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Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

My latest hobby is photography.

One of the reasons that I decided to learn photography was in order to appreciate the beauty of God’s creation.  Carrying a camera causes me to linger, to stop, and to really see the world and all of its objects and colors.  Even when I don’t have a camera, I’m learning to still look with new eyes at the world around me.  My brother and sister-in-law had their first child on Monday, and there is something about an image that can capture a moment in time so much better than a movie, an audio clip, and more often than not, my memory.

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A Seinfeld Life

It occurs to me that life as a young adult can have many things in common with the show Seinfeld.  Now, most young adults may be familiar with this show, but if you are a bit younger or perhaps never cared to watch the reruns, then I’ll spare you from having to watch it and give you the punchline: it’s a show about nothing.

The show makes this very clear, as they even parody themselves by pitching a show based on their lives to NBC.  In other words, in Seinfeld, they write the script for a show based on their lives in which ultimately nothing happens.  I didn’t realize until that episode that such is truly the nature of entertainment, and perhaps potentially of some of our lives.  Let me reach a bit here: No matter how many NBA seasons pass, nothing ultimately of significance has changed.   No matter how many video games you conquer, ultimately nothing of significance is accomplished.  Oh, it sure seems like something, but really, it is about nothing.  Now, you may argue that your level 70 WOW character, your recollection of Kobe stats, or your vast and intimate knowledge of the redemptive themes of movies may in fact improve your life, but i would not.  Instead, I believe that such things obscure the purpose for which we are upon this earth, and that our progress, or growth, or whatever you want to call it, must be related in some way to our purpose for being here.

Now, back to the show.  (more…)

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Why Still Single?

In the course of a wonderful conversation tonight, I began to wonder why it is that some people are single, at any age.  There are reasons that they may give: still a student, establishing career, etc.  Then there are the reasons that most others offer for them: too picky, haven’t met the right one, etc.  But I’m starting to wonder if the reasons (at least for men) fall under a more personal sort: character, spiritual maturity, pride, etc.

Now, of course when dealing with the topic of relationships the standard rebuttal is to point to the exceptions, or the poor examples, and simply conclude that there are no generalities that are useful to be made.  But of course I disagree, and while it definitely will not be spot-on for everyone, I’m going to consider this for a future post.  Namely, I want to collect the commonly given explanations for singleness.  They may come from books or conversations or any other source.  And I want to view them in some way biblically.  It would be interesting to do a thematic study of Proverbs which relate, or perhaps build off of one of the common passages on marriage.

Stay tuned.  And let me know if you have any suggestions or comments.

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Judges, a Paradigm for Media

How are we to discern which secular media (movies and television shows in particular) is fit for consumption, and not only that, but which we can commend to others?  Alan Noble from Christ and Pop Culture basically explains that a book such as Judges portrays the world as it is, and thus portrays truth, and in the context of a larger redemptive truth.  The assumption here is that there are similarities between this truth and the redemptive themes that my run through secular media.  To this end, I offer the following brief analysis of Judges 3:7-11 as a paradigm for true redemptive narrative, which will in time become and introduction to a sermon I suspect.  Please bear with me and consider these thoughts:

Observations and Arguments.  First, this book is included in Holy Scripture, so there is something that can be learned or emulated from it.  Christian cultural commentators might say that it is the portrayal of truth, and that the communication of truth is always desirable.  The book simply recounts people acting as they are.  Second, the book of Judges portrays the sin and rebellion of the nation of Israel.  Cultural commentators are quick to parallel this with the sin that is portrayed in media, and that viewing or reading about sin does not necessarily cause us to sin.  An honest presentation of mankind is incomplete without the depiction of sin.  Third, the book demonstrates a subsequent downward cycle of rebellion and wickedness.  Judges does not end with a fairytale happy ending.  So others take this to show that movies must not necessarily have happy endings.  Sometimes evil appears to triumph over good, and these cases may still and often most powerfully teach a lesson or make a point.  Finally, Judges is not only permissible to read but imperative, as it is Scripture. and portrays the reality of our world.  Movies, likewise, portray aspects of the world and allow us to be involved and experience what we might otherwise be unable to, in order to better understand the world in which we live.

Analysis.  While clearly the above are arguments given in support of media, there is not merely a fine distinction but rather a gaping hole in the argument.  After meditating on the passage the differences are irreconcileable.  Certainly the book of Judges records the history of the nation of Israel in the time between the Exodus and kingship.  However, the account is not merely historical but also theological, written and preserved in such a way as to make a point.  I concede that media makes a point as well.  So one task is to compare the purpose and see if they are aligned, or even similar?  What is the purpose of the book of Judges?

The purpose of the book of Judges is to highlight the faithfulness of God in contrast to the faithlessness of His people.  Did you catch that?  God is the great protagonist, and the judges act out his will upon the earth.  It is the Spirit upon them which gives them their strength.  Perhaps you don’t like my purpose.  Expositor’s Bible Commentary decides that the purpose is to demonstrate that Israel’s spiritual condition determines its political and material situation.  What was the purpose of the last movie that you watched?  I imagine it does not have the God of the Bible anywhere near its controlling purpose statement.

With that in mind, we might now respond to the four claims above.

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Neil Postman wrote Amusing Ourselves to Death and I wish that more people not only read it, but would take heed.  If it is any indication of how insightful I believe this segment to be, I typed up each word, and I think the final paragraph will change your life:

If you were a producer of a television news show for a commercial station, you would not have the option of defying television’s requirements.  It woudl be demanded of you that you strive for the largest possible audience, and, as a consequence and in spite of your best intentions, you would arrive at a production very nearly resembling MacNeil’s description.  Moreover, you would include some things MacNeil does not mention.  You would try to make celebrities of your newscasters.  You would advertise the show, both in the press and on television itself.  You would do “news briefs,” to serve as an inducement to viewers.  You would have a weatherman as comic relief, and a sportscaster whose language is a touch uncouth (as a way of relating to the beer-drinking common man).  You would, in short, package the whole event as any producer might who is in the entertainment business.

The result  of all this is that Americans are the best entertained and quite likely the least well-informed people int he Western world.  (more…)

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Thoughts on Life

This morning I had the privilege of attending the funeral service for the mother of a friend, who was a dear member of our church. Many came out in support of the family, which was heartwarming to see. But also heartwarming was the warm and sincere testimony of the family, that in the midst of their grief they praised God and shared the good news of salvation with those who were there. In particular, one testimony instructed the friends and family not merely to listen and think what a wonderful woman she was and life she had led, but what a wonderful God that she served. This woman modeled in many ways the Christian charity that we should all be demonstrating, and personally she was one of the first to be supportive as I made a commitment to full-time ministry. By the way that she lived, and not by what she said, she showed many of us what it looks like to really care for another. She attended to friends when they needed it most, such as at funeral services, rather than simply in the good times.

As I reflect on such a wonderful life, it causes me to wonder about my own life. I think that is one of the purposes of God in death, to remind those who are living of the preciousness and purpose of their lives. So much seems insignificant in light of this. Our worries, our jobs, papers, deadlines, arguments – they all fade away.

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After a time of additional study, and working to reconcile additional passages to my understanding of joy, I’ve come to the conclusion that joy is in fact an emotion primarily and not a choice.  It is also based on circumstances which do change.  I hope you’re as surprised as I am.  Thus, I define joy as our emotional response to present circumstances.

That being said, here is what I’m not suggesting.  I’m not suggesting that these emotions can be manipulated.  This joy does not change based on manipulation by entertainment, clever words and images, and chemical changes.  Joy is an emotion, but it is an emotional response to a physical reality.

Joy is based on our present circumstances.  For unbelievers, this is the reason why they can be joyful when things are apparently going well for them, and then down when they aren’t.  The opposite of joy is grief, which is what is felt in time of loss.  It is right for the temperament of someone to change with the circumstances of their lives.  But here is the difference for believers – our circumstances are rooted in our relationship to our good God, who has provided us salvation and eternal life, and by whose power we know that all things work to our good.

So in a sense, it is a big qualification, but it is still true that joy is an emotional response to our circumstances.  It is important to get this right for a few reasons.  First, we can’t tell unbelievers that they don’t have joy.  They do, but not in the same quantity and quality that we do.  Second, we can lose joy.  The circumstances for us may not change, but our emotions can become dull if, for example, we forget about the wonderful position we’re in.  We may divert our eyes from the Lord.

There are many practical implications of this, and my exposition of Phil 2:1-18 deals with just that.  Paul gives a list of imperatives to the Philippian believers that they be like-minded, have the attitude of Christ, work out their salvation, refrain from complaining, and finally to rejoice.  Each of these responds to an area in our lives wherein we may fall short of considering our privileged circumstances as children of God, and instead fall into considering only the apparent physical and temporal realities, neglecting the purpose of it all.

The conclusion for believers is that if you want to experience your joy more fully, you must strive hard for Christ and be reminded of your salvation.  For those who aren’t believers, know that your situation may appear enjoyable at the moment, but this facade will last not even a lifetime, let alone an eternity.  Your emotions will be tossed about in your lifetime on earth, and for eternity have no source of joy.  This is the tragic reality, but it need not be the case for you if you will repent and believe in Jesus.

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