29 December 2005

Concerning Profanity & Blasphemy

Someone using the pen name "Devil's Advocate" recently left the following comment under my 16 November 2005 post. What follows are my thoughts in response to the questions posed therein.

While reviewing your profile I took notice to some of your favorite music and literature. I wanted to get your opinion regarding a few controversial issues in the Christian faith. How would you defend listening to, reading, and ultimately condoning music that carries profanity and literature that could be blasphemous in how it contradicts the true faith and belief of Jesus Christ? (Ex. Public Enemy / The DaVinci Code) I know that I may sound “legalistic”, and for that I apologize. However, it does not divert the fact that you are professing to be a true Bible believing Christian. If that is so, than you would be the perfect person to answer this question and address this subject. I look forward to your response.

-Devil’s Advocate

I'll prime my thoughts by saying that I'll focus specifically on how I “defend listening to, reading, and ultimately condoning music that carries profanity and literature that could be blasphemous in how it contradicts the true faith and belief of Jesus Christ?” I believe for me, it’s a continual spectrum. In other words, it’s a matter of conviction from God, which has a lot to do with where I’m at on my spiritual journey. For instance, about 6 years ago, I was convicted that my trash mouth was not something that was uplifting to my Creator (and other people), so I stopped cursing. I used to listen to Korn, but the closer I drew to Christ, the less I could take listening to them – not just because they cursed, but due to the fact that the message that came from their music was extremely aggressive in an angry and destructive sort of way. It was reckless, careless, very self-centered and had no regard for others – so I stepped back and realized this was not the kind of person I was created to be. Through maturing and growing spiritually, I’ve learned that there are positive and non-destructive ways to express aggression and emotion. For instance, Chevelle and Cool Hand Luke are both very emotive bands that have been able to fully express such emotions in healthy ways. As for the DaVinci Code, I certainly don’t buy into the conspiracy theory presented therein, but the fictional, pseudo-historical-drama is a masterpiece of writing by Dan Brown. On a more practical note, how could I ever have an informed discussion with anyone about the theories presented in the novel without first reading it?

I think I’ve reached a point in life where I believe that the god who created this world will use whatever I hear, read, and see for His purposes, despite the fact that He may not have approved of my choice in the first place. Not that this gives me a free ticket to fill my head with whatever my flesh desires, as I truly believe there are clear lines that have been drawn for me. I also believe that we have so much to learn about Christian spirituality from non-Christians. It would probably surprise you to know that I recently saw a Madonna documentary (the one from her American Life tour) and feel like her commentary therein about Kabala was extremely insightful. But again, right time for the right person – a personal continuum. I trust that the Lord holds me in His hand and nurtures me accordingly.

At the end of the day, I will always stand for Christ. And I would openly welcome sincere conviction from a believer-friend (who knows me personally) that a certain band I’m listening to, or book I’m reading, is causing a negative impact on my walk with Christ. What I will not stand for is some person who runs a cable broadcasting station or a pastor of “national import” who issues blanket statements telling all Christians across the nation to avoid a certain book, movie, teaching, etc. It’s safe to say that the Catholic church, who at the time was literally selling forgiveness (which contradicts everything biblical about forgiveness), issued many warnings to its followers not to read the writings of Martin Luther, whose focus was to return the faith to its biblical roots. As I stated in my Intelligent Design post, followers of Christ need to stop blindly following causes that are merely cloaked in Christianity.

Sometimes Christians get so caught up in judgment, forgetting to bandage their own gaping wounds, while putting band-aids on the paper cuts of others. I used to do that. I still struggle to avoid it. But I think there’s more to my “call” than that. In the end, I will always fail you. I will always make life-decisions and choices about movies, music and literature that are not uplifting (and potentially destructive). That’s why I encourage others to look to the life of Christ demonstrated in the New Testament gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and emulate His perfect example. Can you imagine what this World would be like if every human could forget about themselves for like half a day and focus on loving and serving others? How much could we accomplish?

Finally, I’ll add that when I’ve had questions about whether I should be putting something in my mind, I’ve asked God to convict me about whether its right or wrong. Most times I’ve found that I already know the answer, I just need His help to give it up. Phew...I guess I’m done now. And this is one of those posts where comments by others are critical...so please add your thoughts. Let’s start a dialogue.

25 December 2005

Christmas Thoughts...

To those in the body...remember that the person you are becoming in Jesus Christ is your greatest gift to others. Impact this World by fighting battles that are on God's heart.

And to those still searching...may the breath of the Living God enter you and may you know, beyond all doubt, that it is the Truth. Inhale Him, and come to life.

24 December 2005

Early Christmas Gift

So I returned to my home town last night and got an early Christmas gift -- easily the best one I'll recieve this year!

Living an hour and a half away from my niece, Kiaya, and only getting home about once every few months or so, there's always a question of how she'll respond to me. Will I get the shy, "hide-behind-mommy-and-daddy" treatment? Will she let me hold her, but be very weary? And how long, if ever, will it take her to warm up to me.

The answer came fairly quick last night. And it's one I'll never forget. For probably the first time in our niece/uncle relationship, we were totally cool. She couldn't get enough of me! She was "ordering" me around everywhere: "sit," "come," "eat," "help." I totally loved it! I got hugs, and I even got kisses!! It's like the best feeling in the world (at least until a little one calls me "daddy" one day). I love you so much, Kiaya, and you gave me the best Christmas gift I've received in quite some time. And that gets me thinking...isn't it always the non-monetary gifts that are the most precious in life; and last the longest in our memories?

20 December 2005

Intelligent Design

Earlier today, a Federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania ruled that a local school board acted unconstitutionally in mandating that its 9th grade biology students be read a primer-paragraph prior to teachings on evolution to the effect that evolution is only a theory, there are gaps in the theory and some have suggested alternative theories, such as intelligent design. In so ruling, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III said, "We find that the secular purposes claimed by the Board amount to a pretext for the Board’s real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom." In a further blow to the Board's credibility (and faith), Judge Jones added that several members repeatedly lied to cover their motives, even while professing religious beliefs.

Media outlets billed this case as Creation vs. Evolution. They were wrong. The actual issue facing Judge Jones was whether the school board purposefully intended to communicate a religious message by its conduct, and what message that conduct actually conveyed. This ruling is not about the merits of either theory, but rather, the school board's intentions.

So as I'm reading thru the opinion, I come to this line:

"Wherever complex design exists, there must have been a designer; therefore nature must have had an intelligent designer." -Thomas Aquinas (13th Century)

It turns out that the roots of the intelligent design movement can be traced back to this simple syllogism. So here is where my questions begin. If the designer those in the intelligent design movement look to is the God of the Bible, why is it that they fail to trust that same God to reveal Himself to public school students in ways other than through a science class? I mean, if God created the complexities and beauty of nature, why do these people think they have to resort to lies about their intentions and other forms of trickery to get their god into the public school classroom? Do these attempts really advance the cause, or do they simply add more pain to an existing wound? That "wound" being the non-Christian public's view of our faith.

In all honesty, intelligent design is not my fight. It may be someone's, but it's not mine. I don't want converts to my faith b/c it'll make my church larger and wealthier. Nor do I seek converts b/c I have some personal agenda, fueled by my ego, to be the one who saved the most people. I want converts to my faith to freely choose the life-saving results one receives from trusting in the One, True, Living God. I want converts to my faith b/c of the peace I've experienced, which awaits them. My challenge to believers is to stop blindly supporting and following movements that are merely cloaked in Christianity. Think deeper, search the motives of those involved and ask the Lord to reveal himself to you through this process. Get behind eternal movements of import. Movements championed by, through and because of Christ! Movements modeled after Christ's very actions!

14 December 2005

Christian -- Title or Description?

In Seizing Your Divine Moment, Erwin McManus writes:

"Imagine the power of our lives if we could know with confidence that when others see us, they would also see God; that God would reveal Himself through an ordinary human being; that those who today are blind to God would have their eyes opened by the life each of us lives. It was at Antioch that the disciples of Jesus were first called Christians. It was not a designation they gave themselves. It was the result of others observing their lives and seeing Christ in them. They looked like Jesus. Their lives reflected the adjective Christian. It was intended to be a description, not a title."

Lord, empower me to be an adjective for You, not merely a noun.

07 December 2005

Hide & Seek

So it just happened...I found one of those songs that, upon first hearing it, you instantly know its like one of the best songs you've ever heard. So the last time this happened for me was with Damien Rice's The Blower's Daughter. Now it's Imogen Heap's Hide and Seek. It's amazing for so many reasons, first of which is that there are no instruments in the entire song, just layers of her voice. It's amazingly beautiful and innovative and many other words I can't seem to think of at the moment.

02 December 2005

Ordinary Attempts

From the files of The OA Blog: "Just yesterday I was at the swimming pool, and a gal asked me to show her how to swim. We spend the next 30 minutes getting to know each other. During the course of the conversation, she mentioned that she has 4 daughters. I told her that I also have 4 daughters but that one is in heaven. I told her how our third daughter died in the womb at 20 weeks gestation. We went through labor and delivery and were able to hold her perfectly formed 5 inch body. Unfortunately, the hospital would not allow us to hold a funeral because they don't consider a 20 week old fetus a baby. But at church the next Sunday there was a beautiful spray of flowers left over from an elderly persons’ funeral and God's Spirit mentioned to me, "Those flowers are also for your daughter, Catherine, she is in heaven with me now." This almost brought tears to my new friend's eyes. When we left the gym, she gave me her business card and asked me to stay in touch. It was so nice to feel free to get to know her without feeling like I needed to bring up the subject of where she will spend eternity."

I'm totally right at the same place as the woman who shared this story. Thanks to the people at Off The Map for their innovative approachs to evangelism. God has never forced or pressured anyone to believe, so why do we sometimes think that's a good approach? Don't you think we need to spend a lot more time praying and then living His love, instead of just preaching it to others? Let's think thru this.

21 November 2005

So ya wanna be an astronaut, huh?

As a federal government employee, I have the privilege of reading the Federal Employees News Digest every week. From the November 7, 2005 issue:

"Male astronauts exposed to cosmic rays in space are not likely to pass on possible mutations caused by the rays to their offspring, according to a new study by a collaboration that includes a scientist from the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory."

Yet again, more proof that our tax dollars are hard at work!

16 November 2005

Our Call

Humanity is called to live in a manner that surpasses the ways in which the majority of us are currently living. Quite simply, we are called to live and commune at a deeper level with our Creator -- to fully respect Him as the great I AM; and to completely accept Him as a loving father. Are we not called to engage with Him in ways that reach beyond the confines of a building, a few hours on any given Sunday and the words of a song?

"Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it." -Malachi 3:10 (NIV)

Can you imagine a blessing like this? It simply blows my mind! And I'm not talking about a monetary blessing here. I'm talking about the Lord showering us with gifts of knowledge, discernment, understanding, peace, patience, sensitivity, commitment, pure love...and the list goes on and on. And none of this for our own sake, but in order that we may be more clearly led by His hand in all that we do. It's about living inside the eye of His storm of grace.

15 November 2005

Kingdom of Heaven

We have so much to learn from this film, so this may end up being a multi-part post. Stay tuned, but for now...

Historical inaccuracies aside, this film sheds light on the issue of human corruption and the thirst for power espoused in the name of religion -- both Islam and Christian. In an on-going battle over sacred land (Jerusalem), we see decision-making by government leaders based on the faulty advice of their religious advisers -- men who abuse their faith and sanction actions based on the "Will of God," when the actual will of God is their very last concern.

Sadly, this is still happening today inside religious institutions. Consider the political agendas of those on the far right who purportedly act in the name of Christianity. Jesus instructed Peter: "Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword." So maybe these groups don't wave literal swords anymore, but what are the figurative swords that these groups are waving? There have got to be better ways of approaching these issues.

The main character in the film, Balian (played by Orlando Bloom), although of the opinion that God has abandoned him, is the very character wherein the hand of God seems the most apparent. His oath: "Always speak the truth, even if it leads to your death." And he backs this up by refusing to join a murderous plot that would put him into a position of power, even when it seems like such a plot was necessary for the greater good of the Kingdom. In this action we see Balian demonstrate an amount of faith and trust in God that surpasses even the most reasoned human minds (whether this decision was conscious or not). How many things in your own life do you just need to lay at the cross and entrust to God's timing? Are you wrestling with your own unbelief? Your own lack of trust?

02 November 2005


The uber-environmental group Greenpeace will pay a $7,000 fine after its flagship, Rainbow Warrior II, hit a coral reef causing extensive damage.

01 November 2005

The Open Hand...

Currently being inspired by this painting and the following song written by a friend based thereon:

The small sign of mercy
With an impact beyond
These simple minds
To heaven’s throne

Like a picture of heaven
Through skies of gray
A light piercing through us
Gives us hope for our day

You call me child
You call me your own
Through these crossed up pieces of wood
Redemption’s explosion is made known

The power brought forth
That all seek to find
Resting in love’s hands
For all of life’s time

And sing hallelujah to our God above
As we rejoice in His earthbound love

31 October 2005

New to the game...

Alright...b/c I got a lot to say (and more to learn), many stories and pictures to share, and know of a few people who might listen and actually be interested, I decided to enter the blogging game. I guess the general direction of this blog will be the things in life I find important (family, friends, living out my faith, the arts, music) and the things I think about (faith, religion, the arts, life itself, modern culture).

To the extent that there is any discussion, it MUST remain open and non-combative. This is not the forum to spew hate and intolerance. Open your mind, listen and learn! What you'll experience is a glimpse into the life of someone who holds a different viewpoint -- maybe it'll change you, maybe it'll solidify your own beliefs. Either way, you'll learn something. I've discovered that there is a beauty in life when you realize that maybe you don't have it all figured out like you once thought you did. The growth and freedom that comes from this realization will make you a more relevant citizen of this World.

Let the blogging begin...