Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Alternate Realities

One of my favorite TV shows of all time is Sliders. If you haven't seen it, it's basically about four people who travel through the vortex--a wormhole to alternate versions of Earth. One time they came to an America that was still ruled by Great Britain; another time it was a lot like the old west, where 80's-style corporate takeovers came complete with gunslingers battling it out.

Of course, this kind of show also lends itself to social commentary, and there was plenty of that, with shows like the one where men's and women's roles were reversed, and the Professor (who was very much a chauvinist by anyone's standard) ended up leading the way in that world's version of the Equal Rights movement. Another time, it was the Gringos in California who were illegal immigrants and had a hard time finding work.

Still, for the most part it was more interesting than preachy on these topics, and provided the kind of what-if scenarios that many Sci-Fi fans enjoy. *(see note below)

Now I have to admit here that I love the alternate reality stuff. It's one of my favorites--whether you're talking about the alternate universe in Star Trek (complete with bearded Spock), Michael Crichton's Timeline, or even the speculations of real historians about how pivotal certain events were in history. (And if you're really crazy about this stuff, check out Other, where you can read about and submit your own alternate timelines.)

But as much as I'm a fan of speculations like this for entertainment purposes, in one's personal life I think this kind of speculation can be unhealthy. To spend time wishing or dwelling on "what might have been" can lead to a paralysis, and to ignoring what is. It is also a short trip from that to "the good old days" syndrome, which has plagued man throughout history--whether you look at the Israelites leaving Egypt, or the recipients of the letter to the Hebrews mulling over returning back to being under the law.

And both of these things will take the place of what is really important, looking to Christ, and looking toward the future (since now we see darkly, but one day face-to-face). So for the most part, I try to avoid this kind of thing.

But sometimes it is inevitable, especially with the Blogosphere. Seeing people you knew way back when, and meeting new people in circumstances not unlike your own at a point in your own past naturally lead to some of this type of thinking.

For instance, Dan's travails as a newly minted lawyer represent an alternate reality for me, as my wife and I were looking ahead to that very thing when we first got married 12 years ago this month. I ended up staying with my temp job at Charles Schwab, and making a career in financial services.

Then there's this guy (or maybe gal--for privacy reasons they have masked their identity), who linked to a WSJ article I was reading today. The writer is living the business major/MBA's dream--six-figures at a successful firm, making deals and ringing the cash register. Every Junior High kid who read the Wall Street Journal in their spare time would want to be him/her. But reading just the intro tells me that the success of that life comes with strings attached, something that this person recognizes despite the probability that they don't share my personal beliefs. (Though many of my regular readers might not enjoy the detailed financial content or the intermittently sordid corporate context of what's described, those who have a regular diet of sharply written commentary pieces ala Frank Turk or Ann Coulter, for instance, may enjoy a brief sample.)

Which brings me to my ultimate point (had you been wondering?): I'm creating my own alternate reality.

I've given my two week notice at my current firm. What's more, I'm not just leaving the firm, but leaving the industry (and my nearly 13 year career in it) to pursue something completely different.

More details will be forthcoming. In the meantime, Mrs. G & I would appreciate your prayers during this transition.

(*Note: I'm referring mainly to the first two seasons here, which I recently watched on the combined DVD set. I watched Season Three, which was a departure from the original premise, and found out just today that there were Seasons 4 & 5, which I've not seen but which as described seem more like purely action than actual Sci-Fi. Then again, given that Sci-Fi purists don't generally use the word Sci-Fi, take this with a grain of salt.)

What Say You: Has Frank Finally "Jumped The Shark?"

Read this, and then read this, and then come back and leave a comment.

Sunday, August 27, 2006


RevGoT's Wife Nan has written one of the funniest pieces ever on the use of the outdoors as a lavatory. All parents will be able to relate, and you will be laughing so hard I would not be suprised if the boss fires you on the spot (unless he or she also has kids).

Read at your own risk!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Serious Prayer--Addendum

After further review, I've decided to split this off into it's own post. . .

As I read through the second Centuri0n post, and also the comments, it occurred to me that the most obvious thing missing is a call to pray for Bill from BHT. I'm adding this addendum for Bill and anyone else who's thinking they have it pretty bad. I don't say it to be preachy, but because it is what the Word says. It's mostly a reminder for me, although I hope others may find it edifying as well.

Now I'm the first to admit, when I read this, Bill has it pretty bad. But here's the thing: the Bible is full of people who had it just as bad, and worse, than Bill. Or you. Or me.

I'm thinking specifically now of the book of Hebrews. Over and over, the author sounds out the call to people: don't fall back to the past, don't grow weary, but press on.

Remember, these guys are no lightweights (at least not all of them). In chapter 10, the author reminds them of their own faithfulness and willing sacrifices:

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. (Heb 10: 32-35, ESV)

But then he goes on to say this (in vs. 36).

For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.

So they had demonstrated their faithfulness at one point in time, but were now growing weary. And so it is, that after outlining what faith is by way of illustration in the lives of OT believers, we come to Chapter 12, where we read:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (Hebrews 12:1-4, ESV)

"Looking to Jesus . . ." I don't know about Bill, or about you, but I need to be reminded of that often. I need to be reminded that, yeah, I haven't resisted sin to the point of bloodshed yet. There are many who have, particularly in other countries; but I haven't.

So I guess where this leaves me is with a reminder that anything I might endure is a pittance compared to my Lord, who although he was the creator of the universe, willingly endured death at the hands of his own creatures, for the greater good that would come out of it. That was his example--the essence of humility--and my problems don't seem quite so big anymore.

Look to Jesus. I think that about covers it.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Serious Prayer

Reading Cent's post on prayer reminded me of the lesson we talked about last week in homegroup. (We're using Desiring God's new intergenerational lesson material Lord, Teach Us to Pray, from which this is taken).

Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. (James 5:17-18, ESV)

Is Elijah Really Just Like Us?

What about Elijah? Was he really a man like us, or was there something different about him? God used him mightily, obviously. Yet I think we can safely say that he is like us.

Consider this: after the great defeat of the 450 Baal prophets (a favorite of TR's everywhere, BTW, as it provides a key prooftext for the idea that sarcasm is a spiritual gift), we read this:

Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, "So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow." Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.

But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, "It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers." (1 Ki 19:1-4)

So after God turns the odds in his favor against 450 false prophets, Elijah runs away in fear for his life from Jezebel. Yeah, he's like me--I would have run from Jezebel, too. She was bad news!

Despite his failure to trust, God continues to use Elijah, and even his departure from this world is unique.

Elijah's Prayer

One other thing I wanted to mention about Elijah was his prayer.

And at the time of the offering. . . Elijah the prophet came near and said, "O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back." (1 Ki 18:36-37, ESV)

This is a great model prayer. Look at what Elijah does.

First, he addresses God as Lord, God in Israel, and recognizes that he is God's servant. He has the right perspective--his place and God's place.

Second, when he references Abraham, Isaac, & Israel, he is remembering God's faithfulness (this is one of the reasons why we struggle with what's discussed here--we forget God's faithfulness to us and to all generations). God is a promise-keeping God.

Third, his focus is mainly on God & His glory. How many times have your heard (or prayed) prayers that focused mainly on yourself or others? What a difference this prayer is from my own average prayer.

Finally, he prays for the people, that they would see God's greatness and turn back to Him. That is one of the main reasons for God displaying His glory, so that people would turn to Him.

God's Response

What was God's answer to prayer?

Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, "The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God." (1 Ki 18:38-39, ESV)

God answered Elijah's prayer, and what he prayed for came to pass.

Let me close with this: prayer is a powerful weapon. Often times it is something we do only as a last resort, instead of making it our first order of business. More than that, how often have you, like me, told someone you would pray for them, only to forget about them until much later--sometimes even until their request has been answered?

I hope you're not like me, but if you are, resolve today to change that.

Start taking prayer more seriously.

Stop right now and pray for Frank, and for Libbie, and anyone else God has brought up to you recently, and make it a point that when someone asks you to pray for them to do it right then. Not only will it keep you from being a liar, you'll be amazed at how much easier it is to remember those requests, and how encouraging it will be to that other person.

Finally, figure out a way to keep track of God's answers to prayers. I've started keeping a spiral notebook of prayers and answers--because I too often forget God's faithfulness. Not only does the Bible testify to God's faithfulness, but so does everyday life, if only we would notice. By keeping track of prayers and their answers, you will create yet another record of God's faithfulness, and that will be something you can fall back on the next time it seems like "everything negative in my life church-related."

Note: my brother thought this post was too long, and he was right. I moved the addendum here.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


No, this isn't about economics, it's about my less than sporadic blog posts. It's just been busy, and will probably be until at least the end of the month.

Unfortunately, it can't be helped.

In the meantime, in keeping with scarcity, I leave you with this quote from Plutarch:
"A shortcut to riches is to subtract from one's desires."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Introduction to the New Testament--Free Book Online

This Introduction to the New Testament by D. A. Carson, Douglas J. Moo, & Leon Morris was recommended over at Triablogue as a must read for new Christians. But I'm guessing lots of folks have never looked at the New Testament systematically like this, so I think anyone who has an interest could benefit from it.

HT: Patrick Chan in the comments of this post on Tria.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Greatest Objection to Evolution

Before I got swamped, we were having some interesting conversations about origins over at the BugBlog.

Simon the Atheist (link omitted) has provided me with several links to evolutionary discussions, and I've offered to read some of it (as time permits, which unfortunately hasn't been much) as part of our give-and-take.

But even as I struggle to understand the science behind transitional forms, radio-isotope dating, and various aspects of homology, I realize that my greatest objection to evolution is something fairly simple: death. Specifically, the role that death plays in the universe.

See, in evolution, death is a good thing. It's what pushes the necessary change forward. Death is the cornerstone of evolution; without it, evolution can't work. It just wouldn't be possible.

But the Bible says that sin entered the world through one man (Adam), and death through sin (Romans 5:12). But if death entered because of sin, how can it be God's instrument of creation (as some theistic evolutionists claim)? Evolution's central premise, natural selection, at its heart must have death in order to survive.

But since sin, not God, brought death into the world, we must rule out evolution as God's plan for the world. Which brings us back to what really happened at the beginning. Ultimately, if you believe that death originated with sin, you must reject evolution, because it is at odds with how the Bible talks about death. If you believe in evolution, your only option is reject God--something that many who believe it have already done.

Of course, even those who reject God can see the marvelous grandeur of the universe around them. But by rejecting a creator, they ascribe all of His eternal attributes to the universe itself, in essence worshiping the creation instead of the creator.

Now, I'm sure over time there will be more to say. Simon's bound to run over here, and flog me for not believing all the indisputable scientific evidence. The evidence isn't always that compelling (like the grand theory I read about awhile back about a man and his tribe, and how they ate such-and-so, and migrated in a certain pattern etc. . . . all of this gleaned from a tooth). But more importantly, it's by faith that we know God made the universe (Heb 11), and without that faith, we are unable to please Him.

So we find that the death separates the faithful from unbelievers. The concept of death divides us on the origins of humanity, even as its reality brings some into paradise, and others into judgment.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Quote of the week from last week...

...with apologies to the one who said it, because it really is where I'm at right now...

We can't treat every difference as being sin.
--Frank Turk

08/16/06 Welcome Team Pyro readers!

Prolific I've not been of late. But here are a couple of recent posts, as well as two old favorites that may interest you, if you have the time...

Greatest Objection to Evolution

The Gospel in 30 Seconds?

While We Were Yet Sinners...

The Bible--without Grace and Propitiation

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Gospel in 30 Seconds?

The case against soundbite evangelism

The question: "Pretend that I have never heard about this Jesus before, and you have 30 seconds to give me all the information I need to be saved. What information are you going to give me? Will you have enough time to make sure the information is correct and complete?"

Here were some of the answers:

Romans 3:23 / 5:8 / 10:9 - something like that

I might use 1 Cor 15:1-4. (this was mine).

Romans 1:20 Come on now. I'm suprised at you guys.

My actual favorite verse even if I have more than 30 seconds is Isaiah 53:6. No one is exempt from doing his own thing, at least at some point in their lives, and so this verse points them to the need for redemption, and Christ as the answer.

And finally...

I believe I could do it in less than 30 seconds easily: "God clearly states you & I are sinners bound for judgment, but God has sent One to reconcile us to Him. This One’s name is Jesus & He took our punishment for us through He had no sin of His own. Pray to Him & His Father in Heaven right now to save you & He promises that when you die, you will not suffer for your sins."

I'm going to argue that it can't be done. Oh, not that you can't try to do it, but just that this isn't the best way, and it will usually be improper.

Jesus didn't do it this way

He took time to assess people, and then met them at their needs. I won't go through every example, but let's look briefly at one, Luke 24. I think what Jesus did is instructive. He began "with Moses and all the Prophets," and he "interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself." Now the journey to Jerusalem was 7 miles, and at a walking pace that would take some time. Also, depending on how you read this, these men were some who had been followers of Jesus (given the context, I think this is correct). So if people who were actually there had to have explanations (particularly if they were also his followers and therefore had already heard his teaching), how much more so does someone today need to have the context set.

Paul didn't do it this way

Look at Romans, described by someone I know as the greatest Gospel tract ever. Paul starts with the bad news, and only when a person is convinced of their need for a savior does he tell them about him. But what if someone doesn't know the Bible? Can they really understand Paul's argument that "one man brought sin into the world" if they have never read Genesis 3? There's an underlying assumption of knowledge of the rest of Scripture.

I don't do it this way

I have almost daily evangelistic interactions in my home--with my children. I'm not taking a 30 second approach with them--trying to coerce some sort of decision; instead, I'm trying to inform them of all of Scripture's teaching, believing that God's work through the Holy Spirit will convert them.

What do we say then, to the situation above? At a minimum, I think we must try to gauge what a person knows about the Bible, and about Jesus Christ. If we reject the notion that people are justified "because they have responded to the grace of God revealed to them, apart from considerations of their success in fulfilling whatever their holy books or religious traditions prescribed for them," and instead embrace the exclusivity of the gospel, and its grounding in the historical person and work of Jesus Christ, then we must make all of this known to people for them to have a chance to accept or reject it.

Also, given the modern-day proliferation of other religions and cults, it may take some time to tease out what people believe about Jesus--there's a difference between how a Mormon or a Jehovah's Witness sees Jesus, and that difference is not peripheral, it is the key to the Gospel.

I would also note that, in a situation like Saul's, he had a large amount of knowledge about Jesus and who he claimed to be.

In the end, I would suggest that what people need to believe--"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved"--is not all they need to know; rather, what they believe is informed by what they know, and that they cannot come to a belief in Jesus without knowing about him.

None of this is to say that you can't make a 30 second gospel presentation and someone be saved. But if that happens, it is most likely because others in the past have been faithful to sow and water, that God has given the growth, and placed you in a position to reap the harvest.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Counting my blessings

This came across the Bible Study e-mail list today at work.

Since my last report, he has overcome a bout with pneumonia, started eating a few bites of baby food (hates green peas!) and is starting to breathe for several hours at a time without the support of the ventilator. He is receiving formula through a feeding tube directly into his intestines and has made a lot of progress tolerating that. He is now taking more than 1 ounce per hour which is roughly half "normal" nutrition and half chemical (IV) nutrition. We are starting to make plans for going home. As of now, the goal is to get him completely off the ventilator and possibly on full feeds. While we are hoping for home by his birthday in October, the first of the year is more realistic. He is 9 1/2 months old now and is wanting to be more active. He regularly receives all types of therapy and is learning to wave bye-bye, shakes his head "no" and nods "yes", and has even learned to throw an occasional fit. He is a delightful angel. I wish all of those following his progress could meet him. I hope one day that will happen.

My son is 12 weeks old today, and as I contrasted this with my own experience (I was frustrated with him for not taking all of his bottle, and for waking up too early), I'm filled with shame for not counting my blessings.

What say you: Support for Israel?

Here's a transcript of a recent item on Nightline.

The premise: "The end of times, as foretold in the scriptures, is a theological reason to support Israel unconditionally so as to help bring about the return of Jesus Christ."

Or, how about these quotes:
"America needs to stand with Israel according to the word of God, and for victory," Gwen Resser said. "I mean, it's for victory. It's not a time for concessions."

"If you support Israel, you will be blessed, and if you don't support Israel, you will be cursed," Dean Resser added.

So here's my question: while it may be right to support Israel, are we bound by Scripture to do so? Consider: Israel right now is an apostate nation, not at all the true Israel we see described in Scripture. So, while there may be many reasons to support them, is Biblical fiat one of them?

(Oh, and while you're at it, can you tell me which prophecy people are referring to when they look at Lebanon incursions as being the sign of the end times?)