Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sherlock Holmes and the Christian Mind: Reflections on Philippians 4:8, 2 Corinthians 10:5 and Romans 12:2

Recently I read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes mystery novel A Study in Scarlet. I was actually shocked to learn that some of my conceptions of Holmes had been based on false notions and wishful thinking. Surely Holmes was intellectually superior in all areas. Surely he was above flattery. I soon learned that he was not above flattery, and indeed he was not the master of every subject. Within the first 12 pages Watson has made a list entitled “Sherlock Holmes—his limits”:

1 Knowledge of Literature: Nil.

2 Knowledge of Philosophy: Nil.

3 Knowledge of Astronomy: Nil.

4 Knowledge of Politics: Feeble.

5 Knowledge of Botany: Variable. Well up in belladonna, opium, and poisons…

6 Knowledge of Geology: Practical but limited…

7 Knowledge of Chemistry: Profound.

8 Knowledge of Anatomy: Accurate, but unsystematic.

9 Knowledge of Sensational Literature: Immense. He appears to know every detail of every horror perpetrated in the century.

10 Plays the violin well.

11 Is an expert singlestick player, boxer, and swordsman.

12 Has a good practical knowledge of British law.

This whole exercise in finding Holmes’ limits began when Watson began discussing the Copernican Theory—stating that the earth traveled around the sun. He was astonished that Holmes did not know even this simple fact.

“You appear to be astonished,” he said, smiling at my expression of surprise. “Now that I do know it I shall do my best to forget it.”

“To forget it!”

“You see,” he explained, “I consider that a man’s brain originally is like an empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to thinks that the little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing of the useful ones.”

Wow! Such singularity of vision and focus! This is one of the reasons Sherlock Holmes will always be considered the quintessential detective. But, as I read this, I could not help but think how theological this statement was—how well it might speak to Christians today.

Since I was a kid I have noticed a trend among Christians (including myself) to rationalize that anything that wasn’t “sinful” was permissible and maybe even to be encouraged in the name of being culturally relevant. TV shows, movies, books, etc. become good or bad based on how “sinful” they were and all other considerations fly out the window. “You don’t want to become so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good” some people say and even more people think. Thus begins the slippery slope of enculturation and mediocre Christianity.

If we take Sherlock Holmes’ advice, however, we come to a whole new level in our Christian thinking—one I think that works quite well with Philippians 4:8.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” This is a different level of thinking. The criterion isn’t how bad something is or what can I get by with, but rather “How good is it?...Is this the best?”

Our goal in the Christian life is to be like Christ Jesus. We have a limited amount of time and brain cells. The tools we need to be stocking in our “brain-attic” are tools that will help us along the path to Christ-likeness. To be sure we should have a large assortment, but rather than thinking in terms of what we can get by with in pleasing ourselves, we should start asking ourselves how what we are feeding our brains can be used for the Kingdom. 2 Corinthians 10:5 puts it this way: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” We take every thought captive? This is very purposeful thinking, but it is in this way that Christian thinking takes place. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).

If we want to follow Jesus—we can’t think like the world (1 John 2:15-17). In order to not think like the world, we have to have a renewed mind, and in order to have a renewed mind we have to be careful what we think about or passively allow into our brains. As the old adage goes, “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”

If this is the case, it is not good enough to just stay away from bad things. Time is of the essence and we must be about our Father’s business. As Ernest Dimnet says in his book The Art of Thinking, “Do not read good books—life is too short for that—only read the best.” This simple rule could be applied to all areas of our lives. We cannot afford to clutter our lives and our brains with meaningless or haphazard facts, thoughts or events. We need to be able to access the tools we need for the journey without having to sift through the junk. For the Christian life this means a very conscious effort to apply Philippians 4:8 as a filter through which everything must pass.

Thus ends my little foray into literature and the Bible. Sherlock Holmes may not have been a theologian in the true sense of the word, but I believe that he does shed some light into a dusty corner of the Christian life. And that is anything but elementary.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Interview with Patrick McCalla of Streetlight PHX

Since I'm doing a few posts on the evils of the child sex trafficking that's going on around the world and even in our own back yard, I thought it would be helpful to talk to someone who is fighting this evil on the front lines. After contacting a friend at Food for the Hungry, I was introduced to Patrick McCalla. Patrick is President and Co-founder of Streetlight PHX, which is located in Phoenix, AZ. He formally served as City Initiatives Director with Food for the Hungry ("FH"). While at FH, he was apart of an initiative that eventually launched Streetlight PHX and Branded PHX. He left FH in March of this year to become President at Streetlight PHX.

So without further ado, let's get to the interview:

Question: You're currently serving as President of Streetlight PHX, how did you first come in contact with the problem of child sex trafficking?

PM - I was facilitating a meeting in June of 2007 asking the question of local leaders, “Is now the time to come together to meet physical and spiritual needs?”  During the meeting we discussed issues of injustice and the issue of child sex slavery was introduced.  The fact that “13” is the average age of entry into child prostitution continues to haunt me to this day.  I had known that this happened in Cambodia or India, but had no idea that tonight, down the road from where I live and work, 100’s of girls will live as sex slaves.

Question: What is Streetlight's Mission?

PM - Streetlight seeks to prevent the sexual exploitation of children, provide safe housing, and promote the healing for victims of child sex slavery

Question: Streetlight has a unique three-pronged approach to fighting this problem, could you explain how Streetlight, churches & local/state government are working together to fight child sex trafficking?

PM - Our three pronged strategy of Awareness, Prevention, and Aftercare was developed from a multi-sector collaboration.  This coalition was developed from our vision that Phoenix become an example to other cities in our nation and around the world of the enormous potential when different sectors of society come together to meet physical and spiritual needs.  To date our collaboration consists of the Phoenix Vice Unit, City and District Attorney’s office, ICE, FBI, CPS, several strategic non-profits, 30+ churches, and thousands of passionate individuals.

Question: Could you give some suggestions for things people could do to get active and help eradicate this horrible practice?

PM - Be an advocate – a voice.  In the past slavery was abolished because a group of people refused to be silent and tirelessly fought to eradicate it.  Today, we need a movement of modern day abolitionists who say NIMBY – not in my back yard.  There are many groups such as branded and not for sale ( or ) who have some tangible ideas for becoming an advocate and using their voice to end this injustice.  They can also support organizations like Streetlight who seek to develop an innovative and unique safe house providing holistic needs for rescued victims.  However, one thing I consistently speak to is to “dream”…use your gifts, your talents, your imagination to develop ideas and ways to eradicate child sex slavery.

Question: If people are interested in learning more about this problem, could you point us to some good resources?

PM - , ,

Question: How can we pray for you and Streetlight?

PM - Pray for wisdom as we develop our holistic, restorative program.  Pray for the victims – that they would come to recognize they are daughters of the king, loved by God, and that their Creator has a wonderful plan for their lives.  Pray for protection for those fighting this injustice.

Patrick, thank you so much for take a few moments to help us see some of the work being done in Phoenix and provide us with some ways we can help engage in the fight to end child sex trafficking.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Human Trafficking - 10 Quick Facts

My friend Don abhors human trafficking. He told me so in an email. But instead of just feeling morally outraged about it, he wants to do something about it. And he's recruited me and this blog to help a little bit. This month, myself and several other bloggers we know will be posting articles to raise awareness about the problem human trafficking, specifically the use of children as sex slaves and prostitutes. 

To be honest, I had heard that the use of children as prostitutes was a problem in world at large (specifically in southeast Asia), but I had no idea that even in my own country, the children are targeted and enslaved into a life of prostitution. It is an abhorrence that any child, from any country, be forced to perform sexual acts for the gain of another. 

I began doing a little research today and contacting some people I know who could help point me to some resources. I have some connections at Food for the Hungry, Inc. (which is an Christian international relief organization). They have been involved on the local level in ending the slave trade in the city of Phoenix. As a quick side, I can't believe I just typed that. There is a slave trade in Phoenix, AZ. Makes my stomach turn. My friend was kind enough to provide me with some resources regarding their efforts and also pointed me to another ministry (Streetlight PHX) that was recently started that will also be addressing the child prostitution.

So I thought I'd start this series off with 10 Quick Facts about child sex slavery. Got these from here.
  1.  Slavery has been outlawed everywhere, but it is still widely practiced.
  2. Human trafficking is now considered the 2nd largest and fastest growing illegal trafficking activity in the world.
  3. The UN estimates that the total value of the human trafficking market exceeds $32 billion per year.
  4. Anxiety, insomnia, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are common psychological manifestations of the victims of sex slavery.
  5. Child prostitutes serve between 100-1500 clients, per year, per child. (At the high end, that's 4+ a day that the child is forcibly raped!!)
  6.  One million children are working in the sex slave trade. Between 100,000 and 300,000 children in America are at risk for the child sex slave trade.
  7. Among those millions, most are teenage girls, some as young as 5 years old.
  8. The United States is one of the fastest growing locations for child prostitution.
  9. As many as 2.8 million children live on the streets, with many of them lured into child prostitution within 48 hours of them leaving home.
  10. The average age of entry into prostitution in the United States is 13 years old.
Let's be praying about how the church can rise to the challenge of this horrible evil. 

For now, check out these other posts about human trafficking:

Stay tuned!


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter

Hello friends,

I just wanted to put up a short post and wish you all a blessed Easter sunday. I pray that on this day of celebrating the first fruits of the resurrection from the dead that your hearts are filled with a renewed sense that King Jesus is alive and on His throne. May we all live as if the Kingdom that was initiated on this day has come in all it's glory. May our going and coming be always under the authoritative call of the risen Jesus. I pray God's blessing on you and your family this day.


Friday, February 26, 2010

A Kingdom Unmatched & Undaunted

“My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” - John 18:36

"Ours is a world governed by the aggressive use of force." - Rush Limbaugh

I did something really dangerous right there. I just quoted a polarizing figure. However, I think the substance of what Limbaugh is saying is true. Let me throw a few statistics at you and see if I can convince you. According to the Democray Index, almost 35% of the world's population lives under authoritarian regimes. Over 50% of the world's population lives under hybrid regimes or flawed democracies. This leaves only 15% of the world that lives under fully democratic governments (these statistics were all as of 2008). A vast majority of the world lives under the tip of a sword for some aspect of their lives. The powerful have imposed their will on the weak. Violence and oppression rules our world far more than we want to admit. Ours is a world ruled by the aggressive use of force.

It was true in Jesus' day as well. He grew up under an authoritarian regime. Rome was a cruel master. The Empire grew through swift and decisive military campaigns. Rebellions were crushed with ferocious attacks. After putting down the slave revolt led by Spartacus, Crassus crucified 6,000 men along the Appian Way. According to the Jewish historian, Josephus, Rome would crucify criminals along the walls of Jerusalem. Rome would force it's way of life on the conquered. I am quite sure that Joseph, Jesus' adopted father, told the story of their narrow escape from Bethlehem. King Herod had been tipped of to the birth of Jesus and he would not tolerate a threat to his throne. So he ordered the slaughter of all 2 year old boys and younger. Jesus lived under the rule of oppressors who imposed their will on the people under them.

This is the history of the world; kingdoms advancing at the tip of sword. However, there is one exception. There is one Kingdom that has spread without the means of force and oppression. The Kingdom of Heaven and King Jesus sits on it's throne. When Jesus stood before Pilate and stated that his Kingdom was not of this world, I think Jesus was making some very important truth claims. I think the first thing that should be noted is that the Kingdom of Heaven cannot spread at the tip of sword. In fact, to seek to do so, is at the antithesis of what it means to be a follower of Jesus and citizen of His Kingdom. At the heart of the Christian Gospel is the truth that I am a dreadful sinner and that I can do nothing on my own to rectify this situation. But Jesus came to rectify it for us. He took our place. He bore our sin. He removed our guilt. Jesus accomplished on the cross what we could never do ourselves; bring us to God. We respond by admitting our guilt and calling out to the Lord that we might be saved. This is called the new birth. To be born again is to be born into the Kingdom. This miracle of new birth cannot be manufactured. The Christian life cannot be enforced with the butt of a rifle or the tip of the sword. Because the Christian life is about a heart change that no amount of torture could ever create in a man. We cannot water-board people into finding satisfaction in Jesus alone.

Another thing to note about the Kingdom is that violence and oppression cannot stop it. If knowing the Kingdom cannot advance at the tip the sword is important, knowing that the Kingdom cannot be stopped by the tip of sword is equally, if not more important. As I've already discussed, this world is filled with violence and oppression and if we are going to be real Christians, ones with backbones, we need to hold onto this truth with all we've got. There is a day coming when persecution will come to North America. A majority of our brothers and sisters face it daily. We will join them in that suffering one day. Jesus told his disciples to pick up their crosses and follow him. The New Testament is dripping with language that depicts and describes the suffering of Christians and how they should endure it. Christian history is full of stories of men and women refusing to renounce Christ in the face of death. How is this possible? How can this Kingdom advance even as it's citizens are slaughtered? Again, we must return to the Gospel. We must look at Jesus. What do we see? Do we see a man cursed by God or man vindicated by God? Jesus suffered and died, yes. But he rose again. And he rose in glory. The message of the cross is that in God's Kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven, suffering leads to subsequent glories. This is possible because death has been defeated. Death has been defanged. It no longer has ultimate power over us. So when the kingdoms of this world threaten to the citizens of Jesus' Kingdom with death and suffering, they can choose Jesus and die, because death cannot hold them. We no longer fear death. We have been given a spirit of power. And when the watching world sees us suffer and die, the Lord does a miracle. He grants new birth to many. Violence cannot crush this Kingdom. In fact, it only helps it grow. The tree of the Kingdom is watered by the blood of the King and the Martyrs. It is the plan of God.

This is the Kingdom of Heaven. It is unmatched among the kingdoms of the world and it is undaunted as it marches through the world. It is both here and still coming. May we live as if the Kingdom was fully initiated already. Come Lord Jesus, initiate the fulfillment of your Kingdom!


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Your Wife Doesn't Need a Tool, She Needs You

As a kid, my favorite toys were Legos. Half the fun was building these toys with my dad before I got to play with them. I had a gas station with two-level parking garage, a police station, a police boat that actually floated, medieval knights and castles; I had it all. I really think Legos are some of the best toys out there for boys. They teach boys the joy that comes from building something and they also are great for the imagination, because there is room for creativity. There are Legos of every type. Even Star Wars Legos (which I have to admit, if my wife would let me, I would buy now)! 

Now that I'm all grown up (at least I act like it most days), I still love building things. I built my computer from scratch in college (with a little help). Since becoming a homeowner, I've installed light switches, ceiling fans, ceiling lights, door handles, etc. My favorite furniture store is IKEA. Want to know why? You have to put everything together (plus it's cheap)! I get a thrill out of fixing and building things. 

I also love tools. Tools help me fix and build things. New tools are really cool. Because new tools open up the door to fixing and building new things. One of the reasons I really love my father-in-law is that ever since I married his daughter, he's been buying me tools for christmas and birthdays. I'm a lucky dude. 

However, I've noticed this tendency in me to try and use this "build it/fix it" mentality on every aspect of my life. I am quite sure most men do this. And when you're dealing with your wife, this will exacerbate more problems than it fixes. Why does this happen? Well men, I'm about to tell you something earth-shattering. Your wife doesn't even remotely think like you. I know, it's very shocking. Feel free to take a moment and collect yourself. I'll wait.........................

When your wife comes to you with a problem, she does not want you to fix it. Granted, there may be an issue that she has with you (like not taking out the garbage...she wants you to fix that), but when she shares something about her, something from her heart, she shares for a totally different reason and from a totally different perspective. When I tell my guys about something, it's because I want information to be exchanged so that I can solve a problem. I don't email my guys just to talk. Women are not like this. They share, not to exchange information, but to develop intimacy. Understanding this and applying this knowledge will save you from making a huge category error. To approach your wife from a "build it/fix it" mentality when she's approaching from an intimacy mentality will cause bad communication and ultimately hurt feelings. The danger is that your wife will withdraw from you completely because you do not respond as she needs you to. You're always trying to fix her, rather than love her. You'll look for tools to help you do it. Books, videos, sermons...the search will continue and even if you find something that might be helpful, your wife will not receive it that way. And that's your fault. Instead of encouraged, she'll feel beat down. She opened up to for the sake of intimacy and instead gets a cold, soul-killing fix for her "problem". I place the responsibility for this at men's feet because God will place it there. Men have the unique, God-given roll of head of his family. But with that roll comes a great deal of responsibility. It's scary sometimes. Thankfully, we have the grace of God to get us through.

Today is Ash Wednesday. It's the beginning of Lent. Instead of using Lent to quit smoking or drinking soda or whatever else humanistic thing people give up during Lent, let's really refocus on what our marriages are all about. Let's become the greatest students of our wives. Let's love them as they need to be loved. Let's lay down our lives in sacrifice for their good. I can't think of a better way to prepare our own hearts for Easter; the day we celebrate Jesus sacrificing His life for our good. In short, lets refocus on living the Gospel in our homes this Lent. Will you join me in that effort?


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

How a Mop Bucket Can Reveal a Call to Ministry

My pastor preached this sermon last weekend and I was immensely helped. I figure it might help some of you folks as well. So if you've got an hour to spare, I would highly recommend listening.

Click here to listen.