Monday, September 27, 2010

What Cooking Shows Might Be Telling Us About Ourselves

Right now, I am preaching through the Sermon on the Mount on Sunday mornings at Shiloh. Recently, we looked at Matthew 5:27–30, the famous passage where Jesus addresses sexual lust.

I came across some famous material from C. S. Lewis, which I did not use. Lewis was addressing the out-of-control sexual appetite that society was demonstrating. This was probably the 1940s or 1950s.

To illustrate, Lewis speculated what would happen were a throng to gather together in a venue. The emcee comes out with a covered plate, and, very dramatically, removes the cover off of the plate. On the plate is food, and the people cheer wildly.

Lewis stated that this would be ludicrous. Yet, Lewis noted, people, typically men, would gather in a burlesque club and cheer women, who would gradually unclothe themselves. This, according to Lewis, was a sign that the sexual appetite of people was out of control.

Recently, it occurred to me, that Lewis’ illustration serving as a foil for sexual appetites out of control, is actually taking place today. There are now dozens of shows devoted to cooking on television. Other shows feature cooking events. In both cases, chefs prepare elaborate dishes and unveil them before a wildly cheering audience.

In an era when obesity is a national health issue, and in an age when arguably our greatest health tribulations come upon us because of overeating, do these food programs serve as metaphors for a culture, whose physical appetites are nowhere close to being under control?

Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)

1. SUMMIT was good. I really appreciate getting to stay with Steve and Marsha Ridgell and spending a good deal of time with my old college roommate and Argentina teammate, Tim Archer. I am proud of their ministry at HERALD OF TRUTH.

2. Of all the speakers I heard, probably the most memorable was Shane Claiborne, author of IRRESISTIBLE REVOLUTION and JESUS FOR PRESIDENT. I guess this is because I expected him to be dogmatic and militant. Instead, he was funny and flexible.

3. I just finished reading Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball by Bill Madden. I found it mesmerizing—and I am not a Yankee fan.

4. Happy Birthday this Saturday, love of my life. Don’t worry, I won’t tell how old you are. (Not a problem, Judy never reads my blogs. She says she hears this stuff all of the time.)

5. Tomorrow, September 28, I turn 50. When I was 20, I never thought that, at fifty, I would look as old as I do, feel as good as I do, or be as happy as I am.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Popular Science

[This week I am attending SUMMIT at Abilene Christian University. This is from a blog I posted on January 16, 2009. I “re-blog” in honor of Stephen Hawking’s latest and controversial book—THE GRAND DESIGN]

            Francis S. Collins wrote a book a couple of months ago called The Language of God.  You may remember Collins as the head of the Human Genome Project.  This book is Collin's apologetic where he seeks to harmonize faith in God and science. Collins talks about his conversion to Christianity and his walk with God.  However, what interested me was the fact Collins believes God created the world through a process of evolution. Careful.  Collins is not a proponent of a godless universe, but he does believe strongly in evolution as used by God and explains his reasons. I do not believe in making one's interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 a test for fellowship.  I know there are plenty of people who are Christians who believe God created the world through an evolutionary process.  Collins' book helps me understand how they think.
            As for me, I am somewhat in the middle.  Not being a scientist, I am not forced to align myself with a scientific theory.  As a student of Scripture, I definitely believe that the Bible is open for interpretation, especially regarding this subject.  For those who consider East Texas to be the backwoods of education, you might be surprised to know that I was raised in an environment and a church that was open-minded when it comes to the creation of the world.
            Instinctively, the members did not want to box themselves into either extreme.  On the one hand, I remember a Sunday school teacher quoting to us from Second Peter 3:8, "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day." She said who knew how long God took to create the world or what process he used to do so.
         On the other hand, I remember a different teacher in Bible class questioning how much we can know about the formation of the world based upon simple observation, especially when all parties agreed that we were many years removed from the process.  I think Copernicus affirmed this a few hundred years ago, when he noted that all previous observations of the world were incorrect-- the Earth revolved around the sun rather than the sun revolved around the Earth.  The teacher's point was science is an evolving process (no pun intended.)  Who knows what the scientists of tomorrow will discover?
         So, today, I find myself being careful about marrying a position. Science is not God; science can be wrong. Medical science killed more presidents than assassins.  (Examples include the case of the doctors, who bled Washington to death after he caught a cold. Garfield was killed by well-intentioned doctors, who thought they had to remove a bullet from his body.  In attempting to capture the projectile, they gave Garfield an infection that killed him.)
         Religion can also be wrong. Who can forget that Galileo was condemned by the Church for his discoveries?
         We have become comfortable in the church with sophisticated biblical interpretation. No one in Christianity accuses a meteorologist of being atheist because he describes the arrival of snow via a storm system. Even those of us in Christianity who believe that God sends snow do not believe he did so by reaching into his storehouse and sprinkling it on the world (Job 38:22). We know that Job expressed truth about God in chapter 38 using poetry. All of us are comfortable with the unromantic realities of meteorological science.
         What Collins is doing is something I would like to see more people attempted to do: find the intersection between science and religion.  If we can achieve this, not only will our minds benefit, but our souls will as well.

Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)

1. Read LEE AND GRANT by Gene Smith for the third time. I say I read it, what I did was listen to an unabridged, audio version. I own a hard copy, and when I hear something interesting, I will highlight it in my book as soon as I can.
            Gene Smith is one of my favorite writers. His books are popular works of history—easy to read. He is a good story teller. LEE AND GRANT offers the world a biography of two fascinating menU. S. Grant and Robert E. Lee—two compelling subjects. You might guess since this is the third time for me, I really like it.

2. Sometimes, you experienced something in childhood you want your kids to experience. Typically, they are not impressed.
            When I was a boy in the 60s, a TV show came on, Saturday morning, called THE CHILDREN’S HOUR. They broadcasted movies for children made by filmmakers all over the world. I have always remembered one I saw as a boy—SKINNY AND FATTY.
            The story took place in post WWII Japan. It was about a large, obese boy, who entered a school. Other children made fun of him and tried to make him an outcast. He was befriended by a skinny boy, and together they had a series of adventures. In the midst of the action, a compelling friendship was formed.
            The movie was very touching to me, obviously. I found a copy on YOUTUBE and showed it to Judy and my children. They loved it.
            This gave me immense pleasure.

3. It is always good to return to places that impacted your life. Yesterday I attended worship services at the SOUTHERN HILLS CHURCH OF CHRIST in Abilene and the NORTH MAIN CHURCH OF CHRIST in Winters. I love these churches and enjoyed catching up with some of their members. The churches are different in a lot of ways because their mission contexts are different. Yet both share a passion for taking Jesus to the people. Both do a good job doing so.

4. I heard Rick Atchley open SUMMIT last night. For thirty years this guy has been bringing it in the pulpit. He amazes me. Truly, he possesses a gift for preaching. Only the Lord knows how much of Rick's stuff I have appropriated through the years. I hope I have done a good job giving him credit when I do. Unfortunately, I am sure there has been way too many times when I either forgot to give him credit or forgot that I had gotten it from him.

5. Look out. The Cowboys may have constructed the one scenario that will take them to the Super Bowl. In the span of eight days, not only have they removed all Super Bowl expectations, many have eliminated the Cowboys from the playoff hunt. 16 games makes for a long season. There is plenty of time for the Cowboys to recover. (See the San Diego Chargers the past few seasons.) Wade Phillips' team performs best flying under the radar.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Can a Christian Serve on the Police Force?

Well, as of right now, Reverend Terry Jones is not going to burn the Quran. I am certainly pleased about that. I have not heard a single Christian in Tyler say, “Burn the Quran? What a great idea!”

I heard much talk last week about the lives of military men and women becoming more threatened. I heard renewed debate in some quarters about whether or not Christians could or should serve in the Armed Forces.

Of course, throughout history, there have been a number of Christians who have been pacifists or conscientious objectors. In the Restoration Movement, of which I am a part, there was a strain of believers who were pacifists. I have good friends today who are pacifists, and I respect them greatly. I also disagree with them, and I hope it is in a very agreeable way.

Today, I want to mention only one reason for my disagreement. I will do so in the form of a question, which I have never heard raised: can a Christian serve on the police force?

After all, throughout history, have there not been leaders and officers in police departments throughout the world who have been corrupt? Furthermore, are there not times when men and women in the police force are called upon to take the lives of other human beings? Is not an occasional byproduct of police action violence and the destruction to human beings and property?

I see many parallels between serving in the police department and serving in the military. Perhaps, those who see a difference between the two have good reasons for their beliefs. Perhaps, there are some who believe it is wrong for a Christian to serve in the police department AND in the military. Either way, I would be delighted to hear from you–either in comments on this blog or in a personal way such as email or Facebook.

Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)

1. I am ready to use my iPhone in my vehicles. Anybody found an effective means of doing so? I have yet to meet a person who is satisfied with the FM frequency option.

2. I am currently investigating whether or not Alex Barron is Phil Pozderac’s biological son.

3. I have never attended ACU’s Summit. The last time I was able to attend the old Lectureship was when we lived in West Texas in 2006. I am looking forward to attending Summit next week.

4. I am about to finish JUDE with my Sunday night audience. I am tempted to preach NUMBERS next.

5. The longer I think about it, the more I think it is essential that ETCA get its weight room running again for the athletes. I believe they are not as physically strong as last year. The school's new move has been good; and ETCA can continue to get better, which will in turn attract more students. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Fire

Well, it is Labor Day. This is one of my favorite days of the year. I want to share a story that occurred almost 100 years ago. I want to use it as an impetus for addressing the election of 2010 and other elections. I want to frame it within, I hope, the teachings of Jesus and the rest of the Word of God.

Here is the story. On March 25, 1911, a fire broke out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York City. It was a horrific catastrophe. 155 people were killed. Many of these were immigrants, including a number of children. The fire took place on the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors of this garment factory.

When the workers discovered the fire, there were no means of escape. Witnesses, including some hard-boiled reporters, were haunted until the day they died by the scene of young women and children, some of whom were on fire, hurling themselves from high floors and landing on the pavement. They threw themselves out the windows in one last, desperate grasp at life.

Looking back, we cringe reading about the conditions present in many of these factories. Clearly the owners violated God's repeated warnings against “man's inhumanity against man.” Unfortunately, due to negligence, greed, and the simple self-centeredness of human sin, not much had been done. However, this fire helped motivate to motivate the local, state, and federal governments pass legislation to address the horrific conditions that existed in the sweatshops.

This is a good example of government acting in bringing about good results for its citizens.

There is another extreme on the opposite end of the spectrum from the political environment that allows for sweatshops. I have lived in a country that aspired to eradicate all forms of poverty, oppression, and injustice. Because of this, the government became extraordinarily active in passing laws to help people and bring about economic equality. I have seen other countries that have attempted to do the same thing.

One of two problems typically results from this strategy, and sometimes both. First, a nation can run out of money. Second, more and more people can become less and less inspired to offer their society a good and honest day’s work.

Scripture addresses two extremes in human nature when it comes to work. Proverbs, for example, deals with work in many of its verses. Some verses address the sins of greed and its twin, exploitation. Other verses address the sin of laziness and idleness. Still more address the sin of “get-rich-quick”, which can fit under the umbrella of all of the above.
I believe, that in the United States, we are fortunate to have politicians and elected public servants, who are concerned about both extremes. Some are primarily dedicated to the cause of social justice. They want to protect people from the consequences of greed and institutions that treat human beings like widgets in a factory assembly line.

Others are dedicated to the cause of public stewardship of funds and personal liberty. They want to make sure that our country handles its money well, and that it always provides an environment, whereby an individual can have a free and equal opportunity to provide for himself and his family and achieve the excellence he seeks in his field.

Because all of these concerns are passionately felt, we will always experience tension. This might be good.  

Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)

1. I finished THREE NIGHTS IN AUGUST last week. Written by Buzz Bissenger (and Tony LaRussa), the book follows LaRussa during a crucial three game series with the Chicago Cubs in August, 2003. Filled with narrative background as well as detailed baseball strategy, the book serves as a primer for what goes on in the mind of a Major League Baseball manager. I recommend it.

2. Josh Hamilton—the quality I love you about you is the very quality that breaks my heart: your all-encompassing effort. Please get well soon; and ease off crashing into walls and sliding into first base.

3. Here is my pick for the Super Bowl: Green Bay Packers vs. New York Jets.

4. I watched THE BRONX IS BURNING while working out on my treadmill last week. Consequently, I can’t get the old song from the Ramones –“BLITZKRIEG BOP”—out of my mind. I am probably going to have to download it from iTunes.

5. I saw THE LADY KILLERS last night on TV, late. Tom Hanks headlines the cast playing a southern con man posing as a professor of the Classics. It was so funny I laughed out loud several times.