Saturday, November 29, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
Consider these signs:
- In the weeks immediately following the election gun sales skyrocketed in anticipation of more restrictive laws in the new administration.
- Talk of assassinations and terrorist attacks have increased everywhere.
- White people have become paranoid about how the new government will try to "get back at them" or "even the scales."
- Many people that I know are "afraid" about what the future holds.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
The virgin birth is prophesied in Isaiah. The prophet tells the people that a virgin will conceive and bring forth a son (Isaiah 7.14). In the Gospels we learn that this prophecy was fulfilled in Mary, the mother of Jesus. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. There was not a human father. Joseph, the betrothed husband of Mary, would serve as an adoptive, or surrogate, father for Jesus, but Jesus was literally the Son of God.
This event was so significant that many have chosen to exalt Mary as a “blessed mother.” Two cautions should be observed here. First of all, Catholics and others have sometimes exalted Mary to a place equal with Jesus. The Scripture does support claims that Mary was more holy, more blessed than others, but we would do well to give her too much authority or power in the spiritual cosmos. Secondly, in reaction to what is seen as an over-blown Catholic veneration of Mary, many Protestants, and especially evangelicals, have diminished or ignored the importance of Mary. A balance is called for here on both sides of the issue.
But what of the doctrine of the Virgin Birth itself? What should we believe about the Virgin Birth?
- Although I do not believe that a virgin birth is required to believe in the divinity of Jesus, I do believe that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived. I have a very high view of Scripture and that means that I choose to believe what the Bible says about this issue.
- I do not believe that Mary was born of a virgin. This common dogma is essentially unnecessary. If Mary were born of a virgin it does exalt her, but it does nothing to bring glory to Jesus. There is nothing in the Bible to support this view.
- I believe that Mary was not always a virgin. After the birth of Jesus I believe that she married Joseph and that there were several children born in that family. There is no reason to believe that the other children were either miraculously conceived or born of another mother.
- I do not believe that the virgin birth implies that there is anything inherently sinful about sexual relationships. There are rules and guidelines that God gives for sex, but we should not infer that Mary’s virginity is what made Jesus sinless.
- I believe that Jesus’ miraculous birth sets the stage for his life and ministry. He was- and is- the Son of God. The events of the first Christmas echo through the ages so that we can know and experience “peace on earth.”
An observation: Although marathon runners would love to win their races, they are more interested in the competition with themselves. They want to accomplish the marathon, not necessarily win it. The challenge is to train and prepare to compete and to complete the marathon.
Often we tend to focus on the outcomes of prayer. We want to learn how to pray so that things will happen. We pay such attention to the end result that we miss the joy of praying. By doing so we lose out on the deeper things that come with a relationship with Christ.
Our prayer lives should be more like training for a marathon. We need to pay more attention to the first part of this passage than the second part. We ought to be more interested in being effective and fervent, than the availing much. To that end, let us focus on:
- Consistency in time, place and commitment of our prayers.
- Focusing on needs and persevering in our prayers.
- Planning to pray. Think in advance about what you are going to pray.
- Not giving up or being discouraged when nothing (or very little) seems to be happening.
- Encouraging others in their prayers and seeking the encouragement of others.
- Listening to God's voice as he speaks to us.
PRAYER: We want results, Lord. We have been trained to produce, and in our prayer lives we are no different. We want things to happen. Help us to realize that sometimes we should focus on our relationship with you. Make us effective and fervent in our prayers. Amen.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Within in the large category of adult films, there as a sub-category that I would call "redemptive movies." Redemptive movies, to me anyway, are films that make you a better person. Sometimes you grow and improve just by having watched the film. Other times the movie will cause you to make decisions or take actions that will change your life or future. There is one footnote: redemptive movies change you for the better. Change in itself does not make a movie redemptive. For example, a film that is excessively violent may create change in you. It might make you angry, or cause you to accept or tolerate violent actions. This is not redemption, however.
I understand that my definition of redemptive is very subjective. What is positive change to me, will not be positive to someone else. I know this is the case. So with that understanding, let us move forward to recognize that movies- and all art for that matter- can be powerful tools for changing people, our culture and the world.
Many of the movies that I have reviewed on this blog are 'redemptive movies.' They are films that make you think. They cause you to evaluate life, the world and especially the status quo. Redemptive films are tools for education. I learn new things and different perspectives when I watch a movie with a message.
I don't always agree with 'redemptive movies.' Sometimes they cause me to change in a way that is completely different than what the film-maker intended. Once in a while I watch a movie just because it is controversial. 'Redemptive movies' often fall into the controversial category, but they do not need to.
Be on the look out for movies that do not only entertain, but also educate. Our time is wasted if we sit down for two hours, turn off our brains and let someone else think for us. Film should make you think, learn, change and feel.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
The response of those involved was to clam up. They all stopped talking. They were concerned with the difficulty of the situations, yes. But more so, they were worried about what other people would think. How often that is the case in life. We become so worried about the opinions of others that we do not do what is right. We obsess about our own reputations at the expense of truth, justice and the American way.
Often this "secrecy" leads to more trouble. Other people think that we have it all together and sometimes make embarrassing assumptions about us and our mental state. By hiding things we can also foster a spirit of dishonesty. Remember that lying is a violation of most ethical codes, and certainly the Ten Commandments.
This is why I have started to think in terms of how I relate to people. I still believe that it is important to have a good reputation. I want to avoid evil and sin at all costs. I especially want to know that others know I am living a good life. But there comes a time and place that we must all decide what is important. In addition, we need to consider whose opinion about us is important.
I am trying to group people (and their opinions) into three categories. I look at these as concentric circles of people (much like a bull's eye target). I am the center of the target and these groups of people are those around me. From closest to farthest they are...
- Family. These are the people that are closest to me. They are the ones that I respect and love. These are the people that I want to respect and love me. I am not necessarily related to everyone in my family-category, but I want to be sure that I never disappoint any of these people.
- Friends. Friends are people who are important in my life. They are not quite in the "family circle," but they are in the next level out. I am concerned about these folks and what they think of me, but if God (or family) calls friends are left out.
- Fans. I want everyone to like me. My preference is that I will never upset, anger or disappoint anyone. But, things happen. Fans are the people that I want to please, but are of the least importance to me. If I have to upset anyone, it will be the fans.
Discretion is always a good thing. Secrecy generally is not. I will do my best to be discreet, but I am going to TRY being through with hiding things just because of what you might think.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Sometimes we forget that we should be blessing other people. Maybe we think that we are somehow not qualified to bless others. Although in this passage it is Jesus who is doing the blessing, it does not mean that you and I cannot bless other people. There are blessings throughout the Bible, and in the history of the Christian church. By blessing others we are participating in an ancient tradition.
A blessing, or a benediction, is simply a prayer that asks God to confer on another a measure of his love and grace. When we say a blessing, we are claiming, through faith, that God's will is for the object of the prayer to be blessed. We may think that it is audacious to pronounce blessings, but it is actually claiming what God has already promised. As we bless others we should follow the example of Jesus in this passage.
- Speak encouraging words to those whom we desire to bless. For many, receiving a blessing will be a new experience. It can be a little awkward at first. Begin by sharing assuring words of comfort and explanation.
- Touch the people you seek to bless. A hand on the forehead is often a good way to pronounce a blessing. Other options include holding hands or touching a shoulder. Always be sure that you do not make anyone uncomfortable. Notice that Jesus' purpose was to put others at ease.
- Say the blessing.
This may be difficult at first, but you will soon become comfortable with blessing others. This has the potential to change your life, and the lives of all those that you might bless along the way.
PRAYER: May the Lord bless you with good health, grace, peace and love. May the Creator of all keep and sustain you in all you do. And may the Holy Spirit dwell in your heart now and always. Amen.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
So you don't get the wrong idea, let me assure you that 'new' to me is not the same as 'new' to everyone else. When I see a movie for the first time, it is new. It doesn't matter when it was made. New is the same as unique or original in my mind. My definition is not exactly the same as everyone else's.
Creativity, therefore, is a highly prized commodity in Rev Dewey's World. Doing old things new ways, trying something new, or adapting something to my situation are all things that I prize. Creativity is a gift from God, and it reminds people (me, anyway) of the Creator of all, God himself. Creativity is from God. Creativity is good.
Recently I was invited to attend a seminar on "Moving and Growing in the Prophetic." You can tell from the title of the class where the theological sympathies of the leaders and hosts lie. We learned a lot about listening to God's voice, prayer and sharing a 'word' with someone and the dangers that the word could create. There was a lot of practice. We prayed for a moment and then wrote down what God was saying. We tried to get our own ideas and opinions out of the way as we focused on the Lord himself. The seminar was frustrating to me in that many of the exercises seemed superfluous and the simplicity of hearing from God was made overly complicated.
It was at the seminar, as I was considering these thoughts that it occurred to me that creativity is related to prophecy and the world of the prophetic. In fact, I believe that in many cases we can equate creativity with prophetic words and utterances.
Many people never allow their creativity to flow because they are intimidated by others. They feel inferior to the creative output of someone else, or that others will belittle their creative efforts. This should never be the case. But the same is true in the world of the prophetic as well. There are many people who never share what God is saying. They are afraid that someone else will think that they are "weird," a "religious fanatic" or "holier than thou." Isn't it time that we all took a step back and allowed God to speak to all of us? Isn't it time that we allowed God to fan the flames creativity in every life? For the good of everyone?
What is God saying to you? What is he doing in your life? Do you want to know what he is doing in mine?
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
One such issue has to do with the arts. Our world, our culture, is seriously in trouble. The arts, particularly in schools, have been relegated to an under-funded, under-appreciated ghetto. As a society we have decided that we do not care about great music, great dance, great literature or great painting. Great theatre has been replaced with reality television.
The front line in this battle has been in our public schools. Arts funding in education has been cut over and over again. Local communities are opting to support the football team financially, but not the band. This is a very bad sign. (This is not limited to local schools, however. Cities all across America are 'investing' millions of dollars in stadiums hoping that will mean more money for their baseball teams and their communities. Meanwhile, the arts community struggles.)
People all across our nation need to begin to speak out, not against sports-related investment, but in favor of arts investment, beginning in our local schools.
- We need to protect our music, drama and fine arts programs.
- Every student should be taking an arts appreciation course at every level of school.
- Every person, adult and child, should be surrounding themselves with great art.
- We need to be advocating for the arts in a public setting as patrons, participants and artists.
- We should all be practicing art at every opportunity.
- We should be producing art whenever we can.
- We should be enjoying art in all its forms and settings.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
There are three things that in this passage that make it good for us to focus on. And although these verses are specifically about prayer, these thoughts can be applied to all areas of life and all relationships. Call them "prayer pointers" or "life principles," but be sure to use these as a focal point for your life.
- You do not get answers to your prayer because you ask with the wrong motives. You may be asking for good things, but God knows your heart. Make sure that what is in your heart is pleasing to God.
- You do not get answers to your prayers because you ask for the wrong things. Listen for God's voice to make sure that your requests are within his will for your life.
- You do not get answers to your prayers because... you do not pray. How foolish you feel when you realize that you have forgotten to pray.
Prayer is a relationship with God. It goes both ways. you have to be in tune with his plan and will for your life before you can expect him to give you what you want.
PRAYER: I do not want to neglect my relationship with you, Lord. Help me to hold up my end. Fill me with your Spirit and inspire me to serve you more. In the name of Jesus the Christ, I pray. Amen.
Some would say that the difference is a lack of faith. I think that this may be part of it, but I am not ready to concede that it is all. I know that there are times when God does something we do not pray for or desire. He is God. He is sovereign. He is not bound by our wishes regardless of our level of faith. God is God and will be God no matter what.
I believe, rather, that the single greatest factor in hearing God's voice, or seeing God's hand, is in anticipating it.
- We should expect God to speak and work in our lives. I believe that miracles will not happen unless we are expecting them to. God will not burst in on us and do things that we do not expect. If he did, God would be a bully, pushing in where he is not wanted or welcomed.
- We should anticipate God speaking and working in our lives. When we anticipate, or look forward to God doing something it is more likely that he will, and more likely that we will be prepared for it.
- We should pray and ask God to speak and work in our lives. If we do not ask for the presence of God, we can be pretty sure that we will not have the presence of God.
The people who are always hearing God are the ones who are listening for him and believing that he will speak. I do not believe that they are more faithful, or that God speaks to them more than to the rest of us. I do believe, however, that they are more prepared to hear.
It is time for you and I to anticipate, expect and pray for the miraculous, the work of God. Now and always.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
- Driving over the speed limit
- Cheating on your income tax
- Looking the other way
- Pirating music
- Pirating movies
- Sharing copyrighted computer files
- Buying term papers
- Being hateful