Saturday, July 12, 2008


Comic Art

What is a man without the loe of a good woman? - And what sort of woman could love a god? Why another god, of course! Case in point today, The Lady Sif - immortal love of Thor, who remains the central character of the Marvel-published saga of Asgard. Which is, of course, where we return this week as we explore the greatest work of the greatest comic artist of all time - Jack Kirby.

I must confess to you that as a young lad, Sif was a drag. Who needed the hero carrying on and *shutter* kissing. As I grew older, her obvious feminine appeal became apparent - which in some sense sets Sif apart from almost all other women in comics.

Sif has, on occasion, picked up a sword and fought, like any good denizen of a warrior race, but she is, in the end, all woman, in the traditional sense of that word. As an asgardian she can kick the crap out of pretty much any human male on the planet (super-powers excepted) and yet she chooses to rely on her male, in this case Thor, to protect her and keep her safe. She is the strong one in the relationship and yet she manages to hold up the ego of her man in that way only a truly loving woman can.

Of course, as in all things, Sif is changing to meet the more modern ideals for a woman, and the things that I came to truly love about her are rapidly disappearing, and that is sad. For many years she was the truest of all women in comics.

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Friday, July 11, 2008


Reaching Out

Justin Holcomb, writing at CGO, recently said:
But, in Jesus, God takes the initiative toward us. Christianity is not mainly about us going toward God and finding him, but rather being found by God in Christ. And Jesus said he is the only way to the Father. By saying this, Jesus is saying that by being the way and the truth and the life, there is open access to God for all through him. This is not a reward for being good or religious enough. In addition to being the way to God, Jesus is also the truth of God. He is the embodiment of God’s self-revelation. In the bible, God showed up. He wasn’t found. God shows up in a bush with Moses, in a pillar of fire and smoke for the Israelites during the Exodus, and in the temple. God isn’t conjured. God arrives. And he arrives most personally in Jesus. Jesus also claims to be the life of God on earth. In John 6, he says he gives his life “for the life of the world.” Christianity is not some type of religious “Where is Waldo?” and everyone has a shot to find God. Rather, in the particularity of Jesus (which sounds so exclusive) God gives his life for the life of the entire world, which is very inclusive.

Jesus intends his claim of being the only way to God to be a comfort, not an argument. The desperate person doesn’t fight against there being one way because they are just thankful there is at least a way. The starving person is happy for a person to offer food. The sick person is hoping for A cure. So, if you are desperate and are hoping for a way to get to God, then there is great news—God has come in the person of Jesus, he died for your sins to remove the barrier between you and God, and is now abundantly available and accessible to you now.
That set me to thinking about how we do church in this day and age, the "If you build it, they will come approach." We invite people into our world, but we rarely go to see them in theirs.

I think much of that is a result of the fear that if we go "out there" we will fall victim to the various and sundry seductive forces of the world. This is a reasonable fear, but the response is oh so wrong.

"I am afraid I will not win the footrace therefore I shall not compete." That's what it is. Isn't the better response, "I am afraid I will lose the footrace, therefore I will train harder." Do you see?

We fear the seduction of the world because we are insufficiently transformed by that which we claim to hold so dear. If we truly believed in Christ Jesus and the power and glory that HE offers us; if we truly relied on His grace and mercy, as we pretend to call others to do; we could step out into the world BOLDLY and with confidence - knowing that God would hold us fast to His bosom.

God could have stayed in His heaven and continued to invite us to join Him. But He took a very different approach. We are called to do the same. All we have to do to is have the confidence that with His grace we can. That confidence is born of our continuing efforts to rely solely and completely on Him.

How continual are your efforts?

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Friday Humor - Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction Division

Cow farts collected in plastic tank for global warming study

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Short-Term Missions

Kruse Kronicle recently reprinted an article from the Mandate newsletter entitled: "Doing Short-Terms Missions without Doing Long-Term Harm." The piece makes several important points - just some:

I am, and have been for some time, less than enamored with the whole STM thing. My biggest beef with lies in the fact that most I have experienced are not about the recipients of the aid, but about the senders. This trips really do help build local congregations, but, as these quotations point out, they do not necessarily help the people they are aimed at helping.

Which raises, to my mind, a deeper question - do they REALLY help the senders? Oh sure, they help the sending church - they build community, organization, etc. But does it help the senders, as disciples? Consider, if the call to discipleship is the call to selflessness, would the issues raised in the Monitor piece really be issues?

We so often rush in to do ministry where we sense need, but the need we sense is often our own - our need to do something - so we do the wrong thing to serve our need when we should figure out the right thing.

How often do we think Jesus died and was resurrected because God needed us? God could have easily left us to our sinful suffering. God could also just have easily fixed everything. But God chose a very different path - He chose the path that honored our needs as He created us. That is food for deep thought when we think about missions of all types:

Phil 2:5-8 - Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, {and} being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Those words take on new and deeper meaning in light of this, don't they? Think about it.

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Illuminated Hymns

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008


On Suffering

Toby Brown, The Classical Presbyterian, recently reprinted a 1989 sermon from John Piper. This is how it begins:
In April, 1831, Charles Simeon was 71 years old. He had been the pastor of Trinity Church, Cambridge, England, for 49 years. He was asked one afternoon by his friend, Joseph Gurney, how he had surmounted persecution and outlasted all the great prejudice against him in his 49-year ministry. He said to Gurney, "My dear brother, we must not mind a little suffering for Christ's sake. When I am getting through a hedge, if my head and shoulders are safely through, I can bear the pricking of my legs. Let us rejoice in the remembrance that our holy Head has surmounted all His suffering and triumphed over death. Let us follow Him patiently; we shall soon be partakers of His victory" (H.C.G. Moule, Charles Simeon, London: InterVarsity, 1948, 155f.).

So I have entitled this message, "Brothers, We Must Not Mind a Little Suffering." I have a very definite Biblical aim in choosing this theme and this man for our meditation. I want to encourage you all to obey Romans 12:12: "Be patient in tribulation." I want you to see persecution and opposition and slander and misunderstanding and disappointment and self-recrimination and weakness and danger as the normal portion of faithful pastoral ministry. But I want you to see this in the life of a man who was a sinner like you and me, who was a pastor, and who, year after year, in his trials, "grew downward" in humility and upward in his adoration of Christ, and who did not yield to bitterness or to the temptation to leave his charge – for 54 years.
[emphasis added]
What a wonderful phrase "downward in humility and upward in adoration of Christ." Oh how many seem to only know the second half of that formulation. It raises and interesting question - Can we adore Christ without humility?

So often we love Christ and each other out of our own interests. Maybe it is because we feel like we are supposed to, so we love for the sense of satisfaction. Maybe we love to be loved in return, heck for that we may even love sacrificially, because we want some one else to sacrifice for us! And yet, that is not the model that we have presented to us.

I know, we tend to think of God in those terms, God sacrificed Himself for us, so we could love Him, but do you really think that God, creator, sustainer, TRIUNE God, needs our affections - if you must think of Him as needing anything at all, certainly He has fellowship within the Trinity. We are unnecessary in that equation.

In order to grow in love, we must grow in humility, for love is selfless. Says the Apostle Paul:
1 Cor 13:4-5 - Love is patient, love is kind, {and} is not jealous; love does not brag {and} is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong {suffered,} [emphasis added]
Said Christ:
John 15:12-14 - "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. "You are My friends, if you do what I command you.
Have we done likewise?

Which brings us back to trial and tribulation - they are an expression of God's love for us, for they are an attempt to break us and teach us this kind of humility.

Have you ever met someone that refuses to be broken? People that will never, under any circumstance, admit they have a problem or made a mistake, even in private. I find such people personally, extraordinarily angering. For one they usually blame someone else, often me. And often they profess their love for you (me!) while they do it. And yet, there is no love there, there is only self.

My confession today is that I currently view such people as the enemy. They obviously cannot be trusted for they only have their self-interest in mind. But that does not make them enemy, just untrustworthy. But their profession of love is the big lie, and it is that deception I cannot get past. They attempt, with their constant profession, to warp reality, and that is where I get so upset.

I want to love them, but I cannot, because they make living the big lie a condition of relationship.

How did God do this?

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Contrasting Acts 2

One of life's greater curiosities to me has been the contrast between the massive amount of the Pentateuch devoted to private property and the rights thereof, and this brief passage in Acts 2:
Acts 2:43-47 - And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; and they {began} selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Such a idyllic description of Christian community, and yet so...communist. (Please remember, I am an old fart - communism is a big deal)

So many questions - Is Christianity "communist" in some fashion? Why such a huge break between the Old and New Testament? I thought God more consistent than that?

I have not pondered this imponderable for quite a while, as an adult I entered the mainstream of American commercial life and decided that that small passage in Acts was some sort of historical aberration and moved on. All these questions returned to my consciousness when I read this post at Kruse Kronicle. It quotes at length David S. Landes from his book, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor This is the part that really caught my eye:
The concept of property rights went back to biblical times and was transmitted and transformed by Christian teaching. The Hebrew hostility to autocracy, even their own, was formed in Egypt and the desert: was there ever a more stiff-necked people?


This tradition, which set the Israelites apart from any of the kingdoms around and surely did much to earn them the hostility of nearby rulers – who needs such troublemakers? – tended to get lost in Christianity when that community of faith became a church, especially once that Church became the official, privileged religion of an autocratic empire. One cannot well bite the hand that funds. Besides, the word was not getting out, for the Church early decided that only qualified people, certain clerics for example, should know the Bible. The Good Book, with its egalitarian laws and morals, its prophetic rebukes of power and exaltation of the humble, invited indiscipline among the faithful and misunderstanding with the secular authorities. Only after censorship and edulcoration could it be communicated to the laity.
And all at once the word "FREEDOM" clicked through my mind. Communism was oppressively enforced (been there, seen it, it is ugly) while the Acts 2 community was voluntary. The Acts 2 community was small and in the context of the greater whole of the Roman Empire, it was not of itself empirical. Communism relies on the quite corruptible, and corrupt state, while the Acts 2 community relied on the transformed heart and Spirit-filled lives of the participants.

I draw from these observations two lessons, and they are familiar ones to my readers. One, our personal and individual transformation is the key to achieving the ideal. Unless and until a sufficient number of our country are sufficiently transformed to voluntarily join a community like Acts 2, heck just a community without abortion would be good, to force such is oppressive and wrong, and in the end, un-Christian.

The second lesson is the terrible corruptibility of the church. It falls to each of us that are a part to fight that corruption on a daily basis, first in ourselves, and then in our congregations. We live in an age where the church does not, cannot, shape the truth for us as it could in the days prior to the Reformation. And yet, so many of us take church at face value.

We are the church, we need to act like it.

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Kitty Kartoons

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Monday, July 07, 2008


No Worries

Mark Daniels preached recently on "Be Not Troubled." My father used to say "Don't borrow trouble." As Mark put it:
For example, in telling us not to worry about the future, He observed that each day brings its own troubles.
Mark points out three "absolutes" that will allow us to avoid the worry and embrace the blessing:

Let me get all science nerd on you for a minute. The much vaunted "Relativity" is really just an exercise in perspective. Simply put, it says that the equations that describe a thing look very different when you look at that thing from a different perspective. Thus, Einstein removed his perspective from purely spatial to space-time and things that were previously mysteries became readily apparent.

Consider a map. When you are on a street all you can see are your immediate surroundings, often making it difficult to see your destination, but a map gives you a perspective that makes your destination both apparent and easy to find.

In this sermon Mark reminds us that the heavenly perspective on our lives is quite different than our own. What may look insurmountable here on street level is often barely visible when the destination is apparent.

But it is so hard to hold onto that different perspective, we tend to want to go with what is in our face. Worse, often, we are truly incapable of taking that perspective. In the theory of relativity, for example, we can imagine what that space-time perspective is, but we can never actually take it, we are physically limited from it. Thus we must trust our mathematical tools, or the scientist, to give us insight into that perspective.

And that word "trust" is the bottom line. We must trust in God, for only God can have a truly heavenly perspective. But trust is so hard when the evidence in my face can be so contrary and when the heavenly perspective says that my current difficulties are necessary.

And that is where Mark's third absolute becomes so extraordinarily important. In this end, we may glimpse briefly that heavenly perspective, but there is only ONE god that we trust, and He is reliable - even unto death.

Think about it, in that there is immense rest and comfort.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008


Still Enjoying The Afterglow!

Happy Birthday America

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