Friday, December 21, 2007

Clouds of Witnesses, "Tortured For Christ" by Richard Wurmbrand, Part II.

"One great lesson arose from all the beatings, tortures and butchery of the communists: that the spirit is master of the body. Often, when tortured, we felt the tortures, but it seemed as something distant and far removed from the spirit which was lost in the glory of Christ and His presence with us.

"When we were given one slice of bread a week and dirty soup every day, we decided we would faithfully "tithe" even then. Every tenth week we took the slice of bread and gave it to the weaker brethren as our "tithe" to the Master.

"A Christian was sentenced to death. Before being executed, he was allowed to see his wife. His last words to his wife were, "you must know that I die loving those who kill me. They don't know what they do and my last request of you is to love them, too. Don't have bitterness in your heart because they kill your beloved one. We will meet in heaven." These words impressed the officer of the secret police who attended the discussion between the two. Afterword he told me the story in prison, where he had been put for becoming a Christian." p. 45.

"I don't feel frustrated to have lost many years in prison. I have seen beautiful things. I myself have been among the weak and insignificant ones in prison, but have had the privilege to be in the same jail with great saints, heroes of the faith who equalled the Christians of the first centuries. They went gladly to die for Christ. The spiritual beauty of such saints and heroes of faith can never be described...The Underground Church is the Church which has come back to the first love...Before entering prison, I loved Christ very much. Now, after having seen the Bride of Christ"-His spiritual Body-in prison, I would say that I love the Underground Church as much as I love Christ Himself. I have seen her beauty, her spirit of sacrifice." p.47

"In solitary confinement, we could not pray any more as before. We were unimaginably hungry; we had been doped until we became as idiots. We were as weak as skeletons. The Lord's Prayer was much too long for us. We could not concentrate long enough to say it. My only prayer repeated again and again, was "Jesus, I love Thee.
And then, one glorious day I got the answer from Jesus: "You love me? Now I will show you how much I love you." At once, I felt a flame in my heart which burned like the coronal streamers of the sun. The disciples on the way to Emmaus said that their hearts burned when Jesus spoke with them. So it was with me. I knew the love of the One Who gave His life on the cross for us all. Such love cannot exclude the communists, however grave their sins...As the grave insists on having all-rich and poor, young and old, men of all races, nations and political convictions, saints and criminals-so love is all embracing. Christ, the Incarnate Love, will never cease until He wins the communists too." p.58.

"God is "the Truth." The Bible is the "truth about the Truth." Theology is the "truth about the truth about the Truth." Fundamentalism is the "truth about the truth about the truth about the Truth." Christian people live in these many truths about the Truth, and because of them, have not "the Truth." Hungry, beaten and doped, we had forgotten theology and the Bible. We had forgotten the "truths about the Truth," therefore we lived in "the Truth." It is written,"The Son of Man will come in the hour when you do not think and on a day you do not know." We could not think anymore. In our darkest hours of torture the Son of Man came to us, making the prison walls shine like diamonds and filling the cells with light. Somewhere, far away, were the torturers below us in the sphere of the body. But the Spirit rejoiced in the Lord. We would not have given up this joy for that of kingly palaces." p. 72-73.

"I have decided to denounce "communism," though I love the "communists." I don't find it to be right to preach the Gospel without denouncing communism.
"Some tell me "Preach the pure Gospel!" This reminds me that the communist secret police also told me to preach Christ, but not to mention communism. Is it really so, that those who are for what is called "a pure Gospel" are inspired by the same spirit as those of the communist secret police?
"I don't know what this so-called pure Gospel is. Was the preaching of St. John the Baptist pure? He did say only "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near." He said also "You, Herod are bad." He was beheaded because he didn't confine himself to abstract teaching. Jesus did not preach only the "pure" Sermon on the Mount, but also what some actual church leaders would have called a negative sermon: "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites...generation of vipers!" It was for such "unpure" preaching that he was crucified. The Pharisees would not have bothered about the Sermon on the Mount." p. 78.

Part III of the witness of the late Richard Wurmbrand will appear in January. For information about Wurmbrand and how to purchase "Tortured for Christ," please see Part I in the November archives of The Right Hand of Fellowship.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Quotes and Facts: From Thomas Sowell's "Black Rednecks and White Liberals."

p. 17-18 'Comments on the lack of enterprise by Southern Whites (Before the Civil War) were made by numerous observers in various parts of the South. In Alexis de Tocquevilles's classic Democracy in America, he contrasted the attitudes toward work among Southern and Northern whites as being so great as to be visible to the casual observer sailing down the Ohio River and comparing the Ohio side with the Kentucky side. These were not just the prejudices of outsiders. "No Southern man," South Carolina's famed Senator John C. Calhoun said, "not even the poorest or the lowest, will under any circumstances ...perform menial labor...He has too much pride for that." General Robert E. Lee likewise declared: "Our people are opposed to work. Our troops officers community & press. All ridicule and resist it." "Many whites," according to a leading Southern historian,"were disposed to leave good enough alone and put off changes until the morrow." '

p.34-35 "White liberals, instead of comparing what has happened to the black family since the liberal welfare policies of the 1960s were put into practice, compare black families to white families and conclude that the higher rates of broken homes and unwed motherhood among blacks are due to "a legacy of slavery." But why the large-scale disintegration of the black family should have begun a hundred years after slavery is left unexplained. Whatever the situation of the black family relative to the white family, in the past or the present, it is clear that broken homes were far more common among blacks at the end of the twentieth century than they were in the middle of that century or at the beginning of that century-even though blacks at the beginning of the twentieth century were just one generation out of slavery. The widespread and casual abandonment of their children, and the women who bore them, by black fathers in the ghettos of the late twentieth century was in fact a painfully ironic contrast with what happened in the immediate aftermath of slavery a hundred years earlier, when observers in the South reported desperate efforts of freed blacks to find family members who have been separated from them during the era of slavery. A contemporary journalist reported meeting black men walking along the roads of Virginia and North Carolina, many of whom had walked across the state-looking for their families. Others reported similar strenuous and even desperate efforts of newly freed blacks to find members of their families."

p. 52 "By projecting a vision of a world in which the problems of blacks are the consequences of the actions of whites, either immediately or in times past, white liberals have provided a blanket excuse for shortcomings and even crimes by blacks. The very possibility of any internal cultural sources of the problems of blacks has been banished from consideration by the fashionable phrase "blaming the victim." "

p.55 "The general orientation of white liberals has been one of "What can we do for them?" What blacks can do for themselves has not only been of lesser interest, much of what blacks have in fact already done for themselves has been overshadowed by liberal attempts to get them special dispensations-whether affirmative action, reparations for slavery, or other race-based benefits-even when the net effect of these has been much less than the effects of blacks own self-advancement."

p.59 "This post-1960s black identity intolerance-promoted by white intellectuals as well as black leaders and activists-is a painful parallel to the post 1830s intolerance among white Southerners against anyone who questioned slavery in any way. Maintaining what has been aptly called an "intellectual blockade" against ideas differing from those prevailing in the South, antebellum Southerners not only insulated themselves from ideas and viewpoints originating outside the region but, at the same time, in effect drove out of the South independent-minded people who would not march in lockstep. The resulting narrow and unquestioning conformity of that era led the South into the blind alley of a Civil War that devastated wide sections of the region and left a legacy of bitterness that lasted for generations. It can only be hoped that today's narrow intolerance promoted by a black identity fetish will not lead into similarly disastrous blind alleys."

p. 116- 117 "Slavery did not die quietly of its own accord. It went down fighting to the bitter end-and it lost only because Europeans had gunpowder weapons first. The advance of European imperialism around the world marked the retreat of the slave trade and then of slavery itself. The British stamped out slavery, not only throughout the British Empire-which included one-forth of the world, whether measured in land or people-but also by its pressures and its actions against other nations."

p.122 "Slavery was destroyed within the United States at staggering costs in blood and treasure, but the struggle was over within a few ghastly years of warfare. Nevertheless, the Civil War was the bloodiest war ever fought in the Western Hemisphere, and more Americans were killed in that war than in any other war in the country's history. But this was a highly atypical-indeed, unique-way to end slavery. In most of the rest of the world, unremitting efforts to destroy the institution of slavery went on for more than a century, on a thousand shifting fronts, and in the face of determined and ingenious efforts to continue the trade in human beings."

p.154 "The Civil War that grew out of tensions over slavery was the bloodiest war ever fought in the Western Hemisphere and cost more American lives than any other war in the country's history. Whether or not those fighting on either side thought as their battles as being over slavery, as distinguished from succession, without slavery there would have been no secession and no Civil War. The states that first seceded were states where slaves were the highest percentage of the population. Contemporary words and deeds by the leaders of the Confederacy made unmistakeably clear that slavery was at the heart of their secession and that at the heart of the constitution that they established for their own new government. In later times, as slavery became ever more repugnant to people throughout Western civilization and even beyond, apologists for the South would stress other factors. But the real question is what factor moved Southern leaders when the fateful decision was made to secede-and that was "unashamedly," as a Civil War historian put it, slavery."

p.225 ""History is too often the handmaiden of contemporary visions or agendas. Accomplishments among blacks are often either magnified or downplayed, or glided over entirely, according to whether these accomplishments do or do not advance the agenda of portraying victimhood or struggles against victimhood. In this context, in is inexplicable, though hardly justified, that the history of successful black schools has attracted virtually no interest from either historians or educators. That history does not advance any contemporary political agenda, though it might help advance the education of a whole generation of black students."

p. 230 " In the first decades after the Civil War, the American Missionary Association, established thousands of schools for blacks in the South. Most of the teachers in these schools were young, unmarried women from New England, bringing with them not only academic education but also a whole culture very different from Southern society. Many black children thus acquired advantages that they would take with them into the adult world in later life. As a noted historian observed: "It was no accident that so many black leaders of the twentieth century civil rights movements came from missionary schools." "

p. 241 "...the dramatic increases in the numbers of blacks in many professional occupations in the last half of the twentieth century cannot be attributed solely-or even primarily-to the removal of these barriers by civil rights legislation. The rise of blacks into professional and other high-level occupations was greater in the years preceding passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 than in the years following the passage of that act."

p. 248 " "Multiculturalism" has not meant warts-and-all portraits of different societies around the world. For many, it has meant virtually a warts-only portrait of the West and a no-warts portrait of non-Western peoples. More is involved than a simple bias, however. The central doctrine of multiculturalism-the equality of cultures-cannot be sustained when that means equality of concrete achievements-educationally, economically, or otherwise.
"It is not only the West whose achievements must be brushed aside or glided over in silence. Particularly dangerous to contemporary visions and agendas are achievements by groups that began in poverty and rose to prosperity, such as immigrants from Japan, Italy, China, or India who settled in various countries around the world. It is not just their achievements, but the very concept of achievement, which is antithetical to the multicultural vision-and which is therefore often evaded or denied."

p. 249 "When visions or agendas suppress history, that not only distorts the achievements of groups, nations, or civilizations, it forfeits valuable knowledge as to the things that have led to past progress and can lead to progress for others who are still lagging today. In short, it sacrifices the material interests of millions for the ideological or other parochial interests of a few."

p. 250 " If the very concept of achievement is a threat to the vision, then overcoming adversity is even more of a threat. Both must be verbally transformed into privileges and advantages, in order to protect the vision."

p.267 "In a sense, it is healthy that more prosperous individuals or societies recognize that their prosperity is not all due to what they themselves have done in their own lifetimes, but is in fact the fruit of the efforts and contributions made by many other people before they were born. However, gratitude for whatever has made their prosperity possible has for many been replaced by guilt for having been more fortunate than others. Thus their forebears are seen not as having bequeathed a valuable heritage but as having perpetuated great injustices."

p. 271 "The misuse of history to condemn evils common around the world as if they were peculiarities of the West has serious practical implications. Two wrongs do not make a right but undermining the society which has the smaller evil only makes it more vulnerable to the greater evils in other societies and in international terrorist networks."

I want to point out that Sowell will italicize certain words for emphasis. I tried to italicize where he did, but technical difficulties prevented me from doing so.

"Black Rednecks and White Liberals" can be purchased by going to this link:

Friday Night Frozen Dinner and an Intellectual: "Black Rednecks and White Liberals" by Thomas Sowell, Part IV.

This last review of Thomas Sowell's "Black Rednecks and White Liberals" ( ) will briefly consider three other essays that appear in this book.

In "The Real History of Slavery", Sowell attacks the current politically correct view of slavery as primarily the product of Western Civilization colonizing other nations and coercing the vanquished into forced labor. Sowell does not excuse Western participation in the practice of slavery, but he points out that slavery was a worldwide institution, not just the practice of Europe and America. Africa kept more African slaves than were exported to the West; by far, slavery as practiced by the Muslim world was more severe than that practiced by the Americans. Sowell also takes on the notion that slavery was racist in its origins; all races that were victorious over enemies enslaved the vanquished. However, only one region of the world developed a conscience over slavery and that was the Western world. It was the West, primarily Britain, that used its military might to put an end to slavery worldwide. It was the rest of the world that resisted the West on this issue for more than a century. Of all the nations of the world, only one fought a war to end slavery, the United States. The ideals and convictions that helped bring about slavery's demise in the West did not exist in other parts of the globe. Sowell, an African American, believes that the Founding Fathers were justified in not insisting slavery be excluded from the new United States. Their position laid the groundwork for a free America in both the North and South. Southern slavery would have existed longer otherwise because a separate Southern nation would have isolated itself from the moral concerns of other nations.

In "Black Education: Achievements, Myths and Tragedies", Sowell gives us a history of the education of American blacks that one does not hear much about. The prevailing view of the educational establishment is that poverty and racism makes it impossible for minorities to achieve on the same level as white students. Standards must be lowered for minorities to succeed in school. Yet from the end of the Civil War to the 1960's, black education thrived and was a factor in helping African Americans raise themselves out of poverty. This history is often suppressed because the educational elites feel threatened by it; they have too much invested in their own failed systems which have not produced the same level of success as the earlier methodologies. For instance, after the Civil War, Northern whites came to the South to establish Missionary Schools. They not only taught black children, but brought with them a whole new culture which gave blacks a new outlook on life which allowed them to raise their standards of living and participate in the American dream in spite of all the obstacles standing in their way.

Sowell's final essay, "History Verses Visions", is an attack upon multiculturalism. He views muticulturalism as rooted in a false portrayal of history in which the achievers succeeded only through luck, economic advantage and exploitation of the poor and minorities. Sowell claims that the main evil of this approach is that the real pathways for achievement and economic security are ignored while failed methodologies keep the poor in poverty. Sowell's explanation in his own words can be seen in my next post, a "Quotes and Facts" feature.

There are two other essays in "Black Rednecks and White Liberals": one on German guilt for World War II and the Holocaust and one on the history of immigrant groups surviving and thriving in other lands.

I Must Be A Prophet

I must be a prophet. At least a secular prophet. Just last week I posted on this blog that the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, is a threat and needs to be contained. Then what happens this week to confirm my pronouncement? TIME Magazine names Putin "Person of the Year.",8599,1697072,00.html This is the magazine that gave the Ayatollah Khomeini the same honor the year Iran seized American hostages. Be sure that if America faces a credible threat, TIME is sure to honor the leader who wants to harm us.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Monday Morning Devotions

I Thess. 5:24- "He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it."

It is God's will that we be sanctified (I Thess. 4:3). Sanctification is God's best for us while we still dwell on earth. Jesus did not die just so that our sins could be forgiven, but "in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and blameless and above reproach in His (The Father's) sight-..." (Col 1:22). Knowing what God's will is for us, we are left with the old question: Do we play a part in our own sanctification, or do we sit back and let God undertake to do all the action?

In I Thessalonians, Paul gives the Church much instruction on personal behavior. His call for us to be sanctified is in the context of living in sexual purity (I Thess 4:3-8) In chapter five, he commands all those who follow Jesus to esteem those in authority in the Church (v. 12,13), comfort the faint hearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all (v.15), always worship (v. 16-18), test those things considered spiritual (v. 19-21), abstain from all evil (v. 22). Reading these verses out of context can give us the notion that our sanctification depends entirely on own effort. Those who know themselves well might say to themselves: "If this is the case, then I will never be sanctified while I live in the flesh."

But wait! There is good news! Our sanctification is worked out by God! Paul, after giving us this list of instructions, declared this glorious pronouncement: "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it." (v. 23,24) It is not our own efforts that bring about sanctification; it is God who sanctifies. Yet our efforts are not without meaning. Paul gives us the negative commands so that we prevent sin from interfering with the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Obedience to the positive commands allows God's grace to transform us. But all the power is from God. Paul's warning to avoid sexual impurity carries this warning: " Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit." (I Thess. 4:8) Even with this warning there is good news! We have been given God's Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, to provide the strength so that we may do what is right in God's sight and abstain from evil. It is God's strength that enables us to obey, so that God can do the work through the Holy Spirit to sanctify us. We can place our faith wholeheartedly in the one who is faithful to transform us into that which we could never do in our own strength. Praise His name forever!
(All scripture quotations are from the NKJV.)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Who You Invite To Dinner Speaks Volumes About Your Soul.

Vladimir Kryuchkov is dead. What? You can't recall just who he was? Remember the coup in the former USSR in 1991? Kryuchov was the leader of the KGB who led the coup to return the evil empire to its orthodox communist ways. He was defeated and bitterly lamented the fall of the above mentioned evil empire. He considered the late lamented Boris Yeltsin a traitor. It should come as no surprise that he fell out of favor with Yeltsin's new democratic regime. Yet let us not cry for Kryuchkov. In the last years of his life he was back in favor with the government. He was often invited to Kremlin dinners as the guest of Yeltsin's successor, Vladimir Putin.

George W. Bush, when he first met Putin, shared his impressions of the former KGB officer turned President: "I looked the man in the eye. I was able to get a sense of his soul." Well, I just got a look at who some of his party guests are. From that, I get a sense of his soul. He is an enemy and he and his nation needs to be contained.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Friday Night Frozen Dinner and an Intellectual: "Black Rednecks and White Liberals" by Thomas Sowell, Part III.

This is Part III of my review of Thomas Sowell's "Black Rednecks and White Liberals" and the focus has not yet shifted from the first chapter, an essay of the same name as the book's title. Its been awhile since my last post on Sowell's book, so let me refresh your memory concerning Sowell's argument. Sowell, an African American professor, contends that all the economic and social ills that plague contemporary black society cannot be blamed on slavery. Instead, he places the blame upon African exposure to a redneck Southern society which had its roots in lawless regions in England, Scotland and Ireland. While agreeing with Sowell as to the culpability of slavery, to me, it is illogical to blame the white redneck culture in which American slavery existed. Yes, his portrayal of the Antebellum Southern white culture is accurate and his list of sources concerning his portrayal is impressive. Yet, if American blacks largely overcame the evil effects of slavery before the 1960's (which Sowell argues), then we cannot blame the Southern white culture which practiced slavery. If African Americans rose above slavery, they also overcame the effects of exposure to the culture of their former masters. Even Sowell admits that his case is circumstantial.

Thomas Sowell is at odds with the liberal cultural elite that blames contemporary African American woes on slavery. His history of black America before the 1960's makes inspiring reading. He makes the case and cites the sources that indicate the stability of the American black family prior to the introduction of the Great Society welfare programs. If the liberals are right, than the disintegration of the black family should have occurred shortly after the Civil War. Yet the evidence of disintegration is more prevalent today than at the beginning of the Twentieth Century when blacks were just one generation out of slavery. The same holds true for the situation at the middle of the past century.

Sowell blames liberal intellectual elites, both black and white, for the celebration of the negative aspects of black culture, therefore perpetuating attitudes that prevent blacks from achieving success. He debunks the notion that African Americans are incapable of the same intellectual success as other racial groups. He cites data that shows that northern blacks have consistently achieved higher educational testing scores than Southern whites. In fact, former slaves were able to rid themselves of the shackles of slavery through the help of New England educators who traveled South to do the job of educating blacks that the Southern whites could not and would not do. It was the imposition of one culture (New England America) upon another (former slaves). There was no celebration of the negative aspects of the Southern white culture the slaves grew up in, and it worked. It succeeded where today's multi-cultural methodologies fail. And all this was achieved in the generation after the Civil War. The standards of excellence introduced by the New Englanders were perpetuated in the black community until the 1960's, when the imposition of the welfare state wiped out much of these gains.

I will directly quote from Sowell on these issues in a "Quotes and Facts" feature. The next post on "Black Rednecks and White Liberals" will review three of Sowell's other essays from the book.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Monday Morning Devotions

Rev. 3:20- "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and dine with him, and he with Me." (NKJV)

This often quoted verse has been the basis for many a preacher or evangelist to exhort the lost to make Jesus Lord of their lives. Many have used this verse to point out that Jesus will not force Himself into our lives; it is we who decide to follow Him. We open the door of our own hearts and only then does He enter in. (There is a famous painting depicting this verse; Jesus is knocking on the door, but there is no knob on the outside for Him to open the door. The only knob is on the inside where only the occupant can use it to open the door.) And then we have fellowship with our Lord as pictured in terms of "I will come into him and dine with him, and he with Me."

While the Lord may work through such a use of His Word to bring sinners to repentance, we must remember that this verse was originally addressed to believers, those who already had made Jesus Lord of their lives. This message was written to the Church of Laodicea. This Church had become prosperous and its members had forgotten their need of God and who they were apart from Him. A preacher or evangelist could legitimately use this verse in revival services, hoping that individual believers who have grown cold would repent and experience a personal revival.

Yet there is one more thing that needs to be pointed out about this verse. It was not originally addressed to individuals, but to the whole Church of Laodicea. It was read publicly in the entire assembly so the Church could repent and be revived as a whole. We speak of revival as an event where the Holy Spirit sweeps through the land cleansing sin from hearts and restoring fellowship between believers and God. Yet there is a order of revival found in this verse and in the whole of Scripture. First God rebukes and chastens and then repentance takes place. God reveals to us our current state; we are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked. Once we understand and repent, then we receive from God that which molds us into a new state, collectively we are molded into the people God wants us to be. (See Rev. 3:14-19.) Yes, there is a place for individual revival; thank God for that! However, ultimately God wants us to repent as a whole. Then the Church will truly be the Church Triumphant. Then the Church will fulfill the Biblical requirements for revival ( IIChron. 7:14). Only when the Church repents as a whole will the Church as a whole experience the fellowship the Lord desires to have with His Church.

Friday, December 7, 2007

"The Hand" is One Year Old!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"The Hand" (this blog) has recently experienced two important milestones. The first was the posting of "The Hand's" (that's me! that's me!) one hundredth article. And today marks "The Hand's" first year of mostly consistent publication. This second milestone offers me an opportunity to reflect on the quality of the work (where improvement is needed), what prevents me from making this blog everything I would want it to be, and how the production of this blog has affected my life (for the better and the worse.) Before I do, I need to thank my fellow seminarian, Jason Kranzusch , for convincing me begin this blog.

"The Hand" was reluctant to begin such a task. Its not as if I was concerned that I would run out of things to write about. No. First, I feared it would cause me to waste precious time on the computer. Second, sometimes blogging seems to be such an egotistical endeavour and a way to be drawn into useless antagonisms with anonymous provocateurs. Also, my computer skills are still very primitive and my writing style not quite ready for prime time. How would I be perceived by readers? Would I come off as antagonistic, petty, ill-informed, dull? In conversation, I am pretty confident what makes people laugh; on a blog I am not sure how my sense of humor would come across.

However, there have been unexpected benefits from this endeavor. First, I have regained my ability for written composition. This talent benefited me in college, but afterwards I let it deteriorate. It was not regained in seminary; struggling to put my thoughts on paper was one of the things that made seminary a struggle. Yet now I am able to compose lengthy rough drafts in less than an hour. Soon I hope to improve on composing without a draft (as I am doing so now). Blogging has given me an opportunity to express myself on a wide range of personal interests that include not only spiritual topics but also history, literature and politics. I find very few opportunities to discuss and debate such issues. Blogging sermons has been instructive. In the process of typing out my notes, I have discovered that many of my observations were mere speculation and not derived from the text. Also, my theological writings have been very revealing to me. When reading material such as N.T. Wright and Torrance, I have discovered that my initial impressions do not survive repeated readings. Often when about to offer a critique, I discover that what I had originally thought the author was saying was not what he was trying to communicate.

As noted earlier, my computer skills are primitive. I cannot download pictures (I can't use a digital camera) or videos onto my blog. I have had difficulty with basic tasks such as typing in italics and bold lettering. One whole post failed to come together because when I used multi-colored type, none of it would appear on the screen. This has impeded progress in updating the look of "The Hand." I do not understand how to use such services as Technorati to allow "The Hand" to have a wider visibility. My typing is slow which not only affects output but style. As time goes on, and I get anxious to finish typing, my style begins to resemble that of a term paper for college or seminary.

The hazards of wireless Internet technology has greatly impeded improvement. Lately, the connection to blogger has been lost and I lose much of what I type. (I have just been cut off from blogger again, however, I have lost nothing.) This costs time and so I must cease and desist from the activity because too much time is being lost. Sometimes multiple free wifi spots experience technical difficulties for many a day so that deadlines for posting are missed. Visiting my hometown, the only known free wifi connection is so slow I had to stop posting. Sometimes I just do not have a chance to visit free wifi spots for weeks at a time.

Enough negativity. What is "The Hand" about? It is an attempt not only to stimulate discussion on spiritual and theological issues, its goal is to edify anyone who would stumble upon this blog. That is why I include preached sermons and a feature entitled "Monday Morning Devotions." The latter are first hand impressions of Biblical passages that do not include the results of deeper study. Later, I will study the passages in greater depth and will produce sermons from them. Here are some of the better posts from this feature and the longer sermons:

Posts concerning Church life and our personal witnesses before the world are also put before readers' consideration:

"The Hand" covers a number of secular topics in addition to particularly Christian issues. Some might think that these would be subjects for a different blog. Sometimes I agree, but there is no time for me to maintain more than one blog. Some readers may want to read about Christian concerns and not deal with the rest. Yet, the Triune God is Lord over all of life, and if God is interested in the secular, so should his followers be. Christian thinking should be brought to bear on all areas of life. Here are some past posts concerning the U.S. present position in the world ( ), how the U.S. became a superpower under the leadership of a past President ( ) , and "The Hand's" observations on Jane Austen ( ). Not all topics are in a serious vein. I posted this article after a reader told me that I was too sure in my opinions ( )

"The Hand devotes his Friday evenings to reading secular and Christian works for the feature "Friday Night Frozen Dinner and an Intellectual." Strictly theological works are covered under the title "Close Encounters of a Theological Kind." The lives of saints past and present are featured in "Clouds of Witnesses."

What was the best reading I have come across this year? Two books: "The Tragedy of American Compassion" by Marvin Olasky ( ) and James Torrance's "Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace" ( ).

In my past years reading, this quote from Francis S. Collins's "The Language of God" has to take the prize for the stupidest statement: "Recent polls confirm that 93 percent of Americans profess some form of belief in God; yet most of them also drive cars, use electricity, and pay attention to weather reports, apparently assuming that the science undergirding these phenomena is generally trustworthy." His point is that if Christians accept "the science undergirding these phenomena," then they must accept the evidence for Darwinian evolution. It made me ill that Christianity Today gave this book an award. How could Christians endorse this book? "Well," they might say, "the book does endorse belief in God, so it could be used as a tool to get people to think about God." Give me a break. Collins's belief system undermines trust in a loving God. Period.

My greatest disappointment was in reading a book by another Collins, Kenneth Collins's "The Evangelical Moment." When he identified the scholar that has most influenced his views on Biblical innerancy as William J. Abraham, it was as if my inner discernment mechanism switched to "Red Alert! Red Alert! Dive! Up periscope! This is Major Tom to Ground Patrol!" What makes it even worse is that Collins presents Abraham is a leading Wesleyan Scholar. If he is, then the Wesleyan branch of the American Church is in big trouble. In fact, reading other Wesleyan blogs has made me concerned where Wesleyans are going theologically. Especially when some claim that Wesleyanism can accommodate Open Theism and Emergent beliefs. Sometimes even those that this blog links to can express questionable theology. To counter this trend is another reason for this blog to exist.

Concerning changes to this blog in the future, these will be discussed in a post before "The Hand" signs off for Christmas. Until then, I will finish posting my observations on Thomas Sowell's book and finish quoting from the late Richard Wurmbrand. A couple more "Monday Morning Devotions" for the month will be posted as well. I must go now. It is snowing outside, the business I am now at is about, to close, I have yet to eat supper, and me and my brother are to watch and old episode of "The Rockford Files" tonight. Take advantage of this season of Advent.