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Category Archives: Culture

Subtly communicating a worldview

Most commercials are loud, direct, and blatant in their message. Retailers like Target, Wal‑Mart, and Toys-R-Us shout “BUY!” Car dealerships shout the same message while high end auto manufacturers like BMW, Mercedes, and Audi tweak the message so it proclaims, “Status!” Drug companies promote health (blood pressure, diabetes, Hep-C, etc.) and pleasure (Viagra, Cialis). Trailers for movies and TV shows shout, “Watch me!”

On rare occasions comes a commercial that promotes a subtle rather than overt message. During the FOX broadcast of the NFL Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins game on Thanksgiving Day, there were two commercials that promoted a very subtle worldview. One praised mankind while the other promoted tolerance and acceptance.

Dodge Ram pickup trucks aired a commercial that was aimed at praising hard-working Americans. However, it is blatantly man-centered. The tagline of the commercial was “Praise the work!” As parents, we teach our children to say “Thank you” to someone who does something for you. As Christ followers, we say “Thank you” to God because we know that all good gifts come from his hand. The Dodge Ram commercial promoted thanking yourself because you did all the hard work required to obtain and enjoy all the blessings you have. Because men and women are strong, wise, creative, and hard-working, they don’t need to acknowledge anyone else. They can “Praise the work” rather than give thanks. A very subtle, self-centered message.

Apple aired a commercial promoting tolerance and acceptance. The commercial, called “Frankie’s Holiday,” began with a Frankenstein creature laboring in a workshop. He took a package and walked down the hill and into the town square. He took out two Christmas lights, one red and one green, and attached them to the electrodes on his neck. He then played “There’s no place like home for the holidays” on his smartphone and started to sing along. The townspeople stared at him in horror and amazement. When one of his bulbs went dark, a young girl in the crowd helped reattach it so it lit up. She then started singing with the creature. Eventually, all the townspeople joined in. The commercial’s tagline is “Open your heart to everyone.” The subtle message was that there are no monsters, only people who are different. We should accept and tolerate all people, especially those who are different. Again, a very subtle, worldview shaped message.

While most commercials air several times during an NFL broadcast, these two commercials were only aired once during the FOX broadcast. Not watching any of the other two Thanksgiving Day football games, I don’t know if they appeared on CBS or NBC. While the commercials were creative and well done, they were frightening in the subtle way they communicated and attempted to shape one’s worldview.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we have to be alert and aware of what is being taught and communicated. We have to ask the question, “How does this fit with what Scripture teaches?”

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2016 in Culture, NFL, TV

 

The High Cost of Health Care

A humorous look at today’s health care options.

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Posted by on November 15, 2016 in Culture, Fun

 

What does God have in store for America – 2016 edition

This post was originally written the day after the election in 2008. Since the pendulum has now swung in the opposite direction, I had to rewrite it slightly. Despite the swing, the truth is still applicable today.

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Now that the blue red wave of Democrat Republican fever has swept the country, what does God have in store for America?

Those who thought God was a Republican Democrat are acting as if he died. They are stocking up on sackcloth and ashes because life as they knew it has ceased to exist, or so they believe.

Those who thought God was a Democrat Republican are having a Holy Ghost revival. They are popping the champagne corks because they have reached the Promised Land, or so they believe.

What people seem to forget is that God is neither Republican nor Democrat. Long ago, Joshua asked a similar question as he stood before the city of Jericho and faced the angel of the Lord. “Are you for us or for our enemies?” (Joshua 5:13). The angel replied, “Neither . . . but as the commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” (verse 14).

The question is not, “Whose side is God on?” God is God. The real issue is, “Who is on God’s side?”

After an election like yesterday, we need to be reminded that as the sovereign ruler of the universe, God can raise up kings and queens, and remove kings and queens. He can place anyone in power at just the right moment to accomplish his plan and purpose. The books of Nehemiah and Esther give testimony to that fact.

God’s plan is not dependent on who resides in the White House or the State House. God can use a godly king like David, a man after his own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). He can also use a pagan ruler like Ahasuerus (Esther 8-9) or Cyrus (Isaiah 45:1-13) to accomplish his plan and purpose. God can even speak through a donkey (Numbers 22). (No political pun intended or Narnian animal alluded to. This was a living, breathing, talking beast of burden who rebuked a prophet of God.)

If God is truly sovereign, the results of this election did not take him by surprise. He moved to put the right people in power to accomplish his plan and purpose.

Which brings us back to the original question, What does God have in store for America?

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2016 in Culture, Politics

 

How TV subtly ridicules evangelical faith

Out of curiosity, I watched the “Pilot” episode of the new CBS drama, “Pure Genius.” I was surprised how subtly evangelical faith was mocked in the program.

The premise of the show is about a Silicon Valley tech billionaire who establishes a hospital, Bunker Hill, and recruits world-class doctors to staff it. It would be akin to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates partnering with the medical community.

The pilot episode mocked evangelicals in two ways. One is that the show establishes the “majesty of man.” “If we can dream it, we can do it” is the resounding theme of the program. As the tech billionaire, James Bell, explains to Dr. Walter Wallace, a new recruit, Bunker Hill blends the best of technology with the best of medicine in order to “cut through the red tape” and “get things done.” They dream up solutions and create new technology in order to save lives. They do not accept or abide by any limitations.

The second way the program subtly ridiculed faith was by portraying a Christian as a controlling, abusive person. One of the story lines in the first episode was a pregnant woman who had a tumor growing around her heart. Doctors could not operate because her pregnancy wasn’t far enough along for the baby to survive outside the womb. The parents had chosen previously not to undergo chemotherapy because of the potential side effects on the child.

As the story moves forward, the father clearly exhibits faith and wants the doctors and his wife to trust God. He asks them all to hold hands and pray for “two more weeks” before performing a C-section to deliver the baby and also doing surgery to remove the tumor from his wife. He is portrayed as an evangelical since he prays in the name of Jesus.

Up to this point, it appears to be an even handed portrayal of faith and prayer. However, James Bell, the tech billionaire is clearly uncomfortable with faith because he stands in the hallway looking on while the parents are praying. Later, you see a group of people either meditating or practicing yoga on the grounds of the hospital which indicates eastern religions are favored. The show takes a negative turn by revealing that the husband has been abusing his wife.

The episode leaves you with a negative view of religion. On the one hand, you don’t need God because men and women are smart and creative enough to solve any problem. On the other hand, those who profess to follow God are controlling and abusive. If you must practice religion, make sure it is of an eastern variety rather than evangelical Christianity. A very subtle message woven skillfully into a drama.

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2016 in Culture, TV

 

If Geese Could Talk

I came across the following story some years ago in The Master Plan of Teaching by Matt Friedeman (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1990, p. 73-74). I have used it as a sermon illustration on several occasions and it continues to impress and convict me.

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“Suppose it was that geese could talk,” begins the 19th century philosopher Soren Kierkegaard in a journal entry entitled “The Tame Geese.” With that imaginative beginning, the Danish existentialist proceeds to paint a verbal picture of a land in which geese could not only speak but were also in the habit of waddling to church every Sunday.  The presiding gander would honk eloquent sermons about the high goal of their Creator and such motivational topics as God’s generous gift to these fowl—wings.  With the aid of these feathery propellers, the geese were told, they could “fly away to distant regions, blessed climes, where properly they were at home, for here they were only strangers.”  It was indeed exciting for the geese to gather on Sunday mornings; at their sacred meeting they would, in their ecstasy, curtsy and bow and undoubtedly send feathers flying about the sanctuary.

“And so it was every Sunday,” writes Kierkegaard. But a strange phenomenon repeated itself weekly, for after the geese had enjoyed the fellowship of their congregation, worshipped the great Goose God in the sky, and heard an outstanding message, they would adjourn and, muses Kierkegaard, “Each would waddle home to his own affairs.”

Did you get that? After hearing of a generous Creator, wings, the possibility of flight, and the blessed climes and regions which awaited them—with a short honk or two thrown in to resemble some “Amens!”—the geese all waddled home!  And to the delight of hungry human mouths everywhere they “throve and were well liked, became plump and delicate—and then were eaten . . .  and that was the end of it.”

This sobering story by the “Disturbing Dane” is one of the many parables Kierkegaard wrote poking fun at the Christians in Copenhagen.  These were folks who he felt were willing to listen to messages and attend services, yet were unwilling to set sail with the wings of faith and imagination God had granted them.  Contained in this brief story is the premier challenge to Christian education in every age.  Intellectual, emotional, and even pseudo-spiritual assent simply is not the goal.  God wants a life of movement for the Kingdom.  He wants us to fly for him.

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2016 in Church, Culture, Quotes

 

Why does anti-discrimination feel like discrimination?

We are in the process of planning and booking a vacation in 2017. I had researched and considered a boatload of options for airfare, hotels, B&B’s, tours, rental cars, and more. One option we considered was using Airbnb for one of our hotels. That is, until I received the following note this morning from the organization.

The Airbnb Community Commitment

Hi,

Earlier this year, we launched a comprehensive effort to fight bias and discrimination in the Airbnb community. As a result of this effort, we’re asking everyone to agree to a Community Commitment beginning November 1, 2016. Agreeing to this commitment will affect your use of Airbnb, so we wanted to give you a heads up about it.

What is the Community Commitment?

You commit to treat everyone—regardless of race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or age—with respect, and without judgment or bias.

How do I accept the commitment?

On or after November 1, we’ll show you the commitment when you log in to or open the Airbnb website, mobile or tablet app and we’ll automatically ask you to accept.

What if I decline the commitment?

If you decline the commitment, you won’t be able to host or book using Airbnb, and you have the option to cancel your account. Once your account is canceled, future booked trips will be canceled. You will still be able to browse Airbnb but you won’t be able to book any reservations or host any guests.

On the one hand, I agree with Airbnb’s desire to treat all people with respect and dignity. We are all created in God’s image and should be treated as such. However, to tell me that I am not welcome in the Airbnb community unless I agree with their values and convictions feels a lot like discrimination. It sure feels like Airbnb is passing judgment on those whose religion leads them to different convictions on these topics.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2016 in Culture, Travel

 

What did you expect?

Expectations come in all shapes and sizes. Expectations can be too high or too low, realistic or unrealistic, and everything in between. Two comics I saw this week illustrated these facts for me.

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Calvin has the expectation that he will inherit his dad’s wealth rather than have to earn money the old fashioned way–working for it. Calvin is the embodiment of our sense of entitlement.

raising-expectations

Jeremy wanted to fly under the radar and not be noticed. Instead, he made the mistake of doing something responsible and now people expect him to do it all the time.

As a person, a parent, and a pastor, I’ve encountered these two expectations many times over. I’m seen them in my children, our schools, church members and attenders, and in my own heart as well.

Rather than go with the flow and float along with the norms of culture, we need to ask ourselves the question, “How does God want me to live? What are his expectations for my life?” The apostle Paul certainly raised the bar of expectations when he challenged the Christ followers in the city of Ephesus “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1).