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Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Golden Compass

I don't know if you have been following any of the controversy surrounding the movie "The Golden Compass" but below are a couple of links to articles that are worth reading.

In short, "The Golden Compass" is a movie based off the trilogy "His Dark Materials" by Philip Pullman. If you notice some parallels with the "Chronicles of Narnia", it isn't accidental. Pullman's aim with his trilogy is to destroy faith in God. That isn't something that I am making up, that is what Pullman says himself. The trilogy he wrote is really an effort to undercut Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia and to destroy faith. "...Pullman has left little doubt about his books' intended thrust in his discussions of his works, such as noting in his 2003 interview that "My books are about killing God" and in a 2001 interview that he was "trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief."  http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/compass.asp

Christianity Today has an article that looks at the film and Pullman's philosophies that underlie the work. Go to http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/december/12.36.html

I don't think that we should be afraid of Pullman, his works or his films. God wins. But we can use them in a couple of ways. One way is to teach our kids discernment. Pullman is not the first nor will he be the last that will seek to destroy the faith and belief of our kids. We need to be talking with our children about good influences and bad influences and help them understand that most things we see are not amoral but rather have underlying philosophies that drive their message. For smaller kids, I would say that not even watching the movie is probably the best thing. But for our teens, I don't believe it is harmful to watch it with them and help them to see and discern the messages it is communicating. An article by Jeffery Overstreet does a good job of helping us think this through. http://www.christianitytoday.com/movies/commentaries/fearnotthecompass.html
You have to use your own discernment on this. I personally struggle with giving my money to support the film by going to it in a theatre. It will be out on DVD soon. I'll rent it.

If you want a Christian Perspective Discussion Guide you can go to  http://biblestudies.stores.yahoo.net/goldencompass.html  and buy one for download.

If you have seen the movie, let me know what you think about it.

Huckabee Interview

Alright, I know that I'm treading on some thin ice with some people so let me say this first:  I'm a registered Independent, I have a general mistrust of politics and politicians, I haven't decided who I am voting for, against or otherwise as it pertains to the presidential election, I'm already tired of the media coverage and radio talking-heads as pertains Hillary, Rudy, Mitt, Mike, Barak, etc BUT I just watched this video and I think there is an important message here for Christ followers.  Who you vote for is up to you - you need to research it and pray about it and act on it.  Take the 30 minutes to watch though.  I think you will be glad you did.




Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Power of Drama and Music

This video clip has been around for about a year but I just came on it.  It is a pretty powerful visual about the challenges and spiritual battles in the Christian faith.  As much as we might turn away, God is fighting for us.  He just wants us to stop fighting against him and receive his love.


Take five, watch, feel, believe.


Monday, December 10, 2007

What Were You Thinking?!

Ever said that to someone? I've said it. I've had it said to me. And what is the standard response? "I dunno...."

I've been thinking about this whole thing of thinking. It comes out of my reflections on Romans 8. Paul makes the point that the difference between the dead person and the alive person is what they are thinking. Is it a mind that is controlled by the Spirit of God? Or a mind that is controlled by thinking about "sinful" things. "Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit." (Romans 8.5, NLT)

Thinking matters. And what we think about matters a whole lot. I don't think that is news to anyone but how do we shift in our thinking from things that drive wedges in our life to things that bring peace and unity in our life? One thing I know for certain, it doesn't happen without some intentionality in our actions. It also requires that we take responsibility for what we allow to influence our minds.

A couple of years ago I decided that I didn't want to wake up to talk radio or some song that a DJ decided to play at the moment my alarm clock went off. I decided I wanted to wake up to something that pointed me toward God. So I got a CD alarm clock and put in a worship CD.

Changing our thinking is not an issue of willpower. Emmet Fox wrote, "As soon as you resist mentally any undesirable or unwanted circumstance, you thereby endow it with more power - over which it will use against you, and you will have depleted your own resources to that exact extent." (Celebration of Discipline, Foster p.4). It is not about focusing on NOT DOING, it is about DOING things that lead to life. That is what the spiritual disciplines are all about.

Where have you succeeded or failed in changing your thinking?

Monday, December 3, 2007

One Tough Cookie


A very cool thing happened on Sunday.  While I was getting all emotional at church my lovely bride was running the California International Marathon.  Pam had the goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon (a time of under 4 hours for her age group qualifies you).  Three hours, fifty-eight minutes and fifty-four seconds after starting Pam crossed the finish line!  Way to go babe!  Let's just call her "One Tough Cookie"!!  

(That is Pam doing the Tahoe Marathon and Noah, our son encouraging her on.)

Gettin' All Emotional

I just had someone call and ask if I was OK.  (Thanks Pete!)  He was a little worried because Sunday I was a little on the emotional side and was concerned that there might be some challenges going on.  It's great to be loved, I'll tell you that.

Yep, I was a little emotional at church on Sunday.  What I was talking about was pretty close to my heart, this whole idea of keeping people at the middle of the frame.  (If you didn't hear the talk you can get it off the church website, www.coldspringschurch.net).   A lot of times the "church" can get knocked for being too focused on programs and buildings.  Some of it is true.  I have to be honest, pastor's can get into the trap of measuring their value, success, impact, etc by the size of their budget and their buildings.  Part of it can be because many other people measure them that way.  I digress.  

But really, if you take the time to delve into their heart, I will bet it bleeds for people.  That people would know Jesus.  That people would love Jesus.  That people would experience Jesus.  That people would be healed, changed, grow up, settle down, find hope, lose despair, experience faith, choose wisdom.  People.  That is what they care about.  It is what I care about.

Back to Sunday.  I was sharing about people and about eternity.  What makes a difference in forever?  It is people.  And the question I wrestle with is... "How can we help more people experience eternity?"  I get emotional about that and it chokes me up.

Another thing that played a part in it was I was at the end of a five day fast.  I strongly sensed that God was inviting me to fast and pray for five days so from Wednesday through Sunday I spent significantly more time before Jesus in prayer, reading, meditation and contemplation.  So, I also believe that the talk on Sunday had God's fingerprint upon it.  

In my journaling this morning, this is what I wrote about my time of fasting:  

“In thinking about [my fasting] today, the big thing would be God’s sustaining power, that is the lesson.  When I didn’t have food, God sustained my strength.  When I didn’t have emotional reserves, God came and made up for it.  When I struggled to find the message, the ideas, the creativity, God gave me those things at the time of need.”

Jesus needs to touch our whole life.  Heart, soul, mind and strength.  For someone who isn't highly emotional (ask my wife), that is a tough thing for me to allow at times.  And as a Pastor, I really want people to go beyond just thinking Christian, but acting Christ-like and feeling Christ-like.

A Prayer

Creator of our whole being, awaken in us a hunger that will only be filled by you, a thirst that would be unquenchable except by finding your living water.  Creator, create in us longings that find their fulfillment and peace in you.  Open our eyes to see you everywhere you are.  AMEN



Sunday, November 18, 2007

Protecting the Gift

Last week I went to a training event put on by Granger Community Church (www.gccwired.com) and I attended the seminar by Kem Myers on Communication.  Some very good stuff.  The bottom line for me was the idea to keep it simple.  It used to be that we thought that the more choices we gave people, the better so churches started offering everything under the sun.  There seems to be a shift going on now to the simple church idea.  Somewhere in the middle, there is a balance to be found.

Anyway, the idea of simple needs to permeate everything that we present.  When we print a Sunday program or an invitation or a website and people see too much info, they just check out because of the overload.  Identify what is most important and focus on that.  Direct people clearly where they can get more info if needed but KEEP IT SIMPLE!  
You know, not a bad lesson for life, huh?  Figure out what is most important and focus on that.  Don't let the fullness of life crowd out the best of life.

During the training event, Kem showed a video clip that really caught my attention.  It was done by Dove (you know, the soap people) and they have started this thing called "Campaign for Real Beauty."  To get it through our heads about the message being pushed toward women in our culture about what beauty is, they developed some short video clips. They are great clips to illustrate Romans 12.1-2 (don't be pushed into the world's mold but be transformed) and 1 Peter 3.3-4 (defining what true beauty is by contrasting the world's perspective).  I have to warn you, the "Onslaught" clip is pretty provocative but (unfortunately) not much worse than standing in line at the grocery store and being assaulted by the magazine racks.  This is a soap company communicating a biblical perspective!  You can find the clip and info on the campaign at http://www.campaignforrealbeauty.com/dsef07/t5.aspx?id=7373&filmno=1

If you have a daughter - the message is a good one.  YOU teach what true beauty is because the Beauty industry wants to tell her a lie.  But really, should we leave the formation of our daughter's character in the hands of a soap company?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Habits

Driving to Stockton today for the second time in two days I was listening to some leadership stuff to sharpen my mind.  I had an abridged audio version of Stephen Covey's "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" on my iPod.  I was really struck by his definition of how habits are formed.  Here is the equation:  Habit = Knowledge + Skill + Desire

Knowledge is learning, being taught what you don't know.  Skill is the ability to put into practice effectively the knowledge.  Desire is the level of willingness to do what needs to be done, learn what needs to be learned.

So, what habit would you like to have in your life?  What is the stumbling block for you?  Is it Knowledge, Skill or Desire?  Or, think about it this way:  what habit do you have that you don't want?  Why is it still there?

For me, I'm thinking I want a better habit of prayer.  I had a bit of a personal crisis a couple of years ago where I just felt like I didn't know how to pray anymore.  I turned to the Bible and started with the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples when they said, "Jesus, teach us to pray."  I figure that is a pretty good place to start.  That helped a lot.  So, there was my knowledge.  I have found that when I write my prayers that helps me to grow in them.  I also tend to be more focused and there is less whining in my prayers.  That is my skill development.  Desire is the kicker, isn't.  Do I desire another 20 minutes of sleep or 20 minutes talking to God?

So - what do you think?  What is the hang up for you in the habit your are seeking to create in your life?  Is it knowledge, skill or desire.  What is keeping you from addressing that area of need?