May Links

For May, here the thought-provoking, interesting, biblical, or just plain goofy links for the month.  Just FYI, these are gathered from my perusing of the internet, from blogs I read, from what friends on Facebook find and post that I think are interesting, and from what gets sent to me by others who look for the good, the bad, and the ugly (but SFW) on teh intarwebz.

So if you have some time, enjoy sifting through some of the best stuff I have seen over the past month or so.

New Blog to Follow:

Please follow Chad and Kortney Bannick’s blog.  They are missionaries in Rwanda and good friends.  Their latest post on a boy named Theoneste really made me think of Luke 9:48.  Pray for Chad and Kortney, and for Theoneste and his dad.

Interesting Biblical Stuff:

In essentials, unity.  In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.

This is a great post from Bill Mounce about spiritual giftedness.  Hearing a noted scholar talk about this type of devotional issue is refreshing.

Jesus didn’t come back on the 21st.  I am shocked. (/sarcasm)  So now what?

Thought-Provoking:

AoM has a great post about motivation from the Band of Brothers.  The men of Easy Company are amazing.

I would love your thoughts on having a league that allows PEDs.

Deputy Bass Reeves is a manly man based only on his moustache.  But his story is quite inspirational, too.

Funny, Cool, or Ridiculous:

Oooooh YEEEAAAAHHHH!  RIP Macho Man.  Just watching Mean Gene Okerlund trying to corral Randy Savage in this interview is worth it.

This man uses echolocation.  That is a cool trick!!

Fair warning: Hyperbole and a Half has some posts that are NSFW and NSFK.  This one, though, is absolutely hilarious and clean.  And it reminds me of our family dog from my childhood.

These pics from the Library of Congress are really cool.  What a neat snapshot collection of the Great Depression.

There is no question about why women live longer than men.

I made this change in grading in my classes this summer.  So far, so good!

Good or Great?

It’s an interesting week in my life, as God has taught me a major lesson in priorities and selfishness.  I feel like I can relate to Archippus, who was reminded by Paul the Apostle:

Say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.” (Colossians 4:17)

Allow me to back up.  If you know me, you know that I am a gun nut.  I just dig firearms.  I love to shoot and love to hunt.  Some guys like cars, some are into computers, some play lots of sports. (I do all of that to various degrees, too…)  But for me, shooting is it.  I am good at it, I enjoy it, and it is stress-relieving.  It’s not any more expensive than golf and there is less beer involved. Smile

So a couple of months ago a friend encouraged me to send in an audition email to the producers of Top Shot.  I am a big fan of the show, so I went ahead and sent their producers a casting email just for fun.  I got a call from their producers!  After a 20-minute phone interview they asked me to make a casting video for them; this is what we made. (hat tip to Lowman Photography for the amazing video)

After the video was submitted, Laura and I started really praying in earnest about it.  It wasn’t a slam dunk that I would be cast, of course, but there was a real chance that I could be chosen I think.  (I have friends who have worked in the industry and they liked my chances)  The hitch: the production schedule.  Filming for the show is August 3rd-September 15th, during which time the cast is sequestered.  They go live in Southern California and have no contact with friends and family for 6 weeks. 

That was a pretty steep price to pay.  I was asking my wife to let me have 6 weeks of no contact with her; same with my kids.  I was asking my church to allow me to basically take a sabbatical of 6 weeks and our two other pastors to pick up the slack.  I was asking both schools I teach at part time (ACU and Phoenix Seminary) to let me take about 4 weeks at the beginning of the fall semester off or maybe replace me for a semester.

So I did what I always do when things are not clear: I started praying, and started talking to my mentors.  I talked to the man who led me to Christ, Keith, who is a wonderful mentor and friend.  His advice was that this is a great, national opportunity to preach the gospel but if Laura wasn’t fully on board I should let it go.  I talked to several other people about it too.  We decided just to let the process take its course and hey, if they said no then fine.

After awhile of not hearing, I finally sent a follow-up email to the producers asking if I had been eliminated to just put the idea to rest.  I didn’t want it hanging around if I were out of the running!  He emailed me back and said that I was still “in the running,” and that was when I really had to make a decision.  That email, telling me I was still in, didn’t fill me with excitement or joy; instead I felt a sinking feeling because I still had to decide if I could ask everyone to go out of their way for me.

But more than anything the advice of the man I call my “hunting mentor,” Norm, rang in my ears.  Norm reminded me that I have a very unique calling and opportunity.  He reminded me that I get the unique privilege to be a shepherd and to serve people with the message of Christ.  And that got me thinking about underlying motives.  It got me thinking about why I wanted to be a contestant on Top Shot.  It’s because it is a cool show and the contestants get to participate in some awesome marksmanship contests. 

So, at the core of it, I was asking everyone around me to sacrifice a bunch so that I could go play with guns for six weeks.  Now, how much does that sound like what Jesus says?

“And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?’” (Luke 9:23–25)

 
Yeah, not much.  Sounds pretty selfish to me.
 
So Laura and I prayed.  And Wednesday I sent the producers an email asking them to take me out of consideration.  They were disappointed, but understood.  Someone else will take my place for sure!
 
I don’t post this to toot my own horn, but just to let you, dear readers, in on my thought process.  As Paul tells us, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. ” (1 Corinthians 6:12) It would be “lawful” for me to go, but even if profitable for me it wouldn’t be for my wife, my kids, and my church. (okay, if I won the $100,000 grand prize it would be…but there are no guarantees there for sure) 
 
So God reminded me that I needed to focus on the great rather than the good and the fun.  That I needed to die to self a little and think of those around me.  After a few early days this week of self-focus about this, He has reminded me again to put others ahead of my pleasure and seek the kingdom of God. 
 
How about you?  How is God leading you to put aside ambition and self-interest in His cause?  How is God changing your priorities and habits to be more like Him?

A Long (but good) Commercial

I am all about the comic book movies, so for Mother’s Day Laura and I went to see “Thor.”  Watch the trailer if you’ve not seen it already, and you’ll see that it is pretty typical superhero fare.

Rule #1 of superhero movies: don’t expect them to be incredible stories that change your view of the world.  Instead, if you expect them to be good “popcorn munchers” with lots of CGI and things exploding and dudes with hulking muscles you’ll enjoy the ride.

This is precisely what Thor is.  It’s a long commercial for “The Avengers” that is coming out next year.  That said, if your expectations are set appropriately it can be a fun afternoon at the movies.

Basic plot: Thor is the son of Odin, the king of a far off planet of beings with special powers.  They appeared to humans in primitive (in this case Norse) times who worshipped them as gods.  They keep peace in the galaxy.  Thor is vain and arrogant, so Odin banishes him to earth to learn some humility and who he really is.  (that’s the synopsis without any spoilers…)

The good:

The moral message of this movie is really solid.  Thor is the prototypical “rich kid jock” whose dad is the king and who has it all.  He is strong and sure of himself, but through a series of events is shown to be arrogant and not fit to be a king.  The rest of the movie involves Thor growing into a character who is a servant leader who puts others ahead of himself, which is a great message for people.

Secondly, the romantic interest in the movie is played by Natalie Portman.  Now, Portman has made a name for herself with sexually charged roles and scenes (link is SFW and SFK but has a link in it that may not be; I wouldn’t click that…).  In Thor, however, the romantic interest is very, very tame.  Thor (played by Chris Hemsworth, who is a handsome devil) kisses Jane Foster on the hand a couple of times, and they do have a kiss near the end that is very tame by modern standards. 

As expected, the CGI is good.  Asgard looks cool, and the characters are neat to look at.  Anthony Hopkins turns in a pretty good performance as Odin, too.  And Idris Elba is awesome as Heimdall.

The Bad:

Really, the “bad” isn’t bad, it’s just a little lame.  The big battle on earth is between Thor and a big, animated suit of armor.  That shoots fireballs out of its face.  Laaaaame.

The plot is really predictable, with Thor being banished to earth and the hijinks of a “god” being among mortals are played out.  (Thor never claims godhood) The epic last battle is predictable.

The goofy:

Can you say Mjölnir ten times fast?

In my opinion, Chris Helmsworth HAD to be CGI when he had his shirt off.  Either that, or I need to start taking steroids. Smile (I kid, I kid…)

The verdict:

This was a fun movie with a good message and little that is bad.  In fact, Laura and I are going to take our two oldest kids (ages 14 and 11) to see it when it gets to the cheap theater.  That says a lot, because we are pretty careful with our kids and movies.  So if you’re looking for a clean, fun, not-very-plot-heavy way to spend an afternoon, this is a good way to do it.

A Fair (and Fun!) Fight

Hey all, sorry I have been scarce.  It’s been hectic finishing up the semester at ACU and transitioning to two worship services at WG.  Thanks for your patience as I dropped off the face of the blogosphere.

This morning I had a great time that really encouraged me in Christ that I thought I would share.  If you’ve had much exposure to the Lordship Salvation controversy you are well aware that it can be a contentious and nasty argument at times.  When it is pursued as a means of telling who is “in” and who is “out,” it is never fun.

Today, though, I had a very different experience.  I had three friends come over to my office to discuss this issue.  One is a pastor and seminarian, one graduates from seminary in a few weeks, and the third is studying the Bible at ACU.  So the table had some people with a background in the text.  More than that, everyone had a position on the topic that they came to the table with!

The cool thing, for me, was that at the end of the day I left energized.  Now, for some it may have not been that way, but in the midst of the discussion we tried to be thoughtful and polite.  We tried not to set the other side up as a caricature but to really consider what they were saying.  We went through the case of Judas, and 1 John 3:6-10, and James 2:21-24, and 2 Timothy 2:11-13.  We considered what each text said and how each side understood it.  We looked at the Greek text when appropriate and did some impromptu word studies (thank you, Logos!).

At the end of the day, we realized that despite some differences we had a lot more in common than we originally thought.  And more than that, we realized that there is a big difference between being an “evangelical” and being a “fundamentalist,” which I would define as a Christian who believes that anyone who deviates from their doctrinal conviction in non-essential areas (inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, full humanity and full deity of Jesus, Trinity, and salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone) is a heretic and headed to hell.  Thankfully we had no fundamentalists in the room, only evangelicals!

The discussion was spirited but cordial; it was passionate but grounded in John 13:35.  And that really encouraged me, because it showed me again that we can have unity in diversity within the bounds of historic, orthodox Christianity.  Yay!

So today I am encouraged by my brothers and sisters in Christ who don’t shrink from a good “argument” and do it with class.  So much thanks to Drew, Sean, and Kristin for a fun morning, and let’s do it again.

How about you?  When we get together next, are you in?  Can you handle the requirements?  Do you do this, or do you run from these discussions?