Monday, June 30, 2008


Read this article below, written by Audrey Barrack. You can read it in its entirety here. What follows are some snippets. If you've been at SHOUT recently, this should say something to you (especially if you were there this past week).

More Americans are acquainted with a gay or lesbian person than an evangelical, according to a recent study.

The latest research by Phoenix-based Ellison Research found that only 24 percent of all Americans who say they are not evangelical know an evangelical person very well and 40 percent have never known any evangelicals at all, even casually. Meanwhile, 53 percent say they know a homosexual person very well and 20 percent know such a person casually.

"The study raises questions about why members of some groups are largely invisible to so many Americans," Ron Sellers, president of Ellison Research, noted.

Sellers pointed out that homosexuals are estimated to make up less than 10 percent of the U.S. population while 17 percent of Americans call themselves evangelical. Despite the larger evangelical count, Americans are more likely to know a gay or lesbian person than an evangelical.

Also, the study showed that a majority of evangelicals (62 percent), along with 75 percent of Protestant churchgoers and 77 percent of all Catholics, know a gay or lesbian person at least casually.

"Is this because homosexuals are more open than evangelicals about who they are? Because Americans are more open to knowing a homosexual than an evangelical? Because evangelicals themselves are less likely to reach into the broader community to form relationships?" he posed. "These questions are certainly open to debate."

The questions Sellers posed can also be applied to other groups, he noted. "You could just as easily ask these questions about Mormons versus evangelicals, where Americans are just as likely to know a Mormon as an evangelical, even though by any measure the evangelical population in the U.S. is dramatically larger than the Mormon population."

According to the study, 21 percent know a Mormon very well.

Statistics were more positive for born-again Christians, but only to a small extent. Among Americans who do not call themselves born again, 38 percent say they know a born-again Christian very well and 18 percent have never known one.

Among other findings, half of all Americans know a member of the Christian clergy very well, 20 percent know one casually, and 12 percent have never known a clergyperson. More interestingly, the study pointed out that among people who regularly attend worship services, 30 percent say they do not currently know any clergy members very well and 14 percent say they do not even know one, including their own minister or priest, casually.

Younger Americans are less likely to know a Christian clergyperson. Only 39 percent of people under 35 know a Christian clergyperson very well compared to 48 percent of people 35 to 54 years old and 61 percent of those 55 or older.

Even fewer Catholic churchgoers report knowing any clergy with 23 percent saying they do not know one even casually, according to the study.

Although Catholics may not know their own priest, many Americans are acquainted with Catholics. With Catholics representing a large segment of the U.S. population, 76 percent of all non-Catholics say they currently know a Roman Catholic very well. Only 3 percent have never known a Catholic.

In other findings, people who regularly attend worship services are as likely to know people across religious or irreligious lines – atheists, Muslims, Mormons, and Jews – as those who are not active in a church or the unchurched.

The Ellison study also measured Americans' acquaintances with other types of people, including those of another ethnic background and persons in a different political party.

Among non-white Americans, 92 percent currently know a white person very well. Among non-blacks, 68 percent know a black person very well. And among non-Latinos, 72 percent know a Latino individual very well. Only 44 percent know an Asian person very well and the numbers are similar for American Indians and for Jews.

The study additionally showed that many Americans are not acquainted with those on the opposite side of the political spectrum. Less than half (47 percent) of Americans who are not politically conservative say they know someone who is, and 24 percent have never known a conservative. Also, only 42 percent of adults who do not call themselves politically liberal know a liberal person and 25 percent have never known one.

Further looking into the relationships of conservatives and liberals, Sellers found the similarities more striking than the differences.

"Yes, conservatives are more likely to know a born again Christian, but two-thirds of liberals also know one at least casually," he said. "And yes, liberals are more likely to know a gay or lesbian person, but two-thirds of conservatives also know one at least casually. Liberals and conservatives may have very different worldviews, but the relationships they maintain aren’t really all that different, despite the stereotypes.”

Findings from the study, which was conducted on 1,007 adults, can be interpreted either positively or negatively, Sellers commented.

"On the positive side, the study shows the vast majority of Americans know someone of a different racial or ethnic background very well, and many also know people of different religious or political viewpoints," he stated.

"On the negative side, there are plenty of types of people many Americans have really never encountered. Four out of ten have never known – even casually – someone who has experienced homelessness. A third have never known an evangelical or a Mormon. Almost half have never known a Muslim. One out of five has never known an American Indian. One out of every four liberals has never known a conservative, and vice versa. Not knowing a variety of people has implications for how we live our lives and how we think of others."

Loving The Sinner

MESSAGE: Power To Forgive Sins Pt. 1 (podcast)
SCRIPTURE: Luke 5.12-15

If you missed SHOUT this past week and you want to continue reading this blog, you need to go listen to the podcast. I'm not going to get into the gist of the message and the scripture here (which you'll need to know to get what I'm going to say here). What I want to talk about today is what happened in downtown Minneapolis on Sunday morning and how we as Christians should/must react to it.

If you're not aware already, one of the biggest celebrations of gay pride in the Midwest took place in Minneapolis this past Sunday by way of a gay pride parade, music, dancing, demonstrations, costumes, chants, etc.

"I like [the festival] because it actually shows tolerance. It shows what it means to be inclusive and by having a parade like this, where a lot of people can come, you can expose children and people to the fact that our society can be an open place, where everyone can get along," said Chauncey Dunn.

There are a million things wrong with this guy's line of thinking (tolerance, being "inclusive," exposing children, "can't we all just get along" mentality, etc.) A few quick Google searches will get you some results of pictures and videos from this year's gay pride celebration, which I can't in good conscience post on this blog.

Simply put, there are several things that irritate me about the whole gay agenda and the gay pride thing in Minneapolis this past weekend. I see quotes like the one above, and I watch posted videos and look at pictures of the event, and I end up shaking my head in disbelief.

Also, a lot of what I see makes me want to abandon any hope of ever getting the message of salvation to these people. I look at the quote from Chauncey and wonder how the gospel would EVER make sense to that guy. Is it even worth the time and effort to try to minister to this sub-culture?

This is the attitude that I feel the majority of the Christian church (and I must confess, myself as well sometimes) has with demographics such as the gay community: they're too far gone in their sin to ever come back. And thus, the church has to an extent, abandoned all hope in regards to ministry to these people.

This attitude is wrong, unbiblical, sinful, and full of pride - and it is NOT the attitude Jesus had.

When Jesus conversed with and healed the leper in Luke 5, he transcended several stigmas placed on people of the leper demographic: social stigmas (lepers were outcasts, not to be associated with because of their disease), and spiritual stigmas (lepers were considered to be such because they were under judgment by God - in other words, too far gone in their sin to ever come back - see above). What does Jesus' interaction with the leper mean? It means that he couldn't have cared less about the social stigmas of interacting with a leper. It also means that he had a desire to meet people in their sin and draw them out of it. He didn't abandon hope of getting the message of salvation to sinners; he didn't shake his head and sigh and be disgusted; he didn't think that the sinners he dealt with were too far gone in their sin to ever come back.

So what do we see Jesus do? He reaches out to sinners in their sin. He obviously knows the extent to which they are steeped in sin (no better or worse than homosexuals by the way), and reaches out to them because he loves them, he cares for them, and he wants to save them.

Unfortunately I think that we (the church) are all to quick to look away when we see people like homosexuals and think to ourselves, "They are too far gone in their sin to ever respond to the gospel." Then what do we do? We shake our heads in disgust, maybe complain to our friends about them, gossip at church about how evil homosexuals are, and sit back and enjoy our religiosity. If that's what we do, then we've got a joke of a faith, and we're no better than the Jews who were in disbelief when Jesus told them that he came for the humble sinners, and not the proud and self-righteous (I fully acknowledge, however, that many homosexuals are proud and self-righteous, but we need to minister to them anyway, even in their pride and self-righteousness - it's what Jesus did).

On an earlier blog, I posted a quote from a woman named Phoebe Palmer that has been weighing on my mind recently: "I have set it in my mind that one soul outweighs the universe." Do you believe that? If so, you need to realize that this includes the souls of people who disgust you and make you shake your head in disbelief.

What does it mean to minister to people like homosexuals? First of all, it does NOT mean condoning the lifestyle, or excusing the sin. This has become a problem with some Christians my age who have identified the problem with the church that I listed above. They recognize the problem and they want to minister, but sometimes in the end, they end up encouraging the sinner in his or her sin without ever addressing the sin problem (or repentance). Jesus didn't come just to love and accept people - he came to "cleanse" them, like he did with the leper. True, he did come to show love, but it wasn't some type of squishy, emotional love - it was a perfecting love (thanks, Jimmy Mac). That is to say that Jesus never shows anyone "love" without including a message to them about their need for salvation (you see this with Jesus and the rejects of society, and also with Jesus and his interaction with the wealthy and elite). We can't just go around "loving" people. Quite frankly, it doesn't work. I've been "loving" a lot of non-believers (unregenerate sinners, pagans) for a long time now, and they haven't come to Christ. So "loving people" can't be the only thing we're supposed to do. We're supposed to love the person, and let that love motivate us to deliver the gospel to them. In order to minister to people like homosexuals (I single out homosexuals merely because of the recent gay pride activities - you can place any and every person and people group on the list of people who need to be ministered to, because we're all sinners) you have to do what Jesus did: love the person, recognize, acknowledge, and confront the sin, and then offer them the means for cleansing.

So what has happened to the church? Why do we sometimes shake our heads and feel that it's a fruitless endeavor to minister to the likes of these? It's quite simple really: pride. We think we're so great and they're so terrible. We think we've got some kind of special merit that they don't have. We think there's something lovely about us that makes Jesus want to save us. Nothing could be further from the truth! Every human being on this planet has the potential for the most evil, perverted, disgusting, murderous, acts imaginable. In order to minister to sinners we need to realize that WE are sinners. In order to minister to homosexuals we need to realize that we have that same potential for sin within us, and it's only by God's grace that we haven't gone down that particular route (whatever that route may be: lying, sexual immorality, porn, stealing, lusting, coveting, etc.).

I like the way The Way of the Master suggests to minister to those who are gay: if a homosexual tells you that they were born that way you say, "Yep. I was too. I was born with the same potential for sin that you have," and then take it from their into addressing the person's specific sin, and then go into the gospel.

May God give us wisdom to see ALL people as he sees them: sinners in need of redemption. May God give us the strength and the courage to reach out to ALL people who need him. May God give us a burden and passion for the lost. May God give us compassion to look upon people in the same way that Jesus looked upon the leper. May God give us all these things in order to preach the gospel to all people, to the ends of the earth.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mission of the Church

I have finally completed my first seminary class, entitled "Mission of the Church" (finally! Three credits down, 93 to go! Hang on a minute while I go contemplate suicide). The class was a two-week intensive that required mountains of reading and a paper due each day. Needless to say, it was a long two weeks. The class also entailed a final project, which consisted a large amount of research, personal interviews, and a 20 page paper. For the project, we were to identify a sub-culture within the culture, and figure out what the "mission of the church" should be to this sub-culture. In other words, what should the mission of the church look like to, say, unwed single mothers in their 30's who are working three jobs to make ends meet? What should the church (the Christians who make up the church) do to minister to this people group?

The sub-culture that I chose was "20-Somethings Who Grew Up In The Church But Have Since Fallen Away From Both Faith and The Church." Yeah, I know - that's pretty specific. As part of my research I surveyed a few people, some active in their faith, some not (mostly not). The point is that all the people I talked to have at one time been very active in their faith, and now at this point in their life, have cooled off for whatever reason. My job was to find out their spiritual history, figure out what they thought of faith and the church, determine why they left the faith, and then conclude how the church should go about ministering to these people in today's context. What follows are some of the responses to my survey questions. I thought they were pretty interesting, so I thought I'd post them here. Some of them I had to "clean up" a bit, because some of these folks were pretty bitter. I'm just putting these out there for you to read and make your own conclusions. I could copy/paste my paper into a blog, but you'd probably get pretty bored reading it. Anyway, here goes:

1. When did you get saved?

When I was so young I hardly remember. I do remember more like growing into my faith as a teenager.

2000 years ago, the same time as everyone else.

First when I was 3, then when I was in Jr high a couple times.

2. What was your conversion experience like (what did you do?For example, did you “ask Jesus into your heart?” Did you pray the “sinner’s prayer,” etc.)?

Prayed the magical prayer.

Yeah, but that’s missing the point. Nothing any person can do, like saying the “sinner’s prayer” matters.

Most likely “ask Jesus in my heart”.

3. When you sere saved, did you have any knowledge of the biblical concept of repentance? If so, please describe how repentance has played a part in your life.

Repentance is something that I’ve always been pretty familiar with. When I was younger I always fell into the self-destructive trap of the cycle of repentance and relapse. It wasn’t until I stepped beyond that and realized that relapse is neither unnatural nor damning, that I finally became comfortable with my, for lack of a better term, moral life.

4. Are you currently active in your faith?

I seek the truth everyday.

Not in a "Christian faith."

5. Do you currently have an active spiritual life outside the church (Bible reading, prayer, fellowship with other believers, etc.)?

The underlying theme of my adult life has been the pursuit of a greater understanding of people, God, nature, and the universe. I pursue that goal of learning through interaction, contemplation, observation and experiences.

6. Do you think the church adequately cares for the “underprivileged” in society? If not, what could the church do better to meet social needs?

It is hard for me to define “adequately” since I don’t know what the correct amount of caring is, according to the Bible. Generally speaking though, I would say no. It seems like churches are far more concerned with “caring for” their own populations/members, rather than “reaching out” to society.

7. Do you equate the church and today’s Christians as part of the “religious right?”

The Christians of today have no balls anymore to act differently than society or express publicly what they believe in. This is either because they don’t truly believe, or because they don’t care, or because they have the teddy-bear God-loves-everyone view of God.

“Equate?” No. But there are certainly very visible and outspoken leaders within the church that have an overtly political agenda. Not that it’s necessarily a good or bad thing.

8. What problems or disagreements do you have with the church at this point in your life?

I feel that there is a large segment that is so closed to change. And to embarrassed and rigid to even dialogue with people who are so immersed in lifestyles that they disagree with. When was the last time anyone from a church chatted with or even saw a transvestite?

That they have “singing and worship” and “praying in public” which are two things I do not think need to be done in a group setting. At least they annoy the %#*$ out of me. They also preach in some pretend “magical” voice and are all “emotional” about stuff that I don’t think needs to be presented in such a way.

My biggest problem is that conventional “Christianity” is actually based more on the writing of Paul, then on the teachings of Jesus. It would more aptly be describes as “Paulanity.”

9. What, if anything, do you think the church does right or well?

They seem to have plenty of programs for their congregations/members, and plenty of services to sell them through tithing. They also seem to be more than well-equipped to rape the minds of young children and instill in them their idea of truth, rather than allow for self-discovery when children are at an age to do so. This type of indoctrination may or may not be biblical, I don’t really know. But I do not like the method.

My experiences in church have given me much to think about and ponder. Some lines of reasoning have been fruitful, some have not. But that’s perfectly natural. No one ever gets it right, but church has encouraged many improvements in my disposition and beliefs, and many of these are things that are not likely to have otherwise occurred to me.

10. What, in your opinion, does the church fail at or do poorly?

Fails to change stylewise and keep open dialogue with the evolving culture. Being a “Christian” doesn’t mean you are just 100 years behind the cultures in song dress etc…

They don’t teach the Bible very well or present it correctly. They also don’t discuss history enough in relation to Christianity or religion. They also seem to be very self-righteous people for the most part and very judgmental of those that are unsure of the truth or want to explore different avenues to find said truths.

I don’t like the way churches use guilt and fear to achieve their ends, albeit often unintentionally. I think that in many cases this can lead to mob mentality in the population, and self-esteem problems for the individual.

11. Do you think the church has progressed or emerged in ways that satisfy the spiritual and social needs of people in your age demographic?

Not really. To be active in the church in my age, you basically either have to be a fag or completely retarded when it comes to reality, and shun all sorts of reality. Or, you have to be two-sided like a penny. One side has a building on it and the other side has a shitty picture of a shitty dictator. You act all super-gay and feminine when you go to church, and then you act “normal” outside of church. Completely pointless then to go to church in my opinion, unless you are looking for some type of self-fulfillment to make yourself feel better. Obviously not what the church method is supposed to be.

12. What do you think the mission of the church should be? That is to say, what do you think is the purpose of the church’s existence?

Obviously there are many purposes, but I think they can be summarized by saying that the church’s purpose is to serve the community’s spiritual and physical needs.

Check the Bible and see what it says regarding church existence. I have no idea what it should be, but it should attempt to search for and follow the “truth” as much as possible.

13. If you could give the church one piece of advice, what would it be?

Don’t be so rigid about the things that you needen’t be rigid about. We say all the time Jesus hung out with drunks and prostitutes and then we never hang out with either of them.

Give me my money back. I used to “tithe” like a Gentile when I was younger. But now the church has seemed to drift left, castrate itself, and bleed all over the place and not be aggressive in pursuing truth or preaching realistic views of God/Jesus/the Bible. I also feel the church didn’t stick with the younger people who they indoctrinated as children, who then grew up and started thinking for themselves. Rather than assist in the thought-process and exploration, they are quick to judge and condemn (as am I, of them) and tell me to %@$# off. I would like my money back that I invested since the investment was based on false promises.

Lighten up. Don’t take yourselves so seriously, and recognize that just because others are usually wrong, that doesn’t mean that you’re always right.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Dogbert Gets It.

My favorite line: "Thanks to advanced computer graphics...and clay...." Funny.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Uncle Shelby

As I write this I am coming down from two and a half days of hosting a garage sale at my home. My whole family participated, and there were several people who were selling items in the sale. It was a lot of fun, but also a lot of work. It seems like someone in my family hosts a garage sale each year - this year it was my turn.

THroughout the course of the day today (Friday), I did some rummaging through the many things that had been collected in my garage, just to see what was there, and two see if there was anything that I might be interested in. One quick thing to note is that after you have kids, your whole frame of mind changes. It seems that you are always on the lookout for things that your kid(s) would enjoy. This was part of my reasoning for looking around as well.

I soon came across a book which had the name "Shel Silverstein" written in big letters across the top. I'm familiar with the name of course, as most people are. I pulled the book out and revealed the rest of the cover: "Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book." With my kid radar on, I thought this might be a neat book to keep around for when my son begins to learn such things. It follows the same lines as your typical alphabet books ("A" is for apple, etc.). But as I perused through the book, it quickly became apparent that this was definitely NOT a kid's book. In fact, I was a little shocked and more than a bit disgusted by what I found. But then as I continued to read through the book, it became obvious that the book was written with humor in mind, and not the education of the young, even though the sub-title of the book is: "A Primer For Tender Young Minds" (this title, when looked at in the context of the entire book actually gives a hint to the sarcasm that is found within the book).

The book is written with simple, easy to understand language that children can understand, but the content is definitely not for children. Allow me to give you some examples:

B is for Baby.
See the baby.
The baby is fat.
The baby is pink.
The baby can cry.
The baby can laugh.
See the baby play.
Play baby, play.
Pretty, pretty, baby.
Mommy loves the baby
More than she loves you.

(This was the first entry from the book that I had read, and I had not yet caught onto the humor of the book. I chuckled to myself, but thought initially that it was just a coincidence.)

G is for gigolo (next to the word "gigolo" there is an instrument that looks like a clarinet).
See the pretty gigolo.
The gigolo makes beautiful music.
The next time your mommy goes shopping,
Ask her to buy you a gigolo.
She will tell all the neighbors how cute you are.
And she will write it in to the Reader's Digest
And they will print it and send you money.

K is for Kidnapper.
See the nice kidnapper?
The kidnapper has a lollipop.
The kidnapper has a keen car.
The car can go fast.
Tell the nice kidnapper that your daddy has lots of money.
Ten maybe he will let you ride in his car.

(Yes, this is a REAL book!)

O is for Oz.
Do you want to visit the wonderful far-off land of Oz?
Where the Wizard lives and scarecrows can dance,
And the road is made of yellow bricks,
And everything is emerald green?
Well, you can't because there is no land of OZ,
And there is no tin Woodsman,

P is for Pony.
See the pony?
The pony lives in the gas tank of Daddy's car.
He makes the car go.
That is called "horse power."
Maybe the pony is hungry.
Pour some nice sugar into the gas tank.
Ponies love sugar.
When Daddy comes home tell him you have fed the pony ,
And maybe he will buy you a cowboy suit.

V is for vacuum cleaner.
See the vacuum cleaner pick up the cracker crumbs.
See the vacuum cleaner pick up the cigarette butts.
The vacuum cleaner can pick up anything!
Do you think the vacuum cleaner can pick up the cat?

And then, on the last page of the book you find these words: "P.S. the paper in this book is not really is made from candy."

I must confess that I think that this book is pure genius. It's even better because Shel Silverstein is obviously known for his landmark children's books, such as "A Light In The Attic," and "Where the Sidewalk Ends," among others. Who would've thought that this guy could have (or more to the point WOULD have) written a book like this? Knowing that the book was written by Silverstein is part of what makes it so shockingly funny.

Also, I must confess that I think it's funny because I find myself identifying with the book (!). Now before you think I'm nuts, let me explain. I have two nieces that I LOVE to torment by telling them weird things and playing with their minds. Of course, I always tell them that I am just joking, and I explain to them what reality is, but it allows for a lot of really fun (and funny) experiences in my family (I intend to do the same thing with my kids when they get older/are born). Any kid of mine will have a deep and rich appreciation of sarcasm (which this book is chock full of, which is probably why I like it so much).

Try to find yourself a copy of this book (you can borrow mine). It's a good, funny, and a little scary read.

Monday, June 23, 2008

What Bible Are These People Reading?

Hey. Are you in a good mood? Are you encouraged that Christians are finally banding together to stand up for biblical truth? Does it excite you to think about Christians stepping forward into the culture to proclaim that there is but one way of salvation and his name is Jesus? If you are...allow me to spoil your mood.

Pew research came out with its religious landscape study today (or at least, I heard about it today on the Albert Mohler radio show), and the findings are, to say the least, unsettling. It turns out that more than half of the people in this country who claim to be Christians don't know how to read their Bible. Here are some results from the survey:

More than 35,000 Americans were surveyed. Of those, 9,472 claimed to be evangelical Christians (also, Evangelicals were the made up the largest group of respondents). These folks were surveyed on both their core beliefs and practices, and also their social and political involvement. I'll just highlight a few areas that I found to be particularly disturbing.

1) It seems that 36% of all evangelical Christians in this country feel that abortion should be legal in most if not all circumstances. 36%! Let me say something here: abortion is NOT a political issue. Whatever side of the political aisle you fall on should not and must not have an impact on how you feel about life. Instead, scripture should determine how you feel about life. It has nothing to do with politics. It has everything to do with how God feels about life - all life. God created mankind in his image (Genesis 1.27, James 3.9-10, etc.); God is intricately involved in the pre-born development of children (Psalm 139.13, 15, Psalm 22.10-11, Galatians 1.15, etc.); Jesus paid special attention to the poor, unloved, weak, vulnerable, and powerless. How much more poor, lowly, and vulnerable can you get than to be unborn? There's a segment of Christians these days (as evidenced by the 36%) that feel that Christians are too wrapped up in fighting homosexuality (which we'll get to in just a minute) and abortion, and that we don't care enough for the poor, starving, etc. To an extent I can agree - we can't disregard those pressing needs. However - poor people and hungry people at least have a voice. They can take action. They can do something. An unborn child can't even speak, let alone defend himself! And more than that, God is about life, as evidenced by even the briefest glimpse of scripture, and therefore those who bear the title of Christian should be as well. Read you Bibles, people.

2) The next encouraging (since you can't see my face, I feel it necessary to inform you that this is sarcasm), is that 26% of evangelical Christians believe that homosexuality should be accepted by society. Show me the verse that even hints at this! Scripture condemns ANY type of sexual sin, and says that believers should flee from all sin. Societal acceptance doesn't make something right (in most cases, societal acceptance just proves that the majority of people can be wrong). But I feel I must add something else here. The church in general has done a poor job of loving homosexuals. We see them as untouchable or unreachable, and by seeing them in such a way, we are transgressing the second greatest commandment (love your neighbor as yourself). They are sinners, as are all people. We must love them - not by approving or "accepting" what they are doing, but by identifying with them, and most of all, sharing the gospel with them. Again, read your Bibles, people.

3) 54% or evangelical Christians believe that we need to take serious action in regards to the protecting the environment and combating global warming. I've commented before on global warming and the Christian, so check that out. But again, what it boils down to is people need to read their Bibles to figure what what to think about this stuff. Don't just go with what the media and society is saying.

4) And now for the most encouraging news of the day - and this one is shocking - utterly shocking, when you think about it. I'm actually shaking my head in disbelief as I write this. 60% OF EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS BELIEVE THAT ALL RELIGIONS LEAD TO GOD. Did you hear that? Do I need to write it in capital letters again for you in order for it to sink in? Ok. 57% OF EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS BELIEVE THAT ALL RELIGIONS LEAD TO GOD. That means that they DON'T believe that Jesus is the only way. They don't believe that no man can come to the Father but by Christ. Something is seriously wrong. I'm not sure what it is. Hopefully it's a result of people not knowing how to identify themselves religiously, so they just identified themselves as an evangelical Christian because they didn't know what else to put. If this accurately represents evangelical Christianity, we have got serious problems. God is going to be working over time on separating the sheep from the goats. What's it come back to? READ YOUR BIBLE. Does the Bible suggest that there are many ways to God, or merely one, being Christ? I would think that even if you've just gone to Sunday School and church your whole life with no other spiritual conviction or activity, that you would be able to realize that Jesus claims to be the only way. It couldn't be more implicit in scripture. Do I need to quote John 14.6? I wouldn't think so.

There are, as I see it, only two conclusions that one must come to when analyzing these statistics: A) people are ignorant, stupid, and fell asleep their entire life at church, or B) the church and its ministers of the gospel have failed miserably at preaching biblical truth. Which is it? A little from column A, a little from column B. But mostly column B. I think we've neglected to preach the gospel in truth, and preach the moral implications of the gospel. It's so clearly outlined in scripture, how could it be missed? The only way that it could be missed is if the truth is misrepresented. The American church needs a rude awakening. Maybe we need some persecution. Maybe we need some economic distress. Whatever it is, pray that God would purify and refine his church.

Peter, Where's Your POSMA?

MESSAGE: Gone Fishin' (podcast)
SCRIPTURE: Luke 5.1-11

When I was in, I think 5th grade, my school brought a therapist, or counselor, or some kind of touchy feely person in to tell all us poor kids about POSMA. What the heck is POSMA? POSitive Mental Attitude. In other words: self-esteem and feeling good about yourself. This woman told us that we just need to believe in ourselves really, really hard and think really, really well of ourselves and everything in our lives will turn out ok. After all, it doesn't matter what anyone thinks about you, except you! Basically the whole message was very humanistic - the essence of your thoughts and emotions regarding yourself is all that counts. We even went through a bunch of ridiculous exercises, like the "Compliment Carwash," in which all the students lined up in two lines facing each other and then raised their hands to form an "A" frame, and then one student at a time went through the "car wash" and received compliments from all the other students, all in an attempt to bolster our POSMA.

Did it work? Well, here I sit, writing this blog, so you be the judge.

Channel 11 (NBC) sometimes plays some ridiculous ads (you know the ones, "The More You Know," with the catchy little jingle at the same time) that will often touch on the whole POSMA way of thinking, that usually make me want to put my boot through the TV screen. I recently saw one with the chick from Law & Order: SVU on it, and believe it or not, these words actually came out of her mouth: "We are all born knowing our one true love: ourselves." The first time I saw this PSA, I had to control my gag reflex.

Wow, that's a lot of maniacal raving about some seemingly insignificant things there Joel, don't you think? Maybe. I guess my POSMA is a bit low.

The truth is that the Bible speaks clearly against the whole idea of self-esteem, or POSMA, or whatever you want to call it. When the Bible identifies people who are in love with themselves, or who think they can soldier through any difficulty on their own by the power of positive thinking about themselves, it usually says that they are full of pride and thus, unable to see themselves in truth.

Luke 5.1-11 gives the perfect example of anti-POSMA: Peter. When he is confronted with the reality of the living God in his midst, his whole world collapses. He realizes how high, holy, and pure Jesus (God) is, and how low, slimy, sin-filled, and unworthy he is. And when he realizes this, he demands that Jesus leave his presence because he can't stand to be in the same boat as Jesus after this realization. Any good thoughts that Peter had about himself and his POSMA got flushed down the toilet when he realized who and what Jesus was. He responded to his realization thusly: "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" But, of course Jesus doesn't listen to Peter, and he doesn't leave. Instead he says, "Do not be afraid." He comforts Peter in his right knowledge of the situation. Peter is saved, and begins to "fish for men."

Does this mean that we have to go around constantly thinking poorly of ourselves all the time and live our lives down in the dumps? Of course not. The world preaches POSMA by the humanistic system - believe in yourself, rely upon your strengths, you are good enough to accomplish anything you want. Jesus preaches POSMA by HIS system - don't believe in yourself, believe in me - rely upon my strength in your weakness, because my strength is perfect - you aren't good enough to accomplish anything you want, but I am. Thus, POSMA turns into a positive mental attitude about realizing what sinners we are, realizing the love of God for us, and trusting in Christ to forgive our sins, give us strength and power, and having the glory of God be our focus instead of the glory of self.

A couple weeks ago I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to our church's camp in Lansing, Iowa and lead a few staff training sessions before the camping season started. One of the first things I wanted to make clear to everyone that was down there, was that there was nothing that they were going to accomplish. Even if they were gifted for this ministry, even if they have years of experience, and even if they love being a camp counselor - they could not, and would not accomplish a thing. The only way that any lasting ministry would occur would be through the power of God. And I also stressed to them that God's strength will be made perfect in their weakness. I've been down to camp in the midst of the camping season, and I've seen the burnt-out counselors and staff. And I couldn't blame them. If I had to endure 3 months of ankle biters, hot weather, and 23 hour work days, I would be pretty wiped out too. And in these conditions, it would be easy to lose your worldly POSMA and think that you can't accomplish anything, because it's just too hard, you're not good enough, you don't have the necessary skills to accomplish any ministry goals, and you've got no strength left in you to do anything. And then you get depressed, because your lack of POSMA will surely influence the results of your ministry: kids won't be counseled, they might not get their questions answered, and they might not get saved. This line of thinking is totally faulty, of course. Because if we realize that there's nothing about us that can accomplish anything, then we're completely relying upon God to do the work, and there's no better worker than God.

Where's your POSMA? If it's placed in anyone or anything but Christ, you've got a long, depressing road ahead of you. Come to Jesus and, like Peter, say, "I am a sinful man!" And when you do that, you'll see what God is really capable of.

If you want to read more about the anti-biblical message of self-esteem, click here.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mobility = Chaos

Now that he is mobile, a close eye must be kept on my son - he wants to experience everything within his reach. Hence the opened bag of dinner rolls that were subsequently spread all over the kitchen floor at Grandma's house.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Words To Live By...Or Not

During my young adulthood, I kept a notebook in which I recorded quotes and random statements that made me either think, laugh, or learn. I recently found this notebook stashed away on a bookshelf, so I picked it up to look at it, having not read it in years. The quotes I read brought back some memories (some of which showed me how young and stupid I used to be!). What follows are some selections that I thought were interesting. You probably won't recognize many of the names that these quotes are attributed to. I merely found them in something I read, heard a speaker say them, or saw them somewhere and they made me think, chuckle, or be introspective. See for yourself:

You should be living in such a way that you are expecting God to do the impossible.
Kent Julian

-I hardly ever so longed to live to God and to be altogether devoted to Him; I want to wear out my life in His service and for His glory.
David Brainerd.

If you want to be noticed, stand up. If you want to be heard, speak up. If you want to be appreciated, shut up and sit down.

This is God’s universe, so He does things His way. Now, you may have a better way to do things, but you don’t have a universe.
J. Vernon McGee (the sub-heading of this blog. These are words that I constantly have to remind myself to remember.)

No one can become an authentic Christian on a steady diet of activity. Power comes out of stillness; strength comes out of solitude.
Bill Haydes

All of God’s giants have been weak men who did great things for God, because they have reckoned on God’s being with them.
Hudson Taylor

I have set it in my mind that one soul outweighs the universe.
Phoebe Palmer

Just because sin is popular doesn’t make it any less sinful.
Reggie White

I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble.
Helen Keller

Some wish to live within the sound of chapel and church bell. I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell!
C.T. Stud

If who I am is what I have, and what I have is lost, then who am I?
Al Ahlquist

We are born naked, wet, and hungry. Then things get worse.

Some people will leave a mark on this word. Others will just leave a stain.

Fear is Nature’s (God’s) way of saying “Get busy.”
Henry Link

Hard work has a future, laziness pays off now.

I’m not into working out. My philosophy: no pain, no pain.
Carol Leifer

Don’t let it end like this. Tell them I said something.
Poncho Villa (his last words)

The face of a child can say it all – especially the mouth part of the face.

Everything that can be invented has been invented.
Charles H. Duell (commissioner of U.S. office of patents, 1899)

Blessed is he who laughs at himself, for he will never cease to be entertained.
John Powell

If you try and don’t succeed, cheat. Repeat until caught. Then lie.
Some Jerk

The Management

No other country in history can claim the quality of life or degree of liberty that many Americans today take for granted.
Charlton Heston

Many of you have enough dust on your Bibles to be able to spell out the word "damnation" on the cover.
Charles Spurgeon (to his congregation!)

Sometimes a majority only means that all of the fools are on the same side.

Rome did not create a great empire by having meetings – they did it by killing all those who opposed them.
Inspirational office poster

And Jesus said, “Who do you say I am?” And they answered, “You are the eschatological manifestation of the ground of our being, the kerugma in which we find the ultimate meaning of our interpersonal relationship.” And Jesus said, “What?”

Of all the habits that lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would men claim the tributes of patriotism who would work to destroy these great pillars of human happiness…it is impossible to govern rightly without God and the Bible.
George Washington

Give me lord, a soul that knows nothing of boredom, groans, and sighs. Never let me be overly concerned for this inconsistent thing I call “me.”
Thomas More

I like long walks – especially when they’re taken by people who annoy me.
Fred Allen

Fully, to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.
C.S. Lewis

It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.

The jawbone of an ass is just as dangerous today as it was in Samson’s time.
James Swanson

If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.
John Chancellor

The Lord loveth a cheerful giver. He also accepteth from the grouch.

To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.
Abraham Lincoln

Someone always has it worse.

Act in the valley so that you need not fear those who stand on the hill.

It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong.

What luck for the rulers that men do not think.
Adolf Hitler

The important thing is to never stop questioning.
Albert Einstein

If you want to be popular, a good thing to do is cut off your arm with a toothpick and go around slapping people with it. At least that’s what works for me.

I’ve learned a lot from my cat. Like, life isn’t just a bowl full of steaming rat entrails – sometimes it can be very unpleasant too.

One man with courage makes a majority.
Andrew Jackson

Let us humbly commit our righteous cause to the great Lord of the universe. Let us joyfully leave our concerns in the hands of Him who raises up and puts down the empires and kingdoms as He pleases.
John Hancock

Goodness without wisdom always accomplishes evil.
Robert Heinlein

Life is short. Unless, of course, you’re hanging by your eyelids from two metal chains attached to a crane, waiting for help to arrive, in which case, time tends to drag a bit.
Tom Sims

Some days you’re the pigeon, and some days you’re the statue.

One of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in their struggle for independence.
C.A. Beard

$100.00 placed at 7% interest compounded quarterly for 200 years will increase to more than $100,000,000, by which time it will be worth nothing to you.
Robert Heinlein

Money can’t buy happiness, but you can be sad in a better neighborhood.
Jerry Seinfeld

Drawing on my fine command of language, I choose to say nothing.
Mark Twain

If you don’t love yourself, your neighbor’s in trouble.

Live like you’ll die tomorrow – die knowing you’ll live forever.
Rich Mullins (I think)

How long a minute is depends on which side of the bathroom door you’re on.

Birds of a feather flock together. Then they all get sucked into the engine of the same jet liner.
Meghan Skinner

Men and women who are truly filled with light are those who have gazed deeply into the darkness of their imperfect existence.
Brennan Manning

Could it be that boulders are just statues of big rocks?

Stoop and you’ll be stepped on – stand tall and you’ll be shot at.
Carlos Urbizo

Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
Barry LePatner

Never judge a book by its movie.

Show me a man with both feet on the ground and I’ll show you a man who can’t put on his pants.

Reality is the leading cause of stress for those in touch with it.
Jack Wagner

If there is anything the nonconformist hates worse than a conformist, it’s another nonconformist who doesn’t conform to the prevailing standard of nonconformity.
Bill Vaughan

The greatest things in life aren’t things.

The difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense.
Tom Clancy

The question is not how much of what I have do I give to God, but how much of what God has do I keep for myself?

If you take a dog in and feed it, it will remain loyal to you and never turn on you. This is the principle difference between dog and man.
Mark Twain

I know that there are people in this world who do not love their fellow man, and I HATE people like that.
Tom Lehrer

The bigger they are, the harder they punch.

Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the Ark. Professionals built the Titanic.

God’s judgment may not be immediate, but it is inevitable.

Keep the faith…but not to yourself.

Backyard Bible Club: A Pictorial Review

Here's a little snippet of what we've been up to the past week.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Backyard Bible Club: Days 3 and 4

Days three and four of ByBC were even better than the first two. There were more kids, and it seemed as though both the leaders and the kids were beginning to settle into their respective roles. The leaders felt more confident in what they were doing and teaching, and everything was going well.

Tomorrow sees the closing cranival and rally for ByBC. I'm excited because Riverview has somewhat of a history with church carnivals, and they've always been the same: a lot of work for little return. We've always had a terrible time getting neighborhood kids to come and participate. This time, though, we've already got the neighborhood kids coming to ByBC, so getting them to come to the carnival is just icing on the cake. Plus it's going to be an awesome carnival. We've got not one, but two inflatable games (moonwalk and bungee run) for the kids to go crazy on. Plus we've got a bunch of other cool activities they can participate in that they probably wouldn't normally get to do at VBS (boomerangs, face painting, life size maze, etc.). And more than that, all the activities the kids will do will teach them the story of Jonah and the lesson for the day: you can't run from God! He will find you, and he always gets his way - better to just obey and believe the first time! All that to say that it's going to be a fun, cool, last day of ByBC.

Thanks for your prayers, and keep praying that God would reach out and save someone.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Backyard Bible Club: Days 1 and 2

This year our church neglected to hold a traditional VBS program and instead elected to band together to hold "Backyard Bible Clubs" throughout our neighborhoods. Many of you probably already know about this whole discussion, so I won't bore you with the details - just simply some info on how the first two days of the week have gone.

Day 1: At the very minimum, I think I can say that our expectations were met. We had a total of about 38 kids (some people might think this number low, but bear in mind that our VBS programs the last few years have been about 50 kids - so far, we're only 12 behind average). The leaders were all well-prepared and, I think, excited to get to the challenge of evangelism. My job for ByBC is basically to be a gopher and provide any last minute materials that might be needed or required at a specific club. I'm also the photographer and materials coordinator, and...well.

The first day brought some spiritual excitement: a young girl at one of the clubs listened very intently to the Bible lesson that was presented and was drinking in every word. At the end of the lesson she asked, "What about people who believe other religions? They'll go to God too, right?" I thought the leader who was talking to her reacted to the question masterfully by answering, "God is calling ALL people, from every religion." That's kidspeak for "No." The leader went on to explain that there is only one way to God, etc.

Another significant event occurred when a young boy said that he would like to read about the things he was learning in the Bible for himself, but admitted that he didn't own a Bible. We were able to provide him with one. May God bless his word in that kid's life, and may he be planted along a river and may his roots go deep (Psalm 1).

Day 2: This day saw a slight dip in numbers, as we were only at about 35 kids. At the end of this day, we closed down one of our clubs because there was only one kid attending. We're going to toss her in with another club, and split the leaders up to wherever they'd like to serve.

So far I have been very encouraged by this ministry. It definitely doesn't have the flash of a traditional VBS program, but I think it does much more spiritually. I think VBS programs have been commonly acknowledged by people in the neighborhood as free baby sitting for 3 hours a day for a week. People see it as a way to dump their kids and get some yard work done. This is NOT the purpose of VBS, but nevertheless, it happens (which perhaps should inspire us to examine the effectiveness of VBS programs, and perhaps - gasp! - the possibility that they are no longer "relevant" [I can't believe I just used that word] in today's Christian ministry world - heresy, I know).

One thing that excites me about the Backyard Bible Club program is that it really makes the kids who invite their friends to attend stand out as bold believers. Make no mistake, the material we're using for the club is no holds barred, and very straightforward (one of today's activities included making a chalk outline of each kid and having them write their names within the silhouette and also the words "I am a sinner"). The fact that "host kids" are inviting their friends to learn about Jesus at their HOUSE, in my book, speaks volumes. Those kids' friends will forever know them as believing kids who will stand up for their faith. The lines will be drawn in relationships (this especially excites me as my two nieces are part of a host home, and have invited several of their friends - my sister put it well when she said that her daughters are becoming "mini-evangelists" by hosting a Backyard Bible Club.

The end of the week is going to be a lot of fun. We're concluding the clubs with a big carnival held at the church (Riverview). We're renting a moon walk, and a bungee run, which are both a lot of fun for kids. Plus we'll have a bunch of other games that pertain to that particular day's lesson. It should be fun.

I've been praying that God will do something mighty with what we're doing this week. I pray that someday these kids will look back at this week in remembrance of when they repented and believed. May it be so.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Brains On The Wall

I think the past two weeks have been the busiest of my life.  Seriously, I've been thinking if I've ever had any time in my life that I've had more going on than I do now.  I've been so busy these past two weeks, I was pretty sure my head was going to explode.  Allow me to elaborate: Two weeks ago I started seminary - all four classes at once.  I'm taking a load of nine credits this summer.  Yes, I know, that's crazy.  But I want to get done as soon as possible (an mDiv. is technically a three year degree, but it's 96 credits!  Most master's degrees are 30 or 40 credits.  Thus people usually take 5-7 years to finish the mDiv. - I want to try and finish in three).  One class in particular has been an intensive class - that is to say that it meets every day for four hours and there is a mountain of reading as well as a paper due each day.  Top that off with the professor and I having pretty significant disagreements about the material that we were learning, and you've got a pretty busy schedule just in the school department.  But there's more.

Last week I spent three days at our church's camp in Iowa, leading staff training seminars.  Keep in mind that this is at the same time as my intensive class.  I had to borrow my sister's laptop and use the WiFi at the camp.  Every minute that I wasn't leading a session, I was on the computer doing homework.  But the interesting part about the staff training was getting the booklets and discussions prepared for the sessions, which took longer than something like that usually takes me.  I had to beg my dad for help in folding the booklets, and I didn't get a power point presentation finished for the last session.  Oh well.

Every Sunday I give the message at my church's SHOUT service.  These messages usually take 12-14 hours of preparation.  So now I'm doing school work every day, getting ready to go to camp, staying at camp, and doing message prep.  But wait!  There's more!

Our church is doing a series called "Science and the Bible" on Wednesday nights.  There are 11 total sessions in all - I'm leading 5 of them.  My first scheduled session was this past wednesday.  So now Im doing school, preparing for SHOUT, and getting this lecture together about Darwinian evolution.

And now, here I sit on Saturday afternoon, with a full intact head (not exploded), and the two weeks are almost over.  I spent all last night and all day today finishing my message for SHOUT, and I just came in from mowing the lawn.  As soon as my wife gets home, I'm going to the church to prepare for my Children's Church lesson tomorrow morning.  I've also got to get a last minute power point presentation ready tomorrow morning, do a "ministry moment" in the blended service, pass out VBS kits to the leaders, and, I think that's it.  Oh yeah!  Did I mention that next week is Backyard Bible Club?  Sorry, I forgot to throw that into the mix to, plus the usual maintaining a marriage and raising a 10 month old.

I suppose there are still roughly 30 hours left for my head to explode.  We'll see what happens.

Friday, June 13, 2008


The blog that I used to occupy is being shout down.  We're merging a couple of web pages for the church, which means that I'll have to start posting elsewhere.  But first, we're going to move all the old posts from the old page over to this one, for posterity's sake, I guess.  So anyway, this is where I'll be posting from now on.  Don't be a stranger!