Friday, June 22, 2007

You've won the lottery - Now what?

At work the other day, someone brought up that stale old topic - What would you do if you won the lottery?

I love this question because I believe it reveals character. So go ahead - What would you do?

Would you buy a new car? Nothing wrong with that. New House? Okay. Travel? Sure. But then what? Don't worry. Most people go through a litany of what they would buy themselves. But then what? Most people stop there. Do you mention the good that you could do? It surprises me how many people don't.

Once I give my answer of paying for medical treatment for the poor and helping our wounded or traumatized veterans, they then start coming up with their own ideas of helping others.

You see, if you win the lottery ( We're talking the multi-multi million kind here ) your basic needs are met. With that taken care of, you can pursue your real heart's desire. That's the big question, isn't it? What is your hearts desire?

It's not as simple as you might think. Everyday in America, someone wins a lottery of sorts. Their new album goes platinum. Their stock options go through the roof. They finally get access to their trust fund. What they do with it, reveals not only their character, but strips away the myths of what constitutes human fulfillment.

The world is replete with music stars who after achieving professional success, financial abundance, and the admiration of millions then commit suicide. Why? They got everything they ever wanted. Of course, that's the problem isn't it. They got what they wanted, but not what they needed.

Unfortunately, due to the fact that most of us won't win the lottery, this myth will continue to flourish. To the poor single mother trying to make ends meet, her need is money. It's natural for her to assume that if her financial burden is met, she will be fulfilled. Obviously her life would be better, but what about her soul. There is a God-shaped hole in all of us that only Jesus can fill.

So what would you do if you won $100 million? Buy a $10,000 watch or pay for a child's operation? Buy a tenth car for your collection or buy a local church a new van? Blow $5,000 at a casino or put a new roof on an elderly person's home?

So, what is your heart's desire? To accumulate all the things you want? Or, to have the fulfillment and purpose for your life that only Christ can provide? One of those options is free for the asking. For the other - well - you have to win the lottery.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

How to write a blockbuster . . .

I'm not a big fan of the Left Behind series. After reading the first six books, I lost interest. At the time, I attributed it to the fact that the story was being stretched out too thin in order to sell more books. I guess you can't blame them for that and who can argue with the success. But I will also admit that I didn't think the writing was all that good. To Jerry Jenkins credit, he admits that he's not a great writer and will never impress anyone with his prose. There's a lesson in this I suppose: a good story will trump mediocre writing.

( Side note: I thoroughly enjoyed his book Writing for the Soul. Although he borrowed heavily from Dean Koontz's How to Write Best Selling Fiction. I'm not criticizing - Mr. Jenkins admits this throughout the book. That's what I like about him - he seems to be a very upfront and down to earth. )

Butttt . . . What drew me to the Left Behind series in the first place? I'm not a bandwagon jumper. The reason is - because until recently - I've never understood the book of Revelations. I avoided it like the plague. It just didn't seem to fit in the rest of the New Testament - especially the four gospels.

But here in story form, someone was going to explain it to me. Well, count me in. That's the appeal. Most Christians don't understand the book of Revelation and were looking for something easier to understand than the professor-like and confusing dissertations that most of the so-called experts offer.

Bingo! That's how you write a blockbuster.

So, like the rest of Christendom, I ran out, bought a copy, and started reading. But, alas, I was still not satisfied. I just can't seem to accept the scenario as outlined in Left Behind. So I have decided to launch a fresh investigation into Revelation. ( more on that later )

Now, lets look at another blockbuster - The Davinci Code.

The reverse happened with D-code, the skeptical on the fence general public yearned for something to back up their spineless stance. Holy Blood, Holy Grail didn’t explode because it wasn’t a novel. Thus - the power of fiction shines again.

I believe that the readers of The Davinci Code and The Left Behind series ( at least the ones I have met ) were people who don't read novels on a regular basis. In both cases, the public opted for a story to explain vague concepts that they couldn't grasp through lecture.

On one hand, as an aspiring novelist, this realization of the power of fiction is exciting. But, on the other hand, it terrifies me - Because millions had to be constantly reminded that The Davinci Code is FICTION. And just in case you were wondering - so is Left Behind.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Can God create a rock so big, that even He can't lift it?

I have to admit that is a clever line. It supposedly puts theists in a philosophical box. If you answer no, then the atheist can say "see God has limits - he is not all-powerful." And, if you say yes, then the atheist can say "If He can't lift it, then God has limits - he is not all-powerful.

The rebuttal to this is very simple. God can choose to do both. That's right. He can choose to create a rock so heavy that He can't lift it and then turn around and choose to lift it. You see - He's God.

True omnipotence is the ability to choose your own limitations - At any chosen time and any chosen place.

But the real answer is that the question is born of faulty logic. It presupposes that God is subject to man's limitations. God transcends his creation. Weight has no bearing on God's ability to manipulate matter. He created it. He is not restricted by it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Secret to writing a bestseller . . .

I am absolutely stunned at the popularity of this book - The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

Maybe I give the general population to much credit for discernment. Maybe it demonstrates the power of slick marketing and humanity's yearning for hope. I don't know, but on the surface - this book should only get a cursory glance from book buyers and then be replaced on the shelf as gibberish. A con. False hope wrapped in pseudo-scientific psycho-babble. --- But Noooo. It's featured on Oprah, Larry King, etc. . . .

No one should even have to explain how out of touch with reality this book is. Our built-in hog-wash detectors should go off within 10 feet of this book. The Secret is basically that you can have anything you want if you just think it. Think the right way about a new Mercedes and you will naturally attract it.

First the author actually claims that The Secret is based on the scientific principle of the law of attraction. Well that law applies to matter not thought. But the real camel-back-breaking-straw is this:

One of the so-called Teachers of the Secret, Joe Vitali, actually said this:

Larry King asked him how does Jessica Lundsford - the little girl who was kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and buried alive - fit in to all this? Did she attract this evil?

He responded "We all attract everything to ourselves. There is no exception."

WOW! So it's the little girl's fault that she was raped and killed. Where does this thinking end? By this principle, ALL VICTIMS ARE GUILTY. It's not the rapist or murderer's fault, they were at the mercy of the universe - puppets of the mystical powers of their victim's thoughts.

Hmm. Let's see. If I rob a bank tomorrow, it's the bank's fault.

What sickens me is that these people don't actually believe in the Secret, they believe only in acquiring wealth at the gullibility of others. And they don't care what damage they do in the process. Can you imagine being the parent of a girl who was kidnapped, raped, and killed - and then you have to listen to this guy tell you that it was her fault?

As usual, the Bible is right, "the love of money is the root of all evil."

Listen to an hour discussion of the dangers of this book and hear the quote from Larry King here:

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Changing The World Through Art?

By Guest Blogger - - Todd Dufrene

A Christian Framework For Creativity

Far be it from me to be the heartless old salt who steals the innocence from all of the wide eyed idealists out there, (funny, but you know there's always a but after a statement like that) but I'm afraid I have some bad news for all you budding artistic types who envision your art changing the world. Of course I am confidant that most of you are intelligent enough that after several years of banging your collective head against the stone wall of human nature you will figure it out for yourselves. But, here I offer you a shortcut to the wisdom it took me years to acquire and etch into my cavernous cranial cavity.

The weaker among you should look away now. For the stouthearted among us, here is the ugly truth.

It is a great fantasy to dream that we will make that ultimate irresistible argument, or that we will produce that work of art so profound that people will gaze upon it, or read it, or listen to it, whichever the case may be, and be forced to acknowledge that there is a God and that His nature is as revealed to us in Holy writ. But, that is all it is – fantasy and dreams.

It may be unrealistic to think that our artistic creations will ever change even one person's heart and mind. Correct me if I'm wrong, but examples of a piece of art causing a conversion or directly impacting the culture at large are pretty rare. “Uncle Tom's Cabin” comes to mind. But, other than the once in a generation anomaly, art pretty much is preaching to the choir. I believe it is a false hope to think that because my creativity reaches a certain level that people will all of the sudden 'see the light'.

I see two ways that lives are actually changed. In fact there is only one way, through the work of the Holy Spirit, but He usually uses one of two means, or more likely, a combination of the two - the preaching of the Word of God and the observation of a well lived Christian life.

Can God use our artistry to nudge, cultivate, water, nourish and so forth? Absolutely. Should our art reflect the true nature of God and His creation? Absolutely. Can our art be salt and light and provide an alternative to the endless onslaught of Godless art. Absolutely. Can the collective body of our God honoring art help foster a more Godly perspective in this world's collective consciousness? Perhaps. At least that is a more reasonable expectation than instant conversion or cultural shift because of a single piece of art.

I do not propagate these harsh truths to discourage any one from pursuing their artistic passion. On the contrary, I am more excited than ever about what the future holds for me regarding my creativity. Unfettered from the codependent need to save anyone or to change the world, I have the freedom to simply follow my God given creative urges wherever He leads me and leave the job of changing people to their Creator.

Enjoy your creativity. Revel in it. Treasure it as the gift of God that it is. Do it as unto The Lord. Do it with all of your heart, mind and strength, but keep it in proper perspective.

As for me, I do not create with the thought of nor the purpose of impacting anyone. I create because I am a creation of a creative being who created me in His creative image. I am compelled to create because it is in my nature. I am compelled to create Godly art because I have chosen to allow His nature to rule my nature. And, if that is indeed the case, then hopefully my creative expression will honor Him and bear good fruit.

-Todd Dufrene

Sunday, June 3, 2007

A Billy Graham Monument . . . Really?

When I first heard that the BGEA (Billy Graham Evangelistic Association) was building The Billy Graham Library, I was a little confused. The idea of a Billy Graham Monument just didn't sound like something Rev. Graham would support. It simply doesn't fit the character of the man. Obviously, Rev. Graham couldn't be behind this.
So, I did what any normal person would do -- I got paranoid -- Oh, no. It's finally happened. They have finally taken advantage of the man's age and ill-health. Those corporate wienies who run the business side of the ministry, no longer restrained by the humility of Billy Graham, are going to unleash a wave of religious opportunistic capitalism the likes of which the world has never seen. I can see it now: BillyLand theme parks, a chain of Billy G's Righteous Ribs restaurants, Billy Graham trading cards, Billy Graham the Musical, and yes, a cartoon where Billy Graham uses the gospel in a MacGyver like fashion to take down the bad guys.
But then, I watched the dedication.
Whew. Order was restored. The first thing Franklin Graham said was that the library would not be a monument or a shrine. His father wouldn't allow it. Only after he assured his father that the library would serve as an ongoing evangelistic ministry did he actually get Rev. Graham's support. In fact, Billy Graham's name is not even on the building. What dominates the building: A Cross. When Billy Graham spoke, he said "This building behind me is just a building. It's an instrument; it's a tool for the Gospel. The primary thing is the Gospel of Christ." When he toured it, he remarked that it had too much Billy Graham in it.
I believe Billy Graham's greatest strength is his humble nature. His entire career has been built on the idea that it's not about him, it's about the Gospel of Christ. He has gained the trust of millions because he has never become a brand. That is why he is so revered - because he would be the first to say that he doesn't deserve it. Did you know that Billy Graham once said that he considers himself a failure. That he could have studied more, gone further in school, spent more time with his family. If only I could be such a failure.
Why do we admire Billy Graham? Because it never got to him. The fame, the accolades, the admiration of millions, the millions upon millions of dollars of donations. How many of us - given the chance - could prove so trustworthy?
The best quote regarding the character of Billy Graham that I've ever read came from someone who doesn't believe in God. In Lee Strobel's wonderful book, The Case for Faith, the first chapter tells the story of Charles Templeton. In the 40's, Templeton traveled and preached with Graham until he rejected the Christian faith and became agnostic. He wrote a book with the title Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith. When speaking of Billy Graham he said:

"Billy is pure gold. There's no feigning or fakery in him. He's a first-rate
human being. Billy is profoundly Christian-he's the genuine goods, as they say. He sincerely believes--unquestionably. He is as wholesome and faithful as anyone can be."
Of course, Rev. Graham would disagree.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Jesus: Politically Correct?

After September 11th, a peculiar thing happened -- Jesus became vogue. At least for a little while.

Franklin Graham was allowed to preach on the morning talk shows, not just discuss the situation in a spiritual manner. Quite the contrary. He was given carte blanche and did he ever use it. He practically gave an altar call every time he was on the air. The same shows that days before would have shunned anyone for bringing up religion, now sat back and embraced it. Or did they?

Then I remembered that the same thing happened with Columbine. Before the shootings, Jesus couldn't get past the crossing guard at most schools, but after the shooting he was welcomed with open arms and given the VIP treatment.

Immediately after every tragedy, pastors and evangelists point to the good that will come out of it. And when it comes to the people involved, they're right. Who can forget the impact of Cassie Bernall. With one word, she did more than some do in a lifetime of preaching.

I would like to believe that those in the anti-Christian media, periodically come to their senses and stand on the cusp of opening their heart to Christ, or at least to the idea of Christ. But I'm afraid the truth is less inspirational.

Typically, political correctness works in their favor, but in times of tragedy they have to look down the barrel of their own weapon. But they don't panic. Although they may squirm in their seats for a little while, they know all they have to do is be patient and Jesus will revert back to his politically incorrect form.

At least until the next tragedy strikes.

Photo for sale here: