Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sunday: From Mild-Mannered Broken Man to Crystal Meth Prince of Darkness---How Unrepentent Sin Deludes and Spirals Use into the Abyss of Death



IN 2008, WE WERE INTRODUCED to a high school chemistry teacher who turned drug dealer after being diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. Breaking Bad's Walter White was just an average man who wore unflattering patterned shirts and an awkward mustache. Slowly but surely, however, the mild-mannered husband and father transformed into his alter-ego Heisenberg—the shaved-headed, goatee-sporting prince of crystal meth.

How appropriate his choice of alias, a nod to physicist Werner Heisenberg. Walt is the anthropomorphization of the Nobel laureate's uncertainty principle; loosely speaking, we can know who he is right now, but we cannot be sure from whence he came or where he goes.....

When Walt murders a drug dealer in episode three, we see that "this is who Walter White was all along, and it's only his changed circumstances that have revealed him as a man capable of these things," Sepinwall writes.....
In other words, Walt didn't become broken—Walt was already broken. Broken on the inside by pride, lust for power and greed, all of which was neatly hidden away until circumstances brought the inner being to light. So Walt wasn't a bad person because he manufactured narcotics; he manufactured narcotics because he was a bad person, and the long-term effects of unrepentant sin gradually harden him into a ruthless psychopath.

Gilligan puts it this way:

The in-between moments really are the story in Breaking Bad. . . . It is the story of metamorphosis, and metamorphosis in real life is slow. It's the way stalactites grow, you stare at it and there's nothing, but you come back 100 years later and there's growth.
The first cook. Drip. Killing Krazy 8. Drip. Stealing methylamine. Drip. Poisoning a little child, blowing up a nursing home, murdering his partner. Drip, drip, drip. With each calcified deposit, what starts off as an instinct to provide for his family mutates into a monstrous obsession to preserve the empire that Walt has established with his own two hands. Walt has been so engulfed by the darkness that he is no longer fully human. And that's because sin is a force that refuses to let up; like gravity, it relentlessly pulls us inward into itself. As Walt himself says, "If you believe that there's a hell . . . we're already pretty much going there. But I'm not gonna lie down until I get there" (from episode 5.07, "Say My Name").

And so, Walt embodies what theologian John Owen mentioned centuries ago in his classic, The Mortification of Sin:

When a lust has remained a long time in the heart, corrupting, festering, and poisoning, it brings the soul into a woeful condition. . . . Such a lust will make a deep imprint on the soul. It will make its company a habit in your affections. It will grow so familiar in your mind and conscience that they are not disturbed at its presence as some strange thing. It will so take advantage in such a state that it will often exert itself without you even taking notice of it at all. Unless a serious course and extraordinary course is taken, a person in this state has no grounds to expect that his latter ends shall be peace.
But Breaking Bad is not just a drama; it is an all-too-realistic depiction of the corrosive effects of sin. Try as we might, we cannot fully distance ourselves from what we see on-screen because the truth is that we are all Walter White. Do we really believe that we are incapable of such depravity, somehow immune to the darkness that festers within us? Sin, that ever vigilant predator, stands ready to pounce at the first sign of weakness—how will even the strongest among us resist its ferocious assault?


How indeed?  And the answer is none of us can resist the dark spiral without letting the healing, redeeming power of Jesus Christ come into our lives as we let the Holy Spirit show us the many areas  we need to repent and let Him change the direction of our lives, thoughts, ambitions and priorities.  Without the Supernatural Power of the Holy Spirit, we all risk a downward spiral---like gravity---that makes us almost unrecognizable in the end.

But here's the real clincher:  Satan deludes us into thinking we're okay and gradually hardens our hearts to even our worst depravity. In the end of this deadly process, we are massively arrogant, narcissistic, self-righteous and self-centered.  Instead of revolving around the sun (Son) we've become like a self-imploding black hole.

Alas,  there IS  Hope For the Battle With Our Intractable Weaknesses, once we can admit we have them, and we all have them.

What A Near-Certain Government Shutdown Tuesday May Entail


The threat of a government shutdown looms larger every minute. But that doesn't mean the entire government will close its doors if Congress fails to pass a budget bill in time for the new fiscal year that begins Tuesday.
Up to 800,000 federal employees could be furloughed as services deemed "non-essential," such as national parks, passport offices and most regulatory agencies -- including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Securities and Exchange Commission -- are closed.

But in short, the full impact of a shutdown is not clear, at least for now. If the federal government closes for business Tuesday, non-essential employees would be furloughed without pay.
"Essential" workers-- such as military personnel, border security officials and air traffic controllers -- would be told to report to work. They wouldn't receive paychecks during the shutdown but would be paid retroactively after Congress passes a government funding bill.
Since it's up to each federal agency and department to determine which of its employees are essential and nonessential -- which the government now prefers to call "excepted" and "non-excepted" -- it's uncertain exactly how many employees, and which ones, would be furloughed.....

Friday, September 27, 2013

Finally Back in (East) Tennessee Where I Belong

JOANNE LIPMAN: Why Tough Teachers Get Good Results

THE PAST THREE WEEKS ON THE ROAD HAVE BEEN WONDERFUL because I've been with family and grandchildren, hiked in the magnificent New Hampshire mountains and taken care of a long-standing injury with surgery in Manhattan. I also just got my laptop keyboard replaced after being without it for almost a month. A plug-in isn't the same.

 Now I can get back to typing a bit more. It's a beautiful weekend on the Watauga River outside Elizabethtown and I'm on my way into the great outdoors for the day.

 Am so thankful to God for his abundant Grace and healing in my life.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Reflections---Redeemer Presbyterian, East Side Congregation

(Sin is the punishment of sin.)
---St.  Augustine

If you set out to seek freedom,
you must learn before all things
Mastery over sense and soul....
None learns the secret of freedom
save only by way of control.
----Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Proverbs 4:5-9

New International Version (NIV)
Get wisdom, get understanding;
    do not forget my words or turn away from them.
Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;
    love her, and she will watch over you.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get[a] wisdom.
    Though it cost all you have,[b] get understanding.
Cherish her, and she will exalt you;
    embrace her, and she will honor you.
She will give you a garland to grace your head
    and present you with a glorious crown.

Proverbs 4:14-27

New International Version (NIV)
14 Do not set foot on the path of the wicked
    or walk in the way of evildoers.
15 Avoid it, do not travel on it;
    turn from it and go on your way.
16 For they cannot rest until they do evil;
    they are robbed of sleep till they make someone stumble.
17 They eat the bread of wickedness
    and drink the wine of violence.
18 The path of the righteous is like the morning sun,
    shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
19 But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
    they do not know what makes them stumble.
20 My son, pay attention to what I say;
    turn your ear to my words.
21 Do not let them out of your sight,
    keep them within your heart;
22 for they are life to those who find them
    and health to one’s whole body.
23 Above all else, guard your heart,
    for everything you do flows from it.
24 Keep your mouth free of perversity;
    keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead;
    fix your gaze directly before you.
26 Give careful thought to the[a] paths for your feet
    and be steadfast in all your ways.
27 Do not turn to the right or the left;
    keep your foot from evil.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Ted Cruz Goes Forward With Defunding Obamacare With Or Without the Math

THIS FIGHT GOES ON. Cruz stands firm and will use any and all procedural tools available.

From Russia With Love---A Smart Idea I Can Get Behind


Learning the birds and the bees through Tolstoy?

That’s what Pavel Astakhov, the Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights in Russia, suggest that Russian schools embrace.

Speaking to the Russian news channel Rossiya-24, Astakhov, who opposes the introduction of sex education in schools, suggested that educators fill in the gap with classic literature.

“The best sex education there is, in fact, is Russian literature and literature in general,” Astakhov said. “Children should read more. Everything is there, all about love and about relationships between sexes. Schools must raise children in chastity and with understanding of family values. “

Astakhov warned the Ministry for Science and Education against formal sex ed classes in Russian schools, but said he was for reintroducing Soviet-style lessons on the ethics of family life.

“I am very glad that the ministry abandoned this idea because today it is very dangerous to let any specialists of this kind anywhere near your children,” Astakhov said. 

I can agree wholeheartedly with this idea. The less government bureaucrats always grinding a political, cultural agenda get in the act---and the more responsibility parents rightfully take---the better society is for everyone.   Of course, we live in a fallen world with broken and decaying family structures and values. Still, there have got to be better ways to educate little one to the extent and in the timing they can begin to comprehend, without over-educating them. Our world is awash with way too much information.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Washington Naval Yard Back In the Old Days, Circa 1862

I'VE HAD THE PLEASURE OF WALKING/TOURING THIS HERETOFORE LOVELY, HISTORICAL SPOT IN D.C. A WHILE BACK.  This shooting is very sad, even tragic news indeed, but even sadder is the media feeding frenzy that insures these shootings will continue and only get worse.

In other words,  our media/ celebrity/violence-obsessed culture which is often on drugs is perpetuating these sad but predictable and extremely boring kind of happenings. The coverage itself becomes like a drug high for some. Please wake me (yawn!) when it's safe to go back to Drudge. Simply not interested in knowing more about how the shooter blew someone's tires out back in 2004.

My heart is sad for the victims and their families.  However, we all contributed, making sure this tragedy would happen again and again and again.  But by the Grace of God go any of us as victims, and maybe even perpetrator

Washington Naval Yard

Tim Challies: Do You Have A Personal Relationship With......Satan?


YESTERDAY EVENING  I enjoyed a mid-week prayer service at a little Presbyterian church down here on the coast of Scotland. Before prayer the minister spent a few minutes leading a study on Revelation 12, and as is so often the case when I listen to the teaching of God's Word, there was one idea above all the others that arrested my attention and got me thinking.

Every Christian is told to pursue a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We have all seen the consequences of dead religion, of people who claim to worship Jesus, but who do not seem to know him. They relate to Jesus like they relate to the king or president or to a fictional character. There is nothing real about it.

But we are told time and again that we have the joy and the responsibility of relating to Jesus in a personal way. He is real. He is alive. He is a genuine person. We can and should and must relate to him personally.

However, as much as we emphasize a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, we tend to view Satan and his evil forces as an abstraction. We believe that we need to relate personally to the Savior but that we can relate impersonally to the enemy as if Jesus is a person while Satan is merely an idea. What the minister said yesterday was simply this: You need to have a personal relationship with Satan as well.

We need to be careful here, obviously. We do not equate Jesus and Satan in some yin and yang kind of relationship. They are by no means equal. Jesus is creator and Satan is created; Jesus is the conqueror and Satan the conquered; Jesus is alive forever while Satan knows his time is short and that he must soon be thrown into the pit.

But until then, Satan is alive and on the prowl. He despises those who have that personal relationship with Jesus Christ and both desires and seeks their destruction. So until the time Christ returns and casts Satan into that pit forever, we need to relate to him as well. This does not mean that we pray to Satan or even speak to him, but it had better mean that we pray to Christ about him and pray to Christ against him.

We need to believe that Satan exists, that he is powerful and that he will stop at nothing to hurt, hinder and destroy us. He is not an idea. He is not a theory or hypothesis or explanation. He is real, and it is crucial that we remember and believe it.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Nicole's Nasty Fall: An Observation


YES. THIS MISHAP WAS MOST LIKELY CAUSED BY A BIKER ON THE SIDEWALK  NOT PAYING ENOUGH ATTENTION. Still, Nicole's outrageously high heels were undoubtedly a contributing factor in her nasty fall. Sorry to say, I have much less sympathy for any woman who's such a slave to the fashion dictates du jour she would risk falling and injuring herself at the slightest provocation.

Truthfully,  Nicole's no spring chick herself, so wearing those heels, even on a good day, is risky behavior in my opinion.

So glad I'm over this kind of high couture nonesense... like to hike far too much to constantly risk a broken ankle or worse in this way. Or, said differently,  I would rather get injured on a trail than coming out of a fashion bash like this.

Wonder if Nicole will heed this wake-up call? Or take a small part of responsibility in this?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Puritans: Thomas Boston

THOMAS BOSTON might not technically count as a Puritan in the minds of some, either because he was Scottish or because he lived the majority of his life in the eighteenth century. J. I. Packer, however, includes him in his book Puritan Portraits and describes him as one who, alongside Jonathan Edwards in America, “represents most brilliantly the prolonging into the eighteenth century of pure Puritanism” (106). He was an “inheritor and champion of Puritan theology and of the Reformational rethinking that preceded it.”
Boston was born in Duns, Scotland in 1676, the son of good Presbyterian parents. Once as a child he even accompanied his father to jail because of his father’s lack of conformity to the established church. Boston’s own conversion to Christ came at the young age of 11 as he sat under the preaching ministry of Henry Erskine.
By the age of 22 he was a licensed preacher in the Church of Scotland and already writing books. In 1707 he took up the pastorate in the southern Scottish town of Ettrick, where he would remain up to the point of his death in 1732 at age 56.

Unique Contribution

What is most remarkable about Boston is the unique combination of so many graces in one man. Packer again helps us understand his significance by describing him as one who had
… a dazzling mastery of the text and teaching of the Bible; a profound knowledge of the human heart; great thoroughness and clarity in exposition; great skill in applicatory searching of the conscience; and a pervasive sense of the wonder and glory of God’s grace in Christ to such perverse sinners as ourselves. (117)
Elsewhere he writes that, “as Boston had a sensitive spirit, so he had a first-class mind, a retentive memory, and a way with words.” Jonathan Edwards also regarded him highly, calling him “a truly great divine.”

Most Important Works

The Art of Man-Fishing - Remarkably written when Boston was just 22, this book represents well the Puritan understanding of evangelism—what Christ meant when he spoke of fishing for men, and how we can follow him in that work.
The Crook in the Lot - Derived from seven sermons which he preached during a period of great pain in his own life, this book contains Boston’s meditations on God’s sovereignty and wisdom in placing thorns in your side (or, as the title says, crooks in the lot of your life).
Repentance - In this book Boston “links together expositions … on the necessity, nature and urgency of repentance, and the folly of ignoring or postponing this life-and-death issue.”

From Tim Challies

Am traveling and  my keyboard is not working (but hopefully will be fixed next week in Manhattan) so will post as I can for the next several weeks.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Kiddos' First Day of Pre-Kindo


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Book Review: Gold: The Monetary Polaris by Nathan Lewis

A Monetary Policy Masterpiece Of A Book That Everyone Should Read

By John Tamny

In the 17th century Great Britain was an economic afterthought. It’s hard to imagine this today, but its economy was 1/8th the size of India’s.

But thanks to a ‘Glorious Revolution’ that led to Dutch prince William being crowned king of England, the country soon enough imported Dutch monetary policy; policy that included money defined by gold. The rest, as they say, is history. Combining the essential growth formula of low taxes, stable money and free trade, England’s economy soared to stratospheric heights.

In his masterpiece of a new book, Gold: The Monetary Polaris, monetary thinker non-pareil Nathan Lewis explains in brilliant fashion the certain wonders of stable money values defined by gold. Economic growth is as simple as reducing the cost of work (taxes), and pairing the latter “with a high-quality currency to facilitate trade.” Lewis has easily written the most important book of the year. To put it very plainly, run, don’t walk to buy this essential read.

To read about the simple changes that took place in England is to understand very clearly how very much the role of money has been perverted in modern times. Lewis channels Adam Smith, David Ricardo and other Classical thinkers in reminding readers that money is not wealth, rather it’s the measuring stick that we use to express the actual wealth we’re exchanging.

In short, money in Lewis’s expert eyes is a measure. To devalue the measure with growth in mind is, per John Locke “to lengthen a foot by dividing it into Fifteen parts, instead of twelve…calling them inches.” Or, for the person who doesn’t like being 5 feet tall, devaluation is as silly as cutting the content of the foot in half in order to be 10 feet in length. No one is fooled of course, but the fiddling with the measure fosters a great deal of mistrust in the marketplace that leads over time to tight money, and investment that flows into hard inflation hedges representing wealth that exists over stock and bond income streams that will create the wealth of the future.

Devaluation, to be very plain, is a certain blast to the past. Modern economists believe growth causes inflation, but in truth inflation – meaning devaluation – is itself slow growth precisely because investment becomes timid. Investors are buying future currency income streams when they commit capital to new ideas, but when policy favors devaluation, investment logically sags.

Lewis refers to ‘low taxes and stable money’ as the “magic formula,” for growth, and while he’s very right, it should be said that there’s nothing magic about what causes growth. As humans we’re wired to want things, and we get up for work each day to produce so that we can exchange our surplus for all that we don’t have.

Over the “234-year stretch in which Britain adhered to the Classical idea of money that was as reliable and unchanging as possible,” the country’s economy naturally soared. Paul Krugman and other modern mercantilists write and talk unrelentingly about how a gold standard restrains economic growth, but they have no answer for the staggering growth enjoyed by England and the U.S. up until World War I despite both countries, and by extension much of the world, having gold-defined money.

Lewis’s book slays all manner of myths and misunderstandings. Some naively want low prices decreed, and this shows up in their clamor for ‘easy’ interest rates as though central bankers can magically make credit cheap. Of course the beauty of gold defined money is that since it’s credible money, credit in terms of it is naturally cheap. Lewis notes that before moving to gold that England’s government paid double digit interest rates for credit, but once its pound was stabilized, rates gradually plummeted on its debt to 3% and below. Gold-defined money isn’t tight, rather it’s plentiful precisely because lenders and borrowers prefer to transact with a measure that is credible.

Thinking about the above, it’s popular even among gold adherents to presume that gold-defined money restrains governments from running up too much debt. Implicit in such an assertion is an impressive misunderstanding of money and credit. If anything, countries that pursue stable money are far more capable of running up deficits precisely because their debt is paid in currency that can be trusted over stupendous amounts of time. For good or bad, Great Britain rapidly expanded its control of the earth’s land mass during the above-mentioned “234-year stretch.” Britain was able to expand and fight all manner of wars because it was able to fund its growth “at 3% rates by way of the expanding London financial industry [that] helped put Britain at the forefront of Europe.” Stable money equates with growth, not to mention trust in currency that will be paid back in order to retire debt.

The alleged ‘market’ monetarists in our midst, though they almost to a man would blanch at the truism that their views on money are Keynesian in the Krugman sense, talk down gold-defined money given their view that it would restrain growth in the ‘supply’ of money. Missed by the twin Krugman and ‘Market Monetarist’ schools is that contrary to the presumptions of even some of gold’s biggest advocates, it does not coincide with “tight money.” Usually it’s the opposite.
Indeed, as Lewis makes plain throughout his wonderful book, the very notion of gold-defined money requires that supply be “adjusted continuously” so that the “intersection of supply and demand is always at your target price.”

 Put very plainly, stable money is money that is heavily demanded precisely because it’s credible as medium meant to best facilitate exchange and investment. Monetarists and Krugmanites want plentiful money supply, but their policies ensure the opposite given their desire that money be constantly floating; its value ideally in their eyes falling given their view that devaluation will boost exports and consumption. But as Lewis points out, “it is quite common to see very dramatic increases in base money supply when a currency goes from being perceived as low quality to being perceived as high quality.”

All of which brings us to the biggest myth about gold-defined money, that the monetary ‘tightness’ caused by the latter led to the Great Depression. Monetarists, Keynesians, and even libertarians who claim to be from the Austrian School latch on to the money supply untruth, so thank goodness Lewis rejects it out of hand. Explicit in this unreasoned argument is that an austere Fed starved the economy of money in the 1930s.

Lost on those who make this silly assertion is that the creation of money or credit is the path to wealth, rather than a consequence. In reality, all manner of barriers to growth were put up in the early 1930s, from rising tax rates, nosebleed spending, tariffs on the very trade that causes us to work to begin with, government capture of retained corporate earnings, and devaluation of the dollar. Money in circulation shrunk not because of the Fed, but because policy from Washington represented a huge barrier to production. When we produce we demand money, but the political class needlessly made the production that constituted demand for money very expensive.

As for money supply, far from the Fed restraining banks, it, per Lewis, simply did its job. The Fed’s near singular role back then was as “lender of last resort” if interbank lending ever became too costly. But as Lewis points out, from 1930-33 “the lending rate between banks of high credit quality was consistently low, indicating that borrowing was easy and cheap for solvent banks.” William Greider said much the same in his Secrets of the Temple, that money wasn’t tight as much as demand for money was very low. It tends to be low when barriers to production always and everywhere erected by governments are high. The Great Depression quite simply didn’t have to be, after which an enduring tragedy of what shouldn’t have been is a total misunderstanding that says tight, gold-defined money is what caused the economy to collapse.

Beyond that, some who tilt Austrian persist in the view that the only true gold standard is one where every dollar in existence is backed by gold at Fort Knox. Very happily, and this is yet another reason to hope Lewis’s book is widely read, such a gold standard has never existed. 100% reserve is a figment of na├»ve, conspiratorial imaginations, and of great importance, it’s not necessary. Indeed, if we can leave out why a 100% reserve requirement would be problematic, the reality is that a monetary authority need not have much gold (or for that matter, any gold) on hand to manage a gold standard. So long as the authority is constantly adjusting supply of dollars to demand with a stable gold price in mind, there will be little desire among currency holders to exchange their paper for a commodity that doesn’t collect interest, and that has very limited industrial uses.
Instead, when money is stable, there’s a great desire to put it to work as evidenced by the clear correlation between economic growth and quality, gold-defined money that Lewis expertly lays out.

The twin mercantilist ideologies of Keynesianism and ‘market’ Monetarism presume that gold-defined money restrains supply of same, and with it, growth, but Lewis reveals with great ease how false is this presumption. In truth, growth has historically been greatest when the dollar’s definition was most stable. Even since 1971 the latter holds true. As Lewis makes clear, during the ‘70s and ‘00s-present when the dollar’s been weak, industrial production has been almost non-existent. Conversely, when a strong dollar was the norm in the ‘80s and ‘90s, industrial production soared. Gold is once again said to restrain growth and the ‘supply’ of money, but Lewis shows with brilliant skill through U.S. and U.K. growth figures that gold-defined money is most conducive to growth and rising money supply.

As one can imagine, there’s a downside to all of this, and it reveals itself when the key currency is devalued. Lewis writes that when “a major international currency, like the British pound, is devalued, the common result is a coincident devaluation of all currencies linked to the target currency.” Insert ‘dollar’ into the previous sentence, and you go far in explaining why the slow-growth rush to housing was a global phenomenon. Starting in 2001 the dollar began to fall, and with all global currencies either having an explicit or fairly implicit link to the greenback, when it declined so did most every currency versus gold. Per von Mises, there’s a flight into the ‘real’ when money is devalued, and there explains our growth-suffocating housing boom that ultimately ended in tears.

Where there’s disagreement with Lewis is in terms of his suggestion that countries which fail to follow the devaluation find that their “exports become less competitive.” No, they don’t. As evidenced by Japanese exports to the U.S. rocketing upwards in the ‘70s and ‘80s despite the rising yen, the notion that good money is an export deterrent is largely, and logically, imaginary.

Since the dollar has yet to be replaced in modern times, the world has suffered since 2001, under a Republican and a Democrat, very juvenile monetary policy. Money around the world has been weak with the U.S. dollar the leader in this regard, and as such, it’s no surprise that growth in a global sense has been somewhat subdued. Put simply, when you devalue money you repel investors.

It’s sad to watch, but as Lewis reminds the reader throughout, “a new currency can be introduced quite quickly, with little preparation.” As Lewis’s masterful book makes plain, he’s thought about all of this at length, and if fortune ever shines such that he’s asked how to redefine the dollar’s value in terms of gold, Lewis could answer this non-riddle between breakfast and lunch. He and I perhaps disagree at what dollar price would be ideal for a return, but that’s really not the point. A stable dollar at just about any price would be its own reward.

Nathan Lewis quite simply has a masterpiece on his hands. This is easily the most important book of 2013, arguably the most important economics book in a long time, and the best book on money that’s yet been written. Everyone, from economists, to politicians, to the lay reader should get their hands on Gold: The Monetary Polaris. When I read a review like this one, I can't wait to go to Amazon and order this book right away! Thanks, John.