Thursday, January 31, 2013

Will there be Car Chases in Heaven?

Will there be car chases in heaven?  Probably not, as there won't be a reason to chase bad guys in cars.  But, according to this cool story, the master of the big screen car chase is in heaven.

As a kid, I remember my dad always talking up the car chase from the movie Bullitt as being the best ever.  I didn't really care until I saw the movie in my late teenage years and realized that my dad wasn't exaggerating.  If you've never seen the car chase, you should check it out.  It's the only car chase that I know of where the chaser becomes the chasee.  Check it out (warning, it's mildly violent and gory toward the end).

But my favorite Steve McQueen movie is "The Great Escape," the story of European prisoners of war during WWII that conducted the largest and most successful escape during the war.  McQueen plays a fictional American POW (there actually weren't any Americans at that particular POW camp) who is constantly trying to escape but is always caught, and is subsequently constantly being put in solitary confinement.  There are some fun scenes of him being captured and then handed a ball and glove, which were to be his only companions while in the box.  To pass the time, he bounces the ball off the wall.  McQueen even did all of the motorcycle stunts in the film himself.

Off camera, McQueen was apparently quite full of himself.  The article linked to above talks about how, when asked if he believed in God, McQueen replied, "I believe in me.  God will be number one as long as I'm number one."  He was renowned for his debased lifestyle, and by all accounts, was a rude jerk.

But all of that changed toward the end of his life, when he came to faith and was converted.  It's a really cool story.  At the end of his spiritual (and almost physical) rope, McQueen befriended an older, like-minded man who eventually shared his story with him.  McQueen could sense that there was something different about this man.  This piqued McQueen's curiosity, so he investigated the faith for himself, leading to his conversion.

The story goes that one of his last days on earth was spent with Billy Graham, and Graham actually gave McQueen his own Bible.  McQueen died 4 days later, with Graham's Bible on his chest, open to John 3.  This story is yet another example of how God can redeem even what seem to be the most unredeemable of people, including me, and Steve McQueen.  What a cool story of grace.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What does "Tolerance" Look Like?

This is what tolerance looks like.  If you follow the link you'll find an article written by Shane L. Windmeyer, the gay man who started the brouhaha about Chik-Fil-A being a supposedly anti-gay company that funded discriminatory organizations.  In the article, Windmeyer talks about the experience of having Dan Cathy reach out to him during the scandal so they could talk to one another and understand each other's position more thoroughly.  Windmeyer accepted the invitation, and the two became fast friends.  So much so, that Windmeyer was Cathy's guest at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta earlier this month.

Windmeyer is very complimentary of Cathy, explaining how, although they disagreed, each was heard and understood by the other, while still maintaining their views.  Their minds were not changed, but they were able to come to a mutual understanding of one another which led to some real progress in the relationship between the two groups, and hopefully, between the two agendas in the larger sphere.  It's a great story of what can be accomplished between two opposing points of view if they simply respect one another and engage in thoughtful, meaningful dialogue with each other.

What's even more interesting about this article, though, is that I think it flies in the face of everything the tolerance crowd stands for.  As I've said before on this blog (here, here, here, and here), typically those who cry for tolerance actually want nothing of the sort.  In reality, they just want those who disagree with them to either shut up, or abandon their values altogether and join them.  As you can probably tell, this is not tolerance.  It's bullying.

Tolerance is not possible unless people disagree.  After all, if we didn't disagree with one another, what would there be to tolerate?  You would agree with me and I would agree with you.  We wouldn't have to tolerate one another because we'd be on the same side.  So the modern mindset that defines tolerance as an acceptance of something that goes against my beliefs and values is absolutely backwards.  It's not tolerance at all - it's forced agreement.

Tolerance only exists in circumstances where people differ.  It's an acceptance of the reality that people see the world differently than you do, and being OK with that.  It doesn't mean you stop talking, nor does it mean you abandon your convictions.  It goes even further when different people sit down for their mutual edification through a dialogue of the issues that are disagreed upon.  When we can engage in civil discourse with people whom we have significant disagreements, tolerance is in full force.

When you look at tolerance like this, it doesn't seem to be such a hot topic as many in the culture make it out to be.  That's because when they cry tolerance, they want their political or social enemies to either shut up or adopt their own beliefs.  That's not tolerance at all.  In fact, that's the definition of intolerance.  How ironic: those who label others as being intolerant are actually guilty of the very thing they claim to hate.

Can a Christian practice tolerance?  Absolutely.  Not only can a Christian practice tolerance, but a Christian should practice tolerance.  This does not mean that we give up our beliefs or worldview, mind you. In fact, if you have to compromise your beliefs you're not practicing tolerance - you're giving in.  The real question is, can a Christian practice tolerance and still call the world to repentance and the truth of scripture?  Again, I would say absolutely.  We don't stop loving people with whom we disagree just because we call them to repentance - in fact, we call them to repentance and the truth of scripture out of a spirit of love and concern.  And even if the world doesn't respond to our call, we continue to listen, try to understand, and find new ways of effectively preaching the truth to all who would hear it.

Dan Cathy showed us a remarkable way that Christians can practice tolerance (engaging those with whom we disagree) while still standing up for biblical truth.  Kudos to him.  And Kudos to Shane Windmeyer for practicing tolerance as well.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


The title of this post refers to the Telugu word for "worship."  It's also the title of a song the worship band played this morning, accompanied by Samuel Mande on a set of Indian drums that I can't remember the name of, and David Yalla singing the melody.  "Aradhana" is a traditional Indian hymn sung by the Telugu people of India, and the lyrics are at left.  A translation of these lyrics can be found at the bottom of this post.

Samuel informed me that in India they don't have traditional hymnbooks.  Rather, they have printed lyrics, and the congregation is informed that they will sing the lyrics to a traditional tune that they are all familiar with.  Rather than use the traditional melody, however, Samuel composed his own melody for the lyrics, and an intricate set of melodies for accompaniment by drums, guitars, bass, violin, and keyboards.  Samuel said that he has always wanted to do a piece that combined Indian music, lyrics, and musical style with Western instruments.  He did it, and I think it worked out very nicely.

Personally, as one of the instrumentalists, I found the piece challenging and a lot of fun to play, which is a testament to Samuel's musical abilities.  David's voice matches perfectly what I perceive to be the style of Indian music.  Have a listen.

What's especially cool about this presentation is that it came on the last Sunday of our "Values" series at Riverview.  The series explored some of the main values that we as a community hold dear.  The value we looked at in worship today was that of "life together," focusing especially on the diversity that exists within the Body of Christ.  And with that diversity comes a diverse set of ways to express worship and praise to God.  This was a fantastic expression of worship, and I believe that God was glorified by it.  It was my pleasure to be a part of it.

Worship to you - abundant praises to you I offer, O Jesus
My Jesus, I offer you my everything

Even as the mighty army of the arch-angels worship you
With a thousand tongues I sing
Lo!  I am a sinner and I plead you 
To accept me and take me into your presence

Then your rays of love and compassion 
have touched me and flowed through me
And all of my sin has been cleansed
And now I dedicate my life to you and sing praises

Friday, January 25, 2013

Bored in Heaven

Listening to Wretched Radio, Todd Friel had what I consider a marvelous point that I'd like to think about a bit more here.  The question is: what about heaven will be so great?  Friel was playing some clips from a Barbara Walters special on heaven.  In the special, she interviewed several people from a multitude of faiths about what they believed heaven to be, and what their thought was about what it was like.  Each of their explanations was pretty predictable: heaven is a wonderful place where everyone loves each other, and everyone is happy, and everyone gets and receives everything they've ever wanted.  Relationships are restored, pets come back from the dead, there's great food, and so on and so forth.  This was the typical answer, although some insisted that heaven and hell were not eternal future realities, but instead existed on earth in the form of nice people (heaven) and mean people (hell).  Lame.

Suffice it to say, all of these religious explanations of what heaven will be like were decidedly unChristian, although some claimed to be so, however nobody who claimed to be a Christian supported their view with scripture.  Their answers were full of plenty of statements that started with "I think...."

Todd Friel made a marvelous point about these descriptions: they were all full of things and experiences that people will ultimately, some day, bore of.  In other words, even if I get to restore relationships with long-lost loved ones, and even if I get to eat the best food in all the world, and even if my dog comes back to live with me for all eternity, and no matter how wonderful heaven is and how happy everyone is, someday it will all be...boring.

Think about it: what have you ever done and really enjoyed that you don't enjoy less and less as you do it or experience it more and more?  Think of your favorite food.  You really love it, right?  What if you had it every week?  Every day?  After not too long, you'll tire of it and after a while, you'll want to be done with it altogether, even if your favorite food is bacon cookies.  So if all heaven is, is enjoying the things we like most we'll eventually tire of those things.  Relationships, food, activities, whatever.  Fill in the blank.  If you do it for all eternity, your level of happiness will decrease.  And if you're not happy in heaven, is it really heaven?

The Christian view is that heaven will be ultimately satisfying and full of overwhelming happiness, but not because of stuff.  Heaven will be fully satisfying and pleasurable because it contains that which has no end, and that which can never be fully comprehended, experienced, or understood, namely God himself.  One can never completely understand or experience God.  There is always something new to learn, know, or enjoy about God.  You will get bored of baseball; you will tire of Chipotle steak burritos (maybe); your long-lost loved ones will eventually get on your nerves; but you'll never get tired of searching the depths of who God is and what he has done.  It will literally be an eternally satisfying endeavor that will never end.  This is why heaven will be good and glorious, and the reward of all those who have believed the gospel - they will get to spend eternity searching for the ends of God's magnificence, and they will never find it.  That's what I'm looking forward to.  You can keep your good and pleasant cliche thoughts about what heaven is like.

Consider Romans 11.33-35: "Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!  'For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?'  'Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?'"  Heaven will afford those who love God the opportunity to mine the depths of God's wisdom and knowledge without ever coming to the bottom.  They will be able to search out his judgments for all eternity, only to find them eternally unsearchable.  They will not know his mind, though they will endeavor to for eons.  Although they can give him no gift that he will ever be fully rewarded for what he has done for them, they will give him gift after gift.  It will be an all encompassing task that never ends.  Mind blowing.

In Ephesians 3, Paul prays that the Ephesian believers might know "the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge..."  It's interesting that Paul is asking for them something that he knows they can't have: full knowledge of the love of Christ.  But he wants them to have more of it.  This is why heaven will be great.  We'll be looking for a full knowledge of the love of Christ, and the more we learn about it, the happier we will be.  But we will never know it fully.  What does that mean?  An ultimately satisfying and joyful pursuit of this knowledge.

Moreover, just a few verses later, Paul says that God has the ability to do "far more abundantly than all that we ask or think..."  In this sense, we'll never know what heaven is like this side of the grave, and so in some sense, to speculate is somewhat foolish.  It'll be better than we can ever imagine.

Will there be food and friends and loved ones in heaven?  To be sure.  But you'll get bored of those things.  They will be utterly insignificant to the main attraction.  You'll never get bored, even after an eternity of trying to wrap your mind around God.  That's what I'm looking forward to.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sanctity of Life Sunday (Thus & Such, Vol. 17)

Today was/is Sanctity of Life Sunday.  I always want to do something on this Sunday during our church services, but I can never seem to get the information beforehand to be able to remember to do something.  Then when I get home from church, my Facebook feed is full of news regarding Sanctity of Life Sunday.  So since we didn't recognize it in church this morning, the least I can do is hopefully direct some people to some beneficial articles regarding abortion, comprising somewhat of a Sanctity of Life version of a "Thus & Such" post.  Here they are:

1. 15 Things to Consider About Abortion.  John Piper lays out fifteen reasons why abortion is never an option that satisfies logic, let alone justice.

2. When Does Human Life Begin?  Asked and answered, from both science and scripture.

3. Randy Alcorn on Abortion.  Hear the authors thoughts on abortion, family planning, and contraception.

4. Redeeming Abortion.  Hear a testimony about someone whose mother considered aborting him.

5. Abortion and Reconciliation.  Read how God forgives the sin of abortion, and makes all things new through the power of the gospel.

6. Hollow Agreement.  Being pro-life means more than just saying it.  Here are some practical suggestions for getting engaged.

7. Questions for Abortion Advocates.  Here are a list of 10 questions that anyone advocating for abortion seriously needs to consider.  If the answers to these questions disturb you, you need to rethink your position on abortion.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Decline of the Church Organ

I came across this article this morning, and found it incredibly interesting (then again, I'm a nerd).  Actually, it's not so much of an article as it is an outline for a lecture that was delivered at a recent doctoral colloquium.

The outline lists several bullet points about why the use of church organs has been, and is, in decline in churches across the country.  Some of the reasons listed are simply preferential, and some are significant.  For instance, there's not much to be done about a "lack of qualified organists."  Also, organs are expensive - tens of thousands of dollars at a minimum, and hundreds of thousands if you're talking pipe organs.  Some churches just can't afford an organ.

It's also interesting to note that the lecturer assumes that the decline of the use of the church organ is a detrimental thing to church culture, and to worship in general.  I am inclined to agree, albeit tentatively.  Allow me to explain.

For example, he asserts that use of the organ is in decline because of the influence of popular culture on churches and Christians, and he implies that this is a negative thing.  This is no doubt true, but to me, this is not something that the church should necessarily push back against.  After all, the inclusion of the church organ in Christian worship was undoubtedly a product of cultural influence.  That is, there was a time when no churches had organs, nor would they probably have considered including one.  But as culture developed, having an organ in church became a desirable thing, and so the church organ became a staple of American churches.  For that church culture, and at that point in time, organs served their purpose well.  An honest look at culture and the church today, however, might point us in a direction away from an organ, and I think that's OK.  Maybe not ultimately desirable to everyone, but it's OK.  So to say that it's bad that cultural influence is diminishing the use of the organ in worship is necessarily a bad thing is not totally without it's own set of cultural influences.  It's not as though the organ is a divine instrument that was handed down to the church by God.

Worship style is, in large part, informed by cultural trends.  We are all cultural beings who live inside of a set of cultural norms.  Over time, those norms change, and the church changes with them because the church is made up of people who live in culture.  As what we all like and appreciate changes, so will how we do things in the church change (at least in a temporal sense - there are obviously many things about the church that don't and can't change, regardless of cultural influence).  Nowadays we see a lot of guitars and drum sets in churches.  Why?  Because those instruments have become a more mainstreamed part of our culture.  It's natural and perfectly acceptable to have a band be a regular part of a worship service.

I, for one, grew up in a church that, for half my life, had no other instruments in worship aside from a baby grand piano and an organ.  I am not attached to the organ, though.  Why not?  Because other than church, the organ has played no part in my life (pun intended).  For better or for worse, I have been much more influenced by the popular music of the culture, and I am inclined to appreciate the musical style of drums and guitars.

But the author also makes some great points about why churches seldom use organ music.  He points out that a lot of churches these days are focused on seeker-sensitive worship, and are therefore obsessed with every cultural trend in order to draw new people through their doors.  In this respect, I agree with the author that this would be a terrible reason to get rid of your organ, and an even more terrible way to "do" church.  We don't conduct our worship based on what people want to hear or don't want to hear, and we similarly don't build our worship around what the unbelieving world wants to experience through it.  To do so would be to cater our worship to sinners rather than God - a horrible thought.  Churches want to be "cool" in how they do things, and the public perception of the church organ is rather square, so the organ is being eliminated.  What a shame that churches would operate so pragmatically.

The lecturer also makes some points about how to "restore" the use of the organ in churches.  His best point in this section is this: "Educate our congregations and worship leaders about the true nature of worship itself.  God is interested in our hearts much more than the "art" which we offer to him in worship."  Amen, and amen.  In this sense, it doesn't matter what instrument is playing, or what style of music a congregation uses to worship, as long as the attitude of the heart of the worshiper is right.  Somebody who says they just can't worship to organ music doesn't understand the true nature of worship.  To get rid of an organ because a portion of the congregation "can't" worship to it is wrong, and exposes a significant lack of understanding about the theology of worship.  God can and does accept the worship of those with nothing more than a slide whistle and some empty coffee cans to bang on, provided they are focused on his glory and praise.

But there's another reason not to abandon the organ that I'd like to add to the author's list if I might, and it comes from my own experience of 32 years of worshiping with a diverse group of people at Riverview.  I believe there is still a place for the organ in the church because it reflects the diversity that exists in the church (at least in my church).  There are several members of Riverview who grew up singing old, beloved hymns on the organ, and for them, it is still a rich part of their heritage and culture.  To take that away from them would be unwise and unloving.  Moreover, our use of the organ speaks to our diversity.  We love each other, even though we're very different, and we express our differences through worship.

Yet another reason is the simple difference of feel one gets between an organ and say, a worship band.  contemporary worship music, I think, communicates a feeling of closeness and intimacy, while an organ communicates a feeling of grandeur and transcendence.  Both are intricately part of God's character.  He is definitely near to us and intimate with us.  But he is also the God of the universe who sits as Lord and judge over all people.  I think the organ communicates the latter very well.

On the other hand, we also utilize more modern instruments and worship for a significant segment of our service through the use of a worship team that includes the usual guitars, drums, bass, piano, etc.  To me, it's a wonderful blend of the various preferences felt and expressed in our congregation.

So for me, I would like to keep the organ.  Is it my favorite thing?  Probably not.  Is it my "default setting" when it comes to worship style?  Definitely not.  But there's a lot of value to having it, and I hope we have it for a long time to come.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Can't See The Grace Through All That Law

As I read through the gospel of John recently, I found something that stood out to me that hadn't before (another great thing about reading the Bible - you always find something new).  This time I noticed a few things about Jesus healing people on the Sabbath.  You can read several of these stories throughout the gospels, and Jesus calls the Pharisees on it a couple of times after they condemn him for violating the Sabbath.  But some specifics stood out to me this time that hadn't before.

The first one is the healing of the lame man by the pool in John 5.  In short, Jesus sees a lame man who believes that if he is the first one to get into a nearby pool "when the water is stirred up," then he will be healed.  It was believed that the first one in the pool when the water was disturbed would bring about healing.  But this dude couldn't walk, and he didn't have anybody to put him in the water when it was time.  So Jesus asks him if he wants to be healed, to which the guy responds in the affirmative, and Jesus tells him to simply take up his bed and walk, which the guy does.

All this happens on the Sabbath day.  And when the Jews see a guy walking and carrying a bed on the Sabbath day, they call him on it, because carrying a bed on the Sabbath day was considered work, and work was forbidden on the Sabbath.  So they essentially say to him, "Hey, stop it.  What you're doing is illegal."  The guy responds to the Jews by saying that a man healed him, and this same man told him to pick up his bed and walk.

The Jews' response to this is fascinating.  They say in verse 12, "Who is the man who said to you, 'Take up your bed and walk?'"  What's so fascinating about that?  What's incredible is that in their question, the Jews totally bypass the fact that the guy was healed.  They skip over the grace that was manifested in his life, and move directly to his alleged violation of the law.  It's as though the fact that a man who was previously unable to walk who is now walking is of secondary importance when compared to the fact that the man is carrying his bed.

Also of note is that when the healed man tells the Jews that someone else told him to carry his bed, they want to know who it is, presumably to implicate whoever it was in the man's crime as an accomplice.  Not only did they want to charge the man who was carrying the bed, but also the one who told him to carry the bed.  In my opinion, they weren't mad at Jesus for necessarily healing the man on the Sabbath, but because he simply instructed the man to pick up and carry his bed on the Sabbath.  Either way, all the while, they are totally blind to the fact that a remarkable miracle has taken place.  They're so obsessed with law, they can't see the grace.

Another instance comes in one of my favorite stories in the Bible: the healing of the man born blind as recorded in John 9.  Jesus finds a man who had been blind since birth, and so he spits in some dirt, makes some mud, puts it on the guy's eyes, and tells him to wash in the pool of Siloam, which the man does, and his sight is restored.

The local Jews don't like the looks of what happened, so they bring the formerly blind man before the Pharisees, and ask him how he got his sight back.  The guy explains, and the Pharisees are not happy.  Verse 14: "Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes."  And then in verse 16: "Some of the Pharisees said, 'This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.'"

Now, what we need to think about here is how exactly Jesus violated the Sabbath.  Again, I would argue that the Pharisees aren't so much considering the healing as a violation of the Sabbath, although that certainly could have been part of it, and other parts of scripture validate this.  But what really got their blood boiling was the fact that Jesus spit in mud and mixed it up.  Believe it or not, the Jews believed that if one spat on the ground on the Sabbath and the dirt on which he or she spat moved, it could be considered plowing.  As in tilling the ground to plant seed.  And then his mixing of the mud was just the icing on the cake.  Not only was he plowing the ground with his spit, but he was working by using his fingers to mix it up into mud.  The nerve!

The Pharisees use this as evidence against Jesus - evidence that he is not actually from God.  After all, how could a sinner who doesn't keep the Sabbath - one of God's laws - be from God?  And if a sinner isn't from God, then the next logical step is that he can't be doing these signs and miracles.

Again, the Jews and Pharisees were so blinded by law that they could see the grace.  Jesus performed a miraculous healing by spitting and mixing mud, but all they saw were violations of rules.  As Jesus explains elsewhere, the Sabbath definitely is important, but not anything like the ways the Pharisees regarded it.  In fact, they had so legalized the observance of the Sabbath that it made them immune to any grace that might be dispensed by it and through it, and through their Sabbath rest, namely Jesus.

Now, it's easy for me to read these stories in scripture and rag on the Pharisees for their spiritual blindness, but it's less easy for me to think about how I sometimes display the same kind of blindness in my own spiritual life and in my relationships.   This kind of Pharisaical attitude manifests itself in our lives (read: my life) in at least three ways:

1. We can be blind to the working of God's grace in our own lives.  Quite often God can do something miraculous in our lives, and we either fail to notice, or we cover up his grace with a bunch of law, by thinking that we're no good, or that we're too big of sinners to ever deserve God's grace.  This kind of thinking completely forgets the gospel, though, which states that we are obviously not worthy of God's grace, but he gives it anyway.  This leads to guilt and shame, which are the opposite of the gospel.  When we experience the grace of God, we should take note and praise him, not feel sorry for ourselves, or condemn ourselves further through man-made standards of righteousness.

2. We can be blind to the manifestation of God's grace in others.  Sometimes it's easy to see God working in others.  Sometimes it's more difficult.  In either case, sometimes we can be irritated because, although God has shown grace in someone's life, they haven't lived up to the standard we've placed on them.  Think about it: ever been happy that someone has grown or progressed to a certain point, but then though, "Now only if they could be a little better, or if they could just be like this or that."  That's legalism, and it's missing the grace that God has shown through the law that we impose on others.

3. We fail to give God glory for the grace he gives, and instead get caught up on non-essential, worldly issues.  In each of the scenarios listed above, God is robbed of his glory because we find ourselves so caught up in the how's and what's of our own making.

What should the Jews and Pharisees have done in these two accounts from the gospel of John?  They should have rejoiced in the working of God's grace in the lives of people, and forsaken their man-made rules.  Let us do the same as we receive grace from God and see it in the lives of others.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Government Sanctioned Religion

Yesterday I wrote a bit about the brouhaha over Louie Giglio backing out of his invitation to pray at President Obama's inauguration, mostly based on other articles I read that day.  One article in particular caught my attention, and I've been reflecting on it more and more throughout the day.  In his article Russell Moore implies that this most recent dust up with Louie Giglio is a sign that we are one step closer to a state church - government sanctioned religion.  That is, the government gives and receives final approval on what kinds of religious thoughts, speech, and expressions are allowable, and which kinds are to be done away with as intolerant.  It's a scary prospect, to say the least.

Anyway, today I had to run up to Hinkley, MN to pick up a slaughtered cow (long story) from my cousin.  I made use of the time on the road trip to listen to Wretched Radio, which I do on my iPhone via Wretched's podcast.  I don't really have time to listen to the show on a daily basis, so I'm actually about a month behind in my listening.  That is, the episodes I'm listening to right now were originally aired in early December.  Now, cast your mind back to that time: what happened in the early to middle part of December?  The Newtown school shooting.  Todd Friel has been talking about it for several episodes now, particularly by looking at big "why?" questions, and rightly insisting that we have answer to the "why?" questions, and we need to be speaking up.

Amidst Friel's own analyzation of the event, he played President Obama's speech that he gave from Newtown right after the shooting, which is absolutely laced with references to God, Jesus, and the Bible (you can watch the speech and/or read the transcript here).  I didn't do it, but it would be interesting to count how many times he referenced the Christian faith and Christian ideals.

Now, one does not need to ponder this for too long before one sees a pretty significant double standard here: President Obama gets to invoke the name of God, Jesus, and refer to the Bible as much as he wants in his speech, and you don't hear a peep out of anybody.  Nobody is complaining; nobody is insisting on the separation of church and state; nobody is crying "intolerance!"  But ask Louie Giglio, a minister who denied that homosexuality is a biblical way of doing life in a sermon fifteen years ago, to pray the benediction at Obama's inauguration, and a literal firestorm breaks out on the internet and in the media.  Enough so that the inauguration committee rescinded Giglio's invitation, and was also enough to make Giglio decline the invitation (the rescinding and declining took place at pretty much the same time, but both parties wanted to back out).

Note that Giglio was not uninvited because he was going to explain from scripture why homosexuality is sinful during his prayer, nor was he uninvited for being a Christian minister per say.  He was uninvited because, 15 years ago he delivered a message in which he denied homosexuality as a viable life choice for someone confessing the Christian faith.  In fact, all he was going to do in his benediction was pray to the Christian God and verbally bless the people watching and listening.  Certainly his prayer would have included references to God, Jesus, and the Bible, in much the same way that President Obama referenced the same three topics during his Newtown speech.  Why, then, were Obama's references to the Christian faith permissible during the speech, but Giglio's references would not be tolerable during the benediction?  Answer: because Giglio does not endorse the state-sanctioned religion, which includes tolerance of homosexuality, support of abortion, and relative standards of truth and morality.

It's a sickening double standard, and it is astounding to me that the people of this country don't have the cognitive capacity to realize it.

The state sanctioned church is on its way, and indeed, is here already, which we see through examples like this.  From now on, the government decides what religious expression is acceptable or not.  And if the government doesn't know what should be acceptable or not, then they will listen to those in the public who feign the largest offense at whatever is being expressed.  That's exactly what happened in the Louie Giglio scenario.  Word has it that Obama himself asked for Giglio to do the benediction.  As soon as that was announced, somebody who needs a job went through 15 years of Giglio's sermons in order to find one where he condemned homosexuality.  When they found it, they went through all the channels to get him blacklisted.  I wonder what the response would be if Obama asked a gay, universalist minister to pray the benediction.  Never mind.  That's a dumb question.  It would be a match made in heaven, because a gay, Universalist minister would perfectly fit the mold of the state church.

Part of me thinks that this whole story is much ado about nothing.  Since when did the government ever endorse my religion in truth?  Why would I ever think that the government would adhere to biblical Christianity?  To put it another way: the government has been exposed as being anti-biblical Christianity - why am I surprised?  We feel offended because the government seems to be betraying our religious ideals.  Since when were we on the same side?

Jesus will not be aligned with government policy or political ideals.  He is Lord over the government and politics.  He will not be tamed by them.  And shame on us me (I'll speak for myself here) for ever thinking that he would be.

So bring on the government sanctioned church.  In the grand and eternal scheme of things, nothing has really changed.  God still sits on the throne, and Christ at his right hand.  They have the final say over the affairs of the universe, including the state of religion and politics in this tiny corner of the universe.  I will rest in that.

Friday, January 11, 2013

I Love Funerals

I like funerals.  No, I love funerals.  Yeah, I admit that's a bit morbid, but I think I have a good reason.

Certainly funerals are times of mourning, after all, a loved one has died and moved on.  For some this is a time of rejoicing, as their loved one has gone on to their eternal reward.  For others this is a time of uncertainty or even fear.

So on the one hand, funerals for believers are joyous occasions because they celebrate a person who has gone to a much better place.

I particularly like funerals, however, because they are incredible opportunities for the gospel to go forth.  Let's face it: people are in an emotionally beat up state during funerals.  They are looking for answers.  More than that, they are looking for the truth.  The truth about what life is about, why things happen to people, what happens when we die, and so on and so forth.  I'm not saying that times of mourning are good for taking advantage of people emotionally, but it is an incredible opportunity to guide people toward truth and point them in the right direction.

The best part about funerals, in my opinion, is that the gospel is proclaimed to people who need to hear it.  And at the funeral I attended this afternoon, this task was accomplished masterfully by my friend, boss, and pastor, Dave Wick.  The message he delivered was quite simply the best, most clearly communicated, most engaging, and culturally relevant presentation of the gospel I think I've ever heard.

Lu Mendez (the deceased) was soundly saved saint of God, of Latino heritage, and many of her relatives were of the Roman Catholic persuasion.  This is quite a bit different from the Baptist persuasion, to say the least.  Wick, knowing that a lot of Lu's friends and family were Catholic, acknowledged this fact openly during his message.  I have to confess that when he did so, I immediately became nervous.  I had thoughts of people walking out or becoming angry during the message because the minister was badmouthing the Catholic faith.  But Wick, knowing his audience perfectly, did not do that.  Instead, he masterfully wove a story about nominal Christians of all persuasions.  He explained that there are many Baptists who are not Christians, and there are many Catholics, who although they might be religious, are not Christians.  He then went on to explain that Lu wasn't in heaven because she was a Baptist, but because she had trusted in Christ for salvation.  He closed by saying something to the effect of, "There are a lot of Baptists here; there are a lot of Catholics here.  But there aren't as many Christians as there are Baptists and Catholics."  I'm certainly not doing the sermon justice here by describing it.  It has to be heard, I imagine, to get the full effect.  I'm going to try and figure out how to post the file on the site here.

All that to say that the service this afternoon was a magnificent testament to the glory of God in the gospel, and in the life of Lu Mendez.  It was a privilege to be a part of it.

The State Church

If you don't follow religion in politics very closely, you probably haven't heard about Louie Giglio withdrawing his acceptance to pray at President Obama's inauguration.  Obama asked Giglio to pray, and he initially accepted, but when it was discovered that he has preached against homosexuality in the past, a firestorm erupted.  Amid all the craziness, Giglio withdrew his acceptance, citing a desire to not have the prayer turn into a political ordeal.  You can read his letter to the inauguration committee, and some other thoughts he has on the topic, here.

Who is Louie Giglio?  He's come to the public eye in recent years as he's been attached to the wildly popular Passion conferences, and through his work with Chris Tomlin and others.  I've seen him speak before, and his messages, while a bit on theologically light side, are actually very engaging and eye-opening.  You can watch what is probably his most well-known sermon here.  I may not mesh with him on everything he does, and there are definitely some issues he and his ministry need to think through, but overall, Giglio is a great pastor, communicator, and preacher, and would have been a great choice to deliver the prayer at Obama's inauguration.

But to begin with, something like this isn't new.  As many have noted, the same firestorm erupted after Rick Warren offered the prayer at Obama's 2009 inauguration.  Warren stayed in, however, despite the criticism. That being said, it is becoming more and more difficult to practice religion in America these days, especially when that religion doesn't fall in line with the government.  What's the big deal?  Here's one liberal blogger's point of view on the issue.

There's a bit of uncertainty about whether or not Giglio rescinded his acceptance to pray, or whether the inauguration committee uninvited him to play.  The way I see it, it's kind of like six of one, half a dozen of the other.  Basically, Giglio rescinded his acceptance and the committee said, "Good, because we're uninviting you anyway."  Kind of like what you see in the movies when someone tells their boss they quit, but the boss responds by telling them that they can't quite because they're fired.  Either way, this brouhaha has some significant implications that come with it, and it behooves all Christians in America to take note of them.

Russel Moore points out that what we see happening is the development of a state church.  He notes that Giglio is not offering a point of view on homosexuality in the prayer, nor is he saying or even implying that that homosexuals can't or don't have freedoms in the U.S.  In fact, Giglio has never hinted at any of these things in public discourse.  What he has said, though, is that unrepentant homosexuality is not conducive with the Christian faith.  And, of course, the government will bow to the pressure of the loudest voices who cry foul, and in so doing, will endorse the religious views of those who disagree with orthodox Christianity.  It's government sponsored religion.

Albert Mohler similarly points out that we are moving into a time of "moral McCarthyism."  The government used to have a litmus test to detect communism in its ranks.  Now that litmus test exists to detect religious intolerance, and to expel those who would dare to buck the government-endorsed religious ideals.

The message is this: get your religious beliefs in line with government policy or shut up.  Basically, people with religious convictions that don't line up with the government's agenda are silenced and blacklisted.  Moore is right: this leads to a government run church.  In our time, the government is deciding which religious thoughts, ideas, and speech are acceptable.  Where are the usual protesters crying First Amendment foul?  Where are the liberals demanding a separation of church and state?  You won't find them, because they're at their place of worship, offering sacrifices to the government approved religion of tolerance.

How does a Christian respond to a state church?  Much the same way that Jesus and his disciples responded, I imagine.  In those days, however, you had government officials killing people whose religion they didn't like, and then profaning their bodies and places of worship.  Thank God that we haven't come to that in our country.  Our response should be that of the first century Christians: gather together, devote ourselves to the word, pray, and submit.  I don't like that this stuff is happening in my country, and that our religious liberties are being taken away in shockingly large leaps and bounds, but it is what it is.  God is still on the throne; God is still working in the world.  We should be trusting him, no matter what happens.

America, the freedom of religion you once had is gone, and the little bit you have left is quickly eroding away.  Get ready.  Cling to the truth, because dark days are ahead.  But take heart: they are not so dark that the Light cannot shine through.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

In Praise of Reading Large Chunks of Scripture

I've made it my goal to read through the Bible as many times as possible this year.  I've only ever purposefully read through the entire Bible once.  I'm sure I have read through it several times collectively, but I've only sat down to purposefully accomplish the whole thing just once in my life.  The past four years have been tough, since every time my nose was in my Bible it was most likely for school.  Don't get me wrong, that was all good and well.  My OT class had us reading through large chunks like the whole Pentateuch in a week.  That's a lot of reading.  But now that school's over, I have the chance to read the Bible at my own pace, and in the manner I want to read it.  So right now I'm going through it, several chapters each day, with the goal of getting through the whole thing at least twice this year.  Considering the progress I've made in the first 9 days of 2013, I'm pretty sure it will be more than just twice.

If you've never sat down and read through the whole Bible, let me encourage you to do it, and to do it often.  There are several benefits to reading through the whole Bible rather than just snippets here and there.  Don't get me wrong: I'm not opposed to reading the Bible in snippets, or using some kind of devotional like Our Daily Bread.  But that's just not the complete picture.  Make an effort to read large chunks of scripture at one time.  One of my seminary profs. timed out how long it took him to read through each book of the OT and then gave us those times for when he assigned the reading to the students.  He wanted us to read the OT books in one sitting.  For example, if you are going to read Genesis from front to back, it will take you about three hours.  "Three hours!" you say, "I don't have three hours to sit down and read."  Maybe not.  But if you put the effort into it and actually tried to do it, I think you'd find it very beneficial.  Or is three hours just too long?  Then give Exodus a shot.  It'll only take you two hours and twenty-five minutes!

Since the beginning of the year, I've read through the entire gospel of John in two sittings.  I didn't time it, so I don't know how long it took me total, but I do know that it wasn't very long.  In the process of reading this gospel, though, I got a big picture idea of what John was trying to communicate, which is something you won't get from reading a few verses, or even a chapter.  There are multiple benefits to reading big chunks of scripture in one sitting, such as:

1. Context.  You'll get the context of what the author is writing about, something about who he is, what he is communicating, the people he's writing to, the point of his whole larger work, etc.  You'll also get a better understanding of the historical and cultural contexts when you read large chunks of the Bible.

2. The whole counsel of God.  Unfortunately, a lot of Bible reading practices are geared toward gaining one or two little nuggets of truth from a particular verse, and then illustrate those nuggets with a heart-warming story.  While there's nothing wrong with this approach, it misses the rest of what God's word has to say.  When we read all of God's word, and in as big of chunks as possible, we can begin to piece together the larger message of what God is saying in his word.  Rather than just a nugget here and there, we put all of those nuggets together to get a whole bar of gold.  For example, if you do all your Bible reading in the New Testament, you're missing out on all the backstory and staging for the gospels and epistles.  If you only focus on certain sections and certain verses, you'll be missing out on a lot of what God is saying.

3. Increased level of discipline.  Let's face it: reading the Bible all the way through takes intentional effort, and a lot of discipline.  But discipline is a good thing.  Train yourself to take in large chunks of scripture, and watch your spiritual life take off.

4. You'll get a better grasp of the grand story of the Bible.  The Bible is one main message.  In order to understand the message in its entirety you've got to read the whole thing.  If you neglect certain parts, you won't get the whole message.  Moreover, you won't have all of the historical facts right, which will affect your understanding of said message.  Read the whole thing, and know what is going on throughout its pages.

5. You'll grow spiritually.  This should be a given, but for some people Bible reading is a chore and not an avenue of spiritual growth.  This gets back to the point on discipline: discipline yourself to spend time in God's word, not for the sake of spending time in the word, but for the sake of meeting God in his word.  In this sense, our Bible reading takes on two distinct purposes: reading for understanding, and reading for the sake of dedicating ourselves to meeting God in his word.  We'll call these two types of reading "devotional reading" and "interpretive reading."  In devotional reading, we read because we know it's good for us, and we're devoted to what's good for us.  So we do it, even though some times we may not feel like doing it.  With interpretive reading, our purpose is to understand and apply what we read.  We need read our Bibles with both types of reading in view.

One very important thing to reading large chunks of the Bible is making sure you have a Bible you enjoy reading, and one that you can understand.  I'm typically the kind of guy that likes a more word-for-word Bible translation, so I stick to the ESV.  But if you find a lot of words you don't know, and a lot of sentences that are phrased in ways that sound strange, choppy, and hard to read, you might want to think about getting a different version to read.

Also, I've recently been discovering that I prefer reading Bibles where the text is all in one single column, rather than two.  I'm not sure why this is, but I just like reading all the way across a page - not half of it, then moving to the other half, then on to the next page.  It might sound weird and picky, and maybe it is, but I much prefer Bibles with just a single column of text, most like any other books you might read.  For some reason, that's a big deal to me.  I also like to read on, because they have just a single section of text too.  The danger with reading the Bible online is that there are so many distractions that could take you from your reading (you are on a computer, on the internet, after all, and there are cat videos that need watching!).

So whatever you do, get in the word!  And if you can, read as much of it as possible each time you open up your Bible.  You'll find that it's a great way to read scripture.

P.S. For those of you who are interested, here are the amounts of time it will take you to read through the first eight books of the Bible, in one sitting each, according to my OT prof from seminary.  I challenge you to give these a shot:

Genesis: about 3 hours
Exodus: about 2 hours and 25 minutes
Leviticus: about 1 hour and 45 minutes
Numbers: about 2 hours and 30 minutes
Deuteronomy: about 2 hours and 10 minutes
Joshua: about about 1 hour and 25 minutes
Judges: about 1 hour and 25 minutes
Ruth: about 15 minutes

Total: about 15 hours

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

God's Timing Is Perfect

A new(er) member at Riverview passed away yesterday.  Lu Mendez died on Tuesday of what am told was liver cancer that spread rapidly and devastatingly throughout the rest of her body.  I'm also told that this was not Lu's only battle with cancer.  I understand that she had dealt with it previously as well, overcoming it at the time.  This time, before she had manifested any symptoms, the cancer had ravaged her body.

A couple of weeks ago in the Sunday School class that I teach, we talked about God's sovereignty over time.  Several Bible stories helped the kids understand that nothing happens by accident, nor is it a coincidence that two things come together just perfectly at the right time.  God has control over time, and he causes people and events to do things and happen at just the right times.  God is never late, nor is he ever early.  He is exactly when he wants to be.

Consider the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch from Acts 8.  Imagine all of the things God was doing in the lives of each of those men, the people around them, and their physical circumstances to get them to meet up at just the right time.  A few minutes off here or there, and the Ethiopian's caravan would have passed Philip by.  But no, because the Ethiopian was chosen by God, God had all the details worked out, down to the second.  Philip saw the caravan, stopped the Ethiopian, who just so happened to be reading from Isaiah 53 (which is all about Jesus), so Philip could explain the gospel to him.  And more than that, they were near water so the Ethiopian could be baptized.  God's timing is perfect.

The Bible says that Jesus came at just the right time to die for the ungodly.  Not an approximate date; not an estimation, but the right time.  What made when Jesus came and died "the right time?"  That's a topic for another post.  For now, all we need to know and trust is that God is sovereign over time.

What does all this have to do with Lu Mendez?  Well, Lu became a believer just a little over a year ago.  I'm not sure how old she was exactly, but she was probably in her 50's or 60's.  During Lu's first battle with cancer, I'm sure that it had the potential to take her life.  But God saw that Lu was not ready to die yet.  His perfect timing extended her life so she could hear and believe the gospel.  And then, a little after a year when she came to repent and believe the gospel, Lu was taken home to be with Jesus.  Coincidence?  I think not.  In fact, the last time Pastor Wick visited Lu in the hospital, she asked if it would be OK if she prayed that God would take her home, which he quickly affirmed.  Here was a saint who knew God's timing, as he spared her from the first bout with cancer so he could save her and then take her home.  What a great and glorious God we have!

Praise God for his perfect timing, and for the testimony of his grace in the life of Lu Mendez.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Thus & Such, Vol. 16

1. In Luke 24 the Resurrected Jesus is walking along a road with two travelers.  After they tell him about the events of the previous week, which he was obviously privy to, verse 27 says: "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself."  A lot of times this verse is used to show how all of scripture points to Jesus.  Every verse in the Old Testament is pointing us to Jesus.  But have you ever read the OT and wondered how in the heck some of those stories could be pointing to Jesus?  Here's a fantastic article that explains how.

2. Here's a great article from Tim Challies about the strange dichotomy joy and grief that comes with the confession of sin.  We are grieved by our sins, but overjoyed that they are done away with through the gospel.  Very good stuff.

3. A lot of skeptics will dismiss the authority of the Bible because it supposedly "condones slavery."  Well, that's not a valid objection.  Why not?  Here's why.

4. Did you make a resolution to read through the whole Bible in a year?  Don't forget this important word of advice.  

5. Why are things cute?  Check out the science of cuteness (although the guy in the video is rather annoying).

Thursday, January 3, 2013

An Ethical Challenge

Two summers ago I took a few courses from Bethel Seminary online.  One of these was a course in Christian Ethics.  The two texts were separate volumes of a collection called "Readings in Christian Ethics."  The editors compiled articles on ethics from several different Christian traditions, and examined several different ways of approaching ethics.  I found the readings to be fascinating and informative, especially since I had not formally delved into the area of ethics up to this point.

One of the ethical theories that really appealed to me was the Divine Command Ethic.  This ethic basically states that everything God says is right and good is indeed right and good, no matter what.  The question isn't so much "Is this action right?" as much as it is, "Is this action commanded by God?"  If the answer to the latter question is "Yes," then the action in question is right and good, no matter what it is, because everything God commands is good.  This means, of course, that command or instruction given in the Bible is right and good because it is God who has given it.  But this calls into question places in scripture where something God does or commands someone to do does not look very right and good.  For instance, when God commanded the Israelites to kill any and every living thing during their conquest of the Promised Land.  Really?  That was good?  The Divine Command Ethic says yes, partly because the temporal morality of the action isn't in question.  What is in question is where the command came from.  Since it came from God, and God is all good, then the action - whatever it is - must be good and righteous, even if it means wiping people out.  As you can imagine, this is somewhat hard to swallow.

Furthermore, as I investigated the Divine Command Ethic more, I had another problem with it: just because something God has commanded for one particular person or group in history was right at that moment in time, it does not mean that it is right for all people in all times.  In other words, if God's command to Joshua to wipe the Canaanites off the face of the earth was morally acceptable at that time, it certainly can't still be acceptable for me today, is it?  In other words, it seems the moral acceptability of God's commands are relative at best, based on time, culture, covenant, etc.

But then I ran across an article in the text books titled "A Defense of Divine Command Ethics," or something like that, that was actually written by one of the editors of the textbooks: one Robert Rakestraw.  In the article, he unfolded the Divine Command Ethic in a brilliant way, taking account of the exceptions I've noted above, and explaining them masterfully.  For example, to command a people-group to wipe out another people-group for no good reason would be immoral, no matter who gave the command.  There is certainly a backstory involved when we consider the story of God commanding the Israelites to wipe out the Canaanites.  For instance, elsewhere in scripture we read that the Canaanites were exceptionally wicked people, and God had given them 400 years to repent of their wickedness.  Furthermore, they were occupying land that belonged to Israel and refused to leave.  God's command to wipe them out was a meting out of his justice upon the Canaanites, and was therefore good.  This is just one example of how the Divine Command ethic "works."  Rakestraw went on to show how this ethic can play out nicely even in modern day life.

So after reading Rakestraw's defense of the Divine Command ethic, I was a believer.  In fact, his article was so well written that I read his bio from the back of the book.  It turns out he was a professor at Bethel Seminary!  I thought I would send him an email to thank him for clarifying Divine Command ethics to me, so I looked in the Bethel directory, but could not find his name.  I Googled him, and discovered a blog that bore his name.  After a little perusing, I quickly learned that he had left Bethel for health reasons.  A little more research revealed that he had successfully undergone a heart transplant, which is no doubt quite a feat in itself.  After a time, however, it was discovered that his body was rejecting the heart.  Through one way or another, an additional heart was made available to him for a second transplant.  Without the transplant, he would be dead within 6 months.

It's funny, the way God works some times.  Here is the ultimate ethical question, posed to a man who has made his living studying ethics.  How many hearts does a person get?  If he went through with the second transplant, it would be his third.  And even then, there was no guarantee that the third heart would be the charm.  Was it right to take yet another heart, when there were so many other people in the world literally dying to have a heart transplant?  Rakestraw decided that no, it was not right for him to have another heart.  In making this decision, he knew that he was signing his own death certificate, but it was the decision he made.  The doctors gave him about 6 months, after which time they predicted his heart would fight off his body to the extent that it would cause a major, lethal heart attack.  He made the decision with all of this information in view.

Rakestraw received his initial heart transplant ten years ago.  Six years ago he received the news that his heart was failing, and the doctors gave him six months to live.  That time has come and gone, however.  He is still alive, feasting on the grace of life.  How do I know this?  He posts once a month on his blog, "The Benediction Project," where he writes about spirituality, life, and death.  To my knowledge, his prognosis has not been upgraded, nor do they expect him to live much longer (although they said the same thing six years ago!).  His blog is an encouragement to read.  It's about a man who loves God, loves life, and is learning to embrace death.

May God grant me the grace to live - and die - with grace and humility like Bob Rakestraw.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Bad Church Signs

I have a particular fascination with church signs.  By "church signs" I mean those changeable backlit signs that can be manipulated to emblazon anything from service times to catch phrases.  I like to see what a church puts on their sign, no doubt because our church has one of these signs, and also because in my early twenties, as the janitor at Riverview, it was my job to change the lettering on our sign.

It has become commonplace for churches to use these signs nowadays as a way of plastering what they think is some kind of memorable or cute phrase that is usually a play on words.  Most of the time, however, these phrases are over-the-top cornball, and probably serve to turn more people off to the church than bring in prospective attenders.

It wasn't until the past 10 years or so that churches used these signs for cutesy catch phrases.  Before that, most church signs were simply used to broadcast service times or special announcements.  When I was in the ecclesial janitorial business, church signs were a booming business.  Our church was constantly getting solicited by church sign companies, wanting to come and redo our church sign (it's kinda old).  I've watched several marketing videos (VHS tapes, that is) on the effectiveness of having a church sign in my days.

There is a church in Mendota Heights that was probably the first church in the area to put something on their sign that was somewhat cutesy or thought-provoking.  Except most of what they put on their sign wasn't cutesy or cornball - it was actually pretty good.  This church was located across the highway from my high school, and once in a while, my fellow students would comment on what was plastered on that church's sign.  And not in a mocking way, but in contemplation.

The trend these days, however, is to plaster some cutesy phrase that a preschooler wouldn't find amusing on your church's sign, presumably with the hopes of bringing people who enjoy the phrase into the church so they'll meet Jesus.  (Hey!  Maybe we can fulfill the Great Commission with our church sign and not have to talk to people!  Wouldn't that be great?)

I've posted about some of these goofy signs before, both from local churches in my area.  You can read about those signs here.  But today I drove by two other churches, and they likewise had goofy signs, one of which is just stupid, and the other this seminary-trained pastor doesn't even understand.  Judge for yourself:

Sign at Church A: "Google can't satisfy all your searches."

Sign at Church B: "Is the Son in your eyes?"

The sign at "Church A" is very similar to an internet meme seen at left (actually, Church A has posted the meme at left on their sign before, believe it or not).  The sign at "Church B" is something I don't even understand.  I realize that they're playing on words here, but what am I supposed to get out of "Is the Son in your eyes?"  Are they asking me if I'm a Christian?  Are they asking me if I've "seen the light?"  What the heck is going on there?  And better question: how is that supposed to make me want to go to your church?

I would like to take this opportunity to encourage all churches who have such a sign to please, stop it with the cutesy phrases.  Nobody likes it.  It's not cute.  It's not catchy.  And I would be willing to bet that most people who see these signs drive past them thinking less of the church the sign belonged to than more of it.  In essence, I think the cutesy phrases on church signs are having the opposite effect of what is intended.

Then why do churches continue to put goofy stuff on their signs?  I figure they come at it from one of two ways: 1) they actually believe that the cutesy phrases are cute and creative, and that people like them;  2) they realize that the phrases are actually stupid, and that people don't like them, but they figure that any advertising is good advertising.  That is, even though people don't like the phrases, they will remember them, and therefore remember the church, which - perhaps according to the church - is a good thing.

As I mentioned earlier, Riverview has such a sign with removable lettering.  I'm not even sure what's on it right now, but we usually just use the lettering to post the times of our services and Wednesday Night activities.  That's good enough for me.  Nothing cutesy there.  Just the facts, Ma'am.  Otherwise, I know we've used the sign in the past to say "God's word is truth."  I like that too.  It's not trying to be cutesy or catchy.  It's presenting your with a truth claim that you need to weigh in your mind.  If you want to do that corporately, you can come and join us ever Sunday morning at 9:00 and 10:30.  That'll do.