Stand Up to the Bully

September 24, 2013

We the People are being man-handled by this gov’t. We the People need to raise up and stand up to this bully of whom they are to be a representative of We the People.

A YouTube video went viral over the weekend showing a parent who got violently arrested for expressing his frustrations about the implementation of the Common Core at a public forum Thursday night in the suburbs of Baltimore.

Somehow, Ellicott City parent Robert Small was then charged with assaulting a police officer in the second degree, reports The Baltimore Sun.

Small stood up out of order during a question-and-answer forum held by the Maryland State Department of Education. He interrupted Dallas Dance, the Baltimore County School Superintendent. Small explained — calmly, though not particularly fluidly — his belief that the Common Core lowers standards of education for children in the district.

“You are not preparing them for Harvard,” he said.

The irate parent, who has a sixth-grader and a second-grader and in Howard County, Md. schools, asserted that the new curriculum will only prepare students for community college.

This fall, for the first time, 45 states and the District of Columbia have begun implementing Common Core State Standards Initiative, which attempts to standardize various K-12 curricula around the country.

Criticism of the Common Core has risen sharply. Opposition has brought together conservatives who stand athwart a federal takeover of public education and leftists who deplore ever-more standardized testing.

The plan for the question-and-answer forum was for attendees write their questions down on pieces of paper. Then, Dance and the Maryland State Superintendent of Schools, Lillian Lowery, would answer them.

After Small spoke for perhaps a few minutes, a security guard confronted him. A police report alleges that Small tried to push the guard away when the guard initially confronted him.

The video does not appear to show Small pushing the guard.

“Let’s go. Let’s go,” the security guard said.

“Let him ask his question,” someone yelled.

To audible gasps, the guard then pulled the 46-year-old father aggressively in the direction of the aisle.

As the guarded escorted Small out of the forum, Small said “Don’t stand for this. You are sitting here like cattle.” Then he asked, “Is this America?”

According to The Sun, Small was then handcuffed and forced to sit on the curb outside until police showed up to take him to a local police station. He was finally released around 3 a.m.

The charge against Small, second-degree assault of a police officer, carries a maximum fine of $2,500 and a prison term of up to 10 years. Another charge, disturbing a school operation, carries a $2,500 fine and six months in prison.

“Look, I am being manhandled and shut down because I asked inconvenient questions,” Small told The Sun on Friday. “Why won’t they allow an open forum where there can be a debate? We are told to sit there and be lectured to about how great Common Core is.”

Small added that he himself attended a community college before transferring to the University of Maryland, College Park to finish his bachelor’s degree.


iOS 7

September 23, 2013

I just want to say for the record, “I truly hate the iOS 7 update for the iPhone.”

Essentials of the Faith

September 12, 2013

Almost every Christian makes some distinction between essentials of the faith and non-essentials. The distinction itself is fairly uncontroversial. But what exactly are the essentials? That’s a bit tougher.

There are a number of ways to answer that question. We could look at church history and what God’s people have always believed. We could look at the ancient creeds and confessions of the church. We could look at the biggest themes of Scripture (e.g., covenant, love, glory, atonement) and the most important passages (e.g., Genesis 1, Exodus 20, Matthew 5-7, John 3, Romans 8). I want to take a little different route and consider what are the behaviors and beliefs without which Scripture say we are not saved. These are not requirement we must meet in order to save ourselves and earn God’s favor. Rather these are the essential beliefs and behaviors that will be manifest in the true Christian.

I don’t pretend that this is anywhere close to a comprehensive list from the Bible. But a list like this may be helpful in guarding against false teaching and examining our own lives.

Ten Essential Christian Behaviors

1. We repent and turn from our sins (Matt. 5:29-30; 11:20-24; Acts 2:38; 3:19; Heb. 10:26-27).

2. We forgive others (Matt. 6:14-15; 18:33-35).

3. We are undivided in our devotion to God and to Jesus Christ (Matt. 6:24; 10:38-39; 19:16-30; John 12:24-26).

4. We publicly acknowledge Jesus before others (Matt. 10:32-33; 21:33-44; 22:1-14; 26:24; John 5:23)

5. We obey God’s commands and do not make a practice of sinning (John 14:15; 1 John 3:9-10; 1 John 5:2).

6. We live a life that is fruitful and not fleshly (Matt. 12:33-37; 21:43; 24:36-51; 25:1-46; Gal. 5:18-24; 6:5; Heb 13:4; 1 Cor. 6:9-10).

7. We are humble and broken-hearted for our sin (Matt. 5:3; 18:3-4; 1 John 1:8-10).

8. We love God and love others (Matt. 22:34-40; John 11:35; 15:12; 1 Cor. 13:1-3; 1 John 3:14-15).

9. We must persevere in the faith (Heb. 6:4-6; 10:29-31; 12:12-17; 1 Cor. 9:24-27; 1 Tim. 5:11-12).

10. We help our natural family and church family when there are physical needs (1 Tim. 5:8; 6:18-19; 1 John 3:17).

Ten Essential Christian Beliefs

1. We must be born again by the Spirit of God (John 3:5).

2. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (John 3:18, 36; 6:35, 40, 47, 53-58; 8:19, 24; 11:25-26; 12:48; 14:6; 15:23; 20:30-31; Gal. 3:7-9).

3. The benefits of the gospel come by faith, not by works of the law (Acts 15:8-11; Gal. 1:6-9; 2:16, 21; 3:10-12, 22).

4. Salvation comes from Jesus Christ, our faithful high priest, the radiance of God’s glory and our brother in the flesh (Col. 1:15-23; Heb. 2:4).

5. God exists and rewards those who seek him (Heb. 11:6, 16).

6. We are saved by Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 1:18).

7. The good news of the gospel is that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and he appeared to many witnesses (1 Cor. 15:1-11).

8. Jesus Christ was bodily resurrected and our bodies will be resurrected (1 Cor. 15:12-19).

9. Jesus was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory (1 Tim. 3:16; 1:3, 18-20; 6:3-4, 20-21).

10. God saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (2 Tim. 1:8-14).

You could multiply lists like this tenfold. The point is not to be exhaustive, but to show by way of example just how many things the Bible considers to be essential and how precious these truths should be to the Christian. There are a number of behaviors in Scripture which serve to prove or disprove our Christian commitment. Likewise, there are a number of beliefs in Scripture without which we cannot be saved and which must be true if salvation is even possible. We would do well to study these beliefs and behaviors, embrace them, and promote and protect them with our fullest zeal and efforts.

-Kevin DeYoung

The Trinity

September 8, 2013

“If there were no Trinity, there could be no incarnation, no objective redemption, and therefore no salvation; for there would then be no one capable of acting as Mediator between God and man. In his fallen condition man has neither the inclination nor the ability to redeem himself. All merely human works are defective and incapable of redeeming a single soul. Between the Holy God and sinful man there is an infinite gulf; and only through One who is Deity, who takes man’s nature upon Himself and suffers and dies in his stead, thus giving infinite value and dignity to that suffering and death, can man’s debt be paid. Nor could a Holy Spirit who comes short of Deity apply that redemption to human souls. Hence if salvation is to be had at all it must be of divine origin. If God were only unity, but not plurality, He might be our judge, but, so far as we can see, could not be our Saviour and sanctifier. The fact of the matter is that God is the way back to Himself, and that all of the hopes of our fallen race are centered in the truth of the Trinity.”

– Loraine Boettner, “The Trinity”

Scary “Prayer”

September 5, 2013

Hey, this could be progress. About time last year, the Democratic National Convention booed when the platform committee tried to backtrack and add a mention of God that had been earlier removed. In Iowa, at least Democrats have gone back to openly praying, but perhaps they should be hoping that God isn’t listening:

They made the unusual decision, for Democrats, to begin the event with a prayer. This was likely in response to a prayer vigil being conducted by pro-life activists at the same time nearby.

Des Moines activist Midge Slater took the podium and spent five and a half minutes thanking God for abortion rights, abortion doctors and taxpayer funding for abortions. She also referred to the decision to have an abortion as “a blessing”.

During the entire prayer, State Senator Jack Hatch and Rep. Tyler Olson, both of whom are running for governor, kept their heads bowed and eyes closed, joining in the group prayer.
The Iowa Republican transcribed a bit of the prayer, which goes on for quite a while:

“We give thanks, oh Lord, for the doctors, both current and future, who provide quality abortion care.”

“We pray for increased financial support for low-income women to access contraception, abortion and childcare.”

“Today, we pray for women in developing nations, that they may know the power of self-determination. May they have access to employment, education, birth control and abortion.”

“Today we pray for the families who have chosen. May they know the blessing of choice.”
Here’s my favorite part, very obviously aimed at the pro-life demonstrators:

“We pray for women who have been made afraid by their paternalistic religion.”
Afraid? For feminists, they don’t seem to have much faith in women to decide for themselves whether to live as Christians and follow its tenets without fear forcing them into it. However, based on this prayer for blessings on abortions and the demand to spread it worldwide, I’d guess that they’re less interested in faith than they are in their own political agendas anyway.


September 5, 2013

At a physician’s roundtable years ago, I asked Senator Orrin Hatch why I couldn’t punch out of Social Security, happy to leave all that I had paid “into the system” on the table. Why couldn’t anyone, I asked, willing to leave behind all they had paid in, be allowed to walk away from these entitlements, as long as they were willing to forgo a future claim to these “benefits?”
He wouldn’t answer me. The answer is obvious, though, isn’t it? Without the current “contributions” of the young (and yes, draws on the credit line of the unborn), the current beneficiaries would discover that these programs were bankrupt.
Virtually all of the legislators that brought us Medicare are dead and gone now. All of the legislators who brought us Social Security are dead and gone. This is no coincidence, for these men realized that it was politically much more popular to give away government goodies paid for by the young and unborn than to tax the very same people who were to “benefit” from their “ideas” and “programs.”
Dead now, these criminal politicians have largely escaped the harsh judgment they deserve for buying votes with property that would belong to future generations. Currency depreciation (“inflation”-the current political class’s favorite way to rob the young for the benefit of their current constituents) has the same effect on future generations.
This is the essence of a Ponzi scheme. That is a fraudulent investment scheme that pays investors not out of profits but out of money paid in by later investors.
If you think about it, all government programs are Ponzi schemes. It is becoming increasingly clear that the same can be said about the [Un]Affordable Care Act. I call it the UCA, instead of the ACA.
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UCA can’t let young people out for the same reason that Social Security can’t. Young workers aren’t paying or saving for their own benefits, but for older, sicker people.
UCA rules force insurers to charge them more than they actually cost to help offset the higher cost of insuring older and sicker people. If the young don’t sign up, premiums for everyone in the insurance pool will dramatically increase, as will the cost to the government.
People generally don’t volunteer to be overcharged so that strangers can be undercharged. Hence the individual mandate, and tax penalties.
Young adults are beginning to see the reality as the UCA takes shape, and understand how they wind up losing from every angle. Hence the $600 million advertising campaign and multimillion-dollar Navigator program to steer people into the program as quickly as possible. UCA promoters know how hard it is to take away an entitlement once people are trapped in it.
The idea is to entice people with subsidies so they won’t notice how outrageous the premiums are. When enough are lured away from private insurance-the “crowding out” effect shown so well with the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)-private insurance will collapse. Like Medicare beneficiaries now, all Americans will be without options for major medical insurance.
The success of the UCA hinges on the successful fleecing of the young people. This is the same immoral basis for Medicare and Social Security, “programs” that are still alive because participation in these Ponzi schemes is involuntary. With Bernie Madoff, at least people could take their lumps, having learned their lesson and move on. They didn’t have to continue to give him money after they learned what he was up to.
I am optimistic that today’s young people will reject the shackles that many of their elders have embraced.

-Keith Smith, MD

Billy and Bono

September 1, 2013

Last week, a clip from CNN featuring Billy Corgan made the rounds in the blogosphere, especially amongst Christians. There comes a point, says Corgan when you have to leave your youthful angst aside and mature into more interesting topics like God. He calls God the “third rail” of rock and roll – the untouchable subject (like religion is the third rail of politics), tells Christian musicians to stop copying U2, and says “Jesus wants better bands.”

His comments are interesting, if not wholly original. Many have lamented the monolithic culture and sound of Christian music – especially praise music, with it’s formula of four chords, chimey delayed guitars, and anthemic choruses. In a consumer culture, people stick with what works, and ever since the rise of Delirious, Matt Redman, and Chris Tomlin around the turn of the century, that sound has been the template for contemporary worship music.

There may be some very practical reasons for this, though. For one thing, U2’s sound (and its imitators) thrive on a certain kind of simplicity. The Edge’s guitar playing (especially on records like “The Joshua Tree” and “All That You Can’t Leave Behind”, which provide the template for the aforementioned sound) is the amalgam of well-employed technology, a minimalist and punk-influenced aesthetic, and a compositional approach to guitar playing that is 100% in service to the song. In fact, one could say that of the bass and drums as well.

I think this is one reason it’s come to be imitated by praise bands; it’s not a technically demanding style of music to play. That doesn’t mean it’s inferior, though. As Miles Davis supposedly once said, the most important notes are the ones you don’t play. Minimalism is difficult to pull off, and it only works in ways that are enduring when it’s married to truly great songs. While “The Joshua Tree” endures as a great record twenty years later, most praise choruses have an expiration date of a few years. We sing them every Sunday until someone rolls their eyes and says, “This one again?” And then they disappear.

We should ask: has this sound become the template because musicianship is a lost art? Are we playing this music because we don’t know how to play anything else? While Delirious (one of the bands that established the template) certainly had roots in U2’s sound, they also had roots in other sounds. They were at times reminiscent of The Police, Queen, and Radiohead. They were great musicians, and could stylistically dabble in many directions, resulting in a catalog of albums that (sonically, anyway) are diverse and interesting. Many of their songs were musically demanding, requiring a band to know more than four chords and requiring guitar players to be able to play melodies think musically. (Those songs rarely became their hits, though.)

And they’re far from alone. While I think Corgan’s critique rings true at a certain level, at another, it rings very false. He has obviously not heard people like Gungor, Mars Hill Music, Indelible Grace, and many others who venture into other sonic territory. The U2 sound might rule the radio waves, and might have a strong foundation in the CCLI Top 10, but it isn’t the only game in town.

I’ll add one more observation here, from a more personal perspective. At Sojourn, we’ve experimented with a variety of sounds and styles over the years. One Sunday you attend, you might hear Bluegrass music, the next, you might hear indie rock, and the next, it might be Americana. U2 has certainly influenced us too.

But one thing I’ve noticed often – especially from those who are outside of our church – is that any song that doesn’t fit the template is immediately dismissed. “It’s not congregational,” they often say. In fact, whole albums I’ve released have been blasted with that comment.

Since we’re talking U2 here anyway, I think most of us would agree that U2’s melodies aren’t congregational at all. We don’t all have Bono’s range and passion. But you know who sings them? Everyone at a U2 concert. In unison. At the top of their lungs. (I’ve talked about this elsewhere here at TGC.) The same can be said of some of the melodies of the CCM songs that are imitators. The range is too wide. The melody too bizarre. And yet, congregations sing them robustly because they love the song and they love what it invites them to sing about.

I’ll be the first to admit that we’ve recorded some songs at Sojourn Music that aren’t congregational; that’s part of the journey of writing indigenous music with a community of young, developing church musicians. But I think as often as not, the dismissal of our songs has nothing at all to do with the singability of the melody, and everything to do with the genre of music itself. We’ve come to expect certain sounds that define worship for us, and when we don’t get that british pop sound we say, “Oh yeah, that’s not congregational at all.”

To those critics, I often just want to say, “Really? Come to my church. You’ll be surprised what you hear. People sing!” I know folks at Mars Hill and RUF (singing Indelible Grace tunes) would say the same thing.

Many musicians and artists are working well outside the template that Corgan mocked on CNN. But they work against a reality that demands that sound. It has become it’s own 21st century traditionalism.