Monday, November 30, 2009

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (Discipline in Liberty)

Here is one of the two spots in the Bible where athletes perk up and take notice. We can all identify with what Paul is saying here. Practice makes perfect. Training brings improvement. When we are disciplined in something, we devote time and energy to it; we work at it. Change habits and do away with the things that are unproductive and repeat the actions that help us achieve our goals. Whether it is shooting baskets, hitting golf balls, running ever increasing lengths, doing scales or playing the same video game over and over again; we all have had goals that we have strived to reach.

Paul says that the Christian life is the same sort of thing. We have been given everything we will ever need. We are free in Christ. In spite of that freedom, however, we still work at living a life that will be pleasing to God and a benefit to those around us. We limit our freedom and discipline ourselves to habits and lifestyles that will help us to better be used of God to affect the lives of others.

In that sense, our goal is not heaven. That is our destination, but it is guaranteed. Our goal here in this life is to love those around us the way God loves. We strive to build other believers up and to lead non-believers to a realization that God is indeed there and He is speaking. With that goal in mind our personal goal should be to train ourselves to effectively live the life that God desires.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Terminal

Spielberg in the 00s Previous: Catch Me If You Can Next: War of the Worlds

Tom Hanks may have been one of the most easily likable actors in America at some point… sort of a modern day Jimmy Stewart. But even likeability doesn’t make up for lack of compelling story. In 2000, Robert Zemeckis decided to attempt making a movie with only one character where nothing happened. Obviously, he had to use an actor that America would flock to see even in such a snooze inducing premise. They did, and it was critically acclaimed. None of that changed the fact that it was a story with one character where nothing happened…

Spielberg decided to follow up his first couple of efforts directing Hanks with a similar project. Based as loosely as possible on the story of a man who lived for years in an airport terminal, he cast Hanks in another story where he would be trapped in one place. Even though this time he was surrounded by people, it is still a story about a man who can’t go anywhere and where, as a result, very little happens.

That being said, this is a much better film than Cast Away. The situations and the characters are much more compelling. It also happens to be one of the best case studies of culture shock ever filmed. This is often what it feels like to encounter a different culture. There is confusion, fear, and a longing for something familiar. For most of the world, outside of North America, this is a common human experience. In most of the world, multiple cultures come into regular contact and have to learn to interact in a productive way. As it happens with more frequency in the United States, will we make it past the fear and confusion stage?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Charlie Brown and Chex Mix

Last week we sat the kids down to a treat from our own childhoods: an evening of Chex Mix and Charlie Brown. Of course, while it was a special family evening that they will hopefully remember as fondly as we did such evenings, it was limited to just that—a family moment. When we were kids in the late seventies, such an evening would have been a nationwide moment. Sometimes nostalgia is silly. Who would ever wish to go back to the days when everyone was limited to the same three channels from which to choose?

Today we can custom design our kids viewing and plan our lives around things we find important, not the television schedule. I remember vividly a moment, riding in the back window of the family car, when I imagined how cool it would be able to pause and record live TV. Now some thirty yeas later, we can and it should make our lives so much better. No longer do we need to plan our lives around things we want to see. Of course, in many ways it has made us even more slavish to entertainment. Sort of like the way all of our work saving devices have freed us up to work even more.

Then there is the value of having events and things that we do when they need to be done and not at our convenience. Just as watching Peanuts Specials when they came on as a kid was in some ways more special than popping in a DVD today, some things in life need to be done on schedule. Every day should be a day when we thank God for the things we have. Still, it is also appropriate to take this one day each year and set it completely aside as a day of thanksgiving. There is something special about doing out of the ordinary things, preparing for the day long in advance, and traveling to be with family and friends to celebrate.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How To Do Christmas Music

Some people are amazed that anyone could start listening to Christmas music a whole month out from the actual day, let alone for 8 or more weeks. It is actually done—sometimes exclusively—for the last couple months of the year. There are a few tricks to doing it right, and it is the considered opinion of this blog that anyone attempting to achieve this feat must prepare for and work up to it slowly. Otherwise permanent damage can occur that could render the person unable to listen to Christmas music again with any sort of enjoyment.

It used to be that a person had to work hard utilizing multiple CDs and a multi-disk player with a randomizer or, even worse, a cassette recorder to generate the needed randomness and mixture of songs needed for such a long period of time. However, today programs such as iTunes are a tremendous help and have made such musical marathons the sort of thing that nearly everyone can work their way up to.

The serious person wanting to engage in exclusive holiday ambiance for a whole month (or the ambitious, desiring the entire post-Halloween stretch) should really consider working up to the feat over a period of a few to several years. It is recommended that they begin by purchasing one or two albums a year and build up their collection. Early purchases should include classics from ones childhood years and a few newer albums from artists one is currently fond of. After some time and a handful of solid album choices, one should move on to buying several individual tracks a year to beef up the collection. Some 300 tracks should ensure that one can go an entire day on random and only hear each track once.

A few more tips that might be helpful:

Consider having multiple versions and interpretations of the same song. Especially such often recorded classics as “White Christmas” and “Silent Night.”

Try to achieve a good balance between religious songs and more secular “just for fun” songs. Make sure some of your songs are of the simply “winter” variety like: “Sleigh Ride” and “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”

Be sure to have a few of the less popular of songs like “’Zat you, Santa Claus?” and “Christmas Time is Here.”

Start out mixing Christmas and non-Christmas songs together further out and working your way up to just Christmas songs in the last week for the first couple of years.

And, most importantly:

Never listen to a Christmas Song between December 26th and October 31st!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Initial Thoughts on Stockholm Syndrome

One of the founding principles of the Baptist branch of the Christian faith is the separation of Church and State. You know that thing called the Bill of Rights? You can thank Baptists for that. Unfortunately, you would probably have a hard time finding more than a couple Baptists out of 100 who still believe that. They have been led away from that ideal by a couple decades of false teaching.

That teaching says that the true measure of our faith lies not in how we live or behave, but in how “Christian” our country is. Therefore, it is our Christian duty to make sure that the whole world lives the way we believe they should, not by changing their hearts, but by imposing laws. For example, some Christians think you shouldn’t drink, so it needs to be illegal to drink or at least sell alcohol.

The only problem with this mentality is that it causes us to devote energy and time into trying to make sinners live like saved people by force. That is problematic because (a) it doesn’t work, and (b) it takes energy away from the things we should be doing like changing hearts and serving peoples needs out of love.

One of the things generating these thoughts today is the discussion of Derek Webb’s latest efforts, especially his song “What Matters Most.” In it, he vents his anger against the church, going so far as to say that we seem to not give a s--- that people are dying every day from starvation because we are so busy hating homosexuals. There are three things that need to be said about that:

(1) While not every Christian hates homosexuals, far too many people in the Evangelical Ghetto do. They think that sins are ranked into degrees of “badness” and homosexuality is the worst. They forget that it is simply another sin and that homosexuals are loved by Jesus too and that He died for them as well. Far too much effort has been channeled into hating, demonizing, and politically fighting the homosexual movement that could have been better spent in loving them and trying to bring Jesus to them.

(2) Derek clouded the issue with his choice of words. In that same Evangelical Ghetto where Homosexuality is sin number 1, profanity is a close second. We would much rather have closeted adulterers in our churches than people who openly choose to talk about excrement, unless they use words like “poop” or “number 2.” If he had used common phrases like “give a s---” to communicate with the lost culture, they would have understood what he was saying right away, but since he is preaching to the American Church he sabotaged his own message.

(3) If you get past all the cultural walls in the song that make it hard for the target audience to hear what he is saying, he may have a point. How spoiled has the church become in America? Everywhere in the world, the church has to live out their lives every day in a world full of open sin. Often, the belief they hold endangers their lives. They have to learn to live their faith in the face of that sin and learn to hold to what they believe for real. Instead, in America, the church is offended when the sinful world doesn’t have a problem with sin. Instead of holding to what we believe in a sea of sin, loving the world with Christ’s love; we have been taught to “stand” for what we believe and try to force sinners to live by saved standards. Often that translates into something that is not loving but rather attacking.

Monday, November 23, 2009

1 Corinthians 9:15-23 (Every Christian Should Try To Be Cross Cultural)

The other day pastor mentioned that every person involved in church efforts is doing so voluntarily. His point was, even the paid staff have the option to go somewhere else or get a different job. That may be true, but Paul says that Christians are under a compulsion to tell people the truth. Think about it. If you new that everyone you knew and met was headed for a completely avoidable disaster, what kind of monster would you have to be to not warn people? If you truly believe the message of the Gospel, how can you not tell people?

Paul goes so far as to say that we should do whatever we can to spread the word. We need to reach people wherever they are. We need to infiltrate every culture simply to have a chance to tell people what we know. This is not just a call for a few “super-Christians.” Paul calls on all his readers to do what he is doing.

This is what cross-cultural ministers do as a specialty. They go to a culture that is not their own and try to become a part of that culture. This is also what all Christians should be doing, even those not “called” to cross-cultural ministry. There is still a need to reach people of your own culture.

Of course, for many Christians, there is an implicit need to be cross-cultural. The culture of most non-Christians anywhere in the world is completely foreign to that of Evangelical-Bible-Belt-Christianity. So there is at least one cultural line that needs to be crossed. Unless--of course—you are trying to reach the lost people inside that Evangelical-Bible-Belt-Christian culture. There are a lot of people there who need to hear the Gospel too.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Catch Me If You Can

Spielberg in the 00s Previous: Minority Report Next: The Terminal

Mainly known for his hugely popular, but well made and critically acclaimed blockbusters, or for his serious, dramatic takes of important historical events, Spielberg has also of late tackled some “lesser” stories. Not as epic, nor as dazzling, they are nevertheless further evidence that he is a great director. Curiously, Spielberg’s success has caused him to sometimes be seen as less of an artist. However, any way you look at it—be it critical acclaim or financial success—he remains one of the most acclaimed director’s ever.

One of his “smaller” films came in 2002’s Catch Me If You Can. It is an historic tale, and it is based on true events, but it is small in its scope. It tells the story of a teen-age con man in the sixties who managed to fool a lot of people into thinking that he was a pilot or a doctor. Go deeper, however, and it is a story about a son trying to impress his father and bring his parent’s back together after their divorce. In that, it is fully in keeping with a lot of Spielberg’s movies, as they tend to focus on father-son relationships.

A couple of the things that make this a stand-out film are the opening titles sequence and the music. The titles probably belong on a top ten list. (An interesting idea, we may have to come up with one in the future.) The music—as is normal for Spielberg—is provided by John Williams, but in a way he has not done before. He sounds as if he is trying to channel Mancini, so you have one of the best composers in film imitating another of the best.

(Beware of Spoiler)

One of the more interesting moments in the story comes after Frank has been caught and put to work for the government. He gives in to temptation once again and goes for a trip as a “pilot.” With his father gone and no one chasing him, he quickly comes back to work again. Sometimes the only thing driving us to do the forbidden is because it is forbidden.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Doctor Who and God's Sovreignty

David Tennant is nearing the end of the most successful run for an actor playing the Doctor since Tom Baker’s first four years. All of Doctor Who fandom is awaiting Christmas Day with a mixture of anticipation and dread. This past Sunday, fans were treated to the next step in that eventual end with the latest episode, “The Waters of Mars.” It was, as always, exciting, moving, and pretty scary for a family show.

One of the big issues raised in this episode was the idea of fixed points in time. How if the idea of time travel were possible, that it would put history in flux, but that certain events in history are set and must occur no matter what. This “time travel” speculation has been particularly popular lately, in things like the new Star Trek movie and the series Fringe. Carmen had some interesting thoughts on it related to the film “Déjà Vu,” and Ted Dekker’s latest book “Green” built its whole this-is-the-beginning-AND-the-end premise on it. (Somewhat problematically for both its theology and plot.) When you look beyond the sci-fi nature of this thought, it can also relate to the idea of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will in history.

How does this paradox work? How can God be in control of history and mankind have free will at the same time? There is one train of thought that says that God will accomplish His plans, regardless of man’s cooperation. Say God wants a certain group of people to hear His message and He calls you to go tell them. If you say no, He will accomplish His plans through someone else. God is not dependant on man’s will to do what He wants. That being said, how sad would it be for you to be selected by God for a task and miss out on it and the blessings that go with it because you were to deaf or scared to trust Him and go?

In that sense, history really is more like a river. There may be little obstacles that divert a portion of the river and create little ripples, but the flow of history will always stay on track and go where it is intended, according to God’s plan.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thoughts on Thanksgiving, Buß und Bettag, and Government Spirituality

The United States is unique in its celebration of Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of every November. Does the fact that the whole country takes a day every year to thank God for His blessings somehow make the U.S. more spiritual?

The Free State of Saxony is the only state left in Germanic Europe that still celebrates Buß und Bettag every November, and if anything they are among the most secular states in Germany. Buß und Bettag is a day of prayer and repentance based on the act of repentance that the city of Nineveh carried out when Jonah warned them of God’s judgment. They actually pay a little from their paychecks every year to be able to celebrate the holiday. In spite of that, very little repentance goes on in Saxony that day. Just today in Dresden West (an area with nearly 100,000 inhabitants) an ecumenical service involving all churches in the area boasted less than 200 worshipers. (Based on the cobwebs on the pews in the sanctuary, it was a large attendance for the main Lutheran sanctuary that hosted.)

The point is secular proclamations of spiritual celebrations do nothing for the actual spiritual condition of the governed. Thanksgiving is basically a secular holiday built around family, feasting and football. That is not necessarily a bad thing; it simply does no good to pretend that the holiday is spiritual or Christian. Christians no doubt do make their own celebrations a spiritual matter, but hopefully they exercise thanksgiving more than once a year!

In a similar way, the fight to get government to “bring prayer back into schools” is sort of silly. Prayer will never leave schools as long as Christians are attending. (If home-school-ers have their way, then maybe eventually prayer will in fact completely leave schools.) The only thing officially, government sponsored prayer in school would achieve is a watered down, all inclusive, non-sense form of prayer, and who wants that? Remember that service shortly after 911? “In the name of the god of Abraham, Mohammed, and Jesus Christ…”

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Revelation: Scripture vs. Mysticism Part 3 (Be a Berean)

For part 2 (No Mind Numbed Robots!)see here.

So where is the balance found between a total head knowledge/ Bible information approach to knowing God’s will and the completely subjective/ I’ll do what God “tells” me to do version? In the happy medium of course. (That is medium as in average sense, not the fortune-teller sense…)

There is little to be gained in studying the Bible just to KNOW what it says. The knowledge needs to be brought into every aspect of life and applied. However, there is still a need to know what it says. How can we apply what the Bible teaches if we are clueless about what it says? So read the Bible regularly and often. Then, when times come for decisions to be made, you will have an understanding of the things of God that you can apply, even to situations not specifically addressed in the Scripture.

There is even a Biblical precedent for this approach. In Acts 17, Paul taught in the city of Berea. The people there accepted his teaching, but only after holding it up to the Scripture they had to see if it rang true. Today, if someone claims to have a divine word for the church or a local congregation, their message needs to be heard, but carefully scrutinized to see that it lines up with what we already have from Scripture.

On a personal level, if you have an impression that God is telling you something, you need to test that “message” to be sure it does not contradict something God has already told you through His word. The history of the church is not all that full with new messages from God that were more than just reminders of things He had already spoken in the Bible. On the other hand, it is full of prophets claiming to have new revelation from God that have begun many a cult or a false church.

Monday, November 16, 2009

1 Corinthians 9:1-14 (Vocational Ministry)

Paul continues his argument that, as Christians, we often have to sacrifice our freedom and rights for the sake of others. Specifically here he speaks of the right that church leaders have to earn their living from ministry.

Ever hear somebody say that they can’t believe that they get paid for doing something that they love to do? There are some ministers of the Gospel who feel this way. There are a lot more Christians who feel this way about some ministers of the Gospel! Sometimes “the Gospel” is just an excuse for people to get a paycheck. There are lots of pastors and “professional Christians” who give the dedicated a bad name.

More often the opposite is the case. There are tons of pastors and missionaries who work more than they should, neglecting their own spiritual and physical health, their marriages and children. Sometimes this is done out of a sense of responsibility, and a higher understanding of their own worth and value for the Gospel. They forget that God does the most work and delivers the most results. Other times, it is done out of a completely non-spiritual reason—power. There are plenty of pastors out there who were never called of God; they just like having power.

Either way, Paul here says that he has never earned his living from the churches he planted. He could, but he doesn’t. Most models of missions today don’t either. They are supported by established churches and not the new work. Sometimes that is bad in that the new work never learns to support their own leadership. On the other hand, “new” models of church require less money than “traditional” ones.

Friday, November 13, 2009

To Cheryl

When God made the rose,
He was swept ahead in time,
For He had looked at your face,
And stared into your eyes.
He had fashioned you, long before,
But saved you ‘till such a day,
That a man could learn what true beauty was…

Meet you, and still be amazed.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hateful Hypocrisy

When you boil it down to its most basic terms, the function of government is to protect its citizenry. It does this in two basic ways: maintaining a fighting force that deters other governments and groups from attacking, and regulating the behavior of people that could harm other people (such as murder or reckless driving.)

Beyond this function, some would say that government has little more to do. People should be free and if what they are doing is not impacting others harmfully, then they should be allowed to do what they want. Unfortunately, most people try to use government to impose their thinking on others. They make laws telling people how they should live, what they can drink, and how much money they can make and in extreme cases what they are allowed to believe. These people also tend to be the types who favor using taxation to not just keep the government running, but also take money away from those deemed less deserving and redistribute it around.

All this leads to the craziest use of government to impose ideology: hate crime. In our culture today, it is not evil enough that someone would commit murder. In fact, we shy away from deeming anything evil at all. Dr. Phil and others have even tried to “justify” the killings at Fort Hood this week by diagnosing the shooter as mentally ill. The one exception to this rule is when the powers that be decide that the killing was done in hate. (Is there a lot of killing today that is not motivated by hate?) The thought is, if someone commits murder they should be punished; if they commit murder motivated by “hate” they should be punished harder.

Of course, what society deems “hate” is highly subjective. White on black crime is hate. Straight on gay crime is hate. Muslim extremist crime on innocent bystanders is not. That has to be mental illness and probably our whole culture’s fault—because there is no such thing as an evil or hateful Muslim. Whatever you do, don’t call such crimes terrorist acts. That in and of itself would constitute religious discrimination.

The fact is that racists, sexists and yes, often religious fundamentalists are full of hate. However, the government’s job is to protect people from their hate preemptively where possible and punish their actions where it isn’t—not to be some sort of thought police.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Revelation: Scripture vs. Mysticism Part 2 (No Mind Numbed Robots!)

(For Part 1: Tossing the Baby Out With the Bathwater see here.)

Plenty of Christians begin their stories today with the phrase: “God told me to…” This is a hugely problematic way of thinking for a couple of reasons.

1. It implies (and is often intended to mean) that God is almost audibly talking to them. He can do such a thing but it is far from the normal way for God to instruct people.

2. It is a way for people to make their beliefs, plans or actions unquestionable. You may think they should not be doing what they are doing or planning, but how do you dare question God?

Throughout scripture and history it seems that God wants for His children to think for themselves. Yes, He wants to use them and yes, He wants them to live as He desires, but He does not want robots responding to instruction. He wants free beings voluntarily operating in His love and with the intelligence with which they have been created.

As Nero Wolf often tells his right hand man Archie, when there are no explicit instructions: “Use your intelligence guided by experience.”

In the Bible, God has given humanity every revelation they need to know Him and to know how they should live under His authority and with each other. He can and does work directly in people’s lives even giving specific instructions at times, but that is an exception. We need far less God-told-me-to’s and much more careful action following lots of familiarity with scripture, prayer and thought.

Part 2: (Be a Berean)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Green by Ted Dekker


Thomas Nelson Publisher



In the tradition of spiritual fantasy fiction such as Lewis’ Science Fiction Trilogy, comes a story of the far future connected to the near future by a man named Thomas Hunter. It is the story of an apocalyptic world inhabited by diseased humanity, truly evil monsters, and a small band of normal humans holding to their community and beliefs against great odds.

This book claims to be something rare or perhaps unheard of in literature: part of a true cycle. This volume is part four or, if you prefer, part one. This review is coming from the perspective of Green as the beginning.

Dekker successfully creates a world that is strange and yet accessible—even to someone unfamiliar with the previous books. However, unlike some other fantasy novelists, he doesn’t create a world where one would like to live or even spend a lot of time. It is a testament to his writing ability that the reader does spend so much time there, in fact. Part of the actual appeal of the novel is the effective way he communicates spiritual concepts in an effective symbolism. Issues important to the Christian church today are presented in subtle (and some not so subtle) ways.

As to the high concept beginning/ending nature of the book? To be honest it leaves a little to be desired. Maybe it is more fulfilling to someone who is reading Green after Black, Red and White.


-- -- -- -- --

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, November 8, 2009

1 Corinthinas 8:1-13 (Knowledge vs. Love)

We can know a lot. God has provided His people with intelligence and a wealth of special revelation. Combine the two and you have all you need to be able to understand what God’s will is concerning your behavior in just about any situation. However, understanding the issues is not always the best way to decide a course of action. Here Paul teaches us the difference between knowledge and love.

Knowledge tells us that spiritual forces are mere creatures, just like us. They are not to be worshiped, feared or really to concern us much. We should not go through life fearing gods, or even seeing a demon behind every little thing in life. They may be there, but should not dominate our thoughts. They can do us no serious harm unless we show them too much respect or give them influence over us.

However, not all of our fellow Christians understand this. Some Christians live in fear of spiritual matters. Or, for that matter, a lot of Christians have not discovered the freedom they have from God in a lot of issues. They were perhaps enslaved to certain sins or behaviors when they were lost, so now they avoid certain things that in and of themselves are not bad.

How should we react to such “weaknesses?” Should we tell new Christians that they can do the things that were a problem for them before Christ? Or, should we help them not to stumble by limiting our own freedom in these areas where our knowledge tells us we have no reason to fear? Love tells us that we should place other’s needs before our own. We limit ourselves in love.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

1994 in Film

If cinematic years are like boxes of chocolate, then 1994 was a bit of a disappointment. Only a couple of this year’s films make it into my top 100 and there are few 4 and 5 star films at all. Forrest Gump was a rare mixture of visual delight and good storytelling, but a lot of the other critically acclaimed movies from this year lack this mix. Most are cinematically fun or interesting, but the stories do not bring you back again and again. Some good choices that did not make my list? Star Trek Generations, The Crow, Quiz Show, and Interview with a Vampire. For fans of bathroom humor in film, Dumb and Dumber has one scene that works, the rest is forgettable.

(Updated 2012)

Top 10 Personal Movies of 1994
1. Forrest Gump
2. The Shawshank Redemption
3. Stargate (Dropped from 2)
4. The Lion King (Dropped from 3)
5. Little Women (Dropped from 4)
6. True Lies (Dropped from 5)
7. Leon (Dropped from 6)
8. Pulp Fiction (Dropped from 7)
9. Clear and Present Danger (Dropped from 8)
10. Maverick
11. Ed Wood (Dropped from 9)

Bottom 5 Personal Movies of 1994
1. Four Weddings and a Funeral
2. North
3. Clerks
4. Surviving the Game
5. Nadja

Top Movies I still Want to See or Revisit
The Shawshank Redemption (seen, see above)
Heavenly Creatures
The Hudsucker Proxy (seen)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Top Films: Minority Report

Spielberg in the 00s Next: Catch Me If You Can

America has somewhere around 5,000 unsolved murders a year. A story in the German press today revealed that maybe as many as one to two thousand murders a year go unsolved because they are never recognized as murders in the first place. Sort of pops the childhood fantasy that no bad guy ever gets away, huh?

One of Spielberg’s best movies of the past ten years (possibly among his best ever) presents a world in which this problem has been eliminated. No one ever has to fear violent crime anymore. Instead, they have to fear being arrested and locked away for life for things they have never done.

Minority Report is one of those gems of a Sci-fi film that is entertaining, visually stunning, and makes you think. It is so layered and rich that upon each new viewing one discovers more things to love, more things to think about.

Early on in the film, a debate occurs regarding the fundamental paradox of the film:

WITWER
I'm sure you've all grasped the legalistic drawback to Precrime methodology. Look, I'm not with the ACLU on this. But let's not kid ourselves, we are arresting individuals who've broken no law.

JAD
But they will.

FLETCHER
The commission of the crime itself is absolute metaphysics. The Precogs see the future. And they're never wrong.

WITWER
But it's not the future if you stop it. Isn't that a fundamental paradox?

ANDERTON
Yes, it is.

Later on, Chief Anderton himself is “accused” of a future crime and has to question the beliefs that he has embraced for so long. How can the future exist when people have free will?

In addition to the great concept behind the film, it is full of well-directed action set pieces, has an amazing cinematography and look, and many great iconic moments. If you haven’t given this film a chance, you need to. If you did see it and it’s been a while, you need to give it another try. You may be surprised by what a second or third viewing will show you.

Here are few questions used years ago in conjunction with a viewing we did of it:

Why is the future in The Minority Report scarier than our present world full of murder?

Is safety a reward worth the price of limited freedom?

What does the Bible say about us knowing our future? (Deuteronomy 18:9-13)

Could God have created a world with no evil and sin? Why didn’t He?

Why did God give us a choice in the garden, knowing we would choose against Him?

Does the Bible teach that God controls everything, or that He lets us choose our own way freely?

What does John Anderton’s eye exchange symbolize in the movie?

How do we need to change our perspective to please God?

Is Danny Witwer a good guy or a bad guy?

The prison in the movie is presented as a kind of “church.” How does it resemble real church? In what ways should church be different?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Revelation: Scripture vs. Mysticism Part 1 (Tossing the Baby Out With the Bathwater.)

Ever say something you didn’t quite mean in reaction to something you disagreed with? Go to far to make a point? Maybe that’s what this was.

A man I know has come to the point where he sees that the Church’s biggest problem is that most have turned to a Hellenistic model of head knowledge valued over everything else. However, instead of calling for a more Biblical model of discipleship built on obedience rather than knowledge, he is calling for radical turning to God—directly and largely bypassing the Bible. He insists that the Church should just come to God in silence and wait for Him to speak to their hearts. No more Bible Study. No more organized or preplanned approaches. No more leaders. Just everyone tapped into God speaking directly to the body. Someone gets a word; they share it.

In principle this may not be all bad. However, what about new Christians who are not familiar enough with God’s special revelation to know the principles of spiritual living? What about all the false signals that are bound to be received?

Yes the church in the world today is an imperfect mixture of the saved and the fakers—but tossing out the scripture is not the answer to that problem. Scripture is not the problem. Interpretations of Scripture, approaches that elevate head knowledge are the problem.

Part 2 (No Mind Numbed Robots!)
Part 3 (Be a Berean)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Year of Obama

(The politics of the playground or why peer pressure is not good foreign policy.)

Foreign policy can be seen as a playground or a schoolyard full of children, only without any teachers or authority figures to control the chaos. It is a lot like the Lord of the Flies. There are rich kids and poor kids. Strong kids and weak kids. Those that try to force their will on others and occasionally those who stand up for others. There used to be two big kids on the playground and everyone else had to choose a side or try to find a corner off by themselves. The two kids had radically different ideas of how to interact with others and how to stay healthy.

Twenty years ago, one of the kids became too unhealthy to hold its position and the world was left with one rich kid powerful enough to control a lot of what went on in the playground. It used that power to try to protect other kids from bullies and yes, protect its own interests on the playground. However, as is often the case the other kids resented that and accused the big kid on the block of being a bully. They had long ago formed a club to protect all the interests on the playground, but lacked the courage to tell true bullies and violent kids they couldn’t belong. Now that club existed largely to protect bullies and try to get the rich kids money away from him.

The basic role of any government in this “playground” of a world is to protect its citizens. Other may argue for additional roles, but anyone should acknowledge this basic function. The problem today is twofold. The US has elected a leader who is immature and cares about peer pressure, and the US has elected a leader who believes that that other super power who withered away 20 years ago had a better plan than the United States for how to rule its citizenry.

As a result, we have had a year of a President who has seen his primary tasks as running around the world telling all who will listen how bad we are instead of protecting our interests, and doing all he can at home to take away freedoms left and right trying to have the government take over as much of the private sector as possible.

This would all be fine if he were just a private citizen expressing and trying to forward his private views. He is not. He has taken an oath as President to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” In that task he has failed woefully.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Tough Task of TCK Parenting

One of the hardest aspects of cross-cultural life is parenting. It is one thing to make sacrifices and put yourself through hardship, but quite another to do so to your children.

Everyone knows a kid who shows up to school for the first few days or weeks crying, and eventually they adjust and are fine. However, when that kid is living cross-culturally there is always the nagging doubt: would they be having a hard time if they weren’t required to make the additional adjustments? The answer is probably yes, but it is still hard to put a kid through that.

TCKs consistently have to make huge adjustments. They live under more stress and feelings of alienation than “normal” kids. They have parents who are always a little “clueless” and therefore miss out on some things other kids get to do. They tend to leave places and have to make new friends a lot. They don’t open up to people because they doubt they will know them long enough. This is tough on the parents, perhaps even more than it is on the kids. One of the more significant reasons cross-cultural workers drop out and go home is child related.

On the other hand, parents of TCKs can know that it is not all bad, and often the hard times serve to make their children stronger, more capable people later in life. They are adaptable. They are survivors. They can make do and even thrive in any situation. They are cultural experts. They know multiple languages and can learn new ones easier. Kids growing up in single cultures could have just as many problems with none of the benefits.

Growing up in another culture can be like living in a crucible, but the process can really be a purifying perfecting one as well. If you fell like God has called you to that sort of life, trust Him to use it to the benefit of your children as well.

1 Corinthians 7:1-40 (Missional Marriage)

Here Paul begins to answer questions put to him by the church, and here we see a clear way that Paul’s writings are Missional textbooks. How do we apply scriptural truth to instances the Church faces in cultures and times the Biblical writers never faced?

What do a bunch of people do who’ve suddenly become Christians and formed a church? Some are single. Some are married. Some have spouses who do not believe.

Paul’s approach is to first make the Biblical teaching on marriage clear to the church. God created marriage. It is not wrong. Marriage is for life and divorce is wrong. He then also expands the teaching by applying truth to their situation. People should remain in the state they are when they are saved. If married, they should stay married if their spouse will consent to stay. If single, then stay single. Paul points out that being single is a tremendous advantage for Missional, kingdom living. A single person can devote all of their energy to advancing the Kingdom of God. However, since singleness is not for everyone and marriage is a good thing too, it is all right to marry as a Christian.

As to people becoming Christians with unchristian spouses? The kingdom is expanded through relationships. Perhaps the influence of the Christian spouse will help the unsaved person see the light… the same way a lot of children of Christians become Christian.

In the end, everything is about spreading the Gospel.
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