Archive for October, 2008

The Fifth Freedom

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Author’s Note: This is a sermon that I gave in August of 2006 at my church, Wyoming Ave. Baptist, in Philadelphia.

Scripture: Galatians 5:13-26

At the close of an important speech to Congress on January 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt shared his vision of the kind of world he wanted to see after the war was over. He envisioned four basic freedoms enjoyed by all people: (1) freedom of speech, (2) freedom of worship, (3) freedom from want, and (4) freedom from fear. Certainly the world has made some progress on these since World War II, and the church needs to be active and engaged in fighting for these basic human rights.  But even if these all were attained, our world still needs another freedom, a fifth freedom. Man needs to be free from himself and the evil dictatorship of his sinful nature.

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Testing a New Plugin

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

So I just downloaded and installed my first WordPress plugin, and I need to test it out.  The plugin is RefTagger from Logos Bible Software, which should automatically put a pop-up link on any Scripture references that I use in my blog posts.

So let’s give it a try.  Yesterday, I commented on Facebook about a statment by Archbishop Tutu of South Africa:

“God says, ‘Help me. Help me. Help me make this world the kind of world I intended for it to be. Help me. Help me so I can make this world more compassionate. Help me. Help me to make this a world that is more caring. Help me, help me, please help me, to make this world a world where there will be no poverty; where my children won’t spend as much as they do on weapons of destruction, and would spend a small fraction of what they do on killing to make sure my children everywhere have enough to drink and have food to eat. Help me. Please help me. Please help me. I have no one except you.’”

Now, I think that’s a ridiculous statement for a Christian to make, and I used Isaiah 50:2 to answer the question of God’s “arm being too short” to accomplish his will without our cooperation.  Sure, he expects obedience, and has chosen to work through us, but he doesn’t cry out like some weak, lonely old man that we would accomplish his dreams. 

In my recent flurry of Facebook activity, I also touched on the subject of the church’s care for the poor and widows, which according to most public opinion, should be without conditions.  The Bible says that widows must be chaste and dedicated to service in the church, or else the church shouldn’t provide for them (see 1 Timothy 5:9ff). The poor must work for their bread, not expect it as a right (see 2 Thessalonians 3:9-10).  (After this post, I was criticized for being stuck on the OT and its laws and regulations, and that Jesus came to teach us to love without condition.  Doh!)

Anyway, that should be enough to test the plugin.  Facebook is where the action is, at least until the election.  Then maybe I’ll start some real pontification again (hmmm, what name would I choose if I actually were the Pope? — that’d be real pontification, now, wouldn’t it?).

Biblical Lust

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

In this sex-charged world, you probably have in mind what this entry is going to be about.  But you’re wrong.  I’m going to talk a little bit about my temptation of “biblical lust” — that is the overwhelming compulsion to be taken by the design and substance of the book itself.  Not the contents, necessarily, but the book.

A little while ago, I pre-ordered the new ESV Study Bible from Amazon.  Expecting to see it sometime in early November, I was pleasantly suprised yesterday to hear the horn of the UPS driver (yes, he honks as he’s driving up — quite handy, actually), and to find a package from Amazon containing the Bible.

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A Program Worth Saving

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

The USDA wants to kill an innovative school meal program in Philadelphia that provides free breakfast and lunch to all students at schools with overwhelming (above 75%) rates of poverty.  Started 17 years ago as a pilot at the suggestion of Temple University and Philadelphia Community Legal Services, it was so successful that they never stopped funding it.

Until now.  Turns out other districts want in, so instead of working to find the money, they cancel the one program that works.  Whoever is elected president, this is one education program that needs saving.

The Inquirer has a great article about the USDA’s decision.

Little Bit of DOS Magic

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Ok, so not really DOS, but rather the Windows XP interactive command console, whatever they’re calling it these days.  In any case, it comes in handy to perform tasks that a graphical interface just can’t handle efficiently.

I have a bunch of files categorized into multiple directories, like this:

2000 Aerials
— NJ
—- Burlington County
—— X00 to X03
—— X04 to X06
—- Camden County
—— etc.

I’d like to flatten the contents of all of the various subdirectories into one directory.  One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, one ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.

The for command is how to do it:

for /R . %f in (*.*) do copy /Y “%f” h:\destination

The /R switch tells for to run this command (the for command) in each directory under the listed director, which in this case is . (the current directory).  In each of the directories, for builds a list of all files matching *.*, and runs the copy command (substituting the %f with the filename).  Thus, wherever the for command recursively finds a file (and at whatever depth), that file is copied directly to the destination.

Prosperity Part II

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

Continuing yesterday’s theme of prosperity preachers, it seems even the non-profits that were created to help the poor seem to have a different vision of what that means, exactly.

The Wall Street Journal profiled Ascension Health, a Catholic hospital chain, in an article entitled, “Nonprofit Hospitals Leave the City for Greener Pastures” (October 14, 2008). Turns out that Ascension seems to believe that hospitals in poor areas should be self-sufficient, thus it won’t subsidize a hospital that’s losing money.  Sure, we’ll help the poor, just so long as it doesn’t cost us anything.

Ignoring the whole “Christian” aspect for a moment, I have a huge problem with this because we, the taxpayers, give organizations like Ascension a pass on taxes with the explicit assumption that they provide charity care and thus require such subsidy for the public good.  Exemptions from property taxes, income taxes, sales taxes, plus the ability to accept tax-deductible contributions easily add up to far more than the 2.5% Ascension claims to spend on charity care each year. And, sadly, 2.5% is the HIGHEST percentage among the nation’s five largest nonprofit hospital systems.

Taking care of the poor is just one more feel-good way to make people rich and powerful.  (Did I mention the CEO was paid $2.4 million in 2006?  Interestingly, the company won’t provide more recent figures…)

What’s God Got to Do With It?

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

Lisa Miller has an interesting column (“What’s God Got to Do With It?“) in the October 20 issue of Newsweek, talking about Victoria Osteen’s new book and her brand of religion.  Speaking to a fervent audience of 40,000 each week, plus the millions more who watch on television and make their books bestsellers, the Osteens certainly have made a mark in America’s religious landscape.

Miller writes that “the theology driving all this success is thin.  Over and over, in sermons, books and television interviews, the Osteens repeat their most firmly held beliefs.  If you pray to Jesus you’ll get what you want… Prosperity preachers are neither new nor unique in America, but the Osteens’ version seems especially self-serving.”

Is this what Christianity is becoming in America?  Just another way to get what I want?  And when even the secular media recognizes this self-help drivel for what it is, how horribly does that reflect on the rest of us who call ourselves Christians?

Maybe the Osteens just exemplify what being an “American” has become.  I see it in John McCain and in Barack Obama, and all throughout government.  Everything is about me and mine.  Does anybody really think that Barack Obama wants to be president because he has my best interest at heart?  Or the John McCain really puts country first?  If the two of them were honest servants of the public good, they’d be investing in men who are much more wise and humble to really lead this country where it really needs to go.