Tuesday, October 31, 2006



Learning from Eutychus

Today's post is a bit of a different tack than the norm as it's more devotional in nature. It's part of some recent pondering I've been doing on the subject of how we commonly approach Scripture these days in "McNugget" fashion. We read a passage of Scripture and think of the most common applications used, but fail to see the other wonderful truths and nuggets in these passages. How often have you looked at a passage of Scripture, knowing the verses and events by heart, but one day you see something in that passage you've never seen before?

The incident with Eutychus in Acts 20:9-12 is a good example. I'll post it here:

And there was a young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep; and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor and was picked up dead. But Paul went down and fell upon him, and after embracing him, he said, "Do not be troubled, for his life is in him." When he had gone back up and had broken the bread and eaten, he talked with them a long while until daybreak, and then left. They took away the boy alive, and were greatly comforted.

Now, most lessons or sermons I have heard dealing with this incident focus on the miracle - the Lord raising the boy from the dead through Paul. And that's certainly a great part of the lesson. But has anyone ever wondered what God was doing in the life of Eutychus himself? Was Eutychus an indolent, inattentive young man whose mind routinely wandered during prayer (a fault of mine) or during sermons? Was he simply and genuinely overtired? Had he fallen into some sin that God needed to correct? Who knows. God in His sovereignty didn't tell us.

Nonetheless, falling to his death had to have been quite a shock, both to Eutychus and to Paul's audience. What happened with Eutychus afterward? Did he make it a point to consider this a wake-up call and renew his commitment to the Lord with zeal? Was he quietly and humbly thankful to the Lord for raising him? Did his witness to others gain a new fire and depth? I hope so. (EDITED TO ADD)

Scripture doesn't give us specific answers to these questions, but they are worth pondering. And as we ponder these questions, the Holy Spirit will guide us to other Scriptures that address the issues therein. Can we see any similarities in ourselves and Eutychus' possible issues?

There are many, many other Scripture passages like this. The main applications are great and true, useful in training God's people in righteousness. But let's keep digging and sifting. The rich nuggets gleaned through thought and true biblical contemplation are priceless.

Things like this are the results of true "meditation" on God's Word. You won't get it from picking a word for a sanctified mantra and sounding the OM out into the ether.

Monday, October 30, 2006

My "Meanie" Is Coming Out Today!

First, I want you to read this AP story about a tragic incident in which a girl lost her breast after body piercing. Then I'll comment. Warning - I am NOT a happy camper.

Teen Has Breast Removed After Infection


Oct 27, 7:29 PM (ET)

CRAWFORDSVILLE, Ind. (AP) - A teenager who decided to get her breasts pierced for her 18th birthday faces reconstructive surgery after a flesh-destroying infection forced doctors to remove her left breast.
Stephanie Edington of Crawfordsville remained hospitalized Friday at the Indiana University Medical Center in Indianapolis, where surgeons also removed lymph nodes and infected skin up to her collar bone.
Dr. Robert Goulet Jr., a professor at the Indiana University Cancer Center, said the piercing created an entry point for the bacteria, but the procedure likely did not cause the infection itself. Edington is diabetic, which left her susceptible to infection, he said.
Doctors diagnosed Edington, who had the piercings on Aug. 29, with necrotizing fasciitis, or gas gangrene - a rare condition that results from rapid bacteria growth and leads to tissue destruction. It is only the third documented case in the world of gas gangrene in the breast area, Goulet told The Paper of Montgomery County.
She was in critical condition by the time she arrived at the hospital Oct. 14, Goulet said.
"By the time she got here, the skin tissue was all pretty much completely dead," he said. "She was a very sick kid when she got here."
Edington is on an aggressive antibiotic regimen and has already undergone three surgeries. She faces several more, including eventual breast reconstruction.
She said she was eager to be discharged but worries about what awaits her.
"I would like to get out, but I am scared of what people are going to be thinking," she said.
Edington's mother, Pamela Osban, said her daughter's illness has shaken their entire family. She worries about her daughter's future.
"You have no idea what it's like to almost lose your daughter and then to make the decision to have one of her breasts removed," she said. "Some people say 'It's just a breast.' They aren't an 18-year old girl. It's devastating for her and for the family."


This was just SO needless. While my heart breaks for this girl, I am also very angered at this idiotic craze of body piercing sweeping the globe like a pandemic. Things like this aren't isolated either, despite the implication in the article that it's rare. Perhaps gaseous gangrene in the breast is rare, but serious infections from body piercing are NOT rare.

If young people weren't so eager to poke metal studs into every body part and orifice these days, this kind of thing wouldn't happen, now would it? If they want to hang ornaments on something, why don't they hang them on a Christmas tree instead of their breasts, ears, navels, noses, tongues and other unmentionable areas? I had no idea that gas gangrene and staph infections had become status symbols at school.

I am personally getting REALLY, REALLY tired of not being able to tell the difference between human beings and the Borg. No, on second thought, not the Borg. Many of today's body piercers are not that photogenic. They look more like they went through a trash compactor and had some skin get stuck in between the metallic components.

If I sound angry, perhaps it's because I am angry. I am sure I will be called insulting, unloving, uncharitable, intemperate, arrogant, and a whole host of adjectives. Whatever. It angers me to see kids have their lives destroyed through this kind of behavior. Name your poison. Drugs, sexual activity, alcohol abuse, and now carving up their bodies like there's no tomorrow in the pursuit of "self expression" and "individualism." Yeah, right. That's why they do what everyone else is doing, isn't it? And here's what's doubly maddening. Many of today's parents often aren't any better. They just carry more wrinkles between their own studs, electrodes and tattoos. They not only lead by their own bad example, but some give their children carte blanche to do whatever they like. After all, you can't suppress their self-esteem, can you? My words are indeed sharp, even harsh. Sometimes it takes a rap across the skull with a cudgel to get your point across. I've had it happen on more than one occasion that someone would be infuriated with me, only to admit later that I told them the truth, as painful as it was. Indeed, as the Bible says.."the wounds of a friend are faithful."

Given the pagan origins of this kind of thing, it is all the more amazing Christians can engage in these practices without any conscience, especially when the whole counsel of God in Scripture is taken into account. It is getting to the point where Christians of all ages are indistinguishable from the world, and that is NOT legalism. Don't EVEN go there with me.

Some people naming the name of Christ today can out-pagan pagans. Really. They can out-fornicate, out-drink, out-drug, and out-adulterize in quantities copious enough to impress Alistair Crowley or the crowd in a good-sized Roman vomitorium of days gone by. They make Laodicea look like Bob Jones University.

Lord, send us repentance. Please.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Two Matthew 18 Formulas

Some time ago, I posted on the Matthew 18 and Matthew 5 principles of confronting fellow believers. My post was precipitated by protests from Emergent Church types about how their key authors' errors have been dealt with publically. They insist that each author/pastor/teacher should be confronted privately before any public airing of the issue. In my view, this is mistaken. We are not talking about personal offenses, but rather publically desseminated teachings that need to be corrected publically, especially when there has been no response by said individuals to address their errors.

Rev. Kevin S. Johnson, who is president of The Institute for Christian Apologetics and my radio co-host, recently wrote an article related to this issue, and he graciously included some comments by me. I would like to post it here for your perusal as I think it will help clear the air on a subject that has been needlessly muddied.

-0-

The Two Matthew 18 Formulas
In Light of the Love Commandments

By Rev. Kevin S. Johnson

Jesus in Matthew 18:
15 "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between
the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.
16* But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that `every
matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.'
17* If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses
to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax
collector.
18* "I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in
heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (NIV)

Matthew 18:15-18 has a proper use and an improper use. Those that use it
properly use it for the purpose of restoring a brother who has caused a perceived
hurt against them personally or who have done an actual harm to them or the
Lord. Those that misuse generally have a manipulative or destructive purpose in
mind.

False Approaches

The false way to approach this issue and these Scriptures is to think that
they give you the right to be “thin skinned” and go after others for anything
you deem as an affront to your sensibilities or self. We are supposed to die to
self by picking up our cross daily. If we are encouraged to think that we now
have a duty to be on the alert for personal hurts and grievances then we have
the mechanism for all kinds of strife and evil confrontation.

A despotic leader may wish to keep everyone finding fault with each other in
order to keep them from criticizing the leadership. This was employed in
Communist and fascist (Nazi) countries with people asked to be on a constant search
or spy mission for their neighbor’s faults. This served to keep the people
off balance by being preoccupied with each other’s faults and never able to
organize any opposition to leaders. Satan, who inspired these parties, is not
stupid about human nature and their collective polity when involved in any
combined human endeavor either worldly or ecclesiastical.

Mathew 18 can be wrongly used to shun or “put out of the church” those that
disagree with leadership. The leader can find someone who is a willing
accomplice (if the person is a wealthy “mover and shaker” all the better) to accuse
the leaders’ enemy and then bring them before others who are allied with the
leaders to vote the person out of the church. This is naked aggression and VERY
dishonoring to Christ. The cults have long practiced this shunning business
and there are those in their ranks who tow the line long after they were
convinced the group is a cult simply because they fear being put out of the cult.
This ought not to be EVER done in a true Christian Church!! The only time that
shunning or putting out of the church occurred was the case in 1 Corinthians
and then it was for flagrant sin. The man that was shunned was guilty of having
a sexual relationship with his father’s wife!

The Apostles Paul and James speak to favoritism in the Church in the
following Scriptures:

“And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in
by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they
might bring us into bondage), to whom we did not yield submission even for an
hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you. But from those who
seemed to be something--whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God
shows personal favoritism to no man--for those who seemed to be something added
nothing to me.” —Apostle Paul in Galatians 2:4-6

“ My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with
an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with
a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man
in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the
fine clothes, and say, "You sit here in a good place," and you say to the poor
man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool," have you not made
distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? . . But if
you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as
transgressors.” —James 2:1-4,9

The True Use of Matthew 18

Proverbs 10:12 “Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all transgressions.”

If someone steals something from you, or bears false witness against you,
this scripture should be used to confront your brother for either of these are
sins are against God and not just a slight against you. They truly are “sins”
in the theological sense. There are petty slights and insults that we are asked
to bear willingly and without complaint and should not even notice. This goes
against our fallen nature.

This principle is found in the following verses of Scripture: "But I say to
you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek,
turn the other to him also. —Jesus in Matthew 5:39

"Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes
away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either.”—
Jesus in Luke 6:29

“Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses,
with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak,
then I am strong.”—the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:10

“Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with
one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?” —The
Apostle Paul in 1Corinthians 6:7.

I was once told by a Hindu fellow that I had an airtight lawsuit case against
a Christian brother who had caused an injury resulting in 10% of my
cerebellum dying. I informed the Hindu that Christians don’t sue Christians. I saw by
the look on his face that it had a direct impact on him. Christians need to be
able to obey this in light of what Christ gave them on the cross. Christians
should not be quick to confront each other!

This is not to say that if you know yourself to be the one who has offended
your brother (or sister) that you should not proactively go to him and admit
that you have hurt him. This is if your sin was objective and could be heard or
seen by others, in addition to incidents where, under conviction of the Holy
Spirit, you know that you have hurt or offended someone. However, if you have
sinned in your heart against your brother and he knows nothing about it, you
should think twice about telling the person who may be unaware that you harbored
any animosity. This confession of yours may cause him to stumble in holding
animosity toward you if he is immature in the Lord. It may be better that you
confess it to the Lord alone. The following command of the Lord illustrates
this principle in action:

"Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there
remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there
before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and
present your offering.” (Matthew 5: 23-24)

The Two or Three Witnesses Principle:
Witnesses Are Needed In A Fallen World!

"A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity
or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a
matter shall be confirmed.” —Deuteronomy 19:15

"But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY
THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED.” — Matthew
18:16

“This is the third time I am coming to you. EVERY FACT IS TO BE CONFIRMED BY
THE TESTIMONY OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES.” —2Corinthians 13:1

“Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or
three witnesses.”— 1Timothy 5:19

We are living in a fallen world where even the elect can be guilty of not
being consistent (see Romans chapter 7). It is because of this that the need to
have objective testimony, outside of subjective perceptions, must be employed.
There needs to be at least TWO or THREE witnesses that agree that there has
been a transgression of God’s law by an individual, especially an elder, BEFORE
it can even be received as valid requiring action.

Notice in the Matthew 18 formula you have two or three witnesses going with
you to see what transpires when you meet the person you are going to see. This
should mean that when there is factionalism (where a disagreement has occurred
and there are people on two sides of it) involved, two or three witnesses
from EACH SIDE should be there to bear witness to how the transaction occurs. In
the age of tape recorders it may be advisable to have one of these on in order
to keep everyone honest. This is especially true when there is suspected to
be a political or personal agenda afoot.

Cults have taken over churches when these common sense applications are not
understood by the people involved or are forbidden under some false pietistic
guise such as leaders who ask, “How can you possibly distrust me? This is
dishonoring to me and an insult!” This might be done in order to maintain ‘damage
control” if what is said in the proceedings doesn’t suit those in control.
The idea that some leader is beyond being questioned is biblically wrong as the
Bereans were called more “noble minded” than the Thessalonians because they
held the Apostle Paul’s feet to the fire, searching the Scriptures daily to see
if what PAUL said was true!

Peter addressed the church leaders saying: “Therefore, I exhort the elders
among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a
partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God
among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according
to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as
lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to
the flock.” —1 Peter 5:1-3

Improper Presumptuous Judgment

If Matthew 18 is focused on to the exclusion of other biblical principles, we
may think we are invited to judge a brother or sister’s heart! Is judging
your brother’s motives the first thing we are supposed to be doing? Certainly,
this is not so! The Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 4:5 commands us: “Therefore, do
not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who
will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the
motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from God.”

“But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height
of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees,
for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
—1Samuel 16:7. These Scriptures teach that man is not qualified to judge another
man’s motives that are locked inside the heart.

Judgment as Discernment Is a Commandment!

However, this does NOT mean that all judgment in the church is wrong! Are
people in the church never to use their Biblically informed theological
understanding to surmise if what someone is doing or saying is a correct and true
representation of God’s word? Of course, we must serve the Lord by THINKING in a
discerning way. After all Jesus commanded us in John 7:24: "Do not judge
according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." This is so because the
Bible predicts that there will be those in our midst who will introduce false
teaching.

Jude 1:4 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long
beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace
of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

2Pe 2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will
also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive
heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon
themselves.

Because of the phenomenon of false teachers, that these scriptures warn us
about, we must exercise discernment. “But he who is spiritual judges all things,
yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.” —The Apostle Paul in
1Corinthians 2:15.


A Call To Christian Love and Integrity In True Humility and Forgiveness i.e.
—The Other Matthew 18 Formula!

When Matthew 18:15-18 is lauded to be the only panacea for all Christian
relationships then we are forgetting another Scriptural formula for dealing with
hurts inflicted by others. The other less famous Matthew 18 formula is found in
Matthew 18:21-22: “Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall
my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times? Jesus said to
him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”
If someone committed the same sin against you seventy times you are to forgive
them that many times for the sake of Christ. In context of this teaching and
directly following this passage, Jesus gave the parable of the man who was
forgiven a large sum of money he owed a King and then promptly demanded a pittance
that was owed him from someone else. The King dealt harshly with such a lack
of generosity and compassionate forgiveness.

People are ultimately forgiven on the basis of the fact that we ALL deserve
God’s harshest judgment for what we have done to Him, but that God has
graciously bestowed undeserved forgiveness on us! If He forgives us for offenses that
deserve the punishment of Hell, how much more should we be forgiving of our
brothers who have sinned against us personally. Remember Paul said he was “well
content” with “insults and persecutions.”

King David, it could be argued, “sinned” against many people. He “sinned”
against: Bathsheba by issuing a royal summons for an illicit sexual purpose,
against her extended family, certainly against Uriah in killing him, against
Joab by asking him to be an accomplice to murder, and indeed against the entire
nation of Israel by compromising the nation’s king. Still, when David penned
Psalm 51 he told God, “Against Thee and Thee only have I sinned.” This is an
acknowledgement that all sin is ultimately against God.

A Call Away From Pettiness And Subjectivism

Jesus told us to “major in the majors and minor in the minors” when he said
that the Pharisees “strained at gnats and swallowed camels” and that “tithing
mint dill and cumin” was not as weighty as matters of the law and justice.
This means we are not to be petty and self-serving in what we perceive as an
affront tom our persons.

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill
and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and
mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without
neglecting the others.” — Matthew 23:23

The Apostle Paul said that we should not allow other people’s conscience to
be our judge

“I mean not your own conscience, but the other man's; for why is my freedom
judged by another's conscience?” —The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:29

When someone has committed a real sin as opposed to a “perceived sin” it
should be one that can be clearly shown to be a sin according to Scripture. Just
because someone was perceived by you to be rude to you doesn’t automatically
give a you a “hunting permit” to judge him and go after him. It may be that
you misperceived the supposed insult! You may actually be wrong in not being
obedient to Jesus in John 13:34: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love
one” another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” And
the Apostle Peter in 1Peter 4:8: “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one
another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” 1Corinthians 16:14 Let all
that you do be done in love.” Love is defined in 1 Corinthians 13:5 this way:
“Love does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a
wrong suffered . . . ”

Does not take into account a wrong suffered? WOW! If everyone was obedient to
this commandment to love, what a wonderful world this would be. How many
perceived insults and “putdowns” that torment people and foster grudges and
foment bitterness would be avoided! Self-inflicted hurt that leads to hurting
others would be rare. The children of God should be known as big hearted people not
a small narrow and petty people!

In this area, as in all areas of life, the Bible should be our sole rule of
faith and practice. And rather than cherry-picking verses in a cynical effort
to advance our arguments, we need to follow the WHOLE counsel of God, obeying
the biblical command to “rightly divide the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Wednesday, October 25, 2006



A View From Inside Iraq

The following is an excerpt from James Taranto's "Best of the Web" feature at Opinion Journal. It's a letter James received from someone in the military on the ground in Iraq. I think the writer makes several serious, salient points as to the current conflict and what is wrong. Before that, a brief side comment.

There is another point to all this that gets overlooked. We look at our performance and the country's attitude now in comparison with previous conflicts, but fail to notice something very important. World War II was the last military conflict in which war was officially declared by Congress - the people's direct representatives. Every action since then including Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War One and Gulf War Two, have been undeclared conflicts ordered by the Executive Branch with or without Congressional support. Mind, I said support..not a declaration of war. There's a difference - the chief one being that the latter is the Constitutional way.

Certainly, the U.S. entries into the First and Second World Wars were not without controversy. But the people's elected representatives backed our war efforts by declaring war as called for by the Constitution. And then, our country went ALL OUT to win decisively. There was unity. We do not have that today.

I am not saying for a moment that we aren't doing the right thing in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the effort is largely doomed unless the country is behind the action. As long as Congress skirts its Constitutional responsibilities and cedes War Powers totally over to the Executive Branch, we will continue to encounter problems as identified by the writer of this column.

With that, here it is.


Best of the Web Today - October 25, 2006
By JAMES TARANTO

A View From Iraq


Our item yesterday in which we reaffirmed our support for the liberation of Iraq brought some very interesting reader comments. This is from an American there who asks not to be named:

*** QUOTE ***

There's been a lot of discussion back home about the course of the war, the righteousness of our involvement, the clarity of our execution, and what to do about the predicament in which we currently find ourselves. I just wanted to send you my firsthand account of what's happening here.

First, a little bit about me: I'm stationed slightly northwest of Baghdad in a mixed Sunni/Shia area. I'm a sergeant in the U.S. Army on a human intelligence collection team. I interact with Iraqis on a daily basis and I help put together the intel picture for our area of operations. I have contacts with friends, who are also in my job, in every are of operations in the Fourth Infantry Division footprint, and through our crosstalk I'd say I have a pretty damn good idea of what's going on in and around Baghdad on a micro and intermediary level.

I wrote heavily in favor of this war before I enlisted myself, and I still maintain that going into Iraq was not only the necessary thing to do, but the right thing to do as well.

There have been distinct failures of policy in Iraq. The vast majority of them fall under the category "failure to adapt." Basically U.S. policies have been several steps behind the changing conditions ever since we came into the country. I believe this is (in part) due to our plainly obvious desire to extricate ourselves from Iraq. I know President Bush is preaching "stay the course," but we came over here with a goal of handing over our battlespace to the Iraqis by the end of our tour here.

This breakneck pace with which we're trying to push the responsibility for governing and securing Iraq is irresponsible and suicidal. It's like throwing a brick on a house of cards and hoping it holds up. The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF)--a joint term referring to Iraqi army and Iraqi police--are so rife with corruption, insurgent sympathies and Shia militia members that they have zero effectiveness. Two Iraqi police brigades in Baghdad have been disbanded recently, and the general sentiment in our field is "Why stop there?" I can't tell you how many roadside bombs have been detonated against American forces within sight of ISF checkpoints. Faith in the Iraqi army is only slightly more justified than faith in the police--but even there, the problems of tribal loyalties, desertion, insufficient training, low morale and a failure to properly indoctrinate their soldiers results in a substandard, ineffective military. A lot of the problems are directly related to Arab culture, wh!
ich traditionally doesn't see nepotism and graft as serious sins. Changing that is going to require a lot more than "benchmarks."

In Shia areas, the militias hold the real control of the city. They have infiltrated, co-opted or intimidated into submission the local police. They are expanding their territories, restricting freedom of movement for Sunnis, forcing mass migrations, spiking ethnic tensions, not to mention the murderous checkpoints, all while U.S. forces do . . . nothing.

For the first six months I was in country, sectarian violence was classified as an "Iraqi on Iraqi" crime. Division didn't want to hear about it. And, in a sense I can understand why. Because division realized that which the Iraqi people have come to realize: The American forces cannot protect them. We are too few in number and our mission is "stability and support." The problem is that there's nothing to give stability and support to. We hollowed out the Baathist regime, and we hastily set up this provisional government, thrusting political responsibility on a host of unknowns, each with his own political agenda, most funded by Iran, and we're seeing the results.

In Germany after World War II, we controlled our sector with approximately 500,000 troops, directly administering the area for 10 years while we rebuilt the country and rebuilt the social and political infrastructure needed to run it. In Iraq, we've got one-third that number of troops dealing with three times the population on a much faster timetable, and we're attempting to unify three distinct ethnic groups with no national interest and at least three outside influences (Saudi Arabian Wahhabists, Iranian mullahs and Syrian Baathists) each eagerly funding various groups in an attempt to see us fail. And we are.

If we continue on as is in Iraq, we will leave here (sooner or later) with a fractured state, a Rwanda-waiting-to-happen. "Stay the course" and refusing to admit that we're screwing things up is already killing a lot of people needlessly. Following through with such inane nonstrategy is going to be the death knell for hundreds of thousands of Sunnis.

We need to backtrack. We need to publicly admit we're backtracking. This is the opening battle of the ideological struggle of the 21st century. We cannot afford to lose it because of political inconveniences. Reassert direct administration, put 400,000 to 500,000 American troops on the ground, disband most of the current Iraqi police and retrain and reindoctrinate the Iraqi army until it becomes a military that's fighting for a nation, not simply some sect or faction. Reassure the Iraqi people that we're going to provide them security and then follow through. Disarm the nation: Sunnis, Shias, militia groups, everyone. Issue national ID cards to everyone and control the movement of the population.

If these three things are done, you can actually start the Iraqi economy again. Once people have a sense of security, they'll be able to leave their houses to go to work. Tell your American commanders that it's OK to pass up bad news--because part of the problem is that these issues are not reaching above the battalion or brigade level due to the can-do, make-it-happen culture indoctrinated into our U.S. officers. While the attitude is admirable, it also creates barriers to recognizing and dealing with on-the-ground realities.

James, there's a lot more to this than I've written here. The short of it is, the situation is salvageable, but not with "stay the course" and certainly not with cut and run. However, the commitment required to save it is something I doubt the American public is willing to swallow. I just don't see the current administration with the political capital remaining in order to properly motivate and convince the American public (or the West in general) of the necessity of these actions.

At the same time, failure in Iraq would be worse than a dozen Somalias, and would render us as impotent and emasculated as we were in the days after Vietnam. There is a global cultural-ideological struggle being waged, and abdication from Iraq is tantamount to concession.


ORIGINAL ARTICLE:

Opinion Journal

Monday, October 23, 2006

Phil Johnson on Postmodern "Rules"

Below is a link to a post made a while back by Phil Johnson at his "Team Pyro" blog. It's a spot-on analysis of the postmodern mindset adopted by many in the Emergent Church - a mindset that will lead people to heresy as certainly as night follows day. It is truly amazing that those who name the name of Christ and call themselves Christians can imbibe of such a mindset that is totally antithetical to biblical Christianity. But they are, and the trouble it's causing in churches across the country is truly tragic. May God cause a new love for the ABSOLUTE truth of His Word to catch fire among His people, while the folly of postmodern theology is exposed for the lie that it is.


TeamPyro

Thursday, October 19, 2006

John McCain Backs Gay Marriage?

Below is a link to a brief video clip from "Hardball" where purported presidential candidate John McCain appears to back gay marriage. This should be a warning to pro-family or traditional voters who could potentially be swayed by McCain's recent overtures to conservative Christians.

Hardball-YouTube

EDITED TO ADD:

According to Fox News, Senator McCain backtracked a few minutes later in that interview, saying he didn't object to "private ceremonies" but he does not back legalization of gay marriage.

Is he trying to out-Kerry Kerry here i.e. "I voted for the war before I voted against it?"

Monday, October 16, 2006

What "Church" Is For


Two posts in one day is unusual for me, but I want to put this out now as it's been bugging me for some time. I posted the original seed comments over at Dr. Ron Gleason's blog, but I will also post them here - albeit expanded.

In light of the ongoing kerfuffle over the Emergent Church and the never-ending kerfuffle over "church growth," I am more convinced than ever that the church will continue to have kerfuffles like these until she recognizes the following:

The purpose of the "assembly" is for believers to worship God, fellowship with one another, and learn the Word to be equipped for ministry. It is NOT primarily for the unbeliever. WE are to be the evangelists in our daily lives. New believers then come into our midst to be discipled.

A popular thing to do these days is for a congregation to draft a "mission" or "vision" statement. There is nothing inherently or necessarily wrong with doing so, IF it isn't part of an overall plan to steer the church in an unbiblical direction or to take it over in the name of joining the Emergent or Purpose-Driven bandwagons. If you come right down to it, it's really NOT necessary. Let me be more frank.

No "mission" or "vision" statements are needed other than the one Jesus gave us prior to His ascension. It's called "The Great Commission." It's about as forward looking and pithy as one can get. The Bible - both Old and New Testaments - contain a number of gems such as this, inspired by the Holy Spirit for the edification, instruction and correction of His people. I think we'd be amazed at what we'd find by digging around in its pages, instead of being distracted by the latest church growth fad or the hottest tome to come off the presses at Zondervan.


I realize it's a novel thought these days that Christians and/or churches should actually do something as innovative as study and obey Scripture, but then, I like novel thoughts. Especially when they point the way to Christ along with orthodoxy and orthopraxis.
An Expose of "Pastor" Fred Phelps

I am posting the following link today after discovering it at Phil Johnson's "Spurgeon" website. It is an expose of Fred Phelps, the so-called "Baptist" pastor known for his "God Hates Fags" campaign as well as his repugnant protests at the funerals of U.S. military personnel. The latest outrageous stunt pulled by this group of loons was to attempt a protest at the funerals of the Amish children gunned down in Pennsylvania earlier this month.

Fred Phelps is not a mainstream or even fundamentalist Baptist, and the actions of his "church" (made up largely of family menbers) is more akin to a pseudo-Christian cult. I am tired of people who either don't know any better, or who DO know better and are merely being malicious, trying to lump this buffoon in with orthodox Christianity, either in orthodoxy or in orthopraxis.


Phelps Expose

Friday, October 13, 2006

"Harry Potter" Star Decides to Doff His Clothes

By now, most Christians are aware of the controversy over the "Harry Potter" books and films. Most of the concerns are over the occult and some of the questionable values expressed in the books. Well, here's a worse one for you and it's not in a book. It's live on stage.

Daniel Radcliffe, the young (age 17) star of the "Harry Potter" films, has apparently decided that being a serious actor requires you to strip off your clothes on stage and simulate a sex act while astride a horse. The London Daily Mail has the details in the link below:

Daily Mail

Sad, isn't it? I wonder how long it will be before the play is put on DVD and sold in Wal Mart for young Harry Potter fans to get a glimpse of their hero in the buff? Yeah, I know. Sarcastic and cynical of me. I think you get my point. I am sure the "elite" in the glitterati class will applaud this for its "edginess." That's code for vulgar, prurient, salacious, blasphemous..name your adjective that can be summed up in one thought - "to offend sensibilities as much as possible under the guise of "art."

There are much worthier plays out there to do, and many fine books that could be made into fine films that do not require nudity and simulated sex acts by underage boys (or girls for that matter).

One thing is for certain. I am sure it will only get worse.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A Comment on "The Carters"

Yeah, already. I know. It's almost been a week since my last post. As Gerald O'Hara would have said, "tis a busy man I am."

I imagine this comment might get me in a bit of hot water but I'll say it anyway. The subject line might better have been "reality television." However, since the new show on the Carter family (not the country/bluegrass legends) sparked it, I chose that as my subject line.

No doubt those who end up in the grocery checkout line with all the tabloid and teeny-bopper magazines have seen the blond, photogenic Carter siblings. Brother Nick became known first followed by younger brother Aaron. What little I know of them has been gleaned from those brief cover headlines and the occasional story that pops up on entertainment news. My interest in entertainment is largely confined to classic films from Hollywood's Golden Age, and my music interests are largely from the classic rock years i.e late 1960s-early 1980s. I trust the Carters are talented enough in their genres, but that's not my concern at the moment.

Both Nick and Aaron attract a large amount of pre-teens in addition to older female teens. I imagine most parents readily buy their music for their enraptured children, or the children buy it themselves with their allowances. When the news came out about a show centered on their family, I can imagine the rapid heartbeats among this fan base. So, tonight while deciding whether I wanted to watch "The Clock" on TCM or "On the Record" with Greta Van Susteren, I popped by "The Carters" just to see how this wholesome appearing group behaved in front of the "reality" cameras. Well, in the approximately 40 seconds I watched, the "bleep" tone was inserted repeatedly as Aaron and his sibling quarrelled. I didn't see what the quarrel was about..I guess too much noise late at night or something. It seemed as if there had been fisticuffs. The older brother was tattooed so heavily I thought I was looking at a cave painting at first until the cave painting waved its arms and yelled. Bleep...yell...bleep..bleep.

Hmmm. Wholesome entertainment. Yeah. Right. A glimpse into lifestyles of the rich and famous. I didn't know whether to chuckle grimly or weep.

Despite how this probably comes across, I can assure you I am not sitting here in some self-righteous funk. Both brothers have been in trouble with the law lately. Why is it that those who have been given so much talent and fortune by God end up like this? Why is it that those who attract a large number of young people insist on being such bad examples? Of course, many would say "What's so bad about that? Lots of kids talk that way and lots of families are like that. That's reality."

Well, it's not everyone's reality and I would wager to say that it's not the majority reality. I have known plenty of families who manage fine without potty mouths or violent households (of the verbal or physical variety). And not all of them are Christian households.

Well, maybe I caught them on a bad day. I doubt it. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." I have to remind myself of that when my own temper is ready to flare. Praise God for His grace and mercy.

I hope the Carters and other "reality" types out there find this grace and mercy for themselves, and the changed heart and life that comes with it. Without God's grace shown through the Lord Jesus, I have no doubt I'd be far worse. Reading the history of my Celtic ancestors tells me that.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Evangelism for Introverts

What a week this has been. So much news to blog about, but instead, I want to draw your attention to something else of far more importance.

I am by nature an introvert. I don't do "public" well, something that might surprise you given that I have been in media for much of my adult life. But it's true. The following link will take you to an insightful article by World Magazine editor Marvin Olasky, actually an interview with author/speaker Mike Bechtle. While the advice therein is for would-be introverted evangelists, I think it is salient information for all of us as believers. It speaks of how real evangelism ought to be. Day by day, one by one, one on one in our everyday lives with each opportunity the Lord grants us. Rather than aggressiveness, or what is tongue-in-cheekily called "spam evangelism," Bechtle recommends the evangelism of a life lived, albeit being open and forthright with the Gospel. I highly recommend this article. Good advice for all of us who have been turned off by the plaid-jacket, cornpone, "spit-into-the-third-row" used car huckster mannerisms often displayed in TV-evangelist fashion...even when it's not on TV.

World Magazine

Monday, October 02, 2006

Fallout from the Foley Scandal

Below is a brief letter written by Pete LaBarbera of the Illinois Family Institute. This goes in tandem with what I have said for years..GOP does not necessarily stand for "God's Own Party."

If the Republican leadership of the House covered this up for electoral reasons, then they deserve whatever sanction the voters decide to impose. It's really sad if this happens, too. If they had been forthright about it and booted this guy out at the beginning, they would have been able to establish rather forcefully that such behavior will not be tolerated under a Republican administration. However, this will be impossible now. A GOP loss of the House and Senate will have serious repercussions for the country. If it happens, the GOP brought it on itself. When the dominoes start falling, they keep falling until the bitter end of the line. If the GOP doesn't respond correctly to this situation and respond NOW, all they have worked for since 1994 will be dashed. It might already be too late. I hope and pray not.

As an aside, this is what becomes of a party that compromises for political expediency, especially when it involves pro-family moral values. Liberal Republicans and so-called "moderates" are precisely why a real conservative agenda never gets enacted. And the idea of a "Log Cabin Republican" is simply abhorrent.

Who Protected the Perverted Congressman? What Did Rep. Shimkus Know about Mark Foley?

By Peter LaBarbera
Illinois Family Institute

Washington insiders have known about Congressman Mark Foley (R-FL)’s homosexuality for a long time, but I would suspect that most of his constituents have been in the dark about it. Years ago in D.C., I once tried to discourage a Foley run for U.S. Senate by calling his office and asking: 1) if he is a homosexual; and 2) if his constituents have a right to know about it. A top aide came on the line and told me that the staff does not answer questions about the Congressman’s “sexual orientation.”

The homosexual Republican group 'Log Cabin Republicans' has already purged a photo of Mark Foley from its own online story about its 2003 convention in Washington. Too bad Foley's teenaged victims and their parents won't be able to erase the effects of his twisted behavior from their minds so easily.

I wonder, picking up on my friend Cliff Kincaid’s theme, why did senior GOP leaders protect Foley’s homosexual secret? How many knew about his predatory behavior towards teenaged boys; when did they find out and why didn’t they do anything about it? Were they going to keep protecting the dirty secret as he announced a run for U.S. Senate?

Is “winning” as a Republican now more important than protecting children? Is it more important than letting a representative’s constituents know about his immoral behaviors, which of course influence his votes (Foley was pro-”gay”)? We need answers from House Speaker Denny Hastert and Rep. John Shimkus (R-Illinois), who chairs the House Page Board.

And isn’t it telling most of the tiny number of homosexual male U.S. Congressmen have been caught in sex scandals–remember Barney Frank, who let his male lover, a hustler, run a prostitution ring out of his D.C. apartment? And Massachusetts Rep. Gerry Studds, who had sex with a 17-year-old boy and then turned his back on fellow House Members during the censure vote against him? And Bob Bauman (R-Md.), who in 1980 was charged with soliciting a 16-year-old boy for sex?

Let’s see: three homosexual Congressmen involved in sexual seductions of minor boys–ages 16, 17, and 17 (Foley). And yet homosexual activists ridicule anyone who suggests there is a predatory or pedophilic component to male homosexuality.

Of course, straight Congressmen, too, have been involved in plenty of scandals in D.C., including with underage girls: but at least when Dan Crane was busted in the same 1983 Congressional Page scandal as Studds, he tearfully apologized and was defeated in his re-election bid. The defiant Studds said the relationship with a boy almost 20 years his junior was “consensual” and nobody's business and he was re-elected five more times!



Thank you and God bless,


Peter LaBarbera, President, Americans For Truth. You can write AFT at americansfortruth@comcast.net.