Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Good Ol' Rocky Top

Well, it's been several days since I last posted. In that time I went to the UT-Kentucky game, took two finals, endured a massive migraine and sinus pressure, and the breakdown of yet another car. So I figured, since I'm once again sitting here in Panera Bread while waiting for Goodyear to finish working on the car, I'd post what I was supposed to post after the game. The Kentucky game wasn't too bad--the offense still wasn't that good, but Fulmer didn't let Erik Ainge throw the game away like he usually does. Every play was designed to limit mistakes on offense. Nevertheless, there were still turnovers--a couple of fumbles and an interception or two. Thankfully, Kentucky is even more inept than Tennessee offensively, and the UT defense continued to give educational clinics on what real defense looked like. UT won 27-8, without ever giving up a Kentucky touchdown. It's just too bad there's no bowl this year (UT finishes 5-6), but the way they've played they don't deserve a bowl. Immediately following, two more coaches were fired. The O-line coach and the wide receivers coach were given the boot. Quite right, I say. Our O-line and receivers were a disgrace, despite having some of the best talent in the nation. Fulmer stated the new offensive coordinator would be the key to who gets hired to replace them. And then there was joy in Mudville. The next day Tennessee announced what I've been stumping for the past several months: David Cutcliffe has been rehired as Tennessee offensive coordinator! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah, hallelujah, hal-le-lu-jah! With "Coach Cut" back in charge, there can only be good days ahead of us. Let us hope they come sooner rather than later, but I suspect it will take some time for him to undo the damage done over the past 7 years. My grandmother seems to think that I was going to be "ugly" about this. How she gets this impression, I haven't the faintest clue. Anyway, it is with Big Orange joy that I now return to my work--I have papers that need writing by Friday. It's great to be a Tennessee Vol!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

It's Football Time In...Kentucky?!?!?

Well, in a scant half-hour to an hour I will be on the road to Lexington and the Tennessee-Kentucky football game. A few thoughts before we leave: I'm not sure if I'm going to wear a brown paper bag or not. I might keep one in a pocket just in case. I really hope we get our act together for our final game of the year. It would suck to give up all this sleep after work (I work 3rd shift) for a silly football game. Especially one that is probably going to put me to sleep. Whoever starts at quarterback for Tennessee, I will yell bloody murder at them. My goal is to make the Kentucky fans around me glad I'm not one of them. Maybe I'll take a Bible and start preaching at Rick Clausen from the stands. I really hope Lexington has funnel cake. I'm real dang hungry. I wonder if I'm wearing enough orange. Perhaps something on the legs? I wonder if I'm dressed warmly enough. Kentucky fans can sympathize with us this year--we both had lousy coaches. The difference is theirs will be back one more year, whereas ours resigned his offensive coordinator position. My future brother-in-law (the one who magicked up the tickets to this game) says if I wear orange today, I owe him beer. Which would he like better: Barq's or A&W? Oh wait, he's Catholic. His beer has alcohol in it. I really hope the game today isn't crappy. I'm real dang hungry. Did I mention I'm real dang hungry? And with that, I am off to the game.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Post-Digestive Thought Process: Tennessee Football

You know, I should probably save this one until after tomorrow's game against Kentucky. But, seeing as I will be attending that game due to having a massively cool future brother-in-law, I think it is incumbent upon me to get the Dark Side out of me before I arrive in Lexington. In a nutshell, University of Tennessee football 2005 sucks. There's no other word for it that doesn't involve a curse. Let's see what happened--this season started out on such a hopeful note. Erik Ainge was back, and in his first two series of the season made us think happy days were here again. And then he just descended into the realm of "You Stink." Rick Clausen came back and saved the day through the LSU game, and we were hopeful for a repeat of 2004 with a watchful eye towards the recruiting process. And then he, too, descended into stinkification. All throughout, our disgust with Randy Sanders as offensive coordinator only intensified. He continued to call plays that were ineffective and bewildering, and blaming a lot of the failures on things like coverage and personell not playing to their capabilities. Didn't he realize that it is ultimately his fault for not having players ready to play? Certainly, a good deal of blame lies at the players' feet, but when the coaches aren't even getting them past such antics, something is wrong. The depths of Tennessee depravity reached what we thought was an all-time low--possibly only eclipsed by the horrendous 1988 season (in which UT lost their first 6 games but won their last 5)--after a three-point loss to Alabama in which UT fumbled the winning touchdown away at the goal line. Then the following week UT lost to South Carolina--South Carolina!--in the exact same manner: fumbling away what would have been a decisive score. After this loss, the greatest thing that could have happened, happened: Randy Sanders resigned. And there was joy in Mudville. But it was to be short-lived. After a near-loss to Memphis (yep, same old story, one repeated all season: turnovers) put a win in the left-hand column, the unspeakable happened. Tennessee lost to Vanderbilt. I will write that again: Tennessee lost to Vanderbilt. Fulmer, quite correctly, described this loss as "rock bottom." There is no more joy in Knoxville - the mighty Vols have struck out. Tennessee will, for the first time since 1988, be playing for pride in their final game, which I will witness tomorrow in Lexington, against the Kentucky Wildcats. This is UK's best chance for a win. It is my best and only chance to unleash the demons that have tormented my psyche over the Sanders/Clausen era at Tennessee. I am glad it is over. There is nowhere for Tennessee to go from here but up. Hire David Cutcliffe as offensive coordinator.

Post-Digestive Thought Process: Movie Reviews

I've decided that, throughout the day, I will make several posts with after-Thanksgiving thoughts, most of which actually entered my mind before Thursday. Go figure. First of all, my Thanksgiving was great. I spent the day with Tricia's family, and I cooked my grandparents' food since I won't get to have it straight from the source this year. I was extremely pleased with my continuing ability to effect culinary smackdown. And now for the thought of the moment: I am sick of "Christian" movie reviews. Fed up. For an example of what I am writing about, go no further than Crosswalk's review of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, found here. All right, I understand the need for reviews of movies from a Christian perspective, but what I don't need is inane moralizing. I don't need silly editorializing that does not review the movie itself. I don't want to be preached at while reading a freakin' movie review, for cryin' out loud! If one reads the linked review, one sees absolutely no enjoyment of the movie as it is. Clearly this writer went into the movie with an agenda, and that agenda played itself out in the review. Where is the celebration of imagination? Where is the childlike wonder that used to accompany movies such as these? Where is there praise for making a good movie? Certainly, "all things are lawful, but not all things are profitable;" but when one actively works to portray something as non-profitable, especially in the bulk of cases, with no simple enjoyment of that something, your worldview is messed up. No, I praise God for the creativity and imagination displayed by Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling and the movie makers. I praise God that children everywhere will have their imaginations stimulated. I praise God that children who otherwise would sit in front of a TV will read the books instead. I praise God that make-believe actually encourages faith in God instead of faith in only what you perceive with your five senses. If we are truly going to do "everything for the glory of God," then we're going to have to put our money where our mouth is and give God glory even for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I will take the extremist position that even entertainment that in no way appears to glorify God does, in fact, give Him glory, because just from our being able to perceive something is not right is proof of His guidance in our lives. So I leave you with a closing thought on this post-digestive thought: Thank the good Lord for porn and porn stars. Without them, we'd have no conception of modesty in the world. ;-)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Turkey Tales

One more thing and then I'm off to bed. Al Mohler, the illustrious president of my seminary, has one of the most hilarious things I've heard or read him say in a while on his blog:
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals [PETA], always out on the radical fringe, is busy with its annual crusade against the eating of Thanksgiving turkeys. It's now offering "The Top Ten Reasons Not to Eat Turkey" on its web site. I won't burden you with the entire series, but here are just a couple of the most ludicrous claims made by the group: Turkeys are social, playful birds who enjoy the company of others. They relish having their feathers stroked and like to chirp, cluck, and gobble along to their favorite tunes. Anyone who spends time with them at farm sanctuaries quickly learns that turkeys are as varied in personality as dogs and cats. Eating a turkey carcass contaminated with bird flu could kill you, and currently available drugs might not work. Cooking should kill the virus, but it could be left behind on cutting boards and utensils and spread through something else you're eating. And my favorite: Let's face it: If you're eating a turkey, that's a corpse you've got there on the table, and if you don't eat it quickly enough, it will decompose. Is that really what we want as the centerpiece of a holiday meal: an animal's dead and decaying carcass? Well . . . yes, as a matter of fact. I would prefer it cooked to a golden brown gleam that would make Henry VIII proud.
Hahaha! Isn't that hilarious? A hearty Thanksgiving "Amen" to Dr. Mohler!

The Veggie Tales Gospel

While flipping channels before supper yesterday, I ran across channel 19. Yeah, for those of you who know and those of you that don't, that's the local religion channel. They show primarily Christian stuff--a mixture of Southern Seminary offerings as well as church services and a good deal of Catholic offerings. It's an okay channel--would be better if it was captioned for the Deaf. I don't watch it--I have a policy of not watching religious channels due to the "TBN factor." But this evening was different. They were showing a Southern Seminary chapel service, and I had come in just as Dr. Russell Moore was preaching. And I could understand every word he said, without captions. How providential. Now, say what you want about Russ Moore, but this man can preach. I have never really liked the guy ever since I had him in my very first semester at Southern way back in 1999 (dang I'm getting old), when he was a mere doctoral student and was Dr. Mohler's personal assistant. He came across then as callous, unsympathetic, and just plain mean. You might want to see the below post with my The Doctrines of Grace review to get the terminology I'm gonna use for these types from now on. But I've never been able to shake that impression of him since. But anyway, as I said, this man can preach. And he didn't just preach, he freakin' preached. I loved this message. It gave me quite a few ideas for teaching at the Deaf church, where I've been touching on providence lately (but not explicitly). The subtitle said it all: "The Bones of Joseph, The Kingdom of Christ, and the Story We Tell." He talked about a "Veggie Tales gospel," which unfortunately I came in a little too late to hear how he worked in Veggie Tales, but apparently it is about focusing too much on the little picture instead of the Big Picture of God's plan for ourselves and humanity. He illustrated this by preaching about the patriarch Joseph. How true. We get so focused on our problems, our struggles, our successes and failures that we forget entirely about God's sovereign, providential Will. We forget about God's vision. And we can't preach about God's will because we're too focused on our own will and cannot understand God's will. You know, I never get tired of listening to Russ Moore preach, personal impressions of him notwithstanding. I feel privileged to be in a school with such great preachers as models. Let me see if I can link the audio of the sermon for those of you who are hearing-inclined...aha! Beyond a Veggie Tales Gospel: The Bones of Joseph, the Kingdom of Christ, and the Story We Tell That will play an mp3 on the SBTS website. If you wanna download it, you'll need to go to this page on Southern's website to download it. I really wish there was a downloadable video of this so I could refer to it again, WITH understanding.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Book Review: The Doctrines of Grace

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, it's two days late. Thankfully it's not two dollars short. Anyway, I will now review The Doctrines of Grace by James Montgomery Boice and Philip Graham Ryken. First off, some introductory remarks. This is Boice's last work before his death in 2000 of cancer. He wrote the bulk of the material contained in this book. Ryken, one of Boice's assistant pastors, completed it upon his death, contributing a closing chapter as well as editing for style and actually writing the opening two chapters entirely from Boice's notes and resources. Boice himself had already drafted the middle chapters detailing the doctrines of grace. This book is an excellent, excellent introduction to the doctrines of grace, widely known for better or for worse as Calvinism. It is also a very compelling work, one that should move the reader to desire further investigation at the very least and full commitment at the very best. It avoids what one of my good friends has termed "my Calvinism is better than your Calvinism," which would have caused me to march back to the bookstore and demand my money back. ;-) This book does, however, make the implicit claim (erroneously, in my opinion) that Arminian theology leads to what Arthur Pink in The Sovereignty of God calls liberalism. More accurately, it insists that Arminian theology leads to a man-centered gospel, which in itself is a hallmark of liberalism. While you will find no disagreement from me if you were to assert that a significant majority of liberals (if not all) are Arminian in theology, you will get a major disagreement that Arminianism leads to liberalism. I have been taught by and worked under conservative, orthodox, non-Calvinist leaders who are extremely Godly men, and I am uncomfortable with the assertion that their gospel is man-centered, when nothing could be further from the truth. However, the way this book presents the gospel leaves no doubt in my mind that any gospel that does not emphasize the sovereignty of God is sorely lacking. If none can be saved without God's help, then why insist that faith is a human work and not a gift of God? That is contradictory and unbilibcal. The middle chapters are without question excellent introductions. Following the TULIP acrostic, the authors detail each point in such a way that you are given a clear understanding of what each point entails, without feeling the need to write a volume on each. While the TULIP acrostic is followed, the authors eschew the traditional terms (total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, perseverance of the saints) for a much gentler and more polite terminology: Radical Depravity, Unconditional Election, Particular Redemption, Efficacious Grace, and Persevering Grace. I believe the authors are wise to take this tack, as I agree the traditional terms are loaded weapons for both sides of the issue and softening terminology while retaining accuracy potentially fosters discussion. Please be advised that in no way do they "water down" the doctrines by taking a softer stance in terminology. Indeed, many of the discussions in these chapters are hard for those who are unsure or whom do not subscribe to the doctrines of grace. They do not shy away from the issues surrounding them; however they leave the punching bags at home. For that I'm thankful. It actually made some discussions harder for me in some respects to have such a softer approach. The authors close the book with an extremely helpful discussion on two issues: what a "true Calvinist" looks like, and how Calvinism should work in everyday life. A quote I will share from the eighth chapter: "[S]o many of those who have discovered the beauty of Reformed theology, as described in this book, are anything but beautiful themselves....They have a bad reputation, and sadly, perhaps some of it is deserved." The authors work diligently in this chapter to combat the rigid, unfeeling, unsympathetic Calvinism that seems to be rampant and growing in some circles, instead showing a Calvinism that genuinely seeks the mind of Christ. Indeed, I wholeheartedly agree with the authors' vision of what a "true Calvinist" should look like--one conformed to the image of Christ. Oh, would that both Calvinists and Arminians would seek to be conformed to Christ in all things instead of resorting to petty bickering! We'd get further in these discussions if only our ultimate goal was Christ and Him crucified. I very much appreciated the final chapter, penned by Ryken, giving a practical look at what I'm going to term "applied Calvinism." He seeks to answer the question, "How does Calvinism work itself out in life?" His answer can be summed up in a single statement from the ninth and final chapter: "[T]he heart of Reformed theology is a passion for God's glory, not simply in redemption but in all of creation." This includes our work, our play, our disciplines such as art, finance, science, history, government, and so on. Ryken presents a compelling vision for Calvinist interaction with the world that can only be described as wholly Christian. I remarked to a friend that this book is wonderful for someone investigating the doctrines because one does not have to chew on them, one can drink them. I now revise that statement. This book is not a milk-bottle, but is a bowl of stew or goulash, as opposed to a full-on steak dinner. It is intended for the layman, but assumes some basic level of theological knowledge. It is an excellent springboard for serious study of the doctrines of grace. This book is highly recommended by me to anyone who wants to seriously begin to study what Calvinism is all about without the debate surrounding it.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Ellie Pic of the Week

Welcome to a new feature: Ellie pic of the week! I'll pictorally chronicle the famous Ellie every week. Here's the first submission: Aw, ain't she cute? In other news, I plan to have either What Is An Evangelical? Part 3 or my review of The Doctrines of Grace up sometime tomorrow evening.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Lyrical Experience

Just wanted to throw down some lyrics running through my head: Forgiven Not Forsaken by Stephen Newell I'm so high on my own life Sinkin' down into the mire Clawin' hard, swimmin' fast Didn't know things were so dire I don't care a single whit Who You are or why You're here Why should I give up my life Just because You've drawn so near All we are is a grain of sand On a ball of dust in Wonderland Lumps of clay You sculpt again We're forgiven, not forsaken You call out to my stone heart I don't care to hear Your words Deaf in ears, and deaf in heart Look at You, You're so absurd But, Father, You had a plan Picked me out as Your child Heart of stone, now heart of flesh Made my spirit soar so wild All we are is a grain of sand On a ball of dust in Wonderland Lumps of clay You sculpt again We're forgiven, not forsaken Father, You, You had a plan Picked me out for Your Son Gave me faith to believe Victory, my life You won You are all that I am Gave me reason to exist I love You for what You've done Take me home into the mist All we are is a grain of sand On a ball of dust in Wonderland Lumps of clay You sculpt again We're forgiven, not forsaken Amen and amen.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Doctrines of Grace

In conjunction with my personal study of Arthur Pink's The Sovereignty of God, I picked up The Doctrines of Grace by James Montgomery Boice and Philip Graham Ryken. This particular book is written as a primer into the doctrines of grace, more commonly known as Calvinism. I'm almost finished with it, as I needed a massive break from the 40 oz. steak dinner that is Pink's book for some simple tea and munchies. I'm glad I did--this book is great. I'm not yet convinced as to all the points of Calvinism (I'm at best a 4-point Calvinist), but this book so far has been compelling. The only thing I don't like is a defense of a problem passage relating to the perseverance of the saints, one of my favorite doctrines and a doctrine that I fiercely support. Oh well. I'll post a review when I'm completely done. In the meantime, rest in the knowledge that What Is An Evangelical? Part 3 will soon be forthcoming!

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Southern Seminary Dating Game

Ex Quo has an interesting take on how single guys around here prove they're Pimp Daddies:
Girl in the bookstore is looking at CDs. Guy: So how are you doing? Girl: I'm fine. Just looking at CDs. Guy: Ah, that's cool. Say, can I ask you a question? Girl: Sure. Guy: Well, I was praying about this last night, and I really felt that God was leading me towards asking you out. So, I was wondering if we could go out some night to get to know each other better. Girl: Well, I really don't want to be in a relationship right now. Guy: Oh, that's cool. I just wanted to hang out and get to know you better. Girl: Well, let me pray about it and see. Guy: OK, well, I'll see ya around. GUY turns and leaves. GUY 2 enters. GUY2: Hey, how's it going? Girl: Oh, I'm fine. Hey, guess what? Some guy just pulled out the God card on me when he asked me out.
Isn't that hilarious? For the full post, click on Ex Quo's name at the beginning of this post. Now, seriously, I'm so glad I didn't really try dating any Southern Seminary girls in my time here. Not that I wasn't attracted to the ladies or didn't want to date any of them (this just in: Southern girls are HOT), but you know what, you never knew if a particular girl was attached. I would say that until the past couple of years, at least 75% of the female population here were married or fixing to be. That's not good odds for a young, single first or second year seminary student. So it was not as good a use of my time to find an available girl. I must say, it paid off--when I finally did attempt to date a seminary girl, she introduced me to my fiancee, who is NOT a student here! In fact, she's a former Catholic, to boot. Take THAT, ladies! (Removes tongue from cheek) Every time I've heard a female student discuss the men in this place it's always been in a negative context. For example: "They're just looking for a wife because the church won't hire them unless they're married. They play the God card. I just want a man who wants me for me, not for my theological value. They're socially inept nerds." Yes, I actually did hear those last two. The moral of this story? If you really think you're gonna find a "trophy wife" at Southern, think again--God's Will is what happens when you're making other plans. Just let it happen, guys. You don't need to get your Mack on. We can't all be like Will Smith in Hitch.

Friday, November 11, 2005

What Is An Evangelical? Part 2 - The Gospel of Christ

At long last, Part 2 of my What Is An Evangelical? series has arrived! Thanks to all who showed patience and restraint in not cussing me for delaying. Let's recap quickly what an evangelical is: an "evangelical" is a person (preacher), church, or denomination that has the Gospel of Jesus Christ, especially the primacy of Christ's work, as the central article of faith; that believes the spreading of the Gospel and the salvation of souls is the number one duty of the Christian; that believes all moral/spiritual truth is found in the Bible; and that Christians are called to live lives of service before God and fellow man. This week we are examining: The Gospel of Jesus Christ

Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

1 Corinthians 15:1-8

It should be obvious to the reader that this is the very heart of the Gospel. Paul here repeats what is believed to be the earliest Christian creed ever. We would do well to take heed to what is the clear teaching of the Twelve to Paul. Firstly, we need to understand that this passage underscores why the Gospel is of primary focus for evangelicals: Paul passes this confession to the Corinthians as of first importance. The Greek implies that this teaching logically is "above all," meaning it is the one thing we cannot do without. Christ died for our sins. Christ dies for the sins of fallen humanity. Jesus made a vicarious, sacrificial, atoning death for our sins, that through Him we might be restored to a right relationship with God. Christ was buried. Lest anyone say, "Jesus didn't really die," the Apostles affirm that Jesus was buried in a tomb. You don't waste a perfectly good tomb on someone who is alive, much less put a Roman guard on it! Never mind that from the Gospel accounts alone it can be medically verified that Jesus really did die. That made burial, well, necessary! Christ rose from the tomb on the third day. Without the Resurrection, there is no Christianity. Period. Unless Jesus defeats death by rising from the dead, His work is in vain, God is thwarted, and we are hopelessly lost in a never ending cycle of sin. Paul says that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, we are to be pitied most of all humanity, for we have been horribly deceived. Our entire lives have been a worthless waste. (1 Cor. 15:12-19) Christ appeared to many eyewitnesses after the Resurrection. Without appearing to those who knew Him, how would we know that He rose from the dead? For all we know, the tomb is still sealed tightly, waiting for an archaeologist to uncover it. But it is interesting to note that He appeared to so many people that it cannot be dismissed as grief, hallucinations, mob mentality, or "group-think." Even more interesting is that no Jewish authority from the time denies that His tomb was empty! Instead they tried to explain it away. Quite implausibly, I must add. The presence of eyewitnesses further cements early Christian history and theology, because if anyone tried to slander Jesus or make up false stories about him, you had eyewitnesses who could refute or corroborate any reports. The Gospel thus receives a firm grounding in reality by the presence of eyewitnesses. But it is interesting to note the addendum "in accordance with the Scriptures." This indicates that Christ died for us only because it has pleased God to allow Him to do so. God declared His will in His word, the Bible, and Jesus performed it expressly and perfectly. All other parts of this confession must be understood in the context that nothing happened unless God expressly willed it. How this enlightens Jesus's statement in John 5 that He can only do what He sees the Father doing! Just think, from the beginning of time (nay before time began!), God saw me and planned meticulously to save me, and allowed Jesus to see me and carry out that plan save me, and led the Holy Spirit to move me into His wondrous light. How humbling. I am driven to my knees in thanksgiving and praise to God, that He would have mercy on me, a sinner. As you may be able to see, this explanation of the Gospel of Christ leads into several essential Christian doctrines, namely the doctrines of atonement, resurrection, and sovereignty, to name three obvious choices. These doctrines themselves give birth to others which help flesh out what Christians historically have believed. So the centrality of the Gospel in evangelical (and indeed Christian) thought is illustrated. So, then, the Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaims that before the hands of the watch began to move, before God placed the singularity that caused the Big Bang ("Let There Be Light!"), God knew us. According to His divine and sovereign will, He sent His Son as a ransom, a sacrifice, for our sins, an atonement by which we are made right with God for ever. By His grace we are able to accept the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. "By grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves--it is the gift of God; not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9)." Don't you want the same kind of faith that can trust in God's power over existence? Faith that can save you through the atoning work of Jesus? This, my friend, is the Gospel. Jesus died and rose again so that by God's grace you might be saved. Won't you pray that His grace extend to you, that you might believe and be saved? "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (Romans 10:9-10)" You don't need to get right with God (clean up your life) first--this is HOW you get right with God! He declares His grace is enough for you, because His strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9)! Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you WILL be saved! Next time in Part 3 we will examine evangelism, the second trait of an evangelical. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Precious Lord, Reveal Your Heart to Me

An early morning praise and worship before bed. God of Wonders Lord of all creation Of water, earth, and sky The heavens are Your tabernacle Glory to the Lord on high! God of wonders beyond our galaxy You are holy, holy The universe declares Your majesty You are holy, holy Lord of heaven and earth Lord of heaven and earth Early in the morning I will celebrate the light! When I stumble in the darkness I will call Your name by night!! God of wonders beyond our galaxy You are holy, holy The universe declares Your majesty You are holy, holy Lord of heaven and earth Lord of heaven and earth Hallelujah to the Lord of heaven and earth! Hallelujah to the Lord of heaven and earth! Hallelujah to the Lord of heaven and earth! God of wonders beyond our galaxy You are holy, holy Precious Lord, reveal Your heart to me! Father, hold me, hold me! The universe declares Your majesty You are holy, holy God of wonders beyond our galaxy You are holy, holy!! The universe declares Your majesty! You are holy, holy!! You are holy, holy!! You are holy, holy!! You are holy, holy. Selah.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Road Goes Ever On and On

And now, from Lord of the Rings: The Road goes ever on and on Down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow, if I can, Pursuing it with eager feet, Until it joins some larger way Where many paths and errands meet. And whither then? I cannot say. The Road goes ever on and on Out from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, Let others follow it who can! Let them a journey new begin, But I at last with weary feet Will turn towards the lighted inn, My evening-rest and sleep to meet. Selah.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Force Users In Disguise

Oh my stars and garters...two of my favorite indulgences as a child have now been brought together to form a toy of epic proportions. Transformers and Star Wars have merged to create the first ever Star Wars Transformers! Details to be found here. This is great stuff. They're starting it off with 4 figures: Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi, General Grievous, and Luke Skywalker; each of which transforms into a signature vehicle from the saga. I can't wait. But alas, my budget may not allow for it. I must trust the Force on this one. Excuse me while I go pour myself some Energon.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

More Jewish Hi-Jinks

After the Jewish debacle of a month or so ago on this blog, I've pretty much remained silent on political issues for a while. But now I feel the need to take another stab at it. I'll post the story from a Jewish news service here first. Second, for those of you who like a good bloodletting, I'll hook you up with Vox Day's commentary on the issue here. Further showing how out of touch Abraham Foxman and the ADF are, the most disturbing thing about this rant isn't the subject matter, but the fact that it is "the first all-out media assault by an ADL head on the U.S. Christian establishment." Mr. Foxman and the ADL have been content to sit by and hurl insults and vitriol at Christians--especially Southern Baptists--in the past, but now they've gone out and fired cannon. As Vox shows, we can fire cannon, too. Okay, folks, we've heard these silly, baseless charges of "theocracy" before. Even sillier is his assertion--obviously made in an attempt at ridicule--that we want to "Christianize" SpongeBob. Okay, I can ridicule too. I despise SpongeBob, as do many others, but not on theological grounds. I despise SpongeBob because he makes me feel like I lose IQ points. It's a moronic character on a moronic show that does nothing to improve the intelligence of our children. I expect better of children's programming, and I'm not even a parent yet. Foxman's words sound more like the ravings of a bitter man. We Christians have bigger fish to fry (no pun intended) than SpongeBob and his cohort of crustaceans. Near the end of the article, however, Mr. Foxman does venture into the realm of reality:
"No effort is made to hide their goals or their ambitions, and their vision of America is far different from ours." Foxman traced the growing spread of Christian extremism to a crisis in values among large segments of the American population and a corresponding yearning for religious content, along with the presence of President George Bush as an encouraging ally. However, Foxman identified the central cause as a sense of persecution and the perception that religion, in general, and Christianity, in particular, are under attack from the liberals in the U.S.
Well, no wonder, Sherlock. When you stand up and foam at the mouth about Christianity and Christians, maybe we feel a smidgen of persecution. When you go to court to tell us that things we've done since the foundation of this country are illegal, maybe we feel a smidgen of persecution. When we defend ourselves and you call us racist, intolerant, bigoted, homophobic, or what have you; maybe we feel a smidgen of persecution. The "goals and ambitions" of Christians are certainly different from Mr. Foxman and his ilk (can he be said to have "ilk?"), and nothing more glaringly illustrates this concept that the words of Jesus in Mark 12:28-34:
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." "Well said, teacher," the man replied. "You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
Oh, how I wish Mr. Foxman would get it through his head that this is what drives Christians to operate. Oh, how I wish he would dare not ask any more questions. But he shows himself to be the real extremist here. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Extremists give the faith they adhere to a bad name.

Knockin' On Heaven's Door

Before I go to bed, here's my own "Deaf" version of that great classic Knockin' On Heaven's Door. Mama, take this hearin' aid off me I don't need it anymore I'm gettin' deaf, too deaf to hear a thing And I feel like I'm knockin' on Heaven's door Knock, knock, knockin' on Heaven's door Knock, knock, knockin' on Heaven's door Knock, knock, knockin' on Heaven's door Knock, knock, knockin' on Heaven's door Mama, stop worryin' 'bout me I'm not a kid anymore I may be deaf, but Jesus shines on me One day I'll be knockin' on Heaven's door Knock, knock, knockin' on Heaven's door Knock, knock, knockin' on Heaven's door Knock, knock, knockin' on Heaven's door Knock, knock, knockin' on Heaven's door Brothers, put your trust upon the Lord He's the one you're lookin' for Deaf or hearing, He'll protect you with His Word When you die, you'll be knockin' on Heaven's door... Selah.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Catholics vs. Baptists

Well, today Tennessee played Notre Dame in football. For a while it looked like we would have the same old same old. Erik Ainge was horrible, the defense was putting on another clinic after giving up a couple of early big plays, and the offense just wasn't cutting it. ND led 21-10 at the half. Then the third quarter started, and it was great to be a Tennessee Vol. Ainge finally started playing like the quarterback he was made out to be all along, leading a couple of scoring drives that were the exact definition of "Tennessee football" and looking for all the world like Heath Shuler. I won't go so far as to equate him with Peyton Manning or Andy Kelly, and I'm saving my Casey Clausen comparisons for a devastating insult. But all in all, it was tied up 21-21. Then the luck of the Irish struck. After getting a touchdown, the Irish then proceeded to get consecutive interceptions, the first leading to 7 points and the other being returned for a touchdown. They also managed to insert a touchdown drive in between picks. When I left the tv in disgust, it was 41-21. Take away a first half punt return for a TD and those two picks, Tennessee leads 21-20. I've heard rumors this will be the last time UT and Notre Dame play for some time, and that saddens me. This is a great game on the schedule. Plus it gives me something to compete with Tricia's family about. If you haven't been told, her family is Catholic. It's all in fun, of course! But I guess this year we're still apostates. I'll see you again after I return from confession.

Teetertottertaler..Or However Ya Spell It

teetotaler (TEE toh tuh ler; tee TOH tuh ler [depending on whether you're Southern or Yankee]) n. One who completely abstains from alcoholic beverages. So I actually do know how to spell it. I have decided, at great personal chagrin, to officially become a teetotaler. This will come as a shock to those who knew me in college and will hardly surprise anyone who knows me now or has known me growing up. But let me elaborate further: I am labelling myself a "teetotaler" for the giggle factor. No, really. I remember reading this word numerous times as a small child and giggling uncontrollably at the mental images it conjured. I remember repeating this word to my friends and them giggling just as uncontrollably. Never mind that we didn't have a clue what the word meant, it just sounded pretty dang funny. One has to admit that teetotalism is pretty dang funny in and of itself. I agree in principle with the concept; however, claiming Biblical basis for it is an entirely different matter. That discussion is probably neither here nor there at the moment, but suffice it to say that if I were to partake of my favorite fraternity drink from days of yore, these days it would mean no M.Div. for me. And all in the name of "avoiding any appearance of evil." I'm reminded strongly of similarly silly prohibitions against such things as dancing and requiring women to wear ankle-length dresses and long sleeves, simply to avoid temptation and the appearance of evil. I wonder, though: aren't we adults? Now, I can understand requiring this of Boyce students, but isn't the average seminary student at least 25 years old on the younger end? Aren't we mature enough to make wise decisions regarding alcohol? Never mind that most people I know on campus aren't drinkers nor would they drink if they had the option. But those same people simply don't seem to care. Beer, wine, etc., to people like us is just another thing to drink. We don't have the mindset of frat boys and sorority chicks about it. We just...don' We like Coke and sweet tea better, anyway. Now, as I work third shift and just got off, I need to get in bed. But I will soon be approaching a group of small children at my church to shout, "Ta-DAAA!!! I'm a teetotaler!!!" Can't you just imagine the silly grins and uncontrollable giggles of those precious gifts of God?

Friday, November 04, 2005

Cafe Blogging

As I write this, I am sitting in Panera Bread in the Mall St. Matthews. This is my second ever foray into "cafe internet." There's something great about being able to grab my laptop, a couple of good books, and head to the nearest cafe for a sammich, Dr. Pepper, and free wifi (wireless internet for the untutored). I actually wrote a book review while at Panera, so it's nice to be able to come here with no homework to do. Though I digress--I may start typing up the liturgy I've been working on. I like typing better than I do handwriting these days. This is an interesting environment. Being the mall, there is a plethora of beautiful young women and young men, and not a few older types. In fact, I see very few Baby Boomers here--most of the patrons are under 35 or over 50. There is an over-60 couple at the table across the room from me arguing rather loudly. Thank the good Lord I'm deaf--I can just simply shut off my hearing aid. *goofy smile* But I'd like to make a point about the beautiful young women. Several have made a point to attract my glance, especially the two drop-dead gorgeous single moms with year-old babies sitting by the window. I am feeling the lack of a wedding ring rather ominously right now. Maybe the fact that I'm engaged just gives me the aura of a man who's not afraid of commitment. Furthermore, one young lady (unattached and unsaddled with children--in fact I'd say she's a college soph) saw me sitting at my computer looking unassumedly gorgeous and available, walked over, and made a show of tying her shoe in such a position that if I closed my laptop I would be given an unfettered view of her, uhm, ampleness. As she stood she looked me in the eye but I made a rather pronounced point of concentrating on my laptop, and she walked away. Okay, you may now begin slashing away at the hubris. I'm not that good looking. But seriously, is there that much of a shortage of available, confident men that girls would shamelessly flirt with a guy who still hasn't slept? Much less a blogger? Much less a Deaf Jedi? Perhaps this says something about the quality of men these ladies have been pursuing lately. We can only hope that women the world over get the hint and stop going after the bad boys. Tricia, fortunately, never had that problem. The first guy she really went after was a good guy, and he mutually went after her, and lo and behold she's marrying him. At least I hope I'm a good guy. Well, I think I will read a few new blogs and then get the liturgy typed up so I can get it finished before the weekend is over!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Beer Water

I didn't post on this before because I thought it was kinda stupid and I didn't want to post about stupidity, but reading Steve McCoy's blog tonight I found a statement on this. But first let me tell you what happened. Apparently, Alabama Baptist volunteers were in Clewiston, Florida handing out supplies to hurricane victims. A local NBC news crew came to tape, and "discovered" that the volunteers were "refusing" to hand out bottled watter becuase it had Budweiser beer logos on the bottles. Now, this story didn't make a big fuss; indeed it went sort of unnoticed. But those of us in Baptist circles got all indignated and stuff. Most of us thought our beliefs about alcohol had nothing to do with passing out water. In fact, we thought these guys were being stupid. Me, I thought it was just another example of the stupidity of Alabama rednecks (spoken with tongue firmly in cheek). However, as Paul Harvey loves to say, there is the rest of the story. While on Steve's blog tonight I found a release by Keith Hinson of the Alabama Baptist Convention. I'll reproduce it here.
Volunteers working with the Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief Unit honored the request of the host pastor to set aside canned water with an Anheuser-Busch logo. At no time was anyone deprived of water. In fact, there was a huge surplus of bottled and canned water available at the Clewiston relief site. There was never any disruption in the supply of water being given out to members of the public who continued to receive food, water and other types of assistance from Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief workers. It is an absolute falsehood to suggest -- as many irresponsible bloggers have -- that the Baptist volunteers withheld the basic needs of life from Floridians impacted by the hurricane. Contrary to misinterpretations of news reports, no one was denied access to water. One may disagree with the strong stand that many Southern Baptists take against the consumption of alcohol. One may even regard such opposition to alcohol as offensive. But it's impossible to say truthfully that this conviction caused any inconvenience or shortage for victims of Hurricane Wilma. The facts are exactly the opposite. The fact is that virtually all of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers serve selflessly -- taking time away from employment and family to minister in the name of Jesus Christ. Churches such as First Baptist Church, Clewiston, graciously serve as host sites -- providing a place where food, water and other necessities of life may be obtained by anyone in need -- without regard to religion or any other demographic consideration. -- Keith Hinson, public relations associate Alabama Baptist Convention State Board of Missions Montgomery, Alabama
Now, if what Mr. Hinson says is true, once again the media has gone about to make Southern Baptists--and Christians in general--look bad. On another blog (Mainstream Baptist) the station that reported it even issued a release saying their story was 100% true, and that furthermore no one got any water until Hinson's "surplus water" arrived. I don't know what really happened, but this whole thing is getting sillier and sillier. That's because the station has out-and-out lied in this release. Here's a quote from Steve's blog by one D.R. Randle:
Steve, maybe we are reading two different articles and two different responses by Keith. Here is what the reporters said: "Hurricane victims who wanted water had some difficultly finding it at a relief station in Clewiston Friday. . . Resident lined up for miles to receive food and water at the distribution point. But the water was left on the sidelines by the Alabama-based group . . . The water has been available all along, but the SBC volunteers set it aside and few people knew it was available." It sounds like the people were not given any water whatsoever -- as if it was not made available to the people who needed it. However, this is what Keith said, "There was never any disruption in the supply of water being given out to members of the public who continued to receive food, water and other types of assistance from Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief workers . . . Contrary to misinterpretations of news reports, no one was denied access to water." Now, I admit that Keith did not come right out and say that the reporters created a falsehood (and honestly, it could be contended that the reporter didn't say anything untrue), but isn't it obvious that if what Keith is saying is true then don't you see this report as misleading and thus not what many have made it out to be. The fact is that this is not an SBC incident -- or even an Alabama Baptist convention incident. It comes down to a few workers who was asked by one pastor not to distribute certain cans of water because he had the conviction (rightly or wrongly) that it shouldn't be done. That's it! To portray this as an act of the SBC or of the ABC is untrue. And like I said to Doug, shouldn't we be angry at a reporter who possibly wrote a report which lead people to believe that SBC'ers denied water to people who needed it because it bore a beer label. I am not trying to defend the actions of the few Baptists who chose not to give out the water (though I do want to defend them against false reports about people not getting water at all), but it seems that because I don't walk lock-step with the non-teetolers on this issue, then I am somehow on par with the stereotypical teetoler that has been perpetuated by some commenters both here and elsewhere who have discussed the drinking issue over the last few weeks. Isn't that being close-minded?

Notice the part where the reporters said there was water available but declined to find out if it was Hinson's "surplus water."

This guy speaks my mind on this subject. Far from defending the Florida pastor who, I guess, "ordered" this behavior, I'm much more inclined to be indignated about yet another media twisting of our faith. But I'll leave you with one last comment from Steve's blog that really put this whole issue in perspective for me:
There's a bit of irony in the fact that they were down there refusing to serve water, while we're up here complaining about it.

"God Will Provide"

I found an interesting article on today: Church-going boosts economic well-being? I find it very interesting that the figure cited for financial increase is nearly the exact same figure that we traditionally have been expected to tithe. And the study says absolutely nothing about tithing to begin with! So the moral of this story seems to be: go to church and see God's blessings. I wonder if the blessings are less related to actual church attendance than they are to what one does in church. I can go to church and not give a flying fiddle dee dee what happens inside, but if I go to church with the intent of being a worshipping, giving individual, I gain benefit. Well, let's pray that our people will a) start coming to church more; and b) give more; so that c) they get more. No one can truly satisfy our every need like Jesus! Update: Some of you may have noticed that What Is An Evangelical? Part 2 is notoriously missing. I have removed it. "Gasp! No!" you say. "Oh yes, yes, yes!" I retort! I have been extremely dissatisfied with that post from the moment I posted it. I will be rewriting it with a goal of having it up by dinnertime Saturday. Don't worry, I have the original post saved.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

News From the Orange Bully Pulpit

Rick Clausen runs his California mouth:
"Don’t blame that man. Blame us. We’re the ones that go out and play, so blame us....I’m just (ticked) at the whole situation. I’m (ticked) at everybody. I’m (ticked) at myself...I feel like I let him down. His job and his wife’s livelihood and his daughters’ livelihood were basically in my hands. If I go out and don’t throw an interception, we probably beat South Carolina. If I don’t throw an interception against Georgia, we probably beat Georgia. "If we don’t fumble the ball two times inside the 10-yard line against Alabama, we probably beat Alabama and nobody’s talking about this right now. That’s the most upsetting thing. The players have done it. The players have basically forced Coach Sanders to resign.... The fans started pointing fingers, the media started pointing fingers and it’s so unfortunate it had to be Coach Sanders, but, hey, I guess that’s the person people around here like to pick on.... "Not only are you affecting him, but you’re affecting his family and affecting his kids. That’s not right. We’re supposed to be the Tennessee family, and you’re just going to kick him to the curb like that. That ain’t right. "This is a so-called family, so let’s act like a family."
Now, let me make it perfectly clear. Any insult towards Randy Sanders as a man, any abuse towards him as a person and a coach, any criticism having nothing to do with his handling of the Tennessee offense, is out of line. Anyone who would abuse the man and his family deserves to be set upon by a pack of rabid pit bulls. Randy Sanders was a man, a man's man, and a Big-Orange-bleed-orange-and-white man. Respect this man. Love this man. But do not, do not, make the mistake that it was NOT his coaching that produced players who can't play. But Rick Clausen needs to shut his mouth. It is obvious to everyone except him that he is an inept quarterback. He knows nothing about tradition here. He doesn't have to pay for tickets. He doesn't even have to pay to fly out to a game. He doesn't donate his hard-earned money (in the form of tickets, merchandise, and other avenues) to provide the uniforms he and other players wear. He needs to sit down and shut up. How dare he attack the most die-hard fans in college football. How dare he attack the most loyal fans in the South. How dare he deign to lecture us. No less than Phillip Fulmer himself declared us to be "Tennessee Loyal Volunteers." We have suffered enough, the players have suffered enough, and Coach Fulmer has suffered enough. The betterment of Tennessee football is the goal, not the glorification of a coach or player. Rick Clausen cannot graduate fast enough for me. It will be no big loss if we do not get his little brother into our stable.

Breaking News: Clash of the Theologians

EXTRA EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT! AL MOHLER AND PAIGE PATTERSON TO DEBATE CALVINISM AT SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION 2006! Story may be read here. Coffee and bagels to be had at Java on Frankfort Avenue. Reaction to follow. The Deaf Jedi's prediction: Mohler by a KO, with the fans becoming rowdy and causing disturbances that spill over into the general sessions. Oh wow, we're gonna have theology hooligans! Theology is now a spectator sport, woohoo!