Friday, December 30, 2011

Looking Ahead

Two thousand and eleven is almost behind us and a new year is about to begin. Normally one year turns into the next and if it weren't for calendars and the lengthening days we'd be none the wiser. Next year, however, promises to be a truly new year. The church that I am a member of is merging with another church. There are some organizational differences, nothing major, but we share the same beliefs and many of us know members of the other congregation personally. The move has almost universal support, and no one opposing it.

It will be two small churches joining together to form... Well, it'll be two very small churches joining together to form a small church, but one big enough to get some traction under it. For the last few years it has felt like we were treading water. We often got people commenting on how surprised they were that such a small church could do so much, but 'so much' took a lot out of people. Beginning with a change in ministers in the summer, we have been working to change ourselves. To ready ourselves to be the church we believe we should be. After we voted for the merger, I remembered a prayer my wife and I had joined in making last January. As the usher, I keep attendance. We prayed that our average attendance would grow by ten people in the next year. Not that ten more would be saved, would be baptized, or even become contributors in the work of the Lord here. Just that the attendance would increase by ten. When your average is less than twenty, ten is a lot. I never imagined it would happen this way, but our attendance will certainly increase by more than ten. By more than ten mature Christians, anxious to make a difference in their community.

Our first service together is this Sunday, January 1st.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fruit Of The Grape


When you do communion, do you use wine or grape juice? A lot of churches use the latter, even though there is no scripture for it at all. These include all the churches I’ve attended since I became a Pentecostal. Why? It’s an interesting question, and the answer can be found in this article here.
It traces the practice to the 19th century temperance movement and the pioneering work of Thomas B. Welch, founder of Welch’s Grape Juice. It also includes a link to someone arguing that the practice of unfermented juice goes back to the ancients. To do this it presents us with the many means available for the preservation of grapes, without turning them to wine. Or so it claims. If you take the time to go through it, you quickly realize that many of the methods used would produce a preserve—meaning a jelly—or even raisins, not grape juice. The author notes that fresh grape juice was called vino and then goes on to use the terms interchangeably, as though every reference to wine could mean juice. But if you take the time to search out the terms used, you’ll discover that we are still dealing with wine, not grape juice.
The sources of this confusion are two-fold. One is the insistence by many churches that their practices be founded in Scripture. A worthy goal, but one that becomes a problem when there is no clear link—or no link whatsoever—between their practices and the Scriptures. Then you have to make one, no matter how tenuous. The other is the contempt with which many early Reformers held the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist (mass or communion), Confession, Unction, Holy Orders, and Marriage. All but two were declared unscriptural, and those two, baptism and communion, were subjected to a great deal of debate and re-interpretation. There was no consensus on these matters, though the fact that some of these were no longer seen as a sacrament did not mean they were thought unimportant, or outside God’s will, but the gates were opened to questions of where or whether these things fit into God’s plans for His people. The Thomas B. Welches of the world had no trouble redefining centuries of practice according to their own values. In his case, if a little abstinence was good, a whole lot of abstinence was better. Why forbid alcohol everywhere, but the Church?
Where do I come down on this? As the child of an alcoholic, I don’t drink and don’t encourage it, but I also recognize that mine is not a scripturally derived value. The Bible condemns drunkenness, not alcohol. The Churches I have attended do use grape juice. Communion has never been a big deal for Pentecostals. A part from Easter and special New Year’s services, we don’t usually celebrate it at all. And this is probably wrong of us. Every historical record I’ve seen indicates it was a big part of the early Church’s worship. A few years ago the (then) minister of our church decided to forgo communion on Easter itself. I wasn’t happy about that and decided to include it in our family altar that week. The same thing happened that next year. After that I decided to make it a part of our family devotions. We don’t do it once a week, as some churches do, but we are doing it on a roughly quarterly basis. At least four times a year, in addition to whatever is done at church. And, yes, I do use actual red wine at home. Why? Because that’s what the early church did.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Fear Not

I once heard that the words “fear not” occur 365 times in the Bible, once for every day of the year. I don’t know if that’s true, but it wouldn’t hurt. I like to think of myself as someone who considers every contingency, but sometimes I need to be honest enough with myself to admit I worry a lot.

Just this past week I had a major decision to make, but I needed the support of a few others to make it happen. I knew I had the support, that they would ultimately agree with me, but I didn’t know when they’d be willing to move ahead on the matter. Would it happen this month or next? Next month would be a nuisance, but the end result would be exactly the same. Instead of being assured the right thing would happen, I began to worry about the details and let that worry become my focus. When we sat down to make our decision, however, even though there were differences of opinion, everyone agree to settle the matter sooner, rather than later, and all that time I spent ‘considering contingencies’ was just time I robbed myself of for no reason at all.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Understanding Scripture

This last month I’ve been trying to make at least one blog post a week and last week’s was certainly a success, prompting an ongoing discussion with someone calling himself SLP2. For this week’s post I want to pick up on an element of that discussion, the Bible in translation. How far can a person’s understanding of scripture go if you don’t know the original languages?

This question arose because of a complaint I made regarding something I admit I am having less and less patience with: attempts to explain away troublesome verses--scriptures that don’t gel with a doctrinal point--by appealing to the original Greek. The implication being, if only you knew the original text like I do, you’d have to agree. It’s all perfectly clear there. (And please note: none of this is meant as a swipe at SLP2. I am addressing an attitude and approach I’ve seen many times and I encourage you to read his posts.) Now, I don’t speak Greek, but I’ve taken a couple of courses over the years and my Greek (or, rather, my complete lack of Greek) puts me on par with most of the people I hear this from. They’ve taken some Greek in school, they own a lexicon, and they’ve learned to parrot arguments they have heard from others.
An example. On the day of Pentecost, following the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit was poured out and the Church born. The sound of the disciples worshipping in tongues drew the attention of a large crowd and Peter stood up and preached to them that Jesus was the Christ. The crowd responded by asking what they should do.

And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself."
Acts 2:38-39
Now I’ve blogged on baptism before and, while most churches have in some way integrated into their understanding of God’s salvation plan, there are many in the Evangelical community who steadfastly refuse to. They try to explain away this clear instruction in these verses by arguing that, in the Greek the word ‘repent’ and the word ‘your’ in ‘your sins’ are both plural and therefor the forgiveness must only relate to repentance. The fact that he said ‘repent and be baptized every one of you’ is completely glossed over.

But the issue goes beyond trying to win an argument through pedantry. First, it is promoting a poor understanding of translation. Word for word translation between languages, even closely related ones, is often all but impossible, but that does not mean that faithful and accurate translations are impossible. On the contrary, if you have a skilled translator, someone with knowledge of the culture and language, there is no reason to believe that a trustworthy translation is beyond reach.
A second, and a more serious problem, involves a foundational principle of the Reformation: Sola Scriptura, ‘by scripture alone.’ This is the understanding that the Bible contains within it all we need to know God and to become saved, that every article of our faith should have a foundation in scripture, and that the truth revealed in scripture is available for everyone honestly seeking God. This is why Protestants promote Bible reading, have translated the Bible into so many languages, and have worked to make the Bible the most widely disseminated book in human history. This doesn’t mean understanding is always going to come easily or effortlessly. Peter warned us of the dangers of wresting the scripture to our own destruction (2 Peter 3:16), but we also have the example of the church in Berea, who searched the scriptures daily to confirm the teachings of Paul (Acts 17:11). The idea that the truth is truly available only to those who can read the Bible in its original languages makes a mockery of this principle. One of the inspirations for sola scriptura in the first place was to take the Bible out of the hands of the clergy and give it to all. Going back and looking at the original languages and cultures of the Bible can provide us was important insights, but if the only way you can defend a teaching is by hauling out your lexicon perhaps the teaching needs to be reconsidered.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Going To Hell?

As the Evangelical churches continue to follow in the path of their Mainstream brethren, they are starting to question the existence of Hell. Is it real? Does the Bible really teach that? Can I and my loved ones be saved when our lives are indistinguishable from those around us?
Okay, I threw that last one in there, but it’s important. What happens when a church, which has traditionally seen itself as a moral leader—the moral leader—starts taking its cues from the world around it? Doctrines of election and Hell start to become a problem. Who is saved and what happens to those who aren’t?

The traditional Reform answer follows a determinist understanding of God and the universe. Even before creation, God determined who would be saved and they cannot be unsaved. By implication the rest are unsaved, were always unsaved and cannot be saved. These days Protestants don’t make too much of this. It’s not a popular idea. It’s been said that most Protestant clergy are determinists and most Protestant laity are Arminians; that is, they believe in free will. (In Pentecostalism both our clergy and laity are Arminians.) Imagine a Venn diagram. There is one big circle and one much smaller circle. The smaller one is almost eclipsed by the larger one, but a little of it sticks out. Mark the big one U, the area of the small one within the big one H, and the part of the small one that sticks out S. The U represents the unsaved, the S saved, and the H those who think they’re saved, but aren’t. The H stands for hypocrite—though to be fair many of these are just ignorant. They earnestly believe they are doing the Lord’s work, walking the walk, but they aren’t (Matthew 7:23).

Now some may object to this characterization and I would reply that, first off, for a summation of less than 200 words, it’s not bad, even if it misses some subtleties. More importantly, it is not misleading. Arminianism sprang from the realization that the Reform view of election produced a God at great odds with the one of the New Testament. A God that condemns people to Hell for sins they had no choice but to commit. Arminianism teaches free will, not to praise human agency, but restore to us an understanding of God that loves, and died for, everyone.

If Reform Christians are uncomfortable with their determinist heritage, adopting an Arminian perspective would seem an obvious alternative. Instead, two other ideas have been popularized. One is called Eternal Security. The Classic Reform view recognized that not everyone who said they were Christian truly was, and that the truth would show itself in their lives. Sociologist Max Weber argued that the psychological unrest caused by this teaching gave rise to the Protestant work ethic. Referring you back to the mental Venn diagram you’ve drawn in you head, advocates of Eternal Security want to erase the line between the Saved and the Hypocrite. All you have to do is accept Jesus as your saviour and you’re saved. Nothing else matters. The other idea is called Universalism. Now if Reform theology teaches that if it’s not God will that any perish (2 Peter 3:9), yet people do, then God’s actual will must be that none of His elect perish and cannot but be saved. Universalism takes this idea a step further. If it’s not God’s will that any perish, then no one perishes. Human agency and the life you lead are irrelevant. There is just one big circle marked S.

The important thing here isn’t to save Hell. It is to save the scripturally based teaching that the life you lead matters. Just as Jacob Arminius realized that the Reform view of election produced a morally stained conception of God, we have to realize that in a world without consequences most people will never do more than they feel they have to. No more than what everyone else is doing. Ironically, while these teachings proclaim God’s grace, they deny its ability to transform the lives of believers. The Church is meant to be a city built on a hill, a light unto the whole world, and holiness is not meant to be something for the special few.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Gluttony


If there’s one sin you never hear preached against, its gluttony. Gluttony is a lack of self-control when it comes to appetite; particularly, when it comes to food. We’re fine when it comes to attacking the works of the flesh, condemning sexual immorality, we refrain from smoking and drinking. Our body is a temple. But turn down that second helping? Forget about it.

Now I am a skinny guy myself, though I am not as thin as I was before I remarried, but if I told you the Bible condemned drunkenness, you wouldn’t be offended. If I preached self-control, you’d acknowledge the Bible has a lot to say on that. But what if I told you the Bible says “to put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite” (Proverbs 23:2)?  Or that the gluttonous will come to poverty (Proverbs 23:21)? Paul wrote that we are the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16) and that, whatever we ate or drink, it should be to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31), but for some reason we just won’t connect that to food.

And we really should. God’s people are a fat people, and I don’t mean that metaphorically. For most of us fellowship means eating together. Even when we’re engaged in another activity, there’s food on the table. I am not the only one to notice this. Recently the New York Times profiled a program initiated by Rick Warren. Called The Daniel Plan, it focuses on healthy eating and weight loss. It’s not easy to lose weight, but if God wants us to do something, he will give us the power to accomplish it:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

God loves you and wants you to live a long, healthy life. That’s not going to happen if you’re at risk of heart attack, or diabetes, or any of the many problems caused or exacerbated by excessive weight. But it doesn’t have to happen. Bring God into the picture.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Meekness

I don’t know how your summer’s been, but things have been very busy at this end. My church has been going through a lot of transitions, including a new pastor, and I’ll tell you that story once the dust finally settles.In the mean time I’ve been doing some word studies and thought I’d share one with you.

Meekness. We’ve all heard of it. The meek will inherit the earth. Jesus said it Himself. In looking into the subject, I noticed something unique about this virtue: it the only one that makes writers feel apologetic. Don’t worry, they all say, being meek doesn’t mean being weak.

No one ever says humility isn’t weakness, or patience isn’t weakness. And let’s face it, when you are being meek (which means gentle, humble, lowly) people will interpret it as weakness. I can personally think of many times when people have not given me the respect they do others simply because they know I will not bite their head off. So, what’s so important about meekness? Why did Jesus say, “Blessed are they meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5)?

He was quoting from Psalm 37, verse 11. It’s long, for a psalm, so I’ll only quote the first eleven verses:
Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.
Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.
In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.
That’s the English Standard Version. In the King James the last verse reads:
But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.
It goes on for forty verses, but the point is made: trust God, do right, He will take care of the wicked. And that’s what a meek man does, he trusts the process: God said it, I believe it. It’s not always easy. Circumstances and people, outside the Church and inside the Church, will goad you. It can take a lot out of you, being meek, but there are rewards beyond a promised inheritance. The meek are promised salvation (Psalm 76:9, 149:4), renewal (Isaiah 29:19), and protection from the wrath of God (Zephaniah 2:3).

Meekness is listed as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:23. The fruit are Christ-like, God-like, attributes that are to grow in our lives. How is God meek? In every exercise of His mercy towards us. Of His patience. He believes in the process, that the victory of Calvary is sufficient for us, and that we will avail ourselves of it if He only gives us the chance (2 Peter 3:9). He knows there is evil all around us, and that even those who serve Him and profess Him sin, but He doesn’t let that define the situation. His meekness is seen when He believes in us, and ours is seen when we believe in Him.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Rapture Ready

Its been far too long since I've last posted here and today's post is, I admit, something of a cheat. It was actually written for my other blog. Truth is, I am not blogging very much at all anymore, so when I had a post I thought relevant to both blogs, I decided to share it on both. I hope you enjoy.


Still here? Me too. As everyone knows, the end of the world came and went on the 21st of May. Harold Camping, a television minister who preaches a numerological based form of end time prophesy, had predicted that at 6 p.m., in each consecutive time zone, God’s judgment would begin with earthquakes and the righteous being “raptured” to meet the Lord. In the thirty years since I’ve become a Christian I’ve run into these ideas before, though never one that generated as much media interest, and never one that has generated as much contempt—not just within the groups that you’d expect, but within the Christian community as well.

But for all the attention Camping drew to the idea the God was going to ‘rapture’ His people away, there was little discussion of what exactly is meant by the concept. There was even less discussion of how it is actually a new teaching—one unheard of before the mid-nineteenth century, when it was promoted by an Irish clergyman named John Nelson Darby. Darby’s teaching, collectively called Dispensationalism, would later form the basis of the Schofield Study Bible (1909), which would promote it throughout the US and UK. A distinctive feature of Dispensationalist eschatology, the study of the end times, is the idea that the Church will ascend to meet Jesus in the air before His actual return to set up an earthly kingdom. A lot of terrible things will precede Christ’s return, but Darby taught that the Church would not have to suffer through them. Christ would take His people safely out first. In spite of efforts by its advocates to prove otherwise, no one taught this doctrine before the rise of Dispensationalism.

Eschatology has always been an important part of Christianity. Arguably Christianity itself grew out of Jewish eschatology and the expectation that the Messiah was coming and that he would bring justice for his people and peace on earth. When the Messiah did come (hey, I am a Christian after all), things didn’t quite meet their expectations. He came, sure, but instead of setting up an earthly kingdom He set up a spiritual one. He was crucified, buried, resurrected, and ascended into Heaven, promising to come again and bring about the sort of triumphant new world the Jews had been expecting in the first place. The first generation of Christians fully expected to see this happen in their lifetime. When some of them died without seeing it, others began to worry. Paul wrote to believers in Thessalonica:
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-17
And in the next chapter he wrote:
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
While they often cite of verses as well, these two passages are the hooks on which the Dispensational idea of a separate “rapture” of the Church hang. Verse seventeen of chapter four, highlighted in the first quote, describes the Church rising to meet Jesus on His return. But what Paul is writing about is not the escape of the Church. He is addressing a concern that members of the Thessalonian church had regarding those who had died waiting for the Second Coming. Paul assures them that all of Jesus’ followers will rise to meet Him, not just those still living when it happens, and that’s how it was understood for almost the entirety of Christian history.

Verse nine of chapter five, highlighted in the second quote, is quoted to prove that the Church will not have to suffer the wrath God will pour out on the Earth before He returns, but the point Paul is making here is that the Church is meant to walk uprightly and that we should do exactly that. We were not meant for Hell, the “wrath,” but for Heaven. And, again, that’s how it was understood through most of Christian history.

When I say these interpretations were held for most of Christian history, I mean universally held. They are still held by the majority of Churches. One of the interesting things about Dispensationalism and being ‘rapture ready’ is their dominance over Christian media, particularly in the US. It’s a dominance that tends to overshadow other positions. Historically, most Americans followed the Calvinist teaching of the Puritan forefathers and were Postmillenialists, believing that the coming of the Lord would be ushered in by the evangelical work of the Church, which would create a universally Christian world and only then would Jesus come.

Being a Pentecostal, pre-tribulation Dispensationalism was one of the first things I was taught. Almost immediately I saw that the idea of the Church escaping the Great Tribulation, as its called, was inconsistent with many scriptures and I adopted what is called the “post-trib” position. This accepts the historic—and, yes, scriptural—teaching regarding the Church and the tribulation, but retains the Dispensationalist understanding of the Bible and the Church. Over time, however, due to the inconsistencies of Dispensationalism, I studied the matter out and rejected it altogether. (This was one of the first things I blogged about.) Ultimately I decided that what was more important than any of the ‘isms’ was that I be ready. That I walk as a Christian each day, living the values I profess, so that I will be ready whenever He comes. Whenever that happens.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

All Or Nothing: A Short History Of Abstinence In America

By Jessica Warner
McClelland & Stewart, 2008

Abstinence has been a mainstay of public debates and private discourse for two hundred years now, and in All Or Nothing: A Short History Of Abstinence In America Jessica Warner gives us a brief overview of its origins and the first century of its development.

Beginning with early attempts to curb the use of hard liquors at a time when their consumption was much higher than today, it quickly came to call for the abstention from all stimulants, including caffeine, drugs, and even spicy food. Armed with an optimistic outlook towards individual achievement and Jacksonian anti-intellectualism, the movement “had an almost morbid fear of leisure” (p. 27). It appealed to middle class Northerners, particularly those who had few vices to give up in the first place, but it made few inroads towards curbing the vices of those who did. Soon it moved from advocating moral suasion to calling on legislative solutions. It’s a pattern that continues today.

If I had a complaint about this book, it would be that its too short. Yes, it is call a short history, I know, but too much is left out or left unaddressed. Warner links the movement to Wesleyan perfectionism and the later Holiness movement, but doesn’t really explain what they were, or how their intellectual underpinnings could lead to an abstinence movement. She correctly notes that “moderation went from being a virtue to a vice” (p.37), but gives scant attention to why this shift should be so consistent and so powerful. Her discussion of the past century, the activism that effects us most today, is restricted to an eight page epilogue. Again, I know it’s a self-described short history, but as far as I know she wasn’t working under any page restrictions.

Also, she seems to be taking backhanded shots at Catholics. For example, the YMCA’s rationalization for distributing cigarettes, but not alcohol, is described as “Jesuitical.” She does this several times. Is she trying to be ironic, given views on Catholics at the time? Could it reflect views of the author? I don’t know. Its strange.

The abstinence movement is an important one and impacts us, both from the left and the right, every day. It deserves a serious, popular history. Maybe someday Warner will finish writing it.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

No Christian Foster Parents

Britain's High Court has ruled against a Pentecostal couple from Derby, saying that their Christian views on homosexuality made them unfit to be foster parents. Its important to note that no one at any time has accused the Johns of actually discriminating against anyone. Indeed, a 2008 assessment of the couple, who had been foster parents since the 1990s, described them as “well-meaning... kind and hospitable people who would always do their best to make a child welcome and comfortable”. But the same assessment quizzed them on their beliefs about homosexuality and based on their answers it was decided that they should not be allowed to continue caring for foster children, ages 5-8.

Again, its important to reiterate that the Johns have not discriminated against anyone, nor have they been accused to discriminating against anyone. Theirs was a thought crime.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Christian Lawmaker Murdered In Pakistan

Anti-Christian violence continues in the Islamic world:
A leading Pakistani Christian lawmaker who had campaigned for reform of the country’s blasphemy laws was shot dead on Wednesday, adding to concerns the government is unwilling or unable to check Islamic extremism...
Someone asked me yesterday where I stood on the Tribulation. I think its far easier to believe we're in it, than on the eve of it.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Bible Storybook



Comics illustrator Ovi Nedelcu has started a new blog, where he is telling the stories of the Bible. I'm afraid I don't know anything about the guy, but his work looks interesting and is worth checking out.

(Click on the image to enlarge it.)

Friday, January 07, 2011

Christian lambs left to slaughter

The Sydney Morning Herald has an interesting analysis of on the recent anti-Christian violence in the Middle East.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year

January the first. Again. I'm not going to be making any resolutions, but I am going to try blog more consistently in the coming year. Twenty-ten wasn't a great year, so much of it seemed to be spent struggling just to stay in place, but I am going into this new year feeling optimistic.

I had hoped to put up a video from this year's Christmas pageant, but my wife taped the entire thing and its just too long to load up. I intend to cut out just a couple of minutes, but my efforts to date have been less than successful. Program compatibility problems, etc. I have a friend who'll do it, but his brother just died, so I'm not about to bother him with it right now.

At home here we've had a great success with our family altar. With my wife and I working different shifts, its not easy to schedule anything, but lately we've been very consistent and I feel we're laying a solid foundation.

I do intend to go forward with the Matthew study soon. I am actually doing another study right now. That's just like me. Start a million things and, hopefully, finish one or two. That's something else I need to work on this year.

And, of course, I will continue to post links to news items. Here's a couple from this weekend: A car bomb went off outside an Egyptian church today, killing 21, wounding dozens, and in Pakistan Islamist parties rallied to support blasphemy laws used to discriminate against religious minorities.