Thursday, December 31, 2015

Wishing You Black-Eyed Peas For New Years Day And All the Best in 2016

GREAT BEING BACK IN THE COUNTRY WHERE I BELONG FOR NOW. All I want to do is read  good books, walk in the park nearby and  be willing to watch a little football over the next few days with HG. Above is a quick concoction I conjured up this afternoon of canned black-eyed peas, okra, tomatoes and cooked bacon with olive oil and herbs. Will eat it on New Years Day as a Southern tradition for good luck. Anytime I make something like this,  it's always better the second day. Great with homemade cornbread and Tabasco sauce.

Below, Blackie welcomes me back from Houston by bonding with me as he wallows on my down vest and paisley scarf. I'm not a cat person, but have to admit I've grown to love these cats that rule the roost where I'm staying.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Sunday---Bob Thune Disagrees With Pastor John Piper On Christians Carrying Weapons, So Do I


By John Thune

I WISH TO OFFER a rejoinder to John Piper’s assertion that Christians should not carry concealed weapons. In a recent post at Desiring God, Piper wrote: “Exhorting the lambs to carry concealed weapons with which to shoot the wolves does not advance the counter-cultural, self-sacrificing, soul-saving cause of Christ.”

His post takes direct aim at Jerry Falwell Jr, who recently urged students at Liberty University to procure their concealed-carry permits and “teach [terrorists] a lesson if they ever show up here.” I don’t know Jerry Falwell, and I’m sure we wouldn’t agree on everything. But here’s how he explained the context behind his statement:

As the president of this university community of nearly 15,000 students and 7,000 faculty and staff, I take very seriously my responsibility to keep you safe in an increasingly dangerous world. That’s why in 2011 I asked our Board of Trustees to consider a concealed carry policy. It wasn’t because of Islamic terrorism, it was because what happened (just) up the road at Virginia Tech. More than 30 innocent students and faculty were murdered viciously and none of them had the ability to protect themselves. The day that happened, I thought we needed to do something different here at Liberty… [We have] 950 here now with concealed carry permits, and after I made those remarks on Friday we had 240 sign up for a course tomorrow night.

I find this eminently reasonable. Here’s a Christian leader, responsible for the safety of thousands of people, urging responsible citizens to act within their legal rights to obtain gun permits in light of a tragic instance of campus violence. Piper sees this as out of step with the New Testament. I see it as profoundly in line with the Christian responsibility to love our neighbors as ourselves. If an active shooter showed up on campus with intent to harm, the loving thing to do would be to take him out before he killed dozens of people.

There’s certainly room for freedom of conscience on this issue. Christians will have differing convictions on the use of lethal force. But the case Piper makes against lethal force is a weak one, and its weaknesses need to be highlighted in order to move the conversation forward. In an age of terrorism where churches and schools are soft targets, Christians need to think more critically about this important matter.

Piper offers nine considerations in support of his thesis. I will advance three critiques that reveal some weaknesses and inadequacies I perceive in Piper’s viewpoint. And I hope to offer all of them in a tone that conveys the eminent respect and esteem I have for Dr. Piper.

1) Piper fails to substantiate his assertion that Romans 13 does not apply to private citizens in a democracy.

Piper writes:
[Any] claim that in a democracy the citizens are the government, and therefore may assume the role of the sword-bearing ruler in Romans 13, is elevating political extrapolation over biblical revelation. When Paul says, “The ruler does not bear the sword in vain” (Romans 13:4), he does not mean that Christian citizens should all carry swords so the enemy doesn’t get any bright ideas.

What does Paul mean, then? Certainly he doesn’t mean that Caesar must personally carry a sword and execute all justice by his own hand. By “the ruler,” we understand Paul to be speaking symbolically of every civil magistrate, and by “the sword,” we understand him to be speaking symbolically of all the various forms of justice that the civil authorities enforce.
Therefore, it is not “political extrapolation” to say that governments may wield fighter jets instead of swords. And neither is it political extrapolation to say that citizens in a democracy may bear arms. This is called biblical application. Romans 13 allows citizens to carry and use weapons as long as their government allows it.

Piper draws a distinction between “policemen or soldiers” using lethal force and “ordinary Christians” using lethal force. But he fails to reckon with the reality that in the United States, a Christian citizen who legally uses deadly force to stop an attacker is a legitimate extension of the government’s sword-wielding power. If God has given the ruler the right to bear the sword… and if the ruler extends to private citizens that right… then where exactly is the extrapolation?

2) Piper fails to meaningfully differentiate persecution from acts of terrorism.

Acts of terrorism can be persecution (for instance, when ISIS militants behead someone for their faith in Christ). But not every terrorist attack equates to biblical persecution. The Christian response to persecution is to patiently endure and prayerfully turn the other cheek (1 Peter 2:19, Matthew 5:44-45). The Christian response to terrorism is to stop the terrorist from killing human beings who are made in God’s image. I agree with Piper that Christians should not carry concealed weapons for the purposes of (in the order of his arguments) 1. avenging ourselves, 2. retaliating for unjust treatment, 3. handling hostility, 4. advancing the Christian cause by force, 5. returning evil for evil, or 6. resisting persecution. As a friend of mine observed, “If you used a gun for any of those reasons, you’d be in violation of the law anyway.”
Piper marshals these arguments in order to build a case about “the whole tenor and focus and demeanor and heart-attitude of the Christian life.” He seems to be saying that a Christian demeanor of mercy and humility and godliness is incommensurate with “a disposition to use lethal force.” But it seems to me that this argument proves too much. If it’s impossible to have a Christian demeanor and still be willing to use lethal force, does this not preclude Christians from being police officers or serving in the military?

Piper leans heavily on the book of 1 Peter, where Christians are urged to endure unjust suffering. But contextually, that persecution was coming from the government itself. If at some point in the future our government turns with hostility upon Christians and uses the “power of the sword” against us (as did Nero in the first century), then certainly we must bear that suffering without retaliation. Many of our Christian brothers and sisters are doing this right now throughout the world. But it’s a stretch to say: therefore, Christians should lay down while a radicalized terrorist shoots innocent people.

3) Piper makes arbitrary distinctions in his application of texts like Romans 13.

Piper asserts that there is, in the Bible, “no direct dealing with the situation of using lethal force to save family and friend, except in regards to police and military.” But can he point to the chapter and verse where the Bible deals with police and military using lethal force? No. Because there isn’t one. The assertion that police and military may use lethal force is an application of texts like Romans 13. And so is the assertion that a private citizen may use lethal force! A police officer and a private citizen who use lethal force to stop an attacker are both doing so legally, as an extension of the state’s authority, and with the expectation that they will have to answer for their actions. If Piper is OK with a Christian police officer using lethal force in a case of imminent danger, then he should also be OK with Christian students at Liberty University doing the same.
Throughout his article, Piper draws lines between police and military using lethal force and private citizens using lethal force. But this distinction is not present in the biblical text. It is a distinction in application. And it is, I assert, an arbitrary one.

Piper’s primary concern is with the spirit of Jerry Falwell Jr’s remarks – specifically, with the statement, “Let’s teach [terrorists] a lesson if they ever show up here.” I agree that that specific statement is unnecessarily provocative. And I think Dr. Piper could have written a very thoughtful blog post taking issue with it. Unfortunately, he has done more than that. He has taken a theological position against Christians carrying concealed weapons. And I find that theological position, as argued by Piper, to have some significant weaknesses.

On December 9, 2007, an armed attacker with a semiautomatic rifle and 1400 rounds of ammunition began a shooting rampage at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. He killed two teenagers in the parking lot and then moved toward the building where about 700 people were gathered. His murderous advance was stopped by church security team member Jeanne Assam, who shot him with her concealed handgun. Her quick and decisive action likely saved dozens of lives. I would not deem Ms. Assam more Christlike if she had prayerfully set down her weapon and “accepted unjust mistreatment without retaliation.” And I suspect the students at Liberty University would not either.

Bob Thune writes here.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Read This, See That


If you only have time for one movie thisthe remainder of this year, see The Big Short. My son and I caught a matinee this afternoon in Houston and thought it was incredibly well done.
No one wants to read or watch anything about credit default swaps as entertainment.  These guys have done a brilliant job of taking a complex subject and making it simple and totally fascinating. See it and weep and know,  we taxpayers are paying trillions for those Wall Street bailouts.  And it's going to happen again. Only next time, it will be worse.

Friday, December 25, 2015

From Babe In A Manager To....This

MERRY CHRISTMAS! IT'S BEEN A WONDERFUL WEEK HERE IN HOT, HUMID HOUSTON, though I've come down with a cold and am a bit under the weather. Still we've had the best time---ever. Have posted today's Quiet Walk Devotional (via daily email) which contrasts the baby Jesus in the manger with the view of Jesus on his eternal throne as described in Revelation 4....quite a contrast! Will try to post a few pictures soon and hope your Christmas is peaceful and filled with gratitude.  Photo directly below from the children's Christmas eve service at St. Martin's yesterday. 

December 25

Revelation 4

John describes an astounding vision of the throne of God in heaven. INSIGHT At Christmas our thoughts are on Jesus' birth, focusing on His humanity. By radical contrast, this Christmas Day we see the throne room of heaven and the surroundings which magnify His deity. In the center is a throne - behind which an emerald-colored rainbow arises. Dignitaries dressed in white robes and gold crowns are seated around the throne. The floor of the massive room is like crystal. Unusual looking creatures constantly give verbal praise to God and the dignitaries form a celestial choir, worshiping and praising God. This is the normal abode of God's Son. Yet we usually think of Jesus as a child in Bethlehem, a teacher on a hillside, or the One who bore our sins alone on a cross. Revelation balances that picture with a glimpse of Jesus' majesty and grandeur.


Praise the Lord that He was willing to become what we are - that we may inherit eternal salvation: Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! While I live I will praise the Lord; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. . . . Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in the Lord his God . . . The Lord shall reign forever – Your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord! (Psalm 146:1-2, 5, 10).

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Final Week of Advent: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing....Learning From the Choirs of Heaven



 By Phillip Holme @, Desiring God

WHEN I WAS GROWING UP, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” by Charles Wesley (revised by George Whitfield) was one of my favorite Christmas songs — but the point of the first line went completely over my head.
Don’t get me wrong, I understood lines like “Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled” and “Light and life to all he brings, Risen with healing in his wings / Mild he lays his glory by, Born that man no more may die.” However, there was that lead archaic imperative that escaped me for years: Hark! (Listen!).
In a 2007 Christianity Today article, Gordon Giles notes,
In the Gospel account, the angels praise God, whereas in “Hark! the herald angels sing,” they are inaccurately described as praising Jesus. Furthermore, Luke does not say that the angels “sing,” and so it may well be that this reinterpretation by Whitfield has emphasized the popular but unscriptural picture of angels singing the Gloria.
While Giles is correct, we would do well to listen to and learn from the angels in Luke 2:10. Their praise and adoration towards God about the birth of Jesus is a model for what our attitude should be concerning the Christ Jesus. Why?
Angels didn’t need to be reconciled to God, but man does.

He Didn’t Come for the Sins of Angels

When God brought Jesus into heaven at his ascension, says Hebrews 1:6 (with 2:5), he declares (in the words of Deuteronomy 32:43), “Let all God’s angels worship him.”
Angels and humans are different beings. The most notable thing we have in common is that God created us both, and we were perfect in the beginning. But the differences are significant:
  • Angels are not created in the image of God.
  • Angels cannot reproduce.
  • Angels cannot be forgiven. (Matthew 25:41)
  • Angels will not be raised “up with him” and seated “with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:6)
Hebrews 2:16 further emphasizes that the coming of Jesus doesn’t help angels. The writer declares, “Surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham.” John Calvin explains why this glorious truth shouldn’t make us proud, but rather humble us,
By this comparison he enhances the benefit and the honor with which Christ has favored us, by putting on our flesh; for he never did so much for angels. As then it was necessary that there should be a remarkable remedy for man’s dreadful ruin, it was the design of the Son of God that there should be some incomparable pledge of his love towards us, which angels had not in common with us. That he preferred us to angels was not owing to our excellency, but to our misery.
There is therefore no reason for us to glory as though we were superior to angels, except that our heavenly Father has manifested toward us that ampler mercy which we needed, so that the angels themselves might from on high behold so great a bounty poured on the earth. (Commentary on Hebrews, 73–74)
The fact that Christ was “veiled in [human] flesh the Godhead see” speaks not to our worth, “but to our misery” and God’s great mercy. Angels sinned and they were immediately condemned and will be judged by us one day. We sinned and God graciously sends us Jesus so that “God and sinners [would be] reconciled.”
Peter declares that this gracious act of God in the gospel is so precious that the angels long to look (1 Peter 1:12). Unfallen angels understand experientially the righteousness and holiness of God, but they have no experience of what it’s like to have sinned and been forgiven. If they sin, they’re judged eternally, but God in the gospel is merciful to mankind. The angels recognize how precious and significant the gospel is. And instead of responding with envy or questions, they respond with curiosity and worship.

Listen and Learn

The angels demonstrate a reverence and admiration that we, in our fallen state, struggle to display and maintain. The gospel is good news for us, not angels; yet they rejoice and worship as if they were the ones experiencing this peculiar good of our merciful God. We would do well to listen and learn.
Christmas is often weighed down with diversions of gift giving, eggnog, and other festivities. But the fact that Jesus entered the world is bad news that ends with good news. He had to come because of our misery and mess, but he came as a merciful Messiah prepared to take on our sins.
During this final week of Advent (and after), let praise and adoration for Christ consume your thoughts. Worship the risen Savior, for “light and life to all he brings.” Listen to the angels worship and join them in this appropriate adoration.

Friday, December 18, 2015

John Tamny Reviews Common Sense Nation---A Call to Rediscover the Constitution



Whether I agree with all of John Tamny's  review conclusions or those of author Robert Curry remains to be seen. But this I know: I will read and gnaw on this important book in the cold, dark days of January, especially since I think we live in a time of great uncommon sense and a people in mass societal regression. .  There can be no rights for long without responsibilities.
Claremont Institute board member Robert Curry has written a very interesting history of how the Declaration of Independence and Constitution came to be, and how they signaled a 'Big Bang' of the freedom variety.  RealClearMarkets.

By John Tamny
IN A 2014 COLUMN FOR USA Today, HBO host Bill Maher asked readers a rather important question: "How is it that a nation that was never interested in politics has now made everything political?"

My answer at the time was that Americans had no choice but to be political. With the federal government having allocated to itself immense powers that were once the preserve of the cities and states, a non-political electorate had become a distracted one; hyper-focused on the doings within Washington. Go to bed early on election night? We can't anymore, and that's too bad.

Worse, in the lead up to Election 2016 Americans will spend enormous amounts of time reading about politics, more time flattering politicians by watching them on tv, plus they'll contribute billions to political parties and candidates with an eye on influencing the future make-up of the ruling class in Washington. Something's very wrong here. Thankfully there's an excellent new book out that will remind readers how far we've drifted from the Founding Fathers' vision for the United States; this drift arguably the source of an overly-politicized America.

In Common Sense Nation: Unlocking the Forgotten Power of the American Idea, the Claremont Institute's Robert Curry impressively lays out the thinking that gave us the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Federalist Papers, and in doing so, reminds us how much better off we'd all be if we had never strayed in the first place. As Victor Davis Hanson puts it in the book's foreword, Curry believes that the "roots and traditions of the Founding Fathers should once again become common knowledge to contemporary Americans." No argument there.

So while Curry's deep knowledge of the Founders' philosophy is made evident throughout, he's not written a book that will be effective only insofar as the Nyquil isn't. Curry inspires the reader with his discussion of the American Idea, but rarely descends into the obscure. As he puts it, Common Sense Nation "only skims the surface, but it aims to do so in a way that reveals the depths." Curry has delivered. Readers of his book will understand the staggering historical importance of what the Founders did.

What needs to be stressed up front is how very fringe or (pardon the pun) revolutionarywere the Founders. Though history may paint them as staid in the serious, sober, elder statesmen sense, America's Founders were different. As Curry describes the creation of the U.S., it was "the most radical attempt to establish a regime of liberty in the entire history of mankind." These men were brilliant, but also the opposite of traditional.

Even more fascinating in light of the largely free present, a present that allows us to say what we want when we want about our elected officials, is what a rare luxury this happens to be in an historical sense. Indeed, while Curry corrects the conventional view that says America's founding documents sprung directly from John Locke, he doesn't diminish the man himself nor his courage.

Curry quotes Locke as writing that "Absolute monarchy is inconsistent with Civil Society," and for words like those Locke had to be "smuggled out of England to safety in Holland." The agents of the King Charles II were in "hot pursuit" of this unabashed lover of liberty. What's important here is that in the 17th century, expressing thoughts of freedom "could be fatal." My how things have changed, and for the better.

In consideration of how bleak and anti-human life used to be, Curry writes that "the Founding can be thought of as a kind of historical Big Bang." So true. A world in which a lack of freedom was the norm suddenly embraced the then foreign concept that for simply being, humans had natural rights. Some of us perhaps take this for granted now, but wow!

Curry stresses throughout that the American Enlightenment emerged from the Scottish one. It was rooted in the moral sense, but also common sense. Curry quotes Scottish philosopher Francis Hutcheson: "our moral sense is an endowment of our human nature." There's a right and wrong that we quite simply grasp, at which point common sense is the ability to grasp self-evident truths. The greatest self-evident truth is that as human beings, we have infinite rights simply because we exist. These rights were there all along. They're unalienable.

On the subject of the Constitution, Curry observes about the Founders that they "understood our rights to be literally infinite in number." Applied to the Bill of Rights of which the 9th Amendment ("The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.") is a member, Curry makes plain that the all-important 9th "was intended to ensure that enumerating some rights would not have the effect of narrowing our understanding of the vast range of our unalienable rights."

About all of the above there is total agreement, but there are also questions. This reviewer fully accepts Curry's assertion that the 9th and 10th ("The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.") Amendments "make clear the Founders' intent" as applied to our innumerable rights as individuals, along with the highly limited role of the federal government in our daily lives. What was the point of revolution unless this was their intent?

So the question is this: if the 9th is read correctly, shouldn't the Supreme Court have erased any and all limits erected by cities and states in regard to gay marriage? In this instance we're talking about individuals doing something that hurts no one else. Along somewhat similar lines, shouldn't the Affordable Care Act have been struck down for healthcare mandates limiting our natural rights to do as we please, not to mention that healthcare is never enumerated in the Constitution as a federal power?

If powers not delegated to the U.S. automatically revert to the states per the 10th, what are those powers? It's hard to imagine that the Founders intended for mob rule in the states, but it's hard to figure out what powers would revert. Was "Romneycare" legal in Massachusetts based on this question? An otherwise excellent book could have been even more engaging had Curry addressed questions like these.

What about the presumed toxic environment in Washington today? To read the mainstream punditry or watch the television shows which feature those truly inside Washington, the lack of civility between right and left, liberal and conservative, Republican and Democrat is a bug, not a feature of the present. The Founders would probably disagree with this bit of modern non-wisdom. Curry writes that the Founders "approached their task" of writing the Constitution with conflict and the gridlock that springs from conflict very much in mind. A lack of bipartisanship is what ensures limited damage from the incompetents that invariably migrate to political office.

All of which leads us to the constitutional firewall between church and state. Here Curry exposes both left and right as a little bit, or a lot wrong. To members of the religious right who like to say that the Founders were deeply religious, and as such, not for separation, Curry dismisses this view with ease. Writing about James Madison, he makes plain that what most animated his own desire for revolution was keeping government out of religion. Figure the First Amendment begins with "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..."

At the same time, Curry writes that "today the First Amendment is being used to drive religion out of public life. The Founders would consider that absurd and repellent. The plain meaning of the First Amendment is that there is not going to be a Church of America," not that there wouldn't be churches for all manner of faiths. So the left are wrong, but so are the right about the Founders and religion. It could be argued that precisely because many were deeply religious, they did not want government to have any role in what they deemed good.

Curry spends a lot of time distinguishing between Locke's focus on "property rights" versus the Founders' focus on the "pursuit of happiness." Property rights are interesting insofar as great thinkers like Hernando de Soto argue that a lack of defined property ownership in South America has been the biggest explainer - by far - of South American poverty. But is that true?

Without dismissing the importance of property rights for even a second, Curry's explanation of the American Enlightenment and the founding of the U.S. is very much rooted in moral terms. Per Francis Hutcheson once again "our moral sense is an endowment of our human nature." We would understand right and wrong even without laws. Right and wrong includes respect for other people's property. It's probably the biggest moral virtue of all. Per Matt Kibbe, "don't hurt people and don't take their stuff." All this raises another basic question: is the U.S. rich because of its elevation of property rights, or do we have property rights and wealth because we have morals and common sense already?

Most interesting from an economic angle was Curry's discussion of Adam Smith's "vision of a free market and the Founders' vision of a social order and a system of government befitting a free people..." Like the late Jude Wanniski, Curry is making the essential point that just as markets are smart for them comprising the knowledge of everyone, so are political markets smart. The bigger the country, the more the knowledge? What an interesting topic, particularly if we bring Switzerland and/or Hong Kong into the analysis. Neither is large, but oh my, what wise electorates! Can size in nominal terms sometimes weaken broadly expressed knowledge?

Along similar lines, Curry writes about how "Smith showed that in a free market rivalry improves economic performance, benefiting everyone." Definitely. Curry's innovation comes from marrying Madison's vision to Smith's. Madison felt that rivalry (meaning, a lack of consensus) in politics would "make it less probable that a majority of the whole will. . . invade the property of other citizens." This book will have the reader thinking, and talking.

Areas of possible disagreement concern Curry's assertion that "Top-down systems, economic stagnation, and political repression go together, as history, from pre-Revolutionary France to today's North Korea, endlessly repeats..." The latter is no doubt true, concentrated power surely corrupts, but the potential disagreement has to do with whether the U.S. could ever be anything like North Korea? It seems our Constitution is aneffect of our morals and our common sense. That this is true is but one of many reasons libertarians were so skeptical about the invasion of Iraq. A great founding document and great laws will not necessarily fix dysfunction. The U.S. Constitution emerged from some great men in a country of good people. It says here that it's not necessarily transferrable.

Curry might argue that you can't transfer what you don't understand. That's maybe true, but what didn't much hit home was his certainty about why the people perhaps don't get it anymore; that "Progressive" doctrine has turned the Constitution on its head. Yes it has, but does this speak to the skill of progressive thinkers (or bad educators?) when it comes to changing the debate, or do rich nations generally grow flabby? It seems too convenient to blame what is seemingly obvious. A more intriguing culprit for less robust understanding of our Constitution is prosperity itself. If it has a negative tradeoff, this is it. When we're thriving we perhaps forget about what made human flourishing possible in the first place.

Probably the biggest disagreement (and it's minor) concerns Curry's observation late in the book that today's Democratic Party "rides roughshod over the Constitution," whereas the GOP's dismissal of the document is more noble; perhaps a function of "America's citizens" no longer sharing the "Founders' vision of liberty." In this case an expert on the Constitution like Curry knows well that politicians in both major political parties don't much care at all about it. A non-partisan book didn't need this little bit of partisanship, but if true about the electorate (it no longer venerating the Constitution), this arguably speaks to the importance of more immigration, not less. Indeed, who more than the oppressed would appreciate a document solely meant to protect our rights to live as we want? Wouldn't the arrival of repressed strivers from parts of the world without our Constitution help to revive interest in and respect for it?

Robert Curry has written a great book that will inform those not familiar with the Constitution, and that will spark discussion among those who do. He ends Common Sense Nation on an optimistic note about the "bountiful harvest of progress to be gained" if we rediscover the Constitution. Readers have a book that will spark this prosperity-inducing process.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Dr. Louis Markos Talks About the Seven Virtues At C.S. Lewis Gathering

HAVE BEEN READING LOUIS MARKOS' TOTALLY ENGROSSING BOOK, ON THE SHOULDERS OF HOBBITS---the Road to Virtue with Tolkien and Lewis. So taken with this important work on these famous classics by Tolkien and Lewis that I'm posting a recent Markos lecture from the C.S. Lewis Summer Institute last year.  If you take time to listen,  you'll get a wonderful, personal refresher course in the classical, cardinal virtues---courage  (or fortitude), self-control (temperance), wisdom (or prudence) and justice plus the three special virtues of faith, hope and love found only in the special revelation of the New Testament. These seven virtues have often been replaced, or lost, by a false sense of  'virtue' so rampant in society today such as egalitarianism, feminism and environmentalism.

Through the iconic works of J. R. R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis we can be reintroduced to classic virtues both good and bad. Professor Markos shows the reader and student how powerful stories and their characters set as teachers and examples of what to be and not to be in real life.

More about Markos.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Sunday On Wednesday


AM JUST BACK FROM 10 DAYS IN SOUTHERN FLORIDA attending a very sick 93-year old relative who died while I was there.  He was more-than-ready to go and I was able to get him into Hospice at the last to disconnect all life support at his emphatic, repeated requests.  It was a humbling privilege to be with him and to support what he wanted and how he wished to die.

Meanwhile,  back in Tennessee,  I'm playing catch up.  I hate to miss a Sunday post, so I'm putting up one of my favorite psalms below. It's the (far too) busy season which means I'll be here as best I can.  Thank you for coming by.

Psalm 128

A song of ascents.

Blessed are all who fear the Lord,
    who walk in obedience to him.
You will eat the fruit of your labor;
    blessings and prosperity will be yours.
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
    within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
    around your table.
Yes, this will be the blessing
    for the man who fears the Lord.
May the Lord bless you from Zion;
    may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
    all the days of your life.
May you live to see your children’s children—
    peace be on Israel.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

This Is Not News So Why Are We Shocked?


The New York Daily News was able to speak with Farook's father, also named Syed. "He was very religious. He would go to work, come back, go to pray, come back. He’s Muslim," the dad said.

The 30-year-old shooter graduated from La Sierra High School and Cal State Fullerton, and was married with a child. He bought a house last year in Corona, southwest of San Bernardino in Riverside County.

Neighbor Maria Gutierrez told the paper, “Maybe two years ago he became more religious. He grew a beard and started to wear religious clothing. The long shirt that’s like a dress and the cap on his head.”


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Keith Koffler Back to the White House More Often?

Top Ten Things Global Warming Caused Besides Terrorism

There’s now consensus: Global warming causes terrorism.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders declared it so during a Democratic presidential debate. No more proof was needed, of course, but now President Obama has declared it, too.
Speaking at an international climate change conference in Paris this week, Obama provided “a glimpse of our children’s fate if the climate keeps changing faster than our efforts to address it.” This will include: “Submerged countries. Abandoned cities. Fields that no longer grow. Political disruptions that trigger new conflict, and even more floods of desperate peoples seeking the sanctuary of nations not their own.”
But Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga of the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu went further than America’s community organizer, declaring that “the effects of climate change … we strongly believe is also the cause of radicalism and terrorism.”
Well, we at LifeZette also strongly believe in the power of climate change, which itself may be imaginary but, whatever. As a service to you, the reader, we reveal 10 other horrible things global warming causes in addition to terrorism.
1. Obesity: Many are under the erroneous impression obesity is caused by eating too much and exercising too little. Nope. It’s now established that obesity is caused by global warming.
2. Disco: Disco was one of the worst things to happen to the ’70s. It, too, was caused by global warming. In fact, the two deceased Bee Gees each confirmed this before their deaths.
3. Bernie Sanders: The Democratic presidential candidate is one of the chief opponents of global warming. And yet it is little known that he himself was in fact caused by global warming.
4. The Patriots’ deflated footballs: No, it wasn’t Tom Brady who let the air out of those pigskins. Global warming.
5. Sinead O’Connor: Atmospheric scientists have determined that Sinead O’Connor was also caused by global warming. She may be cooling now.
6. Ishtar: One of the biggest movie flops of all time, the film ‘Ishtar’ is estimated to have lost some $40 million. The cause? Global warming.
7. The Kardashians: One of the worst things to happen to the country since disco, the Kardashians were also caused by global warming
8. Impossible To Open Children’s Toys: You’ve probably wondered why anyone would put unbreakable plastic around your kids new toy. They didn’t. It was global warming.
9. Poodles: These annoying little dogs have were in fact not created by breeders. They were created by global warming.
10. Bill Clinton’s insatiable sex drive: The fact is, as a kid, Bill Clinton was bookish and shy around women. But once global warming really started kicking in during the 1960s, Bill began propositioning every woman in Little Rock.

Monday, November 30, 2015

John Tamny Takes On Bernie Sanders False Economic Religion

Bernie Sanders preaches to his flock the need to create an "economy that works for all, not just the wealthy," but as evidenced by the desperate desire among the world's poorest to get to the U.S., that economy already exists.  The world's poor are busy escaping the collectivism Sanders espouses, at which point we can only look to the well-to-do and careless as the source of Sanders' support.  Sanders disdains great wealth, but it's only in a country marked by abundant success and a lack of want that Sanders could have a following at all.

By John Tamny

THE END OF WORLD WAR II brought with it the end of the British Empire as it was previously known.  While in 1945 a British passport rendered the owner of it a citizen of one quarter of the world's land mass, within a few years the empire had shrunk quite a bit. India, the presumed "Jewel" in the Crown, was soon to be free thanks to the efforts of independence leaders like Mahatma Gandhi.

While he was uncomfortable with socialists whom he saw as "armchair" owing to their unwillingness to live in impoverished fashion, Gandhi sought an egalitarian India with ideas for the country that most today would view as socialist.  As Larry Collins and Dominique LaPierre described his vision in their endlessly interesting book, Freedom at Midnight,
"All labour, physical or intellectual, would carry the same reward in Gandhi's India.  It was not a property qualification that would earn a man the right to vote in his state, but a labour qualification.  To get it, everybody would have to contribute physical labour to the state.  Nobody, including saints or sages, would be exempt.  The ditch digger would get his almost automatically, but the lawyer or millionaire would have to earn his with calluses."
A well-bred and educated lawyer himself, Gandhi strived to live as the "untouchables" of India did, including limiting his food intake to the bare minimum necessary to survive.  Yet despite the leader's pose, lost on Gandhi were the costs related to keeping him "poor."

As one of his allies (Sarojini Naidu) relayed to Lord Mountbatten (the British official charged with overseeing India's path to independence), Gandhi's ability to travel on third class trains was a function of numerous Congress Party officials dressing up as "untouchables" in order to protect him.  Though Gandhi lived in India's slums, faux untouchables from the Party surrounded him in a protective cocoon there too.  As Naidu put it to Mountbatten, "My dear Lord Louis, you will never know how much it has cost the Congress Party to keep that old man in poverty."

Gandhi's somewhat faux poverty came to mind amid a recent campaign stop for Bernie Sanders at Georgetown University.  Full of the well-to-do and well educated, it's no surprise that the Democratic presidential hopeful would find willing listeners at a school largely defined by a lack of want within its student body.

More broadly, it would be interesting to learn the educational attainments and income of the average Sanders partisan, or better yet, average Sanders donor.  Odds are they don't hail from the "working families" or "sick and poor" classes that Sanders claims to represent.

Instead, Sanders embodies the hopes and dreams of people like Livia Matteucci, a Georgetown student who is majoring in psychology.  As USA Today reported about Matteucci, "she and other Georgetown students support ideas such as paid family leave and a higher minimum wage" energetically promoted by Sanders. How very fitting.

Figure Matteucci will graduate into the kinds of companies that already offer family leave, not to mention that her pay upon graduation will well exceed the "minimum" wages that her emotions tell her are good for others. The average Georgetown student most likely last earned the minimum wage in high school as a source of pocket money to supplement an upper middle class lifestyle funded by well-educated and well-employed parents; that, or someone from this demographic was well off enough to "toil" as an unpaid intern.

Those who will truly be affected by what's popular among Sanders partisans are those who most likely have never heard of the Vermont senator.  Many likely haven't heard of Georgetown either, yet they'll be victimized by the yearnings of those who matriculated to the elite and very expensive school.
It's the very people who don't have time to contemplate family leave and wage floors who will experience a more difficult hiring environment as a result of costly rules foisted on employers.  The people who would pay for Sanders' unreason probably aren't terribly aware of a socialist candidate who denies being a socialist, and they aren't because they're too busy working to care.

Sanders told his Georgetown audience "that we must create an economy that works for all, not just the very wealthy." Why wouldn't he say that at ritzy Georgetown? When you're already wealthy, it's easy to disdain the trappings of same.

Interesting about this is that to look at the Republicans vying for the GOP nomination, just about every single one (arguably to the detriment of every American worker, rich or poor) has called for erasing federal income taxes on the lowest earners, all the while maintaining the highest rates for those whom Sanders would deem rich.  Sanders seeks even higher rates of taxation on the "rich." What this should signal to the rest of us is that Republicans and Democrats are in a fight over who will tax the rich the most.  More explicitly it tells us that both major political parties aren't exactly seeking favor with the wealthy.

Sanders or his partisans might respond that what he's really looking to do is end the bailout culture that reached full flower under a Republican in George W. Bush, and that continued under a Democrat in President Obama.  If so, such a move would be a boon for the wealth creators.

We know this simply because the source of Silicon Valley's wealth has been the constant failure that has long defined the world's most innovative economic region.  Imagine how much less well off the Valley would be today if former darlings like Webvan, Friendster and had been bailed out.  Assuming the proper cessation of Wall Street bailouts, the result (a good one in this writer's eyes) will be a great deal more wealth thanks to lousy stewards of capital being starved of it so that the best Wall Street firms and minds can receive it in abundance.  Amen to that.

As has been already mentioned, Sanders wants "an economy that works for all, not just the very wealthy," but as the yearnings of the world's poor to live in the U.S. constantly remind us, the truly impoverished want nothing to do with Sanders' socialism.  In truth, they're actively trying to escape the collectivism that Sanders' espouses with an eye on the abundance wrought by a profit motive perfected in the United States.

Sanders has told his flock that the "billionaire class must be told loudly and clearly that they cannot have it all," but back in the real world billionaire-style wealth constantly reveals itself as the biggest enemy of the want that has historically defined poverty.  The Walton familygot rich by virtue of making life's necessities (including groceries) available to the poor and middle class at increasingly low prices, Henry Ford transformed the once hard to attain automobile into a common good, and Michael Dell became a billionaire by turning computers that used to cost over $1 million into an everyday item.

Only in a country this rich and billionaire dense could kids spend four glorious years in college spouting policies that, if actually implemented, would render their families too poor to send them to college in the first place.  Only in a country as rich as ours could those out of school have the time and resources to promote and financially support a candidate whose ideas have most often correlated with extreme poverty and unemployment.

If there's a negative tradeoff to prosperity, it's that we have to suffer politicians like Sanders.  Indeed, prosperity allows some of us to be truly careless in terms of whom we support for elected in office, thus making people like him possible.  The irony behind a Sanders' platform defined by disdain of great wealth is that he's 100% a creation of it.

John Tamny is Political Economy editor at Forbes, editor of RealClearMarkets, and author of Popular Economics: What the Rolling Stones, Downton Abbey and LeBron James Can Teach You about Economics(Regnery, 2015).  His next book, Who Needs the Fed?(Encounter Books), will be released in May of 2016. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Advent Begins A Time of Waiting

PREPARE HIM ROOM.  It's a time of waiting and learning to wait in silence and quiet expectation. Ironically, at a time where activity and materialism in the world  seems to rule supreme, Advent, mercifully, beckons us in the opposite direction.

Will you wait?

Isaiah 40:31 ESV
But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

 Psalm 27:13-14 ESV
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

 Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

James 5:7-8 ESV
Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

 Lamentations 3:25 ESV
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.


Friday, November 27, 2015

Going Back In History---US's First War With Islam---Fight Or Pay Tribute?

GOOD FOR JEFFERSON FOR FINALLY TAKING THE BULL-BY-THE-HORNS AND DOING WHAT NEITHER WASHINGTON NOR ADAMS WERE WILLING TO DO. When all else fails, standing up to evil and sticking to it till the battle is won is the only option. Appeasement is fool's gold; you can't negotiate with terrorists. Most of us know this history lesson of the Barbary pirates; however, it never hurts hearing it again. SOURCE

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving Weekend! Braised Turkey Legs With Fennel and Artichoke Hearts



A low-starch meal means,  you always feel better the next day, never stuffed. (5 Responses When Relatives Ask Why You're Not Eating Stuffing This Year) What could be better than fennel with sage and  artichoke hearts?  Can't wait for leftovers to make this dish....I'm sure you could do it with chicken drumsticks too.  Possibilities are endless.

Don't forget to save the bones for making a hearty, slow broth next week that's rich in calcium, magnesium and lots of other nutrients that build up your immune system.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Monday, November 23, 2015

Boys, Birthdays, Legos... Battles of Good and Evil

WHICH COMES FIRST, THE LEGOS OR THE BOYS? G-BOY IS SEVEN TODAY and in his and his buddies' worlds, LEGOS rule. SUPREME. It's a big year for these little guys especially since Jurassic World LEGOS are now out. Then there's Star Wars.

Too many LEGOS, not enough time.  Right guys? Guys? Anybody listening? When I see these little fellows building, playing, battling so ferociously and intensely non-stop the games of good and evil, it now seems like good preparation for the world that awaits them (and us all) where the battles of good and evil now seem to come at us ferociously on a daily basis. No moral equivalence or relativism here. Build and play and fight on guys. And stay on the side of good. Happy birthday, G-Boy!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

What the Book of Psalms Is About

THE BIBLE PROJECT HAS BEEN MAKING SHORT VIDEO OVERVIEWS OF VARIOUS BOOKS OF THE BIBLE for several years. It's a great way to get introduced to parts of the Bible you might not know much about. Above is an overview of Psalms which I think is an excellent summary. But don't stop there.  Dig into these beautiful and timeless poems of lament and praise. It's a wonderful way to pray each day.

Currently at OneYearBible blog---on my sidebar---we're reading the longest psalm,  Psalm 119.  MORE HERE @ Read Scripture Series of the Bible Project

Friday, November 20, 2015

Seattle's REI Eschews Black Friday, Closing Stores and Telling Employees to Go Take A Hike!

ON THE BIGGEST RETAIL DAY OF THE YEAR NEXT WEEK, it's heartening to know that  outdoor gear giant  REI is walking away from the madness of  Black Friday and instead closing its doors that day and telling employees to go hiking!  I love it and can't think of anything worse than getting into holiday mayhem in any shopping center in America on the day-after-Thanksgiving.

Speaking of the holidays,  it seems Christmas music on the radio starts earlier and earlier each year.  It used to wait until Thanksgiving, but now some of it starts weeks earlier.  I just flip the station cause I'm not interested in how the ante is upped to get us to go shopping.

From The Atlantic---What ISIS Really Wants

THIS IS A LONG PIECE FROM THE ATLANTIC, but well worth a read.  If you're confused by all the rhetoric about ISIS (especially from our feckless president), then take time to read this and put it in perspective.  I'm glad I have:

Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sunday, Ezeikiel 37 Dry Bones Prophecy


Saturday-- Target Practice With Expert Law Enforcement Officers


IT'S TIME.  WAY PAST TIME. TIME-AND-A-HALF. Global warming is here.  

There's a time and place for red pepper spray. I've carried it for years, and now it's time. Doing it right in the state of Tennessee and it's a rather long---and not easy---process.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Brave, The Greatest---It Is the Soldier

ROGER SIMON: WHAT I LEARNED FROM LAST NIGHT'S DEBATE The following is via Bobby Petray at TN Eagle Forum:

It is the soldier

An Editorial by TN State Senator Mark Green

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month was marked as an armistice or end of violent hostilities between The Keizer's Germany and the Allied Nations in 1917 that preceded the official end to World War I.

As President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as Armistice Day two years later, his quote reveals the essence of our celebration of Veterans Day:  "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations..."

Later changed to Veterans' Day, this national holiday was designated to honor the heroism of those who've served to defend our nation's integrity and liberty in military service.

Ironically, the term "veteran" originated to identify those of more senior age and status, yet the large majority of the brave men and women who actively defend our sacred liberty are America's young adults.  Ranging from 60.2% of the Coast Guard up to 82.9% for the US Marines, the active military forces are predominantly comprised of adults 18-30 years young.

President Ronald Reagan in his 1985 Veterans' Day speech at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery observed that our military fallen "gave up two lives:  the one they were living and the one they would have lived."  For veterans who survived war or served in more peaceful times, their sacrifice of a "normal" life on Main Street, USA is often overlooked with missed birthdays, first steps of their toddlers taken without their serving parent cheering them on, and empty place-settings nightly at the kitchen table.

America's living veterans are our heroes and "sheroes."  They serve as the timeless inspiration for the poem by Army Veteran, Charles M. Province entitled, "It is the Soldier."

It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given use freedom of religion.
It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.
It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.
It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

Indeed, the men and women who serve in vast roles as the unified force of our United State Military deserve honor and respect for their service and sacrifice.  Yet, the liberty of some to speak freely has turned into an unbridled license to condemn the vary guardians of the entitled and grossly uninformed. No other single group has been the defender of individual liberties that define the founding, the existence, and the future of America more than those who serve in the various branches of our military service.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Sunday: The One Thing Angela Alcorn Remembers Most About Her Dad's Parenting


THIS IS A WONDERFUL REMINDER ABOUT HOW IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS IN LIFE that almost always matter most and are truly memorable. What good news to know we can actually be loved and known even more in our humbling mistakes than in our constant, pretentious strengths. This is what makes for significant relationships and people.

Randy writes:

Some years ago, I sat with my daughters at a wonderful father/daughter banquet at our church. Someone at the table asked my youngest daughter, Angela, what I’d done that made the biggest impression on her. I had no idea what she would say, but of course I hoped for something spectacular. 

I’ll never forget what she shared because it was so powerful to me. She said, “I remember one time when dad was harsh with me. Then a few minutes later he came back into my room, and he cried and asked my forgiveness. I’ve never forgotten that.”

That’s what Angie remembered as having the most impact on her—something I had actually done wrong, and then asked her forgiveness for! I thought, Isn’t that interesting? It shows how being a good example isn’t limited to doing great and magnificent things. Sometimes it’s when we admit we did wrong things.

This is God’s grace—He can redeem even our failures! (Provided we recognize and confess them to our children.) Saying "I'm sorry, please forgive me," may teach your children more than you would have by never failing, and far more than pretending you never fail.

How humbling and also encouraging to know that parents who admit their shortcomings don’t lose their children’s trust. They gain it.

Following are some parenting books I would recommend on parenting: Gospel Powered Parenting by Bill P. Farley, Shepherding A Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp (I read Tripp’s book when our girls were young, and I think it’s great), and What the Bible Says about Parenting by John MacArthur.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Seen In Kids Carpool Line in Houston---Where Else?



I found it more than amusing when we saw this bumper sticker on a mom's car in front of us in the kids' carpool line---stuck right above the rear exhaust pipe. 

 Political incorrectness at its best from Houston, in no uncertain terms.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Fred Thompson,One of Tennessee's Favorite Sons

FRED DIED SUNDAY IN NASHVILLE AFTER A LONG, OFF-AND-ON ILLNESS. This towering conservative will be missed by many.
A couple of links follow, including a piece I did for PJMedia a while back:

RIP Fred Thompson@PJMedia

RIP Fred Thompson

Turning Up the Heat On Fred Thompson

Sunday, November 1, 2015


LET'S CLEAR OUT ALL THE DARK, SCARY IMAGES FROM HALLOWEEN, SHALL WE? Hank Williams lives...But better than that, Christ Jesus has conquered all darkness and death for those who accept his gracious and free gift. YEEHAW!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Vital Way Christian Families Should Do Halloween (In Houston and Beyond)


GOT TO HOUSTON YESTERDAY, JUST IN TIME FOR MORE TORRENTIAL RAINS AND HALLOWEEN.  I have to admit,  Halloween has never been my favorite cup of tea.  But with the Gs,  I buck up a bit.  Anyway, orange is one of my favorite colors, especially with denim. And homemade pumpkin pies are everyone's favorite.

How should Christians do Halloween, if at all? It's a great question which Mike Hamilton asks and answers at PJMedia today in an elegant way:  We do it like we do the rest of life by asking the same important question---Does this celebrate the culture of Life or death? In a culture inundated with death masking as glamor and freedom, this question and the discernment required is not optional.

Some highlights of Hamilton's wise piece:

A critical question that accompanies much of what our kids watch, read, see, and hear–and how they dress up on Halloween–is, “Does this belong to a culture of life, or a culture of death?”

Our reason for asking this question is simply that our family belongs to the former. In many ways our society celebrates that which “is passing away”–things like materialism, lust, and fame. These are hopeless substitutes for people who have hitched their life’s meaning to its own star, which, like every human’s, is fast falling to the grave.

Biblical Christians regard “the grave” not as the next step, but as a step backward–the just reward for sinful creatures (which my wife and I definitely are). As Christ-followers our family celebrates the new life God has given us. On Halloween our culture asks, “Isn’t this dead, hopeless, rotting, trapped, terrified, terrifying figure funny?” Our family instead celebrates life by asking, with the Apostle Paul, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

We don’t assume that every 11-year-old with a “Scream” mask consciously celebrates the culture of death. More likely, he has no idea what narrative he is wrapped up in. Dark though the grave is, it serves as a setting for some of the world’s greatest stories, from biblical truth to Medieval epics to the canon of Greek and Roman mythology, which we delightedly teach our children. The walking dead figure prominently in more recent classics we will read with our kids–“The Chronicles of Narnia,” “The Lord of the Rings,” and even “Harry Potter.”

Over each narrative looms our question: culture of life, or culture of death?

Our kids pick up on these distinctions: “Dad, there was a skeleton on the Magic School Bus today, but it was for science.” Science is good. So is history. Soon our kids will associate October 31 with religious-historical markers, such as All Hallows’ Eve, and the start of the Protestant Reformation.
Meanwhile, we will happily dress them up (usually as heroes), take them begging on Halloween–and talk with them. So leave your light on. 

So, Yes!  Please leave your lights on in West University.  We'll most likely be coming by rain or shine.