Friday, April 30, 2010

Wes Craven's New Nightmare

Ten years and five sequels after his original film, Wes Craven returned to the Nightmare series. He had never intended it to be a series, and did not like the silly, slasher direction the series had taken either. This film returns to the menacing and scary ideas that the original had addressed, but also made some pointed comments on the direction horror films in general and the Nightmare series had taken in the eighties and early nineties.

This film takes the “meta” approach. The actors and crew from the original Nightmare play themselves. In it, a real demon has become enamored with Craven’s imaginary creation, and now embodies the monster from the films in the real world. Just as in the original film, fear itself is powerful and dangerous. Here, the adoration of the Freddy fandom also plays a part in giving the evil its power. As with Craven’s earlier film, the ideas are compelling, but the film itself fails ultimately to truly deliver.

The legacy of this film is that it began the process of questioning the eighties horror trend: Why it was so popular?—What did it say about our society?—and What is truly scary? Scream would follow just a couple of years later, carrying on the commentary of the cultural horror obsession.

Even more interesting is the philosophical stance of the film. A couple of years earlier, the film Candyman had taken a similar approach to horror. In it a monster existed due to the very belief of the community it terrorized. It is a horror approach to Philosophy of Religion. Belief can be a very powerful thing. Even when a belief is based on a lie, when enough people believe something it can affect the world through the actions of the people who believe it. Every religion in the world relies on the control it holds over people.

That is why the message of the Bible was rescued from religious interpretation in the reformation. God has come to humanity offering forgiveness and relationship, not fees and religion. In fact, the Biblical understanding of religious systems could be seen as reflecting the same ideas of this movie. They are the teachings and institutions devised by evil spiritual forces to distract people from the real solution to the alienation they feel.

Actually all that is probably way too much thought devoted to a mildly clever horror story. What are the odds today’s Platinum Dunes will generate any intelligent ideas at all? Not that great.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Is Satan in the Catholic Church?

A few weeks ago, the head exorcist for the Vatican, Father Gabriele Amorth, made the startling revelation that Satan himself is deeply ensconced in the Catholic Church. As interesting as that story is, it also gives rise a lot of questions and thoughts.

The context of the story is, of course, the ever increasing news of child molestations in the Catholic Church. Child Molesters are more than just bad people. These days they are the best representation of evil on earth. They are like the Vampire scares that plagued the culture and the church during the late Middle Ages, only they are real monsters not imagined ones. Our culture today is obsessed with and in a state of paranoia with regards to sexual criminals these days, but do we think that it would take demonic influence to make someone engage in this sort of evil?

For far too long, (at least since 1973 and that movie with Linda Blair) religious people have been more and more interested in demonic activity. Evangelicals really caught the bug when Frank Peretti released his entertaining book: This Present Darkness. The problem is that people began to see demons behind every rock. There was a time in the late eighties where the teaching seemed to be that there was demonic influence behind every act of sin committed on earth. That is simply not Biblical.

To be sure, there are fallen spiritual beings. Demons do exist. However, people do bad things because people are sinners. We all are. We are quite capable of doing very bad things all on our own. If we weren’t, how could we be held accountable for the sins we commit? The amazing thing is when we consider that it was a result these evil things we do on a daily basis that Jesus died on the cross. He loved all of us sinners so much that he died for us, even the child molesters.

Of course, part of Father Amorth’s argument that the devil is in the Vatican is that many leaders there do not even believe in Jesus. Here he agrees with a lot of critics of the Catholic Church throughout the years. It has ceased to be God’s Church and is merely a human institution. If that is the case, do we really think Satan would waste any time, effort, or personnel on corrupting it? By that same token, how institutional have other denominations in Christianity become?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wedding Song

I’ve heard how Love,
Gave Himself up.
That’s something I can’t comprehend.
I’ve accepted love,
Right from his heart,
He’ll keep me to the end.

But until now,
I could not see,
How love like that could ever be,
And with this ring,
You’ll stay in my heart,
Forever faithfully.

Sickness nor health,
Hunger nor wealth,
Will not change who we are.
One in God’s eyes,
United our lives,
A picture of Church and Christ.

Together we will grow,
And our love will show,
How Christ came to give us life.
Together we will know,
And time will show,
It’s not what we do that brings us life,
Or love.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Entertaining Experts or Daft Draft Divinations

Living in Germany you often are slightly behind the times, at least when it comes to popular culture. Sometimes this can lead to some real entertainment, as it did last week during the NFL draft.

By the time ESPN America began running the “draft prediction” shows the decisions had already been made. So, sitting in front of the TV with results in hand, I laughed again and again as the “experts” made their predictions and told us what was going to happen in a few hours time. They all pretty much stunk at prognosticating.

Let’s face it. We can not see into the future. Stock brokers, Las Vegas, and climatologists are all just educated guessers (or con-men with political agendas in the case of the later.) We simply can’t help ourselves, though. We keep trying.

It is the sign of a good leader, we are told. Leaders set goals and goals involve time-lines and measurable results. If we aren’t careful we can let our plans become self-fulfilling prophecies and miss out on something better that wasn’t allowed to happen because it did not fit into our predictions—sorry—plans.

In our circumstances (involving a company that strives for equal treatment of all employees—and rightly so, but international treaties rendering certain policies useless) we often feel compelled to “map out” our future terms of service. We look for when we have to leave and where kids will be in their academic lives and, before you know it, fifteen years are in the can!

Every once in a while we need to see an “expert” completely embarrass themselves on international television to remind us that we can’t see into the future—and that we could not be in better hands or in a better place than in the call of God’s will.

Monday, April 26, 2010

2 Corinthians 10 (True Spiritual Combat)

A lot of people are enamored with the idea of spiritual warfare. Or perhaps it would be better to say that they are enamored with the popular idea of spiritual warfare. They like the idea of imagining the world in a Frank Peretti mold, or they tend to see an evil spirit behind every rock. They love to go out and engage in confrontations with local spirits in prayer or some other spiritual activity. A better version of spiritual combat is portrayed here by Paul.

In verses three through five, Paul speaks of “taking thoughts captive,” of tearing down strongholds. It is warfare in the realm of ideas. That is a more important thing than most people realize.

Oh sure, there are very real spiritual entities in the world, but the Bible teaches that they are not something that we directly engage. That whole passage about the armor we have; it is a defensive arsenal. And just because someone does something bad does not mean they have a demon sitting on their shoulder that needs to be defeated by us. People’s actions reflect their thoughts. Change the way they think and you might change the way they act.

Paul says that our task in this battle is to tear down the false teaching and lies that people are taught and believe. As Christians, we are to be engaged in dialogue with the world and culture around us.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Avatar on the Small Screen

I wasn’t in any hurry to get Avatar on DVD, and apparently the producers figured that a lot of people had the same idea so they released it this week at incredibly low sales prices. That gave me a chance to put my suspicions to test on this movie.

Avatar was amazing as a cinematic experience. This is something that movie theaters have been after for decades. 3D has long been proposed as the salvation of movies. In the 50s it experienced popularity when theaters were competing with television. It didn’t work then because the technology was so flawed, but that is something people have been working on perfecting since the beginning of cinema. What James Cameron really achieved with Avatar is give people a reason to go back to theaters.

For years now, the film industry has relied on home video/DVD sales to stay alive. That does not help theater chains any, and theaters are where studios make a huge chunk of their dough. Now that Cameron reinvigorated 3D, everyone is jumping on the bandwagon, but that is a mistake. If a movie is not made specifically for 3D, converting it to 3D is nothing more than a gimmick. From the buzz so far, that process will not survive. Movies will have to be made for 3D. That raises issues for the up until now lucrative home video market.

Avatar is once again the place to look for the future. The DVD release is 2D. As a 2D movie, all the fears I have are realized. Stuff that looked great on a giant screen (and in 3D) now looks a little off and… animated. All those people arguing that Avatar should have been considered for best Animated Film were right. We now see just how much of a cartoon this film is. Unfortunately, reduced to a cartoon, all the story flaws now stand out. It is not terrible, but it is no longer as special.

More on Avatar:
Initial Thoughts

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

In some ways Wes Craven has alienated any audience he could have hoped to have as a filmmaker. Non-horror fans think he is just another 80’s horror hack. Those who like horror complain that his films are not scary. The facts seem to show that he is more of a thinker than the genre is used to seeing. In his movies “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare,” we see the evidence of this.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) is a creative concept trapped in a cheap 80s horror film. The dialogue is corny and the acting is pretty bad. To make matters worse, the studio took Craven’s idea and adapted it to the trends being set by Friday the 13th and Halloween. If you take all that away, you would be left with a rather brainy story. (Any hopes that Platinum Dunes will do that very thing next week are razor thin. They are all about flash not ideas.)

At the core of Craven’s idea in Nightmare is the fear of fear itself. Most monsters and dangers faced in scary stories are the sort that we can dismiss as either non-existent or things we can protect ourselves against. In real life, on the other hand, we all struggle with fears. In some ways our whole culture is set up to help us deal with or better yet avoid these fears. What if our fears were more than simple paranoia? What if our nightmares were not the sort we could wake up from?

Ultimately, A Nightmare on Elm Street is just that, a nightmare—a scary story. It was something to have fun with. As the years went on, its sequels lost the scary aspect and concentrated on gross, crass “humor.” Today, a similar trend has emerged, where scares are lost in favor of gore. People have forgotten what it is to truly be chilled by an idea.

It all goes along with the idea presented above. Our culture today is all about denying fear, and along with it any traces of shame and guilt are ignored as well. It is not that these feelings are not to be found, simply that we do not know how to truly deal with them so they are hidden. People entertain themselves with images designed to shock but not scare. They flaunt decency to immunize themselves against shame. They tell themselves over and over again that there are no absolutes so they can convince themselves to ignore the guilt they feel.

That is something we see in A Nightmare on Elm Street as well. Every adult in the story is in denial. They ignore the warnings of their children. They deny any possibility of a real danger. In fact, their denial endangers the children even more. Perhaps the message of the film could be that fear is a serious thing. It is a danger because, unaddressed, it controls us. There is more on that theme to be found in Wes Craven’s next entry into the Nightmare series, ten years later…

Thursday, April 22, 2010

After the Hangover by R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.

After the Hangover is the story of the Conservative Movement, from its inception in the 1960s on through the tough times of 2008 and beyond, all told by someone who was there from the beginning. It is an eye opener for people who may think conservative and Republican are synonymous. It tells the story in such a way that the reader learns not only what the Conservative Movement is all about, but how it changed and lost some of its focus throughout the years. It also shares why there is hope for people who may have thought the dream of small government had died.

The book is great in the way it clarifies what the conservative mindset was and distinguishes that from what a lot of people have since tried to make it. It is not always the easiest read, but considering it summarizes a movement that has been around for half a century with a lot of important but not entirely well known figures, it does a good job. It teaches and informs. People who are fed up with the out of control government we have today would do well to check this book out. Those on either end of the conservative spectrum, from libertarian to traditional, will gain a better understanding for why they need each other and why it is not to late to take a stand for what they want politically.

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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.”

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The River Flows

The river flows through reeds and trees.
It shivers when kissed by the breeze.
The memory of the ice and cold,
Has not faded but winter’s old,
And soon will no more hold its freeze.

As time flows on the birds and bees
Emerge, though cold to buzz or sneeze,
In haste for life before they’re old
The river flows.

Smoke rises gently from chimneys.
Late snow does not scare the pansies.
Spring will come in spite of the cold.
Seasons ripple on, time unfolds.
Regardless how the doubts may tease.
The river flows.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Timeless Aim of NonModern

There is a danger in trends and the words we use to “short-hand” thoughts. Words like Missional, Post-modern, or even less trendy words like Reformed. The problem is (both) that the words cease to be tied to the thoughts that they formed around, and a breakdown in communication evolves.

That is part of the process that originated this blog. The idea behind NonModern is that engaging the culture, any culture, with the Gospel does not mean adapting to the culture. Just because western culture was postmodern for a time, does not mean that the Gospel needed to be adjusted. The Gospel transcends culture, philosophy and fads.

What does need to be adjusted is the way that the Gospel is communicated. For instance, you could go to every corner of the earth and preach the Gospel message in King James English, but that would not communicate well to most people. Some people would argue that is the way to do the ministry of reconciliation, but they would be wrong. It is perfectly appropriate to share what Jesus has done in every local language.

By the same token, there are culturally effective ways to express the truth of the Gospel—just as there are others aspects of American culture that misrepresent what the Bible has to say. So, while the message is not changed, the way that message is shared does change… and that is alright.

However, the other extreme is also a danger to be avoided. Sometimes messengers become so enamored in the sharing of a message that they forget the message itself. People can become too Post-modern to really speak to a Post-modern person in an effective way. Or, even worse, they could so adapt themselves to the Post-modern mindset that they are passed by as the culture naturally moves beyond that mindset.

Every Philosophical movement begins in academia and moves out into the culture. Postmodernism started over 100 years ago, but just made it into the mainstream about 40 years ago. The dirty little secret that a lot of Post-modern “experts” overlook is that it also died as an academic movement a long time ago and that pop-culture is now also beginning to move beyond it.

The aim of NonModern is to be an expert in the message we share, and to remain flexible in the way that it is communicated.

Monday, April 19, 2010

2 Corinthians 8,9 (Notes on Giving)

Once again, the Macedonians (Thessalonians and others) prove to be a great example. In spite of their hard times, they demand to be allowed to give to others. They are used here as an example to spur the Corinthians on to fulfill their own plans to give.

This is not really a passage commanding that the church give. It comes across more as a reminder of the vision that the church in Corinth had. They had made plans to give and committed to do so. Now, Paul is recasting that vision and reminding them to make the preparations to fulfill it when he comes.

Paul sends Timothy and others to help make sure that the job gets done. This is a good and timeless example for churches all over when it comes to leadership. We always need reminding and encouragement to stay on track.

Verse 6 of chapter 9 my look at first glance like some formula for success. It is not. Biblical teaching says that Christian giving is to be done as each individual feels led and out of joy. There is no formula or level of mandatory giving. Jesus and Paul consistently teach that everything we “have” is God’s and we should use all of it for His glory.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

1985 in Film

By the time I saw most of the movies that came out in 1985, I had been living overseas for more than a year. It’s funny to see how many of these stories deal with a “fish out of water” a person struggling to adapt to another culture. Come to think of it, a lot of the great stories ever told are about that. If not, they are mysteries.

Top 10 Personal Movies of 1985
*. Anne of Green Gables
1. Back to the Future
2. Young Sherlock Holmes
3. Witness
4. Fright Night
5. Silverado
6. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure
7. Goonies
8. Fletch
9. Out of Africa
10. Ran

Bottom Personal 5 Movies of 1985
1. Ewoks: The Battle for Endor
2. Nightmare on Elm Street 2
3. Legend
4. Day of the Dead
5. Gymkata (So bad it’s good?)

Top Movies I Still Need To See
1. Brazil

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Curse That Is Friday the 13th

In a couple of weeks, Platinum Dunes will again strike the box office with a remake of a “classic” horror movie from the 70s/80s era of the genre. Admittedly, of all the titles they have to choose from, A Nightmare on Elm Street has the richest kernel of an idea that was not all that well executed the first time around. However, one does not hold out much hope that they will do anything intelligent with the title. They have been doing this for some time now, and have been making a lot of money doing it. Sadly, that is about all they are after, and they are not using the stories to present any worthwhile ideas. Michael Bay (part owner of Platinum Dunes) is even said to have walked out of their effort last year because it featured “too much sex.” That is just adding to the already negative aspects of that particular series: Friday the 13th.

Friday the 13th is truly scary. Not the film series, but the ideas it presented and repercussions it had on our society. If you ever encounter a fan of this film series, you might be amazed at what they have to say about it. They are not into it for the scares or the horror. That in itself would not necessarily be a bad thing. The horror genre generally has a lot to offer. They are into it for the killer, Jason. They are fans of him, not the movies. They want to see how many people he will manage to kill and how he will do it. Perhaps it is not nearly as graphic and disturbing as the “torture-porn” genre that is popular these days, but the Friday series opened the door for this trend. The characters in these films are not people, they are facsimiles of annoying traits that the audience wants to see die. In giving the audience Jason’s perspective, they not only get their wish, they participate in it.

More has been said on this topic, far better than described here, by S. T. Karnick and no doubt others. And not everything about the Slasher subgenre is without its merits, as argued elsewhere on NonModernBlog.

Where Friday the 13th took 80s horror to a very disturbing place, the original Nightmare movie had higher goals. Unfortunately, the trend was set by Jason, and Freddy became something wholly other than the symbolic monster he started out to be…

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Off the Leash

My wife has had a Yorkie for a couple of years now. He is a sweet dog, but not nearly as well trained as a German dog should be. I have seen Germans walking their dogs in crowded malls with hundreds of people milling around with no need for a leash. The dogs here heel perfectly, keeping an eye on their owners at all times.

Jack is not that sort of dog. When we take him out, he is at the end of however much leash we will give him. He nearly chokes himself trying to greet every other dog, pole and person he sees.

At a retreat a couple of weeks ago with no other dogs or cars to worry about, I decided to take him out without a leash. Amazingly, without the leash, he was that dog! He never took his eye off me. When he strayed to far from my heel, a mere grunt from me would snap him right back to me. It was the most amazing experience I have ever had walking a dog. It seems that when he has the leash he knows that he can’t lose me, so he focuses on everything around him except me. Off the leash, he knows he has to watch me or he might get lost.

It struck me that the Christian walk is a lot like that. When Paul argues for Christian freedom and walking in the spirit and not being legalistic he might have had a similar situation in mind. When we are under the law—on the leash—we test the limits and walk at the edge. We want to see how far we can stray without getting totally lost. When we are set free from the law in Christ, we are a different creature. There is no longer any artificial attachment to God. We are free to go where we want, but we stay closer to Him. Maybe we better appreciate the fear of the Lord. It is like walking a tightrope without a net. We know we need to keep our eyes on Him to see where we need to go.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010



sun light all color
scent of dew    dirt    warmth
birds sing    bees buzz


mill by the river
stoke the coals    sizzle
steam whistle blows


silver bright trees
raindrops    slow motion
splashing in mirrors


grey ghost cathedral
coffee cream skies
beautiful    shell

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Strategic Missional Principles: Biblical

Something that has been important all along in these Strategic Missional Principles—but perhaps not obviously so—is the fact that they need to be Biblically grounded. The reason that it has been hard to make that clear is the limited entry length here at NonModernBlog, and the desire to not proof text.

It would be easy perhaps to list a verse or two here to go along with each principle, but the hope is that each one is born out of an overarching theme that the Bible presents. The Bible has several themes, for sure, but one of the major ones is what is often called “The Missionary Message of the Bible.” From the first interaction between God and mankind in Genesis 1 and 2 to the appeal of the Spirit and the Church in Revelation 22 and all the way through, God is pursuing people and looking for people who will help in His pursuit.

What these Strategic Missional Principles are not (we hope) is Pragmatic. In fact, this final principle might be just as easily called Non-Pragmatic. Missional strategy should never be built around ideas and things that have worked somewhere. Just because something works once does not mean it will everywhere or when-else, or even that it is therefore the right thing to do. Often, the things the Bible tells us to do are exactly contrary to what reason or experience tells us will succeed. They are non-pragmatic because God wants to be glorified in the results of our efforts, and things that would naturally work are… natural.

So save some space in your strategy for marching around fortified cities, or carrying torches in clay pots, or whatever else “feels” right in spite of the crazy sense it makes.

Monday, April 12, 2010

2 Corinthians 6:11-7:4 (Yoked)

In 2 Corinthians 6:11-13, and again in 7:2-4, Paul appeals to the church to accept him for who he is, as a messenger from God with their best in mind. In between these sentences he seems to insert yet another parenthetical. This parenthetical statement could be interpreted in such a way as to cause the “Missional” view like the one presented here at NonModernBlog a problem. If so, however, it would also contradict much of the rest of Paul’s teaching elsewhere in the New Testament not to mention this very letter.

Some solve the apparent contradiction by asserting that these verses have been added and are not original to Paul’s letter. That is simply lazy Biblical interpretation. How should it be read?

Paul is not calling for some monastic separation of Christians from the lost world here. He is saying that while we live in and interact with that world, we are not to become tied to it. We do not partner with sin. That is a far cry from saying, “Have nothing to do with the world.”

So, put away your “Christian” yellow pages and your “Christian” television and entertainment. You can shop at a lost person’s store. You can watch the same TV and listen to the same radio as your lost friends. Oh, wait… you need to go out and make some lost friends probably. Jesus had tons of them. He went to parties and ate with them all the time. Paul likely did as well, seeing as how he went to city after city where there were no Christian people to interact with. As soon as he did plant a church he would shoot off to another town where the ration of lost to saved was larger.

What Paul wants us to avoid here is entering into partnerships and agreements with people who do not have glorifying God as their life goal. And that category of people is a lot smaller than the one we call “Christian” these days.

Friday, April 9, 2010

High Concept Messes with Religious Angles/Angels

2009 saw a couple of movies that turned to the theme that we see more and more these days… aliens and religion. More and more, this theme is emerging because certain branches of science are beginning to look to extra dimensional (read supernatural) explanations for things. On the one hand it is interesting to see postmodernism begin to open scientific minds. On the other hand it can make for some less-than-satisfying story-telling. Some people hated the way the Indiana Jones series embraced this idea. The 2009 movies also saw a lot of hatred from audiences.

(Both of these movies will be spoiled here. The idea is that most people have either seen these or decided not to. If you still want to see them skip the rest of this post unless you don’t mind knowing what will happen in advance.)

Knowing directed by Alex Proyas

Nicolas Cage stars as a professor struggling with the question: “Do things happen by chance, or design?” He gets his hands on a sheet of paper written 50 years prior predicting every major disaster’s date, number of victims, and location… by the way, the sheet’s predictions end in a couple of days.

With the answer in hand that everything is planned out, Cage sets out to try to prevent fate. That is what we call “failing to accept reality.” Along the way, some strange men begin to show up everywhere, watching Cage’s kid. It turns out that they are spiritual beings from some other dimension. As the movie goes on, those familiar with Ezekiel will realize that they are not just any extra-dimensional aliens, but actually some of the angels described in the Bible.

Knowing is an interesting idea, but ultimately not an entertaining story.

The Box directed by Richard Kelly

In this story (that term is used very loosely) Cameron Diaz and James Marsden receive a box with a button on it that, if pushed, will kill someone they don’t know and earn them a million 1976 dollars. This is an interesting concept. Will they push it, or not. Keeping in mind the idea that we need something to happen for it to be a movie, they do. Turns out, in this vision of humanity everyone will always push the button because people are selfish and anything but altruistic.

The only problem here is that Kelly doesn’t seem to know what to do with the characters or the plot after the button is pushed. There is some convoluted plot about spiritual aliens testing humanity to see is it should be destroyed. In the end, Kelly introduces us to another Sophie’s choice. They must either live with their son blind and deaf, or Marsden can kill Diaz. As it turns out, it is not really their choice at all because they are being controlled by another couple pushing the button.

The Box is like a really drawn out episode of the Twilight Zone gone horribly wrong.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Taboo Beef

Here is a thought that may bring some flack, not because it is controversial, but because it touches a topic that has become almost off-limits in certain Evangelical circles… and that is part of the problem. So, take a deep breath, read the whole thought, and give it some thought before you comment. But please, feel free to comment. This blog is designed to generate thought, not think for people.

Boo Helfin used to tell the students of his Old Testament Survey that the prophets were patriots. He then defined patriots as men who DON”T say, “my country be she right or wrong,” but rather, “my country be she right.” In other words, they knew that loving country meant taking a stand against the leadership when they go against God. Some Evangelicals today would probably take some of the Old Testament prophets to task. Don’t they know that you have to agree with everything that Israel does or you will be cursed?

Of course that is not true, but a lot of people teach that lie today. They say that any stance against Israel is wrong because God will curse anybody who does not follow Israel’s positions. This is a simple case of mixing politics and religion and coming up with a mess of a theology.

That is not the worst of it either. There are people some would call wolves in sheep’s clothing misleading churches with downright false theology regarding Israel. Recently I heard a man claim that Martin Luther took a step in the right direction but did not go far enough. He claimed that salvation by faith alone was a good first step, but that the church today needed to learn that its true task was to free Israel from the demonic throne currently residing there so that the end of the world could be realized. He did not claim this to be a Biblical teaching even, but rather a truth revealed to him by God. That is at best a distraction and at worst a lie meant to deceive.

So, when Obama reverses years of US political policy regarding Israel, ask yourself why you are upset. Is it because it is a dumb foreign policy move, or because he is being a bad Christian? The one is a valid opinion, the other may need some thought.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Why men fail to commit by not knowing Ephesians 5:28,29.

Hello self,
You beautiful thing.
What’s the deal,
With this diamond ring?
Why aren’t you happy,
Being alone?
I don’t understand this
Why can’t you see,
She’s not like you?
She’s so imperfect,
And full of faults too.
Love must be blind,
For your heart to stir,
For such a lousy,
Girl as her.
Why don’t you wait,
And just you’ll see,
That someday soon
The perfect girl you’ll meet.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Strategic Missional Principles: Paradoxical

Most of the time, strategy or goal setting is results based or at least measurable. It is important to know what the strategy is intended to produce in order to be able to know if it is working or not. Missional strategy is problematic in this aspect, because its results are simply paradoxical.

In 2 Corinthians 6, Paul describes the Missional life—or as he calls it, the Ministry of Reconciliation—and the way he describes it makes it hard to measure in traditional ways.

First of all, there is the result that the Missional life has for the Christian: suffering. Namely, they have to endure afflictions, hardships, distresses, beatings, imprisonments, and disturbances, not to mention hard work, sleepless nights, and physical hardships.

Then there is the internal characteristics that the Christian engaged in a Missional life should display. These tend to go unmeasured in strategy as well. Perhaps is would be more important for a Missional Strategy to measure the life of its players more than the results produced. Paul lists purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, love, the Word of Truth, the power of God, and the Holy Spirit in this category.

Lastly, Paul speaks of the paradoxical results of this ministry. If you are looking for results that show success in some American business model then you are in the wrong occupation. On the one hand, living a Missional life will result in a certain reputation where you live. You will be seen as deceivers, unknown, and dying, you may be punished, sorrowful, poor and seen as having nothing that people want. On a spiritual level you will in fact be true, known by God, and alive. You will be rejoicing, making many people rich and possessing everything you need.

In short, it is not a simple task to measure the results of Missional Strategy. Plan accordingly.

Monday, April 5, 2010

2 Corinthians 6:1-10 (Thankful Servanthood)

Paul urges the Corinthians not to receive the grace of God in vain. How could this be done? Could Paul mean a mere superficial acceptance of the Gospel? Or maybe he means being saved and later losing that salvation? The answers to those questions are of course: no. Paul does not see someone receiving the Gospel only partially, and he argues that a person saved by the power of God can not undo that salvation in any way.

It may be that the enemies of Paul who have caused the churches to turn against Paul in the past are also at work here in Corinth. In that case we would see that –like the Galatians—the Corinthians have been swayed by teaching that demands they do something to validate or complete their salvation. Such a “grace + works” understanding of salvation causes one to think highly of ones own role in redemption. These people are no longer thankful for what has been done for them, but proud of what they are doing.

Instead, the Ministry of Reconciliation reminds us of our lowliness and our dependence on God’s grace. Suffering and trials are endured to bring God’s change into our own lives and into the world. Even in that ministry, the results are dependent on God and people’s own free will, not on anything the servant brings to the table. We proclaim; some will accept and some will not.

Friday, April 2, 2010

"World, Here I Come!”

In which the second Hellboy film is seen as an allegory for the Christian ministry.

In Hellboy II: The Golden Army, we are shown what happens when Hellboy sets out into the real world. HE is no longer some poorly hidden defender, but public knowledge. This is something he has always wanted, but he quickly cools to his new found fame.

It turns out that all those people you have been fighting to save don’t really like you, Hellboy. They are not the enemy, and they still need your help, but they would prefer never to have known you existed.

The real bad guys in this film are the other “supernatural” beings, or at least those bent on destroying humanity. In this story, there is a whole unseen reality that most people are unaware of. It is very much like the real world in that people live their whole lives with blinders on; unaware of what is happening around them.

Hellboy is once again a good picture of the Christian life. He is tasked with helping save people who are not aware of the complete reality of the world and who are in danger from the realities that they cannot and do not want to see. Not only do they not know they are in danger; they do not want the help that Hellboy is offering. They see him as the monster, in fact.

As with all analogies, this one falls apart in the end. It is just a fanciful yarn after all. In the end, Hellboy becomes somewhat fed up with all those clueless humans and decides to quite working to save them and just live a secluded, quite life away from the world… Oh, wait, I guess a lot of Christians end up doing that as well.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Some Anticipated Films for April-June 2010

Aside from the obvious tent-poles, blockbusters, and sequels coming out this summer (some movies fit all three bills—Iron Man, Toy Story and Shrek) here are some movies that look interesting or worth a look.

Clash of the Titans
Haven’t gotten around to seeing The Incredible Hulk yet, but heard good things. Did see the original, loved it, and think in the right hands this could be a welcome and thought provoking remake…

Letters To God
The first of these “Church” movies that look like they could be more than Sunday School material… COULD being the key word here…

The Joneses
Could be preachy, but might actually end up being a good statement on… Oh who are we kidding? Materialism is the one evil that America loves to condemn and complain about, all the while being the most materialistic society in the history of the planet…

The Losers or The A Team?
The Losers is the real A Team movie of the year, probably. As a child of the eighties I’ll be seeing the other one too, but this one looks like it has more potential…

Nightmare on Elm Street
So far Platinum Dunes has represented everything that we loath about Hollywood, cashing in on a bunch of needless and crass horror remakes. Of all the 80s horror titles, this one has the most potential and is the most intelligent, but there is little hope for a decent film here…

Robin Hood
Do we really have to justify this one?

Jonah Hex
Its comic book movie meets cowboys. It’s the Wild Wild West meets Hellboy. At least we hope it is…

Knight and Day
I should hate this one for so many reasons, but the director and the trailer have me holding out hope…
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