Saturday, October 01, 2011
Nothing in comics says "Oh give me a break," more than themed villains. Such themes do not come any more trite, or overused, than the zodiac. Which brings us to today's enter - Aquarius. (Cue corny 60's hippie musical)
This is as generic and bland and dumb as villains come. Aquarius has no "bio" to speak of.
Darren Bentley is a founding member of the Zodiac, and his base of operations was San Francisco, California.
The Zodiac was infiltrated by Nick Fury, posing as Scorpio; the Zodiac fought the Avengers and escaped. Aquarius, Capricorn, and Sagittarius sought to recapture the Zodiac Key, but lost it to the Brotherhood of the Ankh.And we wonder why comics don't always sell well.
Led by Taurus, the Zodiac later attempted to kill all Manhattan residents born under the sign of Gemini as a show of power, but were thwarted by the Avengers. Taurus's faction attempted to kill the Zodiac dissident faction, but all twelve leaders were captured by the Avengers.
Aquarius was granted the supernatural ability to take on the forms of his fellow Zodiac leaders by the demon Slifer, who subsequently kills him.
Friday, September 30, 2011
We read the preface aloud, and something caught my attention that I hadn't noticed before. It is from Packer's 1973 preface. He described a trend that has led to an ignorance of God. "Christian minds have been conformed to the modern spirit: the spirit, that is, that spawns great thoughts of man and leaves room for only small thoughts of God."Being a bit older than Menikoff, I read the book back when it was nearly new and like Menikoff, I was quite influenced by it. But as I re-approach it here, I have a couple of thoughts that come with age.
What does this look like? Packer wrote that it looks like people getting so caught up in religious practices that they "have allowed God to become remote." Packer's observation reminds me of Jesus' words in Matthew 6:1, "Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven." So, the religious practices that Packer is talking about are akin to the "acts of righteousness" performed by the Pharisees. Ouch.
But what does this have to do with people leaving churches? Here is Packer's answer: "Clear sighted persons, seeing this, are tempted to withdraw from churches in something like disgust to pursue a quest for God on their own." In other words, when someone comes to our church, they look around and wonder, "Do these folks really mean it? Are they going through the motions or is God's Spirit really at work in their midst?" Religious practices alone is like watered-down glue--worthless!
The first thought is that there is so little "religious practice" left in where most people go to church, as compared to when Packer wrote the book, that the words have much less meaning than they used to. "Good" might be the response of many based on this - but that leads me to me second point.
Religious practice is what preserve faith when our spirits are dry. Religious practice, vacant habit, if you will, keeps me in the realm of faith when I find I have no faith. Empty ritual means that I have a home when faith returns and that I have not wandered too far from the fold in the interim.
When I survey our current near practiceless landscape, I see a place nearly as devoid of genuine faith as I did when Packer wrote those words. And worse, without that practice, I see that when people experience spiritual drought they have often wandered so far that they never return.
That's not a good thing.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
In the interview I talked about the betrayal/denial – death – resurrection pattern that we see in Easter, and that we all experience, in big and small ways, in our friendships. After the interview I found myself thinking more about my own experiences of betrayal. Today, the day before Good Friday, the day we call Maundy Thursday, is a day when a big betrayal and a big denial happened (Judas and Peter), and when a smaller betrayal happened as well (the disciples falling asleep when their teacher and friend needed them). On this day we can profit from thinking about the betrayals in our own lives. Are we open to God’s resurrection?Once again I am struck be the cheap view of grace in this simple analogy. It is good that she forgave her friend, but relationship is a two way street and forgiveness in this sense cannot equal reconciliation. What has her (ex-)friend done?
About 15 years ago I had a conflict with a friend. It felt like a major betrayal, and I walked away from the friendship. It took me years to forgive her. This week I’m finding myself wondering if I have truly been open to God’s resurrection power in that relationship.
Yes, Christ's resurrection defeated sin - and yet we are still sinners - pretty much ever day. If we do not at least endeavor to not sin today we force Christ through His death and resurrection on that daily basis. Is that something a friend does? Does a friend injure someone daily?
Well, close relationships involve such injury often, but they also involve a concerted effort not to do so and profuse apology - there is much effort put into overcoming the hurt that was involved. The injury is not treated as insignificant, and if it is, relationships often end - rightfully.
It s fair to say that in our current cultural state, we have a low relational pain threshold, but that is no reason to cheapen genuine grace.
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Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Marketing That REALLY Doesn't Help
So, some genius decided to capitalize on that fact by some sort of ersatz counter-marketing:
The word on the street is simple – “church sucks.”Like most good things there is a grain of truth here - one of the reasons we perceive we do not need church is that church has in most cases gone horribly awry. But this seeks to therefore jettison the baby with the bathwater - under the guise of trying to save church, we send the message that church is awful.
Plastered throughout one city in northern California are signs stating the same message, stirring some controversy among the local residents.
But it’s all part of the plan, according to Stu Streeter, the lead pastor of Disciples Church in Folsom.
Using the slogan as a way to attract those who have stopped attending church, Streeter, along with Adam Adams, his connection ministry director, have teamed up to ironically bring people back into the church, reported El Dorado Hills Telegraph.
“The whole point behind it was twofold,” the pastor told EDHT. “To stir awareness and that we have something to say.”
Is it any wonder that people don't like church when it is this confusing - and this needy?
Come to think of it, marketing says "we need you to buy our product." How much spiritual and moral authority is there in a product that begs you to buy it? Not much.
It is time we started acting like what we are, standing on the sold rock, empowered by the Holy Spirit - unless you do not understand that such is what you are, then I might work on that for a bit.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Different Kinds of Incarnation?
What I am saying today, on the basis of Galatians, is that the gospel, and justification in particular, calls for more than doctrinal subscription; it also calls for cultural incarnation.Now that is one heck of a great point - it is saying, that if we are justified, it must be evident in our lives, and through our lives it must become evident in the culture. That is a point I have made on this blog over and over and over again.
I am not saying it is easy to follow through at both levels. It is impossible without Christ himself, as I will assert in my conclusion. But I am saying we would be unfaithful to settle for doctrinal correctness without also establishing a culture of grace in our churches and denominations and movements.
In other words, if justification by faith alone is the doctrine on which the church stands or falls, what does it look like to stand rather than fall? Is it possible to fall, while we think we are standing?
But why must a perfectly defined and well meaning word like "incarnate" be appropriated in this instance? Two things are going on here. In the first place we want to appropriate a word that has power associated with it in order to use that power to make the point we are trying to make. Thus we take a word, "incarnate," associated with one the central miracles of Christ and our faith and use it in a different context. Secondly, in doing that we steal some of the power from the word until it no longer has meaning or power - and a vitally important concept in our faith will be lost until we can find a new way to frame it, if we ever do.
As I write this, I think about my years in Young Life and our talk of "incarnational ministry." That was probably what started us down the road to this point, but at least when we used it there it had a whole life context - It was about becoming like Christ and trying to let Jesus shine through us where ever we were. We did not "incarnate in a specific setting, or context - we tried not to limit the word.
We cheapen our faith in so many ways. One of them is when we do not allow the large, powerful and mysterious to stay large, powerful and mysterious. We need to learn to preserve both knowledge and mystery.
Monday, September 26, 2011
What's a "Theology"?
the field of study and analysis that treats of god and of God's attributes and relations to the universe; study of divine things or religious truth; divinity.I had to look it up when Matt Anderson said
...we need a ‘Theology of Presence’Matt's point? - he is trying to figure out what it means to be a Christian in an age of social networking. That's a heck of a good question, but does it rise to the level of "theology"?
This seems to be something that most Evangelicals have fallen into - when we as Christians study something, trying to ask "WWJD" or some other way of relating it to God, we are developing a "theology." And I am growing to dislike the linguistic formulation. You see, it leaves a certain essential out of the equation - US! Intellectualizing about something is a way of keeping at a distance. If we "develop a theology of presence" we don't have to actual practice it.
In science, theory does not always, in fact rarely, precedes experimentation. Any explanation for a physical phenomena is typically derived from known data, gathered from experimentation, and then the theory developed is tested with new and different experimentation.
Not to mention that fact that if we are personally practicing the presence of God, we are attuned to Him, that often He will guide us without the need for reflection and study. He will develop character in us that answers our issues without the intellectual exercise. Do you think we needed "theology" before the fall?