Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Eloquence

I love literature. My dream job (don't laugh) would be to write. This blog is an outlet, and a place for me to practice writing. My wife, of course, knows of this affinity for the written word, and my enjoyment of big words. She sent me her Dictionary.com Word of the Day entry for January 13 (she's catching up from her India trip), and said, "this is you!"

I couldn't argue, seeing as the word was sesquipedalian. And yes, I knew what it meant before she sent me the email. That is almost sad.

I sometimes dream of being eloquent, of writing that one wonderful phrase that will make a critic of my idea surrender to my view, begging forgiveness for prior wrongheadedness. Judging by the number of people who've come forward letting me know that they've changed their minds due to something I wrote, I would have to say I've not been terribly successful.

What I think is getting in the way here is often that I try too hard to be eloquent and persuasive instead of letting ideas work through me. I like to use big words, when the simplest will do. Writing 101, I know.

The Gettysburg Address, arguably one of the most powerful orations ever delivered is succinct. In the roughly 250 words (depending on which transcript you use) there is no flowery puffery. President Lincoln used very few words to get across the idea that democracy should not perish, lest those who died for it would have died in vain. Lincoln didn't argue his point, he just stated it. He didn't aim to persuade, but aimed to remind people of a noble truth.

This is important. The truth exists. We don't have to invent it, we don't have to wordsmith it. We merely have to remind people about it. The Bible tells us that God wants us to know the truth, and it tells us how to speak the truth. Scripture doesn't command flower language, or flattery. It only commands that we speak the truth out of love.

And the Bible tells us this truth in the simplest of terms:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life -- John 3:16 (NIV)
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Words are powerful things. They describe and convey ideas. Words, carefully chosen and arranged, can persuade or dissuade, inform or deceive, encourage or discourage, inspire or deflate, lift up or tear down. We should avoid being careless with them. To share the truth does not require babbling, and using words carelessly hides the truth behind a veil of verbosity.

I'm not saying we can't, or shouldn't, write with flair. I'm tweaking my own love of words with some of the words I've chosen so far. (And I'm on a quest to teach my daughter the word "albeit" to surprise her kindergarten teacher. My daughter already uses the words nefarious and gregarious.) On the contrary, using language creatively is both enjoyable and good - as long as we use language appropriately too. The most creative curse is less impressive, and far less persuasive, than the simplest blessing.

I pray that above being eloquent, I would be truthful. God's word doesn't require my embellishment. The most powerful message stands out quite clearly in its own simple self.

God bless!

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Things you Learn on Satellite TV

So I'm watching a documentary on the History Channel, a little show called Bible Battles which discusses, interestingly enough, some battles of OT times. The perspective is that of military historians, and the approach is to discuss the tactics, tools and strategy of various military leaders, such as Moses, Deborah, Joshua and Saul. For the most part, I found the show interesting. However, I found a few things to sound rather odd, and upon reflection thought they were symptomatic of much of today's unorthodox scholarship. The historians, in talking about the Exodus, claimed that it was illogical for slaves to defeat Egypt the way Moses et al did. Therefore, the Israelites were not slaves, but rather a people with a fair amount of military skill, people the Egyptians thought might turn on them. Of course, slaves overthrowing a strong military is illogical. But. (This is usually part of modern scholarship from, and for some of you I'm sorry if this offends, liberal scholars.) But what this analysis leaves out of the equation is God. Yes, it is implausible for us to think slaves whipped the Egyptians. But it is NOT implausible to just take the Bible at its word and think God played a part. If God took part, then this becomes more than plausible. Yet many folks decide that instead of taking the text as saying what is plain and obvious, decide that God couldn't have taken part and so another explanation must needs be devised. Closed-circuit to people who keep looking for alternative explanations that turn scripture into metaphor: just because you come up with an alternative, plausible explanation, that doesn't mean you're right. And leaving God out of the stories in which He is a major player is nonsensical.

(Modern analysis of the Noah story is also symptomatic of this approach. I've heard people say the Noahic flood could not have happened as described in Genesis because the animals would have needed more food/waste removal services than Noah and family could have provided, etc. Basically, it doesn't work as a story because the logistics are unworkable. Um, hello, but the entire story is built on God's work. God decides to send the flood, He brings the animals to the ark, He opens the floodgates. Any God that can create the universe with His word, can flood the earth, can do the other things God can do certainly can take care of the animals on the ark for a few months. Taking a story that describes miracles and then saying it couldn't have happened because it would have taken a miracle is completely missing the point.)
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Another show on the pay channels (no, not those pay channels), Battlestar Galactica, often centers on questions of what it really means to be human, or touches on ethical or moral questions. Tonight's episode touched, at least briefly, on the morality of the "everyone's doing it" excuse. And for once, I wasn't disappointed by a script writer. There was a scene where Col. Tigh and Captain Lee Adama are discussing their participation in the illegal black market developing in the fleet. Col. Tigh warns Adama not to "play holier than thou" since Adama had played a part. Adama, instead of saying, "yeah, I'm a hypocrite, I'll not judge the black marketers anymore" surprised me. His response was, "doesn't make us right, Colonel, just a whole lot of people wrong."

This is an incredibly Christian response. Adama realizes that what he is doing is wrong. Something is not made right just because "everyone does it." Sin is not excused by the number of participants, and we are not released from responsibility for our own sin on the grounds that our neighbor does the same thing. Adama gets it exactly right: we still must judge sin as sin, even while we ourselves are sinners. The alternative is that we allow evil to flourish. Calling sin "sin" is not hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is calling sin "sin" while also claiming not to sin.

I also note that Adama does go on to kill a criminal without due process, so he obviously has some ongoing issues to address. But I was encouraged that a character on television actually said something unexpected and morally correct. Just because everyone is sinning doesn't mean we should avoid calling out sin for what it is. Sin is an afront to God, and we don't take that nearly seriously enough. When we hold back from preaching against sin and evil we allow it to flourish and grow. That eventually harms us too. Sin, left unchecked by Christians too afraid of being called judgmental and intolerant, kills. Yes, we need to speak out properly, and not hatefully. But we can't keep silent. Just because a whole lot of people are minimizing sin doesn't make it right to do so. No, it just makes a whole lot of people wrong.

God bless!

[Update: I updated a parenthetical aside that I noticed was worded rather oddly. Apologies for anyone who scratched their head over it:)]

Thanks for the Prayers!

For those of you scoring at home, the Northern 'Burbs Babe returned home from India today, tired but healthy and full of stories. As I mentioned, she was doing some teacher training, but the group she was with did much more too. They were helping in some village medical clinic/screening work, seminars on hygiene and education, as well as some learning about issues faced by the Dalits.

I will be writing more about the Dalits in the near future, but suffice it to say this is a people group in need of our prayer. Many of the (hundreds of millions) Dalits are very open to the Gospel, and there are many now stepping out of the Hinduism that oppresses them, and into a faith that embraces them. This of course is dangerous for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is that some may be changing their faith as a matter of economic convenience rather than a real desire to follow Christ. And for every Gospel worker reaching out to help the Dalits, there are members of other faiths (esp. Buddhism and Islam) who are also trying to entice Dalits. Pray that these people above all else find the truth that can save them; and pray also for enforcement of laws intended to prevent their oppression so they can realize the same opportunities (economic and educational, as well as in matters of safety and protection) as other Indians.

The pictures my wife brought back reveal a beautiful people. To us mere mortals, the Dalits are truly the least of these. To God, they are so beloved that He sent His Son for them. I hope we can see them through God's eyes instead of our own.

God bless!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Trippin' 'Round the 'Sphere - 1/25/06 Edition

Christian Carnival is up at Technogypsy. I count roughly 39 entries, organized around a St. Isaac of Syria theme. That's one of the things I like about the CC - I learn as much from some of the themes as I do from the actual posts.
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Wanna know where I'm, as I said the other day, sometimes pro-choice? In the area of education, for one. Stones Cry Out talks about a fight over it in a neighboring state. Interesting conversation in the comments too, little of which centers on the results (unfortunately) and much which centers on whether this is really increased choice.
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Keasty talks about couples hanging in together. To his good list, I'd add make Christ the center of the marriage instead of an afterthought. When you look at Christ first, your spouse second, and yourself third, selfishness is less likely to intrude.
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Somebody paid to study this? Hmmm. Judging from the blogosphere, I'd have thought this was obvious. Just one more reason it's good to get your news from multiple sources on the idealogical spectrum.
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Chris is posting on a grand idea to help his friend Cody with hospital bills. Keep praying, of course, but check out the post to see a tangible way to help out someone in need.
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For my lefty friends (and yes, that's meant as a term of endearment, not judgment), what are your opinions of this Prager column? (HT: Questions and Answers.) For more controversial fun, head over to La Shawn's and provide input to her question "What are some obvious reasons Anglos (America) lead the world?".
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Kristen writes a profound post on relativism and morality. Key quote: "I'm still working on that whole "sin no more" thing, but I sure am glad He sacrificed Himself for me...unworthy, unholy, unfit. If I am worth anything, it's because of His love for and His redemption of me." Amen!
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The irony here is that I don't care for math, although I had to take a lot of it for my C-Sci degree. I do love science almost as much as reading/writing though. (HT: Blogotional.)
You scored as Mathematics. You should be a Math major! Like Pythagoras, you are analytical, rational, and when are always ready to tackle the problem head-on!

Mathematics

92%

English

83%

Journalism

83%

Psychology

83%

Chemistry

75%

Philosophy

67%

Theater

67%

Linguistics

67%

Engineering

58%

Biology

50%

Anthropology

42%

Art

33%

Sociology

33%

Dance

25%

What is your Perfect Major? (PLEASE RATE ME!!<3)
created with QuizFarm.com


God bless!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Nothing Easy About It

A young woman performing God's work at an orphanage in a foreign land is kicked out by the local management for no apparent reason. A small town pastor is struggling to make ends meet for both the church and his family. A Dalit child meets Jesus, and is more oppressed by upper caste members than before. Churches across the south were destroyed by a hurricane. A leader of a powerful nation claims a relationship with Christ, and is attacked by people who hate him - and his Lord. Men and women of faith are brought low by adultery, theft, deceit or slander.

I think it is an understatement to say that our ways are not God's ways. Our ways would be much easier. And better. Yes, better. Because we know that suffering is terrible.

Or not.

Our ways are not God's ways, and this is good. God's ways are for our benefit. This comes as little comfort to the suffering missionary, the poverty-stricken believer, the terminally-ill child. Yet it is true. We are often told that suffering does not end when we accept by faith the grace God offers. The truth of the matter is that God promises suffering to those who follow Him. There is no promise to keep us free of pain or trouble. Christianity doesn't turn our earthly clouds into silver linings. What it does is better: faith gives us the strength to overcome our suffering. And it gives us the tools to share that suffering and carry one another's burdens.

God's ways aren't easy. Nor are they pain free. But they are the best ways. Do you know someone struggling right now? Pray for them. Share their burden, thereby lightening even your own. Is that person struggling right now you? Then know that I am praying for you now, even if I don't know your name. That's another benefit of God's ways. He provides us each other - since nobody should have to go through the hard times alone.

God bless!

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Primary Right

It's been 33 years and the fight goes on. I am, of course, stridently pro-life, and find the Roe v. Wade decision to be one of the worst acts of injustice enacted by our government. And not only because it was enacted by judges; were abortion legalized through legislative channels, I'd deplore it as much.

However, my complaints in the realm of abortion are not solely targeted at those who call themselves pro-choice. Pro-lifers, too often, act as if they were really "pro-birth" instead, and don't put their proverbial money where their mouths are when it comes to supporting pregnant women, or women after they give birth.

Nor do we do ourselves any favors when we engage in the same rhetorical tactics used by those who desire to keep abortion legal. When we call someone "anti-life" we are just as bad as those who call us "anti-choice." Truth is, there are many choices I'm for; there are also many lives abortion-rights supporters are for. And while I believe we have the right to protest the Roe decision, I join most other pro-lifers in unequivocally condemning acts of violence in the movements' name. You can't call yourself pro-life and then try to kill an abortionist.

That being said, abortion is a terrible evil for which this country will pay. I don't say this in the Robertson-Nagin sense of tying specific evil to specific disaster. But God will judge us as a nation. This country was declared independent in order to protect the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The government, the Declaration of Independence says, is instituted to secure these rights. And yet our government makes legal the very deprivation of the right to life. We've elevated the right to choice above the right to life; never mind that without the right to life, the right to choice means nothing. Dead people cannot choose, cannot speak freely, cannot criticize the government, and cannot exercise freely their religion. We've subordinated the right to life, which instead should be the primary and most important of all protected rights.

We need to end this evil, or at least fight to do so. And I say this as a conservative, realizing that abortion remaining legal is likely to benefit conservatives politically for years to come. The most important thing, though, isn't that conservatives gain politically, but that all people in this country, born and unborn, are allowed to live so that they can contribute to our great society.

I don't think abortion will be illegal anytime soon. As long as sin exists, abortion will be viable for someone. I think this also means we need to reprioritize the fight against legalized abortion on an individual level. The battle will only be won through prayer, through loving single mothers-to-be and caring for their needs (and the needs of their babies), and through convincing people, one on one, that abortion is a moral disaster. I'm not giving up on the political aspects, but those are not the most vital avenues to reversing Roe. No, the most vital channels to restoring sanity to our abortion laws are through the hearts of individuals, especially of women who need our help and love more than they need our preaching.

God bless, and may God grant wisdom to all in matters of life, a most precious gift.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Bonus Trippin' 'Round the 'Sphere - 1/19/06 Edition

You've got to be kidding me. Of all the things I'd never bid on, this would be very, very near the top of the list.
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This list of the 50 Most Influential Christians in America is...how do I say this? Interesting. (That's a term with much nuance here in Minnesota.) People who deny the doctrine of the trinity, a popular psychiatrist, a couple of very unpopular preachers (at least within some evangelical circles), and a Fox News analyst. I'm not saying whether or not I think these folks are Christians. I just found some of the exclusions and inclusions a bit different (another phrase with high nuance here in the cold north) from who I'd have come up with. (HT: The Evangelical Outpost.)
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Please pray for Ed and his wife. I know it's appreciated.
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Wow. That's all I can say.
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There are more, but my network connection seems to be failing so I can't open my other links. So, I'm going to try and post this now. Have a good evening!

God bless!

More on Tough Questions

Hey, it's my brother's birthday! Random non sequitor ends here.
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Spunky is talking about my question of the other day. She broadens it to a question of talking to our children about tough topics in general, and the importance of "being there" to capture questions immediately. I wholeheartedly agree with her thesis. We should be talking to our children when they ask tough questions. If we don't answer them, who will?

Honestly, I don't trust many people to answer such questions on my behalf. Color me cynical, but there are few people out there who grasp the nuances of our family's approach to Santa Claus, let alone hell. And I'm very sure I don't want the girls learning about sex from friends (or, "friends.")

God gave us the responsibility of raising our children, and we cannot abandon them when they have questions, even if the questions are tough. In this area, prayer for discernment helps. But what also helps is praying that when the tough questions come to their minds, our children would seek us out first. That takes trust on their part - and even for our children we need to help them build that trust. When we blow them off, we're blowing them towards those "friends" and people who don't share our core values.

Answer the tough questions, and be there.

Which leads me to a clarification of sorts. My original intent in regards to the hell question was whether/where/when we should be the ones broaching the subject. So yes, answer the question when it comes up. But when they're not asking, do we still tell them about hell? Or do we wait for the question?

God bless!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Trippin' 'Round the 'Sphere - 1/18/06 Edition

Happy blogoversary to Ed! He's one of my "must read daily" bloggers, both at Attention Span and at Clearing My Head.
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Man, last week's Lost was outstanding, but I missed out on seeing the images in the smoke. Apparently, I need DVR set up on my Dish account, because our VCR image was rather poor. Regardless, I like David's take at the above link.
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Hey, I'm not the only one asking questions. Keasty is asking why couples stay together. Well, he's been married 38 years - why's he asking us? (And nicely done!) And my answer is in the comments section of his blog - I'm referring you there, no sense spoiling the surprise here.

And Wink at Parableman asks whether Jesus committed suicide. Huh. That's a thinker, once you get past the surface of the question.
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In carnival news, Christian Carnival is up at Dunmoose the Ageless. And the next God or Not carnival will be hosted at The Uncredible Hallq. The topic is "Definition of God." Gee, couldn't make it a broader topic? I feel so constrained...
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Did we learn nothing from Pat Robertson's comments of last week??????? Then again, if [insert conservative Republican name here] had said, verbatim, what Nagin says here...I'd hate to think the number of trees that would lose their lives as the NYT/LAT/WPO piled on.
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I hope I'm this sharp when I'm 107 and change.

God bless!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A Question of Hell

So, last night I'm cleaning the kitchen post-dinner, and the girls are playing in their bedroom. With their army of Barbie (TM) dolls. I think we have at least a battalion.

Anyway, all of a sudden our eldest daughter says rather loudly, "oh my gosh, sister, when we die we won't be able to play with our Barbies (TM) anymore. We'll be dead. We'll be in heaven! Our eyes will be shut! We'll be dust! We'll be in heaven!"

(No, she didn't actually say (TM). It was implied.)

Well. Death and dolls. Interesting. Five years old and contemplating, at least superficially, what death will be like. And to an extent she's right: we'll be dust, and we'll be in heaven. There's so much more to death than heaven, though. Jesus was very clear that there is another destination for some. Our daughter does not yet know about that alternative. She is little Miss Uber Sensitive, and we're not quite up for the nightmares yet

I'm pretty sure our family isn't unique in this sense. I've taught pre-school/elementary-school kindergarten for a number of years, and I've taught Awana for two. In that time, I've met one preschooler who mentioned hell in Sunday School. I think it's perfectly natural to avoid the subject with children; churches have even stopped teaching the doctrine to adults.

I have a question to pose though. Is this right? Okay, multiple, related questions. Are we shortchanging our children by hiding this aspect of our faith? Is hell something to avoid on grounds of maturity, or are we simply afraid to talk about a rather unpleasant topic (to say the least)? I'm beginning to wonder.

So...open forum, and the more the merrier. Let's discuss. When is it okay to talk about hell? Why then (if at all, for those who think it's not worth talking about at all)?

Just remember: be civil. While forgiveness is always available, Jesus didn't have kind words to say about those who hated on others. In fact, He had some rather harsh words. Including "hell."

Thanks, and God bless!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Friday Miscellany

Is it just me or is the Burger King character the creepiest thing on television today?

Minnesota isn't above electing a non-traditional politician, but (to plagiarize a few Hollywood types) if this guy's elected I'm moving. Heck, even California would look good.

I think The Minor Prophet's predictions about 2006 are much more likely than mine to come true. (HT: Bruce Harpel.)

My wife calls herself an ecologist to differentiate herself from the extemists in the environmental movement. But this blog doesn't belong to her (as far as I know.) The Evangelical Ecologist...good name for a blog. I'll have to keep an eye on it.

So we're working Awana Cubbies Wednesday night, and the teacher with story priviledge this week was asking the kids how we know the Bible is true. His daughter pointed to the flannelgraph pieces sitting next to him and said, "because those are there!" A new apologetic - we can trust the Bible because we have flannelgraphs! Whoo-hoo!

My wife left for India today, two weeks of teacher training and the like. For those of you keeping track at home, we have not ordered pizza or gone to McDonald's once! But I have been able to use FlightView to track her flight. VERY cool. Yeah, it's simple technology, but oh so very useful. As we speak she's at about 33,000 feet above the U.K., heading for Amsterdam. Those of you in the neighborhood, look up and wave hi. For the rest of you, please pray for a safe trip, and for a less than lonely two weeks on the homefront. Yeah, I'll be around people, and I have my daughters. Helps immensely, and a fortnight of bonding time isn't a bad thing. But those of you married folks out there, you know there's an acute feeling that you're not completely loneliness-free when the rest of you is far away.

God bless!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Trippin' 'Round the 'Sphere - 1/11/06 Edition

Christian Carnival is up at Random Responses. Befitting the host's blogging philosophy, the organization is random. Twenty-nine folks entered, so the reading list is lighter than some past carnivals. All the better to remove an excuse to read them all! If you want a couple of recommendations, I like The Common Room's look at doing right because we must (not because it makes us happy) and Early Riser's take on intellectual honesty when talking about controversial subjects.
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Another God or Not carnival is coming up, this one hosted at Back of the Envelope. Deadline for entries is this Friday, and the topic is Scriptural Literalism. Take this opportunity to dialogue with people of a different perspective. Instructions and background (including links to earlier carnivals) found at the first link above.
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Anyone living in Minnesota needs to read this (warning, some mild language issues.) Fortunately, we have cleaner air, which is leading to faster global warming (registration required), so maybe the advice will no longer be necessary in the near future. (Note: global warming comment is included only to get the linked piece into this paragraph in a manner that I liked - it is not meant to be indicative of anything I actually believe/disbelieve on the topic of GW.)
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Guess I have to stop calling myself an Evangelical and start calling myself a Fundamentalist. Drat. I was soooo keen on avoiding being lumped in with all those ultra-right-wing-wacko-nutcase-fringe-extremists the MSM describes in increasingly alarming terms. Seriously folks...can we get an agreed-upon definition of things for everyone commenting on various religious philosophies so I know what label to stick on myself?
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I don't normally comment on Islam in this blog, but Wayne and Mark Steyn have both recently wrote warnings that I think are worth considering. We're heading for a culture clash, and things could get ugly all around very soon.
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Can't argue with the linguists. Fake but accurate was the concept of '05. (HT: Blogotional.)
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Finally, Ed talks about where our real hope is placed. As usual, good stuff, and quite apropos considering my recent posts regarding salvation - which is all about placing your hope (and faith) in the right person: Jesus Christ.

God bless!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

NBB Theology: Loose Ends

Okay, I thought I wrapped things up last week in the theology series. It's obviously gone on long enough. But there are a few loose ends I want to touch on before (finally!) moving on.

The first is the place of repentance. Repentance means turning away from sin, and towards God. Wikipedia actually does a good job covering what repentance is about. When we believe (as the last post talks about) that we are sinful, and that God alone can save us from the penalties we've incurred, we are brought to a place of repentance. Here we recognize the wrongness of sin, regret having participated in it, and determine to change our behavior. So, salvation is more than just placing an intellecual assent, or belief, that God exists. We also have to believe (i.e. have faith) that what the scriptures say about sin is true, and we need to repent of those sins. That is, we need to turn away from our sinful behavior, and turn towards Godly behavior. Repentance is more than sorrow and regret; the intentional rejection of sin and turning towards God is part and parcel too. God doesn't want us to just say, "yeah, we've sinned God. You're up there, I'm down here, and I did you wrong. Sorry 'bout that. I'll try harder next time" and then go about our lives as if nothing has changed. That doesn't demonstrate true faith since it completely misses the point about how our standard is perfection and any sin is unacceptable in God's eyes. True faith means true repentance. We will still sin, of course, being human. But we will sin less and less, and as we trust in God He will help us become better and better in terms of our behavior. Christians (i.e. those who've accepted Christ as their savior) aren't sinless - but we are no longer slaves to sin. God provides the means to overcome it.

Another loose end is the place of works in theology. Scripture is clear that we cannot earn God's mercy and grace through doing good things. If we could, Jesus' death and resurrection would not have been necessary. God could have saved Him the pain, and just let us earn our way to Heaven. Jesus didn't tell the sinful woman that her works had saved her. However, good works are an outgrowth of faith. When we believe and repent, we have turned towards God. This naturally leads to better and better behavior, as God works to perfect us over time. James, in fact, tells us that if we don't have good works, our faith is questionable. Faith brings about good works. If we're not bearing fruit, or doing good things our faith is indeed questionable. True faith and true repentance lead to true good works.

And the final loose end is to reiterate that while any sin is enough to earn God's judgement, this does NOT mean that we cannot, or should not, differentiate between sins and their severity. Murder is a worse sin to commit than stealing a candy bar. Both are sins, yes, but one is worse than the other. Both are condemned by God, but one has worse results. Society, in order to maintain justice and societal order, needs to punish according to the severity of the crime. God does this too - Jesus says that in some cases, eternal punishment is worse for some people than for others. However, the minimum penalty earned for even a small sin is eternal separation from God. Therefore, it behooves us to repent and believe - to accept the grace offered from God so that that minimum penalty is taken away and we can instead live forever with a God who loves us enough to save us from the sin we choose.

God bless!

Con Air Question

Okay, I need feedback from anyone who's seen the movie Con Air. Yeah, it's an older movie, but the question remains unresolved. My wife and I do not see eye to eye on this - not that it's a problem, or causing strife; I actually think the difference is a good thing as it proves out our differing way of seeing the world. But...does anyone else ever cry during this movie?

Let me explain. My wife's review for most good movies is, "it was a good movie. I cried." This is not a bad thing, and is quite understandable. I know many people who cry at movies.

However, she is the only one I know who cries during Con Air. This is a movie with explosions, psycho criminals, explosions, gunfights, and a plane decimating the Las Vegas strip. And did I mention the explosions? In other words, it's an action/adventure drama, not a stereotypical "chick flick." At least that's how I see it.

My wife sees it as a love story between a man and his daughter who he's never seen (due to his incarceration.) She cries when Nick Cage's character saves the stuffed bunny he bought for his daughter, and when the daughter hugs her dad for the first time.

Okay, I kinda see that is touching. But unlike some other movies that make her tear up (such as Braveheart), this one doesn't touch me emotionally. I just think it's a mindless action movie with a semi-touching ending. This isn't a right/wrong answer, but I'm curious - does anyone else cry during Con Air? Am I just cold-hearted?

And is this (gasp! horrors! I can't believe he's going here!) a gender thing? (My wife claims, though I haven't heard this from anyone myself) that all her women friends agree with her. All our male friends look confused when the concept of "crying" and "Con Air" are brought up in the same sentence. Small sample, or valid gender difference?

Monday, January 09, 2006

Random Thoughts for a Monday

Okay, my wife is heading to India for two weeks, leaving this Friday. So, for the past few months we've been handling questions about how I am possibly going to survive without her around. As if I can't cook, care for the girls, run errands, etc. I think it's an interesting matter - our friends seem to assume that just because the wife only works part time that I do nothing around the house at all. Perhaps I need to start my own Martha Stewart-esque show so people aren't so worried about my abilities to maintain order for two weeks sans my spouse.

Not that it'll be easy, but c'mon folks, it's not going to be fourteen days of Mac-n-cheese.
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Did anyone watch the Book of Daniel the other night? I'm curious about what people thought. I forgot it was on.
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I'm not going to defend Pat Robertson's latest remarks - mostly because I've never elected him (or anyone else, honestly) as my official spokesman. And because I think they're indefensible. However, in all the piling on that's sure to occur, let's not forget that (a) Christians are called to hold each other accountable, but should do so in a gentle manner, and (b) this is an opportunity to explain to people outside the faith what the Bible actually does teach. Sure, what he said was wrong, and this doesn't mean we can't be direct in our critique. I think telling him to keep his mouth shut on matters relating to God's motivation/judgement and the question of evil is prudent. But let's avoid the name calling and ad hominem attacks so beloved of the world, and make a difference by correcting Biblically.
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Gee, ya think?
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I don't blog about where I work, but if you want a hint, it's not on this list.

God bless!

Friday, January 06, 2006

NBB Theology: Salvation

Okay, so a while back I started this theology series in response to a post at Evangelical Update asking for our thoughts on salvation. I wanted to delve a bit deeper into some of the background before I got to my general view on salvation. I have now covered, at least at a high level, what I wanted to, so finally I'm at the point of wrapping up my series on theology, leading to salvation. There are myriad theology concepts, though, that I did not even come close to touching in this series. If you're interested in more detailed doctrine/theology material, let me know and I'll recommend some sources.

I've often heard something akin to, "God won't send me to Hell; I'm a good person." Or, "a loving God wouldn't send people to Hell just because they didn't believe in Him." Or, "there are many ways to God, and just because I find mine in Christianity doesn't mean people of other faiths won't be saved too." Or, "what about those who haven't heard of God?" All of these are, to say the least, based on a misunderstanding of what the Bible says about salvation. The foundational material in this series provided some of the clues about what the Bible actually does say about salvation.

What the Bible says about salvation is this:

  1. God created us to be in fellowship with Him, and with free will, able to "go our own way."

  2. We used that free will (and continue to do so) to sin against God

  3. Unfortunately for us, the penalty for that rebellion is death. Eternal separation from God. Hell.

  4. God, though, loves us enough to provide a way back to that fellowship. To eternal life with God. Heaven.

  5. That way was to accept the blood sacrifice of His son, the only perfect human (yet also God!) in history, who died for our sins and was raised from death by God

  6. But, this gift needs to be accepted to be any good to us. To be saved, we need to accept what God offers.

  7. Accepting salvation, offered by grace (meaning we don't deserve it, but God offers it anyway) is done through faith.

  8. The object of that faith is the redeeming, atoning work of Jesus.



In summary, John 3:16-1716"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him..

The Bible doesn't say we're good people. Nobody is good except God. Yes, we can be "good" compared to others. But before God our standard is perfection. We all fall short. Regardless of whether we have received a sin nature we can trace back to Adam or not, each of us have our own sins which convict us. Even were we able to make it through life committing only one sin, that would (for all intents and purposes) be as bad to God as committing all. So forget the idea that "God won't send me to Hell; I'm a good person." Not compared to perfection you're not. And I know whereof I speak. I haven't killed anyone, raped anyone, beat anyone or embezzled millions from my company. In the eyes of the world, I'm not a bad guy. But I've sinned, and have earned condemnation.

Likewise, God is loving. But He is also just. His love and justice are equal attributes. Love requires justice, in fact, since love does not allow its object to engage in harmful activities. A loving God is just and righteous. And the Bible is very clear that God is just.

This just God is also the only God. This is why doctrine is so very important. The Bible is clear that salvation is through Christ alone, yet other religions do not accept this. In fact, there is not another religion in the world that worships the same God. Islam does not worship a triune God. Judaism does not accept Jesus as God and/or Messiah. Hinduism rejects the idea of only one God. Contra the universalist, it is logically impossible (since every religion is mutually exclusive of every other) for there to be multiple paths to the one true God since no two religious paths lead to the same God.

In regards to those who haven't heard, I addressed this a while back. But honestly, if this is what's keeping you from God, it's a poor excuse. For one thing, we should trust God to do what's right. For another, we have heard. We are not in the camp of "we haven't heard the Gospel." Our choice is informed, and should not be determined on the fate of those who haven't. Raising this objection is like telling the teacher that because some people haven't taken geometry I won't believe the angles in a triangle sum to 180 degrees. We've heard, we should choose. And then we should continue to work to ensure that the number of those who haven't heard the Gospel decreases.

The truth is that none of us is good enough to save ourselves from the penalties we've earned. But a loving and righteous God has provided a way out, which we can accept through faith. Lose the excuses. Accept God's grace, through faith. And then help reach the world for the one true God.

How do you accept this? Believe what the Bible says: we are all sinners, and deserve death. Believe that Jesus died to pay that penalty for us, and that He was raised again so that death is conquered. Believe that God loves us enough to make this sacrifice, and acknowledge that Jesus is the Lord and Savior of your life. Nowhere does the Bible say that you have to say a certain prayer; salvation comes from belief, not a formula. But if you want to say a prayer acknowledging your new faith, that is fine. God loves to hear from us. Then, find a good, Bible teaching church that can help you grow in faith.

Oh, and read the Bible for yourself. Test what I've written against it and make sure I am right in what I say. I'm not right just because I have a blog. I'm only right if I'm right. Better to take God's word for it than my own.

God bless!

Trippin' 'Round the 'Sphere - 1/6/06 Edition

Been an interesting day or two of late, so more stuff I found interesting for ya.

Fraters Libertas (again) points out MSM foibles. I'm with them at the end of the post:

"UPDATE: At this hour, the editors may be lost in blissful slumber, but the academic apologists for the paper never rest. From the Star Tribune article on the tribulations and upcoming trials of MDE, this from U of M professor Jane Kirtley:

'Bloggers, by their very nature, are not expected to adhere to the same standards of accuracy that those in the mainstream media would be.'

I think I'll take that as a compliment."

Amen.
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Soon, very soon, everything I need will be available in a phone. This is very close. If anyone feels obligated to get me one so I can blog from anywhere, please email me and I'll tell you how to get it to me. (HT: La Shawn Barber.)
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The reason I'm reduced to asking others to send me a Treo is because I'm not as brilliant as some people in the world. (HT: Mary Ham and Hugh Hewitt.)
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Of course, I'm "brilliant enough" to enjoy a good blonde joke. (And contra Rebecca, we do now have blonde jokes in Minnesota - we imported them from Iowa since the alternative was importing Iowans.)
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Is it wrong to laugh very hard at this?
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In serious news, this piece by Michelle Malkin is sad. That's a judge in need of a new gig. This, by Mark Steyn, is interesting. Related to the Roe Effect theory - demographics and birthrates matter.
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Some searches that brought people here (and yes, I've been looking for interesting/odd/funny searches that bring people to NBB, but until now I haven't found anything even borderline.)

  • how to deal with evil people (this assumes they exist)

  • do evil people really exist? (ah, let's flip the cart/horse around)
  • what are the 2 purposes of marriage (only 2?)

  • marriage sex control blog husband (see - sex, control, blog - three purposes of marriage)

  • "2nd marriage"+wills (2nd marriages come from believing the previous comment)

  • NBB+fashion (hmmm...not posting pix obviously misleads people into thinking I know something about fashion)

  • debt blogspot (isn't blogspot free?)


Okay, not all funny (or any at all...but these were the first ones that struck me as interesting ways to find NBB.)
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And, finally, looks like I'm an acceptable source of theological information:
You scored as Chalcedon compliant. You are Chalcedon compliant. Congratulations, you're not a heretic. You believe that Jesus is truly God and truly man and like us in every respect, apart from sin. Officially approved in 451.

Chalcedon compliant

100%

Nestorianism

42%

Modalism

33%

Pelagianism

33%

Monophysitism

33%

Apollanarian

8%

Arianism

0%

Adoptionist

0%

Docetism

0%

Donatism

0%

Albigensianism

0%

Monarchianism

0%

Gnosticism

0%

Socinianism

0%

Are you a heretic?
created with QuizFarm.com

(HT: Chris, aka the heretic.)

God bless!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Trippin' 'Round the 'Sphere - 1/4/06 Edition

I recently saw polls showing that despite his recent struggles, President Bush was still out-polling Congress. Why? Because they get caught up in stupid stuff. Okay, not all politicians are scum - there are quite a few good ones out there, and I'm a politicial junky. But, am I too idealistic for the hobby? Maybe...just maybe politicians should just avoid lobbyists at all? Please?
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Christian Carnival is up at Miserere Mei. Lotsa good stuff.
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Interesting, though I've yet to go further than than this editorial on the story. Oddly, I'm not seeing much on it (HT: Christianity Is Jewish.)
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Nominations please for MOBster of the Year. I'll be making my nomination soon, but for now it's a secret. Shhhh.
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My first degree was in Communication, and I worked at a college newspaper. So, I understand a bit how the media work nowadays. But no, I'm not a pro reporter. That being said, the WV miner story was horribly blown and we need to evaluate how much pressure we put on media outlets to get things first instead of getting things right (see, too, Katrina coverage). Most importantly, there are a number of families who need our prayers right now.
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Ed has a new venture wherein he'll take us through his journey through scripture. Considering the quality of Attention Span, I think this one'll be a daily read for me too.
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Um, I know it's a litigious time, but aren't there some topics best left to the historians?
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Congrats to Mark Lauterbach at The Gospel Driven Life for receiving the last 2005 Warnie.
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Congrats to all the Weblog winners for 2005 too. (Sorry Catez, I voted for ya!). Congrats especially to Evangelical Outpost for taking the prize in the "Best Religious Blog" category.
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A new contest for you. The Great American Think-Off is a philosophy contest hosted right here in Minnesota. It's grown each year, and this year's question is quite appropriate: "Which is More Valuable to Society: Safety or Freedom?" Rules/info are at the site linked above. (The Pioneer Press is also holding a contest to design the local pro sports teams' jerseys, but since I'm inartistic (is that a word?) I won't highlight it here.)
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Happy (late - sorry!) to Wayne. I pray for (at least) 43 more good years for you!
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We have two cats, and I suddenly understand them better (warning: some mild language - just for the sensitive among you. HT: Hugh Hewitt.)

God bless!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

NBB Theology: Faith

I left off in this series talking about grace (I was doing a series? Yes, I was. It's just been...posted over time, so to speak.) Grace is one of my favorite things - much more wonderful than even bright paper packages tied up with string. It is of great comfort to know that the God who created me loves me so much He provides me a way back to Him, undeserved, yet freely given.

But laying claim to that grace is something I need to do (oh, you Calvinists thinking that we don't actually "do" anything to claim grace, hold on...I'll be with you in a moment.) The analogy is often made to a Christmas gift. If Mom offers you a gift, it is from grace. You don't deserve the gift (though sometimes coal is indeed in the stocking, in which case you probably did deserve it - if you're anything like me.) Mom offers it to you out of love, not because you "earned" the Christmas present. However, it does not really become yours until you take it. Mom can shove the wrapped train set in your face all she wants, but if you refuse to take it the train isn't yours. Similarly, God offers grace to all - but until you take it, the benefits of "ownership" (or, more properly, "receivership") are not yours.

Accepting grace is done through faith. But what is faith? Faith is, according to scripture being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Perhaps the most famous discussion of faith is found in Hebrews 11, from which comes the definition I just repeated. Faith is accepting God's promise to save us from our sins despite not actually seeing Heaven yet (um, for the actual "living in Heaven for eternity" thing, you kinda have to die first.) Faith is doing what God wants, even when you don't understand why He's asking it of you. Faith is what we use to please God. Faith is placing your trust in God to save you - since you can't save yourself.

In fact, I want to repeat what the author of Hebrews writes about faith, since scripture covers it so much better than I.
Hebrews 11:
1Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2This is what the ancients were commended for.
3By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. 4By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.

5By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

7By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

8By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

11By faith Abraham, even though he was past age—and Sarah herself was barren—was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

13All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

17By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18even though God had said to him, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." 19Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.

20By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.

21By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.

22By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.

23By faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king's edict.

24By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. 25He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. 26He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

29By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.

30By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days.

31By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.

32And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, 33who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

39These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Faith is believing God without having seen the end. Faith is telling God, "I don't deserve your grace, but I'm grateful for it. I place my trust in you for my salvation."

Faith is not about being perfect, or doing good things. Rahab was a prostitute, and David killed a man in order to cover up adultery. Nor does faith guarantee a life of ease. People of faith have the same troubles in this life as those who reject faith - and some are taunted, beaten or killed for trusting in God. But faith, as much as it brings us to God in this life, is about redemption in the next.

Faith is also not of ourselves. We can't even claim that little bit - faith comes from God Himself. Jesus is the author of faith. We receive faith from the righteous one. This should remind us not to be haughty about faith; we do not deserve it more than another, nor are we better than those who reject it. Faith isn't earned anymore than is grace.

But faith is essential. Without faith, we cannot be deemed righteous before God. Following the law and doing good works are insufficient for salvation. It is by faith that we accept grace, not through works. Faith, a gift of God, is the hope we have in Christ Jesus. His work is done, though we may not have fully realized it yet. Accept God's grace through faith. And pray that your faith be strengthened daily.

God bless!

Monday, January 02, 2006

Happy New Year!

Okay, a day late, but since the majority of 2006 remains yet to be discovered, the wish still applies. I hope you all have a blessed 2006!

A couple of notes...

Yeah, I took the week off. I suppose I could have told you so you didn't bother checking until today. My apologies. I didn't realize I'd be sans computer this long - and in an odd way, I feel rather refreshed about it.

My wife and I started our "read the Bible in a year" program, and so far we haven't strayed off the program. I'm still trying to set a good NY's resolution, but so far haven't come up with anything I haven't done before. BTW, the year I forswore caffeine was a very long year indeed. Perhaps with the rapid passage of time (now that I have kids) I can renew that resolution and slow time down again.

I have a mere five weeks to go to complete the MBA. Hopefully I won't be too distracted, although my wife is travelling to India in two weeks (for two weeks) to do some work at a school there. More info to come, I suppose. Should make for an interesting January.

I haven't been reading many blogs (or the news! oh the horrors!) over the past week either, though I'll be catching up with a vengeance this next week. Hope to see lots of new and good stuff, and I'm sure I will. Run through my blogroll and we'll discuss the highlights throughout the week. If something major happened since, oh, 12/20 or so, let me know.

Haven't forgotten the theology series, which God willing will wrap this week. Next post on that is tomorrow, which coincides with my blogaversary. Yep, 1/3/05 was my first post here. Hopefully this year's posts up the quality a bit. But I want to say thanks to those who've come here over the past year and kept me challenged and interested. It's been fun, and it's been great to meet (in person, or via the 'net) all of you!

God bless!