Friday, August 31, 2012

On Video: A Night Landing on Runway 25L in Los Angeles

This is a video of a 737-800 (the same aircraft type I fly) landing at night on Runway 25 Left in Los Angeles (LAX). It is filmed looking through the Heads Up Display (HUD), which is a clear acrylic screen that folds down in front of the captain (also on our aircraft). The instrument indications are projected onto the HUD screen, with the focal point at infinity (so the HUD and the runway are simultaneously in focus), allowing you to view the instrument readings and the runway at the same time without having to look down at the instrument panel. You can hear the crew making their normal calls, plus the chatter on the radio (such as the control tower air traffic controller issuing clearances - that's the female voice), and the synthetic voice of the ground proximity warning system automatically calling out altitudes. There's a lot going on in those last 1,000 feet!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Remember When... We Were Still Counting?

Remember when we were still counting? I'm not that keen on revisiting those days, but they serve as a reminder of how not to do it.

The Ablaze! counter disappeared when the LCMS website was redone a while back. The once often-heard maxim "hell is hot and time is short," combined with snapping fingers, disappeared at about the same time.  Evangelizing the world is an important task, and how you go about that task is equally important. Maybe the whole "movement" was actually designed by Rev. Bill:

photo credit: Thomas Hawk

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Notice the Difference?

Irenaeus, 2nd century Church father, who wrote Against Heresies:

     "On account of His infinite love He became what we are, in order that we might become what He is."

Lorenzo Snow, fifth president and prophet of the Mormon church:

     "As man is God once was, as God is man may be."

Monday, August 27, 2012

The King Tut Exhibition: Going, Going…

Cheryl and I went to the King Tut exhibit in Seattle last week, more properly called "Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs." It was fantastic. If you remember the original King Tut exhibit in the ‘70s, this one was more than twice as large. The exhibits include not only over 100 objects from Tutankhamun’s tomb, but also artifacts from many other Dynasties, representing 2,000 years of the shifting sands of Egyptian history. Included in the exhibit are King Tut’s solid gold sandals, which were on the corpse, gold finger and toe coverings, and a statue of Thutmose III, one of the kings who oppressed the Israelites, and possibly the Pharaoh of the exodus.

I didn’t take a whole lot of photos, but I’ll paste a few of them below. Flash photography wasn’t allowed, and there were too many people to use a tripod. That combined with poor lighting and a hand-held camera results in blurry photos. You can enlarge the photos by clicking on them. Feel free to download any of them. You may use them elsewhere as long as you ascribe credit. The first photo is designed to be used as wallpaper.

Part of the money raised by this tour is being used to complete the Grand Egyptian Museum at Giza. Once the museum is completed (scheduled for 2015), these artifacts will likely never leave Egypt again. Seattle is the last stop on the tour. The exhibit is open until January 6, 2013 at the Pacific Science Center (located to the left of the base of the Space Needle).

A composite of three photos of the gold funerary mask of Psusennes I, (1039-991 BC; 21st Dynasty), whose tomb was discovered intact at Tanis in 1940. Psusennes was the only pharaoh to have been buried in a silver sarcophagus (inlaid with gold). You might think that’s sort of a letdown, but silver was much more rare than gold at the time, so his was an even grander sarcophagus.

Queen Nofret, sculpted in granodiorite, now lacking her original crystal and obsidian eyes. She was the consort of 12th Dynasty Pharaoh Senusret II (also known as Senwosret II or Sesostris II; 1899 – 1878 BC).  You can see the huge illuminated Tutankhamun statue over her shoulder in the next room.

A conopic stopper made of calcite in the likeness of King Tutankhamun (1332 – 1323 BC; 18th Dynasty). The mummified organs of the kings were place in four canopic jars and sealed with stoppers. The jars were placed inside a partitioned canopic chest with four compartments, one each for the stomach, lungs, liver, and intestines, the organs of course being needed by the owner in the afterlife. 

One of Tutankhamun’s canopic coffinettes. In Tut’s case, one coffinette was nestled inside each canopic jar. This one contained Tut’s stomach. Note the inscriptions on the inside of the coffinette. The coffinette is made of gold and inlaid with carnelian, lapis lazuli, and colored glass. For a very interesting description of the coffinette, go here.

A frontal view of the coffinette, which is twelve inches tall.  Tutankhamun is holding the familiar royal sceptres of flail and crook, the flail representing the king as provider of food for his people, or administrator of law, while the crook representing the king as shepherd of his people.

Kings Khafre (2518-2493 BC; 4th Dynasty) and Menkaure (2488-2460 BC; 4th Dynasty), builders of two of the three pyramids at Giza in the Fourth Dynasty.

Friday, August 24, 2012

"My Protestant Kid Can Beat Up Your Pentacostal Kid"

"My Protestant kid can beat up your Pentecostal kid," at least if hippocampus size has anything to do with it. A study done last year at Duke University Medical Center found that the size of the hippocampus (which is located in the medial temporal lobe of your brain, under the cerebral cortex) is larger in Protestants who did not have a "born again" experience as opposed to those who reported a life-changing religious experience, or Catholics or unaffiliated older adults. The subjects of the study were initially recruited for a larger study on the effects of depression in the elderly.

To determine the answer to the more relevant question, as a follow on study, I think they should examine the brains of the researchers, to determine how a study about elderly depression could morph into a study on the relationship of born-again experiences to brain size. Their data might be very conclusive.

You can read the details here.

photo credit: Mo Morgan

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Frank and Brotherly Rebuke

Quoting from Dr. Kurt Marquart’s presentation at the 2003 Annual Symposium on the Lutheran Confessions at Concordia Theological Seminary titled “Fellowship in the Former Synodical Conference”:
The point here was, mutual recognition in oneness of faith, doctrine, and confession. Oneness in the one faith once delivered to the saints in the Apostle’s doctrine. And without such agreement there could be no joint mission work. But with it there is full communion in the church’s work and life and worship, including frank and brotherly rebuke of St. Peter’s fear-induced lapse into a hypocritical practice – and Paul rebukes him publicly, and this precisely in order that the purity of the Gospel proclamation might be safeguarded. And please note too that the public offense against the Gospel by St. Peter demanded prompt public correction, not endless secret negotiations.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Ten Commandments, Old Style

From A Good Book, by N. H. Newport, published by Wilcox and Brown in 1834:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The "Little Ordination": What is It? Pastor Weedon Explains

Pastor Will Weedon, in Part 8 of the Issues, Etc. series on the historic liturgy, explains the salutation and it's significance in the Divine Service. Another great segment:

A Horrific Consequence of Abandoning the Historic Christian Liturgy

In a segment on the May 30, 2011 Issues, Etc. show on the Athanasian Creed, Pastor Wilken and Pastor Will Weedon discuss the abandonment of the historic Christian liturgy and its consequences. Pastor Wilken asks Pastor Weedon to react to two different studies by the Barna Group which found that the majority of American Christians do not believe the Holy Spirit is a living force or entity. Listen to Pastor Weedon’s insightful response:

As the Athanasian Creed confesses,
1Whoever desires to be saved must,     above all, hold the catholic faith. 2Whoever does not keep it whole and     undefiled will without doubt perish     eternally. 3And the catholic faith is this, 4that we worship one God in Trinity and     Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the     persons nor dividing the substance.
This is a sobering thought. How many contemporary worship services have you been to where the Trinity was rarely, if ever, mentioned? It’s certainly unlikely you’ll see the Trinity taught in the praise songs. So do we worship one God in Trinity? And if not, what does this mean? The Creed certainly answers: Those who don’t worship one God in Trinity “will without doubt perish eternally.” As Pastor Weedon points out, the Trinity is everywhere in the liturgy -- certainly one more reason to keep the liturgy intact. You can listen to the entire Issues, Etc. segment here.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Life Cycle of a Church – Two Different Narratives

Sketch One:

Sketch Two:

Personally, I prefer the second narrative. The first one seems like a bit of a straw man argument, and not very descriptive of the actual life of most churches. Oddly, I've been a member of nine different LCMS churches, several in big cities, two in really little rural towns. None of them are in danger of "dying." A church following the second approach cannot be dying, because there Christ is present, giving His good gifts that sustain life, not just for this life, but also for the life to come.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Our Picnic

Growing up in Nebraska, the winters were pretty brutal. My aunt and uncle (my dad's sister) lived the good life in sunny California - they even had a pool in their yard! Anyway, my uncle would make fun of the Nebraska weather, which somehow lead to this photo of my parents and I having a "picnic" in the back yard in the middle of a balmy 1960 Nebraska winter. My sister must have taken the photo. It may have been a little brisk for Corn Flakes outside, but at least the milk stayed cold.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Doctrinal Apathy: A Dangerous Thing

Quoting J. Gresham Machen:

Indifferentism about doctrine makes no heroes of the faith.

J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (Tucson: Reformed,, 1923) 45.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Even Angels Long to Look

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:1-13 ESV

Photo credit: Thomas Hawk

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Great Idea: Bible Cards

Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller, on his aptly named blog The World-Wide Wolfmueller, is providing a series of Bible Cards with various themes.  The theme of the first set is comfort.  At left is a screen shot of a portion it.  Pastor Wolfmueller invites you to "use and share in any way you find helpful for the Gospel."  You can download it here.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Faculty Salaries at Lutheran Institutions: Are They Equitable?

Someone sent me an Excel spreadsheet with data for the average full-time faculty salaries of selected Lutheran institutions from 1980-2010, which I thought was interesting.  You can download a copy of the Excel file here.  The results:

Click on the graphics for an expanded view.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Fun at Work

The reason for the bulletproof locked cockpit door is to keep the flight attendants from storming the cockpit and attempting to issue orders, like these three flight attendants thought they'd try on one of my flights:

I was out on the tarmac having a smoke at the time:

This is how it's supposed to look.  The First Class section is even nicer:

That's why I get paid the big bucks - to exercise overall command of the aircraft and maintain control of the flight deck at all times.  Some days work out better than others.

The Original Lutheran Confession: The A.C.

So what’s the original, evangelical, catholic, Lutheran symbol?

Warning: This is a trick question. Click below to confirm your answer.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

We Become More and More Certain of the Truth

Quoting from Dr. Martin Luther's preface to Justus Menius' book The Doctrine and Secret of the Anabaptists, Refuted from Scripture, published in 1530:
Our Lord Jesus Christ proclaimed quite clearly in Matthew 18 [:7] that His beloved Church would always have to suffer sets and factions when He said, “For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the man by whom the temptation comes!” Also St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11[:19], “There must be factions or heresy in order that those who are genuine may be manifest.” And 2 Peter 2[:1], “There will be false teachers among you, just as there were also false prophets among them.” That is exactly how things have happened since the beginning of Christendom, even at the time of the apostles and ever since, and thus it will be until the end of the world. For Christ is a King and Lord, and therefore He must also do battle and make war. But He battles spiritually with the truth against the lies, and so the lies take up arms and refuse to submit. That is how the sects come about and such riot and clamor arise in Christendom.
Therefore, no one should wonder or be appalled when he sees sectarian spirits and heretics rise up among the Christians and bluster so abominably against the truth. If you are a Christian and believe Christ and His apostles, then you must also believe and expect this, for they say, “Factions and scandal must come.” You cannot consider these words of theirs as lies or as idle, frivolous talk, but rather as speaking of honorable, important, terrible things, as it is fitting for God’s Word to speak; and you must not think it strange when they come, but learn to expect it, so that you can say: “Very well, let whatever is coming come. I have long known that factions would have to come. If it were not these, it would have to be others; if these were to cease, others would start.” If you want to have the precious Gospel, then you must also have the gates of hell and the devil [Matt. 16:18], so that you do not possess that Gospel along with love or with peace, as Christ says, “My peace I give you, not as the world gives” [John 14:27].
And, in sum, the devil is a blustering, rattling, and rumbling spirit; he cannot refrain from blustering and rumbling. Up till now, under the pope, he has blustered and rattled about in houses, in churches, in the field, and in the forest and has opened a soul-market there. He has hawked his wares and sold them in exchange for human souls, and thereby has dragged the Mass and all Christian works into purgatory—indeed, even into hell—and has stuffed all the world’s goods into lazy and gluttonous stomachs, indeed, he has buried them in the toilets and latrines of the cloisters and foundations of clergy. But now that this soul-market of his has been suppressed, he is beginning to rattle and rumble anew through the sectarian spirits. So, just as no one fears the rattling ghosts in their houses anymore, neither should we any longer be dismayed by rattling among the sects. There must be such rattling and rumbling so long as the world stands!
But everything must turn out for our good [Rom. 8:28]—and not by producing only a single kind of benefit. First of all, through it we become practiced in handling and keeping God’s Word all the more carefully, and thus we become more and more certain of the truth. For if there were no such sects through which the devil awakened us, we would become too lazy and would sleep and snore ourselves to death. Further, both faith and the Word would become dull and rusty among us until everything were destroyed. But instead such sets are our whetting stone and burnisher that sharpen and hone our faith and doctrine, so that they shine bright and pure like a mirror; and [we] also become acquainted thereby with the devil and his intentions and become ready and skilled for battle against him. None of this would happen if the sects left us in peace.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, American Edition, ed. Christopher Boyd Brown. vol. 59, Prefaces I, (Saint Louis: CPH, 2011) 267.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Scientists Discover Diversification of the Human Genome Which Supports the Biblical Account of the Flood

As reported by Dr. Jeffrey Tomkins on the Institute for Creation Research website, researchers have discovered that the human genome began to rapidly diversify about 5,000 years ago – a fact which certainly is consistent with the Biblical account of the flood.

In a study reported in the July 6, 2012 issue of Science, researchers analyzed the DNA sequences in a large group of European Americans and African Americans. Their data, coupled with demographic models, revealed the recent burst in genetic diversification. Dr. Tomkins comments:
The authors wrote, "The maximum likelihood time for accelerated growth was 5,115 years ago." Old-earth proponents now have a new challenge: to explain why—after millions of years of hardly any genetic variation among modern humans—human genomic diversity exploded only within the last five thousand years?

However, the same data conforms to and dramatically confirms biblical history. Since the author's date represents the maximum time, the actual DNA diversification event probably occurred even sooner. A biblical time scale indicates that a global flood occurred about 4,500 years ago, and this closely correlates with the time scale of the researcher's estimate.
Once again, science is the ally of the truth found in Holy Scripture.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

My Answer to District President David Benke: “No!”

In yesterday’s post, I commented on the Deacon program that’s going on in the Atlantic District of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, based on the parameters set forth in their defining document called “Diaconate Guidelines.” President Benke, on the ALPB forum, responded as follows:
I don't know what the LCMS District Task Force will be doing, but the author of the blog is off base. There is no performance of the distinctive marks of the pastoral office by female deacons either preaching or consecrating Holy Communion in the AD; there is no performance of the distinctive marks of the pastoral office by male deacons by consecrating Holy Communion, and preaching only occasionally under supervision or reading the sermons of others by male deacons in several circumstances that are both tiny and far from another parish. There are no unsupervised free-range deacons. There is an established, ten course preparation for the diaconate plus 200 hours of pre-interview service required, plus a theological interview, plus ongoing continuing education necessity for every-three-year district re-certification.

There is nothing being done by Atlantic District deacons that is outside the covenants of love of the LC-MS or the boundaries of the Lutheran Confessions and Holy Scriptures. And the parishes and pastors and workers of the Atlantic District are happy and blessed with these trained non-ordained auxiliary servants. Our diaconate provides a helpful model for theologically trained volunteer parish servants that indeed I wish more districts would tackle. The teachers are LC--MS pastors, trusted catechists (my formational view is that the diaconate is confessionally subscribed at the level of the Large Catechism and the Augsburg Confession), so that they might train catechists for parishes - my own parish is catechized through the diaconate except for adult catechesis, which is my responsibility. That's it and that's all.

Dave Benke
My answer to President Benke is that no, my blog post was not off base. It pointed out the very broad latitude that is granted to the male and female deacons of the District according to the District document - latitude that is not permitted in Scripture. It does not reflect what we believe, teach, and confess as a synod. It is outside the covenant of love that exists within our synod and out of synch with the spirit of Koinonia. I take President Benke at his word when he later further clarifies the position of the District on the ALPB Forum, stating that they don't do what they say they can do (pasted below). We should not, however, as Lutherans, write documents of this importance with such sloppiness. The practice in the district may be entirely ship-shape in some people’s minds; the confession, as put down in the document, is not. Men and women are given the exact same leeway in the document – the reported practice and the guidelines do not agree with one another. This is the historical equivalent of drawing up a set church orders, and then not following them. People write things down for a reason.

Here is President Benke's further comment, answering several questions from another commenter:

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Atlantic District of the LCMS – Dividing the House

The Atlantic District of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has its own version of Licensed Deacons, whom they call “Commissioned District Deacon.” It is unique to the Atlantic District of course – you must remain in their fiefdom. In this case, the lord of the fiefdom is District President David Benke.

A few highlights of the program from the Atlantic District’s “Diaconate Guidelines” document:
4.1 At the heart of the ministry of deacons are works of mercy, witness, and worship, in solidarity with the poor and needy. The actual tasks undertaken by members of the diaconate will vary according to the gifts and skills of the deacon and the needs of the church and its surrounding community. Deacons so gifted will engage in various ministries of teaching within the congregation/agency, including baptismal and communion preparation, catechesis of youth and adults, and small group Bible study leadership or supervision. All aspects of diaconal ministry are under the supervision of the supervising pastor.

4.2 Members of the diaconate assume a leadership role in worship, but this is never to be their primary task. Rather, the serving function of deacons in the Church’s liturgy is to be a reflection of their tangible, actual servant hood in the world.

4.3 Members of the district diaconate shall neither preside at the Holy Eucharist nor exercise the Office of the Keys. In the absence of an ordained pastor and with approval of the pastor and congregation, the deacon may serve at the divine service including the communion liturgy using reserved sacrament. This practice should be used sparingly so as to not confuse the “Office of Deacon” and the “Office of Pastor.” The deacon may officiate at funerals under the direction of a supervising pastor. The deacon may proclaim the Gospel in formal and informal settings after he/she has received training in homiletics and while remaining under the supervision of an ordained pastor.

5.5 It is expected that most members of the district diaconate will continue to hold regular employment and therefore would be involved in diaconal service on a part-time, non-stipendiary basis. There may be instances however, when a deacon serves a ministry for a stipend….
So the Deacon shall not preside at the Holy Eucharist, except where they may, and they may proclaim the Gospel in the worship service. This violates our own confession, as Augsburg Confession Article XIV reads “Our churches teach that no one should publicly teach or preach in the Church, or administer the Sacraments, without a properly ordered call” – that means a pastor. And since the Deacons of the Atlantic District may be male or female, it certainly creates even more confusion, since women would then be preaching and administering the Sacrament, a move which violates the trust of our walk together as a synod. I’ve heard rumblings from people who think that this is a back door approach to women’s ordination. I don’t know whether that’s true or not, but now would be a great time to reread Pastor Todd Wilken’s excellent article “From Exception to Rule: How Error Replaces Truth in the Church.”

Ironically, the Atlantic District’s program continues at a time when other districts resolved in convention to abolish these types of programs. A house divided against itself cannot stand.

photo credit: Martin Cathrae

Friday, August 3, 2012

What Not to Do

The (dirty) window

The wall

The sun

The mirror

The result
The moral of the story: Don't buy your wife a fancy concave mirror.  It's a good thing I know how to patch wallpaper.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Beginning of the Distinctively Christian Life

Quoting from Dr. Henry Hamann’s book On Being a Christian: A Personal Confession:
…Baptism is the beginning of the distinctively Christian life. It is possible—and, indeed, it happens often enough—that a person comes to faith before the actual act of baptism, and that such faith produces the desire to be baptized. But Baptism is still the beginning of the Christian life. For it is an objective, out-there act that can be observed, and as such it has a concreteness about it that faith cannot have. Baptism can be observed by everybody; faith, by nobody. What is more, faith is never an unbroken, continuous line, like physical life. Faith may be lost; a person may come to faith again and again. Because of this movement involving faith and because of such repeated acts of faith, no one act of faith can be the beginning of the Christian life.

...Lutherans speak of daily contrition and repentance, a daily coming to faith. Faith may be subject to doubt, but Baptism never fails. It links believers with the great act of Jesus Christ for their salvation: his death and resurrection. As that event is always valid for the Christian, so Baptism which links the Christian to that event is always valid for the one baptized.
Henry Hamann, On Being a Christian: A Personal Confession, (Milwaukee: Northwestern, 1998) 93, 94.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What Is the Significance of Movement in the Divine Service?

Here's a snippet of Pastor Will Weedon discussing this significance of movement in the Divine Service. This is a portion of Part 4 of the Issues, Etc. weekly series on the liturgy, which deals with the Introit and the Gloria Patri. You can listen to the whole thing here.