today

today
we celebrate
the coming of a new way of life
of a making new of all things

today
we remember
how our god became god-man
how he became one of us

today
we acknowledge
the mercy by which we live
the grace by which we stand

today
we are grateful
for a savior who suffers with
and for us

today
we proclaim
the humbling of a king
the way of salvation

today
we give thanks
and pause to consider
the beginnings of his plan

today

[copyright 2005 stephen lamb]

An Argument for Total Abstinence

Wade Burleson has just written one of the best blog posts / satirical essays I’ve seen in a while. In the spirit of the motion at the last Southen Baptist Convention to affirm the supremacy of traditions over scripture, Wade has laid out his arguments for a motion to be submitted at the next SBC convention:

Reasons Why Tea Totalers Should Be Excluded from Southern Baptist Leadership and Missions Ministry

(1). Drinking tea leads a person to addiction to caffeine.

There might be some who allege that drinking just one or two glasses of tea does not lead to caffeine addiction. This is technically true, but unfortunately, not all Christians who partake in moderate tea drinking can stop with just a couple of glasses. It is not uncommon for Christian men and women to progress from tea, to coffee, to 64 ounce Colas or Mountain Dews. Where does it stop? How does one know when the line of addiction has been crossed? If caffeine is addictive, then why play with fire? We must conclude that Drinking tea is a sin (Counsels on Diet and Drink: Part II, Tea and Coffee, page 434).

(2). Tea and coffee are destructive to the Christian’s body, which is the temple of God.

As pointed out above, caffeine is highly addictive. Quitting coffee can cause withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, sleepiness and irritability. The acidic nature of coffee can lead to stomach ulcers. When the excess acid enters the bloodstream, it also increases calcium loss in urine. Both coffee and tea have no nutritional value. Tannin, the substance that makes tea cups brown and coats tea pots, is used for tanning leather. Imagine the stomach after twenty years of tea drinking.

Caffeine is able to penetrate deep into vital tissue. Evidence shows that it may be linked to male infertility and also birth defects by passing through the placenta. Drinking coffee during breast feeding will cause caffeine to be present in mothers’ milk.

Caffeine has a powerful effect on coronary arteries and the pulmonary and systemic vessels, causing a greater flow of blood to the heart muscle, but decreasing the flow of blood to the brain by constricting cerebral blood vessels. Caffeine can cause abnormally fast, abnormally slow and irregular heart beats. It also wreaks havoc on blood pressure, commonly producing hypertension. Coffee has been linked to heart disease, pancreas and bladder cancer, and hypoglycemia.

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant, providing that familiar kick on which we have come to depend. But as with all stimulants, there is a price to be paid. If you run the body on overdrive for an extended period of time by artificially stimulating the adrenals, expect breakdown to occur.

(3). Though the Bible does not expressly forbid the drinking of tea, there is an overwhelming preponderence of Biblical evidence that tea drinking is a sin.

“Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to those who send him” (Proverbs 10:36). The same acidic quality of vinegar, tea and coffee is as damaging to the Christian as smoke is to the eyes.

“Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand” (Phil. 4:5), “…every man that strives for the mastery is temperate in all things” (I Cor. 9:25).

Though some might argue that these verses do not explicitly ‘forid’ the drinking of tea, it is clear that the Christian who desires to be holy in all things will not even begin to cross the line of introducing tea or coffee into his system.

(4). Though some have the gall to say Jesus drank tea on the cross, it was clearly not the same kind of tea or substance that tea drinkers consume today.

Some try to be cute in their arguments for moderate tea drinking by pointing out that Jesus drank ‘vinegar’ on the cross, which contains the same acidic and caffeneited quality as today’s tea.

The Bible states, “And one ran and filled a sponge full of vinegar and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink….” (Mk. 15:36).

Biblical scholars have long pointed out that the acidic and caffeinated content of the vinegar drink offered to Jesus was less than 5% of the acid and caffeine found in today’s most popular teas. To compare the actions of Jesus at Calvary with today’s tea drinking should be considered a sin in and of itself.

To justify your own desire to drink tea by pointing to the conduct of Jesus is shameful.

(5). The argument that drinking tea is not illegal in the United States, and therefore, lawful for the Christian, is an argument straight from hell.

Homosexuality is not illegal in the states. Adultery is not illegal in America. Dressing inappropriately with boxers showing, and breasts peeking out of tight tops is not illegal in my hometown, but does that make it right?

Just to say drinking tea is not illegal is in reality no argument at all. “In everything we do, whether we eat or drink, we do for the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31).

(6). Some cultures drink tea as a normal part of daily life, but that is no excuse for Christians to drink it, since we are to be ‘a cut above’ the world.

Some missionaries might argue that drinking tea in China is a cultural event, and to identify with the Chinese one must drink tea. As it is said, “When in Rome do as the Romans.”

Hogwash. We are not to let culture affect us, we are to be a shining example to culture of how Christ can transform people. The person who drinks tea on a regular basis simply has no idea what Christ can do for his life, and if you drink tea with him, while introducing him to Christ, then you may give him the impression he can continue drinking tea as a Christian.

When in Rome do as Christ would do. Christ would not sit and drink tea with the Chinese. How could He defile His holy body in such a manner?

(7). When a Christian purchases tea he is supporting an entire industry that has made a fortune by leading people to the mind altering, destructive, and nearly impossible to break addiction to caffeine.

This industry must not be supported by Christians. Every dollar you spend on green tea is like purchasing a death warrant for the person who will later die from an acidic stomach from the tea produced by the company to whom you gave profits.

It is time for Christians to shut down the entire, godless industry of tea making and associated tea products.

(8). It has been scandalously reported that some young, Southern Baptist pastors are actually having Bible studies in the local Starbucks in an effort to lead people to Christ.

The pastors who have begun this new outreach program seem to have no understanding of what it means to be ‘in the world, but not of the world.’

No matter how many people have come to Christ through these creative efforts, it is unconscionable for SBC pastors to actually meet in a location where people are introducing into their bodies an agent that alters the mind, changes the disposition, and eventually destroys the body.

No matter how slick the environment, there is no excuse for the compromise of the gospel.

(9). A great concern for the loosening of the standard of total abstinence from tea drinking is the belief that those Southern Baptist moderates and liberals who drink tea will eventually cause the Southern Baptist Convention to turn back from a firm belief in the inerrancy of the Bible.

It is being reported that there are actually some pastors who are either not using the Bible in their ministries, or trusting in very loose translations of the holy and inerrant KJV.

For example, one loose knit association of SBC pastors have actually quoted Psalm 23 as:

The Lord is my barista; I shall not want.

He maketh me to recline on green sofas: he leadeth me beside the clean tables.

He repoureth my latte: he maketh me a ristretto of righteousness for goodness sake.

Yea, though I walk through the aisles of instant coffee, I will fear no nescafe: for thou art with me; thy cafe and it’s staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest an espresso for me in the presence of mine tea drinking colleagues: thou anointest my ears with friendly banter; my latte hath art on it.

Surely warmth and bonhomie shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the cafe of the Lord for ever

(10). Drinking caffeinated tea for recreational purposes physiologically acts as a ‘mind altering drug, “

Once a Christian says it is all right to alter his mind by introducing outside agents to change his perspective, where will he stop? Why not marijuana? Why not cocaine? The libertinism of the modern Southern Baptist Convention must be checked. The line in the sand must be drawn with tea and coffee.

There will be a resolution introduced at San Antonio to forbid any trustee, missionary or denominational leader from partaking in the recreational use of tea or coffee.

May God keep our convention pure.

May God bless the Southern Baptist Convention.

You can read Wade’s original post here, along with comments that urge the expansion of this motion to include decaffinated tea so that “the appearance of evil is avoided”.

Unforced Rhythms of Grace

When I moved to Nashville nine months ago, the first church I visited was Midtown Fellowship, located in downtown Nashville. At that first visit, there were a number of things that stood out to me that I liked, including the “Core Values” they had listed on the back of their bulletin:

~ Love of the Gospel
~ Love of Community
~ Love of Mercy
~ Love of Unconvinced Explorers
~ Love of the City

Yesterday, after going thru the New Members class with about 30 other people, I joined Midtown. At the end of the service, the pastors (Tom Darnell and Randy Draughon) introduced each person by reading a passage of scripture they had chosen. The verses I selected, Matthew 11:28-30, are my favorite part of Eugene Peterson’s translation The Message.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

How to hate a stranger

One of the best songs I’ve heard recently on the radio is the Dixie Chicks Not Ready to Make Nice (which just received Grammy nominations for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Country Performance By a Duo or Group with Vocal) from their last album Taking the Long Way. In the second verse, they sing: It’s a sad sad story / that a mother will teach her daughter / that she ought to hate a perfect stranger. / And how in the world / can the words that I said / send somebody so over the edge / That they’d write me a letter / saying that I better shut up and sing / or my life will be over.

Ken Morefield just posted a review at lookingcloser.org of Shut Up and Sing, the new documentary about the Dixie Chicks and what has happened since lead singer Natalie Maines said she was “embarrassed” that the President of the United States was from Texas. Ken calls it the the best film he’s seen this year.

Here’s the closing paragraph from his review:

… my moment of clarity while watching the film came not from something said by Natalie, Emily, or Martie, but by Bill O’ Reilly who opines that the Dixie Chicks just need to be “slapped around.” Strange, isn’t it, how that statement didn’t seem to offend anyone, how it’s not a big controversy to this day, and how nobody is threatening to boycott Fox News if they continue to play his work? Perhaps it’s just understood that his words were not meant literally. Perhaps his words were borne of frustration and strenuous disagreement. Perhaps he simply made a poor choice of words and ought to be allowed some slack for the occasional blunder given how much time he spends in front of a microphone. Perhaps advocating violence against women really isn’t thought to be as serious an offense in this day and age as expressing disdain for the President of the United States. Perhaps Toby Keith’s “boot in your ass” is not just America’s answer to other nations that don’t bow before it but also to its own citizens who don’t toe the ruling party line. Perhaps he really just meant what he said.

All of a sudden, Natalie’s lyrics don’t seem quite so melodramatically exaggerated, do they?

HT: Looking Closer

Your help is needed…

The American Family Association, Bill O’Reilly, and the Moral Majority [sic] need your help once again this year. If you believe that the name of Christ should be reduced to nothing more than a marketing gimmick and if you think that Christ would approve of and endorse today’s self-indulgent consumerism, you need to take action! Follow this link or this link today and let everyone know the real Reason for the Season.

Aronofsky’s The Fountain

Darren Aronofsky’s first film, π (Pi), one of my all-time favorite films, raises the question “Can we know and understand God, and if we could, what would happen to us?”. His second film, Requiem for a Dream, looks closely and uncomfortably (very uncomfortably) at addiction and its power to destroy our lives. (It also contains one of the most moving and heartbreaking speeches that I’ve seen in a movie, Ellen Burstyn’s “Red dress” speech.)

In his newest effort, The Fountain, starring his fiancé Rachel Weisz and Hugh Jackman, Aronofsky mixes the Bible (the film opens by quoting Genesis 3:24: “So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.”), New Age philosophy, and an exploration of mankind’s attempts to come to terms with his own mortality.

Aronofsky tells three stories within a story here, with Jackman and Weisz playing the leads each time. The central story takes place in the present, with the other two stories taking place 500 years in the past and 500 years in the future.

In an interview Aronofsky did with Jeffrey Overstreet for Christianity Today, Jeffrey asked “So, The Fountain is a story about learning to accept death as “a spiritual act”?

Aronofsky: I think it has to do with the sanctity of life. The Bible says that the Creator sent Adam and Eve out of the Garden [and they could not] eat from the Tree of Life. The question is, what would have happened if they ate from the Tree of Life? Mortality is part of our humanity; it’s what makes us beautiful. And unfortunately we’ve lost touch with what it means to be mortal.

In many ways it’s about science versus art, and religion versus spirituality. You have these [scientific and religious] dogmas that are the languages of a certain type of discovery, but beneath that you have a certain type of acceptance and truth.

Izzy’s character is leaning more toward acceptance [of death] … and Tom’s character is using the scientific method to fight it. At times, these two methods rub against each other. I think the story is about Tom learning to accept, learning to live in the moment, and learning to accept life and death to the fullest.

One of the coolest things Aronofsky did with this film has to do with the special effects shots for the outer space sequences. According to www.wired.com, instead of spending several million dollars for each f/x sequence, he spent a total of $140,000.

To reinvent space organically, Dawson and Schrecker hunted down old cloud-tank technicians and even hired artists to paint the nebula scenes by hand. But nothing looked good enough.

Then Aronofsky’s team discovered the work of Peter Parks, a marine biologist and photographer who lives in a 400-year-old cowshed west of London. Parks and his son run a home f/x shop based on a device they call the microzoom optical bench. Bristling with digital and film cameras, lenses, and Victorian prisms, their contraption can magnify a microliter of water up to 500,000 times or fill an Imax screen with the period at the end of this sentence. Into water they sprinkle yeast, dyes, solvents, and baby oil, along with other ingredients they decline to divulge. The secret of Parks’ technique is an odd law of fluid dynamics: The less fluid you have, the more it behaves like a solid. The upshot is that Parks can make a dash of curry powder cascading toward the lens look like an onslaught of flaming meteorites. “When these images are projected on a big screen, you feel like you’re looking at infinity,” he says. “That’s because the same forces at work in the water – gravitational effects, settlement, refractive indices – are happening in outer space.”

The microzoom optical bench furnished Aronofsky’s film with something neither a computer nor an old-fashioned matte painter could deliver – chaos, in all its ultra high-definition fractal glory. “The CGI guys have ultimate control over everything they do,” Parks says. “They can repeat shots over and over and get everything to end up exactly where they want it. But they’re forever seeking the ability to randomize, so that they’re not limited by their imaginations. I’m incapable of faithfully repeating anything, but I can go on producing chaos until the cows come home.”

Another of the highlights of The Fountain, like Requiem for a Dream, is Clint Mansell’s soundtrack. Once again he features the Kronos String Quartet, but this time around he leans more towards minimalism, a la Philip Glass. You can hear a couple tracks at his myspace page, including the end credits piano solo.

This is the kind of film that I’m sure I will enjoy more with repeated viewings. There are a number of things, such as the role the Tree of Life (or its bark) plays in each of the stories, which I didn’t completely put together until after I left the theatre. As with all of Aronofsky’s films, you are left with plenty to think about after the credits roll. Which in today’s world of cinema doesn’t happen enough.