2008-12-29 0 comments

Multi-Media Monday

Melissa Etheridge: Rick Warren doesn't "sound like a gay-hater, much less a preacher." (The Huffington Post)

That's because Rick Warren is not a gay-hater. Nor are most Christians, if you want to know the truth. Most people, however, don't want to know the truth about Christians. It's too easy to simply buy into every stereotype about us that you can find. And, trust me, you can find plenty.

See, mass media will tell you we hate gays, African-Americans, unwed mothers, illegal aliens, etc. And you thought Christians are hypocrites (we are, of course...just no more than anyone else.) The irony would be hilarious if it weren't so pathetically sad. Christians are accused of using stereotypes to push an agenda of hatred and fear. Yet, many times, the opposite is true. Our society has become so blatant in its perpetuation of stereotypes against Evangelicals that we don't even realize it's happening. We are the only socio-cultural group of whom it is socially acceptable to hate. Christians are seen as bigoted, intolerant and quick to judge. Sadly, many high-profile Evangelical leaders have said hurtful things (I'm looking at you, Pat Robertson), and those incidents have painted all of us with a very broad brush. The irony is that it's the same brush used to portray all homosexuals as pedophiles, predators and perverts. Are some homosexuals pedophiles, predators and perverts? You bet they are...just as you can bet there are Christians who are bigoted, intolerant and quick to judge. 

Christianity vs. Universalism (YouTube)

I get so stinkin' tired of universalist philosophy. It's so disingenuous...at best. At worst, it's a coward's way out. It's essentially saying "I don't have the stones to stand behind my own convictions, so I'll just hold hands with everyone, tap my red shoes together three times while singing 'Kumbaya, My Lord' and hope for the best. That's not hope.

"For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience."

Dante's Inferno (YouTube)

Disclaimer: I don't believe in purgatory, nor do I think Mr. Alighieri had the whole "hell thing" figured out. His Divine Comedy was just that: a work of poetic fiction. It's just that this animated movie version of "Inferno" looks really, really cool.

(It's sad, isn't it, that I have to put a disclaimer before posting this. Trust me. If I don't, some uber-legalist Christian will get all pissy with me for promoting something that's not in the King James Version of the Bible. So, just chill...)

Calvinism vs. Arminianism (YouTube)

And, finally, here's one for all of you armchair theologians out there.

2008-12-27 0 comments

Jesus is Peace. Joy. Love. Jesus is Christmas

Before Christmas 2008 gets too far in the rearview, here's a quick reminder, in this most tumultuous year, of what really matters. Now I know I can't expect everyone who watches this to agree with the "true meaning of Christmas." But this is not a politically correct blog. Sorry. It's just not. 

We're about Truth around here, not what society tells us is culturally relevant. 

Merry Christmas!
2008-12-22 0 comments

A Biblical Allegory on Network TV?

Anybody else interested in this show? I'm very, very curious...

Your thoughts?
2008-12-16 2 comments

Gonna Make a T-Shirt out of This (& Wear it to Church)

Gotta love it...

2008-12-10 0 comments

Potpourri on a Rainy Wednesday

"True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructing." -Martin Luther King, Jr.

Happy Human Rights Awareness Day!

Customer Service Calls to God
Funny. Potentially offensive? Maybe. Someone could theoretically get offended. But, come on. God has a sense of humor--you think He was kidding about that whole "created in His image and likeness" business in Genesis? Where do you think humor comes from, if not from Him. Lighten up.

Sheesh, This is Sad
"I truly expect that death is the end, that there is no everlasting soul, no afterlife. This is a journey that we all must make at some time." Thus says man. Fortunately, God says this: "For in this hope we are saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience."
2008-11-14 3 comments

Friday Link Day

No Communion for Obama Supporters?
Wait, let me see if I understand this. If you support abortion rights, Jesus did not die for you? I'm confused. (That's not the Gospel as I understand it. Whatever happened to Romans 8:1?)

How Do Different Religions Define Death?
I'm not sure this is a point of contention in the Evangelical community. Or am I wrong? Anyone wanna weigh in?

Group Sues Over 'Day of Prayer'
Oh, come on. Get over yourselves. So don't pray. Or, better yet, celebrate the 364 days of the year when most people ignore God.

Text Messaging for Jesus
Give them credit. Christians will make a ministry out of just about anything.

2008-11-13 0 comments

Romans 8

Want to try one of these? You've got to visit Wordle. Just be careful...you can spend hours doing this.
2008-11-10 5 comments

What's Social Justice Without Jesus?

I had the opportunity to visit a college-town mega-church this past Sunday. It had a huge campus, a coffee bar, great decor, a ton of young people and a rockin' praise and worship service. It's truly remarkable what God is doing there, and I was certainly happy to be a part of the service.

The sermon was good, too. Its title was "Kingdom Living," and the pastor asked, somewhat rhetorically, if we truly understood what it means to live the way Jesus told us to live. He explained, quite rightly, that Christ's way of living is radically different from the way our culture tells us to live. Naturally, he incorporated some manifestations of "Kingdom Living." Cleaning up at a homeless shelter. Buying food for an orphan in Honduras. And so it went.

It's amazing to witness what God's Church is doing in what we're told is a post-modern world. Oh, His people have always been generous to a fault. Studies show Christians are much more philanthropic than the public at large. Even Christians in lower tax brackets are prone to giving what they have much more readily than those who make more money but don't identify with a specific belief system.

But what's changed in the last generation or so is an awareness of social issues that may have escaped Christians in another time. Evangelicals today focus their energies on environmental issues, believing it to be a moral cause and worthy of their God-given mandate to change the world for the better. We care about fair trade; sure, Christians have always been aware of global poverty--one of my Sunday School classes when I was a child sponsored a child in El Salvador--but today we think twice about buying a cup of coffee. Was the man who grew these beans paid a fair price, and can he feed his family in the name of my desire for a latte? That silk shirt I'm wearing--was it stitched by an eight year-old boy in a Indonesian sweatshop?

These are all critically important issues, and I'm so very thankful that today's Church cares about--and works toward a solution for--these and other problems of social injustice.

But there's an inherent problem that comes with this new worldview. It walks a dangerous tightrope between faith- and Grace-based salvation and a works-based system of belief. Scripture tells us Christ's sacrifice on Calvary was an act of supreme Grace, one that we could never merit, deserve or accomplish on our own. In short, there's nothing we can ever do to bridge the gap between our humanity and God's divinity. 

We must be very careful, then, that we keep spreading the Gospel forefront when confronting social justice. The old saying goes "No Jesus? No Peace. Know Jesus. Know Peace." That's doggone right, trite though it may be.

Fighting social injustice without incorporating Jesus into the mix doesn't mean anything to the one ministering or to the one being ministered to. That's because the minister isn't able to reconcile himself to God through works, and the one being ministered to cannot hope to find reconciliation to God through someone other than Jesus.

What's your take? Is tackling social injustice without the Gospel message worth anything? Why or why not? Share your thoughts...

2008-11-05 1 comments


The real hope of mankind...
2008-11-01 3 comments

Kurt Cobain

The assignment: go to a party dressed as someone who represents your favorite decade.
So, here's my Kurt Cobain impression. Did I come close? Or do I look more like Jeff Daniels?
2008-10-30 0 comments

Emergent Village Looks Ahead

Emergent Village is in the midst of a transformation in its operations, a move its board announced Thursday after a year of what it terms a "discernment process."

Its announcement lays out a framework for the future of the Emergent "conversation." I've certainly been critical of aspects of the movement; I've always felt those involved in shaping its message are too willing to capitulate on areas of core Christian doctrine. I know, I know. Emergent is about being a safe place where hard questions can be debated without fear of repurcussion. I get it, and I think that's an admirable goal. I love Emergent's commitment to social justice, too. Its stance on global poverty is wonderful. I've met some truly great, loving Christians that are a part of the Emergent conversation.

Here's what scares me. "Many religious communities fear, shame, restrict and exclude people who ask questions, propose creative innovations, or open up new ways of thinking (emphasis mine.)" That's from Emergent Village's recent announcement. What exactly does this mean? Is such a statement purposely vague? I wholeheartedly agree that it's an unfortunate fact that many fundamental Evangelical communities fear, shame and even exclude those from their congregations who ask hard questions and propose creative innovations. But does "open up new ways of thinking" really mean "open up new ways of believing?"

It's a fine line between Emergent theology and Universalism, which to me is worse than atheism. At least atheists have the courage of conviction. Universalism--there's a great piece about it in the current issue of Relevant magazine, by the way--is, at best, flaky and, at worst, cowardly.

Now, I don't think there's anything cowardly about "friends of Emergent." But it's a slippery slope.

What are your thoughts? Are you a "Friend of Emergent?" Do you agree with its goals and mission? What are your thoughts on its recent announcement? Is Emergent too close to Universalist theology? Join the conversation here.

2008-10-22 1 comments

Twitter Elite

As my good friend Reid Strader would say, Whoo-Hoo!

2008-10-13 1 comments

The Pope...On Your Phone

You can, in this day and age, now receive daily text messages from the Pope. That's right, Benedict himself will text you every day with "words of encouragement."

2008-09-24 0 comments

Throw Marty From the Train

Here's a link to a blog post I wrote for a colleague's Web site. It's also going up on my company's blog, which I'm taking over the content for. Keep an eye out for VecThree.com if you're interested in the search engine marketing industry.
2008-09-16 0 comments

Bill Hybels and Bono (Part One)

2008-09-15 1 comments

Multi-Media Monday: Bill Hybels and Bono

I haven't watched this yet, so there's my disclaimer. Just haven't had the time during a busy work day. But I've been hearing good things about it. This is part one of three.

2008-09-11 0 comments

Sorry. It's Funny. It Just is.

2008-09-10 0 comments

Ivy Jungle Campus Ministry Survey Results

I've worked on and off in college ministry. That's how I heard about Ivy Jungle, and over the years I've participated in a couple of these surveys. They are vital pieces of research (really, akin to what Barna does for the overall population, albeit on a much smaller scale, of course) that provide clear direction for ministers and laity in campus ministry today.

So, read the survey and share your thoughts. I'll take a look tonight and perhaps record some comments of my own.

(So much to write about, so little time...)

2008-08-26 3 comments

How Would Jesus Vote? Don Miller at DNC 08

Author and Emerging Church leader Don Miller gives the benediction during the first day of the Democratic National Convention. Added some Democratic Party platforms into his prayer, which I think he shouldn't have done. Now, he's entitled to his political leanings, but I don't think they have a place in a prayer, even if you do think universal health care and minimum wage are moral issues.

I'm disappointed he didn't get any television time...I suppose if he'd not used the name Jesus and instead prayed to some relativistic, wimpy god who answers to any name you want to call him then maybe television wouldn't have cut him out. But you start praying to "Your son Jesus, who gave His own life," then we suddenly get nervous. Pray to god, it's fine. Pray to God, well, that's just not PC, is it?  

Of course, here's one criticism I had of the prayer, and I hope I'm not being too nit-picky. When Miller says "who gave His own life against the forces of injustice," I wonder at Miller's meaning here. What he prayed was technically true, but is Miller saying that Christ's death was merely to expose injustice? If so, that makes Jesus no better than Martin Luther King Jr. or Gandhi. Yes, Jesus died because of man's injustice. But let's not forget that He was not murdered. No one took Jesus' life. He gave it willingly to redeem man's sin.

His death was to redeem injustice, not expose it.

What are your thoughts on Miller's prayer? Do you mind that he read it from a Teleprompter? Should he have bowed his head? Do you think television should have showed the prayer? Why or why not?
2008-08-22 0 comments

How Would Jesus Vote? Joe Biden

So, just who is Joe Biden, and what are his Evangelical credentials?
(Official site)

"What has happened in the Democratic Party, there's been this reluctance, in the face of the evangelical, judgmental movement on the far right in the past, of even invoking religion, for fear of being put in the same category. But we're a spiritual nation. We're a nation of faith."

Note: Biden lost a daughter and his first wife in a tragic car accident back in 1972. In an interview with CNN's Paula Zahn, Biden spoke about the tragedy and how it shaped his relationship with God. Read the transcript here (you'll have to scroll down about 1/2 of the way through to get to Biden's Q&A.)

2008-08-21 0 comments

Belief-O-Matic, an Emergent for Obama and Mormon Mitt

Ah, if only spirituality was as simple as answering a bunch of questions on a quiz to find out who you should worship.

Apparently, it is that easy. At least if you use Beliefnet's Belief-O-Matic. I'm not a big fan of Beliefnet; it's a little too Deepak Chopra-esque to me. But the Belief-O-Matic is mindless fun. Some of the questions need more varied answers--I found that for many of them I had to pick answers that were as close to my Evangelical Christian convictions as I could get; the "right" answer wasn't there--but if you want to spend five minutes taking an online quiz (and who doesn't?), try the amazing, 100% guaranteed Belief-O-Matic today for only three easy payments of $19.99!

But wait! That's not all! If you act right now, you'll get 10 free bonus questions, such as "Do you believe in Oprah?" "How much money did you make after reading Joel Osteen's book 'Your Best Life Now?'" and "How many aliens did it take to make Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes look so much alike?"

Don't delay! Buy Belief-O-Matic today!

In one of the least surprising evangelical news items of the 2008 election cycle, outspoken Emergent guru Brian McLaren has thrown his support for presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama.

In other Emergent news, there are rumors that Rob Bell is leaving Mars Hill Bible Church (Michigan). Has anyone else heard this rumor? Is there anything to it?

It seems Evangelicals are starting to embrace presumptive Republican nominee John McCain following Rick Warren's Saddleback Civil Forum last weekend.

The honeymoon, however, might be short-lived. There's talk that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is on McCain's vice presidential shortlist. Romney, however, is a Mormon. That fact, some theorize, could jeopardize McCain's new-found stature among Evangelicals.

Questions for discussion:

* What were your Belief-O-Matic results? (I was quite relieved to discover I am, in fact, a born-again Christian. Glad the Belief-O-Matic cleared that up.)

* Should pastors and other Evangelical leaders publically support a presidential candidate? Why or why not? What role should Christian leaders take in presidential politics?

* What do you like about Rob Bell's theology? What don't you like?

* Would having a Mormon on a presidential ticket influence your vote? What about a Muslim? A Hindu? An atheist?

2008-08-19 0 comments

The Pussycat Tiger

Allow me, if I may, to take a passage from the Bible out of context. Revelations 1:3 says "Blessed is the one who reads..."

Admittedly, the passage refers specifically to the prophetic book of Revelations, not to reading in general. Yet I believe that it is a divine truth that reading is a blessed activity, that God shines upon those who delight in the act of curling up with the written word.

I was always a very small child, rail thin, very bookish. I suppose I was a nerd before nerds were cool. Bottle-thick glasses, freckles...the works.

Of course, I was always quite conscious of my (real or perceived) frailty. Then my mom read me The Pussycat Tiger. I don't know the author--it was a My Little Golden Book. It told the story of a tiger cub, ridiculed by all of the animals of the jungle for his small size and weak growl. Yet his mother told him, "If you eat lots of tiger food and take lots of tiger naps, one day you'll grow up to be a great big tiger."

The moral, of course, was that I wouldn't always be a small, slight child, that one day I'd grow up to be a man, secure in my own skin and able to conquer my own little world just as The Pussycat Tiger eventually did...if only I believed in myself "and ate lots of tiger food and took lots of tiger naps." A simplistic view of life? Perhaps. Yet it remains for me, these many years later, a valuable lesson in self-esteem, taught by a tattered, rail-thin book read to me by my loving mother in the warm glow of a nightlight.

What book got you hooked? Go to FirstBook and share your story--and share it with us here. 

2008-08-12 0 comments

Death by Love

2008-08-04 0 comments

Christians and Muslims Unite?

Just dying to get your opinion on this little piece of information.

Honest dialogue, or pre-cursor to wide-spread relativism and/or intra-faith ecumenism?

Your thoughts?

(BTW, working on a written version of the "talk" I gave in church Sunday morning. Text is Genesis 38.)

2008-07-31 1 comments

Pick a Sermon, Any Sermon

I've been asked to fill in for my pastor and give a "sermon" during Sunday morning services. I have a few ideas of my own, but I want to know what you think.

After posting a question for sermon ideas on Twitter the other day, I sorted through the responses and came up with this list. Vote for the one you like best. Of course, God reserves the right to nix any of these ideas--it is, after all, His call--but we may just find that all three of us agree.

(If I'm feeling especially brave, I may even post audio of the sermon here for Multi-Media Monday. We'll see...)

Vote and, please, offer any comments or suggestions. Heck, you may find you don't like any of these ideas, and that's OK, too. Have one of your own? Fill out the comment form.  

As always, Grace and Peace... 

<a href="http://www.buzzdash.com/index.php?page=buzzbite&BB_id=102386">Of the following, which should I use for a Sunday sermon?</a> | <a href="http://www.buzzdash.com">BuzzDash</a>

2008-07-27 0 comments

When I, in Awesome Wonder...

I don't need--or have--any words to describe this. I simply stand amazed at the indescribeable beauty God has created, and I am forever in awe that He allows me to see these glimpses of Heaven before the day when I live there forever.

2008-07-23 0 comments

Oh, Nevermind...

I'm glad I've got that whole promise-of-eternal-life thing going for me after I die, because news items like this make me feel old.

What was the most recent reminder of imminent old age for you?

2008-07-22 0 comments

Digg, Internet Evangelism and Emergents

I got an e-mail from the creator of GODSurfer.com asking for some pub and a link to the new social bookmarking site. (So here you go, Jeff. God bless the effort, brother.) 

If you're hip to Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit and Del.icio.us, you'll understand GODSurfer right away. Head on over and give it a once-over. I'll confess I haven't given it more than a cursory look myself; I made sure I agreed with its Statement of Faith...I never link to a Christian site without that essential piece of due dilligence. But GODSurfer looks promising, at any rate, and I imagine I'll probably sign up in the coming days to see if I can build some more traffic here. To that end, I've started posting a GODSurfer button to posts here, separate from the other social bookmarking buttons. Interested to see if I get any plugs.

But what I'm really interested in is a program called BGO (short for Bringing God Online.) I think it's a really, really good idea, and I urge you to read about it and, if you are so inclined, to sign up.

Not to seem completely random, but I'm interested to get your thoughts on Rob Bell of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan (not to be confused with Mars Hill in Seattle which is, in my opinion, one of the most theologically and spiritually solid churches in the world--at least from where I'm sitting.)

At any rate, I posted a video from him last week, and I did so after listening to some sermons/teachings I'd downloaded. He did a series on Phillipians recently, portions of which I really, really enjoyed.

Still, I'm concerned about his theology...he is, of course, one of the big names from the Emergent camp. And I certainly have issues with those guys despite the fact that they are contributing meaningful dialogue to the conversation about Christianity's role in 21st century culture.

So, how about contributing meaningul dialogue of your own? Just fill out that little comment form down there. Like Rob Bell? Don't like him? Are you evangelical, emerging or emergent? Are you all of them? None of them? Do you have any idea what the heck I'm talking about? (Me neither, by the way.) I'd like to hear from you.

Grace and Peace...

2008-07-17 0 comments

Law vs. Grace

One of my very good Twitter brothers posted a note on his Facebook profile that was too good to pass up.

(Thanks for allowing the re-post, Matt. People need to read this.)

Religious people will huddle in their churches, spend at christian stores, only go to church-sanctioned social events, only hang out with Christian people. This comes from fear.

The law inspires fear-
fear of God, and fear of man.
fear of God's wrath on our inevitable failings, slip-ups and misdeeds,
and fear of man- fear of man's influence on us, fear of relationships or encounters that will end up in sin, carried off by the moment or the circumstance, cultural values that may sweep us into sin, accidental sin that we are ignorant of. Fear that salvation can be lost and must be regained hundreds of times each day.

Grace inspires love.
Love of God and Love of man.
Love for God because he will not destroy us even though we deserve it, that he does not count our sin against us for which he already took the punishment, love for His power to never lose us, or let us go, no matter our failings, slip-ups, and misdeeds.

Love for man, because we know God loves them and we are commanded to share his love with them. Not all will be saved, for not all are called, but since we have no fear of the law to consider, we are free to engage culture for his sake and ordered to befriend the lost, the hurting, the estranged, the ultimate of sinners, the people we used to love being.

For the lover of the law, life is a series of slippery stones above a great waterfall, jumping one from another, conscious of the fall the whole way, hoping our balance will be sure each time.

In grace, life is a stream to be forded, the water sometimes deep and cold and swift, other times, shallow, warm and quiet. But there is no danger, because we are carried.

2008-07-09 3 comments

Evangelical Attitudes Survey

I posted one of these polls back in May, and I was so pleased with the response and the fact that it fostered dialogue I'm planning to do it at least twice a month, maybe even weekly. Thursday needs a theme, after all. I have (in theory, at least) themes for most days--Multi-media Mondays, Wednesday Link Day, News of the Week (on Sundays). Polls on Thursdays? Needs a catchier name...

So, fill out the survey below. The first three are "serious" questions, the final one just for fun. Please bear in mind: just as important as taking the survey is sharing your thoughts on the questions. Don't let your opinions float around in the ether. Nature abhors a vaccum almost as much as Web 2.0 does. So, let's get some back-and-forth going.

2008-07-07 0 comments

Multi-Media Monday (on a Tuesday)

Hey folks. I appreciate your patience over these past two weeks. If you're a regular visitor, you might be a little confused. Heck, I am, and I'm the guy behind the curtain.

To recap, when Blogger upgraded its blog service and added some new bells a whistles about a year ago, people with "classic" templates didn't have to switch over to the new system. So, I decided to stick with what I already knew. I'd taught myself some rudimentary HTML with my template, and I could make whatever style changes I wanted with minimal effort. Problem was, when Blogger switched things over, it messed with the comment moderation feature. Long story short, my classic template couldn't accept comments which is, of course, a cardinal sin in the social web. I mean, that's the whole point, right? To foster conversation? Sure it is, and I would sumbit that it's even more important on this site, the purpose of which is to tell people about Jesus. And to tell people about Jesus, I must be willing to engage readers in a conversation about Jesus.

So I bit the bullet and switched over to Blogger's new system. I can receive comments now, which is great, but I can't stick with a design. Each one I've tried just doesn't look good to me, or has some flaws that render it useless for my purposes.

Bear with me, will you? I'll probably be tinkering with the site for the next week or so until I get something I'm at least moderately happy with. In the meantime, I'd love to hear your thoughts on various designs. Heck, if you run across a blog that you like, share it with me. I'm certainly not above jail-breaking someone else's design--provided it's under Creative Commons, of course.

Long intro, I know. But if you've read this site for any length of time, you'll know I was raised in an old country church, because I blog longer than a Southern Baptist preacher preaches.

Rob Bell Exclusive for the Evolving Church 2007 - More free videos are here

So, what do you think? How have we, as The Church, failed in delivering social justice? How important is social justice anyway? Do you, personally, do enough? What more can you do? I'd love to have your input as I'm preparing a post on this very topic, which I hope will convict us all--and myself, especially--to take Jesus seriously when it comes to serving the poor.

2008-07-03 2 comments

New blog design

Disclaimer: I am not at all happy with my new blog design. Reason? I designed it myself after jail-breaking a Blogger template I found. And I am not a web designer. At all. Frankly, it shows.

One of the big reasons I changed looks was to switch my blog from the old-school Blogger templates to the new one to better improve comment moderation. The comment moderation I was using was screwing everything up, and I needed to update my template style to incorporate Blogger's comment moderation.

Anyone care to weigh in on the new look? Like it? Hate it? Hey, comment as "anonymous" if you'd like.

The floor is yours...

2008-06-26 0 comments

Defender of the Faith: Tim Keller

Evangelizing to a post-modern culture requires Believers to speak to the head as well as the heart. Our culture is smarter, more savvy and more gluttonous on information than any of its previous generational incarnations. Simply saying "You've got to have faith" isn't going to fly. At least not as a singular strategy.

Tim Keller (if you haven't already). This guy slays the stereotype of Christian as dunce. His body of work is not only wide-ranging and Biblically sound, it challenges us on an intellectual level and turns our model of evangelical ministry on its head.

That's especially true of his latest book The Reason for God. (at least that's the kind of reviews he's getting; I haven't yet read it myself). Keller is now out on a nationwide tour promoting not only his book but his brand of reaching both Believers and unBelievers.

For a little sneak peak, read his interview with Christianity Today. Don't have time right now? You'd be well-served in bookmarking and coming back to it. In the meantime, here are some highlights:

On how some Christians are at a loss to effectively witness
"I do think a lot of Christians — because they don't understand the grace narrative — get out into the world and find it very tough to navigate. I think it's because they don't understand the gospel, not because they can't answer all the theological questions."

On the difference between marketing Christianity and spreading the Gospel
"Marketing is showing how Christianity meets the need, and I think the gospel is showing how Christianity is the truth...C. S. Lewis says somewhere not to believe in Christianity because it's relevant or exciting or personally satisfying. Believe it because it's true. And if it's true, it eventually will be relevant, exciting, and personally satisfying."

On one pastor's response to a controversial issue
"He went through all the various theories that evangelical Christians with a high view of Scripture have come to. He showed the strengths and weaknesses of every one. Nobody does that anymore. Nobody says different Christians might come down in different places here and still have a high view of Scripture. Instead, they identify their take as the wise one, and say everyone else is selling out or something."

On dealing with Jesus first and other issues after that
"I point out that it's a red herring to go after (intelligent design versus evolution) before you decide whether Jesus died and rose again. Two people said [last night at a Veritas forum]: 'I can't believe in Christianity, because look at the fossils.' And I was trying to say, 'Because you believe in evolution does this mean that Jesus Christ couldn't be raised from the dead?' One said, 'No, that has nothing to do with it.' If he was raised from the dead, then you have to take seriously the Scripture and you have to work on all this. If he wasn't raised from the dead, who cares about Genesis 1–11?"

So, if you were going to design a new way of "doing" evangelism, what would it look like? How much can intellectual arguments really sway unBelievers toward a relationship with Jesus? Where do appeals to one's intellect stop and a simple act of faith start?

For more about Tim Keller, visit the Web site of Redeemer Church in New York, where Keller is pastor.

I welcome all comments. Feel free to comment on-page, or e-mail feedback to CandidChristian@gmail.com.

2008-06-25 2 comments

Link day Wednesday

I've tried a few Christian-based SOCNETs, and haven't been all that thrilled with them. GodTube is OK, HisHolySpace is terrible...you get the point. Theologica? It's still early--there are just 700+ members--but signs are very, very promising. How effective could Christians be with Internet evangelism if they pool their collective resources in one central place? What would such a place look like? Will the collection of different denominations and theological positions that are unavoidable in such a space prevent any real unified evangelistic effort?

Make Your Own Bush Speech
As the modern philosopher Larry the Cable Guy says, "I don't care who you are. That's funny right there." Indeed it is, Larry. Indeed it is.

Smells Like Holy Spirit
Louisville, Kentucky-based Sojourn Church (part of the Mars Hill Church-founded Acts 29 network) came under fire recently for what was seen as intolerant views toward homosexuals. Take a look at this story...was the church unfairly portrayed? Why or why not? Then, read the church's response. Do you like the way they handled the criticism? Did they sound like they were capitulating? How did you take their response?

To the Skater Kid Who Asked to Borrow my Cell Phone
Ran across this blog post from Twitter. It's just a great little story about faith, sharing it and how that can sometimes get messy. Do you have a similar story? What is your greatest witnessing success? What is your biggest failure?

One of Earth's Final Undiscovered People
Is it really possible that there is an undiscovered culture? Apparently so. Anthropologists have reported aerial photographs of one of the last unknown tribes in the world. These people live in the rainforest along the border region between Peru and Brazil. It begs the question: without contact with the outside world, how will these people be judged by God? From where will they find--or reject--redemption? Scripture is not silent on these matters, of course. But what is your doctrinal position on such a complex issue?
I welcome all comments. Feel free to comment on-page, or e-mail feedback to CandidChristian@gmail.com.

2008-06-22 0 comments

Multi-Media Monday: Uncovering our Wounds

If we are made in God's image and likeness--and scripture says we are--then it follows that our experiences and nature is evidence of His hand at work in our lives.

How does this scene from "The Darjeeling Limited" speak to our spiritual journeys? What does it say about us? Does it say anything at all?

I welcome all comments. Feel free to comment on-page, or e-mail feedback to CandidChristian@gmail.com.

2008-06-21 0 comments

Union Mission

I had a great chance to stop by and tour Union Mission of West Virginia's campus near Kanawha City Friday. While it was a great blessing to do so, they're a little low on food right now. Prices are high, donations are down...but people still need help.

Visit Union Mission's Web site to find out how you can help.

I welcome all comments. Feel free to comment on-page, or e-mail feedback to CandidChristian@gmail.com.

2008-06-19 0 comments

A New Stereotype of West Virginia Christians

His face is red and bloated. Spittle is on the corner of his mouth. His eyes rage like the anger in his heart. He rails against sin, homosexuals, minorities--really, aren't they all the same?--and, later, handles a snake.

Who is he? A West Virginia Christian, of course.

Yeah, but there's a problem here. I don't know the guy. Oh, he exists. Somewhere. Too many places, in fact. But the Christians I know are something quite different. They call out of the blue to tell me they love me. Pray for me when I'm sick. Counsel me when I'm down. Worship with me when I'm happy.

Today, a statewide network of bloggers here in West Virginia are joining a conversation started a week ago about how we can redefine the stereotypes surrounding West Virginians. You've no doubt read about us. We're illiterate, bigoted, incestual, barefoot and pregnant. That's the common perception, isn't it? Vice President Dick Cheney thinks so. Get in line, buddy.

All of the West Virginia bloggers working on the ABetterWestVirginia project--timed to coincide with West Virginia Day (that's today, June 20; we broke away from Virginia on this day in 1863)--have their own niche. Some will talk politics. Others, art. For me, it's an opportunity to confront the same stereotypes that hound what you might call an "evangelical Christian."

But, again, those stereotypes--like those of West Virginians in general--are simply wrong. That's not to say Christians haven't made their mistakes. We've emphasized God's justice at the expense of His mercy. We are paying a steep price for that overemphasis of one aspect of God's nature at the expense of another. The Barna Group is an evangelical polling organization that analyzes demographic information about spirituality, religion and Christianity in American cultural life. As research for the book UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity, Barna found that of 24 million non-Christians aged 16-29, fewer than half view "evangelical" Christians "in a positive light."

Something is desperately wrong here. The story of Jesus is one of love, sacrifice and redemption. Yet somehow we've failed to communicate that message properly, and the result is that emerging generations are either walking away from the faith--or eschewing it from the very beginning.

It's especially true here in West Virginia. Socio-cultural trends are admittedly slow to take root here. A groundswell of modern Christian congregations that are embracing the need for greater dialogue and cultural relevance is taking place across the country, but that conversation is largely silent here. This must change. The Church in West Virginia must adapt and find better ways of communicating Christ's message to a new generation that, as UnChristian says "esteem(s) fair-mindedness and diversity, they are irreverent and blunt. Finding ways to express themselves and their rage is an endless pursuit. Being skeptical of leaders, products and institutions is part of their generational coding...They do not trust things that seem too perfect, accepting that life comes with its share of messiness and off-the-wall experiences and people."

Let me be clear on something here: I'm not advocating a softening of The Gospel, nor any stance that would capitulate on core doctrine. Far from it. I think society is desperate for a people with the courage to live their convictions. As a Christian, I firmly believe that Jesus is the answer to this messy thing we call life. I stand on that conviction. I trust in it. I weep because of its beauty. I am honored to stand in defense of it.

Yet the question remains: if we are to counter culture's opinions--and expectations--of Christians and re-define stereotypes not just in West Virginia but worldwide, we must find a way to communicate the Truth with courage...and just a little bit of humilty.

I welcome all comments. Feel free to comment on-page, or e-mail feedback to CandidChristian@gmail.com.

2008-06-18 0 comments

New West Virginia Stereotypes

I've had more than one somewhat contentious argument with people about perceptions of West Virginians.

Each year, as a reward for our low-paying devotion to the campus newspaper at West Virginia University, the general manager would host us for a weekend retreat at Canaan Valley in north-east West Virginia. To say it is rural is to say that bears...well, you know what bears do in the woods, right? (And if you don't, visit Canaan Valley and you can see them do it.)

This was, needless to say, something of a culture shock to some of the student journalists who worked at The Daily Athenaeum. See, WVU has a large contingent of students from Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Jersey, speficially because in-state tuition at places like Penn State, OSU and Rutgers is more expensive than out-of-state fees at WVU. Combine that with the fact you can get a heck of an education at WVU's Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism (shameless plug for my alma mater) and it's no wonder Morgantown is a multi-cultural place. Not only is it a college town, it draws from a large geographic area.

Back to the story. The chartered bus ride from Morgantown to Tucker County always provided interesting scenery. For those who grew up in the shadow of Philly, New York City or Cleveland, they got to see the true majesty of their adopted home. For the native West Virginians, we got to watch the city slickers' slack-jawed reaction to their surroundings. It was win-win.

Except that one time, when a young lady from Jersey, after eating dinner at a small, mom-and-pop shop, made the mistake of disparaging not only the home-cooked meal, but also the "rednecks and in-breeds" that lived in the area.

That evening, I couldn't hold my tongue. I angrily--and wrongly, I'll admit--confronted the girl and informed her if she didn't like the wonderful educational opportunity she was being afforded in this hick state, she could pack her bags and leave. I even offered to drop her off in nearby Thomas, West Virginia. My logic? It would be comical to witness a girl from the city trying to figure out how to get home from a town that effectively shuts down at 5 p.m.

In the coming days, bloggers from around the state of West Virginia, through an initiative from Jason Keeling and his ABetterWestVirginia blog will be offering "New Stereotypes of West Virginians." I both applaud and am joining in this effort. While others will undoubtedly cover their area of interest and show the rest of the world why the common perception of West Virginia is so frustratingly wrong, I'll be writing about stereotypes of West Virginia Christians.

Christ-followers everywhere have a natural bias against them...some of it is certainly warranted. We are slow to find common ground and quick to point the finger of blame. We are quick to show God's justice but not His mercy. That is especially true here, where trends are slow to take root.

What are your opinions of Christians in West Virginia? Do you have favorable opinions of them? Why or why not? Share your thoughts, and join the conversation.
I welcome all comments. Feel free to comment on-page, or e-mail feedback to CandidChristian@gmail.com.

2008-06-13 0 comments

Don't Leave Your Donut on the Desk

Confession: those forwarded e-mails I get all the time? I usually delete without opening. Sorry. I just do. It's nothing personal; I just get so many e-mails, I only open the forwarded ones from family.

But then a good Christian brother sent me this one, and I gave it a read. It is Friday, after all...

Yeah, it's a little long. But you need to read it. Be prepared to use it to explain Jesus to people who don't really understand what He did.

"There was a certain Professor of Religion named Dr. Christianson, a studious man who taught at a small college in the western United States. Dr. Christianson taught the required survey course in Christianity atthis particular institution. Every student was required to take this course their freshman year, regardless of his or her major. Although Dr. Christianson tried hard to communicate the essence of the gospel in his class, he found that most of his students looked upon the course as nothing but required drudgery. Despite his best efforts, most students refused to take Christianity seriously.This year, Dr. Christianson had a special student named Steve.

Steve was only a freshman, but was studying with the intent of going on to seminary for the ministry. Steve was popular, he was well liked, and he was an imposing physical specimen. He was now the starting center on the school football team, and was the best student in the professor's class.

One day, Dr. Christianson asked Steve to stay after class so he could talk with him. "How many push-ups can you do?"Steve said, "I do about 200 every night." "200? That's pretty good, Steve," Dr. Christianson said. "Do you think you could do 300?"Steve replied, "I don't know.... I've never done 300 at a time.""Do you think you could?" again asked Dr. Christianson."Well, I can try," said Steve."Can you do 300 in sets of 10? I have a class project in mind and I need you to do about 300 push-ups in sets of ten for this to work. Can you do it? I need you to tell me you can do it," said the professor.Steve said, "Well... I think I can...yeah, I can do it."Dr. Christianson said, "Good! I need you to do this on Friday. Let me explain what I have in mind."

Friday came and Steve got to class early and sat in the front of the room. When class started, the professor pulled out a big box of donuts. No, these weren't the normal kinds of donuts, they were the extra fancy BIG kind, with cream centers and frosting swirls. Everyone was pretty excited. It was Friday, the last class of the day, and they were going to get an early start on the weekend with a party in Dr. Christianson's class.Dr. Christianson went to the first girl in the first row and asked, "Cynthia, do you want to have one of these donuts?" Cynthia said, "Yes"Dr. Christianson then turned to Steve and asked, "Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Cynthia can have a donut?""Sure!" Steve jumped down from his desk to do a quick ten. Then Steve again sat in his desk. Dr. Christianson put a donut on Cynthia's desk. Dr. Christianson then went to Joe, the next person, and asked, "Joe, do you want a donut?" Joe said, "Yes."Dr. Christianson asked, "Steve would you do ten push-ups so Joe can have a donut?"Steve did ten push-ups, Joe got a donut. And so it went, down the first aisle, Steve did ten push-ups for every person before they got their donut.

Walking down the second aisle, Dr. Christianson came to Scott. Scott was on the basketball team, and in as good condition as Steve. He was very popular and never lacking for female companionship.When the professor asked, "Scott do you want a donut?" Scott's reply was, "Well, can I do my own push-ups?"Dr. Christianson said, "No, Steve has to do them." Then Scott said, "Well, I don't want one then."Dr. Christianson shrugged and then turned to Steve and asked, "Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Scott can have a donut he doesn't want?"With perfect obedience, Steve started to do ten push-ups. Scott said, "HEY! I said I didn't want one!" Dr. Christianson said, "Look!, this is my classroom, my class, my desks, and these are my donuts. Just leave it on the desk if you don't want it." And he put a donut on Scott's desk. Now by this time, Steve had begun to slow down a little. He just stayed on the floor between sets because it took too much effort to be getting up and down. You could start to see a little perspiration coming out around his brow.Dr. Christianson started down the third row. Now the students were beginning to get a little angry. Dr. Christianson asked Jenny, "Jenny, do you want a donut?" Sternly, Jenny said, "No."Then Dr. Christianson asked Steve, "Steve, would you do ten more push-ups so Jenny can have a donut that she doesn't want?" Steve did ten....Jenny got a donut.

By now, a growing sense of uneasiness filled the room. The students were beginning to say, "No!" and there were all these uneaten donuts on the desks. Steve also had to really put forth a lot of extra effort to get these push-ups done for each donut. There began to be a small pool of sweat on the floor beneath his face, his arms and brow were beginning to get red because of the physical effort involved.Dr. Christianson asked Robert, who was the most vocal unbeliever in the class, to watch Steve do each push up to make sure he did the full ten push-ups in a set because he couldn't bear to watch all of Steve's work for all of those uneaten donuts. He sent Robert over to where Steve was so Robert could count the set and watch Steve closely.

Dr. Christianson started down the fourth row. During his class, however, some students from other classes had wandered in and sat down on the steps along the radiators that ran down the sides of the room. When the professor realized this, he did a quick count and saw that now there were 34 students in the room. He started to worry if Steve would be able to make it. Dr. Christianson went on to the next person and the next and the next. Near the end of that row, Steve was really having a rough time. He was taking a lot more time to complete each set.Steve asked Dr. Christianson, "Do I have to make my nose touch on each one?" Dr. Christianson thought for a moment, "Well, they're your pushups. You are in charge now. You can do them any way that you want." And Dr. Christianson went on.A few moments later, Jason, a recent transfer student, came to the room and was about to come in when all the students yelled in one voice, "NO! Don't come in! Stay out!" Jason didn't know what was going on.

Steve picked up his head and said, "No, let him come." Professor Christianson said, "You realize that f Jason comes in you will have to do ten push-ups for him?" Steve said, "Yes, let him come in. Give him a donut."Dr. Christianson said, "Okay, Steve, I'll let you get Jason's out of the way right now. Jason, do you want a donut?"Jason, new to the room, hardly knew what was going on. "Yes," he said, "give me a donut." "Steve, will you do ten push-ups so that Jason can have a donut?" Steve did ten push-ups very slowly and with great effort. Jason, bewildered, was handed a donut and sat down. Dr. Christianson finished the fourth row, and then started on those visitors seated by the heaters. Steve's arms were now shaking with each push-up in a struggle to lift himself against the force of gravity. By this time sweat was profusely dropping off of his face, there was no sound except his heavy breathing; there was not a dry eye in the room.

The very last two students in the room were two young women, both cheerleaders, and very popular.Dr. Christianson went to Linda, the second to last, and asked, "Linda, do you want a donut?" Linda said, very sadly, "No, thank you."Professor Christianson quietly asked, "Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Linda can have a donut she doesn't want?"Grunting from the effort, Steve did ten very slow push-ups for Linda. Then Dr. Christianson turned to the last girl, Susan. "Susan, do you want a donut?"Susan, with tears flowing down her face, began to cry. "Dr. Christianson, why can't I help him?"Dr. Christianson, with tears of his own, said, "No, Steve has to do it alone; I have given him this task and he is in charge of seeing that everyone has an opportunity for a donut whether they want it or not.

"When I decided to have a party this last day of class, I looked at my grade book. Steve here is the only student with a perfect grade. Everyone else has failed a test, skipped class, or offered me inferior work. Steve told me that in football practice, when a player messes up he must do push-ups. I told Steve that none of you could come to my party unless he paid the price for you coming by doing your push-ups. He and I made a deal for your sakes""Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Susan can have a donut?"As Steve very slowly finished his last push-up, with the understanding that he had accomplished all that was required of him, having done 350 push-ups, his arms buckled beneath him and he fell to the floor.Dr. Christianson turned to the room and said, "And so it was, that our Savior, Jesus Christ, on the cross, plead to the Father, 'Into thy hands I commend my spirit.' With the understanding that He had done everything that was required of Him, He yielded up His life. And like some of those in this room, many of us leave the gift on the desk, uneaten."

Two students helped Steve up off the floor and to a seat, physically exhausted, but wearing a thin smile."Well done, good and faithful servant," said the professor to Steve, adding, "Not all sermons are preached in words."Turning to his class, the professor said, "My wish is that you might understand and fully comprehend all the riches of grace and mercy that have been given to you through the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He spared not His only Begotten Son, but gave Him up for us all, for the whole Church, now and forever. Whether or not we choose to accept His gift to us, the price has been paid."

"Wouldn't you be foolish and ungrateful to leave it lying on the desk?"

I welcome all comments. Feel free to comment on-page, or e-mail feedback to CandidChristian@gmail.com.