Saturday, September 18, 2010


Comic Art

You have to love a total "in your face" villain and can they get any more in your face than a guy that calls himself CAPTAIN NAZI!? We are looking at him here as a DC doppleganger to Marvel's "Red Skull" - but he is not really DC. Captain Nazi is originally the WWII baddie given to Fawcett's Captain Marvel - later bought by DC. THe battle over the Captain Marvel character and related is one of the most delicious inside publishing stories in comics. Needless to say, Marvel Comics, wants any character with "marvel" in the name, and with the Fawcett/DC guy being second iconicly only to Supes, you can imagine the litigation - not to mention the string of "Captain Marvel" wannabe's Marvel PUblishing has pushed out over the years when Fawcett/DC but the big guy into mothballs, as they tried to gain some legal leverage on the name. But litigation is boring - let's talk action.

Any guy that would flash a swastika on his chest like Superman's "S", Batman's bat or GL's Lantern - well, that is a guy you just have to hate. No subtlety there - just pure baddie.

In many ways I prefer him to the Red Skull. The Skull has gotten all sophisticated and nuanced. This guy is just strong evil.

To wax philosophical for a moment - I miss pure evil in comics. Reality is not black-and-white, but the ideals we aspire to should be, it helps us navigate the gray world we inhabit. I truly believe that comic book stories will someday come to be the American epic. National epics define a national character and I want ours to be about good winning out over bad - even though there are many shades of gray int he mix.

So give me a megalomaniacal world-conquering pure evil bad guy any day of the week. It makes my heroes that much more pure and good.

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Friday, September 17, 2010


Do People Want To Hear?

Milt Stanley via Jeff Weddle, points out an essential truth:
There’s this whole side of the Bible we ignore. A whole side that says the gate is strait, few enter. Men love darkness and hate the light and God’s Word is light. If you follow Christ (the Word made flesh) the world will hate you because it hated Him. All the prophets were ignored and killed. The Word became flesh and was rejected and killed.

Who are we trying to kid? It’s as if John the Baptist’s head was not cut off, or that Peter was not crucified upside down, or that Paul was not imprisoned and executed. Why do we pretend that if we simply preach the Word people will come out of the woodwork to hear it? It’s not true. It never has been.
Weddle's right and his approach to this is that to tell pastors the contrary as encouragement is to ultimately produce discouragement - and I think he is right about that.

But let's explore this fact on a different level - what does it say about how we do church? The common theme today is that we want to build church's that are "inviting." But if people do not really want to hear what we have to offer, it seems to me something that would invite them would be at best a distraction, if not a misrepresentation. Is the best we can offer bait-and-switch evangelism?

I don;t think so - I think the church can be winsome, but I do not think that winsomeness will come by looking like the world. It will come by meeting the world where it is but being radically different in it.

I will never forget the first time I saw the television show "Hill Street Blues." Many in the blogosphere are not old enough to remember that shows original run - but it was a marked departure in how television was done - it was new and it was very different - and it was attractive.

That's what the church ought to be - different, very different - and very attractive.

SO, what do you think that looks like?

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Friday Humor

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Thursday, September 16, 2010


Personal Liturgy?!

Justin Taylor links to David Powlison on developing a "Personal Liturgy of Confession."
When I counsel with people who struggle with deep feelings of shame, guilt, and regret, I sometimes suggest that they design a personalized liturgy.
Look, I am the last person to ever criticize anybody for confessing sin or encouraging such confession - but I do want to pick a few bones with this particular expression of that.

For one - look up the word "liturgy." Liturgy is something done that publicly and corporately. "Personal liturgy" is oxymoronic. That said, it is useful to develop a personal formula of some sort to work through the necessary steps of confession, then yeah, go for it, but its not liturgical nor sacramental - it takes more than one person to get there.

The idea of a personal liturgy as expressed here is that the liturgical is somehow merely rote, and that's just wrong. If, as so many claim, the rote is devoid of meaning, the wouldn't personal rote be equally as devoid? The whole idea of personal confession is to let the Holy Spirit pierce us at the deepest levels.

Or could it be that repetition and rote change us? IN which case why are we doing away with it in our public worship expression?

Let's keep liturgy where it belongs - in public. Let;s develop all the personal habits we need to walk closely and deeply with Jesus Christ, but let us not step any further into making faith a solo exercise.

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Illuminated Hymn

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010


And God Created...

...oil! John Stossel:
"The problem is very simple," Bryce said. "It's not political will. It's simple physics. Gasoline has 80 times the energy density of the best lithium ion batteries. There's no conspiracy here of big oil or big auto. It's a conspiracy of physics."
And who made a world that operates in accordance with the principles of physics? Why God, of course! Yep, our God - the God that became man and sacrificed Himself for our sake - that God, Creator, Sustainer, etc. Same God that made us as a matter of fact. Not only did He make us, but He made us capable of figuring out the energy content of oil and how to use it.

One of the biggest arguments I have with young earth creationist types is that I refuse to believe God would create a planet with dinosaur bones buried in it. That would indicate a God that was trying, somehow, to mislead us.

Do you honestly think that God would have given us oil and the brains and tools to use it and then expected us not to? Do you think without the fall there would be no industrialization?

I cannot help but think God gave us our intelligence and our natural resources with the idea that we were to use them. Yes, as fallen people we make a lot of mistakes as we do that, but we must apply the same reason and intelligence that allows us to harness God's creation to do so in a just and righteous manner.

Think about that the next time you think we all ought to "get closer to the planet."

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Good, Bad, or Just Different?

Jesus Creed reports some megachurch statistics:
Here's what they say one loses if one moves into the smaller congregation:

1. Inspiring sounds of thousands singing, large and talented choirs, etc
2. What they find is that the faithful band is old, small and getting smaller.
3. They lose spreading the Good Tidings to others.
And the stats quoted are not quite as bad as one might think. It's enough to ask the question I ask in the title of this post - are megachurches good, bad, or just different?

Clearly they do some thing much better than small churches. The stats cited say nothing eithr way about discipleship - not even sure how one would survey that? It does discuss intimacy which is related to discipleship:
What about intimacy? 41% of megachurch members have half or more of their friends at their church vs. 25%, while 12% in megachurches have no friends vs. 22% in small churches.
That's not very instructive here.

My root complaint has always been that the megachurch is evangelism, not worship. It does some thing that vitally needs doing, and it does it much better than smaller congregations - but then what?

It suffers from the same problems we had in the para-church evangelistic organizations I have worked with - we get them to come, but we do not take them deep. So in essence it is just different.

The problems arise because like a Wal-Mart, they tend to push the competition out of the market, and thus the opportunity to go deep is lost.

I'm looking for the mega-church that looks to network with the greater church community - that serves as a gateway to deeper understandings - let both kinds of churches concentrate on what they do best. Imagine a mega church that says to someone that has been there a few years, "You've gotten all we have to offer, but you might want to go to XYZ." Likewise, XYZ will send evangelistic volunteers to megachurch.

Something like that might just change the world.

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Kitty Kartoons

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Monday, September 13, 2010


God's Character Does Not Change

Tyler Kenney at Desiring God says:
We are wrong to contrast the wrath of God in the Old Testament with his mercy in the New. He is the same yesterday, today and forever—terrible and righteous in his wrath, and swift and sweet in his mercy—whether before, on, or after the cross.
He makes this conclusion while noting the mercy of God called upon by the people of Israel upon the return under Nehemiah. Oh how we love to find the merciful God in the Old Testament. But note that reference to God's "terrible and righteous" wrath throw into the conclusion. How often do we look for or even acknowledge the exhibition of that part of God's character in the New Testament?

I worry about this in very practical terms. As we discuss more and more God's "infinite" mercy, I see people around extend mercy far beyond reason. No, I'm not talking about the death penalty, although there might be some good examples there. I am talking about parents that save the adult children from the consequences of decisions made. I'm not even talking about punishment here, just the parent that pays a kids rent and avoids eviction when "the kid," at 25 years of age, blows the rent money on video games. Or the parents that replace the 18 year old's wrecked car with a BMW.

Most of the time, God's "wrath" is not very wrathful. I don;t picture God sitting around dreaming up ways to mete out punishment. Sometimes His wrath is simply patient - Patient enough to allow us to bear the consequences of our own actions. The child that burns its fingers on the stove will ever make that mistake again.

So here's a question - maybe that wrath is mercy "in disguise." IT is after all merciful to mature.

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