Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How Well do you know the First Christmas

Not meaning to skip past Thanksgiving but since I'll be starting with Christmas stuff this Sunday, I thought I would get this discussion started.

Starting this weekend, The Pursuit College class at Westside Baptist Church will be taking a closer look at the story of Jesus' birth.

Here's a few questions to think about. Send some answers back here if you know or come on Sunday prepared to talk about it--9:30 AM.

Be ready to explain the traditional Christmas story—

stories found in Matthew 1&2 & Luke 1&2

1. Why did Mary and Joseph even need to go to Bethlehem?

2. What time of year was it?

3. Were Joseph and Mary alone traveling to Bethlehem?

4. How long of a trip was it from Nazareth to Bethlehem?

5. Did Mary give birth to Jesus the night they arrived?

6. Did Mary & Joseph know anyone in Bethlehem?

7. Which Inn had No Vacancy? Ramada Inn or Red Roof Inn?

8. What verse mentions the “inn”? Could it be anything other than a motel type business?

9. Was it a good or bad thing that Mary and Joseph went to the stables with the animals? How?

10. Why did the angel go to shepherds and not people more important?

11. Why were the shepherds afraid of the angel?

12. How do you think Joseph reacted when strange men showed up at the door in the middle of the night?

13. When did the Wise Men notice the star: before Jesus was born, the night Jesus was born, after Jesus was born?

14. Why would the Magi first go to the King’s palace?

15. When did they arrive in Bethlehem? The night Jesus was born or after? If after, by how much?

16. How long did Mary & Joseph stay in Bethlehem after Jesus was born?

17. Why would the king want to kill all the boys in Bethlehem?

Before the Journey & Other Questions

1. How big of an issue was it for Mary to be pregnant before getting married?

2. How do you think Joseph felt about the situation? What was he doing to do when he found out? (see Matthew’s gospel)

3. How do you think Mary & Joseph were treated during her pregnancy?

4. Why did Mary rush off to her cousin’s house? How long was she there?

5. Why is the concept of the Virgin birth/conception so important?

6. Did other people have questions about Jesus’ “questionable” birth situation? See John 8, particularly 8:19

7. Are there any passages from the Old Testament that speak about Jesus’ birth?

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Mission - Burden or Privilege

Imagine that you wake up in the morning to the United States in a time of great need (a big stretch over the last 10 years I know!). You turn on the news to see the President addressing the nation before cameras and reporters. "And now," he says, "I'm going to call the one person I need to help accomplish and fulfill the mission before us--the task of saving the people of our great nation."

From off camera, one of his staffers hands him a phone. He starts dialing. He puts it to his ear.

And your phone starts ringing.

Caller ID says: Washington D.C.

It's him. He's calling you.

What is going through your mind in this moment?

OK, here's the deal--If the President were ever to call me, I would first think it was a joke. Then I would be stunned and flabergasted that the President would call me for anything. Then I would consider myself totally unqualified and I ...would try to find a way out of it.

Among other things. I would be intimidated, I might be tempted to avoid answering the phone, but I would neverbe rude to the President, never hang up on him or pretend I can't hear him because of a bad cell connection (whether I like the current guy or not). Would you have the nerve to hang up on the President? I wouldn't.

Above all, I hope I would have the courage to do what was asked of me.

The connection in this scenario is that we have someone who has called us that is far bigger and more important than the President: the Creator of the Universe. He has a Mission to be accomplished and it is very important to Him. He wants to save people and give them an eternity with Him.

When God wants to save someone, He SENDS someone. The best example of that is Jesus. Read John 3:17 (everyone knows 3:16). When God wanted to save us, He SENT His Son. God is a Mission Sending God.

And He wants to include us as a vital part of His Mission. God wants to save people now by Sending You. He calls you, maybe not on the phone, but He is calling you to fulfill a great need.

Is this a burden or a Privilege? Do you think God only calls a few select people to this mission? Would you rather God call someone else to do it? Do you want to be left out of it?

Too many believers in Jesus see this mission as a burden and not a responsibility much less a Privilege and a joy. They don't want God to include them--when He calls they refuse to answer the phone or even hang up on the Creator of the Universe.

If it is wrong to do so to the President, how much more to our Creator?

When you become a believer, you given a Mission. How big is your mission? Do you really want the most menial, insignificant and least satisfying mission? Do you really want to go AWOL to the One you call Savior?

You will never understand your faith as well until you become someone who is fulfilling your mission and actively sharing your faith--Philemon 1:6 (NIV especially)

This is more than Smokey the Bear saying, "Only You can prevent forest fires." It's more than just a suggestion--it is a command and a privilege.

Begin seeing your mission as a Privilege and not a burden.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sermon - 2 Timothy 1:6 - God's Fire - Lighter Fluid or Fire Extinguisher

Now that summer is winding down—a debate rages every weekend—

“To Grill or Not to Grill? That is the question.”

And within that debate rages another one—Propane or Charcoal?

How many Propane advocates do we have? Charcoal?

Those of you who love Charcoal should listen carefully—because today, we’re talking about a fire.

In order to offer up sacrifices and fellowship offerings to God, the Israelites were commanded to set up a big fire. When God’s presence came down on the Tent of Meeting, He was the one who started the fire (Lev. 9:24). Later, in 2 Chronicles 7 when Solomon was dedicating the temple and the altar, again it was God who started the fire that consumed the first sacrifice.

They had some instructions to go along with this fire—they were supposed to maintain it and not let it go out.

Leviticus 6:12-13--12 The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out. Every morning the priest is to add firewood and arrange the burnt offering on the fire and burn the fat of the fellowship offerings on it. 13 The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.

Even things like the lamps had to be maintained and kept burning.

Lev. 24:1-4--The LORD said to Moses, 2 "Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning continually. 3 Outside the curtain of the Testimony in the Tent of Meeting, Aaron is to tend the lamps before the LORD from evening till morning, continually. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. 4 The lamps on the pure gold lampstand before the LORD must be tended continually.

How do you think they would respond if someone came running up to the fire with a large bucket of water to put it out? That person would be stopped at all costs. It would be an act of blasphemy—and spiritual terrorism.

This was not an obligation that they took lightly? I would hate to be that guy who didn’t take it seriously.

Picture it like someone leading a tour group through the temple grounds and they introduce everyone to an important person—“And next I’d like to introduce you to Jason—his job is to make sure that the fire of the altar remains burning at all times. That’s because this fire which has been burning continuously for the last 50 years after originally being started by God Himself. “

A small kid tugs on their parent’s sleeve and says, “I don’t see any fire”

Southwest Airlines has an ad campaign that expresses this moment: “Wanna get away?”

I would not want to be that guy who let the fire go out. Would you?

And yet you and I are capable of it—not just passively letting it go out, but actively putting out the Fire of God in your life, in the life of those around you, and even your church.

In 2 Timothy, Paul gives a great encouragement to his son in the faith. “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

Keep this gift ablaze in your life—keep the fires burning, keep the altar burning in your heart, in your life that God started because you are charged with keeping it lit.

How else are you to offer yourself as a Living Sacrifice as Romans 12 calls us to do?

If you neglect, ignore, stop using your gift—if you ignore, don’t listen to, put off the prompting and leading of the Holy Spirit, then that fire which was started in you will die down, the light and heat that it gives off will diminish and weaken and eventually your passion and your effectiveness as a believer in Jesus Christ will wane.

Paul says that you cannot let that happen. Instead you must deliberately and attentively keep that fire alive—more than that—you must “fan” that fire into flame.

Have you seen anyone do that? Get a roaring fire going from a few smoldering embers? You stir up the coals a bit, add a little more fuel and start to blow.

Maybe you even have one of those fancy Fireplace Bellows that give a great directed air to get a fire going again.

Or maybe for those die hard grillers, you just pull out the Lighter Fluid and spray it on to get the biggest flame possible.

Who here has done that in the last month? Sprayed lighter fluid directly on a fire? The last week? Yesterday?

God started a fire in you when you believed—the gift of the Holy Spirit is described as coming down on the early church in Acts 2 as a fire—filling the people of God—filling those who are His Temple. He is taking up residence, not in a building—but this time a people.

God does not want your gift that He has given you to use… He does not want the fire the Spirit inside you to be a mere flicker—a smoldering pile of ash that does nothing but give evidence that something once was happening here.

But Paul feels the need to say that you must, MUST, MUST keep this fire ablaze—your very life depends on it

When we talk about grilling on the weekend—it’s optional—our life is not on the line—our next meal may come from it—but fire wasn’t so easy to come by and start like it is today.

you must fan it into flame again because I’m sure that he had seen many people’s fire for life, for ministry, for serving, for worship, for praying fizzle out.

As tragic as it is to let the fire go out, you’ve got to realize that it more tragic to sabotage and to deliberately put the fire out.

Instead of grabbing the lighter fluid—you pull out the FIRE EXTINGUISHER.

Do you think you would be capable of taking a Fire Extinguisher to the Temple and putting out the fire of the Altar?

Then why would you be willing to do that in Your Life? In Someone else’s Life? In the life of your church?

When the Spirit of God moves in your heart? How do you respond?

When an opportunity arises to use your gift? Do you follow through? Talk yourself out of it?

There are 2 ways you can respond to the leading of the Spirit—Lighter Fluid or Fire Extinguisher

You Can be an Extinguisher in Your Own Life

When you refuse to use your gift and it is neglected—it loses its power and effectiveness. You lose your light and heat and your power. You’re an extinguisher.

When you Ignore or Put Off or Explain away the leading of God—your fire dies down-- love for Him goes cold, your responsiveness to Him is lessened and your usefulness Him. You’re an extinguisher to your own altar

There are so many more I could think of here—I’m sure you can think of a few that you’ve used—a few fires that you’ve put out.

You Can be an Extinguisher in the Lives of Others

When someone comes to you seeking answers and you set up an appointment with someone else so because you’re uncomfortable—that’s an extinguisher.

When someone with a rough past has given their life to Jesus and in their enthusiasm they want to serve and you tell them—“I don’t think we have anything right now.”—that’s an extinguisher

When someone thinks they might be called into the ministry and you tell them that’s a bad career move b/c they’ll never make any money—that’s an extinguisher.

You Can Be An Extinguisher In Your Church

We can have Extinguishers In the church

When you Oppose Everything

When You Gossip or Complain

Hold on to Bitterness

When you are not Welcoming to new or different people

When you are not Praying

A church that has no vision—vision for the lost, for the Mission and Kingdom of God—that’s an extinguisher

A church that is more concerned about what people are wearing or how they look is an extinguisher

A church that refuses to grow, refuses to adapt, refuses to reach out is an extinguisher—rightly standing on the unchanging message but inflexible with methods

Such a church is in danger of what happened to the church in Ephesus—losing your first love—your fire going out and your lampstand removed.

Most churches safety reasons have lots of fire extinguishers at strategically placed locations in order to put out any fires that may pop up—and rightly so.

But what we also need is lighter fluid in strategic places where we can make the movements of God even bigger.

As great as it is to have Firefighters like Justin in our church—who’s job it is to put out fires—we need more men and women willing to start spiritual fires and fan them in to a great flame.

The People Extinguished -- The Church Extinguished

The People on Fire -- The Church On Fire

The church needs people who are not carrying around fire extinguishers but lighter fluid

We need more Power Plants not more Surge Protectors

What purpose for the gift?

No fear—boldness

Power in witness

Love and compassion for the lost

Self- Control

Sound judgment—discernment—opportunity of how and when

How do you Fan into Flame or Keep Ablaze this gift?

• Fuel

o Word of God—this is your spiritual food—if you’re going out to eat after church today—how crazy would it be to have all this food placed before you, but never eat it—

o Worship—praise God in your life—not just on Sundays or when someone else is leading you

o Fellowship with other Believers—we strengthen each other

o Serve—you build muscles by working them—you add fuel to your fire in serving the church

o Don’t get burned out

• Wind or Breath

o God breathed onto the dust He had formed and the man became a living being. Jesus breathed on His disciples and said, “receive the Holy Spirit”

o Jesus said, “the wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear it’s sound but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” – John 3:8

o When the Spirit moves—you must hear Him, Recognize Him and Respond to Him in faith and obedience

o Learn His Voice, Recognize His Leading

Opportunity to respond—how is the fire of your altar? Are you an extinguisher in your own life? Can you offer yourself as a living sacrifice with the fire and passion in your heart?

Maybe you need God to start your fire today.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Core Beliefs - Part 1 - Creative God

These Core Beliefs are intended to help tell the story of God's work in history.

Today I'm writing about the first, but I want to start by listing all of them.

1. Creative God

2. Damaged Humanity

3. Restoring Jesus

4. Transforming Holy Spirit

5. Privileged Mission

6. Infallible Word

7. Glorious Future

With that list, here's the discussion from this past Sunday on our Creative God

1. Creative God

a. God is creative and has a great imagination. Just look at the diversity of creatures and wonders of nature. From deep sea creatures to nebulae in deep space—all of it finds their origin in the creativity of God.

b. “In the Beginning, God created” is one of the most debated and controversial topics in today’s culture and philosophy. Many times, science begins with Carl Sagan’s axiom, “the universe is all there is or ever will be”. This is a total materialistic universe according to them and God is not even a necessary concept as Stephen Hawking has published recently

c. This is partially in response to the fact that the Big Bang Theory as it is popularly known, in the minds of many, supports the biblical concept of creation because based on observation, the universe as we know it had a definitive beginning and is not a static, eternal universe with no beginning as argued in the previous theory.

 d. This universe and all the heavens “declare the glory of God”—in other words—the complexity and design of everything points to a designer. Paul goes further to say in Romans 1 that just by the testimony of creation itself, human beings are without excuse in acknowledging God’s existence. Instead of worshipping the Creator, we would rather, in our sin, worship the created thing—but which is greater? By far, the Creator.

e. God is THE creative Creator with an amazing imagination for diversity, complexity and beauty. Genesis 1 records the systematic way He builds layers upon layers in order to make His work of art. Starting in Day 3, He begins stepping back and taking a look at what He has just done and He sees that it is “good”. Good in the artist’s sense of—“that part is done and I like it, I’m ready to move on to the next part of my work of art.”

f. The last step that God adds to His creation is Adam & Eve—the only part of creation that is described as made in the image of God--It is not until God creates Adam & Eve—as the crowning achievement of what He is doing that we see Him step back and declare that it is all “very good”.

g. We have a special and unique place in God’s creation—and in relationship with out Creator. No other part of creation can claim the stature of human beings—all the previous creative work was building a background canvas for His masterpiece. That’s how we are described in Ephesians 2:10—we are God’s “worskmanship”—the word there is Poema—similar to poem—it can also be translated, “masterpiece”.

h. God is creative and He has poured His creativity into creating a world for those made in His image. And this creativity is something that God has designed and built into the very fabric of our being. Because He is creative we too are creative.

i. You can see that pointed out in various places in Scripture. In Exodus 31 God says of a man named Bezalel “4-- I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts-- 4 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 5 to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship.”—Bezalel was given these gifts for the building of the first Tabernacle—the housing of the Ark of the Covenant and the Tent of Meeting with God. God does not want things shoddy or cheap—He understands beauty and how things that please the eye often please or soften the heart. Bezalel’s gifting improved the worship of God’s people and strengthened them as a community.

j. Later in 1 Corinthians 12, you see—“ There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. 1CO 12:7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”

k. The continuing discussion of spiritual gifts come with this understanding—God now gives gifts to His people, His church for the building up and magnification of His name and the strengthening of His people. Each person has a different set of gifts and a different calling of service. We are not uniform, exchangeable cogs in some great wheel—but specially created and gifted to serve His Kingdom in a uniquely creative way.

l. Just as Bezalel was beautifying the Tabernacle, what would become the future Temple of God, so too our gifts build up His Temple that is the Church

m. God has ingrained His creativity in our design—too often growing up I used my creativity to discover ways to get myself in trouble—but God wants us to use our creativity for His glory and to strengthen the worship of His people. As a believer, God has given you a gift for you to use—do not let it sit idle but instead fan that gift into flame by use. Also, given you are uniquely gifted, don’t just do anything and plug yourself into something for the sake of doing what someone else needs or wants (though that may very well be necessary for a season) but instead cultivate your gift and use your creativity to find new ways of bridging the ancient faith to modern life.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lesson From Nature - Full or New Moon?

Last night was impressive.  Vicky and I came back from the store and were commenting about how bright it was.  We walked out to the street and noticed that there were shadows on the driveway from the trees across the street.  We turned around and saw our own shadows.  All coming from the Full Moon at 9:30 at night.

It's amazing to think how the moon can cast a shadow because it is so bright.  The moon is not the source of the light, it merely is reflecting light from a greater source... the sun.  The moon is functioning as a giant mirror in the sky reflecting the brightness of the sun that is shining on the other side of the world.

However, as you can see above--the moon is not always full.  It waxes and wanes depending on the time of the month and it's position around the earth. 

Sometimes the moon will be so bright it can cast a shadow.  Other times, you'll barely be able to see it at all.

All of that got me to thinking.  Which would I rather be?  The Full moon or the New moon?

As believers in Jesus, we are supposed to be more like the Full moon--fully reflecting a glory that is not our own.  We are not a source of the light, we merely reflect the glory that belongs to and comes from God.

2 Corinthians 3:18-- "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."

We reflect a glory that is ours through faith in Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 1:3 - "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word."

The more we are like Christ, the more we reflect His glory.  The more we allow ourselves to be conformed into the image of Jesus, the greater light that shines from us--or more accurately reflects from us.

My problem is that some days, I am more like the New moon than I am the Full moon.  I am like one of the phases--I reflect some light, but am darkened in other areas.

The world is covered in a darkness and it needs the light of our Savior reflected in our lives.

How about you?  What kind of moon are you?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Blessing & Beattitudes - A New Thought

In church tonight, we heard thoughts from Scott Douglas on the Beattitudes found in Matthew’s Gospel.

As I already shared on this blog, my understanding of these passages has radically changed by considering the Culture of Blessing that existed in Israel and the early church—the bringing someone close and placing hands on their head and speaking good things over them and invoking God’s benefits and presence. Blessing someone required closeness and touch—it was a hands on enactment.

So I believe the “Blessed” of the beatitudes should be understood as the Hand of God being on someone and the Presence of God being near/with someone. Something even passes from the one to the other—ex., inheritance, Abraham’s blessing, and even appears in the sacrificial system of passing guilt to the sacrifice (Leviticus 3:2)

That gets me to my new thought. As Scott talked about and Mark Driscoll has been talking about lately, there is a difference between the ethic of Religion/religious people and the Kingdom. The ethic of religion likes to judge and determine the evidence of God’s favor—typically wealth, power, success—and contrast that to the evidence of God’s disfavor—the opposite—lack of wealth, power or success.

The Bible often describes that as God’s hand being against someone.

Exodus 7:5--And the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it."

Duet. 2:15--The LORD's hand was against them until he had completely eliminated them from the camp.

Ruth 1:13--No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD's hand has gone out against me!"

1 Samuel 12:15--But if you do not obey the LORD, and if you rebel against his commands, his hand will be against you, as it was against your fathers.

Acts 13:11--Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun. Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand.

Jesus addresses the question several times—“who sinned, this man or his parents that he would be born blind?”—John 9:2--Luke 13:1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.

Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them--do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.

The Prevailing attitude being that bad things happening to you is a sign that God’s hand is against you.

How many in the early church were confused and carried this same attitude with them? They were embracing Christ, believing in the resurrection and forgiveness and grace and yet their lives by all evaluating evidence was probably worse than before. Many had lost whatever they did have, they were being persecuted, they were mourning, was God’s hand on them in blessing or in cursing?

Jesus is teaching, through the idea and culture of blessing, that God’s hand of favor was upon them—the blessing of the Kingdom was theirs—despite what the world would interpret as signs of God’s disapproval—in fact the exact opposite was true.  God’s hand of favor, His blessed presence was theirs—they would see and are seeing God—His presence is close to them because their hearts have been purified by the washing of the blood of Christ.

God’s sure sign of blessing is not “health & wealth” but His presence and assurance in the midst of suffering.  Bad things happen to good people so often because the kingdom of this world is diametrically opposed to the Kingdom of God.

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Proposal - Election & Freewill

In the movie “Princess Bride” there is a wedding. I greatly fear that during a wedding I conduct someday, I will uncontrollably break out with:

“Mawwage. Mawwage, is what bwings us togevvvah today. Mawwage, that bwessed awangement. That dweam, wiffin a dweam.”

What’s also bad is the thought that I may not do it, but I may think about it and start laughing!

During Sunday School this past week, an analogy came to mind to describe the concepts of Election and Freewill and this movie provided some insight.

After the wedding, Princess Buttercup (come on guys, don’t stop reading—I promise you won’t lose your Man-Card) finds her true love, Westley, in her chamber. She asks why he didn’t stop her wedding and stop her from getting married. When he replies that she didn’t really get married, Buttercup is confused and says, “Yes I did. This old man said ‘man and wife’!”

Westley responds, “Did you say ‘I do’?”

“Well, we sort of skipped that part.”

“Then you’re not married. You didn’t say it. You didn’t do it.” Then there is a confrontation with the evil Prince, who wants to remedy the technicality by killing the Princess.

But there is something so important about that moment. For a real wedding to take place—both the husband and the wife have to give their assent, give their “I do” to the relationship, the marriage bond, the future.

Freewill and choice are necessary. That’s why forced marriages are a sham and cultures who do not allow women to freely choose or allow them to speak at their wedding are so damaging in the long run.

But this is so much how our relationship with Christ works. He is our Bridegroom and we are His Bride.

He makes all the arrangements for the wedding. No part of the ceremony is left undone or unprepared. Everything is set up beforehand, even the house is prepared for us. And we are waiting for the Father to pronounce that all is prepared that Jesus can come and receive His Bride.

Jesus has done all the work, made all the preparations, and has Chosen His Bride and done everything to entice her. He makes a proposal—but for a true wedding to take place, the Bride must give her assent. She must say “Yes” to the proposal from the Bridegroom.

When the Bride says “Yes”, all she has to do is show up and say it publicly before the gathered witnesses. We say “yes” at our conversion, we show it publicly at out baptism—it is our “pledge (or answer) of a good conscience toward God”

Imagine if a man were to propose to a woman and she did not have the freedom to say “no”.

God has chosen His Bride—but so many are refusing His proposal. He has made all the arrangements, taken care of everything—provided the best and yet we still say “no”.

Another issue to discuss is the fact that so many have not even heard the Proposal—because we as His ambassadors and representatives have not brought the message to them

Still another topic—what if a man proposes to a woman and she says “yes”, but then refuses to wear the engagement ring because she’s embarrassed. If she only puts in on when he’s around but takes it off as soon as possible.

That’s how so many of us are with Jesus—baptism is like putting on our engagement ring and wearing it for all the world to see. But the danger is that even after we put on the engagement ring—some people live as if they only wear it on Sundays but take it off Monday through Saturday. That’s not an engagement or a marriage either.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Legalism & Painting by Numbers - Mark Driscoll Clip

This same subject came up last week. This is a great analogy to how legalism can control your life. Enjoy

That's My King!

I can't believe I forgot to post this on Sunday!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Story of Love

Peter and his wife Jesse were walking up the walkway to a large house full of people. Music could be heard from the street and every light was on. The party looked well on its way.

Despite trying to look her best and wearing her nicest blue dress, Jesse was still nervous.

“Are you sure you want to go to this thing?” she asked.

“Hon,” he said, “the boss throws this party every year. It’s about time we went. Besides, they’ve never met you and some of the guys are starting to think I’ve just made you up.”

“OK, just remember I don’t know them either, so don’t you leave me.”

“Don’t worry,” Peter said reassuringly as he took her hand. “I love you and I won’t leave your side. Even if Conan the Barbarian asks if he can dance with you, I’ll whip him,” he said with a wink.

She laughed as they walked up the steps to the front door and let him know that fighting wouldn’t be necessary. “Besides, what would the boss think?”

“What if it is the boss?” he said in shock. She laughed again; he could always make her laugh.

“Stop making me laugh, you know I need to go to the bathroom when we get in there.”

The front door was opened by Peter’s co-worker, Steve and the two of them were quickly surrounded by the ongoing festivities.

“Hon, the bathroom’s over there. I’ll get us something to drink out by the pool.”

Peter goes and gets something to drink over at the punchbowl in the backyard when suddenly a voice calls his name. “Peter! Glad you could make it,” said his boss.

“Walk with me a minute would you.”

“Uh, sure thing.”

A few minutes later Jesse came outside looking for Peter and she couldn’t see him. Where is he, she thought to herself. Just as she turned to look somewhere else, she slipped in her new shoes and fell. Jesse’s knee took the brunt of the fall and it started to bleed. She fought back a few tears and looked around hoping no one had noticed. She saw a few stares and glances from some of the other women at the party. As Jesse started to get up, a man stepping away from the drinks didn’t see her and bumped her so hard that she fell into the pool.

Across the way, Peter’s boss heard the ruckus and turned to see what had happened. Seeing a woman getting helped out of the pool, he turned to Peter and shook his head. “That didn’t take long… every year someone has too much to drink and falls into the pool.”

When Peter turned to look the first thing he noticed was a blue dress. “Oh no.”
“Do you recognize that woman Peter?” his boss asked.

“No sir I don’t. I have no idea who she is. Excuse me though, I need to go find my wife.”

“Oh she’s here? Well, be sure and introduce me to her later.”

“Sure thing,” Peter said hurrying away.

By the time Peter made it back around to the punch bowl, Jesse was nowhere to be found. This evening was not going like he had planned. A few high fashioned ladies had been eyeing Peter as he came up. “Are you looking for that woman who fell in the pool?”, one of them asked. “How embarrassing,” said another.

“No, no, no. What makes you think I know who that was?”

As Peter was trying to push his way through the party and into the house, all he could think of was getting away. If only we could make a quiet exit.
But before he could make it to the house, he was grabbed on the shoulder by his co-worker Steve. “Well, it looks like you won the office pool after all… literally, right Peter! This guy is a genius—first he bets that someone would fall into the pool before 9, but the really great part,” Steve said turning to more of their friends, “it was Peter’s wife who did it!” Laughter began to ring out from his friends.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about Steve,” said Peter.

“Dude, I opened the door to let you in remember? I saw you with her.”

Peter turned around and put his finger into Steve’s face. “Hey look, just give me the money I won and drop it. Whoever that crazy lady was, she isn’t my wife” he said, raising his voice.

Hoping to get away from his co-workers, Peter spun around to go back to the house. Less than a step later, Peter jerked backwards to avoid running into his boss, who was helping Jesse find her husband. Jesse looked straight into Peter’s eyes and he knew she had heard every word.

Peter hurried out of the party and drove away crying.

Peter did not see Jesse for 3 days. He was too embarrassed to go home and he was convinced she had left him. I know I would, he thought to himself. I must be the worst man on the planet.

Finally, Peter got a call. He recognized Jesse’s number, but he was afraid to answer it. When the voicemail came through, Peter told Steve, “I can’t listen to it. What if she tells me it’s over? What if she never wants to see me again?”

“Let me see your phone,” said Steve. “It says that she’s home.”

Immediately Peter jumped into his car and started making his way back to their house at full speed. Running up to the door, Peter fumbled with the keys, then stopped, suddenly fearful—would she take him back? How could he know for sure. But when he arrived, she was gone again. The only thing he found was the dress Jesse was wearing hanging on the back of the couch.

“What do I do now? How can she ever trust me or love me again?”

Over the next several days, Peter and Jesse ran into each other—but usually when
other people were around. They were never alone to talk about what had happened.
Peter’s anxiety grew and grew. Over a week later, they finally had a chance to talk alone.

How do you think that conversation went?

How would you feel if you were Jesse, hearing your husband deny he even knew you?

Do you think Jesse should “take Peter back”? Why or why not?

If she did take him back, how would you describe Jesse’s love for her husband?

What would it take for Peter to be right with Jesse again?

What kind of marriage would they have?

If you were Peter’s boss, what would you think of him after hearing this story?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

New Version Luke 15 - What if Jesus and the Lost Sheep was more like 1 Samuel 17:34

When I was a kid—I loved watching nature shows—videos of the plains of Africa—particularly when it came to the Hunt—a pride of lions attacking a herd—a crocodile sneaking up on a zebra—it’s amazing the different ways that predators capture their prey. Some of them lie in wait and just ambush—some of them have a lure that draws them closer for the strike. Some watch and wait—pick the weakest, the youngest, the oldest, the boldest—the one who wanders out just a little to far from everyone else. Some just start chasing—running down the prey until they are so exhausted they can’t fight back or escape. Some predators work alone, some work in teams. There are so many different kinds of predators and different kinds of tactics—all with the same goal—capturing, killing and consuming the prey.

I’m always amazed at the herdsmen who operate around such predators.

The Life of a Shepherd is so often glamorized and softened.

Tending, Feeding, Guiding, Protecting

But there are many times when it is more like what David described to Saul before facing Goliath
1 Samuel 17:34-36a
“And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered [it] out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught [him] by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear:”

Those moments of facing down the lion and bear—knowing that God was with him and had his back—it was in those moments that David knew he could defeat Goliath.

So a predator like a lion is an enemy of the shepherd.
Then I turned to 1 Peter 5—Paul is giving instructions to the elders of the church to “Be shepherds of God’s flock under your care.—NIV” He then says in vs. 4—“And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”

It makes sense then that in v. 8—Peter brings up the subject of a lion. 1 Peter 5:8—“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

From that line of thinking, my mind went to another familiar story: the Parable of the Lost Sheep—Luke 15:3-7.

Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, `Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Matthew makes the point that the sheep wandered away, but Luke never gives us the reason. I want to focus on that element in the story because I believe it is significant.

I’ve always thought of it in terms of the poor little guy just wandered off and wasn’t paying attention. Suddenly he looks up and realizes that he’s all alone, or maybe he’s fallen down a ledge and can’t get back up. The Jesus, the Good Shepherd comes and lowers His hand or His staff and lifts the sheep to safety and carries the sheep home.

In the artist renditions of this, I’ve seen pictures of a smiling Jesus, casually carrying the lost sheep on His shoulders—looking like he’s having a conversation along the lines of:

“You silly little sheep! What were you thinking wandering off like that?” Kind of like this.

But what if the circumstances of why the sheep is missing is more like David’s experience as a shepherd?

Maybe the reason why the sheep is lost is because a lion or a bear. What if the reason that the sheep is lost is not because it is just wandering around not paying attention but instead because it is carried off by a hungry predator?

Does that change the mental image of this picture? It does for me. A predator was one of the greatest enemies of a shepherd. And once a predator began to see the flock as an easy meal—it would continue to pick them off until it is killed.

When we apply David’s description of the life of a shepherd we realize that to be a Good Shepherd sometimes means, to paraphrase the minister in The Patriot—“Fighting off the wolves”. Thieves will come to steal, kill and destroy. Predators will come and carry off the flock.

Applying that perspective to the story of the lost sheep changes its tone. In this scenario, the Good Shepherd is not just thinking, “the poor little guy has wandered off again” but instead sees signs that the sheep has been attacked and carried off. He picks up his staff and begins to follow the trail of blood, looking for footprints to let him know what He’s dealing with, hoping that He’ll find his sheep in time before the predator kills it.

This is not a casual moment. This is serious. Much like David—the Shepherd has to be ready for a fight—he’s not laughing, not joking around, not taking it easy—he’s running, he’s searching, he’s purposed. The shepherd’s body is charged with adrenaline and is now focusing on the endangered and probably injured sheep. His face is stern and ready for a fight.

Think of the difference in your tension level in regards to your children. Consider how you feel when you child is or was playing outside and when you check, he’s unaccounted for. You step outside, you call his name—you get a little irritated. You may be a little concerned, “where is he” but he’s probably close by—your tension level is a 5 or a 6—it may be higher depending on how many times you told your child not to wander off and disappear.

But then consider what would happen to your irritation, what would happen to your tension level if when you go outside, you see signs of a struggle—you see one of those vans with no windows just turning the corner—you find a ransom note on the porch.

Your tension level jumps up to a 10 real quick—all those irritations and frustrations toward your child that went through your head are quickly out the window.

Time is of the essence. You have to act and you have to act fast if you want to have the best chance of getting them back. There is urgency.

But what if you have 2 other kids in the house? Does it mean that you don’t love them if you jump in your car and start driving after the van? No, you call your neighbor or someone to get them and watch out for them—no one will blame you for going after your child.

That is the kind of urgency that Jesus has in going after the Lost—His children—we have been captured—Colossians 1

Colossians 1:13—“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves”
Jesus Values Every Sheep—that would be you and me—as well as the people who aren’t here—the undesireables, the ones who make you uncomfortable—He wants them here, hearing the Word—receiving the healing that that our Great Physician can bring.
When We are Missing, Jesus Notices—don’t ever think that Jesus doesn’t care whether you are here or not.

Imagine your Youth minister leaving on a mission Trip with 20 leave 19 come back—“but hey, these are teenagers—19 out of 20 isn’t bad”! Would you have a problem with that?

He Searches until He finds—He will do whatever it takes to bring you back into the fold—chase you down, fight off the enemy—make you uncomfortable—wait until you are weakened.

With this perspective--When He finds the sheep, He first has to fight and kill the predator, a daunting task for a single shepherd with a staff and His bare hands—
Jesus Is Willing to Give His Life to Save Yours

He lays down His life for His Sheep—he will take on the worlds greatest predator to bring you home alive. He doesn’t guarantee you won’t be injured, but you’ll be alive.

So now, when I think of this parable and the description of the Good Shepherd carrying the sheep on his shoulders—I can’t just see it where Jesus has this casual, smiling face—it’s the stern face of someone who has just come out of a fight. There is blood on his hands and there is a dead lion a short distance behind Him.

That doesn’t mean he’s not rejoicing in His heart—it doesn’t mean He is not celebrating—He is rejoicing because He has rescued His sheep from certain death. But it was not easy—it was not a walk in the park—
I hope you realize the great lengths our Shepherd went to, to fight for your freedom and your return to His Flock—at some point—you were that person.
That may be you right now—just because you’ve been here a while, doesn’t mean you aren’t vulnerable to wandering off.

Wandering Off—Satan will help you Wander off--
Too busy
Just need to sleep
Don’t like the music
Dragged off by the Enemy
False teaching
Marriage/family troubles
Where are you? Do you feel like you have wandered away? Lost and alone, injured? Then Jesus is pursuing after you to bring you home.
Once again, we are rescued from the dominion of darkness by our Shepherd who is also a Warrior

When We’re Together—We’re Safer—Church Attendance—He leaves the 99 together--

Maybe it’s been a long time since you were brought back into the fold—our danger is to be harsh towards the one who has wandered off—towards those who are farther away from the fold—Why is the Shepherd spending so much time with them and not with us?
How Does your enemy the devil seek to isolate you?

If we’ve just casually wandered away—we’re treated differently—it’s more of a discipline issue—than if we are dragged off by a predator.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Ravi Zacharias - The Trinity and Non-Contradiction - Penn State 2005

This is a very interesting discussion of the Trinity - once it gets started, that is. There are some very good points and lines from it. I'm wondering what stands out to you in it?

I especially like the point about Love. If God is love, then how could He "BE" love apart from the creation of other things? In all other religious systems, Ravi claims, Created Life must exist before God or the divine could Love--however, in the majesty of the Trinity--love is made possible in God Himself totally independent of Life or any created thing.

What do you think?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Who do we Talk to?

Listening to a sermon this past Sunday reminded me of something.

John chapters 3 & 4 records two conversations that Jesus engages in. One between a well to do, religious leader and the other between a poorer, morally corrupted woman from another racial background. He was even willing to risk offending her.

It is amazing to see how Jesus handled each person in such different ways. He addressed each one according to their place and situation. He didn't use an outlined Gospel presentation.

One thing I was convicted on was the fact that if I were confronted with these two, I would be most comfortable talking with Nicodemus. I would be more tempted to avoid the conversation with the woman at the well in the same way that the rest of the disciples did.

What I find interesting is that it seems to have taken longer for the "learned" man to respond to Jesus in faith, while Jesus continued talking with the woman until a "decision" was made on her part.

Also, there's no record that Nicodemus went back to his colleagues and immediately began telling them about how great Jesus was, but the woman, the outcast, went and did just that with those who had outcast her.

So why do you think that is?

Who would you be most comfortable talking to? Are you willing to go beyond comfort to share the greatest truths?

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Check out our New Blog!

Hey I've got a new blog set up for our herbal nutrition store.

Here it is.


Check out an article on the amount of caffeine you're getting in most drinks.

Or you could go straight to our store, HERE.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Missional v. Typical Church

Ed Stetzer had this video posted on his site and I wanted to share it. It describes the Missional Church and how it has a different mindset than what we have been doing in recent church history in America. I'd love to hear your thoughts and ask "what if anything is missing?"

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

So Long Moses by Andrew Peterson

I know it's not Christmas anymore, but I just found this video tonight and it really moved me. It's by Andrew Peterson and called, "So Long Moses".

In my opinion, AP has taken up the mantle of Rich Mullins as one of the best songwriters of the day. Both of them had/have a skill of what I call music-telling or song-telling in which a story is told through the course of the music.

Here's another one of my favorites called "Holy Is the Lord"

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Depression from Avatar - Reactions to the Movie

I decided this topic needed it's own post and not just one lost in the commentary.

Apparently some people are reacting with depression after watching the movie Avatar. Their reasons given are strangely similar to the arguments I made in my review of the film in the previous post.

Here is the original article. Below are some of the excerpts.

"I wasn't depressed myself. In fact the movie made me happy ," Baghdassarian said. "But I can understand why it made people depressed. The movie was so beautiful and it showed something we don't have here on Earth. I think people saw we could be living in a completely different world and that caused them to be depressed."

A post by a user called Elequin expresses an almost obsessive relationship with the film.

"That's all I have been doing as of late, searching the Internet for more info about 'Avatar.' I guess that helps. It's so hard I can't force myself to think that it's just a movie, and to get over it, that living like the Na'vi will never happen. I think I need a rebound movie," Elequin posted.

A user named Mike wrote on the fan Web site "Naviblue" that he contemplated suicide after seeing the movie.

"Ever since I went to see 'Avatar' I have been depressed. Watching the wonderful world of Pandora and all the Na'vi made me want to be one of them. I can't stop thinking about all the things that happened in the film and all of the tears and shivers I got from it," Mike posted. "I even contemplate suicide thinking that if I do it I will be rebirthed in a world similar to Pandora and the everything is the same as in 'Avatar.' "

Other fans have expressed feelings of disgust with the human race and disengagement with reality.

Ivar Hill posts to the "Avatar" forum page under the name Eltu. He wrote about his post-"Avatar" depression after he first saw the film earlier this month.

"When I woke up this morning after watching Avatar for the first time yesterday, the world seemed ... gray. It was like my whole life, everything I've done and worked for, lost its meaning," Hill wrote on the forum. "It just seems so ... meaningless. I still don't really see any reason to keep ... doing things at all. I live in a dying world."

Reached via e-mail in Sweden where he is studying game design, Hill, 17, explained that his feelings of despair made him desperately want to escape reality.

"One can say my depression was twofold: I was depressed because I really wanted to live in Pandora, which seemed like such a perfect place, but I was also depressed and disgusted with the sight of our world, what we have done to Earth. I so much wanted to escape reality," Hill said.

From Me:

I believe this longing a part of the human spirit put there by God so we will have a hunger for Him and His future. What are your thoughts?

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Movie Review - Avatar

Movie Review

I’ve actually seen the movie twice now. Both times in 3-D. I first saw it with my good friend Sergio in Nashville. The second time was with my wife Vicky on our anniversary. I wanted to be able to talk about it with her and hear her thoughts and impressions.

There may be spoilers below so if you haven’t seen it yet, read at your own risk.

1. First let me say that Avatar was one of the most visually Stunning movies ever.
a. This was truly one of the most stunning visual movies I’ve ever seen. This would be true with or without the 3-D, but the 3-D takes it to a whole new level. It was awesome to see the depth of character’s faces which is missing in other movies. The visuals of the floating seeds, the buzzing flies and other creatures of the forest were amazing. After a while, you forget about the glasses—definitely recommend that if you’re going to go see it, do so in 3-D

b. I loved the night shots of the forest and the bioluminescence of everything. I noticed that this really didn’t click in until the character of Jake got into the water after a fight with a pack of “dogs”. I didn’t think to take notice of it until afterwards, but did he get a drink of the water? Did Jake slip and fall into the water? I honestly can’t remember so if you do, please tell me.

c. The creature designs were excellent. Very unique physiologies and patterns. I especially liked the flying sequences as they were riding. Related notes, the 3D really made the heights more intimidating.

2. Yes, there was a lot of Contemporary Politics & Environmentalism
a. Yeah, there were several lines that went there. The main character Jake Sully had a fixable injury but couldn’t pay for it—health care debate.

b. “Fight Terror with Terror” and “Shock and Awe” along with the ex-soldiers getting paid by greedy corporations for “security” like what we see in Iraq with some of our US contracts.

c. “Unobtanium” (a really dumb name in my opinion) could be replaced for concepts related to oil or other natural resources or precious materials like gold or diamonds.

d. “There’s no green there. They killed their Mother” brought up environmental issues. Apparently even the future has no way of doing anything other than strip mining or clear cutting—no improvement over modern techniques that already can do it better than that.

e. Exploitation/Forced Relocation/Broken Treaties in relation to “uncivilized” populations when a superpower wants something of theirs but we have nothing they really want. Refers to the moral bankruptcy of our greedy capitalist system. This follows a Dances With Wolves model of American or colonial expansion.

f. Many of these issues raised are legitimate criticisms and should cause us to pause and reflect on our role and actions in the world. We are far from perfect and we have a tendency to justify our actions because they happen to serve our interests. I don’t think anyone would disagree that there are times in our history when we have crossed the line. Does that mean that everything in recent history has crossed that line, no it doesn’t. Are we capable of it… yes, we are.

This “commentary” doesn’t bother me all that much as “war” movies over the years have always used contemporary/historical statements as lines in their movies—from John Wayne, to the Vietnam era, to Top Gun and Rambo, to this. Ironically, I remember when Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith came out. Many people saw George Lucas as ripping George W. Bush and his administration’s policies. Rewatching recently and watching some of the commentaries—it fits just as nicely with the Obama administration too—which means Lucas really has a good grasp of how power tempts and corrupts politicians and societies.

g. One way of understanding Avatar would be to look at it as a Reverse Independence Day or V (since a remake is currently airing). Instead of being the unsuspecting planet who wakes up to a powerful invading alien race that seeks to harvest our planet and we valiantly rise up in defense of our planet; this time we are the invading aliens and the native population must rise up against our harvesters.

OK, so if you haven’t figured it out already, elements of faith are very important to me. Those issues are the calling of my life. So I’m going to see them in everything and analyze them. I love analyzing the messages of movies or shows--it’s what I love doing and have done for years. So you’ll have to deal with my analysis of the spiritual themes of the movie.

3. Pagan/Animistic Theology
a. Some people are really bothered by this aspect of the movie, but honestly I was not. It was a pretty accurate depiction of an animistic belief system that is typical of many tribal cultures, particularly African or Native American. They do have a “brotherhood” to the natural world. They do say certain phrases at the hunt—they do see spirits in animals and trees and places. They do interpret moments as more than mere coincidences. They do see many of their deities as male and female.

b. I actually thought their belief system was pretty consistent and not overbearing. Perhaps the moment that was overbearing, especially considering Cameron’s rejection of Christianity was Sigourney Weaver’s “She’s real!” moment as she blissfully becomes one with the “Mother”

c. Imagine how much more awkward and inappropriate and insulting it would have been if the religion depicted for the alien culture light years away from my own would have been a Messianic faith similar to Christianity. There would be significant differences of course and those would be more pronounced—Jesus as one of the Navi’—but like Cameron would argue—show his tomb—show his wife and descendants. That would have been totally insulting and inconsistent to the story he was trying to tell.

4. Best Lies are Closest to the Truth
a. This movie is another example of Deception being effective because it is so close to the Truth.

b. This is a lesson I learned hard when I was 18. The easiest lie to believe is the one that is closest to the truth. A great movie example would be Pleasantville—by using an effective visual tool it retells and reinterprets the first few chapters of Genesis with the Garden of Eden and how the concept of the “Fall” was really a good thing.

c. Avatar closely appeals to the Truth but twists it in such a way that our conclusions go in a different direction. Here’s what I mean.

d. Avatar effectively plays off of a deep seated desire and dream within the human heart and spirit. We know our world is broken and it is somehow our fault. As a result, we have a longing for a perfect world—a return to an Eden state of living.

e. In fact, the movie starts off with the main character Jake talking about his dream of flying. While I’ve heard of some false teachers claim humans could fly in the Garden of Eden, I see no reason to think we could, but in some way there is some kind of imprint on our spirit in the way we watch eagles soar. Perhaps we have memories of angels and their flight—always depicted with wings.

f. We also have a longing for a connection to nature and the animals. In the Garden, Adam & Eve were vegetarians, everything was provided for them by the trees and plants. Animals were not something to be feared but were approachable. They were named by Adam which demonstrated our position in authority over them.

g. We feel a disconnection with nature. Other movies have played with this theme—
especially ones like Dances With Wolves (a storyline Avatar heavily borrows from). The natural world of Pandora is poisonous to humans. Avatar gives Jake a new body with which he can reconnect with the natural world—a world that has physical and measurable connections. The Navi (sp?) can literally connect to other animals through their ponytail thing and even to trees and other biological systems. They essentially have a direct link to their ecosystem and other animals that never lets them lose sight of the bond they have.

h. It’s this link or bond that allows them to control various animals. As a result, everything the humans do with technology, the Navi do it with a natural equivalent. We have helicopters, they have the flying dragon things. We have transports, trucks and such, they have “horses”. We use cables and chambers to transfer consciousness, they use their ponytail and organic fibers to bridge the consciousness from one body to another.

i. Jake’s character begins to “see” the world again and especially his place in it. Before due to injury and disillusionment, he had little passion and purpose in life. Once reconnected as a member of the People, he regains his sense of identity. The bonding is so powerful that Jake begins to see the forest world as more “real” than the other.

j. James Cameron is by no means a friend of Christianity as evidenced by his efforts to prove that he had discovered family burial cave of Jesus. See these articles here, here with Christian responses here and here and here. He, like many see the Western world and particularly Christianity as responsible for the destruction of our connection to nature. They blame interpretations of Genesis 1 & 2 and human’s superior place in creation for the willingness to clear cut, strip mine etc. Christianity is thus responsible for clear cutting, strip mining, environmental subjugation and sacrifice for the sake of humans. Have those been used to justify… yes, wrongly so. We were given a responsibility to be stewards and caretakers, however Cameron and others so often see humanity as the plague of nature—and human life as no different and even less valuable than nature. We do have a special place in God’s creation—unique in our relationship with Him—uniquely made in His image—uniquely responsible for our actions.

k. These accusations against Christianity destroying our connection to nature are common, but if you really understood the future Christianity looks forward to—the hope of Christ is the only way that connection will be restored—our connection with our Creator will be restored—creation’s decay caused by our sin will be fixed and the lion will again lay down with the lamb. The river of life will flow and the tree will once again bear fruit every month for the healing of the nations.

l. This longing deep in Jake’s heart to be connected to his surrounding world is the hope that the Bible highlights in the future Kingdom of God because it harkens back to the way it originally was and points to the way it one day will be. Like I said, the error comes so close to getting it right—there is nothing wrong with the desire—but there is something wrong with the means Avatar proposes—a reconnection to “mother” nature and our spirit brothers by rejecting the culture which Jake came from which has at its heart a Christian base.

5. Wild at Heart
a. Many of the themes of this movie, especially the longing of Jake’s character are touched on in the book Wild At Heart by John Eldredge.

b. When you see Jake at the beginning—in trying to live the life and fight the fight his culture had for him—he had his legs cut out from under him. And of course that culture’s callousness abounds b/c it wouldn’t even fix his legs b/c he wasn’t wealthy enough (and yes, that was commentary on the contemporary health care debate). In many ways, he wanted to be in his brother’s place—dead. He had nothing to live for, no light in his eyes, no joy, no hope. He was empty as a man, both physically and spiritually. He had no adventure to live—in fact he couldn’t really see any prospects to do anything stuck in a wheelchair. He had no battle to fight—his culture had taken his ability and he didn’t really believe in the battle he was going to participate in, he was only doing it for the money. There was no love in his life—no wife, no prospect (in his mind) of finding any.

c. Only the possibility of walking, of fighting again, of being useful, of having the life that his brother had, of ending life as he new it and starting over in a “new body”, reborn essentially, gave Jake any sense of purpose and reason for living.

d. Those are the things that Wild at Heart propose lie at the heart and spirit of men, something that our culture and even our faith has failed to truly tap the strength of. At the heart of every man, placed there by God, proposes Eldredge is a longing for 3 things:

i. An Adventure to Live
ii. A Battle to fight
iii. A Beauty to Rescue

e. Each of these elements are played out in Jake Sully’s life. He has a new adventure in a strange land, full of new experiences, from climbing trees, to riding horses, to flying on amazing creatures. He finally has a battle to fight that he believes in and one that is truly noble and worth sacrificing his life for. He also finds that there is a woman to “rescue” and a whole people/community to be a part of.

f. There was a whole element of “rite of passage” that Wild at Heart points out our culture has largely lost. We don’t have anything that particularly tells us when we’re a man or what a man is supposed to do and the role he is supposed to fulfill. Jake had to prove he could hunt, ride, and climb up a floating mountain to subdue a flying dragon. In doing those things, he could join the people, have a voice of leadership, take a wife. It was clearly something Jake came to desire and look forward to; even to the point he would forgo a guaranteed operation to restore his “real legs”.

g. In doing all of these things, Jake found his “real” identity. He found an adventure to live for, a battle worth fighting and a woman to rescue. And he was willing to die for it. In finding this Jake was able to truly become a great leader and fulfill a great purpose and destiny.

h. In many ways, this is the kind of men, the kind of leadership that is sorely lacking in the church today. We have not encouraged nor demonstrated that a true faith in Christ gives us the greatest adventure to live, gives us the greatest thing worth fighting for, and makes us men truly capable of “rescuing” and leading and being the men that the women in our lives truly needs. We also come to understand that as the Bride of Christ, we were the one needing rescuing all along.

i. Avatar would have us abandon all that Christ is and return to a spiritized, pagan form of nature/goddess worship. The picture Cameron paints is stunning and beautiful—it resonates with our hearts and makes us say “yeah, I wish it were like that.” That’s why it’s so deceptive—it’s so close to God’s real plan that it sounds good. It is a lie that appeals to the very hope that God has placed in our hearts, but it takes us away from His solution.

6. The Truth
a. Yes, the world is broken. Yes, it is our fault. The Fall of Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden was and continues to be the greatest environmental disaster in history. That one moment introduced death, decay, exploitation, and things against nature. Our role as stewards was tarnished. Now the world would produce thorns and thistles for our labor rather than the generous provision of God. The appeal of environmentalism is based on a spiritual truth, however environmentalism is mistaken about what to do.

b. We cannot fix it in our own strength and power. Fundamentally the problem has a spiritual cause. The impact of sin has a physical manifestation not just on humans, but on all of creation—The apostle Paul puts it like this in Romans 8:19-22

19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.

c. Creation is broken—we cannot fix it. This is by no means a “I give up” position that says we should do nothing to care for the environment. I believe we should take up our original role of stewards as much as possible—but not b/c the earth is sacred and not to the extent that some do who see the natural world as equal to or more valuable than human life. We do have a special place in God’s creation—we are His masterpiece, the crowning moment of His creative work—Ephesians 2:10—“ For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Workmanship is the word “poema”, where we get poem. It can also be translated masterpiece.

d. The only fix for this environmental catastrophe is the coming of Messiah, who will restore and fix what is broken. The whole of the Old Testament points to that coming and anticipates it, prophecies it. The Gospels describe it in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The temptations of Jesus are a reversal of the fall of Adam—where Adam failed, Jesus overcame. The miracles of Jesus at each level demonstrate an ability to overcome the effect of the fall and even command nature itself—walking on water, calming the storm, healing disease, abundant feeding, overcoming death. Jesus said, “It is finished” from the cross because the work necessary to fix the spiritual problem/cause and thus all of creation, was accomplished. The truth of it was demonstrated by Hi s resurrection and the final conquering of death. Our hope in His return is when faith becomes sight—when the “garden” state is restored and we are once again able to take walks in the coolness of the day with our Creator—when the tree of life is restored and it’s abundance provides all we need. When there will be no more tears, no more crying, no more dying, no more night—because He is our Light.

e. Avatar’s ideal is so close… that makes it compelling. But it rejects the real source of that reality because of how we as followers of Jesus have so often messed it up. Jesus is the only way that ideal world will ever be the same—accepting Cameron’s vision in Avatar will only keep you farther away from ever living it.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie. I enjoyed seeing it, thinking about it's messages and talking about it. Yeah, I guess I'm weird that way.

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,