Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Pursuit of God: The Universal Presence

Today a rationalized hollow religion runs rampant throughout western Christianity. It aches me to read these poignant words from Tozer, written nearly half a century ago, that are still just as valid today as yesterday.
"The idea of cultivation and exercise, so dear to the saints of old, has now no place in our total religious picture. It is too slow, too common. We now demand glamor and fast-flowing dramatic action. A generation of Christians reared among push buttons and automatic machines is impatient of slower and less direct methods of reaching their goals. We have been trying to apply machine-age methods to our relations with God. We read our chapter, have our short devotions and rush away, hoping to make up for our deep inward bankruptcy by attending another gospel meeting or listening to another thrilling story told by a religious adventurer lately returned from afar.

The tragic results of this spirit are all about us: shallow lives, hollow religious philosophies, the preponderance of the element of fun in gospel meetings, the glorification of men, trust in religious externalities, quasi-religious fellowships, salesmanship methods, the mistaking of dynamic personality for the power of the Spirit. These and such as these are the symptoms of an evil disease, a deep and serious malady of the soul." (Pg. 65)
I took a short break from blogging to celebrate with friends and family the fact that truly God is with us. I hope you were able to find a renewed sense of joy, peace, purpose, and hope throughout this Christmas season.

---
Chapter 1: Following Hard After God
Chapter 2: The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing
Chapter 3: Removing the Veil
Chapter 4: Apprehending God
Chapter 5: The Universal Presence
Chapter 8: Restoring the Creator-Creation Relation

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Leopard on My MacBook!

I have been anticipating this day for quite some time now. Leopard has finally graced my MacBook with it's presence.

Initial Impressions:
  • Load times are noticeably faster! Especially Safari!
  • iCal received a really thorough overhaul. I really appreciate this because I cannot live without it these days (I am a list freak).
  • The new iTunes-esque Finder is a welcome upgrade! I know this one will prove to be extremely useful in the long run.
  • Spaces, nifty, but I am still figuring out how to use it productively.
  • A built English grammar checker (necessity for me)!
  • Stacks to finally clean up my desktop!
  • Even cleaner user interface (who knew that was possible?)
  • Mail 3.0 is stinking awesome because it integrates with iCal, Notes, Safari, and RSS feeds. Combined with the fact that Gmail just upgraded to IMAP! Only one downside. Nearly 3 years of archived emails is no snap to download. Note the following screen shot from Mail...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Resurrection & Life in Crime & Punishment (1)

I wrote a post on one of my favorite short stories by Dostoevsky, White Nights, which has been receiving quite a bit of traffic. Not that I really need any extra motivation to read (I just started The Idiot) and write more about Dostoevsky, but that doesn't keep me from using it as an excuse to do just that.

I read Crime and Punishment my senior year in high school. It drastically changed my perspective on writing and literature. I will open this series with a brief biography of Dostoevsky and the events is his life which led to the writing of Crime and Punishment.

Crime and Punishment is a powerful psychological study, a terrifying murder mystery, a fascinating detective thriller, all tied together with the infusion of a powerful Christian religious commentary. The author, Fyodor Dostoevsky, is said to be the greatest Russian novelist of the nineteenth century and rivaled only by Tolstoy in terms of achievement and influence. In 1921 he was born into a world of a semi-feudal serfdom. Peasants who were numbering in the many millions were bought, sold, punished, or conscripted at their master’s whim. The injustice of this situation gradually sapped the strength of Russia and its imperial dreams. Riots and revolts for reform were occurring during Dostoevsky childhood and into his teenage years. By 1949 he had actively involved himself in reform and was arrested and convicted for alleged political crimes. He was sentenced to death, but due to a last-minute reprieve, was instead sentenced to an indefinite term of hard labor in Siberia. It was at this time that Dostoevsky found his most influential inspiration. During the four years of Dostoevsky’s imprisonment at Omsk in Siberia, “the New Testament was the sole book allowed him. If we willfully close our eyes to these facts, then we deliberately ignore literary evidence of the most significant kind” (Cox 8). Dostoevsky’s religious experiences and values are reflected in the themes of Crime and Punishment which are centered on the spiritual growth of the protagonist Raskolnikov.

“One of the most frequently reiterated motifs in his work is precisely that of a blind and passionate commitment to a belief in a supreme value” (Frank 3). It is this belief that leads to an instinctive and unquenchable love of life which no unhappy experiences could ever shake or undermine. “Crime and punishment is a landmark for those looking for evidence of Dostoevsky’s religious development” (Gibson 32). When he sent a draft of the novel to his editors, they were embarrassed at the inclusion of scripture from the Bible. However, Dostoevsky pleaded; “and now I most earnestly entreat you: for the sake of Christ let everything stand as it is” (Mochulsky 87). He understood God called everyone to do his work in different ways. He didn’t consider himself to be the source of his talent, he knew God was to thank for everything he was given. On writing Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky said to his publisher that “with the help of God, this novel can be the most splendid thing” (Frank 46).
Dostoevsky was brought up immersed in a religious household and learned about the Bible from his mother. He acquired a deep abiding faith at his mother’s knee which involved knowledge of the lives of saints as well as regular family prayers. “The single most important lesson Dostoevsky learned in his boyhood was belief in a compassionate and loving Christ, the savior of the world” (Freeborn 12). Dostoevsky’s religious experiences and values start from this young age to parallel to Raskolnikov’s in Crime and Punishment.

Work Cited

Cox, Roger L. Between Earth and Heaven, Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, and the Meaning of Christian Tragedy, New York: Holt, 1969.

Frank, Joseph. Dostoevsky, The Miraculous Years, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995.

Freeborn, Richard. Dostoevsky, London: Haus Publishing, 2003.

Gibson, Boyce A. The Religion of Dostoevsky, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1973.

Mochulsky, Konstantine. Dostoevsky: His Life and Work, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Greenlight for The Hobbit!

From the mouth of Peter Jackson himself "I'm very pleased that we've been able to put our differences behind us, so that we may begin a new chapter with our old friends at New Line...We are delighted to continue our journey through Middle Earth." (ABC)

Preliminary Details:
  • Peter Jackson is executive producer.
  • Two "Hobbit" films are scheduled to be shot simultaneously.
  • Production is set to begin in 2009.
  • First part will be released in 2010.
  • Sequel scheduled for a 2011 release.
This is wonderful news indeed following previous rumors about the fate of The Hobbit. You can be sure I will be following the Official Hobbit Blog.

UPDATE: Fran Walsh is on board too! (theonering.net) Now we just need Howard Shore for the score and WETA Workshop for the set design and animation.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Tea Party 2007

After raising $4.3 million on Nov 5th, the Ron Paul revolutionaries are at it again with another "money bomb". Marking the 234th Anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, Ron Paul could be making history, through a Tea Party in his honor, with the largest single day fund raiser ever.

John Kerry raised $5.7 million in 2004, and Ron Paul is sitting at just over $5.5 million with a few more hours to ago. Here's the live graph. It's worth noting there are nearly 55,000 total donors with over 25,000 being there first timer donating to the Ron Paul campaign (this is not the wealthy few, this is the masses reaching deep into there pockets to have there voice heard).

UPDATE: It looks like he just hit $5.8 million!!! (8:25 PM West Coast)
UPDATE: $5.9 million! (8:46 PM)
UPDATE: Surpassed $6 million!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Cody and The Drug Dealer

I just got finished orientating a team from Crossroads Community Church. It's a stellar group from their "Bridge" ministry (18-30 somethings group). Right off the bat they were drilling Brian and I with deep challenging questions. After having some awesome conversation with different people on the team and getting them settled in for the night at Liberation, I walked out and ran into a guy named Cody. I had given him a bottle of water earlier in the evening (for his epilepsy med's).

I spent the next 45 minutes with Cody on my knees listening to his story. I ended up encouraging him in his walk with Jesus, and finally, spending some time in prayer with him (he is in remission from leukemia).

As if the story of this evening could possibly get any better, a man walked up to us and offered to sell Cody some pot. After adamantly declining the guy looked up at me, and of all things, crossed himself. I was thoroughly puzzled while he simply got a huge grin on his face.

He said, "You're Christian aren't you? I know you."

Now, further puzzled, I asked how. He said I had served him food underneath the Burnside bridge one time.

Wouldn't it be amazing if that's what Christians were known for; even among the drug dealers and addicts, the orphans and prostitutes?

I love the life God has given me!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Adsense (aka. Coffee Fund)

I am on a very stringent budget, being that I am a poor college student who works 30+ hours a week which I technically don't get paid for. I have a rent check and food bill (I never eat out, except under the Bridge on Friday night) which I split with my room mate. A cell phone bill. The occasional MAX ticket. It has been a good practice in penny pinching and cutting a lot of the luxuries in life that aren't necessary (And who would of guessed, I still love life!).

But it sure is nice to get a coffee once and awhile, and I don't even have expensive taste for coffee. $1.90 for a 16oz Americano does me just fine. So, with much personal debate, I decided to implement adsense (supposedly it crawls my blog and connects relevant advertisers to the topics I post about, for which I in turn get paid a marginal amount per click) on my blog so I can occasionally buy an Americano without feeling guilty for spending money that I don't have.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Vernonia Flooding

This last week there was severe winds and flooding in Vernonia Oregon. In it's wake was a small scale replica of the Gulf Coast after Katrina hit. I had the opportunity to be a part of the Body of Christ mobilizing in response to the emergency needs right here in our own back yard. As we drove into the secluded community I was hit with flashbacks of New Orleans, Light City, the 9th Ward, piles of debris on the streetside, black mold, Aunt Betty... I spent all day ripping down sheet rock, tearing out insulation, pulling up carpet, and throwing away broken, destroyed memories.

Many have criticized residents of Vernonia for not learning their lesson in 1996. In my conversations with home owners I was struck with a different story.

Vernonia hardly has a booming economy. A single mother was living in what is best termed as a shack. Another gentleman who has lived in Vernonia for the better half of a century explained how the flooding is even worse than 11 years ago; the previous flood was 300 years prior. He expressed frustration with the tax write offs lumber companies are receiving from their irresponsible clear cutting methods. He said he has never see more trees come through Vernonia then this last summer. And clear cutting had already reached all time highs in 1996. The correlation is too strong to ignore.

My hope is to be a voice for the resident of Vernonia to whoever reads this, because their voice will likely not be heard.

But yesterday was also a testimony to the heart and potential impact of the Church. I was pleasantly surprised by the 40+ volunteers from my church who were ready to serve bright and early on a cold Monday morning. Upon arriving in Vernonia, I was shocked to see the Baptist church we were serving under had transformed their facilities into a emergency resource center, including mountains of clothes and a fully stocked storehouse of food (which were all donated this last weekend by other local churches in the NW). We were also helping them prepare for today, as they are opening their doors for use by the city to continue classes for over 300 elementary students.

My prayers are with all those suffering and hurting through this disaster.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Pursuit of God: Apprehending God

Continuing on into chapter 4 in my series of quotes from A.W. Tozer's The Pursuit of God:
"Personality and fatherhood carry with them the idea of the possibility of personal acquaintance. This is admitted, I say, in theory, but for millions of Christians, nevertheless, God is no more real then He is to the non-Christian. They go through life trying to love an ideal and be loyal to a mere principle..." (Pg. 48)
Tozer gets to the heart of why so many people of the world view Christians as unChristians. So often we live a life that is no different then a non-Christian. It's because of our lack of faith and communion with God in tangible ways. We relegate God to a vague "spiritual" corner of our life, instead of a holistic tireless pursuit after Him. If your interested in further thoughts on this note, see my post UnChristian: An Explanation of a Generation.
"The Bible assumes as a self-evident fact that men can know God with at least the same degree of immediacy as they know any other person or thing that comes within the field of their experience. The same terms are used to express the knowledge of God as are used to express knowledge of physical things. "O taste and see that the Lord is Good" (Psalm 34:8) "All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces (45:8). "My sheep hear my voice" (John 10:27). Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8)." (Pg 48-49)
I lived the first 18 years of my life full of Christian religiosity, never knowing God. Full of intellectual head knowledge, but never experiencing him. As Keels said last night, I'm not thankful that a god exists, I am thankful THIS God exists! I am thankful that our God is one who can be known and experienced through an intimate relationship with Him.

---
Chapter 1: Following Hard After God
Chapter 2: The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing
Chapter 3: Removing the Veil
Chapter 4: Apprehending God
Chapter 5: The Universal Presence
Chapter 8: Restoring the Creator-Creation Relation

Ron Paul 3rd in Iowa!

UNBELIEVABLE!

Ron Paul is 3rd in Iowa! "The more we think about it, the more we conclude that none of the remaining candidates on this list have a strong base of support the way Rep. Paul does."

A mindblowing mashup of Meetup groups for various presidential candidates (I know that Meetup group membership is not an accurate correlation of total supporters, but this is a very motivated, dedicated, passionate, organized grass roots base).

It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's...Ron Paul?

I have not posted about Ron Paul recently. Here are a couple juicy tidbits I have been holding onto.

Ron Paul Revolutionaries have come up with yet another creative advertising method: Tucker on Ron Paul Blimp (MSNBC)

A great segment on Ron Paul Revolutionaries with a hilarious remark from Rudy G... "The Ron Paul people are all over the country...": Ron Paul Supporters Outside Rudy Fundraiser (ABC)

No matter what your viewpoint is on the war you should read over Ron Paul's "Questions That Won't Be Asked About Iraq". The truly amazing part about this list of 35 short questions; they were written September 10th 2002. To me this is such a demonstration of foresight and clarity of mind in the midst of a pretty chaotic time. If I had read these questions 5 years ago, it would have rocked my world and really challenged me to look at things differently.
  • 3. Is it not true that those who argue that even with inspections we cannot be sure that Hussein might be hiding weapons, at the same time imply that we can be more sure that weapons exist in the absence of inspections?
  • 5. Is it not true that the intelligence community has been unable to develop a case tying Iraq to global terrorism at all, much less the attacks on the United States last year? Does anyone remember that 15 of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia and that none came from Iraq?
  • 15. Are you aware of a Pentagon report studying charges that thousands of Kurds in one village were gassed by the Iraqis, which found no conclusive evidence that Iraq was responsible, that Iran occupied the very city involved, and that evidence indicated the type of gas used was more likely controlled by Iran not Iraq?
  • 18. Are we willing to bear the economic burden of a 100 billion dollar war against Iraq, with oil prices expected to skyrocket and further rattle an already shaky American economy? How about an estimated 30 years occupation of Iraq that some have deemed necessary to "build democracy" there?
  • 22. If we claim membership in the international community and conform to its rules only when it pleases us, does this not serve to undermine our position, directing animosity toward us by both friend and foe?
  • 23. How can our declared goal of bringing democracy to Iraq be believable when we prop up dictators throughout the Middle East and support military tyrants like Musharaf in Pakistan, who overthrew a democratically-elected president?
  • 24. Are you familiar with the 1994 Senate Hearings that revealed the U.S. knowingly supplied chemical and biological materials to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war and as late as 1992- including after the alleged Iraqi gas attack on a Kurdish village?
  • 25. Did we not assist Saddam Hussein’s rise to power by supporting and encouraging his invasion of Iran? Is it honest to criticize Saddam now for his invasion of Iran, which at the time we actively supported?
  • 26. Is it not true that preventive war is synonymous with an act of aggression, and has never been considered a moral or legitimate US policy?
  • 30. Where does the Constitution grant us permission to wage war for any reason other than self-defense?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Pursuit of God: Removing the Veil

Chapter 3 was chock full of some very profound concepts.
"God formed us for Himself. The Shorter Catechism "Agreed upon by the Reverend Assembly of Divines at Westminster," as the old New England Primer has it, asks the ancient questions what and why and answers them in one short sentence hardly matched in any uninspired work. "Question: What is the chief end of man? Answer: Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." With this agree the four and twenty elders who fall on their faces to worship Him that liveth forever and ever, saying, "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created" (Revelations 4:11)" (Pg. 32)
Technically, this is less a quote of Tozer and more a quote of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, but it is good stuff all the same. It's great reminder of Dan Franklin's thorough message (Sept 29 2007), "The Two Competing Passions", on the same issue.

Though, it is the following (lengthy) excerpt (completely worth every word) that was most revealing.
"It is not too mysterious, this opaque veil, nor is it hard to identify. We have but to look into our own hearts and we shall see it there, sewn and patched and repaired it may be, but there nevertheless, and enemy to our lives and an effective block to our spiritual progress...

It is woven of the fine threads of the self-life, the hyphenated sins of the human spirit. They are not something we do, they are something we are, and therein lies both their subtlety and their power. To be specific, the self-sins are self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love, and a host of others like them*. They dwell too deep within us and are too much a part of our natures to come to our attention till the light of God is focused upon them.... (Pg. 42)
*I would even venture to add "self-rights" and "self-gratification" to this list - can you think of more?
"One should suppose that proper instruction in the doctrines of man's depravity and the necessity for justification through the righteousness of Christ alone would deliver us from the power of the self-sins, but it does not work that way. Self can live unrebuked at the very altar. It can watch the bleeding Victim die and not be in the least affected by what it sees. It can fight for the faith of the reformers and preach eloquently the creed of salvation by grace and gain strength by its efforts. To tell the truth, it seems actually to feed upon orthodoxy and is more at home in a Bible conference than in a tavern. Our very state of longing after God may afford it an excellent condition under which to thrive and grow.

Self is the opaque veil that hides the face of God from us. It can be removed only in spiritual experience, never by mere instruction. We may as well try to instruct leprosy out of our system. There must be a work of God in destruction before we are free. We must invite the cross to do its deadly work within us. We must bring our self-sins to the cross for judgement. We must prepare ourselves for an ordeal of suffering in some measure like that through which our Saviour passed when He suffered under Pontius Pilate. (Page 42-43)"
I challenge you to define this veil of self-sins in your own life that hide the face of God. It is only after we have completely abandoned ourself, our own identity, that Jesus can in ever increasing amounts be identified in us.

---
Chapter 1: Following Hard After God
Chapter 2: The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing
Chapter 3: Removing the Veil
Chapter 4: Apprehending God
Chapter 5: The Universal Presence
Chapter 8: Restoring the Creator-Creation Relation

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Rudolph Goes Green

Picture this, Rudolph gallantly leading the other 8 reindeer with a bright glowing green nose! If that's not marketing genius, I don't know what is.

With all the hype around corporate America "going green", this seems like a given. Who wouldn't want to exploit Rudolph gone green? Everyones favorite reindeer helping Santa pull a sleigh full of their "green product" for Christmas shoppers all across America.

I still chuckle thinking about the NBC Green is Universal campaign with their Monday Night Football anchors turning off the lights "to do their part". Capitalizing on consumers emotions disguised as "corporate responsibility" at it's best (Not that being green isn't commendable, but no corporation would care about the environment unless there is a penny in it for them). Now we just need to focus on some good ol' personal responsibility.

Anyhow, I'm surprised no one has taking advantage of this marketing gold. "Rudolph the Green-nosed reindeer"...eh, I suppose it doesn't quite have that ring.

Yaaa....It's nice to be done with school for a bit.

I Am Legend/Terminator IV/Prince Caspian

I'm on a bit of a movie binge as of late.
  • Producers of the new upcoming Terminator trilogy, starring Christian Bale, said in a recent interview it will be "...a really interesting time in the franchise because it's where all the fans have always wanted the franchise to go, and it hasn't to date, which is the post-apocalyptic world. It's after judgment day. So because we're in a different time in the mythology, it introduces a whole new set of circumstances and characters." The Post-apocalyptic genre is one of my favorite and, which I feel, has been the most under valued in Hollywood the last decade.
  • Speaking of post-apocalyptic world's, I have been anticipating I Am Legend since I first saw the trailer before the midnight showing of Spiderman 3. Though I was suprised to read that it "is a rare Hollywood movie in that it contains a pro-God message in the midst of a scientific inquiry into the nature of the cure for a supervirus." It is being pegged as the "The First Movie of the Post Stem-Cell Debate Era!"
  • It looks like I'm surviving the dead season between Narnia movies (I'm not saying it's easy). Prince Caspian is slated for a May 16th release (I always felt like Caspian was more of a "summer" movie anyhow, as opposed to the strong Christmas/winter theme in the first.) and the official trailer has hit the internet! I like what I see so far!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Star Trek XI Cast

The inner geek arises! I'm excited for a revitalized shot of life to the Star Trek legacy. J.J. Abrams is leading the charge; following his also much anticipated movie code-named "Cloverfield".

The official cast has been revealed.

Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) will be playing the part of Scotty!

The original Captain Sulu is said to be making an appearance as well.