My wife, the incredible Rachelle McCalla, has a new book, available on Kindle only. The Girl Who Started the War to End All Wars is alternate history, steampunk, young-adult, time travel, adventure, and lots of other elements wrapped into one. And today only it is completely FREE. Download Part One of her massive book at Amazon.
This is a wonderful set of graphics that compares financial data, state by state. There are lots of interesting comparisons waiting to be made. For instance, California has among the highest percentage of millionaires and the highest rate of those living in poverty. And just as an observation: this is evidence that we in the heartland have it pretty good (low housing costs, low unemployment, and good household incomes).
“We have a problem,” he said gravely in his thick British accent. Our family was on our eleventh day in the United Kingdom earlier this summer. We had checked out of our place in the Highlands of Scotland and had been traveling all day in order to make it to England so we could check into our guest house in Whitley Bay. We were tired. We were carrying all our luggage. But there was a problem with the house, as he announced to us.
Yes, fleas. And the young man who was our host assured us that we couldn’t stay there that night—tired or not. Apparently while his family had been on holiday, their housecat had introduced an infestation of fleas throughout the whole house, including the beds and living room. They had returned earlier that same day and discovered that the whole house was hopping with the little biting critters. The young man physically blocked us from entering the house as he explained the situation. He and his family were busy feverishly cleaning, vacuuming, and using flea powder on everything.
And when we heard this news, we were suddenly not that tired, and not quite so eager to check in.
Take your time, really. Make sure it’s good and clean. That’s what was running through my mind.
And as I reflect on that experience in England, my mind wanders across Scripture to an obscure section of the book of Leviticus. In chapters 13 and 14, there are extensive rules and procedures for dealing with diseases of the skin, fabrics, and houses. Yes, houses. No mention of fleas there, but still some good advice for the people of Whitley Bay, at least in concept.
Leviticus counsels that a priest come to a house if there is a spreading mold. If the mold continues to spread after a week-long quarantine, then the plaster needs to be scraped off, the affected stones removed, and both thrown outside of town. If the spreading mold returns, then the whole house must be pronounced unclean and it must be torn down and deposited outside of town in an unclean place.
Pretty drastic, especially for a time when building a house was a big, expensive deal.
Would you tear down your house because of mold? Or fleas? How far would you go to correct a problem like that?
How about when it comes to your spiritual life? The truth is that sometimes our lives become like a guest house infested with fleas: fine on the outside, but filthy inside. And sometimes our souls can pick up a spreading mold of unchecked sin. So the question is, what will we do with our sin and filth? Will we take drastic measures to correct it—with vacuuming, scrubbing, and powder? Will we tear down the house, just to save our lives? Or will we tell ourselves that everything is okay and leave all as it is?
There was a silver lining to our stay in England. We didn’t stay in the flea house, but miraculously God provided another house a block over (which is another adventure story for another time). And there is a silver lining for all of us who have infestation in our souls. God has miraculously provided a way to be cleansed and forgiven. Jesus has taken all our sins and sicknesses into his body on the cross, so that we can be completely healed. So let us all pause and take a good look at our inner lives, to diagnose our sin. And then, let us take the steps necessary to address the problems we find there, knowing that God is able and willing to heal us.
This is an exciting new book. Read it! You won’t be disappointed.
The Girl Who Started the War to End All Wars by Rachelle McCalla
On June 28, 1914, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie Chotek, triggered the deadliest war the world had ever known. While historians have long analyzed the events that led to disaster, few realize humanity only narrowly escaped a far deadlier fate.
The year is 2173. The fallout of nuclear war has rendered Earth uninhabitable, save for a few isolated biodomes where humanity lingers in ever-dwindling numbers. Torin Driscoll has been chosen to travel back in time to fill the deathbed of a young Sophie Chotek. Torin’s only qualification is that she looks just like the dead girl she’s replacing. Her mission is to change history and save the world.
Torin’s brother Taggart will be traveling with her, commissioned by their dying mother to keep his sister safe. After training in the arms and arts that will help them on their mission, the pair make the journey only to discover the past and the future are not a disparate as they have been led to believe. The past is fraught with political conspiracies. Future armies vow to continue the fight that brought humanity to its deathbed. And the history they’ve been taught is changing with every move they make.
Death’s Door (The Girl Who Started the War to End All Wars, Book One) is part dystopian time travel, part steampunk adventure, part alternate history that morphs into factual history as the characters change the events of recorded time.
So I was reading Mark 11:1-11 this week, in preparation for a sermon. I compared Mark with the other Gospels (since they all relate this account of Jesus’ arrival) and discovered that they use different words to describe the animal(s) that Jesus rode into Jerusalem.
Mark uses polos, the basic word for a young male equine mammal, a.k.a. a colt (either a horse, donkey, or mule). Luke, like Mark, uses polos, and John employs onarion, a diminutive of onos (so a little or young donkey). Matthew takes Zechariah literally and depicts both a colt (polos) and a donkey (onos).
In my research, I consulted the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), to see how they translated this passage. And to my surprise, the HCSB translates all three different terms in all four Gospels as simply “donkey.” And I am still puzzled why a translation that prides itself on being accurate would flatten out the four different ways the evangelists chose to tell this story. Don’t get me wrong: I typically appreciate the HCSB. I think their translation policy (a simple, hybrid between literal and dynamic) is excellent (except for how they render words for human beings, but that’s another post).
But I think they got this one wrong.
And worse yet, the only explanation I can think of, is that the HCSB translators wanted to create artificial harmony among the Gospels–to smooth over any perceived inconsistencies, perhaps in service to inerrancy. It’s as if the translators (or editors) started with a liturgical picture–Palm Sunday, with Jesus riding on a donkey, and children waving palm branches around him–and then went to the text. Which is eisegesis, by the way. Which is not how you interpret Scripture, by the way.
Can anyone else explain this to me? Any other theories?
I know this was a while back, but it’s worth sharing and commenting on.
Watch Piers Morgan get owned by Penn Jillette, the famous magician and atheist.
Jillette more-or-less understands Roman Catholic theological method—specifically, that individual interpretation and democracy (the church moving with the times) matter little to Catholic doctrine and dogma. He does a decent job of summing up the Catholic view of tradition: It’s not supposed to modernize, it’s supposed to be God’s unchanging will for the church.
On the other hand, Morgan actually demonstrates the liberal Protestant theological method quite well: quote Jesus’ own words (as recorded in Scripture—but no other parts of Scripture, mind you); if the Gospels don’t record Jesus saying something about a particular subject, then we can do what we like.
Jillette obviously doesn’t agree with the Roman Catholic Church’s stance—on anything, really—and he’s a little sloppy with his history and theology (e.g., the bit about Luther), but he’s basically right: if you’re a Catholic, you either agree with your church, or you don’t.
I’m glad we have a National Day of Prayer. Our own community observed the NDOP with a service of prayer that included all the churches (!) in our community. Praise God. It was great because Christians from very different backgrounds came together and actually prayed! Powerful stuff.
But there seems to be a strange confusion with the National Day of Prayer, a conflation of church and state.
And that confusion is exemplified by Greg Laurie, the honorary national chairman of the NDOP, in his article in the Washington Post. He starts out:
Everywhere we look in America, we see signs of decline. That’s because we have largely forgotten God, but the good news is God has not forgotten us.
Pretty good, so far. Decline. Remembering and turning to God. Check. But then he immediately veers off into the ditch.
In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God says, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” In other words, America has two options: judgment or revival.
Or not. If he had bothered to read 2 Chronicles 7, he would know that the context is in the dedication of Solomon’s temple and the LORD’s appearance to the king. The “my people” is not a nation-state somewhere in the future in the New World. But “my people” is the faith community, Israel. Not America.
Yes, I know it can be confusing that in the Old Testament “Israel” refers to a political entity and God’s spiritual people, rolled into one. They had kings and judges, as well as elders and priests. The problem is that of analogy. The contemporary analog of ancient, biblical Israel (as a political-spiritual entity) is not America-and-Christians—except for maybe if you’re a Mormon. Because if that were true, Barack Obama would be our king/high priest, and Harry Reid and John Boehner would be heads of the Sanhedrin. But the best analogy for Old Testament Israel, as we read the Bible today, is simply the church. Jesus is our king and high priest. And our ecclesiastical leaders function as priests and elders in the OT. Much better, yes?
Laurie goes on with the mistaken analogy:
Unlike Rome, the United States was built on a Judeo-Christian foundation, but we have strayed dramatically from the vision of our Founding Fathers. Freedom of religion seems to have become freedom from religion. We have removed God from our schools, our sporting events, our public places and our workplaces.
So let me trace the comparison: Our modern “Israel” (aka the United States) was established by divinely guided prophets (the founding fathers); we have strayed from their pristine vision of theocracy by kicking God out of our public life. Therefore, we are crumbling and need to repent and return to God (even, apparently, the non-Christians among us), reclaiming him in all public places.
Perhaps this has a lot to do with whether you think America was founded as a “Christian nation” or a “nation of Christians” or a secular republic that took no official, precise doctrinal stance on the nature of the almighty Creator mentioned in the founding documents. Or something else. But this recounting of America’s history seems a little sloppy and simplistic.
Even Laurie’s last analogy (the repentance of Nineveh after the preaching of Jonah) is flawed. (And don’t even get me started on his non sequitur about America and the End Times.) In the ancient world, people groups were bound by social, religious, political, and cultural/linguistic forces (e.g., Assyria and Israel). Today, we are not. Our nation, like it or not, does not have one official “god.” It is set up so we are free to practice our faith as we see fit (unless it’s something illegal!), and that is a good thing. If the founders had set up an official state church, by the way, Greg Laurie would have to find peace as an Episcopalian! Or maybe a Presbyterian or a Congregationalist—the other two dominant faith groups in the New World. The “God” mentioned in the Enlightenment-saturated documents of our founding fathers is probably not the same as the triune God revealed in Jesus Christ, the eternal God-Man who died for humanity’s sins and was raised from the dead, but rather an indolent deistic personality that passively oversees the affairs of humankind.
Don’t get me wrong: I love having the National Day of Prayer. And yes, we need to repent and return to God. And when I say “we,” I don’t mean “America,” but I mean “us Christians.” And yes, it is our job as Christians to make a difference in our society, inviting unbelievers to put their faith in Christ and to embrace lives of righteousness. But that is a spiritual calling, not a political agenda.
I just had to share this, a blog in the New York Times.
Never mind that President Obama addressed the largest abortion provider in the United States and firmly stood on one side of a contentious political debate.
Never mind that air traffic controllers get axed because of the budget sequester while Planned Parenthood’s federal funding remains sacrosanct.
Never mind the rich irony that President Obama, who passed a massive new healthcare interference bill designed to nudge the behavior of the populace, is quoted as saying, “when it comes to a woman’s health, no politician should get to decide what’s best for you.”
No, never mind all that, because that’s just typical of our corrupt, depraved political system in America.
But look at the woman in the picture from the event. There’s something chilling about her garb that grabs me as a Christian and a pastor. Apparently, she is a clergywoman–hence, the clerical collar and stole. But do you see what is printed on her stole? Yes, that’s the Planned Parenthood logo. Chilling.
Now, before you accuse me of being partisan, imagine a clergyperson wearing a stole with an NRA symbol on it. Or Burger King. Or Fox News. Or Wal-Mart. Or whatever. See the problem? The problem is when Christians willingly kneel at the altars of strange gods who have nothing to do with the one true God revealed in Jesus Christ. I don’t know anything about the woman in the picture, but the image reminds me more of the priests of Molech and the unfaithful Israelites, than it does faithful ministers of Jesus Christ.
Lord, have mercy.
I know: a ringing endorsement, right?
But after spending a few days with my new desktop computer that runs Windows 8, I have to say that it’s not bad. Strange. Different, yes. But okay.
There’s been lots of polarized discussion about Windows 8, ever since its debut last fall. (Just today, I read one blogger who is vocally abandoning Windows 8 for Mac and another blogger who is cautiously supporting Microsoft’s evolution.) So when I bought Windows 8 for a desktop, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
And that’s really what it boils down to: expectations. If you assume that Windows 8 will be buttoned-down and “normal,” just like the beautiful, stable Windows 7, then you will be disappointed that it’s got all these charms and live tiles—and that it doesn’t have a stinking Start button! And if you assume that Windows 8 will be a totally new, seamless OS that is the same on a phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop, you will be disappointed that the desktop still looks a lot like Windows 7 (and Vista, for that matter).
My main observation (concern?) is that Windows 8 is forked—like it has a dual personality. In the Metro UI, it’s got the cool, colorful, flat style that Microsoft has been cultivating of late. But in desktop mode (and when using the Windows Explorer), it looks pretty much like Windows 7 and the traditional Windows model.
If I have any feedback, it’s that Microsoft probably should’ve gone fully one way or the other: either develop the OS totally around the Metro idea, or just perfect the traditional Windows look—but not split the difference.
Otherwise, we should probably just relax. Take a deep breath. Windows 8 works just fine. It’s solid. It’s functional. It’s okay. It isn’t that bad.
During Holy Week I heard the news that the 2005 Today’s New International Version (TNIV) and the 1984 New International Version (NIV84) had been removed from BibleGateway, leaving behind only the New International Version (NIV2011), the New International Reader’s Version (NIrV, a kids’ version), and the Anglicized NIV. YouVersion also followed suit.
This is a significant shift, taking away the possibility of using the NIV predecessors and consolidating behind the NIV2011. Marvin Olasky, writing in World Magazine, did some research why the NIV84 went missing (he doesn’t seem to care much that the TNIV disappeared).
According to him, BibleGateway has said, “The NIV’s worldwide publisher, Biblica, has requested that we remove the older 1984 and TNIV editions from BibleGateway, and we are complying with their wishes.”
On the positive side, Biblica seems to be solving the problem they created when they produced parallel-track translations with the NIV84 and the TNIV back in 2005. Now there is no fragmentation; just one NIV. Like it or not.
And apparently Marvin Olasky doesn’t like it.
Nursing an old grudge about gender neutrality, Olasky uses the news for an excuse to hunker down and demand that true believers stockpile copies of the “classic” NIV84 and to rail against the NIV2011’s faults.
There is no official word whether Olasky will be starting an NIV84-Only movement.