Nov 29, 2009

Actions Leading to Phariseism

A quote I don't want to forget.

"If listening to __________ makes you feel like you have compromised your relationship with God then by all means stop but not without examining why that is so. Not listening to them because someone (parents, friends, rector) told you you should only listen to “Christian” music or because you feel you should only listen to “Christian” music in order to prove your Christianity expresses an attitude to the world that leads to Phariseism and I strongly advise you to change your mind."

From this article.

Oct 31, 2009

Thoughts on Halloween

Thoughts on Halloween

Halloween is one of those holidays that I have an interesting relationship with. Growing up in the church, I’ve heard probably every argument one can bring against Halloween, both pro- and con-. I’m not entirely certain what side I lean on, nor do I know yet what I will make of the holiday when I have children (curious what the wife will say before I commit to a view), but there are a few things I have learned about it.

Christianity has such a troubled time with Halloween. You will find churches that have absolutely no problem with Halloween, but drive to the other side of town (head east), and you will find a church that preaches against it as the most unholy of pagan celebrations (which would be Valentine’s Day, in my mind).

I’ve always found it funny when Christians host alternatives to Halloween…”Halloween Alternative”, “Harvest Festival”, “Reformation Night”, whatever. Typically these tend to harken back to a mid-1800’s type of celebration: hay rides, bobbing for apples, maybe even a quilting bee if you get lucky (and you are super ‘blessed’ if you can find a barn raising!). The idea is that these things are wholesome, safe, and nearly Christian due to their colonial American feel.

I understand these events serve as a social gathering for most people not to feel left out while all their pagan friends worship Satan, but normally it just feels forced and dumb. It’s especially bad if you are in a tight-knit community, or a church with only four or five families (or, worse, a church with one major family that has intermarried); it becomes just another night where you are hanging with the same old people doing the same old thing.

(Side note – It was always funny to me growing up that church leaders would tell us to invite our non-Christian friends to church and events. I had ZERO non-Christian friends because I attended church, youth group, and a Christian school. And we were never encouraged to go out into the world and make friends! Proverbs was normally quoted about how we should just have Christian friends; nevertheless, it was an intriguing contrast.)

Growing up in an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church, Halloween was the taboo holiday. Anything and everything to do with it must be purged from your life. We were actively encouraged to stay at home, turn out all the lights, and sit quietly in the basement the whole evening. Very rarely was there an alternative planned, and most of the time it didn’t even occur on Halloween proper. Of course, there were always “those families” that didn’t truly love Jesus and let their kids trick or treat and dress up as demonic deities, and to us who were denied those experiences, we always looked upon them with wonder and envy. And it was never so much for the lack of candy (Baptists LOVE candycorn…and the easiest way you can tell I’m not a Baptist now is that I HATE candycorn) but as for the experience. Going out with a group of friends, playing make believe, and knocking on people’s doors to see if they would join in the fun with you.

One October, around ’97 I think it was, our youth pastor preached a 3 part message on Sunday nights on witchcraft, demons, the occult…all those fun things. Looking back, I believe those sermons did immensely more harm than good to both me and my family (and the church)…damage that is still evident in our lives. In my mind’s eye, I can still see the handouts that were given for notes; I doubt I could reproduce what was on them, but this was such a big event in our church that I was looking forward to it for weeks and it made such a big impact afterward.

I understand my youth pastor was trying to do good; he legitimately believed Halloween, the video games Doom and Quake, the at the time brand new book Harry Potter, the TV show Buffy, and the rock band Korn, amongst others, were serious dangers that would destroy Christians and basically open them up to demonic possession. He was trying to warn us to the evil he clearly saw around us. We are called to be separate from the world, he argued, and as such must avoid any traces of witchcraft or the demonic realm. He was doing his duty, as he understood it.

But that was the problem right there. He was doing it as “he” understood it.

He basically engaged in fear mongering. He did not fully present the truth of anything he presented us with. Yes, there were Scriptural references, but they were very broad. Verses like Exodus 22:18 and passages like the Witch at Endor, plus a heaping dosage of Revelation, convinced us Biblically to have nothing to do with the occult. All well and good, all Biblical, I agree completely. One of the subtle dangers of Fundamentalism (but really, religion in general) is taking a very specific verse and applying it as broadly as possible, or even making it apply through man’s reasoning. So from there it’s only a short journey to misapplication.

Here’s how the logic, I mean, exegesis works:

Suffer not a witch to live. Witchcraft is therefore evil. Witches engage in Magic. Magic is therefore evil. Christians should not have anything to do with Magic. Be ye separate. (2 Cor. 6:17) So if a book has Magic in it (Harry Potter), you must avoid it, because it is evil. If a rock artist throws up the “devil’s horns”, you must avoid them, and besides, they are not singing psalms, hymn, and spiritual songs (Col 3:16). A TV show (Buffy) actually has people portraying witches, using “white” and “dark” magic, calling upon demons to do their bidding; obviously, avoid it. We as Christians living separate from the world must also avoid all appearances of evil (1 Thess. 5:22 – note this is a translation error, but most Fundamentalists are KJV-Only or close to it – after all, if you can’t trust the words on the Bible in front of you, you can’t trust anything – sounds like a lot of YEC arguments…), so if a movie (goblins in Lord of the Rings), book (horror fiction covers), or person (trick or treaters) looks demonic, you must avoid them if you are to please the Lord. Halloween, ultimately, is nothing more than a celebration of evil.

All of these are not hypothetical situations I just created on the spot. I can name a person, place, or time to each event; I encountered them all, and possibly more that I’m forgetting.

Now, are there dangers? Yes. Are there evils or spirits or demons? Yes. Am I saying you should go out and expose yourself to the occult? No. Should you be wise and watchful? Yes.

But while the expression “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” is not Biblical (and therefore, they would argue, can’t be used), it is nonetheless true. To focus on one little element and decide the whole object is corrupt and therefore must be both avoided and preached against is wrong. Example – God waited until Noah’s time to wash the Earth out; he didn’t start with Eve. God does not look at us and sees one speck of sin and declares us evil and warns everyone to stay far away from us. He sees the good amongst the bad. He sees the life amongst the death. He sees His Spirit inside our evil sinful nature.

I am not against pastors being wise shepherds of their flocks, warning their congregation about the dangers of this world while upholding the Word of God as the standard for everything we should do. But I am against pastors deliberately (or even ignorantly) creating a false impression. If you cannot be honest about something, you shouldn’t be talking about it. Take the Lord of the Rings, for example: Sauron is evil, there is magic, people die, but if you focus on all those elements and neglect the heroic sacrifice, the noble character of the Fellowship, and how Good will always triumph over Evil, you have lied to your audience, deceived them, and a greater judgment will befall you.

The Bible is not a story of how one evil individual enslaved and subjected the world while murdering His creator; it is a story of a God who loved us so much that in spite of the wickedness of his fallen servant He nonetheless came upon this earth and sacrificed His life for our benefit! It’s a glorious story! Not one that’s morbid and evil and focused on how much wickedness has come into the world…it’s about light and sound and righteousness! Beauty in the midst of ugliness! A rose growing amongst the shit! A light in the darkness!

A GOD WHO LOVES US OVER AN ANGEL THAT HATES US! ...A God who died and lives for us over a people who would kill Him.

Chances are I will always be the person in the back of the auditorium who gets mad and frustrated as the preacher rails against the evils of this world. I will always be the person who wants to shout “YOU ARE WRONG!” as a man misrepresents something wonderful. I will be the one thinking “you ignorant fool” as the leader speaks about the ugliness of Satan as represented in the works of man. Whenever something is spoken of in ignorance, I get frustrated.

This is more than my desire to “have” my sin, as some would say. More than my desire to watch my Buffy, read my Harry Potter, or listen to my rock music. This is a fight for truth, for a truly Biblical, Godly mindset, that is honest and engaging with the world about it. A fight to have a Church that is equipped to think Biblically and critically about the world about them, to have them walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, and not in a spirit of fear or intimidation or religion.

Halloween is an evil holiday. I believe that. There is a darkness that descends upon mankind, not just on this night, but on every night. The Bible says we fight against spirits and principalities (Eph. 6:12). Innocents will be murdered tonight as pagan men sacrifice them to their dark gods. This is a fact. But I doubt evil is strengthened on this one special night. Innocents are murdered every single day to the gods of glory, fame, wealth, and convenience. How ironic would it be if we all found out one day that Halloween is actually one of the “less wicked” days of the year?

This has been an extremely long and rambling blog post. I’ve just been flowing, and I know I did a terrible job at conveying what I need to say, and I know I haven’t touched upon everything. Really need more discipline in my writing.

A summary. Today is no more or less wicked than any other day of the year. If you are a leader or a pastor, do not deceive your congregation; be honest with them. Let the Holy Spirit guide and not fear. Parents, it’s up to you to determine what you and your family will do on this night; it is not up to your pastor. Whatever you do, do it in faith. Peers, tonight is not a night to pursue sin, but rather to continue to live in righteousness. Everyone, love Jesus.

Christians, avoid the occult, but know that that label does not apply to everything. Strictly speaking, the occult is anything that pertains to supernatural powers, and if you are Christian, you should already be walking in the supernatural each and every day through the power of the Holy Spirit. In fact, you do battle with the supernatural every day. The occult is not a fictional depiction of witchcraft as seen in Harry Potter; the occult is more along the lines of the slaughter of an innocent in service to a dark god.

We are called to be watchful (1 Peter 5:8). We are called to share the gospel, to engage the world, to be salt and light. We are called to continue to learn, to grow in wisdom. God wants us to know what His Word says.

Halloween to some may be a celebration of evil; to me, it is more a celebration of myth and legend, because it does not accurately represent evil. But to Christians in general, if we are walking in the Spirit and knowledgeable about His Word, it is not a night that should be avoided. Rather, it is a night where Truth should be proclaimed.

Oct 14, 2009

The Best Case for God is Jesus.

In the past year or so I've become a big fan of Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. In the midst of one of the most unchurched, unsaved cities in our nation, God has for 13 years been starting a mini-revival primarily through this man's ministry. While I don't engage in hero worship, I nonetheless respect him as a great man of God, full of faith and solid Spirit-filled advice. If you think preaching is boring, you haven't listened to Driscoll.

Recently he has appeared on Nightline multiple times to present Christian views, and was just invited to submit a column in the Washington Post. He nailed it.

I would encourage all to read this article, whether you are an atheist, Christian, or whatever. You are not too old or too knowledgeable to be wrong. Don't let pride get in the way.


Q: What makes the best 'case for God' to a skeptic or non-believer, an open-minded seeker, and to a person of faith and Why?



"Christianity is not first and foremost about a sacred place to pilgrimage to, a philosophical system to ponder, a moral code to live, a religious tradition to honor, or an impersonal god to experience. Rather, Christianity is about a person who claimed to be the only God and said he would prove his unprecedented claim by living without sin, dying for sinners, and conquering death through resurrection."

Sep 14, 2009

Inventory in RPGs

This blog will be worthless to 90% of you, and is a significant deviation from my typical thought. However, I still think about these things, and need an outlet from time to time.

First, if you care, read this:

Basically it's a long complaint about the looting mechanism in video game RPGs. He focuses mainly on how you collect tons of crap, then go back to camp/store to sell it, and then repeat every hour or so for the rest of the game.

Now, this is something I suffer from. I tend to hoard things to a ridiculous length. I've been playing Oblivion a lot this past summer, trying to finish the game up (sufficiently) before putting it aside in favor of Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition in October. This game, and it's predecessor, Morrowind, also had this loot issue.

Whenever I explore or fight in the game, I tend to collect everything. If there is some value to an item greater than 5 gold (or equivalent), I will collect it. I will max out my inventory or carrying strength with things that I will sell later. Sometimes, I can play for an hour or two before maxing out my inventory; other things, I'm only a few minutes into a mission before I need to either drop everything or run to a store to sell. Some games you can make a lot of money doing this, but Oblivion/Morrowind have a more significant problem: high end loot.

High end loot is great. You get awesome weapons, armor, whatever. And they come with a great price tag! 10,000 gold for that cool looking sword you just got. But there is a problem. No merchant in the game has an inventory of more than 1500 gold. That means that no matter how much that sword costs, you can only potentially get 1500 for it. When I first encountered this problem in Morrowind, I quit playing shortly thereafter. The only thing keeping me going in that game was the loot; I always wanted that better sword, wanted to buy better armor, etc. When I realized I was routinely carrying 10+ of the best items in the game within the first 10 hours of gameplay, and never had enough money and could only get a fraction of what I was selling...I gave up.

Oblivion is a little different. Same limitations, but there is a storyline I care about. Or maybe I just care about achievements. Either way, I have the same problem. I've created two swords that basically kill anything in a few hits (Google has some crazy suggestions), yet I still find awesome weapons. Well, I don't need them, and they are heavy, but due to the merchant gold limitation, I am now just picking up tons of knifes and selling them for the max value, even while dropping that sword that has tripled value but also 6x the weight limitation.

Does that feel broken at all?

Historically, this has been a problem for me as well, ie, the addiction of finding and selling and hoarding. I played Diablo, the first one, briefly growing up; I enjoyed the game, but I quickly reached a point where I had enough weapons and spells that I could spam the game, so combat quickly became just loot grinding. For 3 years or so I played Dungeon Siege off and on (only got maybe 30 hours into it), and due to that game's skill system, I would find this awesome sword that would be great in 2 levels but I couldn't use currently, so I would hoard it.

Unfortunately with Dungeon Siege, in order to use that sword, I need to upgrade not only regular level, but also my Strength level (done by using swords more regularly), as well as my Dexterity level (swords and bows mixed), and maybe even a very specific Magic level (done by using that Magic's spells). Because of all this, half the time, I never got to use that "Sword of WTF?!" that I had found.

Along with a gaming addiction to inventory, looting, and the selling system of games, I also suffer from, well, basically the desire to have the best thing available. Is there an ultimate weapon in the game? I will hunt that down. I desire to have the best. Games that basically force you to play multiple times in order to have all of the best items, well, they piss me off. What do you mean I can't have the best sword if I have the best spell?! Etc. I will go out of my way to find the BFG.

Side note - one of the commenters in that article above mentioned how innovative Halo was in the FPS genre by limiting you to two guns. You know, in that game, I don't mind that. It was strategic and reflected the game world accurately. However, it should never be the standard. I tend to enjoy the fact that in some games, such as Doom, Unreal, Serious Sam, or Quake, you can have 8 different weapons as well as 3 types of ammo per each. Realistic? No, not really. But I find it often comforting to know that in Jedi Outcast I can switch between my lightsaber, thermal detonators, blaster rifle, and a freaking rocket launcher whenever I feel like it.

That article also listed some games that I desire to try some day, including STALKER, Titan Quest, and The Witcher. Still disappointed that The Witcher on Xbox 360 has been put on indefinite hold. I have a whole cd case of games that I want to play but can't currently, such as World of Warcraft, Baldur's Gate, Planescape: Torment, and the like. I've heard such strong things about these games, including combat, story, and setting, that I really want to experience it myself...obviously in a limited capacity and within reason, but still enjoyable as if they were a good book.

Yet I'm sure the loot system will drive me crazy.

Oh yeah, WoW's Auction House is brilliant. The only thing that could make it better would be a limited Craig's List effect in that game: the ability to have people come to you with your stuff.

Sep 6, 2009

Romantic Love in Film

I seem to have a big problem with the way romantic love is portrayed in most movies. Specifically, the romantic love where one person leaves another person for their "true love." I'm wondering if this problem of mine is spiritual or personal.

I just finished watching The Illusionist; I hadn't seen it since it came out on dvd. Personally, I think it's a much better, stronger film than Prestige, the other magic themed film that came out around the same time. There actually is mystery in The Illusionist, more of a story, more lives up to it's name, and features some strong performances, most notably by Edward Norton.

But I had forgotten some elements of the love story. Let me sum it up for you, briefly (SPOILERS, but this movie came out a few years ago):

During childhood, a daughter of a noble and a carpenter's son become friends. Over time, they plan to run away together, primarily because her parents didn't want her associating with someone of such low rank. The two are separated, only to be reunited later in life. The girl now grown is in talks to engage in an engagement with a higher ranked noble; note that they are at best courting and are in no way in love or engaged. The young man desires to win back the girl but needn't try; she still loves him and wants to break it off with the noble. Together they frame him for murder, and live happily ever after. (That about sums it up.)

The movie takes pains to portray the noble man as very evil. It is assumed he commits murder; he plans on overthrowing his father the Emperor (?); and he beats women. Immediately you begin to demonize this man and feel sympathy for the woman stuck under him in an almost forced courtship. On the other hand, the carpenter's son is mysterious but very much devoted and in love with the woman. He dedicates his life, by all appearances, to bringing down the evil ruler by film's end.

However, the movie does in no way feel emotionally manipulative. We are presented with a young man in love with a woman who is courting a very evil man. We triumph when good wins and cheer when evil is destroyed. This seems normal storytelling; to call it manipulative or cliche is to miss the point entirely.

Now, compare and contrast this with other films. Some examples that spring to mind:

Spider-Man 2. Mary Jane is engaged, about to be married, to a handsome astronaut who loves her utterly. Mere moments before they are married, she runs out on him to Peter Parker, the boy whom for two films we've been rooting for her to get with (aka, the hero) but whom she has danced around. We cheer because she is with who she is supposed to be with, because that is what Spider-Man is about.

The Notebook: A young man and woman spend a summer in passionate lust before being driven apart by life, family, and adult responsibilities. He carries a torch for her, and in a moment of passion she essentially commits adultery on her fiance, who has done nothing but love her and treat her with respect. However, it's ok, because we the audience see the two of them live "happily ever after" and die in each others arms, and no attention is given to the ex-fiance or anyone else they may have ignored in their selfishness along the way.

I'm sure there are other examples, but those are the two strongest that come to mind.

Both of those movies above feature a plot point where a fiance leaves a loving significant other in order to pursue their "true love." What it appears to me at least is a person selfishly pursuing their lusts instead of faithfully sticking with whomever they originally fell in love with enough to marry. The Illusionist at least tells us that the 3rd party is an evil man; the other two movies, these are just humble men whose hearts are broken by someone else.

Now, I was praying about how I should approach the rest of this blog. On one hand, I could discuss how movies that emotionally manipulate tend to become popular but express a brand of "love" that is demonic at best. Or I could discuss all this in relation to Christ, God's love for us, Christ's love for the church, etc. The Bible is so ingrained within me that I see and think of almost everything in Biblical shades. But people accuse me of thinking too hard.

Instead, I will get personal. Which may or may not include both of the above.

When I see these things happen in film, or even in real enrages me and scares me. Scares me because if there is such a thing as karma, I'm seriously jinxing myself and this type of scenario will happen to me. I can easily imagine myself giving my life to a woman, having genuine agape love for her, and then see her ditch me at the altar because the man she ran into in the street (or boyhood friend) is more handsome, more successful, or just generally more enticing. And then what would I do? If it's agape love, I will continue to love her even though she ran off. That may be noble, but it makes me despair as well.

However, I believe in grace, and continually believe against and fight against a spirit of fear. I admit I suffer from a fear of failure and rejection, which I'm constantly battling against.

These things enrage me because it seems like an extreme justice. Perhaps a little bit of it has seeped through already. There is a strong part of me that demands judgment on people such as Mary Jane for their treatment of their fiance. "HOW DARE THEY TREAT THAT PERSON THAT WAY!! A person who did nothing but love them, and they turn around and rip their heart out! They reward faithfulness with adultery or betrayal!! These people should be forced to repent and beg forgiveness!!"

It's easy to make excuses. "Oh, but they love that person now." So? Because of your foolishness and selfishness, you have created this problem. Remember David and Bathsheba? At what point does lust become love? Before or after the child is born? The point all along is that David should never have fallen for Bathsheba in the first place. It is hard to rejoice at the beauty of David and Bathsheba's marriage (or the birth of Solomon) without sorrowfully acknowledging the sin and heartbreak (and murder) that led to these things.

"Oh, so you are saying that even if they don't love that person, they should run back?" If they are not married, then no. I've known plenty of engagements that have been broken, mostly with heartbreak (date often? quick engagement? Not really Biblical nor wise ideas at times). But if they are married? Then, YES. They should go back to that person, remain faithful, and work out their problems. "Lack of love" is in no way an excuse for adultery.

Perhaps I have too high of a view of love. Someone told me recently that man can never hope to attain "God's love", by which they meant AGAPE. I looked at him aghast almost. How can any relationship hope to exist without AGAPE at the core of it? That sacrificial love where you are willing to give your all with nothing promised in return. How is that something that is unattainable in this life?

I see so many people in relationships around me. I see so much heartbreak, so much financial ruin, so many foolish decisions. Obviously, since this is 'just' my personal opinion...the way I see it, why the heck would you get involved with someone if A) you aren't willing to marry them, B) God has not set the two of you up, and C) you can't lay your life down for them sacrificially with no expectation of anything in return. Too many are chasing their fantasies and lusts in the name of love that it has led to the highest divorce rate in history, even in the Church.

I have a friend on Facebook here who had his girlfriend cheat on hm and leave him for another guy, who himself cheated on then left his girlfriend just to be with my friend's ex! ALL IN THE NAME OF LOVE! Doesn't something like that demand a form of justice? A reckoning? How can we as Christians claim that there is a God who exists who is Holy, pure, and JUST?? ESPECIALLY WHEN HE LETS THINGS LIKE THAT HAPPEN?? And then we glumly turn around and say "once saved always saved" and that some who commit such atrocities are preordained from God to be holy. From our earthly standpoint, those people deserve judgment and death, not forgiveness. Especially forgiveness with repentance.

Hence, grace. Oh, and ideas have consequences.

I can understand perfectly well why my friend is angry and bitter. I can understand why he essentially loathes God and anyone who talks to him about God. Obviously I believe there are things he doesn't understand, that he truly does need God, but I see and understand him clearly, and my heart breaks for him.

Obviously that's just my "conviction." ...How I want to spit when people tell me that. Wisdom cries from the street, and people just say it's your "conviction." No, it's just common sense, stupid. It's just Bible, "christian."

Ultimately, I guess I am just shocked, dismayed, and saddened as to what passes for "romantic true love" in both movies and reality nowadays. It seems to me to be an evil, demonic perversion of what is holy. And yet we as a culture and as a Church have bought into it.

Perhaps I am painting myself into a corner here, having such a high view of marriage, courtship, and love itself. Yes, I have high standards. But I don't believe they are ridiculously high. Yet because they are so high they are damning to those who have settled for less. Which is ultimately fine with me.

After all, I just need to find one woman who has high standards as well.

So what is it, those of you with eyes to see and ears to hear. Is this me just being "bitter", as some have diagnosed it. Is this just a personal problem? Or is this something more, something of the Spirit?

This is not a diatribe against women. This is not me trying to destroy what others like just for the sake of destroying it. I already know some will try to manipulate my words, and I will not engage in any discussion with those who do.

Aug 23, 2009

Eyes to See, Ears to Hear

People often ask me "Who do you listen to this? Why do you watch that? What do you subject yourself to such and such?"

At times it's hard to have an answer. You can appeal to the Bible (Jesus/apostles didn't shun away from anything, they practically daily walked through the strip clubs and bars around the area!). You can appeal to a religious spirit (it's fodder for evangelism, see how holy I am!). You can even appeal to reason (basically a combination of those two). Sometimes you can appeal to just selfish desire (I LIKE sci-fi and video games, dangit!).

Or, you can provide an example, one that hopefully men and women walking in faith will recognize and rejoice in. And the rest will probably condemn you for for being exposed to in the first place.

This is a scene taken from the last couple of episodes of Battlestar Galactica. A womanizer, liar, and basically overall apparently worldly figure named Gaius Baltar is speaking to a young man named Calvin:

"There never is enough, you know. Never enough money...fame...women. The more you want, the more you need, the more you want. There always is a hunger for more money, greater fame, different women."

"Oh yeah? That's a tragedy, your life."

"The point I'm trying to make, Calvin, the point you are that there is a certain futility in centering one's entire life around trying to satisfy appetites that can truly never be sated."

Is this Biblical? Is this from the Spirit? I doubt the original writer of the episode was a believer, but that's straight from the heart of God. The author seems perfectly well the futility in pursuing anything that is transient and ultimately meaningless in life. All those things listed, fame, and women...are not necessarily bad things. They are gifts from God (well, "woman", not multiple), meant to be enjoyed. But the pursuit of created things instead of the Creator brings death.

If your life is the sum total of all that you have "conquered" or collected, your life has been spent on worthless things. There are better things out there! God, first of all...and if not him, then others! Better the pagan who lays his life down for others than the "christian" who hoards selfishly! I myself use to be that way, and only by God's grace am I moving away from that disgrace!

What is your life focused on? What is your time focused on? Your energy? Your efforts? Your money?

There are better things.

And God speaks through many things. He even speaks to me through an extremely dark sci-fi show that has elements of wickedness. His Holy Spirit speaks.

And he can speak to you.

Aug 22, 2009

God speaks through more than the Bible

From CREATIVE PRAYER by Chris Tiegreen

"So how do we communicate visually with God? How about asking him to engage us in that kind of conversation? We ask him for other kinds of guidance with the expectation he'll give it. Why limit the media through which he speaks?

A frequent rebuttal to such questioning is that God speaks through his Word and only through his Word. While we can be certain that God will not contradict his Word in the ways he speaks to us, nearly all who claim that his only mode of expression is printed words on the Bible's pages are not being honest with themselves.

How do I know? Because nearly every Christian is willing to accept the testimony of a pastor who says he was called into ministry through a combination of personal convictions, open doors of circumstances, the affirmation of others, and the inward guidance of the Holy Spirit. Nearly every Christian will attribute guidance to God when it comes in the form of an inward push or an inner peace, the counsel of godly people in conjunction with open or closed doors of opportunity, or a phrase in a conversation that seems to speak louder than the amplifiers at a rock concert and comes at exactly the right time.

Again, we wouldn't follow any guidance that contradicts Scriptures, because we know that's not from God. But we've already opened the doors of our hearts to biblical principles of counsel and accountability, circumstances and opportunities, personal convictions and the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. Those can be pretty subjective media, but when we submit them to the authority of God, ask him to lead us, trust that he will do so, and see that the guidance seems to converge in one specific direction, we feel pretty safe that we've heard his voice."

Aug 10, 2009

Nietzsche killed God because he loved God?

This is from a paper I wrote this past school year. I do not necessarily believe it is true, but it was a fascinating exercise to think through:


Neither a proverb nor an extremely famous saying, but there is a world-wide known cult saying that has become an example of irony and wit to those who are able to recognize and understand it.

“Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief / All kill their inspiration, and sing about their grief.”

This line is actually from the U2 song, “The Fly.” It has become a staple of their live shows since the song was recorded in 1991, and is known by millions the world over. The song itself is a collection of dark, confusing sayings from a persona, the Fly, created by the lead singer as the ultimate rock star who has sold his soul to the devil. Contradictory proverbs are espoused with the wisdom of youth and the brevity of a man bored. All this from an Irish rock star who grew up, left the Church, and had seen the underbelly of the music industry for over a decade.

The line basically says that nearly every creative person thrives off other’s work as well as the emotional reactions they can gleam from their own soul. Those who are truly desperate to create will steal and kill in order to produce. There is a torturing of self as well as others in order to gain something; art becomes a form of religious sacrifice. You write about what you know…or knew.

Whether or not this idea is true is up for debate. The line comes from a personality that is actively communing with the devil, so you can’t quite trust what this person is saying, even if it gives all appearance of true wisdom. The devil was first quoted as telling Eve the half-truth about the fruit in the Garden; he spoke no lie, but merely a perversion of what God had already said. This line therefore is probably a diabolic mirror of some truth that is known but unspoken in the heart of man.

Every artist probably does not kill their inspiration; if that was the case, the only reason God is dead is because Nietzsche was his biggest fan. This song lyric then would be the rational that drove Mark Chapman to kill John Lennon; he did it out of a perverted sense of love. This obviously is not how most of the rational world does not work. We create tributes to great men and women after they have died, not because we killed them in order to gain inspiration.
While a fantastically witty and deep saying, ultimately this proves to be false. Those who follow this will find themselves increasingly marginalized in society and will be open to all sorts of diabolic suggestions and views.

Guest Post from my friend, Jelani Brinson

STUART - I just found this while reading through some of Jelani's old blogs. Thought I'd reshare it for us all. Ignore the errors in spelling or grammar, please, he went to private school...


Writers block...

Anyways I found this in on blog on myspace. I wrote it down from Bruces Sermon. Its one of my Favorites..

Why are we listening to the devil more than God? DO we need help people? Seven lies that usually affect us here they go. Compliments to, you know where I got this from if you remember. Thank you

1. God does not love you. / Whenever you hear that "God does not love you" Its not from God. Their is victory in Jesus. YOu must win the victory in you mind,

2. God cares about other more than He does you.
Come on people. Really what God Loves is Faith. *(EVERYTHING) Put your Faith in the works of Jesus.*

3. God cannot be trusted
Again Everything, Put Your trust in God.

4. Your not good enough to be blessed.
YOu are blessed in Christ Jesus. YOu can't do enough to be blessed. Their must be something else blessing thana performance.

5. God's against you
If God is for you, who can be against you. Jesus has prophetted you.

6. Things will never change.
God makes all things new.

7. YOur situation is hopeless
With GOd nothing is impossible. FOundation of your Hope is Jesus Christ (HEBREWS 7:19)

Romans 8:31-32

Religion Most Responsible For Death?


120 million people were killed during the 20th Century under Atheistic regimes.

And you accuse Christianity of causing more pain and suffering in the last 2000 years?

You ignorant fool.

Mar 4, 2009

My Top 5 Favorite Live U2 Songs

Sorry this one took so long to be put up...been really busy with work and school (oh, and a new U2 album) in the last few weeks. But anyways, here is my top 5 favorite U2 songs as performed live. As always, this list can change around, but the #1 song will the #1 song.

1 - Until the End of the World (1991, Achtung Baby) (performance from Boston 2001)

This is my favorite U2 song overall, also. It sums up perfectly what I love about U2: Biblical imagery, great guitar solos, a steady determined beat and bass line, and enough emotion, Spirit, and rock to get everyone's attention. The song has been done differently on every tour, but it has yet to feel tired. Adam Clayton has even remarked that it is one of his favorite songs to play live because there is just so much you can do within it. Also, my first U2 concert, Chicago back in 2005, they played this song for the first time on the tour...and I think you can hear me scream on the bootleg.

2 - The Fly (1991, Achtung Baby) (performance from Sau Paulo, 2006)

Another great live Achtung Baby song, of which most of my favorite songs are from. I tend to like U2's rockers live more than the acoustic stuff. This song has some great poetic lines and comes from a very literary place in Bono's psyche. Also contains one of Edge's best guitar solos ever. If someone ever tells me that U2 doesn't know how to rock, I always direct them to this sensory overload of a song.

"Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief/All kill for inspiration, and then sing about the grief." This fits in perfectly with CS Lewis' Screwtape Letters, one of my favorite books.

3 - God Part II (1989, Rattle and Hum) (performance Australia, 1989)

Only performed on one tour, the Lovetown tour, this song is a lost rocker that needs to come back. A sequel to John Lennon's "God", the song takes those ideas and spins it on its head while rocking the house. There are only a few really great performances available of this song to choose from, but all of them are excellent. If I ever had to request a song they haven't played in a long time, it would be this song...probably.

4 - Last Night On Earth (1997, Pop) (performance Mexico City, 1998)

Another song that was only around for one tour (so far). A lead-in for Until the End of the World, it's a great riff mixed with some pretty cool visuals, although the cartoon part can get annoying. However, the garage band rocking out that happens at the end is can tell the band is just having fun, who cares what anyone else thinks.

5 - Where the Streets Have No Name (1987, Joshua Tree) (performance Slane Castle, 2001)

This is the test of a U2 fan: when the lights turn red during the organ, and the band starts playing...the moment the stadium is awash in white light, if you don't feel a chill down your back, you aren't a U2 fan. This has been the standard test for decades. Yes, it's not my favorite live U2 song, but it's arguably the most important. Biblical imagery, written mainly while Bono was in African in '86 with his wife, coupled with the most often stolen riff from the Edge, makes this the one song that can turn any bad U2 performance completely around and allow the Spirit of God to descend.

Bonus songs - 11 O'Clock Tick Tock (various live performances, this song can be up or down); A Sort of Homecoming (only from Wide Awake); Discotheque (gets better each reworking); Please (Rotterdam 97); Love and Peace or Else; Running to Stand Still (ZooTV with the hallelujahs); All I Want Is You.

Feb 6, 2009

Time Is Precious...Why Waste It Reading This Blog?

I'm going to try to write this as calmly as possible...

First, please, if you would, read this:

When I was working at Davanni's, a local pizza joint, the summer after high school, there were two Christians on staff, myself and a friend of mine who got me the job. The main difference between us was that I didn't preach at anyone. He had set such a high precedent that everyone assumed the worse of me when I started there because I was a Christian. They expected someone preaching all law to them, no love or grace.

Throughout the summer I got to know several of the employees quite well, one of them in particular. We had bonded talking about video games. One day while cleaning, he came up to me and started asking me about my faith; at that point I was able to share the gospel message with him. He was so shocked that I believed in such things because I wasn't like the other kid and I knew about and had actually played Diablo, the big taboo game at the time. In fact, he told me, the only reason he talked to me about God at all was because I played video games.

Now, I understand perfectly well Duncan's point about video games and other things being a time waster. I understand it very well in fact, and have cut out entire sections of my life (comic books, for example) that were just huge time and money wasters, and have drastically reduced time spent on other activites (2 hours of video games in about 3 weeks? 1 hour of book reading every two to three days?).

But you know what, Mr. Duncan? I just wasted 5 minutes of eternity bothering to even check the RSS feeder in order to read your blog that supposedly will save me from wasting time.

You give as a conceit in your little bit that these laws you propose can equally apply to other "electronic" mediums. So does that mean that reading a novel is not a waste of time? There are plenty of Christians who argue that reading fiction doesn't uplift, educate, or edify, and therefore should be anathema in a Christian's life.

Now, I like John Piper a lot, and have a lot of respect for the man, but he's still just a man, and can be wrong. Your quoting of him does not in any way 'prove' your argument; replace the word 'television' with the word 'novel', or 'doctrine', or even 'theology', and the statement still applies. I'd even go so far as to say the word 'Bible' fits equally as well, when kept in context, because a life of sitting around reading the Word can be just as dead as not reading it.

Tell me, sir, what is the overall storyline of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings? In what order are the Chronicles of Narnia spaced out? Who won the Superbowl this year and last year? What year did Pearl Harbor happen? At what point do all these facts become so much "useless knowledge"?

Time is precious, no one will disagree on that. But too much time "thinking", as suggested, can lead to ridiculous blogs like these, both yours and mine.

At the risk of getting highly theological, it seems you don't understand what it means to be a member of the Kingdom of God. You don't rightly understand what the verse "be in the world but not of the world" truly means. Instead, it's more religious group think that is built on faulty theology.

If the Lord has convicted you to stay away from Final Fantasy (the clear reference in your text) and other video games and to focus more fully on him, good for you. Please don't try to use Scripture to create a new set of laws you believe all believers should follow.

I feel sorry for you, though. By refusing to engage in such "trivial" pursuits, you are stunting your own growth as a witness for Christ, a member of this present world, and have closed off avenues of unimaginable beauty that can lead to worship of God.

All that said...this is an excerpt from a book. I'd be interested in reading the full book. I imagine it provides a broader, more thought out look at these issues. Perhaps this reply to that section of the book was unnecessary. If that is the case, I'm more than willing to step back and reevaluate things.

Feb 5, 2009

My Top 5 Favorite In-Studio U2 Songs

In anticipation of U2's new album, No Line on the Horizon, due out March 1, I've decided to do a list or two, try to nail down exactly which songs are my favorites and maybe a short explanation of why. I realize a blog of this post appeals to very few people who read me, but I feel led to do this.

Starting off this series is my Top 5 Favorite In-Studio U2 Songs. The big thing with U2 is that they go into the studio just to write songs they can play live. At heart, they are a live performance, some (Bono) would say worship, band. Because of this, their live performances are generally ten times better than any studio recording. However, there are the occasional songs that don't translate to a live medium. So two distinctive lists are needed, one for live material, one for in-studio.

These next 5 songs are my favorite in-studio performances, even if the song has been done live, or even if the better performance is live.

I've provided when I can a YouTube link to the song.

Also...this list is constantly changing. There are just too many songs I like...I've attempted to highlight a few, yet for every one I choose, another one is left off. It's painful, really.

1 - Mercy (2005, Unreleased - Atomic Bomb sessions)
This song is an oddity as it has never been officially released, has been talked about by the band, Bono loves it and wants it on every album they do, but no one knows how it was released. Since the band reportedly wrote 60 plus songs recently and are only using 13 or so for the upcoming album, they got the material for a quick album or two, this would be a great song to officially get out there so they can sing it live.

As for why I love it...I don't know, it's U2 being their most U2ish. The lyrics are straight up Biblical and spiritual, the emotion in the song is real, there is a breaking through into God's throne room that happens during the song...the song is pure joy, pure worship, pure Spirit. It's one of those songs I can just sing at the top of my lungs with reckless abandon. "Love is the end of history, the enemy of misery..."

2 - In God's Country (1987, The Joshua Tree)
The Joshua Tree was one of the first U2 albums I was exposed to, and this is still the standout track to me. Edge's chiming guitar really stands out on this one, and Adam's bass provides a fun little counterpiece to play around with. Bono's lyrics are interesting, joyful, and heartfelt; the reference to a "desert rose" is clearly an allusion to Bono's wife Ali, who does look a little Spanish although I'm not sure if she has any in her ancestry. Also, Bono manages to incorporate a little irony intermingled with Biblical imagery in the lines "love, faith, her vanity/but the greatest gift is gold."

3 - Staring at the Sun (1997, Pop)
The band tried to play this live a few times, but they think it only really worked live on acoustic. I disagree. While this song was eventually re-recorded on the Best of 1990-2000 album, the original is by far superior. There is a great mellow vibe to this song, one that compels you to take a ride through the musical landscape. The lyrics are a little nonsensical, but not all music is about the lyrics. Edge's organ guitar is amazing here, an effect I wish he would use more often.

4 - Zooropa (1993, Zooropa)
This song is all about the guitars once again. The opening is trippy...the very first time I heard this album was while working janitorial at Fourth Baptist on a really rainy summer day, and this song just fit perfectly. Edge sounds like he is playing the guitar underwater...great effect. I love the way the sound bites just flow in and out, never quite there to grasp; it's like ZooTV meets a late night drive in the country during the summer with the windows down.

There was also a point in my life where the line "and I've got no religion" was a great comfort, especially after I had left the church but not walked away from God. While Bono isn't saying that HE himself has no religion, rather the character in the song has none (music is a form of acting, didn't you know?), it was still a great concept, the idea that while you have no worldview or boundaries holding you in, as you step outside the whole world just appears bright, clean and new.

5 - Another Time, Another Place (1980, Boy)
From U2's very first album, this song was probably around in one form or another from the beginning, way back in 1977. If anyone made a list of "darker" U2 songs, such as "Exit", this song deserves to be on it. The section with the guitar solo takes a decidedly darker turn, and when the backup guitar comes forward in the mix, you really get the feeling that these boys are rocking. Plus, that brief section right after the guitar solo, when Larry starts drumming really fast and Bono is growling something I've never quite that.

Songs that didn't make this list include Achtung Baby's "Acrobat", the Passenger's song "Your Blue Room", U2-18's "Window in the Skies", Boy's "Shadows and Tall Trees", Best of 90's new mix of "Discotheque" and "Numb", and Achtung Baby's "Ultraviolet."