Saturday, July 17, 2010


Comic Art


In the world of comics, if evil is completely personified, if it truly takes human form, it is in the form of Batman's ultimate nemesis - The Joker. Which is what makes his same publisher doppleganager Trickster, that we looked at last time, so utterly lame. Simply put, the Joker cannot be copied, nor frankly should you want to. Over the decades, Joker has gone from "Gee aren't clowns scary," to homicidal maniac, to simply the incarnation of evil. Even heroes with psychic abilities have been driven made by trying to enter his mind - it is not a place of just evil intent, it is simply hell.

We are meant, I believe, through the explorations of the Jokers psyche, to come to feel pity for the man - so tortured is his soul. But that is also why the character has become anathema to me. Evil is longer evil - it is just "sick." I find that impossible to buy into in the case of the Joker. Unlike most bad guys, he has never done anything to indicate there is a redeemable soul in there anywhere. Usually the baddest of the baddies has a puppy they love, or rescue a squirrel or something to show that inside their gruff exterior, there is a person. Not so the Joker. If he rescued a cat from a tree it would only be to reserve the "pleasure" of breaking its neck for himself. He is irredeemably, unrelentingly evil.

They attempt often to portray the fact that Batman does not kill him as the one connection Bruce Wayne retains to his humanity - as if killing the Joker would sever all ties with ethical reality. Were the Joker like say, Harvey Dent, perhaps I might agree - but to all ow evil on this level to continue to exist is in my mind, ultimately inhuman. It is the reason I rarely read Batman anymore. It's a shame.

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Friday, July 16, 2010


"Buying" Into Faith

A Church for Starving Artists wonders if consumerism ruined he institutional church both from within (think megachurch) and from without (think 9:30AM showing at the local cineplex.) She concludes:
This has contributed to the demise of the church culture. And yet, in the long run, this is not such a bad thing. We who no longer want the church to be "a place where things happen" or "a vendor of religious goods and services" are forced to acknowledge that the church is Biblically something much more profound and eternal: we are the church. We are the Body of Christ - people God has sent out into the world to bless the world.

We gather - and not merely on Sunday mornings - to be equipped and sent out. Those of us who choose this way of life are no longer content to choose something lesser. No longer do we choose to "go to church." No longer do we choose to "use the church" for weddings and funerals, for social and educational activities. No longer is the point to be a committed church member. We choose to be committed followers of the way of Jesus.

Or at least we are trying to do this. But the paradigm shift is huge.

I love the church. I even love my generation, although it sometimes embarrasses me. But I really love trying to figure out how to please God. It involves choosing to devote my life to something different than the Constantian Church.
I wish I could agree with her, but I see so few making the choices she describes. Most I see choose either to ride the old church down or try to turn into the consumeristic church. The church seems to thrash around looking for survival, but never seems to latch on to the one thing that will actually save it. Like someone drowning within arm's reach of shore that just never reaches out.

What I do know is this - consumerism in the forms discussed is the symptom, not the illness - the illness is the fact that we will not reach for the shore. We often do not even acknowledge we are drowning - we feel no need to reach for the shore.

The consumeristic church rose from the problems that its predecessors had, but all it did was substitute problems, becasue the problem is not in how we do church, its in us - we are sinners. We have to start with that.

Confession is the key to moving forward.

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Friday Humor

The Tex Avery Fest continues

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Thursday, July 15, 2010


Visions of Heaven

Todd at MMI recently wrote:
How many of the people at your church just think heaven WILL look like your Sunday morning?

I know, I know... we can't even imagine what heaven will be like. But don't most of us, at least on the surface, think it will be just like what we want it to be?

People who love traditional worship dream of a great organ (maybe with golden pipes or something). They think heaven will be a Lawrence Welk type worship extravaganza.

People who love contemporary worship dream of the ultimate worship band and experience. Like maybe all the Rolling Stones will get saved on their deathbed and be the headliners or something.
That set me to thinking. I want church, not just worship, but church, to look like heaven.

And yet, I mourn every time I go how far removed from heaven we are. I long ago gave up images of heaven because it seems to me I have no basis for the vision.

Church is not heaven, but it should give us a glimpse. Sadly, I don;t typically see it.

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Illuminated Hymns

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010


The Issue of "Tolerance"

Al Mohler looks at the phenomena of "Pastors that do not believe" and concludes:
If they will not remove themselves from the ministry, they must be removed. If they lack the integrity to resign their pulpits, the churches must muster the integrity to eject them. If they will not “out” themselves, it is the duty of faithful Christians to “out” them. The caterpillars are hard at work. Will it take a report from an atheist to awaken the church to the danger?
Look there is an inherent dishonesty in a pastor leading a flock when he does not believe in where he is leading them, but there is also a role for compassion in a discussion like this. Pastors are not immune from doubt, and we have to provide them some room to be fallen humans like the rest of us. While I would not disagree that some one serving the church that has concluded the church to be invalid probably needs to move on - I find Mohler's lack of compassion and understanding almost as objectionable.

In the first place, this is a call to set ourselves up as judge, jury and executioner. The very use of the term "outing" is provocative and highly judgmental. Dialog, discuss, cajole, persuade, but "out"? Come on, theistic doubts are hardly in the same category as homosexual behavior.

Mohler quotes the source he is relying upon:
The ambiguity about who is a believer and who is an unbeliever follows inexorably from the pluralism that has been assiduously fostered by many religious leaders for a century and more: God is many different things to different people, and since we can’t know if one of these conceptions is the right one, we should honor them all. This counsel of tolerance creates a gentle fog that shrouds the question of belief in God in so much indeterminacy that if asked whether they believed in God, many people could sincerely say that they don’t know what they are being asked.
Look, there is a point where a definition can become so loose that it is meaningless. But there is also a point where we can cling so tightly to a definition that it becomes legalism.

But the thing that really bothers me about this most of all is that I have known a few "unbelieving" pastors in my life and I have seen God work through them. To assume that they somehow stand in the way of ministry is to assume that God is not nearly as powerful as He really is. And isn't that the ultimate hubris?

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Seems To Me Jesus Hung Out With The Uncool

Ok, the "Hat Tip" chain on this one is a mile long - I got it from Milt Stanley, you can follow the trail. The origin is Bill Streger:
It seems as the unique vision that God’s given so many church planters is almost identical. Phrases like “gospel-centered”, “missional”, and “cultural renewal” are littered throughout their proposals. It seems that the phrase “In the City. For the City.” or some variation of such has become church planting boilerplate.


Seriously, this is literally the only group I see proposals for. I have yet to assess a church planter who wants to move to a declining, smaller city and reach out to blue collar factory workers, mechanics, or construction crews. Not one with an evangelistic strategy to go after the 50-something administrative assistant who’s been working at the same low-paying insurance firm for three decades now.
I could go on about this for hours. "Cool" is definitely an issue here. A lack of creativity is another. "The path of least resistance" yet another. And then there is, of course, "comfort zone."

But in the end, may I suggest you "follow the money."

'Nuff Said.

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Kitty Kartoons

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Monday, July 12, 2010


As It Should Be

John Piper quoted John Newton back in March:
I hope that he and you and I shall all so live, as to be missed a little when we are gone. But the Lord standeth not in need of sinful man. And he sometimes takes away his most faithful and honoured ministers in the midst of their usefulness, perhaps [for this reason] among others, that he may show us he can do without them. . . . Blessed is the servant whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing, with his loins girded up, and his lamp burning.
The big question is - "Who is God 'showing'?" Well, in my experience, usually the very useful minister that he is removing.

I remain convinced the humility is the key to deep Christianity. The simple understanding that we are nothing and He is everything.

There is an exercise that I under take from time to to I call "What's my agenda?" Why do I desire something? Whatever it is, a project a church, blogging, maybe just some object for the home. I work very hard to strip the typical self-serving rationale and be nakedly honest with myself. And then I try to remove myself from the equation.

Many think that will "take all the fun out of life." I believe God wants pleasure for us, but not self-glorification. If I can find pure pleasure I might just proceed, but if it is to "get over" somehow, I try to let go of the desire. Many times I find the pure pleasure.

Which leads me to a question about all those ministers that feel "burn-out." I wonder what would happen if they sought the pure pleasure on ministry?

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