Thursday, May 31, 2007

Tech Wars

I don't often talk tech talk here, but Outer Rim Territories got me thinking with his attempt to convert people to the darkside. What made PC and Mac different is becoming smaller and smaller. The advents of XP and now Vista have made the PC very user dumb, with handy wizards that do just about everything and PnP that actually works, thus negating the argument that Macs are easier to use. I have to wonder about this claim because I found one button harder to use than my four button mouse. That and the idea of throwing a disk out to eject it is just weird.

Anyhow when I talk to people who are looking to get a computer, I am a moderate level geek so people ask, the first thing I ask is what do you want to do with your computer. This is the most important question you can ever ask when deciding on a computer. If you just want to send email, check out YouTube, write a letter, and crop some digital pics you took with your point and click camera, you do not need the dual core 2 gig ram monster w/dvd burner and a 30" monitor the pimply faced teenager who is on commission is going to try and sell you. A nice little AMD or Celeron system will do you just fine and do so at about $500 less.

If you want to game, buy Alienware or build your own. High-end HP's, Dell's, and Gateways will do in a pinch. Do I detect a bit of bias? No, must be my imagination. I build my own, it is a cheaper way to stay cutting edge.

The same things apply if you want to do more graphics work. Macs taut being better at graphics but that is not necessarily the case anymore with the advent of nifty little programs like the Gimp. Besides if you want to be really hardcore about graphic design you are going to get a Silicon Graphics box, sometimes what you spend does correspond to what you get.

Above all else if you do not know much about computers get a Windows machine, because when you crash and you will no matter what machine you get, it is easier to find help. Mac users, macs crash and don't deny it because I have crashed them.

Besides, Macs are now becoming inflexible Windows machines anyhow. It is only a matter of time before Steve Jobs gives into Bill Gates. OSX-Leopard looks a whole bunch like my Linux Gnome layout. Can't say as it really appears to be all that cutting edge. Just prettier.

A Bold Witness

In spite of the possible fallout for going public with her faith a Florida Valedictorian shared her faith with her fellow graduates and their families during her speech. While, her theology could use some major work, I do admire her courage to speak out in what has become a hostile arena for Christians. I wish more of our people would be bold enough to say

“Though I am far from perfect and one single breach of moral law drives each of us far from God’s perfect standard of perfection,” continued the Christian valedictorian, “Jesus Christ has loved me, taken a punishment for my sins, and cared about every detail of my life.

“As I stand here before you tonight, it’s with the sincerest heart and purest of intentions that I tell you that Jesus Christ, creator of the universe, that each one of you, loves you too.” -

The superintendent of the school later called her speech "insensitive and offensive". If that is insensitive and offensive than call me insensitive. Is there no better time, than a speech that is traditionally focused on the graduates future, to express to them the one thing that can give them the best possible future of all time?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Worst Ranking System Ever

The May 28th issue of Newsweek included their list of the top 100 High Schools in America. In theory, it is a good idea to rate schools by how well they prepare the children entrusted to their care, but the actual practice of rating can give false impressions. It all depends on how do they judge greatness. In the case of Newsweek, they rated the schools by the number of students participating in advanced programs such as AP and International Baccalaureate in addition to what percentage of people receive subsidized lunches. None of which in reality is an indication of how well they are preparing students to either enter the work force or to continue their education at the collegiate level.

Why you ask?

It is simple one can take AP, IB classes and tests to their hearts content and still be inadequately prepared for the rigors of the workforce or for college. This is particularly true for students who have excellent memories and/or are exceptionally bright and quick. Students who fall in to this category can easily coast through AP and IB courses with little in the way of a work ethic, thus leaving them unprepared for the expectations of higher learning. A more accurate reading would be a study of how well their graduates performed in the workforce or in collegiate studies. Then they could have a measure of how well the schools prepared their students. But, then that would require work and we couldn't have a quick easy way to spew out meaningless data to get people to read a magazine.

P.S. Hey Newsweek, I didn't go to a school that offered AP or IB but I think they did a fair job preparing me considering I maintained between a 3.3 and a 3.6 all the way up until I had a mini breakdown after being denied admission to Vet School.

Explaining Away The Bible

Any of you who have actually read the Bible understand that there are parts of the Bible which make us uncomfortable. This is not to be unexpected, that is the purpose of the Law, to make us squirm as we are killed through it. However, there are other parts of the Bible that make us squirm not so much because we are guilty of the Law but because they offend our sensibilities. The most infamous of these passages is the section on the relationship of a husband and wife in Ephesians 5

Ephesians 5:22-33 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
This passage has offended many a feminist sensibilities because of the idea of ladies having to submit to their husbands, which is an idea that goes against all that feminists preach. So, in an effort to sound more sensitive I have heard many people say that it means to respect your husband. Many of them are keying off of verse 33 which does state "respects her husband," this however, ignores what occurs textually in verse 22 and the preceding context.

I believe verse 21 "submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." (Ephesians 5:21) helps set the frame of the entire passage as that which precedes this verse speaks of living a Christ-like life and that which follows calls for us to mirror the relationship of Christ and the Church. This is an image that I believe we have lost in our church. One that I believe will prove vital in our understanding of the Pastoral Role, however that is a topic for another time.

Back to verse 22, hupotassesthosan (I apologize if I messed up the transliteration) is the verb which unequivocally gives lie to the idea that respect is all that is meant. The BDAG Greek English Lexicon informs us that it means to cause one to be in submission to another or when it occurs in the passive to submit yourself willingly. There can be no question that we are talking about willing submission particularly when we have verse 21 setting the frame for the following verses. However, this is not to be understood in the classic patriarchal sense as it was used in the past to keep women down. This passage happens to be a case study on why prooftexting is a bad idea, because what follows destroys any notion that the male half of the relationship is one of dominion.

The man is called to act just as Christ did as the head of the church. Guess how he did it. He washed people's feet. Christ's headship is not one of dominion it is one of submission and more importantly love. Christ as the head of the church loved his bride, the church, so much he sacrificed his well-being and his life in order that she could be made pristine and live.

What is being asked of husbands and wives is not that men dominate their wives and that the women should put up with it, rather they are being asked to mirror the relationship of Christ and the church. Submission plays a part in this image. (Let me note here that because of sin we will not perfectly display this imagery, so don't submit to that which would be sinful and don't be afraid to lovingly correct your husbands when they err, we need it as much as anybody else.) And we destroy this image when we limit ourselves to just respect. We as the church do not merely respect Jesus. We live in submission to him, because he loved us so much that he sacrificed himself for us. This is the relationship we should have in marriage one of mutual submission and sacrificial love.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Confirmation Assembly Line

After several years teaching confirmation both as a seminary student and now as a pastor, I must say that I am very unsatisfied with confirmation. I cannot help but feel that we are confirming students who honestly do not believe but are only parroting what they have heard and if given a choice would never have been there. Maybe I am imagining things but this strikes me as wrong on our part and I cannot help but wonder if this is contributing to the confirmation drop off (the disappearance of kids after confirmation). Are we leading children into profaning the Lord's Body by adhering to an old system. To add on to this feeling is that there are so many people who hold up confirmation because that is what you do, almost as if it is God's way of doing things. Do not misunderstand me, I take God at his word and believe that people must be prepared before partaking in His Body and Blood at communion. I just wonder if how we are going about things is the best way.

I think that it is time that we change our culture. A task I find singularly daunting. Just ask my wife we got into this discussion the other night. Right now in the Lutheran Culture, confirmation and communion are indivisibly linked. Some of the linkage is for good reason, as I said people must be prepared. However, it is not a good thing because people treat it as a means to an end rather than a part of a continuing process, a graduation so to speak. And we have people who are guilty of the Roman error by treating it as a sacrament, almost as if they believe that now they are confirmed they are now guaranteed salvation. Along with these reservations is the idea that we are somehow renewing our baptismal vows. What vows are we renewing? We made no vows when we received baptism. God made the vows as he claimed us through water and word. If we are going to correct these we must change our culture.

I know some people have made some changes in their congregations and I would love to hear from them, but I have a few ideas of my own.

Sunday School - should be the primary catechetical classes not confirmation. The children should learn the catechism from the time they begin Sunday School not when they enter Confirmation.

Confirmation classes - should not be based on age. Instead, we should judge this upon their willingness to join the church. All people interested should go through the same class even if this means having a wide set of age ranges. Parents of younger children should attend so that they can help explain complex issues to their children during the week. They should also be more of a gateway than a "graduation," a means of connecting the people to the community of believers in that congregation. It would also be the means by which instruction is given to older people who were not brought up in your church. Older converts be they new Christians or people from different denominations we would first of all run them through an introductory course, a version of Alpha perhaps, which, I hope, establish the confirmation class as a continuation and not a graduation for them. The class before ending would then guide them to a different bible study in order to emphasize this point.

Admittance to the Lord's Table - should not be based on confirmation rather their ability to discern.

These are just my thoughts and they are developing, and as I said if others have some input I am happy to hear them.

Update: I think that Sunday School should be the primary corporate level means of teaching the catechism, but the penultimate responsibility of catechizing the wee ones falls to their parents. As it is written, "The head of the household should teach..."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Coolest Thing Since Guttenberg Perfected The Printing Press

An enterprising fellow with a knack for programming has created a Flash driven version of one my favorite books, The Small Catechism This beautiful website is a must bookmark for anybody with the ability to point and click. If you do not bookmark this website you will be smacked on the knuckles and forced to recite the ten commandments backwards while upside down and underwater.

Pro-Choice but hedging their bets reports that a recent poll shows that only 26 percent of people claiming to be Pro-Choice believe in unrestricted access to abortion. What this really means is unclear. To me it sounds more like they are trying to hedge their bets. This way they can ease their conscience while maintaining their rebellion. I find this to be rather unremarkable. God did write his law in our hearts so it should not surprise us to find that they are uncomfortable with abortions. However, because they remain in bondage to sin they find themselves running away from what is right towards that which is evil.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Why are they in the LCMS?

Today the 30 lb brick known as the Convention Workbook 2007 landed in my lap today (typing in falsetto). I have only quickly gone through the Theology and Church Relations section. In just a quick run through I noticed a single church kept popping up with the weirdest of resolutions such as 3-67 To Restudy and Provide for Ordination of Women
Whereas: The LCMS does not currently ordain women to the holy ministry because of its interpretation of selected NT passages such as 1 Tim. 2:11-14; which speak of women learning in silence, not teaching, and having "authority" over males; and
Whereas: Some lay people and pastors within the Synod are convinced that these passages address cultural issues and reflect the practice of an earlier time and are not intended to apply to the role of women in the church today; and
Whereas: The Gospels identify women as the first witnesses and proclaimers of the resurrection - a task assigned to the apostles (Mt 28:28; Lk24:9-10; Jn 20:18)
Whereas: St Paul speaks of unity in Christ that transcends gender among all who are baptized (Gal 3:27-28)
Whereas: Many women who serve as pastors in other denominations have demonstrated such gifts as preaching, teaching, counseling, and presiding at worship, therefore be it
Resolved: that the LCMS gathered in convention request the CTCR to restudy the biblical and theological basis for ordaining women, and be it further
Resolved, That the most recent edition of a study response written by Rev Arnie Voigt, which addresses biblical interpretation with in the context of LCMS concerns in a careful way, be published and distributed to each pastor and congregational president of the synod; and be it finally
Resolved that the delegates at this convention affirm the desire to provide for the ordination of women as soon as possible.
Coronado, CA
Now, I am not going to take the time to refute all the points in detail because that would make for a long post and be off my topic.
Why are these people still in the LCMS? They obviously do not agree with us doctrinally so why are they sticking around? Would they not be much happier in anything goes ELCA? I will be honest that in I firmly believe this constitutes public proclamation of error and that Resurrection should be censured and their continued membership in the LCMS should be revoked should they not repent of their error.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Spider Man 3 - The Lutheran Movie

The past weekend while Mrs. Luther was out of town, I went and saw Spidey 3. It was an entertaining movie with great action sequences but no where near as tight as the previous installments story wise. However, the eye that is always on the look out for contemporary ways of approaching ancient truths turned on with the story line of Spiderman vs. the Black Suit (alien symbiont). It many ways this story line reflects the saint vs sinner dynamic in the Christian life.

As Christians we daily battle with our sinful nature as we try to deny the desires of the flesh in favor of walking in the Spirit. Paul reflected on this battle in Romans

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. Romans 7:14-25
Peter as Spiderman desired to do what is good, largely out of a sense of penance (how Papist of him) but when he came in contact with the black suit he changed. While he desired to do good, he ended up doing that which is bad. Just to make things even better sin aka the black suit bound his desires to itself. He wanted to hurt people right up to the point he was faced with his sins when he struck Mary Jane. At which point he desires to cast off the black suit, but he cannot because he is so bound by the suit.

Just to make things better from a Lutheran point of view, the black suit cannot be cast off until outside intervention breaks the hold of the suit and chases it off of Peter. In the movie it is the ringing of a bell that drives the black suit off of Peter. This draws the parallel that we cannot cast off sin ourselves but the vicarious act of atonement which happens outside of us releases us from the bondage of sin.

I realize the illustration isn't perfect but it does make for an interesting way to describe an ancient truth.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

You're Busted...I'm Suing reports that Planned-Selfishness, I mean Planned Parenthood, is suing a student reporter for posing as 15 year old victim of statutory rape and recording the conversations that took place in one of their offices. They claim that the reporter had no right to record their employees. This is actually not true. Legal precedence allows for people to record others without consent. They, however, cannot use the tape as evidence in the court of law. If it were illegal to tape somebody without consent, all of the consumer rights investigative reporters, and shows like Predator would have long been shut down.

What is happening is a classic scare tactic. You made me look bad so I am going to get you to back down by threatening a lawsuit. I hope she fights and I hope she wins. Planned Parenthood could do with a little accountability.

I wonder if congress is going to looking to the funding of illegal activities at Planned Parenthood. After all the non-reporting of sexual abuse by a mandatory reporter such as a counselor/worker at Planned Parenthood is a crime.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Religion Kills The Mind

Why is it that supposed "free thinkers" and "atheists" believe that having religion means the end of rational thought? I mean really what is it about religion and thinking that make the mutually exclusive? These questions really baffle me. Normally, I don't give it much thought because this type of person does not regularly cross my path. Where I am at I am more likely to trip over a Mormon or an agnostic with pretentions aka Wiccan/Pagan. However, the other day while driving home for lunch, there was a car in the other lane with a bunch of bumper stickers on the back, well I can't help myself and stole a glance. The one that caught my eye was one that said "Evolution isn't a theory...", it had more but because we were still moving I did not catch the whole thing. Intrigued by what the bumper sticker had to say because everything else on the car indicated they would think evolution was God's own truth, I went on line to see if I could find the bumper sticker. Well, I did not find the bumper sticker but I found this website (not child friendly) selling bumper sticker and they were all pretty much of this sort.Seeing these I just had to wonder what makes thinking and religion polar opposites? Did recieving God's grace suddenly stop my ability to think? Hardly, I am thinking right now. In fact, anybody who thinks religion means the end of thinking is a bit on the ignorant side. Jesus himself stated, " Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." (Matthew 10:16 )

You can not be wise if you stop thinking. Through out the Bible we are encouraged to learn more, to study God's word and the world around us. We are not called to ignorance. Now, I will admit there have been more than enough earnest fools who get air time who can lead people to believe religion and thinking are mutually exclusive, but just because they have big mouths does not mean that what they say reflects an accurate position. Anyhow, enough about how the media only puts on those who will get them ratings.

Going by their own statements one would think that the items for sale would demonstrate a certain amount of intelligence and wit that would naturally come from their ability to think. Well, let us just say, that if vocabulary is an indication of intelligence; I would be forced to rate them fairly low. Granted there is only so much one can fit on a bumper sticker but that has not prevented people from being witty. However, I would have to say a bumper sticker stating "Bush is an __________" and "__________ Bush" would indicate a distinct lack of intelligence. If the best response they can come up with is a bumper sticker laced with crude invectives, it would be an indication that rejection of religion does not equate to the ability to think. One does not need to think much to blurt out a harsh four letter word. Why else would four letter words be the favorite of every person who smashed his thumb with a hammer, you do not have to think in order to say it. If they wished to make indicate their dislike of President Bush, they could have come up with something like "Save the world, transplant a Bush" (Lutherama, 2007), see I do not even hate Presiedent Bush and I can come up with a catchy bumper sticker.

When you get down to it they are shooting themselves in the foot. If you want people to believe rejection of religion is smart then do not resort to crude language. Be inventive and imaginative. Oh, wait I did forget. It is hard for a fool to be either.
The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good. Psalm 14:1

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18

Thursday, May 10, 2007

When Sin Becomes Relative

The whole world falls apart.

Churches have entered into the fight over immigration. Granted that was sometime ago, but now they are kicking it up a notch so to speak. Now they are proposing to break the law in order to support criminals. Several churches have proposed to offer sanctuary in order to prevent the deportation of illegals immigrants. I can understand wanting to help the needy, that is a laudable work, but aiding and abetting criminals is something else. Whether or not they like the law we are called to honor the laws of our country lest they prevent the preaching of the Gospel. The U.S. government requiring people to go through a formal process of integration is not unjust, so these churches have no reasonable reason to object to the government deporting illegal immigrants.

Now the one thing I noticed from this picture on Christian is that the churches involved are mostly churches where sin has become relative and one that believes itself to be a governmental power in its own right. Here in lies the problem, because sin has become relative they have rationalized that it is ok to break the laws of the country they live in. If sin is relative, than so is the law. It is the infamous the law applies to everybody else but me syndrome. See relativism is not new it just got a face lift and calls herself Rev. Cuddly (Thanks House M.Div).

Back to my original point, if sin is relative and thereby law being relative, the world is falling apart. It is the law of Left-hand Kingdom (Governmental Rule) which curbs our innate desire to sin. If the law and rule of the Left-hand Kingdom becomes relative than anarchy and sin are free to reign and where these bedfellows reign societies crumble. The countries of Western Europe are already experiencing this decline and are finding themselves replaced by a society that acknowledges an objective law, in spite of being wrong about God. We are not far behind if we do not insist on the idea of an objective law.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Things That Go Boom

Astronomers have been gushing with excitement over the star, SN2006gy. What makes this star special is that it made an exceptionally large boom, making it the largest supernova ever observed. I love explosions, they make life interesting. If I weren't called to be a pastor, I'd be a demolitions expert.

Home Alone

Dr. Luther is home alone. My wife and wee one have left to go see family. My sister-in-law is graduating from Texas A&M (Whoop!) with an insane degree in math and physics. Why anybody would want to subject themselves to so much math is beyond me. Anyhow, trying to husband time off has left me home alone with the dog. Not that he is bad company but you know it ain't the same. Oh well, at least now I can get all the Taco Bell I want because the wife don't like Taco Bell for some strange reason.

I have to admit, for a while, I thought I would throw a party and post the invite on MySpace.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Entertainment Weekly's Top 25 Sci-Fi of the Past 25 Years

Egads, I am not sure what the people at entertainment weekly were thinking when they put together this list.

How in their right minds can they include such dreadful pics as Starship Troopers and leave out great sci-fi such as Babylon 5, Stargate SG-1 and Atlantis, Tron and Fifth Element. I understand the book Starship Troopers is pretty good but the movie stunk.

I can't comment on some of them such as Brazil because I never even heard of it, but then that maybe a reason not to include it but I am honest enough not to let my ignorance get in the way.

However, I must disagree with The Matrix as number 1 there are better Sci-Fi examples. Neo and co. deserve a top 10 nod but not number one. I would probably bump Blade Runner up, I might even be so bold to place Babylon 5 at number one or even number two, it had a wonderful story arc and did a great job in developing its characters. And where by the way is Dune? Children of Men should not even get consideration since they mutilated its source material.

I do wish that they would have included books because the absolute best Sci-Fi is still in book form, but then it would be too hard to slim the list down. I mean who can decide which Timothy Zahn book gets number one?

Update: I can't believe I forgot about this one, just where is Farscape? I know it has the horrid atonal intro music but the show itself is good. And just where in the entirety of the cosmos is Red Dwarf?

Oh, no not another update: Gattaca deserves to be in the top ten, but I am not surprised it did not make the list. The editors of EW probably wanted to stay away from the truly important issues such as the implications of living in a society that does not cherish the gift of life.

The beginning of the end?

Is this the end of the Episcopal Church as we know it? I sure hope so, nothing bothered me as much as a church which called itself "christian" but resembled the Unitarians in all but liturgy. One Episcopal church I visited boasted a spirit circle, a rock meditation garden, and yoga classes. I hope that the conservatives of Africa can wrench control of the Anglican commune away from the idolatries of the liberals. I find it is much easier to work towards a common confession when you can at least agree on who God is. My hope is they will eventually admit I am right and that Calvin couldn't find his way out of a wet paper bag.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

A Conferencing We Will Go

This week has been our Regional Pastor's Conference (we are forgoing the normal district conference because of the Synodical Conference) and while suffering from the normal highly uncomfortable chairs and the truly odd lack of coffee and doughnuts (What are we Baptists?!) it has been a thought provoking practical conference. Our focus has been evangelism. Oh no, not another evangelism conference! Actually I have gotten some things out of this conference. You have to be impressed when the keynote speaker says all programs are failures. Granted he did seem to like Kennedy's "Evangelism Explosion," but that was because it didn't just fill peoples heads, it also gave them "on the job" training opportunities. I can see where the actual experience could be helpful because if they are like me actually doing something makes it easier to do in the future.

The seminar also gave me some ideas on how to involve our shut-ins in outreach. As I visit our shut-ins, I am giving them the chance to help us by praying for our visitors both for any needs they have expressed and that they receive the Gospel. It also gave me some time to reflect on ways that I can practice what I preach. Something, I admittedly struggle with as the wife and I suffer from the affliction many in our congregation suffer from we only really know people from the congregation.