Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Out with the Old, In with the New

Happy New Year, everyone. In this time of resolutions and reflections, let's remember the grace and forgiveness that is available to those who seek it in humility and faith. Let's just hope our repentance lasts longer that our resolutions usually do.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

For the Concerned Christian Parent

With the big day for presented just a day away, what is the concerned Christian parent to do? If you don't want your children exposed to the dark aspects of life presented in the popular video games of today? Certainly, Christian-themed games have been around for nearly two decades, but the current ones are not the bland fare of generations past. Ominous Horizons, Catechumen, and Joseph's Story are just three of the popular games that combine 21st Century gaming and a 1st Century message.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Book Review

Girl Meets God, by Lauren Winner. This amazing little story is the spiritual memoir of a young woman raised in a mixed family (lapsed Baptist and modern Jewish) who converts to Orthodox Judaism as a teen, then becomes a Christian in her twenties. Winner is a bright woman who writes clearly about the struggle to find her place in God, and then in the Body of Christ . Her struggles with the Christian body and sub-culture struck me a must-reading for young Chrstians (both meanings of that phrase apply.) According to an interview in Mars Hill Review, Winner is currently writing a book on chastity, a subject that she touches on a bit in this work. I am looking forward to it.

Friday, December 12, 2003

The Wonder of Advent

It's a time of anticipation of the coming light, a time of hope for the coming king, and a time of wonder of what God had wrought on our behalf. It is Advent, the season wherein we anticipate the coming of the Messiah. It should put is in the same frame of mind that the God-fearers two millenia ago had in their time of oppressoin. They never lost faith in the plan that God had laid out for them, and recognized it when it came into being. This site has some interesting lessons and thoughts on the coming season. I encourage you to come to this season as a child, as Jesus calls us to do.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Individuals in Community

It is a fundamental conflict. Christianity is the most individual of all the world's religions -- your family, community, nation, etc . . . has no effect on your soul. "Whosoever" is the key word, in that anyone can come to Christ regardless of group affiliation, and anyone can be apart from Christ regardless of group affiliation. And at the same time, we are part of this mysterious thing called the "Body of Christ." We do not act like one body all the time if ever, but we are told that we are. It is the great mystery of being a Child of God. As an individual, you are called into the most intimate community that could be. It is a very strange thing.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Movie Review

Luther (PG-13), starring Joseph Fiennes and Sir Peter Ustinov. This is very nice big budget ($20-$25 million) historical movie, and the sets and uniforms and slices of life are compelling and well done. Tracing Martin Luther's life from his conversion to his confrontations with Catholic officials over his writings, the movie portrays the leader of the Reformation as a called human, striving within his limitations to fulfill the work assigned to him. The Gospel message is apparent, though the movie is not preachy. It is, on the contrary, understated and well put together.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Book Report

Bill Myers' latest offering in the field of Christian fiction is The Face of God. His work is usually par for the course, about what you would expect in field. It is technically fine, and covers the basic topics in the field. I do have a concern about this book, however; in "The Face of God," a burnt-out minister's life is restored via the discovery of ancient religious artifacts. These artifacts have been sought for thousands of years, and lead to much pain, suffering, and quite a substantial body count. All of this to bring faith to one self-centered American minister? That is my problem with the novel. God certainly desires us all to have a closer walk with Him, but I don't see Him cutting such a swath of destruction on a worldwide scale in order to accomplish it.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

It's the Most Hellish Time of the Year (Again!)

As October rolls on towards its inevitable end, evangelicam and fundamentalist churches are putting up their "Hell-O-Ween" haunted houses again. These are the ones that show various types of sinners paying for their lives of sin. I hang my head i nshame when I see the billboards and flyers appear.

John Paul II

The world is celebrating the Silver Jubilee of Pope John Paul II, and it appears more and more clearly that he won't have many more anniversaries to celebrate. This Holy Father will go down in church (and secular) history as a great man who accomplished great things. He will be listed -- alongside Reagan, Thatcher, and Gorbachev -- as one of the critical figures in bringing down the evil that was world Comunism. He is a beloved figure, and I -- a faithful Protestant -- am grateful for God's hand upon this man, am praying for him daily, and will mourn him when he is called home.

Friday, October 10, 2003

I Am Not So Bright, After All

According to philosopher Daniel Dennett, that is. His article in the New York Times reported that leading atheists have taken to calling themselves "brights," with the clear implication that those of us who believe in a power beyond ourselves are not so bright. Author Dinesh D'Souza does a fine job rebutting this in a recent Wall Street Journal column. D'Souza references the works of Burke and Kant in his critique of Dennettm ending with this sentence: "The atheist foolishly presumes that reason is in principle capable of figuring out all that there is, while the theist at least knows that htere is a reality great than, and beyond, that which our senses and our minds can ever apprehend." Absolutely.

Thursday, October 09, 2003


Bad news in the Christian merchandise industry . . . I use that phrase sardonically, have no fear. But the sad news is this: following the $24 box office that the Veggie-Tales movie "Jonah" raked in just last year, the production company (Big Idea Productions) has declared bankruptcy. Following the model of many secular companies, BIP took their success and parlayed it into expansion, growing much too big way too fast. The most telling quote came from CEO Phil Vischer, who said, "When things were going so well, I thought God was wanting us to expand . . . Now I think it was more me having all these ideas." I must confess that I have no sympathy for this incredible juvenille theology. Mainstream evangelicalism has successfully put down the "prosperity doctrine" as far as actual money goes, but the concept is still there in the notion that if we please God, He will bring us success in our ventures on our terms. I just do not get that. Mr. Vischer and his company is just the latest of a long string of people coming to grips with that faulty paradigm.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Real Good Music

Finally. A "worship team" that is actually a "band." I like SonicFlood and the other modern worship outifts, but they all sound like they are playing in church, and are not actual bands. I can't quite put my finger on it, but all of these outfits fall short of the "band" sound. Until I found The Rock and Roll Worship Circus. There is no doubt that they are a worship band, in the full meaning of both of those terms. Check them out, and let me know what you think.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Happy Birthday, Christian Metal!

You know the genre has been around a long time (and that I am getting old!) when Stryper is going on a reunion tour. They came close to my town, and I saw the ad noting that this is their "first tour in 12 years," with "all of the original members." I remember those heady days of Christian rock and metal, from Rez to Barnabas to White Cross. And of course it all started with Stryper, the grandfather of this form of music. And they are back -- boy, am I old!

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

The Gay Flap

The Episcopal Church is in the process of deciding whether to promote an openly gay man to the post of bishop. This is one of those cases (rare cases) where the issue is actually homosexuality. Most religious folks scream "gay" when the real issue is usually not homosexuality, but fornication. The only time when homosexuality should be addressed is when two people are committed to a long-term relationship.Heterosexuality has done far more harm to this world than homosexuality has.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Thou Shalt Not Steal

We all know this quote, and those of us of a spiritual bent try to take it seriously. Then why are Christian songs (which account for seven percent of all music sales, more than Latin, jazz, or classical) pirated just as often as other kinds of music. This pirated includes online file-sharing, as well as the more traditional taping for a friend. If you consider music a ministry, then sharing is a reasonable activity -- we pass on tapes of sermons, right? But when music becomes an industry and not a ministry and if money means more than touching lives, then it's stealing. It should be different, but I'm not sure if it is.

Friday, July 18, 2003

An Interesting Case

This one might be going to court in the next few years, so consider this a sneak preview. In 2000, Congress passed and President Clinton signed the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), which bars governments from enforcing zoning codes that impose "a substantial burden" on religious assembly. This law is being challenged in Los Angeles, where a group of Hassidic Orthodox Jews has torn down a 70-year-old house to build a synagogue in the heart of pricey Hancock Hill. A citizens group has been established to protest the construction, while the congreagation argues that the law is on their side. The RLUIPA is new law, and this may be one of the eraly cases to test the constitutionality of the law. This one has so many issues that it can't help but get ugly.

Sunday, July 06, 2003

Translation Issues

The Wall Street Journal strikes again! This time, it is a fascinating article about the battle over Bible translations in the Zondervan company. Bought out by HarperCollins recently, Zondervan is the publisher of the wildly popular (45% market share) New International Version (NIV) of the Bible. Not content to dominate the evangelical market, Zondervan has annonuced plans to publish the Today's NIV (TNIV) in 2005. The TNIV is a gender-inclusive translltion, targeted at the more liberla-minded of denominations. The interesting thing to watch is if the NIV suffers among its constituencies as a result of the TNIV coming out from the same publisher. This move seems to make perfect business sense, but that assumes that conservatives will understand the business sense that HC and Zondervan are using.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Dan Brown's DaVinci Errors

Dan Brown's mega-popular "DaVinci Code" is an OK read that posits a sinister role for the Catholic Church and the Knights Templar over the last 17 centuries. The book is supposedly well-researched, and seems so possible . . . until Brown stumbles on a basic tenet of Catholic faith. The book then starts to appear sloppy, as well as being anti-Catholic to the core.

Among Brown's big mistakes is a misunderstanding of The Immaculate Conception. Brown has a serious religious scholar wrongly describing the Immaculate Conception as the miraculous implantation of the sinless Jesus in Mary's womb . . . but it is not. The Immaculate Conception -- as anyone who as ever take one religious class in college can tell you -- refers to the miraculous implantation of the sinless Mary in her mother's womb.

Dan Brown wrote a fun, readable yarn in this one . . . but keep in mind the mistakes. Despite what the author seems to be claiming, it is fiction.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Wanted: Brothers

Like any organization looking for new members, the Alexian Brothers selected a professional music video producer (of Madonna's work, no less) to put together recruitment ads for the order. The order traces its history back to the Middle Ages, but currently has a worldwide membership of 37, of whom the median age is a spry 65. The ads have been running for a month or so now on channels as disparate as MSNBC and the Golf Channel.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Dirty Money?

One of these executives of a failed company, Tyco, has tried to do good. Mark Belnick, the top in-house counsel at the mega-conglomerate, was paid $12 million as a bonus. Prosecutors are now claiming that the bonus was "hush money" to keep Belnick from testifying against the former CEO, Dennis Kozlowski, who is charged with pillaging the company. But the payment that Belnick received went almost immediately to a small Catholic college in California, and to a pro-life organization in Washington. Belnick, formerly an observant Jew, quietly converted to Catholicism a few months before receiving the bonus. The Wall Street Journal had a fascinating front-page piece last Wednesday about Belnick, and how his "two journeys" intersected at Tyco. According to the paper, Belnick "became embroiled in one of the messiest corporate scandals ever, and simultaneously pursued a sudden conversion and devotion to Catholic philanthropy." Check out the piece. It is a neat look at the changed life.

Monday, June 02, 2003

The Atheist Minister

From Yahoo! News: A Danish Minister, Thorkild Grosboel, has stated in a recent interview that "there is no God, there is no eternal life, there is no resurrection." A couple of questions spring to mind as a result. 1) If you do not believe, why do you go into this line of work? 2) Does the confession of faith mean so little to Grosboel that he ignored it as he became a minister and 3) Has the Danish church so watered down the message of redemption that an atheist could feel comfortable with a career as a clergyman? I am not sure who is responsible for this situation. Bishop Lise-Rotte Rebel, who oversees Grosboel, has demanded a retraction and an apology, so the official church seems to have the right attitude.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

The Return of Worship

The last few years have shown a real re-birth of modern worship. In the US, this started with the Vineyard movement, but has spread to touch people all across the Body of Christ. After spending the eighties and the start of the nineties singng really bad songs, the last seven or eight years have given us a large number of terrific worship songs and talented musicians. Jeff Deyo, the Worship Circus, Soul-Junk, Chris Lizotte, and of course SonicFlood and Delirious? have helped make this decade (century? millenia?) the age of worship.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Another Musical Act

This entry will feature the work of a singer-songwriter I have followed for well over a decade. Johnny J. Blair put out one album, "Door In The Water" through a label back in the eighties, but has been producing his music independently since then. His entire family participates, which brings a unique sense of intimacy to the work. He plays a wide range of instruments, and sings about the kind of things we can all relate to. Check him out.

Saturday, May 03, 2003

The Dove Awards

A few weeks ago, I caught the annual Dove Awards, live on the TV. I am not abig fan of the whoel "Christian ________ Industry" thing . . . like Christian Music Industry, Chrisitan Publishing Industry, Christian Film Industry, etc . . . but that being considered, the show and the awards were not too shabby. They actually let one of the bands featured on this site play live on the telecast, the Rock and Roll Worship Cicrus. Good work for including them, guys -- you picked up a few points in my book.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

He is Risen

He is Risen indeed. Rejoice!

Saturday, April 19, 2003

Silent Saturday

We blow by this day way too quickly. This is the day of sorrow. Friday was the day of shock and disbelief, but what of Saturday? Were the men already back at their work? Already fishing again? This is the day of grieving, the day of wailing, the day of mourning. We know what the women were doing -- they were preparing to visit the body and prepare it for its final burial. They were doing their faithful duty as proper mourners. But the men? I wonder. This is the day that gets ignored. This is the day that fascinates me. This is the day that causes me to tremble.

Friday, April 18, 2003

Good Friday

The day of darkness, of death, of despair. But looking back on it with the knowldege of what came next, we can see the hope in it, the worth in it, the power in it.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

God and Caesar

There is a lawyer in Alabama who has sparked a tax protest based on the fact that her state has the smallest amount level of tax-free income. Families of four with as little as $4,600 of income are subject to tax. What makes Susan Pace Hamill's case interesting is that she voiced her concerns on theological grounds in a law review article. Her article has evidently created a whirlwind of activity among evangelicals and politicians, and especially among evangelical politicians. She makes a "least of these" argument involving how to rightly care for the poor. God and Taxes -- it is a relationship that we've trying to figure out for 2,000 years now. Hamill's argument is a step in that direction.

Monday, February 03, 2003


It is a subject written about in John Horgan's book "Rational Mysticism." It is an interesting book in that it explores the intersections of science and spirituality. One of the topics covered is the study of brain chemistry as it relates to spiritual experience. Much of the book veers off into pseudo-science and faux spirituality, but the study of brain chemistry seemed like pretty hard science. Keep your ears open for this topic in the near future, as it may make claims that are insightful, or troubling, or fascinating. It is too early to tell.

Saturday, January 18, 2003

Alice Sebold's HeavenI am now about 80% done with "The Lovely Bones" -- don't tell me how it ends! I am fascinated by the way that Heaven is portrayed in this NYT best-seller. The notion that each person has their "own" Heaven which intersects with other people's Heavens at times and is separate at times really intrigues me. We of course have no idea what the afterlife is like . . . except that I am certain that is above and beyond what we can comprehend. Sebold's version of the afterlife is though-provoking and intriguing. And even though it may all fall apart at the end, this far through it is a compelling read.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

That Cloning Thing

Let's forget for a minute that they are UFO culstists. That has been in the lead paragaph of every story that has appeared, and does make the story a little lighter than it otherwise would be. But let's get past the sideshow and address the guts of the issue.Can a human clone actually be . . . what is the word? "manufactured?" "created?" We are even unsure about the right terminology to use. But for those of us with a view of the world that extends beyond the physical, the issue of the soul arises. If as some believe, life begins at conception, when does life begin if their is no conception? We believe that a baby, fully gestated and born, has a soul. But does a clone? Is this the modern Golom -- physical form, but no soul? If not, then when does that soul arrive in the body? There is a reason they call this "playing God."

Friday, January 03, 2003

The Salvation Army and the Gift

The Salvation Army is back in the news, and this time it is not for the red kettles. A fiercely conservative and evangelical group, the Army recently passed on a $100,000 donation because the donor was giving from his $14 million lottery jackpot. The Army rejected the contribution on the basis that many of the homeless they serve are that way because of gambling, and did not want to accept "dirty money."

Ignoring the differences between bookies and a state governemnt, I admire the spirit of the Army in wanting to be pure. But in this fallen world of the 21st Century, isn't most of life a gamble? Can they accept the profits of someone who successfully starts a new business? Isn't that gambling? Or can they accept the profits of someone who invested in new stock market company years ago? Isn't that gambling? I am all in favor of purity and holiness, but I question whether they are being defined properly in this instance.