Saturday, August 02, 2014


Comic Art


As I write, I am quite worried. It is early December 2013. "Thor: The Dark World" is concluding its theatrical run and "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is in the future. By the time this publishes Cap 2 will be a 5 month old memory, but I thought I would write of my trepidation now so we could see if my worry was real.

The latest Thor installment was enjoyable popcorn stuff, but it lacked any real connection with the heart or the characters. In the comics The Winter Solder saga is one of those things that just tugs the heart in a thousand directions. You see, it brings back to life one of those characters that you thought was really and truly dead - Bucky Barnes.

Taking a page from the Jason Todd story (the second Robin in the Batman universe) we see a sidekick killed in action come back to life. Cap, like Bats, is deeply moved, guilt ridden and motivated by losing a young companion and partner. In both cases they return as enemy, corrupted. This creates a situation where our hero cannot merely defeat the enemy, they MUST redeem them.

This is complex story telling. It is the kind of story where the characters need time to think, reflect, ponder and do other things that do not necessarily involve explosions, shields, high wire acts, or the other stuff that drives action movies forward. Pacing is everything in action films, so who knows if there can be sufficient breaks in the action allow for what is really needed.

To date, "Avengers" is a great film because it restores the heroic ideal. The original Thor had established this theme as a part of the development of the character. The barely acceptable Iron Man 3 shows Tony Stark in deep doubt about himself in comparison the heroism he exhibited in Avengers. "Thor: The Dark World" just doesn't bother with such things. If "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" follows the downward trends in the IM and Thor franchises, I will be very sad. This Cap movie could be the best yet, but the trend is not a good one.

Bad movies are bad movies, but the sales on these movies are outrageously good and they reflect what is happening in our culture. If our heroes stop being heroic and simply start being action figures we have a problem. Every culture has epic heroes that serve to define and uphold what is good in people. It has long been my contention that the comic heroes are the epic heroes of our culture. I know these things cycle in the movies, so only time will tell. But in the meantime, I worry.

Friday, August 01, 2014


Work, Work, Work

Kruse Khronicle quote Greg Forster from Christianity Today:
Our culture's hunger for meaning and dignity in everyday work is a window through which Christians can shine the light of the gospel. No civilization can grow and flourish when its people spend the vast majority of their waking hours in an activity they find meaningless. The deepest root of our economic crisis is that people no longer find a worthy purpose in the daily practice of diligence, honesty, self-control, generosity, and service. This creates a timely moment for people to rediscover how God brings dignity and meaning to daily life.
You know what concerns me when I read that people find the work without meaning - that we are increasingly structuring the church to resemble our workplaces. Most people that I now that do not find meaning in their work do so because there is a certain "soulless" nature to the work. They are reduced by the structure of the workplace to being mere cogs in a mechanism, Yes, a Christian perspective can help overcome that perception, but the fact remains that when your job is merely to move a stack of papers from point A to Point B you are functioning in a highly mechanical fashion.

Years ago I worked in Communist China for a few weeks. One of the more interesting things discovered at the factory I worked at was that the workers had to be paid by piecework. When their wages were covered regardless of their output - they simply did not work. That had to be taught that there was a direct line between their work and the benefit of their work.

Too often we build out churches so that they are easily compartmentalized. The connections between church and other things are difficult to draw. We organize church so that it fits in the corners of peoples lives. We allow it to be mechanical when it is in reality highly organic. We organize work in the church so that it is mechanical.

There are some great points in the quote above, but if those ideas are going to work we need to radically rethink how we do church.


Friday Humor

Thursday, July 31, 2014


Just What I Always Wanted!

Christian Post:
A Brazilian pastor is attracting faithful worshippers to his church, Church of Christ Truth that Frees in Sao Roque, Brazil, with the bold claim that "divine liposuction" exists to make individuals lose weight and feel better while curing them of diseases caused by obesity.
This may be the most angering thing I have ever read. Talk about "moneychangers." But as someone that has lost more than 200 pounds, the hard way, I don't know whether I am more angry because of how deeply this misguides people with a weight problem or because of how grossly it maligns the glorious grace of our Lord.

I think God will have a special place in eternity for people that do things like this.


Illuminated Scripture

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014


THE Question

Todd Rhoades asks "What Should Your Church Be Measuring?" Now that is the question of the modern age. Let's look at some of the suggestions taken at random:
Spiritual growth satisfaction

Sense of connection to the church

Giving patterns

Adult conversion percentage

Influence of ministries

Group assimilation percentage
Of that randomly selected list only one item comes close to measuring the maturity of the individuals int he congregation - "Spiritual growth satisfaction." But even that is skewed as it does not even try to measure such growth objectively, rather it measures an individuals satisfaction with their own growth. If you did that with a student in school (and I am sure it is done) you would not look at their grade, rather you would ask them if they were "OK" with their grade. In other words, if you're OK with your "D," I'm OK with your "D"

Would you call a teacher that did that a good teacher? Would you call a teacher that was happy with students that felt assimilated with the school a good teacher? Would a teacher that relied on such metrics be considered as making good students?

So, with such metrics, are we making disciples?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


What You Need To Know

Kate Shellnutt @ CT looks at how Google autofill stereotypes Christians. Examples:

None of those are positive, really. So here is a question - Do we respond to that by berating the lack of open-mindedness on the part of "the secularists at Google" or do we ask ourselves what we have done to earn such a "reputation?"

The answer, of course, is both. You see, there is no no question that those that do not want to comply with the basic teachings of the church will decry them as "judgmental" or some other such negative word. But it is equally true that we often communicate in a fashion that aids that labeling. So, for example, we do not need to begin to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies to be better perceived by the world - we need to figure out a way to say "No" in love.

My mind has been fascinated lately by Christ's encounter with the women at the well:
John 4:16-20 - He said to her, "Go, call your husband and come here." The woman answered and said, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You have correctly said, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly." The woman said to Him, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.
That is a fascinating exchange. Jesus not only confirms a personal truth about someone He has never met (What? has He been stalking her?) He tells her she has a fidelity issue. If you said that to someone that you just met, I do not think the response would be "I perceive you are a prophet." You'd get called names or slapped or some other very unpleasant scene would ensue.

Somehow Jesus is able to say to this woman something that we need to say, continuing with our example, to homosexual couples, and have her come away impressed, not insulted. We need to learn how to do that. We need to be so open to the Holy Spirit that we can love is apparent even when we say things that the world would deem unloving.

If we want to change how the world perceives us, we need to let God change us on levels we may not even know we have - somewhere deep in our core. Are you willing to risk that?


Kitty Kartoons

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Monday, July 28, 2014


Structure and Faith

Ron Edmondson:
Structure…healthy structure…helps organizations and churches maintain excellence. It’s designed to be an asset not a hindrance. I’m reminded of the structure Jethro shared with Moses. Gold. Joseph created great structure to carry out the work of God that would ultimately save Joseph’s family. And the Israelite nation. Invaluable.

The problem is when we begin to rely on structure as the answer, more than the vision God has called us to attain. Ultimately we can begin to rely on man made structure more than we rely on the King of kings to guide us into the unknown. If we aren’t careful…wait let me leave the structure of this paragraph to better make a point…

If we aren’t careful we can depend more on the structure than on an utter dependence on God.

If you’ve been in church very long you know this is true. In some churches, if God were to call us to move in some new area, even if we were certain we had direction from God, it would take us months to get the idea beyond the committees of the church and to a church vote. We have often allowed systems and policies to navigate us more than relying on the Spirit of God. We can do it in budgeting, in planning, and in carrying out the traditions and work of the church.
I agree with this and yet I strongly disagree. I have indeed seen the "structure" of church governance greatly slow the progress of a church. I agree. But absent structure I have seen churches engage in things that were more than wrong - they were evil. I disagree.

So the answer to the problem Edmondson describes does not lie in the design of a church's "structure." There is no magic bullet here. The answer lies in the lives of the people working within the "structure." Mature Christians of wisdom, grace and commitment will know when to speed things up and when to slow things down. They'll know how to operate the mechanisms of church governance in a fashion appropriate to the circumstance.

Likewise, if someone is convinced the Holy Spirit has inspired them with an idea that will change everything, but for some reason the idea does not move forward rapidly, then it must mean that the others involved do not agree entirely that such is being lead by the Holy Spirit. If indeed we have wise and God-fearing leaders, then we must respect this difference of opinion and allow the system to work its magic. I have to believe that if God is speaking to one person, he is speaking to many. And if we work diligently to elect leaders that are mature Christians devoted to God and steeped in wisdom then we have to respect their judgement on matters - even if it is in disagreement with our own.

Maybe, just sometimes, the value of the idea is not in its execution, but in the patience we learn from its not being executed.

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