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November 01, 2005

Derek WebbI have been given the opportunity to interview Derek Webb, something I consider quite an honor. Derek is a singer and songwriter whom I much admire both for his talent and for his courage in taking on the difficult subjects. Never one to shy from a fight, he has written songs that have rattled many nerves and even caused his albums to be removed from certain Christian bookstores. His songs are always filled with meaningful content and constant references to Scripture.

I happen to know that many of my readers also appreciate Derek’s work. I thought it might be interesting if I ask the community of readers (that means you!) for suggestions as to what I might ask him in this interview. I would like to discuss his upcoming album (Mockingbird, set to release on December 26) and his past albums, but thought it would be fun to concentrate a little bit more on matters of theology and Christian current events. I have little doubt there will soon be many reviews and interviews focusing on the merits of his album but since I am no musician I’d just as soon focus on his beliefs. I am sure he will be able to give interesting, challenging, biblical answers.

So this is your chance to ask a question of Derek Webb. Feel free to submit questions in the comments for this post. I’ll select some of them for the interview.

October 31, 2005

Two years ago, on October 31, 2003, I sat myself down and had a good chat with me. Challies Dot Com was a poorly-designed, silly little site that primarily contained photographs of my family. I had recently added a blog to the site and was enjoying being a blogger but realized that I had become terribly lax. Like most bloggers I had begun with a flurry of posts but had soon tired of putting forth the effort and had posted less and less. I believe there were a couple of periods of weeks at a time where I did not post at all. I decided that I either had to do things right or give it up altogether. And so it was that I made a committment on October 31 that I would post every day for an entire year. Lo and behold, I did exactly that.

This time last year I wrote:

I do believe that is one of the very few goals I have ever attained - I tend to aim high and get bored easily. But writing has become a passion of mine and something I look forward to almost every day.

In the past year I have posted some 568 times. I would estimate the posts would comprise somewhere between 250,000 and 350,000 words. I could find out if I really cared to, but I guess it isn’t all that important. There have been several thousand comments made but at least 500 different people. I never would have guessed. The software running the site changed from Geeklog to Movabletype and in the summer I changed from Movabletype’s commenting system to a forum system to escape the spam bots.

The most memorable time of the past year was the release of The Passion of the Christ. I wrote some very early reviews of the film and for several weeks had a completely irrational amount of traffic through the site. I believe the most-read post of all, though, is my review of The Purpose Driven Life which continues to drive in quite a bit of traffic.

That was 2004. I renewed my committment and here we are exactly one year later. Once again I posted every day between November 1 and October 31. Today marks 730 days since I last decided not to post something. I must be obsessed.

2005 was an interesting year for this site. Some of more memorable moments to me are my newfound interest in the Emerging Church and the fallout from various articles and reviews written about that topic. There was the “Abanes-gate” series of interviews that caused quite a fuss. There was the Pyromarketing article that garnered a lot of interest. There were book reviews; lots of book reviews. And of course there was the live-blogging opportunity at the Desiring God Conference. All-in-all it was quite a year and I am humbled as I look back upon it.

In the past months a few people have taken the opportunity to lovingly chastise me for this apparent obsession with blogging. Some people seem to feel it is a type of arrogance that keeps me posting day-after-day. Others feel that I am enslaved to the site or to the people who read it. The truth is that neither of these is accurate. I continue to post every day because of my personality. I know that once I take a day off I will take another and another and soon I’ll be as big a slacker as guys like Jollyblogger, Adrian Warnock or Dan Edelen. And that would be tragic. I mock these bloggers in jest, of course, but the truth is that once I begin to let up I know that I will find it easier and easier to do so in the future. I could show you a long line of hobbies and collectibles that prove this little flaw in my personality to be true. Blogging is too important an aspect of my spiritual life for me to let it slide.

So I will press on. Blogging is one of the best things that has happened to my spiritual walk. Daily blogging has had an important impact in my life. It is a constant challenge to find something worth writing. Some days I surprise myself by writing something that is genuinely (in my biased opinion) good. Other days I fail miserably and produce something I immediately regret. But regardless of whether I love or hate it, daily blogging forces me to stay in the Word, to keep reading and to keep thinking. The times in the past year when I have gone through the valleys are the times I have had little to say. The times when I have experienced a time of blessing and growth is when I feel I have had the most to say. One could easily gauge my spiritual condition by the writing on my blog. It is challenging, then, to bare myself in this way. It is always interesting when I meet people who know so much about me when I know so little about them.

In case you are wondering, I am renewing my committment and intend to post (Lord willing) every day between now and October 31, 2006. So I thank you for continuing to drop by and for taking the time to encourage me when I’m down and calling me to account when I’m too high up. I look forward to seeing what the next year brings for this site!

October 21, 2005

I just received the following press release from my friend Rick Pearcey.

Today marks the official launch of The Pearcey Report, a website of news, comment, information, and worldview. It can be viewed online at www.pearceyreport.com.

J. Richard Pearcey is editor and publisher of the report. Rick has worked as a journalist, writer, and editor in the Washington, D.C., area since the late 1980s.

Best-selling author Nancy Pearcey is editor-at-large. Her most recent book is TOTAL TRUTH: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity. She is also the Francis A. Schaeffer Scholar at the World Journalism Institute.

There is much to explore in the The Pearcey Report. A few highlights:

* News: The News section connects readers with breaking stories of the day from around the world — in politics, international affairs, the arts, science, health, books, film, people, the odd tidbit, and more.

* Comment: The Comment section features insight and opinion from a variety of observers and news outlets.

* Articles: The Articles section offers a strategic and humane analysis of contemporary life, thought, and action. Expect to encounter the work of seminal Judeo-Christian worldview thinkers such as Francis Schaeffer, C.S. Lewis, Udo Middelmann, Os Guinness, and Nancy Pearcey.

* Information: The information component opens the door to the wider world of U.S. and international media — and to a life beyond the crisis of the moment. Thus, in addition to websites for columnists, think tanks, and activist groups, also available are resources for further study, travel, world cities, and more.

The website has already received praise for its design. The Pearceys want to thank webdesigner Tim Challies of Websonix for his expertise and terrific work in helping make The Pearcey Report attractive and engaging.

For more information about The Pearcey Report, see www.pearceyreport.com. Or contact the Pearceys at Pearcey@pearceyreport.com.

I have been working with Rick for quite some time now and am very happy with the final result. The design was far more a case of me trying to capture Rick’s vision for the site than an original “Challies” design. I am pleased with the near-final result. I’d highly recommend visiting the site and either bookmarking it or grabbing the RSS feed. It promises to be a helpful resource.

September 14, 2005

Testing something…

…so don’t click it.

September 05, 2005

Yesterday afternoon my son and I sat down to watch a DVD called Reformation Overview. It is a 6-part presentation covering some of the most important contributors to the Protestant Reformation, and yesterday we watched the segment on the Anabaptists. My son seemed to enjoy it, though I had to distract him from a scene where they showed the torture and death of Michael Sattler (and then described how his wife, Margaretha Sattler, was drowned the next day). Incidentally, while the detail was blessedly toned-down, this is the torture and death Sattler endured after being captured by the Roman Catholic authorities and charged with heresy: “In the case of the Governor of his Imperial Majesty versus Michael Sattler, judgment is passed, that Michael Sattler shall be delivered to the executioner, who shall lead him to the place of execution, and cut out his tongue; then throw him upon a wagon, and there tear his body twice with red hot tongs; and after he has been brought without the gate, he shall be pinched five times in the same manner.” But that was not all. “His mangled body was tied to a ladder. He prayed again for his persecutors while the ladder was placed upon the stake. He had promised his friends to give them a sign from the burning stake, to show that he remained steadfast to the end, enduring it all willingly for Christ. The fire having severed the cords wherewith he was bound, he lifted up his hand for a sign to them. Soon it was noticed that his spirit had taken its flight to be with Him whom he had steadfastly confessed under the most excruciating torture, a true hero of the faith.”

But I digress. My son watched the segment on Sattler and we had opportunity to discuss why people would want to kill a person who loved God. He pondered these things a little bit before finding some toys and turning his mind to other matters.

Later in the evening we put the kids in the tub. My son is five and my daughter two, so we still bathe them together. Shortly after we put them in the tub my wife and I were talking just outside the bathroom door when we heard, “I baptize you in the name of the LORD!” We peeked past the partially-open door just in time to see my son pouring water over his sister’s head in perfect imitation of what Sattler had done to new converts in the movie (apparently immersion was not a requirement of being a “good Baptist” in those days).

So there we have it - indisputible evidence that children imitate what they learn on television! What we are unsure of is whether my son adheres to infant or believer’s baptism…

September 05, 2005

Much has been said, over the past week, about relief organizations such as the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. But one major organization which, as far as I know, has received no significant recognition in the media is the Southern Baptist Convention’s Disaster Relief organization which is part of the North American Mission Board. What many people do not realize is that the Southern Baptists have the third-largest disaster relief organization in North America (and possibly in the world).

The disaster relief response includes more than 600 mobile units (feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, child care, shower, laundry, water purification) and more than 30,000 trained volunteers, including chaplains. You can read about some of the early response here.

As I understand it, because the infrastructure for disaster relief is already in place and paid for by the convention, 100% of money donated to this cause goes directly to those in need. Here are some facts:

Number of Disaster Responses 193
Volunteers Who Responded  15,032
Meals Prepared 3,500,596
Children Cared For 869
Buildings Repaired 2,683
Yards Cleaned 10,704
Showers Provided 91,024
Laundry Loads Cleaned 7,268
Gallons of Water Purified  1,520
Total Trained Volunteers 30,840
New Volunteers Trained 5,360
New Units Placed in Service 113

Recent Response:

Feeding Units 97

        Class —45

        Class B—33

        Class C—11

Recovery Units 384
Communication 13
Child Care 16
Shower 36 
Laundry 3
Water Purification 14
Other 23
Total units in the national fleet   586
September 03, 2005

The following was sent to me by Lighthouse Trails Publishing:

At around 1:15am (EDT), Steve Muse’s wife, Catherine, passed away quietly and peacefully. She was 49 years old.

The outpouring of prayers, concern and compassion have upheld Steve and his family during these past few difficult days. He is comforted to know that Catherine is in the loving arms of her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Catherine never waivered in her concern for others, nor in her defense of God’s word. She remained steadfast to the end of her earthly life.

Above all, Catherine loved the Lord, and would want Jesus Christ to be glorified. While she will be missed by her family and friends, let us all rejoice, and look forward to the day when we join together with the the King of kings and the Lord of lords, in heaven, forever and ever.

And what a glorious reunion that will be.

For those who wish to contact Steve and his family by regular mail, his mailing address is:
Steven Muse
PO Box 232
Delanson NY 12053

You can also reach by email at smuse@erwm.com.

September 02, 2005

I’m not going to talk about politics anymore. One of the primary reasons I shy away from sharing my political views on this site is that fewer issues ignite more passion. Unfortunately, politics seems to ignite anger more than anything. So I try to leave the politics to the big guys. I’ll stick to theology!

Here are a few Katrina links I’ve dug up (including some I posted yesterday):

A satellite photograph of Katrina taken as it hit the coast. Take a look and be amazed at the power of God.

Eddie Exposito, co-pastor of Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Slidell, has begun a blog to tell of his experiences. You can catch up with him here. James White has begun collecting money for Eddie and his family.

Batch Batchelder has posted some amazing photographs of his church. You can see them here.

Laura, who is with Eddie Exposito, is sharing her experiences.

The US government has posted satellite photos of much of the area destroyed by the hurricane. Individuals may be able to find their own homes in these photos.

Don Elbourne, pastor of a church in New Orleans, has updated his blog. He and his family are safe, but probably homeless. You can donate money to help the Elbourne family.

September 02, 2005

I have watched far too much coverage of the Katrina aftermath. In fact, I don’t think I have watched so much news coverage since 9/11. I do not have a lot of choice of what to watch, as CNN is the only news outlet in my list of channels that is constantly covering the event. This morning I did spend a bit of time watching coverage on some of the morning news shows.

What I began to notice yesterday and this morning is that the media is quickly and perhaps subtley changing their focus and are now desperately seeking someone to blame. They are quickly putting a negative spin on even good news. Note that the Houston Astrodome does not represent a great success in transportation, but a failure because it has already filled and buses are being diverted to other shelters. The headlines proclaim that victims are being “turned away” from the Astrodome. The media suddenly seem interested more in finding a culprit than in reporting the news. And in the media it seems that all roads lead to the White House. Here is my interpretation of some of the questions I heard the media asking various figures this morning.

Asked of Michael D. Brown, Principal Federal Officer for Hurricane Katrina response. “Thank you for taking the time to speak with us this morning. You must be a busy man, especially as you flail hopelessly in this putrid morass of your own making. You are clearly an incompetent fool and one unsuited for this position. Tell me, why are you doing nothing for the people of New Orleans?”

Asked of generic Republican politician A. “Millions of Americans who thought Farenheit 9/11 was the very height of journalistic integrity would like to know why President Bush has not yet toured New Orleans. Is it because he is preoccupied with satisfying his insatiable appetite for eating babies?”

Asked of generic Republican politician B. “For many years we have been told that New Orleans could withstand a Category 3 hurricane, but not a Category 4 or 5. For two days we knew this was going to be a major hurricane and yet President Bush, who was provided with powers of omniscience when he took this oath of office, did not adequately prepare the region. Why is this?”

Asked of Governor Kathleen Blanco. Last night you warned the roving gangs in New Orleans that the National Guard has been trained in the use of their firearms and that they may shoot to kill. Why is it that you intend to kill people who are only seeking to find food or water to feed their families?”

A reflection by a news anchor. “I make $8 million a year and live in a penthouse apartment in New York City. I earn merely $7,983,000 more than the average New Orlean. So I believe that I speak for the average victim of this disaster when I say, “When will it no longer be too soon to cast the blame for this disaster on President Bush?”

At this point I am beginning to wonder what good the media is doing. Are they really helping this situation? Isn’t there more they can do? Surely they can use their camera time a little more productively than searching around for someone (who probably works in an oval office) to blame. At least wait until the situation has stabilized!

Anyways, I think it is time for me to turn off the television for a while before I get a little too disillusioned with the Mainstream Media. Oops, it’s already too late!

September 02, 2005

Don’t forget Alabama.

The following was sent to me via the Reformed Baptist Distribution List from Lawrence Underwood, pastor of a reforming congregation in Mobile, Alabama:

I’m popping out from the shadows (and from under several fallen trees) to ask you to pray for our area. Obviously
everyone is aware of what is the aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans. Many are aware of what happened in Mississippi. As we work to help people recover in Alabama we are finding that it is becoming difficult to get the assistance that we need because we are not a ‘national press area’ as one EMA official put it. Our coastal areas were devastated. Many inland areas were hit very hard as well. In addition we have thousands (some say tens of thousands) of refugees here as well. Food, and fuel are in very short supply. Power is gradually coming back on. Tempers are beginning to flare. Theft is becoming more common. Etc.

Please be in prayer for this area. In the next few days I will be posting information on a couple of Christ centered agencies who we will be working with.