Saturday, February 28, 2009

Film News of Interest

In the Nonmodern Prophecy Department...

It turns out that Kennedy/Marshall co. and Leonardo DiCaprio's company are looking to remake Die Unendliche Geschichte. Or, maybe they just read Nonmodern without heeding our advice.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Broken Bible Stories: Yes Lord I Am Listening (1 Samuel 3:1-21)

Once upon a time, there was a woman named Hannah. One day she told God that if He gave her a son, she would enroll him in the nursery and raise him as a good Baptist his whole life. God gave her a boy, and she named him Samuel and had him in the nursery promptly at the age of six weeks.

The boy grew and grew and as he grew he attended church every time the door was open. He attended Sunday School and Vacation Bible School and Bible Drill and Mission friends and even went to church when the weather was bad! And so time went by and Samuel practically lived at church.

.....

One Sunday, when the boy Samuel was about thirty, he got to church early as usual. Only the pastor had beaten him there and was practicing his message in the sanctuary. As Samuel walked into the church, he noticed that the floor in the entryway was dirty.

“Someone needs to vacuum this mess up.” he thought to himself.

Then suddenly a voice rang out, “Samuel!”

Samuel made his way into the sanctuary, where the pastor was still rehearsing.

“Did you call me, Brother Eli?” he asked.

“Why no, Samuel, I’ve just been practicing my message.”

“Well, Brother Eli, while I have your attention, the entry way is a mess. You need to get someone to clean that up before services.”

.....

Some months later on another bright Sunday Morning, Samuel was making his way to Sunday School when he noticed several children running through the halls.

“Someone needs to keep those kids under control,” he thought to himself, “they never seem to have any supervision.”

“Samuel!”

Samuel turned around to see who called him and noticed the pastor walking away down the hall.

“Yes, Brother Eli, you called?”

Brother Eli stopped and turned around. “No, Samuel, I didn’t call you.”

“Oh, well, while I have your attention, this church needs some serious work in the children’s department. You need to see about getting some more teachers around here. The kids are running wild!”

.....

A few weeks later, on another Sunday morning, Samuel was walking through the halls after church when he noticed a bulletin board that had not been changed in as long as he could remember. The paper had begun to fade with time.

“Someone needs to change that board.” he thought to himself.

“Samuel!”

This time the voice sounded as if it was whispered right into his ear. He turned sharply, but no one was there. Where was that Brother Eli?

He found him in his office getting ready to head home for lunch.

“Did you call me, Brother Eli?”

“No, Samuel, again I did not call you. Why do you keep asking me that?”

“Well I was just noticing that no one keeps the bulletin boards current around here when I thought I heard you call my name…”

“I think I may know what is going on here,” said Brother Eli with a glint of recognition in his eye, “the next time you hear your name called, answer Yes, Lord, I am listening. See if God is calling you.”


Epilogue:

After that, God was finally able to get through to Samuel, and he never had another complaint about his church again. He learned to recognize that God showed him the problems God had prepared for him to address and that sometimes no one else had been given that insight. He began to do a lot of ministry in the church and the church grew as others joined him in the ministry. A few years later he wrote a book entitled “The Prayer of Answer: or ‘Yes, Lord I am listening’” became a church growth expert and made a lot of money. The last time I looked they even had bracelets and golf balls imprinted with YLIAL. You can buy them at your local Christian bookstore.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ninth

The world is covered,
With billions of trails,
And each man’s life,
‘Till the moment it fails,
Belongs to a path,
Each man to his own,
Stupidly still,
Joined paths don’t go far.
Eventually lives,
Once converged must then part.
The distances grow,
Communication is lost,
And memories dim,
As heartache results.
Brothers and sisters,
Lovers and friends,
Parents and families,
All come to an end.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The "Leaving" Aspect of Cross Cultural Living

There was a time when moving to a different country was a hard thing to do. You had to say goodbye to family, friends, familiar places, language, and culture. Everything you had in the new home was different and strange and hard to get used to. This induced a period in people’s lives known as Culture Shock, where they went through the grief process over everything they had lost. For many this process never improved and in fact worsened becoming Culture Stress. Others learned to adapt and accept aspects of the new culture. They embraced things and adapted others mixing in a bit of their own culture. These people became multicultural and led richer lives for having changed. Not an easy process, but worth it.

Today we have global communications. We have things like e-mail, the internet, and social tools like Facebook and blogs. People can move half a world away and act as though the never left home. They can stay in touch through cheap phone calls and even see the people they are talking to via video calls. It makes cross cultural living easier in that no one has to go through it anymore. You can move half a world away from home but never leave.

It has made things harder really. Culture Stress is only avoided when the new culture is engaged and accepted. If you never leave home, why spend all the money and effort to go?

If you are a cross cultural engager, if you have chosen to live in a country that is not your own, you need to ask yourself a few questions:

How much of an effort are you making to engage the local culture?

How much time do you spend thinking about and communicating with your home culture?

When you go back “home,” will it seem as though you never left?

When you leave the culture you went to experience, will you have regrets that you spent more time trying to connect back home, where you were going to spend the rest of your life anyway, than connecting with the people and places you only had a limited time to get to know?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A New Parenting Era

Well, the end of an era has arrived at the Dietz house. Our youngest turned four this week-end. No more little foot patter and all that jazz.

It is sad. Babies are perfect little bundles of love. Toddlers, especially as they first learn to walk and are still really small, have to be the cutest thing to watch. As they grow, they learn so fast that you can actually watch their development. If you were to take daily photographs you could probably observe their physical changes as well.

There is the bad side of the first four years too, of course. Those famous “terrible twos” are actually more like the prelude to the “impossible threes.” They are probably preparation for the “goofy-grade-school years,” the “annoying adolescences,” and the “too-smart-for-their-own-good teens” but they are not easy and made harder by the fact that parent and child don’t speak the same language yet.

It’s just that four seems like a milestone in any kid’s life. It is when you can start to talk about things. They start to have their own interests. They ask for things for their birthday. They start to care about having their own likes independent of parent and sibling.

We now have four “kids” and no more toddlers. Bittersweet, but exciting too. A couple in our church just had their first baby 10 days ago and brought him to church Sunday. How long is it going to be until the Dietz house sees any more of those? Hopefully no time soon, but I miss holding little babies.

Monday, February 23, 2009

2 Thessalonians 3:1-15 (Doctrine Matters)

Verse 6 of chapter 3 must make a lot of people and churches today uncomfortable. If anyone has ever noticed it, that is. First of all it places a high value on doctrine. People don’t like doctrine. They find it too dry. They find it too boring. It feels better to just follow the heart. To “hear” from God what should be done. Sorry. Doctrine is important. Everything we discover or learn from God either comes through Scripture or must be confirmed by Scripture. Doctrine is important. The argument can be made that it is most important, for everything in the Christian life is about belief, and what you believe matters.

If that is not bad enough, verses six and fourteen command believers to not associate with those that do not hold to the teaching of the apostle. In this case, it is not just Doctrine in general that is important, but the specific teaching could ruffle some feathers. Do not associate with believers who do not maintain an orderly life. Read: work. We really need to take care, as churches, in the way we minister and provide charity. Charity is not bad, but far too many churches do the feel good charity and don’t put in the tremendous effort required to do it right.

Friday, February 20, 2009

2008 in Film

As we approach the actual end of the 2008 film season with the Oscars this Sunday, it is a little frustrating for the average movie go-er. (If a person with four children who need a babysitter, living in Europe where movies are delayed for dubbing, can be considered a normal movie go-er.) It is hard for most people to see enough movies in a year to really know what the best ones for a year were. The reality is that 3 to 5 years will go by before 2008 can be evaluated. That being said it seems like it was a weak year for films overall.

For the past ten years, I have averaged seeing 83 movies a year. Only 19 of those movies were from the current year however. So it is hard to say for any given year what the best ones were. 2008 may have been a weak year for movies, but for Nonmodern it was an active movie year. I saw 94 movies and 26 were from 2008, so there is a little better chance of coming up with a top 5, so here goes:

(Updated)

Top 5 Personal Movies of 2008 (so far):
1. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
2. The Dark Knight
3. Wall-E
4. Slumdog Millionaire
5. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
6. (Unapologetically) Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
7. Hellboy II: The Golden Army
8. Iron Man
9. Kung Fu Panda
10. Expelled

Bottom 5 Personal Movies of 2008 (so far):
1. I Know Who Killed Me (At least the first 20 minutes before I turned it off.)
2. Lost Boys: The Tribe
3. The Happening
4. Burn After Reading
5. Vantage Point

5 Movies I Still Most Want to See:
1. Man on a Wire
2. In Bruges (seen, ranks at 16)
3. Quantum of Solace (seen, ranks at 13)
4. Happy Go Lucky
5. Let the Right One In (seen, ranks around 20)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Der Vorleser

Continuing in a way the theme this year of movies dealing with whether life is about decisions or fate, The Reader tackles the issue of German guilt associated with the events of World War II. If one is at all interested in this as one of the most significant events in the past couple of centuries, or if one is interested in German culture, this movie might be of interest, with some caveats.

If you have a problem with movie nudity, or if you do not find being a peeping tom entertaining, you would do well to skip the first 45 minutes of this film. It is not a loss really either. All you need to know is that the story is set up with the completely implausible affair between a 15 year old boy and a 36 year old woman, conducted in a mechanical, unattractive, and (if it weren’t a hormonal teenage boy) non-connective fashion.

After the summer of “love” ends, the story reveals that Hanna is in fact an ex-guard from a concentration camp who is being tried for war crimes. Here is where the story almost becomes interesting, especially in a couple of scenes at the university where students and their teacher discuss the issues of German national guilt, especially as it affects the new generations. Nothing is ever resolved or even explained, but the issue is brought up in a way that really hits a side of the German psyche on the head.

Those guilt issues are the obvious points being addressed by the film. The more important ones (from this story’s perspective) are those faced by Michael, the reader. Here we see the story of a man who’s life has been ruined by decisions he made as a teen, the secrets he has been compelled out of guilt to keep, and the woman who abused him in much the same way she had done all the people in the concentration camp all those years before.

Sort of the way younger generations of Germans have dealt with the guilt of their culture ever since World War II.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It Has All Been Written?

Slumdog Millionaire is an experience. It is one of those rare movies that combine a fresh idea with a completely watch able story that is at once difficult to watch and entertaining. It has the feel of a Dickens story. If it wins the Best Picture award it will be because of the strength of its story and the way it is told; without big named actors or politically charged themes it has nothing else to make academy members vote for it. It would be nice for a movie to win on its own merits for a change.

That being said, the story has some interesting philosophical and even religious themes throughout. Coming in the same year as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button makes for a strange theme developing in 2008. The theme running throughout Slumdog is the age old question: who controls our lives? Do our decisions mater, or is it all up to fate? Has it, in fact, all been written? The answer suggested by this story is… we are all caught in the inescapable stream of fate; our stories have all been written and we are unable to change our destinies.

Jamal’s story is (luckily for us viewers) a happy and fulfilling one. Along the way there are incredible hardships and tragedies, but his whole life has led him to become the man that he is in the end, and that journey is a joy to watch. The only downside to the story is the idea that Jamal is not really a good person in the end, because it is fate and not his decisions that made him the way he is.

Despite the questionable philosophy, this is a very good film. If you haven’t seen this film yet, please do so soon.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Melted Away

Cloudy days and rainy nights,
Spent with sad slow music,
In a room without lights.
Alone with the visions,
Of good-byes never said.
How I wish I could go back,
And live it all again!

As the night grows colder,
And the rain turns to snow,
All the images haunt me,
But there’s no way home.
For like snow it held beauty,
But it’s melted away.
And all I have left

Are the memories we made.

Monday, February 16, 2009

2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 (Obligations, Selections, and Traditions)

Once again in this short letter we see Paul speaking about the obligation we have to be thankful to God. It sort of goes without saying, but the repeated nature of the statement causes it to stand out. The magnitude of what is owed God for all He has done naturally results in gratefulness, but it is easy to take things for granted. “We ought always;” “we should always” give thanks to God.

In this case, thanksgiving is born out of the knowledge of God’s election. The point here is not why God has chosen some to be saved, but the fact that He has is something for which to be very grateful. (Presuming one is one of those who have been chosen.) Looking back a couple of verses, we are reminded that not only do we need divine help to understand and accept the Gospel message, but some have deluded against the truth.

Paul then encourages his readers to hold fast to the truth they have been taught. When we realize what we believe plays a role in the salvation we have experienced, doctrine becomes more than just an exercise in academia. The truths contained in Scripture are vitally important, especially if there are deluding influences out there causing some to believe things that are not true.

All this ties into a conversation had with a man handing out gospel tracts in Switzerland earlier this month. When asked if his approach to sharing the gospel worked, he had an interesting perspective. We tend to measure the success of our efforts solely by those who receive the message and come to Christ. Perhaps a better method of measurement would be to count the outgoing message regardless of response or reception. Whether people accept or reject the gospel is up to them. Our task is merely to spread it.

Hmmm.

Friday, February 13, 2009

February 13, 1945

One of the hardest moments to swallow in American/ Ally history is the decision to obliterate the city of Dresden at the end of World War 2. The city was designated as the seat of post war government by the ally forces. It was also a main center of the Red Cross for the area. It was a cultural treasure of Baroque architecture and art with little strategic military importance. It was the destination for countless refugees fleeing the advance of the Red Army.

Taking all that into consideration, the heads of Allied forces decided that a “show of strength” was needed to quickly bring the end of the war. They ordered the repeated bombing of the city with 3,900 tons of explosives and firebombs, killing tens of thousands of people, mostly refugees and civilians. The raids were designed to be about 3 hours apart, so that the second would come as the fires from the first raid were being fought. The attacks created fires so intense, that the updraft pulled everything in surrounding areas, people included, into the fire.

Not a proud moment in the fight against the great evil of the Twentieth Century. It sometimes makes it hard to see who the good guys were, as is often the case in war. Today, many people try to use the history of these attacks to defend the racist philosophies that caused the war in the first place. The Germans living in Dresden have a good argument against that. They say that the Neo-Nazis are arguing from forgetfulness, revenge, and hate.

Instead, they remind people that the bombing of Dresden was caused by the German aggression against freedom and democracy in the first place, and that the story is a good reminder of the evils of extreme politics and war that everyone in the world should remember and heed.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Evaluating a Controversial Entertainment

Iron Maiden was a part of the Heavy Metal wave from England in the early eighties along with bands like Def Leppard and others. Characterized by “comic book” graphic covers and artwork, and long songs with many movements and lyrics inspired by history, literature, and movies; they quickly became one of the most popular metal bands of the eighties. Should they be listened to? You decide...

Covers and artwork: Eddie is the “mascot” featured on all Iron Maiden albums and artwork. He was inspired by a Halloween mask and is a sort of mummy-zombie creature.

Music: Heavy metal sound mixing drums, bass, and two (later three) lead guitars. Loud, heavy and driven, most songs are long and have several “movements” as a symphony would. The music is classically based rather than bluesy.

Content: Most songs are stories inspired by a few common sources:

War: Many songs are descriptions of historical battles, from the Crimean War, to the first air battle over London, to Viking invasions.

Literature: Works that have inspired Maiden songs include: Edgar Allen Poe, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Dune” by Frank Herbert, Alistair Maclean, Greek Mythology, Alan Sillitoe, Orson Scott Card, etc.

History: They have written songs about Alexander the Great, Ancient Egypt, the American West, and 1930s Chicago gangland.

Some issues of concern could be violence, questionable spirituality common to the Science Fiction sources they are so often inspired by, and to a small degree sexual issues (Out of the 84 songs released in the 80s and 90s, 3 had sexual themes.)

Two songs merit special mention. The Number of the Beast raised huge controversy upon its release. Many thought the band might be satanic. They denied this emphatically. The song is supposedly based on the movie “The Omen II” and a dream of one of the members. Moonchild, released on “The Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” in 1988 is based on some writings of Aleister Crowley who was indeed a Satanist of sorts. In fact, this whole album is more spiritual than other outings, and raises questions about the band’s beliefs.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Top 20 Albums

Zack Dietz, the lead singer from “Road Less Traveled,” posted a list of his 20 favorite ever albums a few weeks ago. It sounded like fun, so here is an attempt at a very personal top 20 list (actually, a little over 50) in chronological order. Qualifiers: no soundtracks, classical music, or Christmas albums included.

1. The Fourth Album (Led Zeppelin) 1971
Related Albums: Led Zeppelins I-III (1969-1971)
Best Tracks: Basically all of side one.

2. The Wall (Pink Floyd) 1979
Related Albums: Dark Side of the Moon (1973); Wish You Were Here (1975)
Best Tracks: Is There Anybody Out There?; Comfortably Numb; Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)

3. Powerslave (Iron Maiden) 1984
Related Albums: The Number of the Beast (1982); Piece of Mind (1983)
Best Tracks: Aces High; Two Minutes to Midnight; Powerslave; Rime of the Ancient Mariner

4. Pateando Piedras (Los Prisioneros) 1986
Related Albums: La Voz de los ’80 (1984); Grandes Excitos (1991)
Best Tracks: El Baile de los Que Sobran; Porque No Se Van?; Muevan Las Industrias

5. Joshua Tree (U2) 1987
Related Albums: War (1983); The Unforgetable Fire (1984); Rattle n Hum (1989)
Best Tracks: Every Track

6. Whitesnake (Whitesnake) 1987
Best Tracks: Cryin in the Rain; Still of the Night; Here I Go Again

7. Hysteria (Def Leppard) 1987
Best Tracks: Animal; Love Bites; Hysteria; Armageddon It; Pour Some Sugar On Me

8. For the Sake of the Call (Steven Curtis Chapman) 1990
Related Albums: More to This Life (1989); All Things New (2004)
Best Tracks: What Kind Of Joy Is This; For The Sake of the Call; Higher Ways; When You Are A Soldier

9. Use Your Illusion (Guns n Roses) 1991
Related Albums: Appetite For Destruction (1987)
Best Tracks: November Rain; Don’t Cry; Civil War; Yesterdays; Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door

10. Ten (Pearl Jam) 1991
Best Tracks: Evenflow; Alive; Jeremy

11. Achtung Baby (U2) 1991
Related Albums: Zooropa (1993); Pop (1997)
Best Tracks: One; Mysterious Ways; Even Better Than the Real Thing; The Fly; Whose Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses

12. Vuelvo Amor… Vuelvo Vida (Illapu) 1991
Related Albums: En Vivo: Parque La Bandera (1988)
Best Tracks: Vuelvo Para Vivir; Ya Quisiera Por Olvido; Tres Versos Para una Historia

13. A Liturgy, a Legacy, & a Ragamuffin Band (Rich Mullins) 1993
Related Albums: Never Picture Perfect (1989)
Best Tracks: Here in America; 52:10; The Color Green; Creed; Peace

14. Under the Table and Dreaming (Dave Matthews Band) 1994
Related Albums: Crash (1996); Before These Crowded Streets (1998)
Best Tracks: Satellite; Best of What’s Around; What Would You Say; Dancing Nancies; Ants Marching

15. Step Inside This House (Lyle Lovett) 1998
Best Tracks: Bears; Step Inside This House; West Texas Highway; Texas Trilogy: Daybreak; Texas Trilogy: Bosque County Romance

16. 40 Acres (Caedmon’s Call) 1999
Related Albums: Long Line of Leavers (2000); In the Company of Angels (2001)
Best Tracks: Faith My Eyes; Thankful

17. All That You Can’t Leave Behind (U2) 2000
Related Albums: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (2004)
Best Tracks: Walk On; Beautiful Day; Elevation; Grace; Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of

18. She Must and Shall Go Free (Derek Webb) 2003
Related Albums: The House Show (2004)
Best Tracks: Take To The World; Wedding Dress; Beloved

19. X&Y (Coldplay) 2005
Related Albums: Parachutes (2000); A Rush of Blood To the Head (2002); Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends (2008)
Best Tracks: White Shadows; A Message; Fix You; Swallowed in the Sea

20. A Collission (David Crowder Band) 2005
Related Albums: Can You Hear Us (2002); Illuminate (2003); B Collision (2006); Remedy (2007)
Best Tracks: It is best heard straight through.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 (Some Teachings Are Better Left Behind)

“Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.”

There are unending examples of elaborate interpretations of the way the world will end. It is a favorite pastime of armchair theologians and cult founders. It is a largely profitless endeavor. Unless the profit you seek to make is monetary. Many a “Biblical” scholar (or lately fiction author) has made a pretty penny teaching about the way they think the end times will unfold.

The best way to approach the Biblical teaching about the Day of the Lord is to simply read the Bible. God has revealed what He wants to about those times and we need not more than that.

Here it could and maybe should be said: “do not become too comfortable by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that you have a get out of tribulation free card as a Christian.” The Bible repeatedly teaches that tribulation, i.e. really hard times, will be used to test the churches. Any teaching that says Christians will be gathered before the very difficult end years goes against a plain reading of this chapter:

“Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.”

Sorry to go so doctrinal here, but sometimes the text does that. It seems that to teach people anything other than what is stated in the Bible could cause problems down the road. It might be better to teach Christians that following Christ has it hard times too, and they might be called upon to prove their faith through serious persecution.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sehnsucht

Longing…
The good without the bad
The joy of the hopeful
Despair of the blind and dead

Memory…
Of the best of life’s bliss
Parents, siblings together
The rush of love’s first kiss

Anticipation…
For the never yet been place
Delight before, not after
Vision that brings tears to the face

Missing
A long heart-breaking ache
Poetry without music
The dance and race of the lame

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Button is an entertaining, well-made, thought provoking film. If it wins best picture this year, there won’t be any complaints here. It has a message and demands a lot of thought from the viewer. Is the message one worth thinking about, though?

There is a lot of similarity with Eric Roth’s other script: Forrest Gump. Both stories are about a strange but not outstanding individual who lives a full and interesting life. They are both about the love of a lifetime, that is ultimately thwarted save for a few precious moments of togetherness. However, where Gump is about innocence and love, Button is more about living life to the fullest and experience. Gump was a picture of selflessness; Button is a man who does what he wants and gives no heed to regrets.

Time ticking away (or in this case back) is the background noise throughout the movie. We are constantly reminded of its passage and its temporariness. The viewer is encouraged to enjoy what time they have, regardless of the consequences. After all you are given only so much, don’t waste it in regret.

The Hedonism is the downside of Button’s message, but there is another, better side to this story. Even though Benjamin is odd and different, his life and story serve to remind the viewer that no one is who they are in a mere moment of time, but the sum of their entire life. We are shaped by experiences, beliefs, and relationships.

“Along the way you bump into people who make a dent on your life. Some people get struck by lightning. Some are born to sit by a river. Some have an ear for music. Some are artists. Some swim the English Channel. Some know buttons. Some know Shakespeare. Some are mothers. And some people can dance.”

The other side of this truth is that people change and the joy of relationships is knowing people throughout their journey. “It's a funny thing about comin' home. Looks the same, smells the same, feels the same. You'll realize what's changed is you.”

There are two contrasting philosophies Button hears in the course of his life, one from his boss and the other from a man who was struck by lightening seven times:

“You can be as mad as a mad dog at the way things went. You could swear, curse the fates, but when it comes to the end, you have to let go.”

“Blinded in one eye; can't hardly hear. I get twitches and shakes out of nowhere; always losing my line of thought. But you know what? God keeps reminding me I'm lucky to be alive.”


Witticisms one is used to from Roth and his scripts, but ultimately in this case—they ring hollow and hopeless.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Boomerang

I made a boomerang out of paper,
That always worked; every throw.
I sent it out to much applause.
I watched the adulation grow.

I found that the first girl I ever loved,
Felt just the same in return.
I thrilled to discover it in her eyes;
The memories of them still burn.

I dreamt of a place from my memory,
Of a place where I’d never been.
I wish I had a paper boomerang,
That could take me there once again.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Jane Marple

The distinction between Miss Marple mysteries and those of say, Poirot or Holmes lies in where the emphasis is placed. Poirot and Holmes are the stars of their exploits. In Miss Marple stories it is the nature of fallen man that stands in center stage. Sherlock Holmes uses deduction to root out the source of evil and Hercule Poirot his knowledge of the human psyche. Miss Marple has simply lived long enough to see it all, and there is nothing new under the sun.

People laugh at the amateur detective in stories like the ones Miss Marple stars in, because it is hard to believe that one person would encounter so many murders in their lifetime and in a small village, but the world being what it is, should we laugh? The world is an evil place and bad things happen all the time. It is not enough to simply blame the nature of the world. It is human nature that causes a lot of the evil witnessed day in and day out.

The profound thing about Miss Marple stories is that the murder, no matter how strange, in each case reminds her of another event in the history of the village. No matter how bizarre or brutal the case may be, it bares similarities to other—perhaps more common place and less dastardly—relational problems others have faced.

And that is the nature of evil in the world. For every terrible, newsworthy atrocity there are dozens of similar albeit less intense evils occurring. For all the talk of the devil wreaking havoc, the problem is often carried out by man with no outside help whatsoever.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Would I Know Enough To Know You?

In the late eighties and early nineties, Wayne Watson was a staple of CCM music. He never really did much outside of strictly “Evangelical Ghetto” circles, but that was due to the fact that his style is completely churchy and that in an eighties way. In spite of that, he had some good songs with special messages worth considering.

One such song was “Would I Know You” off of his “Watercolour Ponies” record. It is a reflective song addressing the opening question: “Would I know You now, if You walked into the room?” It is a valid question, and the answer for most Christians today would have to be maybe at best, or more probably, not.

Why is it we all have the same mental image of the physical Jesus? Some not only just point out that irony, but try to draw attention to it by framing Jesus completely out of the typecast white guy with a beard. A better occupation would be to get completely away from the physical appearance of Jesus and address His person.

In the late eighteen hundreds, Charles Sheldon started the Social Gospel movement and penned the novel “In His Steps.” It built an ethos around the question: “What would Jesus do?” That is the more important way that most Christians would not recognize Jesus today. Instead of seeking to live by the mantra: “What did Jesus Do?” we have changed from a desire to study God’s Word and live by it to an attempt to imagine what Jesus would do in present circumstances.

The question in the end is: do you follow the Jesus of Scripture or the Jesus of your own sensibilities and, would you know either one of them if they walked in the room?

Monday, February 2, 2009

2 Thessalonians 1:1-12 (An Inadequate Exegisis)

OK. This passage is a tough one to swallow. Maybe it is incorrect presuppositions. Maybe it is the postmodern sensibilities creeping in. Who knows?

What is the big deal? It is difficult to think about God, in the current evangelical climate with all emphasis on His attribute of love, as a God who acts out of His attribute of justice. Or maybe it would be better to say that we find it hard to see people being punished. No… the real hang-up I have here is thinking that sinners who treat me badly should be treated badly by God. They are sinners after all. They don’t know any better. The easier thing would be to imagine God repaying other “Christians” for the way they treat the brethren. That is all too common and seems just.

The fact is, though, that the Bible does teach that God is a just God, and that all of us (save by God’s grace) deserve punishment. Our sin is evil and God’s punishment is not revenge but rather justice. Just because we focus so much on His love; and we have a hard time recognizing right and wrong and seeing a need for guilt and consequences in this postmodern culture, does not make it any less true.

(Another problem for this passage today is the way it (and its teaching) has been distorted by Liberation Theology.)

So read 2 Thessalonians chapter 1 and see what you think. Maybe the problem is just mine.

(By the way, this is another faith, love, and hope passage.)
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