Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Jesus and Paul forgot to lobby Rome

Julie has some interesting views in this post about Colorado's attempt to legalize small amounts of marijuana, which was rejected by voters Tuesday. I imagine her views will challenge many Christians, but she makes some good points when it comes to learning actual lessons from Jesus and his followers - as described in the New Testament.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Contemplating Christian

"We're not Christians, we're church people." So says Armando Heredia, a good friend who's contemplating what it means to be a Christian in our world, in our culture. Are we "church people" even close to being what Christ meant for us to be?

Saturday, August 05, 2006


You really ought to buy this book and read it soon. The author, Shane Claiborne, is one of the founders of The Simple Way in inner city Philadelphia, and his passion for the kingdom of God is evident in every story he relates throughout the book.

There's a growing discontent in evangelical circles, a feeling from youth that we've not been handed the same thing Jesus had in mind as he lived and taught and bled and died. The Irresistible Revolution is an account showing that there are people who are following Jesus in new and amazing ways - and catching glimpses of God's glory along the way.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Missing the point again

Madonna opened her new tour this week in Los Angeles and, as usual, used multiple methods of shock and awe to wow the audience, who she knew consisted of more than just the thousands inside the arena.

Apparently, at some point in time, she was raised up on a mirrored cross, reportedly wearing a crown of thorns, as she sang her old ballad "Live To Tell." This stunt, as you might guess, infuriated certain Christian organizations, most notably the Church of England which issued a statement that included these lines:
Why would someone with so much talent seem to feel
the need to promote herself by offending so many people?

The same article quotes David Muir of the Evangelical Alliance:
Madonna's use of Christian imagery is an abuse and it is dangerous...She should drop it from the tour and people need to find their own means of expressing their disapproval.

At the risk of appearing to defend Madonna, which I'm not, I'd like to take exception at the way in which these (and other) organizations responded. It appears they didn't take the time to investigate, much less understand, the context of the cross scene.

Thanks to a wily concert-goer, you can view footage of the criticized performance, and see that it actually served a higher purpose, a purpose which Madonna can't even live up to. As she sings the ballad, three huge video screens show faces of African children, and tout statistics concerning the plight of children orphaned by parents infected with AIDS. Halfway through, Madonna comes down from the cross, and the screens show flames igniting, interspersed with the faces of children. Words from Matthew 25 appear on the screen, ending with, "What you did for one of my brothers, you did to me."

Taken by itself, the episode is powerful, and it's almost as if by coming down from the cross, Madonna is challenging Christian believers to get off their religious kick long enough to actually do something about the plight of children in Africa.

But the Church doesn't like to hear that, especially from an outsider who's such an easy target. I'm amazed at the failure of many organizations and denominations to perceive that the world is screaming for the Church to be authentic, and to truly start caring for people the way Jesus cared for people. Instead, we sit in our ivory tower of salvation singing "This world is not my home" all the while forgetting that "God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son."

Of course, Madonna can't live up to her own presentation. According to, Madonna donated $100,000 to the relief program. While that may seem praiseworthy, keep in mind that her current tour is expected to gross more than $200 million, or 2000 times the amount of her donation.

Still, sometimes the world makes better points than the Church. And sometimes, just sometimes, the Church becomes wise enough to stop being defensive about its sacred symbols and realize that we still have much praying, learning and giving to do.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Pic Share

April 29, 2006 -- Gatlinburg, TN

Which came first?

Still more about marketing the church. Brian Orme mentions a book called Get Back in the Box. In his post, he says:
In a church, the people should create the experience, or the buzz; the experience doesn't create the people.

Agree or disagree?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

More on marketing the church. Out of Ur asks:
Unlike the explosive church growth being experienced in Asia, Africa, and South America in recent years, the U.S. church seems to display little spiritual vigor or power. Has our reliance on the wisdom of marketers and business principles displaced dependence upon God’s Spirit?

Check out the entire post.
While Mike Yaconelli was alive, he proudly claimed the humble title of "pastor of the slowest growing church in America." Sometimes I think I may have been the heir of that title. I've been a pastor for two and a half years now, and often wonder just what kind of trick God has played on me.

One of the things I constantly battle is just how far to go in marketing our congregation. We changed our collective name to CrossRoads, and I've been tempted more than a few times to spend hundreds of dollars pasting that name on flyers, cards, magnets, and signs and distribute them all over town. But then I think of the name which Scripture calls us to publish, and it's not CrossRoads.

The Parish has a great post which analyzes an advertisement by a church in Oklahoma.The author finds several subtexts in the advertisement, and I have to agree with him. I think it's a shame that so goes much of Christian advertising these days.

Reminds me of John Fischer's declaration in Fearless Faith:
Sometimes I wish we had a new word for "Christian."
I bet there are a lot of people who would be Christians if they didn't have to become a Christian to be one.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The truth hurts -- assuming it's really the truth

"Don't we have it exactly backward? Shouldn't one's overall happiness -- physical, marital or otherwise -- be directly equated with exceptional amounts of sexual training and education and awareness?"

So says Mark Morford, SF Gate columnist in "Christian Virgins Are Overrated / Think sex and drugs destroy America? Try naive chastity. Oh, and "Purity Balls". Exactly where he claims to have tried and proven his own theories is beyond me, but the article is intentionally provocative, and one you should read twice.

Morford cites recent research which claims that within one year of taking an abstinence pledge, half of all teens who did so had sex anyway. Furthermore, 88 percent break the vow at some point before marriage. Numbers like that lead Morford to this conclusion:

Let's just say it: There is no sacredness in the virgin. There is only the fear, were she to be educated and empowered and really let loose, of what she could become.
Say what you want about Morford's mockery of religious tradition and sacred beliefs. But if those numbers are correct, shouldn't we Christians be asking ourselves what the missing element is?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Waiting to read

Seven books on my shelf which I've not yet managed to read:

1. Addiction and Grace by Gerald May
2. The Whole Person in a Broken World by Paul Tournier
3. The Challenge of the Disciplined Life by Richard Foster
4. Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner
5. The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder
6. Where Resident Aliens Live by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon
7. Finally Comes the Poet by Walter Brueggemann

Sunday, March 05, 2006

John tagged me

1. Who is your favorite Biblical personage, other than Jesus?
It's a toss-up between Simeon (the NT prophet) and Philip the Evangelist. Simeon wins by a small margin -- I am absolutely amazed by his dedication to God and the way in which he holds on to life just because God promised him he would see the Messiah. Some historians think Simeon was actually a Pharisee, which means that he overcame the legalism and judgmentalism of his "denomination" and was one of only two people in the Temple that day who recognized that Jesus was more than another 8-day-old baby.

2. What is your favorite book of the Old Testament?
Genesis. It truly was the best of times and the worst of times. Where else in Scripture do we get a clearer perspective on the highs and lows of human nature?

3. What is your least favorite book of the Old Testament?
Of course, Job comes to mind first. Then Jonah also is hard -- half the book is about him rebelling against the call of God, a fourth is about him finally obeying it (but seemingly only to save his hide), and the other fourth is him regretting that he obeyed. However, I realize that the reason these two books bother me is because I look at them based on the man they are named after, not based on the God who's actually writing the stories.

4. What is your favorite non- gospel book of the New Testament?
Is there one? I guess technically we're omitting MML&J, which leaves a lot of Paul, with a little James, Peter and John. Paul wins with his masterpiece to the Ephesians.

5. What is your life verse?
Did someone say Ephesians? Chapter 1, verse 3: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

I'm not much on tagging, but I will tag my father, mainly because I don't think I know what his answers are to these questions, but also because he just doesn't post often enough to his blog.

Friday, March 03, 2006

The second time around

Donald Miller wonders what would happen if the second coming of Christ was different than most people imagine:
But what if the guys playing the horns turned out to be a few men playing on a street corner in a small town in Arkansas, and what if the horse Jesus rode in on wasn’t a Kentucky thoroughbred, but a belligerent donkey? And what if Jesus, after He got here, frequented homeless shelters and bars and ate and drank with the kinds of cultures evangelicals have declared war against? And what if, when He came like a thief in the night, He came very quietly so that nobody noticed, and what if, crime of all crimes, He was ugly and when He went on CNN producers were uncomfortable with His appearance and only shot Him from the waist up, in a certain light? And what if, when He answered questions, He talked with a hick accent, and only spoke in parables that nobody could understand, and what if He didn’t align Himself with a political party, and what if He didn’t kiss anybody’s butt?

If you ask me, He’d have to do a lot of miracles to overcome all that stuff. And even then, most of the people who would follow Him would be people who were oppressed, marginalized, and desperate. (Searching for God Knows What)
I heard a preacher comment one time on the question Jesus asked Philip in John 14: "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip?" He said the phrasing could also suggest that Jesus was saying, "Have I been so long time with you, that thou hast not known me, Philip?" Thus perhaps Jesus was implying that sometimes familiarity truly breeds contempt.

Could it be that the 21st century world in which the Church seems so firmly entrenched has caused many believers to fail to recognize the true Christ -- the true heart and motivation of Jesus Himself? Miller's right: He'd have to do a lot of miracles to overcome all that stuff.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Maybe this is closer to the original plan

If only there was a way to transfer the following prophetic words of Erwin McManus with the passion with which they were delivered at Catalyst Conference 2005 in Atlanta, Georgia:
This is supposed to be a movement of dreamers and visionaries where every single person who steps into the community of Christ, who steps into authentic spiritual community, discovers their uniqueness in Jesus Christ and has their God-given capacity unleashed. They begin to have dreams and visions and can no longer live in the status quo. They can't stomach mediocrity. They say no to compromise. They refuse to live a life that is apathetic, and they begin to live with a God-intense passion, with urgency for the world.
That's what people without Christ are looking for.

Amen, and amen!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Please, don't call yourself Christian

Touting the differences between "The Christian Reich" and "The Christian Left," one commenter at Thom Hartman's discussion page says the former category is identified by the slogan "Jesus is Lord," while the other is identified by "God is Love." We'll leave alone the fact that this person is theologically uninformed in a horrible way. Rather, read the next suggestions for those who share such liberal persuasions:
These are some words to avoid, and my ranking of the worst:
1. Jesus
2. religious, religion etc.
3. Church
4. Christ
They all go with the "Jesus is Lord" brand.

Although I know many, such as John Shelby Spong, would likely applaud such suggestions, I'll go out on a limb with a question: How exactly can you be a Christian (Christ-like, of course), and refuse to use the words "Jesus" and "Christ"?

Thank God that Paul knew what he was talking about when he urged Christians to "do all things in the name of Jesus."

Sunday, January 22, 2006

33 years later, I've learned my lesson

Today is the 33rd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to legalize abortion in Roe vs. Wade. Back in my high school days (an unbelievable 13 years ago) I was an avid arguer against abortion. As most of my good friends were liberals -- some of them flaming liberals! -- our arguments could get fierce from time to time. Then I went to Bible college, where everyone believed the same things for the most part, and so most of my pro-life/anti-abortion arguing passed away.

Now, this post from TPMCafe, has brought me wisdom and convinced me never to argue against abortion again. The reason? It's not about abortion -- and maybe it never was. The post states:
But it's important to remember that reproductive rights are economic rights. The real question is this: should a woman be free to have an active sexual life and also have some economic independence? Without the ability to prevent or end accidental pregnancies, a heterosexual woman must either be celibate or spend her life absolutely dependent on male support. This is why reproductive rights are an absolutely essential part of a progressive agenda: without them, women are not full and independent citizens.

Couple this with an article I read recently that spoke of "a woman's federal right to reproductive choice," and I've realized that I was fabulously naive to think the argument was about the life of the child. To read these writers, it's obvious the whole debate is about whether or not a woman should have to deal with the consequences of her sexual life. If she must do so, then she cannot be a "full and independent" citizen.

I'm glad I'm not arguing anymore. I'm open to discussing with any woman her reasons for having gotten, or wanting to get, an abortion. But I have no room to converse with the political and media elite who seek to make arguments like those quoted above. That kind of selfish, arrogant mindset is not worth arguing against.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Funny if it weren't true

There are a lot of misconceptions about what it means to be a born-again Christian. It’s pretty simple, really. You just bow your head, say a simple prayer, and when you open your eyes you’re a registered Republican with a firearm.
-comedian Thor Ramsey, quoted by John Fischer in Finding God Where You Least Expect Him

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Being theology

In truth, the idea that any element of God's creation - be it music or a tree - has to do something in order to justify its existence is an idea more connected to capitalism, consumerism, and marketing
than the doctrine of creation. (Charlie Peacock in At the Crossroads, pg. 102)

Why is it that Christian believers are so intent on making everything accomplish something. I haven't read statistics, but I would be willing to bet that there are many fewer Christians who regularly attend the symphony, or Broadway presentations, or art museums, or book readings. It's as if somewhere we attached ourselves to the idea that Peacock refers to, namely that everything needs to blatantly profess Christian doctrine or the name of God in order to be acceptable to Christians.

That's preposterous. Existence, in and of itself, is glory to God, since we are here by His breath. The psalmist sang, "Creation declares your glory, and the universe your majesty." G-O-D is not legibly written on creation or on the universe, but God is certainly manifest in them. Isn't that enough?

Friday, January 13, 2006

Enter a new conversation

My friend, John Carney, who is the city editor at the Shelbyville Times-Gazette in Shelbyville, Tenn., has started a new blog which intends to be an avenue for (civil) conversation of Christianity -- the body of Christ, not the institution of man -- in a culture which increasingly embraces universalism. The blog also will look at the effects of culture on Christians, especially in how believers respond, or fail to respond, to cultural beliefs, values, and arguments.

Even cooler, he's given me author privileges to post to the blog. Check it out at Neuron's Cove.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Jesus clearly

Can the pendulum be at both edges at the same time?

It's interesting to note the paradox that exists in the world and in the church today. On one hand, it seems many believers are getting more and more focused on Jesus Christ -- on his life, his teachings, his vision, his works, and his calling. On the other hand, there are many in the world, and also in the church, who are shying away from Jesus Christ, apparently on the grounds that it is he who is offensive to other religions and other cultures.

The more I look into Scripture, the more I realize that we err if we do anything other than direct everything about our lives toward Jesus Christ. In Jesus, God fully and finally revealed himself to mankind, and it's in Jesus, Paul said, that we "live and move and have our being." To paraphrase Dallas Willard, true disciples must believe above all else that the life Jesus lived exemplified the ultimate life any human being can live.

The question begs asking: Why are some so afraid of Jesus? Looking into the gospels, the ones who were most afraid of Jesus were those in religious positions of authority who felt they had something to lose if they chose to follow him. Those who truly needed him were drawn to him and often found themselves completely comfortable in his presence.

So the roads are clearly marked: take Jesus as the ultimate example of how I should live my life, or take offense at him for so clearly marking the roads.