Saturday, August 14, 2010


Comic Art

So Bad, They're Good

How do you know you have a bad character on your hands in a comic book setting? Well, when you got o look for images of that character, virtually ALL of them are from TV or movies - that's how. Such is the case with Mr. Freeze. This character, which we are examining as a Bat-doppleganger to the Flash rouge, Captain Cold, barely has a life in the comic books himself.

I remember the delicious puns of the Otto Preminger portrayed Mr. Freeze of the '60's television program and read many a comic book hoping to encounter him, but alas, on the printed page the guy is just lame. Yep, despite the much better costuming than Captain Cold, and a much nastier attitude, Mr. Freeze just has not cut it in comic world.

This character originally appeared in Batman in the 1950's as "Mr. Zero" but lasted almost no time until that TV show revived him becasue genuine Bat-villain Two-Face was considered too scary for the very juvenile (like yours truly) audience of the show. We shall here only mention in passing the awful rendition of the character by the Govenator in the movies. BTW, don;t blame Arnold for that, blame director Joel Schumacher.

Frankly, I think the character needs a revisit with a different hero/foil. His failure to truly catch on in the comics is due largely to that fact that he just flat to does not fit in the Batman world. Ice brings with it an image of cleanliness that just does not belong on the streets of Gotham. Let's face it, Captain Cold works well with Flash because cold implies the absence of motion and Flash is the essence of motion. For Batman,ice just means deploy the studs on the Bat-tires.

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Friday, August 13, 2010


Worship Is A Reponse

Mark Roberts looks at Psalm 117:
Psalm 117 is a simple, short call to worship.


Notice that worship is not something that begins with us. It’s not something we rev up in our own souls. Rather, worship begins with God, with his love and faithfulness. Our worship is always a response to God’s initiative and grace. Most of all, it responds to what God has done for us through Jesus Christ. In him we see and experience God’s unfailing love and enduring faithfulness.
The call to worship is a call to move out of ourselves. It is not about how we feel, or what we think, or what we like.

This is why I object to any discussion of worship style that focuses on what appeals - it is simply the wrong question. Maybe I am just arguing about semantic purity, but when we design a service to appeal I do not think it is fair to call it worship anymore - outreach? - evangelism? Sure, absolutely, but worship it is not.

People who understand these things far better than I talk about the change in the arts in the last couple of centuries - that they have moved from trying to elevate us and to reveal God to us to being mere vehicles of commercial capitalization or self-expression. Much of what passes for worship in the church today has followed suit. There is a place for services of the type that dominate the church today, but we delude ourselves when we call it worship.

To truly worship we must have experienced God in new, stretching, sometimes difficult ways. We must be pulled out of ourselves and into His majestic presence.

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Friday Humor

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Thursday, August 12, 2010


Theology or ?

Matt Anderson quotes Mark Roberts on this question:
"Evangelical churches are showing renewed interest in theology and theological training. If the church in America could recover one area of doctrine or theological tradition (i.e., ecclesiology, pneumatology, doctrine of God), what should it be?"
Here is Roberts response, in part:
Let me explain why I think it’s not cheating to say the American church needs theology, a right understanding of God. As I considered other doctrines that are badly needed in today’s church, I kept tracing the problem back to an inadequate or erroneous view of God. Take, for example, ecclesiology. The root problem in our notion and practice of church is our basic perception of God. We make church incidental when we fail to understand the relational (triune) nature of God. We make church “all about me” when we neglect God’s Lordship. We think worship is primarily a matter of our emotional experiences when we ignore God’s glory. We turn church into a club when we lose touch with the seeking love of God. We allow church to be too otherworldly when we forget God as Creator. We make church an end in and of itself when we neglect the mission of God. We make a sport of dumping on the church when we disregard God’s love for the church. And so forth and so on. As long as our doctrine of God is inadequate (not that any theology will ever fully comprehend God), all the rest of our doctrines will follow suit. When we get the basics of God right, then the rest of our beliefs can be built on a solid foundation.
The point here is well taken - but let us approach it from a different angle. Do we need to understand how semi-conductors move electrons about to use a computer? Do we need to understand wave form analysis to watch television? Well, some one does - the people that build the chips that go in computers and the people that design televisions do, but pretty much not anybody else. Even the guys that build computers from the chips do not need to understand semi-conductor quantum behavior. But we all use computers and watch television.

Analogously, it is fair to say the theology is "needed" - but included in the answer must be the question of "by whom" and "to what extent." I don;t think the average pew sitter will ever address theology to this level - ever. But those that design and lead worship obviously need to for precisely the reasons Roberts cites.

In fact if one thinks about it - the theology is out there, what's missing is a "gate-keeping function." Evangelical churches being as entrepreneurial as they are operate without the gate keeping. Anyone can hang up a shingle and call themselves "Pastor" or "worship leader" without a lick of training, in theology or anything else for that matter.

I see this not as an argument for a recover of theology, but for a recovery of denominationalism. But here is the tricky question - if Evangelicalism managed to organize itself enough to provide for the gate-keeping function, would it cease to be Evangelicalism? Seems to me that it is the lack of such gate-keeping that lies at the very heart of the movement - not only for its leadership, but for its "membership" as well.

At some point, I think we ALL need to come to terms with the fact that "many are called, but few are chosen." Christianity is not quite the mass movement we sometimes want to think it is. It is something everyone should have heard about, but very few will ever truly join.

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Illuminated Scripture

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Louder Than Words

Mark Daniels links to his daily devotional and prays:
God, help my life to match the faith I confess.
From the devotional:
The test of the effectiveness of following Jesus is not just in what we say but in how we live. Are we telling others God’s Word and doing what it says? Let’s model by words and actions what it means to follow Him.
What is most interesting is that the devotional's choice of example of not living as they preached is the Pharisees!

We live in an age where we hear of God's grace to the exclusion of almost all else that is a part of the complete Christian picture. We hear the stories of grace in the parable of the prodigal son or the amazing grace Christ extended to the woman at the well. But we seem to often to ignore the ungracious words of condemnation that Christ had for the religious officialdom of the time.

We preach the gospel, over and over and over again. But what words will Christ have for us, words of grace, or words of condemnation? You see, we should know better.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010



John Piper on forgiveness and repentance:
The difference is that when a person who wronged us does not repent with contrition and confession and conversion (turning from sin to righteousness), he cuts off the full work of forgiveness. We can still lay down our ill will; we can hand over our anger to God; we can seek to do him good; but we cannot carry through reconciliation or intimacy.
I might put it more bluntly - we must protect ourselves from the unrepentant. If someone does me harm and I forgive them, but they are unrepentant, the likelihood of having that harm repeated against me is very high.

Many respond that God's nature is such that He absorbs the blows we send His way time after time, which is true enough, but it also makes me very thoughtful about the unrepented sin in my life. It hurts God.

Now let's be honest - how can we claim to love the Lord our God with all our... and yet hurt Him so continuously?

Let me give you a simple example. I have hurt my wife many times in our life together, but to my knowledge never purposefully so. What I do know is this, when I know I have hurt her, my remorse is nearly boundless. Nothing pains me more than causing her pain.

Should we not feel that way about God? Instead we seem to rely on His grace so much we turn Him into a punching bag.

But the real point is this - such prevents intimacy. I am sure we all have someone in our lives that has unrepentantly harmed us. You may have to have a relationship with them, work, family, something of this sort - but they would never rise to the level of friend or intimate.

So it is with God. Our lack of repentance prevents us from being intimate with Him.

Which forces me to wonder - What kind of Christian is one that is not intimate with the Almighty?

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Kitty Kartoons

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Monday, August 09, 2010


Not So Fast

MMI carries what amounts to an elongated "ad" for a new program to build "leaders" at a young age. It's a mixed bag:
Pastors don’t need to give up on adults, but if we’re good stewards, we need to be putting a lot of eggs in the kid basket. Even better, we need to target our very young leaders. The most strategic time for developing effective and ethical leaders is a 4-year threshold we call the 10-13 Window. Unfortunately, very few church staff are leadership savvy. They confuse it with discipleship and service. And preteen/middle school ministries always tend to be low on the church totem pole.
He is absolutely right that we put young people low on the totem pole and that is a mistake. But that crack about confusing leadership with discipleship and service reveals to me a misunderstanding of leadership and especially Christian leadership. There is little question that there are some special skills to leading on a grand scale, but to be honest, its a gifting/mentor thing not a program thing. But just two quick comments on why this post brought me up short. Consider:
No matter how much we value egalitarian and democratic processes, history is not made by the masses. Three dominant factors change society: discoveries, disasters, and leaders, but the most significant by far is leaders—whether good or bad.
He is oh so wrong there - change is about events. A very experienced and wise leader once told me that "Leadership is seeing a parade and standing in front of it." Whatever change one "leads," certainly on a large scale, is happening regardless of the leader - the leader can organize it, move it along, shape it around the edges, but the a leader cannot create change from whole cloth.

That in part means that leadership is in fact a service function. The leader SERVES the movement which is already underway. The leader may in fact be the first to identify the movement, but they do not create it. Unless a leader is service oriented all he/she will ever do is nag their head against the wall.

My second point is this - for a leader to be truly effective, and this guy is right it is a set of social skills, he/she must be of extraordinary character. Therefore discipleship, while it is not all of leadership is the foundation thereof of its most important component. Only in discipleship can one develop sufficient humility to not let leadership "go to ones head." And that, frankly is why leadership skill training is generally not given to the very young. Humility is not natural to the young.

I think this guy has identified some interesting issues. We tend to make leaders of those that are not skilled at leadership because of their devoted service - and that is a problem for the church. But I will tell you this I will take an ill-equipped servant in leadership over a leader without humility and sense of service any day of the week.

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