Saturday, May 29, 2010

Lost Summary

This will probably be my last Lost post. I've been back and forth on what I thought of the series finale. I read something yesterday that really helped summarize and make sense of a lot of things. If you're on Twitter, Facebook, or on the internet in general much, you've probably seen it. But just in case, here's the post that was helpful.

Friday, May 28, 2010

What Kind of Brain is the Web Giving Us?

A recent Wired Magazine article, written by Nicholas Carr, looks at the effect of the internet on the human mind. In it he asks an interesting question:
"What kind of brain is the web giving us? That question will no doubt be the subject of a great deal of research in the years ahead. Already, though, there is much we know or can surmise—and the news is quite disturbing. Dozens of studies by psychologists, neurobiologists, and educators point to the same conclusion: When we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning. Even as the Internet grants us easy access to vast amounts of information, it is turning us into shallower thinkers, literally changing the structure of our brain."
He goes on to note a few studies done and statistics measured over the last 30 years. The research shows that are brains are actually changing. Here's his conclusion:
There’s nothing wrong with absorbing information quickly and in bits and pieces. We’ve always skimmed newspapers more than we’ve read them, and we routinely run our eyes over books and magazines to get the gist of a piece of writing and decide whether it warrants more thorough reading. The ability to scan and browse is as important as the ability to read deeply and think attentively. The problem is that skimming is becoming our dominant mode of thought. Once a means to an end, a way to identify information for further study, it’s becoming an end in itself—our preferred method of both learning and analysis. Dazzled by the Net’s treasures, we are blind to the damage we may be doing to our intellectual lives and even our culture.

What we’re experiencing is, in a metaphorical sense, a reversal of the early trajectory of civilization: We are evolving from cultivators of personal knowledge into hunters and gatherers in the electronic data forest. In the process, we seem fated to sacrifice much of what makes our minds so interesting.
I post this because I already can see how my reading comprehension and ability to focus over has drastically waned over the last 10 years. It even took me several tries to finish the article because of my mind kept wandering elsewhere. I don't know if this is just inevitable and we'll adapt accordingly, or if this is something we can control. In any case, it's worth thinking about.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

The gospel produces sustained obedience

Tullian Tchividjian:
When John (or Jesus) talks about keeping God’s commands as a way to know whether you love Jesus or not, he’s not using the law as a way to motivate. He’s simply stating a fact. Those who love God will keep on keeping his commands. The question is how do we keep God’s commands? What sustains a long obedience in the same direction? Where does the power come from to do what God commands? As every parent and teacher knows, behavioral compliance to rules without heart change will be shallow and short-lived. But shallow and short-lived is not what God wants (that’s not what it means to “keep God’s commands.”). God wants a sustained obedience from the heart. How is that possible? Long-term, sustained, gospel-motivated obedience can only come from faith in what Jesus has already done, not fear of what we must do. To paraphrase Ray Ortlund, any obedience not grounded in or motivated by the gospel is unsustainable.
(from an interview with JT)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Ballard's are moving to Nashville

A good friend of mine, Matt Ballard, is leaving with his family in a couple of months to be the pastor of a church plant in an area just south of Nashville, Tennessee. The church is affiliated with the PCA and is called Southpointe Community Church. Matt is going to be leaving Perimeter Church in Duluth, GA where he has served for the last 5 years as the Pastor to Young Adults as well as being on the teaching team.

I've known Matt a little over four years now and he has made a profound impact on my life. Always willing and able to speak truth to those around him, he is one of the most gifted communicators that I know. He has helped me see the beauty of Christ and the love of God for me in a way that is unrivaled. He will be greatly missed, but I'm excited because I know his heart is big for what God might do through him in this next venture.

If you're in the Nashville area, be sure to stop by. If not, consider praying for him and giving to him financially. He needs to raise a good bit of money over the next few months. Why not be a part of how God provides for him?

You can make a one-time donation to the Ballard's account at Mission to North America here. Or you can set up recurring donations by contacting Annette Keller (with MNA) at 678-825-1200.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lost - Answers?

In line with my post yesterday, this is a pretty good video expressing the need for answers in Lost:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The End of Lost

Well, it's finally coming to an end. This Sunday, from 9pm to 11:30pm, will be the last episode in this very intriguing series. I didn't watch Lost for the first three seasons. My rationale was that I didn't need another TV show to get hooked on. I already had 24 and the Office. That was enough for me.

Well, all that changed when I decided to watch the season finale to season 3 (spoiler alert), the one where Charlie dies, back in 2007. I instantly became hooked. It took me about 3 weeks to watch seasons 1 & 2 (this long because I had a job and had to sleep some too). Then I waited very impatiently for Season 4 to start 8 months later.

I've loved the show for a lot of reasons. I've loved the character development. I've loved the way philosophy is weaved into various elements of the show. I've loved the intrigue of always being surprised about what's going to happen next. And it's just fun. Who hasn't thought about what it would be like to survive on an island?

Well, the last season or two, my excitement has waned a bit. I no longer care when the music gets all dramatic and some big mystery is revealed. I think my capacity was reached for how many confusing and mysterious things could take place, and I'm just ready for everything to start getting tied up.

Paste Magazine reviews the show each week and I thought the conclusion to the latest episode review was humorous. It sums up both my doubt and hope that I've been feeling for quite a while that the show will have a satisifying conclusion:
"What seems most important now is that Smoky must die. Before everyone else does—which may very well happen if the current death rate on the island continues. Let’s hope somebody survives the upcoming two-and-a-half-hour finale, because if the past six years of Lost have all been about protecting a mysterious light, then somebody better protect the damned light."

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A Spirit of Wonder

From Tim Keller's sermon, Beholding the Love of God (4-2-95):
A real Christian is the person who says, "It is an absolute miracle that God loves me. It's just a miracle that I'm a Christian." This is actually an acid test...

There's two kinds of people that go to church. There's religious people, then there are real Christians...A real Christian is somebody who sees everything that comes as a gift. In other words, a real Christian sees that you're totally in debt to God. But a religious person is someone who is working hard, making an effort, trying to be good, going to Bible studies, just saying "No" everywhere, denying themselves a lot of pleasures, and so forth. A religious person is someone who is trying to put God in their debt. That's the difference...And a Christian is somebody who sees themselves in God's debt.

Here's the acid test. If you're a real Christian there is a spirit of wonder that permeates your life. You're always saying, "How miraculous. How inter-planetary. How unreal." You're always looking at yourself saying, "Me, a Christian? Incredible! Miraculous! Unbelievable! A joke!" But a person who's trying to put God in their debt, there isn't any spirit of wonder at all...

If you ask a religious person, a person who doesn't understand the grace of God. You say, "Are you a Christian?" They say, "Of course I am. I've always been a Christian. Sure I'm a Christian." My friends, if you are a Christian there's no "sure" about it, and there's no "of course" about it. Not a bit.

The acid test is your spirit of wonder stays there even when things go bad. You see when things go bad, when problems happen, here you can tell the difference between a moralist and a Christian. A moralist says "What good is all my religion? What good is going to God? I tried hard to be a Christian. I'm trying hard to be obedient to God. What good is it? God owes me." You get mad....

Christians, to the degree you behold the grace of God. To the degree you meditate on it and let it become a holy fire in your heart. To the degree you experience in a sense and behold the love of God. To that degree you're going to find that in difficulties, you'll be able to say "My Father must have a purpose for me, because He loves me. Besides that, He doesn't owe me a good life. He owes me a far worse life than I've got." You can handle anything. And when good things come you say, "Behold, what a miracle!"

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Because I am Afraid

Over this last week, I've been reading Chesterton's book The Man Who Was Thursday. It was recommended to me by Michael and so far I'm enjoying the story.

A conversation took place in the book that grabbed my attention. I can't stop thinking about it. It takes place between two men, the Professor and Syme. These men are both detectives who are spies in a small group of anarchists. They are somewhat relieved because they just found out that the other is a detective as well. They begin to talk about the leader of the anarchist group and the following conversation occurs:
"Yes," he said in a voice indescribably, "you are right. I am afraid of him. Therefore I swear by God that I will seek out this man who I fear until I find him, and strike him on the mouth. If heaven were his throne and the earth his footstool, I swear that I would pull him down."

"How?" asked the Professor. "Why?"

"Because I am afraid of him," said Syme; "and no man should leave in the universe anything of which he is afraid."

De Worms blinked at him with a sort of blind wonder. He made an effort to speak, but Syme went on in a low voice, but with an undercurrent of inhuman exaltation--

"Who would condescend to strike down the mere things that he does not fear? Who would debase himself to be merely brave, like any common prizefighter? Who would stoop to be fearless--like a tree? Fight the thing that you fear. You remember the old tale of the English clergy man who gave the last rites to the brigand of Sicily, and how on his death-bed the great robber said, 'I can give you no money, but I can give you advice for a lifetime: your thumb on the blade, and strike upwards.' So I say to you, strike upwards, if you strike at the stars." (p.49)
That is remarkable logic to be able to say that because I am afraid of him I will seek him out. I am afraid of many things. I probably fear rejection most of all, so I avoid conflict and orient my life in order to have everyone like me. My fear often leads me to avoid a situation or avoid confronting someone when engaging would be the most loving thing to do. I'm also afraid of speaking in front of other people, fearing that I wouldn't be able to live up to what I perceive their expectations are of me.

There is a deep desire in me to leave this world without something of which I am afraid. Or rather, I long to get done with my life knowing that I at least exhibited courage in the face of my fears instead of letting them control and crush me. I know this can only happen as I understand the degree to which I am loved by God in Christ. As I rest in his pronouncement of "Well done" over my life I can have fear removed and be able to say with another David:
When I afraid, I put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? - Psalm 56:3-4

Friday, May 07, 2010

The Swagger Wagon

If I had kids, I think this would be the minivan for me:(HT:22 Words)

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Moving Toward People

From the latest CCEF article by Ed Welch:
God moves toward us. By the time we get to the New Testament, we are no longer guided by the sometime inscrutable laws of the Old Testament. Human life changes after Jesus died for sins, rose from the dead and sent the Spirit. Now, the law of love simplifies and captures the intention of the Torah. And when we want to understand what love looks like, we look to the character of God in Jesus.
For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. (Ezekiel 34:11)

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. (Luke 19:10)
The triune God pursued people when they were suffering in bondage in Egypt. He pursued people when they were hardened in their own sin. God’s people reject him and hold him in contempt, he responds by moving toward them and guiding them through the wilderness...

God always moves toward us.

And as his servants, we do the same. We move toward others too. Because we are relentlessly pursued, especially when we not are worthy of such pursuit, we also become pursuers. We turn toward others and move in their direction. That is how the kingdom of heaven works. Sin scatters people, grace draws us toward each other. The possibilities in that grace are endless.
Read the whole thing

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

What Facebook is For

A video commentary on Facebook:(HT:Roy Keely)

How to Cultivate Delight in God

Speaking to those of us who sometimes feel discouraged in our devotional times, Jon Bloom at Desiring God provides five purposes for having a devotion:
  1. Soul Exercise
  2. Soul Shaping
  3. Bible Copiousness
  4. Fight Training
  5. Delight Cultivation
I thought the fifth one was particularly helpful:
When a couple falls in love there are hormonal fireworks. But in marriage they must cultivate delight in one another. It is the consistent, persistent, faithful, intentional, affectionate pursuit of one another during better and worse, richer and poorer, sickness and healthy times that cultivates a capacity for delight in each other far deeper and richer than the fireworks phase. Similarly, devotions are one of the ways we cultivate delight in God. Many days it may seem mundane. But we will be surprised at the cumulative power they have to deepen our love for and awareness of Him.
Read the whole thing