Monday, October 29, 2007

Some Seasonal Thoughts

In general I didn't use to have a great deal of difficulty with Halloween - at least not the way it was celebrated as I was growing up (ah the bliss of the ignorance and innocence of youth). I had no real clue that it had anything to do with the occult and it was all about dressing up as a hobo or clown or princess and getting candy. As I grew older it was about hanging out with my friends and pulling a few pranks.

Even as I had kids of my own we would welcome our neighbours to our door on All Hallows Eve and chat a while. We found it was a great way to connect with the people on our street. But what has happened more and more in the past few years is the rise of very violent Halloween themes (slasher, axe murderer style) and very occult/witchcraft/demonic elements. The costumes have begun to reflect those themes and frankly at the time, they scared the snot out of my toddlers. We stopped letting them answer the door.

The glorification of the blood and gore motifs, the "undead" style masks and the overt occult elements (spells, hauntings, curses, witchcraft) is what I find wrong with current Halloween celebrations, movies and TV programs. Halloween has become very politically correct in the schools in my area. The Christianity that makes sense of it all and is an antidote to the evil of the world, is not. That's the really scary thing about this season.

Addendum: For example, this morning my wife saw a frightfully inappropriate decoration at a house in our neighbourhood. It was the figure of what looked like a 10 or 11 year boy hanging from the basketball net on the driveway by a noose around its neck. Yes it was a dummy but it was dressed in children's clothing and it was deeply disturbing. What kind of message does that send to the children coming to their house for Halloween? What does it say to the children who live in that house? Please be praying for the children of the land!!!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Problem of Evil (according to Hollywood)

Often, there are times when watching a movie, that I yell at the TV screen (in my mind at least) shouting: "Just Pray!!!" The story writers in movies and TV effectively portray life-threatening situations, fearful circumstances, times of mind-numbing pain and anguish and at times blatant evil. The ways people respond to these situations are as varied as life itself - except for one glaring omission. People don't pray. God is rarely, if ever, seen as a solution.

Movies and television shows rarely show a spiritual response to what are in essence spiritual problems. This is especially true in the horror genre where authentic evil is being presented. [A caveat should be made here. I don't watch horror/slasher/occult movies - ever. This includes movies like Harry Potter and Ghostbusters. I don't like them - mostly because of their poor understanding of the supernatural, bad (actually destructive) theology, the promotion of fear, and their glorification of violent evil. I've seen scenes from some of these movies - usually through previews or reviews but refuse to watch the movies themselves.]

The solutions proposed in most movies seem to lie in a narrowly defined parameter of acceptable responses to these life crises (usually escape/fleeing or having a hero appear or rise up from the group to save the day). The most disconcerting types of solutions are those offered when the story is dealing with something that is blatantly evil - often supernaturally evil. Here is where the responses don't make any sense.

The first style of response is usually human Ingenuity - a scientific response to a supernatural evil. A movie like "Ghostbusters" is typical of this response. The heroes in Ghostbusters get rid of all the ghosts, apparitions, etc., by zapping them with their containment machine. The strange, unbelievable thing about this is that they completely accept the reality of supernatural, spiritual evil but propose a scientific, materialistic, non-spiritual solution - and suggest it works. I guess Hollywood makes dreams come true.

The second solution to the evil threat in many of these movies is the glorification or maybe the beatification of the occult. This usually involves using "good magic" or witchcraft to defeat the "evil or bad magic/witchcraft." This is the approach of the Harry Potter books and movies. There seems to be no awareness that evil cannot be used to defeat evil and that a house divided against itself will fall.

Jesus talked about this in Matthew 12:
24But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, "It is only by Beelzebub,[d] the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons." 25Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. 26If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? 27And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 28But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

The third solution is the most distressing to me. This is where the protagonists actually become evil to defeat evil. They become the thing they are battling to somehow use the power of the evil force to overcome the evil they face. Afterwards there is some deliverance or rescue of the hero that needs to take place to deliver them from evil - but again it is some human or scientific force that is able to do it. In this situation there is at least the recognition that the evil is supernatural and that they cannot overcome that power with their own strength. The scary part is that the solution advocated is to become evil like your enemy to defeat your enemy. So to defeat a vampire you must become a vampire. Movies like "Van Helsing" and now a new movie "30 Days of Night" advocate this approach.

In all of these films God and the power of the Cross is neglected, negated or ridiculed. Prayer is seen as ineffective and the option used only by the weak or by the sniveling. I suppose when light is removed from the scene, there are only varying shades of grey. When there is no acceptance of the reality, goodness and power of God in Jesus Christ, the only place to turn is human effort or witchcraft.

It causes me great concern because there are many who are raised on a steady diet of this stuff - especially children [which to me is one of the real dangers of the current expression of Halloween with its strong emphasis on the occult and the violent, bloody aspects of the horror genre]. It is also unbelievable that there wouldn't be anyone in any of these movies who, if faced with this circumstance, is actually praying. Hollywood is producing movies portraying real evil. Okay, then provide real solutions to evil, and those solutions need to involve the Cross. "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death." Revelation 12:11.

Marc Newman says it this way in Movie Ministry:

The problem with this kind of Problem of Evil is that it makes people feel helpless and hopeless in the face of the real, supernatural evil that most suspect is really out there.

Audiences deserve better. Evil is not eternal. Perhaps we in the Church need to do a better job of explaining the reality of the spiritual world. We must not leave that job to Hollywood. When we enthusiastically tell of our own encounters with God's redemptive goodness, it exposes these fraudulent attempts, such as 30 Days of Night, to debase supernatural warfare (albeit fictional) by turning it into a mere materialist turf war. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places," the Apostle Paul tells us (Ephesians 6:12). And Hollywood does better when it gets that part right.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


It is a fundamentally difficult thing to say "I have sinned" - especially in today's culture of political correctness. First of all it sounds religious and suspiciously Christian. What we hear more often is "I made a mistake" or "that was poor judgement on my part" or most tragically an action/mistake/error is denied only to be revealed later as completely true. Certain sports celebrities come to mind (can anyone say Floyd Landis or Carl Lewis?) and a recent article in the London Times was titled "Denial is as endemic as drug-taking in athletics."

Somehow to admit that "I am a sinner and in need of redemption" is to fly in the face of our culture of self-esteem, "I'm OK, You're OK" and "spinning" the truth. In fact, I think it would cause a media stir if someone seriously stated "I have sinned!" And if someone went even further and stated "I am a sinner in need of the grace of God" it would probably be considered offensive and inflammatory. To say "I am lost" or "ruined" almost implies intolerance or self-loathing. People may be quick to excuse their mistakes or shortcomings with a "well, nobody's perfect" but won't go the next step to admit their own fundamental lostness - and we truly are lost without the grace of God.

I think the word "lost" is actually a good description of the state of much of the world. What does "lost" mean? It implies that one is on a journey from a point of origin going to a destination but somehow along the way a turn was missed (or a few turns) and now one is in an unrecognizable place and in a place one doesn't know how to get out of. One may not even know s/he is lost because s/he didn't even know s/he was on a journey. Even many who claim to know God are not not moving toward the right destination or are unsure about the nature of their journey and are also lost. Admitting one's lostness is actually the first step to becoming found.

We all feel lost sometimes. But so often pride gets in the way of us asking for help or asking for direction. To offer direction for people who are lost has become the biggest social faux pas in our society. Dallas Willard in Renovation of the Heart says it this way:

"Is it insulting to suggest that someone is or may be lost? That his or her soul is ruined? No doubt in our hypersensitive, egotistical age, that could be insulting to some people. But that merely illustrates the delusional human condition [the fundamental pride of putting oneself at the centre of the universe]. If I am god, people shouldn't say such things to me.

Lostness is a factual condition of the self, of the ruined soul. You either have it or not, just as you either have or do not have a certain physical disease that can kill you. If you have that condition of lostness, you may not know it. Indeed, it is most likely you will not know it, because it is inherently a condition of self-blindness. You need treatment nevertheless, if you are not to be lost forever, and being informed of your condition and what to do about it can help you find relief. Should I say nothing to you merely because you might find it insulting? I must think more highly of you than that. The reality of evil in the human heart is not something to be ignored or treated lightly."

I've been taking a closer look at my heart, at my journey. I'm wondering if I'm wandering around aimlessly, or if I am still pointing in the right direction and moving at the right pace to make it to my destination.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Best Blog Post I Ever Read

This must be (for all its brevity and taking into account my personal bias) the best post ever. I saw it at Kirstyn's blog Breaking Free From Routine. I could just send you over there to read it (you should go - it's in colour there) but I wanted to put it here in so that others could read it as well. This is a prophetic message from God, It speaks to me that way and I hope it speaks to you as well.

God's Love

Thinking of My love
as simply a strong feeling towards you
is like drawing a single dot
on a piece of blank white paper.

My love has

It's 3 dimensional,
it lives,
it moves,
it breathes,
it has personality.

Saturday, October 20, 2007



What is that anyway?

I'm wondering. Really, I am!

It is such a common concept - an idea everyone thinks that they understand. But ask ten people what they think good leadership looks like and you will get 53 answers. It's one of those ideas that are prevalent in society - upon which society is based really - ideas like freedom and love and loyalty - ideas that could mean diametrically opposite things depending on which crowd you hang with.

Dallas Willard talks about these ideas in this way in Renovation of the Heart

Now for all their importance to human life, ideas are never capable of definition or precise specification: and yet people never stop trying to define them in their vain efforts to control them. They are broadly inclusive historically developing ways of interpreting things and events which for all their power often do not emerge into the consciousness of the individual. Therefore it is extremely difficult for most people to recognize which ideas are governing their life and how those ideas are governing their lives.

I know the idea of leadership is hard to define. People seem to know when it is not there. Most of the time it is defined in the Type A personality profile of strong, assertive, productive leader - someone who knows where he (or she) is going and knows how to get there - and will get there, by God, no matter what gets in the way!

And then I wonder about Jesus and His leadership. He collected a group of twelve - and one betrayed him. Another denied him. He created a bit of a stir and then disappeared into the wilderness for awhile. When he came back they killed him. He walked around apparently aimlessly and was constantly sidetracked by people asking him questions. He hung out with low lifes and undesirables. He let his forward momentum be interrupted by a blind man and a tax collector in a tree. He was politically inexpedient and definitely politically incorrect. He said things that made no sense to most of the people around him and that required extensive explanation to even his closest associates.

People talk about the leadership style of Jesus. I really wonder what that means. I don't think it would work (or be welcomed) in most of the churches I know.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Tales of the "Interesting" and Weird

Two unrelated blogs that linked to one another gave me a chuckle this morning.

The "interesting" one is about the often unnecessary use of "quotation marks." The English language is funny and its rules are befuddling, even to those most deeply steeped in the intricacies of the dangling participle and the use of the subjunctive. However here is a blog which highlights the strange and wonderful (and mostly redundant) use of quotation marks. Check it out here.

The weird site has to do with that strange growth on the upper lip of certain gentlemen (and a few unfortunate women). I still have a mustache after all these years and my wife has never seen me without one. For a very proper look at mustaches of the nineteenth century check out this blog.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Garbage Trucks

A friend just sent me this email. It may be posted somewhere else. It may have an author. I don't know. I just liked it enough to pass it on.

How often do you let other people's nonsense change your mood? Do you let a bad driver, rude waiter, curt boss,
or an insensitive employee ruin your day? Unless you're the Terminator, for an instant you're probably set back on your heels. However, the mark of a successful person is how quickly she can get back her focus on what's important.

Sixteen years ago I learned this lesson. I learned it in the back of a New York City taxi cab. Here's what happened.

I hopped in a taxi, and we took off for Grand Central Station. We were driving in the right lane when, all of a sudden, a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his breaks, skidded, and missed the other car's back end by just inches!

The driver of the other car, the guy who almost caused a big accident, whipped his head around and he started yelling bad words at us. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean, he was friendly. So, I said, "Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital!"

And this is when my taxi driver told me what I now call, "The Law of the Garbage Truck."

Many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it. And if you let them, they'll dump it on you. When someone wants to dump on you, don't take it personally. You just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. You'll be happy you did.

So this was it: The "Law of the Garbage Truck." I started thinking, how often do I let Garbage Trucks run right over me? And how often do I take their garbage and spread it to other people: at work, at home, on the streets? It was that day I said, "I'm not going to do it anymore."

I began to see garbage trucks. Like in the movie "The Sixth Sense," the little boy said, "I see Dead People." Well, now "I see Garbage Trucks." I see the load they're carrying. I see them coming to drop it off. And like my Taxi Driver, I don't make it a personal thing; I just smile, wave, wish them well, and I move on.

One of my favorite football players of all time, Walter Payton, did this every day on the football field. He would jump up as quickly as he hit the ground after being tackled. He never dwelled on a hit. Payton was ready to make the next play his best. Good leaders know they have to be ready for their next meeting.

Good parents know that they have to welcome their children home from school with hugs and kisses. Leaders and parents know that they have to be fully present, and at their best for the people they care about.

The bottom line is that successful people do not let Garbage Trucks take over their day. What about you? What would happen in your life, starting today, if you let more garbage trucks pass you by?

Here's my bet. You'll be happier.

Life's too short to wake up in the morning with regrets, so..
Love the people who treat you right.
Forget about the ones who don't.
Believe that everything happens for a reason.
If you get a chance , TAKE IT!
If it changes your life , LET IT!
Nobody said it would be easy...
They just promised it would be worth it!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


The word “gate” is often used as a metaphor for a place of spiritual access. Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Psalm 24:7

In times gone by cities had literal gates. Some cities (like Jerusalem) still have the ancient gates intact. They served a significant purpose – to control the flow of traffic (of people, goods and ideas) in and out of the city. They also served to protect the inhabitants of the city, from thieves and raiders in times of relative peace and from an attacking enemy in time of war. Attacking armies targeted the gates of the city so as to take control of the city. Therefore gates needed to be especially watched and protected. They provided safety for the people of the city. The gates were also places the city elders met to make important decisions. They were often the place of the public market and the place where dignitaries were welcomed and special events were celebrated.

Today city gates exist but they are primarily spiritual or symbolic. Yes, there are occasionally literal gates in the city but these are mostly symbolic (like the Prince’s Gates or the Dufferin Gate on the Exhibition grounds in Toronto). Spiritual gates also control the flow of traffic in the city – primarily the trafficking of ideas and influence or of blessing and cursing. Jesus said that the Church needs to influence the gates of the city when he said: I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Matthew 16:18

If these gates are spiritual a couple of things become clear. There are gates of evil (the gates of Hades – places where the influence of hell is peddled) as well as gates of good or of heaven (where the influence of God is manifest). Both types of gates may actually be in the same place but some have come under the control of the enemy. What is also clear is that these gates in today’s world are places that control the flow of ideas and influence. Therefore our education system would be a gate as would our judicial system. We need to be possessing the gates of the city so that the King of Glory may come in and we must be continuing to maintain and watch that the gates are safe. Psalm 48 has been a guide for us: 12 Walk about Zion, go around her, count her towers, 13 consider well her ramparts, view her citadels, that you may tell of them to the next generation.

From the ramparts we will guard the gates. These spiritual gates need special watching and protection for they are often the target of the forces of evil attempting to defraud the city of its inheritance. When the elders gather to make decisions, we must be in prayer.

What we have discovered is that festivals and temples are also gates. One of the more significant festival gates is Halloween. The church needs to advance against that gate and reclaim and redeem this festival time so that the ideas and influence flowing through this gate become godly again. We do this by making this time of year a season of prayer and worship. In my city (Toronto) we are encouraging the Church to set time aside for praise celebrations across our region during October 30, 31, and November 1. Our hope is that churches, houses of prayer, and prayer groups come together to celebrate and dedicate these three days to Jesus Christ and His Church. We are calling churches to unite in their neighbourhoods for worship and redemptive action (neighbourhood prayer walks, active neighbouring) on the evening of the 31st.

This is a time in the traditional Church calendar, when we reflect on those that have gone before us in the faith (Reformation Day - October 31st, and All Saints Day - November 1st). We remember and honour the expression of Christ through their lives. Let us lift the Name of Jesus, and pray for our cities and regions.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Cramming Prayer

I used some of the material found in my Slowing Down posts (here and here) to write an article for a local prayer newsletter called "The Kneeling Army." It's not all original stuff but I like how it turned out. Here it is.

Cramming Prayer
By Michael Krause (with a little help from my friends).

Some people relax or refresh themselves the way many college students cram for exams – instead of routinely giving space to rest, they hold their collective breath as their schedules fill with meetings and phone calls and e-mails and movies and … Discovering the stress of this breakneck pace, these same busy folk schedule a weekend off – but to pull it off, they must first work extra hours to clear their schedules, then go out of town to get away from the interruptions or take a whole week off, which then requires three days of recovery. In other words, they “cram” into their busy schedule some relaxation but have to get out of their regular, daily life to do it. Ever try to cram in some relaxation? It helps, but it doesn’t solve the problem. Just the expression “cram in some relaxation” creates tension.

Some people pray the way college students cram for exams …

Cramming reveals a basic misunderstanding of life – and many of us (me included) try to cram in prayer. We go about our daily lives trying to cope with the pressures of living: get up, make breakfast, make lunches, get the kids to school, get to work, make your boss happy, deal with cranky co-workers, stay late, rush to get the kids home, make supper, take the kids to lessons, or the mall, go shopping, pick up the kids again, get ready for bed, sleep, get up … Then when a crisis comes - like a sick child, being laid-off/fired, a new job, a new house, a crisis at work, a parent with cancer, an urgent deadline - we desperately cram in our prayer, frantically, anxiously hoping it will be effective.

Prayer needs to be like breathing, a regular rhythm of breathing out the concerns of our hearts and lives, then breathing in the restorative life and words of God. It is daily. It is hourly. It is moment by moment and needs to be as steady as breathing – part of the rhythm of life. But we often think prayer is effective only if it involves deep, intense, long times of intercession or contemplation, instead of it being natural and organic – like breathing. We are also too often in a hurry to go somewhere else or do something different to take notice of the fact that God is right there – closer than our next breath.

John Ortberg describes his attempt this way: “I called a wise friend to ask for some spiritual direction. I described the pace of life in my current ministry. The church where I serve tends to move at a fast clip. I also told him about our rhythms of family life. I told him about the present condition of my heart, as best I could discern it. “What do I need to do,” I asked him, “to be spiritually healthy?” Long pause. "You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life," he said at last. Another long pause. "Okay, I've written that one down," I told him, a little impatiently. "That's a good one. Now what else is there?" I had many things to do, and this was a long-distance call, so I was anxious to cram as many units of spiritual wisdom into the least amount of time possible. Another long pause. "There is nothing else," he said. "You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life."

Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. Hurry destroys souls. Thomas Merton said: “The rush of life is a form of violence.” And Carl Jung wrote, "Hurry is not of the devil; hurry is the devil."

For most of us, the great danger is not that we will renounce our faith or never pray. It is that we will become so distracted and rushed and preoccupied that we will settle for a mediocre version of it. We will just skim our lives instead of actually living them. We will settle for cramming prayers instead of a life of prayer.

Paul said it this way: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


I've also been experiencing hunger. Remember a few posts ago when I did my schtick on Longing? Well longing is kind of an enjoyable bittersweet thing that makes you wistful. Hunger is this dull ache that makes you feel dry and empty. You try to satisfy it but nothing really does. You can try to medicate yourself with food or TV or new things or lust (for power, for sex, for fast cars). Some even try to satisfy it with busyness or spending time with friends. But when you're hungry all those things leave you feeling even more hungry, more empty, less satisfied.

It was Pascal who said that we all have this space, this hole in our hearts that can only be filled with God. That's what I'm feeling right now. There is a deep hunger for more of God. My thought is that God does fill that hole but that we keep using up what He's filled it with. The translation for Ephesians 5:18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. is keep on being filled with the Spirit.

God fills us with His Spirit but we leak. I leak. I need filling. I need God. I need His Spirit. O Jesus I need you.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Slow Blog Week

It's been a slow blog week. I reconnected with an old friend this week and spent some time over at his parents place with him. Brigitte and I did a wedding together - she was the wedding planner and I officiated. A great couple who breathe fresh life into the institution of marriage. Congratulations Ian and Lisa!

I've also just been reading my son's blog People Need to Hear and my daughter's Breaking Free from Routine. Wow! They both write so well and carry real emotion into their blog. Maybe this is just the proud dad talking here but sometimes I really am blown away. They have more insight into life than I do at times and are continually teaching me new things (if you can teach an old dog new tricks).

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Unseen Things (Guest Blog)

I read Fred Peatross' blog Abductive Columns fairly regularly and actually get an email newsletter from him every week or so. This one encouraged me in the ongoing battle to walk in such a way to affirm that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of thing unseen. So I've posted it in its entirety. Be blessed. Happy Thanksgiving!

Our Stories and their Eternal Effect

You've seen the wildlife programs, I'm sure. The lion prowls in the tall grass, its tawny coat blending with the surroundings. What's the lion's strategy? Does he go charging into the middle of a herd of adult zebras? No. He stalks the herd, crouching, watching, waiting. Then a young zebra strays from the herd and the lion springs from the grass, runs the zebra down, tears it to pieces, and devours it.

When seeing such brutality, one can't help but think that something has gone terribly wrong with nature. The truth is, it has. Nature reflects the fallenness of the world. What we see in the natural realm is a shadow of what takes place in the spiritual realm. Thus, when Peter describes the devil, he pictures him as a roaring lion that prowls the earth, looking for some victim to devour.

Despite how safe our neighborhoods may seem on the surface, we live in a war-torn world where the forces of good and evil are engaged in the most intense battles. Here and there in the Scriptures, the veil is lifted, and we are shown something of the battle being fought over us.

While serving under the rein of a Persian king, Daniel received a vision of God, after which he prayed and fasted for three weeks. At the end of those three weeks an angel came to visit Daniel.

'Relax, Daniel, don't be afraid. From the moment you decided to humble yourself to receive understanding, your prayer was heard, and I set out to come to you. But I was waylaid by the angel-prince of the kingdom of Persia and was delayed for a good three weeks. But then Michael, one of the chief angel-princes, intervened to help me. I left him there with the prince of the kingdom of Persia. And now I'm here to help you understand what will eventually happen to your people. The vision has to do with what's ahead.' (Dan 10:12-13)

Before the angel left, he lifted the veil a little further.

'Do you know why I've come here to you? I now have to go back to fight against the angel-prince of Persia, and when I get him out of the way, the angel-prince of Greece will arrive. But first let me tell you what's written in The True Book. No one helps me in my fight against these beings except Michael, your angel-prince.' (Daniel 10:20-21)

What's comforting about this incident is that Daniel's prayer was heard, and help was dispatched immediately. What's unsettling is that for a 'good three weeks' the will of heaven was thwarted because of opposition in the spirit realm.

How formidable must the opposition be to have delayed such a warrior? How fierce the combat to have lasted so long?

Thinking about the combat raises some questions about the battles fought over you and me. How many battles, I wonder, were fought over us as children? And how many are still being fought over us as adults?

How fierce are the assaults-and how valiant the defense? How long did they rage? At what cost were the victories achieved? At what cost the defeats? And how many attacks never reached us because some angel fought his heart out, taking the blows that were meant for us?

And what about those who are still praying? Whose prayers seem to go unheard? I can't say for sure but my guess is the angels are fighting their hearts out.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Godhead in the Old Testament

Most of us recognize the Jewish roots of Christianity and most of us also acknowledge that Christianity wouldn't even make much sense without an understanding of the Jewish context. Unfortunately much of our Jewish understanding has come from the New Testament without really understanding how that was shaped by the Torah and the Prophets. I have long been fascinated with the precursor images of Jesus presented in the Old Testament and even how Jewish scholars also recognize that these passages speak of a less than rigidly monotheistic YHWH. (If you really don't find this type of stuff interesting you might want to skip this post. My daughter just came down and saw what I was working on and said "That looks really boring Dad." I said; "Actually, it is fascinating!" Her answer? "That's nice Dad.")

Some of this material is found in a number of excellent books that speak of the Jewish roots of Christianity (Our Father Abraham and In The Shadow of the Temple). One of the best Christian apologetic books in my mind is actually a series of books by Michael L. Brown called Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus particularly Volume 2: Theological Objections.

The other excellent online resource is a lecture given by Michael Heiser called The Concept of a Godhead in the Old Testament. It is available as a podcast or MP3 - but you can see the powerpoint presentation he used if you listen to it online. (You will need a high speed connection) If this is interesting to you or if you have frequent conversations with Jewish Rabbis, it is worth the hour it takes to listen to it.

In this lecture Heiser presents material that shows that there are:
1. a number of very significant Old Testament passages which show the presence of YHWH and of "another" God-like figure at the same time (Exodus 3:1ff with Moses at the burning bush, Exodus 34:5-7 where the Lord passes by while also covering Moses eyes; Judges 6:11-14 where the angel and YHWH are both called the Lord and Genesis 31 and 32 where Jacob wrestles with an angel and says he wrestled with God).
2. an even greater number that speak of YHWH appearing in physical form, speaking, touching and even eating (the angel wrestling with Jacob, 1 Sam 3:10 where the Lord comes and stands beside Samuel, Jeremiah 1:1-9 where the word of the Lord reaches out his hand and touches Jeremiah and Genesis 18 where the Lord appears to Abraham and actually sits down and eats).
3. a number of Jesus style "descriptors" that are used that are considered to be God or to be equal to God (the "name of the Lord, the angel of the Lord, the word of the Lord and even "wisdom").
4. And that there are even a few passages that suggest the Trinity (Isaiah 63:7-10 mentions YHWH, the angel of the Lord and his Holy Spirit especially when seen in parallel with Psalm 78:40-41).

Up until the second century Jewish scholars acknowledged these passages as evidence of two YHWHs - one seen and and the other unseen. Philo even calls the seen YHWH the Logos! But of course after the explosive growth of Christianity after the second century (and perhaps because of some anti-semitic behaviour and of course the destruction of the temple) Judaism distanced itself from the emerging Christian movement by reinterpreting some of these OT Christian precursors.

If you can, I would highly recommend listening to the lecture. I think you would enjoy it.

For the Love of Writing 2

The downside of loving to write with a fountain pen is that we live in a digital world. I resisted getting a handheld organizer for many years because it just didn't give me the same tactile satisfaction as writing things down. However I eventually gave in and started using one. About a year and a half ago I joined the all-in-one phone-organizer-datebook-handheld-internet-browser crowd and it is sort of adequate for my needs. My wife however has gone back to the tattered little date book because she wants to see everything laid out on one page. Paper has not lost its place just yet.

But I still keep a paper journal - for the art of it all (see the last post). I also like to see it all. I still go back to journals I had written years ago because I remember a poem I wrote or an insight I had that I want to think through some more or just experience that moment again. I have tried to keep a journal on the computer. It just doesn't work. I need to see it. For me, out of sight is out of mind. It is harder to maintain a journal on the computer. It's hard to have the same kind of journalling experience. It feels detached from my reality somehow. It's tough to be sitting out in your car or on the side of the lake recording thoughts and impressions with a laptop. Somehow that's just not natural.

At the same time, the phenomenon of blogging has allowed millions of people to journal their thoughts and express their opinions and make it available to the whole world. But it just isn't the same for me. I really can't pour out my guts on a blog. I can't have a conversation with God on a blog. I can't have that deep conversation or argument with myself on a blog - Oh wait, I basically am talking to myself most of the time on this blog - but you know what I mean (well I know what I mean).

On the other hand there's nothing like having the flexibility of writing and rewriting and editing and storing and sending stuff to others that is possible when you use the computer. I cut and paste and use stuff from old papers and emails to add to (and hopefully enhance) the stuff I'm writing or the papers I need to produce or the articles I write. It's all there and can be retrieved fairly easily (if one has a reasonably efficient filing system - but if not, then that's what Spotlight is for).

For the Love of Writing

I love to write. Now that can be interpreted in a few ways. First of all, I love to write with a fountain pen. I love the hefty feel of the pen in my hand. I love the even flow of the ink and the slight resistance of the paper to the nib tip of the pen. I love the way the ink comes out on the paper. Hey, I even love the smell of the ink.

There is almost a joyful experience attached to writing with a quality fountain pen on good paper. It doesn't matter if I'm writing poetry or taking notes or jotting down a phone number. That tactile sense of having something in your hands and pouring out flowing lines on a canvas is almost like art - maybe some would consider it art - until they see the chicken scratches that I pass off as handwriting. Well it feels like art anyways.

I have a Waterman Carene Black Gold Tip fountain pen that was given to me as a gift about 8 years ago when I left Evergreen. About 6 years ago I dropped it (yikes!) and bent the nib tines. When I checked about repairs (I had the pen sent in by the store where it was purchased) they gave me a repair estimate that was over $200. Although the pen has significant sentimental value for me (it was engraved and given to me by my staff at Evergreen who continue to remain friends), I figured I could buy a new one for that price (although I never did). So sadly I just put it away and have been writing with lower end Sheaffers (Award model) and just recently purchased a Pelikan Technixx, (both fountain pens).

Recently I have been hunting around for a place to repair it and have found a few places on the internet who specialize in the restoration of classic fountain pens. (Check them out here and here.) They have what is almost a cult following. They display their collection of unique and antique pens - fully restored and in working order. I was impressed. Although I don't think I will start hunting around garage sales and flea markets for old fountain pens, I have been inspired to at least see if my Waterman can be repaired and restored to life. I want to continue the art.

Monday, October 01, 2007

For the Love of Reading

I love reading (or at least I used to). Recently though, a sad realization has slowly been dominating my horizon. I will never read all the stuff I want to read. It's even sadder than that. I will never even read all the books I have in my library. And still sadder? I will continue to buy books.

I am an inspiration style reader. What style is that you may ask? I read when I am inspired to read. And I read for inspiration. The first statement means that when I see a book that captures my attention or even just piques my interest, I want to read it because I believe it will help me in some way or i just want to satisfy my curiosity. So I buy it and read it until my curiosity is satisfied (or until I figure out what the author is trying to convey enough to think I understand the concept). Then I do that with the next book. Sometimes I will finish the book (especially if it is required reading for a course). Most times I won't.

I usually have five or six books on the go at once. I used to be fairly content with this style of reading. I was inspired. I was reasonably well informed. I read parts of a lot of books. My library looked impressive. I gave myself the impression that I was a voracious reader.

That all changed when I started reading for my DMin studies. Now I feel like I have to fully digest and comprehend all the stuff I read. I feel like I have to be able to regurgitate it, chapter, page and publisher at the drop of a hat - or at the request for a two page summary. I feel like I'm not nearly as well read as I used to be. There are so many books and authors and papers and blogs and websites, that my head is in a spin. No, I have not read the latest, most significant book on Paul, or leadership, or New Testament theology, or the atonement. To be honest, with all this reading, sometimes I just feel really stupid.

I am not keeping up and I have realized that I never will. That's hard for someone with perfectionistic tendencies to admit. I think my expectations need a slight adjustment in order for reading to become fun again. Part of the adjustment is to pretend I'm reading the required text of my course for fun - just for inspiration and enjoyment. I know lying to myself is never a good thing in the long run - but for now it might just help me keep the inspiration flowing and the reading going.

Maybe the love will return. Or maybe I just need counselling.