Thursday, December 27, 2012

HERO: Available Now!

Praise God! HERO is now available for download from ResoundingMusic.com! It's been a long journey, and (largely thanks to my amazing web designer) a fun one. This album features 20 tracks, and clocks in at just over an hour.

You can learn more and download the album here.

Here are samples of the tracks:

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Story Begins - December 27


It's official!  God willing, HERO will be available for download from ResoundingMusic.com starting December 27th.  Here's most of the text I wrote for the Facebook event, if you want more info... it's best when read in an epic voice.  ;-)

HERO is an album of legends; a chronicle of journeys and of those who take them; musical tales of overwhelming odds, imminent danger, stubborn courage, and final victory; a point of departure for flights of imagination set for destinations unknown.

HERO invites the listener to take a daring trip; to set forth boldly through treacherous terrain and against insurmountable odds; to fight, to die, and to conquer. It is a journey fraught with turmoil but founded on hope, knowing that the just God Who reigns over all will be victorious in the end. It is a journey which roams from the wild west to the wild oceans, from city streets to ancient citadels.

It is the journey of heroes.

Here's a taste of the music:


These images are all different ways of saying the same thing- pointing people to my website- and they are for you to share, if you feel so led.  I appreciate the help with spreading the word.

Oh, and if you take away all the text except for the title and my name, you get the final album cover.  I happen to think it turned out pretty awesomely.  Praise God!




Wednesday, December 12, 2012

#CLASSY - (Another Political Post)


I love how the liberals' best argument isn't.

It is at once hilarious and heartbreaking that so often, instead of offering coherent and compassionate
reasons for their beliefs, they respond with vulgarities, angry name calling, and plenty of ALL CAPS.
Expletives instead of explanations.

This, of course, should win no one to their cause. Really, we should be happy that this is all that they
have to offer. The bankruptcy of their philosophical positions is made evident by their masterful use of
fallacies and their impotent use of pretty much everything else.

But I'm not writing this to the left- may they repent and may God open their eyes.

I'm writing to my fellow conservatives. You know who you are, you Chick-Fil-A eating, freedom-
loving, Bible-thumping, gun-toting, Constitution-quoting patriot. You understand that debt doesn't
make for good economic policy, that inflation is theft, that socialism makes everyone equally poor, that
babies have the right to live, that marriage is something that God defines, not the state.

And you're right. Your arguments are firmly rooted in truth.

But are you acting like it?

A few months ago, a video of an exchange between a Chick-Fil-A employee and a dissatisfied customer went viral. The video showed liberal activist extraordinaire Adam Smith oh-so-tolerantly berating the angelic Chick-Fil-A employee and her company. I say angelic because Rachel's poised and gentle response to the man's childish attacks were exemplary. The reactions of conservatism were far less so.

Adam Smith and his coworkers apparently were threatened with harm (!!!), while Smith was called every name in the book- and some names that aren't in the book. The cries for his apology were
(rightly so) loud and widespread.

Then he apologized.

What did Rachel say? “I forgive you.”

What did conservatism say? “Yeah, right. Whatever, jerk. [expletives]”

And suddenly, we sound just like the liberals.

The Adam Smith issue is just a poignant example of a searing inconsistency within conservatism- that
while sometimes we stand on truth and speak with compassion, truly desiring to see “them” come to
understand the truth, sometimes we drop the truth of the matter, jump in their sandbox, and kick sand
with the best of them. Like so many 3-year-olds.

When we do this, we validate the claims of the Left. We empower their criticism. Why would anyone
want to join a movement that can't accept an apology?

While I'm talking about Adam Smith, it is worth noting that I'm not suggesting that we naively embrace
Adam Smith as a repentant and remorseful prodigal son running into the arms of truth for a touching
reconciliation. We can be compassionate and forgiving without being doormats. Nor am I suggesting
that there is never a place for well-placed satire. The occasional well-placed “You brood of vipers!” is
never amiss.

My plea is that we continue to take the high road- to focus on and fight for truth.

Jesus said this, just hours before His death: “For this I have come to the world, that I may testify to the
truth.”

Of all the things that He could have said, moments before an agonizing death, this is what Christ gave
as His reason for coming to earth.

For those of us who are followers of Christ- isn't that what we aspire to?

For those of you who are conservative but don't claim Christ- what's wrong with you?

I tease. We can argue over that one later- you can yell at me through Twitter.

But in all seriousness, isn't this what we want to do? Testify to the truth? And if this is really about
truth, why are we relying on superior insults and more advanced mastery of curse words instead of
standing on the abundance of evidence that is piled around us?

Has this gone beyond a search for truth and into a matter of pride? Or have the liberals, by their
incessant flow of vitriol, finally worn us down to where we can't argue beyond our own frustration?

If we let them do this, they win. We become the haters.

Scripture commands us to “overcome evil with good.” We all know that this is the most effective
method of argumentation.

We have the truth to stand on. Reality is on our side. We can afford to represent a calm,
compassionate, confident conservatism to the world- and that is far more likely to win others to our
cause than kicking sand.

Let's leave the hate speech to the liberals. It's all they have.

As for us, let's be Rachels.

Not Adam Smiths.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Four More Years


The dust has settled. The 2012 elections are in the past. Barack Obama won. America reelected a president who left Americans to die in Libya, who supports the murder of children, whose policies are communistic, whose methods are tyrannical- indeed, a candidate who stands directly opposed to almost everything that made America great.
Were the elections really honest? Does America really want more of the hope and change that brought them 8% unemployment, $4.00 gas, and $6 trillion in additional debt? Is Obama America’s choice, or the choice of the man behind the curtain? The entire election process is certainly not beyond scrutiny. How much of this victory may be attributed to voter fraud is, at least for now, uncertain, but it is not uncertain at all that America’s political system is no longer trustworthy. It’s for sale.
Whether or not the election process was honest, the question remains: who is to blame for this electoral catastrophe? Is it the Paul-bots? The uncompromising conservatives, the principled third-partiers, the stubborn constitutionalists, the exclusivist Christians? Or is it the GOP? Does the blame rest with a campaign that failed to make Romney a rock star, a party that couldn’t attract the minority vote, a candidate who just wasn’t cool enough? Or maybe conservative principles are too old-fashioned for the New America. Maybe the only way for conservatism to survive is for conservatism to become… well… liberal.
The truth is that conservatism has become liberal, and continues to become liberal, to the point where the distinction between the two is often one of degrees and not of essence. Mitt Romney was not a conservative candidate- he was a less liberal candidate, and so it is with most of the solutions, selections, and salvations offered up by conservatism today. To be a conservative is to be a less-liberal. The basic principles of limited government have been thrown to the wolves. This year, America was presented with two bad choices. Most of conservative America went for the less bad choice, while some pled the third option and elected to vote for someone whom they could actually stand behind. Yes, the party was split, and the wishy-washy politicking of the GOP must be given some credit for this. The Republican establishment has proven to be ambiguous on the issues, untrustworthy in the political process, and, indeed, traitorous to any who do not play their game. After building a reputation like this, the GOP sealed their irrelevance with a kiss by nominating a moderate (read: liberal) as an alternative to Barack Obama.
But this does not go deep enough. The GOP’s impotence is a symptom, not a cause. For politics are only a large-scale representation of the most pervasive worldviews of the populace.
So the problem must be something else entirely. Maybe the blame for this political fiasco must be handed to a group which is, and must be, according to the cultural narrative, the least political institution on earth.
Yes, the blame for the reelection of Barack Obama must rest squarely on the shoulders of the Church.
It is the Church who was told to be the pillar and support of the truth. It is the Church who, as trustees of the word of God, holds in her hand the document which was the foundation for American liberty. It is the Church who allowed herself to be bound and gagged, who accepted permission for what was her right, who neglected to proclaim God’s Truth to every area of life. It is because God’s people have forsaken their place as the leaders of society that America is crumbling. It was the church that hesitated to condemn homosexuality as a crime and sin. It was the church that neglected to preach Scriptural principles of free market economics. It is the church who still fails to expose property and inheritance taxes as theft, public schooling as both unbiblical and unconstitutional, social justice as injustice. We cannot expect the blessing of God on our nation while we continue to walk in contempt of His Word, and we cannot expect secular America to accept this if the American church will not proclaim it. “We are all children of God,” and platitudes like it, may make Americas feel good. “In God we trust” and “God bless America” may give us a feeling of piety, of “God-is-on-our-side.” But, as Ronald Reagan said, the question is not whether God is on our side, but whether we are on His.
The God Who blesses nations and who brings them to their knees has told us in His Word what exactly it means to be “on His side.” Until we submit to His Law, we can expect nothing but judgment.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Godhood of God

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction."

- Proverb 1:7

How many paradoxes would be solved by a proper understanding of the Godhood of God?  What if, instead of acting as His judge, His peer, His critic, we truly understood our place as His creation?

Paradoxes like His sovereignty, His perfect blend of love and justice which requires both hell and the Cross, the presence of evil in the world, melt away into a vast portrait of infinite Perfection.

The question of whether, once we are saved, we can be un-saved becomes a non-issue when we realize that we didn't save ourselves in the first place.

When we really understand how vast and perfect God is- when we truly fear Him- so many of our questions and doubts will be eliminated.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Call Me Coach


"The glory of young men is their strength, And the honor of old men is their gray hair." - Pr. 20:29

If you've followed my blog for a while, you probably know that I'm into health and fitness, as well as theology, art, and music.

Just recently, this passion has turned into a possible avenue of production.  Beachbody, a nationwide health and fitness compcny, and the producers of such best-selling workout programs as P90X and Insanity, has started Team Beachbody- a way for people like me to get involved in the Beachbody business model as independent coaches.

So anyway, I'm now officially an independent Team Beachbody coach.  If you need someone to hold you accountable for the way that you're treating the body that God has given you, that's a huge part of my job description- and there's a growing group of people on Facebook who are ready to do just that.  If you know you need to be taking better care of yourself, but aren't sure how to start, let's talk!  If you want to lose weight, be stronger, faster, healthier, less prone to injury, wiser in your diet choices, or maybe even more energetic, then please take a moment to shoot me an e-mail.

(For those whom it may edify, here's an old post on this topic- Biblical principles of physical fitness.)

So there's an update on what I've been doing recently.  I certainly appreciate your prayer as I seek God's Will in this area.  I can see some great opportunities to share the Gospel as I get involved with people on a personal level- but there is also the ever-present danger of compromise, and the temptations that come with the underclothed culture of fitness communities.  Again, I covet your prayers!  If you have any questions about what this means for me or what it can mean for you or anything else, please ask- either in the comments below or by e-mailing me via the above link!


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

HERO - First Look


Shad Eash, a good friend and very skillful graphic artist, has been working on this cover for a while now, and we're reaching the end of the journey. I wanted to share some of the latest revisions with you all- and I'd love to hear your feedback.
 

HERO is not my first album, but it will definitely be a much more mature album than my previous stand-alone release (praise God for growth!).  The album takes its name from the title of this piece- and that piece should give a good idea for the epic tone that I'm trying to achieve with this album.


I would appreciate any prayers that you feel led to give in the direction of God's blessing upon this endeavor (well, and any other prayers you feel led to give...).  I also greatly appreciate it whenever someone shares my music with others- whether that means Tweeting one of my YouTube videos, sharing this blog post (or my blog) on Facebook, or blogging about my website.  Anything you can do to get what I do in front of more people's eyes is a tremendous blessing.


Thank you all for your support- not just with my musical endeavors, but with everything that I'm trying to do here.  I love the little community of visitors that I've come to know over the years of blogging here.  Y'all are a huge blessing to me.  :-)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

REVIEW: The Avengers


The Avengers was a fun ride. Like its Marvelous predecessors, it managed to serve up considerable amounts of cheese, but a well-paced story, an ensemble of engaging and quirky characters, and a heavy dose of artistic excellence kept the film both engaging and enjoyable.

The Art 

The Good 

There's a lot to say about the quality of the films that Marvel has been pumping out recently. The crisp, clean videography, combined with directorial panache, make them a pleasure to view- even when they aren't a pleasure to watch. The music, while perhaps not always amazing, is usually tasteful and at least industry grade. Sometimes we are even treated to some great themes, like in Silvestri's Captain America.

In The Avengers, I thoroughly enjoyed the script, which was full of witty banter and genuine humor. Many of the actors also sold their parts very well- particularly Robert Downey, Jr.'s Tony Stark, whose sense of humor and sense of humanity rescued the film from rising amounts of cheese on multiple occasions.

"Doth mother know you weareth her drapes?"

The story, too, was more satisfying than that of some other Marvel endeavors, neither feeling rushed nor long-in-the-tooth. I suspect that these three things combined- the well-scripted, entertaining, and endearing interactions of the well-acted characters in an engaging story- are the strongest points of The Avengers' art, and are largely responsible for its remarkable success.

Then there's Loki.


Many a good film lacks a great villain.  Not The Avengers.  Loki is at once evil enough to hate, personable enough to like, and human enough to sympathize with- all without there ever really being a blurring of the lines of good and evil.  The strength of the hero(es), it has been said, can only be as great as the strength of the villain.  Loki was not only a convincingly formidable opponent- he also just felt believable.  Even with the goofy helmet.

I found Silvestri's Avengers theme very appropriate and well-used, and the impressive visual scope of the film is also definitely worth mentioning.


The Bad 

I mentioned cheese, and I shall mention it again. Though the good points of this film rendered the cheese to be eminently bearable, the fact still remains that Velveeta made many a cameo in this filmographic masterpiece. From moments of stone-faced "I'm awesome"-


to exploits too unbelievable even for supermen-


this film delivers an exquisite array of some of the finest cheeses this aficionado has ever tasted. Firing two pistols at once may look cool, but I don't recall ever seeing a real soldier running into battle wielding both his Glocks at once.  Talking of cheese, I think the film would be rendered more effective if the names of the characters weren't so far-fetched. Nick Fury? Seriously?


The egalitarianism in this film is something that I'll go into more depth on in the worldview section, but the truth is that androgeny isn't just bad philosophy- it's bad art, too. To portray a woman fighting with and overpowering men like this film does begins to smell like an ideology being forced into the story, at the expense of art, realism, and even the story itself. (I mean, seriously, it would be corny enough for a guy to snap out of a chair in which he is bound and level a room full of interrogators!)

The graphics were good, but at some (otherworldly) points I found them a bit ridiculous- at once not creative enough and overly bizarre. I found some of the costuming, too, a bit fantastical, especially on the SHIELD ship, which felt more to me like the Starship Enterprise than the USS Enterprise.


The Worldview

The Good

There is a lot to be admired in the eccentric group of people known as the "Avengers", and there are some quite good morals to be taken away from their story. Captain America remains my favorite of the heroes, being a strong leader, a moral man, and a man of principle devoted to ideals higher than himself.

"You know, the last time I was in Germany and saw a man standing above everybody else, we ended up disagreeing."

And his line, "There's only one God, ma'am, and I'm pretty sure He doesn't dress like that," was my favorite line in the film.


One of the strongest moral messages in Avengers came from the ongoing interchange between Steve Rogers (Captain America) and Tony Stark. The climax of their rivalry came as Rogers accused Stark of being, in a word, selfish- being a man unprepared to lay down his life for a cause greater than himself. Stark's reaction shows that, deep down, he knows it is true. But in the final moments of the film we see Ironman make a decision that proves that he is more than just an immature playboy in a robot-suit- that he is prepared to do the right thing, even at risk of his own life- that he is a real man.


Real men are prepared to make sacrifices. Real men are prepared to lay down their lives for the innocent and for the Truth. The greatest example of this, of course, was given by Jesus Christ Himself- Who went beyond laying down His life for the innocent, and gave it for the guilty. So this message, and this character transformation on the part of Tony Stark, was a very strong and beautiful portrayal that added depth to the film, power to the story, and genuine character to the personality of Ironman.


The Bad

Of course, Ironman also deserves a mention in the not-so-great section of my worldview analysis. His self-described playboy character is incompatible with a Biblical definition of what makes a hero. Tony Stark is likable, he is funny, he even does heroic things, but until he submits to Christ, no act of heroism which he makes can make him truly a hero.


Miss Natasha Romanoff is also a character in need of redemption (for what, exactly, the film does not specify). Somewhat like Mr. Stark, Natasha seeks to erase the "red in her ledger" by committing acts of heroism.


This is a picture of redemption that is futile, unsatisfying, and contrary to Scripture. Miss Romanoff needs to find her redemption and identity in Christ. Only by the blood of The Savior can the red in her ledger ever be fully washed away. The Scriptural picture of sin and salvation is not the balancing act of yin and yang. No amount of good deeds can outweigh the evil of a single sin to make the sinner holy and justified in the eyes of a thrice holy God. The wages of sin is death, and without the shedding of blood there can be no remission of sin. Praise God for His marvelous mercy in providing a way for sinners like me- and like Natasha, were she a real person seeking redemption- to be saved. What a glorious gift.

Natasha also embodies one of the most dangerous messages of this film- feminism, all growed up. She isn't alone, joined in the ranks of he-women by Nick Fury's gun-totin', pants-wearin' secretary. 


(STRAW MAN ALERT: "Gabriel is saying that women should never carry guns or wear pants or they are wicked feminazis!" No. I'm not.)

Throughout the film, we watch Miss Romanoff fighting men and monsters indiscriminately. The androgeny is thorough, and apparently no one, the whole film long, gives a second thought to the fact that they're fighting against (or alongside) a woman. Would a man like Captain America, with the chivalry of the WWII era still strong in his mind, even consider treating a woman- regardless of her ability- like just another soldier? More importantly, would Jesus? (Neh. 4:14)


My siblings and I have been listening in to the Botkin sisters' excellent webinar on what the Bible has to say about beauty, specifically in the realm of feminine fashion. Last Tuesday, the webinar featured an analysis of the fashion of certain eras and how those fashions correlated with the culture's view of womanhood at the time. What does Natasha Romanoff's wardrobe say about America's view of women today?

I submit that it says two things, loud and clear:

1. We see women as indistinct from men in any significant way beyond the obvious physical differences. The costumes of the heroine are very utilitarian, with no frills, no skirts, no lace, no feminine touches whatsoever. Men don't usually spend much time beautifying themselves. Neither does Natasha, nor the new woman that she represents. She dresses to kill.


(STRAW MAN ALERT: "Gabriel thinks that women aren't anything more than eye candy and their primary job is to look pretty for their husbands." Nice try. Wrong.)

2. We really enjoy drawing attention to and sensualizing the obvious physical differences. Let's be honest, folks, the skin-tight wardrobes of the primary female characters in the film are immodest. They're sensual, shapely, and suggestive. Just because she's covered doesn't mean that she is covered. Miss Romanoff is dressed to kill in more ways than one. (Pr. 7)

(By the way, some of our male heroes could do with a wardrobe increase of a size or two. Steve Rogers has no more right to showcase his muscles than Natasha Romanoff has to draw attention to her curves.  I've heard enough girls drooling over Thor that I'm ready to suggest a looser pair of trousers.  Male modesty is different from female modesty, but it isn't less important- more on that here.)

So, really, in the name of making women equal, the feminism and egalitarianism that we see in films like The Avengers does just the opposite. It degrades womanhood, casting it aside in favor of a perverted mixture of sensuality and androgeny. It reduces both men and women to their anatomical differences, making them objects to be consumed, lusted after, and used, while any significant distinctions in role are cast aside. What kind of liberation is this? It discourages Biblical manhood in favor of a feminized and soft masculinity, and it erases Biblical femininity, sending the women to the front lines to fill the role of the men whom it just sent away from the battlefield!

Men, we need to take the lead. Be the man. When something goes bump in the night, don't send your wife out with the gun. I don't care if she's a Russian-born assassiness. It's our job and our calling to be both the physical and the spiritual protectors of our families. It should also be our joy. We've abdicated this position for far, far too long.

Ladies, come home! Not just in the basic stay-at-home-mom sense, but in the deeper sense of being a keeper of the home, who loves being a wife, a mom, a sister, a homemaker, a woman. Don't let the feminists set the narrative. Don't buy their lie. Natasha Romanoff will never have as much impact on the world as one faithful mother.

One more observation. There were a couple of scenes where Miss Romanoff was in serious danger, and the tough-guy bravado peeled away for a moment.


In those moments, she seemed small, soft, feminine. In those moments, I wanted to protect her, to rescue her, to be her knight in shining armor. Most of the time, she was hard and masculine, and I was kinda left hoping one of the guys would show her up.

"Sorry, miss, but you've only trained to be a man.  I was born one."

Even better, that one of the guys would treat her with gentlemanly courtesy and expect her to act like a lady, instead of accepting her as "one of the guys."

(Note- I don't mean to suggest that "showing her up" would be a proper course of action on my part or the part of the male heroes, and I hope that if I met Natasha Romanoff I would treat her with the same courtesy, chivalry, and love that I aspire to treat all women with.  For me to try to "show her up" would be a violation of the very principles that I'm talking about in the first place.)

(STRAW MAN ALERT: "Gabriel thinks that women should be fearful, weak china-dolls who can't do hard things, can't work hard, can't sweat, can't use a gun, can't throw a punch, can't protect themselves and their families." Wrong on every count.)

Manly Amazon-womanhood trades in chivalry for competition, and the immense value of the gift of femininity for a cheap wannabe-masculinity.

This competition isn't a problem with the male heroes. In their case, I would be equally glad to have a friendly tussle or to fight alongside them against the bad guys.


Indeed, I would certainly enjoy the competition ("Come on, Captain, let's see who can do more push-ups!"), and there would be a mutual friendship and respect and camaraderie that just would not be there between myself and miss Romanoff- so long as she insisted on me relating to her as a man.  I mean, really... what guy wants to lose in an arm-wrestling match with a girl?  And what guy really wants to win in an arm-wrestling match with a girl?  He's left with two bad options.  That's a real bummer of a competition.  (The right choice? The third option.)

So, ironically enough, the only way for me to truly relate to Natasha with the same feeling of togetherness and unity as I would with the guys would be if she lived out a different role from my own.  Only then could we enjoy true equality.

She can never be equally as manly as the men.  Even the good ol' egalitarian US military, now proudly sending the precious daughters of our country into front-line combat to be shot-up and mutilated (yay for progress!), still has different- easier- physical fitness requirements for women than it does for men.  How does this make any sense at all?

If she seeks equality by becoming a man, she will be disappointed, because she is not and cannot be equally manly.  She was never supposed to be.

But if she seeks equality by seeking womanhood she becomes priceless.  Now she can become everything that she was created to be- a helper suitable for the man.  (Gen. 2)  Now we have true equality- each of us fulfilling our God-given roles, finding equal value in different purpose.  Now we complement and need each other (because even as she was created for the man, remember that it was not good for the man to be alone either!).  Now the woman needs the man to be what God has called him to be.  Now he needs her, because she is something he isn't, and she does something he can't.

Of course, ultimately, our goal should not be to find equality, but to find Christ.  To seek first The Kingdom of God, and His righteousness.  Then comes the rest.  Praise God, included in that little "the rest" is not only equality as brothers and sisters in Christ- but also the amazing privilege of being joint heirs (though we could never be equal) with Christ Himself!

So I thought the two major worldview weaknesses with The Avengers were feminism and a false portrayal of redemption by our own good works.

Some other issues worth mentioning:

Thor and Loki are supposed to be gods.  The film makes light of this, but they do wield supernatural powers.  Captain America's line really rescues this issue for me, but it's still important to remember that anyone but The One True God claiming godhood isn't a joke, it isn't funny, it isn't artistic- it's blasphemous, sinful, and wrong.  We can find other ways to tell our stories, without toying with things that are not for us to touch.  May God give us the eyes to see these things as He sees them.


A related point to this is the almost Scriptural importance given to the Tesseract- an object which one character says is more than knowledge- it's truth.  This is an eerie contradiction to Christ's claim that He is The Truth. (Jn. 14:6)

On a similar note, the earth does not need Thor's protection- we need the protection of Almighty God.

Our heroes have a good bit of rivalry shared between them, which isn't necessarily bad worldview on the part of the film (it's not shown as a good thing), but which does provide a great opportunity to discuss pride, gentle answers which turn away wrath, and so on. (Pr. 15:1)


Mr. Banner- the Hulk- is always angry?  That's not an admirable or heroic trait.


The topic of aliens and other worlds is also one that may warrant discussion.


Overall,

I really enjoyed The Avengers.  Fun, funny, yet meaty, with a surprisingly good moral to the story, it's one I'll definitely watch more than once.  It is worth mentioning that I watched a cleaned-up version, so while I know that there was some bad language, I didn't hear any!  Also, along with the tight clothing throughout, one of the opening scenes involves a woman in attire that shows more skin than would be preferable- parents be wary.  Children might also be scared by some of the alien creatures.  There are a few mild innuendoes also woven into the script.  That said, for a "grown-up" movie, The Avengers was pretty clean.  Despite the occasional shot of cheese, I found it well worth the watch (unlike some other superhero films that I've seen recently...), and thoroughly enjoyed the ride.  I look forward to seeing it again.

4/5


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Meet Billy Joe-Bob



I wrote the following article for Turning Point USA.  It goes into a little bit more depth on the subject that I broached in the video.

Desperate Measures

For a long time, the abolishment of the Department of Education was an outspoken part of the Republican party platform. ( http://www.cato.org/research/articles/gryphon-040211.html ) Today, such a suggestion seems absurd, but is it really such a far-fetched idea? In a nation where the federal government is $16,000,000,000,000 in the red, is a real remedy going to be easy to swallow? Is it possible that a true solution, by the very nature of the immense problem, must itself be far-reaching; that the serious reformation of a gargantuan error must surpass the political bandages of recent years; that, perhaps, the deep economic ditch that America finds herself in can only be escaped by a solution that appears radical?

Scripture leaves no ambiguity about the dangers of debt. Repeatedly God tells the children of Israel that if they would only walk in obedience to Him, they would lend to many nations. The prophesied consequences of disobedience to God's commands, on the other hand, regularly include debt. Scripture says that "the borrower becomes the lender's slave." Is it not a sorry irony that the nation which stands as an unparalleled icon of liberty among all the nations of the world should have enslaved herself to other nations in $16,000,000,000,000 shackles? It is more than ironic; it is sickening. Ten years ago a debt-free nation was clearly in sight, a prize within arm's reach; now, it appears to be an impossibility.

In fact, if America continues down the path that she is currently treading glibly, it will shortly become an impossibility. The issue has been avoided for long enough, buried under rhetoric, danced around with false promises and good but fruitless intentions. A nation can only walk in defiance of the laws of nature and of nature's God for so long before she reaps the fruit that she has sown. It is high time that America woke up, stepped back, and took an honest look at what steps must be taken to bring about a serious reconstruction of America's economic infrastructure. This nation cannot afford to continue with the semantical dances of politics-as-usual. She is fast approaching the point of no return. It has happened to many nations both ancient and modern. To think that America is exempt from the law of sowing and reaping is absurd.

It is time for America to fight for her liberty again; not just in the political sphere, but also in the economic. This nation is built on the foundation of freedom, and she is selling her birthright for the porridge that is temporary pleasure. She has marched down this path too far to be turned back by half-measures.

Are the people of America prepared to make these sacrifices? Are Americans ready to consider eliminating government agencies and overreaching beauracracies that never should have existed in the first place? Or are the people of this once-great nation too enraptured with their comforts and their food stamps and the great facadé that is American prosperity today to make these crucial decisions? Only time will tell.

As Americans, we inherit a legacy of sacrifice. It is because of that sacrifice that we enjoy the legacy of freedom. If we are to perpetuate that legacy, we must choose freedom over free stuff. We must be prepared to bite the bullet and cauterize the cancer that is a bloated federal government. Agencies and programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the Department of Education, the USDA, the EPA, and the rest, are all beyond the pale of Scripture and contrary to the intent of the Constitution.

It's time to reject the free stuff. Of course, the truth is that one way or another the free stuff will end. Eventually, as Margaret Thatcher said, we will run out of other people's money. Let us not deceive ourselves. We like to think that we are spending our children's inheritance (and we are), but really we are destroying ourselves. So the choice is ours. We can go down in the history books as the generation that finally said “NO.” Or we can hand our children the broken remnants of a once-great nation and go down in the history books as another sad page in the annals of the world; just another generation that said “sorry.”

The choice is ours. Let's stop pretending. America is sick. Is the disease terminal? Time will tell, but one thing is certain- band-aids are not the solution.

"My son, if you have become surety for your neighbor, have given a pledge for a stranger, if you have been snared with the words of your mouth, have been caught with the words of your mouth, do this then, my son, and deliver yourself; since you have come into the hand of your neighbor, go, humble yourself, and importune your neighbor. Give no sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids; deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hunter's hand and like a bird from the hand of the fowler.” - Proverbs 6:1-5

Monday, September 17, 2012

Happily Ever After

Once upon a time, there was a man named Joe.  Joe was a healthy man.  He was always very careful to eat his vegetables, and he exercised every day.

Joe lived on a street with nineteen other people.  These nineteen people were all very unhealthy.  They only ate things that were fried, and their couches had permanent indentations proving that exercise was not a regular habit for them. 

Every morning, Joe would wake up and go for a run in the cool morning breeze.  It was his way of energizing himself- waking up and embracing the challenge and joy of a new day.  Deep breaths of cool, fresh air, a light sweat, the thrill of blood moving glibly through his veins- he loved it.  If ever one of his neighbors happened to be outside (which, of course, wasn't often) he would greet them with a cheery “Good Morning!”

The nineteen other people on the street hated Joe.  Every morning, as he ran past their living-room windows, it reminded them of how unhealthy they were.  Soon enough, they decided to do something.

Joe's neighbors complained to the government.  They marched up and down the street (well, they would have marched if they could have) waving signs that said “We are the 95%”.  They sent letters saying, “save us, government, from this cruel man who takes care of himself without thinking about the rest of us who are so miserably unhealthy!”

The government, of course, was eager to oblige.  The government loves helping their people.  The government cares.

So the “Health and Wellness for Everyone Act” was passed.  The government decided that, in the interest of helping people, the very healthiest people in the nation would have to give some of their health to people who weren't so well off.  This would make life better for everyone!

Now Joe, of course, kept on exercising and eating well.  But he noticed that he was no longer improving at his workouts.  His runs became more difficult every morning.  Soon, he was barely able to pant past his neighbors' houses.  They all laughed at him.  They weren't actually feeling much better, but at least he wasn't feeling better than they were.

Joe was heartbroken.  No matter how hard he tried, he only got in worse shape.  Finally, he gave up.  He joined his neighbors in the ranks of the couch-potatoes.  He traded in his kale chips for corn chips.

Soon enough, the health of the neighborhood deteriorated to worse than it had ever been before.  Eventually, everyone died of heart attacks.  And the government continued to help people happily ever after.



THE END

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Government cannot produce any wealth of actual substantial value.  By its very nature, government exists on the industry of others- real producers of wealth.

When we consider, then, the state of the economy, we need to remember that creating more government jobs actually only extracts more from the national economy.

There are two ways to pay for a government expense: the first is by direct taxation, which should only be done to fund Scriptural and Constitutional programs.  The second is by indirect taxation- inflation, which is always theft.  It waters down the national money supply, and devalues the wealth of the people of the nation.

Free money from the government is an illusion, for two reasons- first, what the government pays for, it likes to think that it owns.  Second, the government is getting that money somewhere- either someone earned it, and the government took it, or the government printed it, thereby stealing it from the national economy as a whole.

So when the government pays welfare checks, medicare, unemployment, or anything else, what is actually happening is that the federal government is transferring money from one American to another American- by force.  In effect, it's stealing from Joe to give to his neighbor.

When this happens, it destroys the incentive to productivity.

The incentive to productivity.

To say it a different way, when the government takes from the rich to give to the poor, it subsidizes poverty.



Many a sign in a park warns visitors not to feed the animals- or they might not learn to feed themselves.  The same holds true of people.

Scripture says that “the worker's appetite works for him, for his hunger urges him on.”  When the choices are work, steal, or starve, work seems like the best option.  There is a strong incentive- hunger- that causes people to want to work.  But when the choices are work, let the government steal for you, or starve, suddenly the path of least resistance leads right over our fellow Americans.

And we don't care.

The objection may arise:

“But taking 30% or even 50% or 70% of a rich guy's millions of dollars will still leave him with plenty enough to survive on.”

True, but taking 100% of that rich guy's millions of dollars will not be enough for the consumers to survive on.

We're $16T in debt.  How's that take-from-the-rich-to-fund-our-programs working for you?

More importantly, though, is the fact that suddenly we've given ourselves the authority to decide who has made too much- who it is right to steal from- who we bleed to keep the rest of us going.

Where did we get the right to take 30%, or even 20% of his income, when we aren't willing to pay the same amount?

By what standard is that OK?

The final thing I want to address is the idea that- well, hey, you're supposed to be a Christian!  The Bible would want the rich guy to give to the poor, right?

Absolutely.  The Bible also says “Thou shalt not steal.”  We don't have the right to take from Joe.  If he wants to give, fine, but stealing from him in order to satiate our arbitrary goal of “fairness” is, quite simply, wrong.

The socialistic view of prosperity is unsustainable.  When 50% of your city is on welfare, as I've heard is the case where I live, that means that half of the people are living off of the labor of others.  Add to that the number of government employees, and the picture becomes frighteningly lopsided.

The path that we are on is unsustainable.  If we do not have a major, major repentance in our country, we must collapse.  Our economy is beyond the point of bandages.  $16T in debt should shock every American.  It's coming, folks.  Atlas is shrugging.  As far as I can see, we have three options.

We can pretend like it's all not real- call it a conspiracy theory- trust that the tree that our forefathers planted will continue to shade us even though we are no longer willing to water it- and wake up homeless and enslaved in the nation that stands among all the earth as the last bastion of Christianity, prosperity, and freedom.

We can repent and reform, cry out to God like Nineveh did, turn from our wicked ways, stop with the games and the politicking, and maybe- just maybe- pull our nation back from the brink.

Or we can take cover and hope that after the facade comes crashing down there will be a remnant left to pick up the pieces.

But until we pay the piper, there can be no happily ever after.



Saturday, September 8, 2012

Doing the Impossible/Possible


Some of my favorites from a recent photo shoot.  Thanks to my sisters for doing all that picture-taking!

In these photos I'm doing a move from P90X2 called the Impossible/Possible. 


Fun stuff.  I wrote a post on Biblical principles of physical fitness once- you can read that here.

So what are you doing to be a good steward of the body that God has given you?

The passage in the picture below is such a good reminder for me when it comes to physical fitness.  The body will pass away, no matter how well you take care of it.  So while it is good to be a good steward of the body that we've been given, it's not good to obsess over the flesh- whether it's exercise, or diet, or style, or whatever, if taken to a point of idolatry it all becomes vanity.

May God give us the wisdom to find a balance between care for the body and care for the soul that is pleasing to Him.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Magic Mike and Male Modesty


 Recently a film by the name of Magic Mike opened to rave reviews.

The film is about male strippers.

The audience for Magic Mike? 73% female

Cue thinking face.

"Well if that don't just speak for itself."

Let's look at Genesis chapter 3, verse 21.

"And the LORD God made garments of skin for Adam's wife, Eve, but told Adam that, since Eve didn't struggle with lust, the principle of modesty didn't apply to him, and so he could continue to wear his fig leaf."

Wait, what? Your translation doesn't say that?

*searches madly*

OK, so where'd we get the idea that girls need to, you know, wear clothes, but guys can show off their sculpted physique with impunity?

I don't know, but I don't think that we got it from The Bible. We hear plenty of exhortations directed to Christian girls, warning them, pleading with them, to be modest, to embrace purity, to think of their brothers, to, you know, wear clothes. Rightly so, for Scripture directs exhortations to modesty directly to the ladies (1 Tim. 2:9), while nature testifies to the powerful attraction that the feminine form has to men- for good and for bad. Furthermore, our culture viciously pulls women towards "strutting their stuff," so the exhortation to remain covered rarely comes amiss for young ladies in my generation.

But when was the last time that you heard a sermon on the way guys dress? It seems that for some reason we have assumed that girls don't struggle with lust. At a deeper level, it seems that while we know that the Bible has something to say about how women dress, we somehow conclude that It is silent on the male wardrobe. This is a glaring inconsistency in our orthopraxy.

We all know that men and women are different, that we struggle with different things. I believe that lust, however, is not a gender-specific crime. While we may struggle with different kinds of lust (I don't remember hearing any man say that it was his wife's muscular physique that first drew him to her), I see no Scriptural justification for saying that anyone is free from the temptation of lust.

This would, it seems, contradict the common idea that most girls don't wrestle with lust. It's a widespread perception, but I've been reassured by multiple sisters in Christ that this is simply not the case.  If there's any doubt left, I think the 73% female audience of Magic Mike speaks for itself. I've seen plenty of conversations on the internet about [insert name of handsome actor of choice] which, if spoken by men about women, would be at the very least a toeing of the lust-line which Christ forbids us to cross.

Guys, our sisters in Christ do struggle with this, and it's time that we man up and start loving our sisters in Christ by the way we dress.


The Biblically-informed masculine wardrobe is important for a deeper reason even than consideration for our sisters who struggle with the same sins that we wrestle with: that's what we see in God's Word. God clothed Adam and Eve with the same thing- there's no distinction made there that I can see. 

Other Scriptural principles should also tie in to our understanding of the way we dress. What are we drawing attention to by our clothing choices? Are we finding our identity in our physique, or in our relationship with Christ? Are we loving our sisters in Christ by keeping them pure and encouraging them to focus on their Celestial Husband and their future husband?

The bottom line for me is this: whence cometh this double-standard? What is the Biblical foundation for this distinction? Or is it signed with the classic signature of humanism- arbitrariness?

"Did we make this up?"

Guys, Keep Your Shirt On 

Literally.

I tease, but I'm serious. Next time, before you rip your shirt off and show your sculpted abs to the world, take a moment to consider what God thinks about your clothing choices. When you squeeze yourself into that compression tee that emphasizes those pects of steel, stop to look in the mirror and see what your attention is first drawn to. Before you put on those skinny jeans (why in the world are you wearing skinny jeans?) think about the message that you're sending.  When you slip into your Speedo, please don't. I'm just sayin'.

Just as it's not my place to tell a girl which skirt is too short or which top is too tight- that's between her, her family, and God- so it's not my place to dictate your poolside attire.  If this post succeeds in making you stop and think for a moment about what Scripture has to say about men's fashion, I'm more than happy.

It's not easy. I'm not exactly disappointed when someone compliments me on my physique, and I can tell which shirts best showcase the gun show attached to my shoulders. Just as lust isn't something that only guys wrestle with, so vanity isn't a women-only crime. We may not spend an hour fellowshipping with our makeup kit, but how many hours have we spent with our dumbbells?

(This from a guy who loves to work out and spends an average of an hour and a half exercising daily- sometimes more. My problem isn't with fitness- it's with priorities. I'm making confessions here, too- investing too much time in my temporal body to the detriment of Kingdom pursuits is something that I struggle with on a daily basis.  But if our exercise is done with a Kingdom focus, to better prepare us to serve Christ, and in such a way as wisely makes use of God's time, I'm all for it.  If it's a matter of doing curls for the girls, we'd be better off kissing the dumbbells goodbye.)

This shouldn't be a burden for us.  It shouldn't be something we're paranoid about.  It shouldn't steal our joy.  Nor does it mean that we need to look like unkempt wimps. Scripture says that "The glory of young men is their strength."  It's good for us to be strong, capable, ruddy, even handsome.  Intentional or apathetic ugliness is no virtue, and learning how to dress well and carry ourselves attractively is a worthy pursuit- insofar as we pursue it to honor Christ with our bodies.  But we must do this to call the focus of others to Him- and not ourselves.  Can we not look firmly strong and masculine without highlighting every muscle and sinew?  Isn't this what we have asked the girls to do for so long- to look feminine without accenting every curve?

Come on, guys. We're men. May it not be said that we were too weak to conquer our own vanity- that we weren't willing to wear a looser shirt out of love for our sisters and obedience to our King- that our identity went no deeper than a layer of muscle just beneath our skin.  

The body will pass away.  Being the sexiest man of the year lasts for exactly one year.  It's really no achievement to catch the eyes of girls- plenty of guys can do that.  In fact, being a "heart-breaker" is exactly opposite to the exhortations of Scripture.  If we really love our sisters in Christ, our desire will be to help them focus on Christ- not to get them to focus on us.

Girls, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.  Do you agree with my premise?  If so, what are some of the specific ways that guys can be more thoughtful of you in the way they dress?  What are your greatest stumbling blocks?  Maybe some examples of movie characters or public figures who did or didn't act in a modest way, and how they did or didn't?

Guys- man up.  God's Word has something to say about everything, and our clothing is no exception.  Do we have the strength of character to set aside the temporal pleasures of the praise of men and instead strive to please our King?  Or do we love ourselves too much to make that sacrifice?

Just For Fun

Explain in one paragraph or less why one may, when surrounding or inhabiting a body of water, wear (or not wear) clothing which one would never consider appropriate in another context, and which indeed might be referred to, in other contexts, as underclothing?

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Gift

Over the course of the 18 years of my life God has blessed me with six wonderful younger siblings.  He has also seen fit to bring into the world some brothers and sisters that I never had a chance to meet- children who, though never brought, writhing and crying, into this world, were still, for the precious few weeks of their enwombed lives, my precious siblings- a gift of God.

It's a wild thing knowing that for some weeks at certain periods of my life I had another sibling on this earth- a sibling whom I never met, whom I never even saw.  I don't know if this sibling would have been a rambunctious little brother growing up amongst perpetual swordfights, bandages, and dirt, or perhaps a little princess for my brothers and I to coddle and protect.  I don't know if this sibling would have been tall or strong or smart, what color his hair would have been, what his laugh would have sounded like.

I do know this, for each of them: I shall go to them- they will not come back here to me.

I look forward to meeting them.

A couple times, after these bittersweet moments of loss, we as a family commemorated the occasion by taking a balloon and tying little notes to the string.

We released it into the sky- a little farewell, a memorial, a funeral, a celebration.

So I have special attachment to this little project that I was blessed to score last week- a project that connects with me in a way that is more than coincidental:



I don't believe in coincidences.

As I think about this piece of music, it reminds me so much of our babies that we never met- the simple, childish expectation- the bittersweetness- the climax that just barely begins to explore all that the music could have been and then disappears, waiting to be discovered on another distant day- the incomplete beauty- the emptiness of a work that was never realized in its fulness, and yet was worth every moment of its short life, something that could have been so much more, and yet was perfect in its incompletion, in being everything that it was written to be.

So I dedicate this piece of music to those siblings whom I never met.

We'll meet soon enough, beloved.

The Gift by gabrielhudelson