Monday, November 30, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
The Parable of the Lost Sheep1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and
Image by Lawrence OP via Flickrthe scribes grumbled, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them." 3 So he told them this parable: 4 "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Luke 15
I love this parable. But until yesterday, I didn't realize I was missing out on entire vistas of what Jesus wanted to communicate. I feel dumb. But I am so glad God spoke to me through Ben. Yesterday, I was commenting at Ben's blog, Faith Autopsy, and he said something to me in the comments that finally made the concept of "missional" click for me. In the post Becoming Church for Tyler he wrote in response to me in the comments
Tyler won't go to your church or to the church I was at or any other church -- because he already (thinks he) knows what they think of him... and at some level, he is right. But I don't think the onus is on Tyler... but on the church. If we learn anything from Luke 15, we learn that God is on a search-and-rescue mission and wants us to be also. Missing people matter to God and therefore must matter to the church.
While Tyler does not stay awake at night wondering where he can find a church that will accept him, the church SHOULD BE staying up at night trying to figure out how to reach, connect with, and love people like Tyler. One of the things that makes Christianity totally unique over all other world religions and philosophies is that in all other cases, religion is really about MANKIND IN SEARCH OF THE DIVINE (whatever that may look like in that tradition). But Christianity is explicitly the opposite... what Advent, Christmas and the incarnation tell us is that Christianity is about THE DIVINE IN SEARCH OF MANKIND. That is radical... and it is life-transforming when you get it!
God is searching for and waiting for and longing for Tyler to come home to his Heavenly Father. I believe that Jesus weeps (and maybe even stays up late) because Tyler is missing from the great party... the great banquet. And the banquet is not complete until all those invited are there --- "my house must be full" Jesus says... "compel them to come in!" Luke 14 is as instrumental to our understanding the heart and mission of God as Luke 15 is.
I also believe to the core of my being that Jesus is far more concerned with the fact that Tyler doesn't know how much he is loved unconditionally by his Heavenly Father... that He is missing out on abundant life now... than who he is sleeping with when. Does God care about Tyler's sex life? Yes --- God cares about every aspect of our lives, big and small. But does God care more about Tyler's sex life than Tyler's relationship with God? No way! Yet the church is more obsessed with Tyler's sex life than his relationship with God... more obsessed with it than God is. And I believe that this stuff matters... that not only does the promise of abundant life (John 10:10) hang in the balance, but for Tyler and millions of others, eternity hangs in the balance. And if this is true, how dare we take a "take it or leave it" approach to Tyler. No! The church is responsible and accountable to God for what it is doing to reach Tyler. We should lose sleep over this stuff... we should be dreaming of new ways to do church... we should be praying like we've never prayed and loving like we've never loved...
Image via Wikipedia
A gay friend once brought me to a couple gay bars in New York City to show me his world. Ever since I've longed to somehow engage the mission field in the local gay bars. Ben's refresher for me in theology, that Jesus is in pursuit of the missing ones so should I, has re-awakened that longing.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Let me assert that the vampire Cullen family are the good guys in the series. They may have weaknesses, but overall, they are the best. In fact, Bella Swan practically worships them as well
Image via Wikipediaas her boyfriend, Eddie [Munster] Cullen.
I think they represent an ideal family to Meyer. Their marble white skin has echoes of LDS theology as well, but that's for another time. One thing that sets the Cullen clan apart from most vampire clans is there "vegetarianism." They abstain from human blood. They derive their sustenance from the blood of predators like grizzlies and mountain lions.
In the first book, they encounter typical vampires who get thirsty when they meet Bella, the human. They proceed to hunt her and the Cullen clan tries to hide and defend her.
In the subsequent books there is trouble with the Vampire elite, the Volturi, in Italy.
Their seem to be three kinds of vampires in the books. The non-humna blood sucking Cullens, the regular human killing blood suckers, and the Italian elite. Humans are a sub-kind.
I learned something new about LDS theology today. The symbols used in LDS sacrament, the equivalent to orthodox communion/eucharist/Lord's supper are bread and water, not wine or grape juice, links 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
All this to say, I think the Cullens represent faithful Mormons, the unenlightened suckers of human blood are the Protestants, and the Volturi, who also suck human blood, are the Roman Catholics. The Eastern Orthodox get no respect. I think Bella represents a potential convert. She also has to make a choice regarding an Indian suitor, a Lamanite.
My Mormon friends do not believe I am going to hell. Which is why I ask the "elders" who come to my door to proselytize me "why bother"? I'm simply a less enlightened member of their race, I lack the new revelations of God through their prophets. In fact, in LDS theology, we all live eternally, just that the non-Mormons are stuck on earth. Hell is only for guys like Hitler.
I tell them, however, that Jesus is particular about the conditions for eternal life. He says in his Sermon on the Mount, 13 "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Matthew 7
I tell them that abstaining from alcohol and coffee do not get you into heaven, Jesus does. Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" 38 And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Repentance in the heart, as attested too outwardly in baptism, is the means of entrance. Repent from our sins to our Savior. Simply consent to be loved by God. Our good works flow out of us as the indwelling Holy Spirit works in us and makes us holy. Our good works are a way of demonstrating our gratitude not as a means to reserve our spot in heaven.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Salvation is a gift to be received, not a wage to be earned.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Image via Wikipedia
Temple Marriage is Forever:Being married in a temple means being together for all time and all eternity and having an eternal family. When a couple is sealed to each other on earth (with the proper authority) they are also sealed to each other in heaven. Through this sealing power families can be together, after death, in the next life. For a marriage to be eternal a couple must be sealed together in God's holy temple and by his holy priesthood power, if not their marriage will only be "until death do you part.""The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally" (The Family paragraph 3).(Also see D&C 132: 18.)
Orthodox Christians hold to "until death do you part" because of the teaching of Jesus. In a direct answer to a direct question about marriage in heaven Jesus responds, "For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven." Mark 12:25 There are a few different LDS responses to this difficulty.
The stakes are much higher in Mormonism. A temple marriage is one of the necessary components to attaining the highest level of heaven, the celestial. Single Mormons can't have this aspiration, but can only hope to be angelic servants of eternally sealed Mormon families.
Those who choose to remain single or do not enter into the covenant of celestial marriage while on earth are no longer in obedience to God or to LDS authorities. They will not advance to Godhood, but will be given menial tasks as angels for all eternity. "Many who practice celibacy do so out of an excessive religious devotion and with the idea in mind that they are serving their Maker. In reality, they are forsaking some of the most important purposes of their creation…" (Mormon Doctrine pg. 119). "Therefore, when they are out of the world they… are appointed angels in heaven… to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory. For these angels did not abide my law" (Doctrine and Covenants 132:16-17).
We have to wonder, then, about the Apostle Paul or even Jesus Himself. Are they nothing more than "ministering angels" because they remained single here on earth? This would seem to be the case. However, to avoid this difficulty, LDS leaders have taught that both of them were married. In fact, some even taught that Jesus was a polygamist. See Journal of Discourses 1:345, 2:82, 4:259; The Seer, p.172.
Again, evidence assumed as not needing explanation for orthodox Christians, needs post-New Testament counter claims provided by LDS apostles.
One of the difficulties this also creates is that only Mormons in good standing are allowed to attend a temple ceremony. Unlike an orthodox Christian wedding in which anyone can come and observe, LDS ceremonies are private. This can create family strife if the parents of a bride or groom are not LDS, as explained here by an orthodox dad married to an LDS woman with 2 daughters.
Of all the peculiar policies that represent orthodox LDS positions of faith and practice, this one is perhaps the least known about by those outside of the Mormon Church. Yet this practice, breaking up families on the one day they ought to be most united, is the most barbaric. And the worst part is that those who are not members of the LDS Church too often get blindsided by it; they don't understand until it is too late to do anything.Another story here and here. In hindsight, some Mormon couples regret the exclusivity of the ceremony and have public re-commitment ceremonies. See stories here.
The Apostle Paul speaks of marriage as a mystery. In Ephesians 5:31-33 he writes, 31 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great – but I am actually speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each one of you must also love his own wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. While Mormonism seems to make marriage an end, orthodoxy sees it as a means to an end, a foreshadowing of Christ's relationship to his church, also called his bride. The importance in perspective is well written in a new book called Raising Purity.
Herein, then, lies the significance of sex and marriage—not what it accomplishes on an earthly plane but what it images forth on a divine plane. It is not an end in itself; it is a type of something higher, pointing to the deeper reality of the gospel. Just as sex establishes a new union between a man and a woman and explains the shared life that follows, so too the indwelling of the Holy Spirit marks a new union between Christ and the Christian and accounts for the life-change that follows. Just as a husband and wife “become one” physically, Christ and the Christian “become one” spiritually (1 Corinthians 6:17). The New Testament’s many references to the church as the “bride” of Christ and to Christ as the “bridegroom” further highlights this parallel between earthly and heavenly union. Additionally, many of Christ’s parables use the wedding motif as an illustration of his return and consummate union with the church. And Revelation explicitly refers to the wedding of the Lamb and the church as inaugurating the dawn of the eternal age (see also Matthew 25:1–13; Revelation 19:7; 21:2, 9; 22:17).
It’s important to remember which came first in God’s mind; God did not pattern the divine marriage after human marriage, but rather human marriage is a foreshadowing of the divine marriage. The fact that the oneness of sex images forth the oneness of our spiritual relationship with Christ is not merely a happy coincidence. Just as God ordained the Passover lamb of the Old Covenant to prophetically witness to the coming sacrifice of Christ, so too God ordained human marriage to testify to the coming wedding supper of the Lamb.
This inadequate theology of marriage from Mormonism is one of many nails in its coffin of theological inanity. Some in Mormonism recognize these inconsistencies and follow logic into orthodoxy, but some leave God altogether. I pray the seeds I sow with the Mormon elders who come to my house blossom into a correct and saving faith.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Cover of Twilight (Twilight, Book 1)can't resist a loquacious, materialistic, vapid author who never met a noun with multiple adjectives she didn't like? Did I long to re-live the emotional quagmire of adolescence from a dysfunctional, emotionally unstable, female viewpoint?
Rather, I happen to parent a young adolescent daughter who has a voracious appetite for novels after cutting her teeth on Rowling's Harry Potter series over and over again. She is perpetually in search of something equal to Rowling's opus in the adolescent market. A popular 500 page novel based on the occult life of a teen girl in high school has come onto her radar, mostly due to the cinema success and a few breathless recommendations by her fellow readers.
Therefore, I decided to preview the book to see what repercussions I might face after she reads it. I have been able to parlay this carrot into a couple prerequisites. Although she was too young to be forced to read Dickens before reading Rowling, now she is old enough to read proper romantic literature before getting her hands on this potboiler. Before I even opened this book, I had her read Shakespeare's famous play of impossible adolescent love, Romeo and Juliet. She actually had great fun with that by enlisting her younger sister to read out lines with her. Sadly, she finished R and J in an evening. Meanwhile, I was starting to swing my machete through the adjectival thicket blocking the thinness of storyline in Meyer's book. The main human character, Bella Swan, mentions losing herself in Austen and Bronte novels, a form of simultaneous homage and penance by the author. Since Meyer is trying to stand on their shoulders, I have also required my dear daughter to also read Sense and Sensibility and Wuthering Heights. Not only did I have to bide time, but I realized I needed to inoculate her from a possible case of enthrallment with poor writing. I may be able to get her to read Count Dracula after the fact. She is commendable, because she will read these. For someone not so eager to read, I'd recommend Superman comic books. Maybe, if Twilight were a graphic novel, it would be more interesting as Clark Kent and Lois Lane recast with Kent in anger management classes. Or maybe if Lane started dating the Incredible Hulk, and the threat of domestic violence hangs by a thread over the story line.
In case you missed it, I'm concerned with Meyer's abuse of adjectives. I hold her editor as an accomplice, equally guilty. I sincerely believe, the book would be 150 pages shorter if every mention of vampire boyfriend Edward Cullen did not require a minimum of 3 adjectives ranging from gorgeous and Adonis-like to radiant and unnaturally strong. It is only by the ad nauseum
Image by Ezyan Y. via Flickrrepetition that I know for sure his breath is so good he should do ads for Tic-Tac and his pecs are so massive that no shirt can hide his hot-ness. I feel awful for the actor portraying Eddy in the films. What a disappointment he must be to all those who imagined the lithe and powerful stud in the book. For awhile, I could excuse this because a vampire's victim is supposed to be irresistibly attracted to the blood sucker, but this wasn't the case when she met a "bad" vampire. This leads me to conclude the author has a bad crush on a character of her own creation. That grosses me out. What concerns me as a father of a future reader of this book is the infatuation with the superficiality of the star struck. Unlike the classic romantic stories, the lust leads to love. In the classics, the lust-er learns, often the hard way, that a cover is never enough to judge the contents. Rarely do covers and contents align among humankind, neither in vampire-kind either. However, in Meyer's vampire world, the gorgeous creature is perfect. Everything he does, makes her heart flutter. She even faints when he kisses her. It was one of many times when I spoke out loud to the book, "STOP THAT." They have electricity. I know this because I'm told it several times.
But I don't want my daughters to fall in love with men who acknowledge they might kill them in a moment of weakness. That is a serious character flaw which no amount of physical perfection can compensate for. Bella is a fool for lust, not a fool for love. In fact, she wants him to poison her blood so she can be like him. I want a story about him laying down his immortality to be with her. Wait. I think that has been done before.
Let me slip in the gospel for a second.
"He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." 2 Corinthians 5:21
and"For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit," 1 Peter 3:18
I want my daughters to marry men who live to die for them, like their Savior did.
To be honest, I hated Austen and the Bronte sisters as well. Romantic literature bores me. Nothing happens. At least Meyer does well in emulating this feature of the genre. Finally, by page 400, something interesting happened. Some bad vampires, gorgeous but bad, showed up. For 50 pages, I enjoyed turning the pages. My son wants to know if he can read the book as well. I told him there were 50 pages he might like. For the first time in my life, I would be content with my kids simply seeing the movie instead of reading the book. Usually, after seeing movies of books they have read, they complain that so much was left out in the silver screen version. I remind them that they needed more than two hours to read the book, they can only have two hours of movie. I suspect, Twilight, the movie, boils down Twilight, the novel, to what it should be. I can hope anyway.
I might have to read the rest of the books in the series, so I can discuss them with my dear children with informed opinions, but my hope is they will realize the dullness of the writing and instead long for well-written classics. However, if they don't realize it, then I will have to keep reading and groaning. Hopefully, they will think, "He sounds just like Mr. Rochester's first wife, going insane in the attic." If you don't understand that reference, then you better read Jane Eyre and inoculate yourself from the effluvium from adjectival thickets falsely praised as award winning writing titled Twilight.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Nearly everyone inside and outside of the medical and scientific community agrees that stem cell research represents one of the most exciting and promising frontiers for treating people with a myriad of diseases and conditions. Stem cell research and treatments represent perhaps mankind's greatest opportunity to fulfill that ancient call to "heal the sick," relieve suffering and improve the quality of life for untold millions of people.
This website provides scientific facts and concise information for those of us who are not scientists, researchers or medical professionals. You will learn answers to questions like ..."Who is benefitting from stem cell research and therapies today?" and "What types of stem cells are working?" In addition, basic questions such as "What is a stem cell?" "Why do we need stem cell research?" are answered.
At the bottom of his page, I saw he also had a beach cruiser bike page. I hang my head in defeat. I don't hold a candle to his sites. What an excellent resource.
Monday, November 16, 2009
It may well be that, when Christianity passes away from a culture, nihilism is theI believe that, since nihilism is so unsatisfying, the craving for the transcendent that religion provides is so undeniable that a cycle always ensues for a culture that goes from atheism to moralistic therapeutic deism to shamanism and animism back to Christ. But that does not mean each person in the culture goes through that cycle. Many people will be in the stage that many people are in. The outliers will be the ones who believe in the unpopular. I think Christ is always unpopular with the self-satisfied. It is those who recognize their weakness and brokenness without shame, in biblical terms, the "humble," who God heals. The proud, who shake their fists at a God they don't believe in, He leaves alone to their misery.
Friday, November 13, 2009
I responded that I wanted the Maiden sound without the devil worshiping of the other guys. It turns out, they didn't do any devil worshiping. But I didn't find this out for years. I just believed the information fed to me by traveling church authorities who wrote books and gave lectures and played albums backwards to convince kids like me, and our parents, that the rock and roll industry was conspiring with Satan to bring us to hell. Certainly, many bands do sing mostly about the pleasures of the carnal life, but that's not the same as advocating devil worship. And I'm not saying that listening to songs that exult in sex, drugs, and rock and roll without ceasing won't have their effect.
However, I wonder if we weren't punked by the christian music industry. Those companies were making money by finding a market niche and hardening it by driving a wedge that might not have been truthful, nor Christ-like. In fact, did they become, and make us, as un-Christ-like as the music they,wrongly, condemned?
Thursday, November 12, 2009
I received this complimentary copy from Thomas Nelson for my review. Douglas Wilson is a very smart guy, in fact, he and Christopher Hitchens took their atheism debate on the road and made a documentary about it called Collision. When I saw a new book of his out, 5 Cities that Ruled the World, I looked forward to reading it. But it wasn't what I expected. He enjoys sharing vignettes from the histories of Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, London, and New York, and, with the exception of New York, how Christianity affected and was affected by the cultures of those cities. The New York outlier makes this book read more like a collection of essays than a coherent whole. None of the essays follow a common pattern, in regards to what makes each city a ruler of the world. None of the essays make an argument for the superiority of each city over it's contemporary pretenders. The assertions he includes offer a curious distraction to what he leaves out. I don't find it helpful for him to assume the American adventures of the ancient Phoenicians, nor his knowledge of the actual identity of William Shakespeare. If read as a collection of essays without expectation of a unified argument from Wilson, then the book is easier to appreciate.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
We don't consider our marriage in trouble or on the rocks, but, we reasoned, we aren't perfect and could always use encouragement and reminders on things we may have neglected. We did get good refreshers on communication, expectations, and spiritual communion with each other and our kids.
One of the spiritual disciplines I am weakest at is prayer. I go to prayer groups because I am so bad at it, not because I'm good at it. We were encouraged to be spiritually intimate by praying together. The seminar speakers talked about many dimensions of intimacy, emotional and physical, but the spiritual dimension is where I paid more attention. In the past, we have tried praying together before going to sleep at night, but I was usually guilty of going to sleep while my dear wife prayed. I'm not a prayer warrior, I'm a prayer sluggard. My best prayer posture is in motion. I pray through the Lord's prayer on my bike ride. So we decided we'd pray together on the evening dog walk.
The most stimulating part of the conference for me was the session for men. The speakers focused on our jobs as husbands and fathers. I was struck by the overwhelming disappointment in the room with our fathers. When the speaker, Raymond Causey, asked the room to call out the words they associate with their fathers, none I heard were good. Raymond admitted his own failings as a father, but pointed us to the goal of being like our perfect Father. One thing I came home with is to attempt to pray with my children, not just for them. I've succeeded this year in getting the kids to read through the New Testament this year, one chapter a day. We will try the Old Testament next, with 2 chapters a day. I'm satisfied that they now associate eating breakfast with getting their souls nourished as well. I have always prayed before dinner and I always pray for them when I kiss them good night. But I never pray with them. So since WtR, when I tuck them in, I pray for them and ask them to pray with me for something. I suggest people to pray for or events. They have done so, at my request.
At least for 3 days, the Weekend to Remember has resulted in positive spiritual change in our family. I hope people who come and comment here ask me, months and years from now if we are sustaining. Please ask.
We went to a couple great restaurants suggested by Chef Ben of The Inside Soup, that I hope to review this week, Tapas West Hartford and Shish Kabob Afghanistan of West Hartford.
Thursday, November 05, 2009
Image by smallritual via FlickrChristian musician from the 1980's with the ministry of a prophet. He wasn't the kind of prophet who predicted anything, other than 1990, but the kind who held a mirror up to the American evangelical church and asked, "What's wrong with this picture, we do not resemble Jesus at all."
This morning I was singing the song I Just Wanna Know from the album pictured here, On the Fritz, released in 1985! I love the end of the song
Search me, Father, and know my heart
Try me and know my mind
And if there be any wicked way in me
Pull me to the rock that is higher than I
I just wanna know
Am I pulling people closer?
I just wanna be pulling them to you
I just wanna stay angry at the evil
I just wanna be hungry for the true
I want my kids to listen to orthodox, prophetic music. As a bonus, I'd like them to hear original music, that doesn't suffer from sounding "just like ...(insert secular band here)." I want them to have songs on their iPods that inspire them 24 years later.
In my middle school Sunday school class just this past week, I told the kids about another Taylor song that speaks volumes to me, Jesus is for Losers, 1993.
Just as you are
Just a wretch like me
Jesus is for losers
Grace from the blood of a tree
Just as we are
At a total loss
Jesus is for losers
Broken at the foot of the cross
Just as I am
Pass the compass, please
Jesus is for losers
I'm off about a hundred degrees
Just as I am
In a desert crawl
Lord, I'm so thirsty
Take me to the waterfall
Taylor creates through video now. God bless him. But the songs will remain so much longer than the images.
Can anyone recommend to me this Christian generation's Steve Taylor?
Monday, November 02, 2009
In purely arithmetic terms, one cannot dispute the results. The old order [Christianity-jpu] could generally reckon its victims only in the thousands. But in the new age, the secular state, with all its hitherto unimagined capacities, could pursue its purely earthly ideals and ambitions only if it enjoyed the liberty to kill by the millions. How else could it spread its wings? p.223As I've noted in previous book reports, atheist regimes in the last century made up for lost time with emphasis in the previous century. See my reports on Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot, two big time communists, 20-70MM killed by each of the first two and a small player who still managed to wipe out a million of his own people. I've linked to the numbers a few times here and here, as well as talked about the concept of democide before as well. Hart's assertion of compariative body counts is not new. I linked to a previous assertion before.
Why does anyone think, a different atheist state will behave differently than these already have demonstrated? An imperfect church is never as bad as a totalitarian state, not even close. And that's true on so many levels, spiritual, political, freedoms, etc.