Information doesn’t wan’t to be free; it doesn’t even want to be information

This morning’s attempt to read some news articles and blog posts with my morning coffee has been exceedingly frustrating.  I’ve given up and will type a rant instead.

I’m still pining for the days of Google Reader, the news aggregator that did what I wanted and displayed nonintrusive ads.  I haven’t been happy with alternatives that have either have a more “magazine like” presentation, continue to add more features, or display duplicate banner ads larger than the material I want to read.  I really need little more than a list of headlines that I can look at with as little distraction as possible.

As I try to read news on a newsreader site some posts display only headlines or a portion so that you have to go to the site.  I understand the need to get visitors to your site as a means of revenue for commercial journalism, but much of what I read is put out by non-profit ministries without any external ads.

Ads, by the way, have gotten to be way out of control.  I understand the need for revenue, but it seems like there should be some sense of proportionality to the context.  If I watch a video on YouTube, a video commercial at the beginning seems appropriate.  Listening to a brief interruption on Spotify also seems to fit the context.  Reading requires some measure of concentration, and to go to a site and begin reading an article only to have my attention hijacked by a video car commercial playing in the margin tells me the site owners don’t value their content enough to let me read it.  By the time I find the video to pause it I usually conclude that the point of the site isn’t to give me information, but to present advertisements.

More and more sites I go to cover the screen with a weasel worded email signup forms.  These are particularly frustrating when they continue to show up on every visit – even if you have signed up.  And once I’m past the sign up form there are the ubiquitous social media sharing plugins that cover portions of text so that reading a page requires strategical scrolling to get around Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest logos.

Based on the current state of the internet information doesn’t want be free, it wants to be caged behind sign in forms, ill thought out design, and obnoxious advertisements.  And judging from the amount of “fake news”, assertions without arguments, and opinions presented as facts, it doesn’t want to be information.

1 Corinthians 1:1-3

Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

(1 Corinthians 1:1-3 ESV)

Essentials of Our Faith: Scripture

 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:10-17 ESV)

rp_tumblr_m0tvs7ux7J1rrdedwo1_500.jpgAll Scripture is self-attesting and being Truth, requires our unreserved submission in all areas of life. The infallible Word of God, the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, is a complete and unified witness to God’s redemptive acts culminating in the incarnation of the Living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible, uniquely and fully inspired by the Holy Spirit, is the supreme and final authority on all matters on which it speaks.

Why we don’t kill people for touching dead pig skin

Football_signed_by_Gerald_R._FordI’ve seen a clip from West Wing going around on Facebook with the headline “How to Silence Kim Davis Supporters”.  In the clip the president lays out a litany of questions to someone who is representative of the Christian right.  I don’t know the plot – haven’t seen the show.  The questions are how to to apply Ex 21:7 (selling his daughter into slavery), Ex 35:2 (death penalty for breaking the Sabbath), Lev 11:7 (pigs are unclean), and other laws against mixing crops and fabrics etc…

Let me be emphatic: this is not a defense of Kim Davis.  This is a comment on the accusation that Christian’s cherry pick which verses of the Bible they want to follow.  When you write the lines and pick the actors you can make it look like Christian’s are stumped.  But in truth questions of how Christians should relate to the Old Testament laws isn’t a recent question.  In fact it’s one of the earliest things the Church dealt with, so early it’s actually included in the New Testament (Acts 15).  The Apostles gathered to ask essentially whether someone who believed in Jesus had to become Jewish and obey all of the Old Covenant laws.  They decided,  “It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you [the Gentiles] no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality” (Acts 15:28-29).  In other words the New Testament explicitly says Christians are not bound by Jewish civil and worship regulations.  We are still obligated to keep God’s moral law.

I wish I could summarize this on handwritten sign and I would just hold it with an earnest expression for a picture on twitter – but this actually requires some thought and following a line of reasoning.  Some of the Old Testament laws dealt with religious worship and regulations that were sort of social markers that separated the Jewish people from other nations.  These were rules about how animals were sacrificed and dietary restrictions.  The Acts passage explicitly says these aren’t to be applied to Gentile Christians.  (Also see the book of Hebrews in the New Testament and Jesus’ own teachings about food laws in Mark 7:19).

Other laws dealt with how Israel would operate as a political state, these are the civil laws.  On one hand, they dealt with things similar to our inheritance laws and health codes.  On the other, they provided penalties for breaking criminal laws based on the moral law.  This for example would be how to deal with someone who murdered, or committed adultery, or stole something.  One very important difference between the Biblical nation of Israel and the Church is that the Church is not and never will be a nation or a political state.  So rather than trying to implement the laws of Israel, we are called to be obedient to whatever civic authorities we are under (Romans 13:1-7.)  This means we pay taxes and obey zoning laws.  It also means that we recognize the state’s right to enforce punishments on those who break the moral law.  Civil authorities, not the Church, regulate against theft, fraud, and murder.  The moral law is unchanging.  Although it is to be enforced by civil authority, the state doesn’t define it.  It is given by God and is part of the very fabric of creation, and we are called to obey it.  This is why the letters of the New Testament continue to call Christians to integrity, obedience, sexual purity and generosity – but not to refrain from bacon and shell fish or from wearing clothes of mixed fabrics.

If you aren’t a Christian you obviously disagree with this view of law, but I hope you would agree that to accuse Christians of only cherry picking Bible verses without ever referencing Jesus or any of the New Testament is an awfully selective use of scripture.

Sermon: The Redeemed Community, 1 Peter 2:4-10

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,”


“A stone of stumbling,
and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

(1 Peter 2:4-10 ESV)1468506_581101655289536_301432628_n


Calvin on the source of Truth

Whenever we come upon these matters in secular writers, let that admirable light of truth shining in them teach us that the mind of man, though fallen and perverted from its wholeness, is nevertheless clothed and ornamented with God’s excellent gifts.  If we regard the Spirit of God as the sole fountain of truth, we shall neither reject the truth itself, nor despise it wherever it shall appear, unless we with to dishonor the Spirit of God.

John Calvin, Institutes 2.2.15

Vim & diatheke

I’m sure the subset of pastors who use the Vim editor for sermon and lesson preparation is probably miniscule. If you are one of them I have found an excellent tool for inserting biblical references into your document. The open source Sword project has command line bible tool called diatheke. (I think it is installed automatically with their other Bible software projects; at least I think my Bible Time installation included it.)

You can quickly insert scripture into a document you’re editing in Vim with the :read! command. For example:

:read! diatheke -b ESV -k 1 Peter 3:21

This is much quicker for me than using mouse selection and moving between programs.