Thursday, November 16, 2006

Webcast tonight 

We will be webcasting tonight's study in Revelation 11, continuing our discussion of the two witnesses. We webcast from SermonAudio. Send me an email at mattpowell74@gmail.com if you'd like the notes.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Legitimate Offer 

Email subject line: HBOS United Kingdom [Legitimate Offer]

They put "Legitimate Offer" in the subject. See, at first I thought the offer of 50% of $75 million was too good to be true. I thought it must be some kind of scam. But then in the subject line it said "Legitimate Offer". They couldn't put that in there if it was a scam, could they?

I'm really excited about this. Mr. Phil Hodkinson promised "magnitude investments". I'm not sure what that means but it sounds great. He is from England, but he said it would be easier to conduct business in Mozambique, so that's where I'm off to.

And to think, I would have missed all of this if he hadn't put "legitimate offer" in the subject line.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Election 

There was always the thought in some of us conservative voters that perhaps the Republicans losing this election might be good for the conservative cause overall. The concern was of course, at this crucial time, what might such a loss cost us, in the economy, in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places?

Well, it's moot now. It happened. So now we have to use this defeat to the advantage of the conservative cause. It's time we took a hard look at what has happened to conservatism in this country.

In 1994, the Republicans won a huge victory (bigger than the ones Democrats won last night), and they won it on conservative principles. They clearly laid out their intentions in the Contract with America. By contrast, the Democrats won by laying out as few principles as possible, except that they didn't like Bush or the war. And because an awful lot of Americans also don't like Bush or the war, they won. But we should not interpret this as a general swing to the left. Look at the success of amendments prohibiting gay marriage all over the country as just one sign of that; look at the conservatism of the Democrats generally who won as another.

So we need to return to our roots, return to true conservative principles. First because it's right. We need to stop trying to triangulate and compromise to please people. Look where that's gotten us. Look where "compassionate conservatism" has gotten us.

Back to free markets. Back to the rule of law. Back to spending restraint! (This one is especially important.) And lower taxes. This is one thing Bush has gotten right, and we all need to fight for it. The Democratic victory last night was accomplished with almost no word about higher taxes, but this is what they'll do. It was moderate Democrats who won last night, but it will not be moderate Democrats in charge of the House (or the Senate, worse comes to worst). It wil be Pelosi and Kennedy and Leahy and that lot.

Bush's moderate, "compassionate" conservatism never got us more than a slim majority in this country. Clinton's faux moderate liberalism never got him more than 43% of the vote. But Reagan? Remember Reagan? Back when we got used to hearing the term "landslide"? There was a man of principle, a man who did not apologize for being a conservative.

We'll have to weather the storm here. If the Senate isn't lost, perhaps we can avoid the worst legislative consequences for last night. The sad thing is that those likely to suffer the most from last night are our friends in the Middle East who trusted us, just as the South Vietnamese and Cambodians paid the highest price for the Democratic victory in the early 70's. But we need to use this to be better. And being better does not, even in a purely political sense, mean being more liberal, or more moderate. It means being true to our princples, true to what we are. We are conservatives, and let's stop apologizing for it.


Does anyone else think it an odd coincidence that Hamas declared their truce with Israel over the morning after the Democrats took over the House and maybe the Senate?

Monday, November 06, 2006

Uh Oh 

Every night Katie and I kneel at her bed to say our prayers. At first she complained about it because there's a wood laminate floor in her room and it hurt her knees. So there's a piece of carpeting remnant that was in her room that she plays on sometimes, so we have been kneeling on that.

So tonight, Katie says, "I love praying on my prayer carpet."


I've heard it said that 90% of success in anything is just showing up. I find that to be true in a great many fields of endeavor, especially as I get older and realize how many people will not show up to whatever it is they need to be doing when they need to be there. This is obviously true in politics as well. A great deal of effort by the political parties goes to just getting their base to show up.

Jesus told us to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and unto God that which is God's. We are also told to honor our fathers and mothers, and to be thankful for what God has given us. I believe all of these principles point Christians in the direction of the polling booth.

Voting is one very important aspect of what it means to be a good citizen of this country. And not just showing up and pulling levers, but making informed choices. Citizens making informed choices in the polling booths is the gas that this nation runs on. I don't really care about getting uninterested uninformed people to the polls, but I do care about getting them interested and informed, and then to the polls. The more informed people are voting, the better off we will all be. So, render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and head down to the polls tomorrow.

The fifth commandment requires us to honor our fathers and mothers. Broadly, this means to respect where we came from. Personally, I think this commandment of itself dictates a conservative political mindset, but I'll leave that for some other time. What it definitely means is that we realize that we are what we are because of those who came before us. We don't wake up one day in a vacuum and set out to create a brand-new society. We were born into a previously existing society, most of which works pretty well. We ought to respect that. A big part of that legacy that has been passed down to us is the voting process, and we ought to therefore respect that as well. When we seek to make changes to our society, honoring our fathers and mothers means making those changes gradually and carefully, with respect for what they have done before us.

And finally, we are told to give thanks. This country, for all its faults and problems, gives us many blessings that no other country on earth has. We have more say in our government than the great majority of people in the world do. We have a very good standard of living, and for the time being we are free to practice our religion. We ought to be thankful to God for these blessings and do what we can to ensure that our children and grandchildren have those blessings too. And that means voting, at least.

If you're reading this after the election and you didn't vote, I hope you do next time. If you read this before about 7 PM tomorrow, I would strongly encourage you to find out about the issues and make a choice. If you don't have time to become informed before the polls close, then just get an earlier start next year.

God bless America!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Hypocrisy, as always 

After reading La Shawn Barber's thoughts about Haggard I thought I'd revisit the issue of hypocrisy. Pastor Haggard wil of course be accused of hypocrisy for being opposed to gay marriage when he was actually engaged in the practice of homosexuality. I don't actually know if he was. He has admitted some "indiscretions" but hasn't said which part is true. Ms. Barber accuses him of hypocrisy, and while I agree with most of her post, I have to take issue with that statement.

Pastor Haggard has confessed a belief in the sinfulness of man. This is of course a core tenet of Christianity. Paul discusses the reality of those who know the law and yet violate it in Romans 2:

Romans 2:21 You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal?

His application of this is not to call this man a hypocrite. It is to say that he is without excuse:

Romans 2:1 Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.

But this again is one of the central tenets of Christianity. We're all without excuse. That's why we need Christ.

The hypocrite is not someone who fails to practice perfectly their own stated beliefs. The hypocrite is someone who claims to believe things he doesn't really believe. The hypocrite is someone whose religious or moral or political views are meant for public consumption rather than a sincere expression of his own beliefs. The Pharisees were hypocrites. They loved to do charitable deeds in public and pray on street corners, but it was all for public consumption (see Matthew 23). They just
wanted to be thought of as good.

So is Pastor Haggard a hypocrite? I don't know. He might be. If his religious views and his political stands are just a power play, then he's a hypocrite. If he is against gay marriage because it will get him political influence with Bush and with the evangelical community, then he's a hypocrite. But this is kind of hard for us to judge, especially without a lot more detail. Being sinful doesn't make him a hypocrite. Otherwise we're all hypocrites and the word doesn't mean anything.

How he handles this will say a lot. If it's true that this has been going on for three years, most months, with drugs and with a paid escort, then that does lean us in the direction of hypocrisy, one who just doesn't believe what he claims to believe. If he really believed that homosexuality was an abomination before God, you'd think he'd be doing whatever he could do to curb it. And one of the things he could do to curb it would have been to confess it to someone else and get some help. And if that were the case, it wouldn't have come as a surprise to everyone. This doesn't sound like a man struggling with sin. It sounds like a man reveling in it. A repentant man also doesn't come out and blame others, calling this "political payback", though it wouldn't be surprising at all if that is what this is.

But sin really rolls us sometimes. We don't know what's gone on behind the scenes. We don't know if Pastor Haggard has spent sleepless nights praying over his sin. We don't know if he has confessed it to others, like his wife. We don't know if there have been ups and downs, times of victory and times of failure. And we don't know if Pastor Haggard prayed for deliverance from this sin and that this is the way that God has ordained to grant that deliverance.

In short, we don't know the man's heart, and we don't know the secret things of God's counsel. Without a lot more information than we have, we should be slow to levy the charge of hypocrisy.

UPDATE: Jollyblogger has some excellent thoughts, as he always does.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Ted Haggard 

The news is that Rev. Ted Haggard has been accused of having paid for gay sex numerous times in the last three years. Apparently a man has made this accusation on Denver radio. Rev. Haggard is the pastor of New Life Church, a very large charismatic church in Colorado Springs, and he is also the president of the National Association of Evangelicals. He has resigned from the NAE and has temporarily stepped aside as the pastor of New Life pending an investigation.

I think it's important to note that stepping aside as the pastor is completely routine in such a situation. It should not be interpreted as any kind of admission of guilt. The church needs to investigate, and in such a case the pastor should take an absence. I'm not sure how to interpret resigning from the NAE, however. That seems a little unnecessary unless there's some substance here, something that he has denied.

But there is of course ample motive for this kind of dirty trick by the liberals, especially right before an election, and I sure wouldn't put it past them to just make something up. It doesn't even require any kind of conspiracy- just one guy. The man who is making the application states himself that there is a political motive, that he was angered that Haggard's church opposes gay marriage. He didn't know who Haggard was at first, he says, but saw him on TV and recognized him. He says he has proof in the form of an envelope mailed to him from Haggard and voicemails from him, but he has refused to provide these so far.

That being said, immorality in any church shouldn't surprise any of us. I have very serious issues with the theology of the charismatic movement, and I believe their theological errors in particular lead them to be poorly equipped to deal with moral failure. Haggard in particular seems far too focused on this life and this world. He says for example that God wants all of us to be healthy, happy and successful in every area of life. But that sure doesn't seem to work well with passages like Acts 14:22 or Luke 9:23-25.

So we'll just have to wait to see what happens. Really, no particular outcome of this would surprise me all that much.

Further thoughts here

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Kerry and mis-speaks 

I can't believe I'm coming out of my blog silence for this. But I have some thoughts about the Kerry gaffe.

For those who haven't been following this, Kerry was at some kind of event and said that if you don't work hard in school and do your homework, then you will get "stuck in Iraq".

The plain reading of what he said is that a lot of people are in the armed forces because they're stupid and failed in school. Kerry countered that the joke was meant to be an anti-Bush joke- that he meant to say if you don't do good in school then you will "get us stuck in a war in Iraq". He has gone on the warpath against the Republicans saying they're liars, hacks, and even calling Limbaugh "doughy".

I went back and forth on this. First I thought "What an idiot" (that thought has stuck with me through the whole thing, actually). But then I thought that he probably did just botch the joke and had no intention of saying anything negative about our troops, similar to John Derbyshire here. That just seemed too crazy even for Kerry, just before an election.

But then I thought something different, after seeing and reading Kerry's response to it, and comparing it with my own experience. I communicate for a living. I speak to people in a professional capacity most days of the week, sometimes for quite a while at a time. I preach three times a Sunday and teach Bible studies sometimes two or three times a week. In all those words, I make mistakes. I say things I didn't mean to say, and sometimes in doing so I inadvertently insult people.

When I do that, there is no choice but to apologize. I try to catch all of them. I'm sure I have missed some. Fortunately the people in my church are pretty gracious with me. But certainly any time something is brought to my attention I do my best to address it.

See, the thing is, none of us can respond to what Kerry meant to say. We can only respond to what he said. Kerry can't duck responsibility by claiming to have meant to say something else. He's responsible for what he said. And what he said, by a plain reading, was a vicious insult to our troops.

If he were an honest man, he would just come out and say he's sorry for his remark. He's kind of apologized after first attacking everyone and dodging responsibility. This demonstrates he's not an honest man, which of course is something we already knew. He has failed to take full responsibility for the mess which he himself has created. And thus I think the only thing any of us can do is to assume he meant to say what he said and hold him accountable for it. His defensiveness and combativeness leads one to believe that he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar and is now trying to make it everyone else's fault.

We're not mindreaders, Senator Kerry. You are responsible for what you said. Not only what you meant to say, but what you actually said. Just come clean and apologize.

But that's a bit much to expect from him, given his three decade history of lies, slander, treason and self-serving political hackery. Which leads me back to my original thought:

What an idiot.

Check out The Corner for lots more on this.

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