Snitches

Photo May 28, 9 02 17 PMStudent: “Snitches get stitches and wind up in ditches Mr Corn….and I ain’t no snitch.” 

The phrase just hung in the air and the class was silent. What should I say? If no one in the class comes clean, then someone got away with it. This is the culture of my school, and I suspect it’s everywhere.

What I wanted to say is, “You say you’re not a snitch, but maybe you should be. What you’re saying to me is that you’re not brave enough to stand up and do is what is right. What you’re saying is that you are happy to let your friend go down a dangerous path. What you’re saying is that you think he’ll cover for you later if you cover for him now. This is not love for your friend. It’s selfishness on your part. Love would want what is ultimately the best for your friend and that includes consequences which will allow him to grow and learn from his poor choices. What you’re saying is that you don’t care enough about society and the world around you to do something about a wrong. You’re saying that you’re OK with a steady decline in the morals of our community. ‘Cause if you let him get away with it, and he lets you get away with it, eventually someone else is gonna get away with more and maybe even against you. If it continues, your children will grow up in a world where no one ever tells and everyone gets away with everything. Somehow I think, if you were the victim, you might not be saying “Snitches wind up in ditches.” You might find yourself saying, “Someone man up and do the right thing. We need justice here.” This no-snitch culture is ultimately hurting us. It’s a fast-food/I-want-it-now attitude that will plague our future. Yes, now we can get away with it, but as we do we are unconsciously telling others they can too. This creates a downward spiral of the moral fabric that guides everyone around us and will lead to our demise.

We need heroes. Heroes are courageous and self-sacrificing. They do the right thing even if it’s scary – even if it costs them something. Snitches can be heroes, and yes, maybe some of them wind up in ditches, but that doesn’t change their hero status. It only makes them bigger heroes who were willing to pay the price for what is right.

What? Pay the price? Be the hero in the ditch? It seems that our culture believes the bullies’ fear tactics have won the battle and convinced everyone that not saying anything is okay. Is there another way? I have had students who anonymously let me know what’s going on or speak without saying a word. Sometimes a look is all it takes. As a teacher, this helps me know what happened, but it doesn’t help me with addressing the situation ’cause there is no proof – sort of like inadmissible evidence. (Unless of course, the anonymous student is willing to give an official statement to an administrator while still remaining anonymous to the perpetrator.) Ultimately, I guess I’m back to heroes. We need heroes who are willing to do the right thing no matter what. 

OK – So now you know how I feel…….but what about “Tattling?” Is that the same thing? As a parent I teach my kids not to tattle every little detail ’cause I want them to learn how to “handle” some situations on their own. Part of learning how to navigate this world includes “figuring it out,” working with others, compromising, sacrificing, and sometimes it means learning how to just “deal with it.” Do I want them trying to punish the other one by hitting them? No! Of course not. But these are difficult things to navigate for a child’s mind. “How much does daddy want me to handle on my own? Where is the line?” If my child is being abused or has been with a friend who likes to play with daddy’s gun, I want him to tattle. I need him to be a snitch.

I saw a video this afternoon where someone explained to children that we never “tattle,” but it’s good to “report” something. They went on to describe reporting as an issue where someone is endangered or unsafe. This might be a helpful distinction but I haven’t had time to think through it too much. There are lots of big questions here. And what about the “lying snitches” that wrongfully accuse or implicate an innocent? So what do you guys think? I looked at over 700 images on google and couldn’t find anything speaking in a positive way about snitching. Am I way off in my thinking here? As a parent, am I creating a “no-snitch culture” by telling my kids not to tattle? Is this leading to the demoralization of our culture?

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ~ Edmund Burke

 

Compass or Map

compassThe goal of teaching is to enable and empower students to navigate this world with a compass, but I’ve been teaching them with maps. Here’s what I mean: As a teacher, I work very hard show my students the steps it takes to accomplish a task. The problem is that if they follow those steps they get the task done.

What? That doesn’t sound like a problem.

Well, I guess it’s not a problem if your goal is the simple task, however a teacher’s goal is larger. I want my students to understand the content well enough that they can interact and navigate around completely on their own. By following the steps (my map), my students haven’t discovered the landscape around the task. Many haven’t even looked up from the map to notice the landscape. They haven’t made mistakes which would teach them how to navigate towards their goal. A compass is a much better instrument for students. It forces them to learn the landscape and to get a real grasp of the content. When they get off course, they will need to find their way back and will discover that missing a few steps is not failure. They might even discover a better way to get somewhere. A compass allows a student more freedom and room for personal expression than a map – as long as they are within the boundaries they can go anywhere they’d like. If students had this kind of freedom, they might be a bit more motivated. Compass work forces deeper thought and requires higher order thinking skills.

Let me be clear. To create a “compass” lesson is much more difficult for the teacher. It requires more flexibility and will most likely bring some chaos. The “compass” teacher/student relationship probably looks more like an apprenticeship. There needs to be more one on one time. More exploration time. There should probably be more mistakes and disasters as well. As a matter of fact, I’d say that if there aren’t many mistakes, then students aren’t learning. As hard is these ideas might be, I believe our students are worth the efforts.  

Here’s my biggest question: In this type of classroom, students must have some sort of self motivation. A teacher who works with students individually like this can’t possibly watch everyone else simultaneously. How can a teacher like this keep everyone on task? How can a teacher motivate those students who simply don’t care? Of course the answer is to give them something they care about, but the truth is that there is no course/content/class that can motivate everyone. Ideas? Thoughts? Please leave some comments, I’d really like to know your thoughts.

First Circle

I want my students to live in the “First Circle.” Let me explain.

When I was a youth minister, someone once showed me the “First Circle” concept. I honestly don’t know where it originated, but I have reworked it a bit for my students. Here’s how it works:

The “First Circle” is where students work diligently on the things they are asked to do. When they do so, they are successful learners and end up being happy with themselves and their work. They make good choices and usually good grades as well.

Students enter the “Second Circle” when they come to a crossroads and make a bad choice – when they choose to break the class rules/procedures. There are usually consequences for these bad choices and they also disrupt the class. The learning process is also disrupted if a student enters the second circle.

Note: I have many student who enter this circle and then apologize. However, when they continue to misbehave and then apologize again and again without behavior change, they never return to the 1st Circle. The words of a true apology is backed up by actions and behavior change.

Students can enter the “Third Circle” pretty quickly if they choose not to apologize. This circle is NOT where I like my students to be. They end up disrupting the class repeatedly and will suffer consequences both in the classroom and out (ISS/Parent Phone Calls). Many times they destroy the learning process for themselves but also for the class as a whole. These students are usually too angry to apologize and end up causing more problems out of anger. However, when they cool off, they still have the opportunity to apologize and then start making better choices to work their way back to the first circle. they have destroyed the learning process for themselves and sometimes for the class as a whole.


Anyway, this is just a concept that I thought was worth writing up. Like I said, I didn’t create it, but I’m not sure who did. I just adapted it from a discipleship concept that I learned as a youth minister. (They used “sin” and “repentance” as the two decision points.)

Jewish Educational System

I wanted to post something about how the Jewish Educational System worked. Once I knew this stuff, my understanding of Scripture seemed to be much stronger. Anyway, here’s a basic description. (Very basic)

Bet Sefer – House of the Book

In the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day kids were taught the Torah (first 5 books of the Bible) in the local Synagogue (church) beginning at the age of 6. They had classes 5 days a week just like we do today. By the time they were about 10 years old, they had memorized all of the Torah – the first five books of the Bible. These classes were called “Bet Sefer.” Anyway, most Jewish kids were pretty well finished with school (“WooHoo! Graduation!”) after this and went home to learn the family trade – like fishing or carpentry or something like that.

Bet Talmud – House of Learning

Now, the kids who were really the best of the best among them were allowed to continue in school in something called “Bet Talmud.” Here, they studied all of the Hebrew Scriptures (Our Old Testament) and memorized all of them between the ages of 10-14. During this time, students also learned the Jewish art of questions an answers. Instead of answering with an answer, they were taught to answer with another question. In this way, students could demonstrate both their knowledge and their great regard for the Scriptures. They were taught to always be curious about the Scriptures. Look at how Jesus was described as a young boy in Luke 2:46-47 – “After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.

Bet Midrash – House of Study

Very few of these students ever made it this far. For the few who did there was still another set of classes called “Bet Midrash.” If you were smart enough and knew your scriptures well enough to make it this far, you were given the opportunity to go to a rabbi (teacher) to seek further education. The rabbi would grill you and ask you all kinds of questions, because he was trying to find out if you were good enough to be his student. He wanted to know if you knew enough, but even more importantly, if you could be like him in all areas of your life. If he decided that he didn’t think you could do it, then he would tell you to go back to the family business. It was very rare, but if he thought highly enough of you, he would become your teacher and it would be your goal to become like him in every way. You would agree to take on his “beliefs” and his interpretations of the scriptures. This was called his “yoke” and he would say to you, “come follow me.” This was a huge privilege that was offered to very few people. The disciple’s (also called “talmudim”) job was to become like the rabbi in every way. If the rabbi was hurt and had a limp, you might see his healthy disciples walking behind him (in his footsteps or “in the dust” of the rabbi) with a limp.

My Thoughts

Now, listen to Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I used to always wonder why the disciples were so quick to drop their nets, their jobs, and their lives to follow Jesus. However, this understanding changes things. The disciples were normal guys who were out working in their family trades. This means they didn’t make the cut. They had already dropped out of school and had resigned themselves to the fact that they would probably never be able to follow a rabbi or become a disciple. When Jesus came along and made His offer, they jumped at the opportunity. They didn’t want to miss it, so they dropped what they were doing and went. This would be the equivalent of Michael Jordan saying to a Jr High student “Hey, I see a lot of potential in you. Would you want to come and do some training with me?”

In the end, Jesus is our rabbi. We are to become like him in every way. 1 Peter 2:21 – “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”

Family Update & Videos

Here are some fun things to tell you about:
I got up to go to the bathroom the other day and when I returned, this is what I found. Isn’t she the cutest thing you’ve ever seen?

Kesleigh loves Kleenex from Steve Corn on Vimeo.


Kasen has been watchin’ the Olympics this past week and when he heard his cousins were skiing this weekend, he decided to go skiing too. Here’s what resulted:

Kasen Skiing from Steve Corn on Vimeo.


The other BIG News is that Kasen pooped in the potty today for the very first time. We rewarded him with a “Big Sucker” and he chose the Mickey Mouse Sucker. Here’s a pic of his poo poo (long pause) . . . . reward:


For those of you who are still reading and who want to know some of the deeper things going on with us, I thought I’d update you on a few things too:

1.) I have officially become unemployed. Sundays are strange. We have visited a few churches and will continue to do so until we find the place that’s right for us. Neither Miranda nor I has ever chosen a church to be involved in. We’ve always been chosen by the church and welcomed with more than open arms. Now, we’re not staff people. Now, we experience what everybody else in the world experiences when they walk into a church. There’s something kinda fun about it though too. It’s nice to be in a worship service without feeling like you had to be “on” or be weary of the neverending saga of politics which surround church staff people each week.

2.) I am currently in the midst of an alternative certification program for teachers. This week I passed the 4-8th Generalist content exam which makes me eligible to get a teaching job. I’m able to teach anything 4-8th grade. The exam was much more difficult than I had imagined, but I ended up scoring well. 282 out of 300 and the passing grade was only 240. I’m excited about the possibility of teaching. My favorite parts of youth ministry have always been the times with students and this way I’ll be able to be with them every day of the week. I’m also excited about having a schedule similar to my kids as they grow older and having Sundays off so that we can be involved wherever we’d like. We’re prayin’ that I can get a teaching job before the end of this school year – preferably close to home too.


Remez

“May the force be with you.” It’s a classic quote. With those 5 little words I have referred you to a concept found in the Star Wars films. Almost anyone in our culture would recognize the reference, without mentioning the film itself. Jesus often did the same thing.

hiddenA practice called a “remez” (meaning “hint”) was practiced by most rabbis (including Jesus) during Biblical times. The Jewish educational system required that every young boy memorize the Law. Many went on to memorize the entire Old Testament. Their culture was so steeped in the Scriptures, that they could quote a part of a verse knowing that others would recognize the end. According to FishingtheAbyss.com, there are “30 – 50 (potentially more) remezim of Jesus recorded in the gospels.”

Here’s an example: Ever wonder why the Pharisees hated Jesus so much? Although He did say some things to them that were not very flattering, sometimes it’s what He didn’t say that bothered them the most.

Check out Mathew 21:16

But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant. “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.
“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,
” ‘From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise’?”

Why would that make them so angry? It doesn’t sound so bad. But check out what the rest of that verse says. He was quoting Psalm 8:2

From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.

The Pharisees knew the end of the verse He was quoting – and Jesus knew it too. He called them “enemies!” No wonder they got so mad.

Anyway, the “remez” is an interesting practice. We’ve got to know the whole of Scripture in order to understand the intricacies of the things Jesus said (and didn’t day).

Here are a few other places Jesus used the “remez.” Look ’em up. It’s pretty cool stuff.

Matthew 21:13 hints at Isaiah 56:7 (Jesus isn’t as mad about them selling stuff in the temple area as much as He is concerned that this was the only place the Gentiles could worship and they were not being allowed to do so.)

Matthew 27:46 hints at Psalm 22:1 (Check out Psalm 22:13-18 – Jesus was telling them He was the Messiah.)

Luke 11:20 hints at Exodus 8:18-19

Luke 19:10 hints at Ezekiel 34 (Revealing Himself as the Messiah)

Mark 15:34 would have been an obvious “remez” to the Jews present at the time. Hinting at Psalm 22-24 (Messianic Psalms)

OK – so that should be enough to get you started. The bottom line for me is this. If we could approach the Scriptures with the context of Jewish culture, we’d have a much greater understanding and these sorts of nuances wouldn’t fly over our heads. I may be strange (and some of you know it’s true) but I’d sure like to be able to talk about the Scriptures as easily and with as much nuance as I do about Star Wars.

5 Life-Changing Experiences – A Mistake

I can hear you now. “What?? a mistake changed your life??”

It’s a long story, but after High School and a few years @ A&M, I ended up as a music major @ Texas Wesleyan in Ft. Worth. I had no skills for it, but loved studying music. It was completely the opposite of the engineering degree I had been seeking @ A&M – where I had the skills and no desire. I also realized that I loved working with youth groups during that time and took my first part-time youth ministry position at Aledo FUMC. It was a great job. During that time, I worked part-time @ the Sears Auto Center, went to school (Texas Wesleyan) full-time, and worked part-time at as a youth minister. I drove almost 100 miles a day and became pretty adept at changing clothes in the car. I worked for about 2 years this way, and ultimately realized that at the end of my degree in music, all I’d be able to do is teach band or try to make it as a performance musician. Neither option sounded good.

Anyway, the music minister at the church talked me into going to choir camp that year as an adult participant. When we arrived, they told us they had never received our registrations (there’s the “mistake” I’m talking about) and that we could stay if we would work with the children. We had the week off already so we decided to stay. I played guitar with the guys in my group and ended up leading singing for 100s of children in the evenings. One of the other counselors, Susan Bryant  approached me about coming to be the full-time youth minister at her church. I had never thought of that. I knew music was a dead end for me and I knew God was revealing an ever-increasing love for youth ministry to me in those days, and I went for it. The pastor called a week later to arrange an interview. I drove down and life has never been the same.

Tomball UMC Church Directory Photo - 1992
Tomball UMC Church Directory Photo - 1992

I stayed at that church (Tomball FUMC) for 12 years. I found another family there. I grew there. I was discipled there. I was stretched there. God allowed me to be a part of some incredible ministry and to see lives changed dramatically. I met my bride there. I was married there.Tomball FUMC was a turning point for me, and I would never have been there if it weren’t for a mistake. Here’s how I see it all adding up:

God had someone lose my Choir Camp registration

+ God allowed Susan to see something in me

+ God created a restlessness in me about the music major

+ God led the Pastor at Tomball (Nick Sholars) to call me

+ God granted me favor in the eyes of the SPRC

= a new job + a new direction in life + discipleship + a new extended family + a passion for life/ministry + an eventual bride + my amazing children + + + + etc. + who knows what else is to come?

It’s just crazy to think my whole life spins off this one “mistake.”  Hmm. . . .was it really a mistake or did God have a hand in it?

Jedi Theology

This is a paper I had to write for my class. It’s a bit more interesting than some of my other posts lately.

Starwars
It was 1977. I was eight years old and my dad was taking my younger brother and I to the movies. Just going to the movies at all was a rare treat, but this was a special day. I had been waiting for what seemed like forever to a young boy, for this day to arrive. I had heard about the hype and commotion over this film, and there was something in me that just longed for adventure. Maybe it’s something God placed within me – maybe it’s just my sinful self wanting for something more – but either way, that day would not be a disappointment. I remember leaving the theater that day with such excitement – feeling like something had changed – like nothing would ever be the same. What I felt was a sense of something larger, like the world wasn’t just about me anymore. There was more to it. My little corner of the universe was just that. . . little. What I was feeling – what I had experienced was just a microcosm of what the world was celebrating. Star Wars mania hit with resounding blows. Every friend I had was collecting Star Wars cards and action figures and quoting lines from the films to each other – and it wasn’t just the little kids like me either, it was universal. It was huge. It was larger than life. It was Star Wars! Today the Star Wars kingdom has exploded into so much more. There are on-line communities who explore the “expanded universe” (including books, video games, etc. which were not a part of the films) together and even argue over the finer details of the films. There are an ever-increasing number of action figures and Star Wars merchandise on the shelves at stores and even television shows that parody the films.

As I look back on those days, I ask myself, “What was it about Star Wars that resonated in such deep ways with people all over the world?” I believe that the answer to that question can be found in how the themes of the films line up with the longings of the human heart which God placed within each of us. Although the writer, George Lucas was simply trying to tell a good story, these films actually point to God. (Maybe that speaks of the longings of Lucas’ heart too.) Speaking of his intentions with Star Wars in an interview, Lucas said, “I wanted it to be a traditional moral study, to have some sort of palpable precepts in it that children could understand.” He continued, “There is always a lesson to be learned. . .Traditionally, we get them from church, family, art and in the modern world, we get them from the media – – from movies.” Later on in his career, Lucas said, “The Force evolved out of various developments of character and plot. I wanted a concept of religion based on the premise that there is a God and there is good and evil. . . . . I believe in God and I believe in right and wrong. I also believe that there are basic tenets which through history have developed into certainties, such as ‘thou shalt not kill.’ I don’t want to hurt other people. ‘Do unto others…’ is the philosophy that permeates my work.”

It becomes evident that Lucas wasn’t specifically writing about the God of the Bible, but I intend to point out many of the places where his Methodist upbringing reveals itself. Although there are many illustrations from each of the six films, I will limit myself to Episode IV, “A New Hope” which was the first film to be made.

In the beginning of Episode IV, we meet Luke Skywalker. He is a young man who feels trapped by his circumstances. He senses that there is more to life than the crops and equipment repairs that he has learned under his uncle Owen. Luke, like every Christian, has a calling on his life. He’s not sure what it is, but feels an unrest and restlessness, until he finds rest in seeking the ways of the Jedi. This longing, this calling is described by C.S. Lewis, “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. [So] I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” This longing is also described by Blaise Pascal as a “God-shaped vacuum” or in Ecclesiastes 3:11, God says that He has “set eternity in their hearts.” God is calling each of us into relationship with Himself even in the way He created us. Like us, Luke would not find rest until he found it in his calling.

It’s also interesting to note that Luke was tired of the normal life he had been leading. John Eldridge says, “In the heart of every man is a desperate desire for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.” I believe that this is true – little boys play and imagine their future as warrior heroes, firemen, and athletes who’s lives are filled with one adventure after another. How many little boys dream of being office desk jockeys? If this is true, then Luke was given an opportunity to chase those desires in ways that every man longs for. Eldridge continues, “If we believe that man is made in the image of God, then we would do well to remember that ‘the Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name'(Ex. 15:3).”

In one scene, Luke, with light saber in hand, is concentrating on a silver sphere which hovers in the air. Without warning, the sphere lunges forward and emits a small electric bolt hitting Luke in the hip. Han Solo laughs saying that no light saber can compare to a good blaster. Obi-Wan Kenobi, a Jedi and new friend of Luke’s just smiles on as Han rants about his doubts concerning the “Force.” Obi-Wan places a helmet on Luke’s head with the blast shield down and encourages him to try again. Luke complains that he can’t see anything, but Obi-Wan continues to encourage him saying, “This time let go of your conscience self and act on instinct.” He continues, “Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them.” Luke gets hit again, but then settles in and concentrates. He moves quickly without hesitation, and blocks the sphere three times in a row. “You see,” said Obi-Wan, “You can do it.”

Luke replies, “You know I did feel something. I could almost see the remote!”

“That’s good.” Obi-Wan smiles, “You have taken your first step into a larger world.”

A larger world. Isn’t that exactly what Luke had been looking for? Are we any different? It doesn’t matter where you go in the world, young people want to be somewhere else – somewhere unknown – someplace new – someplace different. We all long for more – for adventure. I can’t help but notice that what it took for him to take his first step into this new world was a little faith. Faith that he could hit the sphere without his eyes. Just as Obi-Wan led Luke into this kind of life-changing faith, Jesus came to lead us there too. What is faith? Well, according to Star Wars, it’s trust in yourself, your “instinct.” As Christians we can’t ascribe to that, but at least they got the trust part right. For us, it’s trust in Jesus. Luke had to trust Obi-Wan’s leadership and he had to “let go of his conscience self.”
This part we can agree with. Letting go of ourselves, we must trust Jesus. “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”

Another place that we see clear spiritual implications in Star Wars is with the systems of the Jedi Council. According to Genesis, man was created in the image of God, and as such, we are not loners – we need each other. In the same way, God Himself is a community – Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The structures of the Jedi reflect this. According to Timothy Paul Jones, “Every Jedi needs guidance and no Jedi stands alone. Every youngling has a teacher, every Padawan has a guide. Not only do the Jedi draw wisdom from living mentors, but they also absorb the teachings of past masters.” This echoes the rabbinical educational systems of the Bible. Ancient Jews knew community in ways that we have lost over the years. A young man who sought to be educated would go to a Rabbi and begin to live under his “yoke” (teaching). In a very real sense, it was the rabbi’s job to train this young man in the way of the masters. Not unlike the Jedi, the rabbis themselves had been trained by learned men and continued to seek and “absorb the teachings of past masters by studying the Scriptures. I personally believe that this helps to explain the popularity Star Wars. We all long for this kind of community and the Jedi council seems to be a form of family that is healthy. Jones continues saying, “Every part of a Jedi’s existence is inherently communal, a matter of doing life together.” I wonder how the Christian community would be different if we truly sought this kind of existence. If we each were involved in small groups who were honest about their lives, encouraged one another, gave advise to one another, held each
other accountable to the Scriptural guidelines we claim to hold so high? What kind of group would it take for us to find a true community that we respected enough to actually seek their counsel? At one point in Episode 6, (I know. . . I am limiting my argument to Episode 4, but please allow me this indulgence.) Emperor Palpatine tells Luke that his weakness is his “faith in your friends.” I long to be accused of being that kind of friend. It’s no wonder we all relate to Luke so well – he’s the kind of guy we all wish to be and to have as a friend.

Another scene in “A New Hope” also stands out for me for its’ spiritual implications. Han Solo, Chewy, Luke, and Obi-Wan Kenobi are in the Millennium Falcon and chasing a small fighter when they come across a “small moon.” As they approach they realize, “That’s no moon,” but it’s a space station. We know it now as the “Death Star.” As they approach they get caught in its’ “tractor beam” (also called a grappling ray) and cannot fight against it. The only way to escape is for Obi-Wan to make his way to the main reactor (where the tractor beam drew its power) and shut down one of its’ seven links. The “Death Star” is without a doubt a clear representation of the power of evil. As Christians, it always amazes me at how Satan seeks us out to “steal, kill, and destroy us.” Much like the tractor beam, when we’ve come too close, he draws us in and seeks to turn us to the “dark side.” Without the aid of Jesus (a spiritual Master similar to Obi-Wan) we could never get out of Satan’s clenches. There are many other comparisons between Obi-Wan and Jesus, but I’ll stick with just two: (1) Luke Skywalker’s life is completely changed when he meets Obi-Wan and begins his Jedi training. In the same way, Jesus transforms us and trains us in the proper ways to live. (2) It’s also interesting to note that Obi-Wan dies in Episode IV and is actually stronger in death than even in life. Much like the Holy Spirit whom Jesus sent after His death/resurrection, Obi-Wan appears as a spirit to Luke and speaks to him to give him strength and guidance during the rebel’s trench attack on the Death Star.

Darth Vader is still another clear representation of evil or Satan. Throughout the film, he recognizes the potential in Skywalker, and seeks to turn him to the “dark side.” Satan works in similar ways trying to position himself in such a way that we would respond to him favorably. Douglas LeBlanc says, “This is realistic filmmaking, for few of us merely stumble into doing evil. Often because of fear, pain or a sense of helplessness we lash out.” Dick Staub adds another dimension saying, “Darth Vader was persistent in his pursuit of Luke Skywalker, desiring to turn him from a potentially powerful foe to a deceived ally, a relationship that parallels the dark side’s hounding of the Jedi Christian. . . There is Hope. Julian of Norwich warned, ‘Jesus said not: thou shalt not be troubled, thou shalt not be tempted, nor thou shalt not be mistreated. But he said: thou shalt not be overcome.’

One of the enjoyable aspects of Star Wars is the clear distinction between good and evil. It’s not difficult to realize that Darth Vader and all of the Empire are the “bad guys” and that Luke, the rebel alliance, and the Jedi are the “good guys.” This also aids in the appeal of these films. It’s easy to imagine yourself in the struggle when the battle lines are drawn so clearly. Unfortunately, the world we live in has a difficult time with making these distinctions because Satan has attempted to redraw those lines. Through our daily news, we witness parents who abuse their children, preachers who cheat on their wives, and all sorts of other contradictions. It’s not as hard as Satan wants us to think though. Like Star Wars, Paul spells it out pretty clearly saying, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” With the battle lines drawn so clearly, I find myself wanting to join the rebel alliance against the evil forces of sin in this world. Would you join me in my struggle?

There are so many more examples of Christian theology in the Star Wars films, but I will not tackle any more for now. Notice the implications of some of these quotes from the other films:

Luke: “I don’t. . .I don’t believe it.”
Yoda: “That is why you fail.” (Episode V)

Luke: “I’ll give it a try.”
Yoda: “No! Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.” (Episode V)

Qui-Gon Jinn: “Our meeting was not a coincidence. Nothing happens by
accident.” (Episode I)

Qui-Gon Jinn: “Nothing happens by accident. . .Finding [Anakin] was the will of
the Force.” (Episode I)

Anakin Skywalker: “I’ve become more powerful than any Jedi has ever dreamed
of.” (Episode III)

Obi-Wan Kenobi: “You have made a commitment to the Jedi Order, Anakin. A
commitment not easily broken.” (Episode II)

Yoda: “Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.” (Episode
III)

Yoda: “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to
hate. Hate leads to suffering.” (Episode I)

Luke: “Father, please. Help me.” (Episode VI)

Luke: “But how am I to know the good side from the bad?

Yoda: “You will know. When you are calm, at peace.” (Episode V)

To summarize, let’s do a quick overview. It seems that “Star Wars” resonated with people because of the deep desires that God has placed within us as humans. George Lucas himself has those longings and therefore, Star Wars reflects them. Those longings are personified in Luke Skywalker who dreams of a life of adventure and purpose. As he learns to trust Obi-Wan Kenobi, he steps into a larger world and begins his journey to becoming a Jedi. Christians must also take these steps into a new life by trusting in Jesus and beginning their journey to becoming a disciple. Like God Himself, the Jedi Council and educational structures are practiced in community. We Christians must also find community for encouragement, accountability, and strength. Satan’s pursuit and power are personified in Darth Vader and the Death Star, but we find hope in overcoming them in Christ. As Obi-Wan made the way for our heroes to escape, Jesus has made our escape from sin possible by his work on the cross. As Obi-Wan’s death led to greater strength in a spiritual form, so Christ’s death and resurrection have brought about the gift of the Holy Spirit, empowering us to live as Christian Jedi Masters.

“Star Wars” was an epic film which inspired people all over the world to imagine and dream! As they watched, they believed in the heroes and rooted them on. The battle between good and evil is an epic battle! Will you join the forces with me in the struggle? Will you believe in the hero (Jesus) and root Him on? It’s an adventure that we all live. My prayer is that you’ll live it on my side of the battle line, ’cause in the end. . . . . . JESUS WINS!!!!!

Hebrews

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Today is the first day of this new class – General Epistles and Revelation. Dr. Loken started out by telling us that the class should really be called the “General Epistles” ’cause Revelation is actually a “general epistle” too. It was clearly written to at least 7 churches which makes it pretty general.

We started out talking about Hebrews. The author is unknown, but most likely it was Paul or Barnabas. Much of the book is completely different than any of Paul’s other writings, but the greatest argument against him as the author comes in Heb 2:3 where the author says he learned the gospel from “those who heard Him.” Since Paul continually said that he had acquired the gospel directly from Jesus himself, it would be highly unlikely that he would have written this verse.

Dr. Loken explained that Hebrews was written to the Jewish believers in Jerusalem. They were poor. Paul had even taken up offerings for them. They were poor because everything revolved around the temple in Jerusalem. All the commerce, social structures, everything. When someone became a Christian, they were immediately kicked out of the synagogue. They also typically lost their jobs, friends, family, and all support. When they confessed their faith, they understood that they were choosing persecution and struggle. This is why they were so good at sharing all their possessions, and living out their Christianity together. They “needed” the body in ways that our culture doesn’t understand. The easiest way for them to relieve the pressures of this kind of life was to go back to Judaism and the sacrificial system.

The book of Hebrews is a combination of dangling a carrot in front of them and then whipping them. Chapters 1, 3, & 5 are the carrots which talk about how Christ is so much better than Judaism. Chapters 2, 4, 6, 10, & 12 are more like the whip behind them saying you guys are going to receive the curse which was upon you head as a Jew if you go back to Judaism. The author of Hebrews continually encourages them to “hold fast” to their confession. Listen to Hebrews 10:24-27 with this understanding, “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the Day approaching. For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for our sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.”

This is not a verse about going to church, but one about staying together in the midst of persecution and encouraging one another. It also clearly talks about how these Jewish believers cannot just go back to the sacrificial system – cause it’s not a valid system anymore.

Hebrews 6:4-6 – For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.

There are many interpretations for these verses, but here’s mine – These guys are clearly believers – “enlightened,” “tasted the heavenly gift,” “partakers of the Holy Spirit.” They have to be Jewish believers ’cause the only guys who could crucify Jesus “again” are the guys who did it the first time. Basically the author is telling these Jewish believers (who are tempted to go back to Judaism for their own prosperity, comfort) that it would take Jesus going to the cross a second time to save them if they went back to Judaism now. Since that’s not gonna happen, they better remain true to their faith in Christ.

This probably sounds a bit like a ramble, but these are just some of the ideas we talked about tonight. I hope it’s not worthless reading, but I must admit that it probably isn’t my best writing. I don’t exactly have all my thoughts together very clearly yet either.

A “B”

I love my school! It has been a huge change for me over the past year to get into all these new habits of studying for school in addition to all my normal studies for my job and teaching and all, but it’s been good. I feel like I’m learning how to think again. I’ve really been challenged both in my thinking/theology and in my scheduling/priorities.

This week for example has been really crazy. I just left La Porte FUMC this morning at 6am so I could come to class today. I normally attend the evening class, but this week is UM ARMY week and so I’ve got other commitments (I’m leading worship and doing programs) tonight and decided to come to the morning class. Anyway, this is also the last week of class this time around (Acts and Paul’s Epistles), which means that all our homework and stuff is due next week. Up until this summer, I had straight “A’s” for all my classes, but I took my first “B” last time ’cause I just didn’t have time (because of my summer schedule) to finish all the work.

It appears that this class is gonna be the same. I could probably really push forward and get the “A”, but I also have a life outside of school (Remember, Miranda is pregnant) and so I’m just gonna have to settle for the “B” again this time. I love all this stuff, and it’s really good for me, but my bride and having some time with her has simply got to be my first priority – besides, a “B” is still a good grade. I’m really hoping that once the summer is over, I can get into a more regular routine again and get back to the “A’s” I used to get.