Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Day Away

Life gets so busy, even in the summer. So there's nothing better than getting away to a place where I meet God in a unique way.
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Saturday, July 9, 2011

C.S. Lewis's Deep Magic

They say that originality is nothing more than a bad memory. But this boy don't have Alzheimer's yet so I'm gonna come clean and remember where I stole this video: Justin Taylor's superb blog.

If you have ever read and loved anything by C.S. Lewis (my daughter is currently reading The Space Trilogy AND Till We Have Faces), then you will want to see this. It is superb! It is 90 minutes of Lewis history and thought and writing woven together in an utterly engaging narrative that had me blowing my nose at the end with the death of Lewis's wife, Joy Davidman. I'd say more, but time's a wasting. Click that mouse.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Hurt Locker

Last night, when my son Ryan had some buddies and buddettes over for games, and Doreen was on Facebook or cat juggling, I watched 'The Hurt Locker.' It won six Oscars, and I can see why. 

Right now I'm wishing English had something other than, 'Wow.' I guess it does, and some of those words were pretty liberally sprinkled in this powerful movie. But I won't use any of them here. 'Wow.'

It's about three U.S. Explosive Ordinance Disposal soldiers in Iraq. It's about the adrenalin. And the fear. And the danger. And the addiction to them all. I am in awe of these guys and all who put themselves in harm's way so that I can watch it on my laptop with surround sound headphones in an airconditioned room.

Reading that last sentence sounds flippant, and I don't mean to come across that way. So many servicemen and women, and their families, have hurts that will never heal. This movie brings that reality, and our appropriate sense of both horror and gratitude, a little closer to home.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

RE: July 4th: The Importance of Christianity

One of the great things about America is its optimism. I've read polls that show optimism is at an all-time low, and perhaps for good reason. But let's not head down the path of Britain. Shmuley Boteach (that's a real name) has a sobering article in the Jerusalem Post titled, "Godlessness Has Doomed Britain." Here's an excerpt, with the link below:

My British friends argue that the demise of religion is a good thing, proving sophistication in sharp contrast to the religious hobos of America, who speak in tongues and talk to dead people.
I beg to differ. In his 1997 book A History of the American People, historian Paul Johnson makes the case that the remarkable growth of the US, from pioneering backwoodsmen to the most powerful and innovative nation on Earth, was fueled largely by religious fervor. From the piety of the Pilgrims to the faith-based values of the country’s founders, to the belief in manifest destiny and even the marketing of Coca-Cola as “the real thing,” Americans tamed the wilderness with the faith that their nation is a new promised land, destined to illuminate the Earth with the torch of freedom and the light of human dignity.
British influence in the world, in contrast, has gone off a cliff over the past century. I would argue that the new, militant atheism that is becoming characteristic of Britain is a key reason. Atheism is a philosophy of nihilism in which nothing is sacred and all is an accidental.
While it has some brief, flashy moments, life is purposeless and meaningless.

Monday, July 4, 2011

RE: July 4th: Celebrate, Don't Abuse, Freedom

A couple of nights ago I was reading TIME magazine's cover article: "The War Next Door: Why Mexico's drug violence is America's problem too." It stated that in Juarez, just over the border, 3,200 people were murdered just last year. Drug wars have made it the most dangerous city on earth. And here's the reason:
According to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Americans consume $65 billion worth of illegal drugs annually, roughly what they spend on higher education, and most of those drugs are either produced in Mexico or transit through it. The U.S. is also a primary source of weapons the cartels use to unleash their mayhem: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives estimates that 70% of the guns seized in Mexico in the past two years were smuggled from north of the border. "The current flow of weapons," Mexico's ambassador to the U.S., Arturo Sarukhan, charged last year, "provides the drug syndicates with their firepower." (TIME, July 11 2011, p 26, 27)
Do we realize the significance of what we've just read? This means that the argument, "What I do in the privacy of my home is my business and doesn't hurt anyone," is finally exposed for what it is: sheer self-centeredness that in reality costs someone his or her life.

This means that this country we love is complicit in Mexico's human tragedy on so many levels. The addictions which we pursue in our self-indulgent "freedom" finances the narco-economy that lures in the poor and greedy alike. And to add insult to injury (or, more accurately, deadly injury to insult), we supply the majority of the guns with which they blow each other away!

Freedom is a wonderful thing. We value it highly, and rightly so, for it gives us the freedom to worship and to live as we see fit. And therein lies the rub. So many of us use our freedom, to quote Paul, to indulge our flesh.
You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another in love. (Galatians 5:13)
Don Carson, in a book I read earlier this year, helps us understand that our cultural definitions of freedom can often be a far cry from what Scripture means by freedom. In Christ and Culture Revisited (2008), he writes:
The democratic tradition in the West has fostered a great deal of freedom from Scripture, God, tradition, and assorted moral constraints; it encourages freedom toward doing your own thing, hedonism, self-centeredness, and consumerism. By contrast, the Bible encourages freedom from self-centeredness, idolatry, greed, and all sin, and freedom toward living our lives as those who bear God’s image and who have been transformed by his grace, such that our greatest joy becomes doing his will (p.138). 

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Darn Good Read

I've been reading some great books lately and each one says something about me. Because, it is all about me.

Jane Eyre shows that I really am quite the romantic, despite rumors or appearances to the contrary.

* Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream shows that I never read it in highschool and felt deprived, or perhaps that I'm just longing for summer to arrive in Wisconsin, which it finally did today.

* Paul Yonggi Cho's Successful Home Cell Groups shows that I harbor a secret wish to pastor his church of hundreds of thousands (though not even Rosetta Stone Deluxe could teach this brain Korean). Alternately, it shows that I have some required reading for an upcoming course I'm taking at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

* And Sticky Teams (along with Sticky Church) shows that the professor is shamelessly requiring us to read his books for the class--a brazen conflict of interest. Or, a brilliant ploy to convince us in advance that he really does have something to say. In Larry Osborne's case, it is clearly the latter.

Confession time: one of the things I really enjoy about each of Larry's books that I have read (all in hard copy and none on Kindle or Braille), is the combination of wisdom and sarcasm. This gives me hope that one day God might use my gift of sarcasm to publish something. But lacking wisdom, it would likely be short and shallow with a title like See Graham Run. The text: "Run Graham, run. The end." But the graphics would be incredible. Holographic, even.

Ok, it's Friday. And I'm brain-dead from sermon prep. And I'm doing the very thing I'm going to caution the congregation concerning: running on at the mouth, including on the internet. "Be quick to hear and slow to speak," cautions the letter from James.

So, to my point in this post. This, below, is just vintage Larry:

In many churches, the primary spiritual qualification for serving on the board or church leadership team seems to be a willing heart. Anyone who faithfully supports the church and works hard eventually finds himself or herself rewarded with a place on the team. While I know of no church that claims this as their method of selection, I know of plenty where that is exactly the way things are done.

But passages such as Acts 6, 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1, and 1 Peter 5 make it clear that a willing heart is not enough. While not everyone will agree on the exact interpretation and application of each passage, one thing is certain: the New Testament church considered spiritual maturity to be a minimum qualification for leadership.

By spiritual maturity, I mean a life that consistently exhibits the character of Jesus Christ. You'll also notice that all of these passages describe qualifications that focus on character--not giftedness, not biblical knowledge, not zeal. And that shouldn't surprise us, since some of the most divisive and self-centered people in our churches are those who are highly gifted, know the Bible inside out, and exhibit a zeal that puts the rest of us to shame. They just happen to also be jerks.
                                                - Larry Osborne, Sticky Teams. Zondervan, 2010, p. 54.