The Hunger Games and Christianity

April 23, 2012

I saw the hunger games last weekend on a date night with my wife and then again this weekend with my daughter.  Even though I haven’t read the book yet, I had seen the previews and it looked interesting and full of action.  It did not disappoint, and I enjoyed the movie both times.

WARNING: If you haven’t read the books or seen the movie yet I want to warn you that I might be sharing some spoiler information that would ruin your plans to enjoy it first.

The movie overall seemed to be making a statement about control and power in life.  It would be interesting to look up the author, Suzanne Collins and see what her views were about different subjects in politics, religion, and life.  I wonder what kind of statement she is attempting to make about our current culture.  I think there are several angles at which you can take the scenes and lines and interpret them a certain way.  You could make an argument for the voice of the media today, perhaps a political statement, you can draw a parallel between the different economic classes, and a few other topics I’m sure.  Today I want to address the Hunger Games and my Christian faith, since I relate everything to my own personal relationship with Jesus Christ why not relate a movie and see what conversations we can stir up.

The first thing I want to bring up is the general idea for the Hunger Games all together.  The idea that one day in our future we might find ourselves in some similar situation with a twisted goal of survival to the death as a reality game seems so foreign to me, but then I question, could we find ourselves as a culture doing something like that in the future?  Will Survivor go into its 50th season with a shocking new twist?  I hope not!  Pondering the Hunger Games I think that this type of behavior that we credit back to the gladiators of Rome, but I have to say that I don’t think we as humans, still value life much more than we did thousands of years ago.  Sure our war habits have changed into more modern practices, but the 20th century has been one of the bloodiest centuries since recorded history.  In David Berlinski’s book “The Devils Delusion” Berlinski spends 3 pages totalling up the amount of deaths in just the last century. 1    Dare I even mention the issue of abortion and that since the Roe. v Wade Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision in 1973 there has been an estimated 50 million abortions in the US alone.   Yes, I went there.  The right to life is one of the single most important issues for many Christians today.  There is also something to be said about how the tributes are paraded in proudly before the masses weeks before their own deaths.    I’m curious, where do you think we are as a nation, a planet with the value of human life?

The second things that caught my eyes and ears was a conversation that Peeta has with Katniss the night before the games begin.   Petta says

“I don’t want them to change me in there  Turn me into something I’m not.  I’m sure I’ll kill just like everyone else… only I keep wishing I could think of a way to… show the Capital that they don’t own me, that I’m more than a piece in their Games.  If I’m gonna die, I still want to be me.” 2

As a Christian I often think that we are in a battle not to compromise what we hold to be TRUTH in life and no matter what the rest of the world does or deems acceptable we strive to live our life for God no matter what everyone else does.  There are so many scriptures that speak to this challenge.

Ezekiel, one of God’s prophets warns the city of Jerusalem that they have fallen into a compromise with the nations around them and because they have failed to follow the Lord, the Lord himself will be against them.  (Ezekiel 5:6-8)  Would we rather have it our way, like Burger King or have Almighty God against us?    There is the more-widely known Romans 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” and a few chapters later we are told whom we are to conform to.

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” – Romans 8:29

Mind you that, I am not preaching this blog from some state of perfection.  The process to conform to the likeness of the Son, Jesus is a life-long journey.  One filled with many traps and snares that I have fallen into before.  I am a nobody, just trying to help anybody find the peace and joy in life on the way to eternal life with God.  I am thankful for the help that God gives me in the journey.  He doesn’t just leave me to my own.

1 Corinthians 10:13 the Bible promises us “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a wayout so that you can stand up under it.”

The last thing I will mention is this post is at the very beginning of the movie where the tributes are chosen in the Reaping.  All the teens that are of the appropriate age are herded to the Reaping where a boy and girl of each district are chosen by the people of the Capital.  Katniss has a sister named Primrose who was chosen to represent the 12th district and in a move of compassion, Katniss runs forward and volunteers to take her place.  According to the law, someone had to be chosen as a tribute from each district, and it was strictly enforced every year, for the past 75 years.  No doubt you can see the great parallel between mankind and God.  God is Holy and Just and must punish sin.  It is His law.  As Jesus stepped forth and left His Heavenly home to volunteer His own self to be willing to die for all of mankind.  I would encourage you to grab you Bible and read Philippians 2:3-11.  It is a great picture of what Jesus Christ did for us.

There are more things I would love to bring out, perhaps in another post later.  If you have some other thoughts relating the Hunger Games to the Christian worldview or your faith, please feel free to add them.  As always questions, comments, and discussions are welcome.

End Notes:

1. Berlinski, David – The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretenses, pages 22-24

2. Collins, Suzanne – The Hunger Games, pages 171-172


Defining Terms: Worldview

September 29, 2011

If you are just starting to learn about apologetics it is good to be familiar with several of the basic terms that are used in discussions, debates, and by many of those in the creation and evolution realm.  I will start out very basic with some of these words and gradually get deeper and more complex with the terms.  If I use a word in a recent blog I will include it in the Defining Terms blogs that  I create.

Worldview – The dictionary describes it as a comprehensive conception or image of the universe and of humanity’s relation to it.  Everyone has a worldview whether or not they think a little or a lot about it.  I believe that a solid worldview must be able to satisfactorily answer basic questions about our past, present and future as well as give coherent meaning to all of the issues that we may face in our lifetime.   The human mind has a curious need to organize things and understand and make them coherent.

I have recently heard of a University of Florida student who was attending a lecture by apologist, Ravi Zacharias, and the student stood up and defiantly made the statement that “Life doesn’t have to be coherent” and demanded that Ravi Zacharias give an answer to why it should.  Dr. Zacharias responded that he would like to help the student, but before He answered that question, he had one question for the student.  Dr. Zacharias asked him, “Would you like my answer to your question to be coherent?”  The student stood quietly there for a moment and then just sat down.

What goes into making our worldview?  Everything.  Everything we experience from the time we are born until this very present moment that you are reading this blog accumulates to the sum of our world view.  Our Nurture, Our Nature,  Our Experience, Our Relationships with People (bosses, parents, peers, etc.), Our beliefs, Our Actions, the list could go on and on.  In my Christian worldview, God and the Bible,  have a big part of every single persons worldview on earth, whether they acknowledge God or not.  Someone who holds an atheist position would of course disagree.

A worldview does not have to be religious by nature.  By religious, I use the definition of a strict devotion to a supernatural being, higher power, God or gods.   Worldviews can be based solely on scientific laws and knowledge and whatever a person views as coherent and true.  For example someone who calls themselves a Darwinian evolutionist has a worldview that holds an atheistic or agnostic values.  Another worldview that I just learned about today are Raliens.  They believe that human life was seeded on this planet by extraterrestrials.

I am constantly self-examining my own worldview with the knowledge that I receive almost daily.  I want to make sure that I am as intellectually honest with myself about what I believe as I can be.  In other words, I like to keep an open mind.  Over the course of my journey in life I have found that my Christian worldview has for the most part stayed the same and I still feel that it is one that is the most coherent of all the worldviews I have examined.  The Christian worldview is durable, it can withstand the constant scrutiny from outside and internal sources.  Through out the months and weeks to come I will be examining the different aspects of my own worldview and also comparing them to other popular or mainstream worldviews.  I will do my best to offer the evidence, you can decide what you want to from the facts.

As always questions, comments, and discussions are welcome.  In the near future I will post a follow-up with this blog about the challenge by Richard Dawkins, that people basically take the worldview that they grew up with.  Indoctrination, as he calls it,  by those who raise their children into religion, he even goes to the lengths to call it child abuse.  Most likely for the reaction.


My Story

September 28, 2011
Amy and me

Amy and me

A few weeks ago our pastor challenged the church congregation to “Be Courageous and Share Your Story”.  A few days later it hit me that one way, not the only way, I could do that would be online through my blog or on Facebook.  So here it is, Here is my story and I welcome any questions, comments, or snide remarks.

I grew up in a great home, a happy home, and while  I felt very sheltered from a lot of crazy things in life, I knew that  I was blessed because of the environment I was raised in.  My parents were both involved in church and so consequently, so was I, but again I didn’t mind.  I loved church, I love the people in the church.  My friends in church were different from most of the other students at school.  I had a few good friends at school, but most of my close friends were in the church with me.  Because I had a long history of being in church I knew a lot about the Bible, facts about God, and felt like I had a grasp on why things were the way they were.  As an early teen I began to notice that my brother and some other friends were making a choice to trust Jesus as their savior and they were baptized later on.  After a few months, it hit me that I knew a bunch of facts about the Bible and God, but I had not yet taken those facts to heart.  I had not really placed my faith, my trust in Jesus in my own personal way.    One night, while at a youth ministry event I really felt convicted within me to stop putting off what I already knew I needed to do and go talk to someone about making my faith personal.   I still get reminders today, because of my job,  of how scary that can be for a teen, to walk out of a pew or crowd and go talk to someone.  I knew what I had to do, grab the closest person near me and make them go with me!  I grabbed a great friend named Susanne and stepped out to find someone to talk to.

That night, April 30, 1988 I sat down with a man who went over the gospel of Jesus with me quickly to make sure I understood what I believed and what my need was.  For the first time I placed my trust in Jesus, that His death on the cross was payment for my sins and even though I didn’t understand it all, I knew that I was far from perfect and that I needed Jesus not only for an eternal life, but for a great life now.  I said a short prayer and asked God to forgive me of my past sins, I placed my belief in Jesus, for who He said he was, and I turned my life over to God to be my Lord, or boss for a lack of a better term.  A few months later I was baptized by my grandfather, who also was a pastor, in Yazoo City, Mississippi.

Since I have placed my faith in God I have had some interesting times, some great times, some challenging times, but they have all helped me grow in my relationship to God.  During my college years, I struggled with the idea that, perhaps I was a Christian only because I was raised in a Christian home.  I didn’t want the faith of my parents, I wanted to own my own faith.  I began to look at all the other worldviews and examine then for myself.  I knew after all, that not all the different worldviews could be correct.  I begin reading books on other religions and studying them to get a better understanding of them.  I admit at first I kept a close grip on my faith and didn’t want to be pulled from my own faith.  Some might say I was studying with a presupposition.   I was lucky enough to be taught though by my pastor and other teachers that I should do the research and examine things for myself and not just except the way things are because someone tells me so.  Trust is earned.  What I read was backed up by what I read for myself and what I found to be true in life.  My faith was becoming my own.

Right before finishing college, I began to question my career and what God really wanted me to do after I graduated.  I had always felt that God wanted me to be a teacher, but the last few months before graduation, I believe that God used a few different people to speak to me about being a pastor/minister.  After a few months of pushing the idea aside I finally quit telling God “no”, and I told God that if He wanted me to do something different with my life I would do it and trust Him for the things I didn’t know.  It was amazing what happened immediately after I had that conversation with God in my prayer time.  I felt this peace just fall over me like a heavy blanket.  I knew right then and there that I was not going to be an orchestra teacher anymore.

Right about this time, God opened a door for me to work in a church as an intern for the youth ministry.  Six months later the church came back and offered me the job permanently.   That was in 1997.  Fourteen years later I have had the joy of serving 3 churches as their student pastor  and have loved every minute of it.  I don’t feel like it is a job, but rather a calling.   Over the past 14 years I have grown in my passion for teaching the Bible and have also found a love for apologetics.  Apologetics is the study of “why you believe what you believe” or backing up your faith with reason and evidence.  Apologetics has allowed me to get a better grasp in what I believe and made my faith stronger.  Over the last few years I have opened up my reading and began to read books from both sides of the debate between atheists/agnostics and believers.  I try to read both sides to get an honest view-point from both sides of the aisle.  I have yet to find anything that worries me or that might cause my faith to stumble.  My passion today still lies with both the teens in this generation and teaching them apologetics that will prepare them for the vastly different world in which they live today.  It is a different world in which I lived in 20 years ago as a teen.

If you have any questions for me I would be glad to try to answer them for you.  I don’t know all the answers, not even close, but I would be glad to share what I have found to be solid ground to stand upon in my life.

God Bless,

John


Satan as a Terrorist, Even A Sucide Bomber

January 31, 2010

I heard  a good line today in church.  The pastor said to think of Satan as a terrorist.   In the day and time when we are under attack from Islāmic extremists we might better look at Satan in a similar way.  In the battle between good and evil, Satan is the one who leads the forces of darkness against God and all those who claim the name of Christ.  If you know your basic Bible, you know that Satan has only a limited time left before his ending chapter is finished and the book is closed.  However that doesn’t stop him from trying to cause as much damage to the Christians and the Army of God before his time is up.  I would call him a suicide bomber because he will one day have an end to all his fun made up of destruction, heartache, and pain when he is placed into the lake of fire at the end of time as it is spoken about in the book of Revelation.

Just as a terrorist can not stand for the ideals and beliefs of America and those who are not like-minded, so Satan does not like it when we take a stance for the Gospel or live our faith in a way that is infectious, in a good way,  to others.  I think many people view Satan as just the care-taker of Hell, they picture him like the cartoon character with a tail, red skin, and holding a pitch-fork.  This simply is not correct at all according to the Bible.   In a recent poll, given by Barna research (see www.barna.org) only about 40% of Christians believe that Satan is an actual real person and not just a representation of all that is evil.

The truth according to the Bible is that He is real, the Bible talks about him in both the new and old testament, even Jesus himself talked and dealt with Satan.    Satan is not bound to stay in the confines of hell.  The Devil is alive and well roaming through the earth causing as much havoc as he can trying to take advantage of poor unsuspecting Christians and to cause them to stumble in their walk with the Lord.  1 Peter 5:8 says – “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  

The last chapter in the book of Ephesians (Eph 6:11-20) talks about the Spiritual warfare that we experience as Christians.  Satan is the real enemy, we all need that reminder.  Sometimes we can think that our parents, friends, family members, and others are the enemy, but they are not, Satan is the real enemy.   There are those times when Christians who are not being feed properly with the word of God and who are not in a close relationship with God can be used by the Satan to cause strife, destruction, or hurt.    There are really only 2 sides  according to the Bible, you are either on the Lord side or you are on the enemy’s side.  There is no middle ground no matter how you look at it.  In 2 Timothy Paul encourages Timothy to be a good soldier for Christ Jesus and not to involve himself in civilian affairs, but to stay focused on the Lord and his job as a soldier for Christ. 

John 10:10 one of my favorite verses says “The thief (Satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I (Jesus) have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  Since there are only two sides, whose side are you on?  God’s or Satan’s?   You say you are on the Lord’s side, well what kind of soldier are you?  Are you a good soldier or would you be found AWOL (Absent without  Leave) when the Lord comes back.  We all need to be reminded from time to time  who the real enemy is and we strive to be the best soldiers for Christ that we can be.


Lost on Lost?

January 28, 2010

ABC's LOST

I’m counting down the days until the final season of ABC’s Lost begins.  It’s one of the few shows I’ve seen all the way from its beginning.  If you haven’t caught the show on a consistent viewing you are undoubtably lost yourself.  It is a unique show filled with action and adventure with a squeeze of sci-fi to make things interesting.  It is given an even greater blanket of confusion with all the flashbacks and flash forwards woven throughout the episodes.

I caught the last episode of the last season last week to try to catch up and remind myself what had taken place in the months earlier.  It was the show where they always use the pop-up bubble to tell you clues and things that you might not understand the first time though.  As I watched the episode I noticed more than once that they how seemed to have several Christian over-tones attached to it and I began to parallel some aspects of the show to my faith.  After all my faith runs in and around every aspect of my life.  I don’t want to just “turn on” my Christianity at church and times when I need God.   Below are some of the things my mind began to correlate with the show.

I noticed how the introduction of Jacob as the creator of the island can kind of compare to God, the creator of the earth. There also is an unknown “man in black” who wants to kill Jacob, but for some reason can’t.  The comparison between God and the devil comes to mind here.  Satan wanted to over throw God in heaven but couldn’t do it.   As the last episode comes to a close we learn that John Locke, who had to become a sacrifice to save the island had come back to life, or not really as the last few minutes had shown John Locke’s body was still dead and in a case carried by these new 6 people who have a appriciation for Latin, a dead language.  Perhaps this is the “man in black”‘s way of trying to kill Jacob.

The resurrection of John Locke has enough spiritual implications also.  Jesus himself resurrected from the dead, but he didn’t try to kill anyone after he came back from the dead.  Part of me wonders if there is a atheistic theme or plot to the show hidden in messages, similar to the movie that came out a few years ago called “The Golden Compass.”  It was a book written in response to C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia.  The book has an anti God theme and the main character tries to kill “God.”

All in all, I think the writers of the show are either on drugs as they are writing out the episodes or they are very creative and maticulous with their plots and themes. Either way I enjoy the show and will miss it after this season is over with.


Tim Tebow On and Off the Field

January 26, 2010

As the end of the college football season came to a close just a few weeks ago.  All remaining college football fans begin to look toward the NFL draft that will take place in late April.  This is the last time they will get to talk college football in relation to the 2009 season.  Personally I go into a NCAAF coma that is only kept alive by the life-support of the occasional blurbs about my home team, the Georgia Bulldogs.

There has been much talk about Tim Tebow and his highly successful years as the Florida Gators quarterback and his next step into the NFL, negative talk that is.  My purpose is not to get into the specifics of the criticism, but only to say that the criticism is over-rated  for the most part in my humble opinion.   I question the source and slant of the criticism from many. Besides the fact of being one of the greatest college football players of all time, Tebow is also known for his strong faith in Jesus Christ.  His faith is mixed into every aspect of his football life such as  interviews and scriptures references on his eye paint.  In reality, Tebow is the same type of person on the field as he is off the field.  He doesn’t change his life to fit around his faith and visa versa.  I can not think of a better role model for young kids and teens to aspire to be.   Tebow works hard to keep his reputation as a Christian with integrity.  In the days where sports celebrities are dropping like flies in drug and steroid use and the recent fall of Tiger Woods in multiple occurences of marital infidelity, Tebow is a breath of fresh air.

Tim Tebow

The die-hard sports fans and critics can say that morals don’t matter on a football team, but that I believe is a lie and a cop-out given as an excuse to not like him because of his faith.  I say that because of two reasons, first, if you were the father of a college or pro athlete would you want your son or daughter to live the life style of Mark Maguire, Barry Bonds, or Tiger Woods?  Successful and rich, yes, but the lifestyle of drama I’m sure you would not wish on your own flesh and blood.  Secondly, the NFL teams that draft these players would rather take a great player who is not known for “off the field antics” over a great player who is known for perhaps getting into trouble from time to time.  These are there assets and they don’t want to have to worry about a player who causes trouble.  Unless you are Jerry Jones and Al Davis, who are known for picking the “bad guys”, but hey, they are in the minority.  Again if I asked you as a parent, would you rather have a son or daughter who are both successful in life, but one of them gets in trouble often, you have to bail them out of jail, constantly keep an eye on them to protect them, which would you choose?  Need I say more?

Yes, Tebow has some issues with his mechanics and perhaps with the NFL system that he hasn’t seen much of at Florida, but just watch come draft day, I will shave my head bald if Tebow is not taken in top 10 of the draft.  Personally, I’m just glad he is no longer a Florida Gator, since I am a Georgia Bulldog fan.  I can now get back to 100% hate for the Florida Gators instead of the 99% I had for them the last 4 years and I will enjoying hearing about his success in the NFL and his walk with Christ.

On a related note, I have also recently heard that Tim Tebow and his mother will have a 30 second commercial played during the Superbowl.  The commercial will have a Pro-life message and share a story from his mother’s past where she was advised by a doctor to terminate a complicated pregnancy.  She didn’t heed the advice and Tim Tebow was born.  The commercial cost 2.5 million and was paid for by several donors and sponsored by the Focus on the Family organization, lead by Dr. James Dobson.  The commercial has come under fire by womens’s groups and they are asking CBS to pull the ad.  The groups have resorted to name calling and denial of free speech to try and get their way.  So far CBS has not taken any action.  You can read more about it here.  http://backporch.fanhouse.com/2010/01/26/womens-groups-want-cbs-to-drop-tim-tebow-super-bowl-ad/


Under Fire

January 19, 2010

I decided a few days ago to start writing out my thoughts on a more regular basis and publishing them online.  I have been hesitant to do this in the past because I know that whatever I write will be open for criticism and can be looked at under the microscope by different people.  If you are going to post things for the world to see you should at the very least be responsible with what you post.  Most of all, I wasn’t sure I had the time to give to it.

As a student pastor working with teens, I already, have to make sure what I say and teach lines up with the teachings from the Bible and not just a good thought or my own personal opinion about a subject.   In a world that loves a subjective truth and moral relativism the truth is so easily lost in the endless voices of anyone who can blog and post to the internet.  If anything I think the online posts will cause me to strive to give my best and  make sure I have an eye for the details.  

At first, truth can be hard to swallow, and is often met with excuses and ignored by many people.  We all tend to get a little defensive when we are brought under the microscope or examined closely.  In the end, it is like the much needed medicine that can cure us from our aliment of sin and, we are glad we recieved it.  I see this all the time from students who want to justify the way they live their lifes against the truth of God’s word.  In the end it always comes back to bit them, no matter how many times they deny or ignore it. 

Why am I doing this?  My aim to try to represent the one true God of the Bible that I love and serve by presenting a world-view of the events that will unfold around me in my world.  I’m not looking for fame or a following, just a opportunity to represent Jesus in a Biblical way to a world that needs a savior.   I see so many examples of people who call themselves Christians or disciples of Christ, but when they open their mouths, type on the social networking pages, or live out their life in ways that are so contrary to the Bible and the way Jesus lived.  I just want to announce in a loud voice “That’s not God!”

Realizing that NO ONE is perfect and we will all fall short of God’s purpose and plan for us (Romans 3:23) I want to make sure that you know that I am no better than the next disciple of Jesus, giving my best for him, is still not good enough.  There are 2 kinds of followers of Jesus I believe ones that try to live their life the way God intended, learning more and more as they grow in their faith and then the other group of Christians who know the differences between right and wrong and they continue to disobey God’s desire for their life, ignoring conviction of the Holy Spirit.  I’ve been both kinds of these and I have to constantly guard myself from slipping back into the second type EVERYDAY.  Perhaps this blog will help hold me accountable to live like the first kind of follower of Christ.

We know that people look at us and judge us, right or wrong, everyday.  It’s so important to live the kind of life that best represents a correct life-picture of what the Bible says and how Jesus lived his life.   Looking at Christ not each other is the key of course, but when is the last time you saw Jesus, physically I mean, and how many people are just running to pick up the Bible and read it to discern the truth for themselves these days.  We rather read about vampires and other more interesting things, not that those are inherently bad or evil.  That leads to the importance of us as believers to live out in front of others the most correct interpretation of the Bible and Jesus that we can. 

So go ahead and let the fun begin and if you read anything you want to comment on please feel free to do so.  I’ll be glad to read your thoughts on the subject also.  I now consider myself “under fire.”  Anything I post is fair game.