Friday, July 25, 2008

What I learned from The Dark Knight (non-spoiler edition)

Like so many others before me, I thought of the Jersey shore during Batman: The Dark Knight. One of the movie’s major themes is that evil fights hardest after it’s been challenged. The moment you try to bury it, evil shifts into a new gear that’s more intense than ever. Noticing this, I thought of the Jersey shore –

See, I was at my parents’ beach house in Brigantine a couple weeks back. Rinsing the sand off my feet, I for the millionth time noticed the difference between the white sand (which comes off really easy) and the black sand (which has to be scrubbed off and sometimes doesn’t rinse off at all). Something hit more during this rinse off: the sand was like sin. The white sand is the sin you can clean up just by adding a little focus and prayer to your life. But the black sand…this is the sin that cuts deep. This is the stubborn sin, the kind to which you have to pay complete attention. You have to meditate on it, pray about it, work with your Christian brothers and sisters to hold you accountable. It’s not going to easily go away.

I think that’s what I saw in Batman. Without giving much away, I’ll tell you that the good guys thought evil would vanish away like white sand: it’s gone after a light brushing or a quick rinse. Turns out it they were dealing with black sand, that deep-seeded stuff that won’t go away without extreme effort. Oh, but when it does disappear…that’s the best thing ever. Evil can fight back harder than ever but what’s worth noting is that good is stronger than evil. You just have to be obedient and have faith in that. As it says in James 4:7, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

Let’s make that devil flee today!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Quote to start your week

From Free Byrd, a wonderful book I've just begun reading:
The truth is, my love was considered so valuable by God that he gave his Little Boy over to a torturous death in hopes of getting a little back from me. A friend once told me that if I were the only sinner on the planet God would still have sent his son down here for me in order that I might come home to him one day. (p. 20)
More to this book

I just need to know

Let's say you're seated in the middle of the row.
Let's say you wish to get up to take communion.
Let's say you wait until the second song to do this.
Let's say the two girls next to you are thick in eyes closed, exalted arms raised worship...

What's the procedure here? Are you supposed to tap them on the shoulder, break their meditation and ask to be let out? Slide by them without touching? Hop down two rows -- not an easy task -- so as to avoid disturbing them?

These are the things I wonder about.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Does this man look like God to you?

My feeling is that, whether they realize it or not, people want God in their life. They want someone to point them in the right direction. Problem is, people also want the glory seized from having gone in said right direction.

Take what happens to this guy Matthew Berry, for instance. He writes a column on in which he advises people on what players to start, sit, pick up, trade for, etc in fantasy sports. For the unaware, “fantasy sports” are those in which regular people – myself, your Spanish teacher, whomever – draft real life players to compete against each other in a variety of statistical categories. As dull as that may sound on paper, people get really into it. Your fantasy team becomes a major source of conversation and, for a disturbing percentage of the population, it’s even an impetus for bragging rights. Hey, whatever works for ya.

Anyway, Matthew Berry – or “The Talented Mr. Roto”, as he’s apt to call himself – will occasionally publish letters from his readers. Typically there will be a few people blaming Berry for that week’s fantasy league loss. “Why did you tell me to trade for Carl Crawford? You’re such an idiot. How did you get this job anyway?” and that sort of thing.

You’ll probably notice this phenomena in other walks of life as well – blaming Clark Kellogg for erroneous NCAA Tournament picks, wanting to wring Jim Cramer’s neck for a stock suggestion gone awry. Had the result been in their favor, somehow I doubt the blamer would credit Berry or Kellogg or Cramer. In that case, of course, they would accept the glory sans reference to their advisor. I’ve seen it a million times. People talk about winning a fantasy league when all “they” did was follow the advice of some internet writer.

I think that anyone falling into this category secretly wants to believe in our God. They all want someone who will provide guidance through life, someone to follow. They don’t necessarily want to do a lot of independent thought – just someone, someone please tell me what to do! I don’t want to have to think for myself!

It's like the dog thing all over again: people will thrash about looking for answers, they'll ask their friends, Wikipedia, whatever. But the real peace is only through the Lord...and knowing that is pretty much the best feeling of all.

(and my guess is that, if He really wanted to, He would help you with your fantasy football team as well)

A little preposition goes a long way

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Notice it's not just believing Him -- it's believing IN Him? Demons, satan...they believe He's the son of God as well. It's the fact that we believe IN Him that matters.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Unskinny bop

In 10th grade I liked the song “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” so much that I worked its lyrics into an English paper. Having read today where the lead guitarist has since become a Christian, it’s reminding me that the song’s title is also about the problem of man.

(that was Poison...right?)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Another dog/person comparison

My dog Foster was a restless puppy. Actually, “restless” doesn’t cover it. He regularly jumped on the dinner table. He attacked lawn mowers, slippers and vacuum cleaners as if they were satanic objects. He was probably the only dog ever banned from the Springfield Township Dog Hotel. Eventually it reached the point where we had to take him to a trainer.

From the beginning, I felt badly for Foster. Whereas he’d had free reign over the house, the second the obedience trainer opened the door it was a brand new ballgame. The second he jumped on the table, a Coke can filled with coins went flying his direction. Attempted vacuum cleaner murder resulted in him being yanked backwards by his choke chain. Watching “obedience school” was like watching torture.

My family expressed concern about this torture effect. What the trainer said stuck with me. Left pseudo-trained, Foster was going to be restless for the rest of his life. Providing him with training, calling him towards obedience – this was the only way he would ever be at peace.

You can probably see where I’m going with this.

It strikes me that this same advice applies to our relationship with the Lord. He will allow us to thrash around and waste energy fighting unimportant battles. Some of us will go our whole lives doing that sort of thing. The only way we’ll ever reach a genuine level of peace – of freedom from disturbance – is to be obedient to what He tells us to do. After all, “The mind of the sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the spirit is life and peace.”

Saturday, July 5, 2008

"I need you so much closer"

One of my favorite things in the world (along with outdoor naps) is when you've heard a song a million times,
And you love it,
And you think you get its meaning,
And then you hear it one day with an even deeper meaning.

Case in point:
Death Cab's "Transantlanticism", specifically the chorus --
I need you so much closer
I need you so much closer
I need you so much closer
I need you so much close-er

So come o-o-o-on
So come o-o-o-on
I need you so much closer. I need God so much closer. Maybe not what Ben Gibbard was writing about. Certainly what I think about now.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

I'm down with this

My very first week (or possibly my very second week...kinda can't remember) at Imago featured a speaker named Shane Claiborne. As he lived in Philadelphia -- my original hometown, even if I more readily identify with Boston -- I talked to him after the service, asked where he was trying to make a difference, etc.

I've seen Shane's name pop up here and there over the past two and a half years and just yesterday found him on endorsing Jesus for President. Czech it out here. My favorite excerpt:
"This is not about going left or right, this is about going deeper and trying to understand together. Rather than endorse candidates, we ask them to endorse what is at the heart of Jesus and that is the poor or the peacemakers and when we see that then we'll get behind them."

Claiborne says the movement of younger evangelicals is growing and looking at the Bible in more holistic terms. He is quick to say the call of Christ has more to do with how people live their lives on November 3 and 5 than how they vote on November 4.