Archive for November, 2007

best christmas album of 2007

It’s not too often I get amped up on a Christmas record. I find a lot of it mundane and most of the time I’m going back to the old stuff that I grew up on.

But if I can just say, Bebo Norman’s new record “Christmas From The Realms Of Glory” is likely the best Christmas album of 2007 and has quickly become one of my favorites. There are several reasons why: Musically it’s very solid, and Bebo has a great voice, and the arrangements of the songs are surprisingly unique.

But I think the most catching thing about this album is the raw simplicity with which it is delivered. It’s very acoustic driven – guitars, piano and Hammond organ, some layered banjo, and dulcimer. Somehow this album seems to capture the true spirit of Christmas for me. A lot of times Christmas music is so overdone – sweeping orchestral arrangements, cliche sleigh bells, dripping with consumerist gloss. But I feel like Bebo brings the focus back – the celebration, the joy, the seriousness, the weightyness that Christmas is, comes together on this album.

A couple highlight tracks…

Joy To The World:
I never really cared for this song all that much before – I always thought it sounded forced – but this is my favorite track on the album. Bebo plays this as though he were walking down the middle of a country road on Christmas morning with snow all around him, just belting this song out to all of his neighbors. He actually sounds happy playing this – you can’t help but smile.

The Rebel Jesus:
This is a cover of a song written by Jackson Browne in the early 90’s. I have never heard a more honest Christmas song. This lyric cuts deep and forces you to critically think about the way you celebrate Christmas every year…

We guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why there are poor
We get the same as the rebel Jesus

Overall it’s a solid album, honestly and intentionally done, and you should check it out. If you want to take a listen, click here.

the problem with wikipedia

If you’re a reader of this blog you know I have a fascination with Wikipedia. Perhaps a little off color, but I thought this was remarkably insightful (not to mention hilarious)… thanks for the find Jon:

some thoughts on baptism (part 2)

This is a continuation of my series of posts on Christian baptism, unpacking my thoughts and supporting my reasoning for getting baptized. Specifically I am digging into the 8 statements I made in Part 1. Today, Statement 1…

1. Baptism is not necessary for salvation
There are very few denominations within Christianity that support baptism as a necessity to salvation (most notably the Church Of Christ), so I’m not going to spend too much time digging into this one.

Among some of the verses that are used to support a view of baptismal regeneration include Mark 16:16…

“He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned.”

At first glance it appears that this verse supports the idea that both faith and baptism are required for salvation. But notice the difference in the second half of the verse – while it is indicated that both ‘belief’ and ‘baptism’ will lead to salvation, it merely says in the second half that a lack of ‘belief’ will lead to condemnation. This verse teaches that ‘belief’ is essential to salvation – it does not teach that ‘baptism’ is.

One prominent example that comes to mind when considering faith as the critical element of salvation is the conversation had between Jesus and the criminal on the cross (Luke 23:40-43). Here Jesus promised a sinful man that he would “be with him in paradise” simply through belief – no opportunity for baptism.

There are a multitude of verses that support the concept of “faith alone” as the requirement of salvation, among them John 3:16, Acts 16:31, Romans 3:28, Romans 11:6, and Ephesians 2:8-10.

While browsing the web for some articles on baptism, I found one particularly interesting which de-constructs the primary verses of baptismal regeneration. If you’re interested in reading further, feel free to check it out here.

in defence of bear grylls

Earlier this summer there was a lot talk in the media about Bear Grylls, his Discovery Channel show Man vs. Wild, and the accusation that he staged and faked some, if not most, of the events depicted in the show.

In truth I should have written this post a few months ago to lend my support to Bear, but the media reports kind of blew over, Bear made some statemtents on his own behalf, and so I let it go. Then Jon had to go and get me all worked up over it again last week, so this is for you Bear:

Many who have taken hold of the media reports on the Man vs. Wild point to three primary areas of question, which I’ll outline below. But first, those same people often point to a similar Discovery Channel show, Survivorman, as the better and “more pure” alternative to Man vs. Wild, and to that I will say this…

Man vs. Wild and Survivorman are different shows with different intents. I liken it to this analogy: Survivorman is a show about enduring the wild, purposefully, with only the bare essentials – kind of like a road trip without a map. Man vs. Wild on the other hand is like a wilderness “worst case scenario” – like a road trip where your car goes flying off into a ravine, completely destroys everything, and now you have to fumble your way out back into civilization. They’re both fine shows, and personal preferences may lead you to watch one over the other, but keeping in mind that the end purpose is different in each, and I think it’s a stretch to say one is intrinsically better than the other.

Anyways, the critics of Man vs. Wild have pointed primarily to the following three issues:

  1. Bear Sleeps In Hotels: They say that Bear sets us up to believe that he is surviving in the remote wilderness for a week, but instead sleeps in a cozy luxury hotel and eats blueberry pancakes each morning. However, the show has always stated in the opening sequence that in instances of severe danger or in matters of “life or death” Bear can receive help from his team, producers, or outsiders. If I take that for what it’s worth, then yes, there have probably been some pretty extreme nights out in the wilderness, and in the interest of human life someone made an executive decision to get the team out of danger. On the other hand, there have been plenty of documented nights in the wilderness where Bear legitimately set up camp and suffered through the night, and during some pretty rough weather as well. Case in point, Episode 3 – The Coasta Rican Rainforest – downpour all night long, and he was sick as a dog too. These instances of sleeping in hotels every night and eating pancakes are a little over dramatized by an overly-zealous British press.
  2. Bear Can’t Make His Own Raft: In one episode Bear escapes from an island using a hand-built raft, but whistleblowers “outed” him by indicating Bear had to be shown how to build the raft first, then it was torn apart and Bear built it again for the camera. I wouldn’t call this an earth shattering discovery… It is no secret that in each episode Bear relies on the wisdom of local survival experts at each location he is in, and these survival experts are credited in each show. Furthermore, Bear has indicated that he goes to each location several days early to get a lay of the land, meet with local experts, and confer on particular items that he may encounter while shooting the episode. I liken it to a reporter doing research – Bear does research by engaging with the locale first and then presents his findings during the episode. Bear just happens to be very qualified for this particular genre of research… it’s not like they threw Matt Lauer out there.
  3. Bear’s Remote Locations Not So Remote: Another aquaintance who is evangelistic on Survivorman being better than Man vs. Wild [what is it about you Surviorman people?] pointed out this YouTube clip. The clip shows a location on a Hawaiian lava field where an episode of Man vs. Wild was filmed, and then pans far to the left to show a road with cars driving on it, implying that Bear’s remote wilderness locations are in fact not so remote. We have to remember that Man vs. Wild is a television show, and this particular show is not intended to be a “diary” of a week in the wilderness [Survivorman]. This show is intended to demonstrate survival options – tools to employ if you are ever caught in a similar situation. Secondary to this, I believe, is the idea that Bear is out there on his own trudging through all of this hundreds of miles away from civilization. And so if on certain outings the camera has avoided showing certain roads, or buildings, or telephone lines for dramatic emphasis, then fine – it allows the episode to maintain consistency and keeps us focused on the actual content, which is how to protect your hands by climbing through the lava fields using your socks as gloves.

I’ll concede that the nature of the show likely set us up to believe certain things that weren’t necessarily 100% true. I’ve come to the conclusion that this wasn’t done with any deliberate malice, but rather was done in the effort to create a captivating and engaging television show to demonstrate “worst case scenario” survival techniques. Since the allegations I believe Bear has been very forthcoming regarding the history of the show, and specifically I would want you to read this very transparent posting from Bear on his personal blog as well as this article in Outside Magazine which clears the air on a lot of the issues above.

So let me end with this… Say what you want about Bear Grylls – call him a panzy, a fake, or the “adventure equivalent of a cheese souffle” for all I care – but first I want you to go visit your local zoo, find a fresh pile of African elephant dung, hold it above your head to squeeze the juice out and take a long hard drink.

… Until then, enjoy Man vs. Wild for what it is as you sit comfortably in your couch watching the Discovery Channel in your warm and heated house, eating pizza and drinking Coke. As for me, it is DEFINITELY time to be getting back to work….

fresh young turkey

This is our Thanksgiving turkey! We chose him last night:

We’re really excited!!

some thoughts on baptism (part 1)

A friend recently asked me about my thoughts on baptism, knowing that I was recently baptized as a step in becoming a member of my church, Grace Community Church. I grew up Methodist, as did he, and like myself was wrestling with some of the implications that went with the Methodist practices of baptism vs. your typical Baptist practices (and of course, the ultimate question includes scripture’s view of baptism).

So here are some basic statements regarding these two views of baptism:

  1. Methodist’s practice the concept of “infant baptism”, which is to say, several months after a child is born within the church the baby is baptized via a public ceremony which generally involves the sprinkling of water over the baby’s head and some words of dedication spoken by the pastor.
  2. Baptist’s practice the concept of “believer’s baptism” and is only viewed as official when the believer is baptized via full immersion
  3. Neither denomination claim that baptism is essential to salvation. Both view it as an important outward sign of dedication to the Christian faith and an integral part of our Christian heritage.

The truth is that I have wanted to fully unpack this subject for quite a while, and I get to rambling on these blog posts so I’ve decided to break the topic up into a few segments that I will post over the course of the next couple weeks. But to kick things off, below is a quick breakdown of my thoughts on baptism that ultimately led to my decision. I will support these statements in the posts to come…

  1. Baptism is not necessary for salvation
  2. Baptism is a powerful symbolic gesture that publicly indicates faith in Christ
  3. Baptism completely lacks meaning if it is received prior to making a conscious dedication of faith, therefore I fully support the concept of “believer’s baptism”
  4. Baptism does nothing to “cleanse” children of original sin
  5. The Methodist standard for baptizing children is misguided and lacks a solid scriptural foundation and fails to capture the spirit for which baptism was originally intended
  6. Baptism is intended to symbolically capture the transformation that happens in salvation – death to oneself, and new life through Christ. Baptism by immersion captures this the best and I find the practice of “sprinkling” or “pouring” particularly lacking
  7. Baptism needs to be understood from a historical perspective – including both foundational Christian and Jewish thought – not just the perspective protestant denominational differences
  8. It is a church’s own prerogative whether or not it requires baptism as part of church membership, and this is an acceptable practice

A few years ago, when I first started attending a Baptist church, I was actually offended to hear that I would need to be re-baptized if I intended to join the church as a member… as though my original Methodist baptism as a baby was not good enough. I put it off for a couple years, changed churches in the process, and after a lot of thought came to the conclusion that my theological upbringing had not given me a solid scriptural view of baptism.

Scripture treats baptism as a public declaration of faith, a symbolic gesture of the death of the sinful self and rebirth as a child of God, and the beginning of a life of ministry devoted towards God.

Since I was baptized as a baby I did not have the chance to make a public symbolic declaration of my faith as part of my eventual conversion experience. In retrospect, if I had my say when I was 6 months old I would have held off on my baptism until 10th grade which is when I made my first conscious decision to become a believer. That wasn’t the case of course, so I found myself caught in this odd place where I had already been baptized, I had made a public declaration of faith multiple times later in life, and yet my original baptism did not stack up to the standards of Baptist church membership.

Ultimately I came to the personal conclusion that my original baptism lacked the symbolic meaning that I felt it should carry. It was little more than a dedication ceremony involving a handful of water and a few lines of recitation on the part of the congregation. And while my current church “required” that I be baptized according to their standards, I had come to the personal conclusion that those standards were more in line with what God originally intended and therefore I made the decision to be baptized again – as a believer, fully immersed, and grasping the full weight of the symbolic practice.

That’s the topic in a nutshell, and I hope to dig into this a little further and explain some of my 8 statements above… it will be good for me personally, and for the purposes of discussion. And if you have any personal thoughts about those 8 statements, feel free to respond and start the discussion… it’s certainly an interesting topic.