Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Story of the Wad

I’m not sure if the story below is recounted in exact accuracy, or if it really happened at Thanksgiving or just some other meal, but my kids got a huge kick out of its retelling this year:


One year in the late seventies/early eighties we had diner at our house in Windsor with friends from the church. That house we had on Rochester Drive was one where the front door entered onto stairs heading up, to the second floor where most of the house was, and down to the ground floor. We had brought some tables from the church and put the “kids table” downstairs so the adults could eat at the dining room table in peace.

I guess we must have had a large mid-day feast and then spent the afternoon visiting because the moment that was forever engraved on my mind came later that evening, when we were all eating some leftovers for supper. We were talking around the table when a couple of girls mentioned a guy they had seen walking down the street.

“Did you see that guy in the fancy hat and cape out front earlier?”

“Yeah, he was weird. Do you know what he looked like?”

“Don’t say it.”

“What do you mean?”

“Yeah, what?”

“A Vampire!”

Instantly we all screamed and made a mad dash up the stairs to the rest of the house.

For some reason, the last one out hit the lights.

We were halfway up the stairs when a blood-curdling scream came from within the darkness.

We had forgotten Jeff! He was small enough at the time that he had been pushed up to the table in a booster seat that was strapped to the chair. He couldn’t get up. He told me later that he had been chewing on a particularly large bite of Turkey when everyone bolted and he couldn’t yell for help with his mouth full. In his panic, he did some quick thinking… spat the wad out and screamed!

We found the wad of half-chewed turkey under the table the next morning.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Top Films: Brad Bird

For the use of animation as a tool to tell truly meaningful stories, with messages worth discussing, see Brad Bird. As a filmmaker, Bird has until now used animation to tell his stories, but he treats them as movies like any other. (This has at times caused problems when he asks for a shot that until then was never attempted or even possible in animation.) He hates the designation of animation as a genre and he is right…it is merely a medium that usually has had false limitations imposed on it. Here are the three films he has made so far:

The Iron Giant (1999)
A box office disappointment, this film is considered by some as one of the best animated films of all time. It is visually appealing and the story is great, delving into issues such as choices, responsibility, the concepts of right and wrong, and also paranoia and our tendency towards violence and war. Another important story-telling device is the sacrificial love shown by the giant similar to the concept J.K. Rowling used in the Potter books citing her Christian faith as inspiration.

The Incredibles (2004)
This is the film that almost got Brad Bird in hot water. He wrote a story that everyone thought would be impossible to deliver in animated form. Its story is also surprisingly grown up for the medium. Mr. Incredible struggles with be fulfilled in his work while at the same time doing what is best for his family. He is a man gifted to help others, but doing so will endanger his marriage and family. Maintaining two separate worlds seems the only way to make things work. Or is it?

Ratatouille (2007)
This film is a bit of an “ode to art.” Too often “Art” has become about who is popular or acclaimed; less about talent or message “Art” has become a bit of an elite realm. Instead it should be about joy and expression and above all about truth. The scene at the end of this movie involving the culinary critic Anton Ego is a great critique of current criticism.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

What did you just call it?!?

Some people get upset with monikers like “Turkey Day.” But whatever the original intent of the day was, the feast has become the integral part. If Thanksgiving were simply a day to think about all the things we were thankful for, it would loose its shine pretty quickly. Family, feasting, football, and (for some) shopping have become the special elements that help us be thankful; meditation is not an American strength.

And Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday. Sure there is the 4th of July, but a lot of countries have a national holiday. Halloween doesn’t really count either. A lot of countries are trying to get Halloween going and it has deeper roots than America can claim. (Do we really want to claim that holiday anyway, as fun as it can be?) Like every other holiday that started out religious, America has done its best to add traditions and elements that are secular in nature.

But is that really a terrible thing? For people who want to celebrate the religious roots of holidays, they are all still there. If anything, the other traditions just add to the richness of the experience. Who can imagine Christmas without Christmas trees and stockings? Who would really want set aside a day each year to just be thankful without a turkey dinner?

If things like “Turkey Day” make you upset, it would not due to admit that there are those of us that start playing Christmas music around the first of November, decorate as soon as is (almost) socially acceptable and really just consider Thanksgiving a part of the larger season known as “The Holidays.”

In any case, let’s just concentrate on all we are thankful for today (and every day for that matter) and not get huffy over what some people choose to call it. Tempers will likely flare enough when the Cowboys play anyway.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Temuco

The air always smelled of spring.
Kiosks inhabited most corners, hawking sodas, papers, candy, and trading albums.
The streets were dirty.

The hill was magically remote,
Climbing cliffs, collecting copihues, careening down the twisting road.
Danger lurked there, but we never found it.

Walking home,
The buses and puddles were the only hazard, after the riots were gone.
How even that war zone had been safe.

At night, we searched for the phantom lanterns.
They stayed just out of reach.
So we lit the place up ourselves, warring with roman candles,
Or better: elaborate hide and seek, with no lights at all.

Torre Caupulican was a building, the tallest in town.
Ironically named, as it towered pointing to the sky,
Off the avenue of the same name running through town.
Ironic in that the Indian who’s namesake it was,
Won chieftain status totting a tower of a trunk for three days,
Then ended his days as the Spanish sat him on a similar stake, pointing to the sky.

How this time capsule changed.
What had been a place of safe past,
Caught up with the world before I left.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Kung Fu Bla Bla

Animated movies usually have some sort of message. Characters that grow and learn things make for more of a compelling story. Sometimes, though, the “message” presented to kids is pure hogwash. Take as an example this year’s “Kung Fu Panda.” It is a funny and visually entertaining comedy staring the voice of Jack Black as a Panda who is a huge fan of Kung Fu. As fate would have it (or chance, or accidental circumstances, or an old man’s senility, or whatever) he is chosen to be the hero of the land in spite of the fact that he knows no Kung Fu whatsoever. In the end it turns out he is indeed the hero because the movie reveals that the hero has a secret ingredient. We find this out in a scene between Po and his father as they discuss his famous soup:

The secret ingredient is... nothing!
Huh?
You heard me. Nothing! There is no secret ingredient.
Wait, wait... it's just plain old noodle soup? You don't add some kind of special sauce or something?
Don't have to. To make something special you just have to believe it's special.
There is no secret ingredient...

So, the message of “Kung Fu Panda” is simply that belief makes things special. There is no real “specialness,” just the sincere belief that something is special makes it so. Actually, this is a perfect example of postmodern spirituality. Faith is all that matters, not what your faith is placed in, just that you have a sincere faith. In fact, faith in nothing is perfect. That way you don’t get too dogmatic about anything.

Go ahead and enjoy the movie (it is entertaining), but you might point out to the kids in your life that it helps to believe in something that is real.

Monday, November 24, 2008

1 Thessalonians 2:1-16 (Missionary Motivation and Methods)

In 1 Thessalonians chapter 2, Paul and co. describe their time in Thessalonica again, this time from their perspective. They remind the church that their motives and methods were sincere. This is a good, practical passage for missionaries and pioneers today.

When Paul says his “coming to you was not in vain,” he could be saying that the results were good, or that his motivations were not wrong. In the next statement, referring to their suffering in Philippi, Paul makes clear that he intends the second meaning. Missionary motivations must be the right ones; otherwise their efforts will be in vain. What do correct motivations and methods look like?

They are not “in error.” The motivations do not arise from a mistaken sense of calling or an outright false desire to go. Missions is a romantic ideal for some people. They are not “impure.” Missionaries should not operate out of a desire for personal gain. (Duh) If you did, you should question not only your calling, but your intelligence!

Methods are not “by way of deceit.” If you are there for the right reasons, just tell the story you have been given. Do not engage in “got-cha” techniques or trickery witnessing. Sometimes we forget we are witnesses and think we are to be elaborate persuaders.

Paul describes the apostolic or missionary relationship with three familiar pictures. Missionaries should be “infants.” They are not meant to dazzle or impress with huge displays of intellect or strength of presence. They are to be “mothers” who care for and educate people out of a true sense of love. Finally, they are to be “fatherly,” firmly exhorting, encouraging and imploring people who accept the message to walk (live) in a worthy way.

The expected results of such efforts? Acceptance in spite of the resulting difficulties.

Friday, November 21, 2008

¡Qué Horror!

The following three films are not in the pantheon of “greats,” but are pretty good if you like horror, want to practice your Spanish, or want to see more from the man who will bring you “The Hobbit” in a couple of years.

Cronos (1993)
Okay, this one is only for you if you are a completist and are into: vampire films, Guillermo del Toro, or like Ron Pearlman. All three good reasons to check a film out, but no promise of a worthwhile investment of time.

El espinazo del Diablo (2001)
What is it about a ghost story that is so creepy? They usually fit the bill of perfect horror. No one really fears bodily harm from a ghost, but they still scare in a way a killer with a knife never could. Terror, meet Horror. In Espinazo, del Toro gives us the ghost of a kid that is as creepy as they come. Wait, maybe this one is one of the greats… almost anyway. Del Toro began exploring themes here that he more fully developed in El Laberinto del Fauno, so you have the evil of war, war seen through children’s eyes, and magic realism all over the place.

El Orfanato (2007)
Here del Toro doesn’t direct, but merely produces. Basically, you have a completely traditional ghost story, once again with kid ghosts. *shivers as he types* Plotline? Basically a former orphan moves into the abandoned orphanage where she grew up with her son whom she doesn’t really supervise nearly enough. His collection of “imaginary friend” suddenly grows and then he disappears. If you liked “The Others” (2001) you will like this one. Warning: Like the Others, the ending is a depressing let down. No wait, more than the others, the ending is a that’s-a-tragedy-so-great-I-don’t-think-I-can-go-on kind of ending. A true ghost story tragedy.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Generational Musings

Depending on how you classify such things, Obama is the first Generation X president. If you are a member of that generation, this fact excites you, makes you feel old, or scares you. Regardless and unfortunately it does not matter much… the way these generational history-is-a-cycle-that-repeats-itself things work means that Gen X will always be a secondary player. It is the Boomers that are the driving force of where we are headed, and the Millenials that will step in to pick up the pieces.

At least that is the way things work if Strauss and Howe are right in reading patterns. They have studied history from a generational perspective and claim to have discovered a pattern that holds true for the past 500 years. It seems that history is driven by crisis after crisis fed and maintained by generational dynamics.

Think back to the last crisis the world faced—the Great Depression/ WWII. Baby Boomers were born after this crisis and with no recollection of it. As a result, they rebelled against the establishment born out of this crisis and have conducted the world on their watch in such a way that they have driven us to the doorstep of the next great crisis. Like clock-work, every 80 years or so something like this has happened—in our English/American history anyway.

Whether they are right or not, they have hit the description of us Gen Xers right on the head: The thirteenth generation of American history; they are pragmatic, perceptive, savvy, amoral, and more interested in money than in art. They are negatively perceived by older (and maybe younger) generations. As Strauss and Howe point out, just look at the movies that came out as Gen X was being born: Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, and The Omen!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ramblings On MKs, Youth Groups, and SCC

For a TCK/MK growing up not only outside of the Bible-Belt but out of the Evangelical sub-culture altogether, spiritual maturity and growth can be a little difficult. It is work. But that is probably a good thing considering what passes for spiritual maturity and growth in most Youth Groups in the states. That is not a knock on all the Youth Ministers, just that sad reality of what churches and parents expect from Youth Ministry in the states. (“Keep my kids out of trouble, and that includes radical-sold-out-for-God-mentality kind of trouble long enough so they can achieve the American Dream.”) Anyway, Christian Discipline should be something to work at, so a lot of MKs turn out very good. (The others often become complete heathens.)

One thing that can help MKs is a good selection of music. Yes, it is ironic, considering what has been written about “Christian Music” here before. There are some good, theologically sound, thought provoking selections out there though. One particularly life changing/spiritually enlightening album came out in 1990: Steven Curtis Chapman’s “For the Sake of the Call.”

This is a great album. It has a lot to say about Christian life, service and sacrifice. Particularly good is the second cut: “What Kind of Joy Is This”… a great message that you don’t hear too often in mainstream American Christianity. The life of a Christian is not all blessing and good times, but rather often involves suffering and difficulty. The title track is a great track to inspire some of that radical-sold-out-for-God-mentality that the parents don’t like. All that, and Steven is sporting the most hilarious mullet on the cover!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sand Poem

Difficult medium
Molded into beauty
Continually fashioned
Yet washed away.

The patient artist maintains the creation.
The artwork rejoices
Yet bucks the

Design.

Monday, November 17, 2008

1 Thessalonians 1:2-10 (Mission's Natural Outcome)

“We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father…” –1 Thessalonians 1:2,3

When you read 1 Thessalonians chapter one in the context of when and to whom it was written, you can’t help but be amazed, especially reading it from the context of contemporary missions. Who today would think of planting a church in a city where you were only going to be for a couple of months? Even more amazing, who would believe that such a church plant would, in a matter of months, have spread the Gospel through the entire region? In reality, it should not seem unusual at all.

First, this is the power of the Gospel. It is made effective through the very Power of God, not through some methodology. In fact, Paul’s methods would not be effective today. However, the principles that he used in his time are important to missions today, and of course the message that he brought is the same that should be shared today. When that message is shared in such a way that people understand and accept it and see the results of faith, love, and hope in their lives nothing can stand against it.

Two other evidences of an effective transmission of the Gospel are: things happen that only God can make happen, and those that receive it experience persecution accompanied by inexplicable joy. Time and time again history shows that true believers living lives devoted to God experience hardships. If a church is not facing hard times, the thing they should be asking themselves is: “What are we doing wrong?”

Finally, when the Gospel is truly made known and accepted, church happens. Church is not something that requires a degree to initiate. Simple study of scripture and a group of believers should suffice. For followers of Christ, church is a natural state of being. If our mission’s efforts fail to create anything other than church, then something is missing.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Follow-Up To an Earlier Post

It’s just fun to see some observations proven correct. Earlier this year NonModern asserted that the new Star Trek perhaps faced too much genre competition in 2008, and then it was pushed back to 2009. Maybe not for the reasons stated here, but still…a good move.

The other prediction that J.J. Abrams would certainly release a much better trailer that really would cause a wider group of people than just Trekkies to get excited has also come true.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Top Films: El Laberinto del Fauno

Esta pelicula podria ser la major pelicula de 2006. No puedo estar completamente seguro porque todavia no he visto “Das Leben der Andere.” En todo caso, 2006 era el año de la pelicula extranjera. “El Laberinto del Fauno” es algo completamente neuvo en la manera que combina muchas diferentes cosas...

Sorry. Making the switch back to English now.

El Laberinto is really a great movie. It unlike any other movie by the very fact that it is so much like so many diverse movies. It is a fairy-tale. No, it is a horror story. Maybe more of a ultra-violent war movie making a statement to the inhumanity of Fascism.

Del Torro has taken elements from all these sources and combined them with his own unique visual style and other pet ideas that one sees in a lot of his works and created what he calls a parable. A parable about the evil of this world as seen through the eyes of a child. In desperation she turns to her fairy-tales and books and one day, in a magical-realist sort of way, they come to life... or is it all her imagination?

Along the way we learn about courage and self-sacrifice. We see the evils of war, and torture and hear some great truths like: “Captain, to obey—just like that—for obedience’s sake... without questioning... that’s something only people like you [fascists, despots] do.”

Del Torro has said that he did not set out to create a Catholic movie, but he perhaps couldn’t help himself. There are definite elements of Christian ideas here. It is at least a good secular effort at presenting elements of Christian ideals.

Lest you be misled, this is not a kids movie. I don’t know if the translation keeps all the language or not, but the violence and gore is shocking enough to merit the R rating.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Animal Rights Going Ape

A few months ago, Spain’s government created a bill giving basic rights to certain of the higher apes: gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and the bonobo. The interesting aspect of this law is not that such rights were granted, (laws prohibiting the unnecessary killing, imprisonment, and torture of apes sounds reasonable) but the debate that it sparked.

Medical researchers raised concerns about setting medicine back if apes were no longer available for testing. More entertaining were the “Slippery slope” alarms that instantly went off. “Where will this craziness stop? Will we be giving all animals “human” rights? What about cabbages?” Religious leaders were outraged, claiming that God had given humanity a higher place in creation than animals.

Christianity does teach of a special place within creation for humanity; not one of lords but rather stewards. Christians should have a respect for all life demanded by God. This may not extend to the ridiculous extremes that PETA would seek for animal treatment, but certainly would demand that no animal be unnecessarily killed, imprisoned, or tortured.

The funny thing was listening to atheists and evolutionists argue for this law. They have no leg to stand on. According to Richard Dawkins, there is no scientific ground for claiming any right or wrong; and the principles of Darwinism demand that stronger species have no concern for weaker ones. If this world is truly material only, and caused by chance, no one can demand any rights for any living thing (humanity included) based on anything other than emotionalism. With the absence of divine law, things become a little absurd.

Case in point: Switzerland has recently taken a stand on the dignity of plants. No more flicking “heads” off wildflowers and no one can claim ownership of any plants. Three cheers for cabbage!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

NonHerd

There is a relatively new feature on Blogger (to me anyway) that is quite helpful. You can find it in the right column of NonModern, with the title “NonHerd.” It is a convenient way for those of you who follow a number of blogs online to keep track of what has been newly posted. If you have several blogs that you like to read it can be a pain to go to each one every day and check to see if anything new has been written. Following a blog puts it on your Blogger login page and lets you see at a glance the newest entries of all the blogs you follow.

You have the option of following a blog anonymously or publicly. If you choose to follow publicly it is a good way of expanding the reach of your own blog, because people see you there on the page of the blogs they read and might correctly (or not) assume that your blog will interest them as you both have chosen to read the same blog. This is a good reason to follow blogs like NonModern as well, even though you know pretty much when they are being updated.

Go ahead and follow! It is not a sign of agreement or an indication that you see this spot as a “leader.” Thus the term “NonHerd” since “Follow” sounds like a bunch of cattle going around in a pack. Nobody wants that.

Mainly it just makes me feel better to know that people read this thing! (Which explains my frequent trips to Google Analytics that tells me: some 898 visitors in 46 countries and 42 states have been here over 1500 times since April!)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The TCK Subspecies: missionarykiddeous

In the IMB culture there has been a push to change the lexicon in the past couple of decades: FMB became IMB for example. Most of the changes have had good reasons, and have done a lot to help change perceptions and approaches in a positive way. One that lost us something though was changing the term “Missionary Kid” to “Third Culture Kid.” There are good reasons to do it, but perhaps we should just keep both and use them almost interchangeably. You see, all MKs are TCKs, but not all TCKs are MKs.

TCKs are people who spend a portion of their childhood living in a culture other than the culture of their parents. As a result they develop positive and negative traits that they share with all other TCKs in the world regardless of host/parent cultures. A lot of people whose parents were not missionaries are still TCKs. President Obama, for example. Calling MKs “TCKs” helps them realize they are not the only kids in their situation and helps missionaries tap into resources that help them better meet their needs.

However, MKs are a unique sub-group within the TCK world. They are more likely to spend a significant portion of their childhood immersed in only one other culture and not move around to several cultures. They develop stronger ties to their host culture than most TCKs and have the least amount of interaction with their passport culture. They are also more likely to have learned a second (or third) language fluently.

And then there is the important “why” an MK is in another culture to begin with. Many missionaries are not at liberty to openly discuss that, and so “TCK” is helpful. But within the IMB culture MK is maybe a better term a lot of the time.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Thessalonians Intro

The Thessalonian letters could really do with some context. For most readers Thessalonica is just a short stop on Paul’s second journey and a couple of the real short letters somewhere in the middle of the New Testament famous only for having that favorite verse of so many children trying to memorize some scripture… 5:17.

After a careful trek through the book of Acts (and a little background study), Thessalonica takes on a more impressive role in the history of Christianity. It came as a part of that famous early stretch of Paul’s second trip where the team is called into Macedonia in a vision. They hit three cities in very brief succession and get out of the region almost as quick as they got in. Actually, they are kicked out after barely starting a couple churches. Paul is very concerned for the health of these “baby” churches that are unable to benefit from his teaching.

Not only that, but Thessalonica is a big deal on its own. Even today it is the second largest metropolis in all of Greece, but in Paul’s day it was already a century’s old, huge, regional leading metro area. The Macedonian Empire really ranked up there with Greece and Rome in history. By the First Century they had waned, but had remained influential. This is where Paul chose to work. We tend to imagine all the old cities as villages. They weren’t. Thessalonica in today’s world would be like a Chicago, not the largest or most powerful city in the empire but on the short-list.

As one reads the Thessalonian epistles, there is not a lot of obvious theology. Likely the first of Paul’s many letters in the New Testament, it is a good look into the mind of the missionary as he works with one of his many church plants. But it does have a lot to teach as well…

Friday, November 7, 2008

Pop-Culture Needs More Banjo

“Park the old car
That I love the best
(The) inspections due and it won’t pass the test
It’s funny how I have to put it to rest
And how one day…I will join it” -Tear Down the House

Ever get tired of the way the music industry creates a new star every couple of years? Sometimes the way the public swallows each and every polished image it makes you wonder why these people need any talent at all. Oh wait, they don’t really, do they? With stylists and sound techs and hit writers and a radio industry all creating the next trend for people to love (and a whole other team already working on the next one for when the people tire of this one) everything is too perfect, too mechanical.

But there is still real music out there—people who can pick up an instrument, and write heartfelt lyrics to a sing able tune. They may not be prefect. They may be rough around the edges. But man! They are fun to listen to, and they have things to say. Oh, and this band features a banjo. Gotta love some banjo.

The Avett Brothers have been around for a few years, but they are not a part of the industry machine so you may not have heard of them. They just released a new EP called The Second Gleam. Tear Down the House is a beautiful song about the past and not living in it. Murder in the City is about being remembered and enjoying the love shared in family. Do yourself a favor and Youtube these guys. They are worth a listen.

After those two songs, check out the beatlesque Will You Return or Paranoia in Bb Major. Then maybe go to iTunes and buy up two or three albums. They are the kind that appear as though they will merit several contemplative hearings.

“Always remember, there is nothing worth sharing
Like the love that let us share our name.” -Murder in the City

Thursday, November 6, 2008

To Nicholas and Other Boys With Questions (Part 2)

Even though we have minds too small to grasp these things, we understand intuitively that they are true. Every culture since the beginning of human history (and before) has known that there was something greater than us and a maker of everything. The Bible tells us that since God made everything, He also made it in such a way that it tells about him. Much in the way a painting tells us something about the person that painted it. God has left clues about Himself in His creation. More about that later.

We also know through observation that the whole universe is full of cause and effect. If a ball is seen flying through the air, someone must have thrown it. We are alive because we were born to some parents, and they in turn were also born. Naturally if we go back far enough we would get to the very first cause of the universe, the thing that started it all.

Science is useful for a lot of things, but understanding these questions is not a capacity of science. The very basis of scientific inquiry is the scientific method. The first three basic steps in this method are:
We observe a phenomenon.
We hypothesize a cause for this phenomenon.
We test our hypothesis through experimentation.

This is a great way for knowing more about the universe, but it is limited when it comes to knowing things outside of our dimensional reality or knowing about things that happened before the universe began. Scientists are even today learning more and more about what happened in the very first millionths of a second after the Big Bang occurred, but they can not see what happened before that, because there was no space or time before it. As far as we can tell, it all came out of nothing. Just like the Bible says.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

To Nicholas and Other Boys With Questions (Part 1)

I have a friend who is asking me some questions that would be hard to answer at any age, only he is in elementary school. Here is my lousy attempt to explore answers without dumbing things down. (Borrowing from Lewis and Bonhoeffer in the process.)

Let me start by using a couple of examples to help me explain some of the problems we have thinking about God and the beginning of things.

I don’t know if your sister has ever had any paper dolls. You know the kind that are just drawn on paper and cut out. You can put paper clothes on them and stuff. Anyway, imagine that everybody was a paper doll, and we all just lived on a giant, flat sheet of paper. The whole world was just two dimensions. We had height and width but no depth. If no one had ever seen a third dimension, how would you explain three dimensions to anyone? How would anyone know what you were talking about? Someone would have to come from a three dimensional world to ours to even begin to explain it to us.

Now imagine that there was just one living person in the world. They never ever saw anyone or anything else being born or dying. How would they be able to understand the ideas of beginning or ending?

Those are the first problems we have as creatures understanding anything outside of or before or after creation. If there is a God, then He is so far above and beyond our understanding that the only way we could know what He is like would be for Him to tell us and even then it would be impossible for us to really grasp. But if He made everything that exists, then He must by definition be outside and beyond everything He has made.

At the same time, it is impossible for us to really understand the beginning of everything, because we are in the middle.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Abolition of Man

The top of any list of the best non-fiction books should be reserved for The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis. It should be compulsory reading for everyone. No one should be allowed to attend college without having read and understood the concepts presented in this little book. And it is short. You could read it about an hour. Maybe two if you’re used to being spoon-fed your abstract thought.

What? You haven’t read it? Here. Now you have no excuse.

This book shows the genius of Lewis. He was one of the best thinkers of the Twentieth Century. In Abolition, he is quite simply a prophet. He saw the way popular culture was embracing post-modern philosophy and accurately described what would happen to our society as a result. He fictionalized the concepts of this book into That Hideous Strength, which is also worth a read.

C. S. Lewis was a Christian thinker, but this book does not use theological reasoning to defend its position. It is not a “Christian” book. So it is not a case of a religious person complaining about where society is headed, but rather an accurate portrayal of the danger society faces when it abandons the recognition of natural values; when objective truth is no longer acknowledged to exist.

This book is especially relevant today, when people seem to be dominated by slick salesmen who lead our culture around by the nose telling them what to do and what to believe. Whether it is politicians or preachers, newscasters or entertainers; we have become a society of “men without chests.” Secular society is not the only area affected; the Evangelical Ghetto has just as much a “blind leading the blind” problem. Maybe more so.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Thoughts on the American Election

Yes. I am guilty. Call me un-American. I didn’t vote. You may say this gives me no right to complain. That is un-American. This election has been the biggest frustration in a long series of frustrations.

In the end it has become what looks like a lose-lose situation for America.

Obama: At this point it is looking all but certain that Obama will be the next president of the United States. This is hard to confirm, because studies have shown very clearly that the media is backing Obama and serving as an extension of his campaign. He is a confirmed and unapologetic Socialist. Most Americans are not, so how is he ahead? It has been shown time and again that people are not interested in what Obama believes or what his policies are; they have made him a symbol of whatever they want him to be. We are in for some serious “morning after” regret come Wednesday.

That is unless McCain pulls of a huge upset. That itself could be a worse outcome!

If the country survives the next four years, whichever party is in charge will likely be the most hated party in the history of the country. We appear to be in for some hard times and neither candidate is prepared, equipped, or capable of dealing with. 2012 will likely be another case of vote out the people in power regardless of who it is. So maybe that last thing conservatives should want is for the very moderate, do whatever it takes to make the Democrats happy, John McCain in office. At the very least it sounds like we could be in for a near civil war-martial law situation come Wednesday morning if Obama doesn’t win.

Wait! You’re forgetting about Sarah Palin!

No, I am not. Who is she? How is she any better than McCain or even Obama? Just because the media is trying their best to vilify the woman does not mean that she is the perfect candidate. Maybe by 2012 we will know who she is and what she believes and if she is ready to lead the free world. Maybe by then she will be a shoe-in to take the reins away from BHO. Looks like we may find out soon.

One last thought. What are real Germans over here saying? They love Obama. Why? He speaks REALLY well. Then they back up a bit, get a scared look in their eyes, and point out: “Of course we have been known to back well spoken orators before!”

Acts: Summary/ Thesis (1:8)

“…but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” –Acts 1:8

Forty four entries and ten months later, the book of Acts has been read and reflected on. It hasn’t yielded all it has to offer, just what one brief 300 word glance per week will allow; and yet enough has been revealed to demonstrate the importance of this book to Christians, churches, and the missionary effort in the world. The foundational ideas upon which the church should be based are found in its early history as reported in the book of Acts. Important principles are here to be found.

Early on we skipped Acts 1:8. It was not an oversight. It has been left until now. The verse contains a summary and a thesis for the rest of the book. Acts is the story of the advance of the Gospel from Judea to Samaria and on out into the rest of the world. This would be a good guideline for churches everywhere. How is your ministry impacting your direct surroundings? How are you having an affect on your region? Finally, what are you as a church doing to impact the world? God has a global vision—so should His church.

The other key aspect of this verse that carries over into the whole book and applies to churches today is the part where it reveals the power for ministry. The power comes not from what we can accomplish but from God, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is referred to more than 40 times in the book of Acts. He is influential in every case where the Gospel enters a new context or community. That is no coincidence. Churches need to remember the help they have in accomplishing their commission, and that they could accomplish nothing without it.

Where do we go from here? Reading the epistles in the context of the history told in Acts seems like the natural thing to do…
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