Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Top Films: Begrudgingly, Meg's Rom-Coms

The Rom-Com or Romantic Comedy is among the most predictable and “by the numbers” genre of story in existence, and as such it is hard to get excited about watching one, because if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. That being said, there are a few that play with the formula enough, or are simply done well enough that they can be fun to watch. (Or even be instructive.) Three happen to be tied to the same actress, Meg Ryan. (Boy hasn’t she lost something lately?)


When Harry Met Sally (1989) Every relationship has its “how we met” story. For some reason these are almost always fascinating. It is neat to hear how people came to know each other, what they thought, and how they ended up together. This film is interspersed with “real” couples telling theirs, but the main story is a twelve year journey of Harry and Sally going from acquaintances to people who don’t like each other to best friends. It is really the story of a man’s (long, slow) emotional maturation process.


Sleepless in Seattle (1993) When given some thought, this movie is dangerous and downright silly. However, it is an emotionally charming movie if watched just for the love story, which is what Rom-Coms are for after all. What makes this movie worth the watch is the way it effectively plays with the formula. The leads don’t really even meet until the end, and only share about two minutes together on screen. Other Rom-Coms since have tried to mess with the formula although none really break away from the basic “boy meets girl, boy losses girl, boy gets girl back.”


French Kiss (1995) In Harry Met Sally, we see a man having to grow up before he can truly love his best friend. Here we get to see a female character have a similar maturing experience. Kate has planned out her entire life and feels safe in her plans. When her fiancée throws a wrench in the works by breaking up with her, she must win him back or die. In the adventure of trying to win him back she meets Luc and discovers that life is enjoyed best when it is experienced, not planned.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Acts: Well Intentioned and Wrong (21:1-14)


There is an apparent problem in Acts chapter 21. We have already seen in 19:21 that Paul has made plans (in accordance with the Spirit) to go to Jerusalem and then on to Rome. We have more insight of these plans from Paul himself in Romans 15. Yet here in chapter 21 Paul is repeatedly warned by people (again in touch with the Spirit) not to go to Jerusalem.
This seeming contradiction is not a problem (and not a contradiction at all.) We do see Paul, led by God, to makes his travel plans. We also see several people, also enlightened by the Holy Spirit, asking him not to go. The problem is solved when we realize that both Paul and the other Christians were hearing the truth from God. It is just that God’s plans involved difficulty for Paul. This hardship was acceptable to Paul. The other Christians saw the same difficulty and asked Paul to avoid it.
We often hear truth from God that is not pleasing. The question is: are we willing to face it?
American Evangelicalism in its tendency to combine the Gospel with the “American Dream” has embraced a lie that the Bible does not teach. “God does not desire or allow any of His children to suffer.” This is not only untrue but dangerous. We cannot abide in God’s will if we buy into the lie that this will always guarantee our safety and happiness.
Paul understood, better than many Christians of his day as well as ours, that God’s plans are not always (ever?) easy. But they are worth the bad and difficult things we might face.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Here There Be Dragons

Maps are magic. Everything about cartography is simply fascinating. The idea of representing the world on a two dimensional surface was genius. It probably started the first time one caveman asked another, “How do you get to the bonfire in these parts?” However, directions are the most mundane of uses for a map, hardly worth acknowledging.


Maps are all about symbols. How do you represent mountains and rivers and forests on paper? There is almost nothing a map cannot do once the symbolism is figured out. There are maps that show language distribution, maps showing topography, maps showing the distribution of animals and plants. Not all maps are just about land and geography. There are maps of buildings, of anatomy and of the way the mind thinks.


Maps can be works of art. Especially some of the old maps made centuries ago. There are frequently used for decoration, and yet it is a beauty that speaks. It tells us about the world and at the same time about history and what people used to think about their world. Of course, today we have computers and maps have gone interactive. We can literally see the world from miles above and zoom in to mere feet from the ground. We can even see photos of what the view at any given point looks like.


But the old maps you can hold in your hand are better. They are exciting.


“X marks the spot.” “Here there be dragons.” From buried treasure to unknown and unexplored places, maps are a promise for adventure. It doesn’t really matter if someone has been there before and drawn the map in the first place; the fact that you have not been there—but you know of the “there” thanks to the map—just begs for a trip.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tuesday

Once upon a Tuesday,
With snow all on the ground,
A little boy went out to play,
And roll the stuff around.

But lo to his dismay,
The stuff was much too dry,
So he got the garden hose,
To make it wet and right.

The moment the water hit,
The driveway and the walk,
It froze good and solid,
And gave the boy a thought.

He’d be the next great figure skater!
Win the Olympic gold!
He ran inside to find his roller-blades,
And choreograph the show.

It took a long time to find them,
(Mom had packed them up for winter.)
And by the time he was ready to roll,
He had to wash up for dinner.

About that time, Dad got home,
Slid right through the garage door,
And that’s how Adult’s lack of common sense,
Ends careers for little boys.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Parrot Feathers

A flock of parrots.
Is a beautiful thing,
Early in the morning,
In the cool of the day.
You're walking along,
Smelling the dew,
When suddenly a commotion,
A scatter of feathers,
And there up above you,
In greens, blues, and yellows,
They leave the tree,
In an organized chaos.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I Can... But I Don't

“I can ride my bike with no handlebars,
no handlebars,
no handlebars.”

Handlebars by the band Flobots is a surprisingly compelling song. (Especially for someone who does not generally like Rap, Rap Rock, or political songs.) It is a bit more eclectic than most rap rock and incorporates non-traditional instrumentation for the style, so it is musically interesting. However, the lyrics are what make this song great.
It starts out seemingly nonsensical. The singer relates to the listener all the silly things he is capable of doing. He can ride a bike with no handlebars; he can take a remote control apart. All the sorts of things a small child would brag about. There is immaturity, but at the same time innocence.
As the song progresses, the singers power and ability grow. Pretty soon he is controlling countries, science, and peoples lives. The immaturity has not changed, but the innocence is gone. Wisdom has not taken its place. This is great ability combined with great naivete, resuting in evil and destruction.
It is the age old case of power and responsibility. How in the world have we managed to avoid destroying our own civilization? Especially in the past century.
America has a responsibility to hold its power in check, which it has (contrary to a lot of opinions) managed to do for the most part. The scary thought is that there are a lot of other countries and groups with sinister ideologies who have access to a lot of the same power. Will they hold themselves in check? If not, what can be done?
Check this song out. The video is pretty good too.
Thanks for the recommendation, Shorty.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Acts: Miletus (20:17-38)

Paul chose his topic carefully for his farewell to the leaders of the churches of Asia. He did not leave them with trivial thoughts. Among the things he considered important enough was the issue of false doctrine, and he made sure and tell them to watch within as well as without.

The church needs to take heed of Paul’s warning. It may be the shepherds’ responsibility to protect the doctrinal integrity of the flock, but we should be careful ourselves to whom we listen. More often than not, “pastors” or “spiritual teachers” are the ones leading the Church away from the truth.

The biggest problem with the “internal wolves” of today is: they have such a wide reach. Christian publishing is a huge and crazy industry. We have a whole “ghetto” of a sub-culture that seeks to escape the world and its perceived evils. Part of this is accomplished by seeking out “Christian” replacements to everything the world has to offer. As wrong as this is, it is made worse because this Ghetto Christianity is not discerning. All they require to accept something is to be told it is Christian.

Before you feel guilty about not having read the latest and greatest Christian book that is causing such a stir among your friends, ask yourself: when was the last time you simply read God’s word? Why is the Bible not enough? Before you listen to the latest sermon from that cool guy with the podcast; what did your local pastor preach about last Sunday? He may not be as eloquent or cool, but God has selected him to speak to you. Did what he preach agree with Scripture?

Have you confused your church culture and the resources in your local Christian bookstore with the spiritual disciplines God would like to see exhibited in the lives of His children?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Top Films: A River Runs Through It

“Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don't know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them - we can love completely without complete understanding.” –Rev. MacLean

“A River Runs Through It” is a tragedy that everyone can eventually identify with. We see the lives—ordinary and unremarkable—of a small Presbyterian family unfold throughout the film. We see two brothers grow up learning about life. The problem is that one of them decides to live his unwisely and ultimately face the consequences.
The younger brother is not a “bad” person; well, let’s say he is not evil. He is a sinner in more obvious ways than a lot of people. He drinks and gambles. The tragedy of this story is that he does not listen to his father growing up or his brother once he is grown.
This story is not really about the wayward younger brother, but about those in his life that are witnesses to his self-destruction. They want so desperately to help, but their help is not wanted.
This is the hard lesson that everyone must learn eventually. We can love the people around us. We can offer to help them have an abundant life. We can not decide for them. The question is: will we continue to try, or give up? Or perhaps the question should be: are we capable of loving sinners the way that God loves us, sinners though we are?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Robert Frank Dietz (7/2/1919--9/17/2006)

Two years ago, an amazing life came to an end. Bob Dietz lived most of his life in a small town. He was one of the “little people” that make the world go around; and yet he lived an amazing life.

He was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming when the west was still “western.” His family moved to Texas and to the town that would be home for the rest of his life: Borger, Texas. As a young man he became tired of being told what to do, so he joined the Army. (Okay, so young men don’t always think things through.) He became a radar man and spent WWII in Burma. The stories he told of this time play out like the adventures you read about. He encountered head-hunters and King Cobras. He was nearly washed away by the Indian Ocean and was stalked by a Tiger for over a week. In his travels with the army he circumnavigated the globe (going in the direction that made him one day younger, he liked to point out.)

He was tall and skinny and he had a head of curly hair that he liked to comb straight back. He could build anything out of wood. He liked westerns and cartoons. He read the funny papers. He had the most amazing recliner, and when he would take naps in it he snored. He actually had one of those snores that whistle from time to time. He had a workshop. He built great seats in the limbs of trees for little boys to sit in.

He was a layman, but he studied his Bible as much as many preachers and he led people to Christ, lots of people. He was an inspiration. His legacy lives on.

Love you, Papa, and we’ll see you later.

Jousting

The bare-foot, blue-jeaned knight,
With a long pole by his side,
Was determined to save the fair princess
From the ogre with frog in his right.
His trusty hound, Spot, led the way up the path,
As the lady’s cries rose to a scream,
And the bully-ogre was met with a tackle to waist,
That left knight, ogre, hound, frog in the stream.
The frog swam away, to Whoknowswhere,
And the damsel in distress ran there too.
The knight and his hound fetched the pole and resumed their quests,
While the ogre ran to Mama crying, “Boo hoo!”

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Collision

In a time when Praise and Worship is all the rage, and for a band who built their reputation on that type of music, A Collision was a bit of a mystery for some fans. “I really like their music, but there is only one song on that album that we can use in worship.”

The problem was that the David Crowder Band had set out to make, not a praise and worship set, but a concept album that served as more of a sermon. In so doing, they made one of the best albums ever made.

Coming out of the terrible experience of having their pastor die in front of a congregation full of worshipers and having a dear friend lose his young wife to breast cancer, the band set out to tackle the subject of death.

The opening track intones: “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die,” and sums up the main idea of the album. Death is a source of pain and sorrow for everyone, even those of us who have the hope Christ brings. Songs like “God Where Are You Now” and “Be Still” struggle with the issue, even after the band has already started the conversation out with the source of hope in “Here is Our King” and “Be Lifted, or Hope Rising.”

The climax of thought and sound comes in the track “Come Awake.” It is a powerful envisioning of the final resurrection. It starts with the sound of a heart monitor registering the moment of death. The chorus is the voice of God, calling His children to rise. As the song builds and grows, you hear a faint sound build and increase… an alarm clock ringing.

Then the album goes into a celebration; “You Are My Joy,” “Our happy Home” and “We Win.” If you haven’t given this album a shot, or if you were mystified the first time around, give it another few tries.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Acts: Eutychus (20:7-12)

Poor Eutychus. Not only did this young man have the misfortune of falling from a third story window to his (temporarily postponed) death, but he has become the subject of a passage that is almost always read in a humorous light. “See what happens when you fall asleep in church?” Even when he is not the source of humor, it is turned into a passage about the dangers of preaching too long.

It is a shame that this passage is not taken more seriously. It is not hard to imagine this happening to anyone. A famous and beloved pastor comes to town, for what many are saying will be the last time. You really want to hear him, even though you had a long day. He preaches well into the night, and you can’t help nodding off. You even sat in the window to avoid the heat generated by all the people in the room, which would make you more tired.
It could happen to anyone.

This passage shows us the hope in Christianity. Death is not the end. Death has been overcome. The entire Christian faith rests on the hope of resurrection. Ultimately, we hope for more than the temporary fix we see here and in several other stories in the Bible, but this is evidence that God’s power to beat death is real.

In Christ we have our hope fully realized, but Eutychus and Lazarus and Dorcus are just a little more hope for all of us. This world is imperfect and evil and while we suffer here, we know that there is a future prepared for us where things will be the way they should have been here.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Top Films: "One, Two, Five!"

Comedy is in part a matter of taste. There are a lot of ways to produce laughter, from “it’s funny ‘cause it’s true” to slapstick to pun-humor. Since at least the advent of Surrealism one of the favored methods of comedy has been absurdity. Monty Python perfected the art of the non sequitur and things have never been the same.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail is the best known and loved movie the troop produced. It strings a bunch of sketches together with the theme of the tales of Arthur and the knights of Camelot. It is nonsense at its finest.
Except that it is not all mere absurdity and nonsense.
Sci-Fi and Horror may be the best genres for presenting unpleasant or controversial commentary about society and getting away with it, but comedy is often the best way to really critique the world around you. If people are laughing they may not get quite so mad. Later on, with “Life of Brian,” the Pythons would not achieve so much acceptance, but here in Grail they make some pretty good digs at things they have problems with in our society.
The swallow sketch reflects the way we like to sound intelligent talking about stuff that doesn’t matter. The witch sketch shows how gullible the masses are and how they love to follow stupidity presented as logic. The Black Knight is a good illustration of assurance does not always equal success. The political peasant is a direct dig at the monarchy. That is just a few of the many things being said in this film.
Of course, all that being said, it is still just a surreal exercise in seeing how much absurdity an audience will take. It is hugely quotable and laugh-inducing, but in the end it does fi

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven Years Later

Seven years ago today, I got up and turned on the TV just before 8:00 am CST. They were showing a live shot of the World Trade Center with smoke coming out of a hole on the side. Some expert was speculating on whether it was an accident or something sinister.

I called Cheryl in the room and as we watched, the second tower was hit. In a world of Hollywood disaster movies, it was over too quick. Our reaction was, “did we just see what we thought we saw?” The morning show host interrupted the expert on the phone line: “I think we can safely say this was not an accident.”

In the following weeks and months we wondered if life would ever be the same again. Sadly, it did not take long for things to go right back to “normal.”

America was briefly reawakened that day. We learned a lot in 2001 and in the years since:

Evil exists.
But people will bend over backwards to deny that evil exists.

We saw what a country full of people putting others first would look like.
We also saw that religious extremists on both ends of the spectrum think very much like each other.

We have a lot of heroic people in this generation; from flight 93 to firefighters to our armed forces.
But we do not have the strength of resolve as a country that we did 60 years ago.

We could have and should have been more vigilant.
We also have learned that a lot of our politicians remain incredibly naïve.

There are a lot of conspiracy theorists pathologically out of touch with reality.
We also learned that there is nothing so sacred on the one hand or stupid on the other that some politicians won’t use it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

DON"T PANIC

The Large Hadron Collider will not bring about the end of the world, scientists say, because the collisions they will produce in a controlled environment happen all the time and the world is just fine. They will now simply be able to produce and observe the collisions for study.

This idea of repeatable and observable occurrences, and that nothing happens that has not occurred before is a basic concept for science. In fact, there is just one event in the history of the universe that had no precedent: its creation. That is precisely what scientists hope to learn more about with the LHC.

A distinction needs to be made before any further discussion of the Big Bang: between science and Scientism. Science is a method for learning about the universe through observation based on the belief that the universe is orderly and predictable. Scientism is a cultic offshoot from science and no longer a method but rather a system of faith-based belief: a religion. They no longer rely on facts and observation, but on “scientific consensus.” They have replaced knowledge with dogma.

For Scientism, the big bang is an uncomfortable fact. If there was once nothing, and then, an instant later, matter and energy existed, it begs for a Prime Mover. It looks incredibly like the origin explanation of just one faith: creatio ex nihilo.

Scientism, on the other hand, believes in another singular event: the spontaneous generation of not only life but its gradual progression through chance to the complex variety of life that exists today. It has never happened again in the millions of years since, but they accept that singular event with a faith that is an amazing testimony to their ability to believe in the impossible.

As far as the LHC, don’t panic. Singular events like that simply don’t happen, but just in case keep a towel handy.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Boy Meets Girl

I love you,
That’s why I bug you.
I want attention from you.
So I put frogs in your desk,
And chase you around on recess.
I just want to be nice to you.
So love me back,
And bug me too.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Acts: God's Plan in God's Time (19:21)

With this verse, Acts makes a shift and the narrative rushes on to Paul’s arrival in Rome. That being said, it is not an easy trip and Paul does not get to his destination in the way he most likely had in mind. Luke tells us that Paul’s plans are inspired by the Holy Spirit and in many ways we see Paul following God’s lead for the rest of the book. He trusts that the (often intense and dangerous) circumstances are all being orchestrated by God to accomplish His purposes. So when he later faces: warnings from fellow believers, accusations from mobs, conspiracies, attempted murder, and a shipwreck, he is at peace knowing that God is getting him to Rome in the best way for God’s plans to be fulfilled.

Oh, and there is one other obstacle that would drive most eager Christians with a vision crazy: time; long periods of time being kept prisoner here and there with nothing happening.

Today we have little patience for God’s plans. We decide we are called to missions and we need to go NOW! We feel a burden for a certain people group or country and if we can’t get there next year we decide it must not have been God’s plan after all.

It is said that: “When God shuts a door, He always opens a window.” Wait a minute!

That may be true but sometimes God has a door He wants you to go through; He just knows that (a) you are not ready yet or (b) the stuff on the other side is not yet ready for you. If a door is shut in your face along the way to the dream God has given you, stop and ask yourself if the timing isn’t just off a bit before you go running off to find an alternative door to run through.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Top Films: More Kurosawa



Kurosawa is one of the great names in cinema belonging alongside Hitchcock and Spielberg. He excelled in several genres and adapted greats like Shakespeare and Dostoyevsky. He inspired many of the most famous films in Hollywood: The Magnificent Seven and Star Wars just to name a couple. And he created one of the great film characters of all time.

In Yojimbo and Sanjuro, Toshiro Mifune plays the rogue samurai with no name. He is a smart bum who knows how to fight. He takes advantage of situations, but gets himself in some tight spots because of his strong sense of right and wrong. Especially since he always takes pity on the weak and plays the hero. Inspired in the American characters of the hard boiled detective and the cowboy, he in turn inspired one of the most well known film cowboys: “the man with no name” played by Clint Eastwood.

Yojimbo and Sanjuro are action packed comedies. There are laughs, but there is more sword play and a lot of death. However, in both movies the samurai hates to kill, and only does so when he is forced to. When he does, though, he is a force to be reckoned with taking out several opponents all by himself.

In Yojimbo he pits two evil armies against each other for profit but earns nothing but a severe beating in the end when he instead saves a family caught in the middle. In Sanjuro he adopts a gang of young men trying to fight corruption in their town and teaches them that calm heads and a good plan are better than fighting.

If you have never seen a Kurosawa film, Yojimbo may be the best place to start.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Top Films: Rashowhat?

Rashomon is a 1950 film by the brilliant Akira Kurosawa. You have most likely never seen it, but you have been heavily influenced by it. Our whole culture has.
It tells the story of a crime from four different perspectives. What is the truth? Four people were there and saw the same event, but they all have contradictory yet plausible accounts for it. It is an exploration of the difficulty of knowing the truth that a postmodern society now takes for granted.
Rashomon has been remade and retold in movies and television ever since. It must be considered one of the standard television plots used by all TV shows if they stay on the air long enough. The Simpsons referred to it:

Marge: “Come on, Homer, Japan will be fun. You liked Rashomon.”
Homer: “That’s not how I remember it.”

Perhaps two of the best re-workings of this concept were done by The X-Files in “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” in season 3 and “Bad Blood” in season 5.

Postmodernism is a philosophy that depends on art and text. In day to day life it is a little harder to see. Reality in a piece of art can be fluid. The events in Rashomon could have happened any of the various ways we see it happen. After all—seeing is believing. Then again, they may not have happened any of those ways. Oh yeah…they didn’t happen at all, it is just a story.
In real life things happen. There is a reality. What postmodernism exposes is the inherent difficulty we have in truly knowing what happens. We can’t always trust our perspective. The question becomes: whose perspective can be trusted? Who can reveal reality? The answer for Christianity is an outside observer. The God who has created reality has revealed it to us. The answer for those who have chosen not to believe in a god is: nobody. There is no other truly objective and comprehensive perspective.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Ephesus

Indiana Jones makes archeology look exciting. The reality is something far more tedious and painstaking and would not be attractive to most people. Even a visit to somewhere incredibly old is hard to really appreciate, unless there is some connection to or understanding about the place one is witnessing. In some cases it is knowledge of the events that took place there, other times it is a simple pop-culture connection such as the site was used in a favorite film.

Ephesus is an archeological site that is amazing and exciting in many ways. It is a huge site, even though less than a fifth of the city has been exposed. The reconstructed buildings and homes are beautiful, and it is easy to imagine the way it was 2000 years ago. There is the front of the Library of Celsus is an important example of Roman architecture. It is hard to imagine the building full of 12,000 scrolls, and even stranger to think that the building served the double purpose of being both a library and a grave.

There is also the fascinating public toilet, and the statues dedicated to various gods. (Nike, the god of victory and sports probably has more followers today in the US than she ever did in ancient Rome.) But the most amazing place in Ephesus is the theater.

Seating 44,000 people it was the largest outdoor theater in the world for its day. It still looks impressive, but the amazing thing is to think of it in the context of history. This was where the riots against Paul took place. He walked the streets of this town and probably was in this theater at some point. To connect to history in that way is an amazing feeling.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Movie Review: The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

The news of this movie’s awfulness has been greatly exaggerated. This undersell has been built largely on three things and (spoiler for the three people who haven’t seen it) here they are:

Gophers, ants and aliens.

People seemed to be put-off by the aliens because they weren’t believable or they didn’t fit the genre. Please. These movies are all about supernatural/religious fiction. You have to suspend your disbelief walking in the door. And for those who weren’t paying attention, this was not really sci-fi. The alien beings in this film were spiritual/religious… “Intra-dimensional beings.” (This aspect is hugely interesting from so many angles, but the topic covers an entire entry already planned for next month.)

The ants were not as bad as some people made them out to be. Sure, they were computer generated, but everything is nowadays, and these were not distractingly so. It is an obligatory part of the Jones formula anyway: snakes, bugs, rats…

The humor represented by the gophers is cheesy Lucas, but not as bad as he can and has been. The fact that people remembered them by the end enough to say it ruined the movie for them makes you think it bothered them so much they got up and walked out of the movie in its first few minutes.

The only thing that really comes close to ruining this film is Marion Ravenwood. She was bearable but grating in Raiders, but here she overstays her welcome…a curse of the Jones girls. She was needed to reveal Mutt’s true identity, but somewhat extra baggage the rest of the time.

The biggest disappointment of this film? We will never get a movie of the years between Crusade and Crystal when Jones was a spy for the government. That would be neat to see.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Acts: Results in Ephesus (19:13-41)


In Ephesus, Paul experienced huge success. It has already been said that his time there saw the entire province hear the Gospel. Now, Luke goes on to describe several other measures of success. Paul experiences supernatural power and success in extreme spiritual warfare. The people turned away from their magic and religious beliefs and embraced Paul’s message of a relationship with God through Jesus the Messiah.
The incident that really seems to have sent the people over the edge is that of the Sons of Sceva. They were some Jews who tried to practice magic and wield spiritual power. They saw the power that Paul possessed but misunderstood it; in much the same way that a lot of people do today.
There is power in the person of Jesus Christ, but not simply in the name Jesus. Regardless of what Romans says about calling on the name of the Lord, that does not mean that one need simply to cry out, “Jesus!” to be saved. People need to understand the nature of sin, their culpability and the sacrifice Jesus made. They need to decide that they believe these truths and accept them in such a way that they surrender their life to God. Jesus needs to be their Lord not their connection.
With that in mind, where did evangelism and missions ideas go so wrong? When did we start to package the message of the Gospel in simple four point leaflets? Whose idea was it to quit working on relationships and ambush total strangers with questions we have no right or business asking people?
Isn’t it strange that Jesus never shared without being asked a question first? Perhaps not.
Finally, Paul experiences in Ephesus the same thing that all successful witnesses should expect: Opposition. Never look for the highs without keeping a guarded watch out for the attacks.
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