Third Week of Lent: A Long Haul Through the Desert

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.  The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written:  ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.  “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down.  For it is written:

” ‘He will command his angels
concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot
against a stone.’ ”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written:  ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”

Again the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.  “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan!  For it is written:  ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ ”

Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.  (Matthew 4:1-11)

Last week we left off with Adam and Eve leaving the garden after they had sinned by eating the fruit from the tree that God had told them not to eat from.  Now, fast forward several thousand years, past the Flood, past Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc.

Israel has emerged from the land of Egypt, having been brought out by God through a miraculous process of deliverance which culminated in their crossing the Red Sea on dry land while the Egyptian army drowned in pursuit.  They traveled to Mount Sinai and there met with God; this meeting resulted in the revelation of the Law.

Now they had to journey across the desert to reach the Promised Land which they were to inhabit.  But this was a long and arduous journey for them, through a wasteland of hunger and thirst.  Moses, their leader, called upon them to trust in God to provide for them.  And God did, in fact, provide for them–manna, quail, water, and many other things along the way.

Still, the people grumbled.  They turned away from God in their hearts.  They longed to return to Egypt, under the mistaken belief that they were better off as slaves to the Egyptians.  They put God to the test on numerous occasions.  And on numerous occasions God threatened to wipe them out, and it was only the intercession of Moses on their behalf that spared them.

Forty years this journey lasted.  At one point the Israelites tested God so grievously that he threatened to wipe them out all at once.  Moses interceded and God relented; instead of dying out all at once they would remain in the desert until that entire generation had died off and then their children would enter the Promised Land.  This process took forty years.

Contrast this with Jesus’ journey into the wilderness.

This lasted forty days.  Jesus was all alone, completely without bread or water.  For forty days he fasted.  On the back end of this, the devil appeared to him in his most vulnerable state, and tempted him to turn stone into bread–just as Israel had eaten bread in the desert.  He wouldn’t do it.  The devil continued to tempt Jesus, but he wouldn’t budge.

In the end, he proved strong.  He succeeded where Adam and Eve had failed; they succumbed to the devil’s temptation but he would not succumb.  He succeeded where Israel had failed; though God provided for them in the desert they grumbled against Him, but though he had nothing to eat or drink at all during his time in the desert he would not grumble against his Father.

The Monday Melange 03.28.11: Geraldine Ferraro, Cyndi Lauper

Aloysius loves himself some honey.

Aloysius, our Executive Director of Sports Information here at Everyone’s Entitled to Joe’s Opinion, has been a very busy bear lately.  First he took a road trip to Alabama to track down Al from Dadeville, the Auburn tree poisoner, and dispense his own brand of ursine justice.  Then it was off to the NFL owners’ convention to dispense some ursine justice to some people who, for some reason, just can’t seem to figure out how to equitably divide $3-billion-plus in yearly revenue.

No, Aloysius, you do NOT want any of THAT honey. Trust me.

So now, Aloysius is back at the house, kicking back and chilling with some honey.

RIP Geraldine Ferraro.

Lewis Grizzard on Geraldine Ferraro:  “The first time I heard the name Geraldine Ferraro I thought it was Flip Wilson’s sports car.”

–Aloysius has a certain amount of sympathy toward UCLA (the Bruins–understandable, since he is a bear), and by extension the Pac-10.  For this reason, he has expressed concern over a promotional video that the Pac-10 just put out in an attempt to “raise awareness” and “promote its brand” (sorry about the marketing speak) in advance of its expansion to 12 teams.  When Aloysius expresses concern over something, I tend to get a little scared.  He is a bear, after all.  Don’t let that cuddly, loveable teddy bear exterior fool you.  So I suspect that he may soon be off to the West Coast to dispense some ursine justice to the makers of this video:

–Props go out to Cyndi Lauper.

What ever happened to her career?  In one word, “Madonna”.

But if you can get past her crazy hair, you will note that she had an extremely strong voice.  Take a gander at her performing “Change of Heart” and “True Colors” at the 1987 VMA Awards.  Both songs celebrate their 25th anniversary this year.

[Whoops!  The evil people at Sony Music Entertainment have restricted this video so that it will not embed.  Here’s the link.]

Second Week of Lent: A Bad Day in the Garden

Last week we looked at creation.  We saw Adam lying there, helpless, lifeless, utterly powerless to do anything on his own.  He couldn’t “wiggle” his way into position to receive the breath of life from God, as our good friend Joyce Meyer would have put it.  He could do nothing whatsoever except receive the breath of life from God into his nostrils.  He received it, and he came to life.

This week we are going to fast-forward a little bit.  Our story comes from Genesis 3:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”

To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”

Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.

The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.  (Genesis 3:1-24)

We don’t know how long it took for all this to go down.  It may have been a few days from the time Adam and Eve were created to the time the serpent appeared to them.  Or it may have been years or even centuries.  The serpent may have only asked Eve the question once, or he may have repeated it every day for a very long time and finally worn her down with it until she gave in.  We don’t know.  And the Biblical writer does not consider it important for us to know.

All we know is that Adam and Eve sinned against God by disobeying his command, and they suffered the consequences.  And all of humanity has been suffering the consequences ever since.

It was this tragedy that led ultimately to Jesus coming to earth and dying on the cross.  God hints at this in his words to the serpent:  “And I will put enmity / …between your offspring and hers; / he will crush your head, / and you will strike his heel.”

There is a line in the Catholic Easter Vigil liturgy that reads “O happy fault, o necessary sin of Adam, that won for us so great a Redeemer…”  This is over-the-top; I don’t think we can say anything about the Fall except that it was a very tragic occurrence.  Although I can kind of see where it is coming from:  if you say that if not for the Fall Jesus would not have come to earth and died on the cross, then in a sense the Fall overshadows the redemptive sacrifice of Christ on the cross.  This line is attempting to speak against that.

So Adam and Eve sinned.  The first thing God did for them after pronouncing the curse was to kill an animal and provide skins for them to cover their nakedness.  God fully recognized that their fallen state created a need, and he took measures to provide for that need in a much better way than the fig leaves that Adam and Eve sewed for themselves.  Furthermore, an animal died in order that Adam and Eve’s nakedness might be covered.  This points to the Cross, when Christ dies so that our sin might be covered with His righteousness.

Then God proceeded to expel them from the Garden of Eden.  God put an angel there with a flaming sword to guard the way to the Tree of Life.  In a way, this was an act of mercy; if Adam and Eve, in their fallen and sinful state, had then proceeded to eat of the Tree of Life, they–and all of us by extension–would have been stuck in that state forever.  As it is now, however, we have the possibility–or, rather, the inevitability–of dying to our sinful state, and thanks to the redemptive work of Christ, rising again to newness of life.

Quick Hit: Rob Bell

Rob Bell is coming out with a new book.

But you knew this already.  Unless you have been living under a rock the size of Georgia, you have heard the buzz that has been going all around the Christian blogosphere lately concerning Rob Bell’s new book and how he is really a universalist.

A masterful stroke of genius on the part of Bell’s publisher, HarperOne.  They wanted to generate a buzz surrounding the release of Bell’s new book, and so they released blurbs and video teasers to the internet which were calculated to create the impression that Bell was advocating universalism, knowing full well that certain segments of the Christian blogosphere would be all over it like white on rice.

Kinda like former Louisiana governor Huey Long’s approach to political campaigning, summed up in this quote:  “Keep them talking about you.  In a couple of weeks no one will remember what you said, all they’ll remember is that you said it.”  (I can’t swear that this is the exact wording.  Would those of you who have better knowledge verify that this is true or set me straight if I am in error?)

And that is exactly what happened.  John Piper, Al Mohler, Justin Taylor, Kevin DeYoung, and others picked up that ball and ran with it.  And from there it went viral through the evangelical blogosphere.

HarperOne wanted a buzz surrounding Bell’s new book.  And a buzz is exactly what they got.

Somewhere out there, Ashton Kutcher is watching this whole thing unfold and laughing his head off.  Why?  Because WE JUST GOT PUNK’D!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That’s right, my fellow evangelicals.  We just got punked.  Just like Y2K.  Just like that Da Vinci Code flap back in 2006 which all came to nothing when the movie came out and was a complete and total flop.

And now for something completely different…

Who made Rob Bell an apostle?  Where does he, a lone wolf, get off wielding the inordinate amounts of influence that he has acquired through his writings?  Who gave him the authority to pontificate on matters of Christian belief?

And who made Piper, Mohler, Taylor, DeYoung, etc. the gatekeepers and guardians of sound doctrine?  Who appointed them to the magisterium and gave them the authority to denounce Bell, a fellow Christian, before the entire watching world–heedless of the fact that such behavior places a thermonuclear device directly into the hands of Catholics who criticize us Protestants for our seemingly incessant divisions and contentiousness?

This is a prime example of the authority boondoggle in evangelicalism that has caused many evangelicals to defect to Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy over the last two decades.

Yet for all my issues and struggles with the authority thing, I do not believe that this is an issue of central importance for us.

There are two distinct ways in which Catholics and Protestants come at a situation like this.  The Catholic approach is to ask questions such as “Who commissioned Rob Bell?  What is his relation to the apostolic succession and the authority structure of the Church?  Does he speak with the approval of the Magisterium?”  If the answer to these questions is no, then don’t believe a word he says.  But if the answer is yes, then you are conscience-bound to believe and obey.

Protestants ask a different set of questions.  We look at what Bell is saying, rather than at Bell himself, and ask questions such as “Does this line up with Scripture?  Does this affirm the core doctrines of the Christian faith, as revealed in Scripture?”  In my view, these are the questions that need to be asked.

One more thought:  Anytime someone is preaching the true Gospel, it is going to sound like universalism to a lot of people.  This is a problem in evangelicalism–it is part of our DNA to think more in terms of who is OUT of the kingdom rather than who is IN.  We spend more time and energy criticizing those whom we believe are too lenient in their view of who gets into heaven than those who are too stringent.  A prime example:  There are people running around out there who would say that Mother Teresa is in hell right now because she had an inaccurate theology of justification by faith or because she never prayed a “sinner’s prayer”.  If that’s you, then shame on you.

Quick Hit: “Here For You”?

The latest Passion album is out now, and it is called “Here For You”.

What is meant by that title?

There are two ways they could go with this.  The first is “We are here for You, Lord.  We are thoroughly committed to You, sold out to You, on fire for You.  We love You more than life itself, more than the air we breathe.”

Evangelicalism is rife with these big, bad, bodacious declarations of faith.  We just can’t say enough about how committed, how dedicated, how sold-out we are to God.  But is it true?  I may have my moments where I feel like that once in a while, but if that is the standard for where I am supposed to be in my Christian life all the time, then I am fucked, and I’d like to meet the person who isn’t.

The other is this:  “Jesus is here for you.  Even when your heart has wandered far away, He is still here for you.  Even when you’re not committed enough, not dedicated enough, not sold-out enough, and don’t even want to be, He is here for you.  All of the benefits that Jesus gained through His death on the cross are here, and they are for you.”

I honestly hope it’s the second, and not the first.

Time for Another 80’s Party: Movie Stars Who Thought They Could Sing

It has been too long since we’ve done one of these.  So crank up your computer speakers and come on over to Joe’s blog and get crunk to the sounds of the best decade of music gone by:  the 80’s!!!!!

Our theme today:  Movie/TV stars who thought they could sing.

Can you imagine what it would be like if, say, Tom Hanks or Russell Crowe or Johnny Depp were to grab a mike and bust out singing?  Ugh.  Didn’t think so.  Well, that didn’t stop any of these guys.  So join us today on our excursion into the infamy of 80’s movie stars attempting to sing.

First, we have Eddie Murphy.  He actually comes pretty close to putting in a somewhat passable attempt at singing with “Party All The Time”:

[Alas, the evil people at Sony Music Entertainment have restricted these videos so that they will not embed.  Therefore, we have no choice but to do this the old-fashioned way.  Here’s the link.]

Now we have Patrick Swayze from “Dirty Dancing”.  It wasn’t enough for him to be a hot young movie star; he also had to try to convince us that he could sing.  Fail.  Here is “She’s Like the Wind”:

[Here’s the link for this one.]

Next up is Don Johnson of Miami Vice fame.  I’m looking for a sign that he can sing.  Here is “Heartbeat”:

[Here’s the link.]

And to close out our little excursion into the world of celebrity singing infamy, we have our most egregious offender, Bruce Willis.  Hey, if you don’t respect yourself ain’t nobody gonna give a hootie-hoot.  Here is “Respect Yourself”:

[Here’s the link.]

If any of you out there have any other examples of 80’s movie/TV star singing infamy that need to be added to this list, then please feel free to mention them in the comments.  Also, if any of you disagree with my assessment of these movie/TV stars’ singing ability or lack thereof, you are more than welcome to offer your opinions in the comments.

First Week of Lent: Breathe

Today I would like to take us back.  Back, back, back…  All the way to the Garden of Eden.

First God created the universe and everything in it.  All except for one thing.  So he came down into the world that he created.

At this point you should be saying:  Timeout.  How does the God who created the whole entire universe get down into the world that he created, a world that, from his perspective, is no bigger than the head of a pin, if that?  This Christianity thing sure is freaky.  Rod Sterling doesn’t have anything on you people.

Be that as it may, the upshot is that God realized that the universe that he created was missing one thing.  So he went just outside the garden and started scooping dirt.

Fast forward a bit.  Now we have the finished man, lying there lifeless.  He has not yet taken a breath.  He has not yet done anything.  He is just lying there, waiting for the breath of God to enter his lungs.

Folks, that is what we are.  We are not bad people who need to be made good, or good people who need to be made better.  We are dead people who need to be brought to life.  And we will not be anything different from that until the breath of God passes into us.  We cannot do anything to influence this.  All we can do is receive it.

And then, God breathed into the man’s nostrils.  And he breathed out the breath that God breathed into him.  And in that instant he came to life.

Joyce Meyer: The Anti-Lent

Before we get too far into our Lenten journey, I wish to draw your attention to something which runs completely and totally contrary to the spirit of what we are focusing on during the coming weeks.

Not too long ago, Joyce Meyer opened up about the loss of her brother.  He was a Marine Corps veteran who became addicted to drugs and saw his life spiral downhill through a series of bad choices and poor circumstances to a tragic death.  After having been missing for thirty days, he was found dead in an abandoned building.  He left behind only a few personal effects.

So how did Joyce Meyer respond to this?  She went to a conference of prominent church leaders and used his tragic story to draw a contrast between herself and him, and make a point about a life of self-pity versus a life of diligence and faith.  The kicker:  “My personal effects and his personal effects are sadly different.  What are your personal effects going to be when your time’s up?”

I thought a person’s life did NOT consist in the abundance of his/her possessions.  According to Joyce Meyer, I am wrong.  I will let you draw your own conclusions about this. Continue reading “Joyce Meyer: The Anti-Lent”

Ash Wednesday: Acclimating Ourselves to the Heights

Suppose I were to take you up in a helicopter to the top of Mount Everest.

OK.  Not gonna happen.  Mount Everest is over 29,000 feet high, and helicopters generally do not do very well at high altitudes.  But suppose, for the sake of this post, that someone had invented a helicopter capable of high-altitude travel and that I was going to take you up in a high-altitude helicopter to the top of Mount Everest.

Sounds like a good deal, doesn’t it?  You would get to stand on that summit and enjoy that view, the same summit and view that so many climbers struggle with uncertain success to attain, without having to put in all that work to get there.  You wouldn’t have to deal with the cold, the wind, the weather, the difficult terrain, walking and climbing for several miles and camping out for days and weeks on end, training yourself up for months and years in advance to handle the rigors of this excursion, learning to use all that mountain climbing equipment, etc.  Just think:  You could bypass all of that and go straight up to the top of the mountain in only a couple of minutes.

What’s not to like?

From the time that I drop you off at the top of the mountain, you would have all of about ten to fifteen seconds.  Just enough time to get one picture of that view and text or Tweet it to all your friends–assuming that you could get cell phone reception at the top of Mount Everest at all.

And then you would die.

Whoops.  Forgot to mention that part.

There are two ways that you could die at the top of Mount Everest.  You could die of high-altitude cerebral edema.  This means your brain shuts down.  The brain tissue swells from leakage of fluids and you start to experience hallucinations, memory loss, disorientation, and the belief that Georgia might beat Florida this year.  This is probably not something that you would want to have happen to you.

Or you could die of high-altitude pulmonary edema.  This means that your lungs fill up with fluid.  It feels as if your breath has been completely taken out of you.  Not a pleasant way to go either.  More than likely, both of these would be happening to you at once, and it would be a race to see which one kills you first.

Not pretty.

And yet this is exactly what the vast majority of us evangelicals do when it comes to celebrating Easter. Continue reading “Ash Wednesday: Acclimating Ourselves to the Heights”

The Monday Melange 03.07.11: The Secondhandpants, Lee Elia, Charlie Sheen, Creflo Dollar

–For your edification, allow me to share this video of “Space Robot Spiritual”, from a band out of Canada called The Secondhandpants.  I think you’ll get just as much a kick out of it as I did.

–Lee Elia is now the Atlanta Braves’ hitting coach.  If the name sounds familiar to you, it should be:  Back in the early 80’s, Elia was manager of the woebegone Chicago Cubs.  During a particularly difficult stretch, he appeared before the media and unleashed a profanity-laced tirade which still sets the standard even to this day.  Here is the full-text version of his rant, along with a link to the audio version.

–OK, so Charlie Sheen’s life has just become a complete and utter train wreck.  But if you didn’t know the backstory, wouldn’t some of his recent quotes be impressive?  If you were, say, looking to add to your sales staff and a prospective candidate came in for an interview and said the things that Charlie Sheen has said, wouldn’t you be impressed?  Take a gander at these typical interview questions, paired with actual Charlie Sheen quotes.

–What is an evangelical?  One of the biggest problems in evangelicalism is that there is a huge number of people out there who are only marginally connected with the movement, i. e. because they walked an aisle/prayed a prayer/signed a card/checked a box at a thing somewhere along the line and then never engaged with the movement in a more significant fashion.  So the fashion nowadays is to attempt to rescue evangelicalism by defining it.  Let’s define it, proclaim our definitions loud and proud, get them out there for all the world to see and hear, and everyone who is not “really” an evangelical will fall away and all the “true” evangelicals will come together and pull the movement out of the ditch and back into prominence.  Some definitions are so broad that Catholics and Eastern Orthodox and even Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses would fall under the evangelical label.  But some are way more restrictive.  Here at WorldNet Daily, Michael Youssef offers his take on who is and who is not an evangelical.

–While we’re looking at videos, take a gander at Creflo Dollar expressing a strong desire to line non-tithers up and shoot them.  Isn’t this just weird?  If I went to that church I would certainly tithe, wouldn’t you?

Isn’t there a way to turn Creflo Dollar off?  Because apparently this guy is going to keep singing until somebody turns him off.