Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sharnado 2 and the Gospel

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes..."
Romans 1:16

OK, I confess: I was one of the 3.9MM viewers, at least for part of the evening.  And if you say you weren't, there is an awfully good chance that you are lying.

In recent years, SyFy has shown a seemingly endless string of bad (really bad...I mean really, really bad) science fiction movies.  To their credit, they are in on the joke, i.e. they know they are bad; in fact they are intentionally bad.   I mean really, how could anyone be serious about a movie called "Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda" or "Mega-Python vs. Gatoroid", two other classics regularly seen on the network.

The genius of the genre, as I noted to my wife, is that the original Sharknado provided for 5000 tweets per minute, a phenomenon that I believe led to the creation of the sequel.  In other words, SyFy, fully aware of how bad the franchise is, chose to make an intentionally bad movie just to drum up Twitter traffic about it, which in turn would drive viewers to watch, and hence advertising dollars.  Genius!

What's all this have to do with the gospel, you ask?

Well, just this.  Are we as excited about getting out the good news of Jesus Christ as we are about sharing ridiculous movie lines or improbable special effects?  Is the gospel as worthy of 140 characters as pointing out each surprise cameo appearance?

Do we not promote Christ on Social Media because we are ashamed, or because we just don't care?

Stings like a shark-bite, don't it?

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Thinks You Can Think

"Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try." ~ Dr. Seuss

"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen." ~ Ephesians 3:19-20

Living in the St. Louis area for 3+ years now, one of the things that I most love about the city is the amount of free things that are available.  As attractions go, the various entertainment outlets of St. Louis and the surrounding area do a great job of providing free or low cost opportunities for fun.

One of those free things that I most appreciate is The Muny.  It is a professional caliber outdoor theater that puts on Broadway shows all summer long.  And at each performance, though some choose to purchase tickets, a large portion of the audience is allowed in for free.  I highly suggest checking out their website for the history of the theater, as well as a list of each summer's productions.

Because the productions are so good and free (did I mention that?), for the past three seasons we have taken our church youth group to a show.  This past Tuesday evening, we saw the musical Seussical™, a musical adaptation of the many works of Dr. Seuss.  And though my literary knowledge of Heir Doctor is pretty much limited to the annual Christmas rite of the Grinch, the musical does spur the imagination in fun, lively ways.

The above quote leads me to think of the Ephesians passage above, and this all leads me to one conclusion:  God's power in our lives is, in a way, limited by the limits of what we believe and expect of Him.

Now of course God exists independent of us, and His power is in no way dependent on our imagination, but how often do we lose out on seeing something truly amazing because we think it's beyond His power to do. 

After all, James wrote, "ye have not, because ye ask not" (James 4:2 KJV).  And Jesus told His disciples, "And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith." (Matthew 21:22 ESV).

So what do we do with this?  Are we clear to pray for singing blue elephants or mischievous cats in red and white striped hats?  Clearly no, for the promise of answered prayers only extends to what is within the will of the Father, and strange, rhyming creatures most likely are not.  But we can rest assured that when we pray for those things that He wants, specifically as laid out in His word, no matter how outrageous they may seem to our earthly senses, He will do.

Now that's worth singing about!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

How Dare They?

In light of the recent Hobby Lobby ruling before the Supreme Court (off the subject, but don't you hate the whole "SCOTUS" thing?), I call on everyone who objects to it to take a step back, look at the facts, and really consider if curbing the religious freedoms of a company's managers- who contrary to popular opinion are really living, breathing people too- is worth the ultimate conclusion of such a stand.

In the interest of full disclosure, my points below are mostly from a Facebook post I posted when sharing an article I read, looking at such an idea.

So I guess if companies should be forced to give up their religious beliefs in order to operate, as some would have us believe, then we need to look at these examples and do what I suggest below.

Each of these suggestions is based on something contained in the corresponding number within the story.

1. Companies should immediately cease from giving to charity, as it may employ someone who objects to giving to others in need.

Of course this sounds absurd, as the rally cry of the Left these days is that corporations are all greedy anyway, but as the article explains, some corporations- and not just Christian ones-make a practice of giving substantial portions of their profits to charitable organizations.  Though you might have trouble finding an employee of a given company opposed to any charitable giving, it's rather easy to imagine someone opposed either to giving so much (and possibly minimizing employee pay or benefits) or the organization that is benefiting.  I find Planned Parenthood wholly abhorrent.  If I worked for a company that gave to them, I might quit my job, I might lead a boycott of the company, and I might picket.  I would not, however, demand that the government force the company to stop its giving.

2. Islamic banks, who do not charge interest because it violates the Koran, should immediately start charging their customers interest, because the bank may employ a capitalist.

Likewise, as noted in the article, some Jewish companies guide themselves by the Torah, or the first five books of the English bible.  Are we to throw out all instruction from the Torah, including such offensive commandments as "Thou Shall Not Kill" simply because the instruction comes from a faith with which I do not agree?

3. All companies should force their employees to work longer hours, rather than give them evenings or Sundays off.  Just who is the company, anyway, to decide for me that I should spend time with my family?

In this age of family/free-time deity, it's hard to imagine an employee wanting to work longer hours.  But what if someone really needs the money?  Should we force Hobby Lobby, Chik-Fil-A, and others to open on Sundays so that those who desire money more than family or church time can be satisfied?

4. We should immediately regulate the decor of each business.  After all, you never know if a waitress at a Indian restaurant may be Christian and object to the images of Buddha on the walls.

I know, a waitress at an Indian restaurant can always quit and work somewhere else, but wait; isn't this the alternative that is routinely shot down in the recent abortificant cases?

5. All businesses that promote hedonistic pleasure should immediately be shuttered, as their belief in pursuing pleasure may be counter to an employee's belief in chastity or self-control.

What if the only job a young Christian can find or is qualified for is washing dishes at a gentleman's club?  What if a single Jewish mother has to support her children by waiting tables at a BBQ restaurant?  Should those companies be forced to alter their actions because an employee doesn't believe in them?

6. No company, at any time, should provide any type of charitable assistance to an employee.  If I believe in self-reliance, it may deeply offend me that you dare offer me help.

No need to elaborate more than I did in the other points above.

My point is this.  Everyone cannot have everything.  And while some issues, such as abortion (and let's limit the discussion to abortion, OK?  The Court did absolutely nothing to prevent women from obtaining birth-control, regardless of what some want you to believe) is a hot-button issue, the fact remains that no one can have everything they want for free.  I want a Lamborghini.  I cannot expect my employer or the government or anyone else to pay for it (though if someone wants to buy me one, that would be OK).  Moreover, ideas such as religious freedom are expressly written into our constitution, while more recent "rights", such as abortion, were implied into it centuries later, so we cannot just abandon religious freedom for political correctness or convenience.

If you shout "How dare they?" in this case, think about what you will shout next time when the same logic is employed against your ideals.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Your Best Life Now

"Start living your best life now!" ~ Joel Osteen

"If you're living your best life now, you're headed for hell." ~ Shai Linne

With all due respect to the toothy one, I side with Shai.

Oh I know what Mister (never Pastor) Osteen is trying to say.  And part of me agrees.  If you are in Christ, your life should be amazing.  But somehow I think he and I (and Paul, and Peter, and Jesus, and...) disagree on just what it means to have an amazing life.

Jesus did not die on a cross to give you a bigger house.

Jesus did not die on a cross to give you a nicer car.

And no, Jesus did not die on the cross to give anyone a toothier smile.

Conversely, Jesus didn't die on the cross to just give us heaven, though that seems to be the only blessing most of us ever hear about.

Jesus said, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." John 10:10
Paul wrote, "But God...made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved" Ephesians 2:4
Peter wrote, "If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you." 1 Peter 4:14

Note: none of these men had wonderful, wealthy lives.  Jesus' life is well attested to, and it was a life of poverty and loneliness,  ending with a tortuous death as a penalty for others' sins.

Paul says himself that, "Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea;  on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers;  in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches."

And tradition holds that Peter was crucified for his faith and preaching, and suffered so in an upside-down position, holding that he was unworthy to die in the same manner as his Lord.

If our best life now means some sort of comfort or material blessings, surely Jesus, Paul, and Peter missed something.  But if we're to believe, as they taught, that our best life now is a relationship with God that can only be had through faith in Jesus Christ, and that that relationship will stand no matter what hardships we might face, then let's stop swallowing this nonsense that God wants us to be happy (unless we define happiness as closeness to Him.)

You really can know your best life now.  And believe it or not it's so much better than the world can imagine!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Time for Everything

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven."
Ecclesiastes 3:1 (ESV)

OK, let's try this again.

Has it really been since February, 2013 that I've blogged?  Perhaps I should rename this site the "Blob Blogger" since I've been so lazy about it, but if Solomon saw the wisdom in seasonality, who am I to argue?

Time to get serious again.  Yep, serious starting.... now.

Well, last week was my now annual rite of Illinois Super Summer, a week long discipleship camp for teenagers.  To say that this week has been and was again a blessing is an understatement, one which would imply that a single word (and an overused one at that) could define the joy that comes from watching the next generation of Church leaders grow nearer to the Lord.

(For student and staff reactions, click here).

Starting small, I won't go into a great deal of the week, but you know it's gonna be a great time when on the very first night a student from your own Youth Group gives her life to Christ, and another student from your group asks to be baptized.  In between, nothing spectacular like those events, just deep discussions, light bulbs going "on," tear-filled worship, and an overall excited buzz for what might happen in the coming weeks.

If you would, please be in prayer for at least one student plan that was hatched last week.  I can't go into detail yet, but if this plan gets off the ground I believe it could have a HUGE impact on the teenagers in this area. 

Maybe this is how Jesus will act in this generation!