the-mound.net Web Log

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Name: Lucas Finch
Location: Casper, Wyoming, United States

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Copyright Nazis

I feel like ranting today, so that is what I am going to do in this blog entry. I had an annoying experience late Monday night thru Tuesday morning. It was a completely pointless experience, too. What happened was this: I had gone on a sledding attempt (there wasn’t much snow, so I’m not sure “sledding trip” is the best description) with my youth group. Regardless of the lack of snow, though, a good time was had by all (or at least almost all). I had recorded some video, and I wanted to splice these together along with some music. The song I wanted to use was Skillet’s “Monster”.

I had to do some file conversions (my camera records video in .mov format, which Windows Movie Maker doesn’t recognize), but I found some shareware that did that perfectly for me. I spliced the clips together, did some editing, added the music, and published the completed .wma file. I then began the file upload to YouTube. Everything seemed to be working great.

When I returned to my computer an hour-or-so later, I was pleased to see that the upload was complete. However, when I attempted to view the video on YouTube, I was informed that my audio had been muted due to copyright violations. Apparently, Warner Music Group (WMG) has required YouTube to either disallow the posting of videos that contain material that they own the rights to or mute the audio in such videos. I was offered a list of other music options, almost none of which I had even heard of, and the ones that I had heard of either wouldn’t work with the video content or were inappropriate for a video of a church youth group event. (Interestingly, the video played in Facebook from YouTube using the YouTube viewer played the audio just fine. It was only muted when played directly from YouTube.)

My immediate solution was to find different music that wasn’t owned by WMG. I eventually chose a Flyleaf song: “Again”. This wasn’t to my liking as much as the Skillet song, but it would have to do. After doing some research, though, I discovered a way to alter a song just enough so that the song recognition tools used by YouTube would fail to pick it up. I made some changes to “Monster”, put the new track with the clips, and uploaded the new video. Sure enough, this solution has proven successful!

So, here is my rant: WMG apparently has the biggest idiots in the world working for them. How could my use of a song owned by them be anything but GOOD for their business? What person, whenever they want to hear “Monster”, is going to go to my video clip online, wait for it to load on their computer, and listen to the incomplete song that way? Seriously? The likelihood is much greater that I will drive business TO Warner, not away from it. Nobody, assuming they like the song and want to be able to listen to it in its entirety whenever they want, is going to be satisfied with just the portion of the song that is included in my video that can only be listened to when they are playing the video from YouTube. Rather, if they hear the song on my video and like it (assuming that they were not already familiar with it), they will be much more likely to pay for a download of the song or go to a store and buy the CD. I am giving WMG free advertizing by using their clip!!!! What company doesn’t want free advertizing? Seriously?

Anyone who has known me for a while knows that I strongly oppose the piracy of music, videos, software, etc. I believe that artists, developers, and whoever else have the right to seek compensation for their profession, and when the means to collect this compensation is bypassed, these peoples’ rights are violated. There is a vast difference between “stealing music” and what I have done, though. Nobody is going to watch my video and then, because they can listen to the majority (not the entirety) of a Skillet song on it, not go out and buy the album (unless they were considering buying it before but through hearing the music decided they didn’t like it). What is possible, though, and even likely, is that somebody will hear the music and decide that they want to get the album (or at least the song).

Several months ago I uploaded to YouTube a highlight video from last summer’s church camp. One of the songs in the clip was recognized as being “The Time Has Come” by Hillsong United. The rights to this song are owned by Sony. Did Sony require YouTube to mute the audio, though? Absolutely not! Instead, a little advertisement was placed at the bottom of the video containing a link so that people can pay for and download a copy of it if they want to. I was completely ok with this. When I uploaded the version of the sledding video using Flyleaf, Columbia, who owns the rights to their songs, didn’t even require an advertisement. This song was allowed without any trouble at all.

So, I now officially despise Warner Music Group. I will still financially support artists whom I like who are signed to labels owned by WMG, but I will do everything that I can to undermine Warner itself. (I suspect that, unless Warner changes, most artists will be changing labels as soon as their contracts expire anyway.) They need to recognize that such a business model will not prove successful in the emerging society. Only those companies that learn to adapt, as Sony and Columbia seem to be learning, will be successful.

WMG, if you don’t want the free advertizing that my use of your music provides you with, fine, but don’t be surprise when those companies who do take advantage of such advertizing drive your company into the ground. Unless you too learn to adapt, it will not be long before your company is dissected and gobbled up by the rest, just as Nazi Germany and the U.S.S.R. did to Poland in the late ‘30s. And as far as I’m concerned, the sooner the better.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Incarnation of the Christ

One of my favorite celebrations of the year takes place during the Christmas season. I often find, though, that even when we remember that Christ is the reason for the season, we are far too narrow in our understanding of the Christmas holiday. Christmas is normally understood to be the birthday of Jesus. It is really so much more than that, though. It is a celebration of incarnation.

“Incarnation” simply means “in the flesh”. Within the context of Christianity, it is a representation of the orthodox belief that God the Son took humanity upon Himself in a very complete and real sense. He was fully God and fully human. John references this at the beginning of his Gospel: “The Word [Jesus Christ] became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The incarnation of Christ began when Jesus was conceived within the virgin by the Holy Spirit, and it was fully realized at the moment of His birth. Thus, the events typically celebrated at Christmas are an important part of the incarnation. The incarnation, however, has much greater meaning for us than just the birth of Jesus.

To fully grasp the significance of the incarnation, we should consider why it was even necessary. One of the key reasons why such an event is needed is because it provides a common frame of reference between humanity and God. Throughout the Old Testament period, God attempted to establish relationship with humanity. “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways” (Hebrews 1:1). No matter what happened, though, the people just didn’t seem to get it. This is because they had no common frame of reference with God. In order for two or more entities to have relationship, they must have something common upon which to establish and build that relationship. What does finite man have in common with infinite God? Prior to the incarnation, absolutely nothing. However, through the incarnation, humanity was provided with such a common frame of reference. “But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being . . .” (Hebrews 1:2-3). By looking at Christ, everything that we can possibly perceive about God can be perceived. Christ is a perfect representation of Divinity to humanity, thus allowing the possibility for relationship between the two.

Not only does the incarnation provide us with knowledge of what God is like, through the incarnation we can be assured that God sympathizes with the plight of humanity. God the Son was, indeed, fully human, and He has experienced everything that we experience. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). If it were not for the incarnation, we might have cause to doubt whether or not God truly understands the struggles of humanity. Because of the incarnation, we have no cause for such doubt. The Gospel stories provide many examples of the temptations and sufferings experienced by Christ.

Because He was fully human and suffered everything that we suffer and yet refrained from sin, Christ in the incarnation provides for humanity a perfect archetype of what humanity should look like and can look like through the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. Not only do we see God when we look at Christ, we see humanity in a perfect state. This provides us the example that we need of what our own lives should reflect. This reflection is not possible without the sanctification that comes through the indwelling Holy Spirit, but Christ provides for us an example of what is possible when we do surrender ourselves fully to God.

The incarnation also shows us the way in which God took the initiative to reestablish relationship with humanity. A foreshadow of this can be seen in the Suzerain Treaty established between God and Abram in Genesis 15. Though Abram was obviously the lesser party in this treaty, God took upon Himself the role of the lesser party as He passed through the “gauntlet” of dead animals in Abram’s place. “When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram . . .” (Genesis 15:17-18). Likewise, the incarnation shows us God’s initiative to take the steps necessary for our salvation. Like Abram, we are certainly the lesser party. However, Christ has taken our place to bring about our redemption.

Finally, through the incarnation the events that provided the atonement for our sins were able to take place. Christ took our place on the cross, and in so doing He suffered the penalty that was due us. “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. Bur God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).

The incarnation provides is with a common frame of reference with God, and it assures us that He indeed understands all that we endure. Through the incarnation we have a perfect example of the lives we have been called to live and can be empowered to live by the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. In the incarnation, God has taken the initiative to provide us with salvation, and this was done as He went to the cross. The Christmas season is not just about baby Jesus. It is about the incarnation. As we celebrate with our friends and family, let’s take a moment to consider the complete picture of God’s coming in the flesh.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I'm a movin'!


Some time ago, I was approached by John Capen, the senior pastor at Bitterroot Church of the Nazarene in Victor, MT, about the possibility of going up to work at his church as an associate pastor. After a period of prayer and consideration, along with a visit to Victor, I decided to accept his invitation. Thus, I will soon be leaving Casper and moving to Montana.

I will be staying in Casper through the end of October as I help to tie up some stuff that I am working on at work and my church. I hope to be on my way up to Victor on November 2nd, which would conveniently fall during a session break from my college. When I arrive at my church, my primary responsibilities will revolve around youth ministry, though I will probably be helping out with music, media stuff, and whatever else comes up. My status will be full time, though I hope to be able to transfer to the Pizza Hut nearby, which is owned by the franchisee that I currently work for, and work some minimal hours to help supplement my income. My personal expenses are likely to be low, though, as I will have housing and utilities supplied and the car that I was making payments on is likely to be totaled due to my accident last week.

This is a very bittersweet moment for me. I have lived in Casper for over seven years now, and I have gained some great friends here. Whereas when I first moved to town I knew very few people, now I can hardly go out in public without seeing many people that I know. Over the last five years, I have been a key employee at one our local Pizza Huts, and as I sit here and type I am on the verge of becoming the primary assistant manager at my restaurant. I am constantly encouraged by the upper management of my franchisee that I am capable of pretty much going as far in the company as I want. Thus, there is great potential for many opportunities to arise were I to remain doing what I’m currently doing. At the same time, though, I am extremely excited about being able to get back into fulltime ministry. It is my calling, and I have deeply missed it ever since I resigned my position here. God has been doing amazing things through Pastor Capen at Bitterroot, and I am humbled that I am going to have the opportunity to be a part of that. So, though in some ways it is going to be difficult for me to leave, in other ways I can only look forward with eager anticipation to what the future has in store.

As I make this move, I would like to solicit prayers from all of my praying friends and associates. I’m a little overwhelmed right now with everything that I have to accomplish over the next seven weeks. Also, the situations that await me in Victor are quite different from those that awaited me in Casper when I first moved up from Denver to be a youth pastor here. I have no doubt that God will guide me through any challenges that arise, but, being the finite human that I am, I do doubt my receptivity of His guidance and my willingness to follow it. Therefore, I am in need of as much support and guidance from those who are my friends and loved ones as possible.

Finally, if any of y’all’s journeys take you through Missoula, you should take a detour down through the Bitterroot Valley! I’ve got (or rather, I will have) plenty of room, and I would love to see you! I’m told that it is the second most beautiful area of Montana (though I’ve never seen the most beautiful area, so as far as I’m concerned, Bitterroot is), so it is definitely worth visiting!

Laters, Y’all!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Sacred

Many (or possibly most) of my “Facebook friends” are married with children. Though I am not in this category at this juncture (maybe someday?), I love reading their status updates. They contain cute stories of their children, accounts of their busy lives as parents, and a wholly different perspective on life than I myself have.

The thing that I love seeing the most is when you all recognize that you worship God just as fully when you are cleaning up after your children, doing laundry, fixing dinner, washing dishes, changing diapers, or whatever, as I do when I am doing my theology homework, delivering a sermon, baptizing someone, leading worship, or whatever. My calling as a minister and theology student is no better or higher than the calling of a stay-at-home or working parent. We should be doing all things, whether we perceive them as “great” or “small”, in an attitude of worship and praise.

With that in mind, I give you the following lyrics to the Caedmon’s Call song Sacred, written by Randall Goodgame and Andrew Osenga, and sung by Danielle Young:

This house is a good mess; it’s the proof of life.
No way would I trade jobs, but it don’t pay overtime.
I’ll get to the laundry I don’t know when.
I’m saying a prayer tonight ‘cause tomorrow it starts again.

Could it be that everything is sacred? And all this time
Everything I’ve dreamed of has been right before my eyes.

The children are sleeping, but they’re running through my mind.
The sun makes them happy, and the music makes them unwind.
My cup runneth over, and I worry about the stain.
Teach me to run to You like they run to me for every little thing.

When I forget to drink from You I can feel the banks harden.
Lord, make me like a stream to feed the garden.

Wake up, little sleeper, the Lord, God Almighty
Made your Mama keeper, so rise and shine, rise and shine ‘cause

Everything is sacred. And all this time
Everything I’ve dreamed of has been right before my eyes.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Keeping The Middle Class In The Middle?

I recently heard a radio advertisement for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), a prominent labor union in our nation. In this ad, they claimed to be “working to keep the middle class in the middle”. It amazes me that they would be so blatant in spewing their classist agenda, and it amazes me more that anyone would fall for such a ridiculous line.

Now, you may be thinking, “What’s wrong with keeping the middle class in the middle? You must be one of those evil conservatives that want everyone but the elite few to be in the poverty class!” Well, I’m certainly a conservative, and some of you might assume that as such I am, by default, “evil”, but I have no desire to see all but the elite few in poverty. I myself emerged, by definition, from the poverty class to the working class probably about a year and a half ago, and I would love to transition from the working class to the middle class as well. Rather, I want everyone in our nation (and even the rest of the world) to strive for excellence and to be all that they can be. This would, in extension, result in the middle class not remaining in the middle but rather moving up into the upper class.

This advertisement reveals one of the biggest flaws of socialism. Instead of encouraging everyone to prosper as much as they possibly can, thus rising in class level, it encourages prosperity to a certain level and then punishes it. Remember President Obama’s campaign promise that nobody making less than $250,000 a year would receive any sort of tax increase? (This has already proved to be untrue for those who make less than that amount who smoke, and every single person in America will receive a tax increase if cap & trade passes the Senate. But I digress . . .) Well, what that promise essentially does is discourage people from making more than that. It’s like saying, “Work hard and be prosperous to a certain level, but once you approach it, start settling for mediocrity.”

There have been many concerns raised about the decreasing size of the middle class and the increase in the economic gap between the rich and the poor. These things do, indeed, seem to be taking place. However, there are a couple of different potential causes behind them. If the middle class appears to be decreasing, and data shows that it is, it can either be because more households in the middle class are moving to the lower class or more households in the middle class are moving to the upper class. Those who argue for “keeping the middle class in the middle” typically argue the former. I argue the latter. See the article found here, Are We Loosing The Middle Class?, for some specific information, but it seems to me that all households, whether lower, middle, or upper classes, are moving upward. (It should be noted that this is based on data gathered prior to the recent recession. The recession is still too new to accurately gage what the effect on the percentage of households in specific class levels will be. It may very well be the case that the middle class will increase again as the upper classes loose wealth and move down the scale.)

Let’s reject mediocrity. Let’s reject laziness. Instead, let’s strive for the best, and let’s work for prosperity. In doing so, we will all be able to move upward. The middle class will shrink, but this is a good thing if those in the middle class are moving to the upper class. Let’s not, as the IBEW suggests we should, work “to keep the middle class in the middle”.

Monday, June 08, 2009

President Obama is NOT the Antichrist

During the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election, there were several emails and text messages being circulated in regards to our future president that are still receiving some circulation today. Though there were/are several versions of this “chain letter”, the following is a basic sample of what they tended to say:

According to The Book of Revelations the anti-christ is: The anti-christ will be a man, in his 40s, of MUSLIM descent, who will deceive the nations with persuasive language, and have a MASSIVE Christ-like appeal....the prophecy says that people will flock to him and he will promise false hope and world peace, and when he is in power, will destroy everything is it OBAMA??


Sadly, far too many people have grasped on to this libel without actually any sort of knowledge regarding what is actually said in the Holy Scriptures. There are plenty of reasons to oppose the policies of our current president, but none of these are contained in this email. The wording of this email sounds like it was written by someone who has read all of the Left Behind books without ever once having opened up the Book of Revelation or read an ounce of history.

First, the English title of the last book in the Christian Bible is “Revelation”, not “Revelations”. This is probably the most minor error here, but to any Bible scholar, whether a lay person or a minister, this is rather annoying.

Second, Revelation does not once mention anyone with the title “Antichrist”. This word appears only in 1 & 2 John, and it is used specifically in regards to anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ. (As far as I know, President Obama has never once denied that Jesus is the Christ.) Though many (but certainly not all) people believe that the Epistles of John were written by the same person who wrote Revelation, never does the author of Revelation use this word in that text. It is true that some scholars equate one of the beasts mentioned in Revelation with the “Antichrist”, but to make a definitive statement that Revelation gives any specific information about such an entity is erroneous at best and slanderous against the president at worst.

Third, the ages of no people are given in Revelation. Whether or not one of the beasts is the Antichrist, the ages of the beasts are not given. There is no reason to assume that any such “Antichrist” will be around Obama’s age.

Fourth, Revelation says nothing about the Antichrist (or one of the beasts) being of Muslim descent. In fact, Islam did not even exist when Revelation was written. Whether one holds to the earlier writing of Revelation sometime in the A.D. 60s (like I do) or one holds to the more popular later writing in the A.D. 90s, John’s Apocalypse was written several centuries prior to the development of Islam. Muhammad, the founder of Islam, died in A.D. 632, long after Revelation had been written.

The remainder of the email certainly represents an interpretation of supposed end-times prophesies, but it certainly isn’t the only such interpretation of these passages.

I highlight these things to emphasize the importance of knowing what you’re talking about. Five minutes worth of research using a Bible and a Concordance (or even just Wikipedia) will reveal the ridiculous nature of this email. However, a Google search will reveal that many people have grasped on to this erroneous representation of eschatology and our president.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not attempting to defend President Barak Hussein Obama. I would rest more soundly at night had he not been elected president. The fact that he is bypassing congressional oversight with his multitude of appointed “czars”, he is usurping control of private corporations, he is socializing just about everything, he supports legislation that allows for the slaughter of unborn children, he is weak on national security, he believes the mythology of human-caused global warming, and he is spending trillions of dollars that we don’t have to spend makes me reject him as a good and effective president.

As I have previously stated, there are plenty of reasons to dislike our president. However, let’s choose the right reasons. President Obama is NOT the Antichrist; let’s not libel him by saying that he is.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Share The Well, Part 13: Dalit Hymn

The songs of Share The Well have given us a look into the lives of the Dalit and the poor in Ecuador. They have shown us their pains, trials, and oppressions, but they have also testified to the deep faith and hope that can rise out of such suffering. Now, Joshua Moore and Randall Goodgame present us with a call to action. Here are the lyrics of “Dalit Hymn”:

Sing from the village, sing from the town.
(Sub kooch ho sak-ee dey)
Sing everyone who has been cast down.
(Sub kooch ho sak-ee dey)

Emancipate, emancipate. Prime Minister, emancipate.
Emancipate, emancipate. Prime Minister, emancipate.

Sweeping, weaving, tilling the Earth.
(Sub kooch ho sak-ee dey)
Show me the man to deny our worth.
(Sub kooch ho sak-ee dey)

Free the Dalit, free the Dalit. Prime Minister, free the Dalit.
Free the Dalit, free the Dalit. Prime Minister, free the Dalit.

Skin of the buffalo declared unclean.
(Sub kooch ho sak-ee dey)
Through revolution, we’ll be redeemed.
(Sub kooch ho sak-ee dey)

Heed Ambedkar, heed Ambedkar. Prime Minister, heed Ambedkar.
Heed Ambedkar, heed Ambedkar. Prime Minister, heed Ambedkar.

God made every man forward and free.
(Sub kooch ho sak-ee dey)
Rich man, poor man, every man free.
(Sub kooch ho sak-ee dey)

Politically, socially, everybody free.
(Sub kooch ho sak-ee dey)
Rich man, poor man, everybody free.
(Sub kooch ho sak-ee dey)

Caste is a lie, caste is a lie. Prime Minister, caste is a lie.
Caste is a lie, caste is a lie. Prime Minister, caste is a lie.

Emancipate, emancipate. Prime Minister, emancipate.
Free the Dalit, free the Dalit. Prime Minister, free the Dalit.
Heed Ambedkar, heed Ambedkar. Prime Minister, heed Ambedkar.
Caste is a lie, caste is a lie. Prime Minister, caste is a lie.

Sub kooch ho sak-ee dey. Sub kooch ho sak-ee dey.
Sub kooch ho sak-ee dey. Sub kooch ho sak-ee dey.


“Sub kooch ho sak-ee dey” means “Anything is possible with God”. Ambedkar was a Dalit Buddhist who lived in the first half of the 20th Century. He spent his whole life fighting against the caste system, and, just as James Madison was the chief architect of the U.S. Constitution, Ambedkar was the chief architect of the Indian Constitution. The Indian Constitution declares the caste system to be illegal, but it is still almost universally practiced in India.

This song gets me fired up. Having listened to the plight of the oppressed throughout this album, but then being filled with hope that the oppressed can be lifted up out of slavery, by the time “Dalit Hymn” arrives, I am ready for action. I find myself shouting “Emancipate” and “Free the Dalit” along with the singers. I find myself ready to join a protest march before the center of government in India and help those who are calling upon the Prime Minister to provide justice for those who are being oppressed.

Such emancipation is not impossible. Christians have participated in emancipation efforts against other theists (even other Christians) for centuries. John Wesley and his original group of Methodists fought against the oppression of the lower class in England in the 18th Century. Many Quakers and Wesleyans protested against slavery in the 19th Century. Wesleyan’s were at the forefront of the fight for women’s rights in the United States in the early 20th Century. Apartheid has been eliminated in South Africa. Anything is possible with God.

It is time for true social justice to come to India, and my final blog entry on Share The Well will discuss how we can help bring this about.