Bible Discussion — Luke 4

01/16/2008, 12:00 pm -- by | No Comments

This week, looks at the next chapter of Luke, Luke 4.

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

John lists three things that drive the flesh: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Eve exhibited all three in man’s fall, finding the fruit good for food, pleasant to look upon, and desired to make one wise.

Jesus too faced all three in the wilderness: hunger, the glimmering apparition of all the world’s glory, and a challenge to his pride that began with, “If you really are the son of God:” Our fall is completely reversed in what Jesus faces to start off this chapter.

In this whirlwind passage, Jesus meets the Devil, becomes famous, heals the sick, and declares Himself to be the fulfillment of the prophesies of the Old Testament.

I missed Jesus’ explanation of how no prophet is accepted in His hometown, probably because when I’ve heard this chapter covered in the past, the focus has been on Jesus’ reading from Isaiah.

How much deliverance Jesus did at the start of His ministry. Initially it just mentions that He teaches, but when it comes to hands-on ministry, he deals the most with deliverance — because tormented people cannot listen/hear.

I’d never paid much attention to the story of Jesus in the synagogue. I just imagine what it would be like today for someone to stroll into my church, pick up a Bible and read it aloud, then basically say, “Yep, that’s me.”

I never really thought about how Jesus escaped from the crowd who wanted to kill Him in verse 30. Wouldn’t it be interesting if He just snuck out somehow, hiding behind some fat guy or something? I know that He could have transported Himself elsewhere, blinded His foes, or jumped off the cliff and flown away, but wouldn’t it be more in fitting with His character to just humbly sneak away?

David: Brokenhearted
Steve: High Fever
Josh: Hometown Prophets, Screamin’ Demons
MC-B: Highest Point
Connie: Simon’s Mother-in-Law

Continued here!

Best of Bweinh! — Childlike Faith

12/13/2007, 2:45 pm -- by | No Comments

In honor of his birthday (that’s right, two in two days), here’s an article from MC-B, previously published in June 2007.

Matthew 18:2-4 says that in order to enter the kingdom of Heaven, we must become humble like little children. I’ve been told occasionally that this kind of humbleness means following God with an unquestioning faith, like a toddler trusting his or her parents to make everything all right and handle the affairs that are beyond a less developed mind.

God wants us to trust him for all of our needs, and there are parts of God’s plan that don’t make sense to us from our position here on the ground; these things are beyond question, especially in light of other Scriptures. However, anyone who has experience with toddlers or young children can verify the fact that “unquestioning” is almost the worst possible choice to describe these (perhaps besides “clean” and, in some cases, “courteous”). The question “Why?” seems to be the one most often asked by toddlers in their desire to better understand the world around them.

My hope is that we truly would be like children in the faith, constantly seeking answers about God and His creation. One trend that seems to be present (though perhaps decelerating, thank the Lord) in the modern American church, especially when viewed from the outside, is a distrust for intellectual pursuits and a reliance on simplistic populism to spread the gospel message. Some preach that the Gospel message is simple, which it is, but also that it is simplistic, which it is not. Why bother considering your faith intellectually if all you need to guide your walk is “feeling” God?

As a result, to the academically inclined, spiritual belief is viewed as symptomatic of intellectual death, and sometimes intellectual debate or theological discussions, which are the church’s best ways of asking itself “why” and “how” questions, are viewed by churchgoers as almost pharisaical* and not focused enough on the Spirit or the relational aspect of salvation. The emotional experiences that we associate with God are important, but they do not detract from (nor are they even completely separable from) the intellectual and/or theological roots of our faith.

Sometimes, a “because I said so” from our Father is the most complete answer that our deficient minds can process and we must therefore be content, if not satisfied, with this answer. However, we should not presuppose this answer before we ask, and believers should always ask questions of God, themselves and others, so as to be prepared to engage the world on a strong intellectual footing.

*This post brought to you by the 365 New Words-A-Year Page-A-Day Calendar.

Bible Discussion — Luke 1:1-38

12/12/2007, 12:00 pm -- by | No Comments

This week, looks at the beginning of a brand new book for us, Luke 1:1-38.

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 always lets you know exactly what he’s doing at the beginning of each passage, and here he states in clear and beautiful language the purpose for this epistle. He has attained a clear spiritual and chronological understanding of the Gospel that Theophilus has staked his life on, and he wants to be sure his friend has that same clarity as a sure foundation.

Two godly women set an example for their husbands — and us — as they agree to play challenging parts in the coming of God’s Kingdom. For one, a pregnancy was beyond hope and for the other, it was beyond imagination.

An account of the ministry of Jesus, as written by Dr. Luke to his friend Theo. If I’m not mistaken, it’s the most-quoted for the Christmas season and by the Peanuts Christmas special.

Both Zacharias and Mary asked Gabriel “How?” types of questions in response to his declarations, but only Zach was punished… Hmmm.

1:29: “[Mary] wondered what sort of greeting this might be.” She wondered if the angel’s greeting — “The Lord is with you” — was really good news, or whether it might just be terribly inconvenient to her life plans.

Elizabeth was also from the lineage of Aaron, which made John the Baptist a priest from both sides.

Mike: No Business Being Pregnant
David: Zachariah
Connie: Theophilus
MC-B: Zechariah’s Division
Steve: Struck Mute

Continued here!

Scientology – nicht aus Deutschland!

12/8/2007, 8:41 pm -- by | 2 Comments

I’m really not the biggest fan of Scientology. I know that’s probably hard to believe, but I personally think that Galactic Overlord Xenu is a little overrated. Sure, maybe he was king of the Galactic Confederacy 75 million years ago, but if you’re an evil overlord, you just don’t go around killing billions of your subjects with volcanoes and hydrogen bombs. It’s bad practice and it lowers morale across the empire.

Since I don’t like Scientology all that much, I should have been happy when I found out that the German government is considering declaring Scientology unconstitutional. However, in increasingly atheistic Europe, I worry that the grounds on which the Germans are considering banning Scientology (cult-like behavior and exploiting followers for financial gain) could easily be extended to Christianity from an outside observer’s perspective. Scientology has both of these characteristics to an absurd degree that no sect of Christianity with which I am familiar possesses, but give it a few decades.

If you’re not inside Christianity, there are parts that you won’t get. I was Christian from an early point in my life, and I still didn’t understand speaking in tongues or prophesying when I saw them. Unless lawmakers in Europe are themselves Christian or receive large amounts of electoral pressure from Christian groups, how can real, Spirit-fueled Christianity differentiate itself from cult movements? From my perspective, the Truth can triumph easily if people are willing to be God’s instruments, and national governments should not protect a follower of any religion, sect or cult from being “duped” unless that person normally has special protections against such things (children, the elderly, the infirm), even if it causes that person financial harm. What do you think? What threshold should be used to determine what components of religion (if any) should be regulated?

Bible Discussion — Romans 15/16

12/5/2007, 12:00 pm -- by | No Comments

This week, looks at the next two chapters in the book of Romans, Romans 15-16.

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

And the book of 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

The last two chapters of Romans are filled with last-minute admonitions and personal greetings, along with some interesting nuggets.

Paul’s best instruction manual to believers concludes with another reminder to serve one another, build each other up, and listen to what is good.

In 16:26, the phrase “the scriptures of the prophets.” It’s significant that a New Testament writer testified that what the prophets wrote was scripture.

Paul describes intercessory prayer as “striv[ing] together with him” in his work.

In verse 27, is Paul saying the Gentiles owe the Jews money because the Jews shared their spiritual blessing?

MC-B: Holy Kiss
David: Lucius and Jason, Erastus the Chamberlain
Chloe: Hindered, The Gentiles
Steve: Brother Quartus, Strive

Continued here!

Clash of the Titans LXI: China

11/30/2007, 8:41 pm -- by | No Comments

In this corner, arguing that China is an enemy, is David!

And in this corner, arguing that China is our friend, is MC-B!

If the question is “Should we view China as an enemy?,” my answer is yes. Should we be marching in the streets burning Chinese flags, boycotting Chinese restaurants and dry cleaners? No. But make no mistake: the Chinese government views the US as its chief rival for military and economic dominance in Asia, and ultimately throughout the world, and that makes us enemies.

China is experiencing an economic boom that has pushed it into the top 6 in both GNP and GDP, and it’s using that windfall to increase military spending, even though it already possesses the largest standing army in the world and the 5th-largest military budget. It’s also using that money to upgrade its technical capabilities, acquiring sophisticated guidance systems and other improvements (legally or illegally), with a stated purpose of developing capabilities to interdict US expeditionary forces and US carrier battle groups in the Western Pacific.

China boasts 20% of the world’s population and aspires to be the dominant force in Asia, which contains 61% of the world’s population and 3 top economic powerhouses, including Japan and South Korea. Anyone remember why Japan bombed Pearl Harbor? America was flexing its economic and military muscles in Asia, and Japan felt they had one choice — expand or die. They gambled on confronting the dominant power in Asia rather than settling for playing second fiddle for the next few hundred years, and they lost. China has the sense to know they will face that same choice one day. It is no secret that they are preparing for it, and so are we.

But where is the danger zone? Aside from general tensions arising from our projection of power across the ocean to remain the dominant force in Asia, there are two major flashpoints:

North Korea — we fought the Chinese face to face in North Korea at the Chosin Reservoir, and by proxy all over Asia from the 1950s through the 1970’s. Has North Korea been in the news lately? Is Afghanistan part of Asia? Think they feel threatened by the only superpower fighting in their backyard and threatening to start another war in their side yard?

How about their front yard? Taiwan. They currently have 790 ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan, and are not at all secretive about the fact that invading the island is the primary focus of their short-term military planning. We are pledged to defend Taiwan in case of invasion, and in fact have already intervened twice when China has amassed amphibious assault groups across the strait.

Don’t get me wrong; I do not mean to say that we as Christians are their enemy — but as I said before, they know that our country is ultimately their enemy, and our military planners know the same thing.

Knowing the feelings of many Bweinh!tributors on this issue, I am under no delusion that I will win this Clash. I also do not take issue with my opponent’s claim that China might see the USA as a potential military threat. However, I would like to point out that defining our enemies to include all nations that would consider taking up arms against us if their regional interests were threatened could characterize almost every nation in the world as a potential enemy.

Remember the stink that certain Europeans raised when the US intervened through a legitimate organization (NATO) in the Balkan region? Even our closest allies, those with whom we have a history of cooperation, were highly mistrustful of our intentions. Since our history with China has been considerably more spotty, it is quite likely that the present situation is simply the same phenomenon exacerbated by past interactions.

In other words, in the military arena China and the USA certainly have differences, but the differences aren’t large or deep-seated enough to net China a special “enemy” status.

In any case, friendliness among nations isn’t measured by alliances and military agreements as much as it used to be. Rather, it is measured in dollars, and in economic terms we have seen over and over again that in the era of globalization, ostracizing any one large nation hurts everyone involved far more than cooperation does.

An example: our dollar is currently in a free fall (thanks, Ben Bernanke!). Even though we’ve sunk past the pound, the Euro, and now even the Canadian dollar, the Chinese government and other “unfriendly” governments around the world continue to hold reserves in US dollars, which helps to stave off the inflation of our dollar — even though switching to a different reserve currency could provide far more stability and credibility to foreign investment than staying with a weakening currency.

Being friendly with China also provides more opportunities for trade, which could open one of the largest single markets in the world (aside from India, I suppose) and lead to further harmony between our two nations. True, the Kantian peace thesis of democracies not warring does not hold when one nation involved is not democratic. However, in China’s case, the other two legs of the Kantian Triangle (involvement in international institutions and involvement in trade) are increasing by the day.

China cannot afford to treat us as an enemy because its economy would slow to a crawl, and we cannot afford to treat China as an enemy, due to the vast potential of its economy to shape the way the world operates. We must continue to engage China with the wariness that we would afford to an engagement with any nation, but the end goal should be to bring China into a closer, friendlier relationship with the United States.


The Republican YouTube Debates

11/29/2007, 8:58 am -- by | 12 Comments

Last night I decided to watch the Republican presidential debates on CNN (powered by YouTube!). I was very unimpressed with the whole ordeal.

First of all, CNN decided that it would be appropriate to give certain audience members (12 men and 12 women, all undecided registered Republicans) the opportunity to push buttons on a keypad in order to rate their responses to the answers that the candidates gave. This is problematic to begin with; is there anything that brings out true leadership like treating our candidates like racehorses? However, aside from problems with their methodology, let’s imagine that you, personally, were responsible for getting a ticker line graph thing on the air to represent the way that these people were responding. Where on the screen would you put it? The bottom edge? In a corner, perhaps? Well, I’ve been unable to find any screen shots as of yet, but CNN decided to put a continuously-updating line graph smack in the middle of the screen, over the faces of the candidates as they were giving responses. It was extremely distracting and generally told us nothing about the way that candidates were answering. The whole idea smacked of excessive populism.

Questions were uninspired and generally hand-selected in order to encourage sniping but no real policy comparisons. No questions were asked about healthcare or the environment, but CNN did find time for one question, already following two other questions about gun control, about the candidates’ personal gun collections. (Incidentally, this question elicited one story about military service, two about a candidate’s family, and one fairly curt response). I suppose I can’t fault the questioner, though: with this information about how many guns the candidates own, I now feel completely ready to vote.

The cuts to commercial were also very unprofessional. Local stations were afforded some commercial time, so sometimes during a candidate’s response, we were abruptly cut to the local Time Warner Cable’s ad for digital phone service. Sometimes, we would even cut from the candidate answering a question to “rap with” the 24 men and women who were pushing the response buttons in an isolated room somewhere else in the building.

Few people are going to watch these debates at all, but probably even fewer are going to go online to watch them in their entirety. CNN had a chance to showcase the differences between the candidates with illuminating questions, but I believe they generally failed to do that. Although, after the debates I suppose I could be coerced to vote for Mitt Romney after seeing online that he said (with respect to his family) “like most Americans we love our sports teams and we hate the Yankees.”

Or maybe I’ll vote for Ron Paul in protest.

Just kidding.

Why We Believe: Vol. 6

11/17/2007, 9:49 am -- by | No Comments

This and following weekends, we will share the brief salvation testimony of each Bweinh!tributor. So far we’ve heard from David, Steve, Tom, Connie and Djere. Next in line is MC-B.

Unlike a number of my fellow Bweinh!tributors, I did not grow up in a household where baptism, regular prayer or even church attendance were presupposed. I was encouraged largely to ‘do my own thing’; if I wanted to do any of those things, that was fine, but if I wanted to stay home and read or sleep on Sundays, that was fine as well.

I still went to church most weeks anyway; they had the best food (at least the best that was available to me on Sunday mornings), and it was an excuse to talk to people and make friends. I also got involved in a number of church activities like camps, summits, retreats and conferences. The summer before my senior year of high school I was invited to go to the Presbyterian Youth Triennium, the biggest event that the Presbyterian Church throws for its young people. People come from all over the world to spend a week in Purdue University for fellowship, prayer, miraculous experiences, etc.

I was fairly blown away by the whole experience; I had been disinterested in getting too involved in my home church because they were so sleepy. There was little seriousness of purpose about spreading their mission or bringing in new people to hear the good news. The business of the church lasted for an hour on Sundays (two if there was a general meeting afterward) and that was it. Nothing particularly remarkable. At the Triennium, however, I realized that God doesn’t have to be boring and that He’s rarely found without specifically looking for Him. On the first day of the Triennium, I asked God into my heart and my life.

There is a huge amount of finality to asking God into your heart; once you do, you can’t be eternally lost ever again regardless of how temporally lost you may get. In other words, your position and relationship with God have been permanently sanctified. On the other hand, there is also a progressive element to sanctification; allowing God into your heart is a process that a person has to recommit to every day. God may continue to watch over someone who strays from His ways, but trying to get His Spirit to fall when there’s something getting in the way of one’s life with Him is another story entirely.

A salvation testimony is a great story of the triumph of God over man’s weaknesses and over evil, but it is only by examining every day since the commitment of a new heart to Him that an observer could fully understand why I or anyone else believes.

Clash of the Titans LVII: Job Tate’s Existence

10/31/2007, 9:00 am -- by | 12 Comments

In this corner, believing in Job, is Josh!

And in this corner, doubting him, is MC-B!

It is a question that has troubled philosophers throughout the ages. Is Job a real person, or is he merely some sort of literary device — a real man with real adventures or just an allegory, meant to teach us a lesson?

This could be simultaneously the hardest and easiest clash I’ve ever had to write. I know Job personally, and have seen him many times (albeit not as many times or places as he would have indicated). So I’m convinced. But for the benefit of the rest of you, let’s consider the evidence before us.

First off we have a rather large sampling of writings to reference. While “Job Tate” could conceivably be some kind of pseudonym, the writing has a very distinct style and voice. These writings also mention many places, dates and individuals, seemingly too many details to be faked.

Second, we have photographic evidence. While many people on the Internet use phony photos to deceive others, this is usually done to upgrade their attractiveness. I don’t see how that could possibly be the case here.

Finally, we have eyewitness accounts. While you may not know Job, you may very well know and trust someone who does. Steve, Tom, Djere, Mike, Connie, and myself are just a sampling of those associated with Bweinh! who could testify to Job’s existence.

Of course, even if you remain unconvinced, I think you’ll have to concede that the question of Job’s actual existence is not nearly as important as — nor does it in any way take away from — the truths we can learn from his tale.

I sometimes wish that I could be happily ignorant, believing with all my heart that somewhere out there in the ether a benevolent Job Tate watches all that goes on at and smiles, but I cannot. I am too rationally-minded to put my faith in children’s fairy tales any longer.

It is said that a thousand monkeys typing at a thousand typewriters would, after a thousand years, reproduce the works of Shakespeare. For the so-called ‘Best of Job’ features, I’d give twenty monkeys a half-hour. In short, the order that we perceive in “Job’s” articles is nothing more than random chance that we choose to find order in. Sorry, Tatists.

Of course, there’s also graphical evidence of Job Tate’s existence. If this type of evidence suffices to prove the existence of an entity, then Job exists, as do Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, Homer Simpson, and Erin E-surance. Our pantheon is growing by the day.

Finally, there are personal testimonials of what belief in Job has done for people all around the world. Sorry, guys, but anecdotal evidence won’t cause me to put my faith in a concept as ethereal and unreliable as Job Tate.

Belief in Job is a panacea that detracts from our ability to solve Bweinh’s problems through our own endeavors. I’m going to say it as clearly as I can: Job does not exist, he does not love you, and he is not returning someday on a white horse to double our readership and make me write articles again. If we desire these things, we must achieve them ourselves.


Bible Discussion — Romans 8 (Part Two)

10/17/2007, 3:00 pm -- by | No Comments

This week, looks at the next chapter in the book of Romans, Romans 8. Romans 8 Day continues!!

Again, joining us as guests are Capt. Steve Carroll, Rev. Dave Maxon, and Maj. Doug Jones!

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

And the book of Romans: Ch. 1 | Ch. 2 | Ch. 3 | Ch. 4 | Ch. 5 | Ch. 6 | Ch. 7

Maj. Jones:
There is now no condemnation. Satan can’t condemn. Jesus won’t condemn. We shouldn’t condemn ourselves; unfortunately, we sometimes forget that truth.

This would easily make my top ten list of chapters of the Bible that a Christian should be extremely familiar with.

Freedom from the Law was one thing, but for us to be described not only as children of God, but “joint heirs with Christ,” is an unimaginable honor. We will be glorified together.

What is the difference between foreknowing, predestining, and calling? Why does Paul draw this difference?

Pastor Dave:
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” If people ever truly understood the depth of God’s love towards us, it would radically change their Christian experience in a positive way. Gone would be all those nagging thoughts — “He doesn’t love me,” “What did I do wrong to deserve this,” “What am I being punished for,” “Am I saved?” We would all walk with encouraged hearts, full of anticipation, knowing that no matter what’s around the next bend in the road, our ever-present help in time of need, the Lover of our souls, was with us.

Capt. Steve:
At night, when I am putting my son to bed, I often tell him, “Of all the little boys in the whole wide world, your Daddy loves you the best.” What am I going to say if my wife has another boy?

What does it mean for the Spirit to intercede for us with groans?

This chapter presents Christians as “spiritual” people, while Jude presents the wicked as “sensual” people. Are we being led by our senses or the Spirit? All that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — are not of the Father, but of the world (1 John 2:16).

Capt. Steve:
“At the center of it all.” He provided the means of this new life. He Sent His Spirit, who empowers and frees us from sin’s control.

Not condemning, rather, having set us free, He is raised from the dead!

MC-B, Connie, Pastor Dave:
Everywhere — without Him, there is no way that humanity can approach God in order to have the relationship with Him that is detailed by this passage.

This passage is all about Paul trying to understand Jesus!

He is the pattern for the life of this new family, the church, and the giver of the Spirit which animates the life of this new family.

Chloe, Josh:
At the right hand of God, interceding for us.

Maj. Jones:
Jesus is throughout the entire chapter, beginning with freedom from condemnation and sin, making us joint heirs of the kingdom, keeping us firmly in His hands through any and every trial.

In 8:32, being delivered up for us all.

8:18 — “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

8:19 — “The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.”

8:32 — “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”

Chloe, Pastor Dave:
8:28 — “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Erin, Connie:
8:38-39 — “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Capt. Steve:
8:6 — “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”

8:14 — “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”

8:15 — “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ ”

Djere, MC-B:
8:31 — “What then shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?”

Maj. Jones:
So many verses, so little space — verses 10, 17, 26, 28, 31, and 35-39!

Continued here!

Bible Discussion — Romans 8 (Part One)

10/17/2007, 11:30 am -- by | 3 Comments

This week, looks at the next chapter in the book of Romans, Romans 8. That’s right, it’s Romans 8 Day!!

And not only do we have almost-universal participation, but joining us as guests today are Capt. Steve Carroll, Rev. Dave Maxon, and Maj. Doug Jones!

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

And the book of Romans: Ch. 1 | Ch. 2 | Ch. 3 | Ch. 4 | Ch. 5 | Ch. 6 | Ch. 7

This Chapter articulates the key difference between the world and the Christian. The people of this world walk in the flesh, “fulfilling the desires of the flesh, and of the mind” (Eph 2:3) — but “as many as are led by the Spirit, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:14). The test to determine which you are is Romans 8:9 — “…ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit if . . . the Spirit of God dwell in you.” You must be born again of God’s Spirit.

Capt. Steve:
This is the kind of passage that I start reading quietly to myself, but by the end of the passage, I am shouting the words at the top of my lungs, and people are sticking their heads in my office to make sure everything is okay. “It’s all fine — I just got a little excited!”

Set free from our slavery to death, we are made God’s beloved children. In a flourish, Paul declares that the calling of the children of God is the crowning moment for all of creation (v. 19-20) and that God’s love for his children never fails (v. 31-39).

This passage contains some of the most important tenets of Christian faith, so I suppose I should probably actually discuss this one, huh?

Maj. Jones:
Whenever I am asked about my favorite portion of Scripture, I always say Romans 8. As I now reflect and ask myself why, I am reminded of the assurance of life, liberty and the source of my joy and contentment.

Pastor Dave:
How yellowed and worn, the edges of the page that holds Romans 8.

Capt. Steve:
The Holy Spirit is praying for us. How does that work?

Verses 38-39 contain a fairly well-known list of things that cannot separate us from God’s love, but the list actually starts in verse 35.

“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” — The words “for us” are omitted in the NU text. I’d never noticed that before.

The phrase in v. 2: “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free…” Still wrestling with what precisely that means.

The verses preceding Romans 8:28 are the ones that emphasize the Holy Spirit as our Intercessor. I always separate them and use them separately, instead of realizing that His intercession can lead us right to knowing HOW all things in our lives can and will work to our good, as long as we love Him and walk in His calling.

It can’t be wrong or inappropriate to pray for God’s will in a situation — that’s precisely what the Holy Spirit is doing.

Maj. Jones:
Paul begins in verse 35 by asking who, but then lists many whats.

Connie: Sheep for the Slaughter
Capt. Steve: Plan B
Chloe: For Your Sake
Tom: The Pangs; Indwells
Pastor Dave: Glorified; Foreknew
Djere: Firstfruits of the Spirit
David, Mike: Abba
Steve: Peril
MC-B: The Whole Creation
Erin: The Creation Waits
Josh: No Charge; Famine Nakedness Danger

Continued here!

Clash of the Titans XXVII: Legalizing Marijuana

10/12/2007, 1:00 pm -- by | 4 Comments

In this corner, supporting the legalization of pot, is Mike!

And in this corner, opposing marijuana legalization, is MC-B!

Those of you who know me as being perhaps on the theologically liberal end of the spectrum of Bweinh!tributors may be surprised to find out that I am essentially politically conservative.

This is something that has developed in recent years, probably as I have grown older and responsible for running a household with my wife Jill. During our first year of marriage especially, we were not making much money. “How are we going to pay for it?” became a consistent refrain — when thinking of buying a car, new furniture or even a pizza for dinner.

So while I hear and am genuinely moved by pleas for universal health care or raising the minimum wage, the question still pops up: “How are we going to pay for it?” Eventually, the answer comes to me: “You are . . . you and the rest of the tax base.” And while I ought to be ready and generous to give to worthy causes, I would just as soon not take the US government’s word for it in deciding what a worthy cause is.

Just on the off chance that the US government decided something immoral was a worthy cause (perish the thought!), I would rather not have the mechanism already in place to force me to pay for it. We need the government to protect citizens from trampling each others’ rights; we don’t need a government determining right and wrong for individuals when that behavior has no impact on the lives of others.

It is the same sort of logic that informs my position that marijuana should be legalized. I’ve never used marijuana; and not like Bill Clinton never used marijuana either. I’ve never used it, period. And I can’t imagine why someone would. But you know what? The threat posed to society at large by marijuana usage is minimal at most. It poses no undue risk to the general populace; it does not rob anyone else of their rights. Marijuana does not threaten to kill or injure anyone besides the user. And if people want to do things harmful to themselves, tobacco is already legal and shows no signs of becoming illegal.

As far as I can see, the main reason for keeping marijuana illegal is that our government wants to send a message that it is abhorrent and dangerous behavior. I don’t condone marijuana usage. But neither do I want our government exploiting its power to determine what is abhorrent and dangerous. Remember, orthodox Christianity isn’t always pretty in the eyes of our government either, but it’s protected belief and behavior . . . for now.

I guess I’m counted among the social conservatives of the world. Jonah Goldberg once described social conservatism (to me and my peers at SLU) as erring on the side of keeping things the same when change is proposed. He illustrated his point vividly — during the 1960’s, a significant number of hippie communes began suffering from terrible diseases no American doctor had ever seen. To make a long story short, it turns out the age-old traditions of bathing and personal hygiene were not just “the man’s” hang-ups after all.

People are good judges of what is beneficial for them often enough that most decisions are safe in their hands; personal choice is one of the greatest tenets underlying philosophical liberalism and democracy. However, these also generally assume people are self-interested, and what’s good for me is not always good for you. Sometimes I can even be fooled into making a decision that’s good for me in the short run, but hurts in the long run. It’s a real shame that we don’t have a natural experiment to show what happens if otherwise responsible adults spend too much on expensive, addictive habits and not enough on their health, family, education, etc.

But of course, we do. We could examine the effects of cigarettes, which cause cancer and eat up resources that could be used more productively. However, aside from addictiveness, tobacco does not have many of marijuana’s characteristics (no mind- altering experience, man!), so it’s probably better to compare marijuana to alcohol, a much more sobering comparison (pardon the pun). Both drugs produce an altered state of mind and can transform you into someone that you are not. Legalizing marijuana doesn’t just put it into the hands of homesick Europeans and responsible folks like you and me. It could also put psychoactive drugs into the hands of a welfare recipient who should be out looking for work or caring for his/her children, or a person getting behind the wheel of a car. Granted, there are still DUI/DWI laws, but think about what an unbridled success those have been and you’ll understand my desire to keep pot illegal. Such regulations barely deter anyway; few believe the risk of getting caught is significant.

Finally, though I may be guilty of employing the slippery slope fallacy, it’s not a particularly good argument for legalizing marijuana. Why make anything illegal at all if the government cannot make moral judgments? Even protecting me from my neighbor implies my life is worth more than what’s spent on protection. Like most arguments, the argument about legalizing marijuana comes down to a matter of degree — to what degree will we let the government determine what Americans shouldn’t put into their bodies? I have no disdain for people who draw the line elsewhere, nor do they lack in morals, but I sincerely believe some people are not responsible enough to limit their detrimental behavior, so marijuana should remain illegal.


Clash of the Titans LIII: Eating Healthy

10/5/2007, 12:00 pm -- by | 2 Comments

In this corner, eating healthy, is MC-B!

And in this corner, eating unhealthy, is Steve!

Isn’t eating healthy awesome?

Yeah, I know it is.

Sometimes, you’ll go to the dining center or the kitchen or whatever and be like, “I want something delicious, but not too terrible for me.” Then you remember that big brick of soy that you have in the back of the refrigerator. Score! Just throw some ketchup (or mustard, for the rest of you) on that thing, stick it in the microwave, and in a minute or so you have the equivalent of warm meat loaf!

(Culinary Tip: It’s easier to get the stuff down if you imagine that you’re actually eating a piece of an animal. One that was slaughtered in a humane manner. Maybe dead of old age.)

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t eating healthy more expensive? Well, sure it is, but surely you’ll make up for that by reducing your trips to the doctor! Genetics, environmental factors, medical history and plain ol’ luck won’t have anything on you, once you’re armed with some sprouts — or even just an apple. Rock on!

All I know is, on my deathbed, when I’m thinking about all the fattening meals I could have eaten in my lifetime, I’ll take solace in my rapidly dwindling health and the set of rock-hard six-pack abs that I was THIS CLOSE to developing, until I realized I’d need to put more complete proteins in my diet.

That and actually do abdominal exercises.

Yeah, on that day the icy nothingness of the great beyond won’t have anything on me. Until then, I’ll just keep on ignoring the eye rolls I get from people who haven’t seen the light, and continue annoying waitresses with my inane and often unfulfillable requests. Live long, live hard, and pass those greens!

You know what’s really delicious? Besides The Golden Girls, Tom.

Fatty food, that’s what!

Let those hippie vegetarian longhair freaks eat their “tofu” and “pine nuts” and “lettuce”! True gastronomic connoisseurs like you and me, gentle reader, head straight for the top of the food pyramid — meats, cheeses, fats and oils! What are proteins and carbohydrates but a simple delivery system for the grease and sugar our bodies were designed to run on?

You know how some children in South America carry bags of glue around to huff? I do that too — except with lard.

A lot of people say, “Hey, man, put down the creme brulee! The healthier you eat, the longer you live!” That’s when I remind them that life ain’t worth livin’ without bacon, or pork rinds, or chocolate-covered bacon. Who wants to spend eighty years of torture choking down “fiber” when they can get in and out in half the time, with thrice the caloric goodness! Prolong the agony? Or go out with passion, like a shooting star, double-chin dappled with twin trails of mayo and meat sauce?

I can tell. You’re a star.

And I am too! I save my bacon grease to pour on my Extra Butter popcorn. I use my Magic Bullet to make a tasty Krispy Kreme cappuccino. I even carry four or five Triple Stackers in my briefcase — just in case Burger King ever runs out.

So you can listen to my opponent and eat bizarrely unnatural green things, things people find in the ground — or you can live it up with me, while I wait for my second cheese fry refill at Ruby Tuesday’s.

Me — and Estelle Getty.


Clash of the Titans LI: Television

09/25/2007, 12:15 pm -- by | 4 Comments

In this corner, a television supporter, is MC-B!

And in this corner, against TV, is Tom!

We all know that television is a “vast wasteland”; I don’t think anyone would argue against the idea that television producers could use a little more moderation in the schlock they put on the air. Americans as a whole also probably spend far too much time watching television. However, we’re not talking here about trimming a few shows (including MTV in near-entirety), or a few hours watching the tube. We’re talking about whether television as a medium is good or bad. I believe that, as a whole, television has been used for good and has the potential to continue to be used in this manner.

First of all, for pure entertainment, television simply cannot be beat: it’s the cheapest close approximation of life available that is still relaxing to take in. As big a fan as I am of A Prairie Home Companion and the early days of Amos ‘n’ Andy, lack of visuals is a severe setback to their value as relaxing escapes from life. Sure, I can listen to them while driving or cleaning the house, but sometimes I don’t actually want to be doing anything else. Books are nice (easily my second favorite method for relaxing), but sometimes you don’t even want to read. Video games require active input on the part of the viewer and are not optimal choices for everyone’s relaxation. Television is the one medium with enough choices and variety to satisfy all comers.

More importantly, though, is television’s ability to inform us. Where would much of Bweinh!’s readership be without the teachings of Sesame Street? As we grew older, many of us made the switch from PBS to the Discovery Channel, but the medium bringing us information didn’t change. Not only that, but television news continues to be one of the most popular ways to get current, up-to-date information. On the morning of 9/11, where did people turn for the breaking story? Newspapers? No, they turned to television, and TV news delivered as well as could be expected on such a confusing day.

Finally, the following is a brief list of television programs and/or channels that I know are frequent favorites of certain Bweinh! users. No one person probably likes every one of them, but that just serves to illustrate my point about the variety of television serving us all: The Simpsons; The Office; Project Runway/America’s Next Top Model/Top Chef; MythBusters/Dirty Jobs/the Discovery Channel, and the Sci-Fi Channel. Look me in the eye, all of you, and tell me television doesn’t have redeeming qualities.

Television certainly has its drawbacks, but most useful things do. Television should properly be viewed as a tool that can be used for evil or good. As viewers, our viewing habits are our choice, and it would be wrong to blame television for creating some evil along with good.

By way of disclaimer, I am not completely against television. I have spent a great deal of delightfully entertaining time enjoying thought-provoking entertainment with friends and family. In myriad positive ways I have been touched, amused, morally outraged, and pleased by the oases of quality in the bleak landscape of television. However, taken as a whole, television has harmed our culture far more than it has ever helped.

Television encourages complacency. Comparatively speaking, it’s a lot easier to sit on your couch as entertainment is pumped into your home, rather than going out and seeking or making that entertainment on your own. Why read a book when you can have people more attractive than those around you act out a miniature play for your enjoyment? Why do something new when you can share in the experience of literally dozens of other people watching the same program you enjoy?

Even the rare occasions when television moves people to action, there is still a complacent stink about their decisions. The outrage in vogue these days, complaining of the situation taking place in Jena, Louisiana, is being taken up not by people who have thoughtfully examined a number of articles and points of view. Rather, a sorority sister will see a single segment on network news (presented in a manner to most provoke and incite the rabble that constitutes the average viewership), and join with other socially-minded nitwits to protest something they don’t necessarily understand.

Television decreases the attention span. A friend of mine recently suggested I read an article, because it was excellently written. Her paraphrased quote: “You should totally read this! I almost didn’t because it was so long, but I’m glad I did because it was so great!” The article filled a screen and one half in my tiny monitor, and if it had hundreds of words, there were no more than five. Anything not presented in a manic, quick-paced style runs the risk of being completely ignored by your typical person, and television’s ratings-at-all-cost mindset has a great deal to do with that.

In an era of failing schools, sinking test scores, and the prospect of a world stage upon which America plays a background role a very real possibility, I cannot help but consider television’s part in the slide. The few points of light amid the ebony backdrop of reality television, celebrity gossip, and lowest-common-denominator sitcoms cannot provide complete redemption. Television, I name myself your enemy.

But I’m still going to watch Psych.


Clashers, Take Note!

09/6/2007, 9:07 am -- by | No Comments

Today is Cookie Monster Day here on Bweinh! (not really, but I was going to post this even before I saw what I was posting with today), so in honor of everyone’s favorite blue cookie-loving monster, I’ve decided to expose him as the true intellectual that he is. The following article has been culled from the internet (dot com!), specifically from Wikipedia’s Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense page.

C is for Cookie

C is for Cookie can be regarded as a case study in persuasive oratory, emphasizing the emotional aspect of public speaking. Cookie Monster builds excitement by answering his opening rhetorical question, “Now what starts with the letter C?” with the obvious reply, “Cookie starts with C!” He then challenges the audience, “Let’s think of other things that starts with C,” before quickly replying, “Oh, who cares about the other things?” casually dismissing a whole range of other possibilities as irrelevant. Thus, having ostensibly come for the purpose of covering the letter C in its entirety, Cookie Monster has already focused his agenda exclusively on cookies, employing the classic bait and switch tactic.

Several times in his presentation, Cookie Monster emphasizes what appears to be the central thesis of his remarks: “C is for cookie, that’s good enough for me!” The appealing rhythm of this slogan appears designed to entrance listeners, swaying their emotions and making them instinctively want to chant along with him. After rousing the crowd, Cookie Monster systematically lays out the logical underpinnings of his pro-cookie ideology, comparing cookies to round donuts with one bite out of them and to the moon during its crescent phase, in essence using a straw man argument that implies his opponents would advocate the superiority of these competitors over cookies. In this sense, Cookie Monster may be proposing a false dichotomy representing cookies as the only viable choice to a group of obviously inferior alternatives.

Before the audience has a chance to catch on, Cookie Monster launches into another round of repetitive chanting, “C is for cookie, that’s good enough for me, yeah!” as young children sing along. Here, Cookie Monster uses a propaganda technique strikingly similar to that employed in George Orwell’s Animal Farm by the pig Napoleon, who trained the farm’s sheep to bleat, “Four legs good, two legs bad” on his cue. Cookie Monster then adds visual stimulation to his discourse by chomping into a large cookie, concluding his remarks with “Umm-umm-umm-umm-umm” and other chewing sounds.

Cookie Monster, we hardly knew ye.

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