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/u:bæ∫Ik/[n] The greatest, most superlative of its kind;[n] Elegant and stylist;[n] amalgation of German-Franco lexicon, describing hypercool translinguistic supracultural phenomenon.

Sunday, December 30, 2007
I pre-ordered Mark Driscoll's newest book a couple months back. It's called 'Vintage Jesus' - a signed copy too, at that. For my enthusiasm, I got rewarded with an advance electronic PDF copy of the book a day before Christmas Day.

It's basically Driscoll's sermon series of the same name that he delivered at his church. So far I'm roughly 40 pages into this 258 book, and there's enough sound-bites to satisfy a quote-hungry blogger.

He opens Chapter Two (How Human was Jesus? - the answer being 'as much as you and me') with

    Jesus was a dude. Like my drywaller dad, he was a construction worker who swung a hammer for a living...[He] did not look like so many of the drag-queen Jesus images that portray him with long, flowing, feathered hair, perfect teeth, and soft skin, draped in a comfortable dress accessorized by matching open-toed sandals and handbag...No, Jesus was not the kind of person who, if walking by you on the street, would require you to look for an Adam’s apple to determine the gender.

In keeping with the Yuletide season, he writes that

    Some Christian worship songs have also tended to lean toward a denial of the full humanity of Jesus. For example, there is a well-known hymn about Jesus as a baby that says, “no crying he makes,” as if Jesus were not truly a human child that would cry to notify his mother when he was hungry, wet, or had an upset stomach.

If that isn't edgy enough for you, he immediately says that

    the Orthodox and Catholic baby Jesus pictures are simply freakish, with him looking like a Mini-Me complete with a halo. Honestly, if I had a kid like that I would sleep with one eye open.

I think he has in mind such pictures as this.

But by no means is the book a lame and lurid attempt at humour by a pastor - that happens a little too often every Sunday across the world. It is a concise Christology that shows simply what the Bible says about Jesus, but with a holier-than-thou sense of humour that knows that the sin of being too serious is only second to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

In fact, Driscoll is convinced that

    the apparent boring dourness of Jesus, the school wallflower who never got the punch line of any joke because he was too busy memorizing Lamentations while Herod’s kids gave him wedgies, is precisely the cause of so many people thinking that going to church and going to the dentist are virtually synonymous.

Let's all agree, shall we? The best learners are happy ones, and the best way to create happiness in others is to make them laugh. I think Jesus did that a lot.

Friday, December 28, 2007
Today, I join bloggers and other web pundits in mourning the death of Benazir Bhutto.

As I wade through the whelming glut of newsfeeds about her life and her times, the irony scarcely evades me. A politically volatile Muslim nation in South Asia had an elected female prime minister - when today USA still has yet to put a female into the Oval Office.

Ms. Bhutto was well-educated and well-accomplished. She was cum laude in Harvard and later the first Asian woman to head the debating union at Oxford. And she has the (debatably dubious) honour of making it onto People Magazine's '50 Most Beautiful People' List in 1988, the same year she became the first and youngest female ever to be elected head of a Muslim-majority state.

I have to admit, Ms. Bhutto was quite the looker.

Here's a picture of her in 1976, as the head of Oxford Union, the university's debating society.

Her intellectual prowess and academic talent notwithstanding, I wonder if her photogenic features helped her advance in a patriarchal (at best, and misogynist as worst) world.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007
It's Day No. 3 of my escapade here in Minnesota, and true to what some have said, I already have stories to tell.

1. Getting to Minneapolis. Flying out of JFK was a madhouse. I get to the gates just 3 minutes before boarding time, and then I hurry down the wrong gate (because the lady at the gate told me wrong) and almost board the wrong plane headed to Salt Lake City - which might have been a tale to tell the grandkids, in retrospect.

2. Transit Time. I met real interesting people who were waiting for the same delayed flight for me at Cincinnati. There was this guy who was a freelance film editor from NYC, and he is currently working on a documentary on Uganda. Yes, you heard me, Uganda.

Then there was another man who was a songwriter, and had written for such artists like Keith Urban, Amy Grant, Avalon and 'other CCM artists'. He wasn't willing to divulge too much about himself - I guess he was wary of being a celebrity - but I think I've enough clues to figure out his name.

3. Meeting the Unseths. I'm staying with Josh and Chris' family, and they have been extremely welcoming and friendly. I spent Christmas Eve sleeping over at their grandparents' new place, and I can't say it simply enough - they treated me like family.

I got a good number of Christmas gifts from them. Chris got me the DVDs for Seasons 2 and 3 of 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'. It might be the best Yuletide gift I've gotten so far.

They didn't just treat me like family, they wanted me to be family. When Grandpa Unseth found out I had 'no romantic life', all his sons and their spouses were more than excited to inform me that Josh had a cousin named Rachel. And Josh's grandpa even showed me her photo - once during that conversation, and one more time before I left their house.

We'll see what anecdotes come my way before I depart in 2008.

Friday, December 21, 2007
I trudged home tonight, one hour past midnight, watching my breath make itself visible in the icy air. I liked the sound my sneakers made as I stepped over the freshly-fallen snow - a gentle crunch as your bodyweight sinks into a thin layer of new-fallen powdered snow. Looking up, each individual snowflake shimmered subtly as it descended beneath yellowed roadlights.

I wondered if it snows in heaven.

I turned onto the street I live on, waving a winter-break farewell to my friends, enjoying the "crunch-crunch-crunch" of the footsteps that were leading me back home. Glancing down, I followed the footsteps along, telltale signs of city-dwellers navigating snow and sidewalk.

Nearing my driveway, I see the layer of snow blanketing it, and realize, "I guess I have to shovel it off tomorrow morning."

The only Christmases I've know are sunny and humid. This year will be the first time the snow-saturated Christmas enshrined in carols, cartoons, commercials and church bulletins becomes a reality for me.

If I had grown up in a place that got four seasons, and snowed (just as it's supposed to) at the end of the calendar year, I think I would have hated snow. I can only imagine being forced by my parents to grab a spade and shovel the driveway clean of snow, and I shudder. To not have to wake up every morning and undo the weather is, in more than one way, a blessing indeed.

I now wonder, do angels shovel snow in heaven?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007
I have one more paper left. 12-point font, double-spaced, approximately 12 pages long.

The title: "On the Possibility of Knowing God."

It's slightly frustrating, because the texts that I'm writing on don't seem to push the question far enough.

If our all our intellectual faculties and reasoning powers cannot, by themselves, paint for us an adequate picture of God, then we can only wait for God to reveal Himself.

So then, the real question becomes, "How do we know when God has truly revealed Himself?"

Come to think of it, there's no better question to ask during this Advent Season.

Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 'Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.'

Saturday, December 15, 2007
Here's a conversation I found off a blog by a Christian male. A, B and C are talking about dating, while I (JH) will insert italicized comments.

A: "So how much does Christian faith play a role in starting a relationship?"

B: "Well, my mom's concerned that I have too many non-Christian friends, but I don't think I should filter my friends out just based on whether or not they're Christian. That just seems really superficial."

A: "I agree, I don't think there's anything wrong with having non-Christian friends. It's a great opportunity to spread the gospel. I mean, it shouldn't be the only reason why you're friends with them, but we are called to go forth and make disciples of all nations. We're not just supposed to live in our own little Christian bubbles. But in terms of dating relationships, how important is faith?"

JH: Amen. Isolationist Christianity is not true Christianity at all.

B: "What do you mean?"

A: "Well, speaking for myself, I think it's highly important to know whether or not the girl is a Christian. That would be like the first "filter" for me. If she doesn't share my faith, that's it. She's out. We're done."

C: "Wait, what do you mean by 'Christian'? Do you mean 'baptized'?"

A: "No, she doesn't have to be baptized, but at the very least, she has to be someone who acknowledges that she's a sinner and is saved by Jesus."

B: "But there are a lot of non-Christian girls who share many of the same moral and ethical values that we do. Are you going to automatically exclude them just because they aren't Christian? Conversely, there are a lot of Christians out there who don't share those same morals, those same values. In fact, some of them don't even seem to really be living the 'Christian life'...they just seem to be going through the motions. Are you saying that you would rather date these people?"

A: "Absoutely not. It's not enough that someone's a nominal Christian. She needs to show moe than that. Is she growing in her walk? Is she growing in her faith? Is she growing in her understanding of grace?"

B: "But why wouldn't you date a non-Christian who shares those similar values?"

JH: B, you equate being a Christian with simply holding a certain set of beliefs. While that is true on one level, the Bible makes it clear that being a "Christian" is to live life righteously not simply because 'good deeds' and 'right beliefs' get you good standing with God, but because Christ's sacrifice empowers and renews us, calling us to obey God's perfect law.

A: "Well, for starters, I think the Bible makes it abundantly clear that believers shouldn't be yoked with non-believers. More than that, a relationship between a husband and wife is supposed to mirror the relationship between Jesus and the church. If one of the people in the relationship doesn't believe that Jesus died for our sins, she can't possibly grasp that concept."

JH: So A is quoting from the 6th chapter of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians and the fifth chapter of his letter to the Ephesian church. While the Ephesian quote is apt and deserves more blogspace than this post, some clarification is needed about the first reference. Paul's specific frame of reference in that passage is a striking rebuke against certain individuals who approved of sex with temple prostitutes. That passage is taken (ever so slightly) out of context too often to argue for an isolationist Christian faith (which, A, you denounce very lovingly) and to warn young Christian youth not to date non-Christians.

B: "Say the girl wasn't a Christian, but was interested in the Christian faith. Couldn't you use dating as opportunity to share the gospel with her and hope that she eventually comes around?"

A: "Sure, I would certainly share the gospel with her...as a friend. I don't believe in 'missionary dating'. I think you're going down a slippery slope if you do that."

JH: Missionary dating isn't just a slippery slope, it's plain selfish - you're dating a girl/guy so that you might convert them, and you want to convert them so you can continue dating them. We'll revisit selfishness later...

B: "So even if the non-Christian girl was totally compatible with you, you would have absolutely nothing to do with her just because she isn't Christian?"

A: "No, I'd still be friends with her. Just because she doesn't share my faith doesn't exclude us from being friends. I just wouldn't date her."

B: "Well, if you had to choose, which one would you date? The girl with a totally compatible personality who isn't a Christian now, but shares all your moral values and could potentially become a Christian later on; or the girl who claims to be a Christian, but doesn't really live a life that's consistent with her faith?"

A: "I would continue to be friends with the non-Christian girl and continue to share the gospel with her in hopes that she'd eventually come to faith, but I wouldn't date her. As for the other girl, I'm not sure I'd even be friends with her in the first place. So yeah, I don't think I'd date either one."

JH: Wow, A, you're walking the high road. I guess singleness is closer than cleanliness, no?

B: "So you're telling me that if there was this girl who had everything you could want: looks, personality, all your values...but she wasn't a Christian, you would just walk away from all that?

A: "[sigh] Pretty much. Look, I've met plenty of non-Christians who I get along with just great. But I wouldn't ever consider dating any of them because they don't share in my faith. Really, it comes down to someone having the complete 'package': do I find her physically attractive, do our personalities mesh, does she get my sense of humor? And being a Christian also plays a large part in that package.

B: "That sounds like a really tough standard. I think it would be really hard to find someone who fit all that criteria."

JH: See, A and B, here's the fundamental problem. You are approaching dating from the wrong angle - the "me" angle. So much of modern dating is infected with the notion of satisfying my desires and expectations. A, your Ephesians 5 shoutout should be more than that - it's an entire dating manifesto wrapped up in 10 lines. The whole point of marriage is a reflection of Trinitarian unity and Christ's love for His body - the church. And the hallmark of that kind of love is sacrifice, sacrifice that seeks the best of the other person. That kind of love drove Jesus to tears in Gethsemane and kept the legions of angels at bay when He hung dying on Golgotha.

Marriage, then, isn't simply about 'compatability' or 'meeting my expectations'. It's all about learning to love, not falling in love. And dating has to be a precursor to marriage, because dating without marriage in mind is again simply selfish.

That's not to say you should marry the next person you date, but I think that all that emotional euphoria and tender words and held hands that come with dating doesn't seem to make sense if the two of you aren't seriously taking into consideration a life spent together.

Read the original post here: http://www.xanga.com/thebigwang/628731096/item.html