Online Reading (November 9, 2010)

Welcome to reading some of the things I’m finding interesting today:

November 11: While in my present home of Korea, November 11 is “Peppero Day”, back home in Canada, it’s Remembrance day, and there is a debate this year about the white poppy as opposed to the red poppy.

Abortion and Slavery: Thabiti Anyabwile gives some ideas about making the link to abortion while not being disrespectful about one of the millennium’s (other) greatest evils.

Gay Rights and Freedom of Religion: The Daily Mail reports on a case where the two are coming into direct conflict. I have passionate opinions on this one, but it’s a difficult dilemma to say the least.

How to Listen to a Sermon: For those of you who listen to me on the itunes feed, here are some ideas on how to get something out of the preaching of a very fallible human.

Something Seriously Wrong, and the Promise of Christmas

One of my more thoughtful co-workers was talking about the advantage of the world ending by a zombie outbreak. The reason that he thought it a good way for the world to end was that he thought that the world would do a heck of a lot better without us humans, and there’s something poetic about our civilization ending as it’s destroyed by us going insane ourselves and destroying it. Heck, as zombies we’d only be going quicker than we are now.

Pretty bleak point really, but not one without merit. Watching the news doesn’t really engender a lot of hope in our race, and when I look in the mirror, I realize that in many ways I’m not much better. There is something seriously wrong with the world, and we humans seem to be at the centre of it. While people blame politics (liberal or conservative), religion, ideology, technology, or even stupidity, I really think the problem goes deeper, perhaps to our very core.

So what does that have to do with Christmas? A lot.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  

Matthew 1:20-21

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Joseph, facing the soon birth of a child to his fiancee (despite his not having had relations with her), is told by God that this apparent example of something going wrong in the world, was actually the beginning of an answer to that problem at the centre of the universe, we humans and our sin.

So as we watch a world in failing economics, and with wars and rumours of wars, may we see hope, not in the coming extinction of humanity, but in the salvation God works through unlikely methods. 

Happy Advent dear readers.

Online Reading (March 28, 2008)

Environmentalism?: Seems the circus around the seal hunt is beginning again.

History of the Church of England: A la Eddie Izzard. Very irreverent… but funny.

Surfing and Church Planting: Apparently quite similar.

Christian Progressivism: John Stackhouse wonders at the integrity of people who disagree with the doctrinal statements of a Church and yet draw salaries from it.

Confessions of a Conversion (Samurai Jack, Paul Potts, and Christian Discipline)

images_paul_potts_cd.jpgOkay, first off the confession. I just bought a CD I never thought I would. It’s a CD by a winner of a TV reality show, and worse the genre is opera. The remainder of this post is going to be my reclaiming of a masculinity that now seemingly lies in tatters.

First off, in my own defense, my recent desire to listen to Opera music has a lot to do with the appreciation of the beauty of discipline. It was a conversion a long time in coming, but the result is that I see the beauty in a form of music that seems to rate discipline very highly, and you can hear it as it’s performed. It’s kinda like an episode of Samurai Jack I recently saw.

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In that episode, we see two very different views of a samurai, one is an impressive but flashy kind of samurai. No doubt he is effective in some battles (where the opponent is undisciplined), but lacks the precision and control of a true martial artist.

The other samurai is Jack. Jack is a true master of the sword. He can hit both lightly and with power in precise placement and in stunning combinations where each blow lands exactly as he determines. There is no doubt which wins in the resulting duel (Jack mops the floor with the other guy using only a bamboo stick, and then proceeds to eliminate an army of robot assassins for an encore). Most people would not be able to see the difference at first glance, and indeed since the flashy samurai is more crass about his expression, some might assume that he is the more capable warrior.

This comes to why I came to enjoy opera. For a while I’ve been trying to listen to the singing of my friends in music school. I actually began to notice both the obvious (they sing better than I do), but also the minor ways in which they sing well. For the most part, they can hit notes in precise orders, with precise volume, and in near complete clarity. This happens whether they are singing difficult operatic pieces or simple worship songs. Their voices are disciplined, and in the best cases, also passionate. This seems to stem from the fact that they are trained in what is, for lack of a better word, a martial art of music; Opera.

So Paul Potts CDs were on sale at HMV, and I bought one. After listening to the power, precision and clarity of the guy’s voice, as he sang even songs I enjoyed that aren’t operatic (one of the bonus tracks is my favorite Christmas hymn, “O Holy Night”, and one of the songs he does is an italian version of a song I first heard from REM), I found that when I subsequently listened to other songs I enjoy I was able to enjoy them more.

As with all things, this got me thinking about Jesus, and more specifically the Christian life. I will be the first to say that the most recent convert is fully a Christian, but I also find that there’s actually greater joy in the disciplines of seeking after Jesus. While some preachers are flashy and firey, I note that there are some preachers (Martyn Lloyd-Jones comes to mind) who can both show the passion and fire, but also do it with an exacting regularity. They hit Biblical doctrine precisely, with correct power and clarity. There are similarly teachers and counselors I’ve met who may not be the most well known or openly wise, but who clearly have spent time with the Lord, and have been changed by lon, disciplined experience.

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They are often less flashy, and often are talked about less, but there is undeniably a power in their faith that both edifies those around, and shows a true depth to the Christian religion, even making it more possible to love and understand the less disciplined expressions faith.

As another, more ancient Paul put it (in 1 Corinthians 9:25-27a):

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control.

So as I continue in the Christian life, may I in discipline learn greater appreciation for my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Online Reading (September 24, 2007)

Worship: John Stackhouse explains why he is not in love with Jesus.

Culture: Referring to Diana West’s new book, Albert Mohler opinies about the extension of adolesence.

More Culture: Canada recieves applications to start Sharia-law banks.

Protest: The military junta is facing religious opposition. Buddhist monks are protesting for the 7th straight day