Friday, July 29, 2011

Netflix Pick of the Week: 2001: A Space Odyssey

My Netflix Pick of the Week is another classic.  I want to recommend this movie, not because I particularly enjoy this movie or because I think this is such a great movie, but simply because it is a classic.  Here is the Netflix description:
Stanley Kubrick's quiet masterpiece probes the mysteries of space and human destiny. While investigating the appearance of mysterious monoliths throughout the universe, astronauts David (Keir Dullea) and Frank (Gary Lockwood) battle their ship's intelligent computer, HAL-9000. This epic sci-fi drama based on Arthur C. Clarke's story "The Sentinel" was nominated for four Academy Awards and won for its stunning special effects.
The movie is rated G, so the whole family can watch it.  One warning though, the "bad stuff" in the movie is all of the evolutionary references.  If you watch it with your kids, it gives the option of opening up some dialogue on the topic.

If you are already a Netflix subsrciber, click here to watch the movie or to add it to your instant queue.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What's the difference?

I'm going to borrow someone else's words for a moment...
“Dad, what does it mean to be a man and not a woman?” or a daughter’s question, “Mom, what does it mean to be woman and not a man?” If you can only answer that question in terms of biology or in terms of pop-culture traits, this book is worth reading in full.
Most of the Christians that I know would answer these questions, as the quote states, " terms of biology or in terms of pop-culture traits..."  I might even say that for most Christians that I know personally, to answer these questions by going to the Bible, may not even enter their minds.

This is why I am going to share this resource with you.

The book that the quote is referring to is a book by John Piper titled, What's the Difference?: Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible.  You can get the book on Amazon for a fairly inexpensive price, but you can also download a pdf version for free.  I downloaded it, then uploaded to Google Docs for later reading.

Click here to go to

Click here to download the free pdf version.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Sunday Afternoon Sketch

I used to draw all of the time.  Doodles, sketches, and even a couple of art classes.  Even as a young adult, I drew several pictures for my wife. Recently my youngest has been doing a lot of drawing, and doing very good at it.  Plus he loves it.  So I bought him a sketch book and some pencils over Christmas break.

 Watching him draw had stirred up some old passions in me as well, so I decided to purchase a second sketchbook and a second pack of pencils.  That was over Christmas break.

Yesterday I picked it up and decided to draw my oldest son as he played some video games on the laptop.  I call it...

He Wasn't With Us Yesterday

And the photo I took after I was done sketching...

I forgot his bracelets, he moved his leg, I didn't draw the lamp correctly, I skipped the TV and the cup on the coffee table, ...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I am a dead man already.

“I do not need to plead my own cause … I am a dead man already. My life is dead and hidden with Christ. It is your lives that in danger, you are dead in your sins. I will pray to God that after you have killed me, He will spare you from eternal destruction."

- Kefa Sempangi, facing 5 would be assassins in Idi Amin’s Uganda

[via Kingdom People]

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Considerable Speck (Microscopic)

by Robert Frost

A speck that would have been beneath my sight
On any but a paper sheet so white
Set off across what I had written there.
And I had idly poised my pen in air
To stop it with a period of ink,
When something strange about it made me think.
This was no dust speck by my breathing blown,
But unmistakably a living mite
With inclinations it could call its own.
It paused as with suspicion of my pen,
And then came racing wildly on again
To where my manuscript was not yet dry;
Then paused again and either drank or smelt --
With loathing, for again it turned to fly.
Plainly with an intelligence I dealt.
It seemed too tiny to have room for feet,
Yet must have had a set of them complete
To express how much it didn't want to die.
It ran with terror and with cunning crept.
It faltered: I could see it hesitate;
Then in the middle of the open sheet
Cower down in desperation to accept
Whatever I accorded it of fate.
I have none of the tenderer-than-thou
Collectivistic regimenting love
With which the modern world is being swept.
But this poor microscopic item now!
Since it was nothing I knew evil of
I let it lie there till I hope it slept. 
I have a mind myself and recognize
Mind when I meet with it in any guise.
No one can know how glad I am to find
On any sheet the least display of mind.
I really enjoyed this bit of Robert Frost.  I really feel a lot of the stuff he writes, but I definitely enjoyed this one.  Especially the last two lines of this poem.

The Poetry of Robert Frost
All eleven of his books-complete.
By Robert Frost
Edited by Edward Connery Lathem

Friday, July 22, 2011

Netflix Pick of the Week: Dragons or Dinosaurs

click to go to Netflix
I visited the Creation Museum for the first time yesterday, so my Netflix Pick of the Week is going to reflect the topics that are trending in twitter stream of my mind.  The pick this week is Dragons or Dinosaurs.  Here is the Netflix description:
Mythological representations of dragons appear in cultures worldwide, often resembling dinosaur species identified through their fossilized remains. Could this mean dragon legends are rooted in reality? This documentary seeks to find out. Interviews with researchers indicate that the existence of dinosaurs might actually help support the biblical story of creation and explain other mysteries of our cosmic origins.
I added this movie to my instant queue several months ago.  It sounded interesting, but I was never in the mood to watch this movie when I sat down to make my nightly viewing choices.  I eventually watched it during one of my bouts with illness over the winter months.  I was stuck in bed with only the Roku to entertain me, so I decided to go ahead and give this documentary a shot.  I'm going to tell you right now... I did not regret that choice.

This documentary was very well done.  It includes plenty of interviews, historical facts, and other relevant information that is demonstrated in a believable fashion. It seems that the dragon myth, which covers the globe in a countless number of different cultures is actually quite important.  Important enough to draw the attention of different evolutionary and atheistic proponents, who have attempted to give an answer for these origins of these myths.

I highly recommend this documentary.  Give it a shot.  If you watch it, add your thoughts here.

I just wanna be a sheep.

I just wanna be a sheep... 
baa... baa...
I just wanna be a sheep... 
baa... baa...
Pray the Lord my soul to keep...
I just wanna be a sheep.

(Image via 22 Words)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Rainbow Connection

This was wonderful.

(via 22 Words)

Of course, I'll always be partial to this rendition....

Saturday, July 16, 2011

What makes good preaching? (part 2)

I started a post earlier this week and published it two days ago about, "What makes good preaching?"  If you go to part 1, you can read a little more about where this came from and why I am blogging it.  To pick up where I left off, I want to quote the passage of scripture again, and then go on to point #3.

preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
(2 Timothy 4:2 ESV)
3) I am going to hone in on those three words, "reprove, rebuke, and exhort" to continue answering the question, "What makes good preaching?"  The word reprove can mean to convict, refute, or convince.  There may be a bit of a legal-feel to this verb; a little like what you might see when a lawyer gives his closing statements.  One might put it this way: Good preaching is convincing.  This doesn't mean that I have to dramatize the proceedings or to simply talk in a convincing fashion.  It also doesn't mean that I have to suck a lot of wind while I'm preaching... The way many TV evangelists tackle the problem: "The Bible says... ah... In John chapter 3... ah... verse 16... ah..."

It means that I am going to appeal to a higher authority.  It means that I will use good reason and logic to draw out of the scriptures meanings and applications for our lives.  It means that I don't build my arguments on preferences or on how things used to be 50 years ago.  If I am going to talk about parenting, for example, the crux of my speech won't be, "... when I was a boy, things didn't used to be that way... We weren't allowed to talk to our parents that way..."  instead I will rely on scripture, "...'children, obey your parents in Lord, for this is right, honor your father and your mother...'"  It isn't that good preaching doesn't contain stories, Jesus used story telling in His teaching and preaching, but he used those stories to illustrate what the scriptures teach.

4) The next word in this passage is rebuke.  To rebuke someone is to lay a charge at their feet.  You might say, Good preaching is personal.  It can get in your face.  It hits home.

As far as I know, nobody in my congregation is struggling with drug addiction.  To my knowledge, there aren't any practicing homosexuals that are regularly attending my church.  It would not make any sense for me to spend the majority of my time preaching about sins that, to my knowledge, nobody within earshot is struggling with.  I need to make it personal.  In wisdom, I need to attempt to talk about and discuss struggles that I and my congregation may be having.  I need to challenge their (and my) sins.

Sadly, many churches do not do this.  A majority of the preaching is focused on the sins of others, leading many in the congregation to develop a sense of superiority ... called pride.  Many preachers end up sounding like the pharisee that Jesus described, who, having seen a sinful tax collector, exclaimed in utter arrogance, "Thank you, Lord, that I am not a sinner like this man!"  I must not preach this way.  Though it seems like it has a show of holiness, there is nothing good about this sort of preaching.

I must preach the gospel!  We are all sinners, and our only hope is the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  That cannot be forgotten, and all good preaching will ultimately preach Christ.

5) Finally, in this blog post, what does it mean to "exhort?"  A couple of Sundays ago I dealt with the word "encourage" during a service.  This is the same greek word that is being used here in this passage.  It is not a word that simply means that we say loads of positive things and build up your self-image.  It is a word that literally means to call to one's side.  To really encourage someone, you don't just tell them what they need to do and give them a pep-talk, instead you pull them up under your arm and say, "You We can do it."  It's a community word!

So, for lack of a better word, one might simply put it this way, Good preaching is encouraging.  Like I said though, it isn't that good preaching says loads of flowery, feel-good statements.  It is a call to action.  That's actually better, Good preaching is a call to action.  Unless you are ignoring the preaching or are simply not paying attention, you should walk away with something to do, something that the church is going to do, the community of believers together.  "Yes.  We will go home and work on our anger!"  "Alright!  Let's all go and be more Biblical in our parenting!" "Together now men, lets pray this week!"

There is more to this passage, so hopefully I will get to it in a part 3, but for now, take these three words together.  Good preaching will lay out a reasonable, believable, defense of the truth.  It will be done in such a way that you may walk away realizing an area where you need to change.  Then it will call together the members and the leadership of the church to face those personal challenges, because we are all in this together.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Netflix Pick of the Week: High Noon

My "watch instantly" pick of the week is an old black and white classic movie called High Noon.  Here is how Netflix describes the movie:
Retiring Marshall Will Kane (Gary Cooper) insists on defending his town from a gang of hooligans who are due on the noon train -- but he faces the task alone as the cowardly townspeople flee like rats from a sinking ship. Director Fred Zinnemann creates an incredibly tense Western (rightly considered one of the true genre classics) that unfurls in real time -- as the clocks on the wall constantly remind us. Grace Kelly and Lloyd Bridges co-star.
When I was a kid, pretty much all that I watched was old movies.  High Noon is one that I can distinctly remember watching on more than one occasion.  I always liked this movie because Gary Cooper, who does a great job of playing the "ordinary guy," continues to stick to his decision of taking a stand against the villains, even though, one by one, the townspeople, who had just talked about how much they love him and owed him so much, would refuse to help him in his time of need.  He was undaunted by their lack of loyalty, because he knew what was the right thing to do regardless of the outcome.  So, he goes it alone, prepared to face these guys by himself.

This brings me to another aspect of this movie that I really enjoy.  As the events begin to unfold, as the description states, "in real time," we don't experience any amazing, no way that's possible, shootouts.  Instead, we see a very believable guy with some believable villains facing off in a believable way.

If you haven't watched a good old western lately, this is the one you should watch.  And if nothing else, you will have the theme songs stuck in your head the rest of the day.  If you have Netflix, click here.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What makes good preaching? (part 1)

Have you ever heard the phrase, "Preach the word!" used before?  That phrase has meant different things to different people.  I've heard it used to describe the type of church that someone wants to attend, as in, "I really want to go to a church where thy preach the word."  I've also heard it used to describe what a particular preacher was doing when he was really a-rantin' and a-ravin'!

This last Sunday at church I attempted to answer this question by picking apart the passage of scripture where this phrase occurs.  At the same time I figured that we might be able to answer a similar question, "What makes good preaching?"  We had an issue with my microphone, so the entire message didn't record, but this topic is hugely important to me, so I'm going to make an attempt at summarizing some of that material here on this blog.

First, here is the passage of scripture:
preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
(2 Timothy 4:2 ESV)

1) The very first thing we have to say is that good preaching is preaching THE WORD.  There's that phrase, but the meaning is actually quite simple. It is not preaching opinion or preference, it is to literally preach the Word of God. This is why I believe in expository preaching.  I try to pick a passage of scripture and work my way through it a verse or a few verses at a time.  Topical preaching is acceptable, but even that must be done in an expository fashion.  In other words, if there is a certain topic that needs to be dealt with or covered, I still need to go to the scripture to see what it has to say.

This means that I cannot preach what some preach when they preach their preferences on music styles or the ever-so-prevalent tendency to preach that the King James Authorized Version of the Bible is the only version that a person should use.  If I am to preach the Word, I cannot preach these (or other) things that aren't truly based in the Word but are based on traditions, opinions, and preferences.

2) The second thing to notice here is that this preaching of the word must be done whether it is popular or not, whether it is convenient or not.  Good preaching is established this way.  One might say that good preaching is timeless.  This doesn't mean that current cultural issues aren't addressed, but that the principles and truths from scripture are always taught.

For example, in much of America it is quite popular and well-liked to preach that one should love their enemies. This wasn't always the case, and in some places in the world it isn't the case at all.  Loving your enemies would be repulsive to some cultures.  Some of those same cultures would really like a preacher who focused on God's judgment or on us showing good judgment, while here in America the teachings of "judge not" are loved.  Cultures  change, but God's truth is timeless.  Good preaching should be the same way. To preach the word rightly one must not avoid those difficult or challenging passages of scripture simply because people won't like it.

St. Augustine, Tertullian, Ignatius, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, and Charles Spurgeon all have writings and letters and sermons that are still applicable today, not because their examples still ring true, but because they all were men who preached the Word, whether it was popular or not.  Their message was timeless because the one whom they preached was timeless.

There is more to this question and more from this verse, but I will handle it in a part 2 because nobody ever reads long blog posts anyway.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Church is not a religious society.

"...neither is the Church a voluntary association for the cultivation of impressions, experiences, and impulses which men may have received from divine revelation and by reason of which they have formed definite convictions, condensed them into definite resolutions, rules, and customs of life and made them the center of their piety and morals. 
"The Church is not the result of human election, decision, and disposition toward divine revelation.  It arises from the election, decision, and disposition of God toward man.  In revelation they have become an event.  There God meets men and communicates Himself to men. Men are not gathered into, nor preserved as, the Church by an agreement in sentiments, convictions, and resolutions. 
"Rather, it is the one God, one Christ, one Spirit, one baptism, one faith.  The Church is not a religious society."

Karl Barth
God in Action: Theological Addresses

Monday, July 11, 2011

Cleaner Youtube

I just wanted to take a moment to recommend a Google Chrome extension.

I know we all love the occasional YouTube video from time to time.  Unfortunately, even when the video itself is clean and acceptable for viewing, the rest of the stuff that is present on the page may not be.  I've had many times that someone has sent me a funny or interesting video, but for some reason the related videos along the side have had some images that were completely inappropriate.  Sometimes I hesitate even clicking the link at all for that very reason.  So, I was glad to find "a cleaner YouTube."

Instead of attempting to describe what a cleaner YouTube does, let me just show you a couple of screenshots.

Here is a typical YouTube video:

Here is that same video's page with a cleaner YouTube:

You can click either image to enlarge... Notice that all of the extra stuff has been eliminated from the page, giving you... well... a cleaner YouTube.

If you use Google Chrome, then click here to go the the cleaner YouTube extension.  If you don't use Google Chrome, well you should.

Bulbous Bouffant

Ever wonder what I do at the bus stop in the afternoon while I am waiting with the other teachers?

[via Kevin DeYoung]

Friday, July 8, 2011

Netflix pick of the week: Microcosmos

My Netflix pick this week is going to be a documentary that my whole family enjoyed... Even my wife!  The documentary was called Microcosmos.  Here is the Netflix description:
Employing unique microscopic cameras and powerful specialized microphones, this highly praised French documentary is a fascinating look at the seldom-explored world of insects and other minute creatures as they go about their daily lives. With footage of ladybugs feasting and snails mating to a mystical score by composer Bruno Coulais, the film won five C├ęsar Awards, including Best Cinematography and Best Music.
Like I said, we all enjoyed the movie.  There was only a little bit of talking at the beginning, but this method of exploring this "microcosmos" was simply captivating. Once we started it, we couldn't finish it.  I will warn you though, more than once it shows some insects mating... and some snails... fascinating, but gross.

It is available for instant viewing, so if you have Netflix, you can click here and go straight to the movie's page.  Here is the youtube trailer for the movie: (The Netflix version is in English, but the trailer is in French.)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Netflix Pick of the Week

My pick for this week is going to be a long-time favorite: Star Trek: The Next Generation.

I am actually really excited about this.  I loved this show when I was a kid.  I don't want to offend anyone, but I thought it was way better than the originals... don't get me wrong, I am a fan of the originals, but this one was better.  I also think that it was much, much better than any of the following shows.  Better than Deep Space Nine, better than Voyager, and Better than Enterprise.

Netflix just added all of the Star Trek shows, and included all seven seasons of The Next Generation.  I can't wait to start watching these with my boys!

too much bread

I have now completed two school years and one summer term as a teacher and as a pastor.  Wearing these two hats, many times simultaneously, has left me stretched a little thin.  As Bilbo Baggins says on the occasion of his 111th Birthday,
"I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter, scraped over too much bread."
I love that quote.  J.R.R. Tolkien does such an excellent job of writing in a way that leaves me feeling his words. Well, these are the words I have felt, more than once, over these last two years.  I want to do more, in both arenas, but there is simply, "too much bread."

Now, don't get me wrong.  I don't regret the situation that I am in, and strangely, I haven't had one single "second thought."  Seriously, not once have I thought to myself, "I shouldn't have done this... I shouldn't have said yes."  I believe deeply that God has brought me to this place and that He has placed me in both of these positions... and yet... I am stretched.

Is God's grace sufficient?