Thursday, July 16, 2009

Men in the Media + Torchwood mini-review


Just a short post to give a quick few thoughts on Torchwood. Yes I know it was a week ago but it takes me time to write.

I watched the first series of Torchwood and then avoided the second. Mainly because I was sick of the unnecessary homosexual and sexual content of the show. It drifted so far from a scifi show into the realms of a Channel 5 trash show that it became unwatchable. We get it Russell T Davies, you are a Gay man. We get it John Barrowman, you are also a Gay man. Now take the huge chip of your shoulder and get on with writing decent stories. Sorry Rant over!

So with that background I watched this 5 part mini-series with a certain trepidation. I liked what I saw in the trailers so gave it a go. I have to say I found it on the whole very entertaining. It certainly pulled no punches and didn’t wimp out when difficult plot threads had to work themselves out adequately.

The end solution to the Alien threat was uncomfortable because it involved a child dying. Interesting resolution that, with one person being sacrificed for the sake of many so that they could be saved from an eternity of hell as a drug supply to the Aliens, the 456. Remind you of anything ;-)

The government discussions over who should be taken by the Aliens was well written. One can imagine exactly that kind of solution being put forward by any government. Save the fittest and sacrifice the weakest. How very Darwinian!

However what I found stood out for me was the character of Jack Harkness. On the one hand he is very heroic, given that he can’t die this is not very surprising and may even not be heroic. On the other he came across as a very weak Man. He runs away from emotionally difficult situations, hiding behind a mysterious facade or actually running away physically as he did at the end. Instead of facing the consequences of the decisions he makes.

This got me thinking about how masculinity is portrayed in the media. I came to the conclusion of badly I think. Looking at Michael Jackson again. Here was a man, idolised by millions, yet was a seriously disturbed, abused and lost human being. A small boy stuck in an adults body.

So many of the men we see in public life are either chauvinistic or effeminate and weak. Now I am not talking physically here. A man can be a good man and still be what would be described as physically weedy.

I am not going in to what makes a good, godly man now but just wanted to make the observation. Men are no longer men and have been tamed by the feminists and PC brigade. Let’s discover what a real man is before our whole society goes further down into the sewer of broken homes, no respect for authority, abuse etc…

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Thoughts on Idol/Hero Worship in light of the death of Michael Jackson

After the death of any major popular public figure it always brings with it a major outpouring of hysteria, sentiment and grief. The death of Princess Diana and now Michael Jackson are two very good examples. What you see reported on the news for days afterwards is the views of anyone and everyone who claimed to have met, known, passed in the street one day, that person who has died.

Now of course it is sad when someone dies. What I find troublesome though is the value held to these public figures compared to any ‘normal’ person. Thousands of adults and children die every day, around the world, through starvation, war, illness, abortion, accidents etc… These countless thousands are no less important and valuable human beings. So what is it that causes us to be affected so much by the death of a public figure who we really didn’t know personally. We may have liked the music, liked what they stood for, admired their determination in the face of struggle. But does their death really warrant the mass scenes of grief and tears, the hype and hysteria that are played out on the news. People gathering where the person died, lived, is buried etc… just to be near something of that person.

This level of fanaticism and reaction shows that these public figures like MJ, Princess Diana, Elvis, John Lennon, Kurt Cobain etc.. are raised to a level of ‘Hero Worship’ by many people. They may not describe it as worship themselves, as ‘Worship’ tends to be seen in a religious setting  or as an externally visible act. However the reaction to that person no longer being around uncovers the reality of the heart.

We are all Worshippers! We are all Thirsty!

You see we are all worshippers. It is irrelevant whether you affiliate yourself with a religion of some description. Even the most die hard, ardent atheist is a worshipper. Richard Dawkins is a worshipper, mainly of himself, but a worshipper none the less. The question is what or who do we worship? What or who do we lift up as having ultimate value in our lives? Who or what do we pour ourselves out to, giving most of our time, money and energy? Who or what has first place in your life, is preeminent? Who or what, when it calls, do you drop everything to give it attention or time?

Below is a list of some, but by no means all, things that you can worship in your life:

  • Your Job
  • Sex
  • Money
  • Food
  • Alcohol
  • Sports Team or person
  • Pop/Music Star or Public Figure
  • Your Husband or Wife
  • Children
  • Relationships
  • Technology
  • Drugs
  • Religion
  • Television
  • The Environment
  • Health

Now most of that list are not actually bad things in and of themselves. Some are very good things indeed and are certainly to be enjoyed. But the problem comes when, to quote Mark Driscoll, ‘a good things becomes a God thing which is a bad thing!’. To put it in Biblical language, you knew I would go there eventually, it is Idolatry, plain and simple.

When something becomes the controlling factor that determines what you do day to day then it may have become an Idol. I realise Idolatry is not a term used much in modern language. It possibly conjures up images of stone or wooden figures, shrines and primitive people bowing down to them. However in the Bible it is essentially anything you place above God in your life.

Now for someone who is not a Christian this will not seem a particular problem. Why would you place God above any of the list above? Which is true, you wouldn’t and can’t do anything else other than to give yourself to one or several of the above or any host of other things this world offers a thirsty soul.

Which leads me on to the second point. We are all ‘Thirsty’! In Jeremiah 2:12-13, a chapter strong in language against Idolatry especially verse 20, God calls Himself ‘the fountain of living waters’ and condemns Israel for ignoring him and trying to find water for themselves. In John 4:13-14 Jesus indicates we are thirsty souls needing the ‘spiritual’ water that only He can provide that ‘wells up to eternal life’. The Bible is full of language indicating we are thirsty souls looking for satisfaction to our spiritual thirst that only God can provide. These are often linked with passages where people are chastised for trying to get that thirst satisfied in places other than the Lord God. This is called Idolatry and as we shall see later, God is not impressed at all!

So why are we the way we are. Why are we Thirsty Worshippers desperate for the deep longing in our heart and soul to be satisfied by something.

Why are we all Worshippers? Why are we all Thirsty Souls?

Firstly the Bible indicates that God is effectively a worshipping community of One. The Father, Son and Holy Sprit are, though One God, always in a state of Glorifying the other. God the Father glorifies Jesus the Son, Jesus glorifies the Father and The Holy Spirit both. God is complete in Himself and needs nothing and no one. He did not create us because He needed anything from us.

If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine. Psalm 50:12

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. Acts 17:24-25

“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” Romans 11:35

Now since we human beings are made in the Image and Likeness of God, Genesis 1:26-27, it follows that we therefore are worshippers. However we are not God. We are created and He is creator. We were quite simply made to Worship God and have perfect communion and relationship with Him, as Adam and Eve did in Eden. In that relationship with God we were created to find perfect satisfaction and wholeness for our heart and soul. There was no emotional pain, rejection, fear, abuse or anything negative that we find so often in our relationships today. So what went wrong? Why do we now find our heart longing for something better than what we have. No matter how good our relationships are we still, deep down, know that something is wrong. It could end, it could be taken from us. We know that we will be hurt, rejected, let down, disappointed by those around us. We fear hoping too much for something or someone in case what we place our trust in falls down around us.

When the devil tempted Eve he did so by subverting Gods word and undermining the perfect trust relationship with God. In Genesis 3:1 the devil used the term “Did God actually say?”. This put doubt in Eve’s mind and the rest of the conversation raised a question regarding Gods goodness. The effect of the fall and sin means we are cut off from any relationship with God. Sin stands between us and God and we are lost. We are cut off from the only true source of salvation and satisfaction that our souls need. We doubt God’s goodness towards us and spend our lives trying to organise our own satisfaction and salvation. We are thirsty and we look everywhere but God to find something to quench our parched souls. Psalm 42 and Psalm 63 are wonderful descriptions of a thirsty soul longing for God to bring satisfaction.

So we are created to be worshippers, to pour ourselves out to something or someone and we are thirsty beings who are no longer in touch with the only source of true thirst quenching satisfaction, The Lord God. So we spend our lives worshipping that which we think will satisfy our thirsty souls, bring salvation to our lives, relief from the pain and a little taste of heaven on earth.

So what practically does this look like in our lives?

What Idolatrous Worship Looks like

I had a picture/vision, whatever you want to call it, recently that was of a desert oasis. A person in this oasis sees another one appear in the distance. Not being satisfied with the one they are in and thinking the other one will be better they run out into the heat of the desert towards that new one. When finally they reach that one, hot, weary, dehydrated, gasping for breath and desperate for water it vanishes into nothing. It was a mirage, a trick of the mind. Then they see another one and off they head. Forgetting the real one they left in the distance. This is what we do with God and idols.

We might give ourselves to our career at the expense of family and friends. We might become addicted to pornography, sex, money, alcohol, people, religious activity, whatever it may be that we think is the thing that will quench our thirst.  This could be the adulterous couple, the parents who let their children dictate how the family is run never saying no. The unmarried couple living together. The person who start the path down drug addiction with just the odd puff on a spliff. The person or couple always doing something on their house to make it look better. The person who changes job regularly. Any number of things that brings the high, the feeling of being alive, the relief that thing brings us temporarily is all with the aim of satisfying that thirst.

But it never, ever does, not fully. It is an illusion. It may give the impression of temporarily satisfying us but eventually we realise we are still thirsty. We either carry on in pursuit of that thing in the hope it once again brings some relief or we switch to something else. Endlessly running after something that will always leave us face down in the mud, more desperate, more determined to find something under our control to satisfy us. Every person is caught in this endless cycle, some more obviously than others. However every single human being that has ever lived and will ever live is in the same situation. A sinner apart from God, lost, thirsty with no possibility of finding for themselves a way out.

What God has to Say about Idolatry

I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. - Isaiah 42:8

I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god - Isaiah 44:6

To whom will you liken me and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be alike? - Isaiah 46:5

I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me - Isaiah 46:9

Deuteronomy 4:15-31

15 “Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, 16 beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, 17 the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, 18 the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth. 19 And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.

24 For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

25 “When you father children and children's children, and have grown old in the land, if you act corruptly by making a carved image in the form of anything, and by doing what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, so as to provoke him to anger, 26 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will soon utterly perish from the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess. You will not live long in it, but will be utterly destroyed. 27 And the Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the Lord will drive you. 28 And there you will serve gods of wood and stone, the work of human hands, that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. 29 But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. 30 When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the Lord your God and obey his voice. 31 For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.

1 Corinthians 10:1-22 Paul warns against idolatry and goes as far as saying that any other God except the God of the Bible is a demon and reminds us what happened in Exodus 32 when Israel fell into idolatry.

Romans 1:18-32 The great passage where Paul sais we have in verse 25, ‘because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator’.

There are innumerable passages that show God is not at all impressed with His children worshipping any one or thing other than Him. This may seem harsh and wrong on the face of it. However, firstly God is God, creator and has every right to expect His creation to worship Him. It is not wrong in any way. It is selfishness, prideful, folly and arrogant for a human to desire or demand to be worshipped but not God. Secondly it is in our absolute best interest that we worship God and that God is jealous for our worship. He knows what is best for us, that we can only find true satisfaction in worshipping Him. As John Piper would say “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him!”.


The Solution to our Idolatry

So the obvious solution to our Idolatry is Worship of the one true God of the Bible. The God who humbled himself to become a human man, lived a perfect sinless life. Died in our place, took our sins upon himself and imputed his righteousness. By his death and resurrection we have access to God and our relationship restored and our sins forgiven if we turn to Christ. We have a new, regenerated heart that knows where to find satisfaction. This doesn’t mean we always go there but it means we can go there. I hate the idolatry I find in my own life that robs me of joy in my relationship with God and everyone else.

But by the Holy Spirit we can turn from temptation and idolatry to worship God and find joy and peace and love and security.

The first of the Ten Commandments is in Exodus 20:3-6

3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

If that is our first priority and our hearts desire then all the other commandments fall into place. If we worship God and God alone we will not need to or desire to turn to alcohol, sex, porn, adultery, shopping, people, jobs, money, greed. All our non physiological problems are found in idolatry in one form or another. Where we seek something other than God to satisfy what only God can.

Only through Jesus Christ can you find forgiveness of sins. Only in worship of God can you find the answer to your thirsts and longings that this world absolutely, 100% fails to satisfy. Stop listening to the lies that you can do it yourself apart from Jesus.

Michael Jackson died, the ‘King of Pop’. Every idol, public figure, pop star, hero, person and everything will pass away but the ‘King of Kings’, the Lord Jesus will remain forever.

Only in him can we find a passionate, loving, all satisfying relationship that can see you through everything this world throws at you and into eternity with Him rather than eternity in hell.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Brilliant Introduction to Calvinism from John Piper

If you click the following link there is a brilliant summary and introduction to Calvinism from John Piper. If you have ever wondered what it is, who Calvin was and why it makes sense for many people then click HERE.

Also just cam across this PDF book on the 'Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World'. Contains some arguments against the emergent church view of theology.