September 30, 2008

Loving Well- A Reply

Below is a detailed response to my previous post from this morning. The question about what happens to people who have never heard of Jesus was so good, it deserves an answer. Thanks! 

Your question is a great one- and like I said, one I wrestle with at times.

Since I am a Jesus follower, I take all my questions to God through what He has to say in the Bible. Let me make a few-maybe several- opening observations, then I will try to put it all together.

In the book of Romans, written by the Apostle Paul, he addresses the heart of your question when he writes in chapter 2, starting with line 14: “Indeed, when Gentiles (non-Jews), who do not have the law (the Ten Commandments), do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them. This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.”

Paul also says in the first chapter of Romans that “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

In additional writings, Paul tells us we will all have to give an account before God for our actions (Romans 12). The writer of another book, the book of Hebrews (some believe Paul wrote this also) tells us nothing is hidden from God’s sight.

Before I get to my full explanation, let me also add that when Jesus was asked by the religious leaders of the day what were the greatest of the Ten Commandments, he said “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second one is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (He says this toward the end of the book of Matthew.) Jesus also says “If you love me, you’ll obey what I command.”

OK, here’s where these all come together. For the Amazon tribe who has never heard of Jesus, God will judge them based on their choices and actions according to their own moral code that is written on their hearts. This would include how each person treats each other and their heart attitude toward their world. So, the only difference between them and us is which way the information has reached us- but we all have to answer to God for how we choose to live our lives, which reflects (or should) what we believe.

As far as your last question, I think it really is about the nature of God. In my mind, it’s similar to being a parent or a teacher or someone else you can think of who has to set boundaries to avoid chaos and encourage people in treating each other well. (And I know I am continuing to learn how to treat people well- especially under stress.)

Here’s the snapshot- God creates a beautiful world, including man and woman, who He gives free reign to do what they want. And God loves having a deep relationship with them. They choose to disobey Him (eating of the fruit He told them not to). So, by their choice not God’s, sin enters the world bringing pain, death both physical and eternal, poverty, war, evil, sickness, etc. It also brings a separation from God. Even the man and woman recognize something is different and try to hide from Him. God is holy and pure and will not tolerate relationship with impurity, but He is grieved by the distance and has a plan to fix it all.

In response to man’s failure, by God’s choice, He sends Jesus to pay the price for sin because of love for us. You’ve probably heard the famous Bible verse- and it’s a good one for a reason- “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life.” The next line is equally powerful- “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (All this in from the book of John, chapter 3.)

As a teacher, the kids in my wife’s class earn the grades they get. They make the choice to study and work hard etc. or not. Her scoring of their tests only reflects the students work. The resulting grade is the consequence of their choice to work hard or not. It’s an analogy that eventually breaks down, but makes a point that applies here.

Through Jesus, God provided the gift of an earthly and eternal reunion of relationship with Him, but like any gift, it is our choice to accept or reject what He has given. We don’t get to decide what the gift is. And if God through Jesus says “I am THE way and no one gets to the Father but by me”, that’s the way it is. Jesus is either really who he says he is or he is a liar or a crazy man. My bet is He is who he says. (And I could tell you stories of how powerfully He has changed me and loved me and brought healing to me, but that is a different story.)

Anyway, (see I told you it would take awhile…) whether by us hearing of Jesus and His payment of sacrifice on the cross or if we are the Amazonian tribesman choosing to live by the moral code written on his heart, there is a way for all of us to receive eternal life- or not. But it is our responsibility to choose. God does give us free will to choose Jesus or not for those of us who have heard the message. I think this shows God is a good and loving God. A God that cares enough to sacrifice for us and to reach down from heaven to us- very different from religions where people try to work their way to God. With Christianity, God chose to reach us instead.

Putting it all together, no one is excluded from having to give an account to a loving and kind God for how they have lived their lives. And everyone, including you and me, gets to make a choice. I think it is a pretty fair system, only being held accountable for what we know and how we live.

I hope I have explained it well. If not, feel free to ask more questions. Thanks, for having this conversation with me!

Loving Well

A few years back, my wife and I traveled to Alaska for a wedding, and to this day, I am still perplexed by what happened that day. It continues to amaze me. The ceremony itself caused me to be challenged by God. Let me explain.

As it is with many weddings these days, this was a very non-traditional one. The bride and groom wrote their own vows. They were sweet and tender, and even a little humorous if you knew them. But in what was a new experience for me, the Maid of Honor spoke up and said something prior to the rings being shared.

In what may be seen as very indicative of the spiritual climate of the day, she began her comments with something about “the god above and the goddess below", then she wished them (and I cannot give you an exact quote here)- the peace of Buddha, the _?_ of Krishna, the passion of Pele (Hawaiian goddess of fire) in their love life, and the _?_ of Thor (Norwegian god of thunder and war). Everybody but Jesus and the Cat in the Hat seemed to be included. Now, that is not to be disrespectful with my words. I choose them just to give you a full picture of her words and their shock value to my ears.

Again, that was the maid of honor speaking. I know a little something about the bride and groom, and I have no idea what they thought about this "prayer of blessing" or anyone else’s thoughts at the wedding, for that matter.

This entire experience challenges me in my prayer life. How can I reconcile her words with those of Jesus? "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

Yet, here is a very nice, well-meaning woman truly believing in any and all gods of the earth- aside from the One True God who created it all. I thought who else at this ceremony is fully embracing this concept of many gods and goddesses? Or even just the idea of “earth and nature worship”- which is so common these days among people who are really just looking for God?

All people are searching for meaning and order to their world. And Jesus loves all of them and died for all of them. But let’s be clear- no one will enter into heaven at their death by believing in and worshiping everyone and anyone but Him. Jesus said it himself. Either He is telling the truth about who He is and why he came to earth in human form or He isn’t. Pretty simple. And pretty unpopular and very politically incorrect in his day and in ours. But they are His words, not mine.

The Bible is pretty clear on these matters of multiple gods and earth worship. The apostle Paul writes:

“They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (II Timothy 4:4) and this one:

"We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live." (I Corinthians 8:4-6)

And these verses from the book of Romans talk about the worship of the creation and of animals, certainly not a new thing:

"For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. " (Romans 1:21-23)

So what are we to do? Love well, live kindly and respectfully, and speak wisely.

Most people know of Jesus- head knowledge, school book, even church trained stuff. But how many really know and are intimate with Him in the way the Bible speaks of having a life-giving relationship with him? Heart knowledge? Knowledge of their sinfulness and of their need for Him? Many of us have family members and dear friends who do not know Jesus at the level He challenges us to. At the very depth of relationship that will one day lead us to eternal life with Him with or without Him.

We can all do our part, however, by loving well, living kindly, and speaking well. This is the best way to share the heart, the love, and the message of Jesus.

September 29, 2008

The Four Seasons Come to Disney

"Winter, Spring, Summer of Fall, all you have to do is call..." Oops, sorry. Not that Four Seasons, but the deluxe hotel chain is coming to Walt Disney World. I love this piece of (very large) concept art! Reminds me alot of the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. Yes, it is a controversial project- but it will be lovely for those who can afford it. 

(Artwork copyright The Walt Disney Company)

September 26, 2008

Deserving of the Title "Imagineer"

Just look at this poster for Hong Kong Disneyland's Royal Banquet Hall! It's creator, Greg Maletic, is a Disney fan and terrific artist. Among other things, his poster for the Magic Kingdom classic, If You Had Wings, is just beautiful. Check out the work he was commissioned to do for the Mouse: He's one gifted man!

September 25, 2008

Pirates Rides Again!

According to Variety mgazine, Mr. Johnny Depp is doing Pirates 4 and playing Tonto in Disney's The Lone Ranger. Can't wait! This gives Disney a chance to regain the excellence of the first Pirates film and create a new great franchise with Lone Ranger- depending on who gets cast in the title role.

Hawaiian Paradise at Disney's Ko Olina

Now this is what I call a Vacation Club Resort worthy of the Disney name. And this is the concept art I referenced but couldn't find a couple of months back. Disney's Ko Olina Resort- just beautiful. 

(Concept art copyright The Walt Disney Company)

September 24, 2008

Notable and Quotable: Erwin Raphael McManus

"If we want the world to be different, then we have to be different. What would the world look like if every human being began living a heroic life? What would happen if people were more aware of how to be more kind, more passionate, more noble or courageous? I think it would be a pretty amazing world!"

September 23, 2008

No Continental Divide Here

Here's to our good friends! Continents may separate us now, but never in our hearts! Until the next visit, may God abundantly bless you.

September 22, 2008

After All These Years

This is it. This is the photo of Cinderella's castle that convinced me Disney had grand plans for its Florida land. The elegant spires, the lacy stonework, the grandeur of it all assured me the rest of the park and the surrounding Walt Disney Resort would be just as detailed and spectacular.

I was not disappointed. Arriving at the Transportation and Ticket Center, hopping on the monorail and the ferry boats to get past the lagoon to the Magic Kingdom was a treat of its own. Dazzled by the Polynesian Village and awed by the concourse of the Contemporary Resort, I determined I'd make many trips back. 

For all the changes and in spite of all the (sometimes justified) criticism, the place still draws me in. It is still magical after almost forty years, and I believe there is more magic ahead.

September 19, 2008

One More Space Mountain by Popular Demand

Since my earlier article on Space Mountain around the world was so well received, here's another piece of beautiful concept art, this time from Disneyland Paris. Anyway you look at it, Discoveryland and Space Mountain are works of art! Don't you agree?

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

September 18, 2008

Social Justice: Taking a Stand for Others

Have you ever read a book by a favorite author and you find everytime you read it, the same sentence can have a whole new impact on you? This has been happening to me recently. Listen to this: "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy."

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am all for helping those around you and those less fortunate. I have been trying to live like this for years now, sometimes with more success than others. Hate seeing others abused and taken advantage of, especially children, who are the most defenseless and powerless in our world. 

Social justice is very important to the heart of God. Caring for the needs of others has always been a hallmark of a true Christ-follower. Serve, love, and support. Do what is right. The foundational core of social justice begins by defending the right of the unborn, the most defenseless humans of all. They have no voice, but we do. So do something; whatever you're lead to do. Use your voice to comfort, use your time to serve, use your prayers, use your vote- make a difference- but leave the violence and ugly words behind.

September 17, 2008

Carpenters Now & Then: Looking Forward and Backward

There are many things I love about the Now & Then album- but one of the most important aspects is the presentation of Richard and Karen Carpenter as artists. Gone are the syrupy sweet photographs of the duo found on previous album covers. In their place stands a very contemporary image where the brother and sister look like the siblings they are as opposed to lovers. A great beginning for the next chapter in their career.

Back in the day, fans of Carpenters were fortunate. They released an album every year like clockwork, and I happily lined up at the music store for each one. I also had grandparents who loved music and enjoyed buying these for me as a gift. (That and tickets to Disneyland no less! Happy years.)

With their continued success, Karen and Richard were extremely busy. Although the prior album's Rode Ode gave listeners a hint of what lay behind the constant touring and recording schedule, there remained a great amount of fun to be had- and Richard still had some surprises up his musical sleeves.

Whether he was taken aback by the mixed reaction to Goodbye to Love or looking for something more traditional, the first single was an interesting choice.  Perhaps Richard just discovered it as a pleasant song when they appeared on that Robert Young television special. Regardless, Sing was a surprise. 

Announcing the new SINGle.

Sing was an odd choice for both a single and lead track for a new project. Certainly enjoyable and surprisingly popular, it reach the Top Ten in April of 1973. Unfortunately, the tune effectively wiped out much respect gained by the duo's previous hit single. For one brief instant, "Goodbye to Love" made it bearable to be a Carpenters fan in rock circles. This song changed it back to the way things used to be. Richard and Karen were constantly being accused of being "white bread". Selecting this Sesame Street tune unjustly reinforced this criticism and the idea that their music was for simpletons.

Thankfully, upon the album's release in May, fans and critics alike were soon to discover that track number two was a masterpiece from every angle. Leon Russell's elegant This Masquerade was a composition made for Karen's voice and Richard's arranging and production skills. This song was in direct contrast to the previous track. The lyrics were mature, the instrumentation sophisticated, and the vocal work sublime. Others in the music industry took notice. George Benson released his own take on the song, scoring a big chart hit and winning a Grammy in 1976. Cover versions of this song by other artists would be forthcoming, but the duo's version became an instant classic.

The concept behind the "Now" side of the disc was to showcase various kinds of contemporary and popular music. In reality, this album was one in which Richard and Karen gave us a small taste of what was to come in future releases, both good and bad. The next track, Heather, a pretty instrumental piece, really belonged as a musical background to the proverbial elevator ride. At this stage in their young career and lives, this type of Middle-of-the-Road song would have been better left in the hands of someone a quarter of a century older. Richard would later revisit this type of recording in his post-Karen career. Nice song, very wrong timing.

Taking a break from the music here for just a moment, Now & Then plays a significant role in the Carpenters place in the business side of the music industry. Previously, Jack Daugherty (below) was given credit as their producer but no longer. Richard continued to be justifiably upset when Jack was given public and industry recognition for the hits, when in reality it was Richard's genius that created and designed the Carpenters sound. The new album explicitly corrected any further misunderstanding on that point as the center panel in the fold out album (above) made production credits clear.

Back to the music: An international conquest took place with the release of the Now & Then album. Karen and Richard's increasing popularity in Japan was crowned by the incredible success of the next track, Jambalaya. This Hank Williams hoedown was not a release on U.S. soil but appeared as the third single in Japan. The playful song created quite a stir and become a concert favorite, even inciting a sing-a-long with the normally reserved Japanese audience. As in the past, country tinged tunes would appear on future albums, with the duo even considering an album solely of that type of music later in their career. Side One of Now & Then ends with the melancholy "I Can't Make Music". The title became fodder for too many critics' jokes, but it quite effectively finishes the first half of the concept album.

Big in America...

...A monster smash in Japan!

A relentless touring schedule created difficulty for Richard as he planned the new album, yet it yielded a delightful medley for part two of the disc. Due to America's new found love of 50's and 60's culture, Richard had put together a string of their favorite tunes for their live performances. Fan response was enthusiastic, so he quickly put together another similar set of oldies for the new album. These tunes were chosen for their recording appeal and the end result came complete with disc jockey voice overs by the talented Tony Peluso reprising his concert role. Needing a piece to set the tone for the medley, Richard and John Bettis came up with a little number that would become their first worldwide smash- "Yesterday Once More". This monster hit rose the Carpenters to their highest level yet in European sales and popularity. It was a hit at home as well, reaching #2 on both American and British charts. The combination of the beautiful melody line, Karen's warm vocal, and tenderly reminiscent lyrics, produced a tailormade song for those leisurely drives and relaxing summer afternoons.

While I had great appreciation for the first half of this project, it was the latter piece that I really enjoyed. Karen and Richard were having alot of fun on this album, and it was about time! Still loved the older "sadder but wiser" material, but I was happy to see my favorite artists loosening up a bit and enjoying this season of their lives. Now, I really longed to see them in concert.

Roaring into the oldies medley was Richard's terrific vocal on the Beach Boys' "Fun, Fun, Fun". It was confident and playful as well as paying a small tribute to one of the bands that influenced the Carpenters music. Richard takes lead on two others as well, "The Night Has A Thousand Eyes" and "Deadman's Curve". The former is another great display of his vocal talent; the latter not as much but still a fun piece of ear candy. It is a shame that it took Richard working as a solo artist before he would release another song featuring his lead vocal.

First rate, tri-fold cover. 
A classy presentation for a great album.

Karen's selections start out slowly: the Skeeter Davis hit "The End of the World", a very melancholy tune, suits her well with the ending note showing Karen's skill at the lower end of the scale. Immediately switching gears, Karen rocks out on "Da Doo Ron Ron". A blazing saxophone solo highlights the band having a blast along with the lead singer. Karen's layered vocals on the opening of "Johnny Angel" are a fan's delight! Just when it seems things couldn't get any better, her vocal styling on "Our Day Will Come" absolutely shimmers. This "Then" performance, although very different in style, is equal to Karen's landmark "This Masquerade" on the front half of the album. Lastly the girl-group hit "One Fine Day" lets the entire team have a bit more fun as it completes the medley. A wistful reprise of "Yesterday Once More" wraps things up, ending the album and leaving fans wanting more.

Back in Downey, California.

Of course, Karen and Richard would record more oldies, with varying degrees of success: "Please Mr. Postman" was another worldwide hit; "There's A Kind of Hush" moderately successful; and "Beechwood 45789" struggling to reach the charts.

Radio all over the world loved "Yesterday Once More" and fans loved the album. It was a poor bit of planning from both our duo, and the record label, that there was no follow-up single to keep the momentum going. The album was hot, the concept of remakes of oldies a new one, and the decision to include both new songs and old quite novel. Just look at the Billboard charts in the months that followed. Every act seemed to record an oldies, just as almost every one jumped on the disco bandwagon a few years later.

 Fans so wanted a full version of "Our Day Will Come"
that eventually someone remixed it themselves.

An extended version of "Our Day Will Come" would have made a fine radio only single. Yes, plenty of source material to draw from- and other artists jumped on the oldies bandwagon- but nothing else was released to American audiences. This didn't seem to be a problem, however, as Richard was planning their first greatest hits collection. What a package it would be!

2021 Note: This is part of a continuing series of posts on the albums of Karen and Richard Carpenter. There are also numerous stand alone posts highlights different aspects of their career, recordings, and life. 

Below is the list of my initial reviews and then my "Revisited /Fresh Look" reviews a decade later. 

My Initial Reviews of the albums:

September 16, 2008

Space Mountain: Universal Thrills

Space Mountain. The name alone evokes excitement for theme park fans all over the world. Whether it is the classic, iconic structure found in Florida, California, and Tokyo; a similar takeoff placed in a Tomorrowland that almost feels kid drawn in Hong Kong; or the elegant Jules Verne styled masterpiece in Paris, the sheer sight of the mountain makes millions of visitors run toward it with anticipation. For this generation, blasting off through the universe has become a right of passage for young Disney fans, but it wasn’t always this way.

Walt Disney had long passed away when Space Mountain debuted at Florida’s Magic Kingdom in 1975. The thrill ride was part of a slew of much needed additions for Tomorrowland. Like most all of the early classic attractions, however, its roots came from Walt himself many years before, and this ultimate thrill adventure was initially planned for his beloved original park in Anaheim.

America’s obsession with space travel provided the perfect timing for an attraction such as this. The future fascinated Walt. He loved science, space exploration, and new technologies. In addition to being an under appreciated businessman as well as a dreamer, fortunately, Walt was also a doer, and he assembled a team that could dream and create with him.

As discussions continued with the team, concept art for Walt’s Space Port, as it was originally named began to emerge. Many different looks were considered before settling on the timeless exterior familiar with fans in the States, and Imagineers Herb Ryman and John Hench each came up with designs that would be somewhat merged for the final result. Plans for Disneyland’s new Tomorrowland of the sixties included the attraction, but other priorities took precedence, leaving Florida to open the attraction a couple of years before it finally hit California soil.

Once the design was settled upon, a detailed model was built, giving the Imagineers a chance to view how the attraction would fit into the Magic Kingdom.

Upon its opening, Space Mountain became an instant fan favorite and theme park classic. With its thrills, the experience was a strong bid for the youth market who found much of the Magic Kingdom park too tame with its emphasis on slow moving attractions and cabaret shows like Tropical Serenade (Enchanted Tiki Room), Country Bear Jamboree, and The Mickey Mouse Revue. The trend setting Mountain transformed into a park staple, with pale imitations created all over the world in an attempt to capitalize on its success. Even if you are not a Disney fan, chances are you know the name, probably recognize its timeless form, and are well aware of the adventure within. Another Walt inspired masterpiece.

“The blessing of size” as Walt said with regards to his Florida project, enabled the Imagineers to create a dual tracked Space Mountain for the younger Magic Kingdom park. Disneyland’s smaller footprint demanded a similar but much smaller mountain back in Anaheim, bringing with this change a single track, different loading zone, and a much tighter flight course. Debates continue as to which mountain provides the better experience but both are beloved and appreciated for their differences.

Living in Southern California during the time of its construction gave me the opportunity to watch the attraction grow over time. Prior to the opening of California Adventure, it was possible to enter the parking lot area by Space Mountain with your car, and I took advantage of the opportunity to drive by often, inspecting the progress. When the attraction finally opened in 1977, I was among the first in line to take flight. And what a line it was! At one point, the queue snaked down Main Street and the hours passed as flights were on then off during its test period. The experience was quite the rush as at opening with the atmosphere darker, the rockets faster, and the journey unfamiliar. Even after thirty years and multiple changes in exterior color and interior enhancements, the thrill has not grown stale.

The ability to hand pick from two differently designed Disney kingdoms resulted in giving the Japanese guests a very interesting version of the first overseas Disneyland. When the park opened in 1983, guests found this one to have an entirely different feel, a blending of both American parks and few unique elements at opening. Surprisingly, even with access to the larger Florida version, the Japanese chose the California’s attraction as the one to be duplicated.

European fans that trekked to the Sunshine or Golden States for a Disney fix were surprised when the lovely and uniquely designed Paris park added Space Mountain in 1995. The iconic white mountain was replaced by a gorgeously themed and wonderfully executed Jules Verne inspired adventure.

Originally planned as Discovery Mountain, the attraction inside was as different from its cousins as was its exterior: the open air loading station sends its rockets into a smoke-spewing cannon as guests are launched into the mountain. The track layout included multiple inversions- the first for a Disney park- and the inclusion of a majestic musical score to accompany the journey. This new twist on an old favorite brought in the crowds. Some would debate it even saved the resort.

Although the exterior building concepts remained largely the same, the Imagineers presented several different ideas for what was to be built inside the mountain. In addition to Space Mountain, ideas ranged from a Nautilus adventure including a restaurant inside the submarine to a unique use of the technology that makes The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror so popular for an additional attraction themed to a different Jules Verne novel. (For more information and concept art, track down the wonderful book Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality by Alain Littaye and Didier Ghez.)

Upon our first visit to Paris in 1998, Space Mountain: De la Terre à la Lune, and Phantom Manor were at the top of my must-do list. The ride was as wonderful and thrilling as I had imagined it would be! I couldn’t wait to ride it again and promptly returned to the queue for another trip. In its own unique way, viewing the mountain and watching the Columbiad cannon send explorers on their journey was as compelling as seeing the beautiful Eiffel Tower. I couldn’t take my eyes off the attraction. Beautiful during the day and absolutely spectacular at night with its magnificent lighting, this Space Mountain is the ultimate execution of the concept.

The opening of the first Disneyland in China, Hong Kong Disneyland (2005), provided an opportunity for building yet another version of the Magic Kingdom classic. Due to budget adjustments and misguided opinions of what should constititute the park, it remains short on attractions. However, the famous Space Mountain was a must for opening day. The setting of the Chinese Tomorrowland is more akin to a Saturday morning cartoon than previous versions, but the mountain itself is a near duplicate of California's. In a new take on the mountain's use and design, it also houses an attraction based on the main character from Lilo and Stitch.

Where will the next other worldy mountain show up? Some folks are sure it will be in Shanghai, but only the Disney executives truly know. For all the questions we may have, one thing is certain. Space Mountain in all its incarnations, will continue to thrill and fascinate millions of guests looking for a chance to explore the universe and then return safely home!

(All concept art and Tokyo Disneyland photos copyright The Walt Disney Company; all other photos by Mark Taft)

September 15, 2008

True Freedom

All this talk of political freedom got me thinking about this sentence from the Apostle Paul and its potential applications:

"You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men." (1 Corinthians 7:23-24)

Paul was encouraging those who were Christ-followers to be true to their present situation when they were called by God. Of course, in reflecting on this, I began thinking about the things that enslave us. Certainly the usual stuff we think of that is not healthy or even evil came to mind. You can fill in your own blanks here.

As I kept on rereading this verse, I started thinking about things that can enslave us to men. We wouldn't necessary think of these as sinful but they can certainly become snares for us.

Top of the list? We can become slaves to ourselves. This happens to me all the time.

My own way of thinking leads me like a ring through my nose if I don't put it before God and then consider its effect. How does this one, slave to self, show itself? Maybe it is when I find myself thinking "Well, it's just the way it is supposed to be done" or "If you understood this matter as well as I do, you'd see it my way." And a million other thoughts where I set myself up as superior to someone else. (There's a big snare: pride!)

We can also become slaves to ourselves in meeting our own needs as we define them. Some things I think of are seeking solitude when we are called to serve others. Times when God calls us to rest but we overwork. Zealousness regarding something that doesn't have its roots in what we really believe and want to live out- our clubs and activities, hobbies etc. Maybe its having a passion for things that do have godly roots but may have gotten out of control: pet philosophies and theologies, being important, our political views, etc. I think you get the idea. Anything that can replace God in our focus and passion can bring slavery when we find our identity in it or maintain an unhealthy focus on it.

It is kind of discouraging to find we can become slaves to things not inherently evil .
We could continue to beat up ourselves if we leave our focus here. Thank God, however, if we know and love Jesus, we are truly free from what weighs us down! This is a recurring theme in the writings of Paul. Check out Romans 6 in particular. Let me end with a portion of it.

"But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:22-23)

Thankfully, it is a gift and nothing we can earn. Let's go forward with a thankful heart for God's great gift to us!