Optional page text here. The Beast's Lair: December 2005

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

What do House and JAWS have in common?

I was watching House last night and after the episode, they showed the brief little advertising bit about the production company. You remember the "sit ubo, sit. Good dog" thing? It was like that, except it said "that's some bad hat Harry." I almost flipped off the couch. I turned to Andi and asked if she knew what that was from. She didn't, and I wondered how many people out there connect with a brilliantly delivered line from none other than Roy Scheider. On the beaches of Amity Island, Chief Brody thinks he sees a shark in the water. Turns out it is just the shiny top of a hat worn by this hilarious old dude who was swimming. When this old guy comes out of the water, Brody tells him, "that's some bad hat Harry." Awesome.

By the way, I only watch a few things on TV. Law & Order is the top show that is currently running. Columbo is my all time favorite. But House is excellent. Next time you watch it, be sure to look for the 2 second clip at the end of the episode and enjoy knowing that you are part of an elect few who know the origin of "that's some bad hat Harry."

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Post-Christmas Things

I enjoyed tremendously worshipping on Christmas. Being at church with my wife was just a wonderful way to spend a small portion of my Christmas day.

However, there are recurring statements made in church that drive me crazy. Just as bad as the ever present cliches in sermons that offer the layperson ear candy are the rants and ravings of a supposed well-meaning Christian who doesn't really know what they are talking about.

Christmas morning, and right before a respected gentlemen in our church sings his solo (which was great), he goes off on a 5 minute rampage about how using the spelling X-Mas is a sign of the "fall of our society."

First of all, even if he was correct, there are times and places for things. Worshipping on Christmas morning right before singing "Birthday of a King" does not seem like the ideal time to unleash with a "here is what's wrong with society" mini-sermon.

But secondly, what people don't take the time to understand, or just don't care, is that the name Christ in Greek (the original language of the New Testament) is spelled Xristos. So, the use of that particular spelling is really using an abbreviation of the name Christ. True, I prefer to see it spelled out Christmas, but the use of X-Mas is not the end of our society. Let's just get to the song.

After the worship service and time with family, Andi and I arrived back at our home at 4:30 pm. We immediately made some hot chocolate and hit the couch. We dragged ourselves off the couch and into bed at 2:00 am. Yep, over 9 hours on the couch.

It was simply incredible.

King Kong

Yep, it's good. Yep, it's long.

But the length did not bother me or Andi. The scenes with Kong and Ann are wonderful, and for me, were worth the viewing experience.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Living Christmas Tree

This past Thursday - Sunday, my church presented The Living Christmas Tree for 5 performances. It is a huge undertaking for a church our size (for any size church really) and this year was probably the best of all the years we have done it. The students, pictured above with the choir, had a couple of parts in the tree. The coolest was during the song Emmanuel, they would do a hand motion with white gloves and blacklights. Everything else in the sanctuary was black, so it was a very neat effect.

During one part of the performance an older lady, who is supposed to be a granny, and a group of young people gather around a piano while the choir is singing. The idea is to show us having a great time with memories, family and Christmas tradition of being "around the piano." Well, always looking for an opportunity for inside humor, one of the students and I decided it would be kind of cool to exchange gifts while we are out there around the piano. What made it hilarious is that I had an actual wrapped gift and he had a pumpkin. Yep, I still had a pumpkin from Halloween (a real one at that) and he carried that sucker out there proudly. Just as the song was ending, we hugged each other and exchanged our gifts. To us, it was the most hilarious thing we could imagine. I don't even know if anyone else saw it or noticed, but that's not really the point is it?

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Beast Horror Pick of the Week


Bill Paxton's directorial debut lands one of those rare moments when you finish watching a horror movie and say, "that was 100 times better than I ever imagined." Not only is the movie just downright scary, in ways that are genuinely scary (not just cheap thrills) but the film also opens the door to a rather interesting theological question: What would you do if God spoke to you and commanded you to act in a way that society says is wrong. In the case of Frailty, that act is murder. But, Paxton continues to claim his innocence (to his sons no less, which is what makes the movie horrific) due to God requesting these actions from him. The action continues to become more and more stressful that leads to a somewhat predictable ending, but it doesn't take anything away from this being one of the all time best horror sleepers. Go rent it.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

We Still Need Denominations Part II

In my last post, I discussed the myth that non-denominational churches do not have their own set of beliefs or creed that they follow, just like any other denomination. I mentioned how most even have a membership class where you are taught the teachings and beliefs of the church before you can join. What frustrated me is the number of people who think that the non-denominational thing is just worship, period, without the clarification of a belief structure. Those people call other denominations "crap" and don't realize they are doing the same thing.

The story has grown even more absurd, as a local pastor of a friend of mine is pushing his congregation heavily (and apparently rather rudely) into dropping their current denominational association and going "strictly non-denominational." Now, here is the kicker. The board of elders, church members, other staff and concerned parties are attempting to engage the pastor in dialogue as to how they will define themselves and their beliefs. They are not necessarily shooting down the idea, but they just want discussion on how the church will write out who they are and what they believe. To my amazement, this pastor does not want anything written. He wants to live and die by the 5 purposes of Rick Warren. To preach, fellowship, disciple, serve and worship. Period. That's it. Not another word written about anything. Nothing written about how the church understands salvation. Nothing about how the church views the condition of humankind.

So, what was once just a frustration of mine that the so called non-denominational movement needed to be seen for what it was, I am witnessing first hand the possibility of it turning into our worst nightmare. That a church be so focused on looking like our prevailing culture that we fail to offer a viable alternative from it. By simply saying, "we just want to worship with no guidelines, no beliefs," a church is giving a nod to the post-Christian, post-modern relativism that is knocking louder and louder on our doors. What are the common quotes from relativism? "All paths lead to God." "That may be true for you, but it's not necessarily true for me." And my personal favorite, "All religions are equal." When a church is so determined to avoid any statement of faith, they are embracing every one of the previous quotes, even if their intentions are noble.

If there was ever a time in history when our churches need to boldly and clearly define who we are, it is this day. With church attendance on the decline and new age thinking on the march, a clear line must be drawn so that the church not be confused with an "open" gospel message. All paths don't lead to God. It's a lie. And in the church's concern of hurting someone's feelings because of a culture that says all paths are truth, we are collectively allowing the door to hell open a little wider.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Freedom in Christ

The truth of salvation by grace through faith is a marvelous word. That particular word tells us that grace is centered around "coming as you are." The grace of God removes the spiritual impossibility of "getting your life right" and checking off the things on a list that you must accomplish before you can experience a relationship with God. That is sometimes referred to as legalism, ie, one must follow every detail of the law in order to find favor with God.

However, as with most things in our spiritual life, there must be a balance. The other side of the coin is confusing Freedom in Christ with Anything Goes! The fictional story goes that since I have a relationship with God through Jesus, I know I am not bound to a legalistic lifestyle thanks to the freedom found in Christ, so I will just do whatever I want, knowing that God's grace will fill in the gaps. Sounds nice, but it just isn't biblical.

First of all, before we get to what really matters, the biblical text, lets examine my favorite statement made by Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy. "Apart from the law, there is no freedom." It seems to be contradiction. How can there be freedom when there is a law? Contrary to popular belief, freedom does not simply mean being able to do anything and everything you want without any boundaries. In fact, that kind of freedom would ultimately, and rather quickly, lead to absolute zero freedom because of the mass chaos, confusion, social disorder and total breakdown of community and society. That is why we can accurately say "America, Land of the Free" even though we have laws and a judicial system. Only an extremist would say that freedom does not exist in America because we can't shoot someone in the face with a rifle or steal an X-Box 360 from the local Wal-Mart. (if they were in stock) We of course know that our freedom is not defined by our ability to do those things without punishment.

Now to the biblical text. Paul was preaching a radical message. First of all, we have Jesus, who is being called the Messiah. That alone was not sitting to well with his fellow Jewish brethren. But in addition to that heresy, Paul was also preaching a message that placing faith and trust in this Jesus is what provided our relationship with God, not a strict adherence to the Law or a code or a set of rules. Just "call on the name of the Lord and you will be saved." This was supremely radical stuff. Now, here is what happened. . .

As is still the case today, people began to take this message and apply it incorrectly. Humankind has a disturbing history of taking something nice or special and turning it into a selfish, self-promoting message of "how far can I take it." There began to rise a group of people who abused the message of freedom in Christ. They said, if grace abounds in sin, and there is not a "list" of instructions to enjoy a relationship with God, then lets just sin as much as possible and let God's grace abound big time! Paul responds to this movement in the bible several times, saying, "May it never be."

Our wonderful freedom in Christ is not a license to do anything we want. Jesus said he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. And when Jesus fulfills something, He makes it stronger, not weaker. Our freedom as Christians means that there is not a "to do" list every morning in order to experience God that day. You do not have to be a certain race or ethnicity. You do not have to be the popular kid or the most successful business person. You simply have to accept God's gift with faith. Are there instructions from God? Are there things we should do and shouldn't do? Are there commands from God? Of course. And we experience God to the fullest when we obey. But ultimately, the bible is not a book of morals that tells us "do this" and "don't do that." You can find them in there, but that is not the point. The point is about Jesus Christ, Savior of the world.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Ebay Scam

I don't know how this person is able to sleep at night. Check out the photo below.

The Chronicles of Narnia

Just go see it. Incredible.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Gatlinburg Parade

Andi and I set out last weekend for an exciting trip to the legendary Gatlinburg Christmas parade. We both are Christmas-a-holics (especially Andi), so we were thrilled to say the least. We drove into town at midnight on Thursday night and made our way to the Deer Ridge Resort, which is about 10 miles out of Gatlinburg and about 1000 miles up this mountain. Unfortunately, I took a wrong turn and we ended up traveling up the wrong mountain for what seemed like forever. But, we eventually found our resort. It was super nice, a condo kind of thing, with a killer view (see picture above, that was our view). The only problem was that the place forgot to turn on the heat, so when we entered our room, it was quite literally 50 degrees. It took over an hour to warm up, so we enjoyed our room for the first hour in our coats and hats.

After getting up bright and early at 2 pm, we left for the parade. Traffic was not near as bad as I had anticipated. We parked and sorted through a few restaurants (including a haunted dining hall) before deciding on The Brass Lantern. After our meal, which had exceptional service, we went to wait for the parade.

We found our spot and waited. And waited. It was so cold. I can't describe how cold. It was cold. We were having fun as usual. Finally, the parade started with a bang! A group of high school cheerleaders carrying a sign walked down the street. And that was it. Andi and I looked at each other and said "surely this is a joke." A few minutes later, things picked up a little, but not enough to impress us. We quickly decided that we weren't really parade people, and after waiting an hour in 20 degree weather, we left after 20 minutes of the parade. No Way Jose's was calling our name with some chips and dip. It was great too!

The next morning we hit the all-time greatest store in the world. I have to pause and give thanks to by buddy Aaron for turning me on to Friar's Donuts! (we call it Friar Tuck's Donuts). Andi and I enjoyed a donut as much as it can be enjoyed. We even got one for the road! Gatlinburg is worth the trip just for Friar's Donuts!

Andi and I love Gatlinburg. We have decided to go every two weeks. Well, not really, but maybe every couple of months. Despite the less than impressive parade action, we had so much fun. I can't wait to go back!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Another Encounter with The New Age Movement

I have just returned from a meeting with a parent. Her daughter, who was visiting with one of her friends, recently made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ at church. After arriving at the parent's home, we chatted about the weather and the current housing market. I then moved into telling her about her daughter's decision for Christ. I have done this a hundred times, and you never quite know what to expect. Tears of joy, laughter, an angry parent, a confused parent, etc. After delivering the news of her daughter's decision, this mother pondered for a moment, and then said, "well, we of course know that all paths lead to God." Once again, I was hurled into a conversation with a New Ager.

This post is not to convince you New Agers that you are wrong. This post is a plea for Bible believing Christians to have a solid and ready defense for the accuracy and historicity of the Bible. Now, the Bible does not need our help. Charles Spurgeon once said that the Bible is like a lion. You don't have to help a lion; "just turn him loose." But Christians need to always be ready to "make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you." (1 Peter 3:15).

As our conversation began, she told me about another church that had recently visited her. The two people from the church continually said the same thing, "Your heart is wrong, you need the truth." Although that may be a fine beginning point, they were unable to move forward with why her heart was wrong, specifically, why she needed to believe the Bible. Apparently, the conversation took an ugly turn and the church guys left upset. A ready defense of your faith and the Bible does not lead to anger in a conversation. Rather, it leads to a calm, confident, knowledgable discussion. Here is what happened today with me:

We finally melted down her belief structure to this point: the Bible is not reliable because it was written and researched by man. I hear this attack of the Bible more than any other single concern. To her credit, this parent remained very calm, and she allowed herself to listen, just as I was making sure she knew I was listening to her. That is the next point. You must listen when defending your faith. They will not listen to you if you do not listen to them.

I wish I could tell you that she immediately accepted Christ on the spot. But, we had a wonderful discussion. A very powerful seed was planted, and at the end of our discussion, she commented on how calm I was and that she had never seen a Christian remain so calm talking to her. Now, this has nothing to do with how great I am. All that happened was that I was ready with my defense, I did not get angry or blow up, and I listened to her. Those three simple things were radical to her, and as I left, she said, "I may need to adjust a few things so that my daughter can continue with her decision." She then gave me a tour of her house because I had told her that Andi and I were looking! What could have been a horrible experience was a divine appointment for me. What appointments does God have for you today?

Three things to remember when talking to a New Ager.

1. Have a ready defense of your faith. Not, "I just have always believed that way."
2. Do not get angry or flustered.
3. Listen to what they are saying.

If you want to know some great literature on the accuracy of the Bible and making a defense of your faith, send me an email. I will be happy to help you.

The Beast Horror Pick of the Week

Hell Night

It's cheesy, stupid, predictable and ridiculous. What more could you ask for in a horror film? The film is fun to watch because Linda Blair plays the lead role as Marti, who has to spend a night in a "haunted house" in order to pledge for the sorority. She is accompanied by other wannabe's, including a few guys from the fraternity side of things. You can guess the rest. The fake tricks and gimmicks turn out to be the real deal and one by one people start dying.

Unfortunately, you can't watch Blair without thinking that her head is going to start spinning in circles (The Exorcist), and there is one genuine scare at the end of the film, if you are into that kind of thing. So, you may ask, why did this make The Beast list? I dunno. Keeping all of it's negative points in mind, I still like it. So much that I own the limited edition version on DVD. Yep, they made a limited edition version.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Message of Rudolph

It's a tough call to say which is my favorite Christmas cartoon classic. A Charlie Brown Christmas or Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer are just too close to determine a favorite. My vote inches toward Charlie Brown, for nothing other than the all-time greatest recital of the Christmas story by Linus.

Anyway, I was talking to my wife about Rudolph and this thought came to me. What is the deal with this message? Now, I'm half-way playing here, so don't take me too seriously, but check this out. . .

We always take the meaning of Rudolph as a story of those who are gifted in ways that we might not see at first, in other words, everyone has a purpose and a gift. That is great, but notice the message from the other side of the coin. Here is the progression:

1. Everyone hates Rudolph
2. Rudolph becomes Santa's #1 guy
3. Everyone loves Rudolph

Basically, this story tells children that if they can climb to the top of the corporate ladder and be the coolest cat (in this case reindeer) on the block, then everyone will like them. The song says "Then how the reindeer loved him. . ." What is the "then" in that lyric? Is it because they came to respect him for who he was on the inside rather than outside? Or that due to Rudolph's sincerity, they saw the error of their ways? Nope! The "then" is because he was now pulling the lead in Santa's sleigh. You get the idea that if Santa had an elf develop a 5000 lumen headlight for the following year to avoid this problem, that the reindeer would return to hating Rudolph's guts. So, in other words, make sure all you children out there remain the most popular in school, whatever it takes. If you don't, then you are going to lose your respect. Or, the other lesson to keep in mind is that we should make fun of people unless they are in a high position of importance.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Denominations Are Still Needed

At it's core, there is nothing wrong with the non-denominational movement, popularity, whatever you want to call it. The concept of being unified in our worship, not bound by denominational boundaries is a fine concept. But, it is also misleading.

I was talking with a 20 year old college student not long ago about church. He quickly and boldly informed me that denominations were "crap." They were "crap" because he didn't want to be identified with a particular group of people and their beliefs and have the stigma of denominational competition. He just wanted to "worship without the worry."

Here are two quick reasons why this doesn't hold water:

1. Non-Denominational churches are a denomination. In fact, as a general rule, churches have bent over backwards so far to present themselves as non-denominational that they have paved an even deeper set of "who we are" criteria than most denominations. Don't believe the hype my friends, when you walk in a "non-denominational" church, you are still walking into a church with a set of beliefs, rules, covenants, and membership obligations. In other words, you are still going to have to discern if this particular non-denominational church is the right choice for you and your family. There is no such thing as a church that doesn't stand on their understanding of scripture, and if there was, you would want to avoid it at all cost.

2. Doctrine. It's the lost word of the church, and still the most important. The reason denominations are still needed is because we allow ourselves to study and interpret doctrine, and then worship with a group of people who share our belief structure. Yes it's true, we take it too far. We mistake our differences in doctrine as competitive warfare, placing ourselves on the battleground of we're right, you're wrong and it shouldn't be that way. I acknowledge that is frustrating. But, in the end, it is healthy and important for a church to boldly say, here is who we are and here is why we believe what we believe. And then convey that to it's members. The problem with the non-denominational thing is not they do not understand doctrine, it is that they place it in a closet in order to attract people who are "put out" with the idea of being Baptist, Methodist, etc. But the truth is that studies show people are more turned off by the word "Christian" than they are "Baptist" or "Methodist." To bring people in with the deception of "non-denomination, we are just here to worship" and then back door their doctrine and belief structure on the members seems to be, well, not nice.

To close, I have many friends who worship at non-denominational churches and they love it. They are plugged in and serving God. But lets be informed of what they really are. They are churches that do in fact have a set of beliefs that you will need to either identify with or not. Don't be ashamed of the Doctrine of God.