Wednesday, September 30, 2009

On Language: Knowledge

One of the great aspects of understanding more than one language is that you get to overcome some of the weaknesses contained in any one language. Every language is basically a new way of looking at things… of thinking.

One area where English has some blinders on is in the word “know.” In English, this one word envelops many different ideas that in other languages are expressed using multiple words.

The Latin languages, for example use two main words. Spanish has saber and conocer. French has savoir and connaitre. Italian has sapere and conoscere. Similarly, German also has multiple words, primarily wissen and kennen but also erkennen and others.

The main difference in nuance in all these languages tends to be between knowing information and experiencing things. Basically, you can learn something abstractly or experientially. We all understand these differences, but apparently in English they are not seen as being very important. Which would we value more if we were to distinguish? Probably the: kennen, conocer, experiential kind. We look for people who don’t just know something from a book, we want experienced people.

Instead there is a good argument to be made that the smarter, more knowledgeable person is the one who learns things abstractly. Think about it. According to the Bible every bad thing that has happened in the world has happened because mankind decided it was not good enough to know about evil abstractly—simply to trust God when He said evil was something to be avoided. They—we—have an urge to experience evil. Eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil did not make us aware of evil for the first time. It was the experience of something God had already told us about.

We all know that wisdom is better than mere knowledge. Interestingly we discover that all the languages mentioned above derive the word for “wisdom” from the word for abstract knowledge, not experiential knowledge.

They say that some people have to learn things the hard way. A better approach to knowledge is to trust the knowledge and experience of people who know more than us, especially the knowledge of the One who has unlimited knowledge.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bible Movies Meme

Carmen tagged me in this Bible Movies discussion originated on Broadcast Depth. Frankly, it puts me in a bit of a spot. I pride myself in being fairly film-savvy but I have had a hard time even coming up with Biblical movies I have seen. The Ten Commandments (1956), The Prince of Egypt (1998), and The Passion of the Christ (2004) may be the sum total of the list. I don’t know that any of them would be something that I would consider as “best” or even my favorites. They are good from a technical standpoint, but all have problems in the story department.

Bible movies are problematic that way. You have a lot of great plots and stories but for some reason moviemakers feel a need to change the stories they adapt. That can be a problem for normal stories let alone something as important as God’s Word! Maybe if some of the “minor” storylines were used that presented few theological problems and can stand some imaginative elaborations.

So, since I can’t really offer three favorites, here are just three of the many stories I would like to see tackled:

2 Kings 17:24-28 A short passage where lions kill Assyrian invaders because they do not respect God. They have to bring Hebrew priests in to learn how to worship God so that the lion attacks will stop.

1 Kings (various chapters) The story of Jezebel featuring Elijah as a supporting character. He would normally be the staring character, but I would like to see her story told right up to her cinematic downfall.

1 Kings 13 Keeping things in Kings, this story of the Liar, the Prophet and the Idolater is custom made for a movie. Come to think of it, maybe I should trade Jezebel out for the story in 1 Kings 20 and make it a lion trilogy.

Not sure who I should tag, so if you read this feel free to try it yourself. Let me know if you do, I need to build up a list of more Bible Movies to check out!

Monday, September 28, 2009

1 Corinthians 4:1-5 (The Pervasive Problem of Self-Distraction)

In the end, all that matters is what God’s opinion of us and our service is. Ours is to merely labor in a reliable, steady way; to be trustworthy stewards of the time, resources and abilities we are given. God will give the only opinion worth hearing when He returns. Meanwhile, no one’s judgment of our results—even the praise—even our own evaluation—counts for much.


If the “Message of the Cross” is foolishness to the lost but the wisdom of God; (1:18-3:9)

Then the “Messengers of the Cross” are the weak chosen to bring God glory and to shame the world—merely servants and tools—only as valuable as the user who wields them.

All of that makes the praise we give certain leaders—and the camps we divide ourselves into over who we prefer to listen to—all seem rather pointless and silly.

It makes all the countless hours we spend listen to sermons online and reading the latest, greatest book instead of digging deeper into the Scripture or living our life incarnationally where God has placed us seem like a waste of time that could be used by God elsewhere.

We seem to devote too much time to better understanding of minor concepts that could be used simply trusting God and meditating on the single concept that truly matters and deserves all of our attention.

We probably waste too much of our time “navel gazing” in the name of accountability, evaluation, and improvement (all worthy concepts) when we should be focusing on God and those around us instead of living inside our heads and second guessing every decision we make.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Das leben der anderen

Germany’s 2007 entry and winner of the Best Foreign Film Oscar is a lot of things. It is a well-made film. It is an inspiring story. It is a somewhat good eye opener to what people went through in the GDR days and what totalitarian regimes put their people through. It is a good example of what art does for societies, and how depriving people of artistic expression can kill their spirits.

What it is not is an accurate representation of the true evil that the GDR and other socialist nations subjected their citizens too as they made the natural progression to communist totalitarianism. There are hints of it there. People lived in fear of saying what was on their minds. People spied on their neighbors in an effort to get special treatment. It has only recently been revealed that the communist government actually punished people who fought the Nazi government during the war. It seems that they wanted to make sure that people understood, you do not resist or fight against the government. Maybe that, combined with the lack of education concerning the former regime during the GDR days has led to a higher incidence of neo-Nazi’s in the East as compared to the West.

Still, it is a good movie to gain a small understanding of what it might have been like back then… as long as you understand what you are getting into. It is a German movie, after all. There is a lot that many Christians try to avoid in their entertainment. (Then again, this is not quite what one would call entertainment.)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Veronica Mars

It seemed like the perfect recipe for success: a sleuth show in the hard-boiled bent, witty dialogue and banter, a high school setting a la Buffy, and individual stories tied together with season-long arcs. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite come together as one would hope.

For one thing, the hard-boiled genre in a high school setting is a little disturbing. Part of the genre requires that there be no truly good characters. This world is dark and it is hard to fathom teenagers involved in, committing, and dealing with crimes like rape and murder. The other problem, also sort of a “noir” thing, is that many of the stories involve less of a puzzle to solve and more of a manipulation of circumstances. When that means Veronica helping wronged people get justice, it can be uplifting. However, much of the time Veronica manipulates the situation to get revenge or even worse, she is manipulated by other to accomplish their goals.

In the end, the thing that probably did this series in, in spite of its critical acclaim, was that nothing ever really clicked. The writing was good but not great. The stories tried hard but didn’t quite deliver. As the series moved on into season two, it lost some of the qualities and strange magic it had in the first. (The appearance of the murdered victim throughout the season, for one.) Then, as the third season started to gain a stronger sense of plot and direction, it suddenly killed the main plotline for the season halfway in and tried to do more stand-alone stuff.

Not the best (or even among the best) sleuthing television has to offer.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Psalm 111: Six Facets of Worship

In Psalm 111 we are given six descriptive images of what worship is:

1. Illuminating “Hallelujah”
The first word that is translated “praise” is hallelu. This word does mean to praise, but in another tense it also means to shine. That is a good way of thinking about worship. When something is worshiped, it is illuminated so that everyone can see it. When God is worshiped, it is His light that is being reflected back on Him. Worship is all about making God clearly visible.

2. Proclamation “I will give thanks…”
The second word that means to praise can also be translated: thank, confess, or proclaim. In the past few decades a trend in worship has been to sing directly to God, to address Him personally. However, that does not mean that singing about God is not praise. Worship can just as well be about telling the world about God. When we proclaim God to the world we are worshiping.

3. Singing “His praise endures forever.”
The last phrase of this Psalm has another word that is often translated as “praise.” It is actually the word that in plural form is the name of this book: “Psalms.” It means to sing to God. This facet of worship is often the only understanding people have of worship today, and it is just one small part of what worship is. It is still, however, an important aspect of worship.

4. Obsession “They are studied…”
Worship has an aspect of devotion to it. We spend all of our time and energy occupied with that which we really worship. It has been said you can tell what someone worships by studying their calendar and check book. Someone who worships God learns everything they can about Him and his works.

5. Delight “…by all who delight in them.”
Worship results in joy. If someone worships because they have to—because it is a duty, how can that be true praise? That does not mean it is all song and dance. Athletes are devoted to their discipline, even when it is hard work and repetitive exercise. But they only stick with it when they love what they do. It is the same with worship.

6. Fear “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
Ultimately, worship is about fear. We worship what we fear. If you think about it, you do worship what you are scared of. You think about it all the time. You live your life influenced by it, and how you can avoid it. Often, the things people fear become their obsession. With God, we need not be scared of Him. (Even though He is anything but harmless.) We do need to respect Him, however, and healthy worship is built around knowing God for who He is. Over and over again, the Bible speaks of the fear of the Lord. Basically, worship involves a creature recognizing the creator.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

It's a Different World...

Coming to Germany was the easiest cultural transition for me as a person who has lived in four different countries. (In fact, the hardest was moving back to the States at 18.) And yet, there are still things that happen here that make one wonder what are people thinking.

This past weekend in a poorer area of Dresden, police conducted a volunteer DNA sampling expected to collect the saliva of over 1500 male volunteers. The supposed reasoning behind this collection was to help solve a series of rapes and attacks that occurred in that part of town five years ago that remains unsolved. German authorities have apparently used this tactic off and on around the country for years, every time a suitable crime presents itself as an excuse. They are seemingly trying to set up a total population database.

Think about it. This is a voluntary participation collection. If the guy who committed the attacks is still around, he will not participate. There is no way that the authorities can hope to solve this crime with this procedure. There has to be another purpose behind the attacks.

Why would most men participate? If my experience with Germans is accurate, it is due to two reasons. They would see their participation as a sign of their innocence, revealing a subtle “guilty until proven innocent” mentality, and they implicitly trust the government. This is just one of many aspects where German Culture is very different from American, and a perfect illustration of why cross cultural evangelical workers have no business getting into the culture’s politics. Whether their views are right or wrong has little to do with why I am here, and is none of my business.

That being said, what are they thinking?

Monday, September 21, 2009

1 Corinthians 3:5-23 (The Messengers of the Cross: Nobodies)

American Missions has been guilty of not reading this passage for decades now. Much of the modern missionary movement has been built upon people migrating from one cultural context to another and introducing the Gospel to that culture fully contextualized for the missionary’s culture. They bring a knowledge of the Bible along with church administration and Christian ministry know how, and introduce little copies of Western (or American) churches everywhere they go.

Often what that results in is a missionary arriving in a town, starting a dog and pony show that is very popular in its novelty, and then leaving after a few years whereupon the “church” dwindles away. Here Paul is saying that he hoped the work he was doing was not that sort of work. Paul was not about creating a following of any charismatic or personality driven leadership. Who is Paul? Who is Apollos? They were nobodies. And that is the way things should be today. The person who brings the Gospel is a “nobody.” Any churches that get started should not feature some “foreigner” prominently. The more a foreign influence is perceived, the less effective that movement will be at reaching people in the culture.

Strategies for cross-cultural evangelism should focus on how to communicate a Gospel that is virtually culture free. Let the culture be supplied by the people in the context being targeted. Let the movements begin and grow in already existing communities that are natural for the culture. Let the leadership in these communities be from the communities.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Completos, Copihues y Condores

The weather isn’t right (it should be approaching Spring) but this time of year always puts me in the mood for a hot dog. Not just any hot dog, mind you, but a Completo. Truth be told, a complete is not my favorite Chilean cuisine, and it is not traditional 18th fare, but it is still great and uniquely “Chileno.” What you do it take a longish roll, slice it open and fill it with: a wiener, diced tomatoes, generous amounts of mayo, avocado, and if you like… chucrut. (I don’t.)

Another thing I think about this time of year is the Cierro Ñielol. The first few months we lived in Temuco, it was at the end of our street. We used to climb up the “cliffs” on that side of the hill and run down the steep slopes ate full, neck-breaking speeds, leaping yards with each step we took. One day we found Copihues at the top of the hill intertwined in the branches of some trees we were climbing. We also used to take our bikes around to the official entrance and ride/walk them all the way to the top so we could ride them back down the winding road. We were pretty crazy back then. No one even owned a helmet!

They used to sell these albums at newsstands that you could fill up with stickers. You bought the stickers in packs of 5 and tried to get the whole set. Anyone who filled the whole album would win a prize. The coolest thing to buy at the newsstands, though, was Condorito. It was a monthly humor comic staring an anthropomorphic Condor and his friends.

It wasn’t until we moved all the way south to the Straight of Magellan that we saw a real Condor up close. We used to take these week-long hiking trips to a national park and there, one day one flew over us as we stood on the top of a hill. It couldn’t have been soaring more than ten feet overhead. The Andean Condor is the largest bird capable of flight, with a wingspan greater than those ten feet, so you can imagine how impressive that moment was.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

On the Occasion of Our First Lord's Supper

“Though we're strangers, still I love you
I love you more than your mask
And you know you have to trust this to be true
And I know that's much to ask
But lay down your fears, come and join this feast
He has called us here, you and me

And though I love you, still we're strangers
Prisoners in these lonely hearts
And though our blindness separates us
Still His light shines in the dark
And His outstretched arms are still strong enough to reach
Behind these prison bars to set us free

So may peace rain down from Heaven
Like little pieces of the sky
Little keepers of the promise
Falling on these souls the drought has dried
In His Blood and in His Body
In this Bread and in this Wine
Peace to you
Peace of Christ to you”

“Peace” by Rich Mullins

This song by Rich Mullins is one of those perfect songs. The beautiful imagery in the poetry that still communicates clearly set to the music that moves one and strengthens the message. It is a great meditative piece for a pre-Lord’s Supper moment.

Rich is calling here for peace within the Body. The Lord’s Supper reminds us of our peace with God achieved by Christ’s work on the cross. In light of that peace that God obtained at so great a cost, can’t we maintain peace here within the Body of Christ?

Jesus called on us to seek forgiveness and a right relationship with our fellow believers before we worship God. Paul said that many were dead as a result of participating in the Lord’s Supper without repentance. We lack this peace in the Body today. And this is not a call for uniformity of practice or understanding, but love within the fellowship in spite of our variety.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

On Love and Rose

Our love is as beautiful,
As any long stemmed rose,
Both delicately grown by God,
Both filling Him with joy.

But how can our love live,
Unfed from up above,
Unkept by the two of us,
Sharing in His love?

How could our love last,
Thirsty parched and dry,
Lacking in the friendship,
Shared by you and I?

How could our love ever,
Dare hope to survive,
Any hate between us,
A winter as cold as ice?

So when you see a flower,
Remember how our love,
Is fragile severed from its source,
Of God’s eternal love.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Modern Day Frontiers

Recent news stories have been amazing for fans of exploration, naturalists and zoology. From the discovery of the world’s largest rat in an honest to goodness “Lost World” to the rediscovery of a shrew species long thought extinct, there are a lot of good reminders that there is a lot left to be discovered in the world. The fact is that this is an amazing world and exploring it is an exciting and worthwhile endeavor.

When I was a kid living in Costa Rica for a year, I discovered a series of “Adventure” books by Willard Price. They were all about two brothers who went around the world catching animals for their father’s Zoo supply company. Animals had always fascinated me and reading those books, I changed my career plans from being a detective to being a naturalist of some sort. I started reading everything I could about zoology and explorers. One day, I saw an episode of National Geographic explorer in which a team of scientists was surveying the wildlife of an area of the Amazon jungle. (It was much like the opening scenes of Arachnophobia.) That was the coolest job I could imagine. Going into some remote unexplored part of the earth and documenting all the animal and plant life you could find!

I graduated from High School having taken every Biology class offered (six years worth) and set out to study Zoology. One of the best jobs I ever had during those years was being a field lab assistant working for the government of Texas as a part of a team documenting all the animal life of a new state park that had been established at the Medicine Mounds sight near Chillicothe. I was the assistant to the Entomologist on the team, but we were supposed to document anything we could find. In addition to dozens of species of insects, spiders, scorpions and the like, my exciting discoveries that week involved snakes.

The first was one that we found at lunch one day, when we saw a bird trying to protect its nest. Turned out there was a five-foot bright green snake on the hunt. We caught it and I said that it looked like a Yellowbelly Racer (Coluber constrictor flaviventris). We didn’t have a Herpetologist there that week, but when we keyed it out, that was exactly what it was. The years of reading had paid off! Later that day I found a little tan snake under a rock. It turned out to be a Flathead snake (Tantilla gracilis), which was unknown that far west. The whole week was a blast and a dream come true.

Monday, September 14, 2009

1 Corinthians 3:1-4 (Spiritual Babies)

Sadly many believers today are not spiritual adults but babies. They never move beyond the fleshly thinking. This is not a case of even being stuck in the “Christian Basics.” The Gospel is enough for even the most spiritual of thinkers. In fact, perhaps it is that people are so eager to discover more—beyond the basic Gospel teachings. They strive after the new and the novel. They want to learn things that are fun but have little bearing on anything godly. They want to talk about Eschatology, Demonology, spiritual warfare, or how to have success, health and wealth.

Instead, they should try to dwell on—savor—the rich milk of the Gospel until they are ready, spiritual enough to stomach the meat of that very same Gospel. On such a diet lives are changed. Changed into the people who appraise everything, but who are appraised by no one.

How do things get this way? Apparently this is a problem the Church has always struggled with. However, it seems that in the last fifty years or so a big effort has been made to simplify and dumb down the Gospel as much as possible. There has been a push to reduce all the Christ did into a single sentence, an easily package-able product that can be “sold” as widely as possible. That in and of itself would not be terrible if it was accompanied by a strong discipleship ethic that explored the Gospel further once a person was convinced by the slogans. Instead, this “simplified” Gospel is quickly forgotten as something easy, unimpressive, and basic. Quite the opposite is true.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

1989 in FIlm

It seems a little hard to fathom that 1989 was 20 years ago. What a momentous year! The world literally changed in ways that dwarf the changes of eight years ago this week. 1989 was a big year in film as well. Personally, I have vivid memories of seeing Batman and Dead Poet’s on video tape months before they were released in Chile, and seeing Bill and Ted’s in a theater in Colorado that winter while we were on our first trip back to the states. Some people hate the way that the film industry has turned summer into huge blockbuster season, but those people probably hate roller coasters too. 1989 saw the release of two of my personal top 10 movies of all time and two more in my top 50. Twenty years on, they haven’t lost any of their magic.

Top 10 Personal Movies of 1989
*. Dead Poet’s Society
*. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
1. Batman
2. When Harry Met Sally
3. Henry V
4. The Little Mermaid
5. Glory
6. Back to the Future 2
7. A Grand Day Out
8. The Abyss
9. Look Who’s Talking
10. Her Alibi
10. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Bottom 5 Personal Movies of 1989
1. License To Kill
2. Dream a Little Dream
3. Born the 4th Of July
4. The Fly II
5. War of the Roses

Top Movies I Still Most Want to See or Revisit
1. Always
2. My Left Foot
3. Ghostbusters II
4. Cinema Paradiso

Friday, September 11, 2009

Top Films: Up

Wow. Pixar have done it again. The secret to their success is taking imaginative, entertaining settings and telling great stories in those worlds. They seem to also tap into almost universal fascinations. Who hasn’t imagined that their toys really came to life when they weren’t in the room? That the world of insects is an amazing jungle in miniature? That monsters really do exist behind closed doors? In a time when animation was increasingly devoted to interchangeable fairy-tales, they have managed to create a wide variety of settings. Maybe because they don’t see their art form as a genre, but a medium.

This year’s Up is no exception. The set-up is simple. It is a classic explorer’s tale a-la Professor Challenger and The Lost world. The delivery is anything but simple. When was the last time you saw an animated movie deliver such emotion and tell such a heart breaking story? In a simple montage of visuals they deliver a lifetime of information and move the viewer to tears. And what animation! There is one shot in the film of a photograph of Ellie looking out a window. The grainy texture of the shot, the color and fading are pure perfection.

And not everything here is emotional and touchy-feely. This may be the most comedic and laugh out loud film Pixar has delivered yet, and that is saying a lot. The writing and acting in this film are excellent.

As with all movies that aren’t just good but great, Up has a message—a kernel of truth. Karl is one of those people who think about actually living someday, but never seem to get around to it. He is in love with his dreamer of a wife, but when his life has seemed wasted and almost done, he learns once again from her that a) he hasn’t just been waiting for life to happen, but has had a pretty great adventure all along and b) there is more to be had after all. We tend to live too much in the past or the future and let the present pass us by.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


A forty-year spread,
And yet so the same,
A man named Savior,
The other crooked by name.
Both preached the doctrines,
Perfected by Karl,
Both swept to office,
In spite of that snarl.

They took over the industry,
Provided free health care,
And three years in,
Their economy went nowhere.
Well, one of them did this,
The other is still at it,
And both were selected,
By masses wanting handouts.

“¡La Tencha nos decía que Allende no servía!”
“We didn’t do it. I mean we helped them.”
The end of a democracy and a constitution,
Was the culmination of the first Marxist experiment.

Promises, predictions,
An Oracle of hope.
They didn’t know what they wanted,
Just not what they had.
When a people cease to do for themselves,
But vote for those who promise to do for them,
That nation cannot stand for long.
“A Nation never falls but by suicide.”

Forty years later,
And the thought that can’t be helped is,
Maybe Obama,
Is America’s Allende.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Children's Ministry Questions

This post has been percolating for a couple of weeks now, but in light of all the (somewhat ridiculous) angst leading up to the President’s address to the children yesterday, and Grady’s post today, it seemed like a good time to throw it out there.

Why do we do children’s ministry? Especially in a church planting—missional context? The obvious answers are: It is easier to reach kids. They don’t question your motives or argue with your teaching. There is a hope that if the kids are reached, the parents will follow. And, admit it… it is easy.

The problem is that all of these reasons are questionable at best. Kids are impressionable. However, how would you like it if some well funded Muslims showed up at your local park to do children’s ministry. It is not necessarily nice to take advantage of the fact that kids don’t question your motives, because frankly, children’s ministry of this sort does have ulterior motives. They may be good motives, but do the parents of the kids think so? Due to that fact, there is a lot of doubt that reaching kids will translate into reached families. (The truth is that the other way of working—reaching parents to get the kids—works a whole lot better.)

So maybe children’s ministry, an attractional model by the way, should not be at the top of anyone’s list of strategies for reaching an area.

Then there is the whole other uncomfortable side of children’s ministry in the church itself:

How much damage have we done over the decades by reducing the Gospel down to the simplest of formulas and teaching generations of kids that Jesus is just some guy you “magically” “ask into your heart” as a “savior” and then you won’t go to Hell? There is an argument to be made that we have perverted the true Gospel enough that most of the Evangelical Ghetto has a false understanding of what the Christian walk is really all about. We have little understanding of Lordship, surrender and sacrifice.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Soaring along in the blue,
Like flying above the whitewashed sand.
Every once in a while I take the plunge,
And go to the bottom, just because I can.

Weightless, refreshing, invading an alien world,
Amid jewels flitting through bright green trees,
I kick even deeper and fly over a cliff,
Seeking treasures and adventures in secret seas.

Suddenly I sense without even seeing,
Strange perceptions I can’t hope to explain,
Turn to see the shape larger than terror,
Don’t know whether to panic or faint.

Too slow in its element; I feel its bite hit my middle.
I wonder if I’ll feel pain before I’m dead.
Then ask myself how I can possibly be breathing?
And I wake up to the fact that I’ve wet the bed.

Monday, September 7, 2009

1 Corinthians 2:6-16 (The Message of the Cross is Wisdom)

“Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age…” “For who has known the mind of the lord, that he will instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.”

Paul has been belittling the work of the messengers of the Gospel in an effort to show the Corinthians that their pride and boasting is misguided. Perhaps it might have begun to sound as though the message itself and not just its delivery is foolish. It is not. The Message of the Cross is the wisdom of God, it just seems strange to those who are lost.

People can be pretty smart. The minds of men have discovered and reasoned some pretty amazing things. There are philosophies and systems of thought that have advanced the world in ever increasing and exponential ways. However, the human mind has it limits.

The Mind of Christ is the mind that created reality as it exists in this universe (and any other universe there may be) and exists—no, IS—outside of reality and time. The Mind of Christ is not discovered or understood. The Message of the Cross is revealed. It is supernatural and it is reality in the company of mere shadows and perspectives of limited grasp.

When people turn to God and receive the Mind of Christ and grow and mature in that relationship with Christ, they begin to see reality and they begin to be able to evaluate other ideas coming from the world. The key to this growth in maturity is seen repeatedly in Scripture: “The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” That is to say the recognition that God knows everything and we know nothing, the yielding to God on all matters requiring evaluation… that is where wisdom begins.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a limited number of mature Christians in the world today…

Friday, September 4, 2009

"Off the record, on the QT, and very hush-hush."

Noir presents a world of corruption, greed, violence and betrayal. The problem tends to be that there is a lack of heroes. Everyone in Noir is tainted. Even when there is a sleuth trying to expose a wrongdoer, they are only on the case for what they can get out of it.

In L.A. Confidential we get three of these sorts—all cops. Jack Vincennes is enamored by the Hollywood glamour and the fame it provides him. Ed Exley is a bright young son of a department legend, trying to make his own name. Bud White is a rough and tough man more than a thinker and he has a soft spot for protecting women from abuse.

All three men get involved in the investigation of a mass murder. As is often the case in these sorts of tales, when someone tries to do the right thing, they pay for it. All three officers… Well, the real problem is, the deeper the investigation goes, the worse everyone comes out looking. The police, the city government, the whole town is one big cesspool.

The moral of the story might be, that in spite of all the good intentions and desires to do right one may have, without the virtues of good character to back up those intentions, the best plans go wrong. Bud White especially illustrates this point. His childhood experiences give him a strong desire to help women, but the way he helps them reflects a strong resemblance to his father’s predilection for violence. In Christian teaching we learn that no one is truly good enough on their own. Even the virtues must come from God.

(Warning: While there are positive thematic elements to be found in this movie, some NonModern readers may want to know that this movie earned it’s R rating and may offend some viewers.)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What's Harder-Grammar or Politics?

It takes years to begin to understand German grammar. It could take longer to get their politics. They have several levels of political office that they vote for, and some that they don’t (the president is selected every five years by a group of people including politicians and celebrities assembled just for that vote.) One of the hardest aspects for Americans to understand is the multiple party system.

In the United States you have two viable parties. In spite of how different they seem from each other, in the grand political spectrum they really represent two ends of the same side of the same coin. Within the parties there are those on the extreme ends of things, but most Americans tend to be moderate leaning conservative.

Germany has many parties. Going from “left” to “right” you have:

The Linke: your old Communists from the GDR days married to the Socialist party of West Germany.
The Green Party: A single issue party devoted to environmental issues. (There are also such single issue parties as the Animal Rights Party and others.)
The SPD: sort of like the more liberal branch of the Democratic Party in the US.
The CDU: the Christian Democratic Union, similar to conservative Democrats and “moderate” Republicans.
The FDP: the closest thing to libertarians. They want less government, which is pretty radical in Europe.
The NDP: whatever they call themselves, they are known as the neo-nazis.

The nice thing about so many parties is that you can usually find someone to vote for who is similar to your views. The downside is that no one ever gets a majority of the vote. The result is that the governing power has to be achieved and maintained by two or three parties agreeing to work together and keep each other happy. That might not be so bad, come to think of it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

It's Not Funny Anymore

Not that it ever really was. Several months ago, Nonmodern addressed the loony Biblical misinterpretations of the likes of Steve Anderson and the rest of the “KJV Only” crowd. This is a group of people who teach that the only inspired Word of God is what is found in the King James Translation of the Bible. They are including the original Greek and Hebrew in that evaluation. In other words, they say that the original manuscripts of what became the Bible were just steps along the process God used to develop the true Bible—the KJV. Every other translation in the history of revelation is not inspired. Add to that the topics of Anderson’s preaching, like God wants men to only pee standing up, and you have the perfect ingredients for crazy cult mentality.

The problem is, these people also make all believers of Christ look silly by association. (Admittedly, only in the eyes of people who don’t think much—but that is most people these days, right?)

Now things have gotten worse. Mr. Anderson isn’t content to build up a small following and control them as the leader of a legalistic religious community. He wants a big name for himself. So he has picked a well-documented (and video taped) altercation with border patrol officers. Oh, and he is calling for the death of the president of the United States. It seems that the “KJV Only” crowd and the “God wants you carrying guns” crowd go hand in hand sometimes. Steven Anderson claims he doesn’t condone violence, but hatred and violence go hand in hand.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Call and Our Will

I received a comment last week saying that God uses the willing. My initial reaction was total agreement. My personal cross-cultural call experience consisted of me telling God: “If You want me, I am willing to go,” and Him telling us ten years later: “It’s time.”

However, I got to thinking about it and really had to ask: How much does our will ultimately have to do with our calling?

Without looking too exhaustively at all the examples of God’s calling in the Bible: Moses was called and one would have to say he was less than willing in his acceptance of the call. Isaiah readily volunteered even when the call seemed to be a general one and not specifically addressed to him. Abraham believed God and willingly set out from his home. Zechariah doubted God and was struck dumb. Peter didn’t think he was worthy enough and required some convincing. Barak placed conditions on his calling and was limited in his usefulness. Many of the disciples seemed to follow the call of Jesus when he was a complete stranger to them.

How many people do we see in the Bible who are called and say no? We are hard pressed to find anyone. Maybe the rich young ruler but, was he really called? Jesus tells him to, “follow me,” but it seems more as though he has approached Jesus. Jesus was not looking for another follower here. We get the feeling that Jesus knows what the man’s response will be—that he will not be able to do what is asked of him. Jesus seems to be using this moment to teach, both the young man and the disciples. Did the man ever come around and turn his life over to God? We don’t ever find out, but this story does not seem to fit with a true call of God.

At this point I would have to say that I think God does use the willing, but He also uses the unwilling. God uses everyone He chooses, and our willingness plays no role in that choice. Willingness can play a role in our level of contentment, however.
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