Saturday, February 27, 2010

Flannery on Bad Christian Fiction

Flannery O'Connor:
Ever since there have been such things as novels, the world has been flooded with bad fiction for which the religious impulse has been responsible. The sorry religious novel comes about when the writer supposes that because of his belief, he is somehow dispensed from the obligation to penetrate concrete reality. He will think that the eyes of the Church or of the Bible or of his particular theology have already done the seeing for him, and that his business is to rearrange this essential vision into satisfying patterns, getting himself as little dirty in the process as possible. His feeling about this may have been made more definite by one of those Manichean-type theologies which sees the natural world as unworthy of penetration. But the real novelist, the one with an instinct for what he is about, knows that he cannot approach the infinite directly, that he must penetrate the natural human world as it is.
(HT: JT)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Managing Expectations in Dating

CNN has a pretty interesting interview with author Lori Gottlieb, who wrote the somewhat controversial book "Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough." Here were some of the best questions and responses:
CNN: What is it, in your mind, about the book and its message that got some women so worked up?

Gottlieb: I think it comes from the title. The title is used to really get women to think about what settling means. There's a survey in the book where men and women are asked, "If you got 80 percent of everything you wanted -- of your ideal traits in a mate or partner -- would you be happy?" The majority of women said, "No, that's settling," and the majority of men said, "Eighty percent? I'd be thrilled; that's a catch." So the question is: Is getting less than everything we want truly settling? And more important, semantics aside: Is getting anything less than everything we want going to make us less happy? The answer is no, and it probably will make you more happy.

CNN: What about the term "Mr. Good Enough"?

Gottlieb: We're all Mr. or Ms. Good Enough, until you fall in love with the person who sees you and recognizes you as the right person for them. In our culture, good enough is not good enough. They think that it means lowering your expectations and lowering your standards. There's a difference between lowering your expectations and lowering your standards. Lowering your expectations is saying, "be realistic." If you just put us all in a dating lineup, we're not going to get perfect ratings from the world at large. We should lower our expectations in the sense of, we have to realize nobody is perfect. If you have unrealistic expectations, it's going to be hard to find a real human being who can meet them. But lowering our standards? No.
Click here to read the whole thing.

(HT: Challies)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Bleak, Shallow, & Repititive Virtual Life

Latest post from Adbusters:
Now that the thrill of our hyper-connected existence is gone, virtual life has become a depressing daily grind. We toil late into the night, unleashing an endless stream of status updates and tweets in a desperate attempt to keep ourselves relevant, desirable and in. There’s an ominous irony in FarmVille, a Facebook application that enables users to build and maintain a virtual farm. It’s more than a game: It’s an allegory. Virtual existence is feudalism for the modern age. Those who hold the information are kings and those of us toiling in the virtual fields are the servile peasantry: selling our souls for the mind-numbing comfort of an online existence.

Social Networking Sites (SNSs) promise limitless, boundless friendship – a phenomenon that should make us happier than ever. But our optimism over connectivity has gradually morphed into cynicism and resentment. It turns out virtual life is less about connectivity than self-branding. SNSs entice us to divulge and update, stroking our fragile egos with filtered ads that utilize our personal information to reap huge profits, as our hundreds of “friends” perpetually rate our online popularity. Paranoid about how we’ll be perceived, we spend hour after hour trying to avoid the virtual consequences of being deemed uncool. We have more to worry about than our online acquaintances deleting us after we’re tagged in an unflattering photo. Sites like Lamebook, devoted to reposting cliché status updates and socially awkward wall exchanges, humiliate those virtual personas who are unfamiliar with the webs mores and codes.

Bleak, shallow and repetitive, virtual life seems increasingly less worth living. Users are beginning to realize that it’s not leisure, it’s work that borders on servitude. But there’s a resistance growing among those tired of their virtual subjugation. In response to the electronic world’s rising indignation, virtual suicide sites like and have started a countermovement, provoking users to kill their online selves and reclaim their real lives. These programs assist our virtual deaths by hacking into our profiles, completely annihilating our online personas and leaving no trace of our former selves behind. It’s social revolt for the online age: a mass uprising that will shatter the virtual hierarchy and restore order to our actual lives.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What's the Point of Lent?

Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the 40 day observance known as Lent. I've often been confused about why Christians should observe these days. Isn't it just a Catholic thing? What's the point of giving up something when you go back to fully indulging in it the day Lent stops?

I thought this article was a helpful one speaking about the history and the point of Lent. Here are a few key paragraphs:
"Lent’s origin is hidden in the early centuries of church history, but we do know that it originated as a time of preparation for Easter. From the church’s earliest days, the resurrection of Christ was celebrated not only each week (on Sunday, the Lord’s Day), but also in a special festival of the resurrection. This festival we call Easter Day, and it is celebrated as the Sunday of Sundays! Lent, as a season of preparation, is traditionally focused on repentance. Speaking biblically, to repent means to make a change in our attitudes, words, and lifestyles. As 16th-century reformer Martin Luther taught, the Christian life in its totality is a life of repentance.

Beginning when we first commit our lives to Christ, and continuing throughout our lives, we are more and more turning away from sin and self-centeredness and more and more turning to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Even though a repentant spirit should mark all we do, it is still appropriate that certain times be set aside for a particular focus on repentance. The church has traditionally done this at the Lenten season (and, to a lesser extent, in the pre-Christmas season of Advent).

Lent, therefore, is a time for focusing on the heart, a time for asking questions about our spiritual health:
  • What are my characteristic sins, and how can I work and pray for change?
  • What idols have captured my imagination so that my love for the living God has grown cold?
  • In what ways is my devotion to Christ and his church less than wholehearted?
  • The Lenten season is the spiritual equivalent of an annual physical exam; it’s a time to take stock of our lives, our hearts.
Keeping Lent, however, is potentially dangerous, precisely because of this focus on the heart. After all, it is much easier to read a book on prayer than to spend time leisurely speaking with our heavenly Father. It is much easier to fast from certain foods than it is to turn from idols of the heart. It is much easier to write a check than to spend time in ministries of mercy. Consequently, Lent is easily trivialized. The point of Lent is not to give up chocolate; it’s to give up sin!"

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The trouble with flicking off sin

From Worship Well:
I can't seem to shake it off. Over the last month or so the Lord has really been working me over about sin. Not my specific sin (although He is having a go at that) but sin in general. Here is what I mean. In the past I have tended to view sin as “having some crumbs” on my pants after dinner. Most of the time I could ignore them. If I was in a energetic mood and they bothered me, it was easy for me to “flick” them off. Flick. It means “a light quick blow, jerk, or touch: a flick of the wrist.”

In other words, I could confess them, say I was sorry, and they would be whisked away. It was as if I flicked the crumbs on the floor and the dog came by to lick them up. Easy stuff. The only problem with that is simply this: sins are not crumbs. They are stains. You can’t flick stains off of your pants. Stains are a problem. A stain has to be washed out very carefully with the right soap, or guess what? It permanently stains the garment. I am sure that has happened to you before. A stain made permanent will cause you to throw away an otherwise good pair of pants.

So, if the word picture is catching your imagination, you might wonder what you can do about it. The Psalmist is helpful here. He says, “Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean, wash me and I’ll be whiter than snow.” You need to be washed. More specifically the garment of your soul needs to be cleansed by the blood of Jesus. He is the only one who can remove sin stain. All you need to do is stop trying to flick it off and give it to Him. You are not able. He is more than capable.

As you ask to be cleansed, you might want to thank Him for His power and you might want to ask if He would make your garment a bit more stain resistant. He can do that too. You are worth more than a good pair of jeans and He won’t throw you away.
I heard these thoughts from my friend Randy last week at an event. It deeply impacted me because I often feel like I shrug off sin and am almost to quick to "repent." I put that in quotations because, as Randy said, repentance is a gift from God after feeling the weight of our sin. Far too often we don't let our sin affect us and so our hearts aren't really ready to repent.

Instead, he proposed we ought to speak our sin several times out loud to help us own it, no matter how insignificant we think it to be. The smallest of sins is terribly offensive to God. It robs Him of glory. But thankfully, to the degree I own up to and know the weight of my sin, I am able to rejoice that much more in the grace and forgiveness found in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Matt Chandler, suffering well

The AP recently wrote a great article about the recent developments in pastor Matt Chandler's life. On Thanksgiving day 2009, Matt had a seizure and was rushed to the hospital. He was later diagnosed with a grade 3 brain tumor.

Matt pastors a church in the Dallas, TX area and in the last couple years has become one of my favorite pastors to hear preach via podcast. His theology and gifts of communication remind me so much of John Piper. And Matt's experience of his cancer reminds me so much of Piper's struggle with cancer a few years back. I can only hope I can handle suffering like these men.

Here's a quote from the article:
Chandler is trying to suffer well. He would never ask for such a trial, but in some ways he welcomes this cancer. He says he feels grateful that God has counted him worthy to endure it. He has always preached that God will bring both joy and suffering but is only recently learning to experience the latter.

Since all this began on Thanksgiving morning, Chandler says he has asked "why me?" just once, in a moment of weakness.

He is praying that God will heal him. He wants to grow old, to walk his two daughters down the aisle and see his son become a better athlete than he ever was.

Whatever happens, he says, is God's will, and God has his reasons. For Chandler, that does not mean waiting for his fate. It means fighting for his life.
Read the whole thing

You can also watch weekly updates from Matt here