Saturday, April 5, 2014

Anger & Atheism


"A fool says in his heart, "There is no God.""
Psalm 53:1

"How do you hate someone you say doesn't exist?"
Josh Wheaton


So a little over a week ago I went to see the movie, "God's not Dead."  I went with a small group from my church.  A bunch of us try to get together about every other Friday to just chat, pick each other's brains, and so on.  We decided to see this film.

To be honest, most so-call "Christian" films tend to make me break out in a rash in unmentionable places.  Most of them strike me as being an hour and a half long tract stuffed in your face.  No subtlety what so ever.  I'm not trying to be mean to Kirk Cameron, but so many of these movies are simply preaching to the choir.

This movie was different.  I actually really enjoyed it.  For one thing, the actors actually knew how to act. (A rarity.) I also liked it that not everything was resolved at the end.  Not everyone became a christian.  That's the way it is in real life.

The premise of the film is that a college freshman is forced to defend the existence of God before all of his classmates by his militantly atheist professor.  In the process, he loses his girlfriend, his family is upset, and so on.

And that's all I'll say because this isn't movie review...

____________________

Atheism.  Atheism is fascinating to me.

I've known plenty of atheists, or at least people who call themselves atheists.  In fact, there is a pop culture phenomenon in America today of a sort-of Instant Atheist.  I recall an interview a few years back of Seth McFarlane, the creator of "Family Guy," explaining that he didn't believe in the god of George W. Bush, and was thus an atheist.

I thought to myself, "We'll I'm not sure if I believe in that god either.  But I don't think that makes me an atheist."  It's my opinion that this pop phenomenon is not particularly deep, nor intellectually rigorous.

For the record, I'm not interested in bashing atheists or agnostics.  What they believe is their business, and no one answers to me on judgment day.  I have more than enough on my own plate to deal with before I go around stepping on people's toes.

But I did want to write about what I have observed.  Obviously, there can be exceptions.  But I'm going to break down what I have noticed over the years.

The Casual Atheist:  I think that the pop phenomenon could fit into here.  However, I first ran into these types when I was teaching in the Czech Republic back in 2000.  The Czechs aren't real keen on any type of religion, due to the fact that the catholic church was often used to keep them down.  It's an understandable reaction.

To the average Czech, they just didn't give the idea of God much thought.  If they did, they were kind of creeped out due to past history.  They just figured that "This is it.  This is all we've got.  So just live."  They weren't terribly hostile to "God."  They just didn't have time for him.

These were the first real atheists I had met.  It wasn't deep and well-examined.  It was simply a way of living.

The True Atheist: At the last school that I taught at, I had a very good friend who could fit into this category.  She was a great help to me at this school.  She was very gracious and kind...and laughed at all of my jokes.

I call her a "True" atheist, because she admitted that if you were going to be an atheist, then you had to admit that life was meaningless.  Whatever meaning you found in life was that of your own making, and it was no better or worse than anyone else's.

For more on this, try reading any of the works of Jean Paul Sartre or Albert Camus.  They were French existentialist philosophers and atheists.  I obviously don't agree with them, but they were brutally honest about the meaninglessness of existence.

Anyway, my friend didn't hate people of faith.  She just told me that I had rose colored glasses.  She told me in no uncertain terms that we are all just a result of a cosmic accident.  There is no higher calling or purpose, and when you die you are just worm food.

Hey, at least she was honest.

If there is no God, then the universe does not care.  You/we/I are just random accidents.  There is no universal morality, no true good and bad.  It's all relative.  You might not "Like" certain things, but you can't claim that they are inherently right or wrong because there is nothing to base that on except yourself...which is no more important than anyone else's.

I knew one other guy who I would call a True atheist.  He admitted everything I just wrote. (Heck, that's who I got a lot of it from.) Since there was no true purpose in life, he decided to be a libertine.  He spent his youth getting with ever chick he could.  He was going to squeeze as much sensual pleasure out of life that he could.  I respected him for it.

The Angry Atheist: If you are familiar with Richard Dawkins or the late Christopher Hitchens, then you will know this type.  They are both brilliant men who can debate you into the ground.  I've heard them argue with various Theists, and they usually make them look foolish.  These guys absolutely hate with a red-hot passion any idea of "An Imaginary Friend." (Dawkins' term.) The idea that you might take your child to Sunday School is a form of child abuse in their minds. (And I am not making that up.)

However, I have a problem believing these types.  I really can't think of them as true atheists.  I'm not trying to be mean, but every time I hear them trash the idea of God, the more I think they are firm believers in his existence.  They totally believe in God.  They are simply really pissed-off at him!!!

They don't hate the idea of God.  They hate God.

 "How do you hate someone you say doesn't exist?" is asked by the main character of "God's not dead."  Every single time I hear a militant atheist talk, I want to ask that question.  I don't mind having a respectful discussion with anyone.  I enjoy it...including atheists.  But these militant folks?  Hmm.

____________________

The psalmist wrote that "A fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'"  Which is a brilliant observation.  The psalmist does not say "Head, Mind, Soul,etc."  He chose a different word.  The older I get, the more I understand that.

We think we are rational actors, but the truth is that we are not.  We believe what our hearts want to believe.  Just think of the kooks that get all their news from some talking head on FOX or MSNBC.  They have already made up their minds what they want to believe.  Now they are simply looking for someone to tell them it's true.

What ever is front and center in your heart is, in fact, your true God.  You can say you don't believe in him, but I don't believe you.

Peace

Joe

P.S.  Peter Rollins is a philosopher out of Belfast.  Which is why it's hard to understand what he is saying.  He is part of the whole Emerging Church thing. (Which makes him evil in the eyes of some.) Say what you will, I would love to listen to Pete, or even Rob Bell, debate Dawkins or Hitchens.  THAT would be fun.


Divine atheism from Peter Rollins on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Naughty Noah


"I'm afraid that as Evangelicals, we think that a work of art only has value if we reduce it to a tract."
Francis Schaeffer

"I will only be satisfied with Hollywood once they accurately present Jesus as a Mid-western boy from Iowa, with an American accent and dark-blonde, feathered hair...just like the pictures of him in the "Christian" bookstores."
Me

Soooooooooo, there is a bit of a stink about a movie that comes out this Friday.  Frankly, I'm shocked, SHOCKED I say, that Hollywood would take liberties with the bible!  How dare they not keep in line with biblical accuracy?  "VeggieTales" certainly did.

____________________


It has been noted before by many that American christians tend to begin so many responses from a defensive, fearful position.  This strikes me as this being the case once again.  It's been interesting to see the response of so many people on social media to this upcoming film.  Most of the people who are knocking it, admit that they haven't even seen it.  They simply have their facts on good, solid "hear-say." A pastor, or someone in some type of authority told them that the film was bad because of this or that.

It's no surprise to anyone who knows me, that I have a rather high tolerance for controversial things.  I'm not afraid of that sort of thing.  If anything, it simply stokes my curiosity.

When I first saw a trailer for the Noah movie a few months ago, my initial reaction was, "Sweet, they got Russel Crowe to play Noah."  It was not, "I hope they use the proper exegesis of the text."  I had no expectations that Hollywood would get it right.  They NEVER do!

Even when it's a movie about a bible story where the film maker wants to get it right or be accurate, they still never do.  In Mel Gibson's film, "The Passion of the Christ," he took artistic liberties.  In fact, one key scene, where Jesus is being nailed to the cross, Gibson got it wrong.  He shows Jesus being nailed through his hands.  The Romans didn't do that.  They put the nail through the wrist, so that the condemned would stick there and not tare off.

The thing is, most bible movies aren't made by Believers, anyway.  They just want to tell a good story and do it artistically.  So they are going to use artistic license to tell their version of the story.  If you understand that ahead of time, it will save you a great deal of grief and frustration while you munch on your popcorn.

____________________

A day or so ago, a friend of mine posted this article on Facebook.
http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2014/03/17/will-evangelicals-miss-boat-paramount-noah/

I thought it summed everything up very well.  In particular, I like the quote from Francis Shaeffer.  Christians seem to like movies, music, art, etc. that sells Jesus.  If it doesn't bring you squarely to the face of Christ, then it isn't any good.

Christians seem to like self-imposed Ghettos.  We have Christian coffee mugs, Christians T-shirts, Christian bumper stickers.  We seem to insist of labeling everything as either "Christian" or "Non-Christian."  We likes us a nice black and white world.

I don't see the world that way.  It just doesn't make sense to me.  If Paul is correct in Romans that, "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made,..." then I don't need a label to see the truth of God all around me.

I've said this before, when I hear a work of Beethoven...or even a guitar solo by Neil Young, I can hear God testifying to himself through the creativity that he has given every human being, whether they are one of his followers or not.

CAVEAT: I fully admit that there is plenty of crap out there that doesn't honor God in any way, shape or form.  Often times, you will find said crap in your local Christian bookstore with a Jesus label on it. 

Preach it, now!!!!

____________________

A couple of decades ago, "The Last Temptation of Christ" came out.  It had Willem Dafoe as Jesus and David Bowie as Pontius Pilate. (David Bowie?!?!) Anyway, a lot of christians really got their undies in knots over this film.  There were even protests outside of many theaters.  The irony was that the film wasn't based on the bible.  It was based on a novel written by some goofy Greek Orthodox priest/monk.

Needless to say, I went to the movie.  After watching it I can honestly say that if it hadn't been for the "Christians" bringing all of the attention to it, the film would have died in a week.  It was a real "Sleeper" in every sense of the word.  Thanks to the protests, the film actually made money.

Actually, there were two things that I really did like about the film.  #1. The soundtrack is EXCELLENT!  It was written by Peter Gabriel.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passion:_Music_for_The_Last_Temptation_of_Christ  If you can ever get your hands on a copy of that CD, do it!

#2. When Willem Dafoe as Jesus starts to preach to the various crowds I thought, "Yeah!  That's probably exactly like Jesus' style of interaction."  I was impressed.  Other than that though, a pretty dull film.

I was going to Bethel Seminary at that time.  I remember a professor talking about the film in class.  He said that the movie was probably a bad idea.  Then he asked our class if anyone had seen the film.  I was the only one to raise a hand.  He gave me kind of a stunned look and asked me why.  I replied...

"I figured that since so many christians were giving it all this free advertising, I kind of owed it to them to go see it."

So with that in mind, I'd simply say to not be afraid or get worked up about "Noah."  It's Hollywood.  What are you expecting?  Finally, it's Russel Crowe, dude...Russel Crowe.


Peace

Joe

Here's the trailer with some of Peter Gabriel's music.  It's not perfect, but it's pretty good.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Confidence & Christ


For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin.  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive  mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 4:15 & 16


I team teach Sunday School for the Youth Group at Living Waters with two other adults.  It's fun because you get so see so many different perspectives on the same issue.  This past Sunday we were talking about discipleship, and how Jesus insists on being first.  He insists that whatever we hold to in our lives must be given over to him so as to adequately follow him.

To some, Jesus' insistence on being #1 in our lives could come off as arrogant.  Sometimes I think that, too.  But then I have to remind myself; why would I go out for a McDouble burger when I have perfect piece of seasoned stake sitting on a dinner plate on my table?

If Jesus really is that perfect, that beautiful, that ideal...that obvious, then why settle for anything else?

____________________


The character of Jesus fascinates me.  So much of what we could see in the gospels are easily missed because we tend to treat scripture like a block of wood.  In incarnate form, he had all of the normal attributes that we have...just slightly more intense I think.

We know that Jesus got angry in a righteous way.  He hated seeing his father exploited for money. (Makes you wonder what he would think of so much of the church in America these days?) He got mad at the religious leaders for their legalistic ways.  In fact, it appears that Jesus hated religion in general.

We know he felt sorrow and sadness.  He wept at the tomb of his buddy, Lazarus, even though he was about to bring him back to life.  He seemed to really enjoy little kids.  He was also amazing with the kindness and mercy that he showed to "the least of these."

One of the things that is not directly mentioned in the gospels, but is glaring at you right between the lines is Jesus' self-confidence.  This isn't the type that we so often display, an arrogant self-confidence.  "I'm all that and a bag of chips."  No.  It is more of a matter-of-fact, "I just know who I am," kind of confidence.

One character trait that Jesus never seemed to display of any kind is fear.  You never see Jesus afraid of anything or anyone.  I'm guessing that this came from his self-awareness, his confidence of who he was and who his father was.

When Jesus was being accused and mocked by the Sanhedrin, he barely utters a word in his own defense.  When he was hauled before Herod, he didn't say anything at all.  I love the conversation that Jesus has with Pilot in John's gospel.  Pilot is freaking out over the situation.  He doesn't want to kill Jesus, but he is too much of a coward to stand up to the religious leaders.

When Pilot heard this, he was even more afraid, and went back inside his palace.  "Where do you come from?" he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave no answer.  "Do you refuse to speak to me?  Pilate said.  "Don't you realize I have the power either to free you or to crucify you?"

Jesus answered, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above."
John 19:10 & 11

The theological term for that is "B*llsy!"  
(Sorry, I just couldn't think of a more appropriate expression.)

You just couldn't intimidate Jesus.  He knew who he was.

When I think about that, I contrast it to so much of what I see in the church in America these days.  The church these days seems to live in a constant state of fear.  Before he died, Chuck Colson noted in an essay he wrote for the book "Un-Christian," that when it comes to politics, the church almost always begins from a defensive position.  http://www.unchristian.com/  Th-th-th-hat's fear, folks.

I have a friend who, by using the most bizzare interpretation of Luke 22:36 I've ever seen, says that Jesus wants us to own assault rifles in case we need to over throw the federal government.  He listens to a crack-pot preacher who has moved to Montana because God told him that it is the tip of the spear of the fight for freedom.  Fear.

"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  
Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both both body and soul in hell."  
Matt: 10:28

____________________


In the letter to the church in Philippi, Paul warns about having confidence in the flesh, i.e. yourself, the things of this world, your religious works, etc.  That's not difficult for me because I generally don't have a lot of confidence in myself.  I am wracked with self doubt.  I don't second guess myself.  I quadruple guess myself. (It's like a hobby.)

I take a lot of comfort in those lines from the book of Hebrews that I posted at the top.  I don't really understand how Jesus could be tempted in every way, in the same ways that I am, but that's what it says.  That's a lot of temptation.  And yet he remained sinless.

Scripture tells us to place our confidence in Jesus.  He is the perfect High Priest.  Like I said, I don't understand the "How" of his being tempted like me, I but I like it that he was.  I like it even more that he remained sinless.  I like it even more that I can now approach the throne of grace with confidence.  Not because of something I did (Which ain't much, I can tell you that.), but because of all that he did.

I'll place my confidence in Jesus' self-confidence.

Peace

Joe


P.S. I was going to post the video "Baddest man alive" by the Black Keys in honor of Jesus.  But it has some bad language in it.  Since I already used one bad word in this post, I figured I'd use one instead.
)


Sunday, March 2, 2014

"Old friend, come back home."


The word of YHWH came to Jonah son of Amittai: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because it's wickedness has come up before me."  But Jonah ran away from YHWH and headed for Tarshish.

And you know what happens next.

But YHWH provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to YHWH his God.  He said: "In my distress I called to the Lord and he answered me.  From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry."
Jonah 1:1-3 & 1:17-2:2


Old friend, come back home.
Even though you always were alone.
You had to push against the fates, just to make it, make it through the gate.

Old friend, come to me.
Everything I was, I used to be.
I went north and I went east.
Follow in the footsteps of some beautiful beast.

I know you don't believe me
when I believe in you.
I know it could get much easier
if you want it to.
"Old Friend" by Sea Wolf.


I have aged more since about this past October than I think I have in about 15 years.  A couple of weekends ago, I went up with our Youth Group for a Winter retreat.  While up there, one of my friends came up to me and asked if everything was O.K.  I told him that I was under a great deal of stress.

My friend pulled me aside and told me that he was going to give me some advice that another fellow from our church had offered to him.  He said, "Slow your ass DOWN!" (He had a distinct grin on his face when he offered this.) He said that the way I looked, I was either going to be in the hospital or the looney bin within a month.

So we were coming home of the bus from the retreat.  It didn't have proper heating, so my feet were cold and my whole body ached.  A certain Middle School girl leaned over and asked me how old I was.  I told her to guess.  And thus the following...

"Well, you have a lot of gray hair.  
So you must be really old.  
63?"

I had a distinct urge to shove her off the bus.



A bit ago, I was driving home from the Sunday service.  I had the radio to the nation's greatest radio station, 89.3 The Current.  A song came on that I had never heard before.  The tone and the lyrics hit me right in my soul.  You can call me crazy all you want, but I have seen God use all sorts of music to communicate to me before.  It felt as if he was singing directly to me.  It made me cry in the car.

Give it a listen.


So Jonah runs from the Lord.  Jonah is actually a comedy, even though most people don't know that.  God calls Jonah to go to Nineveh.  That city was the capital of one of the most evil empires ever to exist.  Jonah plans on running to Tarshish.  Tarshish was located in southern Spain.  It was considered to be paradise.

How could you possibly find God in paradise?  He's too busy doing his work in a place of sin, wickedness and evil.


I'm good at running from God.  I do it more than I care to admit.  I've been running from God for many months now.  Don't kid yourself.  Going to church on Sundays & Wednesday nights doesn't mean you're not running.


God's mercy & love are not like our concepts.  God's mercy can be severe, and his love can be relentless.

In his love, God brings a storm that gets Jonah cast overboard.  In his mercy, God causes Jonah to end up in a whale's guts for 72 hours, only to be barfed up on a beach.

In his mercy, God stripped everything away from Jonah until all that was left was God.

I've been running from God for a long time.  God has been stripping things away from me during all of this.  I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that I have been paying a high price.  To quote one of my favorite philosophers; "I feel like butter scraped over too much bread."

I have a terrible time waking up first thing in the morning and sitting down with God.  I have a worse time before going to bed.  During the rest of the day, I find all sorts of excuses and distractions to hold him at arms length.  I willfully seek them out.

I really don't want to end up sitting in a belly full of fish bile, plankton & weeds.

The two areas where I find myself connecting with Jesus most easily are when I am outdoors, either in nature or driving around in it, OR when I write.  Either when I am writing in this blog, or working on my book, I can literally feel his pleasure.  I feel alive!  In particular, when I am writing stories in my book, it's like he is right there with me telling me what to say.

Maybe that sounds crazy.  I confess, I have some minor mental health issues. (Yeah, like you don't.) But it's not crazy.  Jesus connects to people according to how he has wired them.  We are his creation.  He knows what he's doing.

This has been dawning on me over the past few days.  Even as I write all of this now, it feels like an anvil is lifting off my shoulders.

I have let my job, family health problems, a recent ugly interaction with a far-right, fundamentalist  screwball, facebook, videos, willfulness, and on & on & on come between me and the lover of my soul.

I am too tired to run anymore, and I'm not even sure where Tarshish is anyway.


God rarely shouts.  
He tends to whisper.  
And sometimes he sings...even on the radio.


"Old friend, come back home."


Peace

Joe

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Ideas from a manger


MERRY CHRISTMAS!

It's been almost 3 months since I've written anything.  I haven't worked much on my book, and I've barely posted anything on this blog.

I just really haven't been inspired about much of anything. (However, some thoughts have been brewing in my head about the link between the Prophet Daniel and the birth of Christ, so you never know.)

The Holidays don't help either.  Don't get me wrong.  I love everything from Halloween through New Years.  It's just that they distract me rather easily.

So today is Christmas, so I have a moment to breath.  I also have a quick story to tell you before the main point.  I got two new pillows for christmas, and they are most awesome.  And here's why I like that gift so much...

On Thanksgiving Eve I took a little tumble down the stairs.  It had been a brutal few days at the store, so I was exhausted.  The problem is that sometimes I get so tired I can't sleep.  So I popped a couple of (over the counter) sleeping pills.  I should have gone to bed right away.  Instead I stayed up putzing on the computer.  When I finally left for bed i was half-zombie.  As I closed in on the last 2 steps, my slipper came off, I tripped and then went face-first into a door frame.

It didn't hurt!  My ARM hurt!  It got a juicy rug burn on it.  It was dark, I knew my head was bleeding, but it was my arm that bugged me.  So I put a towel on my face and went to bed.  I was out cold in about a minute.

THE NEXT DAY I pulled the towel of my face to notice that it looked like a ritual sacrifice all over my bed.  Two pillows completely soaked in sticky blood...never mind the sheets.

Being a guy, I took a shower, got cleaned up and put a band aid on my gapping wound and thought, "Well, that'll heal in a few days."  Later that day, I went to my folk's for Thanksgiving.  They took one look at me and freaked out.  6 hours and a hospital visit later, I have 11 stitches in my head and 2 in my lip.  And after all was said & done, my arm still hurt more than all the rest.

I'm used to getting interesting looks from people by now.  Four weeks later, I still have some swelling in my face.  Honestly though, while I will have some amount of a scar, it's gonna be sexy!

...and now on to the post, proper.

____________________

Yesterday I read a piece by Ross Douthat from the New York Times.  I thought it was a fairly brilliant critique of an aspect of modern American culture.  So being lazy, I'm just going to re-post it and let you decide for yourself.

Ta da!


"PAUSE for a moment, in the last leg of your holiday shopping, to glance at one of the manger scenes you pass along the way. Cast your eyes across the shepherds and animals, the infant and the kings. Then try to see the scene this way: not just as a pious set-piece, but as a complete world picture — intimate, miniature and comprehensive.


Because that’s what the Christmas story really is — an entire worldview in a compact narrative, a depiction of how human beings relate to the universe and to one another. It’s about the vertical link between God and man — the angels, the star, the creator stooping to enter his creation. But it’s also about the horizontal relationships of society, because it locates transcendence in the ordinary, the commonplace, the low.
It’s easy in our own democratic era to forget how revolutionary the latter idea was. But the biblical narrative, the great critic Erich Auerbach wrote, depicted “something which neither the poets nor the historians of antiquity ever set out to portray: the birth of a spiritual movement in the depths of the common people, from within the everyday occurrences of contemporary life.”
And because that egalitarian idea is so powerful today, one useful — and seasonally appropriate — way to look at our divided culture’s competing worldviews is to see what each one takes from the crèche in Bethlehem.
Many Americans still take everything: They accept the New Testament as factual, believe God came in the flesh, and endorse the creeds that explain how and why that happened. And then alongside traditional Christians, there are observant Jews and Muslims who believe the same God revealed himself directly in some other historical and binding form.

But this biblical world picture is increasingly losing market share to what you might call the spiritual world picture, which keeps the theological outlines suggested by the manger scene — the divine is active in human affairs, every person is precious in God’s sight — but doesn’t sweat the details.

This is the world picture that red-staters get from Joel Osteen, blue-staters from Oprah, and everybody gets from our “God bless America” civic religion. It’s Christian-ish but syncretistic; adaptable, easygoing and egalitarian. It doesn’t care whether the angel really appeared to Mary: the important thing is that a spiritual version of that visitation could happen to anyone — including you.

Then, finally, there’s the secular world picture, relatively rare among the general public but dominant within the intelligentsia. This worldview keeps the horizontal message of the Christmas story but eliminates the vertical entirely. The stars and angels disappear: There is no God, no miracles, no incarnation. But the egalitarian message — the common person as the center of creation’s drama — remains intact, and with it the doctrines of liberty, fraternity and human rights.
As these world pictures jostle and compete, their strengths and weaknesses emerge. The biblical picture has the weight of tradition going for it, the glory of centuries of Western art, the richness of millenniums’ worth of theological speculation. But its specificity creates specific problems: how to remain loyal to biblical ethics in a commercial, sexually liberated society.
The spiritual picture lacks the biblical picture’s resources and rigor, but it makes up for them in flexibility. A doctrine challenged by science can be abandoned; a commandment that clashes with modern attitudes ignored; the problem of evil washed away in a New Age bath.
The secular picture, meanwhile, seems to have the rigor of the scientific method behind it. But it actually suffers from a deeper intellectual incoherence than either of its rivals, because its cosmology does not harmonize at all with its moral picture.
In essence, it proposes a purely physical and purposeless universe, inhabited by evolutionary accidents whose sense of self is probably illusory. And yet it then continues to insist on moral and political absolutes with all the vigor of a 17th-century New England preacher. And the rope bridges flung across this chasm — the scientific-sounding logic of utilitarianism, the Darwinian justifications for altruism — tend to waft, gently, into a logical abyss.
So there are two interesting religious questions that will probably face Americans for many Christmases to come. The first is whether biblical religion can regain some of the ground it has lost, or whether the spiritual worldview will continue to carry all before it.
The second is whether the intelligentsia’s fusion of scientific materialism and liberal egalitarianism — the crèche without the star, the shepherds’ importance without the angels’ blessing — will eventually crack up and give way to something new.
The cracks are visible, in philosophy and science alike. But the alternative is not. One can imagine possibilities: a deist revival or a pantheist turn, a new respect for biblical religion, a rebirth of the 20th century’s utopianism and will-to-power cruelty.
But for now, though a few intellectuals scan the heavens, they have yet to find their star."

Merry Christmas everyone.


Peace

Joe







Saturday, October 12, 2013

Overture



"Gather all you who will, hear of the God, slain for his children’s sin.  Come the story recall, all he has done, to bring his family home."
Matthew Clark

So tonight I went to a house concert.  I wasn't able to stay for the whole thing because I have to be up early for work.

My friends have held a few concerts at their house to raise money for various ministry projects.  At present, they are raising money for an adoption.

My friend has this weird ability to meet interesting musicians who agree to do things like this.  Works for me.

The funny thing is that the four musicians who played tonight aren't even a real band.  They're just a group of friends who get together to play with each other.  I didn't even know their last names.  There was Jeff (Maybe Geoff.) on drums, Brian on bass, Abby on guitar and piano, and Matthew of guitar.  I had to poke around with the lyrics to find out who any of them were.

Anyway, the first song that they sang was by Matthew (Clark), who made this CD.  It's called "Overture," and it is the first of a whole slew of songs that go over the entire bible.  So maybe you want to check him out.

http://matthewclarkmusic.bandcamp.com/track/overture

http://luaphacim.blogspot.com/2012/11/album-review-matthew-clarks-bright-came.html

I thought the song was beautiful and it made me tear up. (Which happens to me more than I wish.) I just wish I could have stayed longer to hear the whole thing, but I had to get home to let the sleeping pills kick in. (Stupid insomnia!) My friend certainly meets some interesting artists.  It also made me realize that beards are all the rage these days.

Enjoy!

Peace

Joe

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Tender Mercies



"No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bare.  But when you are tempted, he will provide a way out so that you can endure it.
1 Corinthians 10:13


Ever have one of those days where life just seems to drops it's drawers and take big dump all over you?  Yeah, me too.  Today as a matter of fact.

For the record, I do not get angry very easily.  I get annoyed easily, but not angry.  Getting angry is a waste of my time, energy and usually result in something bad.

Want to make me angry?  Here are a few things you can do: #1. Be stoned or intoxicated in public, and act like an absolute jerk.  #2. Do #1, but also throw in yelling and being jerk to my friends.  #3. Do parts 1 & 2 and then do it to a female friend of mine.  #4. Do 1 through 3 and make it multiple female friends of mine. (I'll come back to this.)


Now allow me to set the stage.

I'm nearing the end of my 2-week vacation.  It's been pretty good, and I really needed it.  I've been making progress on my book, and that feels really good.  So I was all set to come out to the cabin and keep writing today.  All I had to do was go and get my check from work...

Some genius level I.Q. higher up the corporate food chain decided to buy a robot to write the schedules for us at work.  The robot would also take care of our time off requests, and any pay for those days off. That robot has yet to make one correct schedule for any department since it was installed 3 months ago.  Today I went in to get my check and SURPRISE, the robot had screwed that up too.

No check for me.  No managers at work who could correct that.  And I have bills due in 2 days with $85 in my account.  Happy, happy, joy, joy.


So now you have an idea of how I was feeling for what happened next.


I decided, "Screw it.  I'm going to the cabin anyway."  So I was going to buy a bag of chips and be on my way.  While standing in line, a fellow about 5 feet away from me started yelling at one of my co-workers.  He was drunk (At 12:30 in the afternoon) and being rude and obnoxious to her.  It didn't take long for other co-worker, lady-friends of mine to come over...and naturally he was rude to them, too.

It was at that moment that I realized how much I was shaking.  Trust me, that is a very bad sign if I start to shake.  It means that I am getting seriously pissed off.  It is usually only a few minutes, or about 2 buttons to be pushed later, that I get tunnel vision.  Most of the world goes black, and all I see is a white circle with a target in it.  Thankfully, this rarely ever happens, because when it does, things get truly ugly really, really fast.

I have never considered myself a "Tough-Guy" or a mean person.  However, when a flash fantasy of grabbing that drunk, worthless piece of crap by his pony-tail and smashing his upper-pallet into the railing near the register 5 or 6 times popped in my head, I knew I was in a bad spot.

BTW: Like I said, I am not a tough guy or a mean person.  But I am fully aware of what my wicked heart is capable of.  I also know what I am very physically capable of...and I can't say that I like it very much.

If you are wise, you will take a good look into your own heart.  Odds are that there is plenty you need to be aware of that should be given over to Jesus.

I was just standing there shaking more and more, and beginning to sweat while watching this pig of a man, when I squeaked out in my head, "Help me Father."  It was about a split second later that I heard a voice say, "You need to go write."

And about 30 seconds later some security guys showed up.

So here I am at the cabin, instead of jail and awaiting a law suit.

Thank you, Jesus.

Peace.

Joe