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Friday, November 18, 2005

Heroes of Narnia and Real Life

It was one of those great stories that you can't put down at night
The hero knew what he had to do and he wasn't afraid to fight
The villain goes to jail while the hero goes free
I wish it were that simple for me

And the reason that she loved him
Was the reason I loved him too
And he never wondered what was right or wrong
He just knew, he just knew

Shadow and shade mix together at dawn
But by the time you catch them simplicity's gone
So we sort through the pieces, my friends and I
Searching through the darkness to find the breaks in the sky

And the reason that she loved him
Was the reason I loved him too
And he never wondered what was right or wrong
He just knew, he just knew

And we wonder yes, we wonder
How do you make sense of this
When the hero kills the maiden
With his kiss, with his kiss

It was one of those great stories that you can't put down at night
The hero knew what he had to do and he wasn't afraid to fight
The villain goes to jail while the hero goes free
I wish it were that simple for me
It were that simple for me

David Crosby - "Hero" - from his CD Thousand Roads

I realize David Crosby has had a long struggle with his substance addictions and that is partly what this song is about, but it rings true for all of us. In fact, when I hear this song it always reminds me of the stories we read about Jesus in the Word (although Jesus had no specific "she," we do know that he had female followers that were very devoted to Him and His ministry). Fact is, none of us, Christians or not, always do the right thing, and life is very rarely "simple." And often we do injure those we love unintentionally ("...the hero kills the lady with his kiss...") The song reminds me that a good story presents us with an ideal to strive for - but I'd say the best story, the ideal put forth in this song, is the story of Jesus.

But that doesn't mean that stories about less-perfect heroes can't have a grand impact on us. Today I was looking at some photos of the characters from the upcoming The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe film, and particularly the pictures of Peter and Edmund struck me as capturing their characters from the books admirably. For any who do not know, the story is about four children, two boys and two girls, who travel through a magic door into a fairly-tale land where they defeat a witch, who has enslaved the land in winter, with the help of a Christlike lion named Aslan. The children learn that they are to be kings and queens of Narnia from then on. The picture of the oldest child, Peter, shows him in the midst of battle... he looks like he doesn't really know quite what he is doing, but he is battling with all of his might. The picture of Edmund, his younger brother and the third-oldest sibling, shows him slinking around a little, looking like he thinks he's not worth much and he's out to prove it (and his misbehavior in the story is one of the primary plot points). They strike me as perfect representations of real brothers... an older brother who isn't any less clueless than the younger, but who is doing his best, and the younger brother who thinks he can never measure up to the (impossible) image of the older brother that he has constructed in his mind.

Neither of them thinks they can do what they have been called on to do... but both are princes in the land of Aslan. It's one of those great stories, that's for sure... one that echoes the lives of people in general, children specifically, and Christians more metaphorically. I hope one day someone can tell my story... not that it's a remarkable one, but maybe it will interest somebody... and they will tell of my flaws, but in the end I will, with Christ's help, fulfill my calling and provide an example that can encourage that person to follow after Jesus.

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Another sermon point that turns on translation

Last night a special speaker was at my church, and one of his (admittedly relatively minor) message points hinged on Jeremiah 17:6:
For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. (KJV)
"The person who is trusting in himself and not the Lord's strength," he told us, "won't even see the good things that come by." Only problem with that was that my ESV says:
He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. (ESV)
By that reading, the good may not ever come at all! (Although if it does, by chance, he will not see it.) Apparently the ESV is in the minority when leaving out the "when," although it reads that way in the Amplified version as well (the only other version I consulted that kept the phrase but left out the "when"). The ESV has built a reputation for being very accurate, but it's hard to believe that the ESV folks got this one right and everyone else got it wrong!

Although this is a minor difference in syntax, it goes to illustrate how we should be careful about reading too much into a text without consulting a few different opinions of how the text could best be rendered.

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Charismatics "investigated"

Last week I was doing a Web search on the name of my church, Grace Fellowship, and the name of one of our Sunday School classes (I knew the class had a Web site at one time and was hoping to find it.) I didn't find the site I was looking for, but I did find this:

It's a research paper written by a college anthropology student who had come back home to Oklahoma to study "evangelicals" (which he defined as Pentecostals/charismatics, although I'm not sure that definition is 100% accurate). The report is very lengthy, and actually covers a lot of events I remember. He visited three churches simultaneously... Grace, Church on the Move, and Broken Arrow Assembly of God, and his analysis covers each of them in quite a bit of detail.

Although many of the "negative" comments he had (things that upset him or angered him) were because he didn't quite understand what was going on, his comments are valuable to someone who is a charismatic/Pentecostal/non-denom and wants to know what outsiders see when they look in. Another interesting point is that this young man grew up in a church that did not engage him on an intellectual level, and he figured if there were no intellectual Christians, he'd better go looking elsewhere. Pity, too, because intellectual Christians aren't THAT hard to find if you're looking. Maybe there just weren't any at his church (or maybe they never spoke up!)

One thing that I thought was interesting was that several of the statements that ministers made that upset him were actually quotations of Scripture, and perfectly in context. Just goes to show you that the Word really IS offensive to unbelievers, without us having to add our own offensive personalities to it at all!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

CCM Industry = Ripoff Artists?

I just heard a new song this morning on my local Christian music station... "Alive" by Rebecca St. James. Although the words and melody are of course different, as soon as I heard the little pukka-pukka-pukka drums at the beginning of the song, I recognized the arrangement as a ripoff of the very popular Kelly Clarkson song "Since U Been Gone" from the album she released last year. Hear for yourself: currently you can listen to a clip of "Alive" by playing with the "Jukebox" near the top of the page on Rebecca's Web site, and you can listen to a clip of "Since U Been Gone" on Amazon's page about the Breakaway CD.

So the question is: how come the CCM industry feels like they have to carbon-copy what the mainstream industry is doing? Where's the individuality of the artist? This isn't a new technique for RSJ, either... the year after Jagged Little Pill came out, Rebecca spent a year or two sounding just like Alanis Morissette. Don't get me wrong... I have GREAT respect for Rebecca personally and as a Christian and minister, but you know... you just hate to see somebody copying something as closely as all that. Christianity should be at least as creative as the outside world, if not more.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Narnia Sountrack deserves a reshuffle

For months I eagerly awaited the Spetember 27 release date of the Christian "Inspired By" CD related to the upcoming movie version of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. When it came out I loved a couple of the songs, but something just didn't quite do it for me... until I reordered the playlist in my MP3 player software! Some of the songs just belong together, or in different spots. For example:

- Track 3, "Open Up Your Eyes", and Track 9, "Turkish Delight", both relate to Edmund's seduction by the White Witch, using a candy called turkish delight which she had enchanted to entice him to do whatever she wanted him to do. Since those events occur early in the story, they make better sense if they are together, and near the beginning of the playlist.

- Track 2, "Remembering You" (the Steven Curtis Chapman track you might have heard on your local CCM station in the past few days) makes a LOT better sense at the END of the disc, where you are remembering what has happened, rather than at the beginning.

- What's up with that worthless track by Delirious? ? I mean, I actually like Delirious? quite a bit, but chanting "We're getting stronger every day..." over and over doesn't have too much of a connection with the story, does not qualify (to my thinking) as worship music (which is supposed to be Delirious?'s trademark), and just plain doesn't make too much sense.

Here's my ordering of the songs (deleting the unfortunate Delirious? track entirely):

1. Waiting For The World To Fall (Jars of Clay)
2. New World (TobyMac)
3. Turkish Delight (David Crowder Band)
4. Open Up Your Eyes (Jeremy Camp)
5. I Will Believe (Nochole Nordeman)
6. Hero (Bethany Dillon)
7. Lion (Rebecca St. James)
8. More Than It Seems (Kutless)
9. You're The One (Chris Tomlin)
10. Remembering You (Steven Curtis Chapman)

When I listened to them in that order, it was like the whole thing opened up to me and became a much more enjoyable experience. It's like someone gathered a near-perfect batch of songs, then someone who had no idea what was going on rearranged them in the wrong order.

I need to burn myself a CD with the songs that way...

Monday, October 17, 2005

Petra is calling it quits

Here's one for all the people who haven't listened to Petra since the No Doubt CD! They're hanging it up this year (yes, they have been recording and touring steadily since 1972!), and they have recorded a live CD which will come out in November, and be released on DVD early next year. Here's my review of the concert that was taped for the CD, and here's much more information about the whole thing.

If you want to preorder the CD, you can order it from Christian Book Distributors or Amazon via the links on this page.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The coon in Proverbs 16

I've never been on a 'coon hunt, but I found one this morning... and I was in my bathrobe! I was reading Proverbs 16, and ran across a word which the ESV had repeated, contrary to the way I had seen it translated before:
Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established. -Proverbs 16:3
The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. -Proverbs 16:9
It is an abomination to kings to do evil, for the throne is established by righteousness. -Proverbs 16:12
A quick lookup in Strong's confirms that these three verses do indeed use the same word, which is actually transliterated "koon" in Strong's (I just said "coon" 'cause I knew it would make ya look!) and rendered "established/es" in the ESV. It would appear to be another example of the ESV translator/editors trying to represent things that could be seen as textual parallels to reflect that in English; the RSV (upon which the ESV was based) uses "directs" in verse 9.

It is interesting to think of all three of these verses in the sense of something being "established" or "set up." We don't normally think in terms of our "steps" being set up and established like a monument for all time, but since we know that time doesn't really mean the same thing to God that it means to us... He sees the end, the beginning, all of it at once... every step we take does stand as kind of a memorial to God. Each one is there before we take it, and each one remains after we are gone. Now THAT's a sobering thought!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

ESV: Our fathers, their yoke, and their faith

A few interesting spots I ran across while reading my ESV as my pastor preached from the NIV.

Acts 15:10-11: KJV - ESV - NIV

I seem to remember verse 11 being a point of contention anyway, because some translations say that we "are" saved (NIV, for example) while others say we "will be" saved (KJV, ESV, others). But the thing that actually caught my eye was that my pastor said that the "even as they" referred to the "fathers", not the "disciples." Many of the translations in my e-Sword leave it ambiguous, but the ESV by saying "will" has made it less ambiguous than the KJV and even the NIV (in the ESV it pretty explicitly refers to the disciples, not the fathers), which would seem to go against their stated goal of being ambiguous where the text is ambiguous. Or maybe it's not that ambiguous in the original and all those other translations got it wrong.

Romans 1:17: KJV - ESV - NIV

Most translations say "from faith to faith" in this verse. Seems like the ESV, RSV, and NRSV are in lonely territory with their use of "for" there: ESV "from faith for faith" RSV & etc. "through faith for faith." Seems like the "to" would indicate a timing concept or a sort of travel metaphor, and the "for" indicates a reason that something is done. (Notice, however, that both the ESV and the NIV have the more traditional rendering in a footnote.)

I wish I could get inside the translators' heads and find out why they settled on what they did in these kinds of cases. They may be right, but to find out WHY they did certain things would be fascinating!

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Between two opinions

My Bible reading today included the account of Elijah and the prophets of Baal in I Kings 18. I noticed that in the ESV, Elijah asks the people why they are "limping" between two opinions (verse 21), versus "halting" (KJV) or "wavering" (NIV). I believe I understand why this was the selected translation for the word (which, apparently, according to Strong's, can mean any of the three, and also "hopping" or "dancing")... the same word is used in verse 26 to describe what the prophets of Baal were doing around their altar. The KJV and the NIV do not bring this parallel out, and the ESV translators have followed the rendering from the RSV. But I have to wonder... is it really the best translation? Maybe "hopping" or "jumping" or "dancing"? All of those words would have been OK in verse 21 ("dancing" would have been especially vivid in English, assuming that is a fairly accurate usage of the Hebrew word).

I suppose it depends on exactly what kind of dance the prophets of Baal were doing. It could easily be, I suppose, that they were doing a limping kind of dance. Or maybe they jumped around until they sprained an ankle. :)

Monday, August 1, 2005

One Thing

There's this song that always resonates with something inside of me when I hear it on the radio:

If I traded it all,
If I gave it all away for one thing,
Just for one thing;
If I sorted it out,
If I knew all about this one thing,
Wouldn’t that be something?

full lyrics to Finger Eleven's song One Thing

I realize that the song is about a romantic relationship, but something in it always strikes a chord in me. I think part of it is that I value the level of commitment expressed in the lyric... really, almost whatever the singer is committed to. In Revelation chapter 3, Jesus tells the church at Laodicea that if they won't be hot, He prefers totally cold to lukewarm. Commitment, one way or the other. If you won't be Obi Wan, at least have the guts to be Darth Vader.

But there is another Scripture passage that comes to mind when I hear the song:

Matthew 13:34-36
"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it."

(I think the best songs, like the best stories, often have a spiritual element to them that the songwriter may not have even realized was there...)

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Scripture Menu

Hi everybody! I've got something new for you to look at. About a week ago I launched a new Web site called The intention is that when someone needs to pray about something, or they are hurting and need something to quickly help them in their situation, they can come to this Web site, click on the Entree they need, and instantly they are presented with a list of verses that pertain to their situation. The intention is not really to "teach," so for that reason we're keeping the passages as instantly relevant as we can; if it needs exposition to understand why it applies, we're trying to be careful not to include it. So I need some feedback here. How is it to navigate? Are the Scriptures presented relevant? Too short? Too long? Need more topics? Need fewer topics? Verses we missed? Verses we should have missed? What do you think?

Thursday, March 3, 2005

Well-Known Webcomic Has Pro-Christian Storyline

General Protection Fault, a well-known tech-inspired Webcomic that has been running since 1998, recently began running a storyline that includes a character who is a devoted, Bible-quoting Christian. The blonde female character, Trudy, is one of the villains of the story; in fact, "evil" may be too gentle a description of her.

The cartoonist has even included scripture references for passages the character quotes, complete with links to!