Dynamic IP Addresses; Welcome to a New Author

Until now, I’ve enjoyed having a static IP address, which was necessary for my wife’s work. That’s been convenient for hosting this domain at home. Now, however, we’re going to be cutting costs with a VoIP telephone service, and losing the no-longer-necessary static IP address. The availability of our home-hosted web sites will fluctuate as we transition to a dynamic DNS system, but I expect that things should settle down again by Lent.

My friend, pastor Aaron Hamilton, has posted an article from his church newsletter on The Plucked Chicken. I welcome him to the “staff,” and look forward to future postings. This is a good time to note that this blog is not really a “church blog.” I have another place for that on our parish web site. Instead, this is a place where we apply our faith and doctrine to all manner of things that crop up in life. So there are matters of Bible interpretation, doctrinal formulation, liturgics, and the like. There are also things that verge on the political, though I avoid official endorsements or exdorsements of candidates. Many matters are vocational in nature, whether domestic or otherwise. So I appreciate Aaron’s contribution, as it fits pretty well with our self-chosen mission here.

“Let’s Not Mince Words… I Like to Eat.”

From the Messenger of Hope, Newsletter of Hope Lutheran Church in West Jordan, Utah:

“Let’s not mince words. I like to eat. I like it a lot. And, I’m used to it: eating what I want, when I want, and however much I want. And if I should ever regret it, it’s usually a passing wish that I looked better or had more energy. Or that I hadn’t gorged myself on some particular binge. Most of the time, I just enjoy it.” 

There comes a time when a person realizes they need to change their ways if they’re going to live well. So sometimes folks—even like the guy quoted above—go on a regimen of diet and exercise. Then what everyone else is enjoying—you can’t.

You can’t eat whatever you want, whenever you want, and however much. You throw away the junk food. You quit colas. You give up the midnight snacks and sweets and breads. Even the Reese’s. You skip the drivethru. Steak and Potatoes give way to turkey and steamed vegetables. You still have all your cravings… you just don’t want to work against yourself.  You get a taste of self-denial.

Of course, even this isn’t pure. We do it for our selves: to look better, or feel better, or get noticed, or to make a love interest who kicked us to the curb regret it.

But St. Paul talks about a spiritual self-denial, which grows out of faith. For God knows better than we do what’s good for us; and our sinful desires (running contrary to His word and will) are not good for us.

St. Paul writes, 1 Cor. 9:24-25: Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

For a braided crown of fading glory, people train hard, and consider carefully what they’ll eat, how much of it, and when… and they train, and train hard… all with a view toward the race, and all with a view toward the prize.

I must confess, I don’t often think of my faith in those terms. I don’t think of my sins in those terms. But let’s not mince words. According to sin at work in me, I like to gossip. I like to horde. I like filthy talk and lust. I’m like a morbidly obese man with a greasy drumstick just handed a number to pin to my shirt.

But even then, this race is not uncertain. The race is already won. For our sinless Lord Christ has run the straight race, the way of the cross, to the finish. He purchased us by His blood and won us by His death. His grace forgives every sin. We believe. And when we believe, sin doesn’t look so good anymore. What holds our hearts is the promise of that crown of life.

Christ grants it to all those who believe and remain in Him by faith. That crown is theirs to keep. 


A Postmodern Approach to the Constitution

Apparently, it means whatever a person may say it means. This, at the Washington Times, as linked from Drudge, says

The President has also concluded that Section 3 of DOMA, as applied to legally married same-sex couples, fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional.

So the President has ruled that an act of Congress is unconstitutional. Does that sound a little strange to anyone? Anyone?

I don’t know about the President’s experience, but when I was in grade school, my teachers taught me that it’s the Court’s job to decide whether an act of Congress is constitutional. If the Executive Branch thinks something is unconstitutional, shouldn’t it follow the same procedure as anyone else? What if I decide that it’s unconstitutional for me to pay the federal income tax? I’m pretty sure that the IRS would come down on me sooner or later regardless of my opinion. But if the Supreme Court decided the same thing, there would be dancing in the streets for days. Literally. In the streets. (Of course, then we’d have to get busy and reconstruct our economy, since the federal government would have to default on its unconscionably, ridiculously, and irresponsibly enormous debt, and all international trade with the US would cease.)

This is just another volley in the corruption-of-our-culture war, but I find it especially disturbing, because of the apparently callous disregard of the Constitution. Hey, here’s an idea. Maybe we should all read it, especially those in elected office. I dare you.

Apples and Orchards

My congressman reports today:

Speaking of items on to-do lists, first and foremost in the nation’s capital is making the difficult decisions to get the runaway spending under control. The most recent estimate now puts this year’s deficit at $1.6 trillion.

How much is 1.6 trillion? A lot more than 1.6. Here’s the number written out: 1,600,000,000,000. A millimeter is really small, right? One point six trillion of them is still one point six million kilometers.

But then, a kilometer is shorter than a mile, so maybe it one point six million kilometers isn’t really all that far. Go to Google and type “1.6 million kilometers in miles”. It seems a BMW car racked up that much mileage on a treadmill, but don’t try it at home. It’s almost a million miles, 1.6 trillion millimeters. You could drive around the earth at the equator about 40 times: 1.6 trillion millimeters.

So the currently-projected federal deficit for 2011 is 1.6 trillion dollars.

My congressman also gave this example:

Here’s an example of how far things have gotten away from us. In 2007, the deficit was $160.7 billion, or 1.2 percent of GDP, and had decreased every year since 2004.

In 2006, the year before Nancy Pelosi took control of the Speaker’s gavel, CBO projected that the deficit in 2011 would be $117 billion. Because of the runaway spending since then, the 2011 deficit will be an astonishing 1,367% higher than what CBO predicted just five years ago.

OK, so how many times could you travel around the world at the equator before you’ve gone 160.7 billion millimeters (the 2007 actual federal deficit)? The first number (the 2007 federal deficit) in millimeters is 99,854 miles, or about four times around the earth.

For 117 billion (the 2006 projection of the 2011 federal deficit) in millimeters, it’s 72,700 miles, or about three times around the earth.

Only four years ago, the congressional budget office predicted a federal deficit for this year comparable to three laps around the earth, when converted to millimeters. Since a deficit means that the federal government is spending money it doesn’t have, I think that’s a bad thing. I believe that government, like people, should live within its means. That is, it should seek to spend no more than it receives, but if that happens anyway, the resulting imbalance should be corrected as soon as possible. That’s just the principle of the matter. But when I realize that the government’s debt is really on my shoulders as a taxpayer, and on the shoulders of my children, those three laps around the earth seem almost criminally irresponsible.

So has the hope and change introduced in 2006 resulted in an improvement? Well, if our goal is to consign all of our descendants to slavery, then yes, we’ve seen a great advancement toward our goal! Instead of the horrible three laps around the globe, we’re expecting to rack up in one year alone, the equivalent of 40 laps around the globe.

Either somebody is incompetent beyond belief, or somebody is actually trying to bring the United States to its knees. Which is more charitable? I’m not sure.

So I’m glad we’ve got people like my congressman in Washington, people who understand that the future of our country, and the future well-being of American children depends, at least partly, upon how responsibly we conduct ourselves in the present.

As Christian citizens, we have a responsibility to “render unto Caesar” with the wisdom we have received from God’s Word. Please try to understand these mind-boggling numbers that float across the news, and their connection to the future of our civilization. Certainly, God is in control, but He has also given Christian invididuals a responsibility to exercise good judgment and act accordingly. We have the privilege of voting in the United States, but also the constitutional right of free speech. Speech can be a powerful tool for good or ill. I know, because it’s most of what I do.

Illustration of the Powers of Ten, and also Two Arguments for Design

The Astronomy picture of the day yesterday was a YouTube video illustrating the powers of ten. It dates from the 1960s, but is still a dramatic and relevant illustration. It also has application to understanding what trillion-dollar national debt means. (A trillion has 12 zeros. Now watch the video.)

As we Lutherans like to ask, “What does this mean?”

There are astronomy videos similar to this on YouTube with belligerent arguments between Christians and atheists, though the only comments I’ve actually seen are the atheists’. The videos have an effect similar to this one, only present-day images from orbital telescopes are stunning. But inevitably, it seems that the conversation about these things tends toward the origin of these unimaginably large, distant, and beautiful things, and then also the origin of our own planet and ourselves.

Naturally, atheists have a bone to pick with Christians. Though many of them rail against “religion,” their chief target is Christianity. The generic vocabulary allows them not only to treat Christianity as though every self-identified Christian represents the faith accurately (a ridiculous proposition), but even that every self-identified proponent of other religions represents all religion (possibly the most unscientific proposition ever imagined). I don’t begrudge atheists the right to open their mouths and make fools of themselves, and neither should they deny the same right to me.

When it comes to the cosmic perspective illustrated in a video like this, there are at least two important observations to make, each of which is an independent argument in favor of Intelligent Design as a principle for identifying the origin of all things.

  1. There is a complex ordering evident in the whole universe, across the entire scale that we can perceive, and even beyond that scale to degrees that we don’t understand. The ordering of complexity is information, and that does not occur without intelligence. Hence, it is evidence for design.

  2. The Earth environment in which we live appears (so far) to be staggeringly exceptional in the incomprehesible (though perhaps not unquantifiable) vastness of space. Even if we assumed for the sake of argument that macro-evolution took place here (an unfounded assumption), the environment would have had to be perfect for it, and continued to be perfect for an unimaginably long time. That includes variables like gravity, solar radiation, chemical composition, atmospheric composition, the magnetic core and ionosphere, radioactive decay, the frequency and type of meteors, and probably hundreds more that I don’t know about. These variables are all in the “perfect” range for us to live, but this environment is infinitesimally rare. What are the chances? Some atheists like to say that the scale of the universe makes the Earth insignificant. To the contrary, the extreme rarity of the Earth makes it special, to the point of being evidence in favor of Design rather than Happenstance.

Atheists like to criticize the Bible for saying things they don’t understand. Maybe if they took the time to understand its chief points, they’d begin to see how the rest of it fits together. Then, maybe they could appreciate their own existence for the miracle that it is.

Since there are so many wacky ideas about the Bible, and since it’s a rather large work from multiple cultures and times, it’s not easy to pick a way to approach it. For what it’s worth, I recommend starting with an introductory course at a confessional Lutheran church, because one of the guiding principles of confessional Lutheranism is that the Bible interprets itself, and confessional Lutherans actually follow that principle. It will require a long reservation of judgment, but after studying the Bible, it will make a lot more sense.