Saturday, March 09, 2013


Comic Art


As if fear of clowns were not enough - we must fear the entire circus - Circus of Crime that is! There is some vailidty to this, the traveling circus really does make the perfect cover for a bunch of traveling hooligans and has often been used in that fashion in reality. It even made some sense in the WWII incarnation as a traveling groups of spies. It made a lot of sense in the Bond flic "Octopussy." But when you thrown in super-powers and the Avengers, well, the Circus of Crime starts to get pretty silly. Please do not confuse this classic bunch of marvel villains with the johnny-come-lately, and pretty lame, bunch over at DC.

Truth be told, I may ridicule the idea here, but as a kid, the COC was all over the Marvel Universe and the image at the bottom of this post is one of the classic images of the Marvel Silver Age. It is this group of evil-doers that crashed the wedding of Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne way back when in one of the classics of all time.

IN the end, I don't think the circus imagery is scary, I think this stuff comes form the boredom that many of us feel at the circus when we are young. We are unable to appreciate the acrobats and lions tamers in any meaningful way, so our minds wander and imagine all sorts of nefarious nastiness behind the scenes. And so, this and so many imitators appeals as a villainous nest of vipers.

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Friday, March 08, 2013


My Point - Exactly

Thomas Bergler in CT:
The house lights go down. Spinning, multicolored lights sweep the auditorium. A rock band launches into a rousing opening song. "Ignore everyone else, this time is just about you and Jesus," proclaims the lead singer. The music changes to a slow dance tune, and the people sing about falling in love with Jesus. A guitarist sporting skinny jeans and a soul patch closes the worship set with a prayer, beginning, "Hey God …" The spotlight then falls on the speaker, who tells entertaining stories, cracks a few jokes, and assures everyone that "God is not mad at you. He loves you unconditionally."

After worship, some members of the church sign up for the next mission trip, while others decide to join a small group where they can receive support on their faith journey. If you ask the people here why they go to church or what they value about their faith, they'll say something like, "Having faith helps me deal with my problems."

Fifty or sixty years ago, these now-commonplace elements of American church life were regularly found in youth groups but rarely in worship services and adult activities.

The phrase "arrested development" comes to mind when it comes to my generation and church. I remember when I was a high school kid, pumping up Young Life to my friends - they all viewed it as "substitute church." - Well, maybe if I go to YL, my parents will let me skip church on Sunday. - Young Life was intended to be a gateway to church, not a substitute for it.

The rest of this very informative article looking at the social forces that shaped both church and culture is fascinating and should be read. Then they get to the consequences:
Still, churches new to juvenilization would do well to consider its unintended consequences. Juvenilization tends to create a self-centered, emotionally driven, and intellectually empty faith.In their landmark National Study of Youth and Religion, Christian Smith and his team of researchers found that the majority of American teenagers, even those who are highly involved in church activities, are inarticulate about religious matters. They seldom used words like faith, salvation, sin, or even Jesus to describe their beliefs. Instead, they return again and again to the language of personal fulfillment to describe why God and Christianity are important to them. The phrase "feel happy" appeared over 2,000 times in 267 interviews.
How to handle the situation is something I agree with completely:
I believe one key is to renew our commitment to the church as an intergenerational family, in which each person has a unique role in helping the others toward our shared goal of maturity in Christ (Titus 2:1-15; Eph. 5:21-6:4; Col. 3:18-4:1; 1 John 2:12-14). Adults need children and adolescents to draw out their committed love and provide concrete opportunities to care for others. Adolescents help adults reconnect with the passion of a life devoted to Christ, what he called the first love of the Christians at Ephesus (Rev. 2:4). Young people need adults in their lives who are modeling a vibrant spiritual maturity. One reason no one wants to grow up in America is that many adults don't make their life stage look very attractive.
Teenagers can legitimately follow Christ in adolescent ways, including participating in age-appropriate youth ministries. But those ministries must also help youth catch a vision for growing up spiritually. Churches full of people who are building each other up toward spiritual maturity are not only the best antidote to the juvenilization of American Christianity, but also a powerful countercultural witness in a juvenilized society.
The first place I would start is rather than counter-programming youth ministry to adult worship (if they are still distinguishable in your churchj is that I would insist that youth ministry feed the youth into church - that particpation in adult worship was expected and encouraged.Technorati Tags:, , ,
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Friday Humor

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Thursday, March 07, 2013


Who Is God In Relation To Me?

Mark Roberts on Ezekiel:
Ezekiel 47 offers a vivid picture of fruitfulness, one that instructs and encourages us. In last Friday's reflection, I focused on the first part of this chapter and its vision of a river flowing from the Temple in Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. This fresh water of the river transforms the salty deadness of the Sea into a body of water filled with fish. As the river flows from the Temple down to the formerly "dead" Sea, it nourishes "all kinds of fruit-bearing trees." Unlike normal trees, these will not wither or stop being fruitful. Moreover, their "fruit will be for eating, their leaves for healing" (47:12).

Why are these trees so fruitful? Why will they never wither? Because, as the Lord says to Ezekiel, "their water comes from the sanctuary" (47:12). The sanctuary, more literally the "holy place," represents the presence of God on earth. It is the place God lives, so to speak. Thus, the life-giving river in Ezekiel 47 flows from God, the source of all life. Extraordinary fruitfulness comes when trees are blessed by God's own nourishment.

The implications for us are obvious. If we want to live fruitful lives, we need to be consistently fed by God. We need to "eat" his Word and "drink" in his Spirit. We need God's gifts and wisdom. We need the fruit of the Spirit. When we try to live productive lives apart from God, we soon run out of energy and our leaves begin to wither as our branches stop bearing fruit.

We so often think life with God is like having a pal walk with us, but it is so much more. It is having an engine inside of us that gives us power, and it is having a sculptor seeking to shape us.

Mostly it is having a lord at whose feet I should humbly sit. And yet I so often insist on going about doing "my Lord's business" without ever asking Him what that business should be
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Wednesday, March 06, 2013


Made Fresh

Mark Roberts:
In his revelation to Ezekiel, the Lord uses the unique character of the Dead Sea in order to make a point about the Temple, which lay about 15 miles away from and 3,800 feet higher than the Sea. He describes a miraculous river that flows from the Temple down to the Dead Sea: "These waters go out to the eastern region, flow down the steep slopes, and go into the Dead Sea. When the flowing waters enter the sea, its water becomes fresh" (47:8). Thus, "great schools of fish" thrive in the Dead Sea because of the transformative power of the water from the Temple.

This vision in Ezekiel 47 demonstrates what happens in us when the water of the Holy Spirit flows into our hearts. It touches and transforms every part of us, so that we might be more fully alive and life-giving to others. The dead parts of us are invigorated by God's Spirit, so that we might live more abundantly now, in anticipation of the life that is yet to come.
I am reminded that being a Christian is not merely accepting a set of beliefs. It is not merely an ethical code. It is not merely the miraculous manifestations of the supernatural. It is all of the above and more. It is nothing less than a total remake of ourselves by a power far greater than ourselves.

What I wonder is why we resist it so?
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Tuesday, March 05, 2013


Is Brevity Always Good?

Ron Edmondson quotes a bunch of single Bible verses and concludes:
Perhaps you should choose one or two of these, write them down somewhere you’ll see it often, and commit it to memory.
I could not help, on reading the post, but to reflect on the question that is the title of this post. Being a leader is a complex thing. We keep trying to make Christianity, on all its levels, simpler, but there is nothing simple about it. It is intellectually complex and extraordinarily difficult to live out.

But mostly I am concerned becasue the point of Christianity is to make us better which means we should be striving to those higher levels of complexity, not reaching for simplicity. Further we should be calling others to higher complexity and not allow them to be content in simplicity. Peter may have started as a fisherman, but he ended as so much more.
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Monday, March 04, 2013


The Spirtual and The Practical

Mark Roberts:
I've been in plenty of church meetings that seem to pit the "spiritual" people against the "practical." The "spiritual" people want to raise the mission budget in the next year; the "practical" people wonder how we're going to pay for it. The "spiritual" people want to let the Spirit be free in worship services; the "practical" people wonder when the services will be over so the Sunday School teachers can plan adequately. Sometimes, the "spiritual" folk get exasperated. They think that they can play their "spiritual" trump card, which means that the "practical" folk should back down. Is this right?

In fact, Scripture often balances the "spiritual" and the "practical." It might be better to say that Scripture doesn't recognize such a distinction. The God who created the heavens and the earth to be orderly seems to understand that the "spiritual" always takes shape in the "practical."


So, if you happen to be someone with "practical" talents, if you're an engineer or a planner, if you're an accountant or an attorney, don't feel as if you have to always play second fiddle to the visionaries and mystics. All of us have gifts to contribute to the body of Christ, and God has formed the body so that all of us matter. Deep spirituality is not incompatible with realistic practicality. As Paul writes to the Corinthians, "Everything should be done [that is, all spiritual gifts should be exercised] with dignity and in proper order" (1 Cor. 14:40).

Decades ago I was on the ruling board of a church where the "spiritual people" won - they did a "faith" budget that far exceeded the realities of the situation. I ended up resigning the board. About 10 months into the year of that budget the board had to stand in front of the congregation and say they were wrong. The church is still dealing with debt incurred becasue of that budget and decisions made in its wake.

God works miracles, but not on demand and not all that often. God's revelation comes in many forms and those forms often include income projections based on available data. When you hear God's voice calling you you best check it with the other means by which God communicates with us.

When I went to be on Young Life staff all those years ago a friend said to me, "John don't you think a 4.0 GPA as a Chemistry major says maybe you are better suited to another line of work." What I thought was God's voice did not jive with the realities about me and was really my own desires, not God's.
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