Thoughts on Kingdom, Church, and Grace from an American living in Hong Kong

Monday, November 29, 2010

Paintball Friday!

Last Friday I and a number of teachers led the Christian youth group from our school, FUSION, to an after school session of "paintball". Paintball is that military style game where you have guns that fire paint bullets (actually a hardened talcum powder) and you essentially run around and shoot each other.

After a 45 minute bus ride we rocked up to the paintball camp which is in a rural area of Hong Kong. As we traveled I thought about how, after all my years in the territory, I am constantly amazed to find little hidden areas of Hong Kong I didn't know existed. At the top of a hill we entered the facility that, at first glace, looked like one of these camps in America where scary militia guys train to fight imaginary enemies. Makeshift firing ranges, guns on racks, military paraphernalia littered the area. These city kids weren't going to know what hit them...

We were given an intro safety meeting and then suited up with camouflage vest, riot helmet, and a very real looking M-16 rifle...the paintball version.

Our first scenario was in a maze of concrete walls and bunkers in the middle of a field. My first "kill" was a 14 year old girl. (Yeah, not exactly my proudest moment) She came out from behind a wall and I fired, hitting her in the leg. I had been told that although the "bullets" were not dangerous, they still hurt and I could tell from her reaction, getting shot was painful.

I turned a corner and confronted a friend of mine who is one of the principals at the school. We both gun jammed...his didn't. I felt this pain hit my leg and I knew I was "dead". I put my rifle over my head to declare my status and walked out of the scenario. Man, though, my leg hurt. As I write this two days later I have a fair sized bruise at the top of my leg.

That was the ONLY time in the evening I was "killed". We had subsequent scenarios in a "street" setting with cars and other hiding places to find cover in. The sun went down and a single flood light gave enough ambient light to continue.

At one point I was fighting Gabriel's team and I am ashamed to admit it, but I shot my own son. Later he said, "Papa, its like you just came out of the shadows..."

Oh yeah...suddenly all those years watching Arnold, Bruce, and Stallone 80's action movies was paying off.  Many a surprised student (and a teacher or two) were added to my 'body count" that day!

We went on to a "capture the flag" tournament which was a lot of fun and then it was time to go home. But the kids were already talking about the next time they would get to come out and, if they were lucky, possibly shoot a teacher or two.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

There are still Two Trees to choose from

Genesis 2 tells us that after God had finished the creation he placed Man & Woman in a garden he had prepared for them.  In the center of that garden were two trees; The Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil & The Tree of Life.  The only command the first couple were given was NOT to eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil.

Most of you, if you had any Sunday School whatsoever, know how the story turned out.  The Devil came and tempted them, not with an outright lie, but with a twist on the truth, "For God knows that when you eat of it," he said, "your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing Good and Evil."

And you know what, they're eyes were opened, and they did become like God in that they developed their own will outside of God's will.  Now they too had the capacity to determine what was Right and Wrong apart from God...

...and we've been paying a huge price for it ever since.

Mankind was banished from the garden and hence the access to the Tree of Life... the tree we really needed to be eating from.

The Bible goes on to chronicle the misery making of the human race once we begin to decide what is right & wrong on our own.  Often there will be a passage that goes something like, "And again Israel did evil in God's sight, each man doing what he thought was right in his own eyes."  I'm sure if I asked 100 people what evil is, I would get 100 different answers but no one saying "evil is people doing what they thought was right."

And here's the crux...those two trees are still with the center of our lives. Just like Adam so many thousands of years ago,  we have the opportunity today to choose what tree we will pick from.  Although the physical manifestation of the Tree of Life only reappears at the end of scripture in Revelation 22 when describing our eternal residence, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we have access to that fruit, His Life, today.

Christ was given the same test as Adam (hence why the Bible sometimes refers to him as the Second Adam). His whole life was a submission of his will to his Father's culminating in the moment of prayer he has just before the process of his redemptive sacrifice is to take place.  The fruit of the two trees is placed before him, "Father if possible, let this cup pass from me" (What I think is Right i.e. Tree of Good & Evil) "nevertheless, not my will but Your's be done." (What God says is Right i.e The Tree of Life)

Unlike Adam, Jesus chooses NOT to eat from the forbidden fruit instead choosing a faith and submission to his Father's will.

Bingo, by choosing God's will over his own he reopens our access to the Tree of Life (The Life of Christ).
Now, we no longer have to live under the curse, we can choose life once again

So OK, those trees are still with us.  His way or yours?  Which fruit will you eat today?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Aaron Sorkin and The Social Network

Aaron Sorkin and I have never met. He would have no idea who I am...and yet I have made an unofficial bargain with him. Whatever TV show or movie he writes the story for, I watch, no questions asked. A Few Good Men, The West Wing, Charlie Wilson's War, The American President...doesn't matter...Sorkin is, hands down, my favorite screenplay writer .

Sorkin's newest work, The Social Network, is the Oscar buzzing new film giving voyeurs a "fly on the wall" peak into the founding of the online site half the planet seems connected to.... including me. The movie features the snappy dialogue Sorkin has trademarked. Quick, intelligent, and really needing to be watched on DVD so you can rewind and absorb just how good it is.

OK, I digress but in the last month I've had a small handful of people compliment me on this blog. They've appreciated some of the humor, wit, and insights, and hey, I'm human; I won't pretend it doesn't stroke my ego a little. But, I'm smart enough to know that in writing terms, I'm the equivalent of the small town high school basketball star. I may be able to impress others (and sometimes myself) with the occasional swisher from the 3-point line, but when I  watch a Sorkin I realize I'm not even playing in the same league. True genius!

But I'm an Aaron Sorkin fan for other reasons. The way he sees the world, and America, is one that always inspires me. He puts so much of what he believes into his writing and I'm often watching and nodding with an occasional "Amen..preach it brother!" And its not just his views that I find compelling.  His writing often tips his hand to some of his own quirky interests. The icing on the cake for me has to be that in a particular episode of The West Wing Sorkin pretty much let it be known that the often forgotten James Bond movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service was his favorite. Lets face it, the single outing for George Lazenby as Bond (after Sean Connery but before Roger Moore) is typically no one's favorite, except for my mother and I. Anyone who makes a point of working an affection for that Bond movie into his TV show...well...he gets my vote :)

Critically, The Social Network doesn't disappoint. Somehow watching the history of a story that most of us play a small part in makes it all the more compelling. In addition to the flawless screenplay, the casting and direction was Oscar worthy. And, is it just me, or is Justin Timberlake actually a good actor???

Anyhow, get out and see The Social Network.  It's a strong contender for this year's Best Picture award and, you're seeing it predicted first on Beyond the Pale, Sorkin will walk away with the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar.

And it will be well deserved...

Friday, November 12, 2010

Jesus Culture Revival

Tammy and I were at a Denver film festival a few years back when we got into a conversation with a co-worker who was there with us.  She had recently been hired by the Westin Hotel in the city to market their "in house" restaurant.  She explained to us, "The previous marketing strategies had been aimed at convincing Denver how cool and hip it was.  The minute you have to tell someone you're're not."

That had me thinking that in today's Christian circles the churches and leaders are practically falling over themselves to market the Body of Christ as "authentic" and "relevant".  The reason we market ourselves this way is because when we lack the power of the Holy Spirit in our gatherings, changing lives and breaking the chains that bind people, we have to rely on "other" methods to convince people to come to our meetings and support our church. Slick ads showing attractive energetic people telling you how cool and relevant their church opposed to their previous Christian experience which is assumed to be, horror of horrors, inauthentic."

But I just read a great article about the Jesus Culture movement going on in Redding California at Bethel Church.  It details the revival they have been seeing and the expectation that the Holy Spirit is among us in power to bring healing and transformation.

Says Jesus Culture leader Banning Liebscer:

“Our message is whole-hearted consecration unto the Lord. It’s not that we’re just Christians, but we’ve really given ourselves to see revival in the earth. We believe that God is looking for entire cities to be saved, and He’s looking for nations to turn to Him"

"We preach a gospel of power, if you come to our events, we’re going to pray for the sick. It’s a little bit different because it’s not necessarily coming from the person on the platform. If I’m preaching, we’ll pray for the sick, but we’re having the people pray for one another."

I guess when you are talking about whole hearted consecration to the Lord, appeals to authenticity are rendered kinda moot!

As someone who became a Christian during the Jesus Movement, here's hoping the Jesus Culture makes an even greater impact on it's generation for the Kingdom of God and the church.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Why the Left and the Right hate the Rally to Restore Sanity

A couple weeks ago I arrived  home late Saturday night from a great evening with friends and the family.  However rather than collapse in bed as is the norm (those that know me also know I am NOT a night person), Gabriel and I fired up the computer to catch the live feed of Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity on the mall in Washington DC.

First of all let me say...I loved it!  If I had been in America, this would have been the Rally I would like to attend.
Good music...good humor...good message!  No one ridiculous chants, just good times and celebrating America.  Sure there were a few nut jobs out there that made fodder for right wing bloggers; have a couple hundred thousand people show up and I guarantee there will be some crazies, but we should't judge the rally's message by these people.  To be fair, Glen Beck's rally shouldn't be judged by the minority of nut jobs that showed up to his.

And by making this distinction we've taken a step to "restoring sanity" ...something I am a huge supporter of.

The Rally's purpose is validated by the fact that both the Right and the Left came out to condemn it.  The Right, knowing Jon Stewart vents Left in his politics,  saw the appeal to neutrality and "sanity" as a sham and that the whole gig was nothing more than a last ditch attempt to rally "progressives" for the Democrats in the run-up to the election.

The Left, in turn, felt betrayed as they were secretly hoping that WAS the reason for the rally...and it wasn't (as the video can attest)

Let's face it, if sanity were to return to the public arena, a lot of people on both sides of the political spectrum would be out of a job.  A huge part of our economy now rests on convincing you that "those guys over there" are out to destroy everything you hold dear!

So Jon, and Stephen, you hit the bullseye.  You managed to de-fang both the Right and the Left and took us, at least for a day, on the long road back to sanity!  Cheers!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Election 2010 recap

Tuesday's election came and went leaving a result everyone pretty much anticipated. Recently I had connected here in Hong Kong with the Republicans Abroad and so received an invite to their gathering downtown to watch the GOP tide roll in.

I caught the 6:30 AM ferry from my place on Park Island and spent the 22 minute ferry ride downtown simply trying to wake up. The Whiskey Priest pub hosted the event and due to the 7:00 AM start, was ready with a buffet of eggs, sausage, bacon, hash browns, and bottomless pots of coffee. The large screen TV was tuned to Fox News (I know, I know, but it was a Republican event, what can you do) and slowly a large group of American Republican Hong Kongers (that's a mouthful huh?) filled the pub.

What struck me was that as we hooped and hollered to the results coming in from half a world away was that these guys, whom I had only just met, echoed my own sentiments about the election. Essentially the Republicans, after the spanking they received in '06, and '08, needed to do some in house surgery. Some strong, intelligent, and charismatic leadership needed to develop and a cogent policy platform that would have broader appeal needed to to constructed.

With the implosion of the Democrats in the last year, those needed adjustments have been ignored and Republicans may be deluded with Tuesdays result into thinking the American people love us again.

They don't!

Sarah Palin may have took a victory lap on Wednesday morning but she is the prime reason why the Republicans failed to win the Senate back as well as the House. Her irresponsible endorsements mobilized the Tea Party faithful around candidates of dubious quality at the expense of seasoned and proven winners.

I can't blame her though, the lack of true leadership in the party makes the likes of her and some of the other crazy talking heads possible.

There is hope on the horizon though. Guys like Marco Rubio who won his senate seat in Florida seems to be a rising star with a good head on his shoulders (that alone makes him a welcome change for the Republicans)

Anyhow, I want to finish this little take on the election with a congratulations to good friends of mine that won this week. Mike Kopp who was reelected to his state senate seat in Colorado's 22nd and to Scott Gessler who just became Colorado's new Secretary of State. Fantastic job guys!