Latest Blog Posts

Someone on the Internet Doesn’t Like Me: Spam,Hackers and Erectile Dysfunction

internet spam

Over the past couple of weeks, I have had to deal with a tremendous uptick in the number of spam comments, both the automated type and the individual type. This has made a lot more work for me and I can no longer monitor the spam folder for legitimate comments that get marked as spam. There are just too many of them now.  If the numbers hold, the number of spam comments will jump from under 2,000 for March 2014 to almost 16,000 for April 2014.

I am also seeing a big uptick in miscreants trying to hack into this blog. I use a log in blocker that effectively stymies those who think I am, stupid enough to use admin or administrator for my username. They get two tries and then they are blocked via IP address for 1 week. Any further attempts result in a one month block. Surely they know my real username is thereisnogod or 666666666.

Such is the nature of the internet. The more visibility a site has the more attention it draws from those who have nothing better to do than try to leave advertising comments for virtually everything under the sun. (I can only imagine how much spam big sites receive every day) Some of these fake commenters are getting quite creative, using the name of previous commenters or using wording that makes their comment sound legitimate. Since all first time comments must be approved, both of these methods fail.

I just wanted to make you aware of this. Very, very few comments are mislabeled as spam. If you don’t see a comment of yours appear after you hit Post Comment, please let me know right away and I will make sure it is not being marked as spam.
spam

Number of spam comments blocked per month by Askimet, October 1, 2013-April 15, 2014.

Published: April 15, 2014 | Comments: 2

The Creationist COSMOS

Ever wonder what a Creationist COSMOS would look like? Perhaps it would look like this:

Published: April 15, 2014 | Comments: 0

Diversity on Display at Our Bird Feeder

It’s cold today in Ohio. In the 60′s yesterday, in the 30′s today. The 3 inches of snow that fell overnight has already melted. Over the weekend, Polly and Bethany planted radishes, onion sets and new asparagus roots. Amazingly, some leftover spinach, that the bitter winter could not kill, has started to grow.  In a week or two, we will be mowing our yard. Praise the gods for the coming of spring.

Food is still in short supply for the birds. Migratory birds are starting to return, competing with the year rounders for food. Of late, the sparrows and finches are restless, and if I am reading things correctly, there’s a good bit of bird sex going on.

I bought a new camera lens last week, a Sigma 150mm-500mm lens. (Amazon link, I actually bought it from B&H Photo, a store I would love to spend a day in with $10,000 to spend)  This is a perfect lens for sports and wildlife photography. I wish the lens was faster, but a faster lens in this size costs upwards to $10,000. I am content to live with the f5-6.3 maximum aperture. I either have to bump up the film speed or live with a shallower depth of field on cloudy, windy days. On sunny, calm days, I think the depth of field should be perfect for what I want to accomplish. I am still learning how to use the lens. It is heavy, a little over 4 pounds. I bought a monopod to use when I am out and about. For the pictures that follow, I was able to rest the lens on the sill of the living room window I was shooting from. The biggest issue is getting the window open and the screen pulled up without the birds flying off.

Sparrows. Common every day birds that people take for granted. Here in Ohio, sparrows are everywhere. B-o-r-i-n-g, right? Not to me. As I looked through the camera viewfinder (yeah, I am old school, haven’t got the  LCD screen down yet) I was amazed at all the diversity I saw. I thought of Darwin and all we have come to know in the last 250 years. While I have my doubts about God, I find great pleasure in watching the least of bird world.

sparrows at the bird feeder-001

sparrows at the bird feeder-002

sparrows at the bird feeder-003

sparrows at the bird feeder-004

sparrows at the bird feeder-006

sparrows at the bird feeder-007

sparrows at the bird feeder-008

sparrows at the bird feeder-009

sparrows at the bird feeder-010

Published: April 15, 2014 | Comments: 0

When I Die

tombstone

In a couple of months I will celebrate my 57th birthday. Due to the health problems I have, I know that it is highly unlikely that I will live to be an old, old man. Even if I live in to my 70′s, I have less than 20 years left to live. Having been married for almost 36 years, 20 years seems like a blip on the radar of life. 20 years ago, I was the co-pastor of a growing Sovereign Grace Baptist church in Texas. 20 years ago, the oldest of my children was 15 and the youngest was nursing from his mother’s breast. Yet, in the 20 years since then, all of my children, save one, have moved out from home, three are married, and soon our 10th grandchild will be born. And just like that, I am old, wracked with pain, suffering from chronic health problems that are doing their best to murder me in my sleep.

I have no illusions about life. I am a realist, preferring to see things as they are rather than living in world where I pretend everything is fine. Things aren’t fine, but I have chosen to make the most of what life I do have. I have no time for deities or thoughts of a magical, mythical sweet by and by. I have no time to dwell on matters that make no difference in my life or the life of those I love. Death is stalking me and lurks in the shadows of the night. I acknowledge its presence but refuse to give it power over how I live my life.

I agree with the poet Dylan Thomas:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

But some day, death will finally corner me and take my life. What then? Since I do not believe there is an afterlife, I have no thoughts of heaven or hell. I know that when I draw my last breath the flesh and blood Bruce Gerencser will be no more. All that will be left are the possessions I owned and the memories others have of me.

I have made my last wishes known to my wife and children. I do not want a funeral service, no viewing, no grave, no tombstone. I want to be cremated, not wishing for my wife to be burdened with funeral expenses.(I think traditional funerals are horribly wasteful and ecologically irresponsible) I want my ashes to be scattered along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan at the place where the love of my life and I had what we call our perfect day. I want my family, my children and grandchildren to be there. I want them to laugh about the man I was, each telling their favorite brother/husband/dad/grandfather story. My sister called me just the other day to remind me of how I used to hide the Cocoa Puffs so she and brother couldn’t eat any. We laughed and reminisced of life long ago. I hope this will be the kind of stories my loved ones will tell.  From ass to ashes, I hope someone will say. And then I want them to walk through the sand of the beach to their cars thinking of the good life we shared with each other. I hope, in that moment, they will know how much I loved them.

Published: April 15, 2014 | Comments: 6

Jesus is the Only One That Matters

all about jesus

In a recent Gospel Coalition article, Nancy Guthrie had this to say:

…We were an hour and fifteen minutes in to today’s funeral before anyone read from the scriptures, and further in until there was a prayer. Resurrection wasn’t mentioned until the benediction. There were too many funny stories to tell about the deceased, too many recollections, too many good things to say about the things he accomplished to speak of what Christ has accomplished on his behalf.

But then this wasn’t a funeral. It was a “Celebration of Life.” In fact there was really little mention of death or of the ugly way sickness slowly robbed our friend of everything. Christ and his saving benefits could not be made much of because death and its cruelties were largely ignored…

Guthrie, like many Evangelical Christians, believes that the only thing/person that matters in life is Jesus. Even in the most personal of moments, a funeral, Guthrie wants everything to be about Jesus. The person in the coffin is of no consequence. The life they lived mattered little, because without Jesus they had no life. Without Jesus, their life had no meaning or purpose.

Guthrie, the good Calvinist she is, wallows in her depravity. She sees herself as a loathsome, vile worm, a putrid corpse of sin and defilement. That is, until Jesus regenerated her and gave her new life. From that moment forward, her life was not about her but about Jesus. From the moment of her new birth to the moment she dies, she is a nobody. Only Jesus matters.

In Guthrie’s mind, the best funeral is one where the minister says, Joe Smith lived, knew Jesus, and died. Now let me tell you about Jesus, his death and resurrection, and the ugliness of sin and death. In other words, Guthrie wants the funeral to be like a church service, a passive event where Jesus is praised and everyone and everything else doesn’t matter.

This approach is dehumanizing and it robs the dead person of all that made them who and what they are. If they lived a full life then they left behind countless memories and stories that certainly ought to be told. Why not celebrate the dead person’s life? Why not, one last time, remember them for what they said and did?

Guthrie sees funerals as an opportunity to be reminded of our worthlessness and the awesomeness of Jesus. Any talk of the good works and good life of the deceased is too humanistic, too worldly for her. Rather than making much of the deceased, she desires a service where the dead person is just a pretext to talk about the man of the hour, Jesus.

If the funeral service is really all about Jesus, perhaps it is proper to ask exactly what Jesus did for Guthrie’s friend whose ugly sickness slowly robbed them of everything? Did Jesus physically comfort and aid her friend?  Did he have the power to heal her friend? Did Jesus do so? Of course not, her friend died.

Suppose a friend of yours died in a car accident. Your friend could have been saved by a doctor who stopped to gawk at the accident. The doctor offered no aid and made no attempt to save your friend from death. He had to hurry home to help his wife find her car keys. Everyone in your town knows the doctor could have saved your friends life, yet he did nothing. Does anyone think that the doctor should be the guest of honor at your friend’s funeral? Of course not. How is this any different from praising a deity who sat idly by while Guthrie’s friend suffered and died? This deity had “all power” yet did nothing.

Guthrie betrays the fact that she is really just like us unwashed, uncircumcised, celebration of life, Philistines when she writes “In fact there was really little mention of death or of the ugly way sickness slowly robbed our friend of everything.” Robbed her friend of everything? Wait a minute, I thought JESUS was E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G? Isn’t everything else about their life, even their suffering, just the minutia of life? Why bother to even mention the deceased? Are they not just a prop used to preach the gospel to those who came to the service thinking they were attending so-and-so’s celebration of life?

I was once like Guthrie. I saw funerals as an opportunity to preach the gospel, to witness to people who would not likely darken the doors of the church I pastored. While I did spend some time reflecting on the life of the deceased, that is if they were a Christian, my main focus was preaching the gospel. In one church, a dear, close friend of mine, a devoted follower of Jesus, died at the age of 40. His funeral was held at the church and for 40 minutes I hammered his Catholic and Methodist family with the Calvinistic gospel. I even told them that the deceased had specifically asked me to preach at his funeral, knowing that it likely would be the last time they would ever hear the gospel.

What did I accomplish? Nothing. I thoroughly offended my friend’s family and from that day forward I was, to many of them, Pastor Son-of-a-bitch. In Guthrie’s eyes, I did the right thing. I exalted Jesus. I made the funeral about sin, death, and resurrection. But in the eyes of my friend’s family, I made their loved one’s life of little to no consequence. The life their brother/uncle/father/friend lived, his good works, his commitment to his family and his job, none of these things really mattered. According to the Bible “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags…” Any good this man did was because of Jesus and any bad he did was due to his sinful, carnal nature.

Simply put, Jesus ALWAYS gets top billing.  This is why I have, for the most part, stopped going to Evangelical funerals. Since the deceased is of no consequence, why should I subject myself to the prattle of a preacher as he tries to use guilt (sin) and fear (death) to coerce people, at a time when they are emotionally vulnerable, to become a Christian?

Published: April 15, 2014 | Comments: 3

Dear Thom Brennaman

Thom Brennaman is a TV/Radio sportscaster for the Cincinnati Reds. He is the son of legendary Reds sportscaster Marty Brennaman. He has been a sportscaster with the Reds since the 2007 season.

Over the years, I have put up with Brennaman’s incessant babbling about his former gig with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Every time the Reds play the Diamondbacks, my sons and I predict how long into the game Brennaman will go before he says, When I was with the Diamondbacks….

A couple of years back, Brennaman was roundly ridiculed for what he said about Tim Tebow while broadcasting the 2009 NCAA National College Football Championship Game:

YouTube Preview Image

Video Link

Like many people, Brennaman had/has one huge man crush on Tim Tebow. So much so that there is a slang word now associated with Brennaman’s love for Tim Tebow:

tebowner

After listening to Brennaman hundreds of times over the past seven years, it is clear to me that Brennaman is a devout Christian of some sort. His religiosity is subtle but it does graphically show itself from time to time. Two weeks ago, the Reds hosted the St. Louis Cardinals. During the game a Reds batter fouled a ball off and Cardinal first baseman Matt Adams went into the first base stands to try to catch the ball. Before Adams could catch the ball a fan grabbed it and Adams shoved the fan with his glove. (according to stadium rules, a fan has a right to catch any ball that comes into the stands)  After the Adams started to return to first base, the fan, in wonderful, classic, we hate the f*&%)*&g Cardinals fashion, did this:

reds fans giving the finger

You can view  a GIF of the play here.

The fan displaying the national hand sign for love caused Brennaman to launch into a sermon about how it is ALWAYS inappropriate to give anyone the finger, especially while worshiping at Great American Ballpark Church. Brennaman couldn’t see me, but I gave HIM a double-barreled salute in response to his moralizing. As Mike Wilbon, on Pardon the Interruption, said the day after the game, the only thing better would have been if the fan had given Adams and the Cardinals a double-barreled salute. Unlike Brennaman, Michael Wilbon understands the Reds-Cardinals rivalry and he loves and appreciates the passion the fan showed on national TV.

Which brings me to last night’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays. If you are a baseball fan you might remember that the Tampa Bay RAYS were once called the Tampa Bay DEVIL RAYS. Brennaman decided to launch into a sermon, worthy of any fundamentalist Baptist preacher, about how Tampa Bay only started winning a lot of games and championships AFTER they dropped the word DEVIL from their name.  I kid you not.

Brennaman again reveals the religiosity that lurks just below the surface waiting to explode any time Brennaman’s moral sensibilities are offended. Does he seriously believe they won more games just by changing their name? What…was God sitting in heaven just waiting to bless them with a MLB championship once they saw the light and changed their name? (the year after changing their name, Tamp Bay went 97-65 and made it to the World Series)

Here’s what I want to say to Thom Brennaman…

Shut up. I am not interested in your religious beliefs or moralizing. I am a Reds baseball fan and what I want to hear is BASEBALL not sermonizing or moralizing. I am not interested in your opinion about Reds fans, Tim Tebow, or whether God is concerned with what name a baseball team has. What I want to hear is stats and commentary about the game, the Reds, and the opposing team. If I want to  hear a sermon, I will flip over to one of the dozen religious channels that I receive with my satellite service.

Published: April 14, 2014 | Comments: 2

Has the Christian Church Always Believed In Salvation by Right Belief?

trinity

To hear liberal/progressive/mainline Christians tell it, it is modern Evangelicals that have corrupted the doctrine of salvation and turned it into salvation by right belief. Evangelicals, following in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul, preach a gospel of believe this and thou shalt live. Liberal/progressive Christians like to think that they are the Jesus party, focusing on good works rather than right beliefs. This is not to say, of course, that liberal/progressive Christians have no beliefs. They do, but their list of things that must be believed is a lot smaller.

As I was finishing up the book A.D. 381: Heretics, Pagans, and the Dawn of the Monotheistic State by Charles Freeman, I read a quote from the Athanasian Creed, one of the historic church creeds that many Christians, especially liberal/progressive/mainline Christians, consider statements of the Holy Christian faith. As I read the quote it became very clear to me that liberal/progressive/mainline Christians are really no different from their Evangelical brethren when it comes to salvation by right belief.

Ask any liberal/progressive/mainline Christian if they affirm and embrace the teaching of the Athanasian Creed and they will likely say yes. If this is so, I would love for them to explain how this:

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith;

Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly…

…This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved.

is any different from what Evangelicals say? Since practitioners of  Sabellianism, Arianism, and Unitarianism are found yet today, are these people Christians?  After all, they worship Jesus and they believe their teachings come straight from the Bible, just like the Trinitarians. Can they still be Christians and have beliefs that the Church declared heretical and worthy of damnation and hellfire almost 1,600 years ago?

The Evangelical is often clear about what MUST be believed in order to be saved. The liberal/progressive Christian, at least from my exposure to them on this blog, seem hesitant to say that anything MUST be believed in order to be saved. But, does not this position make a mockery of the Athanasian Creed they profess is a historic statement of their faith?

Published: April 14, 2014 | Comments: 7

The View From Our Backyard April 14, 2014

Here are a few pictures I took today from our backyard in wonderful, rural Ney, Ohio.

rabbit

Rabbit

mourning dove

Mourning Dove

robin

Robin

grackle

Grackle

starling

Starling

sparrow

Sparrow

pussy willow in bloom

Pussy Willow in Bloom

Published: April 14, 2014 | Comments: 11