Monday, February 26, 2007

How to lose...and still glorify God

Saturday night was the Covenant Life School girl's varsity basketball championship game. The team has been amazing all year long, blowing out most of the opponents by something like 25 points average every game. Everyone (at least, all of us CovLifers) was expecting it to be an easy game. But the team, Grace Brethren (GB) fought back, and fought back hard. At the half, GB was leading by 8 points. CLS broke away in the second half, though, scoring close to 20 offensive points to GB's 5. Easy win, right? Wrong. GB also got to take an estimated 25 free throws, almost all of which they sunk, leading them to a 52-43 win. Then the CLS girls must have played really dirty, right? Wrong again. It all gets summed up by what I saw at halftime: one of the refs walked up to one of the GB girls, winked at her, spoke to her with a smile, and patted her on the arm as she walked away.

It was one of the most frustrating games I've ever watched. The refs were so obviously biased towards GB; they called probably close to 35 fouls during the course of the game on CLS, compared to 15 on GB. And any observer could have told you that the vast majority of the fouls were not really fouls. Especially in the fourth quarter, anytime a GB player would take a shot, there would be a foul called on CLS, leading to more and more free throw points. Four of the five CLS starters fouled out of the game, one of them on a technical foul that was not a real technical.
I walked out of that gym fuming mad and ready to vent to anyone who would listen. I couldn't believe that that much blatant bias could a game between two Christian schools, no less. Yet the defeated girls took it all so well. They weren't jumping up and down in happiness, of course, but there was no throwing objects, no trash-talking. They merely congratulated the other team, packed up their stuff, and left. And that said so much to me.

I am a very competitive person by nature, but I've always thought of myself as a good sport. When my middle school football team lost a very tight game, I blamed the refs for a bad call but acknowledged that it was ultimately one of our mistakes that lost us the game. When we lost the championship game to the same team, I acknowledged that the other team just played better than we did. Whenever the Redskins lose to the Cowboys, I accept it (luckily, I haven't had to deal with that too much lately). When the Bears lost to the Colts in the Super Bowl, I shrugged off the good-natured jabs from friends and moved on.

But this game has made me rethink the whole idea of sportsmanship. Why are we good sports? Do we not have to be good sports if we only lost because of a bad ref? Does that make it okay to have a bad attitude? Do we only have to be good sports in a fair game? No, and that becomes clear when we think about what the purpose of good sportsmanship is: glorifying God in our reaction to anything that we win or lose. This can be a chess game, a game of tag, or the championship basketball game. How we respond when we lose says a lot about how we view God.

I have graciously had my attitude corrected by several people (since I seem to be refusing to learn this lesson), most importantly my mom, but also several good friends. One of them, Liz, responded to my complaint with the simple phrase "but God is sovereign." Although that's not really what I wanted to hear in the midst of my complaining, that's what I needed to hear. When I (or my team) lose, God planned for that to happen. It's not a surprise to him. This doesn't mean that we don't try our hardest when we're playing, or that we can't be disappointed, or even that we can't report unfairness to the authorities (which I plan on doing), but it does mean that whatever the outcome, God is in control. We shouldn't have a bad attitude, fuming and reliving it all in our heads or just yelling at the other team. This is exactly what God planned to happen to us, and whatever God does is meant for our sanctification. He makes us lose to make us more like him.

Another aspect is that being a good sport is a good witness to a watching world. I know that the girls' measured response, respectful and accepting, impressed many in the audience as it did me. Yet, knowing most of those girls, I know that this peace came from their inner trust in God. I respect those girls highly for their God-glorifying response to the game, and also for the way they represented God to a watching world.

I'm still struggling to come to grips with this loss, but just writing this post has solidified in my mind how I was sinning in my response to the game. I was mad, steaming mad, and forgot that God had planned the game that way in ages past. So I can rest in God's providence, knowing that he is doing what is best for everyone, including me. But I can also still say, "Beat Grace Brethren on Thursday, Cougars!"

(photo credit: Lydia Jane)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Odds and Ends V

A real post is in the makings, but may not be done for a few days. Until that, enjoy these links.

  • Al Mohler discusses the TIME cover article on crisis-pregnancy centers as encouraging to the pro-life movement.
  • Michael Flaherty, president of Walden Media, gave an excellent speech at Hillsdale a few months ago about reading books and redeeming Hollywood.
  • The Wall Street Journal describes the deficiencies in the new Wilberforce movie Amazing Grace; namely, the way it downplays the role of faith in the whole anti-slavery movement. Not to diss the movie or anything, since my parents liked it and I plan on seeing it, but I find this disheartening. (HT Justin Taylor)
  • Have you heard? James Cameron, Academy Award-winning director of Titanic, is out to prove that the bodies of Jesus, Mary Magdelene, and his children have been found. Thankfully, James White has details and the proper apologetic response to these charges. (HT Centuri0n)


  • There are new Demotivators! Here's my favorite, for your viewing pleasure:
  • God Version 6.0 has been released. It's softer, non-judgmental, and totally compatible with any faith type! Plus it's been totally restructured! It's a sure-fire winner, get yours today! (HT Dan Phillips)
  • Casey posted a way to find your gangsta name, Witness Protection name, and superhero name. I like my Star Wars name: Brasa Stroc (my complete results are in the fourth comment down).


  • Greg Patillo is a beatboxing flute player...need I say more to convince you to watch him perform Inspector Gadget? (HT Kevin)


I'm reading an amazing book right now by Stephen Ambrose. It's his personal reflections as a historian, and I encountered this amazingly profound quote about our presidents.

The Washington Monument and the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials remind us that greatness comes in different forms and at a price. Jefferson, by his words, gave us aspirations. Washington, through his actions, showed us what was possible. Lincoln's courage turned both into reality.


I used to always do this on my Xanga, but since I've mostly abandoned that, I'll start posting my favorite comics from the week on here. I will mainly be drawing on Pearls Before Swine, Frazz, The Buckets, and Monty, with the occasional Foxtrot and Peanuts thrown in. (Can anyone tell me where to find a daily online syndication of Calvin and Hobbes or Farside that doesn't cost money?)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Schindler's List

Not since The Passion of the Christ have I experienced a movie quite like this one. It's one of those movies where you just sit there as the credits roll and blink, trying to process what you've just seen. And the first thought is, How is that even possible? How can anybody participate in the mass extermination of an entire people?

The movie is based on the true story of Oskar Schindler (played masterfully by Liam Neeson), a German-Czech business man who enters Krakow to start a new business. With the help of his Jewish accountant, Itzhak Stern (played by Ben Kingsley), he amasses a fortune by using the Jews to work in his factory. His factory soon becomes known as a haven, a safe-house, and although he initially resists, he eventually becomes more active in helping to save Jews from death. This culminates when the entire Krakow work-camp is to be sent to Auschwitz, and Schindler uses his entire fortune to buy the lives of 1100 Jews to work in a new factory he's built in Czechoslovakia. The movie won 7 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director (Steven Spielberg, and was nominated for 5 more, including Best Actor (Liam Neeson) and Best Supporting Actor (Ralph Fiennes as the German commandant).

The movie doesn't pull any punches. It shows you the full depravity and savagery displayed by the Nazis as they ruthlessly slaughter the Jews. The fact that the entire movie, save the beginning and end and symbolic flashes of color throughout, is in black-and-white, does little to alleviate the brutality of what the audience sees. While you read in the history books that they stripped the men and women down in the middle of winter to see how physically fit they are or to herd them into the gas chambers, this movie shows it in all of its graphic detail. You read that the Jews would dig ditches, and then line up to be shot and buried in those same ditches; here you see them do it. You hear that when they burn the bodies, the ashes rain down like snow; here, the ashes fall right on Schindler's face.

When I walked through the Holocaust Museum, I was sobered by the reality of what occured during those ten years in Germany. Yet all you can see at the museum is pictures and text. This movie is like a live-action Holocaust Museum and is all the more brutal for that reality.

The character of Oskar Schindler fascinates me. He is one of those men who is great because he sacrificed his own fortune and his own safety in order to save the lives of thousands of Jews. When the movie finished, my mom instructed me that I was to name my first child Oskar. He is a truly amazing man, and I can only wish I would have done the same in his place.

The first question to come to mind when any account of the Holocaust is given is, "Why?" And I really don't have an answer for that. Sure, God predestined it to happen, but I can't for the life of me understand why. And although I know that man is inherently evil, still I can't understand how any man could stoop to do what thousands of Nazi soldiers did. It's humbling, to tell the truth, because the Bible tells me that, apart from grace, I am just like them. This doesn't seem possible, but I am a master at trusting myself. Sure, I may never have shot anybody in the head just out of spite, but I could. It's a scary thought.

These thoughts are a little hodge-podge, but I'm trying to pull them together. On the one hand, I am once again sobered by the depths of human depravity, but on the other, I realize that I too was a sinner like that before Christ saved me. I can't understand the Holocaust, but I can trust God that his ultimate purposes will be fulfilled through such a terrible event. And I can be thankful that he gives these kinds of movies to make us think and make us tremble.

*Disclaimer: this film contains graphic nudity, violence, and language. Most (but not all) of the nudity and violence is true to historical accounts of what actually happened, including stripping the women down to go into the gas chambers. There is some gratuitous nudity and sexual content, though. As such, I do not suggest it for anyone who is not fully informed of the content, and would also highly suggest watching it with a parent (like I did).

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Odds and Ends IV

  • Centuri0n discusses how to read the Bible and why anyone can read the Bible.
  • John Piper explains why being pro-abortion should disqualify a candidate for public office. (HT Justin Taylor)
  • Al Mohler chronicles the dangers of the self-esteem movement (doesn't surprise me a bit).
  • Peggy Noonan explains why the presidential campaign races have started so early this anyone else depressed by the notion of McCain, Guiliani, or Romney running against Hillary, Obama, or Edwards?
  • WORLD magazine describes the rise of "Holy Hip Hop", and features our very own Curtis "Voice" Allen. Go Curt! (HT Challies)
  • And for the rest of you who took 20th century philosophy with me last year (taught by the one and only Scott Somerville), here's an interesting article I found about Karl Barth.


  • David explains the thoughts that go through his head when he reads some Bible stories...I'll tell ya, this guy weirds me out sometimes.
  • Want to know why I hate Macs? Charlie Brooker sums it up pretty succinctly in this article from the Guardian. (HT Challies)
  • Anyone else looking forward to the release of The Bourne Ultimatum later this year? Supposedly, there's a new Bourne hotline set up for us addicts to help us cope with what may be a tragic ending.
  • For my fellow Star Wars freaks, here's a good one: the coronation of the Pope has gotten a makeover.
  • FCN describes their own Super Bowl experiences, which sound remarkably similar to mine...or not.
  • And on the football theme, a letter to FCN describes the relationship between girls and football...I've seen this so many times (with four girls living next door) that it's almost not funny. Almost.


  • Turns out that when you compare men's and women's desks, women's have four times the amount of germs on them. Take that, girls ;-)
  • Crisis pregnancy centers now outnumber abortion clinics in the U.S. Praise the Lord!


Vicki Hearne, in an essay entitled "What's Wrong with Animal Rights", explains what Jefferson meant by "happiness" in the Declaration of Independence:

Happiness is often misunderstood as a synonym for pleasure or as an antonym for suffering. But Aristotle associated happiness with ethics--codes of behavior that urge us toward the sensation of getting it right, a kind of work that yields the 'click' of satisfaction upon solving a problem or surmounting an obstacle. In his Ethics, Aristotle wrote, 'If happiness is activity in accordance with excellence, it is reasonable that it should be in accordance with the highest excellence.' Thomas Jefferson identified the capacity for happiness as one of the three fundamental rights on which all others are based: 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.'

And I'm reading an introduction to quantum theory (Colin Bruce's Schrodinger's Rabbits) for fun, and this little tidbit just made me laugh out loud.

To illustrate, I am tempted to ask you to imagine a wall with two slits in it, and a gun capable of firing a cat toward the arrangement, but cats (even hypothetical ones) have already suffered enough in the cause of quantum physics, and Stephen Hawking has threatened to shoot people who mention Schrodinger's cat to him, so I will choose an alternative.

And now to leave you with a comic to show you exactly how not to respond to your mom.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Free Grace

Don't you just love how you can read the same passage of Scripture over and over, and then one day you read it again and it's like you're reading it for the very first time? That just happened to me again this morning as I read in Romans 11, the crux of Paul's extended argument about Israel and the Gospel. In this particular passage he is defending the fact that God has not rejected his people, even though they are all in rebellion against him. He tells the story of Elijah who asks God to kill them all because they are all going to kill him, and God says "I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal" (v. 4).

Then Paul says, "So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace" (v. 5-6). As I read that, the truth of those words hit me, and I just read over them again and again. In this verse is the very definition of grace itself, that marvelous gift of God to me. What is it? It is FREE! I don't have to work for it, I don't have to do anything for it. God has chosen a remnant of people on the earth, and he chose me because he wanted me and for no other reason. It wasn't because I was smart or kind or able to do big things for him. He chose me because he loved me.

I know that my first temptation as a proud sinner is to want to add to grace, to give my little contribution: "See, God, here's what I can do to make myself worthy of this." Yet I love Paul's pithiness at the end of the verse: we can't add anything to grace because "otherwise grace would no longer be grace." Grace is totally, completely free. What amazing news! What an amazing reason to praise God anew!

(photo credit: Brittany Kauflin)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day!

Valentine's Day is a tricky day for some of us. For people like Dave and Casey, it's pretty easy. They're engaged, they know exactly who they love, and the rest of us get to watch and laugh. For people like my parents, it's even easier. They're married. But what about for singles, or, even worse, high schoolers? Highschoolers in my church don't date because the point of dating is to find a potential spouse, and we're not at that age yet. So what are we supposed to do about Valentine's Day?

I can't really say I'm an expert at this, but here's my suggestion: find a way to serve the girls in your life. The Godspell guys last weekend bought all the girls roses and candy and then honored them as we presented it to them. I realize that normally an opportunity like that doesn't present itself, but I'm sure that everyone can think of something. Just look around you, find a way you can serve the girls around you, and do it. And even better, find a way to serve your mom and sisters, since they are the most important girls in your life right now.

And with that said, here's my Valentine's gift to all of my girl friends out there (or, as one of my best friends says it, "girl space friends"): the Modesty Survey has just been released by The Rebelution! I was one of 1600 guys who chimed in answer questions about everything from glitter lotion and lip gloss to swimsuits and skirt slits. I know that my sister is just one girl who is already excited to have this helpful resource to help her when it comes to modesty (because, let's face, her brother's opinion probably isn't the best). I hope it serves all of you well!

Also, guys, they are still accepting signatures for the Modesty Survey Petition, so this is an opportunity for you to still share your voice on the topic of modesty! (I'd like to point out that I was one of the first people to sign it, there's my name right on top, 14th on the list. Just to announce it to the world :-P )

Finally, let's try and get the word out about this resource. Link to the survey, send an email to your contact list, or whatever. Let's spread the word!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


A Jesus with dreadlocks? A triumphal entry into Yankee Stadium? A crucifixion on a street sign? What’s up with this? Don’t be afraid, it’s just !Hero: The Rock Opera, a modern day retelling of the story of Jesus as envisioned by Eddie Degarmo, CCM industry veteran, told in the vein of Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell. The first reaction of many will probably be, “Isn’t this blasphemous or something?” Well, no, I don’t think so. Merely bringing the story into the present and adding some wailing guitars and driving rap beats is not in and of itself wrong. The real question is how they do that. This article is not intended to be an exhaustive review of the show (which I watched in Live on Stage), but merely an evaluation of what it actually is: a presentation of the gospel.

First, though, I need to touch on the music. I love music with a passion, and I will admit that this music got me excited. From the rapcore of “Raised in Harlem” to the dark pop of “Shadowman” and the Brit rock of “Secrets of the Heart”, most of the songs here are top quality, keeping my head bobbing and my earworm singing long afterward. Visually, it was full of amazing modern dance, lots of wild lights, and two huge screens constantly showing applicable images. As a show, it’s top quality. You can tell that many of the singers were chosen for their names and not for their acting ability (Michael Tait of dcTalk does an adequate job as Jesus/Hero and Mark Stuart of Audio Adrenaline is so-so as Peter/Petrov, but they definitely were not chosen primarily as actors). However, it’s quite a show to watch and hear.

But how’s the theology? Does the show actually get things right where it really matters: the gospel? I’m sorry to say that I don’t believe it really did. And that’s too bad, because these are some of the biggest names in Christian music we’re talking about here. What seemed to be the biggest statement of Jesus’ mission came in “I Am”, a dcTalk-type ballad that had Tait singing “I am, I am/the one to make a change/who's gonna do it if I don't step to it/I am." Hero himself never says that he’s come to save the lost, but merely that we all need to love each other. Rebecca St. James, who plays Mary Magdalene/Maggie says more about the actual gospel than Hero does. In place of the real gospel—Jesus came to die on the cross and save us from our sins, since we can’t save ourselves—we get the social gospel—Jesus came to spread love and teach us to love our neighbors. And that’s just too bad.

I actually borrowed the DVD of the show from Mrs. Mays, the director of our youth musicals. She told me that they had actually considered doing this show last year, but eventually decided not too. After watching, I think I know the two reasons why. First, logistically, we don’t have anyone who can come even remotely close to rapping like T-Bone. And second, when you have a show like Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with just about no religious convictions anywhere, it’s relatively easy to put in a biblical worldview and preach the gospel through it. But when you have a show like !Hero that tries to be theological and ends up preaching the wrong gospel, it’s very hard to redeem it. And that’s the main problem with the show. It has great music, but the theology is what kills it. What a pity.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Odds and Ends III (Super Bowl Edition)

Yes, I missed last week's installment, and this week's is late. I have more than enough to make up for the prolonged absence. So here goes:

Super Bowl:

  • Well, I wanted to post this article before the Super Bowl, being a Bears fan who believed that Grossman would step up to the plate on the big stage. Sadly, I was wrong, but I still think this article about the true "Worst Super Bowl QBs" is pretty interesting.
  • The Super Bowl ads were a little above average this year, but some of them were absolutely priceless. Here's my top 7: Chainsaw, Autograph, Karate, Great Apes, Not What It Seems, Comb-Over, and Auctioneer. What were your favorites?


  • Nick Cannon raps about his mother's decision to choose life 28 years ago in an incredibly powerful song (HT The Rebelution).
  • Alex and Brett Harris wrote a fabulous article for Boundless about why Christians can't multitask, and not in a legalistic sense. I found this particularly convicting, especially as I'm listening to Glenn Miller and Billy Joel right now as I write this post.
  • Fred Barnes shows the similarities between Iraq and Vietnam...and they aren't what you think.
  • After reading this George Orwell essay a few weeks ago, I was amazed to come across this article by Jonah Goldberg applying it to the modern day. Very interesting.
  • Tim Challies thinks about how his children respond to his instruction...and how we respond the same way to God.
  • TIME Magazine interviews Al Mohler about his brush with death a few weeks ago and how it has affected his faith--every time I read about him, the more grateful I am that he is representing us to the world-at-large. What a great example.


  • I've been rediscovering the joys of Monty Python the past few weeks, and here are my favorite sketches: The Argument Clinic, The Ministry of Silly Walks, and Spam!
  • FCN gives their version of Bush's State of the Union address last week.
  • And speaking of Bush, here's a video of him and Steve Bridges, a George Bush impersonator, at a press dinner last year. Hysterical!
  • Pecadillo presents the Ugly Dog Olympics. Did you know dogs could be this ugly?
  • And Kevin, who makes it a habit to post very strange articles, has a collection of press releases from 2029 (scroll to the bottom of the post) true, so scary, so funny.


  • Justin Taylor presents The Dawkins Delusion, an argument for the non-existence of Richard Dawkins. Satirical look at Dawkin's book The God Delusion.
  • This guy is amazing...who knew you could keep a beat like that while singing a song?
  • GirlTalk discusses why men are happier...and I must agree.


I was reading Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail" last week for English, and he just had some amazingly profound statements. Here are three I found especially good (I know they're a little long, but they're worth it).

  • History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups are more immoral than individuals.
  • It is a strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually time is neutral. It can be used either destructively or constructively. I am coming to feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than the people of good will.
  • As I continued to think about the matter I gradualy gained a bit of satisfaction from being considered an extremist. Was not Jesus an extremist in love? "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice--"Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the gospel of Jesus Christ--"I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist--"Here I stand; I can do none other so help me God." Was not John Bunyan an extremist--"I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." Was not Abraham Lincoln an extremist--"This nation cannot survive eternally half slave and half free." Was not Thomas Jefferson an extremist--"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." So the question is not whether we will be extremist but what kind of extremist we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice--or will we be extremists for the cause of justice?

And that's all for this installment. Coming soon...further thoughts on being an extremist.