Sunday, May 31, 2009

When Pro-life is also Anti-life

I was going to blog on something else this afternoon, but this headline was on my homepage. I don't know what to say other than, "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord." (Romans 12:17-19)

It breaks my heart that the issue of abortion comes down to this for many. Even his family, after suffering years of harassment, still took a hard line stance by saying the tragedy "is also a loss for... women across the country." The president of NARAL was quoted as saying, "Dr. Tiller's murder will send a chill down the spines of the brave and courageous providers and other professionals who are part of reproductive-health centers that serve women across this country. We want them to know that they have our support as they move forward in providing these essential services."

Essential? I am strongly opposed to late-term abortions. Are 21 weeks not enough time for a woman to "choose" to abort her unborn child? As for "health of the mother" arguments, those cases make up less than a percent of abortions. And as for the "brave and courageous providers..." they're not at risk of losing their jobs for doing what they do, unlike medical and pharmaceutical professionals who are no longer protected by a 'conscience clause'.

But that doesn't make this right. Nothing could ever justify taking another life in such a way. The sad irony that this unspeakable act took place in a church. And I hope, if we really call ourselves Christians, that instead of using this event to spotlight the issue of abortion, we instead lift up our prayers for his family and for forgiveness to the suspect.

Again I quote Romans, "Do not repay anyone evil for evil... Do not take revenge."

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Are You a Statistic?

I've been thinking about the blanket assumption that Christians who identify homosexuality as a sin are bigots. While there are definitely fringe elements (i.e. Fred Phelps) and an over-emphasis in politics (will gay-marriage really bring about the end of Western Civilization?), the appropriate Christian response to homosexuality should be the same as for any other sin. Bigotry implies hate, but we're told by Jesus to love others including sinners.

So how does homosexuality stack up number-wise? (I'm a number cruncher by trade, so bear with me)
  • Homosexuals account for only 2% of the population according to the US Census Bureau, though polls indicate that number rises to the order of 10% when the respondents can be anonymous.
  • According to a recent Barna survey, only 40% of American adults believe Jesus lived a sinless life, meaning 60% are in sin by denying the deity of Christ.
  • Recent data shows the number of Americans identifying as Christians has dropped from 85% to 76% over the last decade.
  • It's generally accepted that 10% of the population are alcoholics while according to the CDC 20% smoke
  • A survey by the Kaiser Foundation shows that roughly 45% of teenagers have engaged in some form of sexual activity. Teenagers account for 8% of the total population, so that gives us 4%.
  • In 2001, the Federal Reserve reported that 44% of people do not pay off their credit cards monthly.
  • And last year 53% of the voting population voted for Barack Obama. (Just kidding!)
So well more than 100% of the population is engaged in some sort of sin, accounting for likely crossover. And this list covers a broad range, ranging from arguable sins depending on personal convictions (smoking, credit card debt, homosexuality), sins that can be argued isn't the fault of the person (alcoholism, homosexuality), and sins that are subjective to doctrine (Christ's divinity, only Christians are saved).

So is it worth expending such a fuss over a such a small percentage of the whole? Given the above adds up to over 100%, doesn't that just confirm that "all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God." (Romans 3:23) So if believing that homosexuality is sin and that equals hate, then doesn't that mean we 'hate' everyone?

There are a few things we can take away from this. One we, as Christians, should treat all sins and sinners equally because of the above passage. Two, homosexuals should recognize that they are a very small target relative to the Christian desire that "all men be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2:4) Finally, we should be sobered by these statistics and reminded that "not everyone who says to me (Jesus), 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21)

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:13-14)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Things We Do for Love

"Mawage. Mawage is what bwings us togevah todayy..." (From the Princess Bride, thanks Peter for the inspiration!)

I know I said I was going to shy away from gotcha headlines, but I couldn't resist with these two stories today.

First is a moving piece (yeah, I said it) from a gay couple who are one of the few whose marriage was upheld by the California Supreme Court earlier this week. The other is of the notorious priest, 'Father Oprah' who left the Catholic Church so that he can marry the girlfriend he recently got busted with.
What do these have to do with one another? The irony to start. In one case, long standing tradition and legal precedence prevent gay couples from being married (the couple in this case call themselves the "lucky ones") and in the other, long standing tradition and legalistic precedence prevent priests from being married. And I don't necessarily agree with either. (Yet somehow some consider me a bigot, go figure) The irony is that Evangelical Protestants would be quick to defend the priest on the basis of being able to marry whomever he chooses on the basis of love, yet that is the very same argument used to support gay marriage that they vehemently oppose.
Not that I side with either of these couples, however. The description David Schmader gives of his ceremony and the tearful toasts from their fathers is just as possible with a Civil Union. Interestingly, in the subtitle of his article he says he doesn't "feel" married since the California Supreme Court decision. I've been married for five years and I wonder what being married feels like. I know what love feels like and I know what stress feels like, but I don't need a marriage certificate to experience either.
Meanwhile, Father Alberto Cutie' made an oath before God to remain celibate in his calling. (Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. -Matthew 5:33-37) He says, "I believe that I've fallen in love and I believe that I've struggled with that, between my love for God, and my love for the Church and my love for service." But we are told by Jesus that to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength" is the Greatest Commandment (Mark 12:28). And we are also instructed that to follow Jesus, we "must deny [ourselves] and take up [our] cross daily and follow [him]." (Luke 9:23)
And that's the problem in both of these cases. Neither is willing to deny themselves and take up their cross. That's not a popular stance, but then Jesus didn't live to a ripe old age on account of his popularity either.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A New Start: Social Networking

This is a new step for me. I've posted a couple of times about writing and pursuing a personal ministry. I've also been blogging since October 2006 (has it really been that long?) I've had visitors and comments from Italy, Canada and Australia as well as just about every state in the Union at one point or another. But after almost three years, I have four official followers. Four. And two are the same person, just different blogs.

So in an effort to expand this e-ministry, I'm now entering the Facebook and Twitter age. I'm also going to try and change my focus somewhat. The original intent of this blog was twofold. One, to confront the political culture-war that has taken over the Church head-on. And two, to share insight and resources with brothers and sisters in Christ who, as the consequence of a broken Church culture, have been isolated on a spiritual and cultural island. This second part has taken a backseat to the latest gotcha headline. And it's that focus that I want to share via Facebook and Twitter (And eventually DT Space, but it's time to put the kids to bed).

So stay tuned.

"Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it." (Mark 16:20)

"Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction." (2 Timothy 4:2)

Monday, May 25, 2009

On Time God

Earlier I wrote about being called to a ministry. As I said, there are many issues on my heart. Besides the obstacle of fear, I also have to overcome the obstacle of my lifestyle. I look at something like “the one suitcase challenge” and I wonder how anyone could ever do that. I look at my own family, a wonderful wife with an engaging career, a son in preschool and a daughter in diapers, and I ask what do I possibly have time to do? I’ve been focusing on teaching by leading a small group at my church with the same theme as this blog. Is that enough? I don’t know.

I look at a coworker who leads missions work at his church. He travels to Russia once a year and to Mexico at least once a quarter. I see the joy it brings him (along with plenty of headaches) and am inspired to follow in his footsteps. Then I look at his family and his career and I contrast with my own. He has a fifteen year head start on me. He’s further along in his career and that has afforded him the flexibility in his schedule to do all that he does. He’s been married longer and his kids are older which has also helped him pursue his ministry.

I can look elsewhere and see the same thing. Those I admire are more mature, having learned from the school of hard knocks and many more years of in-depth Bible study. That's not to stop me from doing anything now however. But I need to have realistic expectations.

So I look and I’m told in my heart to be patient.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Who Watches the Watchmen?

I don’t know why I didn’t think of this when the movie came out, but I heard this verse listening to a lesson today and I forgot how powerful it is. Speaking of 'watchmen', Ezekiel 22:30 reads, “I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none” This is a direct challenge to all of us today to be Watchmen for our homes, our churches, and our communities. Who will watch the Watchmen? Well, God of course: "For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him." (2 Ch 16:9)

Back in the day when I was thinking about starting up this blog, I was considering the name Watchman based on the above passage, but also this excerpt from Ezekiel 33:

The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, speak to your countrymen and say to them: 'When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not take warning and the sword comes and takes his life, his blood will be on his own head. Since he heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning, his blood will be on his own head. If he had taken warning, he would have saved himself. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood.'

"Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you will surely die,' and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself. (Ez 33:1-9)

I went with Public Christianity because of the media emphasis on the infamous Value Voter at the time. But I don’t want to get away from the call in these scriptures either. I pray as the eyes of God roam the earth… he finds you and calls you higher.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Building a Ministry

I’m sure you’ve been there before, listening to a sermon convinced it was directly solely at you. Or have someone tell you something that just happened to coincide with what you’ve been reading in your Quiet Times. Well this is the second time in just a few months that the Holy Spirit has penetrated my heart with the call to ministry. A few months ago, I was reading If You Want to Walk On Water You've Got to Get Out of the Boat while a friend was independently encouraging me to not let my fears stand in the way of doing what God was calling me to. Now, I’m listening to a radio ministry telling me the same thing right after I attended the Antelope Valley Christian Writers Conference. The first time around, I didn’t know to what ministry I was being led. Missions, community outreach, and teaching were all on my heart. I reluctantly attended the writers conference this year after offering a great deal of verbal, prayerful, and even financial support to the brother who put it on. He has long been encouraging me to write but I have to admit my fear in doing so. This blog is somewhat cathartic in that sense; it is an outlet for this desire while honing the discipline I will need to write for real.

Ok, so I’m being called to write. But that doesn’t narrow down the ministry. I learned at the conference that there are 1200 (or was it 12,000? Either way!) different markets for Christian writing and avenues I never even considered. I have dozens of ideas in my head but I don’t know which can translate into a 300 page book or which would make a better 1000 word article. And even then, there are hundreds of publishers, magazines, journals, and websites to solicit to.

Another challenge I need to overcome is a sense of guilt I have in writing. I wrestled with this same guilt in writing this blog. I feel that I’m somewhat of a hypocrite writing about how things should be but not actively doing anything about it myself. Take for example my recent post referencing abortion. While what I wrote may be all fine and good, am I putting into practice what I’m preaching? There’s a saying, those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach. I think a better way of putting it would be those who can, do, and those who can’t, write. I don’t want to just write without action. Most of those I met last weekend participated in some ministry. Their writing was often an offshoot of that ministry, rather than the writing being the ministry. So I’m back to my original question: to what ministry am I being called? I have a lot of prayer, soul searching and advice seeking ahead of me. I welcome your prayers and feedback.

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" (Jer 29:11)

"[God] determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live." (Acts 17:26)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Now THAT'S Economic Stimulus!

A church in Texas has given a new purpose to the traditional collection plate. Instead of taking up an offering, they offered the plate to whomever needed it. In the past two months, they've given away a half-million dollars and this has inspired the congregation to be more generous than ever. Not only are they giving to congregants in need, but they're also giving back to the community and spreading the wealth to missions. I love this quote from the pastor when questioned if he worried about being taken advantage of, "I told my church a couple weeks ago, if I'm not being taken advantage of, I'm not being like Jesus."

This church is not alone in this either. The article doesn't say, but they may have been inspired by the book The Kingdom Assignment and its continued ministry.

This is an inspiring story, and one I hope my own congregation can repeat in some fashion. In a time when so many are worried how they're going to pay for their next meal or if they'll still have a job in a week, this church is doing what churches should be doing: helping those in need and inspiring hope. It's an example we should all consider.

On Sunday I shared for our contribution and related the story of the rich young man in Matthew 19. Considering the comfort we enjoy in this country and the religious freedom we have, I pointed out that giving sacrificially is likely the hardest thing we will ever do as Christians. Jesus told his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven." (Mt 19:23) Hope, from stories like this, make it that much easier.

My Last Post on NBC's Kings, Honest!

There was an interesting article in Entertainment Weekly a week or so back asking why science fiction doesn’t work on TV but does in movies. While not discussed, I think the problem lies in a movie’s ability to wrap up a story line in a couple hours rather than stretch a story over an entire television season if not multiple seasons. Our ADHD, 24-hour news cycle culture doesn’t have the patience for it.

This problem is found in shows like Kings or Life, two of NBC’s latest fatalities. An article at the comic book news portal, Newsarama, compares Kings with Eli Stone (another tragic loss), in that not only having to overcome the challenge of a serialized drama they also had to overcome the stigma of being “about God”. (The creators of both series are in the comic book business, but the hope that would translate into a built-in audience never saw fruit.)

While the religious undertones were a part of the problem with both of these shows, other factors such as time slot and marketing were factored more largely. I really liked Eli Stone myself, but there was no way I was going to stay up to watch it after Lost living on the West Coast. That’s one reason my television viewing is primarily online with the occasional supplement of Netflix. And that’s part of the problem- networks still haven’t figured out a way to take into account online viewership or DVD rentals to gauge popularity. I have yet to meet anyone who has seen Eli Stone that didn’t like it, so it was more a question of finding the time to take on a new show. And serialized dramas have the built-in challenge of viewers not being able to jump in mid-season or even second season without catching up on all the backstory. For example, if you’ve never watched Lost I dare you to watch last week’s season finale. There’s no way to watch that show and not feel, well, lost.

Kings was a different case however. It only got a few shows in before being cancelled and the plot wasn’t so complex that you couldn’t figure out what was going on jumping in mid-stream. In fact, some have said that was the problem- they drew out their storylines too far (in comic book terms, the story was too decompressed). But the biggest problem was the accessibility of the show. NBC gave Kings a big push to kick it off, but they never really said what the show was about. I had to read up on it online after seeing the butterfly banners all over LA to realize it was a “modern retelling of the story of King David”. That had me hooked, but I knew it would be hard to hook others. The article mentions how marketing could’ve been handled differently- targeting different demographics by emphasizing different aspects of the story. Really, Kings had it all: it was somewhat sci-fi in that it was an alternate-reality allegory, it had equal parts teen drama (think David and Michele’s relationship in an episode of Gossip Girls) and adult soap (King Silas and his brother, his infidelity and his wife could’ve come straight out of Dynasty), and despite some criticisms the religious undertones were never overstated. In fact there was one episode where the Reverend Samuels didn’t even show up until near the end. And I don’t consider butterflies swarming (do butterflies swarm?) around David to be “preachy.”

But once the cat was out of the bag that this show was in any way spiritual it was automatically given the label of religious. I never got the impression that this show was preachy, but then again I was the target demographic. And while there was spirituality involved it could hardly be called religious. There is no mention of the God of the show being the Judeo-Christian God, the Reverend Samuels could have just as easily been Leo McGarry in the West Wing, and in the last episode the protagonist expressed doubt God even existed or if he did then he doesn’t care. But there is a preconceived bias against anything spiritual. Read the comments on Newsarama and you’ll see this (“I can’t turn on the TV without being preached to!”). I was taught in elementary school that all stories have morals even if they’re as basic as “crime doesn’t pay”. Those morals have to be rooted in something, right? Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want them to do to you is universally accepted, but turn that into a quote from Jesus and suddenly you’re preachy. So while Kings and Eli Stone are cancelled, shows that celebrate hedonism and debauchery (The Bachelor, Gossip Girls, Grey’s Anatomy, et al) continue unrestrained. I’m glad I don’t waste my money on cable.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Abortion Shmabortion

Unless you've been living under a rock (and if so, I can relate!) you've probably heard about all the uproar over President Barack Obama receiving an honorary degree and giving the commencement address at very-catholic (yet neither Big 10 nor Big East) Notre Dame. He isn't the first sitting president to do this, nor is he the first Liberal or Democrat to receive this honor. The abortion debate is nothing new, but the fuss over this time was unique. Maybe the newer debate over embryonic stem cell research was the straw that broke the Pro-Life camel's back. I'm not sure, but 27 people were arrested, including Norma McCorvey. Who, you may ask? She is the 'Roe' in Roe v Wade and it is seldom reported that she is now in the Pro-Life camp.

But enough about that, the protest shows that we have a long way to go to reach the point where as the President said we would stop "reducing those with differing views to caricature." And that's what the abortion debate has become- a war of words, belittling the opinions and convictions of the other side.

If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times, the Church should not be spending all her resources rallying behind political candidates with the hope of tipping the balance of the Supreme Court. But instead should be pouring her heart into those at-risk of abortions. No, purity balls for teens don't count. These are young girls, heavily involved in their churches that would be likely to abstain from sex until marriage anyways. No, I'm talking about those impacted by the socio-economic drivers that lead to abortions. You're not likely to find these women in all-white suburban mega-churches.

I heard an interview with the guys from Audio Adrenaline and they were talking about "orphan prevention" instead of the usual orphan adoption/foster home outreach many churches participate in. In Haiti, with their Hands and Feet Project, they reach out the impoverished to take away the economic incentive to give up a child.

Look out into your community and reach out to the struggling mother. Befriend the single-mom at church that no one else talks to. Embrace the teens in your church to value the blessing of sex in the context of marriage and the sanctity of life developing in a womb. Participate in "abortion prevention".

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Add a Little Salt to Your Character

Solid spiritual wisdom, no? Actually, a table-topper peddling margaritas at Chilis tonight. Instead I offer this wisdom that's more refreshing and less likely to give you a hangover.

"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Mt 5:13-16)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Drugs Don't Work

(pick your favorite artist for the song above: Morphine, Radiohead, Ben Harper. They've all come to the same conclusion)

A couple of weeks ago a gentleman came to our Chemical Recovery (CR) meeting with a serious alcohol problem. His doctor told him he needed to quit drinking or his liver would fail. He's in his 30s.

We introduced the program to him, explained that we are faith-based, and reminded him of the first three steps of AA:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

He surrendered to the first, but couldn't accept the second or especially the third. He believed there was a God, but wouldn't turn to Him to overcome his addiction. He strongly believed there had to be an easier way and was going to try medical treatment.

Treating addiction has an interesting history. Traditionally, before 12-step programs, the addict was either jailed (the drunk tank), shunned by his community (the local drunk), or institutionalized (the thorazine shuffle). Addiction was either a legal or medical problem. It wasn't until the Oxford Group started to take hold that addiction was considered a spiritual issue. Alcoholics Anonymous recognized the need to surrender to a higher power, but also the need for community support (the group). Interestingly, when alcohol was introduced to Native Americans, their treatment consisted of taking the alcoholic out to the wilderness to "return him to his roots" with the support of a couple of close friends. So community and spirituality are key to recovery.

Medical treatment sidesteps these two critical ingredients. A recent article on MSN Health discussed a drug that inhibits the pleasure part of the brain that is stimulated by alcohol. The theory goes that if you keep drinking, eventually you'll miss the effect and quit. I'm reminded by the Big Book that "the great obsession of every abnormal drinker is to control and enjoy his drinking." This medicine claims to take away the joy and allow the abnormal drinker to control, or even quit his drinking. The article is filled with mixed reviews of this method, but only twice in two pages does the possibility that it's not just about "enjoying the drink" even get mentioned, raising the possibility of turning to other drugs, or more importantly never dealing with the root causes like depression. That's why those two ingredients of spirituality and community are so important.

A brother once asked me if CR really worked because if you quit drinking, what keeps you from picking something else up? Spirituality and community. Spirituality gives you a hope and a purpose- the will to overcome, while community gives you accountability and help. Medications don't offer either of these.

"When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation." (Mt 12:43-45)

You can drive out all the evil spirits, so to speak, you want with miscellaneous treatments. But until you fill your house with the Spirit of God, your "final condition... [will be] worse than the first."

More to come on this subject

Monday, May 11, 2009

And Now for Something Completely Different

Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, "It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat." (John 5:8-10)

From the helps in my Life Application Bible regarding the Jewish leaders: "They threw the miracle aside as they focused their attention on the broken rule, because the rule was more important to them than the miracle."

A couple of headlines that have caught my attention:

"Teen suspended for going to girlfriend's prom" because he attends a Baptist school and they forbid dancing. Sadly, "suspended" includes being prohibited from attending his own graduation. I guess the plus side is his instant celebrity. "Frost didn't go to school Monday. Instead, he and his girlfriend are heading to New York for a Tuesday morning TV interview." Priorities, you know.

The other, "Celebrity priest backs celibacy but may marry". I guess this popular priest, dubbed "Father Oprah" was spotted by a tabloid getting too touchy-feely with a woman on a Miami beach. According to Father Alberto Cutie (ironic last name, no?) he's been "romantically involved" with this woman for two years. Oh, he said that on the CBS "Early Show".

Oh, to be a Christian celebrity.

I don't want to throw either of these under the bus. But I do want to point out how their respective denominations care more about the rule than the miracle, so to speak. Biblically, based on what's publicly known anyway, neither has done anything wrong, but are being disciplined by human institutions based on long-held traditions.

Jesus said, "Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: "'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'" (Matthew 15:6b-9, referencing Isaiah 29:13)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Call Your Mother!

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. -John 19:25-27

Even in Jesus' most trying time, he remembered to take care of his mother. Even after being arrested, humiliated, beaten, and crucified his mother stood by him to the end. Thank God for moms.

Happy Mother's Day

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

National Day of Prayer

Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper. -Jeremiah 29:7

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. -James 4:1-3

Saturday, May 02, 2009

I wish they all could be California girls...

No, not really. Especially if they're anything like Miss California, Carrie Prejean. Is anyone tired of this yet? She was asked a question on gay marriage from an openly gay host whose only claim to fame is running an online tabloid and having a name similar to Paris Hilton. She was open about her faith in interviews leading up to the pageant and California is home to the controversial Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. What did she expect to happen?

So she lost. So she said it was because of her answer opposing gay marriage. So what.

So Miss Prejean did what Evangelical Christians have learned to do, not from the example of Jesus Christ, but from their political brand of American Christianity (TM)- she played the "persecution" card. Now she's a celebrity to the Religious Right (scroll down down at the 558 mark and listen to the podcast if you want to hear this "great" interview) and a spokesperson for the National Organization of Marriage (I'd never heard of it before she came along, and I'm against gay-marriage).

Yes, the Perez Hilton went over the line by taking her response personal instead of crediting her for her honesty and not being tempted by peer pressure to be politically correct. He then left the line far behind in his rear view mirror when he went public calling her a "b---h" and "c--t" just because she thinks differently than he does. But that does not come close to equalling Christian persecution.

I've written several times before criticising the "persecution complex" of American Christianity (TM), and I'll repeat myself by saying her crying about losing a beauty pageant is an insult to the thousands of Christians across the globe whose lives are threatened because of their faith.

Did I mention this was a beauty pageant? An celebration of vanity if there ever was one. And last I checked, vanity is a sin. It doesn't help her cause that she got breast implants before the competition and that they were paid for by her California sponsor.

I'm sorry, but I have little sympathy for this woman. Was she treated unfairly? Yes, of course. Was it because of her faith? Not sure if it was as much a matter of faith than of politics. Is she being persecuted? Yes to a degree, but only because she's elevated herself to the level of national celebrity. I'll certainly pray for her and wish nothing but the best, but I won't claim her as speaking for me, my politics, nor my faith.

Instead I turn to Jesus, who never backed down from persecution. "At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, "Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you." He replied, "Go tell that fox, 'I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.' "(Luke 13:31-32) But his goal wasn't political or to change the social norms (though admittedly he did speak out against some of them, emphasis on some) but instead to offer redemption to the world through shedding his blood.

Friday, May 01, 2009

3 Year Plan

This week I started a new job. Actually, it's the same job, but new employer. I'm proud of the fact that I'm now on my fourth employer in the last 18 months. A brother in my Small Group has me beat though. He's had four different jobs in the past year!

Despite pretty much having the same job for seven years, I'm now under a three year probationary period with my new employer. That will put me at 10 years professional experience, a magic number if I look for jobs elsewhere. But more importantly it gives me three years to get my act together.

I expect and accept that my professional goals and my spiritual goals will someday diverge. And while I feel the Spirit pulling my heart, I don't know where that leads. But one thing I do know, is that I want to write. That's part of the point of this blog- to help me get my thoughts and feelings out there and to get in the habit of writing regularly. I also intend this blog to be more of a ministry than a simple outlet.

With that in mind, this blog is really the second step in a four-part plan. The first step was a failed attempt at an online newsletter linking churches, ministries, and friends with the goal of spiritual unity without any mandate from church leadership. It started out well, but at the time I wasn't able to follow through and make it consistent.

This is the second step, and I'm a couple of years in. I want and pray for more traffic because I want this blog to be a pebble in the swamp of the internet sending ripples out from it.

The third step I've begun with some fits and starts, and that is to put the theme of this ministry, Public Christianity, into practice. So far I've steered the lessons and Bible Talks in my small group to be consistent with this and I plan on broader church-wide activities in the future.

The fourth step is the most intimidating and that is to publish. I already have the ideas for multiple books in mind but I need to set a deadline for myself to force me to write something down. So that's three years from now.

Call it a fleece, if you will. In three years, if I finish my first book and can't get it published, then I consider that door closed. If it's published and I receive the same tepid response as this blog, well then I'll keep plugging at it until it's clear the effort is futile. If it's published and creates the ripple I pray it will, then I'll go forward full-bore. The trick, at the end of my probationary period at work, will be to see if this will balance or conflict with my career. So that will be the biggest leap of faith in three years.

So please pray for me. I don't know how it will go, or even if it even if it should go at all. I trust the Lord to reveal what he has in store for me and to guide me along the way.

"Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed" (Pr 16:3)

"Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails." (Pr 19:21)