Thursday, December 30, 2004

Random Stuff

A few random items from surfing the blogroll this morning:

LaShawn Barber asks what events in 2004 changed the blogosphere or people's perceptions of it. Stop by and contribute a comment.

Joe Carter at The Evangelical Outpost has a great post entitled Megaphones Without Oversight that is worth reading. Bottom line: anyone and anything can be humbled by the blogosphere. Of course, that's one of the main points of Hugh Hewitt's new book.

Polipundit has an interesting post on the targeted approach of the Bush campaign in this last election. Apparently someone was paying attention to corporate political campaign contributions.

I've just joined Homespun Bloggers. To find out how to join, go here. Also check out the Homespun Radio feature.

New additions to the blogroll: Lex Rex and Blue Goldfish. Thanks to both for adding me to their blogrolls. If you blogroll me, please e-mail me and let me know and I'll be happy to do the same.

Anyone who wants to know the impact of the Internet can go over to the donation page for Tsunami relief. Amazing. (Hat tip: Michele Malkin) Other organizations that are providing relief to the tsunami victims are the International Mission Board and Worldvision. Both are very trustworthy organizations.

Two very nice tributes to Jerry Orbach who succumbed to prostate cancer yesterday are over at Worship Naked and Portia Rediscovered. Although he was lately known for his roles on Law and Order and as Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast, he had an extensive film and stage career. My first experience seeing him perform was back in the early 80's on Broadway in 42nd Street. He was an immensely talented actor and he will be greatly missed.

Is it just me or does it seem that Viktor Yanukovych and Al Gore are somehow related?

Chuck Colson reminds us that the efforts to remove Christianity from the public square were not just confined to Christmas.

And finally, I respectfully submit the following quote as a new slogan for the Mainstream/Legacy/Old Media:

"Kindly do not attempt to cloud the issue with facts." -- George Banks (portrayed by David Tomlinson) in Mary Poppins.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Questions for Every Reporter (and Blogger, too!)

Hugh Hewitt's column today for The Weekly Standard entitled A Unified Theory of Old Media Collapse is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the rapidly growing influence of the blogosphere and the rapid decline of the legacy media.

In a post earlier this week, Hugh had challenged reporters in the legacy media to answer the a few questions in order for us to better understand their own biases. Unlike the legacy media, bloggers don't attempt to hide their biases because they don't have to. I agree with Hugh's hypothesis that the legacy media won't dare answer these questions because it will confirm once and for all that they are dominated by liberals. In the interest of full disclosure (with thanks to Mount Virtus for the inspiration) I'm answering his questions below:

For whom did the reporter vote for president in the past five elections?
George W. Bush (2000 and 2004)
Bob Dole (1996)
George H. W. Bush (1988)
I did not vote in 1992 as I moved to another state right before the election and was not registered in time to vote. If I had been able to vote, I would have voted for George H. W. Bush.

Do they attend church regularly and if so, in which denomination?
Yes. Baptist.

Do they believe that the late-term abortion procedure known as partial birth abortion should be legal?

Do they believe same sex marriage ought to be legal?

Did they support the invasion of Iraq?

Do they support drilling in ANWR?

What I'll Be Reading in 2005

Since the week between Christmas and New Year's is a time most people start looking ahead to the new year and make plans or resolutions I thought it would be a good time to sit down and figure out what books I'd try to tackle in 2005. I've already started reading The Lasko Interview by Clay Jacobsen which I received as a Christmas gift. I had enjoyed his two other books, Circle of Seven and Interview with the Devil immensely. Here's my short list of books that I'll be reading in the new year:

1. Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World by Hugh Hewitt. If anyone understands how the blogosphere works and the potential it holds, that person is Hugh Hewitt. He has inspired a number of other bloggers to get started (including yours truly). He also understands that the mainstream (or legacy) media can no longer be trusted. The blogosphere is becoming a source of news and information for more people. The potential of the blogosphere has barely been tapped. Hugh Hewitt shows how the blogosphere can be used. For more reviews of the book, see Stolen Thunder, Evangelical Outpost, Stones Cry Out, Byrd Droppings and Instapundit.

2. Our Sacred Honor: "The Stories, Letters, Songs, Poems, Speeches, and Hymns that Gave Birth to Our Nation" by William J. Bennett. Being something of a history buff, this book is of particular interest to me. After reading David Barton's Original Intent: The Courts, The Constitution and Religion earlier this year, I had a much better understanding of just how important the Founding Fathers' faith was to the birth of our country. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are a nation founded by Christians and built on Christian principles. Reading the writings of the Founding Fathers helps us understand that better than anything else.

3. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. I've been reading these books aloud to my daughters. They enjoyed the first two volumes, The Magician's Nephew and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe immensely. My hope is that we can read the remaining five books together this year. These are some the best books available to read to your children.

4. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkein. This is a set of books I've been meaning to read for a long time. Since Hugh Hewitt and so many other bloggers cited these as great novels they would read more than once I figure it's high time I read them as well.

5. Never Give In: The Extraordinary Character of Winston Churchill by Stephen Mansfield. I thoroughly enjoyed Mansfield's most recent book, The Faith of George W. Bush. I've always been curious about Winston Churchill but never seemed to find the right biography to start with to learn more about him. I believe this might be as good a place as any to start.

I welcome any other suggestions that folks have for great books to read in 2005.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Asian Disaster Relief

Normally you can count on Scott Ott at Scrappleface to be very, very funny. But today he has a serious post on how to help the victims of the recent earthquake. Scott has compiled a great list of links to organizations providing relief to the victims. Take a moment to look over the links he has provided. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Merry Christmas!

I'm taking a few days off from blogging to spend some time with my family. We'll have other family members coming in over the weekend and so blogging will be practically nonexistent until next week.

I'll leave you with this post from Melly Durham's blog (Hat tip: Christian Conservative). The reason we celebrate Christmas is the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. My prayer is that we would not forget Him in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the season.

Merry Christmas to all!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The True Meaning of Christmas

Mark Alexander over at The Federalist offers this column on the true meaning of Christmas. He even weighs in on the current attempts to eliminate Christmas from the public square:

Those who seek to banish Christmas have the mistaken notion that the foundations can be razed from our nation, with the edifice of laws intact. In truth, without Christmas, there would be no meaning to any individual's life -- nor would there be any meaning to the life of our nation. For the worth of individual lives, proved by Christmas, is the only secure foundation of our country.

But if you'd forsake the fight as too pitched, if you'd discount these days as inordinately overwhelming, consider how turbulent the times were to all those at that first Christmas. Mary was pregnant, near delivery, apart from her closest family members and friends, and traveling to a strange town with a man not the earthly father of her Child. Joseph was soon to become father to the Father of all. Zechariah was struck dumb by his angelic visitor. And the shepherds were so frightened by the angels that they had to be calmed, "Fear not."

For those events were indeed fearsome. The One Who had lived forever, Creator of all things made, entered His creation, and the Maker of the dimensions stepped into time and space on a personal rescue mission to redeem all human life. The Eternal came to die on our behalf and in our stead, to redeem the debt of our sinfulness by paying the bond Himself.

And that singular act of selflessness evokes a Christmas cultural tradition embraced by nearly all -- the giving of gifts. But it is in the nature of a gift to be freely given, and freely received. True gifts are not coerced -- of either giver or recipient. What harm is there in a proffered present that may be freely rejected? This is the question we pose to the foes of Christmas. The only promise that matters is one that's hard to keep. The only commitment that matters is one that's freely given. The Christ Child was the first, best Gift ever -- given so that we might freely accept the offering, thereby gaining the gifts of life, of liberty ... and as we are reminded at this season, of eternal life.

As the saying goes, read the whole thing.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Should Rumsfeld go?

This week's symposium over at Homespun Bloggers (thanks to Considerettes for pointing out their site) is whether Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld should be dumped in the wake of all the recent negative press surrounding the ongoing war in Iraq.

First, it may be useful to examine the motives of Rumsfeld's critics. David Limbaugh reports that Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), wants to begin impeachment hearings. Limbaugh astutely observes:

It just seems to me that because the president won his re-election so recently, Democrats have decided (consciously or not) to transfer their considerable hostility to one of the president's chief surrogates, Mr. Rumsfeld. The persistence and personal viciousness of these attacks against Rumsfeld are striking.

Speaking of the President, consider what he had to say about Rumsfeld in his news conference yesterday:

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Several Republican lawmakers recently have criticized Secretary Rumsfeld. What does he need to do to rebuild their trust?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, when I asked the Secretary to stay on as Secretary of Defense, I was very pleased when he said "yes." And I asked him to stay on because I understand the nature of the job of the Secretary of Defense, and I believe he's doing a really fine job.

The Secretary of Defense is a complex job. It's complex in times of peace, and it's complex even more so in times of war. And the Secretary has managed this Department during two major battles in the war on terror -- Afghanistan and Iraq. And at the same time, he's working to transform our military so it functions better, it's lighter, it's ready to strike on a moment's notice. In other words, that the force structure meets the demands we face in the 21st century.

Not only is he working to transform the nature of the forces, we're working to transform where our forces are based. As you know, we have recently worked with the South Korean government, for example, to replace manpower with equipment, to keep the Peninsula secure and the Far East secure, but at the same time, recognizing we have a different series of threats. And he's done a fine job, and I look forward to continuing to work with him.

And I know the Secretary understands the Hill. He's been around in Washington a long period of time and he will continue to reach out to members of the Hill, explaining the decisions he's made. And I believe that in a new term, members of the Senate and the House will recognize what a good job he's doing.

I think it's safe to say that the President believes Rumsfeld should stay on as Secretary of Defense.

Which takes me back to the first point I made which is this: what are the motives of Rumsfeld's critics? They certainly aren't giving him credit for successfully managing two military campaigns while simultaneously rebuilding and reshaping our military to be able to effectively respond to the threats of terrorism. His critics aren't interested in a fair, objective critique of the job he has done as the Secretary of Defense (or as Hugh Hewitt suggested on air yesterday, we should change the Department of Defense back to the Department of War - it certainly seems more fittinng). They simply want to be able to portray this President in as negative a light as possible and that means also negatively portraying his surrogates such as Secretary Rumsfeld.

Perhaps it would be more informative to find out what our military personnel and their families think of Secretary Rumsfeld. This e-mail from the father of a Marine Lance Corporal serving in Iraq that was sent to the guys over at Powerline offers some terrific insight. He offered these thoughts in response to the "autopen" controversy:

If [our son] had been killed, we would have been first informed by a visit - in dress blues - from a condolence team typically consisting of two Marines and one Navy Chaplain. We know many families who've received that knock on the door. No letter is required. No words are required. A simple peek thru the view hole in the door and the sight of dress blue blouses, white covers and white gloves tells you all you ever need to know. A letter of condolence from the SecDef is, honestly, not even worth opening. Families are much more interested in hearing from the men who served with their son and from their families. We share the constant knowledge and fear that it could be our door bell being rung. Sec. Rumsfeld doesn't know our son. He's a Lance Corporal. He directs a machine gun team. He is a vital link in the line that protects our way of life. He doesn't fight for his country, he doesn't fight for the SecDef, he doesn't even fight for his mom and dad. He fights for the guys on either side of him and for his team. He fights to secure his objective of the moment, which he may or may not understand or agree with. Sec Rumsfeld doesn't need to take time from his day to sign a form letter of condolence and he certainly doesn't need to take time to figure out what the LCpl was doing when he was killed or what kind of a man he was. His job is to make sure the LCpl didn't die in vain and that only as few LCpl's as possible will have to die to end this war in a successful manner. (emphasis added)

But it's this Marine father's closing paragraph that sums it up the best:

Bottom line, we support Sec Rumsfeld. The people who are making a big deal about this have their heads up their collective a****. They need to have a serious priority check on what people in positions of responsibility should be doing with their time. They should also chat with some military families if they could figure out how to contact them.

The Ongoing Assault on Christianity

David Limbaugh has a great columm this morning on the assault on Christianity by the Left that goes beyond the recent controversies over how we observe Christmas. An excerpt:

We’ve seen the acceleration of attacks on Christmas throughout the nation: the discriminatory banning of Christmas carols, Christmas cards and nativity scenes, the substitution of politically correct terms to replace "Christmas," and the systematic effort to paint Christmas as a symbol of exclusiveness and intolerance.
We’ve read the editorial lambasting of the Christian Right with aggravated fervor: Maureen Dowd likened Christian conservatives to "a vengeful mob -- revved up by rectitude -- running around with torches and hatchets after heathens and pagans and infidels." Nicholas Kristof lampooned Christians who believe in the Rapture. Liberal icon Bill Moyers exhibited pangs of horror at anti-environmentalist Christian fundamentalists who "may believe that environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but actually welcomed -- even hastened -- as a sign of the coming apocalypse."

I get the sense in reading these types of diatribes that the discomfort among some toward Christians has ripened into full-blown paranoia -- and that something drastic must be done about it.

It’s almost as if they’re thinking the Christian mindset is so dangerous that it must be preemptively silenced, or that Christians want to establish a theocracy so their influence must be preemptively diminished. What else explains their freewheeling demonization of Christians and their concerted effort to suppress their religious liberties, all in the name of tolerance, inclusiveness and freedom?

They obviously miss the irony that they are already engaged in the very behavior that they merely fear Christians might engage in if not stopped. But this is hardly surprising from people who are responsible for promulgating speech codes in the name of free expression. It is the magnitude of their collective projection that is astounding.

Read the whole thing.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Favorite Movies: Mary Poppins

Every so often I'll offer one of my favorite movie choices. This week's pick is Mary Poppins. Disney has just released a 40th anniversary edition of the movie on DVD that includes among other treasures a deleted song. The soundtrack is by far one of the best of any movie ever written. Even though we own the movie on DVD we're going to go get the anniversary edition. We never get tired of this movie around our house. More fun facts about the movie can be found here.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Tell Me Something I Didn't Already Know!

From the "Stating the Obvious" Department:

Leaders of The Parents Television Council today released a study of prime time programming that they say shows that Hollywood "has virtually no respect for religion."

The study, put out in conjunction with the National Religious Broadcasters, counted 2,344 treatments of religion — such as the mention of prayer or the presence of God — from September 2003 to September 2004 and deemed 24.4% of them negative. Most were neutral, and 22.1% were positive.

The full story can be found here.

Hat tip: LaShawn Barber

The Secular Left's War Against Christmas - Update

Portia Rediscovered has a post today on more efforts by the secular Left to abolish Christmas. Is it really going to hurt you to wish someone a Merry Christmas?

Also, Charles Krauthammer (who is Jewish) weighs in with a great column today. An excerpt:

The attempts to de-Christianize Christmas are as absurd as they are relentless. The United States today is the most tolerant and diverse society in history. It celebrates all faiths with an open heart and open-mindedness that, compared to even the most advanced countries in Europe, are unique.
Yet more than 80 percent of Americans are Christian and probably 95 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas. Christmas Day is an official federal holiday, the only day of the entire year when, for example, the Smithsonian museums are closed. Are we to pretend that Christmas is nothing but an orgy of commerce in celebration of ... what? The winter solstice?

And this:

I'm struck by the fact that you almost never find Orthodox Jews complaining about a Christmas creche in the public square. That is because their children, steeped in the richness of their own religious tradition, know who they are and are not threatened by Christians celebrating their religion in public. They are enlarged by it.

It is the more deracinated members of religious minorities, brought up largely ignorant of their own traditions, whose religious identity is so tenuous that they feel the need to be constantly on guard against displays of other religions -- and who think the solution to their predicament is to prevent the other guy from displaying his religion, rather than learning a bit about their own.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin has this story about a state run veteran's home in Vermont that was forced to take down a cross decorated with red, white, and blue lights. I guess this means we're not supposed to honor veterans, either.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Schools and God

For many years now, God has been absent from public (a.k.a. "government") schools. Any teacher, administrator, or school board who dares to mention God in the classroom is inviting lawsuits from groups like the ACLU or Americans for Separation of Church and State.

The latest battle is being fought in Pennsylvania where the Dover Area School District is requiring intelligent design to be taught in science class. (Hat Tip: The Rooftop Blog, Spreading Understanding, (here also) and Framptonia).

Unfortunately, this is not the only example of animosity towards God in public schools. A California school district has told a history teacher that he cannot use the Declaration of Independence in his class because it refers to God.

An Ohio school district canceled a performance by a Christian rock band because there were concerns about religious music being played in public school. (Hat tip: David Limbaugh)

In Kirkland, Washington, a performance of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" that was to be presented on the campus of Lake Washington High School (by a private group, no less) was canceled by the principal of the school because he feared it would raise questions about the place of religion in public schools. (Hat Tip: The Rooftop Blog)

Perhaps the most ridiculous example of all: a school district in Texas banned the colors red and green from a "Winter Break Party" (you can't call it a Christmas party) and insisted that they only bring white plates and napkins. A group of outraged parents filed suit against the school system for "religious hostility". (Hat Tip: Spreading Understanding)

I wonder how many parents after hearing stories such as these will share the sentiments of Sir Winston Churchill:

“This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put.”

(Thanks to Joe Carter at The Evangelical Outpost for the quote)

The Year of the Blog

Welcome Hugh Hewitt readers!

Hugh's column for the Weekly Standard is entitled The Year of the Blog and looks at the blogosphere's dismantling of the lies and distortions published by Newsweek in their December 13 cover story on the birth of Jesus.

The days of the mainstream media being able to control the flow of information are over. The blogosphere is here to stay and will continue to be a source of accountability for all media outlets.

Hugh Hewitt understood this truth long before anyone else and has been a driving force in the growth and influence of the blogosphere. As a matter of fact, his next book will be on the blogosphere.

Hugh not only has his own successful blogs but through his numerous symposiums allow smaller bloggers like your humble correspondent to join in the conversation. He was even kind enough to mention my wife's blog, Mommypundit, in a column earlier this year. Needless to say, her traffic took off after that mention in the column.

On the right is the blogroll of blogs that have been inspired by Hugh. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Hugh. If it were not for his encouragement we wouldn't have started our own blogs.

On behalf of bloggers everywhere, I want to thank Hugh for his inspiration and support. He certainly deserves a fair share of the credit in the success of the blogosphere in holding the mainstream media accountable. His influence will be felt in the blogosphere for years to come.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The MSM and Christmas

Hugh Hewitt has posed the following question in his latest blog symposium:

Vox Blogoli VI: What does Newsweek's story on Christmas tell us about MSM?

The article is typical of the shoddy journalism that we have come to expect from the MSM. If the point of the article was to examine all sides of the theological debate surrounding the birth of Christ then author Jon Meacham might have taken the time to interview theologians who are on the conservative end of the spectrum who could provide evidence to support the Biblical account of the virgin birth. But when there is an agenda to push, why let something as inconvenient as facts get in the way? This is the standard operating procedure of the MSM.

Unlike the article's author, I am willing to admit that I'm not equipped to engage in the theological debate over the virgin birth and will defer to Mark D. Roberts and Albert Mohler's excellent rebuttals of the article.

However, I will highlight one particular quote from the Newsweek article that was the clue into the mindset behind this type of article:

"To non-Christian Jews and pagans, the first Christians were superstitious and backward, a group of marginal people on the fringes of empire preaching an outlandish message."

What the MSM doesn't understand, they try to marginalize. Rather than defend their position in a fair debate, they do everything they can to discredit their opponent.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Good tips for bloggers

The Washington Post had this article over the weekend on how to start a winning blog. There's lots of good advice there especially for novice bloggers like myself. If you've ever considered starting your own blog or are looking for tips on how to improve your traffic, take a look at the article. (Hat tip: INDC Journal)

Saturday, December 11, 2004

I accidentally deleted comments

My apologies to everyone who has commented before on this blog. I was trying to resolve an issue with my Haloscan account and accidentally deleted all my comments from the blog. I still have them stored and will try to repost them as I get the chance.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Random Thoughts

Just a few random things for the weekend:

I've been on the lookout for good blogs to make a habit of reading on a regular basis. Most everything I try to read daily is in my blogroll. Mommypundit is my wife's blog and Sistersophist is my sister-in-law's blog. The rest are blogs that either I've found or folks that have linked to me. I tried surfing BlogExplosion (also a way to shamelessly increase blog traffic) but haven't really found much that has been interesting. Plus, the quality of content is inconsistent (you have limited control over whether objectionable material will be displayed). I think I've pretty much convinced myself it's not worth spending any more time surfing the member blogs.

The best referrals I've seen are from folks that I'm already reading. Tod Bolsinger has linked to a very interesting blog called Welcome to Witting Shire. This looks like it's going to be a blog worth reading on a regular basis. They are also a homeschooling family!

LaShawn Barber weighed in with her list of her favorite blogs. Her endorsement of Scrappleface convinced me that I needed to start reading it regularly (I can always use a good laugh).

Another great discovery in the past couple of weeks is that Tony Snow from Fox News has his own blog. His radio show is also being streamed online daily. Check out his latest post entitled Enter the Theophobes.

I also had a tip this week from Considerettes (brother-in-law of The Rooftop Blog) to check out the Homespun Blogs. I haven't had a chance to weigh in on their weekly symposium but I'll keep reading and may consider joining them at some point. Incidentally, this post provides even more evidence (as if there needed to be more) that government schools are being run by theophobes.

Thanks to The Rooftop Blog for mentioning the John Stott post in his weekly wrap-up.

Sidesspot took issue with my allegiance to the Chicago Cubs in my previous post. Hopefully he will be willing to overlook that lapse in judgement. All I can say in my defense is I was young and foolish when I became a fan. It was also 1989, the last time they won a division championship, when I began to follow them. I was working nights and so the only baseball I would get to see was the Cubs. It wasn't until I started doing my homework that I realized what miserable failures they had been over the course of the team history. But by that point it was too late to turn back. By the way, The Cub Reporter has an excellent analysis of their outfield situation for 2005. I don't expect Sammy Sosa to be traded, either.


Quote of the week from Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post on the steroid issue in baseball:
Baseball never addresses any problem until the sport is cornered by a screaming mob and can't find a way to escape doing the obvious.

Read the whole column here (free registration required). It's time that Major League Baseball dealt with this issue.


I hadn't weighed in on the whole Target-Salvation Army controversy, but when I saw this article I knew that I was right not to shop at Target. Actually, I did go into Target the other night but I didn't buy anything. It didn't appear to be very busy compared to last year. Hopefully that means that they are losing business and will come to their senses. Meanwhile, I've probably put more money in the red bucket this year than at any other time. I know exactly which stores in town allow Salvation Army volunteers to ring the bell at their front door. I've been going to those stores more frequently. Anyone see a lesson here for Target?


I wonder if Fred Barnes would be in favor of a playoff in college football? Isn't it about time? (Hat tip: Matt Crash!)


Finally, my best "new" musical find: Nickel Creek. Okay, I know they've been around for a while but they are new to me. That counts, doesn't it?

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Encouraging News

This is good news for Cub fans everywhere. It's interesting to note that both Garciaparra and Walker took one year deals to stay in Chicago rather than accepting multi-year contracts offered by other teams.

Check out The Cub Reporter for more off-season moves by the Cubs.

Now if Jim Hendry can settle the Sammy Sosa situation the Cubs should be set for 2005.

Only 117 days left until Opening Day.

Tips on Christmas Giving

James Jewell at The Rooftop Blog has a great post today entitled Ten Things to Do Before Being Generous at Christmastime. Take the time to read this excellent post.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Third Day to appear on 60 Minutes

Christian rock band Third Day will be appearing on 60 Minutes on Wednesday, December 8th in a report that will discuss the impact Christian musicians are having on the secular music industry. I wouldn't normally recommend watching anything produced by CBS News but I think I'll make an exception in this case.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

The Army-Navy Game gets a Special Visitor

President Bush appeared at the annual Army-Navy Game today in Philadelphia. He spoke to both teams prior to the game and then tossed the coin to start the game (the coin was from Fallujah).

That is so cool.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Baseball and Steroids

I've been a fan of baseball for most of my adult life. This week's revelations that stars such as Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds used steroids are not a surprise but still disheartening.

Thomas Boswell, arguably one of the best sportswriters in the business, wrote this column today (free registration required) sharing his own personal encounter with Giambi at the beginning of spring training this past season. He sums up the problem that Major League Baseball has on its hands:

Steroid use is the biggest blight on the game. And the guiltiest party in the charade is the players' union. In March, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called union president Don Fehr before his Commerce Committee and staged a 2 1/2-hour public flogging. Expert witnesses and leaders from other sports were called to expose the union's sophistic arguments in blocking the kind of thorough drug-testing that most other major sports already have.
Fehr went away properly chastened on the one area in which his union has disgraced itself. "I understand your words," Fehr said to McCain, "and I understand the mood of the rest of this hearing."

Still, in the face of powerful agents and star players who want to keep their fake muscles at all costs, even the best intentioned people need fresh ammunition to keep up the fight against steroids. Now, everybody has a belt full of fresh bullets.

"I've been saying for many months that I instituted a very tough program in the minor leagues on steroids in 2001. We need that program at the major league level," Commissioner Bud Selig yesterday said after speaking in Washington about the return of baseball to the nation's capital. "This is just another manifestation of why we need that right away. My only reaction is we're going to leave no stone unturned until we have that policy in place by spring training 2005."

There is no need to turn over stones. This issue is obvious. Every player, agent and union executive should realize it. Baseball is in the midst of a glorious renaissance on the field. But if this popularity is bought at the price of the honor of the sport and the health of its players, then it is not worth a fraction of the grim price that is being paid.

Beyond the personal risks that steroid use presents to the players, continued use of such drugs brings into question the integrity of the game itself. Consider these results from a recent ESPN poll regarding Barry Bonds testimony on steroid use:

Do you believe Bonds when he says he did not know the clear substance and cream he received from Anderson were steroids?

84.7% -- No
15.3% -- Yes
Total votes: 71,160

In fact, even while Giambi was the focus of stories early in the week, Bonds was the underlying subject. As these numbers indicate, the bulk of SportsNation presumed Bonds had used steroids long before Giambi's testimony was leaked.

Giambi admits to receiving steroids from Greg , weight trainer for Bonds. Does this change your opinion about Bonds' possible steroid use?

82.3% -- I always thought Bonds used steroids
10.5% -- I didn't believe Bonds used, and I still don't
7.2% -- I didn't believe Bonds used, but I do now

What does this say about the integrity of baseball when one of its best players is suspected of using steroids?

It's time that the players union woke up and accepted the fact that drug testing is necessary. It would be better for players to be in support of the policy instead of against it. Otherwise, if fans start to believe the games are not being played on the level because players are using performance-enhancing drugs then they may decide that it's not worth spending money going to the games.

Developing a Christian Impact on Society

These are my notes from a lecture delivered by Dr. John Stott on November 4, 1986 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill entitled "Developing a Christian Impact on Society". For more on Dr. John Stott, see this post.

What values or standards are going to dominate our national culture? Most countries are increasingly pluralistic. It means that many things are competing for the soul of America. It's partly an evangelistic question but it's also a social and cultural question. Do Christians have a social as well as evangelistic responsibility in the community?

Look at Matthew 5:13-16:

13 You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. 14 You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Salt was used as an antiseptic and a preservative in Jesus' day. Jesus meant at least four things by these models:

1. Christians are radically different from non-Christians.
Jesus contrasted Christians to the rest of the world. We are to be the light for a dark world and the salt for a decaying world. We are called to be radically different from the rest of the world.

2. Christians are to penetrate non-Christian society.
Though be morally distinct we shouldn't segregate ourselves from society. Jesus commands us to let our light shine into the world. The salt can't do any good unless it is rubbed or soaked into the meat. The application of this is what Christians decide to do for a career. Ministry is a generic word and does not merely refer to the pastorate. Through whatever career we choose we can be a minister for Christ. There is a wide variety of ministry.

3. Christians can change non-Christian society.

When you switch on a light a room is no longer dark. When you rub salt into meat bacterial decay stops. If society becomes corrupt society is not to blame because that's what happens when fallen men are left to themselves. We have to ask, "Where is the church?" We also must accept the role Christ has given us to be salt and light. Society cannot be perfected but it can be improved.

How does social change take pkace and how can Christians make an impact? One way is prayer. Prayer is an effective weapon in asking for help for our national leaders. The second weapon is evangelism. We have to be socially active Christians and that's not possible without evangelism. The third weapon is example. Humans are very imitative. A good example can have an enormous effect on society. The fourth is argument. Legislation can reduce evil in our social structure. We have to get into the public debate and argue the goodness of God's law. The fifth weapon is action. We need to be willing to take action.

4. Christians must retain their Christian distinctiveness.

Salt is no good if it loses its saltiness. If light loses its brightness it is no good. We must retain our Christian standards, values, and lifestyles without compromise. The differences are listed in the Sermon on the Mount.

Christ calls to the narrow road of life as opposed to the wide road of death. We must repent of our compromises and ask Christ to be Lord of all of our life. We also must repent from our pessimism. We don't have any reason to be pessimistic. We need to be salt and light so that people can see Christ in us through our good works.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Developing the Christian Mind

The following is my notes from a lecture given by Dr. John Stott entitled "Developing the Christian Mind" presented on November 3, 1986 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. See my previous post for more on Dr. John Stott.

Key verse:

Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. (1 Corinthians 14:20)

The mind is important because tthe use of our mind is glorifying to God. He is a rational God, has made us rational and has given us a rational revealing about Himself. We ought to approach Him rationally.

A proper use of the mind enriches our Christian life (in particular our discipleship). We cannot worship God worthily without using our minds. See Psalm 105 - To worship is to glory in God's holy name.

A proper use of the mind strengthens our witness. The apostles reasoned with people over the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit brings people to conversion because of the evidence when He has opened their mind to it.

A Christian mind is the mind of a Christian. It could also be defined as the mind of Christ. A Christian mind has a Christian mindset or a Christian perspective on things. A Christian mind is searching for the will of God.

The Christian mind focuses on two things: the reality of God and the paradox of man made in the image of God. The Christian mind is a godly mind and God is in all his thoughts. There are two implications of this. The first of these is the definition of wisdom. The Christian mind gives meaning to life. The second of these is humbleness. Since God is in the mind then it should be humble. The Christian mind is a godly mind and refuses to honor anything that is not glorifying to God.

The second focus is the paradox of man made in the image of God. The paradox is we have dignity and depravity. We are able in one moment ot be like God and in the rest turn around and be as unlike God as any human can be.

How do we apply the paradox? One of these ways is the self-image. We need to have an accurate self-image. Developing a balanced self-image requires remembering who we are and who created us. Another application is dealing with political ideology. It is unwise to try to support one political system and say it is the absolute right ideology. Christians exist on all parts of the political spectrum.

We want to be a Christian who is integrated. All parts of the body are intergrated into the lordship of Christ. We need a hearing that feels deeply with a mind that thinks clearly. A mind without a heart is nothing.

The Miracle of Life

I'll post the next installment of my John Stott series later today. In the meantime, check out this post from Mommypundit on miracles of survival of God's precious babies. Also, be sure to check out the latest from Hugh Hewitt on the Gronigen Protocol. He's also following the story on his blog (see this , this and this). The key point from his column is in this paragraph:

This is either a low point, or a point of no return. The establishment of "independent committees" to dispatch non-consenting humans is nothing but a death penalty committee for innocents. Once begun, it is impossible--simply impossible--to limit the concept with any bright line. Abortion, of course, has always been limited by the physical act of birth, and once out of the womb, only the most extreme "reproductive rights" advocates have argued that the baby's natural right to live can be compromised by the mother. But now the Netherlands has gone farther--much, much farther. If the "severely retarded" may be killed upon appropriate motion, second, debate, and majority vote, why not the moderately retarded? Why not the mildly retarded? Why not, in fact, anyone the "independent committee" deems as usefully dispatched.

Abortion advocates often wonder why pro-lifers are so vehemently opposed to the cause they hold so dear. Beyond the simple truth that life is a precious gift from God, it is that if we allow the murder of unborn children to be acceptable then where do we draw the line? The Gronigen Protocol is just a glimpse of how far we can slide down this slippery slope.

Update: Check out this post from Sistersophist on women who killed their babies. She asks a very good question: why aren't we outraged at the Gronigen Protocol?

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Who is John Stott?

Mark D. Roberts has posted today on one of the most influential yet least known evangelical Christians: John Stott. Dr. Stott was mentioned yesterday in a New York Times column by David Brooks (free registration required). I agree with Brooks' conclusion that if you were to look for someone who could speak about religion in public life Dr. Stott would be an excellent choice.

Joe Carter over at The Evangelical Outpost has posted a biographical sketch of Dr. Stott in his ongoing series Know Your Evangelicals.

I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Stott in November of 1986 when he came to lecture at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill when I was a student. I had already become familiar with him through books such as Basic Christianity. When I met him I knew I was standing in the presence of a spiritual giant yet someone who was incredibly humble and very personable.

As I dug through my journals today from my college years (yes, I still have them) I ran across the notes I had taken from his lectures.

In the next couple of posts I'll share my notes from those lectures. Rereading them reminded me how powerful they were when I first heard them. They are worth looking at again.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Best Children's Books

Inspired by Hugh Hewitt's request yesterday for the best novels to read over again, Sistersophist has started a thread on the best children's books. She is updating it frequently (by genre, no less) so be sure to check back often.

Her post got me thinking about some of my personal favorite books for children. From the beginning, Mommypundit and I have made it a practice to read aloud to our daughters. It's a great way to have quality family time together. Our daughters really get into the books and love to talk about what's going to happen next.

We're about to start "The Horse and His Boy", the third installment in the Chronciles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. Lewis is one of my favorite writers to begin with. The Narnia books are by far some of his most enjoyable books. We've already read "The Magician's Nephew" and "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" (which I had read a couple of times before I had kids).

I also love Dr. Seuss. Just about anything he wrote is worth sharing with children. Of course, some of his books can be a little challenging to read out loud (he had a wonderful way with language). But that makes it all the more fun.

Another favorite in our household is the Winnie the Pooh books by A. A. Milne. They are sweet and funny and worth reading over and over again.

But my favorite children's book of all time is one that I was introduced to by a college friend long before I dreamed of having children of my own: The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde. I can't read it all the way through without tearing up at the end. It is a truly wonderful book.

Update on Declaration of Independence Ban

James Jewell over at The Rooftop Blog has a very thoughtful post today on the controversy surrounding the California school district that has tried to ban references to God as well as using the Declaration of Independence and other founding documents in teaching history. James has taken the time to analyze exactly what motivates those who wish to eradicate references to God from public life. It's well worth reading.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Great Modern Novels

Hugh Hewitt has asked if there are any great modern novels that are worth reading more than once. I can think of only a few books that I can recommend reading more than once and they are all by C. S. Lewis (today is his birthday). They are The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, and The Chronicles of Narnia (full disclosure: I'm reading the entire Chronicles to our daughters and we've only made it through the first two volumes but we're going to read the rest of them). Hugh has recommended The Lord of the Rings. I've had a lot of recommendations for that as well as This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti. I'll be interested to see what other bloggers recommend.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Getting Ready for Christmas

Tonight, Mommypundit and I sat down with our daughters to watch some of our favorite animated Christmas specials. My favorite by far is one that has been around for almost 40 years - A Charlie Brown Christmas. One of the most remarkable facts about this special is that it was a show that almost didn't get made. It would go on to win both an Emmy and Peabody award and become a classic.

One of the show's highlights is it's jazz soundtrack featuring compositions by legendary pianist Vince Guaraldi. Walk into a store during the Christmas season and you're likely to hear such tracks as "Christmas Time is Here", "O Christmas Tree", or the song also known as the Peanuts Theme, "Linus and Lucy".

But the reason that this special stands out from the crowd of so many other specials that have aired in the last 40 years is its message.

Charlie Brown is depressed and discouraged by the commercialism that is so prevalent during Christmas. He becomes so exasperated at one point that he asks "Isn't there anyone who knows the real meaning of Christmas?" It is Linus who provides the answer by quoting Luke 2:8-14:

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Let us never forget the real reason that we celebrate Christmas.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Ignoring History

If Mommypundit and I hadn't been homeschooling our kids before, we wouldn't have hesitated to pull them out of government schools if our school district had tried to do something like this:


LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California teacher has been barred by his school from giving students documents from American history that refer to God -- including the Declaration of Independence.

Steven Williams, a fifth-grade teacher at Stevens Creek School in the San Francisco Bay area suburb of Cupertino, sued for discrimination on Monday, claiming he had been singled out for censorship by principal Patricia Vidmar because he is a Christian.

"It's a fact of American history that our founders were religious men, and to hide this fact from young fifth-graders in the name of political correctness is outrageous and shameful," said Williams' attorney, Terry Thompson.

"Williams wants to teach his students the true history of our country," he said. "There is nothing in the Establishment Clause (of the U.S. Constitution) that prohibits a teacher from showing students the Declaration of Independence."

Vidmar could not be reached for comment on the lawsuit, which was filed on Monday in U.S. District Court in San Jose and claims violations of Williams rights to free speech under the First Amendment.
Phyllis Vogel, assistant superintendent for Cupertino Unified School District, said the lawsuit had been forwarded to a staff attorney. She declined to comment further.

Williams asserts in the lawsuit that since May he has been required to submit all of his lesson plans and supplemental handouts to Vidmar for approval, and that the principal will not permit him to use any that contain references to God or Christianity.
Among the materials she has rejected, according to Williams, are excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, George Washington's journal, John Adams' diary, Samuel Adams' "The Rights of the Colonists" and William Penn's "The Frame of Government of Pennsylvania."
"He hands out a lot of material and perhaps 5 to 10 percent refers to God and Christianity because that's what the founders wrote," said Thompson, a lawyer for the Alliance Defense Fund, which advocates for religious freedom. "The principal seems to be systematically censoring material that refers to Christianity and it is pure discrimination."
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case of a California atheist who wanted the words "under God" struck from the Pledge of Allegiance as recited by school children. The appeals court in California had found that the phrase amounted to a violation of church and state separation.


Liberals are always quick to proclaim the virtue of separation of church and state. They believe that the church or any reference to Christianity has no place in public education much less public life. If our history is sanitized from any reference to God then we will be no different than Nazi Germany - where they even "sanitized" the church.

Thoughts on Thanksgiving

Everywhere I turn these days it seems that the true meaning of Thanksgiving continues to be distorted. The greatest distortions appear to be occurring in our schools where politically correct school systems are afraid to reveal that there were religious motives behind the first Thanksgiving or that we should be pausing to thank God for the blessings we enjoy today. Mommypundit has an excellent post on one school system in Maryland that is attempting to rewrite the history of Thanksgiving.

Michelle Malkin underscores the problem perfectly in a column published today:

Once an unabashedly pious land, we have been transformed into a nation of historically clueless ingrates -- embarrassed about our heritage, afraid of offending all newcomers, and more committed to inculcating a sense of entitlement over a culture of gratitude.

Linda Chavez also has a few words for politically correct school sytems that want to distort the meaning of Thanksgiving.

And pastor Mark D. Roberts provides us with a detailed history of Thanksgiving in his series this Week of Thanksgiving.

Update: James Jewell at the Rooftop Blog has some thoughts to share on the holiday.

Update #2: LaShawn Barber shares her thoughts about Thanksgiving.

Update #3: Hugh Hewitt has posted the text of George Washington's first Thanksgiving Proclamation.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Enjoying Fellowship with God

I have a friend who is a Captain in the Naval Reserves. He's currently on a short-term mission trip with Mercy Ships. He regularly sends us e-mail updates on what's happening on the ship. This passage from a recent e-mail caught my attention:

On the Ship- Work continues in No.2 Hatch as the Tween Deck, steel plate is removed and new plate installed. Personally, I spent the week working on the Lifeboats (between rain squalls). As I sat splicing rope and singing to myself, I realized something. That God was really giving me the opportunity to enjoy Him. I know some would say that my talents and gifts are not being fully used as the Third Officer, but as I see the young Dutch Chief Mate running all over the ship, I was glad that it was her and not me, As most of you know, one of my goals for this trip is to hear from God. And if I was the Chief Mate, I would be too busy to hear.

As I splice rope, I have the opportunity to really enjoy fellowship with God. Splicing, like many things that God gives us to do as our job/ profession can either be done quickly with many short-cuts or be done in a proper and correct manner, that requires more time, and perhaps less concentration. God impressed upon me to take the time and do it right and allow him into my work. Last night teaching at our Community Meeting, the Lord brought it home again concerning fellowship with Him. It was on "Simple Faith".

Simple Faith from Mark 12:29-31 Hear God, Love God, Love the people God places in our path and to love ourselves because God loves us. Many time I know that we make life so complicated, that we no longer have time for the things that truly matters...God, Spouse, Family, Friends, Co-Workers and ourselves... instead we involve ourselves in total distraction our work, play or relaxation.

This e-mail reminded Mommypundit of Brother Lawrence, the seventeenth-century monk who is perhaps best known for the book Practicing the Presence of God. Although I had heard of him, I had never taken the time to read his writings. While reading about him, I ran across this quote which I found particularly challenging:

"I walk before God simply, in faith, with humility and with love; and I apply myself diligently to do nothing and think nothing which may displease Him."

Pastor Mark Roberts expands on this further in a sermon he has just posted on his blog. (Hat tip: Sidesspot)

Promoting a Culture of Life

LaShawn Barber has posted on the latest developments in the battle to reduce the number of abortions in this country:

WASHINGTON - Congress made it a little easier for hospitals, insurers and others to refuse to provide or cover abortions. A provision in a $388 billion spending bill passed by the House and Senate on Saturday would block any of the measure's money from going to federal, state or local agencies that act against health care providers and insurers because they don't provide abortions, make abortion referrals or cover them.

"This policy simply states that health care entities should not be forced to provide elective abortions, a practice to which a majority of health care providers object and which they will not perform as a matter of conscience," said Rep. David Weldon, R-Fla., a doctor who sponsored the language.

Weldon said his measure was simply a refinement of decades-old restrictions against federal aid for most abortions. "This provision is meant to protect health care entities from discrimination because they choose not to provide abortion services," he said. (Source)

This is definitely a step in the right direction. As I have said before, Roe vs. Wade is still the law of the land. While pro-lifers would like to see the case overturned it's not going to happen anytime soon. In the meantime, we need to continue to focus on measures such as this one that will limit the number of abortions performed each year.

LaShawn also links to an excellent article providing a biblical basis for why abortion is wrong.

Make sure to also read LaShawn's post on how the liberal media will try to portray this as a bad move.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Lasting Friendships

Pastor, author, and blogger Tod Bolsinger has been posting a series over the past several days on the importance of fellowship within the body of Christ. The following passage from a recent post in this series stood out for me as I reflected on the friends that I am blessed to have:

When was the last time that you had a long, deep conversation of "big" talk? Y'know, when was the last time that you sat down and opened your mind and your soul and experienced Jesus speaking to you through the voice of a friend? If it was recently, I'll bet that it occurred a) because you are in a small group that has been meeting for a long time, or b) because you were talking to an "old friend" whom you have known for a long time, or c) you were in dire straights. (Desperation and trial often make us cut to the chase and get to the heart of a matter.)

And in a) and b) above you were able to go deep and talk honestly precisely because you spent a good long, slow time developing the relationship over time, through small talk. I learned in college (I was a speech communication major) that "small talk leads to big talk." Simple, short, caring conversations that slowly and appropriately go deeper and deeper, with increasing but not sudden or forced depth in intimacy develop the kinds of lasting friendships that truly enrich our lives. We need to grow closer slowly, over time. And that takes "the hang."

The Spiritual Discipline of proximity is about spending ample amounts of time near certain people, over a backgammon board, across a tennis court, on a bicycle, while running, over dinner, while stirring a cup of coffee, or in our church's case on our patio after services and at our all-church mid week dinner and education event called Big Wednesday.

Once we have spent a lot of time in small talk, then the big talk follows.

I just got back from Richmond where I had the chance to spend time with several of my closest friends. Two of them had come on the trip with our family. Two others live in Richmond and we try to hook up every time I'm in town. Another is currently serving as a missionary in Chile but happened to be in town with his wife this past weekend.

As I reflect on each of these friendships, these are all people that I had intentionally practicing the spiritual discipline of proximity with over the years. In each case, these were guys I met for breakfast with every week. Over time (and since we are all guys it took some time) we would deepen our relationship with each other in Christ to the point that we could feel comfortable discussing whatever we were struggling with at any given time. It's still that way today even though I don't get to see some of them very often.

My grandfather often said that if a man have five people in his life that he could call his close friends then he was truly blessed. I now understand what he meant. But in order to achieve that blessing it requires us to be willing to invest time in getting to know each other. In other words, we need to spend time just "hanging out".

Monday, November 15, 2004

Thoughts on The Great Commission

The Great Commission - Matthew 28:16-20

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

If there is a single passage of Scripture that would serve as a "mission statement" for Christians then the case could be made that Matthew 28:16-20 is it. It is the passage that most Christians would cite as the passage that explains our primary purpose here on earth. It is also a passage that is probably one of the most easily misunderstood.

I've observed many churches that focus their ministry on reaching non-Christians. The predominant theme running through most of the sermons is the Gospel. In other words, the focus is on salvation instead of discipleship.

Mark D. Roberts, a pastor and blogger, has posted a sermon entitled "Sent to a People Beyond Ourselves" that analyzed this passage and presented some applications for the church today. A couple of points he makes really stood out as I read it. He focuses on the phrase "Go and make disciples" in verse 19. He asks whether we need to "get up and go somewhere"? His answer:

"Thus, not only do we not have to go elsewhere to fulfill the Great Commission, but in fact our primary mission is here, right on our doorstep, right across the street, right in our schools, neighborhoods, and offices. "

Opportunities to share Christ are all around us: co-workers, neighbors, friends, family members, and anyone else we encounter through the course of daily living. That is not to say that going out is not important and there certainly is a place for sending out missions workers into the world. But we should not be focused on ministering to the world at large that we miss opportunities much closer to home.

Roberts then turns his attention to another key part of verse 19: make disciples.

Notice, Jesus didn't say, "Make believers," though believing in him is an essential part of discipleship. Nor did Jesus say, "Get people to clean up their lives," though genuine disciples become more holy as they grow in Christ. Jesus didn't say, "Get people to go to church," though faithful participation in the community of Jesus is absolutely crucial to discipleship. Rather, Jesus said, "Make disciples." To paraphrase, this means, "Make people who enter into an intentional, intimate relationship with me and with my other disciples, in which they put their trust in me as Savior, in which they submit their life to me as Lord, in which they allow me to teach them both how to live and how to serve me in the world."

So our mission in this community is not merely to make converts, but to make genuine disciples of Jesus Christ.

I am persuaded that this is what is missing from most of what passes for evangelism in the church today. We have become too focused on salvation and have not focused on discipleship.

I was discussing this topic with my former pastor this weekend who observed that when you have a church that is focused primarily on salvation (and often on increasing the number of people coming to church) that the believers in the congregation tire of hearing a salvation message over and over again. As a result, they become frustrated because they are not growing deeper in their relationship with Christ.

Roberts then moves on to this application for the church:

We cannot make disciples in this community unless we are living as a community of disciples, loving one another, bearing one another's burdens, teaching each other, forgiving each other, worshipping together. There is no discipleship without genuine community. And, in our day, there's no effective evangelism without genuine community. Our neighbors, those to whom we have been sent, won't believe the good news about Jesus unless they see this good news fleshed out in our fellowship together. Then, if they accept this good news and become believers, they won't live as disciples unless they can join a community of disciples.

This reflects what the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:4-5:

4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.

The power of the Holy Spirit is demonstrated in how we live our lives. If we are truly living our lives under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, perfect strangers should be able to see a difference in us. My wife often tells me of the story of the kid who said that if Jesus was living in him He would be "sticking out all over". I remember once in college sitting in one the main areas of campus talking with a friend of mine when someone I did not know came up to me and asked if I was a Christian. I said that I was. He said "I could see it in your eyes". The church should be all about developing a community of disciples who will have Jesus "sticking out all over".

Too often the church falls into the trap of believing that there is a need for more ministries or programs to draw people into the church. What we really need to focus on building the community of disciples, intentionally being involved in each others lives, to hold others accountable so that we can "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." 1 Peter 3:15

ADDENDUM: I was discussing this idea with a friend of mine this morning who believes that the majority of churches overemphasize discipleship and do not emphasize evangelism enough. I believe that each church is going to have different needs and be at a different place. We both agreed that the important thing is for churches to be able to strike the right balance between discipleship and evangelism, and like seeking balance in our own lives, it's a constant process.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Catching Up

Mommypundit and I have been out of town this weekend at a parenting conference. A lot of good information was shared that we're still trying to absorb. Once I can get my thoughts together I'll post on it. In the meantime, check out this port from LaShawn Barber entitled Worlds Collide on the Moral Divide.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Specter Kerfuffle Update

Mark Sides has weighed in on the Specter debate with a very thoughtful post that is a must read for anyone who believes abortion should be outlawed. As Mark reminds us, there is a lot of work Christians can still do even though Roe vs. Wade has not yet been overturned.

Also, Rick Brady at Stones Cry Out has assembled a list of bloggers who have posted on the Specter debate. Here is my original post that Rick was kind enough to include in his list.

David Limbaugh also reminds us to keep the debate civil among conservatives. As he says in the final paragraph of this post:

Democrats have usurped the president's judicial appointment power, and it's time to take it back.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Pulling the Plug on TennCare

Glenn Reynolds over at Instapundit notes that Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen announced today that he is pulling the plug on TennCare, the state's expanded Medicaid program to cover the poor, disabled, and uninsured.

Since it's inception, TennCare has served as a perfect example of why goverment-run health insurance is such a lousy idea. Although it initially was targeted to cover those unable to afford their own health insurance the plan now covers nearly a quarter of all Tennesseans.

As this physician's post points out, one of the fundamental problems with government health insurance programs such as Medicare and Medicaid is that the amounts paid to physicians are insufficient to cover their costs. As a results, doctors are reluctant to treat patients with coverage through a plan such as TennCare because they will lose a substantial amount of money. That forces patients to be treated at state-run clinics and university hospitals that are required to provide care regardless of the patient's ability to pay for it. As a result, that puts a greater financial burden on the state.

The other unintended consequence of TennCare is it gave employers a way to shift the burden of paying healthcare costs of employees with costly medical bills to the state rather than having them covered under their own group insurance policies.

Not long ago I worked as an insurance agent selling health insurance in Tennessee. The premium for any group health insurance program is based in large part on the overall health of the employees. It's not uncommon for employers with employees that have expensive, chronic illnesses to look for other coverage besides their own group policy to limit their insurance premiums. TennCare simply offered Tennessee employers the opportunity to shift the burden back to the state. As a result, TennCare became a huge financial black hole for the state.

I believe Governor Bredesen is making a courageous move to pull the plug on this program. Whether he decides to replace TennCare with a more fiscally sound program remains to be seen. However, the demise of TennCare should serve as a warning to politicians who have been endorsing the idea of government-run health insurance. Tennessee's failed experiment should show them the costs are too great even for the government to handle.

Our new Attorney General

Today, President Bush has nominated White House counsel Alberto Gonzales to succeed John Ashcroft as Attorney General. Michelle Malkin has posted this suggesting that Gonzales' nomination is not good news for conservatives. She also links to this column from Robert Novak. I'm more inclined to agree with the guys over at Powerline. I think this is a smart choice.

I believe that by nominating Gonzales to be Attorney General, President Bush is effectively removing him from the pool of candidates for the Supreme Court. I also think that Gonzales will be confirmed easily and this will ensure a smooth transition over at Justice.

On a related note, Lorie Byrd makes a great point in this post over at Polipundit. The Republican party continues to demonstrate that they are the party of opportunity by promoting qualified individuals, regardless of race, into positions of power.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Should Arlen Specter be dumped?

The hot topic of discussion in the center-right blogosphere has been whether Senator Arlen Specter should be denied chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee (which would be rightly his under current Senate rules) because of comments he made about pro-life judicial nominees. David Limbaugh makes some good points in this post that are worth reading. Hugh Hewitt has been one of the few bloggers to come out and support Senator Specter remaining the chairman. His posts are here, here, here, and here. Two other bloggers I have tremendous respect for, Stones Cry Out and The Dawn Treader have also come out in support of keeping Senator Specter as the chairman.

I am staunchly pro-life. I would be absolutely overjoyed to see the Supreme Court overturn Roe vs. Wade and end legalized abortion. The truth is that it's not going to happen anytime soon. The makeup of the Court is not such that they are willing to overturn Roe. The best that pro-lifers can hope for is the continued limiting of the number of abortions performed each year. The President summed up the current state of affairs with regards to abortion during the third Presidential debate:

I think it's important to promote a culture of life. I think a hospitable society is a society where every being counts and every person matters. I believe the ideal world is one in which every child is protected in law and welcomed to life. I understand there's great differences on this issue of abortion, but I believe reasonable people can come together and put good law in place that will help reduce the number of abortions.

Our President understands the reality of the abortion debate. At this point, the political and legal reality is that Roe vs. Wade, for better or worse, is still the law of the land. However, that does not mean that we cannot endeavor to limit the number of abortions performed as much as possible.

It's also important to remember that President Bush will have an opportunity to reshape this court during his second term in office. Justice Rehnquist's health is now questionable. Justice O'Connor is rumored to be ready to retire. Justice Stevens may also choose to retire. That makes three possible openings including the Chief Justice's position where President Bush will have the opportunity to nominate replacements. In other words, President Bush may have an opportunity to reshape the Supreme Court for years to come.

In the rush to try to dump Specter, conservatives are forgetting that they are not in the majority. Pro-lifers have also been quick to jump on the dump Specter bandwagon, too. But pro-lifers are not in the majority, either. There are a number of Republicans in both the House and Senate are neither conservative nor pro-life. But their votes are just as important.

For the first time in recent history, Republicans hold a sizeable majority in the Senate. But in order for them to be able to make any significant legislative accomplishments they will still have to recruit a handful of Democrats (in addition to keeping their own caucus in line) in order to avoid filibusters.

I would certainly prefer to have someone other than Senator Specter as chairman of the Judiciary Committee. I can think of a number of other Senators who would be a better choice. However, the damage that would be done by dumping Senator Specter would be far greater than any benefit that would be gained by replacing him. I believe in the end that Senator Specter will work with President Bush and continue to support his nominees, especially if this exchange with Judy Woodruff on Inside Politics yesterday isn't simply spin:

WOODRUFF: Have you heard from, in the storm of criticism and we know now they are actively gearing up to block your move to become chairman, are you able to have a conversation with some of these folks who are really upset with you still?

SPECTER: Sure. I've had a lot of conversations and when I point out to them what the facts are the going gets easier. When I point out to them that I've never had a litmus test, that I voted for Chief Justice Rehnquist to confirm him and that's long after he wrote against Roe v. Wade, that I voted to confirm Justice Scalia and Justice O'Connor and Justice Kennedy and I almost lost my seat, I led the fight to confirm Justice Thomas and I almost lost my seat as a result of it in the United States Senate. And every one of President Bush's nominees I have supported in the committee and on the floor. Listen, Judy, those are the facts. It so happens that I'm pro choice. The only pro choice Republican on the committee. But I don't make the decisions. I've supported pro life nominees because it is the function of the president to put up qualified people and a senator to support people who are qualified.
(Emphasis mine)

The Senator understands his role of "advise and consent" as outlined by the Constitution. I believe that our President can be trusted to nominate qualified judges and it's up to the Senate to make sure they are confirmed.

To my fellow conservatives and pro-lifers who disagree with me, let me just suggest that you go and read Hugh Hewitt's excellent book "If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat: Crushing Democrats in Every Election and Why Your Life Depends On It". This election was not simply about short-term additions to a growing Republican majority. It was about putting this country on the right path for the long run. We must be willing to be patient and make steady progress towards our goals.

Dumping Senator Specter might satisfy pro-lifers who do not think he can be trusted to support conservative judges. But the backlash (particularly among red state Democratic Senators as well as moderate and liberal Republicans) may be so great that the President's judicial nominees do not get confirmed.

We have a President who understands the opportunity before him to not only reshape the Supreme Court but the entire federal judiciary. Republicans have the opportunity to change the rules so that every nominee can get an up or down vote in the Senate and to make substantial headway in reforming the nomination process.

A wise pastor told me once that you should choose carefully the hills you are willing to die on. In other words, you have to choose carefully the battles that you are willing to fight. Whether Senator Specter becomes chairman of the Judiciary committee to me is not one of those battles. There is too much at stake.