Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Up Side

people able
hopeless fable
guilt bear, grief share
silent prayer, weep

seen as sable
price unable
jewel rare, sole heir
wooden chair, leap

steeple, stable
oval table
thin air, horn blare
spiral stair, sheep

Monday, July 25, 2016

Faith: The Vine and the Branches 3 (John 15:1-8)

Our Power in Christ (abiding in Him) vv4-7

Jesus tells us that the source of our power, the way to reproduction, is in our abiding in Him. We need the relationship with Christ, not simply the understanding that He died for us. And that relationship exists in obedience.

I Peter 1:1, 2. Peter describes the followers of Jesus as aliens. They are fully other than those in the world around them. (Jesus expands on this idea as well, later in John chapter 15.) He goes on to explain what makes Christians that way. They are CHOSEN by God. It is nothing they did themselves or any special status they have earned. It is literally a choice made out of grace. They have been SPRINKLED by the blood of Christ that washes them clean from their sin, allowing them to relate to a Holy God. They are SANCTIFIED through the work of the Holy Spirit that changes them and causes them to grow more and more into the person God intends for them to be each day. AND, they are saved (CHOSEN, WASHED, and made HOLY) in order to obey Christ. Obedience does not save us. But obedience is that for which we are saved.

That is what becoming a Christian is about really. In light of what Christ has done to bring us back into a right relationship with our creator, we surrender back into that relationship. We embark on a path of obedience, and follow the instructions that we discover daily with the help of the Holy Spirit. We trust and obey.

Friday, July 22, 2016

"The Big Short" (2015)

Much like “Moneyball,” “The Big Short” takes a book that is not a traditional movie-style story, and presents it in a creative, compelling fashion. Plenty of fourth-wall-breakage, celebrity cameos explaining financial concepts, and fictional characters taking the place of real-life-people add up to an interesting, fresh film experience.

The main thing learned after watching it is that, apparently, bankers like to cuss… a lot.

But the other thing this film teaches us is that conventional wisdom, especially where it concerns the economy in recent years, can be terribly, tragically wrong. And despite the crash of less than a decade ago, things may have not gotten any better.

The film tracks the story of a handful of financial types back in the mid-oughts who saw the fact that the American economy was built upon lies. Namely, that credit—that American foundational value that has everyone believing that you can buy now and pay later—was being given out recklessly and with complete abandon because rich people were able to get richer buying and selling loans like a commodity while poor people were being sold a lie. The lie was that everyone had a right to own a house, or houses, regardless of whether or not they could afford it.

“The Big Short” shows us that there is no limit to the capacity of collective ignorance, and that people will hate you for speaking a truth that is unpopular.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

"Stranger Things" 2016

What does it say that for 2016—the year that saw the return of my favorite TV show of all time—my likely favorite show of the year will not be the X Files? “Stranger Things” is an amazingly entertaining yarn in the style of the classic 1980s movies that inspired The X Files in the first place. And while I have a nostalgic yearning for the more innocent days of The X Files, my longing for the days when I was eleven and Hollywood discovered my generation and created some of the best movies ever is even stronger.

Those were the days before helicopter parenting, world-wide connectivity and millennials thinking that the world existed for their benefit. When my generation were preteens we didn’t have the bubble-gum, plastic trash that passes for preteen entertainment today. We were in the middle of a World War—albeit a cold one—science and science fiction had a blurry boundary, and we could go hours and seemingly days without adult interference. It seemed plausible that eleven-year-olds could save the world and in movies like “The Goonies,” “E.T,” and “Cloak and Dagger” we did.

Stranger Things gives us all of that again, and in convincing fashion because it is a well-done period piece set in 1983. The Cold War scientists are experimenting with ESP and telekinesis and unwittingly open a portal to another dimension, unleashing a monster onto an unsuspecting small town. While the whole world reels at some tragic deaths and disappearances but accepts the “official versions” of what is happening, a small band of twelve-year-olds, family members, and a lone cop begin to uncover the truth.

One of the most compelling aspects of this story is the exploration of faith. Not the Christian faith in this case, but the broader concept. The conviction of something you know and are convinced of based on evidence you have seen, but that you nevertheless can’t prove to anyone else. Wynona Rider plays Joyce, the mother of a boy who has disappeared. She becomes convinced that her son is communicating to her supernaturally, and even later when his body is found, she holds onto her belief that he is not really dead. She knows that she cannot prove what she believes, and that she may indeed be crazy, but she persists. Others too begin to see things that don’t make sense but remain open to unconventional possibilities and begin to uncover the truth. In classic horror-fiction tradition, once they all come together and compare notes—become a community of faith as it were—things start to add up.

This story is delightful, the musical score and songs selected wonderful, the art direction and images striking, and the acting here is great. If you can handle 1980s style kids with potty-mouths, teens making poor decisions and facing consequences for them, and imaginary powers such as telekinesis in your fiction, this may be the show for you.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

From Temptation to Sin 1 (Genesis 3:1-5)

In chapter three we move to the choice of man to supplant God. Sin enters creation and God’s plan for man, found in the garden is rejected. Man is banished and God sets a salvation plan in motion to recover (achieve?) His original plan.

“Serpent” is the first key word in this verse. Nachash simply means snake or serpent. This serpent stands out, however, due to his role in the fall. The story itself highlights the serpent in describing something of its character, which is something the Biblical Hebrew text seldom does. Who is this serpent? Complete answers are not found in this passage. We are simply told that Yahweh God made him along with all the other “beasts of the land.” We are also told he was the shrewdest of all the beasts. For now it is best to let the text speak for itself and not seek out these answers that are unimportant for what this passage wants to teach.

The word shrewd (‘arum) is a key word in two ways. First, stylistically, it is a verbal play on the word in the previous verse, ‘erom. Thus the pair was nude, and the serpent was shrewd. At the same time it tells the reader that the words of this animal are going to carry extra weight and meaning. Watch out! The question of the serpent is crafty indeed. The uses of the word actually (`aph) in addition to the slight change of God’s statement are what make it so clever. The fact that the serpent begins with a partial truth is going to be continued throughout the story. It awakens doubts and temptations without directly leading the woman astray. The fact that the serpent uses `elohim, instead of Yahweh God as is the habit of the rest of the chapter is also telling in its distancing from God.

The key word of verses two and three is the verb “touch” (naga’). The woman has added something to the command of God. She gets the rest of the command correct and leaves nothing out. Why add this part? Did she add this condition, or did her husband teach her this perversion of God’s command? After all, she was not made when the command was given. Is this the beginning of legalism? It does show how humanity, in an attempt to protect itself from temptation sets up barriers for themselves, and thus misses out on part of God’s plan. The danger is when these self-imposed barriers are broken. Since no sin is committed, no consequences result. But since the legalism taught something as sin that wasn’t, then actual sinning becomes easier.

The phrase translated “surely die” is unusual language. It is really a combination of the infinite absolute, death (moth) with the imperfect verb, literally, “You will die death.” Here the serpent uses the same words used by God in Genesis 2:17, but negates them. Once again in the statements of the serpent we find half-truths. Indeed, when they sin, humanity does not immediately die. Their eyes are opened, and God even says in verse twenty-two that man becomes like Him, just as the serpent said. So at first it seems as though God is the liar. This shows the serpent’s shrewdness. He has taken the human tendency to misunderstand and assume, as well as the overprotective nature of legalism, to get them to question and doubt the word of the Creator. He has sown the seeds for rebellion.
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