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.
  • Tuesday, November 08, 2005

    My confession

    My name is Matt and I'm a Charismatic. I was last drunk in the Spirit ...

    Before anyone thinks I'm running back into my Charismatic closet, I want to affirm that I am, indeed, one of "those"people. But I also want people to know I am not one of those people.

    Important elements of my faith:

  • I affirm this statement of faith.

  • I believe when Christ came as a man he preached the arrival of the Kingdom of God in Him. I believe Christ taught all his followers to preach the same message.

  • While I do not believe we will witness the fullness of the Kingdom until Christ returns, we have been left with the Holy Spirit, Who holds and imbues the dunamis -- the power of the Kingdom -- in Christ's followers. We are given this power to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom, which is the Gospel message of Christ, fully man and fully God, Who willingly sacrificed Himself on the Cross so all men, through faith in Christ, could spend eternity in fellowship with God.

  • I believe all the gifts are for today. I do not believe anyone today can hold the office of prophet or apostle, titles which were sealed with the Word. I do not believe any prophet today speaks on the same authority as inspired Scripture, and any prophecy given today can only be measured against the perfect canon of His word.

  • I do not hold to Dominioninst eschatology, which I find profoundly in contradiction to the Gospel.

  • I reject Word/Faith dogma as a vile perversion of the Gospel.

  • I believe all believers are sealed with the Holy Spirit upon acceptance of Christ as their Lord and Savior. I believe this is a legal statement of spiritual ownership and citizenship in the Kingdom of God. John called it our assurance. However, I believe there are degrees upon which the Spirit "fills" us, and some believers are not as "filled" as others. I believe the Spirit sometimes responds to requests to fill a believer, and I believe the Spirit sometimes impresses Himself on believers with or without that person's permission. I believe Paul instructed us to seek out an infilling of the spirit through worship. The purpose of being filled with the Holy Spirit is multiple, including for service, for gifting, for personal edification, always for the glory of God, not man.

  • I do not accept speaking in tongues as neccesary for evidence of Spirit baptism. I do not believe any physical evidence is neccesary for Spirit baptism.

  • I do not believe ecstatic spiritual experiences to be neccesary for sanctification or growth. I do not believe being filled with the Holy Spirit is always accompanied by outward manifestations. However, I do believe outward responses to the Spirit's powerful innerwork are possible, Biblical, and not always undesirable.
  • Monday, November 07, 2005

    The Reformed-Charismatic divide

    Phillip Johnson wrote what I thought was a well-written series of essays on spiritual warfare last week:
    , and

    What Johnson didn't count on was the skeptical undertow he brought with him as a cessationist and employee of a chief charismatic critic.

    In response, charismatics didn't disagree with Johnson as much as they worried about what he wasn't saying, which only served to put Johnson on the defensive. Here was the volley that followed Johnson's essays:

  • I wrote a reserved defense of Dr. Charles Kraft based on personal experience. It wasn't a full-on defense as much as I felt it neccesary to shine positive light on his character based on the tone of Johnson's attack on some of Kraft's beliefs. I agreed, more or less, than some of Kraft's theology teeters on the edge of orthopraxy, if it doesn't exceed it.

  • Some commentators on my post, such as fellow charismatic Dan Edelen, felt Johnson was being "ferocious" in his response to charismatics who felt he was being a little too harsh. Others, such as the more reserved Mike Russell, were skeptical in general of any kind of criticism that comes from the ministry Johnson is involved with.

  • Tim Challies added to the blogstorm by posting a negative review a book by Sam Storms. The author of the book is a member of my organization, the Vineyard, is considered one of the formidable voices for Reformed Charismatics. Challies objected because of the weirdness of Storms' argumentation. Considering the examples Challies offered from the book, I am uncomfortable myself, but I would like to point out weirdness has never been a limitation to the God of the Bible.

  • Adrian, sensing division, took on Johnson full bore. Instead of commenting on Johnson's criticism of the more loosely practicing Charismatics, Adrian decided to turn it into a debate over cessationism. Johnson replied in Adrian's post that he wasn't attacking Charismatics, he was attacking fringe Charismatics with problematic theology, but Adrian did not seem deterred from his concern. Adrian then filed a second post on the subject.

  • Johnson then fired back in a BlogSpotting post, including a link to my post on the subject. He seemed to have a strong grasp of my perspective and realized I was not attacking him in return. He expressed concern, however, over the language used in the comments to my post. Friends being what they are -- and I value all of you -- I choose not to get involved.

    To quote Paul Newman's Cool-Hand Luke, "What we have here is a failure to communicate."

    I did not disagree a single bit with Johnson's criticism of "rubber prophecies" and "geographical spiritual warfare." It's not just weird, much of it is patently unBiblical. Not extra-Biblical, just flat out can't find justification for it in the Word.

    Johnson, to his credit, continues to emphasize he was not attacking Charismatics. He has added a list of charismatics he finds acceptable, which I think is criticial in a time when members of the God Blogosphere could re-open wounds I felt were only recently healing. Johnson is a cessationist, but he is for the Gospel, and he is for anyone else who is for the Gospel.

    And that is really what he is defending. Anyone who puts unneccesary emphasis on orthopraxy -- such as charismatic practices -- deemphasizes the primary agenda of all Bible-based Christians, which is the Gospel. It must -- without any hinderance -- be the focus of our spiritual growth and our missional outlook.

    I am a charismatic with some highly suspect experiences. It's important to me that everyone knows I receive these as a gift from God, but I will never deem it mandatory for the whole Church body. It's not even important to me that cessationists change their mind. I believe cessationists function in the gifts whether they believe they are or not. I don't say that to offend. I only want to downplay what I consider a issue of methodology and practice, and put back on the pedastal what we want to honor.

    I hope as this blogstorm rolls on, we keep in mind the things on which we agree. No one is denying the divinity of Christ. No one is changing the formula for which we are to be saved. To me knowledge, none of those involved are denying the Trinity, the virgin birth, or -- and perhaps especially -- the divine authority of canonized Scripture.

    What will be debated is methodology and orthopraxy, which are lesser forms of theology that should never, ever divide us.
  • Friday, November 04, 2005

    What to do with retiring software engineers

    Reading Bob Cringely's nerdy posts is like asking the chicken what the chicken soup tastes like.

    Cringely was Apple employee No. 12 -- literally, he worked in the garage -- in 1977. A dispute over a three-figure failed salary payment led Cringely to leave in a huff. Not long after those wacky characters Steve Jobs, Woz, and the rest of that home brew crew cashed in to mega fortunes.

    Cringely did what every confused nerd without a job does: He taught at Stanford, then he went into journalism.

    Aside from his woeful career choices, Cringely is reliable to come up with some of the most interesting industry forecasts you can find in print. He's not a tech industry giant, he just knows what makes it tick.

    Cringely's latest foray into futurism makes a simple, logical prediction: Retiring Boomer software engineers are going to give Open Source software a fresh kick in the pants.

    By his count, we're going to have 100,000 retiring software engineers every year for the next 18 years, and they're going to need something fun and creative to do with their time.

    His rationale is credible:

  • Current Boomer engineers are senior management types who are current in their knowledge. They're not going from mainframes to desktops like their generational predecessors. They've always been on the crest of learning new programming language.

  • Boomer techies have used their knowledge to cash in. They won't be waiting on tiny corporate pensions to retire. They'll have sizeable 401Ks, stock options, and real estate to accomodate them. Their retirement won't be limited by a shortage of funds.

  • Boomers are healthy and going to live longer -- much longer in some cases -- than the generations before them.

  • Like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, Boomer techies are known for their innovation and restlessness. Many will be incapable of retiring to afternoon naps in the recliner.

    With this considered, Cringely believes Boomers are going to take to Open Source as a hobby. Maybe they won't stay up all night solving problems, but he thinks they may be wise enough to know they don't have to.

    That means, potentially, a lot of cool free software for which we currently pay through the nose. This already exists. Instead of paying $300+ for a Microsoft Office suite, you can download a free Open Source version that actually works with MS Office documents. It's totally free, and is fully functional on both Win-duhs and Mac OS X.

    However, Cringely disappoints me because he's predicting rather than making demands. He's an influential guy. He should be calling for these geeks to get to work on the long overdue teleportation device and never-delivered promise on the hover car.

    I've got a whole closet full of gray jumpsuits and black boots just waiting for that sci-fi future to arrive.
  • Thursday, November 03, 2005

    Handicapping the GodBlogs

    Jared posted a snappy little list of odds over at The Thinklings. He has established betting numbers on established bloggers doing the unexpected in the near future, which, for you alcohol-impaired readers, is called irony, which has nothing to do with your laundry.

    Or paedobaptism.

    If you're not familiar with Jared, he writes every blog in existence. Except this one, of course, which is why we are allowed to fly under the radar and take jabs at other bloggers without offense. I'm not Jared, but I'm going to play Jared on this blog today:

  • Jared reveals he is really James L. Brooks and posts under a pseudonym at BHT. 150:1

  • John admits he had a bizzare chemical accident years ago that gave him the superhuman ability to see through liberal political spin. 10:1

  • Mike writes his masterpiece blog entry which helps all of us distinguish skubalon from Shinola. Even

  • Brad joins Jim Wallis and the Sojurners. 800:1, down from 1000:1

  • iMonk resigns from his post and travels the country with vagabond Third Day groupies. 200:1

  • Brian starts requesting a third extra shot of espresso. 2:1

  • Dan creates new VH1 pop-culture show "I Love the First Century." 20:1

  • Adrian tells a joke. 5:2

  • James tells a joke. No line
  • Wednesday, November 02, 2005

    On politics

    Brad at Broken Messenger is not just a friend and brother in Christ, he's my de facto blogging companion because we see the world through a similar filter.

    He posted an excellent commentary yesterday on the superiority of the Gospel over politics, with sentiments that could have just as easily been expressed on this blog.

    Bill Gnade of Contratimes responded to Brad with a reasonable and familiar refrain:
    Surely there are political actions that might lead some to lose their wits, if not their very souls. And I am not talking about a hell here, a Lake of Fire. I am talking about that hell created by delusional policies and philosophies. Can't the Church do battle with those, perhaps even with a ballot measure?
    Brad returned with a Bible verse:
    For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. - Romans 9:15
    What's fascinating about Brad's choice of scripture is Paul is quoting Exodus 33:19:
    And he said, "I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name 'The LORD.' And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.
    In that passage of Exodus, Moses is interceding on behalf of the the exiled Israelites, whom God had just referred to as a "stiff necked people." Moses was seeking God's mercy to prevent the destruction of Israel for their disobedience.

    Paul's reference appears to be in response to Hebrews who determined Paul's Gospel message was one of an unjust God. Paul was pointing out God's soveriegnty to bless or condemn whomever or whatever he wanted -- and it is perfect justice because it is the omniscient, omnipresent God of the Hebrews.

    To Paul, the Hebrews who had attempted to systematically gain entrance into heaven were now part of the rejected, because they had rejected Christ. Now, entrance to heaven was only throgh Christ, and it was available to even the Gentiles. God was about tear down the old Hebrew systems, their politics -- even their temple -- and expand his Kingdom on earth through Christ's work on the Cross.

    Is that an unjust God? Did God break His promises to the Israelites? Paul says no, and in the first portion of Romans 9 he points to the Hebrew lineage of by which Christ was brought into the world, including God's promise of that heritage link.

    Paul answers it in whole with this passage:
    Romans 14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion,[b] but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
    So God even chose the Israelites' enslaver for His purpose, Paul says in reference to Exodus 9:16.

    Before, God had dealt with His chosen as a race and political body. After Christ's death and resurrection, God now deals with His chosen as those who receive and follow His son -- all races, no determinate political body.

    Political power, however, has always been at God's discretion to give and take. Whom God empowers has never been based on man's political systems and philosophies. His will and His plan has always been the first consideration.

    I believe this to be a powerful message to those who uphold the political philosophies of the world. If we are to accept God at His word, He can choose to raise up and empower an unholy dictatorship as easily as He can bless a democratic country who honors Him with Biblical law.

    As much as American Christians can find the wisdom in democracy, pluralism, and capitalism, there is nothing intrinsically Biblical about those messages. God does not seem to endorse political philosophy of any kind, and our philosophies remain under the banner of man's wisdom.

    Even Paul, our modern commentator of freedom, preached a message of slavery: to Christ, to His work, to serve man for the glory of God.

    This is not a condemnation of all politics, because clearly God has allowed us these devices to govern ourselves. There is no shortage of scripture for us to seek justice in the world, to protect those who cannot protect themselves, to assist those unable to care for themselves. I believe it would dishonor God if we did not participate in those facilities given to us to the best representation of our conscience.

    However, no political system should ever share the same authority of the Gospel in our lives. Our agenda is not a political one, and we are first citizens of the Kingdom of God, and secondary citizens of our physical nations.

    Tuesday, November 01, 2005

    I'm the lazy blogger Tim warned you about

    Tim Challies reflects on two years of non-stop blogging, and proceeds to take a GodBlogger-style swipe at friendlies JollyBlogger, Adrian Warnock and Dan Edelen as being lazy.

    In honor of lazy bloggers everywhere, I will become the trueembodiment of lazy blogging and simply post links to other bloggers who are actually producing interesting original content:

  • Dan challenges bloggers to embrace lazy blogging and become doers of the Word.
  • Brad takes on politicos and the centrality of the Gospel.
  • Brian writes about becoming the pastor of a new church plant. (We'll all be amazed if he can maintain his blog, I think)
  • Jared cracks me up with a Halloween recap.
  • Jason shares the real (and perhaps too rare) thrill of being a pastor.