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Category Archives: Culture

Let Justice Roll Down

For one of the few Mondays in recent memory, I didn’t spend the day thinking about church. Instead, I participated in the justice process—I was on jury duty. (I was originally asked to serve while I was in Russia, but delayed my service until yesterday.)

I checked into the 4th floor jury pool room at the Hampden County Superior Court at 8AM, and then spent three hours waiting, watching TV, reading a Stephen Lawhead novel, and people watching. They had a big screen TV in the jury pool room with Good Morning America on at the time of check in. Later, they played a video on the MA justice system which was informative.

I must say I was amazed/dismayed at the quality (or lack thereof) for what passes for entertainment on morning TV. It seemed like it degenerated by degrees with each hour of the morning. Good Morning America was a mix of news, culture, and trending issues. Rachel was a mix of pop culture interviews, cooking tips, and gossip. Wendy was pure, unadulterated gossip. The View was a discussion of gossip. Good thing I had a book to read, though the volume on the TV was loud enough to be a distraction.

Sometime after 11AM, me and 120 of my closest friends were taken down to Courtroom 2 on the 3rd floor. We received an orientation from the presiding judge, and met the Assistant DA and his assistant, as well as the two defense attorneys. We then learned that we were part of the jury pool for a criminal trial that might last up to two weeks. The defendant was accused of committing murder in 2014.

As it turned out, I was juror #127. They started with #2 and worked their way through the pool to find and seat 16 jurors. I must admit to having mixed feelings. I was willing to serve, but I really didn’t want to give up two weeks to do it. It would be an inconvenience to sit on a jury during the day and do church work and sermon prep at night. Rather than ask God to get me out of the task, I decided to simply leave it in his hands.

By 3:30PM, they were up to juror #70 and had chosen 20 prospective jurors. The judge asked the remaining 50 of us if serving on a two-week jury would be a hardship. Several hands went up and they were excused. Since I couldn’t claim a hardship such as having young children at home or caring for aging parents, my hand stayed down. By the time His Honor asked a few more questions, there were only 7 of us left in the pool of prospective jurors. He then asked if the rest of us were willing to return on Tuesday to continue the selection process. I was honest enough to admit I was willing, but I would prefer not to. Fortunately, I was excused and on my way.

Since MA implements a one day, one trial system, I have fulfilled my obligation for another three years.

After arriving home, I started my usual Monday task of mowing the lawn. I began praying for the trial that justice would be done. I prayed that …

  • the prosecutor would present a solid, strong case
  • the defense attorney would represent his client with dignity
  • the judge would have wisdom and fairness in his rulings
  • the witnesses would tell the truth
  • the family of the victim would find peace and closure
  • the jury would have wisdom and insight in coming to a verdict
  • God would be honored through the proceedings and that justice would roll down.
 
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Posted by on April 26, 2016 in Culture, News stories

 

When Did Television Become So Amoral?

When did television become so amoral? At first blush, you naturally assume I mistyped my question and meant to say “immoral” rather than “amoral.” But no, it is not a typing error. I meant to say amoral.

To call something “immoral” means that there is a recognized standard of right and wrong and people willingly choose to do what is wrong. “Amoral” means that there is not a recognized standard of right and wrong, but people act according to their own personal standards of right and wrong.

Based on that definition, we are living according to the description found in the final verse in the book of Judges in the Old Testament. “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

In the past week, I have been struck by how amoral television has become. Here are three examples from the few TV shows I happened to watch recently.

The Catch (ABC) – A splashy, sexy show introduced last month about a female private detective cheated by a con man, and the chase is on. In the first episode, the female private detective admits to sleeping with random strangers. In the third episode, she works inside or outside the law depending on the situation, and has a stolen painting in her bedroom. In the fourth episode, she helps the con man escape an FBI agent. Meanwhile, the con man’s female partner murders one “mark” and sleeps with both men and women.

Once Upon A Time (ABC) – Now in its fifth season, the show adds a new twist to every fairy tale you’ve ever read. In the most recent episode, the writers added an LGBT element by having Ruby kiss Dorothy, offering “true loves’ kiss” to rescue Dorothy from a sleeping curse. In the opening episode of their spring season, OUAT introduced the idea that you can work your way out of hell by settling your “unfinished business” in a positive manner.

Blue Bloods (CBS) – Over the course of the sixth season, Danny Reagan, a seasoned NYPD detective, has been chasing a serial killer. In the most recent episode, he shot and killed the man, even though he was unarmed. When Danny’s sister, Erin, an Assistant District Attorney, asked if he shot in self-defense, Danny responded, “It was justified.” Over the course of six seasons, every member of the family, save Danny, has slept with someone they weren’t married to.

If you said that these were exceptions to the rule of wholesome entertainment, you would be deluding yourself. You can find a multitude of other examples of amoral behavior just by watching the previews of different programs.

The writers and producers of television and movies seemingly have the agenda to demonstrate that any and every form of behavior is perfectly acceptable. It is up to each one’s individual standards of morality as to whether it is right or wrong. And if you disagree or find it objectionable, then you need to be tolerant because others may hold to a different standard.

Judges 21:25 certainly describes Television and America in 2016. We are doing what is right in our own eyes. What we fail to realize is that the book of Judges also describes the chaos that descended on the nation of Israel because they chose to follow their own standards rather than God’s laws. We delude ourselves if we believe we will find utopia by following our own rules. Doing what is right in our own eyes is not a recipe for freedom and happiness. Amorality and tolerance will only lead to disaster and judgment.

Watching television today requires a heightened sense of discernment and vigilance. You cannot shut your brain off and “veg out.” You will unknowingly adopt values which are unbiblical and ungodly. After every episode, show, movie, ad, and commercial, you have to ask yourself, “What does Scripture say about this?”

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2016 in Culture, Scripture

 

Control your mind

On Sunday, I taught my Sunday School class about the importance of being intentional about what we allow into our minds.

I began by having the group analyze a number of comics. As I have explained on other occasions, comics are a great source of fun entertainment. But they also provide insight into culture. Each writer weaves a worldview into his particular comic. I asked them to discuss what theme was in each comic.

Baby Blues - demand your rights

the world revolves around me

Betty - watch garbage on netflix

8th day - man invented ego

Brewster Rockit - Black hole of narcissism

Brewster Rockit - Lying = Photoshopped Memory

Shoe - life is outside my comfort zone

After talking about the comics, I discussed a recent episode of the TV show, “Once Upon A Time.” The prior episode, “Souls of the Departed,” the twelfth episode in season five, presented the idea that you can work your way to heaven. In the episode, the characters of Emma, Regina, Mary Margaret, David, Henry, Robin, and Gold take the S.S. Purgatory to the Underworld to rescue Hook. (I know, you have to suspend some disbelief to watch the show.)

While they are there, they meet several characters who are confined in the Underworld because they have “unfinished business.” Henry Mills, Regina’s father, helps Regina, and thus is able to cross over to a better place, while Cora, Regina’s mother, fails in her task, and receives greater punishment.

The episode communicated an underlying philosophy that you can live your life without any thought of the consequences because you will have a second chance after you die. If you do enough good work in purgatory, you can still work your way to heaven.

I used the comics and the TV show to illustrate what Paul was teaching in Romans 12:1-2 and 1 Corinthians 10:3-6, that we are to control our minds.

Romans 12:1–2 – 1I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

2 Corinthians 10:3–6 – For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

In Romans 12:2, Paul says that we are resist going with the flow and becoming just like the world. Instead, we are to be transformed by renewing our mind and testing what is the will of God. In 1 Corinthians 10:3-6, Paul says that we are engaged in spiritual warfare, and part of the battle is in the world of ideas. The world erects ideological strongholds such as selfishness and earning your salvation which need to be torn down. But it is not enough to merely tear them down, we also have to bring our thoughts captive to Jesus Christ in order to be obedient.

Whether reading the comics or watching TV, whether going to the movies or listening to talk radio, we need to keep our minds engaged and thoughtfully analyze what is being presented. Will it help us become more like Christ? Does it teach a philosophy contrary to God’s will? What does Scripture say in regards to what is being presented? What would God have me to think on this topic?

To become like Jesus, we are to exercise intentionality in what and how we think.

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2016 in Baby Blues, Culture, Fun, Heaven, Scripture

 

Don’t Waste Your Retirement

“When are you going to retire?” Having turned 61 years of age two weeks ago, I’m starting to hear that question more often. To be honest, I have no plans to retire. I want to continue serving, preaching, and pastoring as long as I am healthy.

With that in mind, I read with great interest an article by John Piper entitled, “Hillary, Bernie, Donald, and Me” in which he challenges baby boomers not to waste their retirement years. He opens the article with these thoughts.

At 70, I am energized to dream great things, because this year Hillary turns 69, Bernie turns 75, and Donald turns 70. My rising energy has nothing to do with their policies or character. It has to do with the incredible fact that all of them want to spend their seventies doing the hardest job in the world.

This is wonderfully counter-cultural. I doubt that it’s motivated by a passion to magnify the greatness of Jesus. But that makes it all the more inspiring for me, because nothing gets me more excited than spending my seventies spreading a passion for the glory of Christ and his word. Paul is still my hero when he says, “My eager expectation and hope is that Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death” (Philippians 1:20).

So if Hillary and Bernie and Donald want to bear the weight of the world for the next four to eight years out of man-centered, philanthropic motives, I find my seventy-something zeal for Jesus heating up. They only get to be president of a tiny territory called the U.S.A. I get to be an ambassador of the Sovereign of the universe. They only get to change the way some people live for a few decades. I get to change the way some people live forever — with a lot of good spill-over for this world in the process.

But this is not an article mainly about me. It’s about the 70 million Baby Boomers coming behind me. I’m the oldest (born in 1946; the youngest born in 1964). Ten thousand Americans turn 70 every day. And they will continue to do so for about nineteen years. Billions of dollars are spent every year trying to get us to waste the last chapter of our lives on leisure. I’m spending one afternoon to plead with the rising seventy-somethings: Don’t waste it.

Being in the center of the baby boomer generation, I’m one of the people Piper is addressing. I appreciate his perspective and agree that we need to redefine retirement.

Piper concludes with these words.

Make no mistake. The Bible believes in retirement. It’s called heaven.

Click on the link to read the rest of the article.

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2016 in Culture, News stories, Quotes, Retirement

 

Before you practice Lent

The question comes up at this time of year, “Should I practice Lent?” Since it has never been my practice, I did some reading on the subject.

Lent is a season of the Christian Year where Christians focus on simple living, prayer, and fasting in order to grow closer to God. It is a period of 40 days before Easter, beginning on Ash Wednesday (February 10) and ending on Easter Sunday (March 27).

Before entering into such a practice, let me encourage you to do your own research. Here are a collection of articles on the subject.

Positive reasons to observe Lent

“Lent–Why bother? Three authors weigh the merits of observing Lent”

“Why all Christians should observe Lent” by Ann Swindell

Negative reasons to avoid Lent

“Why I don’t practice Lent” by Kristi Stoughton (Kristi spoke at our women’s retreat this past year)

“Lent and why I don’t” by Pastor Mike Fabarez

“Protestants don’t celebrate Ash Wednesday, or Lent. We are Protestant for a reason” by Timothy J. Hammons

Balanced perspective

“Should you and your family observe Lent?” by Micah Fries

“40 things to give up for Lent–The list” by Phil Ressler. The author lists things to give up not just for Lent, but for the rest of your life.

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From a personal standpoint, I do not practice Lent, nor do I encourage the practice. Rather than a 40 day spiritual pilgrimage that begins with excess, Mardi Gras, and ends with celebration, Scripture indicates that sacrifice and self-denial are to be the theme and pattern of our lives every day. It is part of what it means to be a Christ follower. As Jesus explains in Mark 8:34,

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

While it is commendable to devote 40 days to knowing God better, isn’t that what we are called to do each and every day of our lives?

Colossians 1:9–10 – And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2016 in Culture, Spiritual disciplines

 

The danger of cyncism

“Cynicism is corrosive to my eyesight. It makes it difficult for me to see the true, the good and the beautiful when it is right in front of me.”

Greg Ganssle

Interested, read Professor Ganssle’s article, “Cynicism and Affirmation,” on The Good Book Blog.

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2016 in Biola University, Culture, Quotes

 

Looking for strength when fear closes in

My son posted the link to a thought provoking article on Facebook. “Nikabrik’s Candidate” is written by Gina Dalfonzo and compares our current political landscape to C. S. Lewis’ book, Prince Caspian, one of The Chronicles of Narnia. The author explains that

Lewis had a remarkable understanding of human nature. He knew what it was like to feel that all hope was lost. And he knew that fear and despair can drive decent people to look for someone, anyone, who projects an appearance of strength.

In speaking of Donald Trump, Dalfonzo wonders aloud “how some who have professed faith in Jesus Christ are lured by a man who openly puts all his faith in power and money, the very things Christ warned us against prizing too highly.”

You may not agree with everything the author says, but the article will make you think.

Thanks, Jon, for posting the link.

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2016 in Books, Culture, News stories, Quotes

 
 
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