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Archive for August, 2008


High gas prices can make people consider strange things.  We struggle to avoid pain.  Is the compressed air car (CNN story) an innovation or a vain attempt to avoid reality?  Developers claim it can get over 100 miles per gallon.

Zero Pollution Motors has received the U.S. rights to produce the technology developed by MDI.  They claim they will make cars available for sale in 2010 for about $18,000.

How does it work?

The concept is similar to how a locomotive works, except compressed air — not steam — moves the engine’s pistons, said Shiva Vencat, vice president of MDI and CEO of Zero Pollution Motors.

Whether the engine uses just air or both air and fuel would depend on how fast the car is going. It would run purely on compressed air at speeds less than 35 mph, Vencat said.

Since the car could only go a short distance when using just air, fuel is needed to get the full range, he explained.

“Above 35 mph, there is an external combustion system, which is basically a heater that uses a little bit of gasoline or biofuel or ethanol or vegetable oil that will heat the air,” Vencat said.

This sounds like a commuter car, not one to be used to travel 150 or more miles a day.  This means you would have to add this car to your ordinary vehicle rather than replacing it completely.

Some have expressed doubts about the technology.

Another expert expressed concern about the amount of energy it would take to generate the required air pressure: 4,500 pounds per square inch, or more than 120 times the pressure inside the tires of a typical four-door sedan.

“That is above what you normally find even in an industrial setting,” said William Bulpitt, senior research engineer at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Strategic Energy Institute.

“That takes quite a compressor to do. … It takes horsepower to compress the air up to that pressure.”

If you count that energy, it’s hard to believe the car would be that much more efficient than an electric vehicle, Callister said.

Only prototypes exist at the moment.  Will they be able to translate them into useable cars that can carry multiple passengers?  We’ll see.

The body of the car planned for the United States would be built with fiberglass and injected foam. The chassis, composed of aluminum rods, would be glued together, not welded.

The design allows the car to be as light as possible, Vencat said.

For anyone who has doubts about its safety, he insisted computer simulations show that the vehicle would pass crash tests and meet all U.S. safety standards.

“Do you think somebody would actually put millions of dollars into making a car that will not pass safety regulations? There’s no point in doing that,” Vencat said.

Sounds like there are still lots of questions that need to be answered.  And they will not be answered until ZPM actually tries to sell one.  Until then I, for one, won’t hold my breath.  It sounds too good to be true, and it just might be.

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It is hard to believe it is Saturday.  Life has slowed down tremendously since we hopped on that plane Tues. morning.  The big rush to de-clutter the house was done.  We were packed and gone.

Since then I’ve been doing some reading.  That has been hard for me lately.  I’ve had trouble concentrating.  There were far too many things going on, and I deperately needed a change of scenery- and weather.  I got both.  So my concentration has returned.  As you may have noticed, I read Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christian.  Dr. Nicole taught me to read those I don’t agree with (or other ivew points) so I can see their own arguments first hand lest someone mischaracterize them.  Glad I read it, and I still disagree with him.

In addition to starting to read Job, I’m reading Sinclair Ferguson’s book on Ruth, Faithful God.  It is really good.  As someone who is going through a difficult time, I need that reminder that God’s plan is not always evident until it has completely unfolded.  And that might be long after you’re gone.

It’s not all serious- I’m reading a Dean Koontz novel I picked off the bookshelf here.

I’ve been helping my brother-in-law get the website ready for his business.  I’ll also be helping to get their financial system integrated on the software.  My sister-in-law has too much going on the learn the system and get it all integrated herself.  Since the guys at Riedinger & Sons are heading off to Mississippi for a missions trip today, I’ll be able to work on this with no new invoices etc. 

The weather has been quite varied.  Plenty of sun, and plenty of rain too.  The tempuratures are mostly in the 60’s-70’s.  A very nice  change of pace allowing me to sit outside and read.  Sadly, no cigars to enjoy outside.  But my sister-in-law provided me with some Smithwick’s Irish Ale as a treat.  Quite nice.

I helped my other brother-in-law work on his new house today.  I was priming the dry wall in a few closets.  And tonight I’m cooking some Cajun Back Ribs.

I know some of you are more concerned about the kids.  They are having a blast.  CavGirl loves coming here and playing with her cousins.  It is the first time CavBoy has come to the Farm.  He might be feeling a bit left behind as she goes on adventures with her cousins.  But he’s getting more adventurous.  Both are playing long and hard, so naps and night time have been met with quickly nodding off to sleep.  Parenting has required less time and energy.

I got some great pictures of the humming birds.  At one point there were 5 vying for the feeder.  I couldn’t get the beautiful finch.  He was too skittish when I came near with the camera.  That and the territorial battle he was engaged in with another bird.  I don’t have the right software here, so posting any of them will have to wait.

I was disappointed to discover that my capo and picks were not in the guitar case where I thought I left them.  This greatly reduces what I can do with old vacation guitar while I’m up here.

Well, a beautiful sunny afternoon is calling my name.

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Job responds to Eliphaz’ claim that he is obviously guilty of some great sin, bringing this disaster upon himself.  Yes, Job admits that God has striken him.  In fact, he wants God to go all the way and put him out of his misery.  Job is losing perspective, but he sees he is in great danger of denying “the words of the Holy One.”

Job feels quite let down by his friends- they are like intermittent streams (wadis).  He asks them to show him where he has gone wrong.  They accuse him of sin generically, not a specific sin.  Their faulty theological formula means they must accuse him- but they know of no particular sin of which he is guilty.  As a result, Job continues to “speak out in the anguish of (his) soul.”  And it is in this anquish that he speaks the antithesis of Psalms 8 & 139.

“What is man that you make so much of him, that you give him so much attention, that you examine him every morning and test him every moment?  Will you never look away from me, or let me alone even for an instant?  If I have sinned, what have I done to you, O watcher of men?  Why have I become your target?  Have I become a burden to you?  Why do you not pardon my offenses and forgive my sins?  For I will soon lie down in the dust; you will search for me, but I will be no more.”  (7:17-21 NIV)

He’s not sure why God values humans so highly that he watches them and examines their actions and attitudes.  In his grief he does not reckon with our being made in God’s image.  We are meant to be like him- good and righteous.  In our fallen condition, God examines us and tests us.  And he finds us wanting.

Job somehow understands this, but still isn’t sure of what he’s done to offend.  He’s not sure why God, his God, has not forgiven him.  Just as he has sacrificed for his children’s sin, he most likely sacrificed for his own sin- by faith.  “Where, O God, is your mercy?” he asks.  Since there seems to be no mercy, he wants God to turn his gaze away.  Apart from mercy, the gaze of God is disturbing, discomforting and oppressive.

Enter Bildad the Shuhite.  His messages seems conflicting.  God is just so you wouldn’t suffer without just cause.  But he then says the unthinkable:

“When your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.” (8:4 NIV)

He tells Job his children died because they sinned.  God, he says, brought them to justice.  If they were in some obvious, grievous sin this might make sense.  But, like with Eliphaz, no specific sin is mentioned- just a vague condemnation.

He seems to offer some hope for Job personally.

“But if you look to God and plead with the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your rightful place.  Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be.  … Surely God does not reject a blameless man or strengthen the hands of evildoers.  He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.  Your enemies will be clothed in shame, and the tents of the wicked will be no more.” (Job 8:5-7, 20-22 NIV)

He is right … Job will be more prosperous in the future than he was in the past.  Job is blameless before God, despite his friends suspicions.  But this sliver of truth does not outweigh the pointed lies he speaks to his friend.  Not only are Satan, the Sabeans, Chaldeans, and seemingly God himself, against Job but his wife and friends have turned against him.

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I’m continuing to work my way through McLaren’s book A New Kind of Christian.  I would sum it up as increasingly frustrating.  Neo keeps getting further and further out there.  And the strawmen he argues against are increasingly obscure.

This is an incredible nit-pick, but World Cup soccer is played by national teams.  DC United wouldn’t play, much less win, that competition.  Yep, this is fiction but try to keep the connections to reality there to make it believable and in the spirit of being missional- being ignorant of such matters means you lose street cred.  Okay, off the box.

Neo’s sermon contains a section from C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle, one I have a particularly difficult time with.  But Neo uses it to teach truth, not illustrate truth.  This would be because the truth he’s trying to illustrate doesn’t exist.  Kind hearted muslims (or pick your religion) are not serving Jesus unknowingly.  In Scripture you find that people forsake their worthless idols to worship the true God.  That’s a bit different than what Neo is trying to encourage.

I’ll give McLaren the credit for reminding people that the church exists to expand the kingdom, benefiting the world.  How he and I understand that is a bit different.  Yes, some Christians reduce the gospel to personal salvation, ignoring the cosmic implications.  Is it possible to make too much of the cosmic implications?  Yes, if you minimize what Scripture maxamizes.  Scripture addresses the need for personal salvation far more than the cosmic implications of redemption.  Jesus and the Apostles do show a great deal of concern for the people’s fate.  His first “sermon”, “repent and believe for the kingdom is at hand.”  “Repent and believe” is conversion talk.  “Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins” is conversion talk, and the point of Peter’s very first sermon.  So this notion that “it’s none of your business who goes to hell” is not in step with Scripture.  If modern evangelicals are to be chastized for importing  modern notions onto the Scripture (and they are at times), so should McLaren be chastized for importing notions foreign to Scripture and deny notions prevalent in Scripture.  He also takes some Scripture completely out of context to make his point.  He mentions Jesus’ words to Peter as though we should not be concerned with anyone else’s eternal destiny.  But Peter is asking how John will die.  THAT is of no concern to Peter.

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While we are away, I thought I’d work my way through Job, again.  It can be a good place to go when you are suffering precisely because it doesn’t offer prepackaged answers.  It is not all neat and tidy.  He’s in pain and becomes confused at points.  His friends are not quite helpful.  They speak truth, but not the right truth- it was not true in Job’s situation and as a result was not loving.

Job 1-2 set the stage for this theodicy (defense of God).  Job does not know why all these horrible things happened to him.  We know since the author gives us access to the heavenly council.  But Job never knows.

This is instructive to us.  We usually don’t know why we suffer.  Oh, he knew about the Sabeans, Chaldeans and “natural disasters”.  But our souls long for something more than evil guys and a fallen world.

At first Job was ‘content’ to worship and trust God.  He exhibited great faith, boldly acknowledging that God is ultimately at work.  He suffers from a wife who like Peter had the wrong things in mind.  She tempts him to ‘curse God and die.’  In other words, ‘get it over with, God obviously hates you.’

Job’s friends, seeing how devastated he is, sit silently with him for a whole week.  This was the wisest thing they did- it all goes downhill from there.  But it is Job who breaks the silence…

With his first speech, we move into wisdom literature in poetic form.  Lots of white space as my professors used to say.  Flowerly language and lots of word pictures.  Definitely not succint.  Job curses the day he was born.  He does not curse God, but rather himself.  He wished he had never been born rather than suffer these devastating losses.  He buried all his children and was immediately bankrupt.  It was an incredibly profound reversal of fortunes.  He is understandably upset.  At this moment, all the years of good fortune seem insignificant.

This is what we often do in those moments.  The scales seems quite unbalanced and we lose all objectivity.  I’m not poking a finger at Job here.  I do this- we all do this.  We are people of the moment.  Life is as life currently is- apart from the sustaining grace of God to keep it all in context.  His greatest fears have come upon him!

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On the right, where he doesnt want to be!

On the right, where he doesn't want to be!

Feeling quite behind the times, I borrowed a friend’s copy of A New Kind of Christian.  I have been unable to get to it the last few weeks.  It was as if I just didn’t have the mental energy.  Oddly, I was able to make some significant headway today on the plane and relaxing in the backyard.

I am sympathetic to the concerns often raised by members of the emergent church movement.  I don’t often like their answers to the problems.  As I read Brian McLaren’s book, I experienced that same strange conflux of thoughts.

As I read the book I would be considered one of the modernist Christians McLaren is trying to ‘convert’.  I guess I feel like a non-Christian would feel when reading one of those poorly written novels intending to convert you to Christianity.  Not completely- I’m not angry with McLaren though I take exception with some of his conclusions.  Thus far anyway.

McLaren does point out that the extremes in popular American Christianity are problematic.  He comes off a bit reductionistic to me.  He does this by neglecting the good things that those modernistic American Christians have contributed to society.  He thinks we should do more than we preach- showing the gospel with our actions.  Yes, and many do this.  Many American evangelicals reach out to the poor and oppressed.  They are often very generous.  And it seems less than generous to ignore this in his gentle diatribe against enculturated modern Christians a.k.a. organized religion or the institutional church.

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The kids have been playing “going to the Farm” and “riding on the airplane.”  I think they are ready to head north, away from the heat and humidity to spend time with grandparents and cousins galore.

I know I need a change of scenery.  I’ll continue my “search for work” while I’m up there.  It would be great to have an offer on the house and a job close to in hand by the time we return.  I should spend some time working for my brother-in-law, so I’m not sure how often I post while we are gone.  Oh, and I do need to spend time with CavWife and CavKids!

I will be preaching at the small church nearby while we’re up there.  The pastor will be taking a trip himself.  I’m undecided as to which sermon to offer.

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I can’t remember what the name of this tree is.  But we bought it because of these beautiful purple flowers.  I’m a sucker for purple flowers.  Perhaps it has to do with that line from The Choir’s Circle Slide album.  These are very beautiful purple flowers.

Sadly we have seen too little of them!  Every time we go away on vacation something happens to the tree.  It comes back around just before we head off again.  Last summer it was a dry August, and we returned to find it nearly dead.  In mid-December it had been revived such that blossoms were beginning to reappear.  We were off for Christmas vacation.  While away there was a frost.  The tree had to be pruned back there was so much damage to it.  It has just been in the last few weeks that the flowers re-emerged.  I decided to take a picture just in case something happened, again.  While in bloom, these flowers could work a spell on any potential buyers!

This is from our mandevilla.  A friend gave it to us years ago.  Not too long ago it was over-run with catapillars.  We haven’t seen any of the beautiful flowers that attract the butterflies who lay those eggs on it.  It has finally bounced back, and these pretty flowers also have a very pleasant smell to them.  The bring great delight to CavWife.  Once again, I’m hoping they catch the nose and eye of a prospective buyer.

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I have an older copy of Sinclair Ferguson’s A Heart for God, part of the Christian Character Library.  It is a short, very accessible book.  It is understandable to those without any theological training, but it also has a depth of heart that should challenge those who do.

It is dedicated to his old mentor William Still.  His main premise is that the main problem with contemporary Christianity is that we lack a deep knowledge of God.  Lacking this knowledge, we therefore are tossed about by winds and waves as well as experiencing stunted character.  Growth as a Christian is connected not with steps or methods, but primarily knowing God and being transformed by the renewing of our minds.  This is the thought that fills the book.  So he explores who God is.  As he goes there is plenty of application and illustration.  Sinclair Ferguson is the theologian for everyman.  He writes books of great meaning without assuming you have lots of theological training.

  1. Growing in the Knowledge of God
  2. Three Personed God
  3. Maker of Heaven and Earth
  4. The Covenant Lord
  5. The Ever Present One
  6. The Savior
  7. God Only Wise
  8. The Holy One of Israel
  9. The Faithful Provider
  10. Let Us Worship God!
  11. Remember the Lord

In these chapters, Ferguson brings us back to Scripture.  Often it feels like a series of sermons turned into a book because he’ll work through a primary text.  This is purposeful.

“Only as God’s Word impacts how we think, live, and feel will we develop hearts that are characterized by obedience to God and filled with love for Him.  … There is no such thing as genuine knowledge of God that does not show itself in obedience to His Word and will.  The person who wants to know God but who has no heart to obey God will never enter the sacred courts where God reveals Himself to the soul of man.  God does not give divine knowledge to those who have no desire to glorify Him.”

So you see that Ferguson writes with a pastor’s heart.  He doesn’t just want there to be an information dump, but life transformation as we wrestle with God in His Word.  More than that, that God subdues us and transforms us with His Word.  This is a book worth finding and reading.

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