For Offenses Must Come

07/31/2008, 10:00 am -- by | No Comments

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
 
“Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!”
(Matthew 18:5-7)

Many Christians live in a vague detachment from the Word to Whom they have pledged their lives. After a burst of post-conversion piety, the novelty wears off; eventually, a certain level of maturity is simply assumed, and a nodding familiarity with the Bible’s greatest hits is accepted in place of the study required to “rightly divide the Word of Truth” (2 Tim 2:15).

One explanation is a rootless conversion, founded in the rocky soil of emotion. Another is creeping unbelief: hidden, lurking in the heart until vindicated by disaster.

——————————————–

I recently read a startling, heartbreaking story of the aftermath of a Texas exorcism. It first attracted my attention as a legal issue, but the plaintiffs and the reporter are far too optimistic about their chances at the Supreme Court. For reasons you probably don’t care about, it’s unlikely that court will ever hear the case.

Instead, I can’t stop thinking about two individuals.

First, the youth pastor, chaperoning a Friday night lock-in. A teenage boy approaches him, claiming he has seen a demon near the sanctuary. The youth leader tells the group about this purported sighting, instructing the children to anoint the entire church with holy oil and keeping them up all night in “a spirited effort” to cast out the demons. He even props a cross up against the outside door for protection. Hours pass before he sees “a cloud of the presence of God fill the church,” finally releasing them from their holy duty.

The very next night, after one of his youth falls to the ground during prayer, the youth pastor leads the charge to cast a demon from her. Less than a week later, at another meeting, he and several others repeat the attempt, with intense fervor.

Second, the girl’s father, a pastor and missionary in the denomination. After these failed exorcisms on his own daughter, he meets with the church’s pastor, who speaks with the youth pastor and the students to clarify doctrine.

But it is too late. The family leaves the church. The daughter, who had struggled with depression during the family’s time on the mission field in Africa, drops out of high school and is diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Her father watches his daughter suffer. He leaves the faith for the uncertainty of agnosticism. “I don\’t believe in demons,” he says today. “I doubt that God exists.”

——————————————–

There is much to mourn in this story.

I believe in the possibility of demonic influence over people, although I suspect that many historical reports were, in truth, undiagnosed mental illness. And although I am not a particularly emotional person, I defend the importance of emotion in religious practice. I have been to — and have led — enough charismatic worship services to understand both the drawbacks and the benefits of emotional expression in a religious context.

But where, God save him, was that youth pastor’s mind? What was he thinking? Did he truly believe that original demon sighting; does he still think he responded well? It all seems so foolish, so utterly irrational. And for all the failings of intellect (they are legion), there is still more to trust in the mind than amidst the shifting sands of emotion. The Christian faith is, after all, founded on “epistemological optimism,” defined by the late William F. Buckley (in a 1970 interview with Playboy, of all things) as “the notion that some things are better than others and that we can know what those things are.”

But we do not identify those “better” things by how they make us feel — we cannot hope to do so! — for our feelings are inconsistent. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jer 17:9). As I wrote in my own testimony not long ago: “In a world with so many competing beliefs and religions, how Jesus makes us feel is not what makes us ”” or Him ”” unique.” Travel the road of emotion exclusively and you will meet ruin, one way or another.

Both men in this story have seen emotions cloud their judgment, as one became the means for the offense of the other. But honestly, I have more trust in the second: the shattered father voicing his doubt. For I have compelling reasons to believe that the Lord he followed to Africa and back again is strong enough to heal and restore, merciful enough to forgive and reconcile, and ultimately, powerful enough to work even this for the good of those who love Him, and remain eternally called, according to His purpose.

Joke of the Day, 7/31/08

07/31/2008, 7:00 am -- by | No Comments

Why can’t gorillas play the trumpet?

They’re too sensitive.

Battle of the Bands LXIII

07/30/2008, 1:15 pm -- by | No Comments

Here is the next batch of band names from Esther; Royal Crest moves on to the playoffs!

Which band name is the best?
View Results

Bible Discussion — Esther 9-10

07/30/2008, 1:00 pm -- by | 1 Comment

This week, Bweinh.com finishes our discussion of Esther by addressing its last two chapters!

PREVIOUS DISCUSSIONS:
Genesis: 1-4 | 5-9 | 10-14 | 15-18 | 19-22 | 23-26
27-29 | 30-32 | 33-36 | 37-39 | 40-43 | 44-46 | 47-50
Exodus: 1-4 | 5-8 | 9-11 | 12-14 | 15-18
19-22 | 23-26 | 27-30 | 31-34 | 35-40
Romans: Ch. 1 | Ch. 2 | Ch. 3 | Ch. 4 | Ch. 5 | Ch. 6 | Ch. 7 | Ch. 8 (I)
Ch. 8 (II) | Ch. 9 | Ch. 10 | Ch. 11 | Ch. 12 | Ch. 13 | Ch. 14 | Ch. 15-16
Luke: 1:1-38 | 1:39-2:40 | 2:41-3:38 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10
11 | 12 | 13 | 14-15 | 16-17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24
Esther: 1-2 | 3-5 | 6-8

 
INTRODUCTION:
David:
Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time “to gather stones together and a time to cast stones away,” meaning a time to commemorate events and a time to let things slip away into obscurity and be forgotten. This great deliverance of the Jews is to be commemorated and celebrated forever.

Connie:
It’s showtime. All the preparations were made to the best of everyone’s ability, but the actual battles still had to be fought.

 
SOMETHING YOU’D NEVER NOTICED BEFORE:
Chloe:
It says repeatedly that the Jews did not lay hands on the plunder of the men they killed. This harks back to Deuteronomy, when God told the Israelites to destroy the towns of the people living in Canaan, taking no plunder so that they might remain ceremoniously clean. In other words, what the Jews committed in Esther was not a massacre, but a holy cleansing.

Connie:
Just like in the other battles the Jews had waged, part of the victory was in the reaction of the enemy to God’s movement on their behalf. 9:3 says that the Jews were helped by government officials during these battles, because the fear of Mordecai fell upon them.

David:
The king’s garrisons in each province helped the Jews.

 
BEST BAND NAME FROM THE PASSAGE:
Steve: Can’t Touch Plunder
Connie: Casting Pur
Chloe: Distant Shore
David: The 10 Sons of Haman

Continued here!

Once Upon A Time (Part One)

07/30/2008, 10:30 am -- by | 1 Comment

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived a prince. This prince had fair hair and blue eyes and chiseled features, and when he donned his armor, any lady would swoon for him if she had any sense at all.

No ladies, however, swooned for the prince when he donned his armor. This was not for lack of ladies with good sense; on the contrary, it was for lack of any women at all, ladies or otherwise.

The prince had been brought up with the knowledge that long ago, when he was a mere lad, an evil sorceress had come to the land and stolen all the unsuspecting women from their unsuspecting husbands and families in one terrible night. To this day, a national day of mourning was held to remember the country\’s women. Since these men were neither known for their coping skills nor their capacity for any emotion at all, this sacred day was more one of drinking and acting awkward around each other and puttering about the house like a child without his security blanket. Which is exactly what these men were.

This tragic event, the cornerstone of the prince\’s existence, was why he had donned the armor that would have made any sensible lady swoon. The prince had always known that as soon as he came of age, he would set out to rescue his country\’s womenfolk by vanquishing the evil sorceress and her dragon (he assumed), triumphantly returning the lost women to their hearths and choosing the most beautiful and noble as his bride, to stand beside him throughout his long and prosperous reign.

After bidding farewell to his aging father and his countrymen, the prince valiantly vaulted onto his noble white steed and rode off into the forest with nothing but his armor, his weapons, and a knapsack full of dried venison. No man had mastered the arts of bread, cheese, butter, or food in general since the women had disappeared — but they understood meat.

The prince rode his noble steed in the forest for three days, seeing and hearing naught but their own breath. On the third day, the prince entered a beautiful glade, at the center of which was a massive snoring ogre.

To be continued!

Once Upon A Time

07/30/2008, 10:30 am -- by | No Comments

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived a prince. This prince had fair hair and blue eyes and chiseled features, and when he donned his armor, any lady would swoon for him if she had any sense at all.

No ladies, however, swooned for the prince when he donned his armor. This was not for lack of ladies with good sense; on the contrary, it was for lack of any women at all, ladies or otherwise.

The prince had been brought up with the knowledge that long ago, when he was a mere lad, an evil sorceress had come to the land and stolen all the unsuspecting women from their unsuspecting husbands and families in one terrible night. To this day, a national day of mourning was held to remember the country\’s women. Since these men were neither known for their coping skills nor their capacity for any emotion at all, this sacred day was more one of drinking and acting awkward around each other and puttering about the house like a child without his security blanket. Which is exactly what these men were.

This tragic event, the cornerstone of the prince\’s existence, was why he had donned the armor that would have made any sensible lady swoon. The prince had always known that as soon as he came of age, he would set out to rescue his country\’s womenfolk by vanquishing the evil sorceress and her dragon (he assumed), triumphantly returning the lost women to their hearths and choosing the most beautiful and noble as his bride, to stand beside him throughout his long and prosperous reign.

After bidding farewell to his aging father and his countrymen, the prince valiantly vaulted onto his noble white steed and rode off into the forest with nothing but his armor, his weapons, and a knapsack full of dried venison. No man had mastered the arts of bread, cheese, butter, or food in general since the women had disappeared ”” but they understood meat.

The prince rode his noble steed in the forest for three days, seeing and hearing naught but their own breath. On the third day, the prince entered a beautiful glade, at the center of which was a massive snoring ogre.

The brave prince vaulted off his steed and unsheathed his magnificent sword, declaring, “Stand, Ogre, and meet my Doom!” Doom was, of course, the name of his blade.

The ogre sat up groggily and proved more massive than the prince might have imagined. The clever steed moved a safe distance away as the ogre yawned, filling the glade with the stench of death. Then the ogre stood and said, “Little prince, I will let you pass through my glade unmolested if you answer my question.”

The prince barked a laugh. “Let me? Nay, ogre, I will pass by on my own terms, with your head severed from your warty neck! Now stand and fight!”

The ogre sighed and shook his head. “Little prince, the first lesson you must learn is this: choose your battles wisely. There is more to won than glory, and more to be lost than honor. I ask you, then, what is your quest?”

The prince stood squarely and declared, “I go to release the women of my country from the clutches of an evil sorceress so that they may return to home, hearth and husband!” As an afterthought, he added, “I also go to find my one true love. And treasure, if there is any.”

At this, the ogre fell to his knees in a fit of laughter. The trees shook, the rocks trembled, and the prince faltered. “What are you laughing at?”

The ogre composed himself with some difficulty, wiping a mossy green tear from his eye and rising again to his feet. “I will let you pass, little prince. I will even let you jab your little doom at me, if you like. You have far greater battles ahead.”

The prince mounted his distant steed then, and did indeed jab his sword at the ogre, because he didn\’t like to be laughed at. He didn\’t break the skin, though; he didn\’t much feel like jabbing any longer.

The prince rode on for three more days, until he came to the edge of the forest and the shore of a wide, deep lake. On either side and as far as he could see, the water stretched on. The prince was perplexed, and had no idea what to do with this turn of events.

At that moment, a great and ugly beast reared its head from the depths of the briny blue. “Hello, little prince,” the kraken gurgled.

“You know, I\’m not that little where I come from,” the prince muttered, hefting his spear. “And unless you tell me how to cross this great water, I shall force you to forfeit your life, monster!”

“Will you?” the kraken asked, but his amusement didn\’t show well on his mucky face. “Well, then, I will tell you how to cross this water ”” if you will first tell me why you are so intent on crossing it.”

The prince, still somewhat stung by his encounter with the ogre, chose to slightly amend his quest. “I journey to release my countrywomen from the clutches of an evil sorceress and to find my one true”¦ queen.”

The kraken\’s peals of laughter were truly terrifying, boiling and churning the waters to a frothy gray soup. The prince missed soup.

When the kraken recovered himself, he said, “I will gladly take you across this water. You\’ll need all the help you can get. Climb onto my back, you and your gentle steed. You have nothing to fear from me.”

“What were you laughing at?” the prince asked tentatively, as he settled onto the kraken\’s briny back.

“Me? Oh, nothing. Frog in my throat, all that.”

When they reached the other side of the vast lake and the kraken deposited the prince and his noble sea horse on firm sand again, the kraken said, “I leave you with one piece of wisdom, little prince. Nothing is as it seems. For all your power, your greatest weapon is knowing when to surrender.”

“But a real man never surrenders!” the prince called out. The kraken, however, had already disappeared into the deep.

For three days longer, the prince and his steed traveled. On the third day, when the prince began to despair of ever returning home, he came upon a boneyard, stretching on for miles beyond the horizon. In the center of the carnage was a dragon, massive and black, and curled up asleep.

The prince and his cautious steed crept quietly amongst the refuse until they were close enough for the dragon\’s breath to singe their eyebrows. As the prince raised his lance to plunge it into the dragon\’s stone heart, it opened one eye and said, “You\’ll be lost for all eternity if you do that.”

Now, the young prince did not normally hesitate at the empty threats of his enemies. But he had been laughed at by both an ogre and a kraken, and his self-assurance was flagging. “Why?” he asked, a little bit whiny, lance still at the ready.

“You\’re the bloke means to round up all the women and take them back to their husbands?”

“How did you know?”

“News travels. You took a wrong turn few miles back.”

“And why will vanquishing you to the depths of Hades cause me to be lost for all eternity, wretched beast?”

“No, no. You\’re already lost. I know the way to where you\’re going, and I ate everyone else who knows. Knew.”

“Foul beast! You seek to lead me astray!” And the prince hefted his lance once again, to his wise steed\’s alarm.

“Before you kill me,” drawled the dragon, “may I offer you two pieces of wisdom?”

The brave prince, thrown off guard by this small generosity, assented. “First,” said the dragon, stretching leisurely, claws clicking on bone. “Stop calling people names. It\’s not nice. Second, ask for directions.”

“Is that all?” the prince asked, hefting his lance a third time.

“Oh, yes, and ”” ” The dragon released a colossally smoky guffaw. “That was in reference to your quest,” he said, and curled up to go back to sleep.

The prince, now almost completely at his wit\’s end, could no longer find it in himself to kill the dragon. In all honesty, he was almost sure the lance would glance off the thick black scales and the dragon would laugh at him again.

He simply could not bear that.

And so he tapped the dragon\’s shoulder with the tip of his lance and said politely, “If you please, which way to the evil sorceress\’s lair?”

This was how the prince came to find himself at the shore of a massive island, having first taken advantage of the ferry provided to assist commuters in traveling to and from the mainland. It was a nice ferry, well-kept and reasonably priced, and the prince enjoyed the slow chug of the engine and the sea breeze in his hair as the little boat crossed the channel. The horse did not enjoy it because he was not allowed on the ferry as he could not pay the toll, and the prince simply could not lend him any more money.

Upon reaching the island, the brave young prince leapt upon the land and bellowed, “I challenge the evil sorceress who stole the women of my country and turned them into slaves to a duel to the death!”

A fishwife on the dock stared at him for a moment before muttering, “Terrible grammar. What are they teaching in schools these days?”

No one else paid the bold prince any attention. So he sought out the nearest tavern, which was surprisingly clean and quiet for a dockside pub. In fact, it more resembled a tea house. The prince strode bravely to the bar and slammed his fist down on the counter. “I vow to handsomely reward any man who takes me to the evil sorceress residing on this island!”

He was met with silence. “Is there no one man enough to aid me in my quest?”

Someone cleared their throat primly. “Not particularly,” a voice answered. It was, in fact, a woman. They were all women, dressed in trousers and smudged with dirt.

The prince backed out of the tavern. “What manner of enchantment is this?” he cried, rushing into the street, where he only saw more women, women everywhere, and all in men\’s clothes, doing men\’s work, and scratching like men do.

This, the prince decided, was the last straw. He had been laughed at, threatened, and insulted, and now he was faced with more of the fairer sex than he had ever imagined existed — and they all acted like men. The trembling prince fell to his knees and wailed, “I want my mommy!”

All activity ceased. Suddenly every single human being was staring in his direction, her eyes wide and her breath held. The prince froze, as well, waiting for the women to attack him.

The nearest woman knelt by his side and cooed, “What\’s the matter, deary?” and clutched him to her buxom bosom.

The prince detached himself from the woman and cleared his throat. “I ”” I need to see”¦” he chose his words carefully, heeding the dragon\’s advice. “I need to see the lady with the magical powers.”

And so it was that the young and dashing prince found himself in the presence of the great and terrible sorceress Vashti, who had stolen away all the women of his kingdom. “Can I help you?” the villainous Vashti asked.

She didn\’t look like a sorceress. She looked like a rather ordinary middle-aged woman dressed up like a man, just come in from her gardening. What\’s more, her throne ”” for she was the president of the government, which the prince\’s guide called a “democracy” ”” was not very majestic. It looked more like a desk.

The prince cleared his throat awkwardly. He had more expected to battle the sorceress in the bowels of the earth, his sword against her spells, or perhaps on a vast plain, his skill against her cunning. Instead he was in an office, having been relieved of his weapons before entering. “No need for these barbarities,” the guard had said, picking the things up with her fingertips and grimacing before tossing them in a pile of other weapons. The prince had assumed the other weapons belonged to other noble princes who had fought and courageously died for the sake of their womenfolk. Perhaps he would join their ranks today, though he didn\’t particularly want to. He preferred to return home in time for some soup.

The prince cleared his throat a second time. “Where have you put the women you stole from me and my father\’s kingdom?”

“My father\’s kingdom and me. The pronoun is always last,” President Vashti corrected, then looked down at a memo on the desk. “What did you say your name was?”

“I am Prince Charming of the —”

“Oh, yes.” She cut him off. “Your father is a dirty lying scumbag.”

“You will not speak of my father with disrespect, woman!” the prince roared, reaching for his sword and grasping air.

“Woman?” the woman repeated, not even rising from her seat but succeeding in making the prince tremble with the look in her eyes. “I am President Vashti to you, worm. And don\’t you forget it.”

“Yes, ma\’am.”

“As I said, your father is a dirty lying scumbag. The fact of the matter is, we got so sick and tired of dealing with you idiots that we left. We warned you, but you never believed us, called us your little women, told us not to worry our pretty little heads, ordered us back to our hearths and to hush the baby. Meanwhile, you ran the country into the ground with your greediness, licentiousness, and plain stupidity ”” honor, you called it. So we packed up in the middle of the day, right in front of your gaping faces, and we left. So you can go back and tell your father, young man, that we\’ll be back when we damn well please!”

There was a little cheer from a guard in the hall. The prince stared at President Vashti and said, “Mother?”

The president stood and tidied her papers before straightening her vest and striding from the room. “Evil sorceress, indeed,” she muttered.

When the prince arrived back at the castle, admitting a sound defeat at the hands of the guileful sorceress, he gave his father and the whole kingdom a detailed account of his heroism and courage, then delivered the terrible news that the women had developed a highly successful society and intended to peacefully take over their country within the week.

At these foreboding tidings, the king said, “Man, that woman is stubborn,” and continued gnawing dejectedly on his beef jerky.

Quote of the Day, 7/30/08

07/30/2008, 7:00 am -- by | No Comments

“The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” — W. Churchill

What Jack Chick Doesn’t Believe

07/29/2008, 11:30 pm -- by | No Comments

What belief does this tract NOT assert?



 
If you picked “The Antichrist is alive and waiting to take power now,” you’re a winner!!

Yes or no, turkey?!

©1984-2008 Chick Publications, Inc. Reprinted without permission as fair use (parody).

I Like Lichen

07/29/2008, 11:00 am -- by | 1 Comment

I like lichen. I really do. We have a spectacular variety that thrives in the upper altitudes of southern California, a lime green sort that appears on the maroon bark of manzanita bushes, nestled in the whimsical grey whorls of the branches. During summer hikes it greets me from the trail, bursting bright and unexpected in the dusty desert forest that is the San Jacinto Mountains.

In honor of my dear high school geography teacher, a first-year newlywed fresh from Azusa Pacific University, who got really excited when she noticed the screen shots from Pride and Prejudice adorning my binder and made a valiant effort for the rest of the semester to discuss period movies with me before class, I\’d like to make an orthoepical aside. One day, reading from her prepared PowerPoint on the flora and fauna of some country or another in her wonted dutiful, indifferent tone, my teacher ended her litany of native species with a tentative, “and, um, ”˜litchen.\’”

I sat in the darkened, map-lined classroom and felt sad. Being a 16-year-old senior in a class of freshmen, I wasn\’t exactly sure where I stood. Could I correct her without making her look stupid? Her hold was already so shaky; it was all she could do to keep the delinquent who sat in front of me from falling asleep on his desk every day. Already in that short sole semester I spent at a public high school, I had caught my art history teacher writing “ascetic” instead of “aesthetic” on the board during vocabulary time, and my English teacher wavering over the spelling of “judgment.” In the latter instance, the entire class insisted it should have been “judgement,” against my solitary steadfast adherence to the former, a disagreement that was only resolved when a couple of girls found a dictionary in the back of the room and vindicated me (the extra “e” is a British form, one never used in the United States, a fact I quickly apprised my teacher of lest I appear less than knowledgeable on the point).

I decided to keep quiet. That any of the thirty-something ninth graders in the room, assuming any were paying attention, now thought that “litchen” was kosher, gnawed at me, but I told myself I needed to consider my teacher\’s well-being. I can say it now, though, without any repercussion: it\’s pronounced “liken,” with a long “i” sound and a hard “k,” coming from the Greek “leichen.” Just remember: I like lichen.

One Hundred Words (26)

07/29/2008, 9:00 am -- by | 1 Comment

Do you love to sweat? Do you love the Garden State? If you do, you will love my plans for Saturday. Six friends and I will be running the River to Sea Relay, a 92-mile relay race across New Jersey. We will be starting at 7:25 AM at Milford, on the Delaware River, and hopefully 13 hours later will collapse into the Atlantic Ocean, but not before traveling through 34 beautiful New Jersey towns. The sights, the sounds — and yes, that unique New Jersey smell — will be enjoyed by all. I’ll share pictures and a write-up next Monday.

–JMJ

Joke of the Day, 7/29/08

07/29/2008, 7:00 am -- by | No Comments

How many Irishmen does it take to change a lightbulb?

15. One to hold the bulb and the rest to drink until the room spins.

The Council’s Ruling — Punctuation

07/28/2008, 12:00 pm -- by | No Comments

This and every Monday, the Bweinh!tributors, having convened in secret for hours of reasoned debate and consideration, will issue a brief and binding ruling on an issue of great societal import.

This week’s question — What is the most underappreciated punctuation mark?

Steve delivers the ruling of the Council, joined by Chloe, Kaitlin, Tom, and MC-B:

It must be the semicolon — like man, an elegant unifier of seemingly disparate thoughts.

 

MC-B concurs, joined by Mike:

The semicolon: though underused, it has the power to bind two otherwise unrelated sentences together.

 

Djere dissents, joined by Connie and David:

The sarcostrophe. So many brainless people on the internet can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic. The sarcostrophe clears *ALL* that up.

 

Erin, Josh, and Job played no part in the determination of this issue.

Next time: Which candidate (if any) will you support for President?

One Hundred Words (25)

07/28/2008, 9:00 am -- by | No Comments

I may own more ironic T-shirts than any other registered Republican. I don’t know that I’m proud of this, but they sure beat sweater vests — and they’re useful when meeting people.

One of the best is the iconic, pink “I’m Too Pretty To Work.” On me, the assertion is incontrovertibly false, so missing this obvious dissonance marks you as overly polite or serious, maybe even slow.

But I watch most closely those who find it too funny, who draw undue attention to obvious absurdity. For I have found that those challenged by both irony and empathy are often unworthy of trust.

–sm

Quote of the Day, 7/28/08

07/28/2008, 7:00 am -- by | No Comments

“Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.” — P.J. O’Rourke

What Doesn’t Jack Chick Believe?

07/27/2008, 11:00 pm -- by | No Comments

 

©1984-2008 Chick Publications, Inc. Reprinted without permission as fair use (parody).

Which belief does this tract NOT assert?
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