Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Reflections on Reality TV

I remember when the first Real World came out and everybody under 25 was glued to that little show (at least it seemed like it to me). They were living in a real apartment that wasn't glitzy or glamorous. They were ordinary people who acted like normal people since the reality boom hadn't yet occurred. Then the boom hit and now you can watch reality TV 24/7. You can watch the Real World 72 or The Hills or Jon and Kate; pick your demographic they've got one for you. And by way of disclaimer and honesty I have to admit that I watch The Deadliest Catch every Tuesday without fail, although I soothe my conscience by telling myself that its OK because its educational reality TV.

I understand why TV channels like reality TV, its really cheap and it gets good ratings. But what is the appeal for all of us, I mean why do these shows get such good ratings. I have some hunches but they're probably not worth sharing. And what I want to avoid is a blanket condemnation of all reality TV (c'mon then I would have to give up The Deadliest Catch). But what I would like to share are some of my concerns about reality shows, and encourage us all to be more discerning about such entertainment. Now if anybody is actually reading then I have a job for you, if you can think of any positives that come from watching reality TV then I want you to share those in the comments section. Now in no particular order whatsoever here are my concerns.

- Much of reality TV appeals to our lower natures, you can see this in the sensuality that is portrayed, the skimpy clothing etc. I mean c'mon how bad is it when Bret Michaels quits his show because its gone too far.

- We become what we behold. And if we are viewing sensuality constantly we are going to become more sensual people. If we are viewing trivial nonsense constantly then we are going to become trivial people.

- We end up watching life instead of living it.

- It can create snobbishness. We watch to feel better about ourselves because these people are so awful or something like that.

- It can debase people. Much of it dehumanizing, turning people into objects, or using them, stripping them of their dignity.

- We can learn to laugh at people. We are called in the Word to love and encourage and build up, whereas reality shows teach us to laugh at people's stupidity or their misfortunes. We learn to enjoy the humiliation of others instead of mourning with them.

- We can learn to be critical people. Instead of learning to show grace and mercy, to react with understanding, we learn to tear people down and nitpick everyone.

- Reality shows often feed the wrong hungers. What we see in many of these shows are people who are desperate to be famous, many are even willing to settle for being notorious. These are not things that we should be hungry for, we should be hungry to bring glory to God, to know Jesus, to grow in holiness, or be faithful witnesses. It is difficult to imagine how reality TV feed these appropriate hungers.

- Most reality TV doesn't inspire the way a great novel or even movie can. I have trouble imagining the Hills or the Real Housewives of Omaha inspiring anyone to be sacrificial or courageous.

All right those are some of my concerns, I may have revealed some of my own snobbishness here, or maybe I am just hopelessly clueless or out of touch. Now remember you have a job, if you think I have missed the boat or if there are counterbalancing positives then you are going to have to convince me in the comments. Thanks to all who comment.

PS - My wife and I are disagreeing on whether Dirty Jobs is a reality show, if she's right that it is, then I watch two.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wednesday's Quotes

This time I want to share with you some of my favorite quotes from David Wells book, The Courage to be Protestant.

When our knowledge of God's truth is diminished, our understanding of God is diminished, and no amount of contrived mystery through ancient liturgies or gathering in the presence of dim, flickering candlelight can compensate for this loss. (from page 18)

I therefore think of myself as Reformational in the sense that I affirm its solas: in Scripture alone is God's authoritative truth found, it is by Grace alone that we are saved, and this salvation is received through faith alone. Only after each of these affirmations is made can we say that salvation from start to finish is to the glory of God alone. (page 21)

Many other factors have no doubt affected our changing internal landscape. But the key factors are undoubtedly that we have been disconnected from place, from family, from the past, and from an external God who has the power to reach into our lives and pull them around. But consuming has affected us, too. What we do as practiced consumers is to make daily inventories of our needs and how they might have changed. As I will suggest, it is probably our constant consuming with the constant choosing and reevaluating that it requires, that has strengthened the relativism that now ripples through all of our live making the very idea of a truth that is fixed and unchanging seem strange. (page 70)

There will certainly be more from Wells.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Reflecting on Bradley’s Flyboys

I started this book with great excitement. Flags of our Fathers was one of my most enjoyable reads and finding that there was a sequel of sorts in this book I hurriedly got a copy. But the excitement turned to confusion. Then confusion turned to suspicion. The opening chapters turned back the clock of history and exposed some arrogant actions of our nation and he appeared to be blaming the US for the actions of WWII Japan. I began to fear that I had gotten another piece of elitist US bashing. You know the kind, they are ashamed to be American and spend most of their time talking about how backward and arrogant the US is (do you ever wonder why they don’t just move to France). As the book progressed I came to see that Bradley had other intentions for including the bits he did.

The arrogant act of driving our warships down Tokyo Bay had consequences beyond intimidating the Japanese. Japan came to see that they would have to change to keep up with the world, while not blaming the US it is clear that our actions contributed to Japans need to enter the modern world. Bradley carefully never blames the US for the twisted form of Bushido that was used to brainwash an entire generation, but our nation certainly had a role to play. Now at the time Commodore Perry had no idea what would come of his actions yet there were consequences. There are always consequences to our actions, small and large and we cannot easily escape them as I wished throughout the reading of this book. I wanted the US to be a spotless bastion of Democratic glory yet we came out spotted and our actions had many unforeseen negative consequences.

I have heard war described as an inhuman thing. This is certainly true. The very act of fighting a war, of taking human lives is goes beyond the pale of what we would allow in our everyday lives. The taking of life even accidently or innocently is regarded with horror, but it is the business of war, an inhuman thing without doubt. But what I learned in this book was that it also makes those who participate less than human. There are reports throughout the book about the Japanese soldiers torturing, beheading, and even cannibalizing captured soldiers (they were systematically dehumanized because their leaders believed it would make them better soldiers). But what I found most shocking was the reports of Americans who strafed schoolyards killing children. American pilots firing on fishing boats while returning or even shooting Japanese pilots as they were parachuting to the ground. I thought that Americans would be different since we were bound be Geneva conventions and had been raised in a society shaped by a Judeo-Christian worldview. Yet this inhuman thing called war turned young men into beings less than human at least for a time.

I learned a great deal in this book about our history, about the history of the pacific theatre of WWII. I also very surprisingly learned a great deal about the nature of war and its effects on people. I also learned a great deal about how far we can sink even though we are made in the image of God. But the lasting effect on me has nothing to do with American history; an old hunger was given a new dimension. The hunger for the return of Christ now has a new wrinkle for me. Because after Christ returns I will have no sin left to create horrific consequences, there will be no more war to take lives or deaden our hearts and make us less than we are even by nature. Let us long for the new world that Jesus will reign over where there will be true and lasting peace.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

"The New Testament portrays the ‘Christ event’, which happened two thousand years ago as the finished, perfect work of God for the salvation of all his people, both Jew and Gentile. The Gospel - the first coming of Christ - wins for believers all the riches of glory. The acceptance of the believer with God is perfect the moment he believes because Christ and his work are perfect. The status of the believer can never be improved upon - he possesses all the riches of Christ. There is nothing the believer will possess in glory that he does not now possess in Christ. All this he possesses by faith, but that it is by faith does not make it any less real."

Graeme Goldsworthy, The Goldsworthy Trilogy, 119.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Sermon Outline - Taking Aim at the Manifesto

- A young boy told his dad that he wanted a tree house in the backyard, so the dad remembering all the fun he had in his tree house goes and buys a bunch of wood. He returns to the backyard and with his mental image of what his sons tree house will look like, gets after it cutting wood and hammering and about halfway through things stopped working, boards had been cut too short and things just weren’t fitting together.
- The dad had the right motive, had a great goal in mind but he went about it the wrong way, we need right motives and great goals, but we also need to go about achieving our goals in the right way. This is what we are going to talk about tonight - how to go about achieving our manifesto.

Pursue in the Lords Strength
- If we try to achieve the manifesto in our own strength we are doomed to failure.
- So what are we to do, in light of our weakness and our dreams, what are we to do, where are to turn. The answer is to go to one who is strong.
- Read - Ephes. 6:10-12
- If we are to be strong we must find our strength in the Lord and His might.
- Paul also points to another complication - we have enemies. Not just a demanding task, but we have enemies. Paul says that we do not wrestle with flesh and blood but against the evil spiritual rulers in the heavenly places. He even calls our world, this present darkness.
- Facing this enemy we are utterly powerless.
- But there is hope, Paul says that if we take the armor of God we can stand firm
- Read - Ephes. 6:13
- So if we want to achieve our goals, if we want to be the church God wants us to be we must fight in full dependence on God’s power.
Illus - In Itasca Texas before WW2 there was a school fire that killed 263 kids, so they built a world-class sprinkler system, nothing like it had been in Texas before, then seven years later they were working on the grounds and discovered that the sprinkler system had never been connected to the water supply, it would have done nothing to the fire.

Pursue for God’s Glory
- Read - 1 Cor. 10:31
- If we pursue this manifesto for the purpose of having a great church that we can be proud of, or be proud to be a part of, or of being able to hear people say great things about that Baptist church on Big Creek, then we are not taking aim aright.
- What we must truly want is to be this kind of church and these kind of people so that we can better glorify God, if we have any other goal we will miss the mark. And we will be disobedient and unfaithful.
- But if our desire truly is to become a healthy spiritually mature, ministering, missionary church then we will be better able to accomplish His purposes, better able to honor Him before the watching eyes of our community.
- But we must decide now what we are aiming at.
- So what we must decide is that we want to be these things so that God is praised for what He has done

Pursue by Faith
- Mark 6:4-6 - Jesus in His hometown
- Mark 10:46-52 - the healing of Blind Bartimaeus
- The principle we see here in these two passages is that it is faith that opens the floodgate of God’s power and blessing.
- Recently we have seen water leave its normal channel - but God’s power and blessing rarely leave this channel - faith.
- So as we pursue our manifesto let us do it with the firm conviction of faith that God can and will bless us - let us come expectantly - trusting that we will see the Lord do amazing thing in our midst.

Pursue the Motive of Love
- Read - Matthew 22:37-40
- As we seek to grow spiritually mature our motive must be love for God - we want to be like Jesus because we love God and want to please Him above all else
- As we seek to minister to our brothers and sisters in Christ we must do so with the motive of love for them - to see what all God would do in their lives.
- If we are to be missionaries in our community then it must be with the motive of love - that we love people so much that we get out of our comfort zones and tell them the Good News.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Learning from Lebron

After game 6 of the eastern conference finals when his Cleveland Cavaliers had just been knocked out of the playoffs Lebron James left the court without shaking hands with any of the Orlando Magic players. Not even his Olympic team friend Dwight Howard. Then he skipped his post game press conference.

So on all the Monday sports talk shows he was roundly criticized for that behavior. Some said that it was simply unsportsmanlike behavior. Others said that it was poor leadership, that if he is going to be the face and leader of that that team he cannot leave his teammates hanging like that. But the criticism that stuck out to me was when one analyst said that we are not judged by how we respond to victory but rather in how we respond to failure. I found this to be terribly profound in a way that transcends the sports world.

As Christians we begin the Christian life acknowledging that we are failures and we need God to come and save us because we cannot do it ourselves. But we then we often struggle with subsequent failure. So how are we to respond to our times of failure.

I think first this means repentance. When we blow it in an area of sin we must immediately renew our repentance. We confess our sin, plead the blood of Christ, and begin fighting sin again. But also I think we must make these teaching moments. What exactly did I do wrong, what could have been done to change the outcome, how can I do better next time? We must learn from our mistakes. This is part of God’s promise to bring good out of all things, if we respond better to trials next time because we learned from failure this time, then certainly God has brought good out of it. So let us learn from our mistakes.

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

"But we also need to be reminded of the relationship of God's word to the reasoning of man the creature about what is true - one does not take a pocket flashlight and shine it on the sun to see if the sun is real! The truth of God's word cannot be subjected to the puny light of man's self-centered reason."

Graeme Goldsworthy, The Goldsworthy Trilogy, 59.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sermon Outline - The Destination Manifesto

- In 1972 Yogi Berra was on the way to the Baseball Hall of Fame, his wife and three of his sons were in the car with him. And somehow he managed to get lost and they all started giving him a hard time, and here is how he responded, “we’re lost but we’re making good time!”
- Obviously it does no good to make good time when you don’t know your destination.
- Yet this is how many churches live - we make sure we’re busy doing all kinds of good things but there is no plan, no destination. So we are never able to know if we’re going in the right direction or if we’re really accomplishing our calling.
- So my goal today is to share with you what my conviction is in regards to our destination. What I think we should be heading toward.
- In the broadest sense we are called to grow into a healthy church. And I think this means that if we are spiritually healthy we will be spiritually mature, we will be ministering to one another, and we will be a missionary church.
- Yet if this is to be true of us as a church it must first be true of as individuals, so our destination is a church where every member is mature, every member is a minister, and every member is a missionary.

Every Member Mature - Romans 8:29
- There is simply no getting around the truth that it is God’s plan that we are to conformed to Christ’s image - The calling of every Christian is to be like Jesus.
- What does it mean for us to be like Jesus - I think this means a lot of things, such as sacrifice, or love, but I think the dominant idea is that of holiness and devotion to the Father.
- This is the goal we are aiming at - we must keep this goal in mind so that it can guide us in our decision making.
- We keep Jesus’ holiness as a mental image always in our minds and then when each decision comes we must decide what will help me become more like Jesus and what will lead me away.
- So you see we are not just deciding between good and evil things, but more often between the good and the best.
- So must set our priorities and stick to them - not legalistically but with the hope of becoming like Jesus.
- We need to make investments toward mature Christ-likeness - primarily this means a commitment to the Word, to Prayer, and to the church.
- These are continual investments we must make.
- And there are always excuses about why we are not doing what we should be doing, I’ve been a Pastor long enough now to see them for what they are - excuses.
- We must invest in Christ-likeness, so make a time daily to read the word and pray and let nothing keep you from it, commit to not only coming to church but getting involved in the life of the church, if you do not do these things, you will never be Christ-like.

Every Member a Minister - Ephes. 4:12
- Look carefully at who is doing what - the pastors and teachers are doing the equipping.
- Now look at who is doing the work of the ministry - the saints. Now these are not the ones in New Orleans or the even the really super spiritual people - every Child of God is a saint.
- So we are all called to do the work of the ministry - its not just for me and the deacons.
- So what does this mean - here in Eph 4 the target is the building up of the body of Christ, this means that we must be investing in our fellow Christians.
- Lets look at Acts for a moment to see what that looks like.
- They were giving to the poor Christians
- They were taking care of the widows and orphans
- They were caring for one another
- We are called to a similar concern for our fellow church members

Every Member a Missionary - Acts 1:8
- Who is the mission for - the disciples only - certainly not, the call is too big.
- Well how about church leaders then - not only does he not say this but once again the call is too big
- Well who then is it for - it is for all Christians - look at who gets the Holy Spirit and for what reason - all those who receive the Spirit are called to be witnesses - which means that every blood bought child of God is called to be a witness.
- It also means that everyone of us is a missionary - you just didn’t know it. We are all called to be witnesses in our location, sometimes calls us to leave our locations and go to new locations - but the call is still the same - be a witness where you are.
- This will change how we live - if we wake everyday and realize that we have been called to be a witness for Jesus that day, well that will change how we talk over the water cooler, how we conduct ourselves on breaks or at the store.
- The question is not whether we are missionaries or not, but rather whether we are good missionaries or not.

- A boy went out to his backyard with his bow and arrow and began firing arrows but it looked strange to his dad from the window. So he went out to see what the boy was doing. He would fire an arrow and then go draw a bull’s-eye around where it landed.
- He never missed.
- Unlike the little boy we now have a target, we know what we are aiming at, so lets take aim and strive with all that we are and become the Church and Christians that we are called to be.
- So everyday we need to get up and preach to ourselves - today I must invest in maturity, today I must be a minister, today I must be a missionary. If we do not do this we will never be the church we are called to be, never reach our destination.

Monday, June 1, 2009

McCullough's Adams

I just finished David McCullough's John Adams, and it was an awesome read. I've been a book nerd my whole life and this was one of the best reads of my life. Despite the fact that it was huge and its sheer mass will turn some readers away, it more than repays those who are willing to invest the time in reading it.

Now I am personally convinced (after only reading this and 1776) that McCullough is one of our greatest living writers and I intend to real all of his books and I wish that he could live to three hundred and write a biography of every president and a history of every American war.

I want to point to two strengths of this book and McCullough in general. After reading this book I feel like I really know Adams. This is incredibly difficult for a writer to pull off. I have only really experienced this a few times and I read a lot of biographies, the only book comparable off the top of my head is George Marsden's biography of Jonathan Edwards. And I think that this is because McCullough is such a keen student of human nature and has the rare ability to communicate that understanding.

Second I loved that I was able to see Adams in all his human glory and shame. Unlike the presidential bio's I adored as a kid that presented the presidents as flawless heroes, here we see Adams as both vain and ambitious and simultaneously heroically sacrificial and loving and kind. This is something that we must always remember even our heroes are flawed fallen humans. This is very much in line with the Bible's presentation of man as both made in the image of God and as fallen sinner. Thank you Mr. McCullough.

PS - if there is a David McCullough fan club I would join it.