Optional page text here. The Beast's Lair: January 2007

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Super Bowl XLI and the Terror of Esther

The Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts will be meeting on February 4th for the most coveted of all professional sports titles, Super Bowl Champion. For my less than sports minded readers, we are talking football here.

I was encouraged when I read that both coaches, Tony Dungy of Indianapolis and Lovie Smith of Chicago, were using the two week spotlight leading up to Super Sunday as an opportunity to speak of their faith in Jesus Christ. Dungy has been speaking of "giving God the credit" not for their winning the AFC Championship game, but for being allowed the opportunity to be in such a great position to talk about being tested and how NFL coaches can foster effective leadership with a positive, Christ-centered mentality.

The issue at hand here is a serious one. I believe in a God that brings about all things for His eternal purposes and glory. All things. When I hear stories like the one of Dungy and Smith, I am reminded of one of the most terrifying and eye-opening passages in all of Scripture. Esther 4:14

"For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?"

God's plans and purposes will never be thwarted or denied, lest we ever dare to reason that God is surprised by the world's condition. Why He allows us through His mercy and grace to be a part of such a holy and divine plan is beyond me. But He does. And He brings about the moments and circumstances in our lives where we are called to act. If we fail to do the right thing, God will raise up one who will. In this passage of Esther, Mordecai had no doubt that God would rescue the Jews from the hands of the Persians. But he wanted Esther to understand that her position as queen was not ultimately for her enjoyment and pride. It was to honor and bring glory to God by fulfilling what she had been placed there to accomplish.

Maybe in the big moments, like Super Sunday, Dungy and Smith should think of why they are in their position at a time like this. Maybe in the small moments, like the ones most of us will encounter today, we should think of why we are in our position at a time like this. To God be the glory, great things He has done!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Beast gets back to Movie Reviews

After a super long dry spell of not watching movies, thanks mostly due to this whole seminary thing I have going on around here, I will be getting back into the movie review business. Most of my reviews will be centered around horror movies and since Hollywood has decided it is cool to make horror flicks again, I will have my work cut out for me. I wish I had time to really get into the "straight-to-video" market, but my time to watch films is just so limited that it is simply impossible for me to watch them. Plus, I watch these bad boys when Andi is fast asleep, so I will need to stay with the biggies. I have quite a few to catch up on. Thankfully, Andi and I are now proud Blockbuster Reward Members, which means that I get a free DVD rental every time I rent a DVD (Monday through Wednesday) and one free rental a month. So, I will try to get at least one review a week going on The Beast's Lair.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Dick Enberg is a Legend

I have been a fan of Dick Enberg for as long as I can remember. I think it is safe to say that I am in the top percentile of Dick Enberg fans (there are not many of us). The man is a legend.

The days of classy, sophisticated sports broadcasters are fading. I still respect a few commentators out there, such as Bob Costas, but for my money, Dick Enberg simply cannot be beat. There is, of course, the legendary "Oh My!" phrase that he made famous, but it goes much deeper than that.

The year is 1987. The most coveted of all Grand Slams, Wimbledon, has come to a close. The most unlikely of champions, Pat Cash, has placed his stamp on tennis history. As is custom for any Grand Slam, there is a final video montage of that particular years event. The montage in 1987 for Wimbledon is the best I have ever seen. It was put to the emotional music of "Terms of Endearment" and Dick Enberg narrated the tribute. It sealed his legendary status for good. There has never been a more soul stirring, meaningful 5 minute video montage than what Enberg narrated in 1987. I will never forget it. Jimmy Connors made a great run in the 1987 Wimbledon and only Enberg can say "James Scott Connors" without coming across like a total buffoon. Fast forward to January 22, 2007. I am watching the Australian Open. Andy Roddick, who Jimmy Connors is now coaching, was playing. Enberg, the legend, was commentating alongside Patrick McEnroe. For a moment the video showed Connors in the stands watching Roddick play. Enberg says, "There is James Scott Connors looking on." I stood up and threw both my hands in the air. Not only did he say "James Scott Connors" but he also said "looking on", another classic Enberg line. The guy still has it my friends.

There are just those few people who happen to come across your life, both personally and through the television or silver screen, that make things a little better. When I hear Enberg, I am comforted. As long as he is still behind the mic, things are ok. Sports broadcasting has become almost a comical thing these days. Younger guys, many former players, are out with their super duper double breasted suits trying to look cool and say something insightful. I think Enberg lets them have their moment, flashes a quick grin as he walks down the hall, and reminds himself that only a select few really know how to call a sporting event. And he is one of the few.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

.XXX Domain for Pornographic Websites

Efforts are being made in Washington to push through a proposal to create a .xxx domain name for pornographic websites. What that means is that pornographic web content would have the option to use a .xxx at the end of their web url instead of the usual .com or .net. Support for the proposal is split.

Supporters of the idea believe that the creation of such a .xxx domain name will allow the filtering of pornographic content to be much easier whereby our children would be more protected. The problem is that porn websites would not be required to use the new domain name. My feeling is that porn sites are not going to do anything that would limit the number of hits they will receive to their sites. For the most part, the only domains available today are .com, .net, .gov, .edu, .us. These are to signify a government, school or national status. The feeling is that to create a .xxx domain is in some way elevating the porn industry to that kind of status.

I remain completely in the dark about pornographic content on the web, except that it is an absolute killer. Children are able to view the most sickening content with only one click. I am in favor of anything that would lessen the ease of our young people getting to this filth. I just don't know if this is the answer.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Beast's Lair receives the Aardvark Award

I'm just so thankful for people of all denominations who read The Beast's Lair. I have been awarded the Aardvark Award for my recent post "Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, and Baptists." I thank you.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, and Baptists

Just a few days ago former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton announced a major meeting that would take place in 2008 to "improve the Baptist image and broaden its agenda." Associated Press writer Daniel Yee writes that "Baptists who have distanced themselves from the conservative Southern Baptist Convention" are the ones who have organized the meeting. Here is a very brief history.

In the late 1970's and continuing through almost two decades, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) began what is now commonly referred to as the "resurgence." Key Baptist leaders were convinced that the theological and spiritual outlook of the SBC had moved dangerously into a liberal mindset and they set out to make changes that would move the SBC to a more conservative body of believers. The issues that ruled the debate are still divisive in nature and range from the understanding of Scripture as either inerrant or infallible, the role of women in the church, gay marriage and abortion. Once the SBC came under conservative control, many "moderate" or "progressive" baptists who were less than thrilled with the changes branched off and formed what is now called the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF). I attended a CBF seminary, McAfee School of Theology, for one semester.

The announcement of this meeting to be held in 2008 leaves me, for now, with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I support the notion that Baptists who hold different views should come together under one umbrella for the Glory of God. The potential good that could come from these partnerships is of course a wonderful thing.

On the other hand, I am troubled by a few things that seem to be a common theme in every article and editorial I have read concerning the 2008 gathering. First of all, the purpose of "improving the Baptist image" does not settle well for me. I keep reading that this meeting hopes to "reshape the way people think about Baptists" and usually the well known superconservative figures like Jerry Falwell are used as an example of what our Baptist image does not need to be. The associated press article goes on to say "The announcement Tuesday is the latest chapter in fierce Baptist battles over how to interpret Scripture. Starting in 1979, Southern Baptists who believe the Bible is without error took leadership of the convention, which now claims 16.4 million members. The denomination became a leading voice opposing gay marriage and abortion, and took stands on many other public policy issues." Then, "Lance Wallace, a spokesman for the fellowship, said the goal of the meeting was to give Baptists a more accurate depiction in the public mind-set." More accurate based on what? What Lance Wallace considers to be an accurate Baptist depiction? It seems to me that this group is so "put out" with heavy fundamental pastors who make the headlines in the news that they fail to see the good that the SBC is doing. The millions that are used for North American and International missions, the millions that are used for world hunger and social justice. And isn't there just something a little weird about having President Bill Clinton be the "cheerleader" for how Baptists are supposed to be accurately portrayed?

Secondly, as much as I want to believe that this gathering is to encourage Baptists, both conservative and moderate, to come together in unity and peace, I have my doubts. One of the major headlines from ethicsdaily.com is a landblasting of Richard Land, president of the ethics and religious liberty commission, for his voice of concern over the meeting and the Baptist World Alliance (BWA). The name of the headline is "Richard Land Just Doesn't Get It." Maybe Richard Land doesn't get it, but I have tracked down many of the quotes used against Land by the BWA. Supporters of the BWA said Land "attacked" their organization when he said this: "the Baptist World Alliance was moving in a liberal theological direction by and large, and it was not serving a lot of the needs of a lot of the Second- and Third-World countries." An attack? Or a very different opinion? Isn't the whole point of this gathering to encourage unity among those Baptists who hold different views? If that were the case, then supporters of the Carter/Clinton movement need to stop writing these kind of editorials, regardless of what the few SBC conservative guys are saying. The SBC consists of 16.4 million members, most of whom are not Richard Land. Ethicsdaily.com also posted an article concerning the gathering that started like this: "Baptists are much more than Southern Baptists, who are more southern than Baptist, more exclusive than inclusive, more theocratic than democratic and more negative than positive." This isn't pointing out one figure in SBC life, this is a broad comment against Southern Baptists in general. Harmony and common commitment is the point of this thing? Not so sure about that.

Finally, I think there is simply a theological problem with the whole thing. The editorial on ethicsdaily.com goes on to say that the 2008 gathering will hopefully "reshape public perception about Baptists" by aligning behind the agenda in Luke 4:18-19. The editorial describes this agenda as "lifting up the impoverished, freeing captives, restoring to health the ill, liberating the oppressed and announcing the year of economic restoration." All are noble and worthy pursuits. But reshape Baptist perception around those things? I am not convinced of this particular interpretation of Luke 4. Jesus in Luke 4 was announcing the fulfillment of Scripture in the synagogue of Nazareth. A fulfillment of God's purpose from the foundation of the world. This is above all else a purpose of saving sinners. Probably, when Jesus is describing the "release of captives" and "recovery of sight to the blind," He is speaking of the saving of sinners. Verse 19 ends with "to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord." Favorable not because Christ has come to ultimately solve the social issues of the world, but to save sinners. The two are compatible, of course, but social justice for the Christian first comes through the saving power of Jesus Christ. If this gathering will be centered around social justice and health issues as a priority, that is wonderful. But not to reshape the way people think about Baptists.

In conclusion, I affirm the concept of Baptists from all walks of life who love Christ to join in unity and make a difference for the world. Is this particular organization going to succeed in that respect? Only time will tell. We should be praying for the successful uniting of SBC and other Baptist groups in a non-partisan effort to save the lost and help the needy.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Epic Battle

In addition to me being a theologian-in-training, an associate pastor and a family man, I am also a guitar wielding founder of a hard rock Christian band. Those things go together so nicely, don't they?

This Saturday will be one of the most anticipated performances of my music career. Springfield, TN is not going to know what hit them. Saturday night at The Servant's Quarters in Springfield, TN, the Epic Battle will take place. This is a "battle" between former lead singer "Rex" and current lead singer James Aaron. Although it is all in good fun, and a positive message will be the outcome of the "battle", the Judah First fans have nevertheless become quite heated in the debate of the battle.

This one will be interesting.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Effective Youth Ministry Models

Time Magazine ran an article a few months ago outlining the models of youth ministry that were enjoying the greatest success. Success here is defined not only by sheer numbers and a thriving group, but also by the biblical literacy of the various youth models mentioned. Time was reporting that the nation's most energetic and successful youth ministries were those which did not "sugar coat" the ministry. The implications of this lesson extend well beyond the usually cramped corridors of the youth room.

Teenagers will be teenagers. There is a need for fun. There is a need for pizza parties, games, and silliness. But no matter how much the other people in any particular vehicle want to steer the car on the road, ultimately it is the person behind the wheel, the one in the "drivers seat" that makes the car move. For many, if not most youth ministries in our churches, the pizza party mentality is driving the car.

Thankfully, it appears the tide is beginning to turn. Reports like the one in Time Magazine are showing youth groups replacing the foundation of a hyped crazy atmosphere with solid Bible teaching. Students are responding with open arms to the teaching of God's Word, and not a superficial teaching at that. Our teenagers, depsite the presumed lack of biblical knowledge up to this point, can handle and are hungry for doctrine, for what the Bible really says about issues and how we as Christians should be responding. This challenge for youth pastors goes well beyond the stero-typical teen response of "stay away from alcohol" and "don't have sex before marriage." Although admonitions like these are fine as a moral by-product for the Christian life, the Bible is not a tale of morals. It is the telling of an all powerful God who provides a way through Jesus Christ to save the world. We must dig deeper.

Perhaps the pulpits of our churches can benefit from this recent youth movement. Moralizing and self-help topics dominate the sermon material of the day. But, that is a topic for another day.

What are warning signs for "sugar coated" youth ministries? Here, I believe, are a few:

1) Churches who are willing to fill the youth ministry position with unqualified, uneducated, biblically illiterate lay people. Although the hearts and sincereity of these leaders are usually pure, they will always fall back on fun and games. The church is at fault here, not the layperson.

2) Falling into the trap of being a friend to the teenagers rather than a leader. This is easy to do. We want so much for the students to like us that we fail to properly lead them.

3) Failing to hold youth leaders accountable for their teaching and involvement with the students. This is difficult to do because a youth pastor cannot be in 3 classrooms at the same time. But accountability is key.

In another post, I will address what is becoming more crucial to me with youth ministry, the involovement of solid biblical help for parents.

Monday, January 08, 2007


The band Wham! was formed in 1981 by George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley. I have always felt a sense of deep sympathy for Ridgely who basically received no credit for his part in making George Michael a superstar. At the time Wham! split in 1986, Ridgeley was basically seen as useless. He disappeared into obscurity.

However, a closer look shows that without Ridgeley, Michael might not have received the fame he went on to enjoy. First of all, it was Ridgeley who convinced Michael to change their image to the fashionable pop superstar glam look and sound. But in the kicker of all kickers, Ridgeley co-wrote the groups best song, "Careless Whisper", but for some weird reason, the song was released as a George Michael solo, which just wasn't the case. Michael never recorded a better or more played song, even with the future "Faith" and "Freedom90."

Thank God for the people in the background who make things possible for us, and who seldom receive any credit for the moments of glory we all enjoy.

I wonder how often Michael thinks of Ridgeley.

My Friends Blog about our Friendship

This blog by my best bud James Aaron about our friendship is just incredible. If you have time, check it out.

Click Here To Read James Aaron Blog

Thursday, January 04, 2007

A New Blog to my Blogroll

After a year and a half of blogging, I have finally added a new blog to my blogroll. Take the time to click over to "On The Jericho Road."

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Do Baptists Pay Enough Attention to Baptism?

This question deserves some attention after a phone conversation I had with a fellow who was "put out" with the Baptist methodology, at least from his experience at a large SBC church in Nashville, TN. According to my partner in conversation, he was perplexed by the seemingly lack of real interest in the meaning, the Scriptural meaning, behind the act of Baptism. He described in detail how he watched the church use baptism only as a way to "count another head" in the ongoing attempt to baptize more people this year than last. For him, the local SBC church had completely lost the meaning of baptism by replacing the Scriptural importance of the act with a superficial means of counting church membership.

Is he correct?

I believe he, in part, is correct. It is quite a claim to pronounce Baptists as not being concerned about the meaning of Baptism. The very name alone of "Baptist" implies that the process is one of importance and one of identity to those who claim to be Baptist. History can certainly testify that a deep rooted concern and understanding of the Scriptural command to be baptized has followed the SBC from its beginnings. The very method of the baptism, that of "dunking", and the theological implications of being baptized have been fervently defended and upheld throughout the years. For Baptists, the water is not an agent of salvation, that is to say, being placed under water is not what brings salvation to the lost. Faith alone in Christ reconciles the sinner to the Father. Nevertheless, we are commanded to be baptized, and to baptize others.

Where I believe the gentlemen to whom I was speaking is correct is in our shallow comprehension of what was once a critical issue to those before us. In the churches where I have served, there has been very little education not only on what it means to be a Baptist, but also on what the baptism process is all about. This all goes back to my previous post on Church Doctrine. Even in an act in which the very name "Baptist" is derived, our church members are ignorant of the real meaning behind it. And it is not their fault.

A healthy balance is the key. I applaud the SBC for their determination to preach Christ crucified and faith alone that saves. In a sense, we are correct to not place too heavy an emphasis on the baptism process in our evangelism to avoid the misunderstanding that salvation is found in its waters. But the flip side is an under appreciation for how important the baptizing of converts was to the early church and is for us today. The education and spiritual maturing of new believers is essential for a growing, thriving, God-centered church.

The Baptist Faith and Message, the statement of faith for the SBC, says this about baptism: "Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper."

Monday, January 01, 2007

Winter Retreat Ski Trip

I have been out of town the last few days with my youth group on a winter retreat. We had a good time and returned safely. I hope everyone has a blessed new year.