Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Excuses, Excuses

I've developed a distaste for unsavory things in my past. I indulged in drugs, alcohol, and self-pity. But, I eventually tired of those things. Other temptations remain relevant in my life, but I am only occasionally even tempted by mind-altering chemicals and self-pity. I think this is because I now actually see them as unsavory. This is a blessing from God, for which I am truly grateful.

I suddenly realize that, at such times of temptation, I could still give myself permission for those poisonous behaviors. Perhaps, I could find some pleasure or relief in them. But these are weak temptations at best. They seem so far behind me and so unfulfilling. Yet, for other temptations like lust, anger, or pride I do give myself permission. I had not thought about it quite this way before. But, surely, that is precisely what I do.

"She has on a bikini; she's not nude!"
"At the moment, I have no alternative! What else can I do?"
"He has no right to treat me that way! My response was just!"
"I don't usually do this."

You see, I make exceptions. I have excuses or I accept the ones Satan offers. It's all right because of my unique circumstances. I deserve special consideration. Oh Lord how dangerous this is! Where is the limit to my self-indulgence? It is only where I decide to put it! That is in no way reliable or trust-worthy! My gauge is internal and, therefore, subject to the influence of my sinful nature with which I remain afflicted throughout this life. Worse still, I sometimes don't give myself time to consider, but rush headlong, knowing that I might resist a temptation well considered. Obviously, this must not be allowed to continue.

I see a distinction between my perception of sins I permit and others I no longer permit. I have been successfully resisting temptations to sins that I perceive as destructive while struggling to resist others that I perceive as merely prohibited. In truth, they are all destructive. This is knowledge I already have, but I must focus on and remember the destructive power of sins I too often permit, in order that I may have understanding that is greater than mere knowledge.

I must remember also that acts of sin are not merely "slips" or "momentary lapses", but nothing less than giving myself permission to sin. It seems like such a silly thing to think I have given myself permission to disobey God Almighty. Yet, there I am.

But, I am not required to give such permission. Though alertness must be important, I am now, by the power and grace of God through Jesus Christ, free to withhold that permission, free to reject the demands of my sinful nature, free to reject excuses, and free "to stand [my] ground, and after [I] have done everything, to stand."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I am a Pharisee in Need of a Savior

    To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'

    "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

    "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
    ~Luke 18:9-14

I used to think we might appropriately think of ourselves or others as Pharisees if we or they added many rules to scripture, then judged those who do not follow these new rules. But, as often happens, I see things differently now. I see more.

I’ve heard the passage above taught several times. As I mentioned previously, I left those times of instruction thanking God for this teaching and thanking God that I was not like that Pharisee. But I misunderstood what is being taught in scripture. Part of my problem lies in my understanding of this phrase “humbles himself”. This makes me think of someone who is not in humble circumstances, but does not boast or take credit for his lofty circumstances.

But, in truth, the Pharisee is as much a sinner as the tax collector. This is not because he committed vile acts, but because no amount of his righteous behavior can diminish his need for Jesus. Therefore, his circumstances are humble. For all his righteous acts, he is like the tax collector. In order to “humble himself”, he must confess the truth of his need for God.

In addition, I thought the Pharisee derived his sense of his own righteousness from having obeyed various and sundry rules and regulations that had been added to the Law, rather than only from the righteous behavior required by scripture. I see now that, according to righteousness as I have always understood it (i.e., outward obedience), the Pharisee was a righteous man. He strives for the things for which I’ve always been taught to strive. But he and I both do it for the wrong reasons. We must be obedient to God’s commands in order to please him, to honor him, to fellowship with him. But to obey in order to be counted righteous before God can only result in failure!

But this is what I have been taught! This is the teaching I received, inadvertently, of course, but nonetheless. From the body of Christ: my Sunday school teachers, my pastors, my friends, the preachers and teachers on the radio and television I have learned that my salvation must be questioned if my lifestyle is not beyond reproach. By necessary implication, if my lifestyle is beyond reproach, then I am on my way to heaven. Our churches preach and teach righteousness, and this is critically important. But, we have let suffer (though we would never abandon!) the preaching and teaching of Jesus Christ, our one and only savior!

    For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

    "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment."
    ~Matthew 5:20-21a

According to the same misguided thinking of mine, I thought this passage in Matthew taught that we must not only live righteously in our outward behavior, but in our hearts and thoughts as well. This is not entirely untrue. But, I think the point here goes beyond striving for pure hearts. I believe the Lord’s purpose here is to teach, not only that outward obedience is insufficient for righteousness, but also that righteousness is out of reach for us to achieve on our own. Jesus was not saying merely that in order to qualify for heaven, we must avoid unrighteous thoughts as well as actions. Rather, he was saying that the righteousness of these Pharisees will not qualify them for heaven as they so clearly believe. Instead, sufficient righteousness for the kingdom of heaven is unattainable!

    "Are you still so dull?" Jesus asked them. "Don't you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.' For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man 'unclean'; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him 'unclean.'" ~Matthew 15:16-20

I derive peace and satisfaction from my righteous behavior, perhaps even pride. For my unrighteousness, I lacerate my own spirit. As for others, who can be admired? Who is perfect in righteousness? Who can be saved? All the righteous behavior in the world cannot save us. We need a savior! Yes, I am very dull, but it’s getting clearer.

    What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! ~Romans 7:24a

Monday, October 20, 2008

I Need a Savior

I was born in sin. I have always been a sinner. I have thought for so long that I am a sinner because I sinned. Everyone does it; therefore, we are all sinners. However, I believe now that I had it backwards. I am not a sinner because I sinned. Rather, I sin because I am a sinner. I have a body of ‘flesh’, a ‘sin nature’. Sin is not merely what I do. It’s what I am, unavoidable, undeniable. I am a sinner.

I have been involved in theological discussions wherein I made a distinction between sin committed intentionally with forethought and malice on the one hand and sin committed out of impulse, habit, or even ignorance on the other hand. I judged sin committed in true ignorance to be of lesser severity. This distinction may not be entirely without merit, but it is a dangerous one because both disqualify us from survival in the presence of God. The truth is, the sin I do in ignorance or that I might immediately take back is thoroughly sufficient for condemnation.

Even the slightest impurity is a deal-breaker. Anything less than 100% death to self is sin. Anything less than all the sacrifice and devotion I can give to God in every moment is sin. It can even be reasonably argued that everything we do is sin (or, at the very least, has sin in it) because we cannot do anything with perfectly selfless intent. Even the slightest self-interest at any time, under any circumstances is sin. I can be pretty good, relatively speaking. I often am pretty good. I may as well toot my own horn at this point because the ability to be that good — good enough — is impossible for me. I need someone to be perfectly righteous for me because I can’t do it. I need a savior.

This has critical implication for those who believe you can lose your salvation, though this thought is meaningful for me as well. I imagine an Arminian might ask himself daily, “Have I lived righteously today, so that I do not lose my salvation?” But, if we are sinners as I now understand it, then this question is irrelevant because the answer can never be “yes”. A better question would be, “Have I lived today in such a way that I no longer need Jesus, so that I do not lose my salvation?” This question addresses the unattainable requirement for perfection. If it were true that I could lose my salvation, then I would have lost it the very moment I received it. If salvation can be lost, then there can be no keeping it. But, praise God! I don’t need to keep my salvation. Jesus obtained salvation for me and keeps it for me. He has secured a rescue for all of us, and our rescue is secure.

There are implications also for my attitude of gratitude. I’m reminded again of Luke 7:36-50 because, once again, I see salvation as a greater gift than I have previously understood it to be. Not only have I broken the whole Law, but I am always breaking it! I am always behaving in conflict with the pure, righteous character of God, which is represented by the Law. Praise God because Jesus has fulfilled the Law on our behalf! I am a sinner. But, God has chosen to save me in spite of this truth. Not only so, but he desires to be in fellowship with me — even me! — to teach, guide, and encourage me in spite of the foul, ugly truth of my identity as one who, from birth, is in rebellion and war against God. Even though I already believe in election, this understanding helps liberate me from the idea that I must strive for enough righteousness in order for Jesus to remain in me. After all, I never could and I never will. Yet, he remains. I am a sinner. As such, I am precisely the kind of person Jesus saves. And he does. He doesn’t merely make up the difference between me and God, as if I am able to approach righteousness, but can’t quite make it all the way. Jesus doesn’t merely complete the work of righteousness that I am unable to complete. Rather, he does all the work of righteousness because I can do none of it! From my home at the greatest depths of degradation and desperation, Jesus has saved even me and brought me to the greatest heights of glory and joy! May the name of the Lord be praised forever.

Implications abound! As for my pride, haven’t I been legalistic in my attitude toward myself and toward others? Have I not been confident in my own righteousness, not realizing that, even though I do not murder, steal, or commit adultery, but do (sometimes) fast and tithe, yet I have no righteousness of my own? Though I’ve heard this passage taught several times, I think I now begin to understand. I used to think this Pharisee was mean and selfish to be so insensitive. I thanked God that I was not like him. But, he's not mean. He's just me.

    To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'

    "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

    "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
    ~Luke 18:9-14

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Potential President Picked Perfect Partner: Palin

Sarah Palin is an outstanding vice-presidential nominee for John McCain for a long list of reasons, which I intend to delineate. I was planning to vote for McCain anyway, as much as for any other reason as because of the atheist, communist, homosexual agenda and ineptitude of Barack Obama. But I'm also deeply impressed with the brilliance of McCain's selection.

It's especially humorous that some Democrats are being critical and even whining, saying Palin was not properly vetted by the McCain campaign. Their response to, dare I say, the perfect pick is to pretend it was somehow a mistake. In truth, McCain showed the world how it's really done! Democrats (and Republicans, too!) ought to be beating down McCain's door trying to learn from the master.

The most important benefit of choosing Sarah Palin as a running mate is because of her staunch conservative positions on issues. She is not only a supporter of the people's right to bear arms and the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution that protects that right, but she is also a life-time member of the NRA and an avid hunter -- a moose hunter, no less.

Governor Palin not only says of herself, "I'm as pro-life as a candidate can be", but she is also so committed that she, with full knowledge of his condition and willing to tackle the inherent physical and emotional challenges, brought to full term and gave birth to a son with Down Syndrome.

She has worked, even against her own party, to limit government spending and taxation.

These are the best examples of her conservative principles and the things about her I like best. But, that's the point. McCain has been less than exciting for authentic conservatives like me because he has abandoned some conservative principles. While he is a strong advocate for national defence and protection of human life, he has been week on illegal immigration, free speech, and has even bought into the Global Warming Hoax. For the first time, conservatives are invigorated about McCain's candidacy. This change is entirely because of his choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Other, more strategic, considerations add to the appeal of Alaska's governor as vice presidential nominee. For the aforementioned reasons, she appeals to conservatives. She is also an attractive candidate for some liberals, particularly women whose primary concern is that a woman be elected to high office. Some former supporters of the socialist, Hillary Clinton, will be drawn to the McCain ticket simply because his running mate is a woman. This will certainly be a minority, but every vote helps. The attraction of her gender is exponentially greater because of her long list of accomplishments, all the way from high-school to her recent successful endeavors as governor, combined with her commitment to motherhood, and her apparent enjoyment of her lifestyle. She has achieved the dream and demonstrated the potential for those women who want to "have it all".

For Independents and independent-minded party members, Palin is appealing as well. Having fought against the corruption of high-ranking officials in her own party and having taxed big oil companies enabling a $1200 'gift' to every citizen of her state, she is immune to any accusation of being partisan or beholden to constituents, but rather demonstrates a commitment to principles. Her advocacy for government transparency and accoutability are also particularly appealing to independents. I like it, too!

It has been pointed out that, as a mother from a small town, Sarah Palin is more in touch with real people and real life. An example is her sons enlistment in the Army. He is on his way to Iraq. She cannot easiliy be accused of being out of touch with regular folks.

Sarah has also brought to the ticket a tremendous asset in her talent for public speaking. She has blown the socks off, not only interested convention delegates and stump speech crowds, but also, and more impressively, the commentators and analysts who objectively critique her performance.

The last thing Sarah brings to the table is perhaps the most fun for me. While Sarah is indeed inexperienced by standards we've come accustomed to for a vice presidential candidates, her numerous accomplishments in her few years of service are a profound embarrassment to the name on the top of the opposing ticket. In other words, our vice president can whoop your president!

Kings in the Earth and the King of Kings

I had determined not to allow the focus of this forum to be politics (or sports or video games, for that matter), but rather to focus on things that are truly significant in our pursuit of an authentic life in obedience to and love for Jesus Christ. So much so, that I have refrained to a large extent from discussing politics at all. However, this ideal does not allow me to ignore the reality that life is not compartmentalized as would be much more convenient.

Four thousand human beings are slaughtered in this country every day. This horrendous atrocity is permitted by law, accepted by so many, and even encouraged by some.

Our children are being intentionally and methodically sexualized, secularized, and segregated from their parents for the purpose of raising up worshippers for the state. This insidious social engineering is also legal, accepted, and encouraged.

Such evil must be viewed properly, lest we fall into the same trap. The government is neither our God, nor the provider of solutions. I hope you will help keep me from getting too distracted. But, undeniably, politics matters.

We, as citizens of a nation wherein we, the citizens, are the government, have a moral obligation -- not to the nation or to our fellow citizens, but to God -- to express our convictions of obedience and honor to God through our manner of rulership. For that is what we are. Our constitution makes it plain. While it is rarely, if ever, the practical reality, it is a legal fact that we, the people, are co-rulers of our nation.

Let us strive to honor our Heavenly Father by conscientiously fulfilling the role of co-ruler, thrust upon us though it may be, and by pleasing Him with the diligently informed decisions we make.

    He has showed you, O man, what is good.
    And what does the LORD require of you?
    To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God. ~Micah 6:8

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Lying about Murder

Not that readers here were likely to vote for any proponent of the Communist, Atheist, Homosexual agenda anyway, but you might like to know what is at stake.
Some refer to abortion as infanticide, but a presidential candidate this year is actually a proponent of the traditional definition of infanticide.

NRL Update: Monday, August 18, 2008 Obama Cover-up on Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Continues to Unravel After Sen. Obama Says NRLC is "Lying"
Obama Facing Attacks From All Sides Over Abortion Record

To Coin a Phrase

J. Matt Barber writes a scathing critique of a presidential candidate over only one issue in his article on called Obamacide.

"How does one properly describe another who would -- for purely selfish political reasons and with deliberation -- intentionally refuse a thirsty child water or a hungry child food?"

"...the American Medical Association has determined that partial-birth abortion is never necessary under any circumstances,..."

"But in recent days, based on documentary evidence unearthed by the National Right to Life Committee, the Obama campaign has been forced to admit that it was Obama, in fact, who had been lying all along."

Sign the Petition to Stop Abortion on Demand

Friday, August 22, 2008

Technology renders Abortionist fantasies obsolete.

Japanese scientists said Friday they had derived stem cells from wisdom teeth, opening another way to study deadly diseases without the ethical controversy of using embryos.
Researchers at the government-backed National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology said they created stem cells of the type found in human embryos using the removed wisdom teeth of a 10-year-old girl.

"This is significant in two ways," team leader Hajime Ogushi told AFP. "One is that we can avoid the ethical issues of stem cells because wisdom teeth are destined to be thrown away anyway.

"Also, we used teeth that had been extracted three years ago and had been preserved in a freezer. That means that it's easy for us to stock this source of stem cells."

The announcement follows the groundbreaking discovery by US and Japanese scientists last year that they could produce stem cells from skin, a finding that was hailed by the Vatican and US President George W. Bush.

Entire article here.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

English is the Language of Prosperity

I have known many people and heard of countless more who live in foreign countries, do not have plans to live in the United States or the United Kingdom, and want to learn English. They do so because they have correctly discerned that speaking English gives them an advantage. It increases one's chances to obtain a well-paying job. It provides an advantage in business involving international trade or any international relations. Perhaps, more importantly, it makes viable the option to study at generally superior American universities. It seems that everyone in the world knows thatEnglish is the language of prosperity. That is, except Americans.

'Liberals' (the Americans most illiberal) don't want to require immigrants to learn English, which by itself sounds harmless enough. However, it no longer sounds harmless if we consider the de facto alternative is to spend millions of your dollars to create instructions, signs, voice prompts, and everything else under the sun in Spanish. In this manner, 'Liberals' do want to discourage immigrants from learning English.

I do not presume to know their motives, but in light of 'Liberal' policies across the board, we may reasonably conclude that, while 'Liberals' want immigration to be unchecked, presuming that such policy will result in more votes for the Democratic Party, 'Liberals' may also reasonably surmise that educated immigrants would be more prosperous and, therefore, more likely to instead vote for truly liberal (in the classical sense) policies, which are better represented by other parties.

Most fascinating to me, and perhaps most telling, these 'Liberals' are discouraging immigrants from learning the language of prosperity.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I AM the Law!

In Mark Dever's The Gospel & Personal Evangelism, he quotes James 2:10:

    For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.
He adds, "The law of God is the expression of God's own character".

I extrapolate:
The Law of Moses is not a book of laws. It is not a group of individual laws. The Ten Commandments is not ten commandments. The law is one. As God is one, the law is one. To keep the law is to conform to the likeness or identity of God.

To fail at any point of the law is to break the entire one law. To violate any part of the one law is to diverge from the character of God.

If I am slightly idolatrous, I may as well have murdered because I have broken the same law that a murderer breaks and have as severely distorted the image of God in me as a murderer has done so in himself.

It's not difficult to see why this idea produces in me a deep desire for righteousness. Though it seems—it feels—most natural, I am a little surprised that it also produces in me greater love, a softer heart, and a grateful joy toward our Heavenly Father.

Jesus explains it.

    Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

    When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner."

    Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to tell you."

    "Tell me, teacher," he said.

    "Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?"

    Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled."

    "You have judged correctly," Jesus said.

    Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little."

    Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."

    The other guests began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?"

    Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."
    ~Luke 7:36-50

Our perception of forgiveness is greater if we have been forgiven of what we perceive as greater sin. One implication is that we do not love if we perceive that we have nothing for which to be forgiven. Also, the more forgiven we feel, the more we love. Therefore, I love more because I see now that I have broken the whole law AND have been forgiven for having broken all of it.

You see, I have done it all! I have committed all the sins, all the crimes, offended God in every possible way. With even one sin, the entire law is violated. No part of the law remains intact! The law is one, and I have broken it.

God gave his only son into MY law-breaking hands, so that I would murder him and shed his blood. And, so that Jesus' blood—the very blood that I, myself shed—would cleanse me so that I would be as righteous as if I had never sinned, even in the slightest. By Jesus' blood, the law has been restored!

    "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. ~Matthew 5:17




What if I were a Christian?

This evening, I imagined a story.
    I lived in a trailer park on a well-known pacific island. My neighbors watched me till a small patch of ground and plant tomatoes in my garden. After the tomatoes had ripened and I had already harvested some, one neighbor, an older fellow with a minor reputation for a stagnant and dissolute lifestyle, boldly, but stealthily, 'harvested' some tomatoes while he believed I was away. Through the screen on one of my windows, I saw him with an armful of tomatoes and reaching to 'harvest' more. I warmly called out, "Hey, why don't you come inside? I'll make us a salad with those."

    He did come in pretending to have done me a favor, and handed the tomatoes to me. I set some aside. I diced the rest and added cucumbers, onion, and vinegar-based dressing to make salad (or sa-LAD). After we ate and chatted, I washed the remaining tomatoes and put them in a container. I gave them to him and said, "I forgive you. Please take these and enjoy them."

Such a silly wandering of the mind has helped me to learn something. I have always wanted to be forgiving and gracious to those who sin against me. I know this is Christ's way. But, I have been an abject failure at this. I see now that I have not loved. Not only do I not love people, but I love what I have. I love the things I perceive as being mine. I cling to my things and let people go. Jesus loved people and let his very life go.

May the Lord give me the faith and the courage to let my life go. May he enable me to find in trespasses an opportunity to testify with love to His glory and power.

I see also that I have depended on myself for my security. I must stand up for myself and protect what is mine. Of course, I alone cannot provide for my own security. Neither is my security dependent on my obedience to Jesus. Only Jesus himself can provide security. Nevermind if my tomatoes are stolen or if my entire momentary, miniscule kingdom falls. I remain a ruler in the Eternal Kingdom of God!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Is it any wonder?

I remember a tv ad encouraging the purchase of some chocolate something-or-other and praising its "decadent sensation" or something similar. Do we now imagine that decadence is merely harmless, self-indulgent pleasure?

In fact, decadence leads to decay or is a form of it. Is it any wonder?

Friday, May 02, 2008


I still find it difficult to be still.

Sacrifice of Prayer

We've heard of sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15). I remember when I was more prone to prayer. As I give thanks to God for the food I'm about to eat, I remember that I once had the practice of praying with a sacrificial attitude. That sounds odd, I know. But what I mean is, I did not rush through it. Even with steaming hot, delicious food in front of my face, I got still. I prayed without any concern for how long it might take. The food wasn't the issue, I suppose. I prayed not out of duty, but out of desire. I relaxed, sat still, and waited AS I prayed, having submitted to God with a prayerful attitude, as opposed to being in a hurry to eat. Just now I felt more truly in prayer than I have in a long time. I want that to be the norm again. Am I making any sense?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Can corporate marketing be a good thing?

I enjoy that Coke has embraced, at least for public relations purposes, an ethic that is contrary to some current cultural trends. I additionally enjoy the fact that, by creating a parody of a video game wherein the player's goal is to role-play a bad guy as bad as he can be, Coke has expressed their ethic by directly confronting another company that has embraced the opposite ethic.

But who wants to be a bad guy anyway? What is the mindset behind this desire? On the other side of the equation, what is the mindset to which Coke's commercial appeals? Are we, as a culture, reaching the saturation point for violence, promiscuity, and pride? Can we offer an alternative? In fact, do we not have with the Gospel the only solution?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

TV vs. Relativism???

Wow! Television dealing with real life honestly? What a pleasant surprise! I'm not at all a fan of "ER", but I'm tempted to believe the end of this episode might be worthwhile.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Bad News

We all know that a lot of contemporary Christian music is fluff. I can live with that. There's a lot of good music to be found and a lot of good messages as well. Besides, who is perfect, anyway? We are all "in process", "under construction", being sanctified.

I may pay more attention to fluff than I have because I was shocked at Natalie Grant's In Better Hands. Now, wait a minute! I'm not calling for a boycott or excommunication or anything like that. I am only calling for your attention.

The first time I heard this song, my attention was instantly caught by Natalie's plaintive and sincerely grandiose style, which I often find beautiful and moving. But I was stunned to hear her sing "You can't love if you don't love yourself"! What? Did I hear that right? Can I rewind the radio? Isn't this a Christian station? Who is that? What's the name of that song?

In Better Hands is typical, nearly vacuous, contemporary Christian fluff, though better for having been sung by Natalie Grant. I don't mind at all that there is only incidental doctrinal content or that no figure of the Godhead is mentioned, though "the breath of Jesus" can be found in one line. I don't expect that kind of content in what is, essentially, pop music.

I'm sure no more thought was given to the line I find alarming than to others like "It’s like the world is silent, though I know it isn’t true". But, really? "You can't love if you don't love yourself"?!?!


We learn just the opposite from the Bible. If you can't love, it is most certainly because you do love yourself.

Some of this worldly thinking must come from the common confusion between love and joy. Many don't enjoy their identity, but that's only an issue because they love themselves so much. What does it mean to enjoy who you are, to enjoy your identity, to exult in yourself? It means to be proud and self-centered! Contrary to loving oneself, rejoicing in Jesus miraculously results in humility and love for others.

I love Natalie as she is our sister in the Lord. I stand behind her profession of faith. I have no desire to call her to account. May the Lord keep her, bless her abundantly, and continue to grow her up in Christ. May we all be discerning to see, smell, and taste before we swallow whole.

The Good News

Ginny Owens's debut Without Condition was released way back in 1999, but it may as well be new. In Ginny's lyrics, I find lessons for me today. Be Thou My Vision begins the record and its theme. There's a big lesson there!

I'm still growing and learing and so forth, but I am humbled by the words of I Wanna Be Moved because the first verse describes me and the rest does not:

    The Road is winding, narrow and steep
    And I can't keep walking with frozen feet,
    My spirit is not willing;
    My heart is cold as ice;
    Thaw out my convictions;
    The passion's left my life

    I don't wanna be a flame
    I wanna be a raging fire
    Tired of my will, my way,
    Your calling's higher!
    Oh, I know it's time I stopped running from the truth
    So I'll stand here still, until I'm filled
    I wanna be moved I wanna be moved by you!

    Wanna be a rebel with a Holy cause,
    Stand against the Devil and hold up my cross,
    You have a mission for me; a reason why I'm here,
    To radiate your glory, with sweet songs to your ears

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Unlocking the Mystery of Life

I frequently enjoy watching movies. I enjoy interesting stories, fantastical visual effects, and vicariously participating in activities I may never have the opportunity (or the inclination) to experience.

As a result of my interest, I have come across a very few fiction movies worth sharing with others and a rapidly growing number of documentaries of quality.

I have just viewed Unlocking the Mystery of Life and I highly recommend it. I have too little patience for traditional reviews, but in order to encourage you to see it - no, to own it yourself - I will be brief.

In the same way that The Privileged Planet promotes Intelligent Design generally, rather than a particular God or religion, Unlocking the Mystery of Life lays out the overwhelming evidence without being critical of opponents.

Better yet, the issues at hand and the evidence are presented with refreshing objectivity, in 'plain language', with common sense reasoning, but without skimming over the details. As a result, the viewer is not only informed, but equipped to discuss the subjects addressed.

In addition, viewers are treated to some of the awe inspiring beauty of the world in which we live.

Buy this DVD. Watch it with your children, your friends, and your neighbors. Then talk it over!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Love is a Four-Letter Word

"Love is patient, love is kind..."

Paul teaches us how to love. But, I now try to recall if I have been patient and kind to my ice cream. Because, of course, I love ice cream. How can I be kind to ice cream? If I did find a way, would it know? Would it care?

What's that you say? It's not the same?

Well, of course not exactly the same. I can be kind and patient with people whom I love. But I still love ice cream, don't I? It tastes so good. I've even been known to have a bowl of ice cream for supper. I admit I don't love all flavors equally. I'd even say some flavors I'm indifferent toward, but that's only because the flavors I do enjoy are readily available. I love butter pecan and mint chocolate chip. Yum!

And I love some of the people I know. I love talking with them, playing with them, just being around them. I seek them out to enjoy them – just like I do with ice cream.

But it is different. For my close friends, I have feelings I do not have for ice cream. I desire their good. I seek to serve them and please them. I am (at least sometimes) patient with them and kind to them. I don't do this with ice cream (God help me, I hope not!). Then, do I really love ice cream?

Well, let me check. Paul tells us what love is. "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking..." That's quite enough. I obviously do none of these things with regard to ice cream. Since this is what love is, and I do not do this to ice cream, then it cannot be love that I do to ice cream!

I certainly enjoy ice cream. But if love means to be patient, kind, etc., then how can I talk about love for food, a movie, a song, an amusement park, the beach, or any number of other things I commonly say I love? These are all things I enjoy, which is well enough. And, there is nothing wrong with enjoying people, but have I limited my concept of loving people to merely enjoying them? Doesn't that mean I have distorted love into something entirely selfish and (if that weren't bad enough) entirely passive?

Have I become a casualty of selfishness and juvenile hyperbole? I imagine (pre)teen girls talking about some new item of clothing, "This dress is to die for!", or, "I just adore these shoes!"


I'm a silly man.

To enjoy those whom we love is most likely an indication of a healthy mind and healthy spirit. But to love that which we enjoy is to personify, or even idolize, that which has no life in it. And shouldn't our regard for those whose souls are eternal and who bear the image of God be so much greater than our regard for that which is temporary and soulless?

When you hear me say, "I love ice cream", then please remind me, "No, you don't."

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Madness of Anger

The etymology of mad points to an original meaning of "insane". But we use it commonly and more frequently to mean "angry". This is a correct usage. So, what does that tell us about anger?

Interestingly, anger comes from a Norse word meaning "sorrow". Might this also tell us something about anger?