Friday, May 29, 2009
I had a lot of bad theology as a kid, a lot of bad ideas which clung like the Sunday blue blazer I had to wear in late-August. Or the dust in our ancient church library that I accidentally wandered into once. Or the Caucasian flannelgraph dolls in Mrs. Jeffcoat's third grade Sunday School Class.
I have already said that most of these ideas came from the sermons I heard. But maybe I should be honest and admit that when I was a kid, I didn't listen to most sermons. I endured most sermons by winding and unwinding my mother's pin-lever watch until she grew visibly irritated. After that, I signed my name to bulletins. I did this repeatedly and with such concentrated effort that my fingers hurt. I loved the carbon-copy effect on the backs of hymnals that I could achieve by pressing harder with my pen. Maybe I imagined that once my brightest and most promising years, the precious years of my childhood, had all disappeared into years of sermon-listening, I would have a last will and testament in the form of scribbly indentations on all the covers of hymnals in the church.
Anyway, I would have succeeded.
But all of this should begin to explain why I despised church sermons... and why I loved church plays. Plays were stylish, and rare. Sermons were not. Sermons were artless, and very common. If I would have been a more cerebral kid (like my boy-genius brother), I could have learned something from them. But to me, they were useless. Deadwood. If they went anywhere, it was on the ambling current of my imagination.
To be continued...
Click here to read the previous post in this series.
Posted by Axis at 10:37 PM
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
On May 16, 1891, the Hotel Grandview, in Manitou Springs, Colorado, opened its doors to the public for the first time. Located high above Manitou Avenue, the hotel boasted one "grand view" over the valley and Manitou Springs. The hotel welcomed patrons from all walks of life, from coal miners in Cripple Creek to U.S. Senators. It continued to serve their guests until 1962 when the hotel was sold to Summit Ministries.
Now, 118 years to the day since the doors opened for the first time, the aroma of home-made peanut butter and freshly baked bread drift through the hallways of the turn-of-the-century hotel. It is May and once again the Historic Grandview springs to life with students and staff. The hotel, after laying silent for the past several months, now resonates with laughter and worship as the summer sessions of Summit Ministries worldview and leadership conferences for high school and college students kick into gear once again.
The ballroom, once used for mid-day teas and exquisite galas, now joins together some of today’s greatest minds when it comes to the Christian Worldview. Students sit under some of the most influential minds of our day, including Dr.'s Del Tackett, J.P. Moreland, Frank Beckwith and David Noebel.
The veranda, where Harry S. Truman once spent an afternoon reminiscing with an old friend, is still lined with rocking chairs and still overlooks the beautiful town below. Today, it is used as a forum for students to dialogue with speakers in a small group setting and to incorporate the ideas taught in class into real-life situations.
As stated on it's website, “Summit is an educational Christian ministry whose very existence is a response to our current post-Christian culture. Countless Christians are renouncing their faith and many more are adopting the false humanistic philosophies and religions of [our day]. Most have adopted these ideas into their own worldview, while still others go on to renounce their Christian faith altogether. Summit views its role in God’s kingdom as a catalyst to counteract this alarming trend." Summit is "teaching Christians to analyze competing ideas, challenging them to stand strong in their faith, educating them to defend truth, and ultimately equipping them to impact the world for Christ.” You can learn more about Summit by visiting, www.summit.org.
In a survey, George Barna found that 80% of students who were active Christians in high school and college will have left the faith by age 291. Summit’s mission is to ground Christians in their faith, to equip Christians to defend the biblical worldview and to prepare tomorrow’s servant leaders.
Summit was the first place I learned how to engage the culture without forfeiting Truth. For once, I was able to challenge the ideas that I have always been taught as truth and align them with Scripture. Summit equipped me for college so that I would not be one of that 80%, and furthermore, opened the door for Focus on the Family Institute (now Focus Leadership Institute) and AXiS.
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and basic principles of the world rather than on Christ.” Colossians 2:8
- George Barna, "Most Twenty-Somethings Put Christianity on the Shelf Following Spiritually Active Teen Years." You can find the article online here.
Posted by Axis at 10:42 PM
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
the quote, “once you label me you negate me” has been attributed to Soren Kierkegaard1.
when we label others we nullify their individuality and can then justify treating them according to the limits of that label.
it is a discreet way of dismissing someone and replacing them with a stereotype.
labeling has been the gateway for racism, hypocrisy, and generally neglecting others that are different.
- AXiS does not necessarily endorse all of Kierkegaard's philosophy, but instead we want to focus on thoughtful ideas within his (and others) writing.
Posted by Axis at 7:47 AM
Friday, May 15, 2009
I had a lot of bad theology as a kid.
I was in church every Sunday. During Sunday School lessons, I sat cross-legged on my little rug-square. I listened intently and answered all the questions correctly and quoted versus in the NIV. I sang Father Abraham with all its hand motions and endless reprises. And all the while I imagined Jesus just like a walking Pez dispenser.
I told you I was a little heretic.
No one ever taught me that Jesus was the plastic purveyor of an Austrian pellet candy. Not exactly. But spring-loaded and smiling, ready to reward complete strangers with his sweet and tart nuggets of advice, that's just how I pictured him. I just couldn't figure out why everyone back then didn't absolutely love him for it, too.
On the other hand, during "big church" sermons Jesus could have been a dried out and cracked old commencement speaker. (I would realize this years later when I was about to graduate from college.) He was 33, but I pictured him much older. Sour. Semi-famous. And, translated into the stilted cadence of our pastor who mostly read passages out of the KJV, inexcusably overeducated. In the sermons I heard, it was like Jesus kept returning to the crowds with his vague, gauzy speeches of empowerment and resolution, but -- poor, frustrated old soul! -- his own disciples foundered and failed to graduate.
Occasionally, when we had guest preachers, I got the impression that Jesus was like the David Copperfield of the first century. Like the time he healed a guy's eyes -- twice! Why did he do it twice? In my young, television-irradiated mind, it was his obvious instinct for showmanship.
I had a lot of bad theology. And it sounds strange to say it, but I think that I gathered most of it from the sermons that I heard.
To be continued...
Posted by Axis at 8:23 AM
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
I recently saw the film, The Soloist, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx. The Film is based on the real story of a columnist, Steve Lopez, and his encounter and journey with Nathaniel Ayers, a brilliant musician; living with schizophrenia on skid row in Los Angeles.
On the surface, the film is about a friendship formed through music; but more so than that, the film exhibited a glimpse of the reality of homelessness in Los Angeles and how we, as Christians are viewed in light of that reality.
According to the 2007 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, there are nearly 74,000 people living on the streets of Los Angeles County. The film showed an adequate representation of this staggering statistic, but what jumped out at me was something deeper than that.
At different points in the film, Steve Lopez engages in conversations with both an Atheist and a Christian. At one point, Lopez interviews an Atheist, who is picking up trash alongside a Los Angeles freeway. The interview is cut short when Lopez sees Nathaniel across the street. Although the interview is very short; I think a very strong statement is made through this interaction (which I will define later).
At many points throughout the film, the camera pans the outer wall of the Lamp Community (a nonprofit that works to end homelessness by helping those with mental illnesses move from the streets into actual homes). On that wall is a very large, illuminated sign that states: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” This is Romans 6:23. The producers of this film do an excellent job of making sure the audience reads it a dozen times. At another point, a Christian musician decides to work with Nathaniel and asks him to perform in front of an audience. Of course, the audience is dressed in suits and those in attendance are not enthusiastic about seeing Nathaniel perform. Just before Nathaniel steps in front of his small audience, his mentor asks to pray with him and then sends him out to a scene of humiliation, alone.
Now to my point.
The Atheist is willing to go out and pick up trash alongside the road, yet when this homeless man enters the scene, he goes back to his good deed of keeping LA beautiful. He is willing to clean up behind people, yet ignores the people in need right in front of him.
We look at the world around us as an excellent opportunity to share the gospel and teach the Truth. After all, that is what we are called to do. I am not saying that the verse on the side of the building was wrong or that we aren’t called to pray for those around us; but is that all we do? I think the world tends to see us as those who will make a claim for Christ and walk away. I’m sorry, but that’s not the Jesus I follow. He not only spoke the Truth, he reached out and fed the hungry, he healed the sick, he loved those who no one else would love. If we claim to be disciples, is it not about time to actually be the hands and feet of God, rather than just the mouthpiece?
Posted by Axis at 11:56 PM
Friday, May 1, 2009
let’s talk about cars... i drive a 2004 toyota echo. the wheels are tiny, the champagne paint is similar to the color of a fishing lure, when it is windy my car drives like a kite, and the body style looks similar to a football helmet. to date, i have never been accused of driving a “cool car” and i don’t think i ever will. however, my car is fun to drive (in a mario-cart kinda way) and it works incredibly well.
oh ... and did i mention that it gets an average of 43 miles per gallon?
why all this banter about an automobile? here’s why. i see cars, like most things, as a tool. it takes me from Point A to Point B. now my toyota echo isn’t a ferrari enzo that can zoom from 0 to 60 in 3.6 seconds and it can’t go 217 miles per hour, but last time i checked the speed limit for toyota echos and ferrari enzos is still 75 miles per hour and we both have to stop at red lights1.
in my view the purpose of a car is transportation ... not status, prestige, or style. it just seems that a lot of people are trying to prove something by the vehicle that they drive. just think, if people treated a stapler like they treated their car. some people would have a diamond-studded, hydraulic-powered stapler that uses platinum staples. wouldn’t that be silly?
here’s the point. the best things in life are not things. there is nothing wrong with owning stuff. the problem is when the stuff owns you. the outrage is when we overlook what is important in life (loving God and loving others) because we are busy paying homage to the status a ___________ can give us.
- and for the record ... my toyota gets 34 more miles per gallon than a ferrari and is about $600,000 cheaper. my friend fraser ratzlaff with Children of the Nations could feed almost 2.4 million meals to starving children for the price difference!
Posted by Axis at 2:39 PM