Friday, September 28, 2012

Show Your Vote By Guzzling a Slurpee

          A few months ago, someone could accurately estimate your stance on gay marriage by where you went to eat chicken sandwiches. Now, someone can know who you're voting for in November by what's written on your coffee, soda or Slurpee cup from 7-Eleven. Who needs yard signs and bumper stickers anymore?
          In addition to gaining profit from common political passion, the Dallas-based and largest, international convenience-store chain is utilizing the sales of these cups to preview the polls.
          Political passion, as it seems, is spilling into every aspect of American life, and 7-Eleven, while potentially fanning some dangerous proverbial flames, seemingly isn't taking a party's side. Perhaps they want to be tax-exempt?
          You can read more about it here.  

Thursday, September 27, 2012

When Christian Facebook Memes Aren't

          People, Christians included, love sharing and communing over a good slogan on Facebook, but can it go too far? Does it ever contradict the aura of biblical love to which we're called? Does it ever contradict biblical theology?
          Well, this one does, on both counts.
          Our Christ-likeness should show itself on cyberspace beyond what the "Religious Views" line and our choice of memes indicates.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wait. Christians Don't Divorce as Much as Others?

          I read this article this morning. Regular church-attending Christians don't divorce as much as the general population. This can be shocking and contrary to an ol' wives tale that's quite popular.
          Should the body of Christ continue to strive to reduce divorce in their families? Absolutely. But these statistics remind us of two things. 1) Biblical faith and discipleship do make a positive difference in people's lives, and 2) sadly, we live in a kitsch-filled and anti-intellectual world.
          You can read more here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bad Officiating and Holistic Justice

          It's all over ESPN and, probably, all local news stations here in Wisconsin. The overall officiating of the replacement referees went quickly from questionable to controversial in the 4th quarter of yesterday's Monday Night Football game between the Seattle Seahawks and America's unofficial most-lovable team, the Green Bay Packers.
          I was watching the game at a friend's house for a little brat fry I had organized with my church's music/arts volunteers. The 4th quarter is when it all seemed to go south. First, the refs denied the Packers an interception due to a questionable "roughing the passer" call. Then, the Seahawks continued that possession to gain significant yardage from a wrongful "pass interference" call (which should have been against the Seahawks instead). Lastly, when the Seahawks threw a Hail Mary to the in-zone in the closing seconds, which looked like it got caught mostly by a Packer in the scuffle, the replacement refs deemed it a Seahawks touchdown, giving them the victory. This is, arguably, just some of what the refs got wrong or missed.
          Twitter and Facebook were instantly overflowing with disappointment in the replacement referees, to say the least. And this wasn't just coming from Packer fans. There are, seemingly, very livid calls from the masses for, primarily, the "real" referees to return, no matter the cost. Pretty much any NFL fan (save, maybe, for Seahawks fans, but I could be wrong) is at least somewhat enraged right now. After all, how can we have a fair season if such poor officiation continues? So, I had some thoughts.
          Last night's game was disappointing, but it's not a big-time tragedy, and this issue isn't anything new. Aaron Rodgers, from what I've heard, is handling last night's fiasco in a professional and mature manner, exuding his Christ-like values. This isn't the first time for him, either. I remember when the Packers lost in the 2009 playoffs to the Arizona Cardinals on a missed facemask call, and again Rodgers wasn't shaken. Last night was one regular season loss. Bad officiating has cost teams much more in the past. It's possibly cost the Vikings a few Super Bowls. 
          Sometimes complete restoration just isn't attainable. People are calling for the firing of the replacement refs, the reversal of the call and the victory for the Packers. (I doubt that will happen, but I do think something should be done about the replacement refs). But as a Vikings fan, the penalties levied against the New Orleans Saints don't compare to the Super Bowl trophy that they bountied away. A serious and sports-unrelated example is how financial restoration to the victims of Bernie Madoff's scheme was also impossible. 
          Some damage can't be wholly undone. I know that last night's game could be a silly and shallow example for theological concepts, but we can always think about our strives for integrity and justice, but also remembering the only Source of true and complete grace and restoration.   

Monday, September 24, 2012

Misunderstood Bible Verse: "Train Up a Child . . ."

          One of the children's Bible songs of my early years was based on the popular verse, Proverbs 22:6, which reads (from the New King James Version):

          "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."

          But this proverb is often wrongfully interpreted as absolute logic and/or a theological promise, putting a lot of pressure on Christian parents. The song is introduced on the recording, saying (paraphrased), "If you learn about God, while you're still young, you'll never grow away from it." I've seen this verse framed in calligraphy with the overarching title, "God's promise to parents." Again, this puts a lot of pressure on parents. After all, if a child grows up and "departs" from the faith, it is wholly the fault of the parents, because they simply must not have properly "trained up" their child. Other factors (e.g. the inherent depravity of humanity) are no excuse.
          However, here's a bold (but true) statement: proverbs are not absolute truths. A good example is Proverbs 26:4-5, which reads:

          "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes."

          So, do we answer the hypothetical fool or not? We can't make absolutes of either verse, because proverbs are nuggets of wisdom, not absolute theological promises. Wisdom in poetic literature is a different genre than law, prophecy, narrative, etc. and should be read accordingly. As D.A. Carson once said, "They're proverbs, for goodness sake!"
          When one reads Proverbs 22:6, it isn't God promising that effort (no matter how strenuous) in "training up a child" will always prevent said child from ever "departing" from the faith. I'm sure we can all think of people who had very good "training" in their childhood, yet still "departed," and we analyze the "departure" by, first, doubting the "training." A proper reading of Proverbs doesn't justify that. Some kids just grow up and "depart," regardless of how faithful and godly their parents are.
          I know this verse hits close to home. Myself included, as a father of three. But a proverb is wisdom, not a promise. We're to follow said wisdom (which includes fearing the Lord). Proverbs 22:6 isn't an endorsement or discouragement to any specific type of parenting method. It's a wise guideline to parents that also reminds them never to forget the sovereignty of God. That's where our trust and loyalty belong, not to any form of tradition, legalism or parenting method.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Behaving Worship and Worshipful Behavior

          Some good thoughts on the Gospel Coalition on how Sunday morning congregants can participate in discipleship, community-building, and even evangelism just by attending church on Sunday morning. Here are the six main points.

          1. Arrive early.
          2. Park far, sit close.
          3. Participate heartily.
          4. Smile.
          5. Stay late and engage others.
          6. Come to receive from God and give to others.
          You can read the rest here.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Misunderstood Bible Verse: “Eye for an Eye”

          I enjoyed Tim Allen’s sitcom, Home Improvement, in my earlier years. In one episode, the older two sons continue to annoying prank-scare their mother, Jill, during Halloween season. As a disciplinary measure, father Tim suggests to Jill that they prank-scare their older sons back. Her initial response? (Paraphrased, because it’s been a few years since I’ve seen it). “An ‘eye for an eye’ is not my view of parenting.”
          The “eye for an eye” passage is commonly known as a prooftext that God’s view of governmental justice is wholly supportive of barbarism and maybe even personal vengeance. One of the verses discussed is Exodus 21:23-25.

          “But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.”  

          But the next verses say . . .

          “If a man hits a manservant or maidservant in the eye and destroys it, he must let the servant go free to compensate for the eye. And if he knocks out the tooth of a manservant or maidservant, he must let the servant go free to compensate for the tooth.”

          We’re talking about types of financial or labor compensation, not literal compensation with body parts. But that’s what we do see in the Code of Hammurabi and Middle Assyrian laws. In fact, the Old Testament law only insists on the death penalty (with no chance for financial compensation as a penal substitute) for premeditated murder, whereas other ancient laws had disproportionate punishments that seemed inhuman. 
          Sadly, the cliche “eye for an eye” is tossed around with a literal translation, portraying God as a peddler of a strict law of obsolete barbarism. The “eye for an eye” verse was actually meant as a metaphor to have the punishment fit the crime, financially. While neighboring governments were chopping off body parts and executing family members for the crimes of their relatives, Old Testament law, ironically, stood out in its time for its grace.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The DaVinci Code Revisited?

photo from the Harvard Gazette
          So, it looks like CNN, The Huffington Post and The New York Times are broadcasting, with a wink in their eye, that there's evidence that Jesus might have been married, despite a paragraph from the very source of the headline-grabber, Harvard Divinity School prof Karen King, who writes (with AnneMarie Luijendijk):

          "Does this fragment constitute evidence that Jesus was married? In our opinion, the late date of the Coptic papyrus (c. fourth century), and even of the possible date of composition in the second half of the second century, argues against its value as evidence for the life of the historical Jesus."

          This story (minus that paragraph) largely hit the news yesterday, and, no doubt, there will be some growing apologetic response. Mark Roberts, a pastor and former teaching fellow at Harvard, posts helpful thoughts here
          While Dr. Karen King (as Roberts argues) is a scholar and not "some huckster who is seeking to make a name for herself from some academically-suspect charade," organizations like the Huffington Post (who I've been following on Twitter) will exaggerate implications before any finding can interpreted by scholarly circles. Unlike Dr. Karen King, they (and perhaps the cynical portion of their readers) aren't interested in responsible, balanced and wholly-informed discussions, rather eye-catching reading. Case in point: when there's any update on "The Gospel of Jesus's Wife" that further disqualifies the implications and conclusions that The Huffington Post and the New York Times already jumped to, we won't likely hear it from them. Sorry to get on the soapbox, but this is just an example of a downside to a culture of mass media I learned about in grad school years ago.
          UPDATE: A colleague posted another perspective of biblical literacy on the issue from The Atlantic.
          UPDATE 2: As I typed this blog, the Huffington Post posted an update in which several scholars express valid and extreme doubt that the authenticity of this fragment of papyrus could remotely live up to any of its perceived implications.
          UPDATE 3: Dr. Mark Roberts, earlier mentioned in this blog, writes again.
          UPDATE 4: Dr. Michael Kruger, of Reformed Theological Seminary, gives his take on The Gospel Coalition.    

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Redskins Fans Can't Remember How To Cheer A Quarterback

          This is nothing against the Redskins or their fans (a few of whom are my friends). There's actually a growing number of Baylor alumni in my family, too. I just thought this was too funny not to share.
          Read the brief but funny article here.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Other Sandusky; What's in a Name

          Occasionally, I've joked about how frustrated Judas (the faithful disciple, not Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus Christ) and Ananias (the one who healed and baptized the apostle Paul, not Sapphira's husband who embezzled money from the church's ministry to the poor, nor the high priest to later persecuted Paul) must feel up in Heaven. No Christian I've known will name their son Judas or Ananias.
          Then I found this video posted on a blog I follow. It's a brief documentary about Gerry (with a "G") Sandusky, a seeming man of integrity with family history in the NFL and a respectable career as a beloved commentator for the Baltimore Ravens. Not (and no relation to) the Jerry Sandusky, former Penn State asst. coach who was found guilty of 45 counts of child sexual abuse. But, sadly, people don't understand that. Primarily outside of the informed Baltimore metro, Gerry (with a "G") Sandusky has to deal with hateful messages and threats from people mistaking him for someone else.
          A bit of a reminder to get facts straight and to be "slow to speak," as well as a few other theological and hermeneutical topics.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Anticipating Spielberg's "Lincoln"

          A movie that focuses on the last four months of Abraham Lincoln's life, portrayed by the brilliant Daniel Day-Lewis and directed by the household-name Steven Spielberg, comes to theaters in November, no doubt to partake in the Oscars race.
          I'm not going to try to encapsulate the work of Steven Spielberg, but he at least has a tendency, when he's not upgrading a more shallow genre (e.g. War Horse, War of the Worlds), he picks stories, whether historic or fictitious, that can easily carry an inherent social, philosophical or even political agenda. But rather than push said predictable agenda, he strives to maintain most objectivity and ask deeper questions.
          Hence it will be interesting to see what happens with Lincoln, as it comes to theaters during an election in a very socio-politically charged time in our country. Add to that all the legends and interpretations of Lincoln (aside from his supposed ability to combat vampires). It's my hope that Lincoln stays true to Spielberg's style, and that we would use this cinematic portrayal of that portion of our nation's history to ask the right questions, striving to answer them with biblical truth, not agenda and kitsch.

          You can view the trailer below.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

"Call Me Maybe" for Choir and Orchestra

          My schedule has intensified a bit in the past few days. I also don't feel I can often post on developing stories (e.g. the unfortunate violence in Libya, etc.), as important as it is. Add to that, my cell phone fell in milk this morning.
          So, for a bit of a treat today, here's "Call Me Maybe" for choir and orchestra. Thanks to my colleagues for sharing this video with me.

Monday, September 10, 2012

If You Haven't Already, You Ought to Learn About Christian Rap/Hip-Hop

          And I'll be the first to admit that I haven't. Back when I was in high school and could hum a few bars of everything on the Billboard, there was a seeming battle between pop and rock, and rap/hip-hop didn't have the same following as either. I am arguably a product of the post-grunge/rapcore era. Then I went to college to major in classical music composition, pretty much taking a break from pop culture all the other genres of music. Among all the changes in the popular music industry and the culture of its patrons, it seems like "pop rock" is almost an alliance (while inferior) against the huge popularity of electronic/experimental pop and rap/hip-hop.
          So, yeah, I've never been much into rap/hip-hop. I don't dislike it, but it's never been in the "top songs" on my playlists.
          But you and I ought to check it out. Why? Because Christian rap/hip-hop is making some considerable milestones in Christian music history.
  • tobyMac's "Eye On It" is the third Christian album of all time to debut at no. 1 on the Billboard 200. The previous to do so was Leann Rimes "You Light Up My Life" in 1997. Before that it was Bob Carlisle's "Butterfly Kisses."
  • LeCrae's "Gravity" hit no. 1 on the iTunes charts.      
           It may not be functional for corporate worship, but it's making an impact. You can read more about it from a connoisseur thereof.           

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Why Posture Matters in Worship

          I found this post on TheGospelCoalition. Some good thoughts and insights. I like how it doesn't demand more physical expression, rather bringing it all back to the importance of intimacy in your personal relationship with God.

          "Certainly there are moments when we should stand still in silence before the Lord---that in itself is a posture of worship. However, if we consistently find ourselves in corporate worship with our arms folded, mouthing the words with a blank, glazed over or bored look on our face, this posture indicates we may not be experiencing an inward heart of adoration, wonder, and awe that is characteristic of true, spiritual worship. But rather than forcing our hands in the air, we should ask God to draw us nearer to him and seek how he desires to be worshiped. We should plead with him to captivate our hearts and reveal any sin that might be keeping us from seeing and savoring him with all we are.

          "God wants our hearts, not just our fake smiles, arms raised or our knees bent. He wants more than just our shouts or our songs. He wants more than just our theological intellects. He wants all of us."

          You can read the rest here

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Parody Thoughts on Tonight's NFL Kick-off Game

          Because of the Democratic National Convention, I get to -for the first time in years- watch the NFL's season opener, since it's been rescheduled to Wednesday. I found this humorous parody of pre-game commentary that you might enjoy. You can read it here.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Changing a City with the Gospel: a Preview of "Center Church"

          Wise words from Tim Keller in his upcoming book, Center Church. Looking forward to picking up a copy. Here's a trailer-style excerpt-of-an-excerpt I found on

          "When a church or a church network begins to grow rapidly in a city, it is only natural for the people within the ministry to feel that God is making a difference in that place. Often, however, what is really going on is "Christian reconfiguration." When churches grow, they typically do so by drawing believers out of less vital churches. This can be a good thing if the Christians in these growing churches are being better discipled and if their gifts are being effectively deployed. Nevertheless, if this is the key dynamic, then the overall body of Christ in the city is not growing; it is simply reconfiguring. Reaching an entire city, then, takes more than having some effective churches in it, or even having a burst of revival energy and new converts. Changing the city with the gospel takes a movement."

          You can read the rest here, and check out the trailer here

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day and Solomon

          As we celebrate Labor Day, we would also be wise to remember the works and words of King Solomon, and remember that we're first and foremost God's children. Check out this video. (Sorry that it's not quite available on YouTube just yet).
          Happy Labor Day!