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Facebook & Twitter: My Life Course Corrections (1 of 2)

UnknownLike so many of you who are reading this blog post I have been on-again and off-again with Facebook and the social media. Recently I embraced them and began to devote more time to interact with friends and acquaintances via this means. As of today I am taking a “leave of absence” to rest from this medium. I want to rethink what I do with these resources over the next few weeks. One thing I am sure of, I do not need to be a “presence” in this world of social media. I do not criticize those who use this medium for its many good purposes but I have had to take personal inventory over the past few months. Here are my thoughts.

I find several reasons for using Facebook and Twitter that have encouraged and benefited me (and I hope some of you):

  1. I have come to know some readers (who I have not personally met yet) who pray for me and sincerely care for me as a person. Some of these friends I feel as if I know quite

The Church: Ever Ancient

photoThe church is one of the only places in culture where people of multiple generations make our lives together. This is the way God wants it. Augustine addresses God in prayer this way: “Beauty ever ancient, ever new.” I think here of an early church martyr named Polycarp who was ordered by the Romans to curse Christ. “I have followed him eighty-six years and he has done me no wrong. How can I curse my king who saved me?” I think too of John the Baptist leaping in his mother Elizabeth’s womb. The church stretches from the not-yet-born to those on the cusp of the next life.

This is also really difficult. Younger and older folks often struggle to understand one another. We all know this in our own families. Why would we think the church would be any different?

Yet it is crucial that all ages become God’s church together. Scripture promises that Israel’s “sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams and your young shall see visions” (Joel 2:28). This is fulfilled in the

Difficult Men: Why Did Cable Television Produce So Many Great Works of Popular Art? Part 2

61wQB1+4LXL._UX250_Brett Martin identifies a first burst of literary energy in 1950s television (when the medium was young) and a second that came in the 1980s (when the forward-thinking television executive Grant Tinker’s MGM Enterprises begat the groundbreaking Hill Street Blues). These are followed by the “Third Golden Age,” beginning with The Sopranos. This story is at least half the content of his book. He uses it to set the stage for understanding what followed in shows that may be even better than The Sopranos. The Emmy Awards, given for the best programming in television, are now routinely given only to cable shows such as these, all of which have garned an incredible number of such awards. The New York Times book review of Martin’s books says that he “writes with a psychological insight that enhances his nimble reporting.” Again, I have to agree completely.

Martin takes the reader (listener) behind the scenes of this cultural shift and provides extensive reporting based on interviews and good research. He gives you “never-before-heard” stories and reveals how cable television has distinguished itself

Difficult Men: Why Did Cable Television Produce So Many Great Works of Popular Art? Part 1

cover225x225As a true fan of what Brett Martin calls “The Third Golden Age” of television I devoured his new book, Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Man Men and Breaking Bad. I devoured the book by listening to Martin’s work as an audio book. Listening to a book in its entirety is a first for me. This one was very easy to listen to since I used long driving stretches to work thorugh it in only a few days. The essential core of Martin’s story was easy to grasp. The actual reader, Keith Szarabajka, was also fantastic, making the aural experience deeply satisfying. (I am told my own book, Your Church Is Too Small, is poorly read in its audio version since the reader apparently does not understand important words and thus mispronounces a number of them. O bother!)

In the late 1990s, and early 2000s, the landscape of television began a transformation with a wave of new shows, all featured on cable channels. The reality is that

Living in Community, Living in Love

41XiJWC3cPL._AA160_Yesterday, I wrote about the desert fathers and mothers. One of the most prominent of them all was Antony of the desert. After reading Jesus’ words to the rich younger ruler Antony, sensing the spiritual deadness of his own soul and of the church of his time, retreated to the desert to seek God with his whole body and soul. For the next twenty years he wrestled with (in his own words) demons and the constant rigors of ascetic practice. His sole desire was to draw nearer to God. (He was not undertaking a “self-help protect” so that he might be saved by his good works!)

When Antony’s friends begged him to leave, and then dragged him, away from the desert twenty years later, his health was superb and the power of his ministry was unmistakable. Antony shows me what new life really costs–everything! He also scares me to death and he makes me tremble before the deep spiritual reality that he knew during and after the desert. But he also gives me hope. I’ve was in a

Two Modern Films That Define Us as Americans, Part Two

11181470_oriIn complete contrast with American Sniper the new film McFarland USA is a Disney movie. It is also based on a true story. It is an against-all-odds story of the 1987 McFarland high school cross country team in an economically challenged community in the central valley of California. Some reviewers think the film is “corny” and hopelessly romanticized. I found it pure, unadulterated inspiration. Kevin Costner plays the lead role as a high school teacher and coach who is stuck in a small town with a largely Hispanic population of poor immigrant farm workers. (The issue of documented or undocumented people never arises in the movie but reality says both kinds of immigrants are in the story!) The story revolves around a family of four moving to this small California farm town of McFarland, which really is the name of the town. (McFarland is about ten miles from where one of my best friends lives, Rev. David Moorhead. David a Reformed Church in America church-planting pastor in Shafter.) Costner’s character takes a job as a science and physical

Sameness vs. Individuality

DSC00542It is a healthy development to see growing concern for community and life together in the West. At the same time the hunger for life together can, and does, create some deep problems that are rarely talked about in the right way. My friend Monte Wilson recently captured my concern in a post that I believe is very important for Christians who have experienced deep brokenness and desire to be enfolded into a deeply Christian family or small group/church.

Ultimately everything depends on the quality of the individual, but our fatally short-sighted age thinks only in terms of large numbers and mass organizations…
― C.G. Jung, The Undiscovered Self

Sameness – Where every one looks alike, talks alike, believes the same (what they are told to believe), goes along to get along; is brought about by the belief that the judgment of others is more important and more valuable then his or her own evaluations; lives based on fear and self-distrust. Synonyms – Cookie-cutter, boring, mindless, asleep at the wheel, dishonest, robots

Individuality – The product of a relentless pursuit of truth; the result

Does Bible Knowledge Equal Following Jesus in Faith, Hope and Love?

UnknownLast year a Barna Group study used a series of questions to determine the Bible knowledge level of people in various US cities. It was no surprise that the cities with the highest rate of Bible knowledge were in the South and Southeast. The cities with the lowest percentage of people with Bible knowledge were in the Northeast and the far West, with the Midwest a little more in between the two extremes. None of this data surprises me at all based upon what I know about churches, people and the various subcultures of America.

Here is the question I’d like to see surveyed: “How much does knowledge of the Bible equate with the greatest virtues of the Christian life – faith, hope and love?” What does Bible knowledge mean in terms of involvement with the least and the poorest among us? What does it mean for marriage and family life? What about prayer and contemplation? Sadly, it is my broad experience that many places where Bible knowledge is highest people are far more unlikely to understand that

When Christians Defend Jesus Why Do They Lop Off Ears?

My good friend Tom Tollet is an elder in a Baptist church in Memphis (TN). He is a faithful Bible teacher who became one of the best friends my late mom and dad had in their final years in Tennessee. He served for many years with FedEx and now operates his own family business. The following reflection was sent to me some time ago and I now use it with permission.

As I prepare to teach from Tim Keller’s “The Reason for God” I meditate on how the Lord was a friend of sinners while preaching an uncompromising Sermon on the Mount. How do I do that today? I suspect it won’t exactly look like August 1st.

I understand the call to defend marriage and oppose the power plays of certain city mayors, but doesn’t it seem like we simply respond in kind to the opposition ….power for power, rhetoric for rhetoric, manipulation for manipulation? In other words: did August 1st have the aroma of Christ? I’m sure Mike Huckabee would say: don’t be a disciple of mine but of Christ. But do we recognize the difference that makes in attitude

Nature’s God: The Origins of the American Republic and Why It Matters (Part Two)

Unknown-4Matthew Stewart’s Nature’s God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic is, at least to my mind, one of the most interesting, readable and important books I have read in 2014. I could hardly put it down. It reads easily and demonstrates quite convincingly most, though not all, of the author’s claims.

Stewart argues that the ideas which directly shaped the American revolution were largely ancient, pagan and continental (i.e., European not English). The Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius, and the natural divinity of the Dutch Jewish heretic Benedict de Spinoza (photo at right), largely shaped the views of most of our American founders.Unknown-5

Stewart draws deeply from a study of European philosophy, without becoming bogged down in ideas that you cannot comprehend. He shows how the philosophical ideas of the founders were shaped by thinkers that were anathema to the clergy of the time. These American revolutionaries hated the idea of God’s law and rejected supernatural revelation.

When you read the Declaration of Independence you should ask questions: “What is