The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Friday, January 13, 2012

LAN Parties, Headshots in Halo, and the Glory of God

I can remember enjoying LAN parties in high school. About six or eight of us would get together, drink 8 Red Bulls, eat 15 slices of pizza, 20 cookies, and stay up all night blowing each other to smithereens while shouting not so nice things. The game was usually HALO. I had a good time, but I could never quite enjoy it like many of the others because they owned the game, and I did not. They understood the intricacies and nuances of the game that I was unaware of. So when Jonathan Lee or Adam Perrell no-scoped me from the other side of the map and flipped out in celebration, I couldn't fully appreciate the talent and skill that was involved. I couldn't understand the magnitude of the moment.

This was because I didn't understand HALO very well. However, I do know baseball pretty well, and I can tell you, I get goosebumps every time I see a short stop making a diving stop in the hole, scamper to his feet in an instant, and fire a bullet over to the first baseman, who scoops up the short-hop and nearly does a split in the process. For me, that's a "flip out and go crazy" kind of moment, a moment truly worth celebrating. However, my aforementioned friends likely wouldn't understand, at least not to the degree that I do, just how amazing such a play in baseball really is. This is because they haven't experienced baseball like I have and do not know it as well as I do. But when it comes to HALO, they have the experience and knowledge- I don't. 

A no-scope head shot from across the other side of the map, like a diving stop and throw from short-stop in baseball, could be called a glorious play. We see how amazing the headshot, or the diving stop is, and thus we celebrate it. We take great delight in it because it's awesome! Now here is the cool thing, glory has two definitions, one for when it is used as a verb, the other when it is used as a noun. Here they are:

Noun: High renown or honor won by notable achievements

Verb: Take great pride or pleasure in

So then, no scope head shots and diving plays at shortstop are glorious because they are notable achievements, remarkable achievements. That would be the noun sense of "glory." The verb form of glory, then, is the exaltation/celebration/veneration that comes when others rightly recognize the notable achievement. In other words, the proper response to witnessing something glorious, is to glorify it (verb definition). Great HALO players, or any video game for that matter, get glory, because of their notable achievements, as do great baseball players when they make great plays.

So when we get excited about a great video game player, or a great moment (like a headshot) within a video game (and likewise, a great baseball player or great play in baseball), we are glorifying that person for that play, for that notable achievement. And remember, to glorify is the verb form of the word glory. So to give glory, as it says above, means to "take great pride or pleasure in."

Therefore, contrary to what many, many many churches and pastors and Christians teach and think, when God says to glorify Him and His Son, He is actually saying to take delight in Him FOR His notable achievements. And as we glorify Him for His notable achievements His fame, His renown and honor (see noun definition above) is spread throughout the earth.

What I want everyone to be able to see, is that God is more glorious than video games (including beastly no-scope head shots), God is more glorious than baseball, God is more glorious than girls. God is the most glorious thing, the most praise worthy, the most unbelievable thing in the world. He is like 1,000 headshots in a row, all no scope, all from the other side of the map. He is like pitching a perfect game and striking every hitter out, but infinitely more. This is because what God has planned, and what Christ has done so far exceeds the highest, most glorious moments of video games or sports or even relationships that all else falls short, all else pales in comparison.

The problem of course is that even Christians often do not see much of His glory.  Many of us do not understand why God is so glorious, because we don't know Him very well. That's blunt, but it is true. The more we understand HALO, or baseball, or anything, the more we can appreciate the best and most exciting moments of it. Likewise, the more we know God rightly, and the more we understand and comprehend what Christ did on the cross for His people, the more we can see and appreciate and thus be amazed by all His glory.

Ultimately, God's fullest expression of glory is the gospel, and the reason so many Christians today don't see the gospel as glorious is because their churches and pastors are not teaching them the true gospel! They are teaching them a watered-down, diluted version of the gospel, that robs God and Jesus Christ of all His glory! And thus, it robs the cross of all its meaning. Is it any wonder then that we have so many backslidden Christians? Is it any wonder then that those in the pew have a hard time getting excited about God or Jesus Christ? To preach a watered-down gospel and expect the congregation that hears it to praise and fall in love with Jesus and live for Him is like showing the most boring moment of HALO (like switching between the weapons you've gathered or something like that) to someone who has never played it before and then tell them to shout in celebration and say "Wow, that was so awesome!" Or alternatively, it would be like showing a routine ground ball to short stop, or just a regular pitch in baseball, and expecting everyone to suddenly love the sport and find it amazing. No, in the Bible the true gospel is supposed to be the no-scope headshot from across the room just as the person you are no-scoping emerges from behind a wall. The true gospel is supposed to be that walk off grand slam homerun in the bottom of the ninth in the seventh game of the World Series in baseball. It's the high water mark, the moment that brings people to the event. The gospel is the fullest expression, the highest expression of God's glory in all His attributes, and is supposed to be the message that changes hearts and, through the power of the Holy Spirit, turns people from their sins and gives them a strong desire to live their lives for their Lord, Savior, and Maker- Jesus Christ!

And as we can see from the two definitions above of glory, only a truly glorious God is worthy of being praised! So if God is not seen as glorious, as amazing, as the one who dishes out headshots like nobodies business, then we cannot expect to scream in celebration or get very excited over God and Jesus. To prove this, as another illustration, just take out all the headshots, all the most exciting moments of HALO, or take out all the diving plays and home runs from baseball- does that not greatly diminish the glory of these games? Likewise, when the gospel is watered down as many churches have done, the glory of God is watered down, and thus, all that is left is a god that cannot save and thus no one can get very excited about.

God must be seen in His full glory if He is to be praised as He ought to be praised. The true gospel is the beginnings of seeing the full glory of God, and thus is the beginning of all that is exciting about Christ, and all that makes Christ worth living for in place of our sinful, selfish desires. I began to see the full expression of God's glory over three years ago when I was introduced to Calvinism, which I believe is the true expression of the gospel. For the first time in my life, I had real substance, truth, that moved my heart and gave me a far greater desire to stop sinning and start living for Christ- not just emotionalism that pastors try to conjure up at youth rallies, chapel services, or Christian camps.

And that is why, ever since then, His glory has been my story. That is why, ever since then, I have been screaming about Calvinism and the true gospel and theology. It is the most glorious, most exciting thing. And I want all my friends and all that I know to experience it and give God the praise and glory for it.

Before you can have heart surgery (being born again/getting saved), you got to have brain surgery (hearing and understanding the true gospel). If you have found Jesus hard to get excited about because frankly, you didn't see what was so amazing about the false version of the gospel that you were taught, I would strongly encourage you to seek out the true gospel and see what really made Jesus a boss. The Boss of Bosses, in fact.  

And the truth is, once you see God as supremely glorious, you uncover the truth that God can be enjoyed through sports, video games, marriage, and the like as well.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

For God's Sake, Make Art! (Part 2- How Music, Video Games, Books, and Movies Could Save Christianity in America)

Okay, I am taking this in a different direction than what I had originally planned, but bear with me- if you stick through this post, you might be moved to action in a powerful way.

In order to fully understand what I am going to be talking about for part 2 of this series, you really, really need to go and watch this speech by Al Mohler, talking about the disappearance of God. By that, he means that in America, especially in Europe, and around the globe, the Christian worldview is being and in some cases has been lost. New wave atheists like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and the late Christopher Hitchens are working not merely to make atheism a viable option, but to make belief in a god as well as catechism of any kind illegal! They want to take away all religious freedom! They see religion as the great disease, the sickness of mankind. It has been said that mankind is incurably religious- now Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, Hitchens, and others believe they have found the cure- evolution and secularism.

They believe their atheistic worldview will win the day soon, in just a matter of a decade or so. That's not too surprising, you have probably heard them make that claim before. But Mohler showed me for the first time just how real a possibility that is, and why. The reason is because the most secular, godless, atheistic people are teachers, college professors, and entertainment producers- in other words, those who most shape our culture. While 75 percent of Americans may still claim to be Christian, those are mainly people in suburban, small towns. Why does this matter? Because culture is not being made in small towns, and the intellectual leaders of our day don't teach out at the farm! In other words, the 75 percent is a reflection mostly of the country, but in the cities, where culture is being made and produced and shaped, where the party is at, where the next bit of technology or medicine or television show or book is being published, that is where the secularists are in complete control and Christianity, or even theism, is virtually non-existent.

Thus, the reason for this post. There are three things that need to be said without pulling any punches:
1.) Most people that claim to be Christians, aren't.
2.) Most that claim to be Christians and actually are, have a predominantly secular worldview.
3.) The reason 1 and 2 are true is because
a.) Secularists have taken up residence where our culture is shaped and produced.
b.) Secularists are the leading intellects in our nation today and 
c.) Christians have theologically (wrongfully) embraced anti-intellectualism and cultural retreatism. Meaning, we have decided theology matters little and culture is inherently sinful or at least something that Christians should spend little time interacting with.

So as you can see, we Christians have practically handed the secularists/atheists the keys to the future of our country. And there is a circular flow here- secularism took over because Christians retreated/ continue to retreat, and Christians retreated because secularists took over. More and more I am convinced the reason prayer has been taken out of schools, the reason Christian bookstores have been formed instead of being integrated with the rest of the culture, is precisely because this is what we Christians have said we wanted, either explicitly or implicitly by our retreatism. We have become cultural isolationists, choosing to not engage in the world around us, unless perhaps something really drastic comes out of Hollywood that attacks our Christian beliefs. Then we might try to produce some flim-flam of a Christian film, which actually exacerbates the problem because we are not intellectually capable enough or technically skilled enough to produce something worth watching or worth reading.

We Christians are largely intellectual dopes and couldn't hold a candle to the wind in the face of those who push science and philosophy in our faces and say "see here, your god isn't real, and if he were, he'd be a moral monster!" We've stripped down the gospel to just be nice to others, and now the atheists and secularists are saying, "thank you very much, but we don't need Jesus to be nice. Besides, your Bible has God and Jesus doing some pretty unkind things. Care to explain?" And of course, we can't. Thus, because of our stupidity, we come up with the same lame excuses that got us in this plight and confirm ourselves in our ignorance- we retreat to our churches like it's a monastery and lick our wounds. When we come out, we say it's a simple matter of faith, and you just 'have to believe.' I hate hearing that. If Christianity wasn't intellectually satisfying, I wouldn't be a Christian, and I don't know why anyone would be a Christian that doesn't find it reasonable! In fact, the story of the gospel, and the purpose of God with this earth, is the most exciting thing in the world, the most beautiful, exhilarating truth that there is.

All that to say this- make art! For God's sake, for the sake of the kingdom, for the sake of this nation, for the sake of this world, make art so that God's glory can be displayed! Yes, you are going to have to be theologically grounded in order to make art that sends the true message of Christ and actually makes an impact; you must have each to infiltrate culture and take back Hollywood, the publishing industry, the universities, and even video games from the unbelieving world, from the secularists. You must have this for theism and Christianity to be taken seriously in public universities once again. The truth of Christ must be shown not only to be good and true, but also beautiful. And that is where art comes in.

We haven't taken the gospel far enough. Shoot, we've largely lost the essence of the gospel, but I talk about that enough already- it must be recovered, but that's for another post. For now, for those who get the gospel right, it must be proclaimed, not just via evangelism and witness encounters, but through culture. A book can tell of the splendors of Christ, or the glory of good beating evil. A movie can depict the effects of sin without using the word. Music can move us to act in the real world for our King.

If we have our theological bearings, the next step is to see that Christ is sovereign not just over souls, but over all His creation! This especially includes culture making. We were created to make culture, to work, to cultivate the Garden of Eden. We cultivate now, still, by making movies, by writing books, by making music, by acting, by dancing, by making video games, by painting, by sculpting, by sports, by entertaining, etc.

Take Lecrae- the man has proclaimed the glory of Christ and the gospel in the form of rap, which is musical poetry. The gospel and rap! And guess what, the guy is actually talented! We have to be good at what we are doing- at least as good as the secular world, if not better- for our message to be heard. Lots of Christians don't believe this, but it is true just the same- God highly values talent! When Scripture says do all to the glory of God, He didn't mean do it half-heartedly, sloppily, or poorly. No, Scripture says do it heartily (Col. 3:23)!

This, of course, will require Christians to actually work, train, and study in their various callings. Which means no more of these cheesy, poorly written Christian fantasy novels, or third rate, low budget, awfully acted Christian films. Frankly, I've never even heard of a Christian video game.

Instead, we must engage culture, through our works, and through the arts. But for a reason, for a purpose.

To take back this world from the secularists and atheists. For God's sake.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Calvinism Is Not Enough

I've believed in the TULIP, the doctrines of grace, the five points, the biblical way in which God saves man, for a little over three years now. And I've been reforming everything ever since. Understanding rightly how God saves you for the first time, changes everything. It changes your view of God, of Christ, of man. That's an all-encompassing, paradigm shifting, truth, and all one's theology and all one's life must be conformed to it. Unfortunately, we seem to have something of a melting pot of Calvinism- we take a little charismatic teaching and attach it to a Calvinistic soteriology, or a seeker-oriented church preaches Calvinistic soteriology (which, on all accounts, makes zero sense whatsoever). But I believe that even those who do not add these more extreme admixtures can still fall into the trap of thinking that the five points are enough, that Calvinism is enough, that Calvinism speaks to salvation and nothing else. On the contrary, because Calvinism speaks to salvation, it must speak to everything!

This is simply because the gospel is applicable to every area of life. If all of life is to be done unto the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31), and Christ died to save us so that we can once again work and live for His glory (Eph. 2:1-10), then it follows that understanding rightly the nature of Christ's salvation, which frees us to live for God again (some do not even realize this), has huge bearing on the manner in which we must live for it to be God pleasing and God glorifying. Ultimately Piper's statements such as "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him" and "Man's chief end is to glorify God BY enjoying Him forever" I believe are biblically true. But the root of these truths is the ultimate truth that all that is, is for God's glory. God made all things for His glory:

36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Rom. 11:36)

 Or take this beautiful explanation from Colossians 1:

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
Reconciled in Christ
19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.

This is weighty stuff. God sent Christ to die so that Christ could have the preeminence in all things. Clearly then, Calvinism, the five points, is the beginning of the journey, not the end. The five points are like walking into Narnia, not coming full circle and exiting again through the wardrobe. Calvinism is the gateway into seeing the world like Narnia, or kind of like what Chesterton calls "Elfland." But once you discover this beautiful gospel, this beautiful world, this beautiful Story that you are part of, you have to start changing your views and ways in all things so that you can be conformed to the image of the Son, so that you can play your role out as He has specifically called you to do. We will never stop learning new, mind blowing things about the Cross, about Calvary. As the popular song says, "I'll never know how much it cost, to see my sin upon that cross."

It is true, we will never know, fully, but we must always be learning, always be reforming, and as we learn and reform, we become more conformed to the image of the Son; and the more conformed to His image we are, the better we can reflect and refract the glory of the Lord. And rightly reflecting the glory of the Lord is what we were made for, is what this world was made for. It is the Story of All Things, and it is a masterpiece.