe God the Father was already doing the healing, and God as Man saw what God the Father was doing before He prayed for people.
    In John 5, Jesus says:

    19 Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these.

    I infer several distinctions from Jesus' explanation on His view of His own miraculous works:

  • The miraculous starts with God the Father.

  • Jesus can only work in the miraculous when the Father begins it.

  • Jesus performed 100 percent accurate signs and wonders because He had perfect discernment what the Father was doing.

  • Discernment what God is doing is an essential tool for a healing ministry.

  • Without discernment, praying for a miracle it is a hit-and-miss (and likely miss-miss-miss-miss ...) tactic.

    I would not expect perfect discernment from anyone who is not Jesus any more than I would expect a perfect record of healing. Lack of discernment would not stop me for praying for healing for anyone who asked me to do so (or where I see a need), but I would not put impossible expectations on my prayer, either. I have faith that God can heal someone of any affliction we ask Him to heal, but I know, by reading His Word, that God loves us whether He heals us in this age or not, and we will have the universe's greatest health care plan after death. The latter is the only message I wish to convey to anyone I pray for, whether or not they receive healing.

    Ultimately, Jesus did not come to heal our flesh. Jesus came to deliver us from the fate of our flesh, which begins the process of death at birth. Healing is a part of the ministry that reflects on God's dominion on earth. He is in control, and any display of His perfect power should point back to the Cross.
  • Wednesday, November 30, 2005

    More annoying humor

    I received an e-mail from a woman who felt my satirical Santa = Satan letter was in bad taste. This, of course, inspired me to attempt more of the same.

    Not having a lot of time, I've decided to dig something out of my wayback archives ... wayback meaning stuff I wrote when nobody read my blog. This one's from April. I offer this up (again) without shame:

    Irony 'wasted' on ill-informed

    By Gil Gadabout
    Disassociated Press

    ROSEVILLE, Calif. -- A liberal hipster visiting friends in this Sacramento suburb swore off sharing his humor with the general public Thursday after a particularly dry, ironic quip fell on deaf ears.

    "It was just a waste of good wit," Olanzo Garcia, a 28-year-old Half Moon Bay, Calif., resident said. "This would've had them rolling back home."

    The incident occurred when an unidentified 23-year-old Starbucks employee accidently spilled Garcia's non-fat latte espresso drink. Ashamed, the employee began profusely apologizing.

    Garcia reportedly offered, "It's alright, honey. We're in a 'blue' state. We don't crucify people here."

    When people failed to acknowledge the joke in reference to the 2004 presidential election, Garcia left without further comment. He said he could only assume the "ignorant Valley hicks" in the coffee shop either didn't appreciate the liberal slant or weren't "as informed" as the Bay Area amateur pundit.

    "Maybe they should turn off the Fox News channel and learn how to read," Garcia said.

    Tim Erity of the American Center for Ironic Justice said Garcia's experience is a common one for city slickers unaccustomed to suburban and rural sensitivities.

    "American urbanites are just going to have to learn how to be patient with those with less access to high technology and advanced central plumbing," Erity said. "The rest of the country will catch up and be assimilated as progress catches up, but it's going to take time."

    Erity said the ACIJ has recorded over 22,000 incidents of missed ironic punch lines since George W. Bush was re-elected to the White House last November. He said irony analysts are predicting more of the same, with perhaps increased insensitivity leading up to the 2008 election.

    "It's a trend right now. Not everyone can have a sense of humor like Michael Moore."

    One child's honest letter to "Santa"

    Dear Santa,

    I am not writing this letter to ask you for something, for the chubby devil in the red cape has nothing to offer a redeemed believer such as myself. I just wanted to let you know I'm in on this ruse of yours.

    C.S. Lewis, in his Screwtape Letters, once suggested the devil's greatest trick was convincing people he didn't exist. I now realize the devil isn't hiding. He has cloaked himself in the "Spirit of Christmas."

    After all, you can't spell SATAN without SANTA.

    I only first learned of this horrible charade just 12 months ago, when, after leading a perfectly "good" year, I did not receive Doomed for PS2 as I had been led to believe. Your are not just a cheapskate, instead bringing me underwear and board games, you are a liar and a thief -- you brought me nothing and still had the nerve to eat the cookies and milk I left for you in good faith.

    This led me to do an investigative report as part of my homeschool studies. I have uncovered more of your damning relationship to the horned one:

  • You prefer the color red, just like him
  • You purportedly like snow, as if none of us would ever figure out your wicked sense of irony
  • Like a thief in the night, you skulk around people's rooftops while they are sleeping
  • You are a practitioner of "magic"

    I have led my church youth group at the Apostolic Victory Spirtual Warfare Word of Faith Center and Chiropracty to take on the task to pray down the "Spirit of Christmas," that God might lift the veil of your deception around the world, and people would come to understand the true meaning of Christmas and birth of Christ: God is our only giver of good gifts, and we have the power to call on His blessing without your phony works-based faith.

    We are currently seeking God to empower us with a SUV stretch limo for youth trips; buddy, I have faith that moves mountains, so surely God will see fit to give us a transport vehicle that can climb them with the air conditioning on full blast. I'd like to see you trump that one, fat boy.

    Anyway, you are on notice and I suggest you just stick it out at your compound of darkness in the North Pole. We're going to be calling down the fire of God on you and I don't want innocent reindeer hurt in the process.

    In Christ's love,

    Paul Silas Holcomb
    Youth Group peer apostle and prayer warrior,
    The Apostolic Victory Spirtual Warfare Word of Faith Center and Chiropracty of Bethany, Okla.
  • Monday, November 28, 2005

    What I learned from my blogout

    I spent last week on a self-imposed "Blogout for the Kingdom." This was first inspired by Dan, who felt we bloggers spend a lot of time writing about things we should be doing, but perhaps don't spend enough time doing those things.

    This was not a criticism. It was driven more by Dan's blogging style, which is often critical of the Church. Dan felt motivated to do those things he personally espouses, which he boldly trumpets on his blog.

    I did it for a couple of reasons:

  • My blog was becoming a big distraction at work
  • I've been slacking in my Kingdom work
  • I really liked the idea of dedicating time to affirming with my hands the words that I write and speak.

    Dan, whom many of us have affectionately taken to referring to John the Baptist of the Blogosphere, has that kind of affect on me. That's why the Pyro lists him as provocative and I hold the man in high regard, even if our perspectives are very, very different. Dan is a man of action, and I think he has a much better understanding of the radical nature of the Gospel than I do. I am a man of thoughts, and I'm probably less concerned -- to my detriment -- whether I am being a good steward every single moment of the day.

    So I followed Dan into the wilderness, and the first thing I did was to sneak back into the blogging village. I spend a great deal of my time sitting on my backside in front of a computer, waiting for people to call me back. Sure, I probably could have been writing letters of exhortation to the four families of missionaries commissioned by our church, but, as I stated above, Kingdom stuff is unfortunately not always at the forefront of my thoughts.

    What was captivating to me was what I accomplished with minimal efforts. My first goal was to get back what I have always felt is my specific calling to my local church: building up and supporting the pastoral staff.

    I went to lunch with the staff and in 90 minutes I realized what a great blessing they are to me. I went there to encourage them and they ended up knocking my socks off with encouraging words and timeless one-liners. I'd almost forgotten how much I enjoy their fellowship, mostly because we can move seamlessly from plusses and minuses of a specific theological movement to popular culture without pulling a muscle.

    Another thing I focused on was putting more effort into loving my wife and connecting with my family. I had really shirked this duty in the past months because my job is so time-consuming -- often times putting in 75+ hours a week. For my wife, I tried to do things without asking ... washing the dishes, taking out the trash, thinking ahead to the little things I know she wishes I did but never really do.

    I also spent some earnest moments with my father, whose old-fashioned (but well-meaning) authoritarianism never fails to send me back to that wound-up teenager who just wanted to put his father in his place. This was a tough one, but I realize I need to be much more patient with him, because in spite of our disagreements he has always supported me without question and without fail. He is a complicated man, but he has always shown his love to me with considerable backbone ... I know supporting me can be a major burden sometimes.

    What came out of this is the realization that my pursuit of a career in journalism is necessary at the moment (because I have no other way to gain a regular income), but it's almost surely a selfish pursuit to continue down this path. I am capable of making much more money in what has become a one-income household, and our new budget reveals we have a monthly shortfall that I did not realize. To save money, to pay off our debt, and to be a good steward with my money means I need to find an occupation with more earning potential.

    This is not a "keeping up with the Joneses" issue. This is a "we're not even meeting our basic needs" issue, and I recognize now how I've unintentionally put us in this hole by settling for less paying jobs in the hopes of moving ahead someday in this business.

    It now appears I will be returning to a line of work I said I would never return to: real estate. I used to joke, when I left real estate at 21, that I needed to find a line of work that paid you to tell the truth. Funny line, but sorely exaggerated.

    The beauty of this is both my father and my younger brother are in desperate need of immediate help, and they are probably willing to nearly double my current income if I would be willing to step into that gap. I have been disappointed with my current job because it has taken me away from renewed opportunities of fellowship with them.

    I consider this without delusion. Working with family is exactly how you would imagine it: challenging. They take your feelings for granted. You take their feelings for granted. You say things to family you work with that you would never say in a professional environment. They ask you to do things -- clean toilets? -- they would never ask another professional to do. You decline to do things in a caustic way -- "I'm not your janitor" -- you would probably fear cause for termination in a real workplace.

    But I do love my family and I wish to be a better provider for my wife (and hopefully future children).

    Back to the issue ...

    While I spent some downtime at work responding on other blogs, I generally kept my mouth shut here in spite of my instincts. There was a heated divide between two major bloggers, and I had all kinds of thoughts on the topic. Instead, I kept my promise and discovered I am thankful for the words I did not write here. What I thought was so insightful at the time was probably more inflammatory than I intended.

    The blogout, which was basically a fast, is not for everyone. I concluded this blog serves my own love of writing than it is of any benefit to the readers. I blog because I need this outlet to be silly, to be creative, to be connected to others who share those needs. I simply don't know very many people beyond these virtual walls who could appreciate those aspects of my personality.

    So I am thankful for this blog space and the people who visit here. I am also thankful for the revelation God delivered in my time off -- how much I enjoy the fellowship of my pastoral staff, and how beneficial it is to me when I serve others in the kind of love that Christ gives us. This is especially true of family. I'm hoping this new insight I have God will use as a personal renewal of me so I can fulfill these small Kingdom tasks without having to stage a special cause.
  • Sunday, November 27, 2005

    Blogout over, brain dead

    I had to resist temptation at least 50 times last week. Now that I've returned, I'm not particularly inspired to write anything. Here are some of the things I'm considering writing about this week:

  • What I did on my blogout "vacation" ...
  • A "monk" and a "Pyro" walk into a bar, which is really stupid, because you would have figured after the monk walked into it, the Pyro would have seen it ...
  • How Monty Python and Douglas Adams corrupted my sense of humor at a very young age ...
  • There's a fine line between sarcasm and inflaming a riot ...
  • Conversely, there's a very dull line between the North African and European Swallow ...
  • Su curiosidad conseguir mejor usted algún día ...

    As you can see, I have a host of topics on which I can write at least 50 words. When I wake up from my too-much-sleeping-induced half-coma, I'll see what I can do to get the critical thinking facilities in motion.
  • Tuesday, November 22, 2005

    More proof God loves irony

    I'm taking a quick break from real work, so this isn't an ethical violation of my promise to blog out. I've done Kingdom work today in place of blogging. Promise. If I wasn't doing this, I'd be checking out sports scores.

    I just had to jump in here to point out the same week I decided to follow provocateur Dan into the wilderness of a self-imposed blogout, this happens:

  • I receive honored space at the Pyro's blog roll under "Entertaining."
  • I receive a permanent link under Adrian's revived "Reformed Charismatic" blog roll.

    These are two of the most trafficked sites among the GodBlogs and they are definitely sending visitors my way. Apologies if you expected to be entertained or bear witness to my charisma being reformed this week.

    This kind of stuff happens so often around here, I am considering changing my theology. I think I'm going to sell all my stuff and make plans to become a missionary, then promptly buy a PowerBall ticket.

    OK, I'm out for good the rest of the week. In case you're wondering, yes, I'm still having turkey for Thanksgiving. Dan's the locust & honey guy.
  • Sunday, November 20, 2005

    But before I go ...

    The Pyromaniac has included me in his updated blog roll. I feel like that little kid in the old "Mean" Joe Green Coke commercial.

    Blogout for the Kingdom

    I'm joining Dan in the Blogout for the Kingdom. See you next week!

    Thursday, November 17, 2005

    One personal experience with the prophetic

    All of this theological positioning on the charismata in today's world has been sometimes edifying and mostly just interesting to see how the GodBlogosphere is spread out on the issue.

    There seems to be an enormous tension specifically on prophetic gifting and whether or not the same prophetic application of the Bible is available to us today.

    I think I've gone to great lengths to note I believe the canon of Scripture is closed, at least in the best ways we have to determine it. I personally believe God has imbued many people with a powerful prophetic gifting to guide His church beyond the Bible, among them being the Reformers we hold so dear. They were not 100 percent accurate, though.

    I consider Luther's commentary on Galations of enormous importance to the Church and, without a doubt, inspired, but it's not Scripture. I could never walk lock/stock in line with every single inch of Luther's dogma. He was not an apostle. He was not the Protestant Pope.

    While I could probably sit here and type out a reasonable defense of the gift of prophecy for today, I'm not going to out-do Grudem. I'm not even going to out-do Adrian or Rob, who have put together strong arguments in favor. Dan has really driven home my own point of view, with examples of which I was unaware. I should also note I agree completely with Phillip Johnson's criticism of fringe charismatic prophets and a loose theology that gives too much credibility to anyone who claims an annointing.

    The challenge has been brought by Phillip Johnson and other cessationists to bring forth one 100-percent accurate prophet living among us today. They would even be satisfied with any meeting those credentials beyond the historical close of the canon of Scripture.

    It sounds like baiting to me, because most charismatics view prophetic gifting entirely different from the authoritative voice of God that produced the works of our Bible. Those asking know this, but instead of engaging us on the argument of prophetic guidelines, they tell us what they are and demand we meet them. The gift of prophecy, we believe, is to be tested because it is fallible and because many of us draw a distinction between the gift and the office of prophecy. However, we do believe one element of the prophetic gift is foretelling of the future, although I believe too much emphasis is placed on this element in charismatic churches -- by naivete' of the Word, not by misleading intention.

    For further Biblical argumentation, see all of Grudem's writings on the topic, since he seems to be the groundstone for the modern charismatic apology.

    What I can relate is how I have experienced what I believe to be God's clear prophetic leading in my life.

    A little over two years ago my wife and I were going through a turmoil one rarely plans for at such an early stage of life. I had just turned 34 and hadn't even been married a year when my wife lost her job because of an emerging disability.

    Her doctor had discovered the disc between her L4/L5 was torn and probably irreperably damaged.

    I had been at my job of the time for eight years. It was officially a career, and I made a good living. However, without my wife's income, home ownership would have been a challenge.

    When my wife lost her job, her first instinct was to look back to her home in Sacramento. I was not opposed to moving as much as I felt God had us in Phoenix for a reason, the proof being I was still very comfortable and did not want that to change. Yes, money was going to become a short-term problem, but I was confident I made plenty to get us through until we found a medical solution for her back.

    My wife insisted, however, as she was homesick and certain God was leading us back to her family. Logically, I resisted. I had a career and I had suddenly become the primary breadwinner. She had a job offer in Sacramento that would not sustain us, and picking a move location before finding a job is always a bad idea for journalists -- there's usually only one daily paper, one paper that pays a reasonable wage, in any given city or town.

    I do not do anything like this without counsel, and I began to consult my family, my friends, my pastor. What was evident is no one was willing to strike a strong position other than my father, who was concerned for my financial wellbeing. I could not find strong opposition, though I was earnestly looking for it. It did not "feel" like a smart move. My logical faculties worked overtime in finding the most persuasive argument to keep my wife content where we were.

    Ultimately I felt impressed by the Lord that I needed to take care of my first mission field, my home, and take care of my wife. She had grown despondent and lonely in Phoenix. Her life was now at odds. I believed God told me that if I moved my wife back to Sacramento and her family, He would bless us for it.

    Now, I don't have that direct line to God to reach Him on impulse. Impressions such as the one above are rare for me or anyone I know who believes in God speaking to us today. I certainly don't feel it's necessary to have an impression or a revelation to make a big decision in life, but I always seek God's input to make sure I'm not ignoring Him in my time of need. My comfortable fallback position is God is always in control, and so as long as I am seeking His righteousness, I'm always exactly where He wants me to be.

    I certainly don't need a "word" from the Lord to brush my teeth in the morning. I know it's good for me, so I do it. In the same line of thinking, I don't need any new revelation from the Lord to tell me where my hope should rest, Who is my savior and Lord, and what He expects from me as a believer. I can read these in His Word, and I believe I can walk this out with guidance of His Word and help from the Spirit in a natural, rational way.

    Still, when seeking specific direction, I always go back to God in prayer to announce that I leave my life in His hands and will.

    So we moved to Sacramento on hope and with need. Because of the impression I had received, I was certain God was going to really "bless" us with my heart's desires: a home, a family, stability.

    Anyone who's ever dealt with their fleshly expectations of God knows that is always the wrong perspective to take. Instead of looking for what God was doing, I was looking for what I expected God to do for me.

    What resulted was two of the most difficult, challenging years of my life. We spent most of our time relying on the goodness of our friends and family to make ends meet. There were times I did not know how rent would be paid. I often lost sleep as tow trucks drove through our slumly apartment complex, fully expecting our car to get repossessed. Many of those fulfilling relationships my wife so intently expected to rejoin had changed for the worse, and we were crushed to watch some of those so close to us abandon their faith. My wife had major back surgery that only seemed to create a new problem, and she may eventually wind up on permanent disability. Our marriage was challenged, my faith was challenged, and if I were to look back on those two years with any kind of American instinct, I definitely did not hear God's voice. What I expected and what happened were two very different things.

    Instead, I have to listen what my wife says about the experience:
    It was the most spiritually rewarding two years of her life.
    My problem is I was looking for the wrong kind of blessing.

    My wife has changed. Her perspective has decidedly moved towards a Kingdom outlook. She has developed an instict for patience, kindness, and understanding when difficulty arises. I have always loved her big heart, but she has become even more encouraging and supportive of me -- a challenge for anyone who knows me. Instead of looking at life where she is owed something, she tends to reflect on what God has given her. Still a social extrovert, she is more intensely introspective, eschewing offense in favor of grace for those who seek to hurt her.

    There were moments I was certain I had made a mistake and stepped outside the will of God by moving -- in spite of my earlier statement of confidence that it's impossible to do so for those who are seeking His righteousness. I called out to God to return me to my previous state of grace and blessing, where I was most comfortable, and instead I was often met with financial hurdles only cleared by last minute miracles. Sure, we'd need $500 and somehow we'd receive $1,000. Yes, I'd have no money for gas to get to work, and -- I do not know how -- we'd receive a check in the mail the night before for some error in our favor. Sometimes by willful help and sometimes with unwitting help from others, we maintained an otherwise impossible health care bill. It does not change the fact that few people are so spiritually insightful and discerning to recognize that God is with them even in their time of greatest need.

    In reflection, I have no doubt God led us to Sacramento, and the fact I was not comfortable does not change that. I am learning that being so outside of my comfort zone was one of the best things that ever happened to me, but I don't want to belabor an obvious point: God is most effective transforming us when we are weak. It's not what He prefers, it's what He expects. I was weakened in self-assurance and self-reliance so He could be increased in my life.

    My grandmother was impressed the other day to deliver me a Scripture passage. She doesn't even know 1/10th of the whole story, she just knows Sacramento was something of a challenge. The passage was Psalms 37:25:
    I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.
    I read it last night as my wife was in bed with a pain spike on our anniversary, and I was lamenting my lack of money to fix my car.

    The truth is I have never been so poor that I went a day without food, shelter, or even so much as a soft bed with pillow. It is breaks my heart to see my wife in pain, but she bounces back each time with more enthusiasm and an appreciation of life. Her turmoil has forced me to become a better servant. God has blessed me, and I believe, by putting in me a boldness to listen and follow his voice in a direction that raised flags by my natural logic, I have been changed for the better. Transformation in me has been furthered, something I value infinitely more than homeownership or financial stability.

    I realize this is not the best experiential argument for the gift of prophecy for today. I suppose I never intended to convince anyone, but just wanted to affirm my faith that God is actively involved in my daily life and is leading me, usually in spite of my natural instincts. The only definition I can assign to that is divine inspiration, the kind that does not belong in a corporate writ of God, and can only be fully appreciated by the people it directly impacts.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2005

    Chick flicks for the dudes

    Tomorrow is my third wedding anniversary. We're broke from the move, so we're doing with something simple in celebration: a night of chick flicks.

    Now before my guy readers sneak off to laugh at me, let it be known that I am an outstanding judge of chick flicks. I have already made sure these movies cannot be shown while I'm in the room: Beaches, anything that combines director John Hughes with Molly Ringwald or Andrew McCarthy, or any movie where someone dies from a long bout of cancer (except My Life or My Life As A House, which are right up there with Brian's Song for movies where it's acceptable for a guy to cry at the end).

    I should receive an award for my ability to pick movies for my wife's feminine sensibilities without reaching too far into the drum of syrup. Tommorow night my wife and I will enjoy:

  • Raising Helen: I don't know which part charms me more: when Pastor Dan proclaims "I'm a sexy man of God and I know it," or when Pastor Dan tells Helen her kids can go to his Lutheran school as soon as their Lutheran credentials are determined by a blood test.

  • The Princess Bride: It's incontheivable that any American under the age of 40 has not seen this movie. Disney only dreams of writing movies with this kind of wit and broad appeal. And the guys, too.

  • Something the Lord Made: One of my wife's favorite movies and proof there really is a rapper (Mos Def) with considerable acting ability.

    Toss in home-cooked meal and some caramel popcorn, and I think I'm going to be pretty popular for awhile.

    UPDATE: I forgot to mention my wife will be able to sub out any of these movies for Muriel's Wedding or Say Anything, but I think we've worn these out. She will not be allowed to put in Love Actually, a charming movie that is better saved for Christmas. I'm still up in the air with About A Boy; Hugh Grant has a declining rate or return for me, and I think we've filled up our Hugh Grant consumption this past month.
  • Monday, November 14, 2005

    Becoming all things

    My wife and I were sitting in a restaurant patio for a quiet dinner. We are not wealthy or even secure by any means, but an occasional night out at a reasonable eatery is one of the few luxuries we consider to be worthy of an extra dollar or two.

    What we did not bargain for was the show about to lift curtain next to us.

    Eight people, the majority of them well-dressed, middle-aged upper classers, seemed to enjoy each other's company. Hearty laughter seemed as deep as the steins of beer and glasses of wine being generously served at the table.

    My ability to listen is one of life's great ironies. I have difficulty paying attention to the person directly in front of me, but I can discern and compile a conversation of eight people discreetly discussing their business 15 feet away.

    Thankfully, my wife was too hungry to demand my attention Friday night, because my attention was keenly aware of a shift in the conversation's demeanor across the patio. Someone, the lone young voice of the group, made a passing crack at a liberal politician.

    I glanced over and realized a man -- a wild-eyed 20-something full of purpose and confidence -- had begun to hold court. He defended President Bush. He defended the GOP. He defended conservative politics and the "American Way."

    I looked for his Captain America shield, but could only find his collegiate ball cap -- and it wasn't red, white or blue.

    The others weren't groaning as much as they seemed to bite their lips attempting to find the patience to deal with this annoyance. One graceful man at the end of the table, with an appearance and Kermit-like voice of Frank Oz, appeared to be humored by this young bull's cockiness. The man attempted to reason with him a need for political centeredness, but he could have possibly been enjoying goading the young man into a frothy political rant.

    The volume grew louder as the young man realized he was alone in his enthusiasm for conservative malcontents like Pat Buchanon. To him, he announced in a booming voice the entire restaurant and half the neighborhood, not supporting such moral giants was akin to abandoning one's children in a ditch.

    It was at this point that one couple gathered together their well-tailored selves and left without saying a word.

    Captain America did not take pride in this, although he seemed to think it was an acceptable result of such conversation: "This is how it always goes with my friends. We start talking and someone leaves in a huff."

    The young man continued his tirade as if those who stayed were now in an agreement with him. An older woman who had not spoken as of yet began to shake with frustration as she attempted to calmly deliver her words of political caution to the young man.

    Probably startled and just now realizing how emotional those around him had become, the young man began to lower his voice, but could not help but boom his major points across the table, wildly swinging his hands. He was not angry as much as he was a zealot for his cause. He did not mean to offend, he just could not understand how those around him could not see the infallible truth of his logic.

    The party disbanded about 10 minutes later, with the young man seeking solace to his car. I caught a glimpse of his hat. It bore the name of a church in the area.

    The man who looked like Frank Oz was jovial upon exiting, turning to me and pointing out to the crowd how "at least" I had been entertained. He held out his fist for what is a the culture-current form of a "high-five."

    "That was great," I said, embarrassed to be called out on my eaves-dropping. "It was like dinner theatre."

    My new friend laughed while his friends groaned and made their way to the parking lot.

    What struck me -- and I made a point to mention it to my wife -- was how much the young man reminded me of my younger self: Sold out to the wrong cause for the right reasons and the best of intentions. It was not my politics that were inherently wrong. It was how my politics always got in the way of the Gospel.

    I do not want to make a political statement here as much as I want to point out how easily we are sidetracked. I do not know if these people were Christians, although apparently this young man was a believer.

    If this was "fellowship," it was a horrible representation, particularly to those 20 or so onlookers outside the restaurant. If there was an opportunity to represent Christ -- if not in words, then in deeds and action -- this young man probably has lost the respect of the couple who left in offense.

    It heightened in me the need to always be about the Gospel, about Christ and the Cross. Even if I am not speaking of it, I need to live it, so that people do not know me by my politics, or my social causes, or my extraneous theology. Even to those who I fellowship with as believers, I want them to see Christ in me so that I do not stumble them. Especially to those who I fellowship with who are not believers, I want them to see through me to the One who has rescued me and redeemed me.

    This is not to say we should not be active in this world as citizens, taxpayers, and voters. However, I think it's best to do these things in ways that glorify God, and I'm don't think you have to read through the book Proverbs to see that patience, prudence, and love trump our ability to sway men with arguments.

    Friday, November 11, 2005

    Time for an intervention with Uncle Pat

    Everyone's got one.

    You know, that brother, or aunt, or second cousin that continually embarrasses the family with their illegal habits and practices. They're the ones that stew silently in the corner at Thanksgiving, and the reason Grandma no longer makes rum balls.

    You know, the relative that, when they come over, you have to lock up your medications, hide the credit cards, and make sure he's never alone with the kids.

    In the Christian family, Pat Robertson is our Uncle Pat. He's off his rocker drunk with power.
    "I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God. You just rejected him from your city," Robertson said on the Christian Broadcasting Network's "700 Club."
    Uncle Pat said this after Dover, Pa., voters booted eight school board members who were in favor of promoting intelligent design in schools as an alternative to evolution.

    Aside from the fact this was a theist issue, which is a poor substitute for the Gospel, it was primarily a local political issue. This was not a rejection of the Gospel. This was a rejection of theism being taught in schools. As a Christian, I don't see how teaching our children an open theory of creation promotes the Gospel. I believe a good argument could be made it hinders the Gospel in some cases.

    Furthermore, I am not in favor of a public school teacher of unknown faith teaching any child about the things of God. I can accept they would teach evolution, and if I were a parent, I would be delighted for the opportunity to discuss the Biblical account of creation when they come home from school.

    If I were a Dover, Pa., resident, I might have voted against school board members in favor of promoting intelligent design, too. Will Uncle Pat now condemn me, a man who confesses a Biblical faith in Christ?

    This is not the first time Uncle Pat has embarrassed our family:

  • "If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it," Uncle Pat said of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, whom Uncle Pat accused of turning the South American country into "a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent."

  • "You say you're supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that, and the other thing. Nonsense. I don't have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist," he said back in 1991.

  • He took credit for steering the course in 1985 of Hurricane Gloria, which caused millions of dollars of destruction in many states along the U.S. east coast. He made a similar claim about another destructive storm, Hurricane Felix, in 1995. In 2003, Robertson called on God to prevent Hurricane Isabel from hitting Virginia Beach.

    We can forgive Uncle Pat for being a strange combination of Southern Baptist and Charismatic. I am a Charismatic and I love Southern Baptists of any flavor, although I imagine my SBC cessationist cousins would relish the opportunity for a disfellowshipment -- if they are even allowed such a thing in the SBC.

    What we can no longer let slide with Uncle Pat is his propensity to speak on behalf of our Father, in ways that are completely contradictory to His character and nature, with words the damn entire people without so much as a mention of the mercy of God in the person of Jesus.

    Uncle Pat is not a quiet malcontent left to his own devices. He has an enormous platform with which to inflict his damage and to corrupt our family mission of the Gospel.

    That so many of us just write him off as, "Oh, that crazy Pat, no one listens to him anymore," has become less of a joke and more of a sign we are slipping in our responsibility to love and correct a family member. We need to take to our own platforms to condemn the words and actions of our Uncle Pat, and to set straight what the Church is really about.
  • Wednesday, November 09, 2005

    Vineyard mythology

    I've been running across some funny myths on the Web about the AVC and its founder:

  • John Wimber founded the Vineyard. Nope, sorry. John Wimber took over leadership of the Vineyard -- possibly in 1982, depending on whom you speak with. He was involved as a pastor in 1977 of Calvary Chapel Yorba, but officially affiliated with the Vineyards in 1982, when Wimber's church broke off from CC to end a disagreement with CC leader Chuck Smith Sr.

  • Keith Green founded the Vineyard. I believe there is some partial truth to this, but, to my knowledge, Keith Green was never a member of AVC under Wimber. I believe he helped found the original Vineyard/Calvary Chapel home group in 1974.

  • Bob Dylan founded the Vineyard. Funny, but there is a related story about this. He was a member of the Beverly Hills Vineyard/CC Bible study circa 1977, I believe, a group which also included singer Donna Summer. Or so legend has it. He was involved through his gospel music years.

  • Lonnie Frisbee founded the Vineyard. Lonnie Frisbee was first a member of Calvary Chapel, and really was on the radar before Wimber's church officially broke off to join the Vineyard. A Mother's Day tale -- with alternating dates of 1979 and 1980 -- of Lonnie's incredible preaching is a common story in the Vineyard. Wimber considered the moment the beginning of his ministry's emphasis on power encounters. Frisbee's legacy remains a paradox for both the CC's and Vineyard's commissioned history tellers. I'll leave the whole story to be found via Google.

  • Paul Cain founded the Vineyard. This is just aggravating and a testament how the spikes in Vineyard's newsworthiness makes its history a jagged and poorly-remembered one. Cain was involved with the Vineyard during Wimber's emphasis on the prophetic in the late 80s. He was part of the Kansas City prophets fiasco which later led Wimber to apologize to the world and become corrected by peers outside of the organization. Cain was never the leader of the Vineyard -- although Wimber confessed he allowed Cain incredible influence for a time -- but the relationship was disassociated at the time of Wimber's shift back to orthodoxy (and sanity) in the early 90s. We are talking about an approximate four-year period which is not fondly remembered by many original Vineyardites, and not well-known among those who joined after.

    The Truth: Kenn Gullickson founded the Vineyards as a group of home Bible studies through Calvary Chapel, at a time when CC was hitting a cultural home run with their outreach to hippies and beach bums. This is believed to have begun in a partnership with Jesus People icon Keith Green in 1974, and continued until the late 70s with six other Vineyard home groups, when Gullickson's organization broke off from CC. If I understand the story correctly, this was the result of a request from CC Costa Mesa pastor Chuck Smith Sr., who was concerned about what he considered an excessive emphasis on the gifts of the Spirit. The Association of Vineyard Churches, as it would eventually become established in title, was born.

    I don't know the exact date, but I believe Gullickson may have officially passed control over the AVC to Wimber in 1982. By that time, it's said, Vineyard pastors were seeking Wimber's direction, so he was probably a de facto director before that.

    What is incredible to me about the history of the Vineyard is it has held a strong influence across denominational boundaries in spite of its wrong turns. The Vineyard today is nothing like the Vineyard of 1982, of 1992, or even of 2000. It is much more conventional and less controversial, which is the trend for all similar movements of the last 150 years. Still, I believe the Vineyard's strength remains in its DNA, which is a constant struggle for the authenticity of the First Century church, and a balance between Word and Spirit praxis.

    What strikes concern for me about the Vineyard is the growing chasm between the more conservative, Evangelical members, such as my own church, and the more charismatically-charged members. You really don't know what you're getting in a Vineyard church, because we are a diverse collection. Are we more in line with Wayne Grudem or Jack Deere? Then there is the added influence of N.T. Wright, post-modern missional churches, what's left of the seeker-sensitive programmers, and Alpha, whose USA arm is headed by former AVC USA director an Anaheim senior pastor Todd Hunter. It can become very confusing arriving at a conclusion how a "real" Vineyard church should behave.

    I don't think the Vineyard is going to be free from internal pulls because the top leadership, frankly, just is not visible to the whole Vineyard body. That's not a criticism, just an observation from the back pew. I bet a poll of Vineyard congregants would reveal less than 10 percent would know who the national director is (Bert Waggoner). I think BW was an excellent choice for director, I just would like to see a more visible leadership role from him, and not just among the pastors. It will be interesting to me to see if we can sustain our organization far beyond Wimber -- and beat years of predictions from outsiders that the Vineyard would die with him.
  • Only in the movies

    Jared has a link to a great list entitled 40 Things That Only Happen in the Movies. It is genius on par with George Carlin, minus the irritating digs at Christianity.

    Some things the list-writers failed to mention:

  • When the bad guys have an automatic weapon, they will graciously delay their spray of bullets to strike directly behind the escaping hero. The bad guys will then curse their bad luck, as if they didn't have some subconscious desire to let the hero get away.

  • When a rare bullet hits the target of the hero, it is always in a fleshy part of the body like the arm or the butt, to avoid fatality. On the contrary, a hero can throw a can of tuna with their weak hand and hit the bad guy in the shin, with the bad guy becoming the unlikely victim of a sudden shin-contusion fatality.

    Movie bad guys are so accommodating.

  • In some movie universes, such as those created by Kevin Smith, every character, from a priest to a street-corner drug dealer, uses Phillip Johnson-type words like solipsistic and obsequious, book-ended by f-bombs.

  • There's no such thing as a humble protestant pastor who isn't sifting from the collection plate or improperly mingling with the lady congregants. Lowly Catholic priests with an Irish background, however, have unimpeachable character.

  • In car chases, the average cop car is as fast and can handle as well as a Ferrari Testarossa -- or at least just fast enough to stay within two or three car lengths of one. However, all uniformed cops are incompetent drivers. All detectives in Armani suits have Formula 1 driving skills.

  • In car chases, an otherwise serenely silent Volvo suddenly ports a 392-Hemi under the hood with open headers.

  • All politicians are Kennedy-esque, even the ones that are based on former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley Sr. Unless they are Republicans, in which case they are always Dixie-based bigoted hypocrites.

  • An invisible horn section always accompanies a three-piece band. By relation, a drummer's tightly closed hi-hat can sound like a ride cymbal and vice versa.

  • When chasing a bad guy early in the movie, he can disappear in the middle of the Sonoran Desert when surrounded by three military regiments using the latest tracking technology. When chasing a bad guy late in the movie, only the hero can catch him, usually closing five city blocks of distance by making the most unlikely of changes to pursuit route.
  • A book I'd like to read

    First, I want to point everyone back to Rob's growing post of the blogstorm. It has become the quintessential reference point on the entire cessationists/charismatic discussion. I really, really, really appreciate people like Rob Wilkerson and John Telfer Brown. These are people who could claim something very personal at stake in the charismatic/cessationist discussion. Instead, they have remained focused on charity, grace, and community. Both of them continue to shine as examples for all of us, and not just as bloggers.

    I've seen a lot of references to a lot of different books. It's frustrating for me, because I haven't come across the "be all/end all" book that best represents truth, balance, and meaningful contributions that have come from cessationists and charismatics alike. There is a cultural discussion -- sometimes contentious -- that needs to be captured for, if nothing else, posterity. Books both in favor and critical of charismatics have been incomplete. Books in favor of charismatics too often fall into experiential argumentation. Books critical of charismatics tend to build too many strawmen by lumping all charismatics together -- developing convincing, but very manipulative, arguments of guilt by association.

    I would like to see a book about the central figures in this ongoing discussion in the Evangelical body for the last 35 years, to capture the discussion, not the argument. Here is the beginning of an outline for some enterprising author hankering for a new project:

    Outline for The Reformed-Charismatic Divide

    The Leadership
    Chuck Smith Sr., senior pastor, Calvary Chapel Fellowship Churches
    John Wimber, (deceased) director, Association of Vineyard Churches
    Jack Hayford, director, Foursquare Churches
    C. Peter Wagner, author/professor, Fuller Theological Seminary
    C.J. Mahaney, director, Sovereign Grace Ministries

    The Icons/Disputable History
    James Spurgeon
    Jonathon Edwards
    John Wesley
    John Nelson Darby
    D.L. Moody
    Smith Wigglesworth
    William Branham

    The Fringe
    Kenneth Copeland
    Benny Hinn
    Rodney Howard-Browne
    Paul Cain

    The Critics
    Walter Martin, (deceased) founder, Christian Research Institute
    John MacArthur, pastor/author, Grace Community Church
    Hank Hanegraff, director, Christian Research Institute

    The Modern Theolgians
    George Eldon Ladd
    Gordon Fee
    R.C. Sproul
    Wayne Grudem
    D.A. Carson
    Sam Storms
    John Piper

    I would like to see a book like this that tackles the discussion on the most reasonable, timely, and relevant angles:

  • The recent history of and reasoning for combining Evangelical theology with Charismatic praxis.

  • The inclination of traditional Reformed churches to argue against miracles based on the historical conflict with radically mystical Roman Catholicism.

  • A historical argument for and against the presence of the gifts of the Spirit between the time of the First Century Church to today.

  • A Biblical presentation of Pentecostal, Charismatic, Third Wave, and Cessationist points of view.

  • A solid criticism of Charismatic excesses that doesn't throw every single Charismatic onto the train tracks.

  • A stated affirmation of the Reformed tradition of theology that emphasizes the Scriptural authority, a Trinitarian viewpoint, and the centrality of the Cross.

    Maybe I'm asking for too much. Maybe I'll have to write it myself.