Saturday, September 30, 2006

New Toy

When I was just out of high school I got a tent and a backpack and did some camping. Years later a bunch of my friends started a tradition of going to Camp Barakel for family camp over the Labor Day weekend. That meant I had to get something to go with them. I was unwilling to pay for anything more than a tent. I got one and we went. Dan was 3, we've gone back every year since. Dan is now a senior in high school.

Each year we expanded the operation. I got a 10' by 20' canopy (that works well for graduation open houses, as all our friends' graduated kids know) and we set that up in addition to the tent. The kids got big enough and they wanted their own tents, too.

Three or four years ago, a friend told me about a popup camper for sale cheap. It was a 1969 Apache. If you're unfamiliar with the design, it's basically a trailer with a couple of slide out platforms for foam matresses and a framework of metal pipes overhead that a canvas tent slides over. Definately minimalist, but we were sleeping off the ground.

The net result of all this was that preparations for camping took all of August and setup at the beginning of Labor Day weekend took nigh unto 90 minutes to two hours. And tear-down consumed the entire morning (except for chapel) on Monday.

The last two years I've gone from feeling that this was a lot of fun to thinking that this was an unnecessary hassle. What I want is a way to "get away from it all" that isn't a major production. And I want that extra four hours at camp that I'm now spending frogging around setting up and tearing down.

Thus, a few years ago, I found out about a popup trailer company called Aliner. The big appeal is that this popup trailer can set up and tear down in less than 30 seconds. Thus I was surprised and pleased when my wife, Mary, showed me an ad on the internet for a two-year-old Aliner with a "Sofa Dinette" floorplan. The price was right. Last week we drove to Three Rivers to inspect the unit. It had some problems with the weatherstripping, but the seller was willing to fix them so we agreed to buy it. We did so yesterday.

We found that pulling the unit with our van is only slightly harder than pulling the old Apache. I figure its about 900 pounds or so. There's a campground about halfway to church from my house and we stayed there last night to test it out.

It was a good test since there have been off-and-on rain showers all weekend and the temperatures are between the mid 50s and low 40s. The propane furnace keeps the inside nice and toasty. The walls and ceiling are all solid, insulated to something like an R7 factor, so there were no drafts.

We haven't quite figured out how to use the storage spaces in this unit. Because things seemed cluttered, I couldn't quite get as relaxed as I'd like. The sofa that pulls out for a bed isn't particularly comfortable as either. I intend to do some customizing. What I WANT is a wing-back chair and a reading lamp.

It's in the garage now, drying out. If I don't get dragged off to do some plumbing at the apartments, I'll see if I can set it up inside there without hitting the garage door opener.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sabbath Keeping In Grand Rapids

After church Mary and I were taking our walk when we got to the secret sidewalk that connects our cul de sac with the next street. We heard a leaf blower coming from our neighbor's house. Now, this neighbor is some kind of Dutch Reformed (Reformed or Christian Reformed). These people take the commandment about Sabbath more seriously than Baptists do. Ergo, no yard work.

Approaching his house, I noted that it was after sunset. Maybe the Dutch Reformed sabbath ends at sunset like it does for the Jews?

The secret sidewalk runs alongside his house and back yard. So, we went past his back yard and saw him standing outside his back door. Our neighbor wore a tuxedo and he was not doing any yard work. Before him is an array of large plastic things.

We were naturally curios and he obviously felt sheepish enough to explain that he had returned from a concert tonight (thus the tuxedo) and his wife had brought home all the tupperware from her pre-school class. She had washed it and he was tasked with drying them (thus the leaf blower).

My faith in Dutch Reformed christianity is reaffirmed. He wasn't doing yard work.

Purple-Faced Rage

I just read that the Ex-President, who discovered that White House interns are adept multitaskers (He used one as a humidors.), is in a "purple-faced rage" about the suggestion that he let anything distract him from the business of making Osama Bin Laden dead.

This reminds me of something that happened when I was a child. I had a 9 volt radio battery with a rather distinctive label on it that went missing. A while later, I went to visit my cousin and playing in his "fort" in his parents' garage, I saw a battery that looked exactly like the one that I lost.

I thought it an odd coincidence, but I thought nothing more than that when I mentioned it to him. Much to my surprise, my cousin flew off the handle, got defensive and angry and became altogether no fun to play with. On the ride home, the cousins lived in Chicago and I lived in Kent City, I got to thinking. Did my cousin steal that battery from me?

Lesson in human nature: When someone goes purple-faced on you, there may be a guilty conscience in play.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

John McCain is a media hoax

A long time ago, John McCain ran for President as a Republican. In so doing, he was soundly defeated by George W. Bush, a non-conservative I was not particularly excited about. Mr. Bush has ruled roughly as I've expected, non-conservatively, but no so ineptly non-conservative as his daddy. This lack of enthusiasm for a non-conservative was reflected in the conservative-dominated Republican primaries of that election cycle.

Conversely, conservative apathy for Mr. Bush exists in stark contrast with the unfailing devotion of the mainstream media for Mr. McCain. Mr. McCain has maintained a symbiotic relationship with the news party since his implication in the Keating Five corruption scandal and that symbiosis has kept him safe from criticism while he's sponsored legislation to "take the money out of politics" a crusade paid for by George Soros. This legislation regulates political speech against incumbent candidates immediately prior to their re-election. Mr. McCain engineered the "Gang of 14" compromise that rescued the Democratic Senate from irrelevance in the Supreme Court confirmation process. Moreover, Mr. McCain has been an outspoken advocate for the rights of terrorists held in American detention. Rights our adversaries are sure to reciprocate as they're sawing the heads off kidnapped Americans for the world to see on the Internet.

Another presidential primary season is upcoming. And with Vice President Cheney both unpopular and not standing for election, there is an open field of Republican candidates for President. Most prominent among them is Mr. McCain who surprised Mr. Bush by winning the Michigan primary back in 2000.

I happen to live in Michigan and I voted against Mr. McCain in 2000. I have Democrat friends who voted for Mr. McCain in 2000. In Michigan, a Republican can vote for a Democrat standing for election in a primary, such as when I voted for Geoffrey Feiger, knowing him to be a weaker opponent of the then incumbent governor John Engler. Moreover, I worked a phone bank on election day in the 2002 elections, as I had on many other election days. The phone list that time consisted of people voting Republican in the 2000 primary. Never before had I gotten so many hang-ups and "go to hell" responses while get-out-the-vote calling. This led me to believe a large number of Democrats voted for a Republican candidate in the 2000 presidential primary.

Ergo, I've felt with a fair degree of certainty that Mr. McCain is unelectable in any Republican presidential primary election. Any word to the contrary is mere media hoax.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Interfaith Dialog

There is something wrong with interfaith dialog when one side uses words and the other side uses fire bombs. His Holiness Benedict XVI has said that reason should be the basis of dialog and that violence should not be used to compel conversion. In response, representatives of Islam have taken to the streets and are fire bombing Christian churches that don't even acknowledge the Pope.

The nature of the Islamic deity is quite something, rewarding those who murder in his name with 70 virgins and so on.

Update: added link to B16's address.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Character of Deity

If you're watching the news, his Holiness Benedict XVI quoted a 15th century Byzantine Emperor, saying, "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman." In response, the followers of Mohammed are burning things.

What are we to conclude from this? Since this is the "religion of peace," they must think Mohammed's contribution to civilization was the invention of fire.

It is a common mistake to think that the three major monotheist religions worship the same deity. It's more than just one deity going by various aliases. Let's suppose I say that the only deity that exists just simply loves to pull the wings off flies. And in eternity, after he runs out of flies, he turns the people he likes least into flies. If you're a Jew, a Moslem or a Christian, you wouldn't call this deity YOUR deity.

When you evaluate a religion, you need to inquire after the character of its deity. My fly-torturing deity would give rise to a sucky religion.

After 9/11, we've heard this constant refrain that the terrorists are aberrations and they were not at all reflective of Islam. This has always struck me as incredibly gullible and foolish wishful thinking. This religion of peace seems to respond to any provocation with violence. I think this reflective of the religion's god-concept.

We've heard that Pope Benedict XVI disapproves of those who fly airplanes into buildings. It's been five years, I cannot name a single "moderate" Moslem who's done so.

As I've said before, you can fly airplanes into buildings OR you can criticize that practise. That which evokes distrust and suspicion of Islam is the former, not the latter.

UPDATE: I just read Benedict XVI's remarks and they bear only a tangental relationship to the media coverage. You really have to read what he said for yourself.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Islam

This morning High Command informed me that I'd better leave the radio off, because everything was 9/11 everywhere. I rolled my eyes and picked out a Keiko Matsui CD. It sounds good. Before I settled down, she told me, "There was this private in World War 2, Saipan who died. He single-handedly got a bunch of Japanese to surrender to him. Made them think he had them surrounded. They called him the Pied Piper."

I shrugged and said, "The Japanese weren't known for that kind of thing." Making my way to my computer I thought back to a story from World War 1. Sargeant York. Took out a German machine gun nest and single handedly took a bunch of Germans prisoner.

It made me think that the most glorious victories do not come when you blast your enemy into teeny little bits, but when you induce him to surrender. It's common to think the other guy is 10 foot tall and bullet-proof. But when you get down to it, he's just as fearful of the outcome as you are.

The tenor of most of the 9/11 retrospectives I've seen from the right goes like this. We're at the outset of another World War and the forces of Mordor have us all divided. Even the Brits are about the take a powder. Pakistan just gave Bin Laden sanctuary. And every Democrat in this country wants to cut and run, they only disagree in the extent of the cowardice they want to manifest in doing so. Woe is us, and we're so screwed.

So, let's look at it from the other guy's perspective. Iran is acting nuts because the gubmint there is standing on a banana peel. Western values of pluralism and open inquiry make US the leaders and makes THEM technological vampires. These guys cause trouble because they have money. Our money from the sale of oil. There's only so much oil in the ground and this kind of geopolitical instability only serves to increase its price. But eventually, that oil is going to run out. And when that happens, they're on their own. Conversely, the US, Europe, Asia and Israel all know howto create wealth. The world will return to a situation where nutcase Imams will have to get jobs driving taxis and muttering to themselves.

Political Correctness, Western Gullibility, is the Jihadists' best weapon. But it's probably not going to survive a mushroom cloud over a major city. Mercy is a Christian virtue unknown the the Greeks who formulated Western thought. We live in a post-Christian civilization. It is only a matter of summoning the will and you can transform even Swedes into Nazis.

After 9/11, I first experienced a sensation I now recognize as wrath. Such wrath can summon the will to transform large portions of Syria, Iran, and Waziristan into radioactive glass parking lots. Sure, tangos can retire to hide in the hills to plot. But we make those hills poisonously radioactive, dirty bombs can be used in more places than just Manhatten. And we can shoot every villager who triggers a geiger counter when he comes to town.

Islam means surrender. We need a Sergeant York to fox the savages into surrendering.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Prophesy Junkies and Divination

I was in High School when Hal Lindsay wrote "The Late-Great Planet Earth" and it's hard to believe (this being a public high school), but we listened to a phonograph record of Jack Van Impe's "The Coming War With Russia" in speech class. In the decades that followed, Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins have sold millions of copies of their "Left Behind" novels. Suffice it to say, Prophesy has long been of interest to a lot of people around me.

So it was at Camp this Labor Day weekend. The preacher preached from Jesus' Olivet Discourse which is the mother lode for prophesy junkies. In this passage, the Savior is asked for the signs of the end of the world and Jesus complies. The preacher then proceeded to interpret the passage indicating those things in current events that may correspond to the signs Jesus described.

Only trouble is that people have spent the last couple thousand years pointing at current events and matching them to the content of prophesy to make a case for the imminent end of the world. I am not enamored with eschatology, because I believe it serves as a distraction from more important matters, particularly, soteriology. I would rather someone knows how to get saved than how many horns or bowls or seals are in the eschaton.

(The preacher at Camp wasn't stupid or even wrong, I suppose. But each time he said that money was "digitalized" it felt like fingernails being drawn across chalkboard.)

This week I had lunch with a couple Christian brothers. One is a cradle Baptist like myself who was exposed to a lot of Hal Lindsay premillenialism. The other was raised Christian Reformed and I presume exposed to an amillenial eschaton. Talk got around to prophesy. My Christian Reformed friend said that someone he knew had gotten in which a group who claimed that prophesy teaches that the world will end in ten years. Had we heard anything of that? Not specifically. But it's not as if this hasn't happened a zillion times before.

I got to thinking about what is the "right" way go use prophesy given the fact that I'm so un-enamored with the way I've always seen it used.

Consider Joel 2:28-32, where the prophet claims that in the day of the Lord, the sun will be dark, and the moon will be like blood. This prophesy is actually used in the Bible, and I think that usage gives us a clue. The Bible tells us that on the day that Christ was crucified, it was dark from noon to 3:00pm. If Christ was crucified in AD 33, then there would have been a lunar eclipse at moon rise then, too. If you are familiar with the appearance of a lunar eclipse, you'll note a reddening of its appearance. If this happens at moonrise, the light from the moon will pass through more of the atmosphere reddening it even more.

Let's suppose you're living in Jerusalem, maybe one of the guys in the crowd shouting for that Barabas fellow. Fifty days later you're in the Temple and there's a commotion. A preacher, one of Jesus's disciples, who's calling himself Peter stands up and quotes the aforementioned prophesy. Think about how you'd respond. You've seen these things. You've read the prophesy. The prophesy points to the recent past and shows you how to interpret events of the recent past.

Contrast this with fortune-telling or divination. In those activities, the goal of the activity is to forecast or predict the future. I think my dislike for prophesy mongering is that even if the preacher doesn't intend to do so, he's acting like a Baptist fortune-teller. Instead of interpreting tea-leaves, he's interpreting ancient Hebrew verse, or ancient Greek apocalypse, but he's pointing to the future.

I think it is wrong to use prophesy as a tool of divination. I think the correct interpretation of prophesy always points BACKWARDS in time, not forwards. This is confusing. I'll illustrate. Let's suppose the prophet Joel lived and wrote before 800BC. Let's suppose Christ was crucified in April 33AD and Peter preached 50 days later. I can't see how anybody could have interpreted Joel's prophesy before April 33AD. We see, however, Peter interprets the prophesy after that point with powerful good effect.

I think that we should go through scripture prophesies with an eye for what HAS happened, instead of looking for whats GOING TO happen. When we find a match, we should use the prophetic message to properly signify those events.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

$2.499 Gasoline

I should point out that yesterday at the peak of the Labor Day driving binge, I was able to fill up my gas tank at $2.499/gallon. I don't know whether the evil oil monopoly conspiracy was asleep or what, but it was nice to see the numbers scroll upwards at a slightly slower rate.

What a difference a year makes. I recall seeing on the news signs for gasoline over $6/gallon. Hurricane Katrina had reduced New Orleans to a 3rd world status, with cannibalism in the Super Dome. And the world was going to run out of letters for hurricanes, too. Has there been any hurricanes this year?

That's because we impeached George Bush and stopped global warming, right?

Strait Gates and Broadways

Driving back from Camp yesterday I blew through a rural area where some religious organization had posted this portion of a Bible verse:

Matthew 7:13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

Since I've been under the influence of ecumenism, I got to wondering how the above applied to my context. I don't know which little country church put up that sign, but I can imagine it's vastly different from the mega-suburban Blythefield Hills Baptist Church that I attend. What exactly constitutes "strait gates" versus "broad ways?" In my separatist days, I would have answered that "strait" means rejecting the world and all its wisdom. But now I don't think that's the answer.

What I like most about Camp and what brings me back every year is theological conversations around the campfire. Usually these conversations involve something interesting and philosophical. This year I was surprised when a friend's daughter mentioned "Lordship salvation." I hadn't heard that term in decades. It's funny how some problems just don't get solved but the confusion remains over decades.

If you don't know what "Lorship salvation" means, let me refresh. Some teach that there is a distinction between asking Christ to be one's Saviour and asking Christ to be your Lord. If such a distinction is possible, then those who ask Christ to be Saviour but not Lord, can be termed "Carnal Christians." Carnal Christians who wish to improve their spiritual lives can do so by upgrading their Saviour relationship to a Lordship relationship. Others teach that Salvation means more than just a fire insurance policy, but conversion of the whole person and that Salvation means rescue from one's current life of sin. This second group would term the "Carnal Christian" a "non-Christian."

The first group claims that the second group makes "Lordship" a work that must be added to one's faith in order to be a Christian. The second group asserts salvation by "faith alone" but it is a "faith that is not alone." Surely, everybody in both camps claim that one is justified before God by "faith alone." (This is a Protestant argument.) This leads to a two-tier Christianity with mere fire-insurance policy holders looking up to their spiritual betters who have "rededicated their lives" to the Lord Jesus.

Coversely, the second group claims a causal relationship between good faith and good works. Good faith will cause good works and thereby I justify my good faith before myself and before other Christians by my good works. This is how the Protestant interprets James 2:24. (The Protestant distinguishes between Paul's use of Justification before God, and James use of Justification before Man. Luther failed to make this distinction and thus sought to remove James from the canon of scripture. Catholicism defers Justification in order to bring James and Paul together.)

I happen to be a Reformed Christian who asserts this causal relationship between good faith and good works. I think that identification with Christ as Saviour in true saving faith alone suffices to justify a man before God. Causally, faith alone causes justification before God. This is how I read Romans 5. Moreover, I think that true saving faith has its root in the supernatural creative act of God within the believer's heart. God causes a change of heart and that changed heart starts functioning by believing. At this point, logically, the believer is Justified. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to the believer at this point. This changed heart that believes then obeys. This obedience is the way in which the righteousness of Christ inheres within the believer and this is termed Sanctification. Thus one is saved by faith alone, but it is a faith that is not alone.

You'll note that there is no room for ├╝ber-Christians or Saints in this second way of looking at things. Every Christian is identified with Christ to the same extent.

Good faith causes good works. You can distinguish between them, but you cannot separate them. If you belong to a "cannibalistic church" that doesn't quite get around to keeping Christ's double-love command, you've good reason to doubt the bona fides of that church.

Christ is in the forgiveness business. He does so by means of putting his righteousness into the lives of his followers. The WWJD bracelets are nice if we keep in mind what exactly it was that Jesus actually did. I suppose the broad way that leads to destruction is to try to "do what Jesus did" and latch onto this bit of his life or that and copy it. Jesus said "woe" to evil doers. and Jesus fed the five thousand. and Jesus did the all the stations of the Cross. The strait gate is to ignore all that and rest in Christ alone by faith.

Periodically, we should test our faith asking whether our lives fit what Christ taught. We need to periodically revisit the Law that Moses revealed and that Jesus interpreted on the Sermon on the Mount. The Law is a mirror that should point out the dirt on our face and metaphorically drive us to the soap of Christ's righteousness claimed by faith. This self-critical introspection and this utter dependence upon Christ doesn't come naturally. I hope this is what Christ called a "strait gate."