Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Whoops! Your tongue is now a magnet. Whatever will you use for silverware?
I'll never eat. I'll be too busy writhing on the floor in pain after my tongue rips the fillings out of my teeth.
Blog on, Montano, and welcome.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Friday, March 27, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
In last night’s study of the book of Ecclesiastes, we picked up the same theme that we explored last week, namely, the marks of a life being lived wisely with God as its focus. We looked at Ecclesiastes 7:14-29, examining three truths from the text, sought to understand them, and then discussed how they affect our lives, right here and right now.
First, in verses 14-19, we looked at the first truth – appearance isn’t everything. Solomon discusses the fact that a wise man realizes that the same God has created both the day of prosperity and the day of disaster. He talks about the things he has seen in his life that make little sense to us – often, it seems, the bad guys win and the good guys lose. The world’s reaction to this is reflected to us by Solomon in these verses – don’t be overly righteous (and end up a martyr or a doormat) or overly evil (and end up in trouble and misery), but just live life and look out for yourself. However, how should the Christian react? Solomon tells us that the same God is in control of both the good and bad things that befall us, a God who is perfectly wise and good. The implication, then, is that there is design and a reason behind all things, even when we can’t or don’t see it. Appearances aren’t everything, for our sovereign creator is always at work, weaving the story of human history for his glory and our good. Thus, our reaction should be a trust in him that runs deeper than circumstances. We can lean on him, depend on him, find joy in him – even when times are difficult – a lesson powerfully demonstrated in the life of the prophet Habakkuk.
In verses 20-24, we examined the fact that true wisdom causes humility. Solomon asserts that we all are fallen and tainted by sin. We cannot be too quick to harshly judge others when they wrong us, because we know that we’ve done the same thing to others ourselves. He even admits that though he dedicated his life to the pursuit of wisdom, there is still much about the world that he cannot figure out. True wisdom brings with it a right view of ourselves. We see sins and shortcomings, and we see that we’re not nearly as significant and important as we’d imagined. Thus, true wisdom directs itself outward, building others up rather than calling attention to ourselves. This same lesson is one that Paul taught to the Christians at Corinth, rebuking them for allowing their spiritual knowledge to destroy those around them.
Finally, in verses 25-29, Solomon drives home the truth (which he had come to realize all too well) that marriage is serious business. He talks about a fate worse than death – a woman who serves as a spiritual trap for a man. This could easily be true with the genders flipped – the point is that romantic relationships can easily be a snare rather than the blessing God intended. Solomon learned this lesson the hard way, with his many wives leading him away from God for much of his life. For the teens in my group, marriage seems like a distant prospect. However, this truth has major implications for them as they navigate the minefield that is our modern concept of dating. Consider how strongly Solomon warns against giving ourselves emotionally to the wrong person – he calls it a fate worse than death. There is no person who will have a greater influence on you than the person you marry. This raises the stakes when it comes to looking for that person. Thus, I asked my students, “What are you looking for?” What is it that you are drawn to in the people you’re attracted to? What sort of influence would they have on your spiritual life? Are they someone who will build you up in your love for Christ? If not, then what on earth are you chasing? Romance and marriage are among the most amazing gifts God has given us (for proof, you need go no further than the next book in the Bible, The Song of Solomon). However, it can also be among the most deadly of traps if we’re not seeing it as an avenue for glorifying God, just like everything else Ecclesiastes has discussed. Ultimately, our reaction to difficult times, our level of humility, and our approach to dating and marriage will say a lot about whether we’re living our lives unto God or living the wasted, vain, worldly lives that Solomon warns against. Take stock of these things, and look inward. What do they tell you about yourself?
"Has it ever occured to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshippers meeting together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become 'unity' conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship." - A.W. Tozer
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
Friday, March 20, 2009
Perhaps the easiest way to describe the vibe of Australia is to call it the Australian Gone With the Wind. Director Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!) set out to make it as such, and he largely succeeded. The film as a whole feels like a throwback to the filmmaking of a bygone era. The characters are strong archetypes and the plot dips unapolagetically into melodrama. There are times when it all feels a bit predictable, but it still feels right, because though the movie feels a bit like one you've seen before, it's still an enjoyable ride. Even the special effects serve the throwback vision. In the movie's first hour, I was a bit concerned that the effects, even something a simple as green-screen work, looked a bit off. Over time, though, it becomes clear that this look is intentional, echoing the days when a background was a matte painting, everyone knew it, and that was that. Rather than distracting from the visual mood of the film, the effects serve it beautifully. There's a lot to look at here, and watching it on Blu-ray the color all but leaped off the screen. It's a long ride (clocking in at about 2 hours, 40 minutes), but an enjoyable one. Look, I'm not going to pretend Australia's a great film. In fact, my above-stated biases probably made me like it more than most will. However, if you share my love for sweeping epics, this is more than worth a rental. - ***1/2 (out of 4)
Australia is rated PG-13 for some violence, a scene of sensuality, and brief strong language.
However, its accessibility is a limitation as well as a strength. For those who are already familiar with the new atheists, there's not a whole not of new material here. Mohler summarizes who they are and what they believe, then lays out the cultural consequences of their ideas (another great talent of his) and provides some basic responses from across the theological spectrum. Honestly, as much as I enjoyed the brief treatment of McGrath and Plantinga's responses, I would have liked to see more in depth analysis from Mohler himself. However, that's just simply not the aim of the book. I don't think he's trying to teach a graduate course on the matter, but to offer an introduction to a challenge that will have a huge impact on a generation of believers. If you'd like to understand and begin to think about the new atheism, Mohler's book would be a great place to start. If Dawkins, Hitchens, and the like are old-hat to you, then you'll probably want to take a pass here.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
As we moved into our tenth week studying Ecclesiastes last night, the general theme of the book has become very clear. Solomon makes the case that all of life is meaningless and vain unless viewed through the lens of God and lived for his glory. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about why that is and breaking down Solomon’s points, but last night we looked at verses 1-13 of chapter 7 and talked about exactly what a life focused on God looks like. Once we’ve established that only God can give life meaning and we desire to live for his glory, how should we do it? What does such a life look like? We examined the answers, which are reflected in a series of proverbs that open the chapter.
The first thing we need to live lives of Godly wisdom in the right mindset. In verses 1-6, Solomon contrasts the wise man and the fool – a common theme in his proverbs. What is surprising, however, is the mindset that he says characterizes each. Solomon paints the fool as in a state of revelry and happiness, but says that the wise are marked by mourning and sadness. This seems strange to us. Is happiness a bad thing? Are we to be some kind of spiritual masochists, seeking out pain and eschewing pleasure? I don’t think that’s what the text is saying at all. What it is saying is that we need to have a sober mindset when it comes to this life. We need to be people who take serious things seriously, and think deeply about what this life is all about. What are the times in life that tend to cause us to think deeply about what’s really important? It’s usually the painful times. Think of how our nation’s culture changed, albeit briefly, in the wake of 9/11. Suddenly, there was a deeper sense of community among people, church attendance rose, and most people started to think more about what really matters. Sadness and pain tend to have this effect on us, while good times tend to lull us into coasting along without a thought. Solomon says that it a wise person, a Godly person, will think deeply about life and have a sober and focused outlook.
In verses 7-13, we see that once we have the right mindset in place, we need to have the right heart. What sort of things highlight the person who is living a life of Godly wisdom? We examined five characteristics from these verses. The first is integrity, which is seen in verse 7. Solomon says that the corrupting influence of sin can drive mad the wisest man. We need to be people of character who do what is right regardless of whether or not someone is watching. As James 1:26-27 points out, true faith in God is demonstrated by actions. Second, we need to be people of patience in both our actions and our attitudes. In verses 8-9, we see Solomon teaching that it is better to see something whole from the end than to make rash judgments at its beginning, and he warns of the danger of letting anger easily take up residence in our hearts. James warns about this as well in his famous admonition to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” Third, we need to have a spirit of contentment. Unlike the man Solomon describes in verse 10 who longs for the good ol’ days, we need to be people who rejoice in whatever circumstances God places us in and seek to learn from and glorify him in the midst of those circumstances. Like Paul in Philippians 4:11-13, we will likely face times in our lives when we have much and times when we have little. We need to have the same attitude of contentment in each. Fourth, we need to display wise judgment. Verses 11-12 talk about how wisdom is a guard, helping us to use what God has given us wisely. Coming at the heels of our thoughts on contentment, no matter our circumstances we should strive to use what God has given us to his glory – including our possessions, yes, but also our time, talents, energy, relationships, and every other aspect of our lives. As Jesus parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 shows, God has blessed all of us for a purpose, and he calls us to use our gifts in his service. Finally, we need to be people of obedience. Verse 13 tells us that fighting against God is futile. If we truly want to live wise lives that are not wasted, we will bring ourselves into conformity to God and his word rather than seeking to live by our own rules.
So, how does your life stack up to this calling? Do you have the right mindset, seeing this life with sobriety and a focus on what is truly important? Does your heart reflect the virtues that God says come from wisdom? No doubt, we can all see failings in our lives in these various areas. Thankfully, God promises to give wisdom to all who ask for it. Draw near to the throne of grace, seeking wisdom for a life that’s not wasted, and thanking God for the cross of Christ, which ultimately triumphs over our failures and brings us to the Lord.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
You're wearing a sweater that stretches down to your feet. What color belt do you put on?
Belt? If my sweater goes to my feet, I'm not even wearing pants!
Monday, March 16, 2009
Friday, March 13, 2009
Matchstick Men is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, violence, some sexual content and language.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
On a scale of 1 to 10, how satisfied are you with your life? This was the question that opened our Bible study last night as we took a look at Ecclesiastes 6. Everybody seeks satisfaction in life – we all want happiness, fulfillment, and contentment. People seek satisfaction in many different ways with varying degrees of success. In our passage, Solomon looks at the many things that people chase after while examining the fact that they do not necessarily bring satisfaction. Why do these things fail? What then, is the answer?
First, in verses 1-9, we examined several things that are failed attempts at satisfaction for people in our world. The first is obvious, and it’s a topic that has come up several times already in our Ecclesiastes study – wealth. Solomon, in speaking of a man who has much but no enjoyment (satisfaction) of what he has, mentions first great wealth and possessions. We lumped those two together for our discussion last night. All around us – made even more clear in light of our current economic conditions – people spend their lives chasing after money and all it can buy, thinking that prosperity will equal a happy life. Yet, as our current economy also shows, money is fleeting, and many who have it still are left with a great emptiness. The next item after those is honor. People seek satisfaction in how others think of them. This can range from a desire for fame to simply wanting to be impressive to those in our social circle. I mentioned last night how these first two pursuits betray themselves on a show like American Idol (I admit, yes, I’m a fan). Many of the contestants from rough backgrounds talk about how the show is a chance to have a happier life. They say this because the show offers the promise of fame and fortune. Now, is there anything wrong in wanting to be a famous singer? Not necessarily. However, seeking satisfaction in honor and wealth will never deliver. Want proof? Pick up a copy of any entertainment or celebrity magazine and look the lives that are in shambles, all while having everything under the sun.
The next failed source of satisfaction may surprise – it’s people. Our secular culture, when it’s trying to be noble, will say that money doesn’t matter, it’s people and relationships that are most important. While there’s truth in that, no human relationship can ever truly offer satisfaction. Solomon says that a man can father a hundred children and still never find fulfillment. There are few greater gifts that God has given than human relationships. The Bible puts an incredible premium on our family relationships, and on how we relate to fellow believers in the church. However, people are no perfect source of satisfaction. They die and are gone, and they can make mistakes and inflict unbelievable pain. As a source of satisfaction, they ultimately fall short. Next, we looked at life itself as a source of satisfaction. Solomon asserts that a man could live a thousand years twice over and still not find peace. Plug in here all the things in this world that we seek to fill our lives with in order to have joy and meaning. All of them, without exception, come up short. Take any endeavor, any field of greatness, and you will find some who had it all and still yearned for more. Finally, as Solomon speaks about the wandering the appetite, we looked at the way that many people seek satisfaction in the search itself. Questions are more important than answers, they say. The journey is more important than the destination. People embark on a never-ending quest for knowledge, and can wind up even more unfulfilled then when they started.
So what can fulfill? What can really bring satisfaction? In verses 10-12, Solomon shifts his focus, beginning to talk about “one greater than [man]” before asking the question, “Who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life?” While he doesn’t supply an explicit answer here, his answer is clear to anyone who knows the theme of the book, or indeed, the overarching theme of the Bible – God. God alone can ultimately bring satisfaction. He has created us to enjoy his glory forever, and thus anything else that we try to plug in his place will never satisfy as we crave it to. We are wired for God, and nothing else can take his place. All those things we talked about – wealth, honor, people, life, searching – will never give the satisfaction and fulfillment that a life shrouded in God’s grace, basking in his glory, and submitted to his wisdom will bring. As I said, those things are not necessarily bad. The vital aspect is seeing those things as gifts from God. When we have that approach, we will see those things as subservient in our hearts to God, and channels for worship to God. Instead of looking at our possessions and saying, “These are mine and they bring me happiness,” we will say, “Thank you God for blessing me with these things. Help me to enjoy them in a way that reminds my heart of your goodness.”
So, on that 1 to 10 scale, how satisfied are you with your life? If the answer is low, or even just lower than you’d like, what is it you lack that causes you to be dissatisfied? If you find yourself seeking satisfaction in something other than Christ, I pray that you’ll see the radiance of his glory, which, as Psalm 63 says, is able to quench our deepest longings.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
You have to dig a hole to China. Where do you start?
Mongolia - about two feet from the Chinese border. Path of least resistance, people.
HT: Tim Challies
Monday, March 9, 2009
The survey seems to suggest that people think that your average Joe is good-to-go. What did Jesus have to say in Matthew 5, though? In a chapter where he gives an impossibly lofty moral standard, he begins with the assertion that "unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." The scribes and the Pharisees were the "super-religious" of the day, the people who followed God's commands with zeal and fervor, and even invented their own commands to fill in the gaps. Jesus said that their righteousness is not sufficent to enter heaven. He then concludes the chapter with the even more stunning proclamation - "You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Jesus holds up perfection as the standard we must meet for acceptance into God's kingdom.
This sentiment is further expressed in Jesus' famous declaration to the rich young man in Luke 18, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” All these sayings serve to build up an incredible standard, such that the disciples eventually asked, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus repiles, "What is impossible with men is possible with God." Notice his implication - it is impossible for men to gain access to heaven. This can only be accomplished by God's free grace, a grace that Scripture makes explicitly clear is given through faith in Jesus.
It's pretty clear that though we're a nation where a lot of people say they follow Jesus, precious few have actually looked to see what he has to say. This should cause us all to take a closer look at the gospel we proclaim. Are you communicating the Gospel of grace, or an easy, average Joe, be-a-good-person folk religion? Pastors, how would the people in your church answer this survey? We all need to be careful to examine the faith we proclaim, lest we contribute to the generation that has seemingly adopted a Christianity with very little Christ.
Friday, March 6, 2009
300 is a stylized retelling of the ancient battle of Thermopylae. Based on a graphic novel by the acclaimed Frank Miller (Sin City, The Spirit), the movie follows Spartan King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and his band of 300 elite warriors as they defend Greece from the onslaught of the Persian army, millions-strong and led by self-styled god Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro). As his wife, Queen Gorgo (Lena Heady, who fans of FOX’s Terminator TV show will instantly recognize), seeks diplomatic support for her husband and his men back home, the brave 300 seek to hold a narrow past against impossible odds.
Careful history, this is not. The movie is ultra-stylized, from the exaggerated and fantastic creatures to the beautiful CG landscapes to the amazing combat cinematography that splatters a generous amount of blood in every direction. On that front, let me point out straight away that this is not a film for the squeamish. The violence is graphic – stylized, but graphic. It’s not the brutal realism of Saving Private Ryan or Braveheart, but the slo-mo hacking of limbs and heads will simply be too much for some viewers. Between that reality and the film’s brief sexual scenes, the content may make this one a non-starter for some viewers. If not, this is a masterfully constructed, tightly-wound, and surprisingly artistic action film. When we first saw it, Heather and I both walked out of the theater buzzing about the film’s breathtaking visual sense. Color is used with purpose and precision, and the movie takes the style and cinematic tone of Sin City (which, for all it’s cinematographic wonder, was ultimately quite shallow) and pairs it with a far more engaging story. Butler is captivating as Leonidas, and he gets good work from a supporting cast that includes Lord of the Rings alum David Wenham and Shakespearean actor Vincent Regan (who fans of the movie Troy will recognize). All-in-all, this recommendation carries a strong warning for content, but if your interest is piqued by The Watchmen’s visual flair but you don’t want to shell out 10 bucks to see if the film delivers, head down to your local video store and check out a copy of 300 instead. - ***1/2 (out of 4)
Note: The song of the above video should be listened to while reading this post. It really sets the tone, and it will be stuck in your head for the remainder of the day. You're welcome. Also, I am not responsible for any flashbacks to season 5 of American Idol that you may experience while listening to this song. Some things are better left in the past, I know. Ace Young is one of them.
Tuesday was a really crappy day. Everything, it seemed, was stacked against me and conspiring to drive me crazy. I won't get into the details. They're really not all that important. What is important is what I learned about myself in the process. In the event that it's helpful, here you go. File these away for your next bad day.
1) My "niceness" is frail. I tend to be a pretty laid-back, easygoing person. I am often complemented for being "nice." However, it took a surprisingly short time on Tuesday for me to turn into a total jerk. I carried an attitude for most of the evening that necessitated several apologies to my wife on Wednesday morning. Looking at how little had to go wrong to make me feel like I had license to act however I wanted with no regard for others was a humbling window to just how much selfishness I have in me.
2) My focus is often misplaced. The scary part is that this can happen without me noticing it. Never in a million years would I have told you that I was too attached to my barbecue grill, but - as I noted yesterday - when it wasn't working right, I became incredibly stressed and upset. It was a strong reminder to just how easily I fall into the trap of buying into what this world deems important - namely, stuff.
3) Grace is enough. Though we say we're dependant on grace, I think far too often we, perhaps even subconsciously, tend to think that our goodness has something to do with our standing before God. When we're doing well spiritually, he accepts us, and when we're doing poorly spiritually, he pushes us away. This is a lie. The reason that we have a right standing before God is because he chooses to look past our sins and look upon the free gift of righteousness we have because of Jesus. Our acceptance is not merit based, or we'd all be screwed. I realized this as I apologized to Heather on Wednesday, and her forgiveness was quick and complete. I didn't deserve it, but there it was, a little microcosm of the forgiveness that the Father has bestowed on us by grace through faith in Christ.
In the sports world, they say that sometimes you learn more in defeat than you do in victory. God used my bad day to teach me some powerful lessons about grace and sanctification in my life. Even my sin served to give him glory. Shall I go on sinning that grace may abound? Of course not! But I hope and pray that the next time the camera don't lie and you're ready to sing a sad song just to turn it around, you'll realize that though we all are great sinners, Christ is a greater savior.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Last night, we continued our study of Ecclesiastes (with no computer problems) by looking at the topic of money. There are several different views within modern Christianity about money and how it should be approached – from the health-wealth crowd that looks at it as a major part of God’s blessing, to people who lift up Jesus as demonstrating that poverty is a more admirable lifestyle. So how should we view money? Is it a good thing, a bad thing, or somewhere in between?
Looking at the second half of chapter 5, we broke the text down and looked at three different pictures of wealth that Solomon paints for us. The first, in verses 8-12, is a look at money as an evil master. Solomon points out that oppression of the poor and weak in the name of profit is so commonplace that it is to be expected, and yet the one who loves wealth will never be satisfied by it. Yet, he points out, the one who does not chase money but has peace is blessed whether he has a little or a lot. The thrust of the passage is that money will destroy those who are consumed by it. The old adage goes, “Money is a good servant but an evil master.” It’s quite true. Money can be used for many good ends, and material possessions can be enjoyable and good (if you disagree, then it would seem odd that you’re reading this on a computer that likely cost you a pretty penny). However, when money becomes something that we strive after, something that consumes us, we will never have enough and we will always be chasing after something new, rather than resting in the God who gives all good gifts.
The next picture, in verses 13-17, is that of an empty promise. Money is not as secure and sure as it seems – a truth that our nation is facing in full force. Solomon tells of a man who was wealthy, and was greedy over his wealth (“kept them to his hurt”), but then lost it all in a bad decision. Suddenly, this man had nothing to his name, nothing to pass to his son, nothing to give him security – he would end his days as naked as he came into the world. So many people measure their security in their bank account. We all are easily tempted into this feeling. When our account is running short, our stress level goes up, and we seem to think that if we could just pad things a little, then it all would be alright. Yet money is no solid rock. Only God can fill that role. Look around at the giants of our economy, billion-dollar companies, that are now bankrupt or out of business entirely. Three years ago Heather and I bought a new TV from Circuit City. By this summer, Circuit City will no longer exist. Anyone who looks to their money or their possessions for their stability is trusting in an empty promise.
Finally, in verses 18-20, we see money presented as a dangerous gift. In this passage, Solomon says that it is a blessing from God to benefit from your work – and to have the ability to enjoy those benefits. He says that money and possessions are a gift from God, if one is able to enjoy them properly. This is what makes them a dangerous gift, because we are so apt to be consumed with possessions, rather than enjoying them to the glory of God. The blurring of this line can be subtle – in fact, I didn’t realize it was cropping up in a way in my life until this week, when I became very irritated at the fact that my barbeque grill wasn’t working right. When I started complaining to Heather that I really hoped it wasn’t broken, she answered with, “So what if it is? It’s just a grill!” It was an instant reminder to me that I can become quickly consumed with my stuff. It’s not a bad thing to have stuff and to enjoy stuff. I’m not telling you that you need to sell everything you have and go live in a cave to be more holy. What I am saying is that we all need to check ourselves regularly to see how we’re handling God’s dangerous gift. Do you own your money, or does your money own you? Do you see everything you have as a gift from God, to be enjoyed to his glory but also to be expendable for his kingdom’s sake? Is the focus of your life, both on a big-picture level and a day-to-day practical level, the fleeting things this world chases after or the solid rock of Christ? Examine your heart and see where your attitudes and actions need to shift. After all, it’s just a grill.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
First. Tobacco costs money and does the one who uses it no good and the money that belongs to God is squandered. Many professedly Christian men spend as much money every year on tobacco as would support several native workers in China or India or Africa.Yes, tobacco costs money that could be used for other purposes. So does a piece of cheesecake, a ticket to a football game, a nice pen, and the bow tie Torrey wears in his (very cool) sketch picture. Like tobacco, none of those things produce any good, save for personal enjoyment. Yet, nobody is railing against the inherent evils of desserts, attending football games, collecting fountain pens and wearing ties. Unless one is going to advocate a strict asceticism (which seems to be contrary to a well-balanced view of Scripture, especially considering my recent study of Ecclesiastes), then this argument doesn't seem to hold up, as it's not applied with consistency across the spectrum of the Christian life.
Second. Tobacco is physically injurious to at least the overwhelming majority of those who use it. Some it hurts more than it does others. Many a minister’s life has been shortened by the use of tobacco. Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost and we have no right to do anything that impairs their health or strength.Replace tobacco with cheesecake or cheeseburgers and that statement holds equally true. I would wager good money that more ministers have their lives cut short from the effects of cholesterol and heart disease than lung or throat cancer. Yet no one is saying that a man with a fondness for Sara Lee or Hardee's isn't "going all-out" for God.
Third. The use of tobacco is a filthy habit. It cannot be made anything but filthy. Some are not so filthy as others in their use of tobacco but every tobacco user sooner or later becomes more or less a filthy person, and we are specifically commanded in the Word of God to “Cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh.”This one makes little sense to me. Define filthy. Is Torrey talking here about the smell of cigarette smoke (which I dislike as well)? What is his criteria for saying that "every tobacco user sooner or later becomes more or less a filthy person?" When Paul said to "cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh," I don't think that's quite what he had in mind.
Fourth. No person can use tobacco without infringing on the rights of other people. A man who smokes pollutes the air about him for at least 20 feet in every direction and forces others to breathe this polluted air. The man who chews, disgustingly defiles walks and floors and streets with his tobacco juice. Many a husband poisons his wife and his children with the fumes of his tobacco. The head of an institution for the care of sickly children in a British city told me that the overwhelming majority of the children that came to them for care came there because they had been poisoned by the fumes of the tobacco with which their fathers had polluted the air in the rooms in which they slept. The use of tobacco is one of the most selfish of all habits. The tobacco user, even the most careful, seems to become more or less oblivious to the rights and feelings of others.I can sympathize with his points here, having worked for four years of my life in a restaurant before Louisville's smoking ban. I've never smoked a cigarette in my life, but I'm sure that I smoked countless packs secondhand while waiting tables. However, one isn't necessarily infringing on the rights of others when one smokes. I enjoy one or two cigars a year. I smoke them outside, on my porch, in the company of friends who are also smoking them. Sure, many smokers show no consideration to others - but that is a fault of the smoker, and not a necessary consequence of smoking.
Fifth. No man in our day can use tobacco with out losing his influence with somebody. We could give specific instances of men who in many respects are men of extraordinary power who have lost their influence, and who have done positive harm to the cause of Christ, by their use of tobacco. Every out and out Christian desires his life to count to the uttermost for God and will not do anything, no matter how innocent in itself, which he has reason to think will rob him of an ounce of influence for God with anybody. If one will stop to candidly think of it, he must know that the use of tobacco will rob him of the influence with some whom he might and ought to reach and help.To this, I give two points in response. First, I believe that Torrey grossly exaggerates this concern. I know many Christian men who smoke (in moderation), and I can say emphatically that none of them have lost their gospel influence because of it. If anything, I've found that lost people are more apt to listen to a man who calls sin what Scripture calls sin and nothing more than a man who harps on a pet list of sins that are foriegn to God's Word. Secondly, who are we going to lose influence with? The most likely group would be Christians who believe that smoking is a sin. Does their disapproval necessarily mean that we should stop what they disapprove of? Many professing Christians would tune me out because I don't use the King James Bible or may not wear a suit and tie on Sunday morning. Should I change my convictions to placate them and avoid losing my influence? Does their disapproval make my behavior sinful?
In all, I think that Torrey's argument falls flat on every point. Scripture nowhere condemns smoking as sinful. If you feel that it is unwise to smoke, then that is a perfectly commendable personal conviction - but it is a personal conviction, not a Biblical mandate. Do you have concerns with Torrey's thoughts? With mine? Join the discussion in the comments.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Derek Webb's brainchild is a fantastic way to discover indie artists of all shades, all for free. You can download any music from the site for free in exchange for emailing 5 friends, or if you'd rather you can pay whatever you think is fair for the music. It's a fantastic tool, both for artists and for fans. I blogged a while back about finding Rick Hopkins' excellent Where We Are and Where We Long to Be through the site, and last week I found another comparable jewel - Matt Papa's Your Kingdom Come.
After listening through the CD, Heather and I decided that Papa sounds like what you'd get if you threw U2, Queen, David Crowder Band, and strong theology (he has a doctrinal statement on his website, and a darn good one at that) in a blender. The music is an edgy pop-rock that for the most part maintains a fresh feel throughout, though there are a couple tracks that were a tad derivative for my taste. Some of the more subdued songs pack the biggest lyrical punch, including the beautiful "Hymn in C," the closing "I Will Trust in You My God," and the brutally prophetic "Woe to You" (which reminded me a lot of Derek Webb's early solo stuff). Papa is a treat vocally, evoking (strange as it seems) echoes of the late, great Freddie Mercury at times. Your Kingdom Come would be a great pickup if you bought it in a store, much more so thanks to the no-lose nature of NoiseTrade. Go take a look. Seriously, now you can go. Thanks for finishing the post.
Monday, March 2, 2009
“The story of child rearing is almost wholly about imitation. We do good or ill, and the young ones follow in lock step, no matter how much we talk and point elsewhere. They are designed that way…
This inescapable imitation should be listed as a means of growing in grace. Parents often jest about their children being ‘means of sanctification,’ suggesting that child rearing is often a trial. But the situation is much more serious than a passing trial. Given the way children have to imitate parents (or whoever fills that role), one cannot just coast passively, selfishly, like we often do through tough times. Our tiniest daily responses in front of the kids constantly mold and chip away at their persons. Children are a means of sanctification because they are daily adopting their parents’ characters, virtues and vices and all. This is a blessing when we are faithful, but it’s a frightening mirror when we see our own sins growing in them. With kids around, we can’t just move slowly on our own growth. We have to grow in grace for the sake of the kids. If we don’t, then we can become a curse to them and their children.” - Douglas Wilson