Monday, October 31, 2005

Upcoming Events at NBB

Serves me right...I stored my favorites with all the Halloween references on the computer I can't get to at the moment, so my Halloween post can't be written sans lots more work than I can fit into the time I have before nighty-night time. I also haven't yet thought through all my thoughts on this discussion, which I'm thinking I'll end up posting here - as another series. I don't think I've ever laid out my view of what Christianity is (and is not) so this may be an appropriate time for that topic.

I'm also considering doing a series on "why I'm not a Democrat/why I'm not a Republican" but I'm not sure how interested folks 'round here are in politics. I know some are, some aren't.

So...here's the deal. I will start up with whatever topic is "voted" at the top via email or the comments section. Your choices, dear readers, are:

-Halloween (one post)
-Salvation/What is(n't) Christianity (series)
-Politics of mine (series)
-Reader's choice (any ? you want me to answer?)

Votes will be taken through the time I make my post on Wednesday. And while voting matters, I may take it upon myself to interject with the Halloween post early just for timeliness. Nobody said this blog is a democracy.

Stop by tomorrow for another Trippin' 'Round the 'Sphere, and perhaps something else. I hear tell there's a new SCOTUS nominee. And good news from Haiti.

God bless!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Trippin' 'Round the 'Sphere - 10/26 Edition

Christian Carnival will be up soon at White Ribbon Warriors. Be sure to check it out this week...
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Keep Jeff in your prayers as this kind of frustration can eat a blogger up! Check Hewitt's blog of the week contest (and track Jeff's blog) to see if we can break Jeff free of the Lucci-itis that seems to have befallen his wonderful blog.
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I hate seeing things like this. Sex is too important to not discuss with our kids. Contra society writ large, it is a big deal - and there are consequences to misuse.
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Did I talk about this before? I think so...but it's still cool.
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Adrian posts on penal substitution and atonement - two concepts I find closely related to the concept of redemption I talked about yesterday. It may turn into a short series as there are a few more things I may want to say on redemption.
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Yet another reason I don't mention where I work on my blog. And speaking of Dilbert, there's now a Dilbert blog. As always, I don't vouch for the content - Dogbert can be a little crass, so don't blame me if you don't like what you see there.
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And now it's confirmed. I'm...
Charlie Brown
You are Charlie Brown!


Which Peanuts Character are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Wow. Hopefully I'll get to kick that football soon.

God bless!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Redeeming Redemption

I'm a sucker for a good redemption story. I don't think I'm alone - many of pop culture's hits are redemptions stories. I love them, probably because I know how desperately I need to be redeemed myself. And I don't think I'm alone in that.

The best redemption story of all time is told in the Bible (he says, stating an opinion few people would find shocking considering frequent topics on this blog.) But there are other good ones too. The most famous is probably the Star Wars hexad, which told of the fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker. Stories and songs of people who fail and subsequently redeem themselves (or, less frequently, are redeemed by someone else - perhaps American individualism has something to do with that) are a huge part of our cultural heritage.

The influence of the Bible in our cultural mythos of redemption is undeniable, but of late I think it is beginning to be replaced by a humanistic counterfeit. Why do I think this? I think this based on two primary forms of evidence. First, while all the "redeemed" in modern entertainment are flawed, they are not called sinners. As a people we have lost any sense of sin in our lives. We are proud to say that Jesus Himself loved the poor and outcasts - but we ignore that He was quite clear that He was here for sinners. And all of us are sinners. Minimizing sin, and our partaking thereof, alters the redemption equation. No longer do we need God to save us from sin, but rather we can do okay on our own. After all, we're not that bad. Or so we think. When we think we're not so bad, and ignore sin, we risk much. If sin earns death it is at our peril that we forget the seriousness of our transgressions.

The second line of evidence is hinted at above. In pop culture we see people redeem themselves. Part of this surely stems from American individualism. But much of this is the result of our ignorance of sin. Redemption from sin requires someone else to redeem us: we can't do it on our own. Thinking we can, getting sucked into a modern philosophy that says we can earn our own way back to God is just as dangerous as thinking sin is no big deal in the first place. We need God to save us, we can't earn it ourselves.

The true greatness of the Biblical redemption story isn't in the quality of the literature, or the vividness of the narratives. The true greatness is that the redemption story in the Bible is true and anyone can be a redeemed character. All it takes is receiving the free gift offered by God out of His love.

I hope we regain, as a culture, a proper sense of what true redemption is. We need to remember how serious sin is, how everybody is a sinner, and how the only way to be saved is through a redeemer outside ourselves. It's the greatest story ever told for a reason. Let's redeem the idea of redemption and tell stories of sin and a savior. When we do that, Hollywood can't compete.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Trippin' 'Round the 'Sphere - 10/20 Edition

Looking at my Favorites folder, it's been too long since my last "trip" - lots o'links I've stored away for this. So enough chit chat:

Congrats to Wayne and Justin on their recent Warnie awards. Well deserved says I. Both Minnesota bloggers too - just so's you know bloggers ROCK up here. (Also, kudos to another Minnesota blogger - The Captain's been blogging for two years!)
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Latest Cross Blogging symposium is up - topic is "Political Ambitions & Working Class Realities." And Christian Carnival is up at World of Sven. A last carnival/symposium plug too - Adrian is talking up the God or Not carnival seeking entries from theists and atheists alike.
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Keep an eye out for these and be sure to nominate (cough) your favorite (cough-northerburbsblog-cough) Evangelical blogs...
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I've had this same verse bug me from time to time.
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Please pray for Rebecca and family.
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Please pray for those in Wilma's path (and visit SciGuy for updates.)
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Pray for Alice out there in Cali.
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Do I really need another reason to love Minnesota?
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And I'll wrap today (with lots more links saved, there'll be another post or two coming soon) with La Shawn's thoughts on what it means to be a Christian.

God bless!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Yet Another Meme

Alice decided to cure my writer's block (busy at work...not lots of time to go perusing much to get ideas...need a vacation, etc...you know how it is.) Since she went to the trouble to tag me, and since I'm behind enough in the news that I have little new to say, here goes another meme. Enjoy!

10 Years Ago:
Um, that would be 1995? Wow. Time flies. I was between my first and second B.A. trips, and working my way along driving school bus while working out the details. My wife and I, married just under two years, were living in a nearby suburb in a quaint little apartment, and sharing one quaint little car.

5 Years Ago:
Summer of 2000, was into my 2nd year of "real life" employment in the corporate world, and 2/3 of the way through my first year as a (town)homeowner. We also were enjoying our first daughter's recent arrival, as she'd have been about 5 months old at this point.

1 Year Ago:
Blogless and watching with great interest the unfolding Presidential race. But that's just the political junky in me. First daughter was in pre-school, and youngest was 2 1/2 years old - still growing leaps/bounds etc. Halfway through my MBA program, or nearly so at any rate.

Yesterday:
Took eldest daughter to kindergarten, then worked from home to save gas and sanity (helps when the people I work with live in other cities anyway.) Met the family at the school for a fundraising dinner and book fair, followed by a night of hanging out with the girls while my wife attended community band rehearsal. Caught up on some news/blog entries from (this is embarrasing) three weeks back.

5 Snacks I enjoy:
-Doritos
-Cheese/crackers
-Doritos
-Homemade nachos
-Doritos

5 Songs I know all the words to:
-Jesus Loves Me
-Amazing Grace
-Hail Minnesota (state hymn - I was in the U of Minn. marching band for three years)
-Thief (Third Day)
-Silent Night (and about a thousand others...I was once music director of my college radio station, and have an affinity for all things musical)

5 Things I'd do with 100 Million Dollars:
-Tithe
-Ensure the family (esp. my parents and in-laws) are debt free
-Start a shelter for unwed/poor mothers (or mothers-to-be) who need help
-Open a private nature center/preserve to provide free/low-cost programs to inner city schools
-Lose the day job and start writing (er, I mean, try to have a go at actually writing for a living - I already write here) from my own private island

5 Places I'd run away to:
-Denver
-Mazatlan
-Ireland
-Australia
-The island in Lost

5 Things I'd never wear:
-Women's clothing
-70's style clothing
-Makeup unnecessary to my starring role in a Hollywood blockbuster (a guy can dream)
-Zubaz
-A political t-shirt

5 Favorite TV Shows:
-Lost (iTunes now sells episodes for download! I LOVE technology!)
-Battlestar Galactica (current version, not the original - though that was campy fun)
-The Amazing Race (someday I'm hoping to be on it)
-CSI (LV version - other two are lesser versions)
-Monk (if you haven't seen it, the show is hilarious - very well written and acted)

5 Biggest Joys
-God
-Family
-Friends
-Reading
-Golf/softball/football/hockey

5 Favorite Toys:
-Computer
-8mm film projector
-DVD player
-Golf clubs
-Whatever my daughters want me to be enjoying with them at a given moment (i.e. tea sets, dolls, balls, cars, etc...)

What is Cool in My Place:
Lately, everything since we're keeping the windows open at night and our lows have been in the 40's/50's. Yeah, I know, that's awful...but there are lots of cool things in my place, but mostly due to sentimentality. I can't think of one that sticks out more than anything else.

I tag the following:
Nobody...but if you want to play along, let me know in the comments.

God bless!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Character & The Local Team

Seems the local football team found something to celebrate a few days back (though what that could be, I'm not sure considering their play this season.) And for those who thought ridding themselves of Randy Moss would improve the team's character, think again. As I write this, Jay Leno is on day 7 of monologue jokes at the team's expense.

I love football. Playing is great fun. Coaching 5th/6th grade football was a blast and something I miss. Being in the stands for a University of Minnesota/University of Wisconsin game is awesome fun (except this year.) But of late I've paid less and less attention to the local pro franchise.

I used to live and die, metaphorically speaking, with how the purple clad lads did each Sunday. Now, though, I find myself why I even bother. I enjoy watching the games, but the emotional investment just isn't there. I now have zero problem missing part, or even all, of a Viking's game on TV due to hanging out after church.

And this change of attitude has nothing to do with the team's play. Instead, it has everything to do with the team's players. I'm sure some, maybe even most, of the players are decent guys. But more and more we see stories about players who whine about contracts they've signed, or who are arrested for this/that crime, or who bed the groupies while the wife's in another city.

"But," people say, "they're not role models. They're just athletes, and we shouldn't care what they do off the court." Hogwash. These people are celebrities, for better or worse, and what they do off the court or field is plastered across newspapers, talk radio, and the Tonight Show monologue. Our children can't help but see these athletes be worshipped on Sunday, and then hear about their "dark side" during the week. When we feign outrage at their escapades, but then tune in on Sunday to cheer them on again, our kids see that too. They notice that we're being hypocritical, and that sin ain't so bad if you can catch a ball.

In a perfect world, kids would only look to their parents as role models. But even in this imperfect world, many kids do look to their parents as role models, and sometimes they see us worshipping the celebrities who they know to be flawed. I don't think it's coincidental that I'm less likely to overlook a failed drug test now than I would have been before I became a father. I don't want my kids to see me "preach" that sin is okay if you are famous, or talented, or rich, or...anything. I don't expect perfection - God knows I'm so imperfect as to render moot any self-righteousness I may have. Like it or not, though, when the sins make the paper, you can't ignore them. Fair? Maybe not. But it's not my choice that my kids see public sin - it's my choice how they see me react to it. And no longer will I endorse it, even passively.

Character matters, and for my girls to have good character they need to see it modeled. By my wife and I. Part of that is rejecting those with obvious bad character regardless of what talents they may have. I wish the Vikings well...but I would rather the team gains good character than wins. And if I don't see another game, it won't bother me. Spending Sunday afternoons teaching my daughters what God says about character seems a much more fruitful thing to do.

God bless!

Monday, October 17, 2005

An Even Dozen

Twelve years ago yesterday I made one of the top five decisions of my life. The first four, of course, being to follow Christ:)

On October 16, 1993 I married my best friend. It's a trite cliche, too often, that we marry our best friends. I've seen too many marriages fail (though nowhere near the 50% number so often cited) to believe that it is a frequent enough occurrence. But in my case it is absolutely true. She is the proverbial ying to my yang, and such a perfect fit that the minister who married us (um...my Dad!) said nobody ever matched as well in his years of doing pre-marriage counseling assessments.

Mrs. Northern 'burbs is everything I could ask for, and much more. I married way over my head, and to complete the cliche-o-rama, I find the blessing of her to be evidence that God is generous and gracious. I certainly don't deserve a lifelong companion like her.

In lieu of a laundry list of the obvious (e.g. her beauty makes a sunset over a mountain lake surrounded by wildflowers look grotesque) I'll just say that I daily thank God for my wife, and I wish for nothing more on this earth than another (few) dozen years worshipping and working alongside her - and I look forward to an eternity of anniversaries spent glorifying God with my most precious gift this side of Christ Himself.

God bless you sweetheart!

(And the rest of you too!)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Trippin' 'Round the 'Sphere - 10/11 Edition

Saturday was a rather good day. We were able to cart off the tree I had to cut down (dutch elm disease - not fun) to the town disposal site. On the multiple trips between home and there we listened to much of the Gopher football victory. That evening, I was able to watch my eldest daughter in a dance line show at the local high school (she participated in a clinic earlier in the week, and then got to show off at the actual show - along w/the high school varsity team. And if I may say so myself, them kindergartners know how to boogie.) And then we got home in time to see on the news that one of my alma maters won a football doubleheader. Yep, they played two games in one day, winning both.

I no longer felt quite so tired from hauling wood around all day.

I also finished my Organizational Development course, leaving me one course and a final project until the MBA is finished. Nice to be getting closer!

Enough about me. Here are some interesting things ala the 'net.
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Cross Blogging asks what would happen if everyone blogged? Sort of a meta-blogging symposium this week.
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Dr. Mark Roberts is doing a series on NT reliability here - and since his PhD was on the NT (if I remember) he's doing it better than I did!
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Oh, how I wish I could go. For those of you in SoCal this weekend, check it out and tell me how it went.
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Mark Lee is another fan of Lost. So is Jollyblogger. Come. Join us. Resistance is futile. (My wife is now hooked - after actively trying to avoid watching this show I kept telling her about. I did it with Battlestar Galactica too!)
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Huh. And to think, I was available and a total stranger to the President.
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Christian Carnival is at Random Acts of Verbiage this week. Kinda late for getting submissions in, but check out the entries come tomorrow.
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Yeah, I'm concerned.
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Who knew Tolkien wrote non-fiction?

God bless!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Isn't it Amazing?

My favorite hymn is Amazing Grace. A small bit of trivia, to be sure. It is so often sung as to almost be taken by granted - but it's a very, very powerful statement. God's grace, so very amazing because it saved a wretch like me. We don't often use the word "wretch" anymore, though we should. It's a good word. It conveys the sense of sin, the literal wretchedness of our self-centered humanistic nature.

The word wretch is not the only word in the song, though, that is underused today. The word "amazing" is also underused. Sure, you hear it from time to time: "that play was 'amazing'" is heard at a football game. "I'm 'amazed' he made it that long before he fell into corruption" we hear about politicians. "Those special effects were 'amazing!'" people say after the latest Hollywood blockbuster.

But how often do we use the word about God, the One who really is amazing? How often do we truly stand in awe of a God who created the universe with His word, healed the sick, and raised the dead? Not very.

We don't fear God, and we often don't find His workings that incredible. We're spoiled by the images we see on the movie screen, and oh the wonders of modern medicine and technology. We create life through artificial insemination and take it through abortion, euthanasia and murder. Who needs God? We can do what He does.

Here's a secret worth remembering, though. None of this holds a candle to God's power. No levee can hold back floods He deems should break through. No vaccine can cure a disease so as to thwart His purposes. He is omnipotent, mighty, righteous and holy. We cannot call a universe into existence by whispering "let there be light!" We are unable to raised the dead by saying "Lazarus, come forth." We cannot defeat death, and even our meager ability to delay death is given us by God. It is so easy to focus on His love that we forget His holy wrath, poured out on individuals, cities, nations and even the world.

In the book of Mark, there are no fewer than twelve mentions of times where people were amazed at what Jesus did or said. In Acts, the Holy Spirit inspired amazement at Pentecost. Perhaps we are more cultured than these first-century folk, though, and the things that should amaze us strike us as humdrum.

If that's so, I think it unfortunate. When we lose our sense of awe, of amazement at what God does, at who He is, we have lost sight of God. We are no longer worshipping Him as He is, but as we think He is. He is amazing - awesome in a way that no valley girl phrase can possibly describe.

God created all. He heals. He gives life, and takes life. He metes out justice and, more amazingly, mercy and grace. God is amazing. We can't take Him for granted, or push past His power to a "daddy figure." Approach and worship God in awe and amazement. He is powerful and just and righteous and it is beyond understanding - amazing - that He deigned to love us enough to save us from ourselves. When we understand the depths to which He chose to come in order that we might be rescued from the distress of our own making, we realize that He is amazing.

That grace, that love, yes, that is truly, vitally and incredibly amazing.

God bless!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Quick Trip - 'Round the 'Sphere (Rev-Ed edition)

Since I wrapped up my series on evil and haven't yet been inspired to start another series, thought I'd take a mini-break of one day and point you to ...

The Christian Carnival!

This week it is hosted by Ed, of Attention Span. Ed organized the carnival along a Gilligan's Island theme. If I hadn't read his comments, though, I'd be concerned that he put my entry into the Gilligan section (I've always wanted to be the Professor myself - though of all the nifty things he could do with a coconut surely couldn't compare to what Maryann could do ala coconut cream pie.)

Lots of work went into this, and I'd encourage you to go read it. And, while I'm verrrry far behind on my blog surfing of late, I have noticed a few other good posts at Attention Span I'd like to point out:

Here you can learn more about Ed through the longest post I've seen him write. If he's this verbose with this meme, I have no shot to get through it in less than a novella-length post.

Ed also updated the site. Let him know if you like green.

To drink, or not to drink - that is Ed's question. I come down on the as-long-as-you're-not-getting-drunk-or-gluttonous-drinking-is-okay side. Hard not so, since I make wine, but I do believe that drinking can certainly be taken too far more easily than some other vices. And if my having an after-dinner drink causes another Christian to stumble, away goes the wine.

And, on something difficult to discuss in our society, sacrifices.

All of these posts are well worth a few minutes time of reading and reflection.

God bless!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Evil - Links Abound

I'm not the only one discussing evil of late. Seems something like hurricane Katrina (or just the evil present daily) keeps this topic front and center. In case you didn't find my thoughts completely fulfilling, here is some more commentary from around the 'sphere on the topic. Enjoy!

Jeremy (aka Parableman) posts on Natural Disasters and Divine Judgment.

Dr. Mohler posted a two part series (first here, second here) on "God in the Storm." He also posted on The Goodness of God and the Reality of Evil.

OneTrueGodBlog posts the question Job and the Gulf Coast
, and a few good thoughts are offered by some astute minds.

Stand to Reason talks about the presumption of those who claim Katrina is God's judgment.

The Thinklings offers up this post on evil, sin and the fact that the Devil is not God's equal.

Jeri, at Challies talks about the reality of the devil.

Leadership U links to a number of post-tsunami commentaries.

This is but a small taste of what's out there. If you find other posts of interest, please do let me know!

With this I'll wrap my series on evil. I don't know how many questions I answered (or how many more I created) but I hope it was valuable for at least provoking some thought. Evil exists, and it's tragic - but God does love us and shows mercy and compassion even in the dark times. Hold to that comfort when all else appears doomed.

God bless!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Evil in Summary

So, evil exists (the few people who really deny its existence are rare, and if I may be so bold...delusional.) And as per my last post none of us are immune from doing evil. Since evil is also the cause of death, and since it brought about the curse of disasters and suffering, we are all to blame when things go horribly awry. It is our sin, collectively and throughout history, that has brought nature to a state far below its original.

This is, again, not to say that particular acts of evil or suffering are directly attributable to any one person's sin, or the malfeasance of a region. God has many purposes at work, and as His ways are beyond our comprehension we should be careful not to get too far in front in assigning blame for a hurricane on the debauchery of a city, or for a tsunami on the sin of many nations whose faith is different from ours. God uses suffering for displaying His glory, for disciplining and correcting, for building character, for teaching us new things and helping us grow.

It is hard to see the silver linings in the rapidly whirling clouds of a tornado, but God has put them there. We may never see them this side of death, but that is where faith comes into play. I don't have the answer to the question of "why" evil exists (other than we bring it on through sin.) But I do know that there is One sovereign and omnipotent, who can redeem even the worst situation.

I also use faith to see mercy in tragedy. Why, we ask, would a loving God do or allow this? What we fail to ask in our self-centeredness is how a just and righteous God can be so merciful that we haven't suffered even more. It is by God's grace that Katrina killed as few as it did, and that the damage was as limited. Not an easy thing to say about an evil that destroyed many cities and towns, and ended many lives. But it is true; were we to all get the due penalty for our sin we wouldn't be here at all. God's grace and mercy limit the damage we've actually earned.

I'll wrap up this series with some links to what other bloggers and commentators are saying about evil. That will be tomorrow. Then on to who knows what?

God bless!