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Archive for May, 2006


I finally got around to watching all of this concert DVD released in 2002, but purchased recently.  We watched it while I cooked Saturday breakfast for the family.  The little girl just loved it!

This was a great performance.  Maybe it was being back home, but they had great energy that night.  They certainly seemed more ‘on’ than in the Vertigo DVD.  I was excited to hear a few songs from Pop, especially Wake Up, Dead Man.  The acoustic version of Staring at the Sun was heart-felt.  And this version of one of my all-time favorites, Bullet the Blue Sky, was just phenomenal. 

One of the strengths of this DVD is that you don’t have to put up with Bono’s speeches.  It is nearly all music.  I liked stories about his family, but the syncretism of the Vertigo tour was off-putting.  Of course I wondered which of the following reasons this was:

1. The Irish are perfect, and are pursuing peace, love and justice throughout the world.

2. The Irish are clueless, and just want to drink and listen to music.

3. The Irish are powerless, and really couldn’t do anything if they wanted to.

I’m not sure what the answer is (That was quite tongue in cheek).  My wife has oft accused me of having a “man crush” on Bono.  This was in danger after his speeches in Chicago.  But it may be coming back.  This DVD is about what U2 does best- play great, thoughtful rock ‘n’ roll.

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to Catholicism.  This is sadly pathetic.  The more I hear about this guy the worse it gets.  But he tries to come off as a martyr for the cause.

Lest you misunderstand me.  In the past I have been very supportive of the pro-life movement and prenancy centers.  I've raised money and held signs on roadsides (not near clinics).  I am excited to again be helping a local clinic counsel young women to choose life.

Though we are commanded to preserve life, Randall Terry acts like he was commanded to go to the extreme measures he went to.  In the process he neglected numerous other clear commands- destroying his marriage and family in the process.  This is what saddens me.  He left a trail of ravaged relationships behind him.  In his zeal, like many other movement leaders, he participated in the destruction of the everyday people God called them to love, nurture and cherish.

His return to Rome is just another in a long line of bad decisions for Randall.  Now he casts his lot to his faith AND works.  As a man who lost his anchor in the storm, he is clutching for straws.  But as a well-intentioned man who made lots of bad decisions, this seems like yet another in the long list.  I just feel bad for this guy.

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The DaVinci Code controversy has certainly been a boon to Christian publishers.  Got to love a good controversy to bring everyone and their brother out to publish a book (Lutzer, McDowell, Jones, Hannegraff, McDonnell, Swan, Edwards, and others too numerous to mention).  It keeps lots of people in business, similar to when something bad happens in the Middle East.  In some cases, the author merely puts a new cover on a previous edition and changes a few pertinent details (does the name Walvoord mean anything to you?).

The sheer volume of these things shows that we take this far more seriously than the average guy on the street.  Are there inaccuracies?  Yes!  And I've put some on this blog (for free, mind you).  But I suspect that the vast majority of people do not take the theories floated in the plot seriously.  Yes, a few weakminded people without access to the internet and other actual resources fall prey to this.

But this is a new controversy.  I can see the need from someone to logically and persuasively put forward the errors found in this novel.  I am just frustrated that like most things in evangelicalism, it becomes its own cottage industry.  Witness what happened with The Sacred Romance, The Prayer of Jabez and The Purpose Driven Life.  Suddenly there are books, gift books, journals, CDs, DVD, calendars and it goes mind-splittingly on.  Jesus, save us from our greed!

It is to the point where I don't want to publish anything (though, I will soon try) and be successful (as I hope to be, from a ministry perspective).  I ask now for the self-control to resist any such temptations to endlessly market anything I produce.

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Occasionally I will hear someone say something fairly misguided about presuppositional apologetics.  Most of us, as Christians, hear the ‘proofs’ for the existence of God (the teleological argument, argument from design, the ontological argument of Anselm, etc.).  They make sense to us and we usually embrace them.

But then people hear the presuppositional apologetics de-emphasizes them and the break-down in communication starts.  Actually, most Classical Apologists act as if Van Til utterly rejected such natural revelation arguments.  I haven’t read everything he’s written, so I won’t speak for him.  But both John Frame and Richard Pratt, in their books on presuppositional apologetics, include and affirm (with disclaimers) the various ‘proofs’ for the existence of God.  So, if anyone tells you that presuppositionalism denies the use of the ‘proofs’ for God’s existence, you can gently tell them, “You are mistaken.”  What are the problems?

1. Most people don’t read proponants of other positions, just critiques of other positions.  Most dispensational premillenial books arguing against Amillenialism do NOT quote amillenial authors, but other dispensational authors.  That seems a tad unethical.  And I suspect most people who take umbrage with presup apologetics haven’t read either Every Thought Captive or Apologetics to the Glory of God.  Obviously some have and you may be one of those people.  btw- as a former student and employee of the senior Sproul, I have read his book on the matter.

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How about the other side of the spectrum from the clowns?  A youth group, seeking to get people's attention promotes itself as X-Rated Youth, and wears t-shirts saying "Jesus Loves Porn Stars".  This would work if you were ministering to porn stars, but to teens?  This just seems crazy to me.  I saw this on the local cable news last night.  They hand out pamphlets that say "SEX" on the outside, and this has caused problems on the local school campus.  I'm not sure why the word "Sex" is controversial at a public school, but the principal prohibits them from distributing them on campus. Some of the kids have decided to sue, and have asked (gulp) the ACLU to get involved. But more disturbing is why would adult leadership allow kids to name their group like this, and promote their group like this?  I don't think I'd want my child associated with such  youth group, and I think I'd be looking for a new church (because as a pastor I'd have resisted this and they probably would have booted me). Not only do they promote themselves with t-shirts and pamphlets, but the church sign boldly declares they have X-Rated youth.  "Not even a hint of fornication"… yep. The rationale?  "X-Rated Youth is obviously a play on words meant to immediately destroy the typical 'Christian' stereotypes that the secular world holds against us."  Their slogan?  "Get in the gutter."  That doesn't sound the same as "Getting people out of the gutter." And ethically, all it takes is for a letter or 2 in the URL to be typed wrong for your child to end up in a very bad place.  This just sounds like a really bad idea. Please, is this another sign of the impending apocalypse, or is it going to get worse?

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I must confess that I have not finished Herman Hoeksema’s book The Clark-Van Til Controversy, because it was giving me a headache.  Part of the problem with this Trinity Foundation book is that it is a compilation of editorials HH did in The Standard Bearer.  HH sees much of the Christian Reformed Church controversy of 1924 in this 1940’s issue in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.  I fear his baggage blinds him.

A disclaimer: at RTS Orlando I studied under a number of men who went to Westminster and could be called Van-Tillian (Pratt, Kidd, & Glodo).  It was a unique time there since R.C. Sproul, a classical apologist was on the faculty, as we also had the late Dr. Nash teaching us philosophy and apologetics.  Dr. Nash was a rationalist (unapologetically) and greatly influenced by Clark.  Let’s just say it was interesting.  But Nash’s big Clark-Van Til story indicated to me that Nash either didn’t read, didn’t understand or refused to accept what Van Til wrote on these matters.  The apocryphal story was his complete refutation of Van Til.  But I digress.

The issue revolved primarily around the continuity and distinctions between God’s knowledge and our knowledge.  Hoeksema seeks to defend Clark and seems to overlook some very important pieces of the puzzle.

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When will the insanity stop.  Now there is Clown Eucharist.  Yes, you read it right.  This at an Episcopal Parish in NYC.  One parishoner's response to the event, "It's okay to be happy."

The greek word, eucharisto, could be translated good grace, and the Lord's Table should be filled with the joy of forgiveness and a renewed relationship with Jesus.  But clowning around is something altogether different.  I don't think we'll be trying that anytime soon.

(hyperthanks to Jerry Dodson)

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It’s Potty Time


My wife returned from the store this evening and my daughter ran into the kitchen.  From whence I began to hear strange noises, followed by "Bring it to Daddy".

My daughter came prancing around the corner with her new board book, It's Potty Time.  Due to the wonders of microchip technology, the sound I heard (repeatedly) was a toilet flushing and giggling children.

Being the great dad that I am (well, I'm trying by God's grace) I pulled the little girl up to my lap and opened the book and began to read, as we prep our daughter for one of those great milestones in life, potty training.

I'm racing along, using funny voices when I turn the page and begin to read "I stand up to go pee-pee* (*feel free to substitute words of your choice)".  I am a bit confused at this point.  I keep reading…. (it was after work, the brain was on 30% power and ESPN was on).  A few more pages and… "Big boys use the toilet.  I'm a big boy now." 

"Honey….. this book is for boys!"  "It didn't say anything about being for boys"  "Ah…… the back cover says It's Potty Time for boys."  My wife was thinking it was gender neutral.  Unlike many new translations of the Bible, this was gender specific, so back to the store we go.

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Code Canned at Cannes


Reports have The DaVinci Code as unintentionally laughable.  So maybe this won't be the blockbuster so many people fear.  Now, if some producer out there is looking for books to translate into film- try Vince Flynn.

Update:  Apparently the French were laughing, while the American critics were yawning because it was boooooring.  Most of the movie is dialogue, and it comes off as ponderous.

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Our congregation is utilizing the Natural Church Development materials as we work with a consultant.  So I read Schwarz's book by that title.  Aside from the use of some idiosyncratic terminology, I found the material to be pretty solid.

Using surveys that measured people's actions and attitudes, they uncovered what they call the "8 Quality Characteristics" of churches.  They found that when all 8 of the quality characteristics were above 55 on their scale, the church also grew.  The idea is that quality produces greater quantity.  So, you don't work to make your church grow, you work to make your church healthy- and healthy bodies grow.

He also discusses the idea of bipolarity.  He calls one pole dynamic and the other static.  That is a bit confusing.  Perhaps it would be easier to understand one as spiritual vitality and the other as structure/programs.  People gravitate toward one or the other as the answer to church development.  The first would say you just need to pray, or preach the right sermons- that kind of thing.  The second would say you need the right programs or model of ministry.

In reality, you need BOTH poles.  It is just like a battery- you can run on a battery with just a negative pole for a short period of time, but for a battery to continue to run you need both poles.  Churches need both.  If they focus too much on vitality to the exclusion of structure they can fall into mysticism or piety (like Barna's Revolutionaries).  If they focus on structure at the exclusion of vitality, you fall into dead orthodoxy, Phariseeism etc.

Here's what I found fascinating.  If someone is stuck on one pole, and you speak of both, they will only hear you speak of the one they reject and therefore reject you.  For instance: I've had discussions with 'revolutionaries', people who try to be the church without the organized church.  They are into the organism of the church.  I believe that they church is an organized (structure) organism (vitality).  But all they hear me talk about is the structure they reject.  They don't hear the ways in which I agree with them.  This model of theological discussion was incredibly helpful for me in understanding how we often battle each other needlessly.

If there is one weakness of the book, and Natural Church Development, is that it does not have theology as a quality characteristic.  It assumes the theology of the particular congregation rather than assuming that some theology is better than others.

In my denomination, Outreach North America, which promotes church planting and revitalization, has endorsed Natural Church Development as the model of church development.  I can see nothing wrong with this at this time.  But one of our Presbyteries wants the denomination's theological committee to study it for orthodoxy.  I'm not sure if it is because they have an ax to grind against it, or are just uncertain.  As a former member of that committee, I'm not sure how you'd go about ascertaining its orthodoxy since it does not address the theological issues one would look to to determine such a thing (the Trinity, doctrine of Christ, soteriology etc.).  This could prove interesting on the floor of synod.

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M:I III


For Mother's Day, my wife and I took in the latest popcorn cruncher.  It was great to get out of the house together without the little one.  Lots of reviews I've read have contained the following sentiments.

1. It is better than M:I II, which they thought wasn't very good.  I thought it was great, but I am a John Woo fan.  Yeah, he's a bit over the top, but the action is stylish and there is lots of religious imagery in many of his movies.

2. The plot was confusing.  Ah, J.J. Abrams co-wrote the script so what do you expect.

The wife and I enjoyed the movie for what it was- a summer blockbuster.  There were plenty of Alias touches, including a cameo by one of the actors who used to be on the show, and some musical flourishes at a key scene.  And the movie begins near the end as the hero is in a very tight spot, as often happens in Alias.

This movie had tons of action.  The plot made sense to us.  The deadly contagion, The Rabbit's Foot, is merely a plot device.  I guess some people got caught up in the fact that they didn't know what it did.  And the opening scene was a gut-wrencher!

Like John Woo, J.J. Abrams knows how to fill up a screen.  I wasn't sure if he would since all of his prior work (that I'm familiar with) was on TV.  As such, this is not a rental folks.  It needs to be seen at least once on the big screen to marvel at some the big action, as it was intended.

The screenwriters did 'steal' from Spiderman, in that Ethan's position puts those he loves in danger.  He takes the risk, but finds himself against a formidable foe with extensive resources (I don't want to give away too much).  And there are some good twists and turns, as one would expect seeing that it is M:I and J.J. Abrams.  Thankfully for the Mrs. and I, there was no mention of Rombaldi or Prophet 5 (just about the only things we don't like about Alias).  Yeah, Tom Cruise is a nutcase- but you're paying to watch him wipe out Phillip Seymour Hoffman which is what most people want to do anyway (since he tends to play REALLY annoying characters)

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Run, Newt, Run!


I've caught a number of interviews and speeches by Newt Gingrich lately.  In my opinion he is the man who should be our next President.  He seems to be one of the sole voices of sanity remaining in politics. – Financial conservative!  He led the charge in the 90's to balance the budget.  He worked with Clinton to accomplish this.  Although often portrayed negatively in the press, he was willing to cross the aisle to do what was best for the nation. – Pro Taxpayer!  He understands that high taxes doom economies and therefore devastate the lower classes.  – Social conservative!  Joe Lieberman gets (I think) the above, but not this one. – Understands Foreign Affairs & the need of a military.  He recognizes the dark threat of Iran.  He understands the differences between the Cold War, and the War on Terror.  As a result he recognizes we can't use the same tactics and strategy we used then.  Unlike atheistic Communists, these men are not afraid to die in war. – Pro Legal Immigration/Anti Illegal Immigration.  We don't need to fine offenders to fill our coffers, but to send them back where they can then apply to immigrate legally. So, I'm hoping that Newt decides to run.  I really can't see anyone else who gets it.

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Once again the Porn industry is leading the technological charge in its attempts to satisfy its greed, and pollute our hearts.  They pioneered the home video market and the internet while the Hollywood studios sat and analyzed whether or not they could make money on such things.

Now the porn industry is leading the charge in selling downloads that can burned onto a DVD and played on your living room TV.  Just what we need, right?  It is almost as if Hollywood is unwilling to take any risks, but views the porn industry as their free R&D dept.

I've got no problem with buying movies on-line, just the prevelance of porn.  This stuff is good for nothing.  Yet, we benefit from the innovation of these wretched people.  Life sure is strange.

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Just a quick summary of the misinformation in Dan Brown's novel before it is released in film this month.

1. The history of the Knights Templar is misrepresented.  They made their money essentially providing banking services and protection for pilgrims to the Holy Land.

2. The Priory of Scion which currently exists was founded in 1950's France.  It has no connection to the ancient Priory of Scion, which has no known connection with the Knights Templar.  The History Channel has some great shows about both the Priory and the Knights available.

3. The Dead Sea Scrolls do not contain any Gospel fragments.  The Essenes were ascetic Jews who rejected Jesus as the Messiah.  The Dead Sea Scrolls are important for Old Testament studies, not New Testament (except pertaining to quotes from the Old Testament).

4. The Gnostic Gospels which supposedly are more authentic than the actual Gospels found in the Bible were written well over a hundred years later.  One of the first rules in manuscript evaluation is "the closer to the original events the better".  So, to base a theology on documents far more distant from the actual events (and not written by eye witnesses) is crazy.

5. The Gospel of Thomas (one of the gnostic gospels) does not have a feminine agenda, as stated by Teabing.  It ends with these rather misoganist words "Simon Peter said to them: Let Mary gor forth from among us, for women are not worthy of the life.  Jesus said: Behold, I shall lead her, that I may make here male, in order that she also may become a living spirit like you males.  For every woman who makes herself male shall enter into the kingdom of heaven."

There is more.  My interest is not in supporting the 'shaky faith' of Christians.  I'm interested in helping Christians intelligently discuss the issues with non-Christians who mistaken think the arguments found against Christianity in The DaVinci Code are true.

How Dark is the Con of Man, which seeks to hide the truth of the Bible concerning Jesus from people.  And Dan Brown is one on many espousing and propogating (not exposing) the dark con.

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W gets abused in the press every day over all that is wrong.  But you never hear about what is going well.  That isn't very exciting, is it?

The WSJ says the trade deficit narrowed to $62 billion on record exports.  Did you hear that on CNN today?  Well, if you watch Glen Beck on Headline News, you may have.  Hey, if Lou Dobbs can whine for hours about the deficit, can't he rejoice some when we have record exports?

The IRS received record revenues in April.  This despite, or because of, the tax cuts depending on your economic theory.  Yet, what did I see yesterday?  A Democratic Senator whining about the deficit and blaming it on the tax cuts.  The economy is doing really well. The problem is SPENDING.  In the late 80's- early 90's I devised the CavTheory of government spending.  They will spend as much as they possibly can.  The 80's saw great economic growth, and gov't local, state & federal found new ways to spend it.  Then there came the recession, and revenues dropped.  Then they whined because programs had to be cut.

All that to say, Mr. Democratic Senator, that the problem is not the tax cuts.  It is the unbridled spending in which members of both parties are complicit.  They both have to own the growth of entitlements (which will have to be trimmed during the next recession, unless the wrong guys are in power and they just keep raising taxes in their continually failed attempts to redistribute wealth.

Those tax cuts have helped create new jobs.  The jobless rate is essentially at full-employment.  For those who don't have a background in Economics, this means there will always be some people out of work due to transitions, poor performance etc.  There will never be 0% unemployment.  A rate under 5% is really good (better than it was during much of Clinton's presidency).

If W would talk up some of this good stuff, perhaps people wouldn't be so stinking negative.  If you don't give the press the good news, they will dig up the bad news (or make some up, read:NSA pseudo-scandal).

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I finally got to the Back Page of my April CT and read more of Colson's diatribe (with Anne Morse).  The hot thing tearing up the blogs was his (rather short) criticism of modern worship.  Here's more of his complaints, and my thoughts concerning them.

1. Churches today are often concerned more with entertainment than substance.  I agree that this is often the case.  It can be about the 'experience'.  He says that "Music cannot take the place of solid teaching" (or was that Anne?).  Agreed.  However, solid teaching cannot take the place of music either.  Dirge-like songs don't usually help people express heart-felt, mind-stretching worship.  We are not in an either-or dilemma here.  Or at least we should not be.  Where is his complaint about the moralistic, therapeutic drivel that passes for sermons?

2. He complains that Christian radio is becoming less teaching oriented, and more music oriented.  I would agree if I actually heard good preaching on Christian radio (or TV).  He laments that some stations took Focus on the Family off the schedule because "it had become too involved with 'moral issues'."  What Colson fails to mention is that FotF's problem is not moral issues so much as moralism.  I can't remember EVER hearing Dobson talk about the Gospel (which is precisely 5 fewer times than I've heard D. James Kennedy talk about it).  This is in stark contrast to the new Modern worship songs we learned at the church I pastor the last 2 months.  Both You Are My King (Amazing Love) and Here I Am to Worship talk about the cross.  This, not political action, is the basis for true cultural transformation. (more…)

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Somewhere along they way I reduced my reading of the Puritans.  Not eliminated them.  I guess I was just trying to keep up with what is going on in the greater world and contemporary Church.  What a schmuck.

No one dissects the heart like the Puritans.  Read John Owen on The Mortification of Sin, On Temptation or On Indwelling Sin in Believers (Volume 6 of his Works).  There is great insight into the human heart and the effects of both grace and sin on it.  It is great to return to him as I preach on repentance (one of those topics that has fallen by the wayside these days).  I even took my title from Thomas Brooks, who called it “the vomit of the soul”.

Thomas Boston is another true master to study.  I’m slowly working my way thru Boston’s The Crook in the Lot which is about affliction.  Sadly, his book Repentance was not at the RTS bookstore as I hoped.

We neglect the Puritans at our peril.  Our theology will be more shallow, less practical (they were not abstract theologians, but drove the truth home to life- which may be why we hide from them), less enthusiastic and so on.

I’ve seen guys go overboard- not making the cultural and/or ephocal adjustment.  We shouldn’t expect to live just like they did.  I’ve even seen guys start to write like Puritans.  The average person will just not grasp what you are trying to say (which is why Kris Lundgaard simplifies Owen’s classic works).

I choose the middle road- delving into them to understand our God and ourselves better that we might be more faithful followers of Jesus in our own day.

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or what I'll miss.

The little girl is getting ready to drop her morning nap.  As a 40 year old man I wonder- what could possibly be going through the 16 month old mind of hers?!  Doesn't she know:

1. What a great blessing it is to be ABLE to take a morning nap.  Oh, I wish I could take morning naps.  She's got a great gig going and should keep it up.

2. I don't have the energy to chase her ALL morning (and neither does my wife).  We need the respite more than she does. 

How could she do this to us?  Doesn't she love us?  Anyone have a cure?

The Jollyblogger laments the growth of his much older daughter today as well.

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Smaller is Better


The place kicker the Patriots drafted was chosen precisely because he used a smaller tee.  He kicked throughout his college career with a 1-inch tee, that required in the NFL.  Most college kickers use a 2-inch tee.  It is easier to use the larger tee.  But Gotskowski will not have to make that adjustment, unlike the rest of his college competition.  He's got a leg up on them (yeah, bad joke).

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This is another story illustrating why I love being a (conservative) Presbyterian.  CT reports on problems in a Calvary Chapel Church in NM.  The congregation is run by its FORMER pastor, who still chairs the board, and his hand-picked elders- most of whom do not live in NM.  Further, he pastors a church in CA.

The denominational structure of Calvary Chapel allows this, having been founded by a man who ran from the accountability structures of his original denomination.  You reap what you sow, and the chickens have come home to roost.  This is a sad, pathetic story.  And in the process the Body of Christ, His beloved sheep suffer and His name is dishonored.

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