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Date:2006-09-28 00:23
Subject:Exigetical Paper on Titus 1:5-9
Mood: contemplative

I have decided that since I am reluctant to get on this blog site and ramble, and I find it hard to get on here and do anything serious, that I will begin posting my papers for classes here for the enjoyment of anyone who might want to read them. Of course, by the time I post a paper here, it would be useless to attempt to plagerize it, as I am almost always turning in my papers at the last minute or later.

My first post on this line will be an exigetical paper I was required to write for Pastoral Theology. I hope some of you enjoy it, and I look forward to critiques and comments. Unfortunately, I do not know how to get greek fonts to appear here, so I have had to transliterate the greek words.

Titus 1:5-9
The qualifications of a Bishop

5 For this reason I left you in Crete, to finish setting in order that which was lacking and to appoint throughout the cities elders, as I commanded you,
6 anyone who is beyond reproach, chaste in marriage, having faithful children not accused of shameful living and disobedience,
7 for an overseer must be beyond reproach, being a steward of the things of God, not arrogant, not quick-tempered, not a drunkard, not violent, not greedy,
8 but hospitable, loving what is good, modest, upright, pious, self-controlled,
9 holding firmly according to the teaching of the word of faith, so that he may be able both to encourage with sound doctrine and to refute those in error.

leiponta epidiortho: Literally, “What is lacking finish setting in order.” This follows from what Paul said in 1 Corinthians, that his job was to plant while another would water. Paul has planted a church in Crete, but he has left the job of watching over its growth and nurturing it to Titus. Titus is to continue what Paul started. This verse is the theme verse of the entire letter. Paul is reminding Titus of his purpose for being left behind in Crete. Teachers of false doctrine have become a problem in Crete just as they have in nearly every place. The primary defense of the church is to be the appointment of Presbyters.

presbuterous: This is probably the official title given to the man, similar to Pastor or Parson today.
avnenkletos: “Strictly, not having been called up or arraigned before a judge; hence, free from reproach, blameless, not accused for having done anything wrong” (Friberg Lexicon). Paul is showing a concern here that the church maintain an image in the eyes of the unbelieving that will not bring them into dishonor. Presbyters should not be men who had led lives of debauchery. While the legal sense is certainly an aspect of what Paul has in mind, the term should not be limited to legal convictions. Those with bad reputations should also not be appointed.

mias gunaikos aner: Strictly, of one woman(wife)a man(husband). This phrase has been understood in several ways throughout the history of the church, and she has never been in complete agreement. To impose one understanding over the others and insist upon it as the only proper one would be the height of arrogance, although it is certain that Paul only meant one thing. The primary interpretations are:

. 1. A prohibition of polygamy.
. 2. Prohibiting a man of being appointed if:
. a. he is divorced and remarried.
. b. he is widowed and remarried.
. 3. Marital fidelity.
. 4. A requirement that Presbyters be married.

I have favored the third over the others because I have always felt it best to err on the side of grace, and this interpretation seems the most gracious. The first is unlikely since polygamy was not practiced in the Roman world. However, it was practiced in Palestine, and it is possible that some of the believers carried the practice with them during the diaspora, and that this was seen as an offense in the eyes of the Roman citizens. Certainly, in as much as polygamy is offensive in most cultures today, it is against the spirit of this text to allow the practice amongst Priests and Pastors. Therefore, African churches are completely within the spirit of this text to require that their pastors not practice polygamy. While the second interpretation is certainly possible, and it has the force of history (the passage has been understood this way by many interpreters for a many years), it has a few inherent problems. The largest is that it allows no demonstration of grace. It treats divorce as an unforgivable sin. Also, it does not support the theme statement that a Presbyter is to be above reproach, since remarriage was not offensive to any culture of Paul’s day. Certainly the latter prohibition of remarriage after being widowed is not intended. While this was a requirement for Old Testament priests, Paul was not under the false doctrine of the papistic church that the Presbyters were Priests in the Aaronic line. The last was probably not Paul’s intent, as there were much clearer ways to make that point. However, the text does make it clear that a Presbyter can be married. Again, three is preferred because it meets the requirement of being above reproach and it does not deny grace. Paul probably had no intention of prohibiting remarriage after a man was abandoned by his first wife, divorced his first wife after prolonged infidelity with no attempt to reform her ways, or if his first wife had died. None of these would have brought offense upon the church. These cases only bring offense today because of years of pharisaical teaching in conservative churches creating misinformed consciences.

tekna echon pista: Most English translations interpret this to be a requirement that the man’s children are believers. However, pista can mean both “believing” and “faithful”, and is used both ways by Paul throughout the “Pastoral” epistles. Faithful is preferred for several reasons. First, and most importantly, it fits the context best. After making this statement Paul goes on to explain what he meant, a technique he has already been using in this epistle. After stating that the Presbyter should te,kna e;cwn pista, Paul expands the thought, saying that the children should not be accused of scandalous living or be disobedient. Paul is still expanding on the thought of a Presbyter being “beyond reproach”. His children should also not bring shame to his name, but be faithful to their father. To require that the children are “believers” is to have a rather Calvinistic understanding of “believer” as a once saved always saved concept. This is foreign to Paul, who always holds out that while one believes today, one can fall from the faith. If that would happen to the children of a Presbyter, would it require his removal from office? If his children returned to faith later, would he be reinstated?

asotias e anupotakta: Given to debauchery and insubordination. asotia is used by Luke of the lifestyle of the prodigal son. It probably includes both drunkenness and sexual immorality. anupotaktos means the opposite of being under authority. The force is most likely that the children are not to be disobedient to their parents, although certainly it implies that they also be subject to social and political authorities as well. These terms give force to the argument that the children are to be faithful to their father.

episkopon: Overseer, probably a description of the job of a Presbyter, and not a subordinate position. The context implies that Paul is simply restating and explaining the prior requirements.

paroinon: While this word is specifically used of one who gets unruly and quarrelsome when drunk, the broader meaning of regular, excessive drinking is probably intended. Since in his epistle to Timothy Paul requires that deacons and widows on the roster not be given to drinking much wine, it is hardly likely that he would be more lenient toward overseers of the church.

aischrokeron: Literally greedy for dishonest gain, but probably all covetousness is in mind here. Those who see the pastoral office as an easy way to make a good living ought not apply.

philoxenon: Literally lover of strangers, but the term had come to mean hospitable by Pauls’ day.

filagaqon: Lover of the good. Implies a desire to do good deeds.

sophrona: Literally having a sound mind, but implies the will to live a descent, respectable life.

dikaion: While this could be understood stereologically, an upright life is probably intended.

osion: While di,kaion had to do with an upright life in the eyes of men, this term is exclusively religious and is thus understood as piety toward God.

enkrate: Almost a synonym of sophrona, but Paul has a reason for using both terms, and this term can only be understood as having control over one’s evil or destructive desires. Therefore, the earlier term is interpreted with the emphasis on a modest life.
ten didachen pistou logou: The teaching of faithful words. Paul probably has in mind here the body of doctrine that he and Titus had been teaching in Crete. The remainder of this epistle deals with correcting and confronting false doctrine and exhorting the people to godly living with right doctrine. Paul had strong words for those who had heard his preaching and then accepted the teachings of those who taught contrary to his gospel.

Paul has planted a church in Crete with the assistance of Titus, and as soon as the form of a church was visible, Paul moved on, understanding that his job as a planter was done. But he did not leave the infant church defenseless. He left Titus behind to finish what they had started. We do not know the exact circumstances behind why Paul felt the need to write this letter, but we are indebted to him for writing it. Paul has handed down to the church in all ages the plan to keep the growing church in the true faith. It all hinges on the preparation and appointment of faithful men who will oversee the congregations and defend the doctrine of the church.

However, not just any man should be considered for this job. The primary work of the church is to preach the gospel to all nations, and to do this job she must maintain her position of honor in the community. To do this, her leaders and teachers must be men who are beyond reproach. They cannot be men who have led scandalous lives, even though they have now changed their ways, for the world around them does not judge with the grace of God. Paul has given guidelines for what it means to be “beyond reproach.” The man must be faithful in his marriage, have raised respectable and respectful children who will not drag his good reputation through the mud with their own scandalous lives. He must not be arrogant, quick-tempered, a drunkard, violent, or covetous. Even if he has not been accused of wrongdoing in the past, if he has any of these qualities, he will likely fall into disrepute soon. Rather, he should be hospitable (the opposite of covetous), loving good (the opposite of violent), modest (the opposite of arrogant), upright (the opposite of being a drunkard), pious and self controlled (the opposite of quick-tempered). However, above all things, the pastor must be able to teach, correct, and defend the doctrine of the church. To do this he must know the doctrine of the church, and know it well. He must be able to teach and edify his congregation with the Word of God, and he must be able to have a defense against teachers of false doctrine.

In this epistle Paul almost seems to be obsessed with the defense of the church against false doctrine. The church in Crete must have been under significant attack by those who would divide the church with their innovative doctrines. The task of defending the church against these false teachers was too great for just one man, so Paul encourages Titus to appoint Presbyters, Pastors over the congregations in each city to assist him in this job. Titus is to ensure that both in their conduct and in their doctrine that these men will be able to defend and honor the church. This job is no light matter and must be approached with all seriousness. We would do well to regain Paul’s fervor to protect the sheep from the false doctrine of ravenous wolves as well as from the scandal of our own lives. It is truly sad to see young men eagerly enter into the office with such a fervor for pure doctrine fall so quickly to a scandalous life. On the other hand, it is equally sad that so many enter into the office with no concept of retaining the faith once and for all handed down to them from the Apostles.

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Date:2006-08-24 22:21
Subject:Finally, Another Update.
Mood: determined

For those of you who actually view this site and care, I decided it was time to post another update. I have decided that I have a "love/hate" relationship with these things. I always enjoy the concept of posting my ideas and opinions and having others read them like they really matter, but I find myself increasingly concerned about what I post here. It is so easy for things to be taken out of context or misunderstood. Let's face it, some people think my opinions stink. That's their opinion and they have the right to feel that way, as long as they keep their opinion to themselves. (That's a joke, in case anyone missed it)

Summer is almost over. I can't believe it. My kids have all started school again. David is going to college at Indiana University Kokomo for the year. He hopes to go to Butler next year, but he will have to keep his grades up so he can get a scholarship. Pat hopes to finish high school mid-term so he can go to basic training in January. He is joining the Army Reserves in the Quartermaster field. I give him a hard time about not going into the National Guard, but secretly I am very proud of him. He wants to go to college out of state, so the Reserves works better for him. Hanna is in fourth grade. I'm glad that I will never have all three of them in college at the same time.

The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter for me. I have been working various jobs over the Summer. I started at Edy's Ice Cream loading pallets in the freezer. That was a good, hard job that got me in pretty good shape, but it didn't pay very well. Then I got a job working for the Logistics section of my National Guard Headquarters unit in Lafayette. The pay was a lot better, but it kept me away from home all week. I'll be doing that job for another two weeks until School starts in September. Then I have two more quarters until I graduate. I've applied for a part time job at Mancino's Pizza and Grinders for the school year.

Now for some opinions. The Democratic party needs to implode as soon as possible. It is not that I am such a die-hard Republican, it is just that they have defined their entire party line on hating everything that President Bush does, even if it is good. What a bunch of losers. Find something to actually be for, and then be for it. Unfortunately, the Republican party seems to be the one on the verge of imploding, as so many of the candidates have believed the liberal media lies that no one likes Bush anymore, so they are trying to distance themselves from anything he is for these days, even if he is right. It seems to me that both parties are gutless these days. They are for whatever their polls tell them the people want them to be for. Our so-called leaders need to get a back-bone. "Lead, follow, or get out of the way!"

Iraq: Obviously I've been there and I have some very strong feelings about the matter. I hate to see soldiers dying there. However, if we pulled them all out and brought them home today, all those who have died to date would have died for nothing. The insurgents would take over the country in less than a year, and all those who are currently enjoying the freedoms we have begun to give to them would hate us for it. If we think we are hated in the Arab world for fighting this war in Iraq, we haven't seen anything compared to how they would hate us if we just pulled out and went home now. When I was there I saw a long line of very happy children walking to school with brand new backpacks full of new books, going to school for the first time in their lives. We built their school, bought their books, and made it safe for them to go there, and they knew it. As our convoy drove by they were waving and shouting to us, showing us their backpacks and jumping for joy. To those children, the future of Iraq, American Soldiers are heroes. Just because our stupid media would have you believe they were better off living in filth and poverty under Hussein than they are today, don't buy it. They are lying to you. Yes, there are those in Iraq who do not want us there, they want to return to the tyranny they had before. They are men who love power and using that power for their own good while holding others down. They are men of violence and hatred. They are not freedom fighters, because they are not fighting for freedom, they are fighting for tyranny and terrorism. They fear freedom, because they cannot control people who are free. The American and Coalition Soldiers and the Iraqi Militia are the only freedom fighters in Iraq today.

Last but not least, Faith. When are Christians going to figure out that God is not impressed by how many times they tell Him how much they love Him and how wonderful they think He is. He knows just how little we love Him, and He forgives us anyway, and instead of just singing over and over again how wonderful we think He is, lets tell people just why He is so wonderful. He is wonderful because we are self-centered, sinful, backbiting and ungrateful children, and yet He still loved us enough to become one of us and to die for us so that we could be reconciled to Him. There is a so-called "Christian" radio station on our campus that plays so much egocentric blither-blather that I hesitate to let my daughter listen to it. They call it the "safe radio station". What is so safe about letting my kids listen to pagan doctrine dressed up in supposedly Christian language?

Just the other day I found myself talking with a man who had grown up in the Lutheran Church who was slipping away. He had started going to a "Lutheran" church that had a very strong local mission and was very involved with modern praise style worship. He told me that he kept getting dissatisfied with each church he had gone to. One church split because some of the people wanted to let the pastor go because he was not a very dynamic speaker, while the rest felt that was not an appropriate reason to let a pastor go (hurray for them!). Once the church split, he quit going to either, and went to yet another church with a strong local outreach mission and a praise band that he really enjoyed, and they also had a dynamic preacher who preached sermons that made them feel good about going to church. However, he had recently been getting discouraged at that church because although he and his family were very involved, they had begun to notice that there were a lot of others who did not seem to be "pulling their weight." I began to talk to him about what Church is really about, that it is not about what we do for God, but about the wonderful thing He has done for us, that He has forgiven us all our sins. I explained to him that the purpose for going to church was to receive Christ in His Word and Sacraments, and that even if the sermon was boring and the hymns were not sung well, as long as Christ was given to them in Word and Sacrament that they got everything they needed from going to Church.

At first he was a bit perplexed by this concept. He thought that sermons should teach us things we can do to live a more God pleasing life and that worship was about letting God know just how much we liked Him. I explained to him that as long as the focus of worship was on what we were doing for God, there would always be divisions in the church. Each person would be able to see how much more they thought they were doing than others were. Feelings would be hurt. Factions would form. But, when worship is focused on what God has done for us, the field is leveled. We are all poor, lost, miserable sinners who have been forgiven, reconciled, and who are being sanctified in Christ. His eyes were opened and his catechism class started coming back to him. He said that he could see the point, because in all the churches he had gone to where he was getting disappointed, it was because of thinking that he was doing more for God than others were, and that these kinds of feelings had caused all the splits and divisions in the churches.

However, he still seemed to be convinced that sermons should be "how-to" lessons on being good Christians. I talked to him about how sanctification, just like justification, was by faith. God's Word is creative. He is the only being who could command light to exist. If His Word can bring the universe into existence, it can also create faith and good works in those who hear it and believe it. As long as we believe that sanctification is something that we do for God, then we will get proud of how well we are doing, or depressed at how poorly we are doing. But sanctification is something that God creates in us through His Word and Sacraments. Each time He speaks His Word of righteousness about us, we become more of what He says we are. This is not just a New Testament idea. In the Old Testament we have mistranslated the 10 Commandments. In Hebrew they are not commands, they are statements of fact. God starts out by explaining who He is, He is the God who saved them from bondage. Then He goes on to explain who they are; they are His People who have no other Gods, who keep the Sabbath day holy, who do not use His name in vain, who obey their fathers and mothers etc. My Hebrew grammar book explained away the fact that these sentences are not written using the language of commands by saying that they were a special type of command, a religious or cultic command. Hogwash! They are God's creative Word, describing who His people are, and making them that way as the very words are spoken by His mouth. That is sanctification. It is a work of God that we can either receive by faith, or reject, choosing either self-righteousness or lawlessness.

At least one song I have heard on the "Christian" radio station seems to have it right. "It's not about who I am, it's about what He's done. It's not about what I do, it's about who He is." Amen.

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Date:2006-06-20 19:20
Subject:Summer Work

Well, after a couple weeks of worry and searching, I found a Summer job. I work just down the street from my house at the Edy's Grand Ice Cream factory. I work in the warehouse packing pallets for shipment to stores. Edy's is owned by Nestle, and they also own Hagendas and SOY Delicious, as well as a few others, so we have a lot of different products. My job is to drive a pallet jack around the warehouse and pick items ordered by stores to load on the pallets. Oh, my aching back! Even though they have ice cream in a freezer in the break-room all the time, I still expect to lose weight on this job just because the work is so physically demanding, not to mention that my body also has to work to stay warm (the warehouse is a giant freezer).

You cannot imagine the joy I had in learning that Abu al Zaqarwi was found and taken out. I know that we are not supposed to rejoice at the downfall of our enimies, but this guy had a special place in my heart, being the mastermind who lead the insurgents responsible for the deaths of so many of my fellow soldiers. I am glad that he is not alive and in a jail, because he would be just like Sadam, spouting off and using a court room as his propaganda stage. I know that they anounced a replacement quickly, but no one will be a real replacement for him. He was a natural leader with a kind of charisma. Young men would through their lives away at his command without even thinking about it. He was not elected leader of the Iraqi insurgency, he founded it. His replacement will just be an elected official, and hopefully a fairly uninteresting one.

The media still drives me crazy. They are ready for us to throw down our arms and run away again, just like we did in Vietnam. Look what happened there. Thirty years of communist tyrany that is just beginning to soften up. That is almost exactly what would happen in Iraq if we left now. The insurgents would take over before we even got the last of our troops off the ground, and they would put in place a leader who would make Sadam Hussein look like a Boy Scout. The general population would feel betrayed (and they would be right), and we would look like a nation of loosers who turn and run everytime things get a little rough.

I met a number of descent, peaceful people while I was there. They enjoy the life they have now. Their children love having schools to go to. Now they have hospitals where they can get treatment, not just go to die painlessly on drugs of something that was treatable. These people the media calls "freedom fighters" are nothing more than a band of thugs. They do not want freedom, they want to rule as tyrants. They do not give a whit about the average Iraqi citizen, which is why the blow so many of them up every day. Well, that is my rant on Iraq for now. It is not that I want more American soldiers to die, it is that I want the deaths of those who have already died to mean something. I want to see a free, democratic Iraq as a place of refuge for those who currently live under tyrany in Iran and other fundamentalist Muslim countries.

Last quarter I took a class on the book of Revelation. It was the lowest grade of the quarter, and the class I got the most out of. What a great book. It is so unfortunate that it is so misunderstood and marginalized. If we Lutherans understood that book better it would have such an impact on the way we worship. Liturgy would no longer be seen as adiaphora, but as the place where our doctrine becomes the most important, where the "rubber hits the road." What happens when Christians gather together and worship? Heaven comes down to earth, angels and saints in heaven and on earth rejoice, the Lamb gives us himself as the wedding feast, Satan and his minions are defeated, and the church reigns triumphant with God himself on the throne.

Have I rambled on enough for this month. I'll try to get back here again someday. God bless you all.

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Date:2006-04-19 21:05
Subject:Bad me!
Mood: contemplative

It has been a long time since I have done anything with this page. I keep forgetting to book mark this on my computer, so I forget how to get here, and I have to ask friends who visit my site looking for updates to help me out. I am such a bad blogger. I wonder if I will ever get the hang of this thing.

Anyway, I am no longer in Iraq. In fact, I came back just after Thanksgiving and have been home ever since. After coming back I applied to get back into Seminary, and after being accepted, I moved back to Fort Wayne. I have been in classes for over a month now and am more than half way done with the quarter. Iraq seems little more than a bad dream to me now. Actually, it wasn't such a bad dream, but I wouldn't beg for them to send me again any time soon.

Since coming home I have been doing a lot of thinking about how the Lord comes to us in the Sacraments. This got started as I was debating sacramental theology with a vehement ex-Catholic and a Greek Orthodox theologian. The ex-Catholic reminded me why it is important that we do not lose sight of the Sacraments, while the Greek Orthodox theologian helped me to focus upon the centrality of the sacramental life to faith. So, with all that behind me as I returned to Seminary, the fact that one of my classes this quarter is on Grace and Sacraments seemed quite appropriate.

Carl Jansen, a theologian in the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) is quoted as saying that when Jesus ascended into the heavens 40 days after His resurrection, He ascended into the sacramental life of the Church. During my vicarage year I preached a sermon on Ascension Day in which I said something very similar, although not nearly so eloquently. I was simply making the point that it was the ascension of the human nature of Christ to the ubiquitous right hand of the Father that assured us that His human nature, ie. His incarnate body and blood, could and truly were present in each and every piece of consecrated bread and every drop of consecrated wine. However, the way Dr. Jansen put it says so much more.

The last words of Christ recorded in the Gospel according to Matthew are, "Behold, I am with you to the end of the age." Jesus is not speaking of some mystical, spiritual presence that gives us a warm feeling in our hearts, He is speaking of a very real, tangible presence that is seen and touched in the Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. He is also present in His Word, when we read it, when we hear it read, and when it is proclaimed or preached (that is, when a sermon is actually based upon the Word of God, and not upon human opinion). This is the Sacramental life of the Church, and it is not an independent life, but a corporate life. Those who are forcibly separated from other believers by circumstances are the exception, but those who choose to separate themselves are simply separated, for they have chosen to live apart from the Body of Christ.

Christ is not a long way off in heaven, looking down upon us "from a distance" as the popular Bet Meddler song supposes. He is still right here, wherever we gather together around the Word and Sacraments of God. In Baptism we are baptized into him, and so we live in Him. In the Word of God, it is not as though we were reading a letter from a friend far off, but more like that friend were sitting right there with us, speaking to us. In the Eucharist, He gives himself, his very body and blood, as a sacrifice that we are invited to eat, and in this way He comes to live in us.

Evangelicalism tells us that Jesus comes to live in our hearts when we invite Him in and choose to make Him our Lord and Savior. But Scripture tells us, "Who ever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life." Eternal life is nothing else than the life of Christ joined to our life. This we have by faith, and that faith is born in Baptism, informed by the Word, and fed in the Eucharistic meal. This life is corporate in more than just the group of people with whom we come together to worship, for it joins us to all believers from Adam to the end of time, and it links us to the wedding feast of the Lamb and his Bride. Christ is the host and the meat of this feast, and as we partake of it, we become partakers of Him and all the gifts that brings.

Sanctification, that all too elusive requirement of true Christian living, is impossible without this Sacramental life, for without Christ we can do nothing. The branch separated from the Vine cannot bear fruit, for it has no life in it. But, when we are joined to this Sacramental life of the Church, we are joined to Christ, and his life flows through us. In this way, our life, hopes, dreams and desires become saturated with his life, hopes, dreams and desires. The old man must also be cut off and destroyed, which happens through confession and repentance, for the old man cannot tolerate being exposed. But confession and repentance, without the pure Gospel of absolution, would only lead to death. But water does not only kill, but it also gives life, and so confession must be followed by absolution, that announcement that all our sins are forgiven. This is the only way to the Sanctified life, and is the outward proof that we are God's children. Sanctification is the Sacramental life on display. "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." Amen.

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Date:2005-10-26 14:07
Subject:Life in Iraq in the Autum Time

This has been the best part of my tour here. The weather has become amazing. At night the temperature drops to the 60s, rising each day to a dry mid 80s. If I close my eyes and just enjoy the temperature, this is almost idilic. But then I open my eyes and see once again that this is a barren wasteland. The only plants that grow here are some marsh grass in the few wet places near the river, and some scrawny date palms that never bear fruit and a small tree/bush that looks like a sick wheeping willow.

The vote for the new constitution is complete, and now the weeks of counting, arguing over the count and voter irregularities, and litigation over what to do about the irregularities begin. They ideed have learned all they know about democracy from us. Most likely, when all is done, the new constitution will pass and the vote for their final government will begin in December. With any luck, I will be home in Indiana by then.

I have two things to say about the insurgents, they are tenacious, and they thankfully have no idea how to aim a rocket or a mortar. And that's all I have to say about that.

My unit has been amazing. Our mission has changed three times, once included a complete change in equipment. They have frequently been sent to places they had never heard of with minimal guidence of how they were to get their job done when they got there, but they have never failed a mission. For a bunch of National Guard guys, they have done extreemly well. I think they have done a better job than the Active Duty Soldiers next to us, but I might be biased. I will be glad to get them all home and to pin some good awards on them.

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Date:2005-10-07 14:19
Subject:Harry Potter Personality Test

Pirate Monkey's Harry Potter Personality Quiz
Harry Potter Personality Quiz
by Pirate Monkeys Inc.

I'm never sure what to think of these before I take them, and I believe that the reason they keep seeming to get so close to home is because they are so genereal that most people could see themselves in nearly all of them. However, they seem to be a little better than horoscopes, so I won't complain.

I like this one because it is attached to such a neat pop icon. As pop icons go, Harry Potter, Star Wars and LOTR are about the only ones I can get into. I doubt if anyone will ever bother to make a "Dune" personality quize. Next to LOTR that is about my favorite work of fiction.

"It is not that power always corrupts, but that power always attractcs the corruptable." Frank Herbert, Heritics of Dune.

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Date:2005-10-07 13:39
Subject:Religion Based on Law
Mood: contemplative

Being here and watching these people has been enlightening. I always suspected that the cause of most fighting between religions was due to the fact that most religions are based upon law. What I mean by that is that they recognize that there is someone greater than themselves to whom they are accountable, and that they have done things that greater one does not approve of, and their religion is then based upon what they must do to win back the approval of their god. Many believe that all religions are based upon this, and they come to this conclusion because so many of those who claim to be Christians basically believe this about their religion. This is proved by poll after poll of people who claim that they are Christian who then say that they believe that good people will go to heaven and that bad people will go to hell. This is not the true Christian religion, but I will get to that later.

However, the problem with a religion based upon law is that if someone else has a different understanding of what laws are required, it becomes your duty to fix that person, or one of you might die while you try. For Christians this comes across in the door to door style of evangelism where the person seems convinced that if you don't agree with their rules they can't leave the house until they change your mind.

The claim of Islam is that they all have the same fundamental religion with minor differences based upon which of a handful of historical figures they follow for the correct interpretation of the Koran. This is true to some degree, it is those different interpretations of the Koran that cause all the trouble. The Shiites believe that it is secret meanings hidden within the text itself that is the important part of the religion, and that only an Imam can correctly interpret them. The Sunnis believe that the life of Mohamed after he completed writing the Koran is the key to correct interpretation of the Koran, and that the letter plus those examples are easy for anyone to understand.

Although it is clear in the Koran that no Muslim is ever to take the life of another Muslim, they seem to have both gotten over that restriction by claiming that the other's interpretation makes them less than a true Muslim. Therefore, except during the month of Ramadan, they hate each other more than they hate Christians and Jews. Of course, many moderate Muslims will point out that the Koran calls Christians and Jews children of the Book and a kind of brother. However, since neither of us follow all of their laws, and we encourage others to do the same, we can easily go from fellow children of the Book to infidels who fail to honor Allah or his prophet.

The problem with trying to bring peace to a country with both Shiites and Sunnis is that they don't want to have peace with each other. At least the religious leaders are convinced that peace is impossible until the other group changes their interpretation of the law, and they seem to have little difficulty finding followers willing to die for that cause.

The local population has little time for any of this, but most of them cannot read and are therefore poor Muslims at best. Also, their daily lives are filled with difficulties and hardships that leave them little time to worry about one interpretation of the law over another. But even here they are often fighting amongst each other, even though they are all of the same branch of Islam.

With all of that said, I do not believe the situation here is hopeless, but it is going to be difficult. For all that those who claim we shouldn't have come to begin with say about the loss of life due to this war, there are few Muslims dieing at the hands of the insurgents now than died at the hands of Saddam and his sons before the war. There are more and better hospitals and schools, power plants are being repaired, and the lives of the average person has improved. They and the world are better off today than they were three years ago, but those arguing against our presence here seem to be little deterred by the facts.

I look forward to going home, however. This has been an experience, but Dorothy was right, "There's no place like home."

Look here later for a defense of the non-legalistic religion of Christ.

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Date:2005-08-08 05:53
Subject:Back in Iraq
Mood: cranky

I just got back to Iraq after a two week leave. I was home in Indiana most of the time, and I tried to spend it all with my family. My only complaint about the leave was that it was too short. I got to spend more time with my sons than I expected, which is always a good thing.

I'm not real happy about being back here. Who would be? On the bright side, I have less than five months left on this tour, so we are on the downward slope.

Since I have been back I have noticed that it is not as hot as when I left, but the wind still blows every day. In fact, I think the wind is worse now than before. I am very glad that I no longer live in a tent.

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Date:2005-07-11 07:46
Mood: curious

You are dignified, spiritual, and wise.
Always unsatisfied, you constantly try to better yourself.
You are also a seeker of knowledge and often buried in books.

You tend to be philosophical, looking for the big picture in life.
You dream of inner peace for yourself, your friends, and the world.
A good friend, you always give of yourself first.

Don't know if first and last lines are true (that's for others to decide), but the rest are nearly right on. Not bad for just a pic.

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Date:2005-07-11 07:29
Subject:Life in Iraq
Mood: nostalgic

I might have been a bit presumptious with my subtitle. I don't know how often I will actually provide any theological insights to what is going on here. However, since I am working on becoming a Lutheran Pastor and Chaplain, I thought it would be worthwhile to try once in a while.

For the most part, life in Iraq is hot and dusty. The temperature in the summer can get up to 150 degrees Farenhite. Since I have been here it has never gotten that hot. I think my hottest day has been 134, and that was down south, in Kuwait. Sometimes we get a strong wind from the south, and it is like standing in front of a giant hair dryer. The second part is dusty. The ground where I am stationed is made of clay. During the rainy season it turns into sticky mud that gets everywhere. The other 10 months of the year it dries up and turns into dust, fine, powdery dust. It also gets everywhere, and it is not fun to breath.

I am a platoon leader for a Transportatin Company, and we drive semi-trucks with flat-bed trailers. We hull everything from boxes of botteled water to other trucks, and we take it all over central Iraq. Since I have been hear we have experienced two roadside bombs that went off (I can't count the number we have been hassled by that did not go off), at least three Rocket Propelled Granades (all missed us) and only twice were we fired at with small arms. Through all of that, no one has been seriously injured. Everytime I mention this I thank God Almighty for His providential care. Most of the time when we go on the road, though, nothing significant happens to us. We take the goods to the people who need them, and we return feeling exhausted. After a day or two we are ready to go again.

I think that what we are doing here is a good thing. No, we have never found any WMDs. I don't know if I ever expected to find any. However, Sadam Hussein was a tyrant who paid lots of money to terrorists all over the world, and who even set up training sites for those who wanted to be terrorists. He slaughtered thousands of his own people, encouraged the rape of women and the enslavement of children, and who built numorous palaces for himself while refusing to do anything about the dismal conditions his subjects lived in. The world is much better off with that man behind bars. As far as the insurgents are concerned, they are not freedom fighters, they are mostly foreign invaders trying to take the budding democracy away from these people and return them to the ruthless rule of yet another dictator. I am proud of what my fellow soldiers are trying to do here, and I consider it a blessing that I have been asked to serve with them.

I am stationed near a fairly incredible archeological site, the city of Ur. It is home to the famous Ziggauraut, which I have always wanted to see. Now I have walked up the steps at least a dozen times as I have lead members of my company on tours of the site. There is also a very impressive burial site there. Many believe that this is the city mentioned in the Old Testament book of Genesis as Ur of the Chaldees where Abraham was born. There are some problems with that theory, but it is certainly possible. It is the site of the ancient story of Gilgamesh, the man who would be a god, and the site of the oldest library ever recovered. Once I was also very close to the ruins of the city of Babylon, but I was not able to get in there. I hope to get there at least once before I leave.

One thing I have learned here is that while it may not be true that there are no atheists in foxholes, there are certainly a lot less of them. I have been able to talk to more soldiers about the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ than ever before. Even if they do not always feel the fear of death, the discomfort and being away from home make them much more open to the comforts of God's eternal love.

This is an introduction, so it covered a lot of subjects. I don't know how often I will be able to update this, and I don't know if I will ever be more focused, but we will find out.

The Peace of God be with you.

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