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.

2008-06-12 0 comments

Spreading the word...

I haven't had the time for a blog post all week...been too hectic. Crazy. Confusing. Depressing. All that stuff. Praise God for Grace, and for the fact that "He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion..."

But these things are pretty cool: based on the number of followers I have on Twitter, I rank No. 1 for "Follower of Jesus" and top five for "Jesus." I'm top 50 for the "religion" section.

Is that an effective form of evangelism? Why or why not?

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

2008-06-09 0 comments

Multi-Media Monday

Mark Driscoll talks about missional Christianity and cultural relevance at the 2008 Purpose Driven Summit.

Free Videos by Ustream.TV

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

2008-06-06 0 comments

How Would Jesus Vote? The Iraq War debate...

"Just war" proponents will point to the Hebrew translation of "Thou Shalt Not Kill" and point out that "kill" is better translated as "murder." (The difference is highlighted between the King James Version translation and that of the English Standard Version). Fair enough. It adds to the debate, which is OK by me.

But there's still something to be said about rejecting war on moral grounds. So, how does the war in Iraq stand up to moral scrutiny? Would Christ, who so famously implored His followers to love their enemies and turn the other cheek, have supported the war? Would He support it now?

John McCain supports the Iraq war. How does that stance stack up against the debate on abortion rights, which Barack Obama wholeheartedly supports?

How much emphasis do you put on the war in Iraq as a moral issue in this year's campaign? 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.

2008-06-05 0 comments

Two great links for a Thursday...

As always, Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest is fantastic today. But today's spoke to me in a very special way.

(By the way...if you are reading this on a day other than Thursday, June 5, know that RBC Ministries updates the URL each day to reflect that day's devo. So, if you want to read the specific devo I mentioned, you'll have to go through archives to find the right one. But, really, you can't go wrong with Oswald Chambers. Any day is a good one. IN fact, you should just buy a copy for your personal use if you haven't already.)

Also, I came across this blog, which is promoting a summer New Testament reading plan. Not a bad idea. Print the PDF, stick it in your favorite reading Bible and go for it.

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


How Would Jesus Vote? The abortion debate...

Since abortion is a big issue to most evangelical Christians, it's important to note the following blog post, "The Most Anti-Life Candidate Ever."

Of course, ours is a multi-faceted election, with diverse issues such as the Iraq War, the economy and health care all playing central roles. Each candidate, both Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain, will undoubtedly start revealing policy specifics now that we have presumptive nominees for both parties and with the general elections just months away.

(By the way, I'll be cleaning up the How Would Jesus Vote sidebar in the coming days to reflect the narrow race, and add some more posts on each candidate now that we have to. Also, as soon as we know who the running mates will be, I'll be posting special VP editions of How Would Jesus Vote. Stay tuned.)

The question, then, is this: how big a role does the abortion debate play in your decision this November? Is it important at all? Will the country's laws on abortion change under either administration? How and why? I look forward to your comments.

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

2008-06-04 0 comments

West Virginia blogs

Check out this partial list of blogs from around the state of West Virginia.

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