Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The End of an Era: American Idol

I could be wrong, but last night I think I caught a glimpse of the end of an era. I'm not usually a big follower of American Idol, but this year I decided I'd start watching it from the beginning. I'm actually enjoying the show and theirs a few singers that have potential. The problem is, I know from the start that the singers that I like don't stand a chance of winning it all, and thats why I think American Idol's popularity is in the decline.

Let me explain. I'm not so arrogant as to think that my opinion will bring AI to the ground, but some comments that Simon and some of the other judges made caused me to think. When I mentioned something about watching American Idol on my facebook status last week several friends who I consider to have a pretty good, and selective musical taste made some negative comments as to the music that Idol is producing. Tim said "think about the musicians we like - they'd bomb quickly." And it's true. The singers that I listen to wouldn't stand a chance. And I would never sit and listen to a whole CD of previous Idol winners, no matter how good technically I think their voices are. The complaint that the judges kept making about the contestants last night was that they didn't pick songs that made their voices stick out, there was nothing that made them say "Wow!" But the ones they said that about were the ones I liked the most. The singers that many of the next generation are listening to are not the singers of the previous decades where they were technically perfect or made you sit back with your mouth open. I like good singing, but what I'm going to listen to is music that you would hear at a coffee shop. Something almost folksy sounding. Technically they probably aren't the best of singers: their tone quality might not be the best, they might be a bit nasally, at times its almost annoying (to some at least). But thats the style of music I'm listening to, and I'm not alone. And judging by the types of songs that the contestants many picked, thats what they listen to as well.

That is why I think American Idol is fading. Because the next generations style of music is less about technicality and big vocals and more about feeling and personality. I could be wrong.








Monday, February 22, 2010

Movie Spotlight:God On Trial

I've been on a 2 year (or so) hiatus from doing much movie watching. Between going on the bike trip and then getting married movies have fallen down on the priority list. My wife is not the biggest movie fan either so that is another reason for the break. It has been good for me though. For the 5 years previous I had been on a constant movie binge it seemed, so a break was good. But now with the new addition of netflix along with our laptop and wireless network in the house I can begin to get back into movies a little. And with missing 5 years worth of movies I've got plenty to choose from! So now comes the fun part, searching through rottentomatoes.comreviews, adding ratings to netflix movies that I've already seen, searching through the list of recommendations that they give me and loading my queue (which is a very strange word if you really look at it) with scores of movies. I'm excited.

Now obviously in 5 years theres a lot of good main stream movies that I've missed, so I'll be catching up on many of those. But what really excites me is finding some more lesser known movies that blow away the big money movies - at least in my opinion. Those are usually the ones I'll write about on here, you've probably already seen all the main stream ones that I've missed, why waste my time talking about them.

I actually watched 2 movies this weekend. The first one I watched was The Insider with Russell Crowe and Al Pacino. This is actually an older movie, 1999 according to imdb.com, but somehow I never remember hearing about it. It was a good movie. It dragged a bit I thought but I thought the story itself kept you interested. Probably because it was actually based on a true story. But that was fairly mainstream so I'm not going to waste time talking about that one.



The movie God On Trial was actually a made for television movie by Masterpiece Theater and PBS. The movie takes you to the infamous concentration camp in Auschwitz during the World War II. Imagine being put into such a place simply because of who you are, you're bloodline. Imagine being forced to go through "tests" every time a new train car of prisoners would come in to see if you would live to see the next day or if you would be gassed in order to make room for the new inmates. What questions would you be asking? How would you feel about God and His character? And add to that the fact that you are the chosen people of God. You traced your lineage back to Abraham, the man with whom God had established His covenant with. Had God kept his end of the bargain? Had He broken His covenant? Being placed in that position would automatically raise questions as to the goodness of God, but even more so as Jews. So this group of Jews decide to put on God on trial. What is His crime? Breaking the covenant. Within this group are Jews that are deeply devout religiously, but there are also those who are merely Jewish by birth and nothing else. There is even one who had no clue he was a Jew, his mother was a Jew but died early in his childhood and he had been raised by his German Father. This mixture greats a tension when it comes to answering this question of God's faithfulness and goodness.

I found this movie deeply moving. The holocaust itself always makes one look deep into the heart of oneself and ask big questions. It makes you realize the atrocities that humans, that I am capable of. But this movie added a different dimension, an honest look at what those who lived through this must have asked of God. In the end they found God guilty of breaking His covenant, but just after the verdict was read they came to take many of them to the gas chamber. One of the Jews who had adamantly accused God of abandoning them and declared that God was not good was one of the ones being taken away. Facing the death and just hearing the declaration that God was guilty he looked at a Rabi and asked "where does this leave me? What do we do now?" The rabbis answer: we pray.

This movie was not a happy ending movie that left you smiley and chipper but one that caused me to lay in bed and toss and turn for hours asking what my verdict would be in that position. It's easy to say that I would believe that God was still faithful, still sovereign and still good. But I know that would not be an easy answer, though I know it would still be my answer.

God on Trial is definitely worth watching.











Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Karl Barth on Listening to the Holy Spirit

"When we are at our wits end for an answer, then the Holy Spirit can give us an answer. But how can He give us an answer when we are still well supplied with all sorts of answers of our own?"

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Around the Web: Links from 2/9/2010

Parchment and Pen posted
Seven Common Fallacies of Biblical Interpretation. Here's a quick rundown of them:

1. Preunderstanding fallacy: Believing you can interpret with complete objectivity, not recognizing that you have preunderstandings that influence your interpretation.

2. Incidental fallacy: Reading incidental historical texts as prescriptive rather than descriptive.

3. Obscurity fallacy: Building theology from obscure material.

4. Etymological root fallacy: Looking to the root etymology of a word to discover its meaning.

5. Illegitimate totality transfer: Bringing the full meaning of a word with all its nuances to the present usage.

I know that I've fallen into the trap of using most, if not all of these at one time or another. See the full blog post with more in-depth descriptions of each fallacy here.




Nola.com has an interesting article about the New Orleans Saints and their religious connections.

The archbishop is the most visible and recognizable symbol of the NFL organization's intertwined relationship with religion. Hannan is recovering from an Oct. 30 stroke that caused him to miss his first home game in the Saints' 43-year history. He's the face of the local religious community that counts itself among the Who Dat faithful.

"I don't think (Benson) puts him there just to flash the archbishop around or anything like that, " United Methodist pastor Gene Finnell said. "I think (Benson) respects his clergy leadership and enjoys the fact that he can share something really special for him with those church leaders."

Hannan is perhaps the first religious leader to become a Saints fan. He gave the franchise the church's blessing when a newspaper contest picked the team's mascot. State officials wanted to ensure it would not offend the church.

"I said it was OK, but you should keep in mind that all the Saints are martyrs, " Hannan recalled with a chuckle.

Check the article out here. The best part of the whole article is the picture of owner Tom Benson dancing with Sister Mary Rose Bingham at the Superdome.





A man survives 4 weeks stuck in the rubble in Haiti.

A man pulled alive from the rubble of a building in Haiti's capital Monday may have been trapped since the January 12 quake that leveled much of the city, doctors reported.

The 28-year-old man, identified as Evan Muncie, was found in the wreckage of a market where he sold rice, his family told staff at a University of Miami field hospital. He suffered from extreme dehydration and malnutrition, but did not appear to have significant crushing injuries, the doctors said.

"He was emaciated. He hadn't had anything in quite some time. He had open wounds that were festering on both of his feet," said Dr. Mike Connelly, of the university's Project Medishare.

The people who brought him to the hospital said they found the man while digging out the marketplace, Connelly said.



CNN has the full article here.



Saturday, February 6, 2010

I'll Gum Sin 'Til the Day I Die

Billy Sunday:



"I'm against sin. I'll kick it as long as I've got a foot, and I'll fight it as long as I've got fist. I'll butt it as long as I've got a head. I'll bite it as long as I've got a tooth. And when I'm old fistless and footless and toothless, I'll gum it till I go home to Glory and it goes home to perdition!"

Friday, February 5, 2010

Trevin Wax: Holy Subversion Quote

Trevin Wax posted an excerpt from his book Holy Subversion today on his blog. I have not read the book, yet. Based on the excerpts I've read and in what I know of Trevin following his blog its on my "to-read list". But I thought this section was excellent and worth passing along.

We are not merely called to tolerate those who disagree with us; we are called to love. The world’s idea of tolerance is a parody of the Christian understanding of love.

Tolerance is passive. Love is active.

Tolerance is a feeling of apathy. Love is accompanied by feelings of great affection.

Tolerance keeps people at arm’s length in hopes of not offending them. Love embraces people where they are and ‘hopes all things.’

Tolerance leaves people alone as individuals. Love ushers people into a community of generosity.

Tolerance keeps a safe distance between those in need. Love rolls up its sleeves in service even to those who may be unlikeable.

Tolerance avoids confrontation in order to maintain ‘peace.’ Love tells the truth boldly and graciously in order to bring about a deeper, more lasting peace.”

Excerpt from Holy Subversion (pp 145-146)

Around the web: Links from 2/5/2010

Bob Kauflin is someone I have gleaned much insight and wisdom from in the past 6 months since I've been made aware of him. In his most recent blog post he talks about talks about being aware of what is going on around us as we are leading worship:

Why do leaders close their eyes so often? Not just for a few moments, but for 5, 10, even 15 minutes. I’ve seen leaders and vocalists keep their eyes shut from the first note we sing to the final “Amen” of the closing prayer.

There are definitely some good reasons to close our eyes. We want to shut out distractions. We want to focus completely on the words we’re singing. Our hearts are deeply moved by God’s mercy and we respond in humble adoration.

But are those the reasons we usually have in mind when we close our eyes? Are we even thinking about what we’re doing? Or why we’re doing it?

Read the rest of his blog here.





Christianity Today has an article written by Shirl James Hoffman on Americans obsession with sports and sadly, in his opinion at least, Christians following in that obsession.

Americans are consuming sports on an unprecedented scale...In 2006, Americans spent over $17 billion on tickets to sports contests and $90 billion on sporting goods, over double what they spent on books ($42 billion)...
None of this has been lost on evangelicals, who have been quick to harness sports to personal and institutional agendas. Less than a century ago, major segments of the evangelical community considered sports a cancer on the spiritual life; today their denominational progeny lead the parade to stadiums. The cozy coupling of sports and evangelicalism shows itself not only in the outsized athletic complexes that are common features of church architecture, but also in the ease with which sport and its symbols show up in the sanctuary. Pastors incorporate pithy sports metaphors into their sermons. Famous athletes are invited to pulpits to tell how their faith helps them compete. Some churches celebrate Super Bowl Sunday by canceling the evening service and assembling in the sanctuary to watch the game on large-screen TVs. "Faith nights" sponsored by local baseball teams draw entire congregations to the ballpark. Evangelistic organizations that center on the public's fascination with sports flourish.
As you can tell just from that clip, he's not too big of a fan of sports. You can read the rest of Hoffmans somewhat lengthy article here.

To read a very helpful review of the article check out Kevin DeYoungs recent blog post on it here. He describes his "love/hate relationship" with sports and how aware he is of "the place sports can occupy in your heart." Both articles are helpful to at least skim through, to see if sports are taking the proper place in our own lives.



Two street preachers were shot down and killed in Boynton Beach. Read about the story in the Palm Beach Post.



Do we have a grasp of the entirety of the Gospel or do we simply cling to a truncated self-improvement version. Listen to James McDonald on the issue:





For those of you seeing this on facebook you'll have to click through to go to my actual blog to see the video.





Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Around the Web: Links from 2/3/2010

You thought that black snake in your yard was big, check out these puppies.


The New York Times did an article on the growing interest among evangelicals in MMA - Mixed Martial Arts, otherwise known as Ultimate Fighting.

Mr. Renken’s ministry is one of a small but growing number of evangelical churches that have embraced mixed martial arts — a sport with a reputation for violence and blood that combines kickboxing, wrestling and other fighting styles — to reach and convert young men, whose church attendance has been persistently low. Mixed martial arts events have drawn millions of television viewers, and one was the top pay-per-view event in 2009.

Recruitment efforts at the churches, which are predominantly white, involve fight night television viewing parties and lecture series that use ultimate fighting to explain how Christ fought for what he believed in. Other ministers go further, hosting or participating in live events.

The goal, these pastors say, is to inject some machismo into their ministries — and into the image of Jesus — in the hope of making Christianity more appealing. “Compassion and love — we agree with all that stuff, too,” said Brandon Beals, 37, the lead pastor at Canyon Creek Church outside of Seattle. “But what led me to find Christ was that Jesus was a fighter.”


Read the full article here

Eugene Cho, who was interviewed for the piece wrote his response to how the NYT interpreted what he said on his blog.

My hour interview was reduced to basically one quote:


“I don’t live for the Jesus who eats red meat, drinks beer and beats on other men.”


What I have a problem is when we have Christians, churches, and pastors who now begin to blur the line in the equating of MMA to Jesus; That we somehow speak with great conviction that Jesus would have endorsed MMA or other forms and expressions of the growing hyper machismo culture.



Read his full blog post here.




So what's your take on this issue? Should churches be having MMA parties as a form of outreach or does it go against calling others to pattern their lives after Christ?


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Around the Web: Links from 2/2/2010

A pro-choice columnist praises Tim Tebow's upcoming superbowl ad:

I'm pro-choice, and Tebow clearly is not. But based on what I've heard in the past week, I'll take his side against the group-think, elitism and condescension of the "National Organization of Fewer and Fewer Women All The Time." For one thing, Tebow seems smarter than they do.

Tebow's 30-second ad hasn't even run yet, but it already has provoked "The National Organization for Women Who Only Think Like Us" to reveal something important about themselves: They aren't actually "pro-choice" so much as they are pro-abortion. Pam Tebow has a genuine pro-choice story to tell. She got pregnant in 1987, post-Roe v. Wade, and while on a Christian mission in the Philippines, she contracted a tropical ailment. Doctors advised her the pregnancy could be dangerous, but she exercised her freedom of choice and now, 20-some years later, the outcome of that choice is her beauteous Heisman Trophy winner son, a chaste, proselytizing evangelical.

Pam Tebow and her son feel good enough about that choice to want to tell people about it. Only, NOW says they shouldn't be allowed to. Apparently NOW feels this commercial is an inappropriate message for America to see for 30 seconds, but women in bikinis selling beer is the right one. I would like to meet the genius at NOW who made that decision. On second thought, no, I wouldn't.

Read the full article.






Boston.com has posted some pictures of Haiti three weeks after the devastating earthquake. See them here.





I love this video from Francis Chan on taking risks.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Around the web: Links from 2/1/2010

For those of you who haven't heard about Matt Chandler, a pastor in the Dallas area who is battling a cancerous brain tumor, and even for those of you who have, here's a great in-depth story about the path that he's been walking and and how he has kept his focus on God's sovereign plan through all of this.

Sovereign Grace is having a huge online sale during the month of February. They're selling all their CD's for $6 (online downloads for $5), $7 or less for most books, and $4 for study books. I would highly recommend checking them out. For those of you at Cannon who want to find some of the new songs we've been doing or will be doing in the future your best bets are "Sons & Daughters" and "Next 2009 Live" though we may be doing some on other cd's as well. At $5 each you can't go wrong. Also "To Be Like Jesus" is a great resource for teaching your kids the Gospel via song.
As far as books go I'm reading "Worship Matters" and would highly recommend it. I'm planning on reading "Living the Cross Centered Life" and "Humility" by C.J. Mahany, but I'm sure there are many others in that list.

Trevin Wax posted a commentary on what "church the way I want it" mindset looks like. Purposely extreme it still shows some glaring gaps that we're beginning to see within the church.

Russell Moore commented on a story in the New York Times about Omar Hammammi a leader of an Al-Qaeda-linked African terrorist group who grew up in an Alabama Baptist church. Moore wrote this:

It’s easy to read about Omar and to let your blood pressure rise in disgust. Who could leave all the blessings he had given to him in order to fight with bloodthirsty killers? It might even be easy to wonder what was wrong with the witness of his home church, as though there’s any church in history that didn’t have prodigals.

But, if you think about it a little bit longer, you might realize that Omar isn’t as strange as you think.

I wrote above that I felt like I know Omar, even though we’ve never met. In some ways, I feel like I am Omar. I’m internally conflicted too.

I find myself often drawn more to Bible Belt morality than to the gospel. When I go without prayer, I can still recognize the goodness of a just social order, a loving marriage, a stable community. But, when that happens, I don’t see myself as a sinner and, as a result, I don’t see God in Christ. I see God in myself. Unless I see myself in Christ and him crucified, I see God as, at the core, justice, not love, as solitary, not a Trinitarian community of love. When I forget about the gospel, I imagine that God is seeing me in terms of some cosmic scale of my good deeds and sins. That leads me to pride or despair. And it’s crypto-Koranic, not Christian.


And although this is a week late I would highly recommend taking some time and watch Mark Driscoll's sermon about his time spent in Haiti. It includes a lot of stories, pictures and video clips from his time there and is very eye-opening. Check it out here.



Book Log: January 2010

One of my goals this year - as it is most years - is to read more books. I set my goal at one per month, but thats mainly because if I shoot for what I really want to accomplish I'll most likely be disappointed. Hey, if you aim low you have more of a chance of exceeding your expectations and less of a chance of feeling guilty. Probably not the best philosophy to live by, but I'll at least apply it to this area of my life.

One way to help accomplish this is to keep a book log. I've noticed a couple bloggers that I follow doing this, so I thought I'd give it a shot. Granted most of them are reading between 7-10 books every month, but hey, it's better then nothing. So every month I hope to write a short, sentence or two, recap of each book I finished that month. This will help me keep reading, remember what I'm reading, and a way to recommend good books I've found.

- Cannot more highly recommend this book. It's been a long time coming for me in reading this book and one that will be a "to reread" book. Piper takes his life statement that we are called to "glorify God by enjoying Him forever" and applies it to each area of our lives. This book has had a profound influence on the way I think already.

- I did not read the first book that this is a follow up to - Same Kind of Different as Me - but now I want to. This book shares bits and pieces of that story mixed in with readers responses on how Ron and Denver's story affected their lives. Its a great story of how an unlikely friendship developed and how it left both men changed. I would recommend finding the first book "Same Kind of Different" and reading it. My only complaint that for it to be a Christian book about hope and change there is no mention of the cross or the Gospel. But it is a very inspiring story.

- I always look forward to Don Millers next book. I read this one in about 2 days. Once I started reading it I couldn't put it down. His reading style is enjoyable and it always seems like I can connect well with the stories of his life. This book I could especially relate to. I found it challenging and forced me to look at the life that I'm living and where it is going. Again, I would definitely recommend this book, especially to all those out there who are Miller fans, you won't be disappointed with this one.