Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Every Nation

I love maps. And I especially love old maps. I don't really know why, I've just always thought it was neat to look at old maps and see how the world has changed- borders move or whole countries disappear, old maps guessing what the western hemisphere looks like, and so on. When I became a Christian, these maps began to mean something more. I could look at a globe and see where the Gospel of Jesus needed to be spread. It wasn't long before I would use maps to help me pray for the global Church.

When my wife and I were first dating I shared this with her. She then took the time to make me a desktop map, listing out all of the countries in which my fellowship of churches either had church plants or missions work. Now that was a prayer aid! I still have that map on my desk at work. I often wonder what someone thinks when they look at China and see "Red Dragon 1" since the church there is underground.

This past Sunday, my church and a sister church we help support raised over $150,000 for missions work. (full disclosure: the entire sum, regrettably, does not go directly towards missions. I'm on our church's board and we're working on that) While I was encouraged to see us exceed our goal ($130k) I'm still left wanting to do more. I've talked about this before, but there is no denying the need to spread the Gospel to every people group on the globe. Even as borders change, the people are still there. Thinking "every nation" is too limited.

An interesting thing I recently learned: the only verb in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) is not "go" but rather "make disciples". The tense in Greek literally translates "make disciples as you go" which is where we get our translation of "Go..." Keep that in mind as you listen to this lesson from David Platt from the Southern Baptist Convention two weeks ago. It is pretty much a rehash of Chapter 5 from his book Radical Together, but it's worth seeing with your own eyes and hearing in his own voice the passion he has for this subject. (he starts at the 8 minute mark)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Plan B

I finally got around to picking up Pete Wilson's Plan B after following Kevin Martineau's book club a couple of months ago. I'm not sure where it ranks on the ever-growing book pile, but I hope to get to it soon.

In the meantime, I've wondered if Pete Wilson and Manafest have ever met. Or if that would be like matter and anti-matter coming into contact with each other? I think it would be funny if someone gives Manafest a copy of the book and says, "yes there is."

If you don't get the joke, Manafest sings a song called "No Plan B". Different context all together, but I can't help but think of the book whenever I hear the song and vice versa. I love the song, and I expect I'll love the book. For your Music Monday playlist, here's Manafest with the alternate-version of the song (ie, harder than you'll hear on most Christian radio). The "screamer" is from the Japanese band, Crossfaith.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Father of Mine



In the Holman Christian Standard translation, "fatherless" appears 40 times. The first instance reflects God's passion, "You must not mistreat any widow or fatherless child." (Exodus 22:22) Elsewhere, we read that God is the defender of the fatherless, he executes justice for the fatherless, and so on.

From The Mentoring Project, they estimate 25 million children are growing up in fatherless homes. Children from fatherless homes are more likely to be involved in violent crime, more likely to join a gang, more likely to become addicted to drugs, more likely to drop out of school, and so on and so on. You could argue correlation does not mean causation, but the statistics are too strong and broad to ignore. If you don't think not having a father around affects our youth, check out the comments left yesterday, Father's Day, on the YouTube page for the above video.

But it doesn't have to be like this. God "defends the cause of the fatherless" (Deuteronomy 10:18). If we are after God's own heart, then we should also be defending the cause of the fatherless. Here are just a sampling of online resources, blogs, and friends who have taken up this cause. Some are focusing on the fatherless, others are strengthening the fathers who are present. My prayer is that together we can reflect God's heart and his character as the perfect Father. Not every father will be faithful, but God always will be. Perfect father of mine.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Proclamation

(Thanks, Ivan, for the inspiration for this)

Last night at our midweek service it was pointed out how often the word "proclaim" shows up in the book of Acts. The point was made that sharing our faith is more than just inviting someone to church. So I thought it would be worthwhile to look at exactly what the earliest disciples were proclaiming. For this I'm using the Holman Christian Standard Bible.
  • But Peter stood up... and proclaimed to them... this Jesus is both Lord and Messiah. (Acts 2:14, 36)
  • ...they were teaching the people and proclaiming in the person of Jesus. (4:2)
  • Every day... they continued teaching and proclaiming the good news that the Messiah is Jesus. (5:42)
  • So those who were scattered went on their way proclaiming the message of good news. (8:4)
  • ...Philip...proclaimed the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ (8:12)
  • Immediately he began proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues: "He is the Son of God." (9:20)
  • He sent the message to the sons of Israel, proclaiming the good news of peace through Jesus Christ--He is Lord of all. (10:36)
  • But there were some of them... who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Hellenists, proclaiming the good news about the Lord Jesus. (11:20)
  • ...they proclaimed God's message in the Jewish synagogues... (13:5)
  • And we ourselves proclaim to you the good news of the promise that was made to our forefathers. (13:32)
  • Therefore, let it be known to you, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is being proclaimed to you (13:38)
  • ...we are proclaiming good news to you, that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God... (14:15)
  • But Paul and Barnabas, along with many others, remained in Antioch teaching and proclaiming the message of the Lord. (15:35)
  • "These men are the slaves of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation." (16:17)
  • "This is the Messiah, Jesus, whom I am proclaiming to you." (17:3)
  • ...God's message had been proclaimed by Paul... (17:13)
  • ...Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you... When they heard about the resurrection of the dead... (17:23,32)
  • ...I did not shrink back from proclaiming to you anything that was profitable... (20:20)
  • ...the Messiah...would proclaim light to our people and to the Gentiles. (26:23)
  • proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with full boldness and without hindrance. (28:31)
A couple things I find interesting here. One, how often proclaiming was accompanied with teaching. And two, how often what was being proclaimed was Jesus, period.

Evangelism doesn't have to be complicated. We only have to proclaim our savior, Jesus Christ. And we need to do so, as that last verse attests, with full boldness and without hindrance. It is good news. Share it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Whelming Flood

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness...
His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood
-'The Solid Rock', Charlie Hall

Warning! Do not continue to read if you are not doctrinally and politically open-minded!

I was recently reading about another blogger's baptism and it got me thinking about my own. I remember friends standing out in the cold (I was baptized in February in a creek) praising God and embracing me. I remember my "good confession". And of course I remember the frigid water. I was raised religious, considered myself a "good person", and had many doubts about whether I even needed to do this. But as I stood in that cold water I was overcome by sense of peace and resolve. I knew I was going to be raised up from that water a new creation filled with the Holy Spirit. But I wasn't expecting what would happen while I was under the water.

Naturally at a time such as this, when so many eyes upon me taking such a momentous action, thoughts flooded my mind. Thoughts of family and friends, thoughts of sins encouraged and sins rejected, thoughts of what may happen next. And as I was dunked under the water all those thoughts rushed through my mind, much like my life flashing before my eyes. I've heard similar accounts from others after their baptisms, some more vivid than others. But each experienced some kind of "life flashing before your eyes" in a very spiritual while also very real sense.

Ok, so maybe you're uncomfortable with my putting so much spiritual weight on a "sacrament". I'm not going to get into any doctrinal or theological debates on this subject right now, but I want you to be in the same frame of mind I was in.

I was encouraged by these thoughts, and they continued through the day. I even had the above song (or at least the quoted verse) playing over and over through my head. Until lunch when I read an article that included the video below. Now here's your warning. The subject of the article? Waterboarding.

Ok, maybe I'm a little crazy relating baptism to waterboarding. But like I said, this was my frame of mind. So as I watched the following video I was thinking about what must have been going through his mind. As I was immersed under water, unable to breathe, spiritually sacrificing my life, the above thoughts and feelings flooded over me. Imagine having a towel placed over your head and water poured over you. But instead of peace, you feel panic, instead of your spiritual life flashing before your eyes, your physical life passes before your eyes in the very real sense that this may be the end. In both cases, it is the end of your life as you've come to know it.

Christopher Hitchens brings up a good point in this interview- if you have some "intelligence" to share, you feel a sense of overwhelming betrayal, and if you don't, you have no hope because there would be no end to the flood. So I wondered how a Christian, at peace with his or her convictions and looking forward to a home that is not of this world, would react to waterboarding (remember, Hitchens is an atheist). But at the same time, wouldn't a Muslim feel much the same way? It's not as if their convictions are weaker. And while they don't practice baptism in the Christian sense, they do practice ceremonial washing (much like in the Jewish faith on which baptism is derived) called Ghusl.

I guess my point is, the feelings of drowning and claustrophobia induced by waterboarding may remind one of baptism or Ghusl, but it does not end. You are not brought back up. Peace is replaced by panic. Yet, does a "true believer" respond differently than a non-believer? If you have no hope going in, I would expect the feeling of hopelessness. But what about Christian martyrs who suffered joyfully under all sorts of torture? Should we expect any different from a Muslim who is firm in their faith? It just seems to me, in hindsight after watching this video, that this method of torture wasn't well thought out. But that's just me.

I want to add that I've been blissfully ignorant about all of this. Yeah, I'd hear about this on the news and see it dramatized in movies, but I've never given it a second thought. This video was made two years ago. I saw it yesterday.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Save Your Life

So a couple of weeks ago, I played "All In" by Lifehouse to kick off my small group's study of Chip Ingram's Living on the Edge. Well, our study slipped a few weeks, but we're picking it back up tonight. Not much more to add to that post other than another song to make the point. As I mentioned in "All In", the idea of total surrender to Christ seems foreign in mainstream Christianity. This song is still growing on me, but there's a lyric that keeps jumping out and grabbing me: "If you surrender, you will live... It's gonna save your life".

Here's "Save Your Life" by Newsboys.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Flashback Friday: Origins

To make up for not being online hardly at all this week, I'm offering a two-for-one special: a Flashback to my very first post plus a little more about me.

Believe it or not, this blog started as a chain email. You know the kind: "the world is going to hell in a hand basket so forward to 100 people or you don't love Jesus!" Honestly, I was tired of getting those. The straw that broke the camel's back (or caused my inbox to exceed its limit) was one I had received a dozen times already about not praying at school being the reason our country is in the state it's in.

I thought about that for a moment. Is the lack of prayer in schools the problem with our country, or is the problem the hundreds or thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of so-called Christians who think their religious duty is limited to showing up on Sunday (when there's not a game on or the kids don't have a soccer tournament) and forwarding religiously-themed emails? I was amazed that I had received this very same email so many times from so many different people.

So I wrote my own, complete with "forward this or make baby Jesus cry!" I wrote about how is it that 85% of Americans call themselves Christians yet... divorce rate is greater than 50%, more people are in prison per-capita than any other industrialized nation, x-number of abortions a year (I should know that number off the top of my head, does that make me a bad Christian?), more children are born into homes with a single parent than are born to two-parent homes (recent stat, but seriously???), and on and on.

I was curious if I'd ever see that email forwarded back to me. Honestly I doubt anyone I sent it to forwarded it on. Too much fire and brimstone. But it got me thinking how the internet could be used as a ministry tool and how individuals were empowered to voice their message to the faceless crowd. I thought a lot too about what kind of message that should be. I had just started following a couple of blogs and saw the community created around the shared convictions and open discussion. Maybe there was something to this. So what's the message?

I realized, looking around at the Christian-consumer landscape, that generally Christians have isolated themselves on social islands. They like what the Christian marketplace tells them to like (Fireproof!) and vote for who they are told to vote (Palin!). Now that's a broad-brush and not really fair, but that's how I felt at the time. Add to that the divisions between churches (I'm right, you're wrong and going to hell for it!) creating other islands in this ocean of culture, and I choose to write about that. Current events. Politics. Even throw some Bible in there. Of course, it's evolved since then, but here I am almost five years later still shaking my head at what I see out there (while thankfully spending more time concerned about what's going on in here, plank in my eye and all).

Something else, since it keeps getting asked, here's the story behind "fatha frank". I was raised Catholic, for one, and was almost guilted into going into the priesthood. When I was baptized in a campus ministry, I was in grad school, making me one of the oldest students in that ministry (older than our campus minister, in fact). Between those two I got dubbed "Father Frank" by a few friends. When I set up my accounts and online identity, I wanted to keep the name, but I didn't want strangers (since I was going to post openly to anyone on my blog) to think I was an actual priest, so I changed it. In fact, a friend and I came up with it at the wedding reception of another friend of ours. So blame him.

So now you know a little more about me, tell me something I don't know about you.

And for entertainment purposes only, here is my very first post:

What the World Needs Now

Is another religion/politics blog, like I need a hole in my head! (sung to Cracker's, "What the World Needs Now" [ed note: actually the song is called "Teen Angst") So why me? Why this blog? And if you're here because of a blog search, I'm sorry! There's not much content yet, but I'm working on it.

A couple of years ago the world was introduced to a new term, "values voters," a segment of the population that (gasp!) voted their conscience. It didn't take long before this "new" segment of Americans became commercial, worldly, co-opted by special interests, and the new pop-culture buzzword. Since the '04 election some ministers have become politicians, ministries have become special interests, and being a Christian became more about how you vote than how you live. Now we're on the dawn of mid-terms, and both sides are fighting to capture the value vote.

So what makes me different? After all, aren't I buying into the system by becoming yet another religious/political blog? That's exactly why I'm doing this. To be different. While I'm not ashamed of this being political, I want the dialogue (or would a blog be more of a monologue?) to be more deep and broad than, "W sux!" or, "W rox!" I also want this to be more than just politics, but also how religion ties into pop-culture and what we can learn from what's going on in the world.

The links to the right are a work in progress. So far "resources" are related to the topics I post about, while "blogs" are brothers in Christ whom I respect that post on their convictions and their life. You might notice some of the links look like they don't belong (ACLU????). But I'll talk about that next time. So please come back!

Monday, June 06, 2011

Sing!

I get a kick out of the song "Music" my Manic Drive. But every time I'd hear it, it would remind me of another song. And it was killing me because I couldn't figure out which. Then I heard "Sing" by My Chemical Romance and the light went on. Two songs that musically have nothing in common, but I think share a common theme.

There's a verse in NEEDTOBREATHE's "Garden" that I think is appropriate to these two songs:

Let the songs I sing, bring a joy to you
Let the words I say, confess my love
Let the notes I choose, be your favorite tune
And Father, let my heart be after you

So for fun, enjoy these two songs to kick off your week.

I pray your life is a song, sing it loud.




Friday, June 03, 2011

Flashback Friday: Flight of the Navigator

***Originally posted June 10, 2009 after Air France flight 447 crashed into the ocean on its way from Rio to Paris. Reposted as the second black box was found and details begin to emerge. The most chilling detail so far: the plane stalled and literally fell out of the sky in 4 minutes before crashing. 4 minutes. That's a long time to think about your fate.***

"Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous. But to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of carelessness, incapacity, or neglect. " -Anonymous
I first read the above quote in one of the many articles I've read on the Air France disaster. Sadly, this event reminds us just how unforgiving flying can be. Yesterday, airlines replaced the speed sensors suspected to have been the cause of the accident even though the "black box" hasn't been found and there's limited information from data sent from the plane prior to its crash. These are experts in aviation however, who have reached this conclusion. So I trust they know what they're talking about.

And I can understand, even relate. Imagine you're the pilot of this plane: you're flying over the ocean, you can't see any landmarks and you're surrounded by blue, above and below. Your sensors then give you conflicting readings of your speed. You're cruising, not climbing, so you don't have a physical sense of how fast you really are going. There's nothing on the ground or on the horizon to relate your speed with. You have no choice but to trust your instruments.

This had to have been extremely difficult for the pilot. I was once handed the controls of a plane and had the pleasure of experiencing aviation beyond the textbook. We were approaching a mountain peak when the guy I was with told me to climb to a certain altitude. I thought the peak was a long ways off, but sure enough, by the time I reached that altitude I could tell the peak was right there. It's very difficult to judge distance, and therefore speed, from the air.

"Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men." -Martin Luther King
Spiritually, it's also very difficult to judge not only how fast we're going but also where we're going. How do we know we're doing alright with our relationship with God? How do we know we're making the right decision when given choices? How do we know we're honoring God when we seize opportunities and not honoring ourselves? We can't trust our own instruments. If we do, we're likely to crash. "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (Jer 17:9)

Thank God we don't have to rely on our own navigation. He gives us a guide, a navigator. "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'" (Is 30:21) We can trust the Holy Spirit when our instruments fail. I pray that as many as possible on that flight had a navigator they could trust.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Words Matter

A weekend ago I attended the 6th Antelope Valley Christian Writers' Conference. It was my third time attending, and I continue to be challenged and encouraged in my writing endeavors. A theme this time that seemed to be consistent to many of the invited faculty was the priority of Jesus in our lives. Writing as a calling is a challenge, especially if you have another occupation, have family to care for, and/or are otherwise easily distractable. Where do you find time for Jesus in the midst of overcoming writer's block, doing research, and submitting queries and proposals?

The keynote the first night called our attention to the "writer's chapter" in Matthew. Matthew 23 to be exact. You are most likely familiar with this passage as the "woe to you!" rebuke from Jesus. But look closely to whom Jesus is rebuking: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees..." (verses 13, 14, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29 in the New King James, emphasis added) The charge against these scribes, aka the writers of their day, was hypocrisy- writing one thing but living another. As a blogger and writer-to-be I have to take this seriously. Do the words I type on the screen match the life I'm actually living?

The guard against this, of course, is Jesus. So he continues in verse 34, "Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city..." Ok, maybe the last part isn't encouraging. But what is encouraging is that Jesus sends prophets, wise men (and women!) and writers into the world to spread His message. And in order for writers to be sent from Jesus, they need to start with Jesus.

So I ask myself, "how often do I pray about the blog I have yet to write? How often do I seek spiritual counsel about the topics I'm discussing? Am I writing this for my own vainglory or the Glory of God? Am I trying to become famous, credible, have a large following? Do I spend more time 'social networking' than in personal Bible study?" and on and on. Naturally, I don't like the answer to many of these questions.

My words matter. So I need to be firmly rooted in Jesus and His Word. I need to be about Him, not me. I need to take seriously the truth that the words I type have spiritual consequences. I need to take seriously the warning from James: "Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly." (v 3:1) And as an author I have to recognize the ultimate Author in "Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith..." (Hebrews 12:2)