Students’ Greatest Need is a Biblical Worldview

To be honest; the world is dangerous and filled with evil. British courts have decided that an 11-month-old must die, in spite of his parents’ wishes to continue treatment with the money that they have raised. Muslim terror groups in Africa have displaced millions of people causing widespread famine. An activist gunned down American politicians at baseball practice. And all of that has been this summer.

It often feels like the world has gone crazy, but it hasn’t. Each of these people and groups have acted within their worldview, thinking they will improve the world. Each is acting on what they believe, and each believes that they are right. Condemning a child to die, causing widespread death and famine, and actively shooting an elected official are all part of some very dangerous and destructive worldviews. Ideas have consequences. That’s scary.

But the other end of spectrum is the truth that God created this world. He has woven His wisdom throughout it (Pro 8) and those that fear the Lord will have success. (Pro 10:27) Therefore a Biblical worldview is going to improve anyone’s life, no matter where they are in life. These ideas also have consequences. That’s amazing.

In this world, sin and sinners are glorified and normalized throughout our culture. Prejudiced attitudes against Christianity and Christians are becoming more mainstream; but by learning a Biblical worldview and how it relates to other worldviews, we can understand other people’s motivations and deal with those people wisely.

Also by understanding a truly Biblical worldview, people will be able to reject the evil ideas and actions that tempt them. Whether it’s an outright sin, like sex outside of marriage, or simply ill-advised, like having a mountain of debt, the wisdom of a Biblical worldview will help people make wise choices. They will know to avoid the traps of the world, the flesh, and the devil. When Biblical thinking permeates their lives, they will truly be able to be a good success. (Joshua 1:8)

Biblical worldview education is tremendously valuable. It helps in the day to day life of a person, since it can be applied to every decision they make. It helps throughout their entire life, since it will never be outdated. It also helps a person eternally, since a person can deal with their sin problem and be part of the family of God. Without avoiding any other educational objective, parents must strive to instill in their child a truly Biblical worldview.

America the Beautiful

It seems these days that everyone is violently divided and this great nation is becoming a horrid joke, or it would be if that could be funny. This fourth of July, I want you to think about America the Beautiful and its four lessons.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Gratitude. We live in a marvelous country. I didn’t make the mountains or the sky; I didn’t create the prosperity that we’re enjoying; I didn’t create the peace that we love. Neither did you. Grace is a gift, my fellow Americans. Are you grateful for the bounty we enjoy? Have you actually said it? Unexpressed gratitude is sort of useless.

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

Self-control. I don’t always get what I want. Sometimes I want to yell and scream or hit things or people. None of that helps anything, but we want to do it. Each person has to control their own sinful nature. If we don’t have self-control, liberty will be taken away. William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania said, “If we will not be governed by God, we must be governed by tyrants.” If we won’t willingly submit to the moral truth of God’s word, then the freedom we love will be taken away. I can think of few problems America faces that couldn’t be cured with a populace of self-controlled people.

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness,
And every gain divine!

Sacrifice. We need to remember those that have sacrificed for us and be willing to sacrifice for others. Every nation around the world can look for its rotters, the poisonous people that got into that society and wrecked it. We may learn from these disasters; but far better to remember those that did the right thing, for they can inspire us to do the right thing as well.

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Faith in the Future. We don’t have to wallow in the problems of the now. We can look forward to future that will come. No president can overthrow heaven, no court can overturn the laws of God, and no trouble of today can dim the days of eternity. Beyond our years here, as much as I love America, there is far better things in the ages to come. Remember the promises that come with God’s grace.

May God richly bless you, America. Happy Independence Day!

Rich for a Thousand Years

I was working on my budget today. Numbers are a hard reality that can be rather pessimistic. I don’t have the financial strength I would like. So Asaph, I get Psalms 73. It is so easy to look at the nice houses and nice cars then become envious. Contentment isn’t maintained by peaceful thinking but by a war of perspective.

I took a walk and prayed about it. On the walk, I smelled honeysuckles. Those flowers have history in my family. My grandma used to have neighbors that had a window box full of them. The smell drove my mind back to family vacations at her house and the joys of childhood. I stood smelling the honeysuckles and thought that I might not own the nice house but no one could take away that wonderful smell.

Often, we focus on the troubles of our current situation. But we ignore the joys that God has provided for us today. We would do very well to stop, remember the goodness of God, and smell the honeysuckles.

I have never been rich. But God has never failed to provide for me. More amazingly, God has kept me out of debt. There are so many things that God has blessed me with. I have a job I love, a family that loves me, and so many friends that care about me through my church, school, and family. So not counting money, which is such a fickle thing anyway, I guess I am rich.

The world is a scary place. Troubles, violence, and disasters are in the news daily. But that’s not our destiny; and, even if the world should fall into chaos now, God will win in the end. The promises of scripture tell us that God’s Son will return. Jesus will rule and reign on this earth with complete justice. So, in spite of the problems of today, the problems of the world, or any other problems, I can be happy because God promised the Christian that they will rule and reign with Him. For a thousand years, I will be able to enjoy paradise that Jesus’ rule will create.

You know, I can wait. God will provide for me now. Jesus is going to bring a paradise later. By keeping all this in my mind, I can be content with what I have.  I am going to agree with Asaph. “God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.” And “I have put my trust in the Lord GOD.”

Follow the Recipe: Dangers in trusting yourself.

I love spices. Years ago, I experimented around with spices and created a pizza sauce based loosely on my grandma’s rich spaghetti sauce. I don’t make it often. Each year, before the last performance of our school play, I make the cast and crew pizzas using this rather intense pizza sauce. Many students have told me they like it and the director has told me it’s almost too spicy.

But a very weird thing happened this year, I got a head cold or allergies or something. I’m not a doctor, but I know I have not been that congested in a long time. So, I pull open the drawer and use the recipe to make the sauce. I let it simmer a bit and then I taste it. To my horror, it tasted horrible—barely different from straight tomato sauce. What am I going to do?

I’ll be honest. It didn’t occur to me right away that I might be the problem and half of a tablespoon of Italian spices went in before I thought it through. But then it occurred to me, I knew I followed the recipe. I had carefully put in all the parts and it should have worked. Then I remembered the fact that I had so little ability to smell.

I tested it by eating straight garlic powder. Nothing, well, not much anyway. I was obviously impaired. I could trust one of two things but not both. I could trust my own senses or I could trust the recipe.

I’d like to say that it was an easy choice. But it wasn’t. I obviously knew that I couldn’t trust my own senses, but I tasted it a couple more times anyway. Nothing-bland tomato sauce. But I could smell the spices; I knew I had followed that recipe. I was hesitant all the way up to when I couldn’t wait any longer. I had to make the pizzas.

The recipe was right.

Later, I received a compliment from my picky nephew. It was the best pizza he had ever had. His dad verified that he had eaten three slices. The lesson that I could learn from this was not lost on me.

The Bible clearly tells us that we can’t trust ourselves. Proverbs 3:5-7 tells to instead trust God, not our own mind or perception. In other words, our hearts and minds are fouled up, like my congested nose. I couldn’t taste the spices I put in my sauce; I also can’t trust my own mind and heart to come up with what is truly right. I have to trust the recipe for my sauce and for my life.

The Bible bursts with warnings against what I call the biggest lie of Hollywood— “Follow your heart.” If I had made my sauce spicy to my own senses it would have truly been inedible. If I follow my own heart, I will do what is wicked-what will hurt me and the people around me.

As odd as comparing pizza sauce to scripture is, God taught me that I have to trust Him and His Word even when it doesn’t make sense to my senses. After all, I am a sinner, my senses are messed up. However, the recipe is perfect.

Danger of Anger

This morning I heard loud noises outside my window. I glanced out my apartment window. A young man in his early twenties was yelling and swearing at the top of his lungs. Apparently, his car wouldn’t start.

He stormed into his house, kicking his picket gate in as he did so. This did not get the car to start. It didn’t turn over when he came out and chucked a piece of the gate across the parking lot. When he stormed over to the car and cussed it out, it didn’t start. It did not start when he kicked it and punched it multiple times, I can’t image that either felt good to his hands and feet. The car still didn’t start when he slammed the door. Then he popped the trunk and to prove his level of irritation he started beating the car with his skateboard. The car still wouldn’t start. It didn’t start when he stared into the engine compartment for twenty seconds or when he slammed the hood and then punched it again.

Odd, if you think about it. All of his hostility, profanity, and actions didn’t help the situation at all. Each action only destroyed something of his. The gate to his house, the car, the skateboard were all damaged as a useless sacrifice to the man’s anger. His own hands and feet were hurt too.

There was one other thing he probably hurt. You see this young man wasn’t alone. He had a friend with him. This friend wasn’t screaming, wasn’t angry, but I thought to myself that had I been that man’s friend, I would have left. I can’t imagine that the young man’s temper made him any better a friend or that by going through this it made their friendship any stronger.

The Bible tells us not to make friendships with angry people. I don’t have to imagine what would happen if this man was angry with a person instead of a car. Our world is full examples of people who have been beaten or even killed by people’s rage. Do you think a wife or kid would have fared as well as the car after being beaten? The car is still sitting there, not bothered at all for its many “wounds.” A person treated the same way would be in the hospital.

I may be being unfair. After all, the man surely knew the difference between a car and a person. He surely would never hurt a person, you might say. Unfortunately, I can’t count on anything of the kind. I don’t know this man but too many examples exist when people hurt others with their anger.

The young man’s friend was hurt. Not physically, but the Bible says not to be friends with angry people because what you learn from them will be a trap for you too. (Pro22:24-25) It also says that angry people cause trouble and are soaking in sin. (Pro 29:22) To act like that man did today proves a person is not a good friend, not a safe spouse, and not a wise man.

Just something I learned today.

Denominations of Donuts

What is the difference between a Baptist and a Methodist and a Bible church? How is a Lutheran different from a Catholic? When a group of Christians declares it is right to behave abominably to the world at large, how is the rest of Christianity to distance itself in the minds of the world?
This mission started when a friend of mine had to tell her co-worker that she wasn’t one of the “kind” of Baptists that harass military funerals. It is confusing those looking at Christianity from the outside that there are so many groups inside of it. On this great mission, we need a simple way to convey what it means to be Christian.
Thus consider the donut. There are many types of donuts. Crullers, yeast, cake, dunkers, filled, long johns, apple fritters are just some of the types, and everyone knows it. Add the different frostings, nuts, jellies, and other toppings and you’ll never be at the end of all the types of donuts. But you’ll never convince me that a muffin, bagel, or croissant is a donut.
What is a donut? Well, it’s a type of pastry that is made of dough fried in fat. If those requirements are the standard, then we can see easily what is and what is not a donut? Is an apple fritter a doughnut? Yep. A bagel is not. Donut-ianity is obvious.
Some donuts are nutty. Others are frosted. Some seem awfully plain. Some are wacky-covered in psychedelic colors. Some are meaty. Some are greasy. Some are light and airy. Some are soft and tender. Others are fried enough to be a bit crispy. But all donuts are donuts.
If a bagel came into the donut shop and told the donuts that it too was a donut, all the donuts would immediately point out the Non-donut-ness of the bagel. The bagel could argue that it’s the right shape and made of dough, but all the donuts would be perfectly right in saying the bagel was no more a donut than a piece of fried chicken.
By the same token, if all the cake donuts were to say that cake-iness was the sign of true donut-ness, the other donuts could rightly condemn such a ludicrous notion. But neither the cake donuts nor the glazed yeast donuts would be any more donuts than the other—although their attitude might just sour the whole batch.
Christianity is basically the same. The requirements for being a Christian are to believe that Christ Jesus is God, Savior, and Messiah as revealed in the Bible. That He died to save us from our sins and one must accept this divine pardon by faith. That’s Christianity; those that believe it are Christians.
It doesn’t matter if they are a little nutty, frosty, wacky, light, or crispy—they are a Christian if they truly believe that. And no matter how nice a person might be, if they don’t believe that they are no more a Christian than a donut. There are many donut imitators—things that are NOT donuts in the donut shops around the world. In the same way, many people will say they are a Christian, but they aren’t. They are a muffin or bagel trying to convince you that they are really a donut. If they don’t meet the Christian requirements, they might be a nice person, but they aren’t a Christian.
Now being a donut, one has certain goals (of satisfying hunger). Being too greasy, sweet, sour, salty, etc. will stop that goal. The donut that does that will be a poor donut that no one would like. In the same fashion being a Christian, one can reach their goal—being like Jesus Christ—or fail. Being rude, sentimental, wishy-washy, or sinful will stop that goal. Christians like that are being “poor” Christians. They need to stop that and be a better “donut.”

Artistic Responsiblity

This morning was Friday, July 20, 2012. I went shopping; I had a ten dollar gift card to use. As I walked into the store I saw the blue-ray of The Dark Knight-$9.99. I thought about it, but I had told myself I was going to be practical. I bought a large bottle of dish soap and a bag of rice. Much later, I found out what else happened this morning. While most people slept, the joy of a mid-night release of the new Batman movie was destroyed. A man in Colorado went into the theatre and started shooting. It was one of the worst shootings in history.
I haven’t seen the new Batman movie and don’t care to do so. I enjoyed The Dark Knight, but I didn’t enjoy what it taught about morality. The man who decided to embrace his evil nature and shoot those people this morning will face God in eternity and hopefully the death penalty in Colorado. But I do believe another villain is loose that must be addressed and as a writer I have the ability to do so.
People are affected by the stories they listen to. Dark Knight, along with many other movies, books, and songs, teaches a dangerous idea that must stop. Artists who teach that absolute morality doesn’t exist cannot expect people to leave that idea behind with the tubs of popcorn and the theatre’s sticky floors.
In Dark Knight, every single character has to violate what they knew was the standard of right and wrong. Starting with bank robbers to Batman, each person makes a conscious decision to do something that they knew was wrong. Joker plays Gotham City, the underworld, and Batman like a flute—suffering only a few punches, Joker’s life is saved at the last minute by Batman. In the end, Joker destroys Gotham’s peace and murders dozens, but he is left unpunished. He’s a problem that is supposed to be dealt with by a therapist.
One thing The Dark Knight did better than most was put a moral question before the public—unfortunately, it’s answer was plain wrong. Dark Knight taught that one should do what they think will serve the greater good, even if it happens to be wrong. People lie, violate others rights, even attempt and commit murder because it’s what is “best.” Do the writers believe that?
Wrong, sin, and evil are actual things. For us to discount them as myth is to dream up a fantasy far too outlandish and foolish for man’s evil nature to withstand. Mankind has proven time and time again that despite all our hopes to the contrary, man is evil through and through. A mental disease didn’t cause a man to shoot movie goers this morning, but you will hear many people say that. It’s called evil and sin. Calling it a sickness is akin to calling Agent Orange a variation on a cold. Mankind’s evil is a real fact that must be remembered.
As an artist, I can create a world. And what’s better, I can invite others into my dream world to play. We can have a wonderful time and I can help brighten their days. But while they are there, I have a moral responsibility to put certain ideas into my world and keep others out. To teach that morals are just conventions that can come and go at will is not only false but morally wrong. Why should I develop a dream world where the good guys differ from bad guys only in the amount of their reluctance to commit evil? How can I let men in my world choose evil and not suffer for it? Such things are not only an affront to God and His morality, but foolish. Men want excuses for their evil, if I make evil acceptable, misunderstood, or worse of all sophisticated and funny, I allow them to get those excuses. And history is full of the horrible answers to the question, “What has mankind done with excuses to commit evil?” Hitler, Stalin, David Koresh, Jim Jones prove time and time again, that we artists cannot expect nothing to happen when we give people excuses for evil.
Another instructive thing happened today, I watched the musical Gigi. In it, a rich Frenchman’s uncle teaches him the fine art of social life in the late 1800’s. With total resolve to being a “gentleman” he teaches his nephew to go from one worthless trivial affair to the next, using women like extravagant prostitutes that get paid off with expensive jewelry and luxurious apartments. Through the whole story, the young man is bored senseless unless he is with real people—not the fake society crowd. The story climaxes in the young man turning Gigi, a real person, into his charming phony mistress. In anger, he realizes the stupidity of it all and then marries her, turning his back on his uncle’s “gentlemanly” life.
The Dark Knight and Gigi have very little in common. A gritty special effects action adventure has little to do with a period musical. But artists should learn that like the uncle in Gigi, artists have the opportunity to introduce bored people to wonderful worlds. And like in Gigi, this world is fake; the society page is as much fiction as any of the D.C. comics. But this fake world affects what one thinks about the real world. The nephew frantically tried to apply his uncle’s advice to real life; he viciously dumps his mistress and then throws dozens of parties to prove he doesn’t care about her or her failed suicide attempt.
Are we artist, writers, and storytellers bad uncles?
Stories teach, whether we like it or not. If they teach immorality, should we be surprised if the students act immoral? If they teach violence, should student’s violence surprise us? And worst, if they teach that right and wrong do not matter should we be surprised that our world is becoming lawless? Our story telling is coming back to get us. We can no longer afford to have immoral heroes and heroines. If we continue with our imaginary gladiatorial games, teaching boys and girls that right and wrong are mythical and violating them has no consequences, what will we say to them when we are staring down the barrel of gun in the real world?

We who are about to die salute you-Hunger Games Movie Review

This is a review and criticism of the Movie “Hunger Games.” I have not yet read the Book Series.

As far as the movie technical side is concerned, I have two emphatic words for movie makers out there–STEADY CAM! I nearly lost my lunch with all the shaky camera work. I understand you can’t show the gore and thank you for trying to not show it, but hand cameras wasn’t the answer.

The Movie focuses on a future totalitarian government forcing each district to sacrifice a boy and girl to fight to the death in pageantry rich television show called the Hunger Games. The heroine and the “hero” (we’ll deal with that later) are mentored by a drunk previous survivor–His advice is play the game, get sponsors, and be smart. With his advice and backstage manipulation and wheeling dealing manages to get the director of the games to play for ratings–this allows both heroine and hero to band together and survive. In a last minute rules change, the heroine is forced to kill the hero. Instead she responds with calling the directors bluff–nearly committing suicide. The couple come home as “star-crossed lovers” having given a sick society a great dose of bloody violence and a warm fuzzy love story.

There are three fully capable human beings in this story. The heroine, the mentor, and president of this sick government. The heroine, who volunteered to take the place of her younger sister, is ready to fight, get friends, protect them, and do what is necessary to survive the games she hates. This “do whatever it takes” includes playing the lover to the hero–giving the sick society her love story as a means to root for and help her. The mentor, a drunk survivor of a previous years games, is also fully capable-as a wheeler dealer, he gets help dropped into the games and gets a crucial rule change thrown into the games–this motivates the heroine to join the hero. The president is also competent–understanding the purpose of the games, to distract and control the people. He has the director killed when he fails to the heroine’s bluff.

Everyone else is a shallow shell of a human being. The heroine’s mom is shell shocked over the violent death of her husband. The hero’s mom is abusive. The games ridiculously dressed sponsors are more concerned with the heroine’s manners than the fact that they are about to die. Even the kind stylist, in a moment of deep kindness, tells the heroine, “If I could, I’d bet on you.” The other players serve as victims; their deaths dramatically serve the same function as the gladiators, to entertain the masses and cause them to root for the survivor–the cruel ones die vicious deaths we are supposed to cheer for and the kind ones die tragic deaths we are supposed to cry for. The audience is never invited to think that it’s cheering kids killing each other–even the “Lord of the Flies” didn’t make that mistake.

The “hero” is the worst example of this. A pusilanimous baker’s son, he plays the wimpy man to emphasise the strong woman of the heroine. Personally I find this type overdone. He also, more insultingly, plays up the romance angle. He can’t survive himself so he depends on his strong “girlfriend.”

That being said, the movie was well done. The story was very engaging and I’m looking forward to reading the books. More importantly, I’m looking forward to engaging in some very heavy thinking. These stories lack the one thing that made the gladiatorial games illegal–a Christian understanding of the worth of every human.  

I have one thing that truly concerns me about the whole story in general though. While many people in the story hated the games, and hated the killing, and hated the government–no one actually even said it was wrong! No one in the story made a moral judgment. It was all what they liked or didn’t like. Murder, violence, cruelty, mistreatment of the poor, and totalitarian governments are not things that are icky like rats or mold; they are WRONG. And they aren’t wrong because I dislike them, they are wrong because God says they are wrong in the Bible. This was the moral failing of the story–while it said the games were bad, sick, messed up; No one ever got up and condemned them as wrong no matter what the consequences.