Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Audiobook Sale

Got this from ChristianAudio.com. Great deals here if you like audiobooks.


Happy Thanksgiving from your friends at christianaudio. We appreciate and value our listeners and do pray the audiobooks on christianaudio help you on the journey of faith in Christ.

We're writing to tell you about our best offer of the year - the semi-annual $9.49 Digital Download Sale! This offer is only available for a limited time, so act now! Your favorite authors, unabridged audiobooks, conferences, and lectures can now be purchased at HUGE SAVINGS.

The sale starts RIGHT NOW and ends at 11:59pm PST on December 1st. No coupon code is necessary, any digital download eligible for the sale is already discounted.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Music Monday - Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace is a song that has touched thousand of lives down through the years. In this song, Chris Tomlin adds a chorus between verses that simply adds to the power and message of this already-powerful hymn.

"But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness." (Ro. 6:17-18)

Friday, November 21, 2008

International Space Station fly-by

Last night, we were treated to a fly-by of the International Space Station, along with the space shuttle Endeavour docked to it (although we couldn’t really distinguish the two). I had read in the paper that it could be seen around 6:10 p.m. So right after dinner, I took Carlos out on the deck behind our house and told him that we should be able to see the space station go overhead. Sure enough, off to the southwest, we saw the fairly bright object making its way at approximately 17,200 mph through the sky toward the northeast. To add to the coolness factor, it appeared right between Jupiter and Venus. And I just found out today that yesterday was the ISS’s 10th birthday. Had I known that, perhaps we could have sung Happy Birthday to it. Of course, Carlos was all full of questions. What is the space station? How did it get up there? How big is it? Who drives it (that one was my favorite)? So we spent a little while watching youtube videos of a space shuttle launch and finding pictures of the space station. It was pretty cool and Carlos seemed really interested in learning more.

Here’s a few fascinating facts about the ISS:

-The ISS is the largest man-made object ever to orbit the Earth

-It has completed 57,309 orbits of the Earth or a distance of 1,432,725,000 miles (that's billion - it gets good gas mileage). As a comparison, that's roughly twice the distance from the Earth to Saturn.

-The space shuttle Endeavour, currently docked to the ISS, was the delivery vehicle of the first US component of the station.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gettysburg Address - 145 years ago today

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

"Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

"But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom— and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Obama Llama

Just had to post this. This is hilarious in an odd sort of way. Check out www.obamallama.org.

HT: Darrell

I am not Henry

Lately, I’ve been getting 120% [did you know that 62.3% of statistics are made up on the spot?] more spam addressed specifically to me. At least, it would be addressed to me if my name was Henry. Which it’s not, just for clarification. It never has been. This makes me wonder how on earth my e-mail got tied to Henry. Maybe this fellow Henry signed up on a web site somewhere that guaranteed all the spam he could ever want. When he put in his e-mail address, perhaps he mistyped it by one digit. And now I’m getting all the benefits that were guaranteed to be his.

Henry, if you’re reading this, I am very sorry for all the great deals you’ve been missing out on, all the long-lost Nigerian relatives wanting to contact you, the pills you can buy to make every possible aspect of your life better. Why, just today, you received an offer to work with Craigslist. Chance of lifetime and you never even knew about it. Tough break, man.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Music Monday - Held


That’s the question that comes to the lips of those going through terrible ordeals. Why this, Lord? We want to cling to Romans 8:28, but at the same time feel so incredibly fragile, numb and helpless. I think of my sister and her husband whose baby girl died from a rare disease only minutes after birth. I think of my own brother John who died in his early 20s, a man who was a friend to everyone and seemed so full of life. I think of my wife’s family going through the loss of her father, Larry, a man greatly admired, respected and loved.

Why? We aren’t promised answers, but we are promised comfort even in the middle of the painful trials and questions. This song is an excellent reminder what it means to be “Held.”

2 Cor. 1:3-5, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all afflictions, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”

Law & Order – Toddler Unit

Anybody who’s ever watched shows such as Law & Order or NCIS will inevitably come across the plot line where the main suspect gives himself away by revealing too much information. It usually goes something like this:


Detective: “Our forensic scientists can place you at the crime scene with 99.9% accuracy (plus or minus 3%, you know how statistics are). Do you really want to make us go through all that effort? We know you whacked Bobo the Clown.”

Suspect: “I didn’t do it! There was no way I could have wiped that smile off his face with a tennis racket”

Detective: “How did you know his smile was wiped off with a tennis racket? We never released that detail to the public! Gotcha!”

Suspect: “Oops.”

And chalk another one up for the good guys. (“*doink*doink*”)

So it also goes with getting a confession from my pint-sized offenders. Inevitably, the truth will come out and the suspect dealt with accordingly. Of course, the problem is that logic is often lost on the young and they continue to proclaim their innocence. To illustrate this, let’s go back to Saturday morning at the Escalera household.

We’ve just finished breakfast and the kiddos are playing hither, thither, and yon. As is her wont (can you tell I’m getting in my quota of old English verbiage today?), Natalie wanders into the kitchen area to see what I’m doing. I turn toward her just in time to see Jeremiah run full throttle into her, pushing her down. Not sure what the motive was, but he certainly had intent!

Immediately he knew he’d been caught red handed, but this didn’t stop him from denying all involvement.

Detective (me): “Jeremiah, go to the bathroom. You were unkind.

Suspect: “I didn’t push Natalie!! I didn’t push Natalie!!”

Detective: “Jeremiah, I didn’t say anything about pushing. How do you know that’s why you are in trouble?”

Suspect: “Oops.” (This is what I would have thought he’d say, at least. But as stated earlier, logic is lost on the young and he continued to proclaim his innocence.)

Sometimes, it’s really hard not to laugh at your children’s disobedience. Which is probably why they have those special mirrored windows in the interrogation rooms.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Funny

Presenting the next big hit in pop culture, I give you...

Hamster -- on a piano.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Death Before the Fall?

Here’s a question: is it possible that there was death before Adam’s disobedience and the Fall of man? Or more precisely, is it possible that there was plant and animal death before the Fall? This is something that I’ve been thinking about lately (one of those off the wall topics that just gets in your head, I guess.)

As with all things, let’s first look at a couple passages of Scripture that talk about death and the Fall:

Gen. 2:15-17 – “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Ro. 5:12 – “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”

1 Cor. 15:21 – “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

I believe the Bible is crystal clear that there was not human death before the Fall of Adam, especially in light of Ro.5:12. To deny such, I believe, would be to alter how in Christ, we find the Second Adam reversing the effects of sin. But how does this relate to non-human death? Before we go on, let me say that I believe that there was animal and plant death before the Fall. I’ll try to explain why I believe this, but for a fuller discussion, I would highly recommend reading this Reasons To Believe article dealing with this very issue.

First, Ro. 5:12 is not dealing with death in general, but rather is talking very specifically about human death – “death spread to all men because all sinned.” Likewise, the passage in 1 Cor. 15 deals specifically with human death since it is humans (not animals, etc) that will be made alive through Christ. I am not aware of any Scripture that mandates a belief that there was no death at all before the Fall of Adam.

Second, I doubt that there are many, if any, who would deny that plants died before the Fall. After all, it was vegetation that God told Adam to eat! It’s fairly safe to say that plant life died before the Fall. Is it then a stretch to say that animals also could have died?

Perhaps one of the most compelling arguments is the physical make-up of the plants and animals themselves. There are thousands of examples I could think of but will only highlight one kind in general and three more specific examples. The first is what we know as omnivores in general – those animals who depend on other animals for sustenance. Think of the general make up of these animals, their bodies and their killing capabilities designed by God for a very specific purpose – their survival. A counter argument might be that God created them the way we know them now with the anticipation of the Fall’s affect on their diet. This is indeed a possible explanation. However, just as possible is that God made them exactly the way they are, diet and all. Further, there isn’t any Scriptural support to show that God changed their diets, but rather this view reads into Scripture the notion that animals did not die before the fall. Furthermore, many animals were made with very specific abilities to capture and extract nourishment from animals. Let’s look at some examples.

First up is the angler fish, a very ugly looking fellow that got plenty of notoriety from Finding Nemo. The angler fish is a deep sea fish with a very distinct mode of finding its dinner. It has a growth called the esca protruding above its eyes that emits a light that attracts dinner. When the unsuspecting morsel, captivated by the glowing light (“Oooh, pretty!”), happens to touch the esca, the fish’s jaws are triggered by automatic reflex, often enabling the fish to swallow its dinner whole (so much for chewing each bite.) God created this unique fish with the ability of having its dinner delivered to its front door step. If there was no animal death before the fall, what did this guy eat that would require a flashlight?

Second example is your average, every day spider. These guys take a lot of flak, mainly because they’re creepy and scary looking and leave those annoying spider webs all over the place. But what is the purpose of those spider webs except to catch its next meal? The spider spins the web, then hides. Along comes an unsuspecting fly and gets stuck in the web. The spider senses the impact and struggle by vibrations carried along the lines of the web. Soon, the spider is chomping down on a nice meal of fly soup. If there were no animal death before the fall, what purpose did the spider’s web serve?

Perhaps the most compelling example of these three is the beautiful and deadly Venus Flytrap. The VFT is very unique in that it’s a plant that eats animals. There are a couple of reasons that makes the VFT so compelling in this argument. The first is its habitat. The VFT is only found nitrogen-poor environments and because of this, it relies on the nutrients provided by animals that the soil does not provide. Quite simply, without killing animals, the plant could not survive. The second reason that makes this plant compelling is the method that is used to trap its dinner. On its leaves are tiny hinged hairs that, when triggered, causes the leaves to rapidly clamp shut around its prey. What’s so compelling about this is that the hair triggers must be contacted twice in succession in order to shut. This acts as a safeguard against wasting energy in trapping non-living things or even falling raindrops. So here we have a plant in its very design that requires animal death in order to sustain it.

Again, God could have indeed created each of these things not to need the sustenance they need now and to have created them with the special abilities knowing what was coming. To believe this requires that a great percentage of the Earth’s ecosystem was changed well after God’s creation work was complete. I believe that God could also have created them exactly as we know them now – perfect and ”very good.”

Monday, November 10, 2008

Music Monday - A Mighty Fortress

Although it's a week or so late, this seemed an appropriate music video for this week in honor of Reformation Day. Steve Green's performance is perhaps my all-time favorites of A Mighty Fortress. Listen and enjoy.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Don’t Keep Abortion in Politics

The streamers have been swept up. The balloons have been popped. The talking heads are still talking. The election season is over.

But what about the issues? Or, more pointedly, what about THE issue, the issue that is perhaps the one most brought up by conservatives during every election campaign? Yes, THAT issue.


For many voters, the issue of abortion was the single issue that drove them to vote one way or the other. There were no doubt other issues that the campaigns used to help sway voters into their camp; but without a doubt, the issue of abortion was perhaps the most polarizing.

And now that the elections are over, will this issue quietly fade into the background as it has seemingly done with past elections? I am saddened (and deeply convicted) that after all the efforts to put abortion in the spotlight in previous elections, it is then rarely seen until the next election season rolls around. When I stop and think about it, I have to ask myself, “Have all I done to help is talk about it in light of politics?” I don’t particularly care for the answer.

Abortion is not a solely a political issue. It’s not something we should get all riled up about only in trying to gain support for a candidate. Don’t get me wrong – much good or hurt can come about because of our political choices. But abortion is a 365-day a year issue. What are we doing to help?

Thankfully, there are indeed men and women who are actively working to fight with love and grace against abortion. These are the men and women of pregnancy centers around the nation who work to counsel those facing the decision of whether or not to have an abortion. Many of these centers lend support in providing necessities such as clothes, food, and diapers to those young women who make the choice not to terminate their pregnancy.

But most of the time, these are paid staff members of pregnancy centers and let’s face it, not everyone can be nor should be working in this capacity full time. Take heart, there is still plenty that can be done to lend hands and feet to your voice. Most, and I would daresay all pregnancy centers rely on contributions to keep the center running. And it's not only money that is needed. The clothes, food, diapers, etc. that are given out are a result of people donating these items to the center and without these donations, the centers are unable to provide this to young mothers. In the Roanoke area, the Blue Ridge Women’s Center does an excellent work in not only offering assistance to expectant mothers, but doing so in a manner that is honoring and glorifying to God. This is even evidenced in a recent column written by Shanna Flowers of The Roanoke Times. After visiting the center and meeting with the staff, she said, “I developed a new respect for at least a portion of a movement I had thought of as one-dimensional.” I would highly recommend reading the entire article.

The issue of abortion should not be dragged out only in election season. It should be constantly on our minds. But let’s not allow it to simply stay in our minds only to make an appearance during election season. Get it into your hands and feet. And even if the next four years turn worse for the cause of abortion, let’s support those on the front line all the more. Ask your local pregnancy center how you can help.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Of Frogs and Men

If you throw a frog into a pot of boiling water, he will immediately try to get out. But if you put him in a pot of cold water, the frog will be comfortable. Raise the water’s temperature ever so slowly and eventually the comfortable frog will be boiled to death.

Ever heard this maxim? It is usually given to argue against complacency in the midst of gradual changes. Don’t be so complacent! After all, we all know what happens to the comfortable, complacent frog! If only the poor guy were capable of seeing the danger he was in. (Why someone would want to boil a live frog in the first place is beyond me, but I digress.)

Well, there’s good gnus and bad gnus. The good news is for all you frog lovers out there. The bad news is for all the would-be philosophers. Here it is: the maxim is entirely, completely, 100% false.

For our source, we turn to that bastion of urban myth debunkery, Snopes.com. Here’s what they have to say:

“According to Dr. Victor Hutchinson, a Research Professor Emeritus from the University of Oklahoma’s Department of Zoology…’The legend is entirely incorrect! The “critical thermal maxima” of many species of frogs have been determined by several investigators. In this procedure, the water in which a frog is submerged is heated gradually at about 2 degrees Fahrenheit per minute. As the temperature of the water is gradually increased, the frog will eventually become more and more active in attempts to escape the heated water. If the container size and opening allow the frog to jump out, it will do so.’”

Now, boiling live frogs certainly makes for a very effective picture and it certainly teaches a good lesson. We should be mindful of our surroundings and not settle for complacency. But let’s not get so carried away with trying to make our point that we either fabric “facts” or perpetuate those fabricated “facts” without checking them out first. After all, if we did so, wouldn’t we be kind of like that poor mythical frog? “I’m just going to accept this maxim as truth without checking it out. La la la la la. [sizzle].”

There you have it. On behalf of Kermit and frogs everywhere, stop trying to boil live frogs.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

History is Made - President Obama

No matter what your political stance or who you voted for, you cannot help but marvel at and appreciate the history being made right now. For the first time in its history, the United States of America has elected an African American president. Let’s put it into historical perspective.

Almost 150 years ago, this nation was embroiled in one of the most bitter and costly wars it has experienced to this day. Among the issues being fought over was the issue of slavery – specifically slavery of the black people. The black people were not even considered people but property to be bought, sold, traded, and treated as livestock. The war ended and slaves were freed. The blacks may have been freed legally, but by no means were they freed socially. Racial discrimination and segregation was prevalent in many areas of the U.S. Blacks were not allowed to go to the same schools as whites, use the same restrooms, even drink from the same water fountains. In essence, they were still viewed as subhuman. And this was not even 50 years ago. Through the incredible workings of the Civil Rights Movement, all this began to change, albeit painfully slowly. Slowly but surely, African-Americans were granted equal rights, desegregation took over, and respect began to grow toward the black community. Robert Kennedy once said in 1962: “"[T]he Irish were not wanted here. Now an Irish Catholic is President of the United States. There is no question about it, in the next forty years a Negro can achieve the same position.” Although off by only 7 years, this has still rung true.

America is painted as the land of opportunity. The land where any one can grow up to be President. Not until now has this claim been solidified for the African-American community. Today, we have elected Barack Obama, an African-American, to the highest office in the land. To the African-American community, this is more than a simple election of one man over another. This is an echo of the cry for freedom heard throughout the last four centuries of American history. This is indeed cause for celebration in seeing just how far we’ve come even in the last 50 years.

Election Day

I voted! And in honor of Election Day, a bit of humor courtesy of JibJab