Monday, December 25, 2006

Essence of Christmas

"The real meaning of Christmas" is a phrase you notice in a lot of movies, TV shows, and other places where the "real meaning" is usually something different and up to the person saying the phrase as well as up to each individual to decide on his or her own.

There is only one real meaning of Christmas, though, and as it pertains to this one real meaning, I've long been mesmerized by something John Stott wrote somewhere (probably in The Cross of Christ)...

"The essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting Himself for man."

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Good News for Birmingham (If you already live here)

"Birmingham Housing Market in Nation's Top 10"
...according to Fortune Magazine. Of course, while the prices may keep going up, I haven't seen any of those 'For Sale' signs coming down. It seems rather frozen (the only thing frozen in these summer-esque temps.)

Monday, December 18, 2006

Religion and Harvard

Read Charles Halton's post on the place of religious education at Harvard at

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Relativism Personified

Time Magazine's Person of the Year: You

"If you choose an individual, you have to justify how that person affected millions of people," said Richard Stengel, who took over as Time's managing editor earlier this year. "But if you choose millions of people, you don't have to justify it to anyone."

In other words, we're all just wonderful and in our own ways, we deserve it. Doesn't this make light of everyone who has been Time's Person of the Year before?

Does that mean that they've won it again?

Can I put this on my resume?

Building a Better Birmingham

Building a Better Birmimngham: A cooperative government could save the region

This article in The Birmingham News by John Rouse communicates several of the positives that would entail a regional merger of some sort for the benefit of the entire area. As the population of Birmingham proper continues to decline, Rouse points out that the combined population of the smaller cities surrounding Birmingham is greater than most cities in the South.

As a transplant to Birmingham, I've had a hard time putting my finger on the exact problem that has created such a divided area. Is it racism? Is it economic divisions? Is it just a passivity in planning? I'm not sure, but I tend to agree with most of what Rouse writes here and consider myself a supporter of a merged government of some sort even though I outside the "less desirable" city limits of Birmingham.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Birmingham: Culture Capital of the Known World

NYTimes: Birmingham Has a Lot on Its Plates These Days

In this ultra-flattering article, lots of great places to eat mixed with a few back-handed compliments...

Taste an excerpt:

"And tucked amid the hills (mountains, the natives call them) of the South Side, there is a whimsical fountain in which a ram in shirtsleeves reads to an audience of attentive critters, presiding over Five Points South, the nucleus of the culinary revolution."

The reality of living in Birmingham is that there are a slew of fine restaurants that only the upper 1% can afford. The rest of us drop in on one occassionally when a drug rep foots the bill.

Coming Soon...Colby's Top 100 Mexican Restaurants in Birmingham

Coming Next...Colby's Top 100 BBQ Restaurants in Birmingham

Monday, November 20, 2006


Not dead yet...

...keeping the blog alive.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Babies and Active Euthanasia

Independent Online Edition: Allow 'active euthanasia for disabled babies, doctors urge

The slippery slope just gets steeper and more slippery...

While I am not surprised to see this next "logical" step in determining who should live and who should die, the reality of what is being promoted here is shocking.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

2 Nights Out

One of the views from our 3 day backpacking trip in Talladega National Forest. I've posted a few pictures at flickr.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Career Approach to Ministry

Seminarians Face Pulpit Shortage -

There are just so many things backwards and wrong about this article, I don't know where to start. It does, however provide some interesting insight into the perspective that many likely share about "religious work." Here's one excerpt:
Only about 50 to 65 percent of the approximately 8,000 new theology school
graduates with masters of divinity degrees "are finding positions in
congregational ministry," said Daniel Aleshire, executive director of the
Association of Theological Schools [ATS] in the United States and Canada.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Misquoting Ehrman

Charles Halton: Misquoting Ehrman (the author of Misquoting Jesus)

The Pope and Jihad

I'm quoting straight from the Qur'an: "Therefore let those fight in the way of Allah, who sell this world's life for the hereafter; and whoever fights in the way of Allah, then be he slain or be he victorious, We shall grant him a mighty reward." (Surah IV. 74)

I certainly do not claim to have a well-developed knowledge of the Qur'an and if a scholar were to demonstrate the context of these words as meaning something besides what they would appear to be out of their context, I would be open to listening. However, a simple concordance search of the Qur'an for a few key terms such as "fighting" or "war" or "jihad" produces several verses that address the topics such as this one, and such research is pretty easy for anyone to do.

The Pope Speaking Truth
In reference to the Pope's remarks which occurred nearly a week ago now, an article today in the NY Times seems to reflect a popular position on the Pope's remarks. Ian Fisher writes an article titled Many Muslims Say Pope's Apology Is Inadequate. Curiously, the premise of the article seems to be that the Pope should not have stated the things he said last Tuesday since the Pope offended people by his statement. Did the Pope speak accurately or did he make false accusations?

The main statement that the Pope made was a quotation of Manuel II Paleologus from the 14th Century which apparently reads, "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

The reaction in the Muslim world has been an uproar of protests and violent acts, interestingly, that are supposed to disagree with (and discredit?) the Pope's reference. Furthermore, as the article goes on to explain, the Pope has issued some sort of apology for the remark as others associated with the Vatican have been working to control the damage. From the vantage point of Fisher's article, the Pope needs to make sure that he has not offended the world of Islam - if "many Muslims" still feel offended by what the Pope said, then he needs to further apologize.

Mad, Mad World
Has the entire world gone mad? What Qur'an believing Muslim even believes the Pope has a right to live? Isn't the Pope an infidel like the rest of the non-Muslim world? Furthermore, if he had quoted from the Qur'an a passage similar to the one quoted above rather than a historical figure, would the rage about his statements be greater or lesser?

Upside Down
Recently Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's deputy leader, issued a new warning to the West essentially calling for conversion to Islam. Reaction of the West? Yawwwwnnnnn.

It's not that the West, or the U.S. specifically, does not take seriously the threat posed by al-Qaeda - in fact, the threat is very real and most people realize that there will be future attacks - it's the rhetoric of war that the world has been hearing from Islam ever since the Qur'an came into being.

Now, the view of al-Qaeda is not the view of every Muslim in the world, although I would argue that it seems to be that al-Qaeda's view is the most consistent in keeping with the actual words of the Qur'an. But the view today among Muslims that embraces jihad certainly has a very large following worldwide. Isn't part of the reaction to the Pope's words an ironic confirmation of the truth? If I tell another man that he is violent and he proceeds to beat me up for saying it (whether he denies it or not,) which of us is proven correct?

Friday, September 15, 2006

New Islands

Apparently, global warming is causing new islands to appear. What about the rising oceans?

ESPN: "No Tennessee-Florida Game"

ESPN's $$ people have now officially taken over. With the Tennessee-Florida game being played Saturday night on CBS (not to mention the highest ranking game of the week being Auburn-LSU on CBS earlier on Saturday) all that ESPN can talk about and promote is their own games on their main channels and their bedfellow ABC. With shameless self-promotion, the "all-sports" network cannot even promote all of football. These two highly ranked match-ups have been an asterisk at the bottom of ESPN's promotions all week as if they were Akron playing Wichita State.

For anyone who loves football, Justin Harrell's decision to play for Tennessee against the Gators on Saturday (unbeknownst to ESPN, of course) is an adrenaline rush. Harrell had a "season ending" injury in his last game and must have surgery. However, he asked if he could suit up one last time for his college career against Florida, even though he will basically be playing with one arm. May the one-armed man have a career final game!

UPDATE: Everyday Should Be Saturday, an excellent Gators blog, has this post about Chris Fowler and the Gameday decisions of ESPN.

`It shows you how God can do things'

`It shows you how God can do things'

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

CNN Poll Lacking

Headline: "Poll: More Americans blame Bush for 9/11"

According to CNN, 45 % of Americans now blame the Bush administration for 9/11. These results come as part of a poll that is really asking the wrong question. Unless one buys into the bologna conspiracy theories of 9/11, the question itself is completely leading in nature. The actual question reads:

"Overall, how much do you blame each of the following for the September 11th terrorist
attacks -- a great deal, a moderate amount, only a little, or not at all?"

Okay, that's a fair question. Then one would expect "the following" list of possibilities to include maybe Al Qaeda, Bin Laden, the Taliban, Saddam Hussein, Saudi Arabia, or Florida.

But no.

The two possible answers: the Bush administration or the Clinton administration.

Clearly one of the two must be at fault!? What about the Bush 41 administration? What about Kennedy? Eisenhower? FDR?

Out of the possible answers, the most popular answer with reference to both the Bush administration and the Clinton administration was actually "Not at all" (the correct answer.) "Not at all" scored a respectable 35% for Bush and 36% for Clinton.

Also worth noting is that in the "complete results" that are posted here, the only two questions we are allowed to see are questions #21 and #27. A person's response to poll questions is often affected by the other questions that are being asked. If question #20 reads: "If President Bush had made a phone call to Mohammed Atta the day before the attacks, do you think that would constitute a government conspiracy?" then the next question is going to be a little harder to answer with any objectivity.

Come on, CNN, do you really think that nearly half of Americans blame our government?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Book: Through Painted Deserts

Through Painted Deserts is apparently the first book written by Donald Miller, but was only subsequently published after Blue Like Jazz made such a splash. He refers to having rewritten the book for its present form, so I would assume there was a small scale printing previously.

Of Miller's books, this one reads most like a novel as it gives his account of his travels with his friend Paul from Houston to Portland with a pilgrimage to the Grand Canyon in the middle. Absent from this edition are the kind of challenging and insightful statements that I had come to expect from Donald Miller. His goal here is obviously different. All in all, Through Painted Deserts is an interesting read, but not one that you cannot live without.

Truth in Advertising

What the world thinks is going on is evidently more important that what is really going on. With the kind of instant media we have in 2006, wars are evidently fought as much in TV images as in the trenches.

Read Michelle Malkin's The Great Ambulance Hoax


one of those responsible for uncovering the hoax.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Juan Williams: Banish the Bling

Juan Williams writes a strong op-ed, Banish the Bling: A Culture of Failure Taints Black America, in yesterday's Washington Post. Williams discusses Bill Cosby's message and the fact that so few seem to be taking Cosby's side. Williams contends,

"Not one mainstream civil rights group picked up on [Cosby's] call for marches and protests against bad parenting, drug dealers, hate-filled rap music and failing schools."

Bill Cosby will be in Birmingham, AL on September 21 to promote his message. [Details here.]

Saturday, August 19, 2006

College Football or the NFL?

Ivan Maisel argues: Passion, tradition elevate college football over NFL

While I do not agree with Maisel at every turn, he does whet the appetite for the college season that begins in 11 days.

Friday, August 18, 2006

280 Progress?

A step toward a solution for Birmingham's miserable Hwy 280. If it works for Tampa, then surely this 10-mile bridge would work for Birmingham.

In the meantime, Mr. Langford, turn on these lights.

I-65 in Nashville (as pictured) is well-lit the entire stretch of the metro area. In Birmingham, there must be an ongoing air raid precaution so that all of those street lights that stand along I-65 are turned off. (The picture of Birmingham would just be black.)

(Larry Langford is the Jefferson County Commissioner, and the light switch for all the interstate lights is located in his garage.)

Rick Warren, FOX Celebrity

"Positive" is certainly a word that should be associated with Rick Warren, with his personality, his ministry, and his books. In a 6 minutes 43 second interview on FOX News (video home page) Warren exudes warmth and confidence while explaining why bad things sometimes happen to good people. As FOX builds up Warren's already celebrity status in light of their upcoming special on Rick Warren: "Can Rick Warren Change the World?", Warren is apparently appearing on several different shows as a spiritual commentator.

Jesus? Not Here
Notably absent from Rick Warren's video clip above is any mention of Jesus. While I do not think that Christians have to squeeze Jesus into every other sentence when in front of the cameras, the topic of the show that included Warren with a live studio audience had to do with the bad things that happen and how people can cope with them biblically. Interestingly, one of the family members of JonBenet Ramsey mentioned her faith in Jesus in her taped interview; meanwhile, Rick Warren didn't mention Jesus' name once (no, there was no editing.)

Among the statements that Warren did make:

"God loves to turn crucifixions into resurrections."

"God specializes in bringing good out of bad."

"The bottom line is this...freedom to choose...[is the] greatest blessing we have...[and] is also our greatest curse."

Rick Warren is one of (if not "the") the most visible evangelicals in the world now, and his fame is on the verge of multiplying greatly. On this particular show, when they asked the question "Can Rick Warren Change the World?" he just smiled and laughed a giddy laugh. I pray that he presents a much stronger truth of God's glory in Jesus Christ in the feature on FOX. The ministries that he is working toward are all extremely great and highly commendable, including ministries aimed at poverty, disease, illiteracy, spiritual emptiness and egocentric leadership. Maybe "spiritual emptiness" is Warren's inoffensive way of talking about man's need for a Savior, but if he is not going to mention the Savior when asked about the ultimate solutions to life's problems on FOX, is Jesus really the reason that Rick Warren is crusading for a changed world?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Birmingham City Schools...Not Good

This article looks at the poor condition of Birmingham's city schools and the exodus that the system has seen in favor of schools in the burbs. Some interesting quotes from the article:

...the migrating students take more than $30 million of state education funding with them.

In 1999, public schools in the metro Birmingham area were the eighth-most segregated among America's 50 largest metro regions...

Blacks now make up about 99 percent of the students in Birmingham city schools.

"It is my perception that only about 5 percent of the students that go...are really interested in school and are really doing the best they can do."

The article is interesting in that it is a mixture of factual numbers and personal interviews with people who have chosen either to move for better education or stay and push for improvement. It is difficult to ask people to stay in support of the city when their children's education is so important. Also, the article really does not address whether the formation of the surrounding school districts played a key role in bringing the city schools to the current place, or whether the new schools was merely a reaction to the steady decline. The cause-effect relationship between the two is likely difficult to discern.

I expect that some of the renovation and resurgence in the downtown of Birmingham will eventually begin to affect the school system as people who care strongly about the city's vitality are likely to play an increasing role in the city's politics. The political situation will change slowly. The school situation will only change with intentional and drastic measures.

The Bigger Picture
Taking another viewpoint of the entire story, the emphasis placed on education by the people in an area certainly affects the quality of that education. The reason that other school districts are doing better than the city schools is in part due to the community within which they find themselves. For the most part, the communities in which schools are thriving are also areas in which everything else appears to be thriving too. The areas where schools are struggling are those same areas where businesses are closing, crime is increasing, and houses are left empty rather than remodeled. Looking at the bigger picture, this is not merely a school problem to be addressed by the school board.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Poor Customer Service at Enterprise

One of the questions that I've wondered about over the past several years is whether or not one is better off using discount websites such as Expedia, Orbitz, and the lot. Somewhere in the back of my mind I have reasoned that making a reservation for a flight, hotel, or rental car through one of these discount sites somehow promotes inferior customer service in one's actual relationship with the company. HOWEVER, I COULD BE WRONG.

Taking my actual experiences in travel into account over the past several years, the argument could possibly go the other way: it is better to use a discount travel website.

In the past three years, my wife and I have flown several times, stayed in too many hotels, and rented a handful of cars. We've made reservations for "low prices" through the likes of Expedia and we've also made reservations through the company's own websites. While I haven't found in difference in the experience of customer service in dealing with the check-in counters, the billing is just too fuzzy - and I'm talking about direct reservations, not the discount places.

Hidden Fees
I guess it is the hidden fees that I truly despise. For just once, I would like to book something for a quoted price and actually see that price on my credit card bill. Just that asking too much?

Enterprise - "We'll Pick You Up"
My recent experience with Enterprise Leasing Company serves as a prime example. I decided to make the reservation on the actual Enterprise site, finding no real price advantage to using the other sites. For a short trip to Kentucky from Birmingham, the rental was going to be $125.00. The actual bill on my Visa statement (no actual bill was issued by Enterprise) was $175.00. After a deep breath and counting to 10, I decided to leave a message at their website. It was easy enough. In fact, I received a call the next day from someone with the company to follow up. He had left a message with a number - a number I called several times but only got his voice mail. It wasn't worth my trouble to worry about calling him everyday, and obviously, it wasn't worth Enterprise's trouble to make sure we use them again. (I certainly won't.) And, no, they didn't pick me up, nor did I violate any of the known pitfalls that could have added a charge. The car was clean. It had enough gas. Etc. etc.

If the industry just works this way, then I can just quit renting cars. However, the vehicle that I rented earlier this same year through Expedia (and it was not an Enterprise car) did not result in the same charges/hidden fees. Is Expedia the way to go?

Interesting Book
The Ultimate Question: Driving Good Profits and True Growth looks to be an interesting book that dives into some of the things that business do. This blog describes what the book refers to as a "bad profit" - money made at the expense of customer relationships.

In the future, I will ask for a price quote, and I will ask them if that is the price that I will see on my credit card bill. I'm not looking for a price somewhere between $100-$200 when I rent a car. I'm looking to know whether it will cost $100 or $101.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Birmingham Blogs

Wade on Birmingham is a blog that obviously focuses on local events and news. I can't remember how I first stumbled upon it a few days ago, but I think it will be a regular read.

EchoBooming in Birmingham is also a B'ham-based blog, and I remember now that I found Wade on Birmingham as a link from EchoBooming, but I don't know how I first connected to EchoBooming.

Part of my recent desire to look up more Birmingham blogs and sites has been in part a reaction to the lack of quality local news as I blogged about here.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Book: Searching for God Knows What

Searching for God Knows What rose to the top of my reading list after I finished reading Donald Miller's popular book Blue Like Jazz. Searching is not as catchy or entertaining as Blue, but the book is a continuation of Miller's ability to think outside the box and make excellent points about Christianity in terms that stretch many in the mainstream of evangelical Christianity. To some extent, I would call Searching a book-length presentation of the message of salvation in Christ that challenges a believer in Christ to think about things they may have taken for granted or taken to be normal (or even biblical.) However, the book is not limited to a Christian audience. In the same vein as I would recommend Mere Christianity to a person who was not a believer, I would also think that a non-Christian could read and identify with much of Searching for God Knows What.

One of the more interesting themes that Miller develops throughout the book is his "lifeboat theory" concerning how we all live our lives as if we are in a lifeboat and fighting to keep other people out of it - people we deem as inferior to ourselves. We judge ourselves superior based on a number of things. For a Christian, such a view of themselves is utlimately one of pride that is contradictory to the grace of God.

Friday, July 28, 2006, as in "Alabama"

Birmingham, AL, New Orleans, LA, Cleveland, OH, and many other places -
I recently filled out an online survey for the local newspaper and the online company that publishes news for Birmingham, Huntsville, and Mobile, Alabama. The survey was basically asking for my input as a reader of, the online edition of the newspapers for three of Alabama's biggest cities. While a bit too lenghty, the questions in the survey were actually good. By contrast, the online news is presented very poorly.

The Advance Internet News
There are several news outlets that I had noticed online that use pretty much the same template so I looked into the matter a little more, discovering that Advance Internet is the company that produces all of these very sub-par publications. Cities included in this list are New Orleans, Cleveland, apparently the whole state of New Jersey, some of Michigan, some of Pennsylvania, some of Oregon, and others including the three cities in Alabama mentioned above. A quick look at these web sites (all listed at shows that they are the same layout, different words and pictures.

(Okay, I obviously do blog with a free-blogging host and a commonly used template. But for my level of involvement, I don't see any comparison.)

Good News Websites
If all newspapers online were like these, there would be no problem with the paper subscriptions seeing any drop in subscribers for the paper delivery. A comparison of these generic websites with other newspaper websites with which you are familiar demonstrates the obvious difference in quality, presentation, and in most cases, the ease of use. The expectation does not have to be a website as polished as The New York Times or The Washington Post, but something of quality should be the goal with a unique design. Is that asking too much?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Higher Education and Christianity

Can religion and education go together?

Can genuine confessional Christianity thrive within a context that values serious scholarship and authentic intellectual inquiry?

David Dockery works toward an answer in this article complete with Latin phrases.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Birmingham Making Noise

An interesting article on Birmingham's music in the Washington Post...

Friday, July 07, 2006

How To Conduct a Counter-Terrorism Press Conference

In light of the news today concerning this terrorist plot headline and the subsequent press conference on TV, I have concluded that there exists an un-publicized memo in the hands of all authorities that outlines the proper way to conduct these press briefings. Though my reconstruction may be in slightly different words, I think I have formulated the majority of the original document birthed with 9/11.

1. As many levels of governing authority and law enforcement as possible should be present and included in a speaking role in the announcement.

2. All of the speakers who step to the podium (more is better) should repeat the news of what has just taken place.

3. Language should be stern. Faces must be grim.

4. The American flag must be visible (otherwise you may be accused of lacking patriotism.) You cannot have too many American flags (see also the aftermath of the 2000 Presidential Election.)
5. Terrorists are not "alleged." They are guilty until proven innocent.

6. All cities should conduct press conferences with strong rhetoric on terrorism. Even if terrorists could not find your town using Google, this rhetoric will help your re-election.

7. No matter how delighted you are to be on national TV, you must act perturbed to be taking questions from the press.

8. If there are not many details you can reveal, just be repetitive. Remember that the longer you speak the more times the television network can replay the loop of footage they have of likely unrelated "terrorist" events or the ever-important terrorist training camp.

9. "I don't know" is not an acceptable answer. "I can't comment on that," however, makes you look supremely in control.

10. No news is too small. Any plans classified as terrorism are newsworthy.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Why I Am Still a Southern Baptist

Every year in the month of June (for some strange reason) I find myself questioning whether or not being a part of the Southern Baptist Convention is best. I get caught up in the negatives and forget the positives. That's why I appreciate the timeliness of these words by Mark Dever. We all need to be reminded often of the main purpose of the SBC.

Treasure Map Approach to the Bible

Evidently there is a treasure map in the Bible that humankind is supposed to solve. Treasure Map Hermeneutics views Scripture as some amazing compilation of information that is somehow given in code that we must decipher in order to truly understand things. While this approach seems especially true when it comes to end times, many people approach the Bible as if everything contained in it is written in some sort of secret code - if we can just piece the right verses together and get our charts right, then we'll understand this strangely complex book.

This lesser view of Scripture that has flooded the church borders on the "research" reported in The Bible Code, where computerized analysis "uncovered" hidden words in Scripture. (The same approach also found similarly hidden words in Moby Dick (a.k.a. "The Whale") and could be applied to any sizable text - it is simply a study in mathematics and probability.)

Such an approach seems to be in conflict with an 'authorial intent' approach to the Bible. Interestingly, though, it seems that those who place the most emphasis on Scripture and profess to hold a "high view of Scripture" are often (not always) the ones who also communicate such a system of finding answers "hidden" somewhere in these 66 books of the Bible. The Bible becomes a big treasure map with little clues hidden here and there that, when pieced together, provide answers.

However, for this Treasure Map approach to work then one must also conclude that the inidividual writers of the books of the Bible were very cunning in the way that they presented their material. Matthew must have been joking when he wrote "let the reader understand" in Mt 24.15. Similarly, in Mt 24.42-51 Jesus tells the disciples that they will neither know what day their Lord is coming nor will he come at the time of their prediction.

The disciples prompted the whole discussion in Mt 24 by asking Jesus some questions about the coming of the end. Similarly, it is not wrong for us to seek to rightly interpret Scripture and come to grasp the meaning of the text, and it is not wrong to want to understand the end times.

The doctrine of Scripture is weak in the church today, and I believe this is in large part due to the inconsistent hermeneutical approaches of our trained pastors and teachers. I often say that I believe that the most important class taught in seminary is Hermeneutics. Modeling hermeneutics for those we teach in any arena is as important as the content of what we teach. Without realizing it, we can turn the Bible back into Latin that only the elite few are able to interpret. Let us be careful.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Death of Death?

Birmingham fights back against crime! Well, sort of...

In a procession of church leaders that included Birmingham's mayor Kincaid, several hearses were being borrowed for an event that intended to raise awareness of the problem. From the news blurb:

“We must bury murder,” said Bishop Calvin Woods, Birmingham chapter president of Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which organized the march. “We must
bury drugs. We must bury disrespect. We must turn from death in this city to
celebrating life."

Meanwhile, the city's 54th murder of 2006 occurred near the route to be taken by the procession. The victim, who died later of gunshot wounds, was found in broad daylight.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Friendship Evangelism

John H. Armstrong makes some interesting points about evangelism and the trend of our culture. He writes
I highly doubt that any form other than friendship evangelism will work well in
our culture in the years ahead. The luxury of “hit and run” evangelism is dead and only the Christian and church that is willing to place friendship at the top of its agenda will succeed in making new disciples for Christ.

It is harder work to be intentional about building relationships and proclaiming the gospel within these contexts. Neighbors and coworkers are our most obvious harvest fields and yet we easily overlook them and think of evangelizing somewhere far away where there is little risk. So-called "hit and run" evangelism seems to produce many once and done "Christians."

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

New Orleans, the National Guard, and Birmingham

New Orleans has returned to the headlines, sounding the alarm this week for the National Guard to come help as the city's murder totals for 2006 have jumped to 54. While it seems to be common knowledge that New Orleans was riddled with crime before Katrina, there has apparently been an idea floating about (no pun intended) that this "new" city would be much safer. This article reads, The bloodshed has raised fears that violence is back on the rise in a city that was plagued by crime before Katrina drove out half its population of 465,000. Community leaders are afraid the violence will discourage people from returning.

As a resident of Birmingham, AL, I am always checking the crime statistics here and mapping out where violent crimes take place (none near our home, for those who care.) As I blogged some last year, the city has seen a drastic increase in murders, and as of today the city is 15 ahead of last year's frightening pace...and there is still a search in progress for two grandparents and their 19-year old grandson who have been missing the past few days. If 54 is an emergency number for New Orleans, then what is 50 for Birmingham? (53 unless this missing family is actually alive somewhere.)

Considering the problem in New Orleans, this article presents the idea that these "thugs" are coming back to New Orleans from places like Houston. Nagin said Monday that he believes some thugs are coming home from places like Houston because the judicial system is in such disarray here that they're in less danger of spending long stretches in prison.

Apparently, Nagin only wanted his upstanding residents to return after the storm. Of course, he (and everyone else except Houston) would have been fine with the criminals staying away.

As for Birmingham, the reaction to its own problems is basically no reaction thus far, just the calming rhetoric from the police spokesman:

"It's more homicides than what we would like to see. As I always say, one homicide is one too many," said Birmingham police spokesman Lt. Henry Irby. "We encourage people to not settle their differences through violence and to step away from confrontation when possible."

It seems that of these two cities, the one that should be more concerned is the one that wasn't devasted by a hurricane and has not lost its ability to fight crime. Hopefully Birmingham will wake up before it's too late.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Snoozing. Spiritual Warfare?

Is the snooze button from the devil?

The never-ending list of problems that Christians face and attribute to spiritual warfare seems to always include the problem of not getting up early enough, especially for those who consider getting up earlier a virtue related to the practice of the study of Scripture and prayer in the wee, or not-so-wee hours of the morning. Some interesting questions arise, though, when one considers that people who are not Christians also struggle with getting up when their alarm goes off. This article even refers to a practice that would lead one to get up right when the alarm goes off in the morning - and none of it has to do with anything spiritual (HT: Truepravda.)

So what makes hitting the snooze button a spiritual problem for Christians and just a personal dilemma for everyone else?

First of all, it seems that many times anything less than Enoch-like devotion to God is labeled as some sort of spiritual warfare that must be dealt with by various means as if demons were the immediate and direct cause of any lack of concentration or highest "achievement." The flesh is rarely considered to be the culprit, since even most Christians believe that they are basically good, just needing a little 'boost' to be saved.

Second, there are lessons to be learned by the discipline that people demonstrate in the way that they live their lives, even if they are actually seeking to glorify themselves rather than to glorify God. If a man can train himself to wake up much earlier than his body would desire simply so he can gain some exercise time or reading time or something else toward personal improvement and achievement, then what about the follower of Christ?

Finally, it does seem right for a Christian to take a different perspective on things in life. Believers in Christ are at war with the flesh and there certainly is a spiritual, unseen battle raging. However, a man I know once started to ask a group for prayer that he would be able to devote more time to prayer but then he recanted and said, "I just need to do it." For most people, I don't think that a messenger of the devil has to whisper in our ear suggesting that we hit the snooze button. For most of us, we voluntarily do it because the flesh is king at 5 am.

Interestingly, in his article Steve Pavlina actually writes: "Your 5am coach is no good, so you need to fire him." From a completely secular piece on getting up early, he essentially refers to the flesh and its battle against the mind. He, too, lives in a fallen world. He, too, recognizes the struggle between better and worse.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Basically Good...

Since we're all basically good and there's no such thing as a sin nature...

"Anger Syndrome Not Just Bouts of Bad Behaviour"

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Monday, May 29, 2006


As you may have seen on Google News, the 'Words' blog has gone to a new look. A new 'template' actually...for those of us who are html-challenged (assuming that it is html that one needs to understand to create their own blog website - I could be mistaken.)

In case you've been looking for vast quantities of content here lately but haven't found it, there seems to have been a content leak somewhere in the old blog formatting. Hopefully this newfangled sort will be a little tighter and better able to retain all the amazing content that I'll be posting daily, even hourly on some days.

A Boy and His Dog

On a recent hike in Talledega National Forest (The Pinhoti Trail.) Celia loves to hike with us. Funny thing is, she can't heel to save her life when we're in the neighborhood, but in the middle of nowhere, she's stays glued to your leg.

We could seriously use a few sessions with 'The Dog Whisperer.' I noticed that Cesar has his own website, too. I used to tell people I was getting my degree in 'pet psychology.' That could have been me...

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Blue Like Jazz

In a word, captivating.

I finally sat down with Blue Like Jazz, the Donald Miller book that has been recommended by several people around me. The other half dozen or so books I'm working through faded into the background while I found myself seeking reading time to get back to Miller's Jazz. I didn't actually gasp or fall out of my rocking chair at any of his theology (we don't agree, but he is gracious and I can be too.) Overall, I found the book a breath of fresh air, very inspiring, and a springboard for some reflection and introspection.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Barking at the Neighbors

In the same way that my dog barks at the neighbors as if they might be terrorists, people in our society appear to be perfectly confused about what is worthy of protest and what is worthy of respect. The protest over John McCain's speaking at commencement at this institution in Manhattan is only this hour's example of what has been going on with seemingly increasing frequency for several years (the years seemingly following the 2000 election.) Political position has become a variable by which the right to speak on a campus is judged - even when the officials of the campus have formally invited the one to speak, such as at commencement.

Argument by Noise

Is the demonstration format the proper one to voice the opinions of either a vocal minority or a true vocal majority? Certainly there is a time, place, and certain reasons that offer themselves as protest worthy, but the question concerning whether one agrees with the speaker on his/her main political stances should not be reason to attempt to interrupt their speech. Is there no such thing as respect anymore?

While I would argue that such a tactic is wrong no matter if the situation is conservative protesting liberal or vice versa, the argument by noise and attempt to frustrate and heckle appears to be one that is gaining ground in our society when it comes to opposing those with conservative views politically and even religious. According to the article one of the main issues that was prompting this protest of McCain is his stance on homosexuality. Because he is opposed to homosexuality and was also speaking at Liberty University in the days prior to his appearance at New School.

Un-Civil Debate

Even when the TV news spin-off programs air, so much of the rhetoric among the guests on the programs concerning their differing views becomes a contest of who can yell the loudest or speak most quickly. On the format that "fair and balanced" news shows are offering us there is no interaction whatsoever among most of those who are beamed in by satellite, rather there is merely a steady flow of strongly stated arguments for their own positions. The only one who does any interacting with these guests is the host of the show. No one seems responsible anymore for truly answering anyone else's questions.

While I do not believe that it is the news programs that are feeding the protests in question, the common element in each is the lack of any kind of respect for hearing a person's presentation. No one has to answer any questions about whether or not homosexuality is right - they can just show up in noisy masses to shout down the one man who takes a position against homosexuality (even though it is probably not a topic he was going to mention at their commencement!) The battle cry of the left on such issues seems to increasingly be similar to "Might makes right!"

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Procrastination has met its fiery doom, and thus I've uploaded some photos. I don't know if I like Flickr yet or not, but I'll give it a chance.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Look Out, Iowa and New Hampshire

Yes, look out, Iowa and New Hampshire - there's a new sheriff in town!

Yes, Alabama is moving its presidential primary to February 5th. (Oooh, I forgot to tell you, the reader, to sit down...but then you are at your computer.)

I can see it town hall debates coming from Clanton, AL.

So, can just any state move its primary to whatever date decided upon?

Someone is bound to have theirs a couple of years early just for the attention it will receive if that's the case. Maybe there should be a system in place where the state with the highest average IQ should get to go first...maybe that would be Alabama.

Another New Alabama Law:
A sales tax holiday on the first weekend in August for back-to-school purchases. Honest! As if Wal-Mart wasn't crowded enough the week before school. I wonder if this applies to Best Buy???

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Your Favorite Scriptures--

Your Favorite Scriptures--

Hurry and Vote now!

FBC Orlando is looking for the favorite Scripture verses of the congregation to serve as a sermon series for the summer.

Hmmm... I'm certainly not present to make an accurate evaluation of whether or not this is being done in a biblical manner, but 2 Timothy 4.3 does come to mind: "...they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires..."

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Gospel According to, um, Judas

Never mind that there is little evidence that gives any rational credibility to the document being titled 'The Gospel of Judas.' There is much irony in the presentation of the document and the weight that the media gives to it. Statements are flying everywhere like this one from National Geographic itself: The newfound account challenges one of the most firmly rooted beliefs in Christian tradition.

The greatest irony that can be found in the attention given to this document is the fact that it exists as only one written document and is estimated to have been originally written in the late 2nd Century. (If you want to read about the reliability of the real New Testament documents, go here. ) The attention given to anything that seems to detract from orthodox Christianity is nothing short of breath-taking. Every discovery that might challenge something in the Bible is front page material. When was the last time CNN did a piece on the weight of evidence in favor of the New Testament? If there is so much excitement about one single document that was supposedly written in the 2nd Century, where is the fanfare about those than can be reasonably traced to the middle of the 1st Century?

Similar to other popular writings, this discovery also provides opportunity for people to be off the hook. If the Bible must be taken seriously, then there are serious implications for every person who must deal with the claims of the Bible and the specific claims of the Bible concerning the deity and purpose of Jesus. The world will grasp at any straw and ignore the weight of evidence.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


As the coverage of The Masters tournament went off on Friday, the next program that came on was "Law and Order." As usual, the show began with a crime. I was only half paying attention, but as the scene caught my eye, the horrid crime that took place caught my full attention. I will not describe it. Suffice it to say that it left a sour impression on my mind, one that I wish was not there. (I, like most of the present generation, have seen too many crimes on TV and in movies, and unfortunately, feel rather hardened to such. This one, however, has really pierced my mind.)

One image. One "acted out" sin. On TV.

Part of the sermon that our pastor preached on Sunday was asking the question about the cup that Jesus faced in the Garden at Gethsemene. In that cup, Jesus saw all the horrid sins that we was about to bear on the cross. My mind was being affected by just one that I had seen. He saw them all, and still chose to take them upon himself.

"But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on him." - Isaiah 53.6

Friday, April 07, 2006

Once Saved...

The common expression "once saved, always saved" has done the kingdom of heaven about as much good as termites have done to houses. I can speak more to Baptist circles than others, but the expression has tended to be thrown around with such casual reverence that it might as well have been found right there in the Bible.

I do find that the Bible teaches that the person who is in Christ will never find themselves outside of Christ. Thus, I would, by mere definition, agree with the terminology "once saved, always saved." However, while the term is certainly intended to grow the confidence of a believer in Jesus and to affirm something that is true, the abuse of such thinking has done considerable harm to the church, especially in the age of the invitation and the aisle walk.

The Christian 'testimony' for many has become such a direct look backward to the moment of belief that their basis for their salvation at this present moment lies more in the experience that they once knew than in their present state of knowing God through Jesus Christ.

"Holiness is the nature of the Spirit of God."

"The Spirit of God so dwells in the hearts of the saints that He there, as a seed or spring of divine nature, making the soul a partaker of God's beauty and Christ's joy, so that the saint has truly fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ, in thus having the communion or participation of the Holy Ghost."

As Jonathan Edwards writes in Religious Affections (page 129 in the edition by Banner of Truth Trust), the occasions for false assurance of faith are numerous. Edwards teaches that people can display spirituality and many apparent works of the movement of the Spirit of God in their lives while, in reality, they do not know true salvation in Jesus Christ. Usually such misguided people are basing their spiritual standing upon something that took place in their life that they refer to as the moment they believed.

The case can be that the person is trusting in their own conversion experience. In other words: "I believe because I came to believe." Their evidence is not found in their current life of following and obeying Christ, but in their ability to point to their own faith. Does an experience convert a person? No, believing is to hold something to be true. Biblical faith is placing trust in the gospel of God in Jesus Christ.

Are Doubts Healthy?
Edwards certainly taught that it was much better for a true follower of Christ to ask hard questions concerning his current standing in the grace of God's salvation than for the topic to be given little thought. The purpose, as Edwards states, of the detailed descriptions he gives of the evidence of faith is for the believer to be able to accurately evaluate his life Edwards, as he begins the third section of the book (page 120), states that distinguishing the true and the false in other people is not possible, but rather such examination should be a personal undertaking for one's own salvation in Christ.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Thoughts and Wishes Fail Patients

Not only did the findings of the much-publicized study on prayer fail to be conclusive (which deserves a serious post in its own right), but other findings associated with the study were not as widely published. Surgery patients who had other people's "thoughts" with them healed no better than those who were not thought of nor did those who were given "best wishes" improve more quickly than those with neutral or ill wishes given them.

May our thoughts and prayers be with them. Er, um, best wishes. Get well soon.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Misquoting Jesus

After reading through Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus yesterday, I came away with a new appreciation for Ehrman's grasp of textual criticism. I had initially dismissed Ehrman's book as a liberal religion professor's stabs at Christianity. After looking at his credentials a little more thoroughly, I realize now that the book is a well-marketed and lay-level version of Ehrman's other books, especially his most serious scholarly work, Orthodox Corruption of Scripture. It seems that ever since Ehrman produced Orthodox, he has been rewriting the topic in various forms up until now in the highly personal volume of Misquoting Jesus. (See his list of titles at Wikipedia.) Thus, while Misquoting Jesus certainly does not fall into the category of biblical scholarship, it does come from a man who is very capable in that arena.

Misquoting (Misrepresenting) the Numbers
One of the initial points that stuck out to me in Ehrman's book is the way he deals with the Greek manuscripts and the numbers involved concerning their existence and the textual variants. As the Washington Post quotes, "There are some 5,700 ancient Greek manuscripts that are the basis of the modern versions of the New Testament, and scholars have uncovered more than 200,000 differences in those texts." Ehrman's analysis of the evidence is completely contrary to his mentor's analysis – Bruce Metzger is one of the, if not the, foremost experts on the topic today and he renders much interpretation the opposite direction. Even his chapter in Lee Strobel's book, The Case for Christ, leans strongly in favor of the accuracy of our New Testament.

An Expert Analysis
Daniel Wallace offers a brief review of Misquoting Jesus at Ben Witherington's blog. As a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary who teaches classes in textual criticism, I will leave the finer points of breaking down the problems of Ehrman's book to Wallace (though this review is meant to be brief - notice that both Wallace and Witherington carry on the dialogue in the comments at Witherington's blog.) One of the interesting points that Wallace makes is that he believes it is wrong for an expert on a topic, such as Ehrman is, to write and market his findings for the general population who are not equipped to make judgments on the book.

Ehrman's Motivation

The part that disturbs me most about Ehrman's book is similar to one of Wallace's points. Ehrman has believed this position for over a decade, at least. He has published nearly 20 other books, most of which are marketed at least for the arena of religious studies along with his more scholarly works intended for those in academic study. It would seem (based on Ehrman's introduction in Misquoting Jesus as well as the historical track of his writings) that he is now seeking to step outside the realm of scholarship and into the pop culture which has so embraced The Da Vinci Code. As Wallace also points out, there have been many challenges brought against Ehrman's Orthodox Corruption of Scritpure (which is the chief basis for his other books), and Ehrman does not address these challenges but rather has moved to a different arena to display his findings. Might this be akin to a scientist as NASA who comes up with a "brilliant" theory and finds his theory does not convince many of his colleagues? Then he moves outside the arena of scientific research and publishes his findings in Time Magazine rather than in the leading scientific journals in his field.

Yes. I would find Ehrman's arguments very convincing if I were approaching the topic with no other information. This book is currently a bestseller and is bound to make an impact in our society.

One Final Point
Any person who does not believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to God must provide an explanation for their unbelief. Thus, it is not surprising that any person would seek to undermine the Bible as the way that God has revealed truth to mankind. A person who is aware of the Bible's claims (the Bible certainly claims that there is no other name by which men may spared eternal judgment) must either ignore what the Bible states or attempt to discredit it. Most people just ignore it. Some people work hard to demonstrate that the Bible cannot be taken seriously, because if the Bible is to be taken seriously then each person must recognize where they stand in God's sight: either in their own condition of imperfection that will result in eternal judgment and eternal torment, or in the forgiveness of Jesus Christ that grants us, by grace, eternal life by trusting in him. This teaching is admittedly a hard one to accept, and we are tempted at many points to try to explain it away.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Relativism in Iraq

The STR blog has a post on Hugh Hewitt's interview with a Time reporter with some interesting insights into the amoral approach that they attempt to take.

"Ware argues for a journalistic objectivity that requires moral neutrality, thus he can't
discern or won't admit to a moral difference between the Iraqi and Coalition troops and the
terrorists blowing up innocent Iraqis. They are just two sides of a war he must report on."

It seems that "objectivity" has become such a key word in the media's approach to such things that the whole debate about right and wrong is a side note for someone else to argue. If you consider the approach of Fox News' "Fair and Balanced" to be an objective look at news (I'm not necessarily arguing that it is), then what do you call such an approach that essentially draws no lines whatsoever? Warm Jello maybe. Relativism, certainly.

If Words Mean Things
One of the Webster's (1960)definitions of "objective" reads: determined by and emphasizing the features and characteristics of the object, or thing dealt with, rather than the thoughts, feelings, etc. of the artist, writer, or speaker.

Misplaced Objectivity
Misplaced objectivity seems to be the culprit. Even such a concept as objectivity can be applied illogically and ridiculously. The act of reporting events has risen to its own enterprise, one that exceeds the very subject that it is supposed to convey to the people watching. The backlash against subjective and ethnocentric reporting seems to have birthed a style that has no framework whatsoever for morality, motivations, or the ability to judge right from wrong.

Logical Conclusions
If we applied similar reporting to our local nightly news, we might discover that no one was to blame for the recent rash of burglaries in our neighborhood, or that the high murder rate of our town is simply a fact, neither good nor bad. With such a lack of any framework for reporting in Iraq, what makes a roadside bombing any more important as news than 3 year-old Johnny's birthday party where he put his whole hand in the cake?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Thanks, Basketball Advertisers

Thank you, dearest basketball advertisers. Yes, it is March, and yes, you are on the ball. We the viewers need basketball in every commercial.
Yes, we can only be interested in your car (or investements/cell phone/jeans/beer/TV show/kitchen appliance/lawn mower/airfare/website/board game) if you creatively market it with a 'March Madness' theme. And the creativity...outstanding. Mrs. Harmon's 3rd grade class could do no better.

Extra-special thanks award goes to: all you local car dealerships. Please yell a little louder...and could you put some more of your children in the commercials? We're flocking down to your car lot right at this moment. Nice job!

Belarus Reality

LA Times Opinion: Spinning Belarus: Can hyping a peoples' 'revolution' in Minsk make it so?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Belarus Peaceful

With varying reports of incumbent President Lukashenko taking in 82-92% of the votes according to exit polls for today's election, the only questions that remain for Belarus will relate to the way the country now responds. So far, the protests and the government's response to the protests have been peaceful, thankfully.

Here's a good summary of the events.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Smokey Dies


I received my diploma from this Smokey.

Friday, March 17, 2006

More on Belarus

Reading the news and the blogs on the Belarus election being held Sunday there are so many angles and stories that deciphering what is true from what is false is not easy. Many seem to be concerned that post-election demonstrations could get out of hand if Lukashenko wins the election. (Lukashenko has been the president since the mid 90's and has been accused of election tampering among other things.)

Why is Belarus different?
Belarus acts the most like the former Soviet Union of any of the former states. Little change has taken place, and many Belarussians (whether a majority, who knows?) would prefer to keep it that way. Belarus has always kept a firm guard against public protests and gatherings. Even with much less at stake in the past, gatherings draw quick and thorough attention from law enforcement. Since the Orange Revolution occurred in Ukraine, both sides in Belarus see things differently. The opposition has a greater feeling of the possibility of victory through similar methods. Lukashenko, likewise, has seen the possibilities of what took place in Ukraine, and it appears that he is more determined than ever to clamp down on groups that act in opposition.

Bad Possibilities
This mixture appears dangerous. It appears that protests are likely, and hopefully they will all be peaceful. It also appears likely that the authorities will be out in force to curb such protests. If any news takes place in Belarus, don't look for a repeat of the Orange Revolution of Ukraine.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Belarus: Just the Facts, Please

Mediafax: The Belarus government has ordered eight members of a Scandinavian team of unofficial election observers to leave, BBC News Online informed. The two Swedes and six Danes were part of a monitoring team sent by the unaccredited Danish group Silba.

Belarus blocks EU monitors' entry

Belarus bars U.S. camping gear ahead of polls

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Purge Barry?

Gene Edward Veith answers the question:
Put Barry Bonds Down the Memory Hole? Answer carefully.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Stand to Reason

Greg Koukl and Stand to Reason provide a wealth of information for the Christian in today's world (specifically, the world of southern California, with applications to the rest of us.) The website is worth a look and a listen to Koukl's weekly radio broadcast-which is now being podcast.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Passing of Ronald Nash

Ronald Nash died yesterday, March 10,2006.

Read Jared Bridges' post here.

I, too, took Dr. Nash's philosophy course at Southern Seminary. His passion for philosophy, for truth, and for teaching will not be forgotten.

Friday, March 10, 2006


While the threat of bird flu remains a hot topic, the presence of these Storm Trooper scouts should be causing quite a stir.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

What you say online could haunt you

This article caught my attention on the newstands today at a couple of different places (ironically, in print, not online.) The ever-growing online arena is so different than anything society has ever known before that the methods for instructing people and handling situations are being developed right before our eyes.

At the base level are these truths: Words mean things, and actions have consequences.

Deceptive Anonymity
Students are getting in trouble for posting things that they would normally hesitate to openly proclaim by mouth or pen and paper. People are getting fired or not hired because of the information about them on the web. The dangers of the supposed anonymity of a personal computer screen is deceptive to say the least. The glass house provides no privacy. Employees may be safer bad-mouthing their boss at the water cooler than on the web.

There is something fascinating about "publishing" one's own words and pictures for absolutely the whole world to see. Yet, it is a fire of a responsibility that a 7th grader as well as a 55 year old CEO must learn to contain.

Drawing the line
In most of the cases in this article, I think the person who got 'caught' rightly deserved it. If a student writes bad things in a personal journal that no one reads, there is reasonably no punishment. If a student writes bad things on the board, that's a different case.

New Codes of Conduct
We are seeing and will continue to see new rules written into the conduct codes at schools and with employers. Taking it all into consideration, I think the lessons that are being learned are valuable ones for the land where "Freedom of Speech" reigns. Yes, freedom of speech is a good thing, but that freedom is a jewel that must be handled with care.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

More Pre-election Unrest in Belarus


The "election" is to be March 19th.

God's Coffee

God's Coffee. Seriously. Is there a blend called 'manna'?

There's No Time

#39 If everyone on "24" followed Jack Bauer's instructions, it would be called "12".

Even if you haven't laughed at one of the Chuck Norris lists or watched '24', I think you'll like the Jack Bauer list - just google it, since it is Jack is everywhere.

Fill It to the Rim...

The Seattle Times: Health: Coffee drinkers get a jolt in study

How do we know which half we're in?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A Thought on Church Planting

"Church planting should not be like building a building-one big traumatic hiccup and we are glad that's over with."

Rather, Tim Keller argues that church planting after the biblical model of Paul's ministry should be a regular part of church existence and growth. Evangelism, discipleship, and church planting are the "Natural Church Planting" model according to Keller.

He has several insightful articles on the topic here.

(HT: Steve McCoy's list)

Saturday, March 04, 2006

...and, um, your lip balm

A friend used to love to compile the crime report from our college days. Here's a current one that is worth a look from Hoover, AL:

"Saul Luciano, 36, and Juan Becedra, 28, both of Hoover reported they were walking in a breezeway at Mountain View Apartments in Hoover about 9 p.m. Wednesday when two men with pistols forced them to the ground and told them to empty their pockets. The gunmen got $250, a key and lip balm from Luciano." (emphasis mine)

Times are hard in Birmingham, especially to find good lip balm.

Marilynne Robinson

Marilynne Robinson, the 2005 Pulitzer Award-winning author of Gilead, will be in Vestavia Hills, AL for a book signing, a discussion of the book, and a lecture at Samford University.

Book Signing: Milestone Books, April 25: 4 to 6.
Discussion: Shades Mountain Baptist Church, April 25, 7 pm.
Lecture: Samford University, Reid Chapel, April 26, 9:30 am.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Affections (viz. "Religious Affections")

affection. n. A tender feeling?

One of the problems that arises when reading someone who used the English language 250 years ago is the difference in the meaning of the words he/she communicated. Jonathan Edwards is a prime example in his use of the term "affection" to refer to something other than what our 2006 American minds tend to think, and as defines:

A tender feeling toward another; fondness.
Feeling or emotion. Often used in the plural: an unbalanced state of affections.
A disposition to feel, do, or say; a propensity.
Obsolete. Prejudice; partiality.
Even pulling a definition from Edwards' book The Religious Affections can be somewhat elusive. Here is a helpful insight into the meaning from this site:
[1] Affection is not the same as emotion.
Affection is a felt response to an object called forth by an understanding of the nature of the object. Plainly, where there's no understanding there can be no affection, regardless of how much emotion is present. (There was no shortage of emotion during the revivals.)

[2] Affections differ from passions.
Passions (a) are inclinations that overpower an individual, thus diminishing self-control
(b) captivate people. To be captive to a passion is to be passive. Such passivity is a denial of the active response-aspect of an affection. Whereas passion enslaves the will, affection is an exercise of the will. An affection is a response of the total self as the nature of something (someone) is apprehended.
And, yes, Jonathan Edwards did do a few other things in addition to preaching "Sinners in the hands of an angry God."

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Church and Belarus

Minsk, Belarus. From an article: "On Sunday 5 February the Christ's Covenant congregation of approximately 30 was reading the Bible and praying at his home, [Pastor Vyazovsky] ... when a local district official entered and began to take photographs. When church members refused to let in a police officer who arrived shortly afterwards...the two state representatives drew up a protocol accusing the pastor...of violating the established legal procedure for holding religious events. Under the 2002 Religion Law, such events require state permission if held outside a designated house of worship and may not be conducted systematically or on a large-scale in a private home."

Like sands through the hourglass, Belarus continues to be the most USSR-ish of all the former Soviet republics. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

The 50 Most Influential Christians

Check the latest rankings: How is your favorite Christian leader doing? Will he or she make the playoffs?

(HT: Christ and Culture)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Revolution by George Barna

A Brief Review of Revolution by George Barna – Colby Willen

Revolution is the result of the vast research that George Barna has done concerning the church, society and people, and, as such, the book reflects his research data and findings that support his view that the church of the 20th and 21st Centuries is a dying entity. Even in his beginning chapter, Barna attempts to paint the spirituality of two men in light of such findings, presenting one as a spiritually-growing man who has been "freed" from a traditional view of church while the other is presented as a spiritually-declining man who is struggling to keep up his church attendance and responsibilities.
While Barna does a fair job of presenting some of the facts of what is currently going on in America and America's Christianity, the basis for his presentation is a bit backwards. He rightly identifies that many Americans who attend church are not growing spiritually. He rightly identifies some of the changes in American society that lend themselves to different lifestyles today as compared to American lifestyle of generations past. He rightly points out the advantages that some of the "Christian Revolutionaries" have experienced in their approach to their faith and their non-traditional approaches to church. However, the book does not go beyond a surface analysis of what has taken place as the experience of some people, and the book hinges on experience rather than truth for the direction it would take the church.
The problem with this approach is that statistics do nothing more than to present the current situation. Barna's desire in writing this book, I believe, is to further open the door for Christians to find new ways to practice their faith that are untied from the traditional way of "doing" church. At the heart of Barna's findings is a similar finding that most Christian leaders in America would agree upon: the spiritual appetite of Americans is declining and the church in general is declining as well.
With Barna's approach, though, there is no basis for what a church should be, and at the heart of this approach are his fuzzy statements about Christian worship. The fact is that the New Testament's presentation of the early church and the biblical teachings on the church are not precisely mirrored in today's churches. No church is perfect, and the church universal throughout history has needed to be called back to its foundation many times. One example is Barna's description of "worship gypsies" and their practices on pages 65-66. This "worship" as described takes place absent of any prior congregation of people and with no attempt to necessarily reconvene the same individuals. The leaders simply show up and lead this "so-called" worship experience for whoever wants to gather regardless of denomination or belief or any further commitment to one another. Notably absent from Barna's analysis of Christianity and Christian worship are the numerous references to the church as a body where growth takes place among believers, not in isolation (see Ephesians 4 among others.)
But the problem goes beyond worship. The presence of postmodern ideas saturates the book. One example is on page 51 where he argues for the existence of God based on the "fact" of peoples' changes lives. Such evidence might be a good testimony on occasion but does not go far to prove the existence of God any more than any religious person in the world proves the existence of their god.
The very heart of Barna's thesis is that the church should be fluid—there are no absolutes for what a church should look like. Meanwhile, there is some truth to most of what Barna says. There are many areas in which the church needs to change and to truly seek ways to see peoples' lives changed by the power of God through the gospel in a more personal and possibly more culturally-relevant way. Biblical change, though, must be a truth-based reform. Throwing out traditions, traditional meeting schedules, and old buildings is going to do nothing less than water-down the Christian faith even further in a world of relativity. Change for the Christian church comes through revival—a return to the truth of God, not through new programs or new "sensitive" ways of doing church.
Also apparently absent from what Barna envisions is the structure of biblical shepherding and discipleship. While there are certainly countless examples of poor church leadership to be found in every denomination, where would the church be today without the God-ordained leadership given through pastors? In a structure such as what Barna seems to advocate, each individual would appear to be responsible for his own spiritual direction, something contrary to the New Testament's teaching and examples of the early church and the structure of discipleship. In essence, he is advocating that the sheep can take care of themselves—an obvious affront to the biblical picture of sheep and their needs.
Finally, though limited in scope and depth, Barna's book does serve a purpose in turning a light on for the church. There is a value in recognizing the trend that Barna describes and addressing the spiritual needs of our culture and the shortcomings of the church in meeting these spiritual needs. Barna's book should serve as a wake-up call to all of us who give testimony to God's salvation in Christ and the urgency of what we are called to be as the church.

Friday, January 13, 2006

2005 Nights

Okay, okay, I've come out of hibernation to post by inspiration of Truepravda's list. My list of places I spent at least one night in 2005 is pretty lacking compared to many years past, but here it is:

Ashburn, VA
Birmingham, AL
Cincinnati, OH
Kingsport, TN
Sipsey Wilderness, AL
Sonora, KY
Summerville, GA

**List subject to change pending recovery of memory lapse.