Contend Earnestly: August 2006

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Mythology 101

What is mythology? For years I have been wanting to investigate the tales of the Greeks and the Romans. Like many of you my understanding is very limited and due mostly to bits and pieces of stories that I have heard over the years. Names like Zeus, Poseidon, Aphrodite, Medusa, Hades and the Titans come to mind. I am also familiar with authors like Homer and Virgil as well as books like Iliad and the Odyssey. I have vague memories of stories but over the years I must admit that the line between fact and fiction has become a bit blurred.

Many of you may know that I find great joy in watching USC football. I have been watching my beloved Trojans play since I was nine years old. I can’t believe I don’t know more about the Trojan Wars but I can tell you the names of all seven Heisman Trophy winners. I have not given it much thought but I now have a very clear understanding of the true story of the Trojan Horse. Without going into the whole story the Greeks tried to defeat the men of Troy but could not break through the city walls. So the Greeks devised a plan to hide their men in a giant wooden horse and leave it at the gate of Troy as a gift. At night when the city was asleep the men climbed out of the wooden horse, opened the gates and let the Grecian army into the city for a victory. Be honest, how many of you thought that was an actual historical event? Just one of many great myths found in Homers classic, The Odyssey.

How about the “warring men-haters” who were a nation of women, all warriors known as “Amazons”? Just a myth. And I hate to break it to you ladies but unicorns don’t exist either.

I find it fascinating that Greek and Roman mythology is generally supposed to show us the way the human race thought and felt untold ages ago. Through it we are suppose to retrace the path from uncivilized man to the man of reason and rationality. When these stories were being shaped we must understand that little distinction had been made between the real and the unreal. The imagination was vividly alive and not checked by the reason. So although real places were named and explanations for real things like creation, spiders, thunder, lightning and love were described reality was subjective.

The Greeks unlike the Egyptians, made their gods in their own image. Primitive man, whether in Indonesia today or ages ago in prehistoric wilderness has lived in fear and terror of who their maker was. The Egyptian gods had no semblance of reality. They were unlike all living things. A woman with a cat’s head, men with birds’ heads, lions with bulls’ heads and both with eagles wings deliberately made inhuman and mysterious.

Greek mythology humanized the world. Men were freed from the paralyzing fear of an omnipotent Unknown. The terrifying incomprehensibilities, which were, worshipped elsewhere, and the fearsome spirits with which earth, air and sea swarmed explained by the Greeks.

The “Unknown” or “God” as we would describe it was terrifying and irrational to Greeks. The Greeks felt as if they had freed the earth from the monstrous idea of the inhuman supreme over the human. We see the seeds that man is god.

Greek mythology is largely made up of stories about gods and goddesses but it must not be read as a kind of Greek Bible, or an account of the Greek religion. According to the most modern idea, a real myth has nothing to do with religion. It is an explanation of something in nature; how, for instance, any and everything in the universe came into existence: men, animals, trees, flowers, stars, storms, earthquakes all that is and all that happens.

It becomes very clear why the Bible begins with an explanation as to who made this world. The creator of the world is the God of this world. By trying to substitute Greek mythology into the science of creation the Greeks are able to eliminate God. We see the same war being waged today by scientists through the fable of evolution.

Myths are considered early science; the result of men’s first trying to explain what they saw around them. But there are man so-called myths, which explain nothing at all. These tales are pure entertainment. The sort of thing people would tell each other on a long winter’s evening.

The world of Greek mythology was a place of enlightenment to the beauty of man. They had no desire to create some fantasy shaped into their own minds. All the art and all the thought of Greece centered in human beings. Human gods naturally made heaven pleasantly familiar. Homer stated, “Greek artists and poets realized how splendid a man could be, straight and swift and strong, He was the fulfillment of their search for beauty.” And modern secular humanism was born.

The Greeks had no need for magic or ugly witches. The Greeks believed god was created in the image of man. We believe that man was created in the image of God. In this subtle difference man is really god according to the Greeks. The Greek gods are also described as being very human in their character. The most important god, Zeus is represented as falling in love with one woman after another and descending to all manner of tricks to hide his infidelity from his wife. He was not omnipotent or omniscient and he is not even the only god. It was a brilliant way to lower the true God to the level of man. Like man their gods are not perfect or holy.

I’m not sure if these myths originated as timeless tales or a masterful plan by the evil one to distract, misguide or even lie about the realities of how things came into being. It is evident to me as I learn more about them that they have been a stumbling block to many. Surely western political philosophy, which has been descended from Plato and extended to today, has been strongly influenced by these myths.

Finally be alert and stand firm for our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the schemes of the devil, the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Eph 6:11-12). See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ (Col 2:8) Where is the wise man? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God. The foolishness of God is wiser than men, the weakness of God and the wisdom of God (I Cor 1:18-25)

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

It's the blood of Jesus, baby...

Tony, the faithful blogger. Thank you for not quitting! It has been an encouragement to me. Yes, it is amazing but true....I am blogging today! No excuses, so let's just get to it.

I love the post on the idea of "fun", and what is acceptable to the Lord. Interestingly enough, the idea that has been rolling around in my head has been something that has been related. I recently heard a song that hit me the wrong way. No surprise, really, since our culture is filled with songs that are worldly and reflect a wrong view of God and His holiness. But the song that I heard was not out in the world, per se. It was during a Bible study.

Before I get too far into this, let me clarify that I am not making a judgment on the heart of the person that wrote the song. And from what I heard, there was only one word that caused my consternation. So the rest of the song was fine, and actually extolled the truth that Christ shed His blood as a perfect atonement for our sin; a good thing! Here is how the chorus went:

It's the blood of Jesus
It's the blood of Jesus, baby
It's the blood of Jesus that sets us free

Again, I love the overall message that is conveyed. But I have a problem with the insertion of the word "baby" when talking about the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior. The one who was sinless, perfect, holy and fully Divine. The Word which became flesh (John 1:14). The one who became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21). At the risk of sounding harsh, this is a flippant chorus as set against such a great and holy truth. I do believe that we have to be very careful when we examine how we approach our Bible study's and worship services.

Recently I went on a bit or a rant during the College/Career Sunday school study when talking about this issue. I use the word "rant" because I mentioned some things that were a personal conviction of mine, and did not clarify fully that these were not legalistic rules that I was looking to impose on everyone else. I was discussing the glorious truth of the holiness of God, and that we have the privilege to come into His presence to worship the Creator! I warned the class to be careful not to approach this time with carelessness. And I think I myself can approach the corporate worship service with too lax of an attitude.

- coming in late
- leaving early (to get the kids from the nursery, etc)
- standing during the time of singing while holding a cup of coffee
- getting up during the service for any reason that is not a dire matter of health or safety!
- not opening our Bibles during the sermon
- closing our Bible's and bags during the ending prayer
- or even worse, not having our Bible at all!

I could probably keep going. And the risk of stating concerns like this is that people may think that the above "standards" are a demarcation of true spirituality and devotion. But this leads us quickly to legalism. The things above are only indicators of where we are at. They are not catalysts for spiritual growth. In other words, do not set out on a quest to make the things above a "checklist" to begin your spiritual growth because it won't work. At the risk of being redundant, they are only indicators. Not tools for growth.

So when I heard the song above, it hit me that we are sometimes too casual with our declaration of the great things of God and His word. I would expect us to say things like "Man, that was a great jump shot, baby!" (~insert sound of high five here~) or "Oh baby, that steak looks good!" or "Do you want to go jet skiing today?"...."Yeah, baby!". But the last thing I would expect would be to use slang when talking about the shed blood of Christ.

We were bought with a price. We are His children, true, but remember that Paul considered himself a slave of Christ (Rom 6:18, Eph 6:6). He is our friend, but also our Master (Eph 6:9, Col 1:4). Let us boldly approach His throne of grace (Heb 4:16) but never forget that it is only because of His grace that we can come at all.

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Recently I read a paper entitled “Is the Holy Spirit fun?” As a younger man and one who enjoys the lighter side of life I must admit I felt a bit convicted when I reflected on my teaching style. I never realized the danger in having too much fun in a teaching environment. Not that I have ever felt the pressure to be entertaining or liked when I teach but I must admit especially when I speak to young people that I tend to be more of a “wise guy” than a guy who is “wise”.

I was reminded that we are living in an entertainment-based world and that most people have a very short attention span. I also recognized that fun-focused learning practitioners, like myself at times, are slaves to the latest thrill.

As one who teaches high schoolers at times I would hate to think that I am contributing to their future entertainment based thirst when it comes to God’s holy word. I would hope that my style would encourage them to want to learn more about the word and dig deeper. I can even evaluate my own spiritual growth and see that my true growth has come from having a hunger for righteousness and then being fed without any need for fun. Even one of my favorite speakers I have a hard time visiting because too much of his message is based on stirring up the crowd rather than just giving the message straight up.

Finally I note that one of my favorite authors, Francis Schaeffer, commented on the impoverished value of personal peace. Personal peace means wanting to have my personal life pattern undisturbed in my lifetime. That personal life pattern is the recreation, hobby, interest, or fun that each individual is in pursuit of to make them happy. Today the pursuit of affluency and fun are the marks of many Christian Americans, myself included.

Schaeffer sees the pursuit of personal peace as a primary danger because the pursuit becomes their life mission and the object becomes their god (i.e. most Christians will watch hours of television each night while passing on reading their bibles entirely). It’s simply more fun to watch T.V. than to read Exodus. Fun is a very real diversion from a difficult life into a world of fantasy and escape. Pleasure, recreation, entertainment, “FUN” is the god of our age.


I have questions regarding Fun. I recognize that the pursuit of fun needs to be kept in check. The idea of making everything fun is dangerous and wrong but we are allowed or permitted to have fun. Given that one has fulfilled his work obligations, familial duties, and ministry opportunities then what is an acceptable form of fun? I guess I will start by saying these are some of the things that I find fun to do which I do not see as particularly spiritual:
1.Watching USC football.
2.Drinking Starbucks mochas.
3.Playing with my kids.
4.Listening to country music.
5.Watching movies like Gladiator and Star Wars.
6.Watching a tv show like Seinfeld.
7.Listening to Jim Rome.
8.Listening to Dennis Prager.
9.Reading the sports page.
10.Driving with my wife.

These are 10 things which I enjoy doing for non spiritual reasons. Now to the questions:

1.Why do Christians enjoy non Christian music?
2.Why do Christians enjoy counter cultural anti Christian value shows?
3.Is it okay to have diversions such as sports and music?
4.Are talk shows a waste of good bible tape time?
5.Is it really wrong to pursue fun activities with the kids?
6.While we are having “FUN” people are going to hell everyday should we just be in GO,GO,GO mode all the time?
7.How do we respond to those who are judgmental towards others liberties?
8.Should I be concerned that I enjoy these things (not that I enjoy them more than studying God’s word, teaching my family, having Christian fellowship, singing praises, etc.)?

This is not a question of legalism but a look at trust and devotion. Last week I studied Psalm 119 which is has 176 verses all point to faith, hope, trust, reliance, total dependency on God and His word.

What does 1 John say about loving the world or the things of the world? “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of they eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father but is from the world” 1 John 2:15-16

James 4:4 calls those who have friendship with the world hostile toward God. Adulteresses, Enemies of God.

Is your goal in life to be righteous? To walk according to the book? Are you satisfied with a little sin here or there as long as the scales of justice weigh heavier on the good stuff? Is your goal to “Be like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves in all your behavior.” 1 Pet 1:15 “You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Mt 5:48

So let’s be careful what we consider fun but let’s have “FUN”!

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Be Careful Little Eyes What You See

I can remember watching Leave It To Beaver when I was a kid and thinking that was the perfect American family. Dad would go of to his 9 to 5 job while the kids went to school and June Cleaver happily stayed home taking care of the house and the family while in high heels, pearls and a dress. Ironically some 50 years later the first lady of the United States Hillary Clinton would mock the June Cleaver and her cookie baking. Really what was being attacked was the idea that the Cleavers lifestyle represented an outdated Judeo-Christian 50’s lifestyle, which doesn’t work anymore.

American families have come a long way since the days of Leave It To Beaver and Father Knows Best. Americans spend more time than ever watching other families in movies and TV. Take a moment to think about the most popular families on screen today. Shows like The Sopranos, The Osbournes and this year’s phenomenally successful movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding demonstrate pop culture’s unprecedented embrace of households that make no attempt to seem normal. There is a trend to focus on weird, eccentric, even combative intact families.

Before you think that I’m trying to be a killjoy I will start by saying that one of the funniest movies I have seen in a long time was My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I really had a good time watching the movie with wife. With that said I would pick on this movie for this topic.

So what’s wrong with My Big Fat Greek Wedding (MBF)? MBF glamorizes many traditional values such as:
1.The relationship between the mother and father contains manipulation on both sides. Mother and daughter conspire against the father.
2.The mother is the true head of the family even though the father has the louder bark. I’ll never forget this statement, “The man may be the head but the woman is the neck and the neck turns the head.”
3.The daughter sneaks around behind her parents back. Nia goes to school under false pretenses and begins a relationship in secret.
4.The daughter engages in pre marital activities.
5.This charming couple comes from different religious backgrounds. Not only are they unequally yoked but also they belittle their own faiths.
6.The family as a whole is constantly bickering with each other.
7.The subtle hint of racism. As a proud Greek the father had difficulty accepting any other nationality.

Why am I pointing this out? When you formulate what your family is going to be like and pictures of these dysfunctional families race through your mind what kind of impact do you think they might have if any? Don’t think that shows like Married with Children, What about Ray, and even cartoons like the Simpson’s haven’t already penetrated into your mind.

The TV show Everyone Loves Raymond glorifies many marital struggles as if they are okay. The parents seem to dislike being with their children. The in-laws live across the street and are constantly intruding on Ray’s family. The husband is a wimp who doesn’t want, desire, or accept headship in his family. The wife hates the husband’s friends, family and any hobby Ray seems to have. The couple’s favorite sport is ridiculing one another. The whole show is based are arguments and family strife. There is never any real conflict resolution.

As funny as Everyone Loves Raymond may be, who would want to have a family like theirs? What TV family would you like to pattern your family after? When was the last time you saw a devout Christian family on TV? The last show I can remember was 7th Heaven, which had more family problems than any show I’ve ever seen.

Unfortunately we don’t have examples of family life in the Bible. We do find principles for family living throughout the pages of Scripture by which we can follow. More important we have our own families and we have church families.

The next time your thinking about watching a movie or a few hours of TV maybe you should spend some time fellowshipping at some church members home watching how they set up shop. And if you want drama try reading Genesis and the family of Abraham, Jacob and Moses.

When James warns us about being adulteresses do we listen? We must be very careful what we fill our minds and hearts with. The enemy is cleaver and subtle. He finds his way into our lives through beauty and humor which the world generously gives us through meda and art

You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whover wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:4

Are we going to find the path of righteousness through movies, music and sitcoms? What is a family? What are the roles of husband, wife, and children? The bible teaches us the following while the world contradicts every foundation principle that we cling to:

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as the Lord. Ephesians 5:22

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Ephesians 6:1

Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching , reproof, correction and training in righteousnes, that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

For whatever you do whever you eat or drink do for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

Blessed in the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, stand in the path of sinners or sit in the seat of scoffers for his delight is in the law of the Lord. And in His law he meditates day and night Psalm 1:1-2

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Proverbs 1:7

How can we start our day bathing ourselves in the pure water of our Lord only to spend the rest of the day in the filthy lake of the devil? Be alert! Be on guard! Be ready!

I say all this to my own shame. As you can tell by my descriptions of some of the shows above I have watched them and have remembered them so clearly that I can review what I have seen years ago. What does that tell us about the impact of those shows?

So put on your full armour and make sure that you are careful what your little eyes might see.

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