Saturday, May 25, 2002

God's Not a Vending Machine-Good in-depth piece over at Martin Roth's blog of Soka Gakki (2:35PM Saturday-he doesn't have links yet). I remember studying them in a Buddhism class I had at CMU** two decades ago and thought, "these guys are dangerous." I mentioned them in passing in February as the Buddhist analogs to the name-it-and-claim-it charismatics mutation. Roth's new Can-Am tag-team partner Bene Diction makes that connection as well, linking to Gospelcom's Apologetics Index pieces on the subject [Caveat-Gospelcom's coming from a Baptist vantage-point and is rather skeptical about most charismatic stuff] that rightly calls it heretical. ** I needed a 300-level University Program elective in the summer to polish off my BS degree. Two were offered, both in the Religion department-survey courses in Christianity and Buddhism. Ex-Methodist me figured I knew Christianity (yes, go ahead. Snort-Chuckle. I'd come to the Lord three years later), so I figured I'd take the Buddhism class.

Agents in Place-I missed this bombshell from earlier this week, but Mark Butterworth has packed it in as a Catholic, upset at the unresponsiveness of church leadership. I'm praying that he and his lovely family find a good Bible-preaching church to go to. They need to be fed something more than the cynicism of being an ex-Catholic, as there are few things more cynical than an ex-Catholic. Well, ex-Anglicans come to mine; I had a near-ultimate cynic in a British finance prof at MSU. The current Situation has caused quite a few other devout Catholics to ponder leaving. They have a different dilemma than do Protestants in that they believe that the Roman Catholic Church is the primary address of the Body of Christ. It is more than just one of many interchangeable denominations, it's The Church. To get someone to throw in the towel on the concept that Rome bats 1.000 will leave the person in a spiritually vulnerable position, bringing into question other teachings as well. My fear is that people with weaker faith than Mark Butterworth's will walk away from God as well as the Catholic Church when they head for the exits. Remember that the Vatican has had some losers at the helm over its history and has survived despite them. John Paul II isn't a loser. He may be physically feeble, but he's one of the good guys. Unlike this batch of mutant 7th-Day Adventists, I think John Paul is pro-Christ, a blessing to the world in his quarter-century at the helm. Things are moving, albeit slowly, in the right direction. Showing Weakland the door is the first of many steps to clean house. There's a lot of grime left over from decades of institutional inertia and sexual/spiritual liberalism to clean up, so it will take time to do the job right. As much as I'd love to have Butterworth be part of a good evangelical church, he could also be useful showing God's love in his old Catholic church. There are any number of Catholic bloggers who I'd love to have worshiping with me at whatever evangelical church I wind up at in Florida, but God may have other plans for them. I'm not a big fan of a some parts of Catholic doctrine, but we evangelicals need to remember that there are lots of people who find a saving faith in Jesus within the confines of the Catholic church. Even if the Catholic Church does leave a lot to be desired, we need agents in place, proclaiming the Gospel where it's needed in this very hour. So, my Catholic brothers and sisters, don't gripe if God keeps you in there, you may be there to warm a heart and guide a soul to Christ in an hour where it needed. If we need to get rid of the bad apples, we need some good apples to fill in the gaps, and St. Blog's Parish has a bountiful orchardful of 'em.

Check the Nets' Structural Integrity... 'cause they sure did collapse this evening. I only got to see the fourth quarter, spending the afternoon with my lovely fiancée on a butt-ugly, cold-and-wet day up here. The Celtics were down 21 at the end of the fourth and came back to win it 94-90. Eighteen points was the largest fourth-quarter comeback in playoff history. I remember the Sixers doing a 21-or-so point 4QTR comeback in the regular season on a Sunday somewhere in the late 70's, but this was the playoff record.

Lots of interesting things happening up in the Great White North, where it's very interesting to see the worms at work when the rock is lifted. Here are a pair of interesting pieces of grime. One is where the government seems to have given big, irregularly-awarded contracts to a Liberal-friendly PR firm for some less-than-stellar work on fighting Quebec separatism. The RCMP has started a criminal probe into that one. This other fun one is where the Defence minister's former ladyfriend got a consulting contract from the Defence Ministry. The lady in question does have just enough expertise to make the contract plausible. Could this be the next wink-wink phrase: she's just a "special consultant."

World Cup Mania-part I-This is weird. The captain of the Irish World Cup team, Roy Keane, was kicked off the team for getting into a row with the team manager, and PM Bertie Ahern has gotten into the middle of it, trying to patch things up so that Keane can get back on the team. [Update- Manager Mick McCarthy told the Taoiseach no.] This is how big soccer and the World Cup is to the rest of the world. There is no American analogy. I can't picture Dubya trying to talk Kobe Bryant into staying on the Olympic team. Japan and Korea are co-hosting the World Cup starting Friday.

Meathead's Daughter?-Thumbed through this piece on Tony Blair's wife Cherie discovering a Australian half-sister from an affair her dad, actor Tony Booth, had in the 60s. The piece went on to mention that Booth was most famous for playing Mike in the British sitcom Till Death Us Do Part, which was the basis for All in the Family.

Uli Watch- On a lighter note, Uli Heitz, Eileen's brother-in-law, almost made the cut in Urbana yesterday, finishing at +8, three shots off the cut line of +5. He was at +3 after the 12th on Friday, but proceeded to go +5 for the next five holes. This is only his third full tournament, and he seems to be improving.

Toungues-Upclose and Personal-Interesting Bible study last night. Good praise session, some powerful laying-hands-on-prayer for people and yours truly leading the study, using a slightly-trimmed-down text of a post I had done last month on the Armor of God in Ephesians 6. It went over well, but the kicker came later. A new guy to the group had a prophetic tongue last night as we were praying. I've never been an interpreter before; I had heard such things before, but at big churches and not at such a small group. That round-to-zero chance that God might want you to be giving the interpretation just stopped rounding to zero. Silence. Long silence. Quiet inner prayer, "Lord, if you want me to do this, give me the words." Look around at the people. Look at the AoG preacher's-daughter that's in the group-Jen's going to give the interpretation, right? Nope. Eileen starts to vaguely catch a theme of what the prophecy was about and then God gave me the words. Thankfully a hand on her arm was able to stop her in mid-paragraph. I wasn't hearing the words directly, but I knew what was supposed to be said, taking dictation but like on a thought-for-thought basis, with my brain translating into coherent English. I don't remember it word-for-word, but the message was that God would be with us as we went into the world and the He would be giving us the power we needed. When we needed more power, more would be supplied. [Update 5-26. I just found out that was the first time Eileen had been around a prophetic tounge, and wasn't familiar with the typical "tounges etiquite" of expressing things in the first person with confidence.] It did fit in to the message of actively taking the Gospel out to the world that my teaching was on, but I can honestly say that I wasn't editing what I was receiving other than to express it in English. Is this running counter to the Gospel? No. Is this adding to the Bible, as John is interpreted to be warning about at the end of Revelation? No. 1 Corinthians 12:7 comes to mind-"Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good." This was designed to edify the dozen of us that were there last night. It doesn't rewrite scripture but it does show God's hands-on presence in the here-and-now. Excuse me while I get maybe a bit too personal. Pentecostal tradition assumes that people who act in the gifts of the Spirit have been "Baptized in the Spirit," a second (or third) dose of the Holy Spirit's presence that makes itself known by the recipient speaking in tongues. I had an experience about a week after accepting Christ in 1985 where I was praying and having my spirit "reaching" out to God and felt a surge of power that was like getting a finger in a light-socket, except it was good rather than shocking. I don't remember any tongues that came with it at the time, but is was such potent confirmation of God's presence that I could call it a "Baptism of the Spirit" that felt something like what the Pentecostals I had just started to know were talking about. This personal experience, coupled with a lack of clear command in Acts, might explain my unwillingness to buy the evidential tongues doctrine. I can't say with certainty whether I had "spoke in tongues" in my life before. There have been many times where I have uttered things that were not in English (or any other language that I know something of) that came from the heart while being moved by something that sure felt like the Holy Spirit. Typically, they were close enough to babbling where I wasn't quite cocky enough to claim it as an actual language, yet often had more structure than a mere babble. I don't want to be in a position to be cocky, but this confirmed to me that God's presence is real and he isn't out of the miracle business, even if it small things, like the power of prayer to take a depressed person and lift their spirits or to give a message of comfort to a body of believers. After last night, the skeptics will have to call me a nut-case or a liar as they bash charismatic stuff.

Edifier du jour-Luke 5:1-11
One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, he saw at the water's edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch." Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets." When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon's partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men." So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
Two things come to mind here (1) Don't be afraid to do something stoopid-sounding if it's God telling you to do it. (2) Being in the demonstated presence of God is humbling. Mr. Open-Mouth-Change-Feet went from "Yeah, shure" to "I'm a sinner" in nothing flat.

Friday, May 24, 2002

One Cold War Over, the Other Burbling- It's interesting how little play the signing of the Moscow Treaty, cutting US and Russian nukes by 2/3, is getting. Fox gives it less billing than a apartment explosion in California. The Cold War may have just been planted six feet under. However,we've got another Cold War that might be getting pulled out of the fridge. Pakistan's testing some missiles this weekend, which isn't the most calming of actions. Routine test, my [explative deleted]. The EU's chief diplomat, Chris Patton, was talking up Vajpayee today, trying to head off a war. There once was a smart administrator behind Patton's Euroweenie rhetoric; maybe the Hong Kong Patton will come back.

The Only Thing in the Middle of the Road Are Yellow Stripes and Dead ....- Well, I'm not quite sure what that was.

Clue Police-APB on Howard Dean-The Vermont governor's toying with a 2004 Presidential run, but he's just pinned the bogometer here.
"I'm going to have a lot of appeal to McCain voters," Dean said, noting that McCain appealed to independent thinkers. "I'm a guy who signed the most far-reaching gay rights bill in the country. I'm a fiscal conservative. I believe in universal health care and I have an A from the National Rifle Association."
Please tell me how someone can say they're a fiscal conservative and back universal health care in the same breath. OK, maybe he took a breath in-between sentences. That is stoopid even by Democratic standards. Thanks to The Note for the link

The Economics of Teen Parents-Instapundit had a provocative post on teen sex that got my mind rolling. A underlying but underadressed problem in this area is the mismatch between physical maturity and economic maturity. Kids have the physical equipment (and the accompanying desires) to have kids at 12 or so but aren't ready economically to support themselves until they are in their late teens or early 20s. In earlier eras, kids matured a bit later (due to less lighting and poorer nutrition) and were ready to lead productive lives a bit sooner (due to simpler jobs and less qualms about child labor) thus the gap between puberty and marriage was only a few years rather than a decade. Another feature of an older agrarian economy was the extended family. A young couple would be living on the family farm, with grandparents at the ready to look after kids. With built-in jobs and a support structure for teenaged parents, there were less barriers to marrying young. With little need for formal education, school could be finish by the early teens and a 15-year-old guy could be working side-by-side with other adults. There were also less expectations of fancy houses, cars and other consumer goods in an agrarian era, thus there was less desire for advanced education and the income that came with them. There was also the expectation of following in the family business, so career-counseling and upward mobility was largely a foreign concept. Modern 15-year-olds are stuck with paper routes, lawn-mowing and babysitting for income. A 15-year-old can't drive in most states and can't hold down a full time job, as they are required in most states to be in school full time until they are 16. A post-agrarian economy doesn't allow for most children to follow in their father's footsteps since the father doesn't typically own their own means of production. My dad was a high school social-studies teacher; I didn't inherit the family high school from my dad or automatically start teaching American Government and Economics when I got old enough. Kids have to chart their own course largely independent of their parents. Parents now have an extended adolescence to deal with as teenagers (a 20th century construct) learning a trade while still being under their financial wings until they are typically at least 18, or in their early twenties for the children of the inteligencia who go to college. The modern nuclear family doesn't easily adapt to a paradigm of taking a young couple under their wing, to support a son-in-law or daughter-in-law and their children while they get up to speed in their careers to a point where they can then fend for themselves. Teenagers aren't often mature enough to make good decisions regarding marriage, but so-called adults often aren't much better. Most teens aren't up to that challenge, but some are. Our culture doesn't have a good option for the teen who truly has found their life partner but isn't in an economic or legal position to get married. If proper safeguards are in effect, making sure that such decisions aren't being made hastily or unwisely, then loosening the laws against teen marriage might be a step in the right direction. Modern culture doesn't have an honorable outlet for teenage (under 18 at least) sexual behavior, as marriage and a full-time job are not feasible for the under-18 set. Teens are left with abstinence or extra-marital sex as their options, and our culture doesn't prize abstinence or marital fidelity. If a teenage couple is sexually active anyway and has a child they don't have the option of the shotgun marriage of years past, which helps integrate the family into society despite their "jumping the gun" sexually. She may be too young to marry the father and the father may have no legal way to support a family if he's in his mid teens himself. The legal proscriptions against child labor and youthful marriage, coupled with a generous welfare system, make single-parenting the norm in such situations. I don't have a good solution to the problem of that gap between physical and economic maturity for those people who aren't committed to be chaste until they are old enough to support a family. Here are some possible policy tweaks that would be Biblically sound and help cut down on the number of single teen moms. I want to make sure such changes are well-hack so as to avoid creating a lot dysfunctional teen marriages. That said, these policy changes might help.
(1) Loosening the child labor laws to allow kids in their mid teens to work more, especially if it is an apprenticeship-oriented program that is teaching them a trade. This would get teens who aren't heading for MBAs to economic maturity faster. (2) Lowering the marriage age a bit might be an option. I'd consider lowering the marriage age if all the parties concerned, including the parents of the couple, agree. If one of the in-laws is willing to support the couple while they get economically up to speed, it would be make teen marriages more supportable on a public-policy basis. (3) A cultural and legal shift back towards an extended family, thus allowing young couples to live with one set of in-laws, would be helpful. Many zoning laws and other legal constructs don't deal well with extended families. (4) Laws regarding parental support could be tweaked to better allow for support of a son or daughter-in-law. (5) Welfare laws could be tweaked to better encourage marriage. Currently, a married couple can't easily get welfare, thus the system is biased against unwed parents getting married.
These tweaks aren't the answer. More self-control is the better answer, but we do need to look at our biases against teen marriage and see if some of these tweaks might not be a bad idea. Let the blogfire begin. {Update5/26 12:15AM-Incoming from Instapundit. I have some followup on the fallout here]

Edifier du jour-Luke 3:1-8
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar--when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene--during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
"A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God's salvation.' "
John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.'
One of the phrases that has cropped up in our church vocabulary is the Church as "God's bulldozer." We're supposed to clear a path, do some spiritual civil engineering to allow the world to see Jesus. Some churches are in protective mode, trying to hang on to their faith and keep it from being snatched by the world. I think it's far better to be in offence mode, taking the Gospel out into the world. The point that verse 8 reminds me of is that God has no grandchildren. We're either children of God in our own right, or we're not. What our parents or grandparents did doesn't make us children of God unless we ourselves have faith in Him.

Toying with a free web server-I've put my archive list there. I'm interested to see how it works

Thursday, May 23, 2002

"We're All Praying to the Same God, Right?"-Interesting post by Kathy Kinsey, (a smart but rather secular lady) on the Muslims she ran into while living in Southeast Asia. She noted that most people are the same at the core, but had a nice closing phrase after doing a good Wahhabi bash-
There is one thing the US President has said that I agree with. The fanatics are evil -- and if you are of one of the monotheistic religions, you might want to consider that the god these fanatics worship -- no matter what they call him -- just might be the one you call Satan.
Nice to see the original Bellicose Woman give the touchy-feely universalists a 2-by-4 upside the head.

Memorial Day Musings-We've finally starting to get something resembling May weather today in central Michigan, with the temperature getting into the low 70s. Just in time for Memorial Day Weekend. However, these is one advantage to cold weather-less thunderstorms. We just had a real close hit, one of those "One thousan-OOOOH. That was close" jobs. And here I am heading into thunderstorm central next week. Traffic was brisk on US-10 heading west (I was up at Eileen's place northwest of Midland) as people were getting a head start to their northwestern vacation spots. Michigan's near unique in that all the vacation spots are in the northern half of the state and all the people are in the southern half. Thus, a steady stream of cars heads north on Friday and south on Sunday. On holiday weekends, the northbound routes, epecially I-75, are clogged northbound Friday night and almost as clogged southbound on Monday PM. Smart drivers plan alternative non-I-75 routes north on Friday night or take Friday off and beat the rush.

In Praise of the Hamburger and the US-Dr. Weevil pointed me to an interesting steaming pile of Euroweeniedom by Theodore Dalrymple, bashing the hamburger. The classic American hamburger, especially the fast-food variety, is an example of speed and satisficing. A good multi-course meal at a "sit-down" restaurant is nice, but there are times when having something OK in two minutes is superior to having something very good in an hour, if you have other things in mind to do with that extra hour. This is especially true if you're eating alone. A waitpersoned meal might be nice if you have a special someone to share it with, but if you're by yourself, close fellowship with the local paper only goes so far. [sidepoint-IIRC, Continental Europe restaurants tend to put people together at tables even if you don't know them, much like slapping together an ad-hoc foursome at a golf-course. Such forced fellowship might make eating out less lonely than in the States] Many Euroweenies, especially those on the Continent, will praise the virtues of Slow Food. Yes, a good home-cooked meal has its advantages, but the American ethic of freedom allows people to trade time for quality. Elites tend to err on the side of liking quality, as the quick-n-dirty things in life will be looked at as dirty rather than quick. Also, a standard brand-name item is a way to avoid decision-making. The ten-dollar word in management circles is satisficing (a.k.a. "close enough"). The local mom-and-pop diner might be a better bang-for-the-buck, but if you are traveling, having the known-but-just-sorta-good brand to fall back on saves you from having to find the good local digs. Once again, Mr. Elite's desire to spend the extra time to find that quaint eatery to tell their friends about is his choice, but it may not be my choice. You can even see this in churches. I'm moving next week, and will need to find a church home down in central Florida. You have a rough idea what an Assembly of God or Southern Baptist or Methodist church will be like, but a non-denominational name will require checking out the church itself. I've had good luck with some off-brand churches. My primary home church while at MSU was East Lansing Trinity, a good generic-evangelical church, but I only knew about that via my InterVarsity friends. My current church, New Life Vineyard, was New Life Fellowship before hooking up with the Vineyard movement two years ago. Such a generic name might give a vague clue that they were at least evangelical and probably charismatic of some sort, but could be anything from Baptist to name-it-and-claim-it. This is an interesting closing thought that tells a lot about the author's politics
The popularity of hamburgers is a manifestation of magical thinking. Eating them (or for that matter wearing baseball caps backwards, a custom that has reached the remotest regions of the globe) will bring the easy and abundant life that is man's inalienable birthright. As for American egalitarianism, the freedom of every man to make what he can of himself soon leads to vast disparities of wealth and influence, and is more likely to be hated and feared than imitated. The constant striving for excellence, even in those things unworthy of the effort, is likewise discountenanced. We want the ease and wealth, but without the constant effort that produces them. And so we are reduced to eating hamburgers and wearing baseball caps back to front. They are symbols, in our country, both of aspiration and resentment - a combination that can lead only to misery.
Well, if people are free to make what they can of themselves, some will make more of themselves than others. People will like, all else being equal, to make what they can of themselves rather than government making them what government wants to make of them. Mr. Dalrymple might prefer to be a cog in a machine, but I'd rather have the option of being more of a free-agent. If you don't strive for excellence, you settle for mediocrity. You can have ease and you can have wealth, but the combination doesn't work for a society. You can have lazy poverty of sweaty wealth. People may resent the rich, but free-market systems allow for a positive outlet for selfishness. People will that that resentment out in some way. If they have no way to get more things legally, then their selfishness will manifest itself in laziness and corruption. Suggestion-Don't give Mr. Dalrymple six lemons before writing next time so he'll be less of a sourpuss. [Update-Crank up your MP3 of Cheeseburger in Paradise and check out Mark Butterworth's paean to the American Classic]

How Many Camels Per Gallon?-The Note has this fun typo
At 2:00 p.m. today, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill McBride will unveil the details of his long-awaited education plan, the centerpiece of which is a 50-cent-per gallon tax hike on cigarettes.
OK, what's the real story? This Florida Capital News piece points to the McBride plan being a $0.50/pack increase in cigarette taxes. That's nice, since I don't smoke and do drive and I'll be moving to Florida in eight days. [Update 11PM-it has been fixed-I'm not sure if anyone else had caught it, but I e-mailed them the link and they thanked me for it]

Pak-Man Maneuver?-Some very good and very heavyweight thought on the Indo-Pak war to come over at Vodka Pundit. A Who's Who of Blogistan's best and brightest are chiming in the comment section on that post. Mr. Green's worried about the "decisive fight" that PM Vajpayee is promising. Vajpayee wants to settle the Kashmir problem once and for all. As I understand the primary nightmare scenario that has been laid out in the Blogosphere, this is what we're worried about [update-Den Beste layed this out well yesterday]
(1) India has Pakistan outgunned in conventional arms and makes short work of the Pakistani army if they do go to war (2) Rather than accept defeat, the Pakistanis then use their nukes to try to slow down the Indian advance. (3) India then parking-lots Pakistan with their larger nuke capacity. (4) The world then has to deal with the war's fallout, both figuratively and literally.
It's possible that India could wind up using their nukes in a first-strike mode, but I think that would be unlikely. The West then needs to head off an all-out Indian invasion that would prompt a nuclear response from Pakistan. Pakistan itself could make some strides by clamping down on its Kashmiri gunnies if it can. There's the rub. How much control does Musharraf have over his military and over the ISI? I'm much less positive than I was Tuesday night. We could be in a spiraling scenario where Pakistan can't or won't contain the Islamic gunnies in Kashmir, thus forcing an Indian invasion which forces a Pakistani nuclear response. This is where Musharraf has to be backed into a corner. If he wants to be the Ataturk of South Asia, he'll need to sit on the al Qaeda remnant in Kashmir and their sympathizers in the Pakistani government. This may result in a near-civil war in Pakistan, but Musharraf needs to be shown that that is better than the all-out, likely nuclear war with India that is the alternative. We do live in interesting times. [Update 1:40- Doug Turnbull turned his formidable talents to this topic the same time I did-check it out.]

Charismatic Stuff-Holy Spirit 101-I'm going to try to explain my take on tongues and the Gifts of/Baptism of the Spirit without stepping on too many toes. David Heddle rightly points out that the spiritual fratricide that often results from such intra-evangelical dialog isn't the least bit edifying to the outsider. Tounges-do they exist today? It looks like it. I've seen it enough in Pentecostal/Charismatic circles to say that some form of speech that isn't English is being used in the height of spiritual expression. Is it an actual language or just gibberish? I'm not sure. There are a few anecdotal cases where people's prophetic tongues were actual foreign languages that they had not studied themselves. One story I remember hearing was of an Iranian émigré going to a church and hearing a prophetic message in perfect Farsi. The one fellow at Christian Celebration Center who has a prophetic tongue seems to have a consistent linguistic style (to this untrained ear) from episode to episode. If it is gibberish, it's fairly consistent gibberish that sounds like it could be an actual language. When Pastor Stocker breaks into his tongue, it has a consistent (but different from Prophecy Guy) linguistic style as well. Does the Bible back up the AoG idea of evidential tongues?- Only indirectly. Acts 2:4, 10:45,19:6 all have people being baptized in the Holy Spirit and then speaking in tongues. Acts 10:44-48 is the best case study to back up the AoG position.
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, "Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have." So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.
It looks to be clear to the Jewish believers that speaking in tongues was evidence of the gift of the Holy Spirit. It helped break the Jewish believers out of their insular rut and accept the Gentile believers as equals in Christ. However, while it's an evidence of the Holy Spirit's presence, is tongues the evidence? Nowhere in the New Testament does it require believers to speak in tongues to receive the Holy Spirit. The best breakdown of the supernatural work on the Holy Spirit is in 1 Corinthians 12-13 Here's chapter 12:1-11
Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.
Paul lays out the various gifts, but doesn't mention that you have to pass Tongues 101 to get to the other gifts. The Holy Spirit is the one who gets to hand out the gifts on His discression. [Update 5/24- Marc Velazquez points out that my phrasing of this as an AoG position is off a tad, that is would be better labeled a Pentecostal position. Valid point, as evidential tongues is the main theological difference between Pentecostals and charismatics. I almost went with Pentecostal, but was leery of overstating my case.] Am I a second-class Christian if I'm not a tongue-talker?-No. Paul goes on an extended riff in 1 Corinthians 12, starting in verse 12, on the different parts of the Body of Christ and that all of them are needed. He gets down to brass tacks in verse 27
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts.
I'm supposing that Marc Velazquez, from what I've read of him the last month, is gifted in teaching and administration, even if he's not a tongue-talker. He's a valuable part of the Body of Christ. Not everyone is a miracle-worker and those of us who aren't the neighborhood Benny Hinn shouldn't feel like we're out to lunch. We should desire the greater gifts, but we shouldn't covet them. It's the people with the showy gifts that get all the props, not the quiet contributors. The gal teaching the pre-Ks downstairs might be changing more lives than Prophecy Guy, but it's Prophecy Guy who tends to get the kudos. This human tendency to want to get our own props makes us want to get the showy gifts for the wrong reasons. Paul makes sure to knock that thought down as we head into chapter 13
And now I will show you the most excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Charismatic skeptics will go to town on verse 8, but I see that looking at the time of Jesus' return more than a post-canonical era. However, we all often miss the point that love is the biggest part of the Christian walk. The nursery worker who selflessly loves on her charges (Paul has the classic nursery verse in 15:51 "We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed") is following Christ in love more than a well-educated but cocky pulpit-pounder. Love takes work. Love takes dying to self. Love takes sacrifice. Love is unnatural. It is the Fruit of the Spirit that marks the true believer more than the Gifts of the Spirit. If you haven't set foot in a Pentecostal or Charismatic church but yet are bountiful in the Fruit of the Spirit, you're doing just fine.

"My name is Inigo Uribe. You killed my father. Prepare to die." We've got another key election coming up down in Columbia Sunday. This is an interesting piece on the front-runner, Alvaro Uribe Velez. The biggest issue is dealing with the narco-Marxist FARC guerilla movement that controls a good hunk of the southern part of the country. The outgoing president, Andres Pastrana, has tried and failed giving peace a chance, and Uribe is of the get-tough school. The Princess Bride quip is not far from the truth, as the FARC did kill Uribe's dad two decades ago. Uribe has fans amongst the anti-leftist paramilitaries who like to goon it up, killing people believed to be FARC sympathizers. It doesn't look like Uribe backs them to any extent, but this will be happily played up by the left in los Estados Unidos. Uribe's goal of a larger militia could bring the goons under a government umbrella and professionalize them while keeping the anti-guerilla effectiveness intact. It will be interesting to see how Uribe runs things and how much help comes his way from the US. At this point, the FARC are the big drug runners, thus fighting drugs and fighting the FARC are one and the same. US aid doesn't allow for the drug aid to be use militarily, but that seems to be what's needed.

Guilty, But of What?-I'm a bit underwhelmed by the Chandra's remains story. What I'm oddly reminded of was an episode of Deep Space 9 where Garak and Bashir are talking about Cardassian mysteries. Bashir pointed out the suspect is always guilty in a Cardassian mystery. "Yes, but of what?" Garak replied. "Finding out what they are guilty of is the mystery." In this case, we found out that Condit was a major sleaze, cheating on his wife with at least two different women and lying through his teeth when caught. Chandra may very well have been done in by a garden-variety rapist-murderer or something else more mundane, but the focus on Condit's life and character cost him his House seat. How many other Gary Condits are floating around Washington, whose dirty laundry would do them in if their lives were under the microscope?

Edifier du jour-Ephesians 6:10-13
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
This was a verse that has come home to me in the last few days, as I'm preparing to start a new life in Florida next week. I know that, with God on the case, all the details will work out, but fears that would not go away still remained. At a time where I should have been happy to make a new start, I wasn't. It was, as Pastor Russ put it last night, a spirit of oppression; he mentioned verse 11 in his teaching. Once I was reminded what the fight was, I was able to call in reinforcements to get those spiritual gremlins off my back. I couldn't help but laughing last night once I realized why I had been depressed the last few days. I was picturing a pair of angles picking a dozen of Gizmo's offspring off my legs and back and chucking them back to Hades. The movie version will have one of the demon-gremlins doing a good double-take and a stream of blue language (un-linguistic grumbling in my PG version) as he's picked up and flung into the Abyss. Another let out a "uh-oh" as he's about to be disemboweled by one of the angel's swords. No, I can't really picture what spiritual warfare looks like. It exists nonetheless. We should avoid getting an unhealthy interest in the demonic, but to ignore supernatural activity, either from the miraculous or the demonic, isn't helpful either. We do have an Enemy, and he's out to make our life as unproductive and miserable as possible. Let's not give him the privilege.

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Charismatic Things-Baptism of the Holy Spirit-(part 1)-Marc Velazquez had a good post earlier this evening that addresses some of the fears David Heddle expressed about being looked upon as a second-class Christian because of his non-charismatic status. Turns out Marc's not a tongue-talker yet, either. He is operating in the Holy Spirit but is still seeking what the AoG people refer to as the Baptism of the Holy Spirit as a action secondary to salvation that equips the believer to be able to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The AoG also believes that speaking in tongues is required evidence of that baptism. This causes a lot of angst amongst believers in Pentecostal churches who strive to have that experience and be in that apparent higher class of believers. I have yet to have a tongue-talking experience and yet I have acted in some of the areas listed in 1 Corinthians 12. One area I have had some gifting is knowledge (verse 8). Back at a Vineyard youth retreat I was helping chaperone last fall, I was praying with another adult guy I had never met before in my life. We were asked to wait for a word that God had for our prayer partner. The message that came to me was that the guy had been very lonely as a teen and was in ministry to teens in order that they would have a better young adulthood than he had. God also said that He would be honoring that desire. I held back for a moment, since that word seemed to be for me, not him, since I was a rather depressed teen myself. After further prayer, it was clear that it was for him, not I, and told the guy what God had placed on my heart. I had nailed it. The closest I have come to tongues is the babbling I will do when I am praying and don't have the words. It seems to point to Romans 8:26-27
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.
It seems more of a babble than an actual language, yet it is a Spirit-led response. I can think of either one of two possibilities. Either my babbling qualifies as a tongue and I have had a AoG style Baptism of the Holy Spirit or their theology is off-base. I didn't buy the AoG doctrine of evidential tongues while a member at Midland's Christian Celebration Center, and felt relieved to find the Vineyard who was charismatic without having that theological quirk. Marc-allow the Holy Spirit to do whatever He wants to do in the order He wants you to do it. Don't wait for a tongue-talking experience to get your spiritual union card. That goes for the rest of y'all too. I'm hoping to take a better, more systematic rundown on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit tomorrow.

Biblical Inerrancy-A Little Moderation?-I've been nomintated as moderator of a debate/conversation on Biblical Inerrancy by Spudlets' Marc Velazquez, stemming from a debate that's been pinballing through evangelical blogland (with stops here) the last week. I'm not sure I'm up to it any more than Marc is, but I'm willing to put in my $0.02 on the topic and do a little linking to good pieces on the subject. I'm planning to get a first post on the topic ready tomorrow morning once I get back from taking my car into the shop (minor oil leak, don't worry).

End Times or Free Market Revival?-Just got back from Wednesday night service. Russ Williams, the founder and "Pastor Emeritus" of New Life Vineyard (he teaches Wednesday nights when he isn't snowbirding in Palm Springs, CA) is a decided pre-millenialist and is the sort common in evangelical circles that think that Christ's return is just around the corner. He said he's about 70% sure Christ's coming back this fall, but he added the caveat that he's been 70-80% sure that each year would be the year for many years. Me, I'm not so sure. From a theological perspective, I await the Lord's return, but PoliSci Guy says that things aren't quite ripe yet. I'm keeping my eyes open for the conditions to be ripe for an Antichrist to emerge to take power and I don't quite see it being feasable right now. Years from now, maybe, but not months. Many of the recent moves in Europe would make the emergence of a powerful EU less likely. Free-market oriented parties have made gains in Holland and Ireland this month. This throws a few sprinkles of cold water on a ever-growing EU that could become the cornerstone of a world government. Prophesy geeks of the last few decades have focused on the EU as such a beast. However, this piece gives me the shivers. EC president Prodi's pushing for a more centralized EU with centralized taxing authority. The picture of Prodi with upraised hand looks vaguely autocratic, like something you'd see at a Eastern Bloc May Day parade. I'm not saying that Prodi's the Antichrist, but I get a sulfuric whiff of Ol' Sloughfoot in his vision of a centralized, big-government Europe. We might see a shuffling of the EU in the years to come, as socialists lean towards a bigger EU and free-marketeers wanting to break away. The wild card will be the classic parties of the right in Europe who are statist in nature, conservative in the status-quoian sense and not in the free-market sense. These old conservatives might well go the way of the dodo as they have seemed to have done in Italy; Berlusconi's Forza Italia party looks more like the GOP than the Christian Democrats it replaced in Italian political ecology. This would be the big fight I see brewing in Europe, whether the paternalistic parties of the right will be replaced by more libertarian and/or American-style conservative parties, either by having their market share eroded by emerging parties of the right or by transformation from within. If the paternalistic parties hold the right end of the spectrum, then we could see a quicker integration of the EU. A conservative bloc in the south, with free-market friendly governments in Spain, Portugal and Italy may embolden free-marketeers elsewhere. A likely Christian Democrat-led coalition in Holland would likely include the libertarian-leaning VVD and List Pim Fortuyn parties, thus adding another member to lean against a centralized EU. Add a rather skeptical Britain to the list and we could see an alternative bloc to a centralized EU spring up. I'm looking at two possible scenarios for the future of the EU. If free-market fans get in control of a few more governments, then the EU can be scaled back, giving autonomy back to local governments and move more towards a free-trade zone rather than a US of E. The attitudes of a new German government might be the key. CD leader Edmund Stoiber is described as a mild Euroskeptic here. If the weight of the German government is added to the list described above, then the centralization of the EU may have seen its high-water mark. However, there could be a schism in the EU if Germany stays committed to further centralization. A Franco-German big government block could cause a number of current and prospective EU members to back out and form an alternative grouping (possibly a revamping of the old EFTA) rather than face a big-government EU. The next few years will be fun as socialists will move to set up such a centralized EU in order to lock in their gains.

Rendering Rendell's Victory-Patrick Ruffini points out some nuance that I missed in the Casey-Rendell race. Casey, while culturally conservative, was running to Rendell's left on economics, thus ceding the secular neolib vote to Rendell. Here's a good think paragraph to tack on the wall
As mayor, Rendell also proved to be the most effective union-buster in the modern history of Philadelphia in forcing city workers to give up many of the perquisites of a bloated government, a fact exploited by Casey and the public-sector unions that stood four-square behind his candidacy. But even Big Labor's behavior in this election shows that economic issues aren't as black and white as they used to be. Rendell's reputation as a pro-business moderate was bolstered by the strong support he received from private-sector unions — the building trades, the electricians, the sheet-metal workers — who generally benefit as a result of a stronger business climate, and not (necessarily) bigger government. The same impulse that impels the Teamsters to side with the Bush Administration on ANWR development also led unions whose fortunes depend on big-ticket economic activity to support the back-slapping former mayor whose tenure saw a boom in major construction projects. Private-sector unions can be as clientilistic and rapacious as any, but underneath it all, they represent an instinct that's far less destructive than that embodied by the public-sector unions who supported Casey. The Rendell-Casey fight presented voters with a messy choice between more business (with lots of cumbersome strings attached, to be sure), and more government.
If the GOP can put forth a vision that supports economic growth for everyone and not just the fat cats, you can get a lot of blue-collar votes. The construction trades and transportation workers such as the Teamsters are not endangered by free trade and are helped by economic growth. They are a natural ally of the GOP as long as basic collective bargining rights are protected, especially given that those workers tend to be more socially conservative than many of the libertine activists in the Democratic party.

Youth Ministries-Amy Welborn has an interesting post fielding reader comments on LifeTeen, a Catholic youth program that feature a teen-centered Mass. Of course, the old-schoolers don't quite care for it, as they tend to use modern praise music and play somewhat free-and-loose with the propriety of the Eucharist, but the program seems to be keeping kids interested in the Catholic church at an age where people tend to fall though the cracks. This ties into what my dad shared earlier in the week. Sunday was Lay Witness Sunday at my folks' First United Methodist downtown. One of the speakers was a teen who spoke of his spiritual breakthrough occurred at a Pentecostal youth group (unnamed, but likely the group out at the AoG Christian Celebration Center that my sister helps out with) and how the freedom in and presence of the Holy Spirit had helped turned his spiritual life around. That testimony indirectly laid bare an uncomfortable truth; if your church doesn't have a good, vibrant youth group, your kids will be drawn to something else. It could be a good group at another church or something secular and even less desirable.

Bye-Bye Baggie-Roof-Michigan authorities are planning the demise of the Pontiac Silverdome, which hosted the Lions for the last quarter century and the Pistons during the '80s in their championship era. The Pistons moved to their own digs in nearby Auburn Hills a decade ago and the Lions are moving downtown to new Ford Field this fall. This is a great example of what the real estate text refer to as economic obsolescence. The Silverdome's just fine, as it functions just as well as when it was built in the late 70s, but the facility that was cutting-edge a quarter-century ago doesn't make sense in the current sports economic environment.

Raw Linkage-Just added Jeffery Collins' Joyful Christian, Ted Esler and David Heddle to the permalinks. I've been slow to add a flock of good new Christian sites to the list. The evangelicals are starting to play catch-up on the large number of excellent Catholic blogs. Speaking of which, the senior priest in St. Blog's Parish, Fr. Shaun O'Neal's O'Nealism site (he of the quick-changing and funny headers) is long overdue for a permalink.

Was watching the tape of last night's Celtics-Nets game with my mom just now. The Celtics evened the series with a 93-86 win. Both teams couldn't hit the barn side of a broad, but it was an entertaining, up-and-down game. Jersey's not going to win too many games with Van Horn going 2-12 and Kittles going 2-11. Add MacCulloch's o-fer and you have the trio going 4-27. Ain't gonna feed the bulldog. We saw an ad campaign from our pro wrestling friends. Showing their infinite reserve of grace and elegance, they're now going with a double-dubya logo, having been ordered not to use the WWF trademarked by the World Wildlife Fund. The ad campaign grossed out my mom when she forgot to fast-forward, as they are using a "Get the F out" campaign.

Free Skippyburgers, Anyone?-The Australian military is having a kangaroo hunt to cull the large herd on the Puckapunyal army base. Of course, no piece that has hunting involved would be complete without the animal-lovers protesting nearby. Roo meat is a growing export trade, but in the state of Victoria where the base is located, it's illegal to use kangaroos for commercial uses. Based on that, the Army's planning on burying the bodies. Twisted thought. Why not donate the meat to a charity? The poor in Sydney and Melbourne could dine on Roo steaks and Skippyburgers, and no money need change hands.

No Joy in Mudville: Casey 44-Rendell 56 Former Philly mayor Ed Rendell got past state auditor-general Bob Casey Jr. in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial primary. It's a victory for orthodox liberals in a state that still has a good chunk of Reagan Democrats that Casey represents. GOP nominee Attorney General Mike Fisher will take on Rendell in November. Claude alert!
Rendell and Casey - who is a son of the late Democratic Gov. Robert P. Casey Sr. (1987-95) - spent about $30 million on the campaign, much of it on a lengthy television advertising campaign.
What else would make up the lion's share of campaign spending these days? Ring it up at 1.5 Claudes.

Edifier du jour-The weather's been more like Christmas than May (slight exageration, it's been struggling to break 50 the last week) so Luke 2 seems somewhat fitting. Let's read Luke 2:8-15 again for the first time.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
Gloria in excelsis Deo. Let's not forget that there truly is good news of great joy here. Not just for a select few, but for all the world. It's good news for the guy in an Asian sweatshop, an Africa field, a madrassa or a London skyscraper. As the world seeks to divide into groups and subgroups, let's not forget that this gospel, this good news, is for everyone.

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Charismatic Questions-David Heddle chimes in with a heart-felt post on the charismatic issues I and others commented on last week. He sites a Spudlet quote-“Christians who don't actively embrace the Holy Spirit are missing out on the power of God.” Heddle states that
Charismatics assert that the rest of us are, in effect, second class believers – missing out on a supreme spiritual gift. Furthermore, it is often said that non-charismatics (Is there a word for that?) have no right to take a critical look at something they never experienced.
Some charismatics, but not I. There are plenty of non-charismatics (no better alternative comes to mind) who have a healthy respect for the Holy Spirit. I've got a longer post in me on this topic, but I struggled with that inferiority issue for years, having a foot in both camps. I'm going to make a run at the issue tomorrow morning. [Wed 12:05PM -Sorry, I'll have it this evening]

Strangelove in the Subcontinent?-Interesting debate on the likelihood of a nuclear Indo-Pak war with Richard Bennett , Instapundit and Suman Palit chiming in. I think Palit overstates the Islamic credentials of Musharraf, with a touch of anti-Pakistan slant coming to the fore. I don't think that either Vajpayee or Musharraf is crazy enough to go nuclear. However, their successors may not be as sane. A more militant leadership after Musharraf (or himself if I'm guessing wrong) might be up for a nuclear jihad. A touch-more-militant BJP leadership wouldn't be immune to a all-out war, either. I'd be more optimistic than Vodka Pundit's comments in the Bennett post of a 1 in 5 chance of mushroom clouds on the subcontinent and say 1 in 10.

Another Irish Election Geek Heard From- Kevin James has a good extended post on the Irish elections. James Haney's effort to be the Hunt Brothers of Irish political blogs has just been ruined, but I do think he'll enjoy the company.

Man in the Mirror-Emily Stimpson nails a key issue on the head. The problems with the Church are handled, at the core, by believers willing to humble themselves before God and advance His kingdom.
But, the Church is not a machine. It is a She, a living Body, a Bride. She can’t be fixed, only transformed. And that transformation can only happen when each individual member within the body is transformed. All of us, from the bishops on down, are called daily to prayer and repentance. We’re called to become holy. That’s the real reform that has to happen. It’s us that has to change. Us. Me! Fighting about the makeup of lay commissions or this or that new administrative policy won’t breathe new life into the Body. Only the true conversion of our souls, and the gifts of ourselves to God can purify Her and prevent the rot from continuing to fester. Just as with liturgical music, the more we focus exclusively on external questions of reform, the more we miss the real opportunity the Holy Spirit is giving to us right now – the opportunity to finally become who we really are, the pure and undefiled Bride of Christ.
Preach it, Sis! Reforming the Church and our local churches needs to start with a church body, the people of the church, willing to serve the Lord and advance His kingdom as needed. Being trendy only helps if it advances the kingdom. Being traditional only helps if it advances the kingdom. Various administrative fixes aren't the answer if they don't help the cause of Christ. If the people of the church aren't actively serving him, no amount of litergy improvement of hot new admin structure will help.

Autobooming in the USA?- That's what FBI chief Robert Mueller's predicting. I agree with Papa Blog that such attacks would be counter-productive, as they would not cause Americans to retreat but would lead the US to parking-lot the next terrorist target of opportunity. I'm not ready to resume atmospheric testing at the Riyadh Testing Range, but an autoboomer on US soil would bring such nuke-the-bleeps emotions to the fore. [Mark Butterworth points out that this is nothing new, as the Cole and 9/11 are examples of autoboomers. However, the vehicle-based examples of truck bombs (Beiruit Marines) , boat bombs (Cole) and de-facto jet bombs (9/11) do more damage than the plastique-in-fannypack autoboomers we've seen in Israel.]

Mossad's Still Got It- A son of a Palestinian terrorist leader was assisinated in Beirut yesterday. Muhammad Jihad Jibril (awww, isn't that a cute name), offspring of PFLP-GC chief Ahmed Jibril, was done in by a car bomb. Of course, when a Palestinian terrorist meets an untimely and sneaky demise, all eyes turn to the Mossad. As is customary, the Mossad sayeth nothing publicly, but they're likely trading high-fives back at HQ.

Insert Chicken Pun Here- This is an interesting piece-Israeli biologists have bred a featherless chicken that thus won't need plucking and should get meatier faster. It's not designed for colder climates, but should do well in places like Israel.

Sports Musings-In all the busyness of Sunday, I missed out on the NBA lottery. Houston won out. Could they replace Hakeem with another import, Chinese skyscraper Yao Ming? Be prepared for puns aplenty when Yao gets stateside. If he takes his team to the title, he'll be starting the Ming dynasty. If he torches the Clippers for 47, he'll be Ming the Merciless. A good gorilla dunk will be highlighted with the expletive "Yao-za!!" When he's eligible for free agency, his club will say "Yao, come back now." Memphis' pick is at #4, which means it's off limits to the Pistons in cashing in on a due-#1 from the Otis Thorpe trade. It was protected at #5 or better. Thus, the Pistons can get the Griz pick next year, unless it's the #1 pick overall. LeBron James would look good in red and blue in the fall of '03. Just got done watching the tape of the Wings-Avalanche game, and Colorado deserved the 4-3 OT win, outplaying the Wings. OT was forced by the one of the flukiest goals I've seen in a while, when Lidstrom missed wide left and the puck bounced off the boards, off Roy's skate and in. Holtsberry's prayers were answered, as the Kings evened up the series last night with a 96-90 win. My favorite was Vlade's driving facial on Samaki Walker. I don't remember seeing Divac that animated. I'm having trouble getting interested in baseball this year. After a good start, the Indians have cratered, and the Tigers are playing about .500 ball after an 0-12 start. I can't even adopt the D-Rays in advance, since they suck bilge water worse than the Tigers.

Edifier du jour-I''ve started into Luke 1 today and got an interesting insight. I've probably read this chapter dozens of times over the years (well, I've been through seventeen Christmases as a believer, so at least that may) but the differences between the response of John the Baptist's dad Zechariah to the news of a promised miracle and that of Mary is something that hit me in a special way this morning. An angel tells Zechariah that he's about to be a father at an impossibly-old age. Here's verses 18-22
Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years." The angel answered, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time." Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
Zechariah wanted assurance of what God would do, and the sign that he was given was to be silenced for the next nine months. Mary questioned Gabriel as well, but her question in verse 34 was "How will this be?" Note that she isn't asking for any sign, but just looking for details. We all have questions, but God wants us to walk in faith. I've got a lot of unknowns coming up in my life in the next few weeks: finding an apartment, finding a church home, teaching classes I've never taught before and (last but not least) starting a marriage 46 days from now. I've got truckloads of questions as to how they're all going to, but I'm not asking for signs. I am nervous about the future, but not as much as I "should" be, since I know God's already on the case. We can prayerfully ask questions of God, but we need to ask them in faith.

Monday, May 20, 2002

Cuban Sanctions-Keep 'em On For Now-Dubya's decided to give Jimmy the middle-digit sal-oot and call to keep economics sanction on Cuba until Castro cleans up his act. Define "clean up his act." OK-hold free elections, release political prisoners and have a free opposition. Ain't gonna happen in Castro's lifetime unless Fidel visits Assad and has a conversion en-route. Despite some of the biowarfare talk of the last month, Cuba stopped being a major geopolitical player a decade ago. Sanctions on Cuba were done so that the Russians had to give more help to prop up Castro, thus giving the USSR less money to do mischief elsewhere. Without the Soviet support, Castro can't export his revolution and is having an increasingly hard time hanging on to it in Cuba itself. Castro's left with small geopolitical tidbits, like springing for the training of Latin doctors, shooting to send home doctors with leftist doctrine. With Castro largely defanged as a geopolitical threat, we can afford to take a second look at Cuba and look at the best interests of the Cuba people. However, the question remains-is it better to keep the lid on and let the Cuban economy stew in its natural juices, hopefully forcing a change in regime, or do we move towards free trade, hoping to improve the life of average Cubans and allowing more interaction with the outside world help to bring down Castro by "subverting the revolution" by our culture and influence? For now, I'll go with keeping the lid on, and this isn't based on a half-century-old grudge; I think its the in the best long-term interest of the Cuban people. You can make a case for "constructive engagement" as Reagan did with South Africa, but there was an relatively honorable (albeit rather racist) Anglospherian government to do business with in the Nationalists; Castro isn't de Klerk or even Botha. You can make the case that the Chinese aren't much better than Castro when it comes to human rights and we're good buddies with them. China has fairly open markets and the "corrupting" influence of free markets is gradually opening up China to western values, including democracy and human rights. There is no significant domestic private sector in Cuba beyond a harried madre-y-padre service-sector. Free trade would not have the same effect in Cuba as it is seems to be having in China. With a dictator running things and no private sector to speak of to help subvert the socialist dictatorship, there seems to be little advantage to the Cuban little guy in lifting the embargo. He'll see very little of the money, as a combination of Communist Party hacks and western businessmen will get the lion share of any added GNP from free trade. If Castro starts to make further free-market changes and begins to allow a less-shackled entrepreneurial class, then I'd take a second look at lifting sanctions. Until them, keep the clamps on, Dubya!

Brer Sharon and the Briar Patch-Interesting development today, where Sharon dumped two religious parties from his coalition as they balked at a austerity plan. Shas, the largest of the two parties, is the Robert Byrd of Israeli politics; send the pork (religious school funding, welfare, etc.) their way and they'll be part of any coalition. It sounds a bit familiar. The reshuffle leaves Sharon with exactly half of the Knesset in his coalition and is now reliant on Labor to avoid losing a vote of no confidence. The classic response to such a situation is to have a junior partner overplay its hand and force a new election. However, Sharon might want a new election, as Likud would likely pick up seats, albeit with Netanyahu possibly at the helm. Labor may be smart and not press their luck. However, it would only take one renegade member to bring down the coalition, so the next few months could be real fun to see the political maneuverings in the Knesset.

Was too busy with life today to get to the computer much. Wound up packing up my books for the move to Florida this morning and was busy being a fiance this afternoon. For all you Right-Wing Newsies and other fans of AgEcon-noir, here's part III
The Big Cheese
Act III-The Global Feedbag
I’m not usually inside those spiffy K Street offices, but I managed to get to Mike's office without feeling like a pig on white carpet. If it weren’t for the nice power suit, Mike could pass for a hick kid in town getting goo-goo eyed seeing his congressman. “Well, sir, it might be hard to believe, but its worse in Europe. The EU gripes about our farm subsidies, we gripe about theirs, but it’s hard as all get out to get the subsidies lowered. Over there, the farmers really play hardball, blockading Paris if the French government even hints at lowering subsidies. “ “All politics is local, even geopolitics.” “Yes, sir. Subsidies do have another geopolitical effect. When the government has price supports, it winds up buying a lot of product that it has to dump somewhere. Some of it goes into pushing peanut butter into school lunches, Earl cheese into the hands of the poor and elderly...” “Hurl cheese?” “Earl cheese. That generic Velveeta stuff. My grandpa’s buddy Earl would always have more than he’d need after getting his freebies, so we’d always wind up with some of it. Even after giving the stuff to schools and the needy, they still have more than they know what to do with it, so a lot of it goes into international food aid. It also allows us to err on the side of having too much food.” “As if we’ll ever starve. We export so much stuff as is.” “Yes, and it’s somewhat important that it stay that way. In a bad year, the overproduction that the subsidies encourage could mean the difference between a famine and just a tight year. We also stand by as the feed-bag of last resort. Other countries know that the extra food to make it through a famine of their own is there. However, I think we could change things so that we did price supports more economically.” “Cut government waste. That line’s older than ‘Come here often?’” “The touchy area is that a lot of the subsidies are targeted at small farmers. The small family farm may be quaint, but they aren’t quite as efficient as the big corporate farms. One of the reasons the Japanese food is so pricey is that the small rice farmers have the LDP’s ear. The farmers donate to the LDP and the LDP keeps the cash coming to the microfarmers. We’re not quite as bad as that here, but there still a big mystique about the family farm.” “Yeah, try cutting that and the Folk Song Army will be singing Woody Guthrie at the Democratic fundraisers as well as all those gag-inducing Farm Aid telethons.” “As much as I like the little guy, we could save a lot of money by letting the big farmers have more of a market share. We don’t subsidize mom-and-pop pharmacies or hardware stores, why farms? If we do give price supports as a way to bias things towards an oversupply, why not do it straight-up rather than use it to prop up inefficient small businesses.” “ I like Cato, kid. Bruce Lee played him well. I think you know that people respond to their fears more than their hopes. Even if its better for the country as a whole, the GOP doesn't want to face the attack ads for backing ADM over the little guy. It sounds nice, appealing to the voter's better angels, but the Democrats play to people's gut, play to their fear of a uncontrolled economy giving them an atomic wedgie. Unless your free-market proposals are a clear knock-out winner, it won't sell. " This town saps the spirit of a lot of people. They say that there are two things you don't want to see made: sausages and laws. You have to have a strong stomach to be a wurstmeister on the Hill, since they wind up putting in everything but the squeal into a lot of legislation. You get sharp kids like Mike, who have good ideas and a good heart, coming to town to make the world a better place. You have sharp but somewhat sleazy people who help themselves and their clients get more than they deserve from Uncle Sam. The Mikes win a few, the sleazebags win a few. I make my living catching the sleazebags with their pants down, both figuratively and literally, but this town, and the country, needs more Mikes.

Edifier du jour-Colossians 4:3-5:
And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.
This ties in to an interesting musing this weekend by Bloggedy Blog's Andrew Careaga. He had just gotten back from a Christian conference where one of the seminars was on using the web. Careaga has this telling quote the reflects my meatware life.
What's up with all of us Christian bloggers hanging out almost exclusively with our own kind online? Check out my links on the left-hand side of this site. You'll find nary a link to non-Christian blogs or sites. How sad of me. I mean, if I have this message to get out to the world, as I claim I do, then why am I talking exclusively to the folks who know the message?
I haven't been the greatest evangelist as of late in my non-cyber life, as the problem comes up that when you get hooked up with a good church, you're quickly assimilated into the collective (Resistance is futile). I spent Wednesday night at a prayer meeting, Friday night at a Bible study, Sunday morning at church, Sunday afternoon having lunch with old friends from another Bible study I used to go to and Sunday evening back at church. Add parents and a fiancée of like faith and you only see the heathens at work or at the store. This will be getting only worse for me, as I'll be starting teaching at a Christian college next month, so I'm left with interaction with neighbors and shopkeepers (or the student who doesn't know the Lord yet) to be reaching the lost. Strangely, my cyber life's more evangelistic than my regular one. Through this blog, I get about 100 sets of eyeballs each day. About 20 people a day wonder in looking for topless Kashmiri girls (laugh not, I get quite a few Google hits looking for purty and dirty pics of females from countries in the news. No can do, guys.), links for Jello recipes or people looking for stuff on Jan Peter Balkenende and Harry Potter or some strange combination of words that happen to match what was in five different posts. I hope that my theological musings might plant a few seeds in them. Just having a blog will bring some unsaved eyes through via search engines. I've heard quite a few testimonies over the years of how a person channel-surfed into the Christian radio or TV station and was convicted by what was being said there. It's a bit too new a medium to have that kind of anecdotal evidence, but I'm sure we'll hear a future testimony tell of how someone's blog changed their life. Another batch of eyeballs are the secular readers who will come over for my non-spiritual stuff. My interests extend to politics, geopolitics and economics, and I get a fair amount of traffic from secular poliblogs and warblogs. While I haven't seen much spiritual feedback from non-believers at this point, a good argument will change minds. To give an example on a non-spiritual issue, I remember Doug Turnbull posting on how arguments Bryan Preston and I posted on vouchers got him moving in that direction. There are secular minds being changed, even if your just planting some facts and thoughts that can be used to good effect by other believers in the future. I would imagine quite a few secular readers that will come across some lively debate on theological issues and think that these Christians aren't the idiots that are portrayed on TV. No, you do not have a frontal lobotomy performed when you're baptized; a Spirit-filled life is more fun that bar-hopping. I wouldn't recommend trolling for hits for hits sake on secular sites, but where you have an interest and some expertise, interact with secular sites that aren't overly unedifing. There is a risk of being dragged down to their level, of having your mind gunked up by the things of this world, but if you can add something to the secular conversation while focusing on God, you'll gain some friends who will hear you out on other things. Lastly, don't discount your interactions with other believers. Even if your preaching to the choir, the choir still needs to hear the message. A good quip or a keen insight might be used by one of your fellow believers in their interactions with others.

Sunday, May 19, 2002

Bedtime Musings- Not much blogging today, given various social activities, so I'll give the days news a once over. Star Wars II is doing well at the box office but the movie seems only OK. Spiderman opened stronger for its opening weekend. Kevin Holtsberry (we've got Goliard James now on the loose, so I have to specify) liked it but Ben Domenech didn't. You've been warned. It seems that the best way to watch the film is to turn your mind off and watch the action and the purdy pick-shures. Another autoboomer in Israel. The fellow managed to take two Israelis with him while bagging his 72 raisins at a market. I hope the Israelis take things slow and steady and figure out what they need to do to best stop further attacks. Gaza's overdue for a smackdown. I haven't chimed in on the ongoing news that there is pressure on Arafat to hold honest elections for the PA. I'll beleive that when I see it. The counting's almost over in Ireland, and the ruling Fianna Fail party just missed getting a pure majorityof seats. With one seat outstanding, FF has 80 seats, four short of a majority in the next legislature. The Progressive Democrats' 8 seats would but them over the top, but a quartet of independents would as well. As always, give James Haney a read-over for the full skinny on the Emerald Isle. The best of the lot is a piece on how the Irish will develop a secular, post-Troubles left, as Fine Gael's days appear to be waning.

Edifier du jour-I'm reading Colossians 3 this morning, and it is a "target-rich environment." I've posted verses 1-2 and 11 before, so I'll go with Colossians 3:12-14
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
The virtues of verse 12 aren't prized too much in the Blogosphere. Compassion is a rare beast unless someone bears their soul in their words. An effective, cutting argument frequently puts kindness in the backseat. Despite the acronym IMHO, your opinion is rarely humble. A good Fisking is rarely gentle and we are not patient to allow the writer to correct or give nuance to his thoughts. There's a tendency to view other people's posts as just strings of words and forget that there is a person behind them. I recall being up at Eileen's one evening after giving a Krugman steaming pile a good once-over at lunch. Eileen wanted me to read an essay of hers on hunger from her seminary days. I proceeded to critique an economically-unsophisticated analysis of farm economics in her essay and would up hurting her feelings. I had forgotten two things. One is that Eileen doesn't have an econ degree and I was applying the same standards that I was using with economically-savvy writers. The second, and most important, was that Eileen is a living, breathing person who I am interacting with, not some big-shot writer who likely doesn't know I exist. This doesn't just apply to fiancées. A week ago, I had given a Hokie Pundit essay that tippy-toed into Universalist waters a full Fisking, forgetting that there's a smart, sensitive young guy at the other end. He seems to be hurt by the savage response I and others gave his essay. To honestly borrow from the FPOTUS, I feel his pain. We're supposed to "speak the truth in love" but we (try "I", Mark) frequently leave out the love part. We need to practice those virtues Paul wrote about in all our lives, including our lives on the keyboard. If we treat strangers hundreds and thousands of miles away over the ether with respect, we're more likely to treat our friends and neighbors with a bit more respect. I also need (help me, Lord) to try to get those attitudes to sink in for the long haul and not be sucked into the attack-mode writing that gets the quick kudos in the Blogosphere. This isn't the first time I've hurt someone’s feelings by a harsh post and it isn't the first time I've felt remorse over such a post. Let's try to develop those grace-ful virtues of verse 12-14. If we become kinder, gentler (stifle it, Bush 41 whackers), more humble and forgiving in our speech and writing, we'll have a better shot of having those virtues in the rest of our lives, letting the Holy Spirit be much more of a 24-7 presence in our lives.

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