Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Superman, Batman and Soteriology

DC—unlike its major counterpart Marvel—is pretty much known for two characters. Sure, the Comic Geek will point out the likes of Wonder Woman or Green Lantern, but those are really minor characters with a small following compared to the two big guys: Superman and Batman. And, whereas most superhero stories seem to revolve around a person obtaining some special power and using it for good (or evil) these two are unique in their stories (or at least the originators that inspired all the imitators.) Even more interesting: from the perspective of faith they are both stories wrapped up in the human problem of sin and the need for a savior. They are soteriological stories.

Monday, July 30, 2012

“The Grace Effect” by Larry Alex Taunton

The story of one family’s journey through the red tape of a former Soviet Satellite in an effort to adopt an unwanted girl serves anecdotally in defending the faith. Taunton does a pretty good job of presenting an argument for Christianity based on its benefits to society and culture. This is a case, not of presenting proof to convince people of the validity of faith, but rather to combat some of the current assertions that religion is evil and does nothing but harm.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Church Leadership Issues (Titus 1:5-9)

Paul starts out the meat of his letter to Titus instructing him on the task he is to fulfill in Crete; namely to establish leadership in the church network there so that the churches will be successfully guided to live out their mission. In fact, this mission and its implications pretty much make up the entire content of the letter. Paul lists the qualities that the leaders should have and the bad habits and characteristics that should be avoided. It is nearly an exact copy of the list he writes to Timothy, so we’ll leave an analysis of the traits for that letter. Here we will simply raise two important (and perhaps disquieting) points regarding church leadership:

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Diptera

For a person truly fascinated with God’s creation, even the annoyances and “more fallen” parts can hide beauty and wonderful design. Some may claim that sin so drastically altered things that things like flies didn’t exist before, or maybe not as they are now, but I don’t think that is altogether true. There is still good in the design, and there are some wonderful examples of God’s creativity to be found among even the most disgusting of insect families:

7. Crane Fly Tipulidae 

These things don’t really eat mosquitoes, and their larva are pretty destructive, but there is something fun about these flies that look like giant, prehistoric blood suckers. Especially since they are harmless and they can really scare little kids and girls who are not in the know.

6. Beetle Fly Celyphidae 

These may be the most bizarre looking flies on the planet. Sometimes you get to thinking that God has a side that enjoys monstrous looking things as much as a little boy. He sure did make a few anyway.

Friday, July 27, 2012

"The Sherlockian" by Graham Moore

One of those ever popular and increasingly common tales that combine nostalgia for an older age with the speculation that perhaps those days were as exciting as the stories they concocted, “The Sherlockian” takes it one step further and allows the reader—or a fan much like such readers—to play out the adventure for real.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Greece

Every once in a while, you get to have your preconceptions and assumptions dashed all to pieces. To be honest I am not sure exactly what I expected Greece to be like, but it wasn’t anything like the land in reality. As a matter of fact, the following applies to a lot of the Mediterranean region of Europe.

If you have ever been to West Texas, that will be helpful the next time you are reading about Alexander the Great or the Moors invading the Iberian Peninsula. Only you have to wash the landscape of any vivid color.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

"Galaxy Quest" (1999)

In 1984 “The Last Starfighter” considered what it would be like if aliens were aware of us and used our popular culture to find those of us who could help them in their fight against evil. The next year “Explorers” speculated that aliens could have a skewed understanding of us if our radio and television transmissions have preceded us into first contact. Even if the former was a bit of a cheap Star Wars imitation and the later was an unfortunate mess, the ideas had merit.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Another, On Your 13th Birthday

(Out of pocket today. Here is another letter I wrote to a friend entering the teen years. A different take from the last one, for a different sort of kid.)

Thirteen. There are cultures in the world that will consider you an adult now. Our culture is sadly not one of them. Instead, we like to think of the teen years as some sort of extension to your childhood, where you get to ignore all of the responsibility of adulthood but you have to let go of all of the good things about childhood

Let me encourage you to try just the opposite. Now that you are a “teen” start trying on some of those qualities of being a man. Take responsibility for your decisions. Consider that your actions will have an impact on the world and other people and act accordingly. However and perhaps more importantly, don’t let the world break you of the good habits of childhood.

Work to maintain your imagination and creativity. I have this suspicion that God actually planned for us to be that way. We are created in His image and He is, after all, a creative God. For some reason as we get older the world tries to tell us that being an adult means being “grounded in reality.” That may be true in part but I think that the people who are most successful at living are the ones who have the ability to see the world as it could be.

Never lose a sense of hope and optimism. The teen years can be scary and negative because your thoughts, perspective and even your hormones lie to you. On days when it seems like everybody is against you and life is going in a terrible direction remember two things: they aren’t and God has a good plan for your life if you will just trust Him and follow His lead.

Happy Birthday!

Monday, July 23, 2012

NonModern Nugget: Evangelism


Not every believer is commanded by Scripture to be an evangelist, but they are all called to make disciples. These days, however, there is a large portion of the Church that would argue that every single Christian is to “do evangelism” and by that they usually mean that they should be trained and sent out to make a sales pitch. The idea seems to have been born in the time when salesmen seemed to make up 90% of the American population and 100% of the population had a pretty good idea what the product—er, Gospel—was all about.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Titus Introduction, Outline

We will begin the Pastorals with Titus as it is similar to I Timothy but shorter and as 2 Timothy seems to be the better one with which to end.  Here is a working outline:
 
I. Opening and Greetings (1:1-4)

II. Leadership is vital and good leader selection key to church health. (1:5-9) post

III. False teachers are destructive and cannot be tolerated. (1:10-16) [also 3:9-11] post

IV. Sound doctrine is known by its fruit. post

 A. Sound doctrine leads to godly character… (2:1-10)

 B. …Based in the grace and salvation of the Gospel. (2:11-14) posts 1, 2, 3

 C. Declare these things! (2:15) posts 1, 2

 D. Sound doctrine leads to reputable behavior and good deeds,
     a product of our justification,
     and not to arguments over dogmatic minutia and teaching. (3:1-11) posts 1, 2, 3

VI. Closing Exhortation (3:12-15)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Top Time Travel Films

What follows is a list, in somewhat of a reverse quality order, of my favorite films involving or revolving around time travel:

20. “Escape from the Planet of the Apes” (1971)
70s cheese at its strongest.

19. “Kate and Leopold” (2001)
A refreshing take emerging from the romantic comedy quagmire.

18. “Donnie Darko” (2001)
So weird it should be considered.

17. “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” (1989)
Funny, but you may have had to be there…

Friday, July 20, 2012

"Men in Black 3" (2012)

I give the Men in Black series of films a pretty big benefit of the doubt. The first one was so original and entertaining that I even enjoyed and recommend the second film despite its deficiencies. So, I was excited to see the third entry even though it has that story element that is increasingly difficult to swallow in scifi: time travel. I was not disappointed. There were an infinite number of questions and inconsistencies but I was able to ignore them for the most part and the story even addressed some. Also, they used the time travel to explore several important issues, not just as the trope it has become. More importantly, the film is visually interesting and funny.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

NonModern Nugget: Legalism Defined

Legalism: the erroneous belief that God created humanity with such vast diversity so the Church could cram it all into one mold.

Even as a teen, it was obvious (and annoying) to recognize the contrary drives to be both an individual but to fit in with everyone else. To some degree teens are to be pitied because they are in a stage of development where they can’t help themselves. Once (and if) they mature, they get over the second impulse and become their own person.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"Lay the Favorite" (2012)

For my birthday this year I was moving again, which didn’t leave much time for anything fun. I did get to take the evening off and go see two movies in one day, something I haven’t done in over 20 years. For the second one I saw something I have wanted to try for a while now: a sneak peak. The idea is, for a cheap price you get to see a film that has not been released yet. It could be anything. The anticipation is incredibly fun. In this case I had all sorts of ideas as to what the film could be: Batman, Prometheus, Lincoln, Cabin, etc. etc. It turned out to be “Lay the Favorite.” I had not even heard about this film, and I tend to keep up with what is coming. There was a reason I was not aware of this one. It was a mess.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"In the Hands of the Prophets" (DS9)

<--Season 1b  Season 2a-->

In the last episode of the first season, DS9 really takes its first full shot at the topic that the series has become known for in the Trek universe: religion. In this story, religion and science clash in the classroom, but it is all just a smaller piece in a larger plot.

The parallels to real life are, as is usual for the series, not so subtle. The children are being taught the scientific facts about the wormhole near the station; a wormhole that local religion teaches is the abode of “the prophets.” When the religious leader at the station demands that the “blasphemous” scientific teaching stop, we have our oh-so-obvious parallel with issues like creation, evolution and the intelligent design debate.

Monday, July 16, 2012

NonModern Nuggets

As I am preparing to be out of pocket for some time, as well as being without a reliable connection to the internet in our new apartment for an even greater time, I am considering doing some theoretically abbreviated posts—little nuggets of a real idea. Since the NonModern model already shoots for short posts these may end up seeming normal, but they are not. They will usually be born out of random, one sentence thoughts. Look for some sprinkled in over the next couple of weeks:

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Pastorals: Introduction

As I reach the last three letters of Paul, I realize that I have given these less attention than any other of his writings. Sure, I have read them and even studied portions of them, but I have not ever really taken a good, long hard look at them as a whole.

I think many believers may be in the same boat. About the only time the church remembers to look at these books is when they want to deal with the church leadership. After all, these books are for pastors, not believers at large, right?

I look forward to taking the same approach to these books as I have the rest of Paul’s writings over the past few years. Not as an expert or someone who already knows the material and wants to clarify it, but rather as a believer looking to see how these passages impact my life and the churches I am responsible for helping. I especially think these books will be helpful to the new, simple communities that are being formed and multiplying and interested more in what Scripture—not tradition—has to say.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

1930s in Film

The 30s on Film are, for me, mostly Universal Monsters and early Alfred Hitchcock with some great classic comedians and Frank Capra thrown in the mix. Here are the NonModern top 20:

20. “The Mummy” (1932) Karl Freund

19. “Dracula’s Daughter” (1936) Rowland V. Lee

18. “King Kong” (1933) Cooper & Shoedsack

17. “Son of Frankenstein” (1939) Lambert Hillyer

16. “Duck Soup” (1933) Leo McCarey

15. “It Happened One Night” (1934) Frank Capra

14. “Mr. Dees Goes to Town” (1936) Frank Capra

13. “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939) Frank Capra

12. “Frankenstein” (1931) James Whale

11. “Drácula” (1931) and Dracula (1931) Eduardo Arozamena and Tod Browning

10. Anything Hitchcock from the 30s
Mostly the three greats “The Lady Vanishes” (1939), “The 39 Steps” (1935), and “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (1934), but also some of the lesser gems like “Murder!” (1930), “Sabotage” (1936), and “Secret Agent” (1935). Even some that are stinkers by Hitch standards are entertaining: “Young and Innocent” (1938), “Number Seventeen” (1932), and “Jamaica Inn” 1939).

9. “Bringing Up Baby” (1938) Howard Hawks

8. “Lost Horizon” (1937) Frank Capra

7. “Stagecoach” (1939) John Ford

6. “Modern Times” (1936) Charlie Chaplin

5. “Bride of Frankenstein” (1935) James Whale

4. “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” (1937) Walt Disney, Producer

3. “City Lights” (1931) Charlie Chaplin

2. “The Wizard of Oz” (1939) Victor Fleming

1. “You Can’t Take It with You” (1938) Frank Capra

Friday, July 13, 2012

"Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey" (2011)

I am not a fan of Elmo. I have always thought of him as a “Johnny come lately,” a part of the syrupy sweet wave that Barney and the Teletubbies represented, one of the characters that had my kids thinking that Grover, Ernie and Burt were not good enough. He was the toddler takeover of a medium that had been sophisticated enough to entertain adults while keeping the kids happy. That being said, I like Kevin Clash.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Cultivating Wonder

Everyone is familiar with that old saying, “time heals all wounds.” The idea is that emotional, relational pain can lessen with time. It doesn’t always work, but the principle is sound.

The German band, “Wir Sind Helden” twisted the saying up a bit in their song: “Die Zeit heilt alle Wunder.” Replacing wounds with wonder, they explore the truth (or tragedy) that people lose the ability to marvel at the world as they grow older.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Price is Right?

In the same interview referenced a couple days ago, Drew Carey spoke of his current gig hosting “The Price is Right.” He says the atmosphere on that show compares to one other experience in his life: growing up in a Pentecostal church. There are two ways that can be taken, and neither of them speaks well to the state of churches today.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Star Trek Deep Space Nine (Season 1b)

<--Season1a -- More on "Prophets"-->

Well, looking back at TNG it is clear that the first season of these shows can be a bit of drudgery. Maybe that holds some hope out for “Deep Space Nine” going forward. This show is reputed to be a lot meatier in the philosophy and religious topic exploration. Maybe that is the problem. The stories this season have seemed to be a bit on the preachy side. They are less entertaining and heavier handed trying to get their message across. Science Fiction is strongest when it does exactly the opposite. It should entertain and be downright subversive and sneaky with its commentary. Towards the end of the season things do begin to improve a bit, maybe even enough to make this first season better than TNG’s:

Episode 11: “The Nagus” 

This episode is pretty good. It is comedic enough to entertain while it does explore some important issues like power, politics and loyalties.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Preparation is a part of the Job

Drew Carey tells the story of how he won the chance to appear on “The Tonight Show” very early in his career. However, when the show tried to contact him and inform him of that fact, he could not be reached. (Yes, there was a day not so long ago when people were not attached to electronic leashes.) So he missed his chance. It would take three long years of travel and hard work in comedy clubs before he would get a second chance. He claims that it is likely the best thing that could have happened to him. At the time, all he had was an interesting “look” and a few minutes of passable material. He would not have been able to capitalize on the appearance.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Greetings and Benediction (Philippians 4:21-23)

[21] Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. [22] All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar's household. [23] The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. 

Philippians: the book of joy. Looking back over the book and the things I have rediscovered during this reading, it is a book of joy. However, it is a strange joy according to the world’s standards—even according to most of the current understanding in the Church. Philippians is a book about the Gospel, about the self-sacrifice and suffering that believers will face and that God will allow them to face for the cause of the Gospel. That Gospel is not a story about individuals having all their problems solved and needs met, but rather the mission of God to repair an entire creation. The story has already occurred and the mission has been accomplished, but the story must be told for the impact to have its greatest effect. For more individuals to benefit in the way that God desires. It is in losing our self obsession and preoccupation in favor of our God-given role in His mission that we find true joy; the joy of purpose.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Aves

Oddly enough, in spite of the fact that I enjoy bird watching a bit, I probably wouldn’t list any birds on a hypothetical “favorite animals” list. The truth is bird watching is really just the easiest kind of animal watching since birds are some of the most visible, diurnal animals. Invertebrates and herps tend to be more interesting. The list of the most impressive birds I have seen in the wild follows:

10. Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)

Some birds are ornamentally beautiful: Wood Ducks, Peacocks, some of the Parrots. To say I have seen Pheasants in the wild is true, but not exactly in their natural habitat. They have been introduced all over. Part of what makes them special is they are fairly secretive and hard to see. I have seen them in both Texas and Denmark.

9. Lesser Rhea (Rhea pennata)

Not so notable, but one of only two flightless species I have observed wild. (The other comes later on this list.) In one of my favorite spots on earth, these are common and can be annoyingly un-shy.

8. Greater Road Runner (Geococcyx californianus)

The cartoon version of this species is fairly cool, but the real thing is better. They eat, among other things, snakes and I have seen the proof.

Friday, July 6, 2012

"Hang 'Em High" (1968)

Eastwood’s first leading role following “the man with no name,” the first film of his own production company, is still a timely film today. The highly charged, self-righteous and judgmental attitudes are the sort that one finds everywhere in America these days. Even though there has always been an undercurrent of the sort in American culture, they seem to have exacerbated over the past couple of decades.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Law & Mr. McBeevee: the Evolution of Parenting

In the season 3 episode of Castle, “Law & Murder” Castle suspects that his daughter is lying to him and he tracks her movement on his smart phone. Strike that… As a savvy observer, he knows she is lying to him and tracks her out of concern. Sure, he should have talked to her—but in any case the show portrays his actions as a huge betrayal of trust. Nothing is made of the fact that she is indeed lying. You see, in this show the father is the immature scoundrel and his daughter is the most mature teenage girl ever. It turns out her motives for keeping a secret are mature and positive.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fourth

Let’s light a flame
Cook up some juicy tender meats
Let’s light a flame
Set fireworks off in freedom’s name
Sing songs about historic feats
Remind all of our true hearts beat
Let’s light a flame

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Time Travel


 Last week a picture was being shared across the internet on sites like facebook. It was supposedly a screenshot from “Back to the Future 2” showing that the day it was posted was the day to which Marty and the Doc had traveled. Everyone excitedly shared the picture. Isn’t it neat to live in the day that that film had tried to depict? Unfortunately, in everyone’s rush to share that fact, they failed to stop and ask if their fictional facts were right. They were about 3 years off the mark. Facebook has an acute ability to expose the suckers in the population. Sorry, suckers, but it’s true.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Ole, ole!

Ole, ole! Run, kick that ball!
If you can’t, try to take a fall
With luck the ref will call a foul
For certain if you scream and howl
The best of actors get the call

Shoot a header if you are tall
Weave and dribble if you are small
The crowd will yell and they will shout:
Ole, ole!

When you are wronged don’t start a brawl
And if carded don’t start to bawl
Determination and a scowl
Maybe even a forceful growl
Bend a kick ‘round defender’s wall
Ole, ole!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

God’s Provision (Philippians 4:14-20)

[14] Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. [15] And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. [16] Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. [17] Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. [18] I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. [19] And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. [20] To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

This thanks Paul expresses for the Philippians’ financial support is extraordinary. He simply thanks them. He makes it clear that he does not seek their gifts, but rather the changed lives that they are partnering together to help change. He hasn’t “guilted” them into giving. He is not developing some doctrine of giving. It really is an insight to a community of believers devoting some of their money into a cause in which they believe.
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