How thick is your bubble?

I guess the good news is that I don’t have a bubble at all. Charles Murrays new book talks about the increasing divide in America. Looks fascinating. Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010

They have a helpful quiz to determine the thickness of your individual cultural bubble. Interesting questions and here is my result.

How Thick Is Your Bubble?

View user's Quiz School Profile
Score » 14 out of 20  (70% ) 
On a scale from 0 to 20 points, where 20 signifies full engagement with mainstream American culture and 0 signifies deep cultural isolation within the new upper class bubble, you scored between 13 and 16.

In other words, you don’t even have a bubble.

Quiz School Take this quiz & get your score
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photographing fireworks

I love trying to capture pictures of firework displays. This year in Texas there weren’t many of them due to the extended and extreme drought. However down on the coast, the municipalities have the luxury of shooting them out over water like the Little Bay in Rockport.
waiting on the fireworks

the keys are to have a camera with manual settings, a remote trigger and as wide lens as you can get to capture as much of the sky as possible.

Pick out a spot fairly close to the action; mount the camera on a tripod; set the iso/asa as low as possible; set the focus to infinity (or just very very slightly short of infinity); set the aperture very small (f16 to f22); and set the camera to “bulb” on shutter speed. when the shooting starts, hold the trigger so that the shutter remains open for long enough to capture a few bombs. let it go and see what you captured. you kind of get a feel for how many bombs look good versus how many wash the frame out after a while. then enjoy the results.
July 4th PyrotechnicsJuly 4th PyrotechnicsJuly 4th Pyrotechnics

and my favorite from this year:
July 4th Pyrotechnics

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Happy Independence Day

Happy 235th Birthday to the United States of America! As @robbieseay said on twitter this morning, “you don’t look a day over 200.”

Happy Birthday to my dad who doesn’t look a day over 60!


and Happy being born this very morning day to Anabel Creamer whose arrival required the attendance of her new grandparents right in the middle of our joint beach vacation! Congratulations to Katherine and Casey. And congratulations as well to David and Paula on their first grandchild and to Sarah Chris and Emily for their first niece.

What a great day!

bay evening
and just because we are in fact on the beach this week:

rockport 2011

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Governor Perry’s RLC speech

Roger Kimball has an interesting take on the Governor’s speech in New Orleans yesterday. He was struck by the passage where the Governor said that it is time for Republicans to stop trying to curry favor with people who will never agree with them and who will never like them no matter how many concessions they make.

To Roger this passage was “anti-Rousseau” and much needed.

A lot more might be said about the debt, emotional as well as philosophical, modern liberalism owes to Rousseau. But my point here is to highlight to what extent Governor Perry’s advice departs from the Rousseauvian narrative. Stand up. Challenge the “entitlement mindset.” Stop trying to curry favor with those whose view of the role of government is fundamentally different from your own. These are open-air, adult, contra-Rousseauvian prescriptions

Rick Perry is not the only candidate speaking this grown up language. But it is notable how few candidates have discerned the looming fork in the road: one way leads us further into the mirrored hall of Rousseau’s sweaty dreams. The other leads us back out into the open air. It’s easy to be dismayed by how far we’ve travelled down the path of dependence. But we should take heart from the fact that at least some aspiring politicians see that the road does have a fork and are willing to help lead us back on to the road to individual freedom, responsibility, and national greatness.

This take is interesting to me because I just had an extended conversation with my brother two weeks ago. We talked about the foundational differences in point of view between liberals and conservatives coming from John Locke’s perspective verses that of Rousseau.

I believe that the 2012 presidential election has the potential of presenting a choice between these two perspectives more clearly than it has ever been presented in U.S. politics. What do you think?

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by the way

when thinking about the national jobs picture, it is useful to remember that the Texas model of low tax (low government services) low regulation works.

Here is a nice graphic demonstration of the fact that Texas has produced more private sector jobs in the last ten years than all other states COMBINED.

In addition and more particularly, since the end of the recession in 2009, Texas has added 37% of all of the jobs that have been added nationwide.

Using Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, Dallas Fed economists looked at state-by-state employment changes since June 2009, when the recession ended. Texas added 265,300 net jobs, out of the 722,200 nationwide, and by far outpaced every other state. New York was second with 98,200, Pennsylvania added 93,000, and it falls off from there. Nine states created fewer than 10,000 jobs, while Maine, Hawaii, Delaware and Wyoming created fewer than 1,000. Eighteen states have lost jobs since the recovery began.

So whenever you hear the enemies of success fussing about “texas on the brink“, remember that there are always tradeoffs in the world.

Private sector growth raises the boats of everyone. It increases the tax base for government and raises the standard of living for citizens while making sure that as many as want it have the dignity that comes from compensated work. Growth can be squeezed and sacrificed by the determination that Government has the answers for private success. This utopian siren song has real world consequences that can readily be seen in California and New York and Illinois and….

The question is whether or not we squeeze the life out of the golden egg laying goose of freedom and market capitalism or whether we create conditions such that the goose can thrive and thus lay more and bigger eggs.

well which is it? which will this country choose? the boundless optimism of freedom and growth or the negativism and pessimism of the naysayers? reckon we will see next November 6 won’t we?

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the core debate

William F. Gavan gets right down to the heart of the never ending political debate western civilization has experienced for at least the last 300 years. (prototypes of these positions, of course existed long before that.)

Mr. Gavin says the debate should be as follows:

Do you hold, with the founders, that there are truths about the human condition that are self-evident, accessible to reason, definable and defensible? If so, give us your philosophical reasons why this is so. If not, on what basis are your views on human rights formed, and why do you believe that the founders were erroneous in their assertions about self-evident truths?

and here is why he believes this debate is important and foundational:

What we have in the United States today is not an ideological battle, or even a cultural war, but something larger and deeper: a true clash of irreconcilable philosophic views, not just about abortion, but about truth. One of those views encompasses all that is best in the Western tradition from antiquity until now, including the findings of science, and the other holds that everything that is essential to human betterment in the modern world began during the Enlightenment, and everything preceding that was obscurantist, credulous, and bloody. From the mad-dog attacks of the New Atheists to the absurd mental gymnastics of Justice Harry Blackman in Roe v. Wade, from New York Times editorials to movies and TV dramas, the strategy is always the same: create a climate of doubt about the possibility of objective truth, discoverable by reason; corrupt the inherited intuitive wisdom by which the people have always lived; construct and then promulgate through mass-media entertainment a philosophy that puts an end to all philosophy, destroying civility in its broadest and deepest sense. Define, deride, delegitimize, deconstruct, then destroy.

if that isn’t the best description of the current political debate in this country, then I have no idea what it would otherwise be. He just nails it.

for bonus points go read what Mr. Gavin thinks President Obama meant when he called for “civility” in the abortion debate.

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stinging snobbery

Andrew Stuttaford links to a piece by Brendan O’Neill that puts into a pithy phrase the thing that just crawls under my skin and irritates at a low grade burn most of the time, but erupts into a volcanic flame periodically. Its the “stinging snobbery” that is so completely insufferable.

This reveals the stinging snobbery at the heart of the politics of global warming. Because what we have here is an updated version of the elitist idea that the better classes have access to a profound and complicated truth that the rest of us cannot grasp. Where we have merely sensory reactions (experience), they have reason and analysis (knowledge). Our critical reaction to the snow actually revealed our failure to understand The Truth, as unveiled by The Science, rather than revealing their wrongheadedness in predicting an ‘end to snow’. We are ‘simple’, they are ‘reasoned’

Reading O’Neill this morning reminded me of a couple of long pieces that Ace of Spades put up a couple of days ago one of which included a youtube clip from Penn Gilette of Penn and Teller fame. The other one was about marxism and class consciousness in Victorian London.

in both of these posts, Ace is getting to the heart of the reason behind the “stinging snobbery” observed by Brendan O’Neill. There is a very basic need in humans to feel like they are superior to other humans.

Here is how Ace puts it in the longer post of the two:

If people typically heard the beliefs of other inarguable elites, perhaps there wouldn’t be this bias in people’s minds that liberalism represents the beliefs of the smart set. If people heard what engineers had to say, if engineers were on Letterman as much as Brian Friggin’ Williams, perhaps their subconscious notion of the “elite” way of looking at things would change. But they don’t hear from engineers. They just hear from David Letterman, Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw, and other, um, non-elites who just happen to be paid a king’s ransom and be on tv all the frickin’ time because that’s their job, to fill up the space between commercials. Even when other elites are featured on tv — they tend to be ones expressing the same ideas as the media. Al Gore gets on Letterman to talk up global warming, but Freeman Dyson — an actual brilliant scientist — doesn’t get to say that he thinks global warming is overstated, half-baked, most-likely-wrong poppycock. Science popularizer Carl Sagan is on every network to talk about his “Nuclear Winter” theory, but father of the hydrogen bomb Edward Teller doesn’t get to say that’s all a bunch of well-meaning made-up political “science.”

I’m not really an elitist (tell a lie– most people are, in their own way, and so am I) but I understand the need for it. People are people. They are insecure in their position and they want to feel special. Inclusion in some sort of “elite” (even if that elite exists almost entirely in their own minds — KKK guys are pretty arrogant about how brave they are for seeing the truth about race relations, for example) is a little indulgence in self-flattery most people succumb to.

So I understand how many otherwise-sensible people become liberals. They aspire to be something more; they want to feel special; they want to be part of the “better” sort of group of people. That’s elitism, sure, but that’s the sort of elitism that most people harbor, even if secretly.

And 90% of the time when they see members of a professions’ elite, they see liberals, because 90% of their exposure to people outside their actual first-hand acquaintances is from tv and magazines and TMZ. And all those elites spout the same party line, so people can be forgiven for thinking that is, in fact, the “elite” way to view the world.

But it’s not. It’s just the way the elite members of a single profession think. But that’s the one profession they hear from, day in, day out. So when they cast about for their models of behavior and thought, those are the only ones most people even have the option of choosing.

and here is how he puts it in the shorter post:

But maybe there’s a bigger reason Kaus’ book didn’t generate much of a movement, apart from some respectful reveiws: Are liberals really interested in that? I’m not suggesting just that social equality is a lower priority for them than Kaus would urge. I’m suggesting that to many liberals, the whole idea of social equality is a bad thing, something they’re actively against. Because, I submit, it’s particularly critical to many liberals, to their sense of self-valuation, that they are in fact apart from, and above, the Common.

So what do you think? I think I am sick and tired of a bunch of know it all do gooders telling me that I have to eat live and think a certain way or be considered a racist xenophobe outside the boundaries of decent society. I am sick and tired of the “stinging snobbery” heaped on us by our supposed betters. I am sick and tired of the president and his wife along with the democrats in Congress telling us what is good for us and that we are going to get it whether we want it or not.

I think that my frustration with the “stinging snobbery” is shared by a lot of people in the country. I think that frustration benefitted the Republicans in this last election.

But here is the thing. Republicans are susceptible to exactly the same human disease that just hurt the democrats so badly. There is the temptation to begin thinking that you are smarter than other people and that you care about things more than they do, so you should just run the show whether the other people like it or not. There is the tendency to denigrate “the people” as unthinking and out of touch because they don’t truly appreciate your brilliant caring magnificence.

As long as the Federal Government and its agencies have as much power and control as they have, then such questions of human nature regarding the people in charge will continue to matter a very great deal. The only way to limit the damage is to decrease the scope of central governmental power over our lives.

I take it as axiomatic that the closer power is held to the people being governed, the more likely that the people being governed can smell the hubris arising in their leaders and effectively do something about it by dressing them down in person or by replacing them in office.

When a city council person or school district representative, or even a state legislator has to go to a sunday school class, rotary club meeting, or lions club meeting, or boy scout campout or whatever else they are involved in and face up close on a regular basis the people who he represents and for whom he purports to speak at council meetings, school district meetings or in the house of representatives, then two salutary things have the possibility of occurring. Number one, the council member will realize that people are generally pretty able to run their own lives and make their own decisions in their own best interest. And number two the people being governed can closely monitor the representative for any sign of the rise of any “stinging snobbery” and puncture the balloon before it gets overly inflated.

Personally, the gospel is the thing that punctures my incipient pride balloon quite effectively most of the time. Knowing Romans 5:6, 5:8, prevents me from thinking that God was after anything of value in me when he sent Jesus to die for me. Knowing John 6:44 and 6:65 and Ephesians 2:1-10 prevents me from thinking that anything in me deserves credit for seeking him.

Take a look at Ephesians 2:1-10 with me for a minute.

[2:1] And you were dead in the trespasses and sins [2] in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— [3] among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. [4] But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, [5] even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— [6] and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, [7] so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. [8] For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, [9] not a result of works, so that no one may boast. [10] For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:1-10 ESV)

We were dead and without hope, naturally objects of God’s wrath. But God because of his great mercy and love reached down to us in all of our deadness and made us alive to be part of his family. There was no work of ours justifying this action on the part of God.

It just seems to me like a heavy and repeated dose of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the best antidote for the creeping inexorable growth of pride in my heart that could if unchecked lead to the “stinging snobbery” that I so despise.

Again, what do you think?

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fotos on a friday

a few recent shots from being out and about with the Canon Powershot S90. Nice little camera to have with you.

heading over from Austin to College Station to visit Texas A&M you pass the boundary into heaven
Texas A&M visit

I liked the way that this looked like a graphic from Fringe
Texas A&M visit

TV trucks from out at the Exotic Game Ranch on election night
election week

and of course chicken fried bacon from Sodalak’s in Snook. hmmm. yes it was delicious.
chicken fried bacon

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differences in tone here at the end

here at lunch the day before the midterm election, take a moment and watch these two “closing argument” advertisements. notice the differences in tone between them.

just sayin’. one looks and feels like a winner and one looks and feels like a resentment laden loser. you tell me which is which.


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Klavan nails it

Andrew Klavan has done it again. Nails the zeitgeist in a way no one else really gets at, although this from Frank J. Fleming comes close (courtesy of JS on email)

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photeaux on an October phridai

sorry for the gap. been busy spinning my wheels and not accomplishing much. Went out last Sunday afternoon to take wildflower shots, because life is too short to watch the Cowboys’ second half and get mad about it.

love the wide angle for shots like this. just jam the camera in close and still see some sky.
out and about Sunday afternoon

but watch out, “there be thorns out there too.”
out and about Sunday afternoon

a little 105mm action into the sun
out and about on Sunday afternoon

and finally, a look at the little fellows enjoying the flowers in a more practical way.
out and about on Sunday afternoon

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Make Disciples

what does it look like to “make disciples“? can we be commended as preachers with beautiful raggedy worn out feet if we don’t go? wouldn’t going to make disciples mean leaving the comfort of home? why are we afraid to take a chance with God? why do we persist in our lip service of practical atheism? why do we say we love God and trust him, but act practically as if we rely completely on ourselves and our talents and abilities? just asking myself these questions as I process videos like the one below.

This is the video from Sunday with some points to ponder and some great videography.

#35 and #36 of 100 from The Austin Stone on Vimeo.

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Altar call evangelism

It is very much the case that theology drives our methods. I have been convinced for years now that the prevalence of altar call evangelism betrays the prevalence of arminian theology. Some of the most psychologically intense and prolonged altar calls that I have ever experienced were at a Freewill Baptist Church.

Jim Elliff pointed to this article yesterday on twitter and it is the perfect distillation of the problems inherent in the theology that started the altar call phenomenon a hundred and fifty years ago or so.

It is a provocative article beginning with the title “The Corrupt Root and Bitter Fruit of Altar Call Evangelism”. Give it a read and tell me what you think. Here is a tease:

Again, most proponents of the altar call would say that it is not absolutely essential for people to walk forward if they are to be saved. But actions speak much louder than words. In certain well-documented cases, some of the larger crusades have gone so far as to place counselors at various locations in the audience so that when the invitation is given, and when the counselors begin to walk forward from their various positions, others are more inclined to go forward themselves. It is easy to understand the psychological rationale behind this. The reluctant sinner sees the counselors going forward and presumes that they are ordinary people like himself who are availing themselves of the offer of Christ (which, of course, is what he has been intentionally led to believe the counselors are doing). He naturally thinks, “If all ofthem think this is a legitimate offer, and if they have the guts to go forward, I can do it too.” Now let’s be frank. If the gospel is truly thought to be a sufficient means of saving sinners by faith—if going forward like this is not thought to be an essential part of receiving Jesus—why would anyone resort to using such a ruse?

Many who would decry such a blatant use of psychological manipulation nevertheless place a similar emphasis on methodology themselves, at least in principle. The mood of their meetings is carefully orchestrated through the use of video, lighting, music, etc. so those in attendance will be emotionally primed to respond when the invitation is given. Traffic jams of responders in the isles are carefully avoided because statistics show that if people have to wait in line or stand too long while going forward, they are more likely to stay in their seats. And timing issues in the program are seen as critical because studies have also shown that if attendees get bored, or if too much time elapses between the message and the invitation, fewer will respond. None of these concerns result in overtly deceptive strategies. They do not startle the conscience as does the crusade strategy mentioned above. But the importance placed on addressing even these less-obvious methodological concerns proves that it is seen as tremendously important (one could almost say, essential) for people to get up and walk forward if they are to be saved.

He then goes on to talk about the historical root of altar call evangelism and the theology of the method’s founder. Give it all a close read.

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defending life

interesting chart and presentation from the guys at Stand to Reason blog.

and a presentation regarding the chart

ht to vitamin z

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The governor on Federal strings attached

here is the governor talking about Federal programs that come with strings attached and why they should be rejected by Texas.

what do you think?

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no sex in a year

and separate bedrooms. according to Mark Driscoll this is living heresy for a married couple. What do you think?

HT to the Z man.

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multi site churches

Here courtesy of Justin Taylor is a fascinating discussion of the concept of multi-site churches between Mark Dever, Mark Driscoll and James MacDonald.

Multiple Sites: Yea or Nay? Dever, Driscoll, and MacDonald Vote from Ben Peays on Vimeo.

our church began its second campus a few weeks ago and we have been going to that campus where my wife and I are involved in the teaching ministry. So far the new campus has been a great success.

I have been an advocate of multi-site ministry for several years since I first heard that such a thing existed. The potential to have five thousand or more 20 person congregations excites me greatly. Ever since I read Prey, the idea of the church as distributed intelligence has been the uppermost metaphor in my mind.

I see Matthew 13:33 and I think of 5000 or more 20 person congregations gathered around living rooms being the church in the world leavening the whole lump instead of concentrating in one ginormous air pocket and ruining the bread. the goal of church never has been, is not and should never be to see how many people we can cram into one room for an hour or two on one day of the week.

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phridai is for photos

Sorry I missed last Friday. you know you are too busy when you miss Friday fotos.

anyway, here is a spider that I caught on velvia film with the morning sunrise pink glow behind her.
spider in the a.m.

here is a portrait of my lovely wife that I took at a wedding we went to last Saturday.
Kim and Greg's wedding

here is a paparazzi shot of the bride and groom making their entrance to the reception:
Kim and Greg got married

and here is a picture of the super duper harvest moon that I took yesterday evening and serendipitously caught a bat in flight in front of the moon.
harvest moon--bat


here is a sunset this week after a rain shower

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John Piper has a new book out called Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God.

Vitamin Z has an excerpt today that makes me want to read the book. check this out:

Now, the key question is: What does faith receive in order to be justifying faith? The answer, of course, is that faith receives Jesus. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). “To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Faith saves because it receives Jesus.

But we must make clear what this actually means, because there are so many people who say they have received Christ and believed on Christ but give little or no evidence that they are spiritually alive. They are unresponsive to the spiritual beauty of Jesus. They are unmoved by the glories of Christ. They don’t have the spirit of the apostle Paul when he said, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8). This is not their spirit, yet they say they have received Christ. It looks as though it is possible to “receive Christ” and not have him for what he is.

One way to describe this problem is to say that when these people “receive Christ,” they do not receive him as supremely valuable. They receive him simply as sin-forgiver (because they love being guilt-free), and as rescuer-from-hell (because they love being pain-free), and as healer (because they love being disease-free), and as protector (because they love being safe), and as prosperity-giver (because they love being wealthy), and as creator (because they want a personal universe), and as Lord of history (because they want order and purpose). But they don’t receive him as supremely and person- ally valuable for who he is. They don’t receive him the way Paul did when he spoke of “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” They don’t receive him as he really is—more glorious, more beautiful, more wonderful, more satisfying, than everything else in the universe. They don’t prize him or treasure him or cherish him or delight in him.

Such a “receiving” of Christ is the kind of receiving an unregenerate, “natural” person can do. This is a “receiving” of Christ that requires no change in human nature. You don’t have to be born again to love being guilt-free and pain-free and disease-free and safe and wealthy. All natural men without any spiritual life love these things. But to embrace Jesus as your supreme treasure requires a new nature. No one does this naturally. You must be born again (John 3:3). You must be a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15). You must be made spiritually alive (Eph. 2:1–4). “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ [and mean it!] except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3).

Therefore, saving faith is a receiving of Christ for who he really is and what he really is, namely, more glorious, more wonderful, more satisfying, and, therefore, more valuable than anything thing in the universe. Saving faith says, “I receive you as my Savior, my Lord, my supreme Treasure; and I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (see Phil. 3:8).

This is why Jesus said, “Therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). And again, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37). And, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matt. 13:44).

The infinite glory of Jesus makes him infinitely valuable and infinitely satisfying. Saving faith receives this Christ. Not that we experience the fullness of joy now or the climax of satisfaction in this life, but we taste it (Ps. 34:8) and we know where it is found (John 6:35) and we “press on to make it [our] own, because Christ Jesus has made [us] his own” (Phil. 3:12).

– John Piper, Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God, p. 67-69

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pornified culture results

Tim Challies has an interesting post regarding the fact that our sexualized pornified culture is having the unexpected result of hurting the porn industry’s bottom line.

And yet it’s not all good. What struck me as I read this article is this: I’m glad that the porn industry is struggling. I’m glad that they are going through particularly difficult times and I’m glad that people are beginning to forecast the end of the status quo. And yet I see as well that it is all happening for the wrong reasons. Pornography is suffering because of reasons related to morality, and yet it is a lower rather than a higher morality that is making the difference. It’s not that as a culture we are objecting to pornography on the grounds that it objectifies women or hardens the hearts of men. Rather, the culture has decided that it won’t pay for what it consumes and that it will take whatever it desires. And even worse, the culture has become so hardened to what used to be shocking, that no allure remains. “Sexual content has gone from scandalous to stale. It’s become the background noise of the culture.” Against the backdrop of all the smut around us, the mainstreaming of what used to be shocking, few consumers can muster outrage at much of anything.

In other words, pornography has succeeded so well that it has forced itself into decline. It has made sex so pervasive that it has become boring, so omnipresent that it no longer entices. It has no one but itself to blame.

So what do you think?

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Killing the youth group

what do you think?

We Killed The Youth Group from Levi Lusko on Vimeo.

HT to Vitamin Z who adds that he sees it becoming more mainstream in the future.

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Vitamin Z has an interesting quote from John Piper about Christianity being compatible with thinking.  Here it is, what do you think?

Paul commands us to think about what he says. Use your mind. Engage your reasoning powers when you hear the Word of God. In another place, Jesus warned what happens if we don’t and what blessing may come if we do. He told a parable about four soils (Matt. 13:3–9). When the seed of the Word is sown on the first three, it bears no fruit. Only the fourth soil bears fruit. What’s the difference?

We get a glimpse of the problem when we compare the first and fourth soils. Jesus said concerning the seed sown on the first soil, the path: “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart.” Jesus focuses on the failure to understand. Not understanding the Word results in the Word being snatched away. Therefore, understanding with the mind is not optional. It’s crucial to conversion and fruit-bearing. Our lives hang on it. Then concern- ing the seed sown on the fourth soil, the good soil, he says, “This is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty” (Matt. 13:23). The difference between the soil that is lifeless and the soil that bears fruit is understanding.

It is true, as Paul says in Romans 10:17, that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” So hearing is important. But Jesus says that hearing without understanding produces nothing. When we hear the Word of God, Paul says, we must “think over” what we hear. Otherwise, we will fall under the indictment of Jesus: “Hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand” (Matt. 13:13).

So, even though our natural minds are depraved and darkened and foolish, the New Testament demands that we use them in coming to faith and leading people to faith and in the process of Christian growth and obedience. There is no way to awaken faith or strengthen faith that evades thinking.

– John Piper, Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God, p. 61, 62

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interesting new movie

Twice yesterday evening I randomly ran across reviews of the new movie, Get Low. I had not even heard about the existence of this movie until reading these reviews.

Here is Dr. Russell Moore’s brief review. Three paragraphs to tease you over there:

Get Low is not a “Christian movie.” The point of view is decidedly non-Christian, as is most of the mode of discourse. And that’s just the point. The film portrays something the Christian Scriptures insist to be true. Guilt isn’t something society foists upon us. There’s something primal, something real, in the guilty conscience.

The apostolic preaching confirms what human experience already affirms, a moral law is embedded in the human conscience. The conscience is not simply a kind of internal prompt for good behavior. It is instead a foretaste of judgment, of the Day when every secret is unearthed.
Get Low isn’t Christian, but it’s Christ-haunted. In an often animalistic culture, it reminds us that even the Gentiles know that guilt is real, and that it burns. It also reminds us that, no matter how deep the exile, where there is still a conscience there is still the God who put it there.

and here is Kathryn Jean Lopez’ review. and a preview here as well:

The only mystery to me about Get Low is why friends aren’t urging – even begging – one another to see it. At another point in the movie, Duvall’s character heartbreakingly admits: “I was always restless. I didn’t go nowhere on purpose because I did something I was ashamed of. Something I could never fix.”

If he only knew he didn’t have to fix it himself! That he isn’t alone. Do we know this, ourselves? We forget, don’t we?

Likewise, during a dramatic graveyard scene that begins to reveal the depth of the prison Felix has let sin keep him in, he recalls the advice he’s frequently given: “They keep talking about forgiveness. ‘Ask Jesus for forgiveness.’”

He shakes his head in indignation masking a dangerous and deep flirtation with despair. “I never did nothing for him,” Felix protests in the voice of one desperately in need of God’s mercy.

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fotos on friday

we went up to a place on the Brazos River close to China Spring for Labor Day Weekend with a side trip to Hillsboro and Lake Whitney. Fun way to end the summer.

Here is a boat on the lake.
Lake Whitney

Here is the Hill County courthouse with a wide angle lens to bend the lines.
Hill County Courthouse

and here is another building that I took because I liked the contrast with the red and the blue sky
more Hillsboro

finally, out in the country it is dark enough that you can take six minute exposures of star trails.
starry night

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fart in a thunderstorm

and here is the opposite of the result described in my last two posts. here is the result when the central planners, our betters, those who are smarter than us and care more than we do act in our interest on our behalf. Please read the whole thing.

So, for the sake of a fart in a thunderstorm, the bulb-makers of Winchester, Virginia are this month joining the other Americans who have lost their bulb-making jobs. The free market never produces this kind of result. It takes politics to do this to people. The lesson in politics is beautifully simple: take a questionable premise; steep it in demagoguery and make unthinking adherence to it a litmus test; assert it repeatedly – preferably using impressive but unparsable adjectives – as established fact; and then, when you’ve killed people’s jobs by acting urgently on your unexamined premise, send Washington Post reporters to write a solicitous puff piece on how sad and ironic it is for them.

This light bulb thing has been making me angry for years now. As a photographer, I absolutely despise the green light thrown off by tungsten fluorescents. There is no way to make people’s skin tone or normal look ok in that light. The blue light from long fluorescents isn’t much better. Nice yellow light from incandescent bulbs is the best for nice warm skin tones.

for example here is Katherine under those ghastly green lights:

and here is what she should look like:
memorial day

I have been grabbing boxes of bulbs every time I go to the store. Running out of room to keep them, but I know the end is nigh because Democrats in Congress in 2007 thought they were saving the world. Maddening.

Don’t even get me started on low flow toilets or shower heads.

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