Thursday, October 29, 2009

Worshiping at the Stadiums and in the Mancaves...

Recently, as some of you may know, I've had to take a step back from campus life and my role with Bridges International. It's just a temporary thing (hopefully!), and once my support gets back to a healthy role, I'll be chomping at the bit to get back to the calling that I am sure God has given me for the time being, of sharing the Gospel among the brilliant minds of international students/faculty at UNC.

But one of the the positives (yes there are SOME positives to going back to raising support!) has been that I'm a lot more aware of how I spend my time and can reassess which parts are worthwhile to the kingdom and which are frivolous and wasteful. Essentially which are worshiping Christ in his glory and which are worshiping some kind of American cultural idol and its "glory."

It started a while back, my thoughts about what I worship with my time and emotional energy when I was having trouble really feeling God's presence when I would read the Bible. Then last night it was rekindled. My roommates and I found something on tv that we all found interesting around midnight: Mel Gibson's directed, Apocalypto. For those who have never seen it, I cant recommend it in good conscious (much like The Wire, its too graphic, but EXTREMELY interesting and well written), but just as a summary, its the story of native tribes in the Mayan region of Mexico dealing with tribal warfare due to the presence of white settlers from Europe coming. The hero's village is attacked by the Mayans, his friends killed or enslaved, the women and children raped or left behind defenseless before the men are taken to the capital city of the Mayans to be sacrificed to the Sun god.

It's a ridiculous display of gore, even for Mel Gibson, who of course was the weirdo who made the Passion of the Christ and Braveheart and We Were Soldiers so bloody. The scene that made me think took place as Jaguar Paw (the main character) and his friends are taken up to the top of a tall pyramid to be sacrificed, stabbed, "de-hearted" then beheaded. As he is taken and put on the altar, all of us watching couldnt help but squirm and hope that somehow the gore would take a respite. All of the crowds of Mayans are in a tizzy waiting in anticipation as the priest raises his knife. A little chubby boy (probably the son of the king) sits up top watching and smiling in his sheltered, aristocratic upbringing, calloused to the fact that a man is about to be savagely killed to honor a god that doesn't exist.

That's when I was convicted.

I remember Mark Driscoll telling Nightline recently his idea that if a person from antiquity were to travel in time and stand before the massive buildings and stadiums in America, he would say something to the effect of "what kind of religious ceremony is going on inside? It is surely a majestic building built to appease a god of great following." The Dean Dome, Trump Towers, and especially now that it's football season, Kenan and Soldier Field become places of worship, even if I'm not there in person, I can still worship through the power of HD and DirecTV. Ok, maybe not at Kenan, there must not be a very powerful god there, but I digress.

The point is, I realize that I may only watch football on tv or in person twice a week, but it consumes my thoughts far more often than Jesus' life, death and resurrection. It consumes me more than Heaven and the promise of eternal joy. It consumes my thoughts more than almost anything at times (maybe my reputation before others and girls could make a case for the #1 spot). I really enjoy the camaraderie and even friendship with believers and unbelievers alike through football and sports, but when I wake up eagerly seeing which waiver requests my fantasy team won, its a little much. When I dream about losing and winning games I dont play in, its a little much.

So I'm going to prayerfully cutback the time I spend on football, trying to treat it like other addictive vices like beer is to the alcoholic, like credit cards are to the shopaholic, like really fast internet without accountability is to the sex addict, trying to avoid the situations where I can sit in front of a TV for hours or reading articles forever about who is the next hot pickup.

Hopefully, like Jaguar Paw, I can miraculously escape the death of the sacrificing altar and retreat home to the rightness of being at home with the Lord and his will for my worship.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Implications of Colossians 2:8 for tonight

"See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty conceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, AND NOT ACCORDING TO CHRIST" -Paul, Colossians 2:8

Tonight, as many of you well-connected to the UNC-Chapel Hill Religious Studies department know, is the day of Dr. Ehrman's latest debate calendar. This time it will center on the question, "God and the Problem of Suffering." He's debating a guy from the Veritas Forum, a high-thinking Christian apologetics group headed by Ravi Zacharias, who is probably also very smart and well suited for this style of talking.

I've been to one other debate by Dr. Ehrman held at Southeastern Seminary loosely about the Da Vinci Code and its legitimacy. (Actually I've been to another when I took his class, but it was just him debating himself. For a few minutes he'd make a point, then put on a cowboy hat and overcoat and make an opposing point. Kinda funny, he looked just like a bearded Indiana Jones when he'd make counterpoints). Things like this really interested me in the past because it would basically validate my skepticisms or beliefs depending on the outcome of the debate. It was an easier way to think and process deep, confusing spiritual things.

But now, I really worry and pray against the "philosophy and empty deceit according to human tradition" that will be stated so convincingly tonight. When I was an upperclassmen, I prayed that the freshmen in my small group Bible study group wouldn't even take his class, because intellectually, it wouldn't be a fair fight. An 18 year old with basic Case for Christ level knowledge can't stand against a guy who has written more books than most 18 year olds have read.

I think that apologetics training is great and necessary so that we can give a defense at all times like Peter says. I also believe the Gospel is rational and historical. Of course we can see easily how "philosophy and empty deceit" can describe Ehrman's position as contrary to Christ and God's word, but sometimes our own ideas of how to justify the Gospel are also just philosophy. We rely more on our God-philosophy, based in human traditions that we are just more familiar with, than we rely on God's presence in our hearts and lives ultimately making it according to Christ.

Tyler Jones from Vintage spoke Sunday about these Biblical issues and made the case that was so true in my life as an intellectually struggling Freshmen in Ehrman's class that on the road to Emmaus, Jesus says that believing the Scriptures is a matter of the mind, yes, AND ALSO THE HEART. If your heart is not engaged along with your mind in the text, then you cannot have faith from God, because He desires us to be wholehearted in this belief, not just on paper. And I agree and think that most people who struggle to accept the Bible as authentic or reliable have primarily obstructions in their hearts more than head knowledge that is too difficult to reconcile.

I'm about to go meet in Lenoir hopefully with some International students who are interested in philosophy or ethics and who might be stimulated to a relationship with God through thinking out realities of life and the ethical code written on all our hearts. Many Chinese especially have never thought through linearly the wisdom and folly of a lingering Buddhist/Agnostic worldview and there could really be some breakthroughs tonight in some hearts! Pray with me that some will come to the free debate in Memorial Hall (holding almost 2000 people and is sold out!). Also pray that none of us will be taken captive by anything but Christ's real presence in our hearts!