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

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Beast Reviews: Rob Zombie's Halloween

Rob Zombie didn't lie. This is certainly a re-imaging.

My prediction for the film has, in fact, turned out to be true. Zombie has used an overabundance of brutality, both in the forms of violence and sexuality, to re-create the original story which lacked excessiveness of each. Here are the things that stand out from the picture in my mind:

1. Zombie has produced much more of a "Cause & Effect" storyline to provide a foundation for the horrific desire of Myers to act in the gruesome and violent ways he does. The first 20 minutes of the film, which were difficult to watch, is a landblasting of vulgarity, sexuality, mental abuse, and physical abuse that is apparently commonplace at the Myers home when Michael was 10 years old. His father is abusive in every imaginable way, his sister wants nothing to do with him, his mom, although loving, is a stripper, and he is constantly humiliated at school. Although Zombie allows for the possibility of something else, some hidden element of Michaels psyche to be the cause of his madness, for the most part the viewer watches him unfold because of his unbearable living conditions. Dr. Loomis even writes a book called "The Devil's Eyes" (which is a nod to the original) in which he explains psychologically the method and reasoning to Myer's condition. Compare this with Carpenter's version and the difference is staggering. Loomis would never write such a book in the original. He has long since written off Michael as "pure evil" from which there can be no such psychological determination. Carpenter does not set up the drama by showing us what Michael goes through at home because there is no real sense of correlation between the two. In other words, what drives the original is not a sense of "here is why Michael is killing people" rather than it is "Michael, for no apparent reason, is killing people." The viewer, in the original, begins to piece some of the reasons together as the story unfolds, thanks to Dr. Loomis' brilliant conversations with Sheriff Brackett concerning Michael's ontological sense of "evil." But in Zombie's film, the viewer sees the purpose from the start, so subsequent conversations between Loomis and Brackett are not near as tension filled as the original. So, although Zombie is perfectly in his rights to make a change of this magnitude, since he is re-imaging the film, the change is, for this fan, not helpful and in fact hurts the power of the story.

2. Where Zombie makes considerable changes in his film, such as the previous one mentioned, the addition of gore, etc, only makes us tip our hat once again to Carpenter's classic. Watching this movie was similar to reading the Gospel of Mark (not in a life-changing sense). Scenes move quickly from one "death scene" to another and Michael is always standing right there in full frame. The tension that is created by waiting for the dreaded moment of attack which Carpenter masterfully achieved is painfully missing from Zombie's attempt. In the original, Myer's is referred to in the credits as "the shape" and for good reason. You never really get a good look at him. He is always looming, you can hear his breathing, but when you see him, it is only for a second or two, and then he disappears once again. That is one reason why the closing montage of Carpenter's film, where he shows the different rooms and scenes where Myers once was, is so effective. You feel him in those rooms even though you can't see him. Zombie's Myers, on the other hand, does not have that same sense of "where is he?" Not only is Zombie's Myer's about 7 feet tall, the mystery surrounding his presence is just no longer a real mystery.

3. There are moments of forced dialogue, and when Zombie is bold enough to try to capture a few "scene by scene" shots, such as Laurie, Annie, and Linda walking home from school, it just simply doesn't work.

What about the film did I like?

1. It starts with "God of Thunder" by Kiss.
2. There are some neat references to the original, such as the way the young Michael walks as he stalks his first killing and an orderly (played by Danny Trejo, nod to Michael Mann) who tells Michael to "look past the walls." Of course, as I mentioned in a previous post, only those with a good knowledge of the original will pick up on those lines.
3. The killing scene inside the Smith's Grove Sanitarium was gorgeous. This was the best scene in the film. I felt like I was Watching Zombie at his best, and rightfully so. This scene had very little to do with the Halloween storyline. Zombie uses the siren from the Sanitarium as his only music during the 4 minute scene. Very good.

All in all, this Halloween film will be quickly forgotten, probably by the time Halloween rolls around. But, Zombie, I hope, will be quick to get behind the camera and direct another original film. He has great talent, but his "House of 1000 Corpses" surpasses this effort in virtually every possible way.

The Beast Paw Rating: 1 1/2 out of 4 Paws.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Zombie's Halloween Viewing

I will be viewing the film tomorrow (Friday) at 11:15 am. I am nervous for a couple of reasons:

1. I have to understand that a good number of people, the majority in fact, will not be approaching the picture with the same love, respect, and knowledge of the original that I have. This can lead to several problems, mostly selfish nonsense, because I will be able to sense and "feel" the places where Zombie is filling in the gaps, and therefore appreciate the film more than the average moviegoer. On the other hand, if Zombie butchers the picture, I will also "feel" the inconsistencies with the original where other viewers might be oblivious. But this is the reality of anything that is loved and adored by fans. People on the "outside" just can't and won't get it in the way it was ultimately meant to be understood. The same concept is also true for Scripture. When Christ says in Matthew 10:34 that he did not come to "bring peace," everyone can understand that at one level. But those people, especially Matthew's intended audience, who know their OT Scripture (it wasn't the OT then of course)hear this verse in a completely different way. Why? Because the prophecy of Isaiah 9:6 says that the coming Messiah will be the "Prince of Peace." Only those "in the know" would "feel" the seeming disjunction at play here.

2. I'm afraid it will be terrible. Enough said.

The official Beast Review will be online tomorrow. Until then, don't forget. . .You can't kill the boogeyman.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


As you know, the original 1978 Halloween written and directed by John Carpenter is my favorite film. As you also probably know, writer and director Rob Zombie has made a "re-imaging" of the original film. I have posted on the Lair a few times about the project, but here, briefly, are my thoughts.

1. We all know that making a "better" Halloween film than the original is impossible. I would argue that Zombie, because I think he understands the overall genre and the greatness of the first film, also agrees with me here. That is also why I believe he wisely choose to shoot the film from a different perspective rather than a "scene by scene" reconstruction of the original. That methodology, scene by scene, was used in the remaking of Psycho in 1998. It remains one of the few films I have walked out on, and was just a pathetic movie. What idiot tries to film a scene by scene movie of Hitchcock? The same is true, I would argue, for Carpenter's Halloween. And Zombie knows this, so to his credit, he understands the only way he can pull off a successful movie and have some respect with die-hard fans is to throw a varying angle to the film.

2. I believe Zombie will approach the aggressiveness of the film differently than Carpenter. What "rookie" horror fans don't realize is that the original Halloween shows very little violence and blood. Because of the Friday the 13th series and subsequent Halloween movies, not to mention the decade of slasher films that owe their existence to Halloween, the original film is just lumped into the category of blood and guts from moviegoers who don't know better. The original Halloween is all about atmosphere. I have written this before, but my favorite scene in the movie has nothing to do with killing, stalking, or even Michael Myers. My favorite scene is when Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is sitting on the concrete railing outside her house waiting on "Annie" to pick her up. While sitting there holding a pumpkin, she looks up and down the streets of Haddonfield while the trick-or-treaters go door to door. The perfect music is playing, and the leaves are gently falling. The scene, only lasting a few seconds, is brilliant and I am moved every time I see it. I am predicting Zombie to approach his Halloween with a bit more brutality, not so much in blood and gore, but just in feel. I have kept myself from reading any review or even synopsis of the film, so this is just prediction on my part. I will let you know if I am correct on Friday.

3. I feel extraordinarily sorry for the actors who are playing these legendary roles, especially Malcolm McDowell who is playing Dr. Loomis. Even if Zombie "re-images" the film, the characters are still going to be judged by the standard set from the original, and in the case of Loomis, it is an impossible standard. The late, great Donald Pleasence portrayed the character Dr. Loomis in the original film and he has won the hearts of millions of fans, including this one. Just out of respect for Pleasence, here are some of my favorite Loomis quotes from the first film:
"He's gone from here, the evil is gone"
"If you don't, its your funeral."
Sheriff Bracket: "The kids think this place is haunted"
Loomis: "They may be right."
"This isn't a man."
"Blind, pale, emotionless face and the blackest eyes. . .the devil's eyes"
"He came home"
"not seeing the wall, looking past the wall to this night, inhumanly patient."
"As a matter of fact, it was."

I'm out for now, but will post more thoughts tomorrow.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Major Announcement: Rex and The Beast Dot Com

Hold on to your hats my friends. A new website is currently being developed that will highlight and journal the theme park adventures of Rex and The Beast.

As most of you know, I am a super theme park junkie. Along with my brother, Rex, we try to hit as many theme parks in a year as our schedule will allow. (My sister would totally be in on this also, but she has this little girl named Bella running around.) My brother lives in Denver and I am in Louisville. We both have season passes to Universal Studios, FL. We are, in some respects, experts of Universal Studios, especially the park Islands of Adventure.

The website will contain several interactive features, including a home page with updated news on our next scheduled trip, a photo section that will allow multiple searches for either specific theme parks we have visited or the date of our trips, a video section which will of course offer visitors the chance to watch our interaction at the parks, and articles written by both me and Rex on parks, rides, and ratings.

The purpose of the site is two fold. On the one hand, we just want a neat way to archive our various trips. Rex and I realized how many times we have visited parks around the country, especially in Florida, and thought it was high time we chronicle these trips in some fashion. Secondly, we want to provide a place where theme park lovers can see pictures of the various parks from a fan perspective, watch rides in action, and keep up with the latest theme park "news" from the world of Rex and The Beast. Theme park reporting websites, such as screamscape.com, are always needing pictures of rides, parks, etc that people have visited. So who knows, our little website might become a fan favorite!

We are working with a talented web designer to produce the look, feel and smell of a hard working theme park website that will pack a punch. In other words, it is going to look killer. I will keep you updated here at the Lair, but as of now we are expecting a mid-to late October grand opening, just in time to report our 2007 trip to HHN in Orlando.

So, be strong and courageous!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Louisiana College Law School Controversy

The recent announcement by Louisiana College to name its planned law school after a conservative SBC leader has sparked some concern. Wilmer Fields, a Louisiana College graduate and former director of Baptist Press, is quoted to have told EthicsDaily.com that this announcement of the Judge Paul Pressler School of Law has caused him to question the school's "sanity."

From EthicsDaily.com:

"Along with Paige Patterson, today president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Pressler is generally credited as a co-founder of the "resurgence" movement that transformed the nation's largest Protestant denomination into one of the most conservative."

The article goes on to say that,
"The symbolic naming of the law school after Pressler is the latest in a series of moves that have alienated many alumni and friends of Louisiana College, once known for its tradition of academic freedom and open inquiry."

The focus of my attention for the remainder of this post is a commentary on the seemingly fallacious ideology that a moderate or liberal institution is the only means to "academic freedom and open inquiry." I am not aware of all the details in the Louisiana College situation so I can't properly agree or disagree with that specific situation, but on the whole there seems to be an attitude among moderates and liberals that true and valued education only stems from a foundation laid by moderates or liberals. My suspicion with the reaction against Pressler is his strong conservative beliefs that led to the "resurgence", a movement from which the aftershocks are still being endured.

I am deeply thankful for the education I received from Belmont University, my undergraduate Alma Mater. Belmont was and is a school that would probably best be labeled as "moderate" in their philosophy, at least that was my experience, especially in the school of religion. During my time during and after Belmont, I have remained somewhat to the right of my moderate brothers and sisters. Nevertheless, I received a grand education and still believe that Belmont is a fine institution for higher learning. I would recommend the school. Having said that, Belmont is kidding itself if they think that because of its moderate roots they are somehow more "open" in the educational process. They bring with their philosophies and practices the same kinds of boundaries that an extremely liberal or conservative institution will bring. For example, if I walked into the dean of religion's office with a resume boasting of my M.div, M.Th, PH.D, all of which I was summa cum laude, a long list of teaching experience, references that praise my work and teaching, and other qualifications that are well suited to such a position, one would think I would be a prime candidate. Until they ask me what I think about women being pastors, my position on inerrancy vs. infallibility, and my position on homosexuality in the church. Then, regardless of my other qualifications, I would more than likely not make it to the next level of their consideration. Is that bad? I would argue no, they are desiring to hire teachers who fit in nicely with their structure of thought and are confident of the kinds of things they will be teaching in the classroom. Does that make Belmont guilty of violating "academic freedom?" No.

But the same rule must consistently be followed with conservative or more liberal institutions. It is one thing to recognize that a particular school is not the right choice for you. It is quite another to accuse it of being "closed" and losing "open inquiry." Professors and others with positions of authority and respect, to whom students will listen, need to think twice before not recommending a school. More often than not, they will discredit the school for reasons tied to their own convictions about the program and not so much about the excellence of teaching and education that such a school might possess.

As a famous band once said, "don't believe the hype." Their are schools who are conservative, moderate, and liberal who all offer educational freedom and open inquiry.

Southern Seminary Quote of the Day

Classes have once again started, so also back are the "quotes of the day" when I am at the campus.

"If you don't take truth seriously, you don't have to take heresy seriously."

-Dr. Mohler during the convocation chapel service. This was in respect to the need of Christians, especially ministers, to keep studying the Word, and when necessary, make individual changes as the text moves us to faith.

Monday, August 20, 2007

While Dealing With The Synoptic Problem. . .

The Synoptic Problem refers to the ongoing debate of chronological priority among Matthew, Mark and Luke. John dosn't get to play because he is weird. I remember first hearing of the Synoptic Problem in Dr. Byrd's New Testament class way back in the days of Belmont School of Religion. I am now once again studying the problem, with a special emphasis on how Matthew plays into the equation.

For 1700 years, scholarship was decisive that Matthew was the first Gospel written, and for multiple reasons, was the most important Gospel, hence its inclusion at the front of the four. The nineteenth century brought with it some doubt as to the conclusions of previous scholarship (you don't just disagree with Augustine, you better have a good reason) and almost all scholars today hold to a "Markan Priority." That is to say, Mark actually was written first. From there you get into the famous "Q" source and all kinds of different theories that I will not bore you with.

What I find interesting in the world of scholarship is how the final word offered by Matthew and Luke can and is interpreted differently based on the scholar's theory to the problem. R.T France writes in his book "Matthew Evangelist and Teacher" that "the raw materials of redaction-critical study have been drawn from the 'changes' made by a later evangelist to what he is assumed to have found in Mark or Q, and any questioning of this literary dependence would necessarily throw doubt on the conclusions." What quickly can arise from such a notion is the dangerous possibility of criticizing the text in such a way where we find text in need of omission, and even potentially entire books that should not have made their way into the canon. This is precicely what Streeter, a famed scholar who was zealous about Markan Priority, decided concerning Matthew and Luke. There are "minor agreements" in Matthew and Luke against Mark. Streeter concluded that these minor agreements should be ruled out because they clearly were derived by "textual corruption." Great pioneers of our faith have at times expressed similar ideas, always based on their sincere desire for Scripture to consistently proclaim God's word without contradiction. Martin Luther, the great reformer, was skeptical at best concering the book of James. He writes that James is "in direct opposition to St. Paul and all the rest of the Bible, it ascribes justification to works."

So what are we to think? Oh that I had the kind of mind and determination of Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli. I was so pleased to read this in France's book. . ."we can, of course, discover truth by a study of the text of the gospel itself, without specific consideration of literary relations and the use of sources." This refers back to my "vertical reading" post a few days ago. At the end of the day, God has provided His bible. Although study of how and who wrote first and the subsequent dependence of future authors to those initial works is interesting and helpful, it does not do one thing to increase the inspired, inerrant nature of God's Word. So, read with confidence! God is saying something.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Husband of One Wife?

In most of the churches I have attended, from growing up in my home church on through the churches I have had the privilege to minister, the concern of the "husband of one wife" phrase in 1st Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6 has been consistent. What is the church to do with such an instruction? Paul lists this phrase among other qualifications for both an elder (bishop, pastor, overseer) and deacon. Typically, conservative Baptist churches, in what I think is an honest attempt to rightly interpret Scripture, have reached an erroneous conclusion. That conclusion is that Paul is referring to need of a man to have never been divorced, and therefore is the husband of "one wife."

The first, and I think strongest, argument for the need of a different interpretation is that Paul's qualifications listed for elders and deacons are all related to the man's spiritual walk. Read the Scripture reference below and notice how all the attributes listed are concerning a present moral qualification.

"Now a bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, dignified, hospitable, an apt teacher, no drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and no lover of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way."

Paul does not say that a bishop must "never have been above reproach, temperate, etc." Such a statement would go against Paul's own theology of total depravity. Rather, Paul is clearly concerned with the current status of the candidate's spiritual position. To think that among these important, present day qualifications Paul would suggest that a man should never have divorced in days of yesteryear just does not make sense. Besides, if Paul was going to use past sins as a test for the qualification of a bishop or deacon, surely he would have emphasized something more directly related to the task at hand than being divorced, such as temper, hate, dignity, etc.

I am certainly not suggesting that divorce is not a sin. Scripture is clear on that matter. But, it seems that the church is oddly dedicated to "enforce" the divorce interpretation while at the same time turning a blind eye to the other issues, especially the quarrelsome and temperate qualifications. How many elders or deacons would find themselves vanquished from the board of service if the church placed the same rigidity on these other attributes as they do the divorce thing. My hunch is that the divorce angle is easy. Is is an objective rule that is easy to announce from the outset, so everyone knows upfront. It is quite a difficult task, and work, for the church to honestly assess the current spiritual walk of potential candidates and inform them of why they are not qualified to be a deacon or elder.

So what does the phrase mean? I think one of two options is a good possibility. First, the phrase might mean a man who does not presently have more than one wife. We call that polygamy. This interpretation fits nicely with the theme addresses above, that Paul is discussing the current status of men. The problem is that by the first century AD, polygamy was not practiced near as much as it once was. That notwithstanding, there are still accounts, especially among the Jews, of this kind of lifestyle. Josephus, the great Jewish historian, says, "For it is an ancestral custom of ours to have several wives at the same time."

A second possibility, and one that I am growing fonder of, is that Paul's phrase "husband of one wife" is an idiomatic usage, meaning a faithful manager of his family. Under the deacon qualifications in 1st Timothy 3:8-13, the phrase "husband of one wife" is immediately followed by "let them manage their children and their households well."

Perhaps the most important concept in this kind of study is that the church not become lackadaisical in their understanding of Scripture and hardcore in their clench of tradition. A change in interpretation and by-laws of a church does not happen overnight or at a sudden floor motion at the Wednesday night business meeting. But, with thoughtful, convicted, loving pastors who are not "above reproach" or "quarrelsome", perhaps some changes can be made. For the glory of God.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Southern Seminary and Movie Quotes

I have started classes once again and I am in 4 wonderful courses with great professors. It will be a great semester.

Today, two of my professors said some unintentional movie/tv quotes with their lecturing. See if you can figure out what I am thinking of. (I should probably exclude Rexwilder from this little game).

Theology III
"And do you remember what David did? What did David do?"

Calvin & Reformed Tradition
"Another who was written on this topic is Steinmetz."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Horizontal and Vertical Reading of Scripture

Horizontal and vertical readings are terms used to represent the approach we take when reading Scripture. Horizontal reading takes the entire canon, or more specifically books that comprise similar themes or authors (such as the 4 Gospels or letters from Paul), and harmonizes those teachings and sayings. Vertical reading exegetes the single book that is being read based on it's particular text and not that of other books and authors. There is great value in horizontal reading, and surely the entire canon of Scripture should be kept in mind during study or lesson/sermon preparation. But the implicit danger of horizontal reading is that we can kick into "robot mode" and formulate the intended meaning from the author of one particular book by what we know from other books. All of us who read Scripture do this at one level or another.

A simple example of horizontal reading is the story of the "Rich Young Ruler." Most of us know the story well, and we all refer to it, whether from the pulpit or the Sunday School room, as the "rich young ruler." But did you know that the man who talks to Jesus is never called "rich", "young", and "ruler" in the same Gospel? Mark calls him rich, Luke calls him a ruler, and Matthew calls him young. But, since we have read the story in all Gospels and know we are referring to the same account, this conversation has become known by all as the "rich young ruler." Again, that is fine. Certainly we are to view the canon as a whole and ultimately see how Jesus is portrayed from Genesis to Revelation and the process of Redemptive History. However, we do want to avoid the trap of neglecting to focus on the singular story at hand and the specific author's intent with their particular letter or book. This "vertical" reading will yield those juicy, glorious details that might otherwise be missed by too quickly harmonizing the text and failing to properly see the power of the author's own work.

Monday, August 13, 2007

What Would You Have Done?

Ok, here's the situation (my parents went away on a week's vacation. . .) Andi and I have recently moved from one apartment community to on-campus housing at the seminary. We love our new place by the way. However, I had an interesting conversation today with the manager of our previous apartment and I am interested to know how you would have responded. First, a little set up:

Our lease ended on July 1st. We were moving in to our new place on July 5th. So, we had to pay 5 days of a pro-rated rent when we moved. I was told the pro-rated amount was $175.70 by the leasing associate. So, I wrote a check for $175.70. About 3 weeks later, I received a check in the mail saying I still owe $59.70. The letter didn't really explain what the remaining balance was for, so I wrote a check for $59.70 and drove to the apartment complex. When I went in to deliver the check, I politely asked what the remaining balance was for. The associate did not know, so she went into the managers office to ask. She came back and said the amount was actually for $9.70, NOT $59.70. She said the $9.70 was for pro-rated water that was unpaid. Well, I had already written out a check for the $59.70 and I did not bring my check book with me, I left it on my desk. So, I told her I would bring another check back in the amount of $9.70. She wrote a note explaining that I only owed $9.70 and not $59.70.

With me so far?

So, today I receive a call from the manager. She informs me that I still do, in fact, owe $59.70 because the amount of the pro-rate was actually $195.50 (remember, I only paid $175.70 because that was the amount I was told,) and that plus the water came to $59.70.

At this point, the apartment staff has made two mistakes. First, they misquoted me the pro-rated amount. This was given by a leasing associate. Second, they mistakenly told me I only owed $9.70 from the original $59.70 letter.

So how would you have responded?

I responded in this way. I first told the manager that I would be happy to pay the $59.70. I wanted her to know upfront that I was going to handle whatever I owed. But then I let her know that two different leasing associates had told me two different amounts. I didn't just pull the $175.70 number out of a hat. After explaining this, I received kind of a "mmmm" from the other end of the phone, so I just told her that I would be in later in the week to pay the rest.

I always think Christians, or anyone for that matter, should willingly pay what is owed, even if they have the possibility of getting off cheaper. But, I am a little shocked that this company did not "own up" to their two mistakes and honor their original word of $9.70. My mom is an apartment community manager, so I know that they have some wiggle room on these kinds of issues. I have some friends who would have just "gone off" on them until they agreed for the lesser amount. I have some family members who would have probably argued their case a little longer. What would you have done?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Beast Sings Country

Yep. Today I had the pleasure of singing the hit song "Lost in this Moment" by country stars Big and Rich. And I sang it at a wedding.

I enjoy leading worship and my voice is well suited to singing simple praise and worship choruses. Usually, when approached to participate in a wedding, I am asked to either perform the wedding or read Scripture or speak in some way. Those kinds of things are typically where I feel my strength lies. But this time, I was asked to sing Big and Rich. For some reason, I said "sure."

Today, a teenager and I (whose name is Jacob), ran through a soundcheck of the song about an hour before the wedding. Jacob was playing through a Crate Half Stack and SG guitar. It was pretty funny to see at a wedding. After our initial run through of the song, my first response came from two elderly ladies sitting in the back. They simply said to me, "that was loud."

As for the actual performance, we did a pretty good job. We got lost just a little on the second verse, but for the most part it was solid. I am not looking to perform any additional country songs anytime soon, but this was a neat experience.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Nationalism, The Church, and The Bible

Any regular reader of The Beast's Lair knows that I have some problems with Patriotic worship services performed in the church. For at least one day of the year in early July, we allow ourselves to innocently forget the teaching of Scripture and do a strange blend of worshipping God and the United States.

Christians should thank God for the United States, do not misunderstand. We should ask for His blessing. We should be proud of our service men and women and respect and honor them for their service to our country. We should all be patriotic.

But the church just isn't about that. I mentioned to our staff almost a year ago, who are also sensitive to this issue, that I would like to see a 4th of July service where every flag from every nation is represented. Boy, that would confuse people.

I have just recently noticed something fairly new to the lineup of Bibles offered by Lifeway Christian Resources. Lifeway gets quite a bit of criticism on all kinds of issues from all kinds of people, but they have really stepped up their game in the student ministry literature the last few years, offering meaty literature options that are doctrinal and not just topical. However, they have mis-stepped on this release. . .

Lifeway is now offering the "Military Bible Series" where the logo from the various branches of the military is stamped on the front of the Bible. Now, I have always been somewhat annoyed with the zillion different "kinds" of Bible's out there. We have "womens", "graduates", "firefighters", "police officers", "teenagers", "divorce", and the list goes on and on. Now, there are military Bibles, for the Marines, Army, etc. I have always just kind of ignored these specialized Bibles and don't have a problem with people who own them. But, here is where the "Military Bible" has gone too far:

Mixed in with Scripture are quotes from General George Patton, President George Washington, and President George W. Bush. Also included in the bible are "America the Beautiful" and "The Star-Spangled Banner", not to mention the "Enlisted Oath." I am really just at a loss on what Lifeway is thinking here. I understand the well-meaning nature of this kind of Bible and I understand its potential appeal to many, I have a teenager who is right now at Parris Island, training to be a Marine. I am proud of him. Heck, he might even have one of these Bibles. But regardless of the well-meaning nature or the fact that a Bible like this might strike a heart-cord with a soldier, we are grossly over the line of blending Nationalism with Christianity. Believe it or not my friends, God has not forsaken all other nations in order to bless America.

Some things just need to remain simple. Scripture stands on its own. We don't need to become so creative that we shoot ourselves in the foot. The church needs to worship God and delight in Him. I'm just not sure how a Patriotic service or a Military Bible fits in to the vision and purpose of the local church.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A Funny Conversation

I called 411 from my cell phone today in order to find the number to Plato's Closet. Here is what happened. . .a message asked me for the city, state, and location. I said Clarksville, IN, Plato's Closet. Well, usually, they then ring you to an operator who gives you the number. But this time, without my knowledge, they put me through straight to the store. So, I thought I was being connected to the operator, but I actually was talking to an employee at the actual Plato's Closet store.

Employee: Plato's Closet.
Me: Yes. (I said yes because I thought the operator was asking me if Plato's Closet was what I was needing the number for. Actually, it was the employee just answering the store phone.)
--long silence--
Employee: Can I help you?
Me: PLATO'S CLOSET, CLARKSVILLE, IN. (I thought for some reason they didn't get the right store or something.)
--long silence--
Employee: Yes.

I then figured out what was going on. It was hilarious. You probably had to be there.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Please Continue to Pray For My Mom

My mom gave us all a scare by being sent to Vanderbilt hospital last week with chest pains. However, all seems to be well with her heart. She is continuing to experience exhaustion and the doctors are running some more tests to find out what is causing the problem. She is a busy lady with quite a bit of stress. Please remember her today when you pray.

Many thanks and blessings!

Friday, August 03, 2007

GBC Student Ministry

God is certainly bringing glory to Himself at Graefenburg Baptist Church. I am blessed to work with a great bunch of teenagers (and adults) and the ministry is just going great.

How is it going great you might ask?

Well, I guess the typical response would be to talk about growth and numbers. The church has recently joined in the student ministry vision to renovate and build to our existing youth facilities, which are pitiful, to produce a nice facility that will properly help us with our youth ministry covenant/purpose. The new facility will have a nice cafe and "connect" area, as well as small group study rooms, as well as a completely new structure for student led worship. The project was calculated at costing $44,000. We raised the money in 2 days.

Is that great? Of course.

But when someone asks me how the youth ministry is going at GBC, which they do quite often, I am thrilled to respond in this way first, before anything else. . .

There are a few, certainly not all, but a few who are getting it. I am currently working with 4 teenagers outside of normal youth group meeting times. Two of us are working through a series of being a "new believer." They are coming to the meetings prepared, with their booklets filled out and eager to discuss their faith. I am working with another couple of students by reading with them through a more advanced book on spiritual disciplines and we are discussing it chapter by chapter. We are baptizing teenagers, students are active in helping lead worship, and I do not mean just during the sanctuary meeting time. We are capable of doing all of this because God is being faithful. I truly believe this will be an important year for the student ministry at GBC, something we would not believe if we had been told.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Deliberate Church - Music

I am currently digesting a book by Mark Dever, pastor of Capital Hill Baptist Church in Washington DC, called "The Deliberate Church." It is a thought provoking and eye-opening book concerned with the need for churches to resist the notion of separating theology from congregational life. The book attempts, successfully, to argue against theology being unpractical.

Every chapter has been filled with insightful and practical comments, but one chapter in particular, simply entitled "Music", has made my mind spin faster than normal. What follows is a rather extensive quote from the book, but keep reading. You will find this interesting.

"One of the most important functions of congregational singing is that is highlights the corporate nature of the church and the mutual ministry that builds us up in unity. One of the reasons we come together on Sundays is to remind us that we are not alone in our confession of Jesus Christ. In our overly individualized culture, congregational singing is one of the most visible ways to encourage a specifically corporate emphasis to our worship and life as a local church body.

It is public, not privatized. Many musical worship leaders encourage members (by either word or deed) to close their eyes in pursuit of private emotional intimacy with God in the context of the corporate gathering. Now, no one in their right mind would argue that closing one's eyes in corporate worship is categorically wrong. And many close their eyes in the corporate gathering simply to take in the sound of the singing more fully. But we would be wrong to encourage people to think of corporate worship as shutting out the rest of the congregation to have a privatized emotional experience with God.

I was once in a service where the worship leader started crying uncontrollably on the platform after leading a song. Was this a healthy model of brokenness? Perhaps, and I have no doubt that he intended it as such. The purity of his heart is not at issue. It is the wisdom of his public demeanor that I would question. He was teaching the people by example that privatized emotional experience, even though released in front of the whole congregation, is the ultimate expression of corporate worship. That simply isn't true.

Privatizing corporate worship, then, defeats the purpose of corporate worship and often confuses true worship with privatized emotion. The corporate worship gathering is a public meeting; we are intended to experience it aware of our togetherness."

Dever then goes on to say, in what I thought was both hilarious and insightful. . .

"Most of us have heard songs of total victory that finish with a high note and an instrumental flourish, often right before the sermon. There's certainly nothing morally wrong with hitting high notes. But it's the triumphalistic attitude of some songs- the idea that all our battles are over and it's time to enjoy complete victory over all our spiritual enemies- that is as yet premature in these last days. Such triumphalism in our music is particularly ill suited as preparation for listening to a Christian sermon. In the sermon, we are about to hear God's Word correct, instruct, rebuke, warn, and, yes, also encourage, warm, and delight our hearts. Meditative music serves us much better in preparing our hearts to hear and heed God's Word."

I am guessing that Mark Dever is not a big fan of "Your Best Life Now." He goes on to make some great comments on the individualistic nature of our songs, pointing out the overused personal pronoun "I." Dever points to both old hymns and new praise choruses as missing the mark.

Regardless of your take on Dever's points, to which I think he is mostly right, the issue at hand to which every church should take a closer look is becoming more deliberate in what we do as a congregation. Actually thinking about the songs we choose and whether or not they are theologically rich is one sure step in becoming more deliberate.