Archive for September, 2006

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The sources of Adultery with Men

September 22, 2006

A tip of the hat to Michael Spencer and his blog “Internet Monk” for this excellent piece on what causes men to commit adultery. Perhaps he doesn’t explore David’s reasons with enough clarity, but the rest of the article is great. I highly recommend it.

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Exposing the Layers of False Reporting

September 19, 2006

C. S. Lewis had a gift that even his enemies had to grudgingly admit to. When they confronted the Christian beliefs of Lewis, they better do it with legitimately formed arguments and approaches. Lewis was known to commend people he disagreed with if they were honest and careful in how they quoted him. Lewis himself took great pains to not misquote or misrepresent the arguments of those he battled with philosophically.

Today, he would be horrified to see what passes for social commentary and debate.

Take a look at this piece by ABC News, lionized by Andrew Sullivan on Time Magazine’s website. Watch the video and then come back here for an examination of their argument in the news sequence.

1. Perhaps the only “controversial” part of the movie that ABC News shows is the kids praying “to a picture of George W. Bush”. In reviewing the website for the movie and the documents on Wikipedia about the movie, it becomes clear that the kids are praying “for” George Bush and not to him. That is very misleading. They also do not take into account that Becky Fischer (the director of the camp) also had pictures of Bill Clinton that the kids prayed for during his tenure as President.

2. The video follows three particular kids ages 9-12 almost exclusively. The video is a positive portrayal of how the camp impacted their lives. These three kids are not even mentioned in the ABC News draft. In addition, ABC News only focuses on teenagers in their focus on evangelicals and even interviews a college professor about evangelical college students. The implication they are making is that the kids from Jesus Camp are the college students who will go to Wheaton in years to come. That’s a mighty big jump in logic. They are more likely to go to North Dakota State U. than Wheaton.

3. Andrew Sullivan picks out the picture of George Bush, which is shown for a few seconds in the movie and uses that as his lead story. He doesn’t tell about how the kids are ministered to.

4. The group that sponsors this camp is considered on the very fringe of Evangelicalism and cannot in any way be seen as representatives of the movement. But this is also a technique used by many people today; look at an extreme example and tar and feather a movement by those extremists. This is the mistake made the world over as people look at Islam. Most muslims would not think of blowing other people up. But they are being represented that way, even by us Christians at times. Evil people commit crimes, not evil Muslims or evil Evangelicals.

5. They mention the skateboarding ministries of churches as proselitizing. I used to be involved in one of those skateboarding ministries in Montana, and we did it so that kids would have a place to skateboard where drugs were not allowed in. Painting all evangelicals as buttonholing evangelists is naughty and irresponsible.

Examine Andrew Sullivan and see if he is as honest as this examination.

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Application and Interpretation

September 15, 2006

Here are some interpretations I have of the dream. Then at the end, I want to comment on two applications I see for me and perhaps for you.

Interpreting visions and dreams sometimes seems like dissecting a live patient: You want to make sure you don’t do any damage in your zeal to understand how everything works. So I won’t make this dream walk beyond its boundaries. It is really quite a simple dream. The train is the choice we make how we want to live daily. The cars moving forward are the conditions that must exist for those who want to improve, change and be what God originally created them to be. The ghola cars…the ones that do not move…are the conditions that must exist for those who are not interested in moving forward. But maybe one or two of the other details need to be examined for this to be applied.

First, the cars on the move at first glance seem very pedestrian, ordinary and even difficult to travel in. I remember as I sat with people in those cars that they were being carried along at great speeds. The seats were not always comfortable and the ride was sometimes not smooth at all. This means that in order to change, to move forward, to improve, we need to pass through seasons of difficulty and stay in those seasons until their purpose is complete. This is not a given for anyone. People constantly seek to handle difficulties without growing. There are five ways we do that:

1. We anaesthetize ourselves with pleasure, addictions and anything else to forget our troubles.
2. We just refuse to learn anything in times of stretching, stubbornly holding to our ways as if change would be the world’s great disaster. (the tragedy is that the cars where the changes are happening are actually where life is being lived to the fullest. It is the muscle that works which gets stronger, the immune system that is strained that works, the brain that teases puzzles to conclusion that is pliable).
3. We rely on complaining, whining and moaning instead of prayer, introspection and changing our minds about lies and believing the Truth.
4. We get desperate and try to fix the problems and thus make them worse. My old adage always holds in these cases: There is no problem so great that you can’t panic and make it worse.
5. We blame. And blame.

In the cars where it was more difficult, the cars that are moving, people are under more stress, but they have more joy, see more colors and change. The people in the unmoving cars are entertained, but never recreated. This is the difference between entertainment and recreation. I knew, even in the dream, that the unmoving train cars did not offer recreation: Only entertainment. To entertain means to interrupt and get between. To recreate means to come back to the act of creating.

Few are those in my dream who found the nine moving cars. Many found the ones that didn’t move. Ask yourself if you are leaving the cars that are moving when times are hard or facing what needs to change with the joy of knowing that this is recreating.

The children of Israel in the Wilderness could have walked from the Red Sea to the Promised Land in 30 days. Instead, they did all of the above five ways of avoiding change and never entered the promised land for 40 years! God made sure there were difficult times and challenges in the wilderness. These were designed to change them into the people who could appreciate and utilize the Promised Land. But they wanted nothing to do with change. So there was no Promised Land.

Are you missing your Promised Land simply because every time you have a difficulty you run to the cars that aren’t moving? Change is colorful; change is moving; change is Truth.

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A Dream

September 12, 2006

By now, some of you reading this blog may have heard about the dream I had last weekend. I am afraid that the message I gave in which I included details of the dream was not recorded properly, so there is no way to go to our podcast to check that out. However, for those who don’t live in the Sacramento region or for those who weren’t able to get to where I was speaking, I am writing down the full version of the dream here.

Just a disclaimer. I do believe God speaks in dreams. The Bible is clear about this and so is 2000 years of Church History. I also believe many (perhaps ‘most’ dreams are not from God). They are a combination of loose ideas trying to find a mental “home”, items of emotional concern we have not allowed time for our heart to process, indications from our spirit-man about realities we have not paid enough attention to, and possible the pizza eaten the evening before. I dream fairly often, and rarely do any of the dreams mean all that much.

But when they do mean something…approximately once or twice a year…they are powerful. They are powerful for what they come to mean to others.

If you want a good teaching on interpretation of dreams, I recommend John Paul Jackson’s CD teaching series “Basics of dreams, visions and other strange events” sold here by Amazon.

So, on to the dream.

In this dream, I embark on a long journey. I bring a handbag with me full of very valuable things. Before entering the train, I noticed that it was about 9 cars long. This is important. During the opening part of the trip, we travelled very quickly with no problems. At one point, several people created a disturbance and ran out the back of the car. I noticed immediately they had taken my handbag. I then went on a journey to find them. As I left the first car and entered the second, I noticed it was full of people like myself. But on the way, I encountered railway cars unlike any I had ever seen. They were full of people…thousands of people…and the cars were hundreds of feet wide and just as long. As I looked out the windows, I noticed that these cars were not moving. They were staying in the same places. Each one was a variation of a theme. These are themes I remember: Entertainment, gambling, endless political debates, flirtation and sexual themes, eating (actually every car had lots of eating). You could even get off the car for awhile and know that you could get back on at any point. Many people were entering and exiting, but no one was going forward or backwards through the train except a few who passed through very quickly and moved on looking somewhat embarrassed.

I went through scores of these cars and finally got to the back where I found my bag. I looked out the side of this even faster moving train and saw that it was still nine cars. I realized later that there still were only 9 cars moving forward and all the rest were more like rest stop cars if you didn’t want to keep moving forward.

I asked the conductor who had been with me the whole time to explain what I had just seen. This is what he said first (remember, I was dreaming when I heard and saw all of this). He told me that this picture had been shown to me by God. It was a picture of the kind of walk that God has designed for everyone who believes in Him. There are various cars moving forward because God uses different methodologies to move us forward. Forward is the direction where we become more like Jesus, which is the goal of an earthly relationship with Him.

When I asked about the cars which weren’t moving, this is what he said. “These are for the people who don’t like moving forward. Moving forward usually involves seasons of pressure, difficulty and loss. They get tired of hurting, so they go back in the train looking for somewhere that hurts less or that has less pressure. They find the “ghola” cars that seem to be part of the train, but are actually in a different dimension. (Author’s Note: He called them “Ghola Cars”. I have read all of Frank Herbert’s “Dune” series, so I recognized the word. Remember, this was the dream God was speaking to me, so He would use concepts and pictures I was familiar with. A “ghola” is a clone of a real person, but no memories of how the person came to be in this place in history. This is important to know.).

A ghola car is one that appears to be just like any other train car, but it is a place to forget. What you forget in pleasure, entertainment, food, conversations of meaninglessness are the lessons you are learning during the pressures and difficulties you face as you’re moving forward. This is the purpose of those cars. God does not use those cars. They rarely move people forward. Because we have free choice, we can stay in those cars as long as we want. But we will not move forward when in them.

As I moved back toward the front, I noticed that though there was less mirth and frolicking in the cars moving forward, each of these people had real joy. In the ghola cars that stayed still, the sun shone, but it was muted. The colors were there, but they were almost sepia. In the cars moving forward, it was not as exciting, not as pleasurable. The seats were plain, and some people were sitting on old crates. But the colors were dramatic, and there was a real sense of joy and purpose.

I asked the conductor “Why don’t the people want to move out of the cars that aren’t going anywhere?” He answered, “They are afraid of moving forward. They don’t like the speed those cars are moving at and they want to stay in one place for awhile.” At that point (or close to it) I woke up.

Most of this dream will be obvious to anyone with an ear to hear. More about the dream tomorrow. But ponder it and ask the Lord how it might apply to your life.

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Movies I Will Never Watch Again

September 7, 2006

A totally new category, and one I am sure to raise a few eyebrows. These are movies I now consider to be a waste of: a) 2 hours b) emotional energy c) money and d) everyone’s time who made them. Feel free to add your own to this list as you like.

1. How To Make An American Quilt. If you read the list of actors in this movie including Wynona Ryder, Anne Bancroft and Ellen Burstyn, you’d immediately think that it had brilliance written over it. You’d be as wrong as bees courting artificial flowers. The movie went way over budget, over time and over common sense. The plot is so stupid: Older women trying to tell a young woman about to be married that all men are scum. All the while making a quilt and smoking pot. The studio was so tired of all the overruns, that they ordered the director to get the movie out ASAP. In anger, she released it with very little editing. As a result, in the later scenes, you can see mike booms, other cameras and wires, actor’s mistakes etc. The DVD doesn’t contain these (it was cleaned up later), but the VHS version does. It is a waste of time and thought. Not that the moviemaker had much to work with: The novel was just as bad.

2. Ladykillers: Tom Hanks is as good a character actor as they come. Why they had to saddle him with this absolutely one-dimensional cast and a poorly re-written script is beyond me. Having a Wayans brother in it made it a complete disaster.

3. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou: Oh Bill Murray…please divorce Wes Anderson and go back to making Groundhog Day 2 or What About Bob 2…instead he makes this one which is basically “The Royal Tenenbaums 2”. And the first of that name was torture enough.

4. The Royal Tenenbaums: See above on number 3.

5. French Kiss: I like Meg Ryan, love Kevin Kline…hated this movie.

6. At Play in the Fields of the Lord: Yes, missionaries have done things that are not right. But this movie doesn’t even get those mistakes accurately. It just assumes that all missionaries are wrong and their motives impure… and about hour 8 of this movie I couldn’t take it any more.

7. Zoolander: Even though it is a mock-out festival, there is only so much of Owen Wilson and his tranquilizer-replacement looks and Ben Stiller mugging for the camera that you can take. People keep wanting to find layers in this movie. It has layers the way that a septic tank has layers.

8. The Last Samurai: Tom Cruise cannot save this snore-festival. My son describes it as slowly pushing a pencil into your eye, stopping for several minutes and then pushing again.

9. Dune: A book that made me believe in world-building as a hobby became a movie that made me believe in fire-bombing movie studios.

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A Five-Dollar Encouragement

September 6, 2006

It doesn’t take much to encourage me. Not as much as I might think.

Over Labor Day, my wife and I decided to take a few days to ourselves and go to Napa. Since neither of us can drink alcohol, we took in the sights as best we could. Wife is hobbling around due to her sprained ankle (no, she did not kick at me and accidentally hit the fireplace, no matter what rumors I have been spreading), and so we could not do much hiking or biking. Therefore, without the ability to wine-taste, hike or do the normal tourist things, we had to get creative.

There is a lot more to taste in the Napa/Sonoma area than just wine. We had the privilege of perfecting our cheese-tasting skills at the Sonoma Cheese Factory. We go there at least every year to stock up on the best Jack cheese anywhere (they were making it before any place in Monterey was). After that we travelled to two other places up the Valley of the Moon and sampled some locally pressed olive oil. I never knew what an extra-virgin olive oil was (you didn’t know olives did that sort of thing, did you?). Now that I have tasted the best, I may never go back to the grocery store variety. After that was the chocolate tasting (you heard me right). That was something I treasure…in fact, I brought back several treasures. I am a dark chocolate lover and this store had everything from a 42% blend all the way to 90%. The blend involves sugar, milk and cacao, with more cacao as the blend goes higher. Though the higher blends are more bitter, they are more my taste buds’ liking. And, dark chocolate is better for you.

After this, we went up the hill to the Jack London State Park, where the famous writer of “Call of the Wild” had his homestead. On the large acreage, they have preserved a huge museum and travelogue out of his place. We were excited to read in their online brochures that they had golf carts to ferry around those with disabilities. Since wife is currently in that category, it fit into our plans. We got up to the entrance gate and found to our dismay that it would cost us $6 to get in. We had gone cashless for the trip (using Debit cards suit us) and didn’t feel like driving back fifteen miles to an ATM. That is when the encouragement of the entire trip happened.

In front of us in line at the park entrance was a man and his wife and another couple. They looked to be about the same age as us. Wife hobbled over to the gate to check on the prices (my chivalry was distracted by looking up the online brochure on my PDA…yeah, right you say), and she looked dismayed to find out it was a cash deal. The man in front of us was filling out his form and dropping the money in when he noticed wife’s obvious mental pain. He asked what the matter was and she commented on our lack of cash. He then offered to put in our missing money.

He did what?

When was the last time you heard someone acting that way? Even though our society has become wealthier by the hour, we see so few willing and wanting to help out others unless there is an income tax receipt, a reward or a talk-show offer behind it. He just casually offered to pay our part. Wife and I were overwhelmed. Even two days later, I am amazed at this man’s attitude. And I am encouraged. Not everyone is consumed with cutting out their own cloth in life. Some are actually watching those around them to see if someone else needs a slice. That does more for me than hearing that “x” amount of dollars are given to relief work in Africa or so many people are being provided for after a hurricane. No one prodded or cajoled this man into helping us. He did it because it seemed the right thing for him to do.

Now all I have to do is pay it forward. Which I intend to do at the first opportunity.

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