Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I Have Figured It Out

Pardon my bravado and pardon my coming late to the party if you have already figured this out. But I have finally nailed down the problem with fundamentalism. We just are not able to "feel in the air" when history is being made with live recording sessions of worship. Our live worship recordings are so "feelingless in the air," and we have become marginalized because of this.

Our allegiance to intelligent (and intelligible) worship has sidelined us in the wake of people who worship by feelings and have the discernment to know it when it is history-making. (Didn't Paul mention that spiritual gift in 1 Corinthians? Or was it Romans?) Until we fundamentalists solve this problem, we will continue to show our old-fashioned ignorance and out-of-touchness by arguing about trivial things like whether or not God's word is inspired and inerrant, things like whether Jesus actually died a substitutionary death to remove the wrath of God from us, or things like whether or not genuine salvation brings a change in a person's life. May God forgive us for such narrow-minded pursuits when we could be feeling history in the air.

So if any of you know what the air feels like on these blessed occasions, please let me know. I am so embarrassed that I do not know this already, and confessing my ignorance to the world on my blog is humbling. (Someone pass me Mahaney's book when you are done with it.)

I have searched the Scriptures in vain for the scriptural criteria to determine when the "feeling in the air" is history making and when it's just the steel plant and the petroleum blowing off its waste. So far in my ministry here, it seems mostly the latter. The unfortunate part is that the feeling in the air around here collects on every flat service like heavy snow on a cold January day. The good part is that you can save paper though ... just write your notes in the dust on the desk.

So help me out ... explain to me how exactly I will know this "feeling in the air" when it happens. I can't bear to miss out on it anymore.

Monday, May 29, 2006

How Can You Do That?

One more thing on this "mind-clearing Monday." Yesterday afternoon, I watched a little bit of Paula White "preaching." Hearing her appeals for money planting the seed brought a question to my mind. How can someone prostitute the word of God in such a shameless fashion?

Later last night I was watching Liberty University's TV program and saw Dr. Ergun Caner preaching on why he was predestined not to be a hyper-Calvinist. A similar question came to my mind.

In a day where multitudes lack theological discernment and basic rudimentary knowledge of the Bible, the Bible can be used to be all things to all men, while fawn crowds gleefully pile in the bus headed down to the latest theological circus. God help us.

Speaking of fauns, I watched The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe over the weekend. Someone had graciously given us a copy. It has been years since I read the book, and so my memory was definitely foggy. I am not a big fan of fantasy. It took me about two weeks to slog through LOTR. But LWW was pretty interesting, if not a little long. It seemed to be well done. The technology of mixing animation with live acting increasingly amazes me.

The theological themes that I suppose Lewis intended were easily seen if you have some theological knowledge. Of course, the theological themes were pretty bad, it seems to me. The "ransom to Satan" theory was propounded, as well as this whole idea that Christ is sitting around waiting for something while Satan rules the world without limits. Perhaps I am reading too much into the film, and don't know enough about Lewis's theology. And perhaps the film was substantially different than the book. But it reminds me not to get my theology from films.

Why Babies are like Churchgoers

Having a two-month old son is a load of fun. We love watching him laugh and smile, seeing the expressions on his face and wondering what is going on inside his little head. By making funny noises and talking in strange ways, we have found it pretty easy to make him laugh, unless he is in a really cranky mood like he was after getting his shots last week. We have found that it really doesn't matter what you are talking about. It is all about how you say it. Say it just right and a huge grin will break out on his face and his little hands will be going a mile a minute. Say the same thing in a normal voice and he just stares at you, clearly unamused.

Which reminds me a lot of modern day churchdom. It doesn't really matter what the preacher says, so long as he makes it funny and says it in a way that grabs attention to himself. There is little discernment about what is being said. The focus is on how it is said.

We preachers need to be constantly aware of the temptation to seek for approval by watching the faces of our hearers, to judge the power of a biblical text by the silly grins of the people in the pew.

It seems we have cultivated two kinds of preachers in our day. The first kind believes power in preaching can be measured by the response of the people. Among some this requires preaching on the big themes of pants on women, (Amen?) and the old King James Bible (Amen?), and all those rascally compromisers out there who stopped wearing a tie to the office on Tuesdays (Amen?). They shout really loud and beat the pulpit hard. They judge their message by the number and volume of the "Amens" and "'c'mon-now-preachers" they can elicit from their audience. There are also some among this first kind who could not be more opposite in their methods, but alike in their philosophy. They too judge the success and power of their message by the response of people—the number that pour through the doors, the number of hands raised and bodies swaying during the band's music set, the amount and volumes of the laughs at the Top Ten list, or the drama. They don't beat the pulpit hard. They may not even have one. (Which I am not saying is a bad thing). Both of these preachers stick their finger in the congregational wind to find out what will elicit a response, and then go after that response very hard. They have studied people hard and have learned much about them.

The second kind of preacher is the kind that has mistaken exegetical lessons for preaching the word. He discusses the semantic range of the hiphil use of the imperative, and labors long on the datives in Paul's soteriological writings. They believe that good preaching is marked without respect to any response from the audience. Their outline of the text is flawless and their manuscript is full. They "hold forth" for a long period of time with little audience connection. Their illustrations, if they exist, confuse the audience rather than clarify. Their applications, if they exist, miss the audience because they have nothing to do with the lives they live. He preaches much on what is interesting to him, because he has not studied his audience enough to know what is interesting to them, or how to make the text come alive in their minds. So the audience is confused, disinterested, bored, and apathetic. These preachers have studied the text hard and have learned much about it.

I believe preachers need to be different. We need to be men of the text, who know what God has said, who have done the work in the original languages and historical context, who have placed the text in its original setting, and understood what the author was saying to the original people. We need to be men of the congregation, who have studied our people and our communitities, who understand the lives that they live and the battles that they face, who understand the culture that we live in, and how the culture processes information and draws conclusions.

We need to be men who can marry the text to the congregation. The truth is the same for all congregations, but the application may be different from a church in suburbia to a church in urbania. It may be different for a church of middle class professionals than for a church of drug addicts and alcoholics. The illustrations that connect with a businessman making six figures a year may not connect with the single mother who doesn't know where her next meal will come from.

Men, when you have studied the text forwards and backwards, assembled your exegetical outline with all the linguistic and lexical work, you are only half done. We must study our people in order to communicate clearly and effectively with them. One pastor says he likes to prepare his messages in the food court at the mall, or in a coffee shop, or city park. He imagines in his mind that the people he sees passing by will be the people who listen to him preach. "Will they understand it?" he asks. "Will it make any difference to them?"

So use humor, human interest stories, life application to explain the text and apply it to your hearers. Don't go for the cheap laughs and silly grins, no matter how rewarding they may be. Save that for your two-month old.

The Joys of Fatherhood

True story ... Last night, just before our evening service, my wife came a little early to bring me a bowl of watermelon. I was holding my son in my lap lying down with his head towards my knees. We were talking to him and watching him grin. It was great.

I thought he felt a little warm lying there, but I figured it was a hot day and it was just his body heat. So I stand up to print off my notes for the service and get my Bible. I look down to find a wet spot on my pants at a very inopportune place. Turns out my son's body heat really wasn't body heat. At least he didn't know what we were laughing about.

Fortunately, I live close enough to the church to run home and change, so I didn't have to make any awkward explanations.

Which reminds me of yet another good reason not to wear a suit on Sunday nights. You can wash cotton dockers at the house. You have to send a suit to the cleaners.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Graduation Part II

I posted previously on the irony of the student who protested the appearance of Senator John McCain at his school's commencement because they, at that school, were taught to value the inclusion of all people.

The rest of the story is now known.
Senator John McCain of Arizona received a cantankerous reception during his appearance at the New School commencement Friday, where dozens of faculty members and students turned their backs and raised signs in protest and a distinguished student speaker pointedly mocked him as he sat silently nearby.
It gives you great confidence in our future to observe the ability of people to respectfully disagree. I am glad that no one acted like a kindergarten graduate who had his toy taken away from him by the teacher. It is refreshing that faculty members chose to set a good example for those whom they taught to value the inclusion of all people. In a day and age where rudeness and immaturity rule far too many people, it is heartwarming to see young college graduates with the common decency to sit and listen to someone they disagree with.

Or not.

Read It, Remember It

In the month of graduations, this is worth reading, even if you are not a graduate.

Good stuff, but perhaps still clinging to vestiges of his background, he closes it out with something totally irrelevant, but it made me laugh. more thing: remember to keep it between the ditches and the greasy side down.

You can't go wrong with that kind of advice.

Thanks Greg for pointing this out.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Is This What Jesus Had in Mind?

At our Lord's final meal with his disciples before going to suffer crucifixion for the sins of the world, he broke bread and shared the cup and said "Do this in remembrance of me."

Consider the moment recorded for us in the gospels and compare that to this communion service from an emergent church.

1. introduce yourselves, slips of paper with questions to ask each other

2. iconic candle making kit with a night light, strip of acetate with the last supper image on and two paper clips. give thanks for things that have happened this week.

3. text a confession on your mobile phone to the number prefacing it with the word confess (an absolution with the words you are forgiven is triggered by the keyword confess)- thanks to jason djang for the inspiration for this who had IM confession recently that he told us about, which i'll blog about separately when i get round to it.

4. read story of thomas - share stories of doubt and surprise

5. peace - toast glasses proposing a toast of affirmation to someone round the table

6. share what you are thankful for about jesus. share what you want to remember about jesus. use images of christ enclosed to spark discussion

7. share bread and wine round the table after listening to the prayer. a bottle of wine and bread were already in place on each table (duncan wandered around doing bill's

8. invite the group to share concerns for prayer - take one of the night lights and light it for each prayer

9. go and collect a plate of hot towels (the kind you get after a curry - we got some from a warehouse locally!) - say a blessing and use the towel

Text message your confession to another cell phone? And receive absolution back on the phone? Use images of Christ to spark discussion? Prepare a toast of affirmation to someone round the table?

The report is that it "worked brilliantly" with "no leadership required." Yes, I can imagine so because I can't imagine any true spiritual leadership allowing this charade to substitute for communion.

No, I am not making this up. You can read about it at the TallSkinnyKiwi's blog, and at Jonny Baker's blog. This is the kind of stuff parodies are made of.

Somehow, the emergent's desire to recover an ancient faith rings hollow in the light of these trite and foolish observances of the ordinances of the church. Christ did not give these ordinances so that we could trifle with them through the use of technology. They were not given to be used by the creative minds of the church to see how we might incorporate text messages, communion, and imagination with affirmation, night lights, and hot towels.

I rather imagine the ordinance of communion was given to be a solemn time of remembrance, a simplistic time of worship, reflection, repentance to God, and celebration of freedom in Christ. Text messaging your confession to a person that did not die in your place so you can receive a programmed "absolution" does not seem to be "a remembrance of Christ."

This is pure silliness in the name of Christ. We might as well get together and gorge ourselves while others starve.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A Microcosm in the Comments

Leadership's Out of Ur blog has a post by Spencer Burke on the consumeristic church. The article is notable for its un-notableness, but the comments seem to me to be a microcosm of contemporary views of the church. There are some good comments, some insightful comments, and some comments that can only be labeled as bizarre. To me, it shows just how juvenile our ecclesiology really is. For all our advancements in society and technology, for all our education in the arts and sciences, much of the church is still at a very early elementary level with respect to her nature and existence, as well as her mission.

I am sure I do not have all the answers, and in fact probably do not even know all the questions. I am not entirely sure what the church would look like if it was a fully-functioning NT church in the variety of twenty-first century cultures in this global age. But somehow, I do not think it takes a rocket scientist to recognize just how misguided some of these comments are.

One commenter says,
So pastors.... go charter a bunch of buses one Sunday morning, take your "members" to the local homeless shelter and feed some people. It'll will speak louder than 52 weeks of music, video clips, and alliterations.
Perhaps this says it all. If chartering buses to local homeless shelters on one Sunday morning speaks louder than the fifty-two preceding weeks, just how bad is your preaching? And your music? And your theology? It is hard to imagine that volunteering at a homeless shelter is an improvement, but given the state of modern (post-modern) ecclesiology and homiletics, it isn't that far-fetched.

And my concern is not with helping the homeless, which is a fine thing to do. (Given the other 167 hours in the week, I am not sure this pastor recommends Sunday morning as the time to do it, but that's another issue). My concern is with the immature view of "church" that can suggest that social service (however good and noble it might be) somehow speaks louder than the authority of the preached word and the gathered church. It seems to play into the (post) -modern idea that it doesn't matter what you believe or say as long as you do something that looks like giving back.

I have somewhat of a different view than many fundamentalists in that I believe the church should be more conscious of social needs and more involved in "ministries of mercy." I think we have too often given up our moral authority by isolation from the needs of our community. The world won't listen to our gospel because it does not appear to them to do anything for us. We exist too often as a fortress of escape rather than a hospital for help. I think that is dangerous, and something that needs more careful thought.

But somehow, in the contemporary church, there has come this belief that social consciousness is part of the mission of the church, rather than an outgrowth of the church's mission being accomplished. We can take comfort in that this idea of social consciousness and involvement isn't new. It was already tried and was part of the liberal-fundamentalist controversy of the early part of the 20th century as the "social gospel" quickly became more social than gospel. It failed then. Why is it different this time?

So long as the church is driven by what people think it should be, rather than what God says it should be, so long as the church is driven by people who get their notions from contemporary society rather than from Scripture, we will continue to have these kinds of assertions.

The church needs the church to be the church. The world needs the church to be the church.

We pastors need to confront these false views of the church in our preaching and teaching. But to do that, we need to know they exist. That is why I read blogs like Out of Ur. I don't always agree with the views espoused, but I find out what people are thinking. And that is part of effective preaching—knowing what people believe so we can bring the truth of the Word of God to bear on their faulty thinking, and encourage their biblical thinking.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Did You Think First?

The New School in Manhattan, where former Nebraska governor, then later Senator, and 9/11 Commission member Bob Kerrey is president has invited John McCain to be the commencement speaker. McCain's appearance has created a furor among some students, staff, and faculty members. McCain's positions on gay marriage and the Iraq War, support for the South Dakota ban on abortion, and a similar appearance at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University are among reasons for the objections.

What caught my attention was the apparent erudition of one Harper Keenan. Keenan is a sophomore at New School, and an organizer of the dissent. He said, “In all of our classes we’re taught the value of inclusion of all people,and we’re taught to question our leaders.”

Really? You are taught to value the inclusion of all people? So then why are you recommending the exclusion of John McCain? Is he not one of the "all people" whose inclusion you value? Is he not a "people"? Or not part of the "all"?

Or is the education at New School so poor, that you didn't realize that you weren't really being taught the value of the inclusion of all people?

Or did you just not think before you spoke?

Feel free to object all you like, until you are content. And feel free to voice your objection in any legal, respectful manner.

But don't claim to value the inclusion of all people while recommending the exclusion of some.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Tony Campolo on Second Chances

Over at Out of Ur, Tony Campolo says,
I’m not so sure that when this life is over that all possibilities for salvation are over. I read in Ephesians 4:9-10 a passage that can be interpreted to describe a Jesus who descends into “the depths below the earth” to bring captives up to God. I read in 1 Peter 3:19 about a Jesus who goes to preach to those in the prison house of death, and I believe these Scriptures show Jesus doing something for people after they are dead, as we understand death. This reveals Jesus to be the “hound of heaven.”
Does not Hebrews 9:22 say that we die and then comes judgment? Does not Luke 16 tell us that if we do not listen in this life, we surely will not listen in the next? Perhaps these two passages to which Campolo appeals "can be" interpreted that way, but they do not "have to be," and in light of all of Scripture, it seems that they must not be interpreted that way.

Why does Campolo feel the liberty to take a differing position?

He then says,
Yes, I believe there will be people in hell eternally, but somehow, I believe from Scripture—note I said from Scripture—that in the end everybody gets a chance to choose.
Does not Romans 1:19-21 address this when it says that all men know the eternal power and divine nature of God and choose to reject it?

Perhaps my history is bad, but it seems like the growing chorus of questioning long held theological beliefs is not in the best interests of Christianity. It seems that many are attempting to soften the justice of God by resorting to aberrant views on the doctrine of eternal conscious torment, views such as universalism, annihilationism, and second chances.

Why would we preach with urgency in this life, if there is a chance in the next life? Is this not the perfect opportunity for us to get "all this and heaven too." It seems that Jesus and the apostles preached with urgency precisely because there is no second chance. We should not do less.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Emergents Want No Doctrinal Statements

Tony Jones, a leader in the Emergent Conversation, and the national coordinator for Emergent US has settled the matter of a doctrinal statement with help from a former professor of Bethel Seminary, LeRon Shults.

His reasons?

1. Jesus did not have a doctrinal statement: "... he was not concerned primarily with whether individuals gave cognitive assent to abstract propositions but with calling persons into trustworthy community through embodied and concrete acts of faithfulness."

2. "The truly infinite God of Christian faith is beyond all our linguistic grasping, as all the great theologians from Irenaeus to Calvin have insisted, and so the struggle to capture God in our finite propositional structures is nothing short of linguistic idolatry."

3. It might exclude others from the pursuit of God, who wish to pursue him in other ways.
... a "statement of faith" tends to stop conversation. Such statements can also easily become tools for manipulating or excluding people from the community. Too often they create an environment in which real conversation is avoided out of fear that critical reflection on one or more of the sacred propositions will lead to excommunication from the community. Emergent seeks to provide a milieu in which others are welcomed to join in the pursuit of life "in" the One who is true (1 John 5:20).
He concludes with the enimagtic proposition: Any good conversation includes propositions, but they should serve the process of inquiry rather than shut it down.

As I have read the reconstructive and revisionist emergents, it seems to me that the real reason they don't want to have a doctrinal statement is because they are more concerned about people than they are about God and his truth. I know that is harsh, but what other reason could there be? They are denying major propositions of the Christian faith such as the inerrancy and authority of Scripture, substitutionary atonement, exclusivity of salvation in Jesus alone, and the like. In reality, reason number three is their real reason: they want to include everybody and a statement of faith draws lines about who is in or out.

The emergent church (if "church" it can be called) has long been headed down a dangerous path. There are some conservative, orthodox expressions of the emerging church, that preach the gospel. They are not without reasons for concern. But they would stand against the foolishness and nonsense of Tony Jones and the "non-doctrinal" pursuit of a church.

In the end, it seems to me that refusal to express a doctrinal position disqualifies one from being a church. After all, the church is the pillar and bulwark of the truth, and if "the truth" is unknown, exactly what is she defending?

Let me briefly interact with these three reasons.

1. Jesus had no doctrinal statement. This is pure nonsense. Jesus called people to a definite commitment to belief in the reality represented by propositions. He called for belief in himself based on the proposition, "I am God (John 5:17-18); I am the Messiah (John 4:25-26) I am the Savior (John 6:35)." He called for belief in the proposition that the Old Testament Scriptures were the word of God that should be believed (John 10:35; Luke 16:31; Luke 24:27, 44). He promised eternal life in heaven with the proposition that "I go to prepare and place for you ... and will come again and receive you to myself" (John 14:1-3). He claimed exclusivity with the proposition "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). So clearly, Jesus did have a doctrinal statement that he believed and lived by. He called others to believe and live by it. We should do no less.

2. Linguistic Idolatry to Capture the Infinite God in Human Language. God apparently did not share this concern, since he breathed out the graphe, which can only be considered as God's attempt to communicate himself in human language. An objection like this is the result of an attempt at sophistication without thought. It would be laughable were it not so serious.

3. Excludes others. Uh, Yes, that's the point of it. In doctrinal statements, we are drawing boundaries. We are saying, "All propositions are not equal." We are not forcing others to agree with us. They may choose to agree with us and associate with us, or they may not. A doctrinal statement simply lays out the propositions that we consider true.

So 1 for 3 isn't bad. In Major League Baseball, that will get you a multi-million dollar paycheck. But it doesn't make for good support of one's original proposition. When two out of three legs are broken out of the box, the stool will surely fall.

Should a church or religious organization have a doctrinal statement? Without a doubt. Emergent US's attempt to avoid it shows only how far from serious about Christianity they really are. It seems they are trying to reduce Christianity to "be a good person" and agree when others talk about what they believe. I cannot help but wonder if the only pursuit of God they will rule out is the propositional pursuit of God, a pursuit based on what God said.

Inviting People to Church

If members walk out of your service saying, “I wish my unchurched friend had been here,” they will start to think about inviting their friend. If a member walks out of your service three weeks in a row and says every time, “I wish my unchurched friend would have heard that,” nothing will stop that member from dragging that friend through your doors. The challenging thing is that often, when members walk out of churches, the only thing they can say is, “I wish my other church friends would have heard that.”
Here I go again, sticking my neck out in sometimes hostile waters of the "church and unbelievers." However, it's something that weighs heavy on me. The above quote is from an article by Richard Reising posted at

This goes back to my concern that we have no evangelistic strategy in our church that actually get people in the church to hear the systematic exposition of the Word of God in a relevant way. We too often don't communicate that the Bible is not just a academic history book on "God and Life Back Then." It is goldmine of glory on "God and Life Now." But visitors come and walk away saying "So what? I got bills and marriage problems, the kids are sick, the economy is down. Why did I come to hear that?

I am not saying we need to preach on bills and marriage problems and sick kids, and a tough economy, though there is no doubt in my mind that the systematic exposition of the Word rightly applied to modern life will touch all of those things with far greater wealth than the unbeliever can imagine. Preaching the sovereignty and glory of the risen Christ should give answers to the "So What" question. We too often have church for the churched, where we send the message (unconsciously perhaps) th
at you have to be like us to be a part of us. And if you don't understand, or can't make application on your own, you are left high and dry.

People who have been in church for years have little problem listening to an exegetical lesson about what the text says. People who have been in the world for years want to know what God says about life today. Right understanding of the text is not the goal. The goal is a changed life from the inside out (1 Timothy 1:5). Right understanding of the text is only one step on the way. It is a major indispensable step, but only a step. We can never stop short of real life, up to the minute application of the word to all humanity, believers and unbelievers alike.

I can sympathize with the article's thrust that people do not invite their friends to church because they know that the service will not make sense to them. They will leave with a worse taste in their mouth for the things of God, and possibly make further contact for the gospel harder.

I have great concerns with much of the philosophy peddled at (and I do not use peddled accidently). But Warren has stumbled onto some things that are worthy of serious thought and interaction if we are going to break out of the mold of tepid church life and health.

Reising offers six questions that help to frame his approach. I do not find anything in the six questions that requires letting the visitors dictate the service. In fact, these six questions are valid for even believers. So what if we started asking them? I think it would make a difference.

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Old School

Still clearing ...

I recently received a letter about a ministry desiring to work "only with Baptists who are from 'The Old School.'"

Their first "old school"criteria is those who have not "left the King James Bible for any other translation."

How is "King James Only" old school? Only historical revisionism could conclude such a thing. It is only about thirty years old at best. Fundamentalism never held to a "single version only" position until relatively recently, and a great many fundamentalists have rightly stood for the "old school" against "single version only." That is not to say that fundamentalists dislike the venerable King James Version. They simply realize that the Bible does not teach any form of "one version only" theology.

Their second criteria for "old school" is no "five point Calvinists." Do these people not realize that the particular Baptists date to the 1640s? I would think something almost five hundred years old would certainly qualify as "old school," but perhaps my evaluation of the passing of time is misguided.

Their third criteria is not "Armenian in theology." I have tried to figure out why a particular nationality is considered not to be old school. I have had no success. If some of you know why Armenians can't be "old school Baptists" please pass it along. Of course, Armenians are probably disqualified anyway since I doubt they use the King James Version.

I am all for people deciding their associations based on their personal beliefs and preferences. But at least have the decency to get your facts (and your spelling) straight.

Head Fakes for Jesus

Still clearing ...

The NY Times has an interesting article on Christian music worth reading. You may have already seen it. Music is certainly a hot button issue for many, and should be for many more. And while there is room for varying preferences in music, this article makes some points that are worthy of consideration ... and they probably didn't mean to. After all, the NYT has no axe to grind in the Christian music arena.
More often, MercyMe relies upon a familiar (though often effective) head-fake: the song seems to be about a romantic relationship, but it turns out to be a relationship with God.
Is this good? One has to wonder. What role do "head fakes" play in the communication of the message of Christ? What role do "head fakes" play in worship?

One of my concerns is that our theology, particularly in song, is not unique enough concerning Jesus to prevent those who believe in God but not Jesus to sing it. After all, the uniqueness of Christian theology is the "Christ" part of it, that Jesus is God. That's what sets us apart from everyone else. It seems at times like some have capitulated to thinking "We can't get their attention with Jesus, so let's get it with something else, and then tell them it's really about Jesus."

And is the "head fake" really a head fake, where you get someone leaning one way so you can go another? It sounds more like a bait and switch, where you get someone coming for one thing, and then tell them it's really about something else. Isn't the gospel worth more than that?

If the world likes it, is it really about the God who is Jesus?

Have You No Shame?

Clearing my mind this morning on a few news items ...

It appears that Micro$oft's new Internet Explorer 7 is the target of a Google complaint about search engines. Google, the company whose name has become a verb (cf. Xerox) is complaining that Microsoft's new IE7 has a search engine box in the the command line that defaults to Microsoft's search engine. They complain that users ought to be able to choose their search engine rather than have a default search engine.

Google vice-president Marissa Mayer says, "We don't think it's right for Microsoft to just set the default to MSN. We believe users should choose."

Of course not. It's only right to default if you default to Google.

My mind went back to the time when I first downloaded Firefox, the browser that I use. It, like IE7, has a search engine box in the upper right hand corner. That search engine has a default setting to ... wait for it ... you guessed it ... Google.

So let me lay this out for you. Google (the company whose name has become a verb) is complaining that M$ IE7 does what Google has been doing for a long time. It appears that Google's main complaint is, "We were doing this first, but ignore that, because M$ might cut into our profits."

Google is concerned about "preserving competition in the search market" in which they have 49% share, to Yahoo's 22%. M$ has 11%. Sounds like Google is all about competition in the search market.

How hypocritical. I can't help but notice that Google wasn't whining when they were the default search engine. I guess they were saving all that whine to complain when someone else decided to do what Google had been doing. Somebody bring some cheese and crackers to go with the whine.

Here's the bottom line. If you don't like the default search engine on your browser, then change it. How simple is that? Why do we need to tie up the Justice Department over this? Don't they have more important matters to deal with?

Has Pacifism Ever Worked?

On a political note, I was reading a A Different Perspective today and saw a reference to an article about pacifism. Alan says,
When it comes to taking human lives, the burden of proof should always be on the side taking the lives rather than those who advocate nonviolent responses to aggression.
It seem that he poo-poos the idea that war will stop war. He is a pacifist, and I have to me wonder why. Has it ever worked? I am no historian, but I can't think of a single war that has ever been won by pacifists. There is another name for pacifists that is used more often: Losers. Pacifists don't win wars.

WWII ended when the price of continuing the war was greater than the Japanese were willing to pay. You might quibble with the use of the atomic bomb, but it ended a six year war in two weeks, and by some estimates saved the lives of perhaps a quarter of a million American soldiers. How many lives would have been saved had that option been available in 1939?

I am a big fan of being the bigger guy, morally. I think the bully on the playground is best answered by walking away and laughing at the ignorance that brings bully-hood on. I am also a big fan of not picking battles you can't win. Nothing is more embarrassing than losing. Just go on about your business and let the bully rant.

But when it comes to international conflict, pacifism won't work. Idiots will fight until they get hit hard enough to make the pain of getting hit greater than the joy of hitting someone else. Diplomacy only works when it is backed up with something that will hurt. There were some reports that in the days just prior to the Iraq War, the build up of forces in the middle east brought Saddam to a place of negotiation that was refused by the coalition. Whether that's true or not, it is not surprising, because that is the way it is supposed to work.

It is true that might doesn't make right. But might does make people think twice. So let's use it, for the common good of civilization.

All of which reminds me of the great battle against God that has reigned since the dawn of sin in human history. And I am reminded that not even Jesus is a pacifist. He is willing to let Satan's little bullies have some room to work right now. And Psalm 2 describes it as a humorous thing for God. Men band themselves together against the Lord and his Christ, and God laughs. He knows that when the time comes, their bands will be like thread before the mighty power of the victorious Christ. When Jesus comes, he will be no pacifist. He will make war in a white outfit, and it is clear that he doesn't intend to dirty it except for the blood of his enemies.

While we must be careful arguing for war based on God's final victory, we must realize that pacifism is not God's approach to international conflict. There are battles worth fighting, and we must be willing to fight them.

Jesus calls us as believers to endure persecution peacefully and willingly, and not fight back. But there's a reason for that. Jesus is the one that will settle our problems, and he will do it in a way we cannot even imagine.

Here's the message of the Bible in two words: God wins.

Never forget that. But don't try to make international conflict the same as spiritual battles. They aren't.