Monday, March 31, 2008

Personal and Historic

Amy and I have finally arrived to the destination of our final pre-baby vacation: a bed and breakfast in St. Augustine. To lessen the chances of being followed by the paparazzi (I spelled that word right on the 2nd try), I checked in under the name of Ron Mexico, since I knew Michael Vick won't be using that alias for a while.

So far the area looks really old and really cool. Our 30 square foot room should encourage us to take plenty of advantage of the sights instead of lounging around in the room and watching the 9 inch TV.

St. Augustine is the oldest city in the America. And as much as new things tantalize us (I'm blogging just a hundred or so yards away from the old spanish fort), most folks are somewhat attracted by antiquity. This is especially true today: one benefit of our post-modern times.

Though some folks now prefer hymns to newer "guitar-ish" arrangements, one thing that all hymn appreciators-if not aficionados-can agree upon is their rich lyrical heritage.

Now I'm not bashing new worship music. I am saying that just as many folks appreciate historical monuments, more and more people are now appreciating a personal AND historic faith through the vehicle of some great hymns. It's one way in which we express (and possibly feel) connection to those saints who've gone before us. The Church doesn't
have to sing all, or even any of the same songs as they did, but I think singing at least some of those songs helps us realize we are part of the same great story that has been going on for a long time.

Friday, March 28, 2008

An Update

In regards to a previous post on licking door knobs, I felt my readers deserved an updated report. The young lad who fell prey to the great temptation of licking door knobs has been out sick the past few days. We're currently unable to do a biopsy on him to tell if his sickness had anything to do with a week's worth of door knob licking. However, it is believed (by me) that licking door knobs did play a part. But I do confess that I'm no doctor. He should be fully recovered by the end of Spring Break, back to school, and hopefully keeping his distance from knobs.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Prostitution, Diane Sawyer, and bible quoting

On Friday night I DVR'd a special on prostitution in America. It was pretty darn sad of course. And I guess informative. My favorite part was Diane Sawyer's concluding remarks. She said something to the effect of, "In light of this being Good Friday, let us remember Jesus' words to the woman caught in adultery, 'Let he is without sin, cast the first stone.'"

Now she does have a good point. I need Jesus just as much as those prostitutes. And you do too. If you don't think so after Sunday, I didn't do a good job preaching on this subject-or you weren't there, or weren't listening. In the latter case it would be your fault, not mine.

Perhaps one of the purposes of the special was to challenge people to respond with compassion instead of condemnation. In that case it worked. I felt sad for these women. Only one really thought it was a noble profession. But I felt saddest for those who left the lifestyle and then returned to it. They tasted freedom and then went back to slavery.

Yet I found those closing words from Diane most thought provoking. People like Jesus' words when they support their agenda. But they can't take much of what Jesus says about Hell, or himself being the only way to salvation. These are far less popular, and consequently less quoted.

Now I do like Diane Sawyer the reporter and interviewer. But I have actually seen her oppose any sort of exclusive faith claims before so I know for a fact she wouldn't be caught dead quoting John 14:6.

But are we that much different than Diane? We may use some more verses, but there's probably plenty we tend to leave out of our repertoire. Solution? Regularly read the gospels.

History channel devotion

The History Channel ran a special on Crucifixion a few days ago. It was very informative, but of course incredibly painful and sorrowful to watch. The amount of suffering associated with the cross is amazing.

They interviewed historians, anthropologists, and a few doctors. Two of the doctors participating in the special took the gospels as gospel-so that was kind of cool, especially for the History Channel.

One fascinating question raised was "what exactly killed Jesus?" A myriad of different things can lead to the death of one crucified (they went into the anatomy of the victim in grim detail), but some doctors really pointed ultimately to one oft ignored (though assumed) incident.

Suffocation, dehydration, exposure, blood loss, or simply 'dying from pain,' all could have killed Jesus, but the gospel accounts might indicate something else. Since Simon of Cyrene was forced to carry Jesus' cross, one could assume that Jesus had fallen (nowhere does it mention that Jesus fell in the accounts, so it is an assumption-but I think a good one). Jesus, carrying a cross bar of 100 lbs or so, would have obviously fallen on his chest, injuring his heart. This would have led to an aneurism.

Since the gospel accounts have Jesus shouting his last words, and then immediately dying, he probably didn't die of asphyxiation. There wouldn't have been enough air in his lungs to do that. But instead, he would have been able to feel his heart nearing the end of its beating, and know the end was about to happen (of course he knew everything though). This would have been consistent with an aneurism.

EXACTLY what killed him is not important as much it is fodder for science and experiment. It is important that there was no body for autopsy. However, the awful death and scorn of the Father should never cease to amaze us of the love of one who gave up His only Son that we should live. He that did not spare His own Son, how will he not graciously give us all things? It says that somewhere, you know (Romans 8:32).

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Take a licking and keep on ticking

For the responsible Calvinist, there is always a tension between resting in God's providence (His overall involvement of all life) and simply being responsible. Let me give you an example.

God is active in the world and there are times when we will simply allow us to get sick. Nevertheless, it would be foolish not to wash our hands when we go to the bathroom, take out the trash, or leave the gym (the first thing Amy does is reach for and hand me the hand sanitizer!). Failure to do so can expose us to unnecessary germ exposure and lead to sickness.

However even when being as responsible as possible, God still holds the final 'trump' card on what will ultimately happen. Regardless of responsibility or lack there0f. One of Amy's students last week or two has been regularly licking door knobs. This is obviously disgusting. No argument there. But wouldn't you expect that licking door knobs might get one sick?

Well yesterday there were only 8 kids in Amy's class. One can assume that most were sick (since it wasn't raining-a common excuse to stay home), as several actually came to school sick.
But among those in attendance was the door knob licker. He, so far as we could tell suffered no ill effects from his licking. Yet 7 other kids, who abstained from door knob licking (at least for lent) got sick.

Often being responsible doesn't mean that things will turn out as expected. On the flip side, being irresponsible doesn't preclude blessing. Fortunately. Regardless of how much I mess up stuff through my irresponsibility, God will still work out all things for my good (conforming me to Christ's image) and His glory. So I can seek to be responsible and relax. Being responsible shouldn't make us neurotic or O.C.D. or overly timid. And of course believing in God's providence shouldn't make us irresponsible or disobedient (failing to love others, share the gospel, pray, go to church, etc...) either.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter Outreach Party

Saturday was filled with the unexpected, as is to be expected whenever you try to pull off some sort of 'event.' Hard-boiled eggs were breaking like teenage punks under the lights, our pre-separated 'gospel beads' turned up missing, some of our help forgot to come, we couldn't procure our normal bean-bag (kid occupier) game, it never stopped raining, etc....

But despite thoughts to cancel, we had the Easter Outreach Party at our house anyway. The rain dictated that we have most of it actually 'in our house.' We swept out the garage and turned it into a 4 square area. That kept the kids occupied for a bit until we headed inside for the gospel lesson.

One of our youth led the gospel bracelet time, where the kids made bracelets with beads of different colors representing a different part of the gospel story (for instance, gold meant God, black-sin, red-Jesus blood, white-cleanness, etc....).

After that we were back to the garage for the egg dyeing. The kids loved it. We had 4 or 5 different students from Amy's class, but each one brought siblings or cousins. So we had about 10 kids, including 2 from the church. Not as many as last time, but it was well worth it to share the gospel with some kids who don't usually hear it. And they left wearing the bracelet, something that we hope will continue to point to Jesus as long as they wear it. We'll see if they're still on their wrists come Monday.

It was hard work, especially for my pregnant wife, but I'm glad we did it. Seeing youth lead stuff, teach the gospel, and take ownership of the event is totally worth it. But then again, I'm not the pregnant one whose back still hurts!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Resurrection Songs: A down to Earth message

I was planning the Easter Sunrise Service yesterday and ran into the same problem I have every year at this time: there really isn't a plethora of resurrection focused hymns or praise songs. At least one's that I'm familiar with.

I found Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ to be very devotional, convicting, challenging, Christ-centered. But it was exactly as advertised: the passion. There were about 15 seconds of resurrection. In comparison to songs focused on the cross, there are about 15 seconds of resurrection based songs in our hymnbook.

Contemporary praise songs might boast a few more (of the one's I'm familiar with), but not that many. It really reveals something about our "western" Christianity. We focus far more on the cross than the resurrection even though-if you want to play that game-Jesus was raised from the dead for our justification (Romans 4:25).

But the resurrection of Christ really destroys our typically Platonic (heaven or the spiritual realm is our ultimate reality/goal/destination). It reminds us that Jesus is the first fruits (the first of the harvest), then us, then all of creation. We get a whole new world. Heaven one day comes down, and is really in the process of coming down even now-just as He came down.
Remember Jesus' prayer-Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven.

We need some new hymn/praise song writers which focus on the resurrection of Christ and its significance to the Christian life and advancement of God's Kingdom. Hopefully they come soon and remind us to be active in bringing God's Kingdom (bringing His perfect will in heaven down to Earth).

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Fishing differently in different waters and cultures

This Saturday from 4-5 pm we are having an Easter Outreach Party at our house for Amy's school kids, neighborhood kids, church kids, and whoever else will come. If you remember, go ahead and send a quick prayer that God provides everything and everyone. Thanks.

Anyhow, due to bad scheduling on my part, and some other factors, I will be missing the last kayak fishing tournament of the year. Last tourney I participated in, I missed a 25 dollar gift certificate by 1/2 an inch-so there is big money at stake I'm potentially forfeiting! Sure.

Regardless, yesterday someone sent me a link of a fishing tournament in Nigeria. You really ought to check it out by clicking here, and then go to the "Fishing Mayhem" caption for the slides. They really are interesting. If for some reason the link has changed, please post a response and I'll find it for you. It's that cool.

I've found a few similarities between the two fishing tournaments. Money is involved as well as fish and fisherman. Other than that, they look totally different because they are in different cultures-not to mention targeting different kinds of fish.

Their tournament weigh-in involves actual fish. Our kayak tournament 'weigh-in' involves digital images when we submit our camera's memory cards (its an all-release tournament). They use nets while we can only use lures (no bait or even scented artificial lures), and usually specified lures at that. They can get knocked out while wrestling giant catfish. To my knowledge no one has ever been injured while battling a large fish in our tourneys.

If I were a missionary in Africa, and wanted to do a fishing tournament/outreach, I would never try to do a kayak/rod-n-reel/artificial lures only tournament there. That would be ridiculous.
Though I don't have any desire to wrestle catfish (I would probably go for a different species because catfish have barbs that stab), I would have to fish like they do-even as detestable as that is to my 'sporting' convictions.

If I were a missionary in Africa, I would have to cater my ministry to the people would hope to reach. And so must we do that even in our culture today. We do that by finding places and activities which are culturally-or even sub-culturally relevant (but not sinful of course)-and participating in them: kids activities, coffee shops, school functions/responsibilities, homeowners associations, gyms, community concerns, etc...

If we can affirm what is culturally good with them, we are one step closer to redeeming what is culturally sinful.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Look carefully where you live, work, and play

Randy Pope, senior pastor of Perimeter Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, claims there are 3 major places where we have opportunities to make new relationships or build existing relationships with hopes of someday pointing them to Christ and/or His Church (what I mean by the and/or bit is that they may know Jesus but need a church home):

1. Where you work
2. Where you live
3. Where you play

For me, where I play (for the time being-my time on the water will obviously be cut short a bit when the baby comes) is the weightroom and water. I actually got several invitations to fish in a span of 5 minutes yesterday.

For Randy Greenwald, senior pastor of Hope Presbyterian Church, the lines become a little blurry. His new office (or study) is a downtown coffee shop. And from this place he has developed various relationships with all kinds of interesting people.

Today I was with him and met a former Defensive End for the Baltimore Colts. I've met two former Colts' defensive ends in one week! One was where I "play" (gym), one was where Randy "works."

But there is a reason why I say the lines for Randy are somewhat blurred. Talking to these folks at his study, as well as hearing their stories, was and is really quite fun-especially when they have a really cool dog like a lab.

Anyhow, just be aware that many of us fall into all three categories and have places where we work (workplace), live (neighborhoods) and play (hobbies/activities). And so these become places for relationships. But even for those who don't go to work or play (don't have time for hobbies), they still live somewhere. And as long as you live, there are people out there whom God calls you and I to love.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Tales from the Crib

I finally finished putting together our crib today. Its a nice looking crib, probably even close to worth the money we paid for it. But it wasn't an easy task, for me at least.

The mattress support bars didn't fit. They weren't quite long enough to attach to the wooden frame. So I called customer service, aka the "Crib Keeper," and I talked to a woman. Kind of humbling I must admit. I was feeling so masculine putting the darn thing together.

Anyhow, I told them that my mattress support was too short. I figured it was "their" problem.
But she gently explained that people call in all of the time with the same complaint. It was probably "my" problem. A pictorial email shortly arrived to my inbox that explained everything.

I guess I hadn't followed the directions as carefully as I had thought. There were 4 attachments which I assumed were interchangeable. They weren't, and when I put the right ones in the right place, I had new life. I had a fully functioning crib.

Basically she explained to me that I was wrong; it was my fault, not their fault. But she did it with gentleness and respect. She even told me if that didn't fix the problem to call them back (but she was pretty sure the email would expose my error). I'm reminded of Peter's challenge in his first epistle to "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect...(I Peter 3:15)"

Respect goes a long way in pointing people to the truth. Folks listen better when they are shown respect and gentleness. I know I do. So the "Crib Keeper's" demeanor was both refreshing and convicting.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Deep Baby Thoughts

Amy doesn't want to know what kind of baby we're having. By kind, I mean sex. I do. But since she's the one carrying the child, I really don't get a vote. Kind of like Florida democrats, I guess-although I'm not really up to date, so feel free to let me know. Someone did buy her an "It's A Girl" picture frame at her shower yesterday. Perhaps that will be prophetic. If not, a good friend reminded her she could just use a Sharpie to write in "It's NOT a girl." Not a bad idea. Hopefully Little T will have a sense of humor if Little T is a dude.

But as I was driving home from church, I pondered not the sex of the child, but how our life would change based upon the presence or lack of that ever popular external organ. Seriously.

Our life will move in different directions based upon its presence. Who we develop friendships with outside the church will often be connected with where our child's interests land. Baseball or softball? Even if it is basketball (our kid is probably going to be tall-Little T already has long legs), is it boy's or girl's basketball? We'll probably be most connected to other parents with kids of the same sex.

Now of course there is one non-negotiable constant: fishing. Boy or girl, when that kid can walk, I'm going to do all that is within my power give him/her "sea legs."

But regardless, I just think its interesting that who we meet and hang out with will probably be determined by the sex of the child. Fortunately the sex of the child has already been determined by the great baby knitter (Psalm 139). So I needn't worry myself with all of the relational and ministerial ramifications springing from its sex.

Friday, March 14, 2008

On being famous: What a band and NFL player taught me

I used to listen to a band called Vertical Horizon. They were an acoustic guitar duo before they turned to the dark side of trendiness, leather pants, and pop music. Now they're famous, popular, but not really as good (or course in my opinion). Ironically they sang a song called "Famous" with these lyrics (I wish they would have taken their own advice):

Oh I know
The wind is gonna blow
And in the winter
There's sure to be snow
But with the warmth of your smile
And the sun of your face
Shine on me in the darkness
With your love and grace
And if time hides my eyes
Listen to my music and recognize

I don't want to be famous in life
I don't want to be famous in the world
I just wanna be famous
I want to be famous in your heart

I thought of this song the other day, because I have to admit I want to be famous. Steve Brown once told me that my writing is good, but "no publisher will take it because I'm not already famous." He was just being honest, which is one thing I love about him.

Anyhow, I met a man in the gym-this all connects if you can stay with me-whose name I recognized. Someone told me that he played football and I immediately recognized he played defensive end for the Indianapolis Colts. Wow. But they told me I couldn't say anything because he doesn't want anyone to know. He doesn't want anyone to know that he's famous! So I can't mention his name here.

That's honestly something I struggle with. I would love to be famous. I really would. Not just so I could be published, but simply famous. I have to confess it a lot. But the reason I struggle with it so much is because I don't believe the lyrics of this Vertical Horizon song: "I just want to be famous in your heart." But if Jesus did come and die for me, has seated me in the heavenly realms (Eph 2:6), and knows the hairs on my head (Matt 10:30), then that's pretty famous.
Famous in His heart. That ought to be good enough. Things I learned from pop stars and an NFL player.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I salute you, Mr. organized budget number cruncher explainer guy

During our session meetings, we usually bring up some sort of budget stuff: to see how things are going financially. Looking at all the numbers, I'm usually fairly overwhelmed-not because numbers were too small-because I didn't really know what they meant.

Well, last night, I started to understand some of them. Then I realized how thankful I am that I don't have to understand them perfectly. People in the church have different gifts. While preaching and teaching are very 'up front' public gifts, every gift is just as important as the next. And when you don't have administrative gifts or abilities to run budgetary stuff, you become incredibly thankful for those who do.
Churches don't work without such people.

I hate radio commercials. They are like 10 times worse than TV commercials in my opinion. But there is always an exception that proves the rule: the "Real Men of Genius" commercials. They say, "We salute you Mr. really really short basketball shorts wearer" or things like that.

They're sarcastic of course.
But seriously, I do salute you Mr. organized budget number crucher explainer guy. But even more so, I salute the one who gives various gifts to His church (Eph 4). No church would survive on my gifts alone, nor yours either (though you may have more than I), nor the gifts of a few. We need them all. Yet another reason to become a regular part of a local church-though I didn't plan on making that point. Last night, I was just especially thankful for the gifts that God gives His church.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Gangs at church: Anger and sorrow

On this Sunday afternoon around 3 pm, a few visitors stopped by our church. Actually, they were here to paint. Now normally that is good news, because our church is being painted now, but these were really not the painters/visitors we'd been praying for. They carried cans of lovely blue spray paint.

Something that Al Queda and gangs have in common is that they always take 'credit' for the bad things they do. Such was the case this time at it was spray-painted on the wall. Fortunately for us, we are in the process of painting, so it really wasn't that big of a deal: someone just painted over it with the off-tope color of the newly painted other buildings.

Anyhow, these same hoodlums (he could hear their conversations) had been here before and painted "No Surremacy" on the walls.

I have several thoughts on the matter.

1.) Is there a special place in Hell for folks who steal from and vandalize churches? I think there easily could be but I shan't take the time to explain. But do I deserve to be there for my sins, seeing as my heart has been made alive and I still continue to sin? Of course.

2.) How should I think of folks who do such things? The apostle Paul did much worse than vandalize the church; he arrested early Christians and approved their executions (Acts 8:1). And Jesus looked with compassion upon those crucified him. While I will not overlook justice for these spray-painting Latino gang members (I hope they get locked up), I think I should feel more compassion for these lost folks then dreaming of catching them in the act and beating them up (my first reaction/dream). They are young and desperately want to fit in this gang, this surrogate family. And that ought to make us sad. They really have more in common with us all than we would normally think. People wanting to fit in with other people who really don't care about them. How common is that? About as common as air.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The perfect life strategy didn't work for Jesus, so don't try it yourself

I hate it when people steal. Stealing of materials (like lawn mowers, cars, or illegal downloads) or material (ideas from people like jokes or even biblical insight-WHEN they have PROPER time/need to give reference; just my personal opinion). So I'll tell you this up front: someone pointed out something really cool to me the other day during my discussion leading "Training Day."

Now that I got that off my chest, and can limit my hypocrisy (all people are hypocrites I think-just to what degree), I want to share with you something I think is pretty cool. It concerns personal evangelism strategy.

Some people think they they can live godly, near perfect lives, in front of others in hopes that this near perfect life would make those around them say-in a nutshell-"Tell me about Jesus because I want this life that you're living." But if you study the gospels carefully, you'll see that this strategy didn't work for Jesus. His brothers and even his mother (yes even mother Mary) were concerned about his sanity (Mark 3:20-ff). It wasn't until after Jesus' resurrection that we see his brother James really come on to the scene.

Since the perfect life strategy didn't work for Jesus, it shouldn't be our M.O. The Jesus-centered life of faith and repentance is something people don't see very often. And they want to. So relax if you 'mess up' and repent. Repenting is more likely to get others thinking than this attempt at near-perfection. Going and repenting is more Jesus-centered than staying and trying to be good. Who knows, you may one day point them to Jesus, and not yourself....?

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Neighborhood Smokeout

We had another neighborhood cookout, or rather "smoke-out," this Saturday. The last smoke-out involved someone's car. This time we switched to beef.

And some folks came. And some folks stayed inside their houses. Trying to get people to get to know each other is like trying to get kids to eat vegetables. The only difference is that you can't load neighbors up with ranch dressing or a pound of butter to make them 'taste' better.

However there really are those who want to live in community. And the number is growing: we had two first time households. One of those folks actually has a passion for smoking meat. Just a few days ago he was wondering if our neighborhood ever had a block party so he could smoke out. And then came a flyer to his mailbox. He will be replacing my burgers from now on. Even though the beef arrived an hour late, it was well worth the wait.

He not only brought the meat, but several members of his family. And his arrival reminded me that people really do appreciate these cookouts. He actually wanted to get to know his neighbors. And I have to believe there are more out there just like him.
While we lacked the quantity of our previous cookouts, I was reminded that the friendships we're building through these opportunities far surpasses my anxieties regarding them. Everyone who God planned to show up, did just that. And we all enjoyed our time together. Well worth it.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Lord will remove the Yankees soon!

I just finished my personal bible study in Ephesians recently and decided to take a road less traveled and hit up some of the minor prophets. They are very difficult to understand, and one really does need some sort of reference tool like a study bible or commentary to really understand what’s happening. That’s just the price we pay for being 21st century Gentiles. But that’s fine with me: I don’t think I would fare too well back in the ‘old days.’

Anyhow, I came across a verse that seemed very relevant and comforting for a 21st century Bradentonian (or anyone living in Florida) during the months of November through March. Check it out:

Joel 2:20 "I will remove the northerner far from you, and drive him into a parched and desolate land…

Here was my first thought, “Great, traffic will finally be better now in Bradenton!” Now I have nothing against the Northerners being down here during winter time per se. They keep our economy floating, I think. But for traffic purposes-and the hope of waiting under an hour to be seated at Olive Garden-most residents here would be glad when the Lord ‘removes’ them from us.

It would be fairly ludicrous to interpret this verse to refer to Florida’s winter residents. I think all of you would agree (though many Floridians begrudgingly, as though you wish I were on to something). While this example is hyperbolic, folks do like to pick and choose isolated verses to support personal agendas that have nothing to do with the context.

God’s word is a sword. But we must be careful and responsible in interpreting it. Improper interpretation of God’s word can cut people in a bad way: either by weighing them down with pharisaical burdens or moving them away from the church.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Grunts: Don't eat the maid!

This morning I was reading an article in my ever-s0-informative Florida Sportsman (I actually got one SAT answer correct because I knew what the word 'burly' meant as I saw it describing some big redfish-true story). Usually the magazine lasts about 5 minutes, but today it outlived its normal shelf-life and provided some actual useful insight (when I say useful, I don't mean that it actually helped me catch a fish; I'm not sure I've caught one fish because of that magazine).

Let me explain. The article discussed a family of fish called Grunts. Grunts (which obviously 'grunt') hang around Grouper and they are the other species of fish most caught when targeting Grouper. My family doesn't like to eat them because they are 90% head and 10% rest of body. Not good odds for getting meat. Of course party boats (those with 20-50 anglers on them) catch the heck out of them and bring back long stringers. Again, not my bag.

So I was strangely intrigued why someone would write an article about "Grunts." I succumbed to my curiosity and proceeded to read until I found this Grunt 'fun fact.' The juvenile Porkfish, a member of the Grunt family (what an honor) spend time cleaning the mouths of large grouper. To clean a grouper's mouth, these young porkfish have to actually swim inside the mouth. Obviously. And yet they do so without 'fear.' They don't get eaten. How crazy is that?

Grouper, in case you don't know or care, eat ANYTHING that they can fit in their mouth. That's why they are terrible for aquariums. They eat all the fish, because all the fish can fit in their huge mouths. You can catch Grouper on fried chicken sometimes. They are not picky. I've caught many a grouper on several different species of Grunt before. But I'll never try to use small porkfish if given the opportunity.

This is actually going somewhere, believe it or not. How do Grouper know that the juvenlie porkfish are there to clean? How many were eaten before they understood that you just don't eat 'the maid?' How could this process evolve on its own? I mean Grouper suck down everything. They suck down every other fish. Bigger members of the grouper family (called Jewfish or Goliath Grouper to be P.C.) suck down other Grouper.

Its a fish-eat-fish world out there, at least in most cases. But not this one. I applaud God on His creation. I'll try not to look at Grunts (at least some Grunts) in the same light anymore.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A dangerous Harry Potter Hermeneutic

I remember the first time I heard the word 'hermeneutic:' I was a junior in a college bible study. I didn't like the sound of it. But I later learned it simply means the science/method of interpretation. That sounds more like me.

Fast forward to several weeks ago when I watched the 5th Harry Potter without watching the first four. I just didn't have the time or care to watch the others. And while I enjoyed the last Harry Potter movie, and understood some of it, I truly did miss a good bit. I missed the main story-line. I missed things and people which fit into that story-line: what happened to Harry's parents, friends, enemies. I missed some of the reoccurring themes and struggles since I was unaware of them and their genesis. I really can't tell you the story-line even now.

Watching the 5th Harry Potter movie without watching the first is kind of like reading the New Testament without knowledge of persons, story-lines, or themes present in the Old Testament. The Reformed view of scripture-in case you don't know-is one that sees the OT and NT as one unit. A unit that is united in a common story of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation. To get more specific, we see the role of God's covenants and Kingdom in how Redemption is accomplished and Consummation reached.

If we fail to see how this story unfolds throughout the bible, we will fail to interpret and apply it properly-or at the very least, responsibly. If the New Testament is interpreted with these themes in mind, we may find more evangelical agreement on issues like the role of Israel, baptism, covenant community (as opposed to individual spirituality), God's Sovereignty in salvation, the purpose of God's blessing, the advancement of the Kingdom in our physical world, etc...

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Make sure you're answering the question that is being asked

Several weeks ago the bookkeeper at my church went on vacation. At the hotel she received a complimentary USA Today newspaper and came across this article. The article is certainly sad, but it is quite helpful. It really is worth your 5 minutes.

The gist of the article is this: in a religion class, college students create and present their own religions. Most of the religions created were nothing more than individualistic, atheistic, relativistic attempts to be free from authority. That was sad. But the article was quite helpful in revealing some of the questions and idols people are truly seeking.

Christianity as the true religion does deal with the real questions people are asking. And as Christians, we need to be aware what questions people are actually asking. We are notorious for trying to answer the wrong question. For instance, in the 80's, Evangelism Explosion's question "What would you say if God asked you 'Why should I let you into heaven?'" was appropriate and effective.

But heaven, as evidenced by this article, is not even on the radar of college students. Thus this is not the approach to take with them. If their idol is freedom and autonomy, we need to ask questions like "Is anyone really self-made" and "Is it really freedom when you are enslaved to doing your own will all the time?" The goal is to take their questions, expose their false answers, and point them to the true answer: Christ. Jesus is the one who sets us free, and we can feel unbelievable freedom in living without shame, guilt, fear within the parameters he sets in His word. That's freedom, not slavery to whatever someone else has determined is cool or kosher.

Now it may happen that someone's main question is What happens when we die, or how can Christianity be true when Evolution says it isn't? But these, with some exceptions of course, are NOT the questions my generation is asking. So trying answering them and trying to prove evolution false will inevitably get you the response so what? What questions are people asking? You have to spend the time and figure out. But its not that hard. Just ask questions and listen.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Not too many things in this life last as long as we'd hope. Enter the tattoo. Psychologically speaking, I think they serve several purposes, with the foremost being that they provide stability. And keep in mind that I'm not bashing them; I do want one someday, thought the doors of opportunity are quickly closing-probably not a good use of resources at this time in my life.

Anyway, nothing lasts forever (even Cold November rain, according to Guns-N-Roses), but tattoos last as long as we do. Sometimes people will express the depth of their love with tattoos of loved ones. But deep down I think it really exposes the desire for relational stability.
We're serious now, and this tattoo proves it. You wouldn't leave any time soon would you? It didn't work for Angelina Jolie, although it may have bought her a few extra months with Billy Bob Thorton. Hard to tell at this point.

Personally, I stick to the airbrush license plates that say something like Geoff-N-Amy 4 Eva. When the relationship is over (not referring to mine), one can just take the plate off the front and get ready for the next relationship plate. Fairly inexpensive way to express your love.

But since divorce rates are very high these days, one thing you can surely count on staying this same in this transient world is NASCAR. Right? Well I saw a woman at Sweetbay's Supermarket the other day who thought so; she tattooed Dale Jr's number on the outside of her shoulder. The problem came when Dale Jr left DEI and changed numbers.

Although we have to applaud his sensitivity to his fans: his new number is 88. So that woman at Sweetbay's can add an 8 and not miss a beat. The tattoo 'addendum' may be a little off-centered, but beggars can't be choosers.