Monday, December 16, 2013

I Wonder if You Remember Me

You may never realize the impact you have on someone else.


Dr. Craig,

I wonder if you remember me. I was the dorky looking fellow hoisting about the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology at the Xenos Center in Columbus, Ohio July 10 and July 11 of 2013. I asked you four questions over the course of those two days: one regarding the ontological argument, one regarding the contingency argument, one regarding the kalamcosmological argument, and one regarding God’s relation to the Good. You answered them masterfully. I regret only that I did not get to thank you for the meteoric influence you have had in my life. If you receive and read this, please let me know or have someone let me know.

Below reads my testimonial. You can publish it if you like. All that matters to me, however, is that you read it.

I

“Misery” is a unique variety of suffering to truly observe, and so I naturally remember the first time I witnessed it. During my second week of college my Catholic roommate and my “progressive” roommate had a brief discussion:

“So how do you feel about abortion?” the “progressive” inquired.

“I’m Catholic, so I don’t really support it.”

The “progressive” allowed a snide laugh.

“You actually believe in that stuff? God and all that? Ha! Oh wait, I’ll just stop now.”

The energy seemed to flush from the Catholic, and his face withered into something I can only describe as sharp, desperate misery.

My third roommate was also Catholic. He began to party with the “progressive.” One night a Catholic girl across the hall dragged his drunken form to our toilet so he could commence vomiting. A week later the girl asked whether he believed in God:

“No.”

“What? Why not?”

“I don’t know. There’s just no reason to.”

A week later, he fell into depression.

I met the first Catholic (the “miserable” one) a year later for lunch. He was struggling ceaselessly with anxiety and despondency. He told me that he had become a resolute atheist. He asked me what I thought about God:

“I’m an agnostic,” I allowed tepidly.

“Why?”

“I haven’t found any good reason yet to believe it.”

“No, I mean, why not a full-blooded atheist?”

“I imagine there are probably some persuasive scholars on the theistic side.”

“Like who?”

“Swinburne… uh, and… what’s his name? Will Craig Lane [sic], I’ve heard he has some good—“

The newfound “full-blooded” atheist wrenched his face up with disgust.

“Craig?”

“Yeah.”

“Stay away from that guy.”

And I did.

II

My professors adored me and divined that I would become a prodigious historian. I was not happy like I was as a young Catholic, but my skeptical reductionism had yielded for me success as an alienated, but thorough scholar. CNN, my professors, Nietzsche, Foucault, and popular cinema crushed my theistic intuitions into uncertain wisps of memory, and so I resolved to put the idea of God “on hold.” God became something of a curious amusement for me, a petrified abstraction among many, an unexamined metaphysical insight at best and a social pathology at worst. I was happy to evacuate such a peculiar bourgeois artifact from my past and hang it on the mantle. After all, according to three “basic” philosophy texts that I had read, metaphysics had become antiquated after the advance of science and God had been retired; Paul Tillach, it seemed, would be your best and only bet if you were interested in God.

And oh how my despair amused me! My past harassed me endlessly with whispers of intelligibility and meaning I knew could never resolve, the present lurched in and out of focus like oppressive geometry, and the future grew dark and arid with disease and death. I became violently sick often and would roam about sleepless for days.

“I’m just like Raskolnikov!” I mused feebly, “How modern! Or perhaps post-modern… no,existential is a safe bet...”

Three elements palliated this state of affairs: (1) A brief passage about Plantinga’s ontological argument in a small philosophy textbook that my sister bought me. (2) Someone lending me The Brothers Karamazov. (3) You, above all.

III

Little by little I began to analyze the question that I had indefinitely placed “on hold.” I began with Theism and Atheism of the Great Debates in Philosophy series (Jack Smart v. J. J. Haldane), but upon taking extensive notes, I scored the debate a draw. I then started watching online segments of Lawrence Kuhn’s Closer to Truth after work, but Kuhn always managed to neutralize the theists’ arguments. One night, I thought I would watch Kuhn interrogate that Craig character just to see how much of a charlatan he was. You defied all of my expectations. Not only did you manage to answer all of his questions exhaustively and tersely, but you anticipated his objections and actually rendered him speechless after you exposited the advent of Borde-Guth-Vilenkin. Speechless! I had never seen that before. You even seemed to urge him forward a bit out of pity (“… Well, it’s by no means an open and shut case,” you offered). I watched several more of your segments, and though I was not convinced of theism, I determined who could convince me of it if it was at all possible.

I consulted a blog entitled “Common Sense Atheism” that appraised you as the victor of every debate you had ever had about God (two other atheist blogs grudgingly admitted the same). The atheist blogger said that there were only seven debates that you may have lost: those against Sinnott-Armstrong in the book God?, Dacey, Stenger, Parsons, Kagan, Bradley, and Tobash. I bought the book God? and watched all but the Bradley and Tobash debates. Of these, the best debate indeed occurred in God?, and after extensive note-taking, I scored you the winner. I resisted the conclusion, as I figured I had not yet seen the best that the atheists had to offer and I scored you low on the Resurrection argument. For some reason, however, I couldn’t stay away; I watched you eviscerate Erhman, Hitchens, Harris, and Law. As my first year of graduate school wore on, I became a masterful debater and a concise presenter, for which I gained a considerable reputation. None of the “progressives,” self-proclaimed “anarchists,” or atheists suspected that a dreaded theist had conferred such skills to me!

I was confident Rosenberg would finally end your streak on February 1, as I heard he had been meticulously studying your tactics. I watched in shock as he immediately resorted toad hominem (he claimed you “do not listen” and always use the same arguments, despite the fact that you were using two new arguments, and then attacked the debate format as too “adversarial” to be productive), then brandished the old “uranium decay” and “Euthyphro” objections without at least acknowledging that you had addressed them before. My scoring system favored you in a landslide victory. I became a deist.

“It’s possible I could be a Christian,” I ruminated, “but it will take several years of extensive reading at least. I probably won’t convert, but at least the option is faintly open.”

IV

On May 4, 2013 at 4:00 AM, I became a Christian. I do not know how to properly articulate what happened to me. I was working on my cultural anthropology readings when I felt a tide of realization. But it was not simply a realization; the intuition pulsed so strongly that it hatched into an encounter. Jesus reached out to me, and I could not contain my emotion. I never had believed such a thing would happen to me, and when others recounted such events, I felt nothing but incredulity. And there I was, finally reunited with the God I had spurned so bitterly nearly five years ago.

I attend graduate school in southern California. I called my Mom to tell her the good news. She recommended that she and I attend a Xenos apologetics event with her coworker (who is a member of that fellowship) during my Summer Break in Ohio. I vaguely alluded to you at the mention of apologetics, and my mom asked what your name was.

“William Lane Craig.”

“Okay.”

“If I am ever on my death bed, and I can Skype with one person, that is the person with whom I would like to speak.”

“Hm.”

And by complete coincidence you came to that conference during my brief stay in Columbus, Ohio.

And I never thanked you.

Thank you.

V

I hope someday I can meet you in person again. Until then, this is all I can offer you as an article of my gratitude. I hope that you have learned something new about the secular pressures we have to endure as young Westerners, and how consistently and grievously they rupture our lives. My story also yields some insights into the importance of the internet in reaching younger people, other skills one can adopt from observing your debates, and how one atheist can effortlessly de-convert any theist when the latter lacks good reasons to justify his belief.

I know I am not a good person. Like that peasant woman in Aloysha’s parable, I have so few onions to grasp on my precarious ascent toward salvation, if any at all. But there is time yet, and I have such an honorable model in you.

I know I owe Christ for hatching my heart, but I owe you for exacting the first crack in the shell.

Thank you again,

--Kyle

Friday, December 13, 2013

A DELIVERER II | Super Inc. Cinema



Previously on Super Inc. Cinema:

Like Darcy must have felt in the scene above, the Israelites just got dumped on. They were left drenched, out in the rain, no longer the apple of their Creator's eye.

In the same way, we tend to find ourselves lacking. We turn away from God, never as committed or whole-heartedly following Him as we should be. Sin has its way with us far too often. Can He ever forgive us? This isn't the end.

TO BE CONTINUED....... NOW:

As the scene continues, the rain lets up. It is no longer Darcy who is center screen, but the true female lead, the romantic interest, the heart of the god. We may realize that is actually who Israel has been this entire time: The heart of God.

Of course, He forgives her. He has longed for her, waited for her, and cared for her more than she could ever know. But, before we get there, let's look at her reaction.

"Sorry, I just... needed to make sure you were real."

The first interaction isn't a cliche rush into each others arms or an "awww"-inspiring kiss... It's a slap in the face. Something similar soon happens with the judges of Israel:

While Israel was in "terrible distress," the Lord "raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them." He loved them and had pity on them. "Yet they did not listen to their judges." That's a slap in the face. "They [continuously] whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the Lord..."

The same story continues through-out the book of Judges. "Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge... But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways..."

The point that the clip makes, "I just... needed to make sure you were real" becomes two-fold.

Whether or not it crossed the Israelites' minds, it is easy to wonder in modern culture of the authenticity of God. It is evident that he acts sustaining, preserving, and caring for us in our every-day lives. But, it is easy to neglect, to over-look, to ignore... the past cultural belief (of the Middle Ages) that every action was either inspired by God or demon-directed... Now, it just happens. Foundationally, we cannot see the spiritual world. And, so, we tend to hide it away from our daily thoughts. How can we even know He's real?

I'm sure past theologians such as Augustine or philosophers like Descartes would retort, "How can't we?" Foundationally, to be able to trust our own thoughts and senses must come from a trust (or faith) in something bigger than ourselves... something good that would not try to trick us or force us into living a life of lies. This good being may also reveal himself to us, perhaps to share with us something as simply complex as who He is. This being would be God (necessarily limitless, eternal, and all-powerful). This revelation then, is Christ, the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.

The second fold of this test of God... to make sure He is real... would be, for the Israelites as well as us, to see if he really meant what he had said. We obey Him when it is convenient. But, it is just too easy to go back into sin, to fall away, to see if He would really deliver a punishment to those He deeply loves...

In my train of thinking, I can't imagine how He could afford not to deliver a punishment out of love (at least in Israel's case). You see, the Israelite's slap the face of God again and again. He delivers them and they run away. He delivers them, they run away. He delivers them... you get the idea. But, the reason why he chose to deliver them had always been, "The people of Israel cried out to the Lord." And, the reason the people of Israel had cried out to the Lord was because of their oppression... His punishment.

That was the way He had brought them back to Him.

I'm not saying that you should go around punishing people because you love them. That doesn't work for us. We don't need another human for constant sustenance, provision, and care... The surplus of divorces prove the fact that in our culture, we'd rather put off abusive or neglected relationships than try to work through them... But, God punished Israel because there is no way around acknowledging the fact that we do need Him. He knew that they would constantly call back to Him.

 "Where were you?!?"

After their cry, He delivers them. He is with the judge who defeats the oppressor. The same thing had happened in Egypt with Moses. And, the same thing happened generations later with the birth of Christ. And, in this season of Advent, not only do we remember and wait for the celebration of His birth, but we also remember and wait for his return. We cry out, Where are you?!? And, I hope that we know Him well enough and trust in Him deep enough... building a relationship with him and basking in His presence at the Sacraments so much... feeding and clothing and caring for each other so much... that he does not answer with:


"Where were you?"

It is not our own works, will, or even spirit that saves us. Christ alone is victor. But, he teaches us to continue to learn and grow with Him.

CONTINUED IN DELIVERER III

For this Advent season, the Super Inc. Devotions will be set up a little bit differently... If you really want to, you can follow along, the passages used today are from Judges 2-3.

More of the same clip will be played next week as the story continues. But, for now, our Advent prayer is the same as the intro song by Daniel Vang:




Saturday, December 7, 2013

The "Code-X Translator" | A Next Wave Translation Device



The basic idea for the "Code-X Translator" would be to have a camera on the front of the device good enough to focus on the stream of letters (word) in the center of the camera's focus. It would then be able to show the translation in the chosen language on the other side of the device (screen) along with suggested definitions and parsing (with the push of a button).

In design, it should be monocle shaped and look a lot like a magnifying glass. In theory, one should be able to roll the device across the page and regardless of which direction is facing up, the screen should be able to have the definition/parsing displayed in the same direction on the screen.

Once the program is made, it would be pretty easy to make into an App for other devices. While, the Code-X monocle would still be available perhaps with a variety of dictionaries/languages/translations already installed. Part of the aesthetic quality of this device would make it appear as if one is just looking through a lens, when in reality it is a screen.

PLEASE, TAKE THIS IDEA (GIVE ME A FREE ONE) AND GET RICH OFF OF THE COPYRIGHT.


Friday, December 6, 2013

He Gave His One and Only Son | Forward in Christ

"'And what do you want for Christmas, little boy?' the mall Santa asked the seven-year old.

The boy answered, 'I would like two footballs, two remote control cars, and two video game systems.'

'Well,' replied Santa, 'that certainly is a tall order to fill. Do you mind telling me why you want two of everything?'

The little boy answered without hesitation, 'So I can share.'

Before we get halfway through our 'Awww,' it dawns on us that this little guy's response is not heartwarming. He wants two of everything so that it will be easy for him to share, so that his giving won't have to involve painful sacrifice.

WE FAIL TO GIVE GOD OUR ALL

Are you congratulating yourself on your holiday generosity? Before you get too far, it might be good to ask, 'Is my giving not just now but all year round--whether it is giving money, help, time, attention, or support? Or is it too often limited to what is easy, reasonable, and convenient?

Does God get all of me--all my love, devotion, and trust? Or have I acted like there are two of me so I can cater to myself and still congratulate myself for giving God a part of me now and then?'

We uncover a fundamental failure. We think if we give some of ourselves away to others or God, we deserve God's praise. But the truth is that we don't deserve his praise for our love. We deserve his punishment for our failure to love him and others as we should, and we desperately need him to rescue us...

GOD GAVE US EVERYTHING

That is what we are celebrating this season: that God loved us and came to our rescue.

But this is what makes us catch our breath: He didn't have two sons to give for oursalvation--he only had one. He only had one Son to send from his side in heaven to earth. One Son to make vulnerable to weakness and pain in a human body. One Son to run through the gamut of trials and temptations that is life on earth. One Son to give to beating, scourging, and the nails of the cross. One Son to crush under his wrath.

He had only one Son to give for you.

And yet, entirely without compulsion or obligation, in full knowledge of how costly and painful the sacrifice would be and even how often you and I would return such wondrous love with such shallow love, 'God so loved the world [he so loved you] that he gave his one and only Son...'

... Can you think of anything better to do with your one life than to give it cheerfully and entirely to your God and to others in love for him who sent his one and only Son to be your Savior?"

--- Pastor Norman F. Burger, Lansing, MI

Found in Forward in Christ, ------CHECK IT OUT!!!!!----

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A DELIVERER | Super Inc. Cinema



The first six books of the Bible talk about who God is and who we are... Our Fall and need for salvation along with His promises and grace towards us. These books describe the journey from the dawn of time in a perfect land through the the enslavement of sin and the entrapment of Egypt, climatically ending in the fulfillment of God's promise to deliver Israel to a new and holy land, flowing with milk and honey, and their ownership of that land. The journey is treacherous and deadly, no one who had been alive at the beginning had even lived to see the end.

Here, in this season, let's start at that end:

Joshua, the new leader of God's people who had led them just as righteously as Moses had, through battle and war, gathers all of the tribes of Israel.

He says, "Now therefore, fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord... Choose this day whom you will serve..."

The people answered him saying, "Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other Gods..." They spoke of the deliverance out of Egypt, the houses of slavery, and told tales of God's wondrous signs, gracious guidance, and continuous care for them as they had sojourned to the new land.

But, Joshua knew better, saying, "You are not able to serve the Lord for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions of your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm..."

The people responded, "No, but we will serve the Lord..."

Joshua lives out the rest of his life, dying at 110 years old. The generation of men who had sworn to serve the Lord also passes away.

"There arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel... The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served [other gods]... they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers... chasing after other gods... they provoked the Lord to anger...

[The Lord] gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them... he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies... the hand of the Lord was against them... as the Lord had sworn to them... they were in terrible distress."

The Lord God, Father Almighty, Savior, and Redeemer of Israel had left his people. They had seen God's glory, and they had experienced a glimpse of His face, but they knew that He was no longer on their side. They witnessed His had working against them. They knew that they had forsaken Him.

Like Darcy must have felt in the scene above, the Israelites just got dumped on. They were left drenched, out in the rain, no longer the apple of their Creator's eye.

In the same way, we tend to find ourselves lacking. We turn away from God, never as committed or whole-heartedly following Him as we should be. Sin has its way with us far too often. Can He ever forgive us? This isn't the end.


For this Advent season, the Super Inc. Devotions will be set up a little bit differently. I know, I hate "to be continued" endings as well. If you really want to, you can follow along, the passages used today are from Joshua 24 (the last chapter of the book) through Judges chapter 2 verse 15 (read ahead to spoil the ending).

More of the same clip will be played next week as the story continues. But, for now, our Advent prayer is the same as the intro song by Daniel Vang:





Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Bartimaeus, Son of Timaeus



"And they came to Jericho... As he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside... He heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, and he began to cry out and say, 'Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!'

...Many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. ['Shut up!!'] But he cried out all the more, 'So of David, have mercy on me!' And Jesus stopped and said, 'Call him.' And they called the blind man, saying to him, 'Take heart. Get up. He is calling you.'

Throwing off his clock, and springing up to his feet, he came to Jesus..."

Before the time of Christ, Plato had written a book called Timaeus. He was grasping at straws in the dark, hoping, and theologizing on who God is, who He must be. He came up with various ideas incorporating geometry and the world around him. Although, he could not know God by his own power or means, one of his characters in this dialogue did have the right idea:

"All men who partake of even a bit of sound-mindedness always call on God."

Plato knew that he must call out. But, he had been fated to remain blind. Perhaps, he gave into his own understanding of God instead of seeking and finding Him for who He truly is.

Either way, the point is that like Timaeus and the followers, sons of Timaeus, we call out to God, hoping to learn who He is. The difference is, we know that we are heard.

 'Take heart. Get up. He is calling you.'

We are answered. Jesus Christ calls out back to us, inviting us to come forward.We throw off our cloaks and the worries of this world and rush towards His voice. We are healed.

It is not by our own reason, merit, or strength. But, because of who Christ is and what He has done for us. Although, we may still not understand, He cleanses us and opens our eyes so that we may finally see His face.

"Immediately Bartimaeus recovered his sight and followed Him."






Check out Mark 10:46-52 and Timaeus 27C for references.

Not Alone | Lutheran Witness

"Today's cultural trends tend toward individuality, toward what makes me me and you you. And in our quest to be unique, we strive to set ourselves apart from all the rest, to be alone, to be different...

Jesus never intended for us to live this way. Instead, He set us into families, into communities, surrounded by those who care about us. 'For just as the body is one and has many members,' wrote St. Paul, 'and all the members of the body though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.' That is how Jesus would have us live: in and amongst His children, our brothers and sisters in Christ.

But we are a broken people, fighting to remain alone, where we can hide our sin, disbelief, despair and all accoutrements that evil trio brings with it. And so Christ, knowing it was not good for us to remain this way, broke into our self-made solitary confinement, setting chaos back into order, darkness back into light, loneliness back into company. And in so doing, He placed us again into His body: the body of Christ. There we find sinners redeemed by His death and resurrection..."

Adriane Dorr, Managing Editor
The Lutheran Witness


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Meditation in a Toolshed | C.S. Lewis

"I was standing today in the dark toolshed.

The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black.

I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it.

Then I moved, so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished.

I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun.

Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences.

But this is only a very simple example of the difference between looking at and looking along..."

C.S. Lewis' Meditation in a Toolshed

Flannel Films



"A couple of years ago we [Flannel] started "Give a Ticket/Get a Ticket". The idea is that for every dollar given to "Free Flannel Films" we give a free film to someone who can't afford a film. Thanks to you, people all over the world have seen our films for free.

As we approach the holiday season, our ticket stash is running low. We have under 900 free tickets left. Will you help us replenish? It's just a dollar a film. Please take a minute to share 5, 10 or 100 films!

And if you find yourself at a place where you are in need, please take a ticket and watch a film."


Monday, November 11, 2013

Tribal Thinking | RELEVANT


"...The problem is, we are tribal in our thinking...

We find comfort in numbers and turn off our subjective reasoning in exchange for community. To grow and gain power, tribal leaders must create enemies, even if there are none. Creating false enemies then creates real ones. Liberals then, cannot work with conservatives. Arabs can’t work with Jews. Hutus can’t work with Tutsis. Powerful men can’t work with powerful women. Alabama fans can’t mix with Auburn fans. Baptists look down on Methodists. [And, vice versa.]

I call this the hate trade. It’s a tribal system with a very real social economy that trades in hate. We see it in shock jock pastors attacking theologians, in talk show hosts using fear to pedal books and in foreign politicians demonizing people groups to justify weapons of mass destruction.

What we see in racism is a problem universal to all men and, as such, is in the heart of all men.

Racism is a symptom of something else. [Hate.]

What I love, then, about the work of King, Morrison, West and Hughes, and perhaps the reason they’ve been so successful, is while scholarly, they went after the problem at its root, in the heart. “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear,” King said.

Who can continue to hate a tribe who loves them? What greater argument is there for intellectual superiority than a philosophy that creates a loving heart? ..."






Monday, November 4, 2013

Christian Worship | Backwards Things II



"Christianity encourages, guides, elevates, and sanctifies human worship. It gives us clearer conceptions of the divine character, especially of the fatherhood and love of God.

It changes our nature through the new birth, and affords us immediate access to God through his Son. It gives us assurance of being accepted in our worship, and encourages prayer by repeated promises that our petitions will be heard and answered.

It brings the gift of the Holy Ghost, by whom we fervently say Abba, Father.

It blesses us even during our earthly existence with eternal life, by bringing us into harmony with the divine character and will.

When, therefore, it is said that 'Worship springs from the congregation, the congregation from the church, and the church from Christ,' the order of nature and of fact is reversed. Worship springs from the constitution of the human soul; and the congregation and the church are but aggregations of individuals who had been previously called of Christ (p.10-11)."

Christian Worship: Its Principles and Forms by Richard and Painter.

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Christian Worship | Backwards Things



"In the refusal of a soul to look up with adoration to the Creator and Preserver of all things, we recognize something monstrous. It is not strange that we find worship prevailing among all peoples. The idea of God may be very obscure or perverted; the forms of worship may be low and repulsive; but the impulse and capacity are there.

Let us listen to the words of a heathen writer, whose wisdom gave dignity [even] to a life of slavery: 'Any one thing in creation is sufficient to demonstrate a providence to a humble and grateful mind. If we had any understanding, ought we not, both in public and private, incessantly to sing and praise the Deity, and rehearse his benefits? Ought we not, whether we dig, or plough, or eat, to sing this hymn to God? 'Great is God, who has given us hands and organs of digestion; who has given us to grow insensibly, to breathe in sleep.''

Worship is thus seen to originate in the nature and needs of the human soul (p.10)."

Christian Worship: Its Principles and Forms by Richard and Painter.

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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Christian Worship | The Worship Instinct



"Worship may be regarded as an instinct. It is the result of man's natural endowments and of his surroundings. It is not the invention of priestcraft or the product of material evolution. Man has a spiritual nature; that is the power to conceive of a Deity and a supernatural world, and the capacity to adore, love, and trust.

In the course of his mental development these powers start spontaneously into action. By several different paths the mind is led to the idea of God. Behind the mutable objects of nature, the understanding seeks and finds an unchanging ground; and in the presence of obvious design, it recognizes an intelligent Creator.

Conscious of its weakness in the midst of mighty and mysterious forces, the heart seeks refuge and rest in an over-ruling and loving Father.

The feeling for beauty and sublimity, for truth and righteousness, finds satisfaction in the perfections of God. The imperfections of this world--its inequalities, sufferings, and failures--show that it is not complete in itself, and hence lead to the conception of another and higher life, in which justice, happiness, and perfection alone prevail.

With the idea of God and a future life in the soul, worship is inevitable. It naturally springs out of the relation between creature and Creator. In the words of Richter, 'Without God the human soul is lonely throughout eternity; but if it has God, then it is united more warmly, more intimately, more steadfastly, than by friendship and love. I am then no longer alone with my soul. Its great first Friend, and Everlasting whom it recognizes, the innate Friend of the innermost spirit, will no more abandon us than we will abandon ourselves; and in the midst of the impure or empty turmoil of trifles and sins, on the market-place and the battle-field, I stand with closed breast, in which the Supreme and All-holy One speaks to me, and reposes before me like a near sun, behind which the outer world lies in darkness' (p.9-10)."

Christian Worship: Its Principles and Forms by Richard and Painter.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

THE CURSE | Super Inc. Cinema



There's bad in all of us.

"It doesn't matter how far you run, there are some demons you just can't escape."

It is impossible to run away from ourselves.


Sin lives in us.

What we want to do we do not do, but instead we do what we hate.

Even though we desire to do what is good, we cannot carry it out.

We want to do good, but evil is right there with us.

Our own bodies wage war against the law known to our minds.

We are wretched men.

Who will rescue us from our bodies of death?

There was a time when the church wasn't sure how to answer that.

It was a time that she became obsessed with earthly treasures, works, and merit.

She tried so hard to please her Lord that she had forgotten that His heart had already been won.

She became obsessed with her appearance, her facade, and her own glory.

She wore indulgences as a make-up to cover the scars of her sin.

She set herself to the fire so that she might be welded and straightened, waiting for the time that all of the imperfections would finally be purged away in the afterlife.

She had forgotten that she had already been made clean.

She had been given a pure garment of salvation and clothed in righteousness.

Her sin had been drown in a Baptismal sea of forgiveness.

The Lamb's blood had bleached away her filth, cleansing her from impurity.

Martin Luther tried to course-correct her.

He confronted her, talked with her, and scolded her.

He warned her of the crooked practices of those who claimed to serve her.

He reminded her that she could not cover up her sin with anything other than the Gospel.

He directed her to love her neighbors instead of her money.

But, sin still lives in us.

It haunts us.

The law plagues us and condemns us with the knowledge of our sin.

We must die to the law so that we might belong to another.
We must not live for works instead of Christ.

We must belong to him who was raised from the dead... in order to bear the fruit of God.

When we were controlled by the sinful nature, sinful passions were at work in our bodies.

We bore the fruit for death.

But now, by dying to what once bound us,
We have been released from the law which condemns us.

We are free to serve in the new way of the Spirit.
Selfless, in Christ.

Who will rescue us from our bodies of death?
Jesus Christ our Lord!



Monday, October 28, 2013

INTRODUCTION | Super Inc. Cinema


The final chapter of Romans is another beginning.

As Paul closes his letter, he encourages the readers to greet those who are close to him 17 times within 13 verses (verses 3-16).

He commends his brothers to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles against their doctrine.

He does not want their hearts to be deceived by someone who does not serve our Lord Christ.

Paul rejoices over his brothers, but he reminds them to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. Because the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.


He wants the Romans to carry on, refreshed and renewed.

He wants them to live out the lives of SUPERMEN, as THE REMNANT left loyal to God.

He wants them to live not in THEIR OWN RIGHTEOUSNESS, but in Christ's... To know God's SEVERITY AND KINDNESS.

He wants them to BE TRANSFORMED by God so that through them, Christ's LOVE FULFILLS THE LAW.

He wants them to refrain from STUMBLING over each other, but instead to BEAR THE WEAK.

He wants them to live in Christ's name according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith--to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

No. This is not our end, but our beginning.


***Romans 16.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Everlasting Man | Common Man



"No wise man will wish to bring more long words into the world. But it may be allowable to say that we need a new thing; which may be called psychological history.

I mean the consideration of what things meant in the mind of a man, especially an ordinary man; as distinct from what is defined or deduced merely from official forms or political pronouncements...

So long as we neglect this subjective side of history, which may more simply be called the inside of history, there will always be a certain limitation on that science which can be better transcended by art. So long as the historian cannot do that, fiction will be truer than fact. There will be more reality in a novel; yes, even in a historical novel (91-92)."

BEAR THE WEAK | Super Inc. Cinema



Hawkman's origin story is one of the most complicated and profound.

He's a member of an alien race, an intergalactic space-cop, and a person who had once been treated as a god in Egypt... His past doesn't seem to coherently fit together. But, whatever the case may be, he is who he is.

Although, he does not serve or live with his native people, he still does what is just. He protects the innocent, fighting for those who can't fight for themselves.

We also have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.

Christ did not please himself, but... 'the reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.'

What was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Both Paul and Christ fit into this character's shoes... Paul sharing and Christ becoming the hope of both their own race and a gentile people.

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant us to live in harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together we may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ... welcoming one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.



Christ has become a servant to even those who had not shared in Abraham's covenant to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to our fathers, in order that all people may glorify God for his mercy.

This is a bold action and Paul follows through by boldly writing because of the grace given to him by God... to be a minister of Christ Jesus to all... It is only in Christ Jesus that anyone may have reason to be proud of their work. Even Paul will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through him to bring even Gentiles to obedience--by word and deed, signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God--...

Thus his ambition is to preach the gospel where it has not been heard.

And, he boldly goes, serving those who are not his own, bearing the weak and building up neighbors, pointing them to Christ.

And, we may boldly go, no matter where to come from, to serve our neighbors, bringing Christ to them.


*** Romans 15.

The Everlasting Man | More than Material



"The materialist theory of history, that all politics and ethics are the expression of economics, is a very simple fallacy indeed. It consists simply of confusing the necessary conditions of life with the normal preoccupations of life, that are quite a different thing...

It will be hard to maintain that the Arctic explorers went north with the same material motive that made the swallows go south. And if you leave things like all the religious wars and all the merely adventurous explorations out of the human story, it will not only cease to be human at all but cease to be a story at all.

The outline of history is made of these decisive curves and angles determined by the will of man. Economic history would not even be history...

But there is a deeper fallacy besides this obvious fact; that men need not live for food merely because they cannot live without food The truth is that the thing most present to the mind of man is not the economic machinery necessary to his existence; but rather that existence itself; the world which he sees when he wakes every morning and the nature of his general position in it.

There is something that is nearer to him than livelihood, and that is life...

They all come back to what a man fundamentally feels, when he looks forth from those strange windows which we call the eyes, upon that strange vision that we call the world. (p.90-91)..."


Friday, October 25, 2013

The Everlasting Man | Common Sense



"Christianity is at one with common sense; but all religious history shows that this common sense perishes except where there is Christianity to preserve it.

It cannot otherwise exist, or at least endure, because mere thought does not remain sane. In a sense it becomes too simple to be sane. The temptation of the philosophers is simplicity rather than subtlety. They are always attracted by insane simplifications, as men poised above abysses are fascinated by death and nothingness and the empty air.

It needed another kind of philosopher to stand poised upon the pinnacle of the Temple and keep his balance without casting himself down (p89)."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

STUMBLING | Super Inc. Cinema



The fulfillment of the law is love. But, what does that love look like?

Love welcomes the weak in faith.
It does not quarrel over opinions.

If one person believes he can eat anything while a weak person only eats vegetables, the one who eats should not despise the one who abstains and the one who abstains should not pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?

It is before his own master that one stands or falls.
He will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Wow.

This passage, Romans 14, tells us not to let petty arguing hurt our relationships, cancel-out our fellowship, or hinder our faith.

It is not our place to pass judgment over little things.

People will have different perspectives.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.

If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. To this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

The key, then, is the motivation behind the perspective.

It is the faith in the Lord.


That is the mistake the Flash makes today.

Although it is unusual, Flashpoint seems to turn the hero into the villain.

He wanted to change one thing. One. Selfish. Thing.

It might seem selfless or loving, caring or just. But, the baseline is the same: Barry Allen went back in time and saved his mother. This caused a horrendous outcome. It changed the world in ways that he never could have seen coming. He put his faith in his cause, in his moral, in himself.

Instead, he should have been able to trust in God. He should have known that the world is the way it is for a purpose. There is a reason why things happen the way that they do.

He found out the hard way that there are somethings that you can't change... It's just a waist of energy...

So, why do you pass judgment on your brother? ... Why do you despise him? ... We will all stand before the judgment seat of God... giving an account of ourselves to God.

Let us not pass judgment on one another any longer.

We should decide to never put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.

We should not be a cause for their doubt.

We should be loving, caring, as Christ is to them, a brother.

Paul was persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks of it unclean. If your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. Do not distract them by becoming a hindrance to them.

Do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil.

The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So, let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

Do not, for the sake of food destroy the work of God... It is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to... do anything that causes your brother to stumble.

The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God.

Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

It's the motivation that matters.

What motivates you?


***Here's a bonus video for the week.
***This study is on Romans 14.

Monday, October 21, 2013

LOVE FULFILLS THE LAW | Super Inc. Cinema



Paul has described for us how we are transformed to become part of community... But, he doesn't stop there, he continues to explain how we are to react to a life in a body of community, how we react to a life under the government...

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

Those who resist authorities resist what God has appointed...

Those in the government have been placed there by God Himself.
He has given them the gifts needed, qualifying them for their jobs.

We are to honor that.

But, then why to we glorify the rebel? How do you explain a good amount of uprisings (not to mention Exodus) in the Old Testament?? Why were so many of the Jews waiting for a messiah who would overthrow their leaders and bring in a new earthly kingdom?!?

The clip from above is from Injustice: Gods Among Us. In this game, the DC heroes from the original timeline are brought to an alternate universe where Superman has become an evil dictator, seizing control of the world and killing those who get in his way.

Ares brings Wonder Woman back to the Amazon to tell her what her alternate Amazon sisters are planning on doing (invading as SuperHitler's army, probably pursuing mass murder), she cannot believe her eyes and knows that she must do everything in her power to stop them.... to set things right.

She rebels against SuperHitler's governing authority.

Is that wrong?

First of all, we must realize something. We must not overlook what Paul presupposes a governing authority is: Rulers are not to be a terror against good conduct, but against bad...

If you do what is good, you should receive the government's approval. For rulers are God's servants for our own good. But if we do what is evil we should be afraid, for God has not given the government authority to bear the sword in vain.

The government is meant to be God's avenger, who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer.

That is why we are to be subject to it, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience.

The rebels of our past, Christian warriors and martyrs, reformers and just fighters, leaders and heroes were not mistaken to take their place against the government. Many times, in many ways, sin seeps into the governing bodies. Although, the office and the vocation are instituted by God, just like Saul, our leaders are capable of falling short and abusing their privileged position.

Wonder Woman is justified because SuperHitler has become a terror against good conduct, the opposite of what he was always intended to be.

She reminds her sisters of what the governing bodies were made for.... And, in many ways, what we were made for in our daily lives:

We are to give service, help the innocent, save the lives of friend and foe.

That is our way...

The path that the warriors were about to choose was folly and Wonder Woman insists that:

We are to unite the world's people, lessen man's rages, overcome them with passion and love...

Let us enter battle, but as human kind's protector, not its destroyer.



The governing body that we submit to is one which should be just, seeking punishment for evil, and being in accord with that which is good.

It is too often that we lose sight of that.

Because our government acts on behalf of our Lord, we are to pay taxes as our offering to the secular ministers of God, we are to pay respect to whom respect is owed, and we are to give honor to whom honor is owed.

Above that, we are to owe no one anything except love.

For the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,' and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'

Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

If you do all you do out of love, the law should be in accord with you.

It pays to implement this now.

Time is of the essence.

For, salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed... wake from sleep... the night is far gone and the day is at hand... cast off works of darkness... walk properly as in the daytime... sinlessly... put on the Lord Jesus Christ... avoiding selfish desires.

These sins and desires are what get our leaders in trouble in the first place. The first thing that they do wrong is to ignore the first commandment.

But, they are not the only ones. It is all too easy to become distracted, discouraged, and disengaged to our calls.

Still, Christ empowers us to rise up, kill the old Adam, and live in love.

After all, it is only by His grace and His limitless love that we have been saved from the Law.


***This study is on Romans 13.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

BE TRANSFORMED | Super Inc. Cinema



We don't know what to do.

We gawk, we stare, we try our best...

We read, we pray, we do all that we can...

We have been charged to continue in God's kindness...

We present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy, and acceptable to God...

But, we don't even know what that means.

We must no longer be conformed to this world but be transformed...

Transformed by the renewal of our minds... that by testing we may discern what is the will of God... what is good, acceptable, and perfect.

But, we are not perfect.

Perfection comes from beyond our control.

Have you ever noticed that in the Green Lantern, everything is beyond Hal's control??

Through-out the movie Hal Jordan goes from a reckless pilot to a responsible leader. He changes from a womanizer to a man of character. He is transformed from just another average guy to an out-of-this-world hero.

But, none of it is really his choice.

The ring chooses him, the Corps adopts him, the Guardians accept him, Oa changes him.

I could easily start talking about the ignorant savages we are until God, like the lantern, chooses to give life to us; the fire and the trials that we have been through that build our character, just like Hal is poked and prodded as he is given his suit; or the remarkable power that the Gospel bears, compared to the power given to Hal. These things are all true. But, Paul takes us somewhere else.


He takes us back to the bigger picture, he knows it is the Spirit who transforms our lives, but he doesn't dwell on that fact... he dwells on the purpose... the reason... why? Why are we to be transformed?!

Community.

When Hal is transformed by the Lantern, it isn't just for his sake. It isn't to make him a better person. It isn't to get him the perfect girl or the dream job. It isn't about him at all.

He is transformed and adopted into a community. He has become one of the Corps. He is a member of the fuller body of life forms chosen to protect their sectors, to serve their communities, to be stewards of their home-worlds.

We are transformed for a similar purpose. As we set ourselves apart to be holy and acceptable to God... living sacrifices... discerning the will of God... we must not think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. We must be humble... We must have sober judgment according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. We cannot boast to have what we do not have or claim to know what we do not know. We have been made the way we are for a reason. We have a different set of strengths and weaknesses than anyone else.

We are members of a body... not all have the same function.... though we are many and we are varied in our functions, we have become one body in Christ... Having different gifts to be used in different ways.

Could you even picture some alien GL trying to serve Earth's sector??? That would blow peoples' minds.

Because we have been transformed, we are to abhor what is evil, holding fast to what is good... letting love be genuine... loving one another with brotherly affection, outdoing one another in showing honor... we are not called to be slothful, but to be fervent in spirit... to serve the Lord.

We may rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, constant in prayer, contributing to the needs of our fellow members and looking to show hospitality... blessing those who persecute us... Rejoicing with those who are rejoicing and weeping with those who are weeping... living in harmony with one another... We must not be prideful or arrogant, but associate with even the lowly... not to repay evil for evil, but to give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all....

To live peaceably with all, if possible...

Not to avenge ourselves, but leaving it to the wrath of God...

If our enemy is hungry, we shall feed him... thirsty, give him something to drink... overcoming evil with good.

This is what community is about.

This is who we have been transformed to be.

Paul doesn't focus on how we got here, or discuss the great length that the Son of God incarnate had to go to show this to us, he doesn't focus on the trials and the means of discerning God's will, he knows we can figure those things out. We've got plenty of other chapters to focus on those things. And, God's will will reveal itself whether we want it to or not.

Here, and now, Paul paints us a picture of who we are meant to be.... who the Holy Spirit has transformed us to be.... But, are we really listening?

He gives us a vision of the heroes we are.

But, how close to those heroes do we really seem to be?

How do we act in community?


****This study is on Romans 12.
***Here's another Super Inc. Devotion on Romans 12:2 with Gambit.
***Here's another Green Lantern Devotion.


SEVERITY AND KINDNESS | Super Inc. Cinema



Did you see that?!?

Cut off.

 No flinch. No hesitation. No second-guess. .. Only action.

In that one, single, character-defining moment, Aquaman's credentials fly through the roof.

The King of the Sea finds himself chained to a boulder, falling towards a pit of lava, with his one and only son by his side. I believe he would have done anything to save his child.

But, what if the babe wasn't his son?

What if the infant wasn't an heir in line for the throne??

What if the child wasn't even related???

That is what Romans 11:16-24 is about:

Paul's story starts out plain enough. "If the root is holy, so are the branches." Those who he is writing to know that the Jews have always been set apart for God as a holy people. He is holy and so they are holy. He is their God and they are His people. They are his heirs.

"But if some of the branches were broken off," some of His people have fallen away. They have given into idolatry and have denied His incarnation. "and you," the Gentiles, those who have not always been set apart as a holy people who were instead of being part of the tree had become "a wild olive shoot," growing beneath its trunk. These same Gentiles were made into part of the tree. The Gardener had mercy on them and instead of tearing them down and casting them into the fire, He "grafted" them "in among the others" so that they may live. They "now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree" so that they may grow.

God has taken those who have not been His heirs and has grafted them among His faithful.

Still, these new members to the body of the tree are warned, "do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root but the root that supports you." They must not forget their roots or the faith and body that they have now become a part of. They must not forget that all that they have been given is a graceful gift of God.

As they look down from the part of the tree they have now become grafted into, they can see the others, those who have been pruned and fallen aside, cast away. "Then you will say, 'Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.' That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief." How easily they have fallen away and have been...

Cut off.

Paul warns these new heirs not to make the same mistake.

"But you stand fast through faith.
So do not become proud, but stand in awe.

For if God did not spare the natural branches,
neither will he spare you.

Note then the kindness
and the severity of God:
severity toward those who have fallen,
but God's kindness to you,
provided you continue in his kindness.

Otherwise you too will be cut off."



This is the severity and the kindness of God.

Out of His kindness, He cut off a part of Himself to save us.

He sacrificed His all for us, His heir, His Son for us.

The babe fell so that He may see Him in us.

But, then the babe rose proving that the will of God is greater than the will of his adversaries.

Out of His severity, He has cast off those who have denied him.

His reaction is similar to our hero's at the end of the clip, He becomes wrathful toward those who would even dare hinder those whom He loves.

Still, His grace outweighs His wrath. It is still not too late for those branches that have started to rot beneath the tree. "Even they, if they do not continue their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree."

It is never too late, even for those branches that we thought had already been lost.

And, in Christ, we know where we stand with Him.

Although, God is filled with severity and kindness, grace and wrath, Jesus has drank the cup of wrath, He has taken on the severity so that we may know His grace and truth, His kindness and mercy.

Amen.


***The picture at the end of the clip and with the theme takes place after this event. With Aquaman's water manipulation skills, he is able to re-graft a hand out of water... He took what he once lost, the flesh and blood, and grafted in the water.