Welcome to Varied Expressions of Worship

Welcome to Varied Expressions of Worship

This blog will be written from an orthodox Christian point of view. There may be some topic that is out of bounds, but at present I don't know what it will be. Politics is a part of life. Theology and philosophy are disciplines that we all participate in even if we don't think so. The Bible has a lot to say about economics. How about self defense? Is war ethical? Think of all the things that someone tells you we should not touch and let's give it a try. Everything that is a part of life should be an expression of worship.

Keep it courteous and be kind to those less blessed than you, but by all means don't worry about agreeing. We learn more when we get backed into a corner.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Opus 2011-41, The Spin Shall Set You Free

One of the big differences in the past between a culture based on Christianity and other cultures has been the understanding of truth and honesty.  Truth has always been a powerful concept to Christians since Jesus defined Himself as truth.
(John 14:6 KJV)  Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
Truth in the Biblical frame of reference means that there is a one-to-one correlation between what is said and what is.  It implies a desire and attempt to communicate without deception.

Truth implies deceit.  Deceit and lies are the opposite of truth. 

A bible verse is often quoted:
(John 8:32 KJV)  And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
But it is quoted as a lie.  Most people who quote it refer to their version of truth.  Jesus meant the truth of God, or Himself.  Calling a lie truth does not set you free any more than making a cage at the zoo look like the animals natural habitat makes it home.

It is a belief in truth that is the foundation of much of Western culture.  It makes scientific research possible.  It gives meaning to fraud.  Without truth liable is meaningless.  It allows justice and the rule of law.  But that is a thing of the past.

Our society rejects the existence of objective truth.  In post-modern America everything is relative.  Truth becomes what you want it to mean.  A good example of this is the mantra that was chanted and repeated, “Bush lied, people died.”  Bush did not lie, at least on the issue they were referring to.  Being human, I am sure that in his life he told lies.  He may have been wrong on the issue.  He may have been confused.  He may have changed his mind later, but the things he said were shared by every intelligence agency in the world and based on the facts given to him.  This is an example of changing meanings to fit what you want them to mean.  It is not a lie just because you don’t like it.

The post-modern relativism has overwhelmed large sections of what used to be God’s church.  This transformation is still called the church but since it is rejecting truth, it doesn’t belong to God any more.  If there is no truth, or we cannot know truth then the Bible is just an old book that some people find entertaining.  Jesus was just a nut case.  There is no hope. 

We need to begin to stand up for truth.  Part of that position means the rejection of a lot of the synonyms that have replace the word “lie” in our vocabulary.  It is not spin, it is lying.  It is not an exaggeration, it is a lie.  You did not forget, you lied.  You were not joking, you were lying.  It is not a difference of perception, it is a lie.  Even if you had not given your word or you crossed your fingers, it is still a lie.

It is time to stand up and be counted.

homo unius libri

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Opus 2011-39, Civil, Not Servile

Much has been made of the president’s call for a return to civility.  Who can argue with a position that expects courtesy and calm?  No one.  But being civil is not the same as being servile.  Turning the other cheek does not mean be a door mat.

If you look at the Biblical definition of love, you start in I Corinthians 13.  Part of it reads like this:
(1 Corinthians 13:4-5 NASB)  Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,
So we see patience, kindness, humility, forgiveness, lack of jealousy and selfishness and the list goes on.  Powerful stuff. 

How does this play out in life?  Not the way many Christians would like to paint it.  This does not mean having no standards.  It does not excuse refusing to take a stand.  Let’s start with Jesus.  When Peter was telling Jesus to chill out and rethink His strategy, how did He respond?
(Matthew 16:23 KJV)  But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.
Have you called anyone Satan lately for taking a stand that is wrong?  How about telling someone that they are offensive?  This is the same Jesus who tells us to turn the other cheek.  And read about Jesus at the various stages of His trial.  He allowed the sham to continue, after all it was His reason for being incarnated, but at times he refused to answer and then he gave of smart mouth answer of “What is truth.” 

How about Paul and Barnabas.  They were two early spiritual leaders in the church.  At one point they came to a disagreement on whether to give John Mark another chance.  Did they turn the other cheek?  No way:
(Acts 15:39 KJV)  And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;
Or how about what Paul had to say about Peter?  Remember that Peter had been playing the hypocrite with the gentiles.  Did Paul go the extra mile?  No,
(Galatians 2:11 NASB)  But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.
I could go on and on with these kind of examples but I hope you get the idea.  We are called to be salt and light, not pillows and Valium.

homo unius libri

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Opus 2011-40, New Book: Idols for Destruction

I have begun another book, Idols for Destruction, by Herbert Schlossberg.  This will be my third time through the book.  The theme comes from the book of Hosea:
(Hosea 8:4 ESV)  They made kings, but not through me. They set up princes, but I knew it not. With their silver and gold they made idols for their own destruction.
He is looking at the different areas of modern life where we as a culture have substituted false objects of worship.  He covers history, humanity, Mammon, nature, power and religion.

It will not be a fast read.  I will try to share some of the juices that he stirs up in my mind.

homo unius libri

Opus 2011-38 Health Care Suggestions

We know a number of things about health care.  First, we have had a good system.  Even when I was a child and my parents had no health insurance, we got the best of care.  My father had a finger severed except for a piece of skin and they reattached it.  Even though we had no money he received good care.  My mother had a big tumor.  It was removed and she received good care.  My older brother had surgery as a new born, my youngest had surgery on his eyes.  We were taken care of even though we never had any health insurance.  I don’t think that was unusual. 

Second, there are always things that can be improved.  Irresponsible use of the emergency rooms has driven hospitals to close down.  Preexistent condition clauses lock people who have been paying insurance for years to jobs they want to leave.  Middlemen keep sucking off a bigger portion of the pie.  Fraud and corruption drains off the money available.

Third, the health care legislation passed in the last congress had nothing to do with improving the system and will do little but limit options and raise costs.  It will make things worse, not better.  It contained things like the federal government taking over the student loan programs across the country.  What does that have to do with health care?

What kind of things should be dealt with?  Obviously the preexisting condition problem needs to be dealt with.  By that I don’t mean people who wait until they are sick and then want someone else to pay.  I am talking about people who have paid in and then get dropped for shady reasons.  Another problem is people who work for two employers and are forced to pay into two different plans when only needing one.  More flexibility is needed in plans.  Many of us would be willing to work with higher deductibles or plans that don’t include things that will never be needed if we watch how we live.  Union contracts and state laws force us into plans we don’t want.

We need to find a way to save the cost of malpractice insurance.  Obviously if someone pulls a real scorcher they should be held responsible but many times it is a matter of a judgment call.  Hindsight is always better.  Doctors are not gods.  Maybe we should make the testing negotiable.  Every time I see the doctor he has me get a whole battery of tests that are probably not necessary for health but may save lawsuits.

We could open up the responsibilities of nurses and nurse-practitioners.  They could be allowed to see patients and refer when necessary just as a doctor refers to a specialist.

It might help if we began to look at health insurance as “insurance” rather than “assurance.”  I remember hearing this somewhere.  Your car insurance does not pay for tune-ups or new windshield wipers.  It doesn’t pay for oil changes.  It covers major accidents.  Maybe we could apply that to health insurance.  If I want to get a regular check up, I pay.  If I need surgery, insurance pays. 

There are many reasonable and possible changes that can be made.  Let the new congress get serious about the problem not serious about applying their need for the nanny state to rule our lives.

homo unius libri

Friday, January 28, 2011

Opus 2011-37, Who Is the Real Teacher?

Recently I was reading an article that said one fourth of the high school graduates taking the test to get into the army failed.  This was a simple basic test to see what their skills were.  Any high school graduate should be able to pass it.  It stated that the tests for the other branches of the service were even tougher.

Sunday I was listening to a guest preacher who was also a college professor.  He was talking about students trying to get into graduate school.  He made the comment that the graduate schools don’t even pay attention to GPA any more because of grade inflation.  Everyone gets “A” averages today.  Instead they look at scores on the GRE.  At this point educators have not found a way to fake those scores.

When I went into education I had to take a test called the CBEST.  In California you have to pass this test to teach.  You had some math problems that were no higher than algebra, a reading comprehension section and wrote an essay.  It is about 10th grade level and I am told that 20% of the college graduates who take it fail. 

When my daughter was ready to graduate from college the students were required to take a test that showed they had basic skills.  This was after four years of college.

Who has made these students failures?  As a teacher I know it wasn’t me.  Administrators say, “Not I.”  Parents claim they have done their best.  Society doesn’t feel it should be blamed.  Maybe it was something in the water.

Where does the Bible place the responsibility to the training of a child?

The primary responsibility is on the parents.  One of the key passages is in Deuteronomy.  After pointing out that there is only one God and that the word of God must be taught, the book continues:
(Deuteronomy 6:7 KJV)  And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
Obviously the primary concern is religious teaching but since it centered on the written word it also required some literary skills.

The book of Proverbs is loaded with instructions to teach your children and has a well know promise:
(Proverbs 22:6 KJV)  Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
The New Testament has similar directions.
(Ephesians 6:4 KJV)  And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
This is not getting down to techniques and style.  It is about responsibility.  Ultimately the buck stops with the parents.  Years ago I was involved in an inner city church on the edge of what became a famous part of L.A., Watts.  I was trying to teach in an elementary level Sunday School class.  I noticed that the kids fell into two groups.  One group could read everything I gave them.  The others could not even recognize simple words like “the.”  I began to ask questions and what I found was that the ones who could read learned at home.  The ones who could not read had only the public schools to teach them.  The difference was the parents.

Full disclosure:  We home schooled our children.  They did not attend a class outside our home until they enrolled in college. I don’t believe the Bible mandates what we would now call home schooling, but until modern times home schooling or tutors were the common ways to teach children.  Our current idea of locking a large number of children the same age in a room and expecting them to learn is modern foolishness.

The student also has a great responsibility.  In fact this is probably more important than the parents.  This is the elephant in the room.  No one wants to bring this up.  Proverbs talks about counselors and teachers but ultimately it says that you must want and seek wisdom.
(Proverbs 1:8 KJV)  My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother:
For centuries people have been able to educate themselves because they wanted an education.  You can take people like Abraham Lincoln and you find that the amount of time they spent in a formal classroom was almost nonexistent.  Or take the example of Frederick Douglass.  He was born a slave.  The wife of one of his owners started to teach him to read but was stopped by her husband.  It was illegal to teach slaves to read.  But in the midst of slavery, with the law and society against him, he found a way to learn.  He educated himself and emerged as great leader in his day.  Not only could he write but he edited a newspaper and was a great orator.  If you have never read his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of a Slave, you should get it and make it part of your cultural experience. 

And what does the Constitution have to say about educating our children?  Actually, nothing.  It was considered to be none of the government’s business about how a child was educated.  The primary purpose of the government has to do with what is good for it, not what is good for the child.

So quit blaming every one else for the fact that your child doesn’t have the basic skills to get a job.  If you are the child, take some responsibility for your life.  Stop playing the victim card and get moving.  God has given you the ability to learn and there are many people willing to help if you show a genuine interest.

homo unius libri

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Opus 2011-36, Key Verses: Romans 6:23

(Romans 6:23 KJV)  For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

In a previous post I talked about the reality of sin.  Everyone is a sinner.  The next question would be, “So what?”  This verse explains why that is a problem.

Sin leads to death, both physical and spiritual.  Before sin became a reality in the disobedience of Adam and Eve, the world was sinless.  Part of that was the lack of death.  It would seem that people were designed to live forever.  I am guessing that at that time they were vegetarians because after flood Noah was specifically told to eat meat.
(Genesis 9:3 KJV)  Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.
Adam Clarke suggests that one reason animals were now allowed for food was that the nature of plant nutrition had been reduced by the flood.  An interesting thought.  Perhaps in the new Earth we will go back to being vegetarians.  There is mention of the lion and the lamb lying down together.

Sin causes death.  Jesus brings life.

That is the point of the second part of this verse.  There is a problem:  sin.  There is a solution:  Jesus.  And the solution is given as a gift from God.

homo unius libri

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Opus 35, Socialism and Capitalism

History has seen many different forms of government and economics.  Some, such as democracy are only concerned with government.  Some, such as capitalism are only concerned with economics.  Others, such as feudalism, mercantilism, and socialism are concerned with both.

Many systems have seen their day, such as feudalism, and are a part of history.  Today, there are two different systems that are struggling with each other to be the wave of the future.  They go under the generic names of Capitalism and Socialism.  In the purest sense, neither of these terms is accurate.  Neither exists in a pure form.  What we tend to see is a combination of the two that is called Fascism.  We don’t like to use the term because it is associated with the Nazis of World War II era Germany.  The Nazis are to the Fascists like the IRS is to the Federal Government.  Fascism is international socialism.  The Nazis were National Socialists with a special taste contributed by Adolf Hitler.  The Fascists allow private business but it works hand in glove with the government, much like we see happening in our country.

But lets consider for our purposes the two pure ideals of capitalism and socialism.  I want to examine some thoughts on why capitalism is a better system to live under than socialism.  Both systems have elites.  Those elites live extremely well compared to those at the bottom of the pecking order.  The difference is that in capitalism the entire boat rises instead of just the first class cabins.

Socialists believe that the economy is a zero sum game because in their system it is.  No new wealth is generated and in order for those at the top to maintain their privileged life style they must take from the resources required for survival at the bottom.  There is no extra generated so those at the bottom have less than is necessary to thrive and so they suffer, weaken and die.  It is a self fulfilling prophecy.  They are victims of “false profits” so to speak.

Capitalism, on the other hand, generates new wealth.  This new wealth allows those at the top to live in luxury, true.  It also allows those at the bottom to thrive.  In capitalism the people at the top are not stupid.  They want to get richer.  That means they want more money.  To make more money, they need to sell more products.  To sell more products, people need to buy them.  To buy them people need money.  So it is in the best interests of the people at the top for the people at the bottom to have extra money to spend.  Thus everyone is benefited.  It isn’t planned that way.  The people at the top are selfish, but so are the people at the bottom.  It just works out that everyone rises together.

If you don’t believe this principle, look around you.  Create a chart comparing the living standard of the people in the lower half of the world.  You will find that those who are the closest to a capitalist economy, or in the past had a strong capitalist economy, are much better off than those who have a history of socialism or any other form of government.  The average Joe lives better under capitalism than under socialism.

The elites differ also in qualifications.  In socialism it is those who think of themselves as superior intellectually and are able to arrange power to endorse their superiority.  In capitalism it is those who work and produce wealth and that wealth gives them a position of superiority.  They both have power but in socialism it is the coercive power of the government and its guns while in capitalism it is economic and the power of advertising.

This is obviously simplistic and focused.  I understand that, but to me the basic truth is easy to see.  Average people do better under free market capitalism and suffer under government controlled socialism.

homo unius libri

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Opus 2011-34, Basic Beliefs: The Trinity

Closely entwined with the idea of the Divinity of Christ is the Doctrine of the Trinity.  Simply stated it teaches that there is one God in three persons:  The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  It is not three gods, it is one.  It is not one person, it is three.  I had a professor once who said that if you ever think you understand the trinity, you have probably drifted into some kind of heresy.

You will not find the term “trinity” in the Bible.  It is not used.  It is a term that was coined to explain a paradox.  You see, the Bible clearly states there is one God.
(Deuteronomy 6:4 KJV)  Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:
You cannot argue with this because it is so clear.  At the same time you can find Bible verses that teach that the Father is God, that Jesus is God, and that the Holy Spirit is God.  Then you have them talking to each other and being separate.  It is confusing.  It is clear.  It is a paradox.  It is the trinity.

homo unius libri

Monday, January 24, 2011

Opus 2011-33, Dawkins on the King James Version

I came across an interesting quote of Richard Dawkins.  If you are not familiar with the name, then bless you.  He is a professional atheist and advocate of evolution.  It seemed strange that he would be quoted in an article titled “The 400-year reign of the King James Bible” by Mark A. Kellner.  I found it in the Washington Times National Weekly, January 3, 2011, p. 14.

Dawkins is quoted as saying:
“Not to know the King James Bible is to be, in some small way, barbarian.” 
I don’t know why anyone wanted his opinion on this topic, but it is good to know that there is at least one place where I can agree with the man.

homo unius libri

Opus 2011-32, Spiritual Gifts: Prophecy

(1 Corinthians 12:10 KJV)  To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:

Another spiritual gift is the gift of prophecy.  This is listed in both I Corinthians and Romans.

The idea of prophecy is something people understand but in reality miss the point.  Most people understand prophecy as the ability to forecast the future.  It is like a spiritual fortune teller or in modern science fiction and fantasy, precognition. 

To understand prophecy it helps to look at the Old Testament.  You find the role of prophet goes back through the entire history of God’s people.  The prophets wrote much of the Bible.  There are two elements in prophecy:  foretelling and forth telling.  Foretelling is what most people consider prophecy.  It is declaring the future.  The second part is also important.  Forth telling is preaching.  It is declaring a message from God, usually demanding repentance.

Most often prophecy is a warning of the consequences of actions.  Time and again God’s people would be called to repentance.  Their sins would be pointed out and they would be warned about the wrath of God to come.  Usually there would be an escape clause.  The purpose was not to watch them squirm, it was repentance.  God wanted them to turn from their wicked ways.

And so today I think prophecy is a word from the Lord that holds a warning and a demand for repentance.  It can be a style of preaching or unexpected in a service.  It will always be in agreement with the rest of scripture.  The truth will be obvious.  We are expected to respond.

homo unius libri

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Opus 2011-31, Label It Nonsense

I came across an opinion piece in my Washington Times National Weekly, January 10, 2011, p. 29.  It is titled “Out-of-Control Labelers” and written by Angela Logomasini. 

It seems that the Nanny State Elites want to put nutrition labels on beer and wine.  Okay, I guess that is consistent with requiring it on my Snickers bar, that is to say, nonsense.  I don’t drink at all so it won’t effect me directly.  Indirectly it will extend the tentacles of the government monster and make it more powerful. 

What I thought was typical was the logic that these control freaks used.  A group of nine college students ended up in the emergency room because they drank too much.  Most of us would shake our heads and say, “Kids these days!”  Some might volunteer to be designated drivers.  Not these folks.  They say it was ignorance.  If the kids had just realized how much alcohol was in the drinks they would have known when to say “no”.  I quote:
“Maybe if the standard drinks per container had been required to appear on the labels, they wouldn’t have made that mistake.”

The author has more smarts than this entire group of experts.  She responds,
“It’s more likely that college students would use such labels to select drinks with the highest levels of caffeine and alcohol.”
The two organizations that are National Consumers League (NCL) and the Center for Science in the Public Interest.  You might want to stop by their websites and share how you feel about their concern.

homo unius libri

Opus 2011-30, Charity that Destroys

The Bible is full of expressions of God’s concern for the poor.  The concern extends beyond what we are used to by telling the poor not to join the ranks of the oppressors and take advantage of those who are weaker.  Like everything else that God teaches us there is a balance.  Unlike other systems, Biblical Christianity does not assume that you are poor because you are evil or that being rich makes you righteous.  Although the two effect each other, they are really separate qualities.

Our society has forgotten that.  Part of the attack against biblical Christianity is this idea that if someone is poor, it is because someone else has cheated them or taken advantage of them.  That is not what the Bible teaches.  Read Proverbs.  Yes it talks about oppression and cheating.  But it also talks about lack of planning, sloth and indolence. 

So how do we respond to the needs around us?  Let me cop out:  It depends.  Holy living is hard.  It requires that we engage our brains and look at the situation.  I know that there are those who give a dollar to every beggar outside every 7-11 and feel good about it.  Good for you.  You have just been an enabler.  You have contributed to their destructive life style.  They may die someday because you have been so “loving.”  You say you can’t judge them.  Okay, don’t judge them.  Give your dollar to someone you judge as worthy instead of someone you are afraid to judge.

People raise there children this way.  They make no demands, protect them from all challenges and allow them to set their priorities.  Then they wonder why the child can’t find a job or be successful.  The “love” has destroyed them.

The Bible makes a difference between the deserving poor and the sluggard.  One is in a tough situation from no fault of their own.  It may be a father who works hard, long hours but can’t get ahead.  A may be a mother of young children who has a husband struck down by disease.  It may be an entire community in the midst of drought.  These people are worthy. 

The sluggard is the one who is poor because they won’t work.  I once had a man come and tell me he needed fifty dollars.  He said he was willing to work for it.  It sounded so sincere until he said he only had twenty minutes.  Another wanted me to let him sleep in my back yard.  I bought him a meal and talked to him.  In the conversation I found that he had lied to and cheated every friend and family member he had to the point that they would not help him any more.  And he wanted me to take their place. 

Helping people without destroying them is hard work.  It takes time and effort on our part and requires a willingness on their part.  You need to be willing to teach.  They need to be willing to learn. 

So save your dollar for the waitress that is hustling to take care of your table.  Maybe you could give it to the guy who mows your lawn.  Your dollars are limited.  Seek the wisdom to invest them as a steward not just a warm heart.

homo unius libri

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Opus 2011-29, New Terms: Statutory Neglect

This is a term I came across a few years ago while preparing to teach.  I was generally aware of it happening but had not really thought about it.  I am seeing it more and more as an issue in our society.

Statutory neglect is a situation where a law is passed and then ignored. 

Sometimes it is ignored because it has become a non-issue.  I heard one time there was a law against walking your pig down the mainstreet in some town.  In Ancient Rome citizens were required to wear a toga in public.  We have all heard of silly laws.  At least they seem silly to us now, but life has moved on.

Another type of law is ignored because people are too lazy to deal with it.  When I was a kid we had curfew laws.  We were not supposed to be out after 10:00 at night without an adult.  I don’t remember ever being stopped for this one.

The place where this becomes a problem is when the law is selectively neglected for purposes of harassment.  The speed limits are one example.  There are times when it seems like no one is observing the speed limit then suddenly the red light comes on and someone gets a ticket.  This happened to me once.  I was picked out of the middle of the flow and written up for going 60 in a 55 zone.  I wonder if it had to do with me being a teenager?  It is why people are pulled over and harassed for the offense of “driving while black.”  It happens.

There are many laws on the books that can be used selectively.  If you are worried about the government becoming oppressive and limiting your freedom, you have reason for concern.  The laws are already there.  They can be used to harass or jail people because someone in authority does not like them.

It leads to a breakdown in responsible society.  I teach in middle school.  The law is clear about tardies and absences.  The kids are threatened.  They are read the riot act.  Letters are mailed home.  Ultimately nothing happens.  The kids learn early that the law doesn’t mean a whole lot.  Many of them are criminals in training because no one at home is teaching them either.

We need to put a sunset clause on all laws.  They need to be brought up every few years and voted on again.  This will get rid of some of the silly ones and make our elected officials accountable for what they are enforcing.

homo unius libri

Friday, January 21, 2011

Opus 2011-28, Key Scripture: Psalm 51:5

(Psalms 51:5 KJV)  Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

My last post looked at Romans 3:23.  It talked about all humans being sinners.  Some people might try to hang that on the uptight Reformers.  You know how those Puritans were.  They walked around with prune faces and did not want anybody to have any fun right?  Or they blame it on those nasty Christians and their emotionally retarded views of God. 

Actually, the concept has been around since the beginning.  Well, right after the beginning.  Adam and Eve were not born into sin, they introduced it to humanity.  But the concept is strongly established in the Old Testament.  It is a part of the teaching of the Bible.

Some teachers through history have tried to make this verse say that sex is evil.  That is refuted by the rest of the Bible.  Sex in monogamous, man/woman covenant is a gift of God.  This verse is talking about the sin nature that is a part of every living man, woman and child.

Sin exists.  Jesus is the cure.  Get cured.

homo unius libri

Opus 2011-27, Key Scriptures: Romans 3:23

(Romans 3:23 KJV)  For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

One reason modern and post-modern people reject the gospel is that they don’t think they need it.  They don’t believe they are sinners, so why would they need to be saved?  They will admit that there are problems, that society is falling apart, that nothing is working, but reject the concept of sin.

The proclamation of the Bible is that all people have sinned.  Even the holiness people, the spiritual decedents of John Wesley, who taught a doctrine called Christian Perfection, believe that all have sinned.  Anyone who rejects this idea may be a fine neighbor and someone to serve on the PTA with, but they are not a Christian.

The problem with the world is not economic.  It is not lack of education.  It is not racism.  It is not the Democrats.  It was not your mother.  The problem is, was and will be sin.  And that sin is alive and well in every human being until dealt with by the blood of Christ.

homo unius libri

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Opus 2011-26, New Terms: Bagging

This is actually not a new term but many of you that don’t get out much may not have heard it.  You might know it as knocking, ragging, chopping, roasting or some other term, depending on how old you are.  It is a popular form of humor.

Bagging is different from insulting although the words may be the same.  Bagging is an insulting comment made to a friend as a form of humor.  Both people know this and it is harmless.  An insult is intended to harm.  For instance, “You are stupid,” could be an insult, assuming you aren’t.  If you are it is just a statement of fact.  A bag would be, “Did your brain miss the bus this morning?”

Bagging tends to be more common among males.  That is because most women don’t have much of a sense of humor.

When you hear it, relax.  It is a way of saying “I care.”

homo unius libri

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Opus 2011-25, Spiritual Gifts: Miracles

(1 Corinthians 12:10 KJV)  To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:

The Holy Spirit gives some people a spiritual gift called the “working of miracles.”  The word translated “miracles” is the Greek word that gives us the English “dynamite.”  It means power.  So we have the gift of making powerful things happen.

What does that mean?

If we simply take the word as miracles then you have some of the things you see on the stage at a Las Vegas magician act.  Elephants float.  People are sawed in two.  Birds disappear.  This is what some people would think of.  Jesus had to deal with this.
(Luke 11:16 KJV)  And others, tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven.
People followed Him around saying “entertain us with magic.”

Keep in mind that spiritual gifts are given to build up and edify the body of Christ.  They are not to amuse us, build our careers or reinforce our ego.  That puts some limits on what this could mean. 

What kind of power acts are needed to build the body of Christ?  Many of them will go unnoticed.  Many may not be wanted.  They will overlap with other gifts such as giving, healing, and faith.  I think a person that has this gift gets people to respond to ideas and suggestions.  When you are having a church meeting and can’t come to a consensus, you are stuck.  Then some quiet person suggests a solution that catches on and the church is moving again.

Works of power are rare in the church because miracles don’t really convert people.  I good example of that is the time Jesus healed Lazarus.  After the miracle some of those who were witnesses ran off to meet with the Jewish leaders.  Did they respond in faith and obedience?  No.
(John 11:53 KJV)  Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.
You see this time and again.  Miracles are exciting but they don’t change lives.

homo unius libri

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Opus 2011-24, Something Old, Something New

As I am reading Idols for Destruction I have a thought that has come to me before.  I think that there are some books that have so much important content that I wonder why we keep moving on to new books of lesser value.  Some books should be read again and again because the content is so important and we forget it.  Obviously that is true of the Bible, but what other books have I found that would be in that category?

    Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
    A Conflict of Visions by Thomas Sowell
    Idols for Destruction by Herbert Schlossberg

Of course these are choices I came up with because they speak to me.  This is a partial list.  I have several feet of shelf with books waiting.  You might have others that it would do me good to read.

But the personality of our times is to keep moving on for the new thrill.  We see this in celebrities.  Who is hot today is not tomorrow.  Think of songs that we hummed over and over as teenagers.  If you are a teenager, then the one from last month.  How boring they are today.  Think of the song you sang last month in contemporary worship.  How boring.  We tend to think there is something wrong with us if we are attracted to books or songs of timeless quality. 


Much of it is lack of maturity.  We want thrills instead of solidity.  We want cake instead of vegetables.  We want to consume instead of produce.  We want to play instead of work.  We expect that of children, but what happens when a large segment of society goes along?

You can’t change the world.  You can change you.  Check your bookshelves.  Go to the library.  Stop at a book store.  Read something that might make a difference.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Opus 2011-23, Key Scriptures: Genesis 1:1

The first verse in the Bible is also one of the most rejected in our modern society.
(Genesis 1:1 KJV)  In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
In this verse is the statement that separates those who have faith in evolution and those who believe in creation.  Some people think the difference is in the method used.  People are not fighting over the predicate, they are fighting over the subject of the sentence.

The issue here is not creation or evolution.  The issue is God or chance.  Both are the object of faith.  No Bible believer would say that they can prove creation scientifically.  It is an object of faith.  What is not understood is that science is in the same position in spite of talking as if evolution is an established scientific fact.

Scientifically speaking evolution will always be a theory, it can never be a fact.  This will be true until someone invents a time machine.  You see for something to be accepted as a scientific fact three things are necessary:  1)  It must be observable.  2)  It must be measurable.  3)  It must be repeatable.  It seems rather obvious that none of these apply.

The real argument is over who, not how.  There are those who accept what Genesis 1:1 says and believe that God did it.  There are those who reject God and believe that it happened by chance.  For them there was no Who.

So here is where the division starts.  It is appropriate that it is at the beginning.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Opus 2011-22, Ban the Prius

There are many tragic events going on in the world from flooding in Australia to the murder of Christians in Egypt.  In the midst of this, much of our attention is focused on the shooting in Arizona.  A staggering number of people were killed by a maniac with a gun.

And as expected, the problem was the gun.  I don’t want to take away from the tragedy.  People were murdered for no reason.  This is not a reason to rewrite the Constitution and allocate billions of dollars of tax money for body guards to protect politicians. 

What if he had done the deed by driving a Prius through the crowd?  Think about it.  A maniac driving a car into a crowd of people.  Turning around and driving over them again.  Killing and maiming men, women and children.  Using the logic of our times we would have people urging the banning of the Prius.  Perhaps we would sue the manufacturer, after all they knew that their car could kill people.  Perhaps we could ban the driving of cars within 1,000 feet of any member of congress.

Oh, wait.  Something like that did happen.  You remember the story.  A young Muslim drove his SUV onto campus, made his way to a place where students would hang out, and tried to run them down.  He did it for the glory of Allah.  Fortunately he was not a very good driver.  I am surprised that colleges have not banned cars from campus.  Maybe that is the real reason behind all of the hostility to SUV’s. 

Some people mock the statement the “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”  I could put a gun in a box at a school for 1000 years and as long as no one opened the box no one would be hurt.  On the other hand I have seen students picking up books and throwing them.  Maybe we could ban books from the classroom.  I can no more blame the gun than I blame the car.  People do nasty things and have incredible creativity in finding ways to express their nastiness. 

I guess that is considered twisted logic today.

Opus 2011-21, Discernment Watch: The Emergent Church

Two qualifiers.  First, I am not an expert on the Emergent Church.  In a very real sense, no one can be an expert because like most pseudo-Christian movements the Emergent Church refuses to be tied down to any statement.  Their post-modern philosophy rejects absolute truth and allows them to change meanings and nuance truth until no one can have an intelligent argument with them.  They have a term for it:  Deconstruction.  This allows them to change the meaning of a word based on what they view is the context.  Everyone does this kind of thing to some degree.  For instance take the word “read”.  Is it present tense or past tense?  It depends on the context.  But the Emergents tend to change things deliberately to change the truth.  Here is an example:
“The grandeur of this vision is what makes me want to avoid getting stuck in intramural debates about epistemology and the word postmodern.” p. 151
Quotes in this post are from :

Pagitt, Doug and Jones, Tony, ed.  An Emergent Manifesto of Hope.  Grand Rapids:  Baker Books, 2007.

Second, as in any movement there are people within who are on a tangent that is not dangerous or heretical.  Do not confuse innovation and creativity with heresy.  Many people who consider themselves to be part of the Emergent Church are simply using candles and changing the furniture, not pursuing heresy.  By that measure, John Wesley would have been emergent because he preached out in the fields.  Always use loving discernment with people who claim to be part of the Emergent Church.  They may just be excited, sincere and naive.

In another sense I am an expert compared to most people for two reasons.  First, I am aware that the Emergent Church exists, and Second, I have done some reading on it both from their authors and people evaluating them.

I have read three books by leaders in the Emergent Church.  Two of them were borrowed and I had not yet begun taking written notes:  The Lost Message of Jesus by Steve Chalke and a book by Brian McLaren.  I can’t remember the title of the second.  I have also read An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, edited by Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones. 

I have read two other books that touch on the topic.  The first, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church, by D.A. Carson was a sympathetic, well balanced evaluation from an orthodox perspective.  The second, A Primer on Postmodernism, by Stanley J. Grenz is not about the Emergent Church per se, but lays a foundation for their world view.

The first two by Chalke and McLaren I cannot quote directly but the impression I got was blatant heresy.  They are outside the fold of Orthodox Christianity.  Anyone who has read the Bible can see that they are really twisting what it teaches.

The Manifesto of Hope had a similar feel.  What was so disturbing was that it was from many different authors and was published by Baker Books which used to be a trusted publisher to me.  There were 25 essays and I only found one that seemed to admit that there was any value to the teachings and beliefs the church has held for 2000 years. 

For instance,
“...our relationships with others gives us the most insight into who God is and where God is leading us.” p. 38.
What happened to the teachings of the Bible about who God is and where He is leading us?  I really get tired of hearing the word “relationship” used so often by Christians.  It is not a Biblical term, it is out of psychology.  That does not mean it is worthless, but it is hardly on the level of the sacred.

Or how about this statement:
“This, coupled with a careful reading of Scripture leads us to see that the individual soul alone is too small a target for God’s love and justice.” p. 82
The place they are going is a kind of green gospel that is concerned about our carbon footprint and the redistribution of income more than saving people from their sins.  This is more the worship of Gaia than the worship of Jesus.  Later you find these words:
“God’s single mission - restoring Creation.” p. 133
And here is what communion is all about:
“The Eucharist creates a context of abundance, and economic abundance, and economic help is given to those who need it.” p. 139,
All those millions of people who thought they were celebrating His death until He comes find out it is just a chance to redistribute wealth.

How do you feel about this analysis of why Jesus became man:
“As important as both right beliefs and right practices might be, neither was Jesus Christ’s primary mission,...In the incarnation, God became human as a continuation of God’s hope for creation.”  p. 204
Shades of Gaia worship!

If you know your Bible well enough to know truth from fantasy, read some of their stuff but keep your baloney detector turned on.  If you don’t know your Bible then stay away because you are an accident waiting to happen.  If you are already a pagan Gaia worshiper then you will feel right at home.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Opus 2011-20, Christian Cliches: God Is Love

This is another true statement that has been polluted by modern definitions.  First, let us look at a specific reference.

(1 John 4:16 KJV)  And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
The big question is, “What do we mean by love?”  Most people know the three common words for love in Greek.  There are actually five, but only three are used in the Bible.  One is romantic love.  It is the basis of our word “erotic.”  A second is brotherly love, the source of our word “filial.”  The third, agape, has no English words that I know of derived from it.  What has happened is the first two words have pushed out the most important word. 

Almost all references to love today deal with romantic love.  This is true even in the church and even in Christian families.  When a wife says, “He don’t really love me,” she usually has in mind some behavior she has seen in a movie or read in a romantic novel.  When a guy tells a girl on a date, “If you really loved me...” he is simply saying he has a sex urge he wants to gratify. 

Love has become an emotion that makes us feel good.  In a very real sense “God is love” has become “Love is god.” 

In the Bible, agape love is not an emotion but a commitment.  It is an intellectual decision to do what is best for the other person even if it is painful.  When we say God is love it does not mean that He has warm feelings for us and wants to give us every toy we can imagine.  It means that He wants us to because remade in His image.  It means that He wants us to escape our evil natures.  It means that He is willing to send His son to make sure that a solution is available to us.  He is willing to pay the extreme price of Him who knew no sin, becoming sin on our behalf.  “God is love” is symbolized by the cross, not by Santa Claus.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Opus 2011-19, Christian Cliches: God Is Good

Sometimes we can make statements that are true and be telling a lie.  This is one of those cases.  God is good.  There is no question about that.  God is the definition of good.  The problem is in what most people mean when they say “good”.

Most people think of “good” as an adjective used to show something is up to their standards.  What is good music?  What is a good score in golf?  Some people think sushi is good.  So for most people to say something is good means it has their approval.

God is not concerned about our approval.  He is concerned that we live up to His standards, not whether we are impressed with His performance.

God is good means that he is that which all other things are measured.  If involves holiness, purity, light and truth.  It means that He is burning with such a righteous fire than any evil will be utterly destroyed in His presence.  It means that we can never be good enough to warrant his approval.  It means that some other being than ourselves would have to pay the price for all the weaknesses and failures we have chalked up in life.  Fortunately He had just the Person in mind for that.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Opus 2011-18, The Scientific Method Needs the Scientific Attitude

Every child in school is taught the scientific method.  It is a way of approaching research that was unique in the western world and let to its dominance of scientific knowledge.  It is a simple but profound process that follows certain steps.  One example might be:

State the Problem
Suggest an Hypothesis
Perform an Experiment
Evaluate the results

I teach history but I tell students that the scientific method is one of the most important things they will learn in school.  Why?  Because in modified form it can be used in any area of knowledge.  It gives a foundation for adult decisions. 

I am currently reading a biography of Albert Einstein.  One of the thoughts that struck me as I read was that the scientific method would have been useless without what I am calling the scientific attitude.  This has probably been discussed under different titles by others but I was impressed about the way Einstein sometimes showed it.

The scientific attitude is interested in advancing the knowledge of mankind more than the fame of the scientist.  It demands accurate data.  It is willing to share data and encourages people who might be considered competitors.  It knows that the final results will be better than that produced by ego and protectionist efforts.

In the book a young scientist from India, Satyendra Nath Bose, came up with a new discovery.  He sent it to Einstein for his opinion.  What often happens in science or any field of research is that the more famous person will steal the idea and go for the glory.  Instead, “he [Einstein] not only got Bose’s paper published, he also extended it with three papers of his own.””  (Isaacson, Walter, Einstein.  New York:  Simon and Schuster, 2007, p. 328)

Much of what passes as science today is just jockeying for funding and press releases.  Science never reaches a final answer because there will always be the next step.  Notice the last step of the scientific method is “repeat.”  Thus when Al Gore announced that the debate on global warming was over, it was not a scientific but a political statement.  We need to support real scientific research and do what we can to stop the political posturing that goes on in the name of science.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Opus 2011-17, Spiritual Gifts: Faith

(1 Corinthians 12:9 KJV)  To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;

The third spiritual gift listed is faith.  Faith is a vital word to Christians because it is tied in with our salvation:
(Ephesians 2:8 KJV)  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
We are saved by grace but notice that it is through faith.  This is the same Greek word used for the gift of faith, but it would be applied differently

The gift of faith is believing big things that are different from your salvation.  A biblical definition of this would be:
(Hebrews 11:1 KJV)  Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
A person with the gift of faith would believe strongly that certain promises would come true.  They might be strong in prayer because they believe in God’s answers.  They get things done because their faith drives them on when others might quit.

If you have the gift of faith people might think of you as the little engine that could.  Remember the children’s story where the little train is chugging up the hill saying, “I think I can.  I think I can.”  The difference would be that the gift of faith is not believing in ourselves but believing in the power. of God.  This little engine would be chanting, “I know He can.  I know He can.”

Like all other gifts, faith is present in all believers at some level but those with the gift are powerful beyond their own lives. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Opus 2011-16, Discernment Watch: Why Do I Listen to Mark Driscoll?

Mark Driscoll is a know-it-all, type-A Calvinist who is constantly sticking his foot in his mouth and calls noise music.  Why do I download and listen to his sermons?

Let me give you some reasons.  I don’t know if they are in order of importance because some are of such equal weight.

1.  He is a brother in Christ.  He repeatedly makes public declaration that he has been saved by God’s grace because of his faith in Jesus.  So, let’s see.  We have faith, grace, repentance, justification, adoption.  Yep, sound like a brother in Christ to me.  I don’t know if he accepts me, since I am a Type-B Arminian, but I accept him.

2.  He believes the Bible is God’s word.  I may not like the translation he uses.  His interpretations may leave a lot to be desired at times.  At the heart of it he believes that God spoke to man and the words are found in this book.

3.  He believes the Bible means what it says.  He doesn’t spend his time trying to make the message politically correct.  If the Bible says something is wrong, it is wrong.

4.  Sometimes he really says some great stuff.  I usually listen to his sermons on my I-pod as I walk.  I am sure some people think I am weird when I pump my fist, laugh out loud in delight or say, “Yes!”  Of course, he tends to preach too long, so I don’t always finish, but I get through at least half on my walk.

5.  He is a modern day Apostle.  Some people think this gift is dead.  I don’t.  I believe he is gifted to lead in the edification and extension of the church.  Some think he is arrogant.  What do you think the Jewish elders thought of Peter, Paul and the rest.  For that matter what did people think of Luther, Calvin and Wesley?

6.  He has a vision for the church.  He is planting churches like crazy.  He is sharing the wealth of resources on line.  He is building the body of Christ with a willingness to let others share the wealth.

7.  When he isn’t expounding some Calvinistic nonsense, he is teaching the great doctrines of the church.  He is not afraid to declare truth as truth.  He does not compromise.

8.  He is a man of compassion.  For all of his loud talk and assertive ideas, he cares about people.

9.  I like his sense of humor.  He mocks just about everything I am from Arminian to liking bell choirs.  That’s okay.  I have a sense of humor too.  Sometimes he is really funny, sometimes he needs to take a class in good taste.

10.  For a type A, he is humble.  I know that is paradoxical but it works.  He can be so full of himself that his wool clothing looks like spandex but he is also aware of it and is constantly pulling in his horns.  He is a lot like the Apostle Paul.  If you don’t like him, you probably would have left with Barnabas.

11.  His wife is cute.  I have never met her but I will take his word for it.  After all, he knows where liars end up.

I don’t agree with everything Mark Driscoll says.  I can say that about anyone.  I don’t know that I would be friends if we lived close to each other.  But I still listen to him because God speaks to me through his preaching.

That is why I have labeled this under Discernment Watch.  We should never accept what people say unless we have run it through our Holy Spirit Filters.  Take that which is from God and ignore the rest.  Be mature and discerning.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Opus 2011-15, Key Scriptures: Micah 6:8

Certain verses in the Bible tend to be picked out by readers without anyone to set up flags marking them as important.  Micah 6:8 is one of those verses.
(Micah 6:8 NASB)  He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?
This is one of those verses that seems to “say it all.”  I have those days when I feel totally defeated and feel like a total loss and the Lord will bring this to mind.  Just “what does the LORD require” anyway?  The answer may not be easy to do but it is easy to understand.

I don’t need a long list of do’s and don’t’s.  There are three general areas to focus on:  Justice, kindness and humility.  I don’t need to be a Bible scholar or a college graduate to have a feel for what those words mean. 

Read it over a few times.  Spend some time in Christian meditation on it.  Let God speak to you about how to “do justice” in your daily dealing with people.  Think of areas you could show more kindness.  In realizing how much better you can do, you move toward humility.  The joy is that you get to walk with your God while you are working on these things.

Happy walking.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Opus 2011-14, Christian Cliches: “God helps those who help themselves”

This is a very well known Biblical quote.  It only has one problem:  It is not from the Bible.  In fact it could very well be understood in such a way that it is exactly the opposite of what the Bible teaches.

The quote as we know it is from Benjamin Franklin.  You can see more details including where Franklin may have gotten it at this Web Site.  It seems that Franklin liked to publish quotes that were easily mistaken for Biblical truth.

Although the Bible does expect people to work hard and has a lot of nasty things to say about sluggards, ultimately the Bible teaches that we are to trust in God for the ultimate resolutions of life.  We are not promised happiness but are guaranteed joy.  We are not promised financial prosperity regardless of what you heard on the radio or TV.  We are not allowed to seek revenge or to demand justice.  Above all we do not earn our salvation by our own efforts.

Benjamin Franklin was a great American, great thinker and gifted scientist, but he was a lousy theologian.

Opus 2011-13, Renaming Liberalism

It is not popular to be a liberal today.  Ask anyone involved in the news media is they are liberal and they will usually deny it.  Ask any liberal professor if they are a liberal and usually they will deny it.  They know that being a liberal does not sell so they call themselves moderates or claim to have no political bias.

They have taken another step.  Now they label themselves Progressives.  We all want to be progressive, right.  So they are progressive.  They are for Progress.  This is New Speak.  It is a way of making the meaning of words be what you want it to mean.

Unfortunately, this is not a new idea.  The Progressives go back at least to the early 20th century.  They thought that the idea of eugenics was progressive so they started an organization that later became Planned Parenthood.  They wanted to stop inferior people from having children.  This was Progress.  They thought that the idea of the state running everything was a good idea.  They liked the Fascist Mussolini of Italy.  After all he made the trains run on time.  This was Progress.  Until the Nazis arrived on the scene and began stealing the thunder they thought that fascism was the cats meow.

Now they are back.  They still want the government to make the decisions in your life.  They want to tell you what kind of lightbulbs to  use.  This is Progress.  They want to force you to take and pay for their idea of health insurance.  This is Progress.  They want you to get out of your car an onto a bicycle.  This is Progress.  They want to take away all those unsafe guns.  This is Progress.  They want to regulate the internet.  This is Progress.  They have a lot of things they want.  All in the name of Progress and at the expense of your liberty. 

They call it Progressive.  I call it liberal.  What do you call it?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Opus 2011-12, John Wesley on Proselytizing

I was reading during my worship time from the Journals of John Wesley.  I came across a statement that was similar to comments he had made before but it struck me in light of a post I had read at “According to the Book,”  Wesley wrote:
June 20, 1780, “But here is still a loving people, though a little disturbed by the Calvinists, who seize on every halting soul as their own lawful prey.” p. 186 in edition I am using.

It would seem that in 1780 the inter-denominational wars were in full swing.  This is nothing new.  I offer this in light of what seems to be a renewed sense of self-righteousness that I am reading about among modern Calvinists. 

Some Christians, and I use the term deliberately, feel that they are the only ones with the true word.  They seek to convert everyone whether they are pagans or just have a different view of predestination.  I salute their desire to convert the pagans.  I question their zeal to go after Arminians.  It seems like they are more concerned with Arminians than pagans.  That is a serious issue.

Wesley was concerned about denominational cherry picking.  This reference is not the only place he brings this up.  In 1780 and before it was a serious issue.  I urge followers of Jesus Christ to go after the targets that need to be targeted.  A pagan has no chance of eternal life unless you share with him.  Sure, the Holy Spirit might use a tract or a Gideon Bible, but you are the main instrument He uses.  A misguided member of another church can at least be brought into conformity to your doctrine if the Holy Spirit chooses to lead him to the right scripture.  Even Roman Catholics, gasp, have access to the gospel.  Read some of their websites.  They have a chance of being saved, the pagan is waiting for you.

Let’s all stop proselytizing.  The fields are white unto harvest.  Focus on the real issue.

Opus 2011-11, The Heritage of Music

I find that I have to laugh when I hear music from a few years ago called “classic rock” or “classic praise.”  It doesn’t take long to become classic today.

I want to put in a word for the more traditional music of the church.  There is something to be said for music that has stood the test of time.  As I sit and worship I have my I-pod presenting me a variety of music.  Right now it is play a version of “Therefore the Redeemed fo the Lord Shall Return” done by Maranatha Music in an upbeat traditional way.  Just before that was something done in totally contemporary style from one of the WOW Worship disks.  It all has a place.  I enjoy most, but not all, of what comes over the speakers.  But there is something about a song that I can still sing and worship with after 55 years.

Have you had the experience of singing a chorus that really raised your spirits last year and now it seems boring, boring, boring.  It is still the same song.  You have changed.  It met a need in your life for a moment but did not have the staying power of truly inspired music.  Only time will tell what endures.  It will be somewhat different for everyone but if it depended on a pumped up lead guitarist or a driven drummer then “this too, shall pass.”  100 years from now people will still be singing “Amazing Grace.”  Bernard of Clairvaux wrote “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee” in the 12th century.  He probably wrote it in Latin.  It is still around.

The variety that endures will be wide.  Even after centuries, it will be evolved music that will touch different people.  In time there will be variation.  3/4 time will become 6/8 or even worse, 4/4.  Baroque will develop some elements of jazz.  New instruments will be blended in.  But some will endure.  And the stuff that endures will be the stuff of worship for diverse multitudes.

So give me my old music.  It has endured.  It could touch you if you would let it and unlike a lot of the six week praise songs your worship team wrote it will be around when we are gone.  So will some of your new compositions, we just don’t know which ones yet.

Just picture the music of the spheres with celestial bands.  Some people will complain about that.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Opus 2011-10, Basic Christian Beliefs: Jesus is God.

If there is one belief that unites Christians it is the divinity of Christ.  If there is one litmus test to tell if a group is a cult, it is the divinity of Christ.  Christians believe that Jesus Christ was fully God as well as fully man.  He has always existed.  He has always been God.  A simple summary of this is,
(John 1:1 KJV)  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
There are many places in the New Testament that follow this theme.  For example, Paul says,
(Colossians 2:9 KJV)  For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
You also have places where the context makes it clear that Jesus claimed to be God.  After a discussion with the Jewish Elders about who He was you get this response from those listening to him,
(Matthew 26:65 KJV)  Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy.
The high priest understood Jesus was claiming to be God.  For this He was put to death.

There have been many heretical splinters of the church that have denied this understanding.  They have repeatedly been silenced by the orthodox believers.  The methods have not always been pleasant or even “Christian” but it was an important issue for them.

It should be an important issue for us.

Opus 2011-9, New Terms: Nomocracy

This is a new term for me.  My spell checker does not recognize it.  I like it.  I usually use another term but this one sounds so high brow.  It means the “Rule of Law.”  I found it on Constitution Society Website.

For those into Greek and Latin, “nomos” is Greek for “law.”  People who are against any kind of standards in Christianity are called antinomians. 

The reason it stands out to me at this time is that it seems to reflect what is not going on in our country right now.  Our government seems to regard laws as something to be acknowledged only if they fit what the official wants to do.  A clear example of this is the searches being done by the TSA.  I am sure you are aware of this simple statement:

4th Amendment

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated; and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.
When I was pulled aside and “frisked” the problem was not lack of courtesy, groping or improper searching techniques.  The problem was a lack of everything mentioned in the Constitution.  At least if they were profiling, there would be some sliver of probable cause.

This is antinomocracy.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Opus 2011-8, Key Scriptures: John 3:16

One of the most memorized verses in the Bible is John 3:16,
(John 3:16 KJV)  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
If you have ever seen a Gideon Bible in a motel room or passed out at schools, they have this verse in the front of each volume in dozens of languages.  They consider it that important.

We should also consider it important because it is the Gospel in a nutshell.  God loves us.  He sent Jesus.  If you believe in Jesus you will avoid Hell and gain Heaven.  Of course there is more to learn, that is what the Bible is all about, but if you know that much you can join God’s family.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Opus 2011-7, Book Notes: A Conflict of Visions

Notes from
A Conflict of Visions

by Thomas Sowell

p. 4, “A vision is our sense of how the world works.”

p. 9, “Social visions differ in their basic conceptions of the nature of man.”

p. 10, “...two broad categories – the constrained vision and the unconstrained vision.”

pp. 11ff, people with a constrained vision
    Adam Smith
    Edmund Burke
    Alexander Hamilton
    John Randolf

pp. 12-13, “Instead of regarding man’s nature as something that could or should be changed, Smith attempted to determine how moral and social benefits desired could be produced in the most efficient way, within that constraint.”  (EO)

p. 14, “one of the hallmarks of the constrained vision is that it deals in trade-offs rather than solutions.”

pp. 15ff, People with an unconstrained vision
    William Godwin,
    Thomas Paine
    John Stewart Mill
    Harold Laski
    Thomas Jefferson

p. 16, “Unlike Smith, who regarded human selfishness as a given, Godwin regarded it as being promoted by the very system of rewards used to cope with it.”

p. 27, “The unconstrained vision promotes pursuit of the highest ideals and the best solutions.  By contrast, the constrained vision sees the best as the enemy of the good – a vain attempt to reach the unattainable being seen as not only futile but often counterproductive, while the same efforts could have produced a more viable and beneficial trade-off.”

p. 40, “It was the eighteenth century exemplars of the unconstrained vision who created ‘the age of reason,’ as expressed in the title of Thomas Paine’s famous book of that era.  Reason was as paramount in their vision as experience was in the constrained vision.”

p. 40, “Therefore, the wisdom of the ages was seen by Godwin as largely the illusions of the ignorant.”

p. 41, “Implicit in the unconstrained vision is a profound inequality between the conclusions of ‘persons of narrow views’ and those with ‘cultivated’ minds.”

p. 41, “ the unconstrained vision, the best conduct of social activities depend on the special knowledge of the few being used to guide the actions of the many....Along with it has often gone a vision of intellectuals as disinterested advisers.”

pp. 47-48, two types of reason

p. 47, “The power of specifically articulated  rationality is central to the unconstrained vision.  The power of unarticulated social processes to mobilize and coordinate knowledge is central to the constrained vision.”

 p. 49, In economics the constrained vision admits there are reasons for change, but the reasons “...cannot be specified in such concrete detail as to make it feasible for any individual or group to plan or control the actual process.”  The relates to what is happening in education.

pp. 50-51, insight:  common law based on the precedent is constrained vision

p. 54, “Yet those who argue for deliberate law making through judicial activism do so not on the basis of having a democratic majority, even in a given generation, but rather on having an intellectually and morally superior process for decision making.”

p. 56, “The clash over judicial activism reflect a much more general clash over the best way to contribute to the social good.  In the unconstrained vision, wise and conscientious individuals should strive to shape the best outcomes in particular issues that come within their jurisdiction.  In the constrained vision, the inherent limitations of individuals mean that each individual’s best contribution to society is to adhere to the special duties of its institutional role, and let the systemic processes determine outcomes.”

p. 56, “Just as the unconstrained vision urges judicial activism on its judges, it urges ‘social responsibility’ on businessmen– that they should hire, invest, donate and otherwise conduct their businesses with an eye to producing specific benefits to society at large.”

p. 57, “It is the systemic effect of competition rather than the individual intentions of businessmen which this vision relies on to produce social benefit.”

pp. 58ff, contrast between sincerity and fidelity
    sincerity - doing what you judge best for society as a whole
    fidelity - doing your duty as expected by those you serve

p. 59, “Sincerity is so central to the unconstrained vision that it is not readily conceded to adversaries, who are often depicted as apologists, if not venal.”

p. 60, “Within the unconstrained vision, sincerity is a great concession to make, while those with the constrained vision can more readily make that concession, since it means so much less to them.  Nor do adversaries need be depicted as stupid by those with the constrained vision, for they conceive of the social process as so complex that it is easy, even for wise and moral individuals, to be mistaken – and dangerously so.”

pp. 63-64, The unconstrained vision trusts youth, the constrained vision trusts age

p. 67, “The common man, according to Hobbes, seldom engaged in meaningless words, which he saw as the hallmark of intellectuals.”

p. 70, “The constrained vision puts little faith in deliberately designed social processes, since it has little faith that any manageable set of decision-makers could effectively cope with the enormous complexities of designing a whole blueprint for an economic system, a legal system, or a system of morality or politics.  The constrained vision relies instead on historically evolved social processes and evaluates them in terms of their systemic characteristics- their incentives and modes of interaction- rather than their goals or intentions.”

pp. 80-81, From this perspective, loyalty, promises, patriotism, gratitude, precedents, oaths of fidelity, constitutions, marriage, social traditions, and international treaties are all constrictions imposed earlier, when knowledge was less, on options to be exercised later, when knowledge will be greater.”

p. 86, “Patriotism and treason thus become a meaningless distinction at the extremes of the unconstrained vision, while this distinction is one of the most central and most powerful distinction in the constrained vision.”

p. 96, “According to the unconstrained vision, the patterned behavior of society is successful, just, and progressive insofar as it reflects the articulated rationality of man in general and of the most intellectually and morally advance people in particular.”

p. 96, “In the constrained vision, where man - individually and collectively - lacks both the intellectual and moral prerequisites for such deliberate, comprehensive planning, order evolves historically without design, and more effectively then when it is designed.”

p. 97, “The unconstrained vision tends to judge processes by their results - ‘is it right? Is it good?’ in the words of Chief Justice Earl Warren,  The constrained vision judges rightness and goodness as process characteristics rather than as results:  A foot race is fair if it is run under the proper conditons - regardless of who wins or loses, or how often the same person win.”  (EO)

p. 98, “In the constrained vision, freedom is a process characteristic - the absence of externally imposed impediments.”

p. 126, “Adherents to both the constrained and the unconstrained visions each see fascism as the logical extension of the adversary’s vision.”  (EO)

p. 133, “A social process which assures equal treatment thus represents equality, as seen in the constrained vision, whether or not the actual results are equal.”

p. 135, The unconstrained - “To them, equality of opportunity means equalized probabilities of achieving given results, whether in education, employment or courtroom.”  (EO)

p. 144, “The moral justification of the market process rests on the general prosperity and freedom it produces.”

p. 150, “The view that races, classes or sexes innately differ greatly in capabilities would be a conclusion for which a constrained vision would be necessary, but not sufficient, and is in fact rejected by many for whom intellectual or moral constraints apply to all human beings, without group distinction.”  (EO)

p. 159, “Like other evils, war was seen by those with the constrained vision as originating in human nature and as being contained by institutions.  To those with the unconstrained vision, war was seen as being at variance with human nature and caused by institutions.”

p. 173, “The unconstrained vision argues that this in not how the economy operated, that it is currently obeying the power of particular interests and should therefore be made in future to obey the power of the public interest.”  (EO)

p,. 181, Term “the locus of discretion” means who will decide

p. 197, “Here, as in other areas of the constrained vision, it is the experience of the many rather than the brilliance of the few that is to be relied upon,...”

p. 207, “From the standpoint of the constrained vision, the scope of those boundaries of immunity from public authority are the scope of people’s rights.”

p. 214, “Whatever its mechanisms or details, social justice has been the dominant theme of the unconstrained vision from Godwin to Rawls.”

p. 215, “The concept of social justice thus represents the extremes of the conflict of visions – an idea of the highest importance in one vision and beneath contempt in the other.”

p. 225, Discusses difference between “rights” and “interests”, “Interest therefore give way to rights, which are ‘trumps.’...Once again, in this vision, rights take precedence over interests.”

p. 226, “Much of what the unconstrained vision sees as morally imperative to do, the constrained vision sees man as incapable of doing.”

p. 231, “The fundamental difference between science and social theory is not at the level of visions, or even paradigms, but at the point where theories produce empirically testable hypothesis.”

p. 233, “Evidence need not be falsified in order to be evaded.”

p. 239, “The ability to sustain assertions without an evidence is another sign of the strength and persistence of visions.”

p. 244, “People with the same moral values readily reach differing political conclusions.”

p. 256-7  The unconstrained demonize those who disagree, the constrained consider opponents well meaning but wrong.

p. 260, “All these issues turn ultimately on whether or to what extent, surrogate decision-makers can make better decisions than those directly transacting.”

(EO) emphasis in original

Sowell, Thomas, A Conflict of Visions, New York:  Basic Books, 2007.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Opus 2011-6, Book Review: A Conflict of Visions

There are certain questions that keep bouncing around in my head.  One of them is “How can people who seem to be so intelligent, disagree with me?”  I know many people who seem to have at least average intelligence, are well meaning and informed and yet they can’t seem to understand the simplest cause and effect.  As a believer I have come to some conclusions and I expressed them in another post.  The problem is lack of wisdom.  But that is based on Biblical reasoning.  It would not convince anyone who does not accept the Bible.

Thomas Sowell answers this question from a purely secular point of view.  He calls it A Conflict of Visions.  I have now read this book twice and I hope to live long enough to get back to it before I die.  Even more impressive, I have purchased two copies.

Sowell suggests that there are two major divisions of thought in modern history, the constrained vision and the unconstrained vision.  He traces the thought from the 1700's to the present and gives examples of the thinking of the names we know from Adam Smith to Harold Laski.  He brings everything back to these two visions.

The constrained vision is a belief that man must be constrained.  Men are fallible and need a social system that makes allowance for that.  At the same time this vision believes that people should be free to make choices without coercion.  Thus the Founders established a Constitution with checks and balances.  They were concerned about the tyranny of one Caesar and also the tyranny of the majority.

The unconstrained vision has a belief that man will do what is right because it is right.  If he does not, it is because society has kept him from being truly free.  They admit that most people do not measure up yet, so they believe that they need to be led by those who are intellectually superior.  This small group is to make decisions for their less fortunate fellow citizens.  That way they are free to choose, but only among choices that are good for them.  He explains how the French Revolution was led by people that had this vision so it was open for the take-over by a small group of strong personalities.

Take the issue of the courts and how they reach decisions.
“The clash over judicial activism reflect a much more general clash over the best way to contribute to the social good.  In the unconstrained vision, wise and conscientious individuals should strive to shape the best outcomes in particular issues that come within their jurisdiction.  In the constrained vision, the inherent limitations of individuals mean that each individual’s best contribution to society is to adhere to the special duties of its institutional role, and let the systemic processes determine outcomes.” , p. 56
Both sides want to do good.  They view the law totally different.

Or take a current hot topic, social justice.
“The concept of social justice thus represents the extremes of the conflict of visions – an idea of the highest importance in one vision and beneath contempt in the other.”  p. 215
I will leave it up to you to figure out which is which.

This book explains why people can look at the same facts and come to opposite conclusions.  Sowell makes a genuine effort to be even handed.  This is not a hit piece but a thoughtful analysis.

Buy a copy and read it.

Sowell, Thomas, A Conflict of Visions, New York:  Basic Books, 2007.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Opus 2011-5, On the Street: 1,000,000 Muslims Murdered

Yesterday my wife was in line at a local Walmart and got into a conversation with a Muslim lady.  I don’t know what led up to the revelation but this lady told my wife that the Israelis had murdered 1,000,000 Muslims in the last year.  She questioned the lady on that but the woman was adamant.  So you heard it first here.  Why has the media killed this story?  Why are we not shouting from the roof tops.

Of course the documented murder of Egyptian Christian Copts over the last week has also gone much ignored.  And the murder of Christians in Iraq is continually ignored.

I wonder how the news media is covering this up.  According to one internet source the population of Gaza is about 1,500,000.  According to this lady the Zionist pigs have murdered enough people to remove 2/3 of the population of Gaza and no one noticed.

Of course you need to take this in the context of other reports I have heard.  I knew a Palestinian who claimed that Jesus was not a Jew.  I heard about a Muslim college student in a friends class who claimed that the stories of Islam being spread by the sword was a myth.  I was also told that somehow the Easter bunny lays eggs.

Don’t believe everything you hear that other people know.

Opus 2011-4, IQ: “I can see Russia...”

I don’t know that this is an immortal quote but it has gotten a lot of publicity.  The full line is,’
“I can see Russia from my house.”
I did a Google search on this and the top hits were all listed as quotes of Sarah Palin.  They were wrong.  Sarah Palin never said those words.  They were part of a comedy skit on Saturday Night Live and uttered by Tina Fay as she mocked Palin.  I saw the skit.  It was incredibly funny.  Tina Fay did a great job.  I say that as someone who thinks highly of Sarah Palin.  I have a sense of humor.  Unfortunately our news media don’t know the difference between comedy and news. 

The actual quote was in an interview where Palin was being asked questions about world issues.  Here actual words were,
“They're our next door neighbors. And you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska.”
It isn’t as funny but it is accurate.

One reason I like this quote is because it reminds me of how easily I can be fooled if I don’t think and verify.  For a long time I thought Palin actually made the statement.  I would guess you have been caught in the same trap.  I am disappointed in myself.  I read the news and believed it.  Live and learn.

Some of you have been trapped because you heard what you wanted to hear:  You hate Sarah Palin.  You smile every time you hear someone say she it stupid.  As I asked in an earlier post, “Based on what?”   Some were trapped because it is a truly funny line.  Others just weren’t listening.

Let’s all learn to try to turn our brains on.  Enjoy the humor but make or decisions on the facts.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Opus 2011-3, Discernment Watch: Tecumseh

Censorship can show up in the strangest places.  In my history books at school is a famous portrait of the Indian chief Tecumseh.  I had glanced at it many times and not paid much attention.  Then one day I saw the same picture in an older book and it looked strange.  Something was different.  Eventually I noticed what it was.

In the original portrait, Tecumseh is smoking a pipe.  In the current picture the pipe has been airbrushed out of the picture.  Political correctness strikes again.  Because the do-gooders of the Nanny Nation are on a war against freedom and tobacco is near the top of their list, they took the liberty, if you will excuse the word, of removing the evidence that someone they wanted to praise had the terrible habit of smoking tobacco.

I don’t smoke.  Never have, never will.  But I like my history accurate and uncensored.  I don’t like the editors of my books to manipulate my mind or my students minds.

Censorship, by any other name, be it oh so sweet, is still censorship.

Opus 2011-2, Spiritual Gifts: Wisdom

(1 Corinthians 12:8 KJV)  For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;

A logical place to start with a study of spiritual gifts is the book of I Corinthians.  It comes after Romans, which has a list of gifts, in our modern Bibles but it was written before Romans.  I already touched on healing because healing had touched on me.  Now the plan is to work through the gifts in order unless one yells for attention.

Wisdom is a spiritual gift.  The entire concept is the “word of wisdom.”  Traditionally wisdom is associated with people who have great insight and a sense of rightness.  They see more than others and can apply what they know.  Wisdom is often associated with age but age does not necessarily mean wisdom.

When Paul talked about wisdom he was writing as a Jew.  That means he must have had the Wisdom Literature in mind.  Think of a very well known verse in Proverbs
(Proverbs 9:10 KJV)  The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.
The same thought is expressed in Job and Psalms.  Wisdom starts in a healthy fear of the Lord.

I watch and listen to people and wonder what is wrong with them.  Maybe you share this concern with me:  Seemingly intelligent people who can’t seem to figure anything out.  When I look at our culture the great thing I see missing from the public debates and the intellectual classes is wisdom.  This is because wisdom requires a fear of God and an understanding of His ways.  When so many people reject God it is no wonder that their ideas are small and inadequate.  They are missing large pieces of the puzzle.  I used to wonder how intelligent people could be so stupid.  Easy, they lack wisdom.  You can have a hundred keys on your ring, but the car won’t start if you don’t have the one you need.

The opposite of being wise is being a fool.  This is also a major topic of Proverbs.  We have many brilliant people who are fools.  But folly is not a spiritual gift.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Opus 45, IQ: "Those who would sacrifice liberty..."

In this day of airport security, or lack thereof, and government invasion of our basic liberties there is a quote that keeps coming to my mind:
"Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither."
I thought it would be easy to track it down but there seems to be some disagreement about it.  The best I could come up with was Benjamin Franklin in the Pennsylvania Assembly, November 11, 1755.

What made me think of it was a statement by C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, p. 32.
“Comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it.  If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end:  if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth...”
Franklin was of course talking about how some people want the government to take care of them.  One of the benefits of civilization is that the safety that comes in numbers means we do not need to be as alert as a frontier farmer or explorer would need to be.  There is safely in numbers.  Like any drug, it can become an overdose.  There are many readily available drugs today that become addictive and destructive because they become substitutes for healthy living. 

We live in a world where the masses want perfect security.  They want someone to filter their water, inspect their food, approve their medications, eliminate air pollution, guarantee their health, remove weeds from their lawn....  Remember the acronym:  TANSTASFL.  Everything costs. 

When you give someone else the responsibility to care for you, they also receive the power to control you.  It is a necessary trade off.  If you want to enter into that exchange, enjoy your slavery.  It may be comfortable and secure.  It is still slavery.  The problem I have is when you force it on me.