24, Lesbians, and Brokeback Mountain

My dad has recently gotten us hooked on 24. Tonight we are taking a break, but we have watched probably 8 episodes in the last three days. That is a lot for a family that basically doesn't watch TV. In fact, we started watching with the first episode, and I have never even seen an advertisement before that. We are a little behind sometimes. However, there is a benefit. You only end up watching, reading, listening to the best.

One thing that amazes me about today's TV (Ok, we do watch a little) is how complex it is and how expensive it must be to make. I bet some TV episodes cost more to make than most movies 20 years ago. 24 even goes beyond CSI in the variety of camera angles and video editing and processing. In addition, the writing is much better than old series that I watch as a kid like, Hunter or The Fall Guy.

Another way many TV shows are like movies is the way they push the envelope morally. In the first couple of episodes of 24 you see two teenagers having sex (no skin, but you see movement), and you see two lesbians kissing. The latter is especially shocking to me in light of the recent controversy over Brokeback Mountain and the scenes therein. Now, I haven't seen the movie. This is mostly because we watch 95% of our movies on DVD and it only recent was released on DVD. It has been highly recommended by friends and I am curious to evaluate it for myself. I suppose the fact that the love scenes in BBM are between to men make them more shocking, but a TV show with women making out and unmarried teenagers having sex really is no better.

In some sense, I wish the church would shut up for a while with its criticism of worldliness in the world. Part of me feels like we've said enough for a while. I think we'd do better to listen for a while. Reflect on what we hear. Look to the Gospel to see how it answers the questions asked by the world and then present an all-encompassing answer that doesn't sound like a lecture. Why is it that "preaching" has such a negative connotation? If someone says they are "preaching" it is almost universally in the context of them needing to shut up. I don't think Jesus preached.

We should stop being so offensive so that the cross can be an offense. So often we offend because we don't listen or don't really care. When we do, people don't even hear the gospel--there is nothing you can do to commend yourself to God, but God has commended you to himself in Christ. Instead people here, "I am better than you." We offend with statements and attitudes that contrary to the gospel. We would do well to preach the Gospel to ourselves and let the offense soak in and disrupt the sin buried in our own hearts.

Federal Vision and New Perspective Theology

I have recently read a theology paper that was really good. Basically it describes a current controversy in conservative Presbyterian circles. It is pretty technical, but I thought it was very helpful in understanding the controversy. It definitely encouraged me to keep reading about this issue.

I won't try to summarize it, but the controversy is about the meaning of justification and the practical issue of assurance of salvation. It is pretty heavy in terminology. If anyone out there wants to read it, and has questions. Feel free to post them. I'll answer them as I can.

What do you think about me?

Have you every wondered what people think of you? If you are as egocentric as I am you have probably thought about it many times. Well, I found out just a little this past Friday.

Sitting at the table were me, my wife, the bubbly female hostess, the ironically uptight yet laid-back male host, and Russell. Russell's a "single-again" father of three that inhales oxygen and exhales NFL trivia and stats. Guys like him work for TV networks and supply Troy Aikemen with facts like "The Colts haven't lost a game when they have had first possession and led by over 14 points midway through the third quarter when the opposing team's mascot is a bird." I'd have to say that Russell is one of my favorite people. He is one of the least pretentious people I know. He always has a good time, and he is a rapidly maturing Christian man. If anyone knows a great single gal, he'd love a referral.

Well, Russell offered an impression of our host as he got up to answer the door. It was a very accurate portrayal of our hosts mild disgust with having to exert the effort to go to the door because Russell had knocked instead of just announcing his presence. After our laughter cleared, my wonderful wife asked Russell to "do Heath" to which the female host agreed.

Reluctantly, Russell looked to me for approval, and then gave a slight gesture with his arms and rose uncomfortably in his seat while making a pained smile. The ensuing laughter told me that this must have been a face and gesture I make often.

Now seeing yourself in a short impression is one thing, but to have that impression interpreted is quite another. The comedic act was alluded to later with a larger crowd and an encore was demanded. With my permission, Russell did the move again, but this time offered an interpretation. "Its like he's saying, 'How do I say this without making you feel stupid?"

Ouch, comedy can be a great vehicle for conviction. As hard as a try to suppress my intellectual pride, still, it leaks out through my body language. While I rarely think that people are stupid when I feel the need to correct or argue my point, I do perceive that I am going to come off as making them feel stupid, and I am often very careful to word my comment so as not to impute ignorance or stupidity. Nevertheless, I must fail. How do I avoid this? My guess is that it is somehow rooted in some pride that I have.

No doubt it is the pride that comes from performing, ironically, for a self-constructed god. I suppose the answer to my problem is to stop worshiping intelligence, insight, and wisdom and start worshiping the giver of intelligence, insight, and wisdom.

Developing Worship

It is no secret that the music and worship form of my church does not match my own. I would tend toward either a higher liturgical form that is almost anglican. My thoughts were formed in, St. Paul's Church, PCA, a conservative presbyterian church that sought to reach out to people that had grown up in mainline churches. However, they also believed that the form was good aside from the cultural appeal.

I am currently attending a fairly normal broadly evangelical bible church. In some sense, they are the antithesis of what I came to love at St. Paul's. Informal, contemporary, unstructured. I could go on, but I would begin to sin. In fact, I have many times. I sat in church pointing out in my head every trite phrase and the lack of good poetry. I would list every difference with my own model and revel in every irony. I feel very confident that I was right on most points, but I know that my heart was not right on most.

Finally, after beginning to read With One Voice by Reggie Kidd, on of my professors at RTS, I have changed my approach. In fact, God has changed my heart. I came to the realization that I was missing my one chance every week to worship with Christ and his body. While I still believe the form of the worship is sub-par, the object of the worship is beyond compare.

I am so thankful because I am not just doing it because I know it is right, but because I actually want to. As opposed to my many attempts to be less critical, this approach actually works.

Jesus is alive. Let's worship him.

Water Fight




Turning aginst their father

Originally uploaded by bheathr.

I've been busy this week and last with a couple of birthday parties. This was taken at the first. I am waiting on pictures of Soren's birthday party.

Being a dad is great! It is one of my favorite things I do.

Blog-a-thon Wrap-up

I learned that you should write as much about the idea as you can when you have it. Sometimes, it is hard to recreate the passion from a one line todo. Work is really busy right now, so I make take a week or so off before starting a 2x per week schedule.

Thanks to all who read and comment. It is great fun, and you help me motivate me to improve my writing and thinking.

Good Friday Reflection

I vacilate between wanting to be happing and sorrowful on Good Friday. In some sense, I guess the church has guided us in calling it Good Friday, but traditions such as fasting on Friday lead me to believe I am not the first to struggle with these incongruous emotions.

On one hand, I feel like the author of the Dream of the Rood who envisions a victorious Christ mounting a jewel encrusted cross On the other hand, I imagine the site so shockingly portrayed by The Passion of the Christ. i see Christ suffering for the sin of man, of which I am all to well aware in my own life.

In the end, I think it is best to think of Chist's suffering and how I and my flesh was crucified with Christ. My recent study of baptism has caused me remember more how important the theme of union with Christ accomplished by the Holy Spirit is. It encourages me to fight against the flesh since I know that its reign has come to an end. In a sense, this unites both the good and bad of Good Friday. Sadly, repentance is necessary, but happily repentance is now possible.

I am ready for easter. It is much simpler. Resurrection. Rejoice.

Taxes

Believe it or not, I have finished filing my Taxes! I am usually scrambling on October 15th to finish. But, this year I took a little time here and there to work on them in Turbo Tax. I was also diligent to put all my tax documents in one place as I received them.

It is very nice to reap the benefits of a disciplined, organized life. This is a very new thing for me. I think that since self- control is the last fruit of the spirit listed, I must have thought it was less important. However, I have tried to be more disciplined with a few things in my life, and each has turned out very well.

Part of my change has to do with frustration at the suffering I cause myself. I used to hate going to work on Mondays because I had to record my time in some detail for the previous week. It may sound stupid to some people, but the displeasure it caused me further contributed to my procrastinating. Finally, I decided that if I would just try for one week to enter my time every day it would be better. Thanks be to God, I put aside my idol of being productive and took the time to do some meaningless data entry. It was so much better.

Part of my change is due to reading Proverbs and seeing how good a life of the Kingdom can be. I used to think less of Proverbs because it was so practical. But a recent study showed me that it was really a very integrated book. It contains verses pertaining to the love of God and neighbor.

We can be assured that the Spirit will keep working in me and you to produce the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, kindness and self-control. The way he will work is to show us more and more how good Christ is so that we lay down our idols and run to Jesus. When this happens, our lives just naturally get better.

Infant Baptism

At work, I am involved in an email discussion group. The most recent topic was baptism. Being the only paedobaptist, I felt I needed to send more than a short email. Here is what ended up being a quick research paper.

My main goal in writing this is not to persuade you that you should baptize your children. Please don't change your mind based on my arguments. I don't want that responsibility. My chief purpose is to show that a valid case can be made for infant baptism. There are many points of theology about which people grow up in the church with very dogmatic yet unproven beliefs. Often their teachers, so-called experts included, have poorly understood the issues at best. Many times this leads to arrogance and self-righteous judgement against the other party.

There are three ways to approach the argument for infant baptism. One is to examine the scriptural evidence and construct a theological case which builds from the scriptural evidence. Then, you can look to how godly men and women of the past and present have taught on this subject. The final resource we have is our own relationship with the Father through Christ by the Spirit. In a theology class, the first order of study is that of theological method. For now, we may just have to make assumptions, challenge, and ask questions of each other along the way. Even the questions we ask of a text are shaped by our own theological history.

New Testament Context

Before we look at the scriptures we should remember the context into which Jesus came. It was a Jewish context. Deut 6:7 says, "You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." The passing on of stories and of the faith was fundamental to the Jewish religion. In addition, the first official ceremony given to Abraham was circumcision. God commands Abraham to circumcise every male in his household. That would have included children and servants. Of this God says, "it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you." The original promise to Abraham was chiefly about his children and about how God had given them a promise. This idea permeated the Old Testament church for over 2000 years. At the edge of the promised land, God renewed his covenant with Israel that he made at Sinai and found it significant to mention that witnessing the renewal were "your elders and officials, and all the other men of Israel together with your children and your wives."(Deut 29:9-13).

In addition, there was already a practice of baptism in the Jewish faith. John was not the first baptizer. Households (children and all) were baptized as part of a conversion to Judaism. In addition, there are various ceremonial sprinklings and washings required by the Old Testament(Lev 14:8-9, 8:5-6, Ps. 51:1-2;7-10). These all alluded to the washing of sin or filth to make something holy. In all likelihood, this was the tradition in which John the Baptist saw his baptism. Furthermore, the word baptizo is actually used of these practices in Luke 11:38, Mark 7:3-4. Here the "washing" as it is usually translated is applied to Jesus, hands, bowls, cups, and dining couches. If we are to understand what the writers of the New Testament are saying, we must "keep the Old Testament in mind" as we read the New Testament. Not doing so would be like trying to understand the Constitution without understanding English common law and the events surrounding the American Revolution.

Baptism and the Covenant

The first sermon of the New Testament Church is found in Acts 2. In it Peter specifically claims that the promise of the Holy Spirit is for his hearers and their children. Consequently, they should repent and be baptized. Now infants cannot repent, but they can receive the spirit. John the Baptist did. (Luke 1:15) We must acknowledge that children must in some significant way be included in the promise in a way that is distinct from just anyone else. We can imagine what this would have meant to the early Christians who would have been wondering about the implications of this new revelation and its connection to the promise to Abraham and the covenant with Israel at Sinai.

From the mere fact that the sign (circumcision) of the relationship or covenant between Abraham and God was to be applied to his children before they exhibited faith shows us that the mere sign has no power. In fact, the sign was applied to servants and livestock. The sign was to show others that they were in a special relationship with God. It signified that they were under special judgment if they did not live up to the relationship God had initiated. Deut 10:16 an Jeremiah 4:4 confirm that God has more in mind for inclusion in the covenant than just circumcision. They exhort the hearer to "remove the foreskin of your hearts." It is also clear from Israel's checkered history that circumcision without faith is of no use. In fact, to those who did not unite circumcision with faith were to be cut off from the assembly. The reason parents were to teach their children was because being circumcised was not enough. It was nonetheless required (Gen 17:14).

Baptism functions as circumcision in the New Testament. It is a sign that one has entered into a special relationship with God. In Acts 8, Peter argues that since the Gentiles have received the Spirit, they should also be baptized. Why?

it is the sign that they now are related differently to God. Paul links baptism to circumcision (Col 2:11-12) in how each functioned to cleanse the believer from sin and points to Christ's death, the curse for sin. Similarly in order to recieve the blessings of baptism one must unite the rite with faith. If not, it becomes a greater curse (Heb 6).

Jesus alludes to this same dynamic when talking to Nicodemus in John 3. It is both of the water and Spirit that one must be born. The outward sign is nothing without faith. Peter also makes the connection in Acts 8:16 when he argues for water baptism of Cornelius' household because they have received the spirit. It almost seems as if it occurs here in reverse order. For the church is not that dissimilar to ancient Israel. It is made of the "wheat and the tares" until the final consummation of Christ's coming. In fact, Paul in 1 Cor 10:1-5 says that all of the Israelites were baptized by passing through the cloud and through the Red Sea. He uses this argument to exhort his readers to persevere in righteousness because although baptized, the Israelites did not persevere in faith. Similarly all those who profess faith and are baptized are not guaranteed eternal life.

Credobaptists rightly wait for a confession for adults. I would argue that this is what is seen in Acts 8:36-37. In addition, these verses are notably missing from early manuscripts and even left out of some current translations such as the ESV. However, we never see any discussion of these issues in the context of child. As the father of young children, there are real issues here. The New Testament is a pastoral book. In a cultural context as I described, it would seem that these issues would be addressed. Instead, we find mentions of household baptisms that in all likelihood contained children. The technical language also reflects that this is a pattern that is repeated and not isolated events.

It is merely confession that entitles adults to baptism in the new covenant. The same was true of converts to Judaism under the old covenant. Children receive circumcision, and if Paul is right, baptism under the Mosaic Covenant. What entitles children to participate in the relationship of God with his people? I would argue that is by virtue of their birth to Christian parents. In a sense, everyone already does this. They just do not apply the sign of the covenant.

Christ's Baptism

The first specific instance of baptism we hear about is the baptism of Christ in Matt. 3:16. Though, John thought himself unworthy, Christ sought to identify his ministry with that of John's. John rightly recognizes Jesus as the point of his ministry. This passage brings up three important points in our discussion of baptism. First, many use the fact that Jesus "came up out of the water" as proof that Jesus had been immersed. If John saw his baptism in line with other baptisms mentioned in the Old Testament, the odds are Jesus was not immersed. Imagine a scene where Jesus and John step down into the water from the bank. John uses bowl or his hands to dip out water and pour it over Christ's head. As Jesus steps up onto the bank the Holy Spirit descends on him.

This brings us to a second point. There are more passages that connect baptism with the Holy Spirit than there are to Christ and his death. (Acts 1:5, John 1:33, Luke 3:16, Mtt 3;11, Matt 28:19, John 3:5, Acts 2:3, Acts 8:16, Acts 10:47-49, 1 Cor 12:13) That is not to say that these are insignificant, but the connection between the Holy Spirit and baptism is rarely talked about outside of charismatic circles. Baptism is connected to the application of the benefits of Christ. The s Holy Spirit unites us with Christ in his death which entitles us to the forgiveness of sins and and in his life to all the benefits of a son of God. God is often spoken of as pouring out his Spirit. Here the mode of baptism by pouring can been seen.

It is in connection to the receiving of the benefits of Christ's death that both Peter (1Peter 1:2) and the writer to the Hebrews refer to the sprinkling clean of the believers heart (10:22). In fact, there is an extended discussion in Hebrews of how the sprinkling in Christ is better than the sprinkling that of the artifacts of the tabernacle and that of Israel by Moses. I would not argue that baptism is required for salvation. The thief on the cross and Cornelius are proof of that; however, I would argue that it has more than symbolic value. I don't think we do justice to the scriptures if we deny that there is some mysterious power connected to the sacraments of the church. As we saw earlier it is a sign of a new relationship to God and his people.

The third point from John's baptism is that this is not Christ's real baptism. If so, what is Christ talking about in Mark 10:38 when he asks, "Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" What does Jesus mean when he says, "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!" Christ's death on the cross is his baptism. Here we can also see the connection between circumcision and baptism. Paul, in Col 2:11-14, connects the cross, circumcision, and baptism. Our baptism is our identification with Christ in his baptism and circumcision. Christ was cut off from God in his death on the cross for us. Our unity with him in his death frees us from the penalty of being cut off ourselves. Having identified with him in his death, we will be raised with him to new life in Christ. This is also what Paul is talking about in 6:2-4. While immersion might be a helpful picture of death and resurrection. It is not necessary for understanding these passages. As noted earlier, sprinkling or pouring might be just as valid a metaphor because of the connection to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit or the sprinkling clean by the blood of Christ.

History of Baptism

I wish I had time to spell out the history of baptism. Suffice it to say that paedobaptism has prevailed for much more of church history. Early church fathers seem to have practiced infant baptism. Conclusive evidence exists in the 3rd century of the practice. Until shortly after the Reformation, credobaptism is virtually unheard of. However, in America, believer's baptism is the dominant position. Internationally, Catholics and Anglicans weight the church to the other side.

Personal Experience

I have really only seen paedobaptism practiced in conservative presbyterian churches. I believe it was practiced well. It enhanced the sense of community and the "it takes a village" attitude toward "covenant children." One argument I have often heard is that children will think they can do anything because they have already been saved. I would argue that this attitude is rampant in churches that would make people re-baptize if they were baptized as infants. The churches I was in seem to at the very least exhibit no more of this attitude than baptist churches.

Hours more could be spent in exegesis, historical study, and personal reflection. Currently, I have no more time. I would appreciate your responses.

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What's Your Handicap?

Second to "How are you," this may be the most asked question on a golf course. What if people asked you about your handicap at work. I am not talking about something for which you might be sued. I am talking about your work handicap.

In my thinking about project management, I have wandered upon the idea of a handicap system for programmers and maybe even for everyone in a company. When employees are on salary, many times, there is little incentive to do your best work beyond "the good of the company" or pride in your work. Sometimes you just need more than that.

I am thinking about adding two possibilities. One is the calculation of a handicap base on how quickly you get your work done. If you follow one of the agile methodologies, you can control quality with testing and metrics. If you don't do those things, you might need to find a way to add quality to the handicap. The handicap introduces another level of pride in your work and maybe even some friendly competition. It might also give you a basis for incentive programs.

Secondly, I have thought about introducing a work week based on production hours instead of clock hours. This would be how "par" was set for the handicap. You might decide based on your own project tracking history that 25 budgeted project hours were all an average programmer could accomplish in a week. So you set that as par. Then, if people want, they can go home after they have completed 25 project hours. If they want to improve their handicap, they can stay and work more.

There are two requirements for the handicap system is good management of project requirements. You would have to make sure that new work was not just slipped into someone's workload without an adjustment in the budget. You would also need good, objective budgeting practices.

However, I think those are necessary parts of a well run project anyway. I can't see how a company would lose. Employees gain three new incentives: time, pride-in-work, and fun competition. They company gains an objective method for rewarding exceptional employees. After all, do companies pay people for the hours they spend inside the building or for the work they are doing while there.