Friday, March 31, 2006

News: Time Capsule In Adventist Media Center

ANN | Germany: Media Center Foundation Stone Placed, Time Capsule Enclosed

Does anyone else see the irony here? A building dedicated to the proclamation of the closeness of Jesus' return and the coming end of the world has a time capsule in it's foundation with a letter
"addressed to those who might discover the Foundation Stone in the future." Makes ya wonder...or laugh.

New House

I just bought a house--well, an 800 sq/ft bungalow to be precise. It has a sagging roof and needs some repairs, but in the economic boom that is Grande Prairie...who cares? There was someone looking to buy the lot in order to tear the place down and put up a duplex, so unless Iraq miraculously stabilizes there shouldn't be trouble with the resale.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

News: Rescued Peacemaker Is Homosexual

Canada.com | Family kept Loney's homosexuality quiet for fear of actions of Iraqi captors
Fears that James Loney's Iraqi captors might harm the peace activist if they knew he was gay forced his partner to remain silent as his loved ones called for an end to the hostage ordeal, Christian Peacemaker Teams co-director Doug Pritchard said Monday. During his four months of captivity, Loney's sexuality was kept out of the media spotlight at the request of his family, said Pritchard.
I wonder if as many Christians would have prayed for Loney's release had they known he was a homosexual. I would like to think that out of respect for his courageous actions or even his basic humanity they would have anyway. But my hunch is that news of Loney's participation in the "sin-du-jour" has lessened him in the eyes of many believers.

I suppose if he'd slept with a woman and arranged for the death of her husband to cover his tracks, we could forgive him. But scripture unequivocally states that homosexuality is a sin. So I guess our safest bet is to pray that God's man in the White House will continue to set a moral course for our nation.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Video: Her Church


  • Is God as much our Heavenly Mother as our Heavenly Father?
  • Has male dominated theology made their God in its own image?
  • Is the church suffering for lack of a feminine side?
  • Can or should we call God “She”?
  • Are the Christian scriptures so devoid of feminine notions of the divine that we need to incorporate teachings and traditions from other religions into our faith and practice?
  • Do representations (statues, icons, etc.) of the feminine figure need to be more prominant in our worship?
  • How effective would a church like this be in a postmodern context?

If people are not asking you these questions already, they will be after The DaVinci Code hits the big screens in May. Personally, I believe that the church has yet to totally realize the fact that men and women are equally made in the image of God. Gender inclusive language in (post-)modern translations of scripture is a big step in the right direction.

But I also believe that we must not give up Biblical monotheism and its attending prohibitions against idol worship and goddess worship. The God of the Bible is “one” and does not have a “wife” because He encompesses the masculine and the feminine. (I use the masculine pronoun because English has no better pronoun for indicating a personality that is both feminine and masculine, but that’s opening a whole other can of worms…) I also worry when figures of human forms are revernaced in worship; that’s another way of making God in our image, a.k.a. idolatry.

You can read more about Her Church at herchurch.org.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

In Memoriam: Desmond Doss

ANN | Adventist Doss, First Conscientious Objector to Win Medal of Honor, Dies at Age 87
Citation: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Medical Detachment, 307th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division. He was a company aid man when the lst Battalion assaulted a jagged escarpment 400 feet high. As our troops gained the summit, a heavy concentration of artillery, mortar and machinegun fire crashed into them, inflicting approximately 75 casualties and driving the others back. Pfc. Doss refused to seek cover and remained in the fire-swept area with the many stricken, carrying them 1 by 1 to the edge of the escarpment and there lowering them on a rope-supported litter down the face of a cliff to friendly hands.
(via medalofhonor.com)
To me, Desmond Doss is the embodiment of "conscientious cooperation"--the Adventist church's response to the moral dilemma of opposing Nazi Germany while obeying the divine command, "Thou shalt not kill". Doss joined the U.S. Army as a medic while at the same time refusing to touch a weapon and endured ridicule from his comrades as well as constant harassment from his superiors. But he held to his convictions, and they gave him the strength to do an amazing feats humanitarian service on the battlefield.

With the "just wars" behind us, Desmond's passing symbolizes the end of an era, and I want to remember not only him but all the other Adventists who served God and country as "conscientious cooperators". My great-grandfather, Dirk Hamstra, received the Croix de Guerre from the Franch in WWI for rescuing, against orders, a downed airman in no-man's-land (the U.S. Army was not giving medals to medics at the time). We should also remember the "white coats"--young Adventists the U.S. Army used as human guinea pigs in exchange for exemption from combat duty.

The good news is that a few weeks before his death Desmond finally signed the rights to his story over to a group of producers who intend to make a live-action, feature film of it. His story has already been told in a comic book and a documentary film. The documentary is a bit slow, but the story is absolutely compelling. I recommend that you acquaint yourself with this remarkable man.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Song: Lacrimosa

This year is the 250th anniversary of Wolfgang A. Mozart's birth, and classical music organizations all over the world have been marking the event with concerts, countdowns, and collaborations. Although I love classical music, I've never been a big fan of Mozart; Bach, Vivaldi, and Beethoven are more my style. But my perspective changed in college when our choir sang Requiem with a community orchestra in Vancouver.

Mozart composed his Requiem just before his death (it was completed by his assistant), the irony of course being that a Requiem is a funeral mass. I generally find Mozart's music to be playful and frivolous, but Requiem feels like an impassioned plea for the mercy of God--likely a result of the theology of his day. For me, the pathos of this piece is most evident in it's central movement, the "Lacrimosa".
Lacrimosa dies illa,
qua resurget ex favilla

judicandus homo reus -
Huic ergo parce, Deus.

Pie Jesu Domine,
dona eis requiem.

Amen.


That tearful day,
when from the ashes shall rise again

sinful man to be judged.
Therefore pardon him, o God.

Merciful Lord Jesus,
give them rest.

Amen.
(via Antoine Valentim's site)
How do you view the final judgment; will it be a day of tears or a day of pardon? The Bible says there will be only two groups on that day--those who love God and those who are afraid of Him. In Mozart's music I feel fear...but also hope that God is merciful.
We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in him. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we are like Christ here in this world. Such love has no fear because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of judgment, and this shows that his love has not been perfected in us.
(1 John 4:16-18, NLT)
You can find a poor quality MP3 of the "Lacrimosa" at this Geocities page.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Ellen White Summit

Ellen White Summit

MP3s of presentations at the Ellen White Summit held at the Gladstone Conference Center in Oregon on November 11 and 12, 2005 are available for download at this website. Presentations by George Knight, Jon Paulien, Craig Newborn, and Jud Lake on topics such as the use and interpretation of her work, the current disengagement of many Adventists from Ellen White, and the nature of inspiration. If you've read George Knight's books, you'll have a good idea of what he's going to say, but it's fun to actually hear him say it. The rest of the presenters give some good perspectives, especially John Paulien's presentation on Ellen White and the youth.

Monday, March 20, 2006

News: UN of Religions Proposed

BBC | Rabbi calls for 'UN of religions'
Rabbi Metzger [Chief Rabbi of Israel] was addressing the International Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace in Seville, Spain....The imams and rabbis at this conference, which opened on Sunday, say the world is in crisis and it is time they acted to restore justice, respect and peace.
It's easy to see how this proposal could be lauded and criticized. The idealist how you can be against a forum where religions can get together to hammer out their differences without resorting to violence and work towards peace and justice. The cynic however, will point out that we already have a real UN that's supposed to do that and look how well that's going.

I'm not against inter-religious dialogue as opposed to violence or to working together with other religions where we have common goals. And I don't think that fear of failure is a good reason not to try. But I do worry about the power such an institution might acquire to coerce members and non-members to practice religion in ways it deems appropriate.

One of the components of the end-time scenario presented in Revelation is the world-wide enforcement of religious observance (Rev. 13). The imagery (no pun intended) of that vision is drawn from the Daniel 3, where the king of Babylon forces the leaders of the then-known-world to worship an idol (6 was the Babylonian holy number). If the proposed "United Nations of religious groups" is formed with the intent of influencing the political powers of the world, then it will be setting itself up to fulfill this prophecy.

However, if this body were to be set up with the intent of promoting dialogue, freedom, and peace among religions, it may aid the spread of the good news about Jesus. Incidentally, this is also a sign of the end (Matt. 24:14). Perhaps it will help to fulfill both prophecies.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Questions: Success

I have a moderately-high need for achievement, and this was relatively easy to fulfill in college (study hard, get an A) But I'm finding that pastoral ministry is a profession with few benchmarks to measure ones success, and I've observed that focusing on those benchmarks is usually self-defeating (e.g. chasing baptisms at the expense of discipleship). On this topic I have more questions than answers.
  • How do you know if your life is successful?
  • How do you get objective feedback?
  • How do you know which goals to set for yourself?
  • How do you measure success?
  • Where does God fit into the picture?
Are you in a similar situation? Do these questions even bother you? What answers have you found?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Meditation on Diet

Diet: A prescribed selection of foods
After they had stopped speaking, James answered, saying, "Brethren, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name. "With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written, `AFTER THESE THINGS I will return, AND I WILL REBUILD THE TABERNACLE OF DAVID WHICH HAS FALLEN, AND I WILL REBUILD ITS RUINS, AND I WILL RESTORE IT, SO THAT THE REST OF MANKIND MAY SEEK THE LORD, AND ALL THE GENTILES WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME,' SAYS THE LORD, WHO MAKES THESE THINGS KNOWN FROM LONG AGO.' Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. "For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath."
(Acts 15:13-21, NASB)
Accept those whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person's faith allows them to eat everything, but another person, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted that person. Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To their own master they stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

Some consider one day more sacred than another; others consider every day alike. Everyone should be fully convinced in their own mind. Those who regard one day as special do so to the Lord. Those who eat meat do so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and those who abstain do so to the Lord and give thanks to God. For we do not live to ourselves alone and we do not die to ourselves alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat your brother or sister with contempt? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. It is written:

"'As surely as I live,' says the Lord,
'every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will confess to God.'"

So then, we will all give an account of ourselves to God.

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother or sister for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.

So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed are those who do not condemn themselves by what they approve. But those who have doubts are condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.
(Romans 14, TNIV)
You say, "I am allowed to do anything" – but not everything is helpful. You say, "I am allowed to do anything" – but not everything is beneficial. Don't think only of your own good. Think of other Christians and what is best for them. Here's what you should do. You may eat any meat that is sold in the marketplace. Don't ask whether or not it was offered to idols, and then your conscience won't be bothered. For "the earth is the Lord's, and everything in it." If someone who isn't a Christian asks you home for dinner, go ahead; accept the invitation if you want to. Eat whatever is offered to you and don't ask any questions about it. Your conscience should not be bothered by this. But suppose someone warns you that this meat has been offered to an idol. Don't eat it, out of consideration for the conscience of the one who told you. It might not be a matter of conscience for you, but it is for the other person. Now, why should my freedom be limited by what someone else thinks? If I can thank God for the food and enjoy it, why should I be condemned for eating it? Whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, you must do all for the glory of God. Don't give offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church of God. That is the plan I follow, too. I try to please everyone in everything I do. I don't just do what I like or what is best for me, but what is best for them so they may be saved.
(1 Corinthians 10:23-33, NLT)
Lord, may we realize that You've called us to be healthy so that we may better serve each other; not just to build up ourselves.

UPDATE (3-17-06): Paul Whiting just posted on the early-Christian dispute over idol worship that precipitated these comments from the Apostle Paul (Paul and the Law 6).

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

News: Robertson At It Again

BBC | Top US evangelist targets Islam
[insert fundamentalist religion here] is not a religion of peace...the goal of [insert fundamentalist religion here], ladies and gentlemen whether you like it or not, is world domination...
And your goals are, Mr. Robertson?

We know which religion Pat Robertson thinks belongs in that statement. I wonder which religion Muslims would identify as intent on world domination. Sure hope it's not any that I could be identified with.

Does media attention egg him on? Should I ignore it the next time Robertson says something crazy? This is the third time now.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Article: The Word Became Flesh

I have another mini-article up on Just Pastors about one of the areas I think postmodernism can have the best impact on Christianity.

The Word Became Flesh

Sunday, March 12, 2006

First Baptism

by Doug Knopp

To give you a little perspective, I am 6'4" tall (190 cm) and this fellow makes me look little. I think I was more nervous than he was, because we barely had enough room in the tank. But it was an awesome experience.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Jokes

Remember back in the days of low-bandwidth when the internet was basically one big joke factory. Those were the days of my youth, and my chief concern was levity--specifically, the accumulation and dispensation thereof. I could recite more jokes than scriptures (probably still can--sheesh!), and consumed a steady mental diet of Dilbert, Calvin and Hobbes, the Far Side, Frasier, Seinfeld, and The Simpsons.
How does a soprano change a light bulb? She just holds it up and the world revolves around her.
But as I grew older and took on more responsibilities life gradually took on a more serious tone, and my obsession with jokes turned into an obsession with achievement. Now I am more prone to be short with those close to me and view the hours I used to spend telling jokes and shootin' the breeze as a waste of time. I'm not sure the young-me would like the old-me, and I'm starting to see there's something wrong with that.
Never park your RV on a hill; it might roll away if it's so inclined.
Today is especially bad, a lot of things are on my plate this weekend. So I'm telling a few jokes to see if that makes me feel better. After all, to quote scripture: "I said of laughter, "It is madness," and of pleasure, "What does it accomplish?" (Ecc. 2:2). Oops, wrong one. "A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones." (Prov. 17:22). Ya, that's it!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Mistakes

I hate making mistakes. One of the characteristics of my personality type is that I am plagued by a "haunting sense of impending failure" and am prone to "spend considerable time second-guessing" myself (via Typelogic). So when I make a mistake, I know it immediately and wonder how long it's going to take the conference to fire me.

The last couple of weeks have felt like one screw-up after another on my part. I feel them as a hollow fear in my stomach that drives me to alternately escape or work harder than before. Those days sometimes have me contemplating leaving the ministry altogether--the ultimate act of second guessing.

What I try to do at these times is ground myself in a second-opinion, because too much second guessing leads (counterintuitively) to less objectivity. My Senior Pastor, mentor, is a great source of encouragement. But when I feel like a total failure I start to think that even he's feeding me a line.

So then I go to God. I tell Him that if he wants me to quit my job because I'm too incompetent, all He needs to do is tell me. I'm leaving the choice up to Him, after all, He's the one who got me into this business.

He hasn't told me that yet....I feel a lot happier today.

In Memoriam: Kirby Puckett

FOX Sports | Twins legend Puckett dies after stroke

Minnesota is in mourning today. It was because of men like Puckett that I loved baseball while growing up, before the strike and steroids killed the sport. His career was cut short by an errant pitch that hit him in the eye, and I don't think his spirit ever recovered from that tragedy. But I'll never forget the seasons of '87 and '91; they said the noise in the Metrodome was louder than a jet airplane.

Video: Will Wright And Spore

If you want to know what the "emerging church" is (and have and affinity for computer games or science fiction), watch this video:




Spore is to video games what the "emerging church" is to Christianity. It's church where you create the content; where there are no invisible, arbitrary boundaries, and where you tell the story instead of playing the role you're given. The analogies are virtually endless. (Seriously, someone show me where the analogy breaks down. Because I'm sure it must, but am too blown away by this video to figure it out right now.)

The real kicker, though, is that even though Spore is all about making your own story, it still relies on a metanarative, namely evolution, to define the parameters and goals of the game. A truly openended game would be not only boring but unplayable. I think that's because human beings always seek to integrate their story into one that's bigger than their own, and it's the grandest stories that give us the most freedom and fun.

And it's on this point that the "emerging church" has one over on the secular-postmodern worldview. After all, what bigger story is there than the one about the God of the universe trying to win back the hearts of his creatures? I guess you could try to write a hack that would let you play that one as the final level of Spore; or you could just get together with some other believers, use the Bible to define your parameters and goals, and see what emerges.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Cartoon: It's A Miracle

Here's a Sunday morning cartoon for your viewing pleasure and philosophical edification:

Doonsbury | It's A Miracle

I love how this one explores the concepts of miracle, creation, and reason. It gets in good digs on both sides. It was intelligently designed.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Movie Review: Munich

I saw Munich with my brother in late December of 2005. The reason I've waited to review it until now is that it's taken me this long to process what I watched. It's probably the most disturbing film I've seen, and at the same time one of the most morally instructive.

The film tells the story of an Mossad assassin sent to track down and kill Palestinian terrorists responsible for organizing the kidnappings of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. It's based on a book called Vengeance which claims to be the "True story of an Israeli counter-terrorist team." While I believe that the story is a piece of historical fiction (for a thorough debunking see this article), the truth of the film rests in its portrayal of tit-for-tat violence which is a fact of the Israel-Palestine conflict, as well as many others.

And it's the violence in this film that gets to you. Not that it's more gory and any other film I've seen; Spielberg's earlier epic, Saving Private Ryan, has more blood spatering on the camera lens. But it's the shear cold bloodedness of it; watching terrorists beg for their lives before being gunned down leaves you feeling highly conflicted. If they deserve to die for killing those athletes (killings that we also see in graphic detail), then why does it feel so wrong when we kill them?

The actors in the Munich all give fine performances. Eric Bana, Australia's most underrated actor, has come along way since The Castle and gives his best performance to date as the leading man playing Avner, the leader of the hit-squad. The supporting actors are all excellent, but the ones that stood out to me are Israeli actress Ayelet Zorer as Avner's wife, Daniel Craig (the next James Bond) as the most bloodthirsty of the hitman, and Geoffrey Rush as Avner's supervisor. And Steven Spielberg, the director, proves again that he is a master storyteller; and between Munich and Schindler's List he tells both sides of the story.

Munich is a powerfull exposition on the morality of revenge. It pulls out your deepest hatred for violent people and then gives it an emotional spanking as you watch the consequences of acting on those emotions unfold. Though it contains graphic violence, I recommend it to those who are willing to consider the issues it raises.