Friday, August 29, 2008

Thoughts About Jesus and Politics

I am sorry everyone for a disappearance from the blogsphere, this summer has been one of the greatest but also time consuming that I have ever experienced. This week I have been getting back into the swing of things with school starting but most sad of all my beloved laptop, Emily has been not behaving in a way that provokes me to love and good deeds. Apologizes aside, here’s some thoughts to think about as we go about this glorious three day weekend.

This week I have been closely watching the DNC convention that has been taking place in Denver, mostly because the Olympics are over and there is nothing else exciting on television. I’ve noticed that there has been an increase this year not only in this polical party but in many political parties they are trying to reach-out to religious voters. At the outset this might not seem like such a bad idea but my problem lies with the way they are going about it. Many political parties speak about Jesus and His life, but I think that both political parties have missed the point of who Jesus is. We read in the book of james that even the demons know God is one and in the book of Acts, when some men tried to use the name of Jesus to exorcises demons, but it didn’t work.

The point of all of this is that I think if we do not get Jesus right, we completely miss the point of biblical Christianity. Think about it, if Jesus did not come to be the sacrifice for sinners, we would still have to work to achieve our salvation. Even the name of our religion comes from Him, so mess with the founder of our religion and creates him to be something he is or is not can be very dangerous. I think it is disappointing when many people who profess they are Christians but when it comes to describing the work of Jesus, they are misguided. Jesus’ works or miracles cannot take place on a higher field than His work of dying on the cross for our sins. This is why he came, was to satisfy his father’s plan, which was to bring sinners to his side and call them children of God.

I think it can be truly hazardous to our faith if we only look at the good deeds of Christ and say that is who Jesus is. Christ didn’t just come to heal the sick, feed the poor and walk on water, He was the promised one to crush the serpent’s head and become the suffering servant. His work is to be the righteousness of the unrighteous, his gift is both for the republican and the democrat, the happy and the sad, all who call on the name of Christ will be saved, not just the ones in low estate but the ones who appear that life is all together. Please understand I think we are to live our lives in accordance to what we read in scriptures but I don't think Christ should be used as a savior for either political party or even us as Americans. Christ came and died and rose again for His children, which are scattered all across the US but also around the world.

I think the following quote is something that we as Christians need to remind ourselves of but also when we are talking about Christ to others as well:

“Jesus shocked the established authorities by being a friend to all—not only to the destitute and hungry, but also to those rich extortioners, the tax-collectors, whom all decent people ostracized … The shocking thing was not that he sided with the poor against the rich but that he met everyone equally with the same unlimited mercy and the same unconditioned demand for total loyalty.

If we look at the end of his earthly ministry, at the cross, it is clear that Jesus was rejected by all—rich and poor, rulers and people—alike. Before the cross of Jesus there are no innocent parties. The cross is not for some and against others. It is the place where all are guilty and all are forgiven.”

—Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 151

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Today's Youth Culture vs. a Biblical Worldview

Just a quick note to let everyone know that I will be speaking at the upcoming Youth Pastors' Seminar sponsored by our friends at KPXQ radio.

Please pass the word to anyone and everyone you know who works with youth! It's September 19 on the campus of Southwestern College.

Get the rest of the details and register online at

My topic will be Today's Youth Culture vs. a Biblical Worldview.
(Sound intriguing enough?)

Hope to see you all there!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

"Let's give 'em somethin to talk about..."

Earlier this week, I had a very uninteresting phone conversation with my father. We exchanged the usual pleasantries: "how are things, blah blah blah." In spite of the many lackluster conversations we've had before, I was surprised at just how mundane this conversation was for the following reasons:
1) We hadn't spoken in months and
2) He had a dramatic event occur at work recently
As I am wont to do, I answered all his inquiries about my life with brazen honesty. I shared about the joys in my life and the concerns of my heart. I opened my heart to him, thinking that the point of our rare conversations was to know and encourage each other better. He is, after all, my Dad. Needless to say I was pretty disappointed when my inquiries about his life were answered with a brief, vague monologue which was quickly followed by the all-too-familiar "I'll let you go..." and then silence. Considering that my Dad was pretty uninvolved throughout my childhood, I'm grateful for the occasional, albeit dissatisfying phone conversation. Even so, my "decidedly distant" relationship with my father got me thinking about conversations, especially conversations with fellow believers.

My mind immediately went to church. Some of the most meaningless conversations I've ever had have taken place at a church on Sunday. We all know know the social rules and we follow the format with very little deviation:
"How are you?"
"Good, how are you?"
"Fine, thanks."
"Great! See you later!"
Call me crazy, but I don't think we should let each other get away with that. It is truly unfortunate that that western conversational mores don't allow for deep, personal interaction in most social scenes, apparently including at church. I understand that certain boundaries must be maintained for the sake of promoting good conversation. For example, there is a difference between sharing concerns and just plain whining. Conversational manners are important to a degree. I mean, I would be pretty thrown off if an acquaintance replied to my "How are you?" with "I've been really constipated this week."
The point is that Scripture gives Christians instructions on how to converse "...encourage one another and build each other up..." 1 Thes. 5:11 and what to converse about- "rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn..." Romans 12:15. I'm afraid that all too often we let pleasantries suffice. As members of the body of Christ, we have some seriously great conversation material at our disposal. Our conversations with other Christians should relfect the intimate bond we have through our faith.

Monday, August 18, 2008

On My Reading Wish-List

One of the things I've mentioned more than a few times — here on the blog as well as on the radio show — is that most Christians today don't really know what they believe beyond a generic, vanilla brand of faith which nearly every Christian can agree with. And now it appears the even Chuck Colson agrees with me ;~).

[The church] doesn't know what it believes, or doesn't believe what's it's been taught to believe. So if that's the case, we can't live it, and even more serious, we can't define it to the world. More importantly, the atheists (Hitchens, Lewontin, Dawkins, et al) and other non-theists end up defining Christianity (creating a caricature) for those who don't know any different–because we can't define it & defend it ourselves. ~ Chuck Colson
A few months ago, Colson released a book that addresses some these issues. I haven't read it yet, but plan to pick it up soon. The Faith: What Christians Believe, Why They Believe It, and Why It Matters - by Chuck Colson & Harold Fickett

Here are a few excerpts from various reviews:

He writes: “Most professing Christians don’t know what they believe, and so can neither understand nor defend the Christian faith—much less live it” (p.9).

. . . to carry out the tasks we are given in the first chapters of Genesis, to bring a redeeming influence into a fallen culture. I call this the Cultural Commission…” (p.107). The task is difficult, hindered by postmodern influences on the younger generation. Young adults “resist direct presentations of the Christian faith and its ethical implications” resulting in Biblical illiteracy (p. 62). Stories and experiences appeal to them more than the Bible or doctrinal teachings. [However], Romans 10:17 says that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

I was impressed and in concurrence with Mr. Colson that the foundations on which our faith is built are largely ignored or lightly touched upon within the Western Christian world; namely the U.S. and Europe. He identifies the historic foundations on which our faith is built and then brings a relevancy to them with his personal experiences and stories of contemporary figures.

The Faith defines faith as “more than a religion or even a relationship with Jesus; the faith is a complete view of the world and humankind’s place in it” (p.28).
Colson sticks to orthodoxy in his explanation of tenets and doctrines without the pluralistic overtones taken by many of today's religious leaders. Colson pulls no punches and takes no prisoners while explaining issues about Jesus and the Trinity. On occasion, he even takes on Christopher Hitchins and Richard Dawkins who have attacked Christianity with an almost religious fervor and zeal. Colson doesn't stoop to their level; however, he avoids hate mongering and keeps a cool head while pointing out where their logic fails.

And as a very late follow-up to my post of June 17, titled You're Such a Flirt - Here's one of my favorite authors from World magazine, Andrée Seu (and more here), commenting on the issue of flirting:

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Choose ye this day. . . Beijing or Heaven?

At church last Sunday, several of us were talking about the opening ceremonies of the Olympics which we had all watched just the Friday before.

We were all impressed with the pomp, the pageantry, the theatrics, the sheer magnitude of the Beijing ceremony. I had heard that there were roughly 10,000 (or 15,000, depending on the source) individuals involved in the event.

TV commentators mentioned afterward that this was by far the best, the most impressive opening ceremony they had ever witnessed, that China had raised the bar to a whole new level, that London (host to the 2012 summer games) would have a tough time matching Beijing's ceremony.

Eventually, our conversation turned to heaven. One man—a first-time visitor to our church—mentioned that compared to the Olympic ceremony, heaven would be even MORE impressive because "eye had not seen nor ear heard" anything quite like what we were going to see there. Several people agreed: heaven would be even more amazing, filled with even more pageantry and beauty.

Then we heard a dissenting voice. One man raised the question: Will heaven be all "pomp and circumstance," or will it be simple—even barren—compared to the Olympic event? Would heaven be all pageantry and theatrics. . . or would a grand ceremony take away from the real center of attention, Christ the King?

He wondered out loud if the marriage feast of the Lamb would be simple food—rather than rich and sumptuous—so that the meal itself didn't draw our attention away from the Host of the meal.

What do you think? Where would you rather spend eternity—at the Beijing ceremony with its grand ceremony and glitter—or in a quiet, simple, even austere—heaven?

Let the conversation continue.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Some time this week I will have lived longer than my father. I have now seen three generations of my children and it would be a pleasure to have the third generation increase. I have no memory of my grandparents and I view my presence on their behalf a privilege.

Exodus 20:12 "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.”

This is a Command with a blessing.

Respect and obey your parents. Reverence or shall I say venerate them. As we grow old ourselves the obey aspect is present, but obedience is an acknowledgement of their increased wisdom and the often given direction.

My oldest son gave me a Father’s Day card with the following: “Whether in front of me leading the way or behind me giving your full support, you’ve always been there for me in every way a loving father could ever be.” The honor is mine and I love him for that honor. Not only have I given counsel as a father, but I am willing to take counsel from my sons. I have found this true from my youngest son. As I call him for help with problems, he instructs me not to fix the problem before he arrives. Sound advice, especially when I miss up the problem. The honor is mine and I love him for that honor

The Command I believe is significant of others to be honored. Luther said that the Command was also given to honor our founders, protectors, and teachers and promotes our spiritual life. Luther contended that they are the representatives of God. So directly we have in our lives two institutions to be honored, our parents and our government. It would seem that society and its structure are decreed sacred.

I have reflected often on this Command, especially as my parents and wife’s parents grew old and died. I wanted to be sure I gave them the honor that was due them. That was the blessing, to honor them.

Let the conversation begin.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Two in One!

Firstly, I apologize for posting out of turn. We've had Internet issues lately so this is the first chance I've had to post for a while.

My original blog was about an article that I found last week. The article (and the atheist community's reaction to the article) is pretty interesting. However, as I was re-reading through some of the ACWI blogs that had been posted previously, I was inspired to edit my article blog and comment on a blog from marco paz galusha-luna on July 25. So, the article is first and my comments about the other blog follow.

The Article:

A student at the University of Central Florida claims his life — and
afterlife — were threatened by enraged Catholics after he pocketed "the body of
Christ" during a church ceremony, according to a report on
Webster Cook says he received death threats and eternal damnation after he
removed a wafer of bread from his mouth during communion and smuggled it from
the church in a Ziploc bag.
Click here for video.
Though Cook returned
the wafer one week after the theft, outraged Catholics were unforgiving,
according to
“We don’t know 100 percent what Mr.
Cook's motivation was,” Susan Fani, a spokeswoman with the local Catholic diocese,
told “However, if anything were to
qualify as a hate crime, to us this seems like this might be it.”
The UCF student leader said he
stole the communion bread, known by Catholics as the Eucharist and believed to
be the body of Christ, to show to his non-Catholic friend.
.A hate crime? I know my lack of belief in the Catholic view of Transubstantiation probably lessons the severity of this act for me. Actually, my initial response to this was shock and shame for the Catholic church. Afterwards, however, I tried to put myself in a Catholics shoes- if I really believed that little cracker was indeed the flesh of Christ, perhaps I would be a little put out. Even so, wouldn't graciousness and an explanation of the sacrament been a better reaction than rage? Perhaps no. The lesson to be learned from this ordeal is twofold: 1) Know what you believe and why you believe it. During my involvement in all kinds of youth ministry, I have encountered many teens and young adults who "firmly" hold to a belief and really have no idea why. It always saddens me to see people who "hold to" orthodox Christian beliefs but couldn't debate their way out of a paper bag. 2) Prioritize. The Pharisees in the Bible are excellent examples of zealous religion gone wrong. Jesus continuously deals with the Pharisees in their wrongful prioritization of Biblical truths. Does tradition come before grace? Does love change the rules? When I don't know the answer to those questions, I go back to #1.

Now, for the comment/addition to "Faith and Cell Phones" by marco paz ...
Don't get me wrong, I am very glad that Marco got his phone back the day he lost it. I also applaud his faithfulness in God's grace and sovereignty at a time that could have been really frustrating. I love that his blog talks about God's grace and faithfulness in a way that shows that God is faithful to give us what we need/want. This theologically-based optimism is totally biblical and 100% true, but I often look at it from the other side. Before I was a Christian, I was one of those people who couldn't understand why I should believe in a God that allowed my life to be as difficult as it was. Even after I became a Christian, I felt like I was constantly being plunged under water after struggling my way up and getting a single gasp of air. I felt damaged from important things like strained family relationships and catastrophic weddings to small things like a $300 ticket for going 2 miles over the speed limit. I have a hard time dealing with the hard times until I remember that God is faithful and sovereign and just even if He doesn't deliver. My struggles remind me that I am not owed anything by the Almighty, and if I never see another blessing in my life, He will have done me no injustice. As a person who has lost many cell phones and never seen a single one returned, I can say that God is just as faithful to me as he is to Marco.

Monday, August 4, 2008

In Memory of Alexander Solzhenitsyn

You've probably heard by now that Aleksander (Alexander) Solzhenitsyn passed away this weekend. A couple of western journalists noted his passing this way:

Widely viewed as Russia's greatest contemporary writer,
he will be best remembered for works that depicted the harsh underbelly of
Soviet society under dictator Joseph Stalin. But his books, including several
works of nonfiction, suggest the far more ambitious goals of seeking to
reappraise Russian history.

The author may have been speaking for himself when
he had a character in his novel, "The First Circle," say: "For a country to have
a great writer is like having another government. That's why no regime has ever
loved great writers, only minor ones."

On Monday, national leaders expressed admiration for
Mr. Solzhenitsyn, but there did not seem the kind of outpouring that arises when
a beloved figure dies. The relatively subdued response raised the question of
whether Mr. Solzhenitsyn’s life and work still resonate in a Russia that is far
different from the Soviet Union it replaced.

Russians who grew up in Soviet times continued to
speak passionately about the achievements of Mr. Solzhenitsyn, who was 89 and
had faded from public view in recent years since returning from exile after the
Soviet Union’s fall. They compared him to writers like Leo Tolstoy and said he
had forced the nation to confront the horrors wrought in the name of Communism.
. .

The [funeral] service is to receive widespread
coverage in the state-controlled media, but in interviews, young people said
they would not pay much attention to it. Approached at a park in Moscow, Taisiya
Gunicheva, 17, a college student, said she had heard of Mr. Solzhenitsyn, but
could not name any of his books.

She said his work was largely absent from her school
curriculum. “Can you imagine, there is nothing about it at all,” she said. “It
is sad, but unfortunately, it’s true.”

When I heard the news of his death, I was inspired to pull out a copy of the one and only speech I have by Solzhenitsyn and re-read it. These paragraphs are even more needed today than when he first spoke the words back in 1978.

I would say that the general principles extend far beyond Solzhenitsyn's comments about politics and communism; the same can be said of any form of evil that we encounter today.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn to Harvard Class Day Afternoon Exercises
(Commencement Speech),
Thursday, June 8, 1978

Very well known representatives of your society, such as George Kennan, say: we cannot apply moral criteria to politics. Thus we mix good and evil, right and wrong and make space for the absolute triumph of absolute Evil in the world. On the contrary, only moral criteria can help the West against communism's well planned world strategy. There are no other criteria. Practical or occasional considerations of any kind will inevitably be swept away by strategy. After a certain level of the problem has been reached, legalistic thinking induces paralysis; it prevents one from seeing the size and meaning of events. . .

We are now experiencing the consequences of mistakes which had not been noticed at the beginning of the journey. On the way from the Renaissance to our days we have enriched our experience, but we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility. We have placed too much hope in political and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life. In the East, it is destroyed by the dealings and machinations of the ruling party. In the West, commercial interests tend to suffocate it. This is the real crisis. The split in the world is less terrible than the similarity of the disease plaguing its main sections.

# # # #
Let me know if you'd like the text of the entire speech. I'll be glad to share it.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Tip Your Hat!

(Exodus 20:4) No carved gods of any size, shape, or form of anything whatever, whether of things that fly or walk or swim. Message

When I was a public school administrator I decorated my office with pictures I thought educationally significant and artistic. One was a painting of an old country classroom and the other a painting of the head of Christ.

I have never had a problem with religious art and yet some folks do have a problem. One of my friend’s, who was aniconic, thought me to be violating the Second Commandment. Well, I struggle with that perception and do not see an infraction.

The thoughts I believed are resident in the Commandment are:
We must worship God in spirit and truth. I do not worship the picture; I do appreciate the art work.
The command forbids worship of a representation. This picture is not taking the place of God.
The Command is against nature worship.

I have often wondered if there is a greater danger in forming a mental image of God or a god. Our minds do have the tendency to wonder and exaggerate thoughts. If we magnify these thoughts of God beyond the Word, is that idolatry?

(Exodus 20:5) Don't bow down to them and don't serve them because I am GOD, your God, and I'm a most jealous God, punishing the children for any sins their parents pass on to them to the third, and yes, even to the fourth generation of those who hate me.

Literal bowing down does not seem to take place today. When I was a kid I watched men tip their hats as they passed the church. I considered that a form of bowing down. But I do not see that act today as hats on men are not fashionable.

I do not see a violation with having an object remind me of God as long as I do not bow down. Consider Moses, “under his auspices, figures of cherubim, brazen serpents, oxen, and many other things in the earth beneath, were made and never condemned. The mere making was no sin - it was the making with the intent to give idolatrous worship.”
Jamison, Fawcett and Brown.

There is a frightening message in knowing that God can be jealous. Actually I do not think jealousy here is an emotion, but as an activity, the activity of being exclusive. God wants total homage.

Now, as the song writer I think about God and am reminded of His greatness.

How Great Thou Art!

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.
Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee,

How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

Let the conversation begin!