Saturday, March 25, 2006

Spam Drug King Busted

A drugstore operator in Minnesota, who derived much of his profits from e-mail spam, has recently been indicted.

Apparently, Christopher William Smith conspired to threaten and intimidate a witness in his trial. An indictment alleges that Smith also said he intended to have the witness or the witness's family killed.

Smith built a fortune, consisting of a $1,000,000 house and luxary cars upon a business of illegally dispensing prescription drugs. While Smith himself likely did not send spam himself, it is said that much of his business' profits were derived from spamming.

There are a number of different articles covering this story, and they can be easily found by going to and typing "Christopher William Smith".

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Hair & Facial Hair & Theologians

Warning: I consider this to be one of the weirdest posts I've ever made.

One interesting observation is the fact that the "norm" in 21st century Evangelical male hair & facial hair is radically different than that of the earlier reformers, puritans, and theologians. For example, at almost every point in history beards, moustaches, goatees, sideburns, and longer hair was not only accepted, but almost the norm among evangelical male Church leaders. However, in North American 21st century Evangelicalism, the norm has shifted over to shorter hair and clean shaven appearance.

The norm for me is a buzz cut and a (usually) cleanshaven face. On occasion I will grow a bit of a goatee or a beard.

Many Christians understand I Corinthians in such a way that it would forbid any males in any culture from having "long" hair. And yet, it would appear that (at least from the drawings of them), most learned theologians of the 1600's and before had long hair (at least by our standards). Being a guy who rarely has more than 1 inch of hair, I have no problem fitting into the idea that a guy should have short hair.

One interesting vein of thought is that the early evangelical pioneers, reformers, and theologians actually looked a bit more like the hippies of the 1960's than mainstream evangelicals of the 1960's.

I submit some examples (left column is well-known theologians, right column is 1960's counter-culture hippie-type musicians). Please understand that I..

1. Do not insinuiate that these individuals share similar lifestyles or views (in fact, their views of life and the meaning of life were VERY different)
2. Am not condoning the lifestyles of the people on the right side or calling into question the integrity of the people on the left side.

I merely want to provide some comic relief and some "Hmmm.." for the readers of this blog.

Top left -> John Bunyan
Top right -> David Crosby

Middle left -> B.B. Warfield
Middle right -> Jerry Garcia

Bottom left -> John Calvin
Bottom right -> Cat Stevens (interestingly, he converted to Islam later in life)

They kind of look like each other (with strong emphasis on KIND OF). By the grace of God, however, the people on the left column had a more solid foundation and a worldview that was able to provide them with TRUE peace. This, however does not change the fact that the people on the right were also created in God's image and also have displayed vast amounts of creativity, skill, etc.

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Friday, March 17, 2006

1/4 of a Century, And What To Show For It?

This coming week, I'm turning 25. That will make me a Quarter Century old, also known as "halfway up the hill".

A few notable things happened in March 1981. Quite a few of them were not very good. For example..

  • Colombian guerillas execute US bible translator Chester Allen Bitterman for being a "CIA agent"

  • President Ronald Reagan is shot

  • Three workers are killed and five injured during a test of the Space Shuttle Columbia.

Good thing I wasn't involved in politics, foreign affairs, or space programs back then.

Now, as I consider being 25 years old, I have mixed feelings. Being well away from the early twenties actually seems kind of neat. However, when I look at my life, I realize that I'm considerably behind if I am to compare myself with others of the past. For example:

  • William Bragg entered university at 14; won a noble prize at age 25;
  • Wayne Gretzky signed a multi-million dollar contract as hockey player by age 18; set records by age 20; won 7 MVPs by the time he reached 25

  • Charles Spurgeon preached his first sermon at 17; by 22 he was the best known preacher of the day;

  • Martin Luther King was a pastor at 24; by 26 he led the well-known Montgomery Bus Boycott

  • John Brown of Haddington was able to read Greek by age 16

  • Arthur Conan Doyle was 23 when he set up his practice as a doctor;
  • Sergey Brin and Larry Paige were around 23 when they created Google

  • John Calvin had his doctorate in Law by 23; became a pastor at 25; wrote the well-known Institutes of the Christian Religion at 26

  • Jane Swift was elected into the senate at 25

  • William Carey became a schoolmaster at 24;

  • Jonathan Edwareds entered Yale at 13; became a minister at 24

  • Pele made his World Cup debut at 17

  • Boris Becker won a Wimbledon title by age 17

  • Lord Kelvin entered university at age 10;

What have I accomplished compared to that? I guess not having all these fantastic accomplishments in my first quarter century definately reduces the pressure/expectations. If I were a progidy, anything but amazing feats for the rest of my life would be a disappointment. So, at least I don't have those high expectations overshadowing me.

I've already found uniqueness in my life. But I wonder if anything I do will ever have the significance of some of the accomplishments of these people? From a temporal perspective? From an eternal perspective?

Will my life look significant/useful if one were to look at it from the vantage point of 5 years? 25 years? 100 years? eternity? Not that I can understand what a "vantage point" would mean in eternity. I guess I just added "eternity" because it sounded good :>


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Personal Peace & Affluence - Part Four

In my last post, I refered to some scriptural principles that help us keep a right attitude regarding affluence. Now, to conclude this series, I would like to share some things that can help keep our God-given desire for personal peace in check.

Regarding Personal Peace:

Idea #1: Peace is found in a Person

People seek for peace through an assortment of ways. Nations normally secure peace through diplomatic maneovering. People secure their personal peace possibly by insultating themselves from the ugly hard realities of life, or possibly by compromising and ignoring any path that may potentially bring tension. But the Bible teaches us that peace, at its zenith, is not found in circumstances or wise manoevers. It is found in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2:14-15"For he himself [Jesus] is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace" (also see Rom 5:1)

Idea #2: True Peace Can Exist When/Where We See No Earthly Peace

Jesus once said "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." (John 16:3) Sometimes having real peace involves times of tribulation. The peace that lasts is not necessarily tranquility, and by looking for traquility we may very well miss true abiding peace.

An often enigmatic semi-related aspect of this is that God is describe simultaneously as the Prince of Peace and a Man of War. This dichotamy shows us the great complexity of what true peace means. Also interesting is Rom 16:20, which says "And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly." Imagine that! The God of peace is going to deliver a final blow to Satan. Part of God's enduring peace is the destruction of His enemies.

Idea #3: Peaceful Times, While Good Can Lull Us To Sleep

In times of peace, we are tempted as a society to grow lax and wasteful, likewise in times of personal peace, our lives often collect a lot of looes ends.

The Bible describes the last days as a time when people will say "There is peace and security" (1Th 5:3), but suddenly at that time "destruction will come upon them...and they will not escape."

We should enjoy times of peace, both as individuals and as nations. They are blessings from God. But we need to remember that it may cause us to be blinded to ever present danger and also it may make us numb to the needs to others.

Issue #4. True Peace is Never At The Expense of Our Neighbour

"Personal peace" as we know it is often paved right over someone else. In order to maintian a certain standard of personal peace and tranquility, often someone elses needs are disregarded.

But true peace does not come at the expense of others. Consider these Bible verses.

Rom 14:19 - "So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding."

Zechariah 8:16 These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace;

Hebrews 12:14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

I pray that somehow, and in some way, this series of 4 posts has blessed you and helped you to understand these issues

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Personal Peace & Affluence - Part Three

The Bible gives us some principles, facts, and instructions that help us to embrace a rightful desire to pursue personal peace and affluence, while at the same time giving us a perspective that allows us to maintain a proper balance and not make these things our idols.

Regarding Affluence:

Idea #1: You Are Small, No Matter What Status You Reach

Whatever your status may be in terms of affluence, don't think it entitles you to different treatment. Too often we hang onto our social status as a symbol that sets us appart from others. Before long we become tempted to objectify and reduce other humans to mere objects that exist in our attention merely to meet our needs. This is so opposite what the Bible tells us as to how we should deal with our neighbours.

God sticks up for the disadvantaged ones. In fact, the Bible reveals that God has a special preoccupation with defending and honoring those who fall low on the "social ladder" whether through disadvanage of birth or in other regards.
If we put ourselves above them, we are setting ourselves at odds with God. He will execute justice, and we are acting unwisely if we are so proud as to exalt ourself above others.

"For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt." (Deuteronomy 10:17-19)

“If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother" (Deutoronomy 15:7)

"The rich and the poor meet together; the Lord is the maker of them all." (Proverbs 22:2)

The weak and beggardly status of all humans before God is a great equaliser. If we pretend this is not so, we are fighting a losing battle and will eventually be humbled. But above and beyond just being equal, we need to reach out to others and help them as needs arise.

Idea #2: It Is Easier to Lose Riches Than It Is To Earn Them

The effort you put into "personal kingdom building" will not necessarily preserve your wealth long term. There is a Proverb which always fascinated me:

"Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven." (Proverbs 23:4-5)

This Proverb can not rightfully seen to be discouraging hard work, as the Bible is full of commands and encouragements to be diligent about making a living. However, this Proverb DOES tell us that we need to know when to STOP. If we waste all our time trying to build a hedge around ourselves, we may soon realize that we spent all our time on something that "flies" away with wings quite freely and easily. It is kind of like a parent who toils all day to make a meal for
their family, only to discover that it is gobbled away impatiently within 5 minutes.

Idea #3: You Can Not Fully Anticipate the Future

Try as we may (and as part of our human dominion, we definately should try), we will always be humbled by the fact that we are essentially incompetent when it comes to anticipating the future.

This places us in the position of, after having taking every prudent measure of preparation, resigning to the fact that our worries for tomorrow should be limited because of our limited knowledge. We want to be proactive, but at the same must concede that our finiteness forces us to mainly be reactive.

These truths are sumarized in the Proverb: "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring." (Proverbs 27:1) This concept is also repeated in Matthew 6:24.

We must recognize that God is sovereign, and therefore He gives and takes away." The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts." (I Samuel 2:7)

Idea #4: Your Attention Is Limited, Focus On Things That Matter in the Long Run

If we analyize our typical day, we will find that we fret and get stressed out mainly about things that don't matter in the long run. Much of our daily concern deals with things that fade away from significance within 2 or 3 days.

In Matthew 6:25-32, we have a lengthy discourse by Jesus on this. His method of teaching this concept is by outlining that there are more important things in life than the thing we usually fret about. He also shows us that simpler creatures do just fine without worrying about the things that seem to so often grab our nagging concerns. Then, in verse 33, Jesus introduces the crux of the matter. Seek the important things (the kingdom of God) and all the other details of life will work out without the need to inordinately stress yourself out about them.

Some things are for today only, and other things are forever. Which do you suppose are more worthy of your focus?

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Monday, March 06, 2006

Personal Peace & Affluence - Part Two

In the last post, I outlined the problems with an unrestrained/unprincipled pursuit of personal peace and affluence. This is absolutely not a simplistic critique of wealth. In fact, in many cases, the middle class of our Western society has proportionally been more surrendered to the vice of excessive reliance on personal peace and affluence than the upper strata of society. For most of the middle class, there is the ability to pursue the "good life" of personal peace and affluence to an extent that can match that of the wealthy in the basics, if not in all the extravagent details.

The answer does not lie in forsaking wealth or private possesions, although some may find that this as the only way they can sever its grasp on them. It is primarily a heart issue, and lies in the depths of our behavior and attitudes. A patch-work solution will not work.

Let's look at a real life example. As the 1960's approached, there was a great deal of excitement. After surviving economic depression and two world wars, North America was ready to bounce back. Great hope was placed in the educational and commercial institutions of the world.

However, the youth of the time began to see a great stench in society and they reacted to it, to the chagrin of their "old fashioned" parents. It was not crime, or drugs, or war (the things usually seen as detrimental to society). It was a different sort of "menace", one which was wrapped in the optimism of the day. It was preceisely that part of the older generation had made "personal peace and prosperity" their idol. In a sense it seemed like it could be justified. Society came out of a difficult period of wars and hardships. It was time to start living the "good life". However, this came at an expense. The people that idolized the "good life" soon fell into a few different pitfalls 1) The society/culture became very plastic/artificial with little compassion. 2) The inordinate desire for a personal peace and affluence often either made Truth a second-rate side-show or completely annihilated it. 3) The supposed Christian and "conservative" values were often just a remnant of the past and a vain empty shell that had no deep grounding in a true Christan worldview. While there was some pretense of a conviction that transcended personal peace in affluence, in many cases that conviction was all but dead.

The generation which brought about the 60's counterculture often detected the hypocracy, inconsistencies, and double standards in their parent's generation. They saw a lot of materialism. Often their parents and teachers gave them this answer to the meaning of life: "Study hard. Work hard. Suceed". The kids rightly contested that there must be something more to life. They saw thats ome of their parents religious and societal standards, while strict, were often a "pie in the sky" sort of thing without a real grounding, mere empty shells that IN PRACTICE were only as good as long as they didn't interfere with the push towards personal peace and prosperity. They wanted something better, but unfortunately they themselves didn't have a sufficient worldview grounding for that either. The flower children of the 60s did construct a culture which did have a few positive aspects which were less materialistic and more thoughtful. However, because of a lack of grounding or durable standard by which to correct the previous generations issues, the 60s movement, in general, merely took the same wrong attitudes that many of their parents had and imported them into a new cultural context and a new insufficient worldview. This was a recipe for disaster and made their "solution" less than a real solution.

What is the solution, then? How do we embrace the rightful desire to pursue personal peace and prosperity, while at the same time maintaining a balance which keeps the greater values intact and restraints this pursuit so it does not turn into idolatry? What principles do the Bible give which gives us critical instruction as to how this balance works? That will be the topic of the next and final part.

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