Gospel. Culture. Technology. Music.

Month: September 2008

The Prodigal Sons, Tim Keller, Politics, and the Gospel

The Prodigal Sons – Tim Keller (MP3)

I’ve heard this sermon before, but listened to it again because it’s so excellent. I’ll admit: recently I’ve had a wrong tendency to want to blackball one political group over another. Keller reminded me (because I’m so quick to forget) that even deeper than all of that is an attitude of superiority.

In taking a step back from all of the nonsense going back and forth between camps at this time, I realized (once again, because I need constant reminders) that there are many unbelieving conservatives who are the elder brother in the parable. They influence much of what is heard and thought about in the conservative political sphere. This is also true in the liberal sphere.

As believers in the Gospel, we (I) really need to be careful about how much stock we put into what they tell us. Our priority beyond politics is the kingdom of Christ and His Gospel. How quick my own heart is to forget that … yet one more reason why I need to preach the Gospel to my own heart on a continual basis.

A Zeal For God Not According to Knowledge

“For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” – Romans 10:2

These words were spoken by Paul testifying to the Jews zeal for God, His ways, His acts, His words. Yet their zeal for God, as he says, was not according to knowledge. The whole discourse of Romans chapters nine through eleven is dealing with the unbelief of the Jews as a whole and how it is God’s promises to them still stand in light of the fact that a majority of the nation of Israel rejected the Messiah, Jesus. Paul’s undeniable response as to why God’s promises still stand is that not all physical Israel (Israelistes) is spiritual Israel (all of God’s people for all time), but rather His promise stands according to election, that is, His choice, not ours, in who He wants to save through granting faith.

Reflecting on this verse in particular though made me think not so much in terms of the Jews as a whole though, but rather my own heart (the first place we should start in applying the Scriptures) and its daily tendencies toward unbelief, and in our own day, specifically within evangelicalism at large within America. There are many people in our culture who claim to be Protestant Christians, who claim the title born again, claiming to be regenerated by the power of God from death to life, and yet their lives are totally out of sync with that confession, living as if they had never been born of God’s Spirit. There is no outward evidence pointing to the inward, supernatural reality that the Holy Spirit has indwelt their hearts. This verse makes me think about this a lot. How many of us in our Evangelical Christian Culture have a zeal for God, just as the unbelieving Jews did, yet a zeal not according to knowledge, that is, a zeal for God outside of the Gospel? No one can definitively know of course, for only God sees the belief or unbelief of the heart. Yet there are clear indications in Scripture (James, 1 John) that point in one direction or the other.

Surely, there are many many people nowadays who have a zeal for God, for His ways (as long as they are the positive attributes), His acts (the same), and so on. Yet based upon Paul’s assessment of his own kinsmen in this verse, it is probable many even in our own time possess this zeal for God outside of the Gospel, which ultimately leads to eternal punishment, because if you have a zeal for God outside of Christ, ultimately, your salvation is based on works and not on faith alone. It is not enough to simply have a zeal for God outside of trusting Christ’s work on your behalf. You need to be saved from the core of your being outward, by His power and Spirit. You need God-produced faith in you that sees and trusts Jesus as Savior, not merely a zeal for Him that pursues Him on your own efforts and works.

This was the error of the Jews in Paul’s day: they had rejected the Messiah and setup their own righteousness as what made them acceptable in God’s eyes. Sure, they had a zeal, desire, and even head-knowledge of God. Yet as Paul says, it was not according to knowledge and they found themselves outside of the grace of God, under the wrath of God, even at that moment (John 3:36). What kind of knowledge do we need though? Divinely granted knowledge revealed in Scripture, for how else can we know God unless He opens our minds, hearts, wills, and souls to see and receive Him (John 3:1-10)? We need God’s divine knowledge of the Gospel and we need Him to work in our hearts so that we love and trust Him in truth, in Gospel-knowledge.

What is so saddening about the unbelief of the Jews Paul seeks to explain in Romans nine through eleven is the way he prefaces this whole section in Romans 9:1-5:

I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

Just consider for a moment all of the vast privileges the Jews had. Yet Paul is lamenting their unbelief! To them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the law, the worship, the promises, and ultimately from them came Jesus Himself. What an honor and privilege! And oh how sad it is, they are outside the grace of God, because God has now spoken to us by His Son (Hebrews 1:1-4). To reject Him is to reject God and be forever under His just wrath.

Consider today for a moment all of the vast privileges we have in this nation: freedom of expression, the unfettered ability to preach the Gospel, the mass media, a (relatively, compared to other nations) stable economic environment, the freedom to meet together on Sunday’s to worship. And yet I fear the same thing for many people here Paul did for his brothers, the Israelites: there seems to be a zeal for God that is not according to knowledge on a mass scale in evangelicalism. I turn on the television and see preachers say nothing of the core content of the Gospel, even the basics, just simply that “God loves you.” That is not the Gospel, it is a half-truth at best, which as J.I. Packer says becomes a complete untruth. I hear radio sermons that mention nothing of Christ’s blood sacrifice on behalf of sinners. I see church websites that offer nothing of what they actually believe concerning Christ and His work, who go under the label evangelical. I’m not talking about doctrinal precision, I’m talking about Gospel precision, where is it? For many preachers, teachers and lay people, “God loves you” is all they need to hear, without all the fuss of sin and justice talk. Yet this is not a message according to knowledge, divine Gospel-knowledge. It is a message that Satan seeks to use by watering down and mute the Biblical Gospel with all of its hard edges. And how pervasive this message seems to have become.

My fear for people in our churches today is that many adhere to Christianity for cultural reasons, not personal salvific reasons, identifying with a group for its own sake instead of running to Christ alone for salvation. If this is possible with the Israelites who had way more advantages than we have (the natural branches, as Paul referred to them), how great of a possibility is it for us (the ingrafted branches) to fall into the same unbelief, all the while supposing we are all saved, merely because of a shallow message, “God loves you”?

My prayer and hope is that God will cause a revival in the church in America, not just of emotions, but a revival of Gospel-truth, passion for God’s infallible Word, a passion for doctrinal truth, all of which will inevitably result in a revival of heart-felt affections for Him and seeing others enter into the Kingdom through Christ alone. May God be merciful to us. May He be merciful and turn my own heart from unbelief in His promises, for I know how easily I can go astray myself.

Dark Helmet’s Evil Twin Sister

So, how is this fashion? Saw this on www.drudgereport.com today. Apparently, this is the latest “cutting edge” fashion on the runway in London. I’m scared and confused … Lonestarrrr! (Movie reference – Spaceballs)

What If McCain Said This About Hillary?

“You can put, uh, lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig.” – Obama.

Let’s just reverse the political playing field for a moment, all things being even. Can you imagine the back lash from the left (not to mention the media) if McCain had made a comparable statement about Hillary a few months ago? The double standard here is strikingly bright, like phosphorus reacting with chlorine gas (okay, nerdy illustration, but you get the point).

In other related news: Student GOP leader resigns over Obama remark … So, a Republican student makes a very racially insensitive statement against Obama and gets rightfully canned (by his own party members I might add), and yet Obama can make such insensitive statements toward a woman running for the VP slot, as the one above, and not go unchecked, even by his own party, who implicitly and explicitly pride themselves as being the founders of political correctness, equality and sensitivity? Please. I must say this is turning out to be a very revealing election about the philosophically illogical inner-workings of relativism in our society. It is impossible to put on a “neutral position” face forever. Eventually, you’re true colors will begin showing, especially if you are running for President.

O’Reilly Presses Obama on Economic Issues

“If I’m sitting pretty and I have a waitress who is making minimum wage plus tips, and I can afford it [healthcare] and she can’t, what’s the big deal for me to say I’m gonna pay a little bit more? That’s neighborliness.” – Obama. Now you tell me what he really believes about what is best economically for this nation. It’s called redistribution of wealth.

I find this interesting: at the beginning of the interview, O’Reilly starts to quote statistics on the growth of the economy; but then in response, Obama halts O’Reilly’s statistics defense and states how “we can play a statistics game” all day long and not get to the heart of the issues (paraphrase). Yet throughout the whole interview, Obama seems to find it convenient to use statistics in defense of his point of view over and over again. So can we or can we not use statistics? It’s just clear from this that Obama is a master at dodging tough, direct questions.

Fannie and Freddie Takeover: A Cautionary Tale

The problem I have with the Fannie and Freddie debacle is not so much the quick-fix, economic rescue of these massive, government-backed organizations announced this weekend, using billions of dollars of our tax money to bail them out. I believe that was inevitable given the structure of how they were setup to begin with and the level of the housing market they hold. But rather the root problem for me lies in the fact that they were ever created to start with. Their rescue was simply the place this whole thing had to end up.

Here is some background on all of this. According to an article at Time.com (cited at the end of this entry), Fannie Mae was established 70 years ago in 1938, during the Great Depression, by Franklin D. Roosevelt, who himself was a strong proponent of the “new liberalism” that had abandoned its historic roots associated with free, unfettered markets (the ideology of classical liberalism). He established the company, with government money and promised backing, to rescue those during the Great Depression who had defaulted on their loans, thus paving the way for low to middle-income home buyers to obtain a house.

Now, to be honest, there is a lot of short-term good this did (and maybe even some long-term good): it made it possible for people who otherwise couldn’t get a home to now become home-owners. But as with most socialist-type, government-intervening schemes, such as this, they work well in the short-term at patching a problem and yet neglect the long-term effects, creating a bigger problem. It works much in the same way pain killers do by only keeping the pain at bay, without addressing the cause of the pain (which could be a fatal move).

Eventually, over time, the Vietnam War came, and Fannie Mae had grown so large and had become such a strain on the government budget that it was turned into a publicly traded company. Then Freddie Mac was born so Fannie wasn’t a monopoly (creating what would become a double problem, from a free market perspective). So now there were not one, but two government-backed organizations in control of a great amount of the mortgage market.

Over time, these organizations came to dominate the mortgage market in ways not one anticipated. Eventually, the housing market was run up into a bubble, in our present day, and as everyone knows in even basic economics, nothing lasts forever and corrections are inevitable. The bubble burst and people are now hurting.

However, the difference this time more than with other economic bubbles bursting in the housing market is that homeowners and financiers alike all unwisely bit off more than they could chew. Homeowners bought too much house for what they could afford with adjustable-rate mortgages and mortgage companies unethically handed out loans to people they knew shouldn’t be getting them to start with. Needless to say, it caught up with everyone. Even those of us who weren’t directly involved in these mortgages.

With Fannie and Freddie taking up a majority of the mortgage market, the inevitable meltdown meant disaster for the entire housing market. With so much mortgage debt tied into these two companies, which is a very bad thing, the only logical, (I believe) inevitable solution to keep them afloat (which would keep the housing market afloat, which then affects other markets domestically and internationally that are now systemically intertwined with all other markets … (deep breath) was to bail them out. This bail out unfortunately had to be done to keep world markets from beginning a domino-effect tailspin into economic oblivion (or at least another economic depression possibly on the scale of the 1930’s).

So what happens now? Hopefully, with these two companies in the control of the Feds, they will be reorg’ed and gradually sold off to private firms. This seems to be the best option to return this largely government-owned market back to the private sector, thus getting the government out of the middle of private markets, something that should have never started to begin with, no thanks to FDR’s “new liberalism”.

This is what happens when the government meddles too much in privatized markets (even when it’s hard): people eventually wind up getting hurt in the long run. And it’s not just those who signed on to the mortgages either, it’s everyone else in the nation who has been affected by others’ poor decisions. That’s the way socialism works: everyone either wins (like in China’s economic boom right now), or everyone gets to take a bite of the bitter herb that was sown (like in the former USSR, Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela, et al.).

This is a case in point study for a macro economics text book of why socialism, even democratic forms of it (supported by none other than Barack Obama) just don’t work in creating wealth for economies. Only free, unfettered, democratic capitalism has proven to be the best solution for creating the wealth of nations.

The foundations for this bail out were laid several decades ago in the very creation of this government-owned organization that had a large stake in the housing market. It just simply should have never happened. What should FDR have done? Honestly, I’m not historically knowledgable enough to answer. Maybe he could have temporarily set it up and later on had it moved back into the private sector. That may have been do-able in the short-term to resolve their economic woes. However, not only did that not happen, but they were allowed to get gigantic.

Therefore, this whole thing should serve as a cautionary tale for us in the present day in who we select for President, the choices we make in the coming years, and for future generations in the choices they make.

Historical information taken from this article at Time.com:

(Original): http://www.time.com/time/business/artic … 66,00.html
(Archived): http://www.westerfunk.net/archives/econ … die%20Mac/

NY Times Writes on MSNBC Anchor Demotion

Wow, a NY Times article that goes into detail on the demotion of the two MSNBC anchors Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann over the weekend. It seems some people in the journalistic world are waking up to the fact that whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, you don’t want to hear the opinions of the anchors, you want them to do actual journalism and reporting, not rambling on about their own views. If you want opinionated commentary, there are plenty of other readily available outlets for that, for both Republicans and Democrats. But a major primetime news network, reporting on major political events, is not the place to do that.

(Original): http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/08/busin … f=politics
(Archived): http://www.westerfunk.net/archives/poli … /Part%201/
http://www.westerfunk.net/archives/poli … /Part%202/

In addition:

(Original): http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f1984d88-7cd5 … 07658.html
(Archived): http://www.westerfunk.net/archives/poli … 20respect/

Politics and the Gospel – Part 1

(Disclaimer: I used this picture to the left because it was one of the oddest things I’ve seen today. I didn’t know Santa was the poster-child for breaking down barriers. Ha!)

I have posted this response on politics from John Hendryx before, even recently, but feel a need to post it yet again. I am unabashedly conservative and have convictions that I believe this is what’s right for the country. However, with the level of political division in this country at a heightened point, and with what I’m hearing about fellow conservative Christians attacking other Christians for their leanings toward Obama, I figured it was time to get this out there again.

Might I remind all of us as believers that during this political season, neither the McCain/Palin ticket nor the Obama/Biden ticket is our hope of bringing peace to this Earth. That is what Christ has already come to do on our behalf, not by becoming a political hero, but by giving up His life in our place to give us hope for eternity. That is where our primary affections should lie, the eternal kingdom of God, not in one temporal political party or the other.

I’m saddened to hear that some members at our church are attacking other believers for their particular political leanings. This needs to stop as it defies the kind of unity Paul commanded of the churches he wrote to. Politics is not our hope, only Christ and His kingdom is. Conservatism does not = Christianity. I do believe it fits more in line with a Christian worldview, but in no way believe it is the hope of the world. Only the Gospel is. Here is Hendryx’s response to a question posed to him:

“10. What is your opinion of the evangelical interest in politics and the identification of many Christians with the Republican party?

While I believe we should be engaged in our civic duty to vote and be engaged, it appears to me that many evangelicals have gone beyond the call of duty and have bought into dominion theology. Some of us seem to hold the false belief that if we just changed the laws and made the US political system based on the Bible then all would be well while not considering the changing of hearts. My response to this is that the problem is not just OUT THERE, it is with us. If we lived like we believed the gospel ourselves, then God would use us to change the culture. While I can agree that civil law can be used to restrain evil, we often bludgeon our secular opponents with it as if they could somehow be saved through obedience to it. I believe the first table of the law cannot be legislated. Persons must be persuaded into the Kingdom by human instruments casting seed with the Spirit germinating it, so to speak, but not by the sword or by coercive legal measures. Contrary to my evangelical and Theonomist brethren, I do not believe that the civil magistrate has the authority to judge heresy. A little known historical fact is that the Presbyterian Church wisely invoked semper reformanda and removed chapter 23(?) on the Civil Magistrate from the Westminster Confession in the early 1700s. A move for which I am thankful. Instead, we are to take up our cross and persuade as Jesus did, through meekness, suffering, joy, helping the poor and loving others above ourselves.

I have no problem with Christians personally identifying themselves with a party, but I will emphasize that politics is not the solution to our problems by any stretch of the imagination. There is entirely too much emphasis placed on it, as if God’s plan could somehow be thwarted. We should vote and do what we can to eradicate injustice, poverty and to actively find ways to be involved in mercy ministries. This might mean entering politics on a local level or just merely spending time with hurting people. But if the Republicans don’t get elected next term it isn’t the end of the world. Maybe a little discomfort will begin to burn off the dross in our churches. We must remember that God ordains whatsoever comes to pass. If God wills that we should live in Babylon, we must serve the it with excellence, influencing it by being good stewards of the calling God has given each one of us. Though some may be tempted when things get real bad, we should never take up arms to further our political agenda.

I have lived in a communist country for 10 years and, I can tell you with certainty, that the gospel is not chained because of a political system. On the contrary, communism has been a key factor in raising interest in Christianity in that country on a massive scale for the first time in their 5000-year history. It seems that Christians have become so addicted to comfort here that there is very little awareness of how people are living in the rest of the world. But we Americans are of very little account in the big scheme of things.”

Newsweek on Palin in October of 2007

Excerpts from the article:
(Original): http://www.newsweek.com/id/42534
(Archived): http://www.westerfunk.net/archives/poli … k%20-%201/ (Part 1)
http://www.westerfunk.net/archives/poli … k%20-%202/ (Part 2)

“While this year’s political buzz has been about Hillary Clinton’s run for the White House and Nancy Pelosi’s ascension to Speaker of the House, women leaders like Palin, a Republican, and Napolitano, a Democrat, have gained significant power in the lives of millions of Americans at the state level.”

“New research shows that voters give female governors significantly higher marks than their male counterparts on such qualities as honesty, cooperation and caring—as well as toughness. And at a time when the national debate has become poisonously partisan, governors like Napolitano, 49, and Palin, 43, are making their mark with a pragmatic, postpartisan approach to solving problems, a style that works especially well with the large numbers of independent voters in their respective states.”

“In Alaska, Palin is challenging the dominant, sometimes corrupting, role of oil companies in the state’s political culture. “The public has put a lot of faith in us,” says Palin during a meeting with lawmakers in her downtown Anchorage office, where—as if to drive the point home—the giant letters on the side of the ConocoPhillips skyscraper fill an entire wall of windows. “They’re saying, ‘Here’s your shot, clean it up’.” For Palin, that has meant tackling the cozy relationship between the state’s political elite and the energy industry that provides 85 percent of Alaska’s tax revenues—and distancing herself from fellow Republicans, including the state’s senior U.S. senator, Ted Stevens, whose home was recently searched by FBI agents looking for evidence in an ongoing corruption investigation. (Stevens has denied any wrongdoing.) But even as she tackles Big Oil’s power, Palin has transformed her own family’s connections to the industry into a political advantage. Her husband, Todd, is a longtime employee of BP, but, as Palin points out, the “First Dude” is a blue-collar “sloper,” a fieldworker on the North Slope, a cherished occupation in the state. “He’s not in London making the decisions whether to build a gas line.”

In an interview with NEWSWEEK, Palin said it’s time for Alaska to “grow up” and end its reliance on pork-barrel spending. Shortly after taking office, Palin canceled funding for the “Bridge to Nowhere,” a $330 million project that Stevens helped champion in Congress. The bridge, which would have linked the town of Ketchikan to an island airport, had come to symbolize Alaska’s dependence on federal handouts. Rather than relying on such largesse, says Palin, she wants to prove Alaska can pay its own way, developing its huge energy wealth in ways that are “politically and environmentally clean.””

“Although she has been in office less than a year, Palin, too, earns high marks from lawmakers on the other side of the aisle. During a debate earlier this year over a natural-gas bill, State Senate Minority Leader Beth Kerttula was astounded when she and another Democrat went to see the new governor to lay out their objections. “Not only did we get right in to see her,” says Kerttula, “but she asked us back twice—we saw her three times in 10 hours, until we came up with a solution.” Next week in Juneau, Alaska lawmakers will meet to overhaul the state’s system for taxing oil companies—a task Palin says was tainted last year by an oil-industry lobbyist who pleaded guilty to bribing lawmakers. Kerttula doesn’t expect to agree with the freshman governor on every step of the complex undertaking. But the minority leader looks forward to exploiting one backroom advantage she’s long waited for. “I finally get to go to the restroom and talk business with the governor,” she says. “The guys have been doing this for centuries.” And who says that’s not progress?”

Google Chrome – First Impressions

As with most Google products, many of which I use, simplicity seems to be the overarching theme. This is good for many of their applications, such as Google Talk and Earth, which makes it easy for the average user to navigate and operate. However, I must admit, I was hoping for a bit more functionality with the release of this new browser. Because it lacks some of the “out-of-the-box” functionality of Firefox and even IE (such as a basic menu toolbar), it fell short of my expectations.

Now, I know you can add applications to it and so forth. In addition, it is still in Beta testing, so things could change with it. But I doubt much will be added, knowing Google’s simplistic mode of developing applications. Their web browser is no exception. And for that I think I will simply stick with Firefox, at least for now.

Also, I did some investigation on what “engine” (or the component that drives the browser) they are using to render web content to your computer screen and this is what I found in the log files after hitting my websites: “AppleWebKit/525.13 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/ Safari/525.13.” So, they are essentially using Safari as the browser core? That’s disappointing, though I know it’s not for you Mac fans out there. However, that’s not me, nor is it a great majority of my colleagues.

I figured they would be developing their own engine and going from there. Maybe that was already outlined from the very beginning in the initial news release, but since I only heard about it the other day, I haven’t had much time to investigate that. Regardless, I’m disappointed. I guess I was hoping maybe they would create their own engine code that made browsing even more efficient. But it’s just (in the Democrats words) more of the same, it seems.

I will say though that if you just want a straight, vanilla browser with no complex parts to it and all you want to do is read news on the web, or whatever, this is the browser for you. But if you want more default functionality, stick with Firefox or IE. I’m not impressed so far.

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