Thursday, December 31, 2009

Was Jesus Wealthy? - Part 2

In a previous post, I dealt with some of the ideas put forth by prosperity preachers that Jesus was, in fact, a wealthy man. The impetus for these posts comes from an article at CNN.com that you can find here.

Biblical and historical ignorance are on full display every time one of these Ministers of Materialism opens his or her mouth. There was so much I wanted to cover, I decided to split it up into 2 posts.

The argument for Jesus’ affluence continues:



[The Rev. C. Thomas] Anderson says Jesus never would have had disciples or a large following if he was poor. He would not have been able to command their respect.
"The poor will follow the rich, the rich will follow the rich, but the rich will never follow the poor," Anderson says.



But, what about Martin Luther King? And Mahatma Gandhi (who wore a diaper)? The article points out that they amassed quite a following without being paragons of opulence.

The Scriptural record is clear that the people followed Jesus because of the healing and the teaching. He taught things the religious establishment of that day did not. He offered hope in the form of reconciliation with God – something they cherished back then, and that seems to be lost on society today.

But this assertion points to a more troubling problem I have with the prosperity movement: the idea that we must ascend to greatness (i.e. material wealth) in order to be effectively used by God. This betrays a worldly and covetous heart, and it flies in the face of Biblical truth:




1Co 1:26-29 NIV Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. (27) But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. (28) He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, (29) so that no one may boast before him.




I pray that the peddlers of prosperity would spend less time feeding their flesh, and more time meditating on the Word of God.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Was Jesus Rich?


The prosperity preachers are really reaching in order to justify their religion of opulence. For years they’ve been spouting the nonsense that, contrary to centuries of understanding, Jesus was a materially wealthy man.

You see, they have to assert this falsehood in order to legitimize their own right to wealth (after all, they are the King’s Kids). This affluence is also available to their followers, who are willing to plant a fully deductible faith-seed into their ministry.

This article from CNN.com does a good job presenting both sides of the argument that Jesus was wealthy. Here are some quotes:


[Rev. C. Thomas] Anderson says Jesus couldn't have been poor because he received lucrative gifts -- gold, frankincense and myrrh -- at birth. Jesus had to be wealthy because the Roman soldiers who crucified him gambled for his expensive undergarments. Even Jesus' parents, Mary and Joseph, lived and traveled in style, he says. "Mary and Joseph took a Cadillac to get to Bethlehem because the finest transportation of their day was a donkey," says Anderson.

This is an example of blatant biblical ignorance coming from a supposed Man of God. Even a cursory glance at scripture will show that there is no mention of Mary and Joseph taking a donkey on their journey. That’s just the stuff of legend used to fill out a nativity scene at Christmas time.

Also, regarding the gold, frankincense, and myrrh, it’s widely agreed that these “lucrative gifts” were used to finance their trip to Egypt (remember that – fleeing from the murderous King Herod?). Presumably, Joseph had no carpenter clients in that area, so they would have used the gifts to live on during that time.

As for the soldiers gambling for His clothing? Records from that era show that this was a typical practice. Roman soldiers routinely gambled for any intact garment of a crucifixion victim. What wasn’t typical, though, was the crucifixion of the wealthy. This torturous death was reserved for the despised slaves and rebels.

More on this in the next post.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The New American Religion


According to a nationwide survey, lots of people like to blend Christianity with Eastern and New Age beliefs.

You can read the LA Times article here, but here are some quotes:
About a quarter of those surveyed expressed beliefs in New Age or Eastern religious principles such as reincarnation and the presence of spiritual energy in physical objects.

About 65% of those surveyed also expressed belief in or report having an experience with a variety of supernatural phenomena, such as believing in astrology, being in touch with the dead or consulting a psychic.

S. Scott Bartchy, a professor of the history of religion at UCLA, said the results were not surprising given the increasing cultural diversity of the United States.

Regardless, Lichterman said, Americans have the idea that religion and spirituality are a matter of choice.

"That kind of religious individualism," he said, "is the American religion."


This really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention to the direction the American church has been taking for the past – oh, I don’t know – 10 years or more? I know I’ve been speaking out about it for over half that time.

I’m afraid that evangelists, pastors, and teachers across the continent have failed in their mission. When America’s pulpiteers abandon biblical preaching in favor of ear-tickling entertainment, the masses are left to fend for themselves.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

100th Post Special Extravaganza Lollapalooza

Well, this is my 100th post. Quite a milestone considering I had no idea what I was going to do with a blog when I started. I’ve decided to interview myself and ask some questions I’ve been dying to know the answer to!

Why did you start this blog?
At the time I was the Associate Pastor/Youth Pastor at a local church here in Roanoke, and I was looking for another way to connect with the people in the congregation there.

And you’re not in the ministry anymore?
Nope

Gonna be again?
Not any time soon.

Why do you still call the blog Pastor Kip, seeing as how you’re no longer a pastor?
Well, I hope some of my reflections will serve as a pastoral help to those who read my blog. Plus, I know it really irks some people.

That’s not very Christian of you.
So I’ve heard . . .

Why do you write?
I write about things that interest me – that I find amusing. I’ve always enjoyed sharing things I like with others. I also find writing to be a catharsis to help me sort out how I feel about certain things, and to sound off on personal pet peeves. I’m not always right, and I may not always say things the right way, but I try to be absolutely honest in what I write – even if it ticks some people off.

But you’re such a sweet guy, have you ever ticked anyone off?
Oh, yes. I’ve had to remove two of my posts because of the furor they incited – one got me accused of blasphemy (I’ve reposted that one here) and one even became the subject of an entire church board and council meeting.

I didn’t know you had that much power . . .
Me neither!

What’s the future of Pastor Kip, the blog?
Pretty much the same. I’ll continue to write about religion, pop culture, sports, etc. Now that I’m no longer a part of the church machine, I’m freed up to express my raw feelings about things, so it should get pretty interesting.

Any final words for your readers?
Yes. Thanks for taking time to care about what I have to say. Don’t take me too seriously (Lord knows I don’t), and feel free to disagree. I can handle it. I even change my mind from time to time.

Thanks for the interview.
My pleasure.

Don’t forget to call your mom.
Oh, thanks!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Video: Top Dollar Tithing Tunes

Here's the video I posted a few months back that had some accusing me of mocking and ridiculing Christianity. I took it down because of the criticism. However, on further reflection, I've decided to repost it. The mockery is not of Christianity, but the avarice that defines so much of what passes for "Christian stewardship" today.

Plus, it's just plain funny.

Truth is, this video was made by the folks at GodWhy for a sermon series on things people don't like about church. Maybe we could set aside our self-righteousness, stop taking ourselves so seriously, and learn something.




Article: Vatican Newspaper Praises "The Simpsons"

Wow - didn't see this one coming! Here's the scoop:


According to Catholic News Service, the Vatican paper went on to describe "The Simpsons" as "tender and irreverent, scandalous and ironic, boisterous and profound, philosophical -- and sometimes even theological -- nutty synthesis of pop culture and of the lukewarm and nihilistic American middle class."

"Simultaneously reflecting modern people's indifference toward and great need for the sacred, Homer ... finds his ultimate refuge in God."

You can read the entire article here.

And to think I was once chastised by my pastor for referring to The Simpsons during a youth message . . .

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Priest Says Shoplifting is Okay - Seriously

The Yorkshire Evening Post reported that on Sunday, the reverend Tim Jones told his congregation at the Church of Saint Lawrence in York that it was okay for poor people struggling to survive to steal food and other essentials from stores.

Here's more from the article:


"My advice, as a Christian priest, is to shoplift," he said, as originally reported in the Yorkshire Evening Post. "I do not offer such advice because I think that stealing is a good thing, or because I think it is harmless, for it is neither."

Jones set down strict guidelines for would-be Christian criminals. "I would ask that [people] do not steal from small, family businesses, but from large national businesses, knowing that the costs are ultimately passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher prices," he said. "[And] I would ask them not to take any more than they need, for any longer than they need."

Needless to say, the reverend Jones has come under some serious fire from authorities and storeowners alike.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Modern Youth Ministry Labeled "Indisputably Unbiblical"


In a recent conference, Scott Brown, director of the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches, claimed that modern youth ministry is "indisputably unbiblical."

Here are a few tidbits from the article:


Age-segregated youth ministry, trained youth ministers and programs to draw and entertain youth are a new invention in the history of the church, Brown said.

"Modern youth ministry is also inherently destructive in its impact. It divides the church by creating generational division and multiple cultures instead of a unified 'body,'" he maintained.

. . . age segregation leads to the isolation of an individual's perspective to one that only looks outward from within the confines of their age group and excludes the lessons that can and should be learned from previous generations," he adds.

The National Center for Family-Integrated Churches holds that the biblical order and unity of the family are crucial to the stability and health of the Church of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, churches have contributed to the breakdown of the family, the center claims.

"We now have almost three generations of children who had no father who walked beside them but a youth group instead. It is obvious that half a decade of youth group does not produce young people who are passionate about the church."

Research and estimates by youth workers have suggested that a majority of youth group seniors drop out of church after graduating.

Brown is quick to point out that while he rejects youth groups, he supports ministry to youths. He advocates generous investments in teaching Scripture to teens.

Having been a part of the church machine for the past 25 years or so, and most of that spent in youth ministry, I have to say that – for the most part – I agree.

I don’t have a problem with teens having their own group, but I’ve seen it go way too far – to the point where teens don’t know what to do with themselves after they graduate and are no longer a part of the “youth group”.

I also don’t have a problem with burping contests, and snot shot contests, and all those crazy things, but I’ve seen those become the soul purpose of the youth ministry. In all my years, I always strove to teach solid Biblical doctrine to teens while allowing them to have fun on their own terms. And, all in all, it worked pretty well. The main emphasis, however, must be the Biblical presentation of the gospel and discipleship.

And Brown hits a home run with his indictment of the failure of families (and fathers in particular) to teach Biblical truths in the home. That, in fact, is the Biblical pattern.

MacArthur on the Prosperity Gospel

Randy, over at the CrossTalk blog, has posted an excerpt from a John MacArthur message regarding the prosperity teaching so rampant in the church today. With a fervor for the truth of Scripture, MacArthur speaks out strongly against the shameful practices and teachings of the TBN network in general, and Oral Roberts and Paul and Jan Crouch in particular.

Here’s the excerpt in full:

And for anyone who simply bothers to compare Jesus’ teaching with the health-and-wealth message, it is clear that the message that currently dominates religious television is “a different gospel; which is really not another” (Galatians 1:6-7), but a damnable lie.

TBN is by far the leading perpetrator of that lie worldwide. Virtually all the network’s main celebrities tell listeners that God will give them healing, wealth, and other material blessings in return for their money. On program after program people are urged to “plant a seed” by sending “the largest bill you have or the biggest check you can write” with the promise that God will miraculously make them rich in return. That same message dominates all of TBN’s major fundraising drives. It’s known as the “seed faith” plan, so-called by Oral Roberts, who set the pattern for most of the charismatic televangelists who have followed the trail he blazed. Paul Crouch, founder, chairman, and commander-in-chief of TBN, is one of the doctrine’s staunchest defenders.

The only people who actually get rich by this scheme, of course, are the televangelists. Their people who send money get little in return but phony promises—and as a result, many of them turn away from the truth completely.

If the scheme seems reminiscent of Tetzel, that’s because it is precisely the same doctrine. (Tetzel was a medieval monk whose high-pressure selling of indulgences—phony promises of forgiveness—outraged Martin Luther and touched off the Protestant Reformation.)

Like Tetzel, TBN preys on the poor and plies them with false promises. Yet what is happening daily on TBN is many times worse than the abuses that Luther decried because it is more widespread and more flagrant. The medium is more high-tech and the amounts bilked out of viewers’ pockets are astronomically higher. (By most estimates, TBN is worth more than a billion dollars and rakes in $200 million annually. Those are direct contributions to the network, not counting millions more in donations sent directly to TBN broadcasters.) Like Tetzel on steroids, the Crouches and virtually all the key broadcasters on TBN live in garish opulence, while constantly begging their needy viewers for more money. Elderly, poor, and working-class viewers constitute TBN’s primary demographic. And TBN’s fundraisers all know that. The most desperate people—”unemployed,” “even though I’m in between jobs,” “trying to make it; trying to survive,” “broke”—are baited with false promises to give what they do not even have. Jan Crouch addresses viewers as “you little people,” and suggests that they send their grocery money to TBN “to assure God’s blessing.”

Article: The War on Christmas

Every year we hear the battle cry, "Don't take Christ out of Christmas!" and we know the Christmas wars have begun once again. But here's an article that explores the battle fronts taking place in areas other than the hallowed manger in Bethlehem.

Here are a few quotes on a few different topics:

Economics

In his book, "Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn't Buy Presents for the Holidays," [Joel] Waldfogel says gifts generate less satisfaction than things we buy ourselves. We don't really know what other people want, he says, but we do know what we want. Because of this, in his view, Christmas shopping is "an orgy of wealth destruction" as we spend on things people don't value as much as the money we pay for them.

"I'm not against spending, just sloppy spending," Waldfogel said on NPR's Tell Me More.


Health

Last week, Australian public health expert Dr. Nathan Grills of Monash University was called a "killjoy" and a "scrooge" in the media for an article he wrote suggesting Santa Claus was promoting bad health habits. The article, called "Santa Claus: A public health pariah?" was published at bmj.com, a British medical journal, and suggested that Santa was sending the wrong message with his obesity, drunk sleigh-driving, speeding and generally bad lifestyle choices.

Grills also said Santa could easily become a vehicle for spreading disease because he allows so many children to sit on his lap. Factor in all the sugary products he helps sell, he added, and the man in red is clearly not pushing a healthy agenda.

Editor's note: Grills later said the article was a spoof he wrote in his spare time.

Environmental

As Christmas trees went up and light displays started flashing around the world, some people cringed at the thought of the electricity required to light the season.

Many of these light detractors suggest swapping out traditional Christmas lights with LED (light-emitting diodes) strings, which can be 90 percent more efficient.

While using LED lights may be a step in the right direction, some point out that many of those lights still end up on carbon-eating trees that have been mercilessly chopped down.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Selling Jesus

Here’s an interesting article about one of my pet peeves: Christian Marketing. Ever since I saw Testamints (breath mints with Bible verses on them) at my local Christian retailer, I’ve been cynical about the selling of what church marketing consultant Brad Abare calls “Jesus Junk”.

In this article, Abare nails it:

"We think it's just dumb. It's not a true reflection of creativity," said Abare, of the nonprofit Center for Church Communication in Los Angeles.

He’s speaking specifically about the current t-shirt trend where widely recognized logos such as Subway, iPod, American Idol, and Coca Cola are altered to contain, upon closer inspection, Christian themes.

“Reese’s” becomes “Jesus”.
“American Idol” becomes “Amazing Grace”.
“Sprite” becomes “Spirit”.

Some are going beyond the creativity criticism and questioning the copyright infringement. Aren’t these clever religious marketers violating the eighth commandment – thou shalt not steal?

My main concern is that these cheesy, banal rip offs will cheapen the message of Scripture. How are we to take seriously the idea of a loving God giving his only Son as a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins against His holiness, when we see Him referred to as “My Homeboy”?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Lesson Learned From Tiger

The Tiger Woods saga is a cautionary tale. As more and more women come out of the woodwork, and Elin moves out, and Tiger steps away from golf for a while, it’s good to remember that while a wise man learns from his mistakes, a wiser man learns from other people’s mistakes.

Let’s face it, we’re not billionaire athletes and our personal sins will not be plastered across tomorrow’s headlines. The world at large does not care about our transgressions.

But our own little spheres of influence will care. That illicit relationship, that shady financial deal, that shameful habit, these will not remain hidden. And the secret things that invariably come to light will affect our own little world of family, friends, and peers.

The Bible puts it this way in Numbers 32:23:

. . . you may be sure that your sin will find you out.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tyranny of the Tithe: Paul, the Law, and Biblical Ignorance

Several months ago, a local church leader asked to meet with me about my tithing articles. He was complimentary and even said it caused him to consider changing the way he teaches the subject at his church. Then he made the statement that I’ve been thinking about for quite a while.

He said that after thoroughly reading Paul’s writings in the New Testament, he observed that Paul only rebuked Christians for following the Law of Moses when they made it necessary for salvation. He concluded that Paul was okay with New Testament Christians observing the Law (including tithing) as long as they didn’t take it too far. I nodded along as he spoke, but I wasn’t sure at the time if I agreed with the statement.

Now, I’m sure I don’t. In fact, I fear that argument may reveal a grievous error of attempting to force the Scriptures to fit a predetermined agenda.

Over and over again Paul exhorted Christians to not observe the Law. In Galatians 5, regarding those were tempted to return to the Law, Paul tells them, “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Burdened? Yoke? Slavery? Do those sound like the wishy-washy words of a guy who wasn’t all that serious about the issue?

Paul goes on to say, “. . . if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.” He even says that if a Christian chooses to obey the Law regarding circumcision, he is obligated to obey the entire Law. It’s not something to deal with lightly – there’s no pick-and-choose option with the Law.

Furthermore, to teach a congregation that it’s proper to obligate oneself to any part of the Law is to separate them from the grace of God – see Galatians 5:1-4.

Some would say, “Well, I just want to follow the Law so I can please God.”

Sorry. The Scriptures make it clear that following the Law – even if you could do it perfectly – would not please God. That kind of attitude, when boiled down to the basics, is self-righteousness. The only way to please God is to come to Him by faith through the blood of Jesus Christ.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Tiger Woods is in the Rough

In case you haven’t heard, Tiger Woods was involved in a little incident this past weekend.

Click here for the story from Fox News.

I want to comment on this because I’m interested in both sports (although not golf, particularly) and pop culture – and Tiger Woods has a commanding presence in both. I find that I’m torn in my opinion of the coverage this story is getting. Let me work this out in the ever-popular blog format of bullet points:


  • The accident. This was a small accident. Just a little fender bender involving a pricey Cadillac Escalade, a fire hydrant, and an innocent tree. And an emotional woman with a golf club hovering over a bloody international sports icon who's floating in and out of consciousnesss. Not newsworthy if it happened to anyone else.


  • The celebrity. Seeing how his fame transcends the sports world, Tiger Woods is easily one of the most recognizable celebrities in the world.


  • The time. It happened at 2:25 am on Friday, November 27th. This alone raises the public eyebrow – where was he going at this time of day? Is it even anyone’s business?


  • The rumor. It happened two days after the National Enquirer published a story alleging a little romantic tryst with pop-tart Rachel Uchitel (which both Woods and Uchitel have denied). We can scoff at the reputation of the Enquirer, but remember, it was this publication that broke the news of Rush Limbaugh’s drug addiction in 2003, and John Edwards’ affair and subsequent love-child in 2007.

    Here’s a quote from the FoxNews story:

    Celebrity Web site TMZ claimed Woods was confronted by Elin (his wife) with the report that he had been seeing New York night club hostess Rachel Uchitel.

    The argument grew heated, and according to TMZ’s source, she scratched his face up.

    He then beat a hasty retreat to his SUV, with her following behind with a golf club. She reportedly used the club on the golfer's vehicle. Woods, then, reportedly became distracted, causing the car crash.


  • Here is where I’m conflicted:

    Is it anyone’s business? On a personal level – no. I hear people talking about the public’s right-to-know, but I don’t think we have any such right when it comes to a celebrity’s personal life. They are entitled to their privacy as much as any other person. However . . .

    Tiger Woods is the first ever billion-dollar athlete, and he makes 10 to 100 times more off the golf course than with a club in his hand. When a celebrity uses his or her image and reputation to endorse products, and sell the public on those products, said celebrity is held to a higher level of scrutiny than the average Joe Citizen.

    What are your thoughts?

    Sunday, November 29, 2009

    The Audacity of Forgiveness

    Lately, God’s been dealing with me about forgiveness – both seeking it and offering it. I had no idea how challenging it would be. Forgiveness is never easy. In fact, it can be, as one commentator said, “the most difficult thing in the universe.”

    Making it doubly difficult is our culture, which mocks at the idea of forgiveness. We are constantly encouraged to exploit our “right” to be offended at everything and exact vengeance on those who cross us.

    Forgiveness, however, is a fundamental pillar of Christian character, and perhaps the one that is the most easily neglected. But to neglect it causes great harm. It can turn the Christian into the very things he hates: harsh, rigid, and bitter. This, in turn, leads to holding grudges and elevating pride.

    As uncomfortable as it is, it is absolutely essential in Christian relationships. Though we hate to admit it, the church has its share of sins, imperfections, errors, misjudgments, and wrong attitudes, and these occur among the church leadership as well as the congregation.

    John MacArthur:

    The church needs to be filled with forgiving people because in this life people are always going to do things that irritate others or cause problems. If you’re willing to forgive an offender, you’ll be free from the bondage of bitterness. You’ll also be free to be forgiven by God and experience blessing from Him.

    In the next few posts, I’ll share what I’ve been learning about forgiveness from the Scriptures.

    Sunday, November 22, 2009

    The Hypocrisy of Forgiveness

    It's easy to preach forgiveness when you're the offender; not so much when you're the offended . . .

    Now, don't misunderstand me, forgiveness is an integral quality for a healthy life. It is indespensible in relationships with our fellow man as well as with God.

    But, in my considerable ministerial experience, I've seen forgiveness applied with both hypocrisy and cruelty. How?

    It goes something like this:

    You realize you've offended someone. You apologize and then (humbly) demand that they forgive you. Sometimes you don't even have to apologize - you just stress the fact that they need to forgive even if there is no apology forthcoming (it's helpful if you're able to do this from a position of power, like a pulpit).

    If there's still no discernible forgiveness on the part of the offended party, it's time to pull out the big guns. Scare them into submission by belaboring the point that God is on your side, and if they don't forgive you, He won't forgive them. If you're crafty, you can make this threat ambiguous enough so that they aren't sure if you're saying they will lose their salvation, or just be afflicted with some sort of malady that will make them a little less comfortable - like gout, or or a hellacious case of gas.

    You can then rest easily, knowing that the person you have wronged has been properly warned against holding any kind of grudge against you. Furthermore, any retaliative action on their part will be further confirmation of their lack of forgiveness, and will get them in even deeper trouble with God, who - as has been previously stated - is on your side.

    Now, put the shoe on a horse of a different gander (or something like that). You're the one who has been horribly offended. I mean, some low-life slob has debased himself and sunk to an all-time low in an attempt to hurt you.

    And it did hurt, too.

    And let's say, for kicks and giggles, that the offender has offered a public, heartfelt apology.

    What do you do? Do you forgive and forget? Or do you launch a campaign of your own to further sully the scum's name and ostracise him or her?

    I've been on both sides of this debate, and I can tell you - it ain't easy. At times I've responded well, and at times I've failed miserably.

    How aboout you?

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    Article: Did Christianity Cause the Crash?

    For years I have decried the bad theology and inherent cruelty of the prosperity gospel. I even earned myself some pretty serious reprimands from the leadership I was under at the time for publicly calling out some of the more egregious Ministers of Mammon.

    So, I was fascinated when I ran across this article over at The Atlantic that examined the role this teaching may have played in the recent financial crash. I'd heard thoughts on this before, but journalist Hanna Rosin really goes into great detail explaining the prosperity movement, its appeal, and its likely impact on our country's current financial malaise.

    It's a pretty long article (3 whole pages - a virtual War and Peace to this 140-character twitter generation!), so here's a quick quote that sort of encapsulates the whole:

    . . . critics have begun to argue that the prosperity gospel, echoed in churches across the country, might have played a part in the economic collapse. In 2008, in the online magazine Religion Dispatches, Jonathan Walton, a professor of religious studies at the University of California at Riverside, warned:

    "Narratives of how 'God blessed me with my first house despite my credit' were common … Sermons declaring 'It’s your season of overflow' supplanted messages of economic sobriety and disinterested sacrifice. Yet as folks were testifying about 'what God can do,' little attention was paid to a predatory subprime-mortgage industry, relaxed credit standards, or the dangers of using one’s home equity as an ATM.

    In 2004, Walton was researching a book about black televangelists. 'I would hear consistent testimonies about how ‘once I was renting and now God let me own my own home,’ or ‘I was afraid of the loan officer, but God directed him to ignore my bad credit and blessed me with my first home,’' he says. 'This trope was so common in these churches that I just became immune to it. Only later did I connect it to this disaster.'

    You can read the entire article by clicking here.

    Just two quick thoughts:

    I think it's sad how people in this time were taught that their loan approval was a blessing from God, when it was only at the behest of a bad government program.

    And finally, this is what happens when the church gets away from its true mission and begins dabbling in the flesh.

    Monday, November 9, 2009

    Are You Being Emotionally Blackmailed?

    I ran across this interesting theme in a book I was reading today: the idea of being emotionally blackmailed.

    The book is Why Men Don't Have a Clue and Women Always Need More Shoes: The Ultimate Guide to the Opposite Sex by Barbara and Allan Pease. It's a fascinating and often hilarious look at relationships and the inherent differences between men and women.

    The book goes into the topic of emotional blackmail in dealing with husband/wife or boyfriend/girlfriend relationships, but it also points out that the abuse can (and often does) extend to friendships and even work-related relationships.

    I did a little reasearch on the topic and found this article that is actually a review of the book Emotional Blackmail by Susan Forward. In her book, Susan Forward uses the acronym FOG to stand for fear, obligation, and guilt - the tools of the blackmailer's trade. Here are a few more snippets from the review of this book:

    The author says, "Emotional blackmail is a powerful form of manipulation in which people close to us threaten, either directly or indirectly, to punish us if we don't do what they want…

    Blackmailers pump an engulfing FOG into their relationships, ensuring that we will feel afraid to cross them, obligated to give them their way and feel terribly guilty if we don't."

    You can read the entire review by clicking here.

    It occured to me that this kind of behavior can even be seen in *gasp!* the church. From Sunday School classes to board meetings, anytime you have people gathered together to push their own agenda, emotional blackmail is not far away.

    That's why it's so important to make sure that in all we do we are seeking first the kingdom of God, and not our own kingdoms . . .

    Monday, November 2, 2009

    The Bible: Taking on A Classic Argument for Divine Inspiration

    I believe the Bible is the Word of God. I also believe that the current sixty-six books we have fully constitute the inspired Scriptures - nothing should be added, none should be left out. But lately I've been thinking critically about an argument we Christians have been trained to use to help prove the inspiration of Scripture.

    For years I have believed, and taught, that one of the greatest testimonies to the divine inspiration of the Bible is the incredible unity it contains. We tell students that the Scriptures were written over a 1500 year period, on three different continents, and in three different languages. We say that it was written by over 40 different authors in all different walks of life: farmers, kings, judges, poets, tax collectors, priests, doctors, etc.

    And we like to point out how, in spite of these vast influences of time, culture, and geography, the Holy Writ is amazingly consistent in dealing with such controversial topics as the nature of God, the nature of man, death, eternity, personal ethics, worship, etc.

    Finally, we conclude this proves that One Divine Hand guided the writers as they wrote. But, I have to wonder . . . does it really? I mean, all of that is true, but is it a valid argument for divine inspiration?

    Plain and simple, the sixty-six books of the Bible are so remarkably consistent because way back in 393 AD, a standard was recognized to weed out books and letters that just didn't fit in.

    This standard is called the “canon” – an architectural term referring to a standard measuring rod. In 393 the Council of Hippo (no giggling!) recognized the canon for the Bible.


    From ChurchTimeline.com (emphasis mine):
    To be recognized as canonical, a book had to be Apostolic, fit in with the other scriptures, and have been of fruitful use throughout the church up to that time.

    So, claiming that the unity of Scripture is indicative of divine inspiration is simplistic and misleading – mundane steps were taken to insure they were unified.


    Yes, the Bible is the word of God, but there are much better reasons to believe.

    Saturday, October 31, 2009

    The Culture of Cults: 10 Cult Warning Signs in Any Group

    In an earlier post, we dealt with the 5 Characteristics of a Cult Leader. In this post, I want to look more specifically at the warning signs within a group.

    The gang over at SOS Dallas.org has provided a helpful and interesting list to think about when evaluating a religious group (or even a church) that you - or a loved one - consider joining.


    The following characteristics of cults and sects are based upon the cult classification systems of the world’s leading cult experts like, Singer, Langone, Lifton, and Hassan.


    1. Obsession about group or the leader, putting it above most other considerations.


    2. Member’s individual identity becomes increasingly fused with the group, the leader and/or God followed by the group. Cloning of the group members or leader’s personal behaviors.


    3. Emotional overreaction when the group or leader is criticized. Seen as evil persecution.


    4. Belief that the group is "THE WAY" and they have a mission


    5. Increasing dependency upon the group or leader for problem solving, explanations, definitions and analysis, and corresponding decline in real, independent thought.


    6. Excessive hyperactivity and work for the group or leader, at the expense of private or family interests. Drifting away from family and old friends


    7. Preparedness to blindly follow the group or leader and defend actions or statements without seeking independent verification.


    8. Demonization of former members or members of alternative groups.


    9. Desire to be praised for doing the right thing and fear of public rebuke


    10. Unhealthy wish to be seen with or aligned publicly with the leader(s) of the group

    The site points out that:



    An organization doesn’t have to have all of these characteristics to be a cult, and variations on the characteristics are many, it just has to have a good number of them to be a cult or moving in the direction of becoming one.

    Friday, October 30, 2009

    The Culture of Cults: Why People Join

    In any discussion of cults, the question inevitably arises: Why do people join them?

    Could it be that cult members are simple-minded, weak-willed people? Let Us Reason.org posts an interesting statistic on this (emphasis mine):




    According to one research, 48% of cult members had been between the ages of 19 to 25 years old when they joined. 35% had been between the ages of 26 to 35. They are looking at those fresh out of high school or in college that are targeted. 26% were Protestant Liberals and 28% were Catholic. Many three years of college. This dispels the myth that cult members are uneducated and don’t know any better. Many are educated, but na├»ve to the religious world and its deceptions.

    Rod Benson with John Mark Ministries posted a sermon he preached on the subject in which he lists the following 6 reasons he believes people join cults:





    1. Unfulfilled expectations of traditional churches. Benson calls cults "the unpaid bills of the church". Where the traditional church has failed to maintain and teach biblical doctrine, or where it's become ineffective, cults rush in to fill the vacuum.


    2. A sense of love and affection. We all need to experience a sense of love and care from friends and loved ones. Cults excel in this crucial area, because they know that meeting felt needs pays great dividends.


    3. A sense of belonging. People - especially young adults - increasingly join cults in order to find a family that gives them a sense of belonging they lack in their biological family due to the prevalence of divorce, single parenthood, generational conflict and child abuse.


    4. A sense of acceptance and self-worth. People who feel for one reason or another that they don't 'belong' in society (or in the church) are especially attracted to cult organisations - because they feel alienated, or isolated, or they lack a positive and healthy sense of personal identity. Cult members may believe the lie that they're now on God's side, or that they have "found the truth," and they develop contempt and resistance toward orthodox churches. Cults also encourage a high degree of lay-involvement, elevating the importance of the individual member, which many adherents find attractive.


    5. Idealism. Some people are attracted by the enthusiasm and personal sacrifice of cult members, or by their wholesome lifestyle in contrast to the relatively worldly lifestyle of the major culture and the traditional churches; the strict regimen and discipline of some cults is also attractive.


    6. Spiritual fulfillment. All people hunger for spirituality - for something beyond the material and the tangible. As our society becomes more technologically advanced and more secularised, that spiritual hunger becomes more apparent and focussed, and cults tap into that lack, filling the void.


    I like this list and agree with his conclusions. It was interesting to me how all but #1 are also true of why people join legitimate, traditional churches. In fact, there seems to be a fine line between the true church and cults - much like there is a fine line between legitimate currency and a really good counterfeit. That's why it's important to know the truth and be ready to discern the false.



    Heb 5:14 NIV
    (14) But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.


    I also think it's a legitimate argument that some cults are simply good groups gone bad. It's very possible that a cultish group started out as a legitimate, Bible-believing church that lost its moorings somewhere along the way. It may be that people entrenched in such a church are blind to its condition because the deterioration has happened so slowly, much like the analogy of the frog in a slowly-heated pot of water. Or maybe they've invested so much time and personal resources in an organization, they are loathe to admit the truth.


    In addition to learning the truth of Scripture, lists are helpful in discerning. You can find the 5 Characterisitcs of Cult Leaders by clicking here. And in the next post, I'll share 10 things to look out for in a particular group.

    Tuesday, October 27, 2009

    The Culture of Cults





    Recently a friend called to ask me about cults. Her daughter had moved several states away and was looking at different churches. My friend was concerned that she might get involved in something that would alienate her from her family and “zap her personality”, as she put it.


    I've been interested in the psychology of cults for quite a long time. Umpteen years ago I wrote a college research paper on the subject because I wanted to understand how in the world reasonably intelligent people could become caught up in mind-warping, will-breaking cults.


    I shared with her some things I'd discovered on the topic, and I thought I'd post some of my findings over the next several days. I hope you find it interesting as well as helpful and informative.


    In this first post on the subject, I want to quickly point out a very important distinction. CultFAQ.org posits that the term 'cult' can be defined either theologically or sociologically.



    • Theologically deals with doctrine and ". . . the reasons why a particular group's beliefs and/or practices are considered unorthodox - that is, in conflict with the . . . teachings of the movement the group compares itself to." In other words, the Mormon church may call itself Christian, but even a cursory comparison of its teachings with orthodox Christianity will reveal serious conflicts (to put it mildly!), thus landing it squarely in the 'cult' category (sorry, Mr. Romney . . .).


    • Sociologically deals with behavior, and ". . . considers such factors as authoritarian leadership patterns, loyalty and commitment mechanisms, lifestyle characteristics, [and] conformity patterns (including the use of various sanctions in connection with those members who deviate)." This is to say that a group or a church can be orthodox in its doctrine, but still exhibit cultish tendencies in the way it handles criticism, demands loyalty, or manipulates decision-making processes.


    For more information, check out the CultFAQ.org site by clicking here. In the next post we'll look at 5 characteristics of cult leaders . . .

    Monday, October 26, 2009

    The Culture of Cults: 5 Characteristics of Cult Leaders

    I wonder sometimes if people would just rather have their lives governed by someone else. Every year at tax time, I think it would be a lot easier if I just dropped out of society, grew a ponytail, and sold flowers in the airport. Come on, when the stress levels peak, who hasn't considered the value of moving to South America and living in a commune where you grow hemp in neat little farms? Anyone else? Nah, me neither . . .

    But I've long been fascinated by the psychology of cults. In a previous post we looked at a helpful definition of cults and a distinction between theological and sociological cults.

    The alarming thing is how easily devout, intelligent people can get caught up in a cult without even knowing it.

    So, how do you discern the good groups from the bad? How do you know if the church you're attending, or the Bible study a member of your family is attending, is safe?

    The folks over at SOSDallas.org have posted a helpful checklist suggesting 5 things to look out for in any group leader(s). This is not an exhaustive list and it's far from perfect, but it serves as a springboard for discernment:


    • [The leader(s) demonstrate an] authoritarian approach and intolerance of questioning or criticism. Lies about and insults opponents.

    • Leader(s) shows anxiety about the world, speaking of threats or conspiracies against the group or its leaders.

    • Leader(s) regularly accuse(s) dissatisfied members who leave of having something wrong with them, having personality disorders or being transgressor and deserters.

    • Ex-members have similar stories of abuse and ill-treatment by the leader(s).


    • The group/leader(s) is always right and followers never feel they can be "good enough".

    Next we'll examine the appeal of cults - why do people join them?

    Friday, September 4, 2009

    Drive-in Church?

    Now, is this creatively meeting people where they are, or just catering to the lazy?


    Tuesday, September 1, 2009

    Alice Cooper


    Here's an article that really gets me thinking. Ever since I heard that Alice Cooper became a Christian, I've occasionally wondered how that's working out. And when I heard he's still doing the same stage show he always did, I wondered how he reconciled that with his faith.


    In this article on examiner.com, Alice explains his position and I must admit, he makes some very good points. Here's an excerpt:


    As a Christian, I don't declare myself as a 'Christian rock star.' I'm a rock performer who's a Christian. Alice Cooper is the guy who wants to entertain the audience - it happens that he's a Christian. Alice (the character I play on stage) began life as a villain and he remains one. There's a villain and a hero in every Shakespeare play," he said.


    Alice is no more dangerous than a villain in a cartoon or a Disney film. We have fun with him. He snarls and wears make up. He's punished for his crime and he comes back on the stage in white top and tails. We put on a good show. I've always put limits on Alice because I believe there's a certain amount of Alice that's a gentleman. He'd slit your throat, but he'd never swear at you. And there's always a punchline; he may kill you, but he'll slip on a banana peel. I get right-wing Christians down on me and I always ask them the question: 'If I was doing Macbeth, would it be OK?' And they always say that's Shakespeare so of course. I say that's about four times more violent than anything I do on stage.



    I remember people giving Christian artist Phillip Bailey a hard time in 1984 for His duet with Phil Collins Easy Lover. People said he was a secular sell-out and not a real Christian. His response was that he was a Christian who worked in show business just as you might be a Christian who works in a car dealership, law office, or whatever.

    Works for me, what do you think? Where should Christians draw the line?


    *****BONUS VIDEO*****

    Monday, June 15, 2009

    Get Real, Christians!

    Here's a great post by pastor/writer Paul Prather about how Christians need to be real. A few snippets:


    "If I had to name the most debilitating problem with Christianity, I might say it’s the 'everything’s great, I’m so blessed' syndrome. Christians often feel compelled to show only their happiest and most saintly faces to their ministers and fellow churchgoers."

    "What ends up happening, then, is that dedicated Christians frequently live in private hells. They think they’re the only ones with problems. They’re guilt-ridden. They’re spiritually hamstrung."

    "The fact is, everybody’s messed up in one way or another . . . It’s just that hardly anyone wants to admit it."

    You can read the entire article by clicking here.

    I was thrilled to read this. I found it liberating and it rang true with my personal experience. I also know how much I've been encouraged as those I've admired over the years have opened up about their own struggles and how God has remained faithful to them.

    A couple of years ago when my wife and I were being mentored in the ministry, she was discouraged from starting an outreach to struggling young women. We were told that, as ministers, it was not a good idea to open up about our frailties and failings. To do so would threaten our reputation and we needed to maintain an air of authority. The truth is that when we open up about our struggles and how God has comforted us in the midst of them, we then are able to become agents of that comfort to others who are struggling. I call it the Cycle of Ministry (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

    Does this resonate with anybody else?

    Sunday, June 14, 2009

    Religious Freedom is in Deep Doo-doo

    Okay, here's the story: In Nicktown, PA, an Amish community is in deep doo-doo over local sanitation ordinances. Seems that the Amish elders have decided that state laws are ". . . enforcing stuff that's against our religion . . ." by requiring them to upgrade their outhouse waste storage capabilities.

    I won't go into details about what the Cambria County Sewage Enforcement Agency found at the Amish school house (you can read the story by clicking here), but they laid down the law and required the community to make substantial improvements.

    The Amish elders complied with some of the regulations, but felt other requirements (such as installing a 5,000-gallon precast concrete tank and allowing someone certified by the state to use an electronic meter to test the waste’s chemical content) were way too modern. Meanwhile, people are compaining (and rightly so) that not handling sewage properly can have a seriously bad affect on the entire county's health.

    The case is still pending - there've been meetings and jail sentences - and neither side is willing to budge, but it does bring up the thorny issue of how far religious freedom should be allowed to go.

    What if an elected official wants to be sworn in on something other than the Bible? What if a Rastafarian is elected and he wants to smoke a little ganja at his inaugral ceremony? Sounds extreme, but we've seen parents let their children die because their religion wouldn't allow them to see a doctor . . .

    Many would like to see prayer taught again in the schools, but what if the official at your child's school is a Muslim, a Buddhist, or (gasp!) a liberal?

    That's when the poop would hit the fan . . .

    Debaptism: the latest trend in Atheism

    So, you realize that you made a rash decision years ago and you want to take it back . Or maybe you were baptized as an infant and you want to officially undo that bit of nastiness. What do you do? You can download a Debaptism Certificate from the National Secular Society! According to this article, they claim that over 100,000 people have already taken this step to purge themselves from the eternal waters of holy immersion . . .

    A few thoughts:
    • Baptism is an outward indication of an inward consecration. That being the case, if your heart wasn't in it at the time, the only thing your baptism did was get you wet. A "debaptism", then, is nothing more than a public renouncement of church affiliation, which I guess is the point.
    • I've never been a big fan of infant baptism. I think it's okay as a ceremony where the parents commit themsevles to training the child up in the faith, but not as an indication of saving faith. I mean, come on . . . experience has proven that a baby's brain is nothing more than one big drool-and-poop gland - can we really assert that the child has weighed the course of his life and decided to accept Jesus as his Savior?
    • If a person "gets saved" at one point in his life and later wishes to recant, was he ever really saved to begin with? This is the classic "once saved always saved" issue that has divided Christians for centuries. For passages supporting both sides of the issue see John 10:27-29 and Hebrews 6:4-6.

    Friday, June 12, 2009

    Memorize the 10 Commandments and Win $20K?

    Here's an interesting take on learning the 10 Commandments I read over at Todd Rhoades' blog Monday Morning Insights:

    Darrel Rundus is distressed that Americans readily can tick off a list of 10 stores, 10 sports teams – even 10 beers, but there's a collective "Uhmmm" when those same people are asked to cite the Ten Commandments. To change that, he said, he and his wife decided to do "something a little crazy." They are taking $20,000 of their own money and posting it as a prize that either will be dispatched via casher's check or wire transfer to the first person who, on Monday, Oct. 26, answers his random telephone calls and can recite the Ten Commandments in order in 20 seconds or less.

    Here's the promo video - then a couple of questions:




    First off, I like the idea and I think the video is well done and makes a good point. But, if we live under grace, what is the value in learning the Law? (Hint: Romans 3:20; Galatians 3:24)

    Secondly, do ploys like this serve the cause of Christ well? Or does it cheapen the gospel?

    BTW, I've registered and I hope he calls me 'cause I'm READY!

    Tuesday, June 9, 2009

    Can Twitter Help Worship? Does Twitter Hinder Worship?

    Unless you've been hermetically sealed in a chamber for the past few years, you're aware of the social networking tool Twitter. What you might not be aware of is how people are using the twitter phenomenon to inform the world about every aspect of their lives. Even the rich and famous are getting into the act.

    Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined $25k for his Twitter comments criticising NBA officials, and some members of congress were "tweeting" during Obama's prime time speech back in February.

    The question has arisen about the etiquette of churches allowing and promoting tweeting during worship services, and there are several compelling arguments both for and against the idea. Reverend Taylor Burton-Edwards - director of worship resources with the United Methodist Board of Discipleship - has written a thorough article exploring both sides. You can read the article here, but I'll give you a quick synopsis:

    Pro: Twitter can allow for a genuine sense of interactivity between the congregation and the ministry staff at appropriate times during the worship service - i.e. prayer requests, Q & A sessions.

    Also a person could tweet the service making the experience available vicariously to the world at large (think especially how this could benefit shut-ins and other home-bound people).

    Con: Using Twitter might privilege the "haves" over the "have nots," and the "techies" over the "non-techies."

    Switching focus from one thing to another . . . creates a gap in our primary attention . . . This means that for parts of worship where continuous primary attention is appropriate, the physical act of Twittering actually reduces attention to whatever is going on at the moment and causes a total loss of primary attention between the time you start Twittering and the time you return your focus to whatever is going on in worship.

    There's lots more at the actual article, but I'd love to get your thoughts on the subject . . .

    Friday, May 8, 2009

    Cornerstone and me . . .

    Due to budgetary changes, it was decided at the last Board and Council meeting (after much painful deliberation) that my position would be eliminated. I was encouraged to start looking for full-time employment elsewhere and I started making calls to people I knew in the beverage industry. After over 8 years with Coca-Cola, I had some pretty good contacts.

    Long story short, I got the call from Blue Ridge Beverage this past Tuesday (they want me to start next Tuesday) and I turned in my resignation to the pastor on Wednesday night. I met with the pastor and two other church leaders after the Bible study and went over the various ministries I had been overseeing.

    I see this as a real blessing – to be offered a stable job with a stable company in this economy is no small thing. It's good, honest work that I'm thrilled to be doing again.

    Although Sunday, May 10th was my last Sunday as Associate Pastor, we will continue to attend Cornerstone for now, but I am pulling out of all ministry activities - the new job is going to be physically and mentally challenging and I will need to focus on it.

    I thank you for your friendship and prayers throughout this difficult time.

    Monday, April 27, 2009

    National Day of Prayer is in doubt . . .

    It's true! This article in the Washington Post has the story. Here are a few quotes:

    "Obama Has Yet to Announce Whether He Will Continue Tradition of Hosting Conservative Evangelicals, Who Now Have Made Other Plans"

    "The White House . . . declined to comment on whether it would even hold an event this year, much less who would be invited. "

    "[Some speculate] that if the White House does mark the day, it would probably include "lots of different types of religious leaders," akin to the interfaith feel of last year's Democratic National Convention."

    I'm wondering, though . . . do we really want a day of prayer hosted by a President who's just not that into it? Do we really want to play politics with prayer?

    Finally, if Obama had a taste for the ironic he'd go ahead full steam with the event - and invite the Reverend Jeremiah Wright to lead it . . . .

    Wednesday, April 8, 2009

    The Hell Yeah Church of Love and Miracles

    No, that's not crass profanity. That's this church's real name.

    Now, to be honest, this is not a Christian church. It's a New Age Unitarian church as evidenced by the following quotes:

    The foundation of the Hell Yeah Church is connectedness through consciousness.

    It's a vibrational thing. We are all comprised of energy; we harmonize with it. We can't help but be moved by it.

    I think that it helps you stay aligned with your vision and stay in touch with who you are -- your basic goodness and connection with the whole . . .

    You can read the whole story here, but let me say this:

    I'm all for a little spunk and even a certain amount of bucking against the establishment (hey, Jesus was quite the rebel, too), but this is what happens when you throw out the Bible and start "doing church" any ol' way you feel like it. God Himself has ordained how He will be worshipped - He didn't leave it up to us to just do as we please. This is the ultimate end of a church that is man-centered and not God-centered - and Evangelical Christianity is in danger of heading down that path.

    This highlights the need for us to return to the Scriptures and discern what "church" is really all about . . .

    Monday, April 6, 2009

    Some Quick Observations on Church Life in America

    The guys over at Resurgence.com have posted an interesting study on church life dealing with staff, worship, and pastors’ job duties. Here’s a sample:


    • The number of paid staff for the average congregation is three. But nearly half of all congregations have one paid staff member.

    • The median pastor who is paid by the congregation works about 50 hours per week.

    • In almost all congregations, about half of the attendees stay after the worship service to socialize for about 25 minutes.

    • 53.4 percent of congregations have small groups meeting regularly.

    You can read the rest by clicking here.

    Saturday, April 4, 2009

    Teenagers Then and Now: A Comparison and Contrast

    I’ve been involved in youth ministry for the past 25 years, but driving a school bus for the past year has given me the opportunity to observe the teen culture outside of the church walls. I graduated high-school in 1983, and I’m amazed at how much teenagers have changed over the past quarter of a century. I’m perhaps even more amazed at how much they have remained the same.

    Here are a few quick observations without much commentary. Feel free to add your own . . .

    The Likenesses


    Boy/Girl relationships – You can see the awkwardness when the opposite sexes start to notice each other. Middle school boys chasing girls are like the classic dog-chasing-car scenario – they wouldn’t know what to do with one if they caught it. The maturity disparity is on full display:

    • Middle school girls are young women.
      Middle school boys are big children.


    Outcast kids – Some kids seem to be born with a target on their backs


    Cool kids – Some kids are born cool, some achieve coolness, and some have coolness thrust upon them (apologies to the Great Bard).


    Insecurity – Over school, family, friends, overall social position . . .


    Peer pressure – The world still revolves around what everybody else thinks about you.


    The Differences


    All-access to anything – There are many more entry points into their lives – both good and bad.

    Innocence Lost – Kids today are exposed to so much more at a much earlier age. As a teen, my biggest temptation was to sneak downstairs and watch an R-rated movie on HBO when my parents were asleep; today, that’s laughable.

    Peer Influence – The internet allows MUCH MORE peer influence – Used to be parents had a certain amount of control over who their kids hung out with and were influenced by.

    Language – Language seems to be in a transition. The profane is accepted, and words that were once innocuous are becoming offensive. Seated behind a keyboard, teens today are emboldened to express themselves in ways that only the worst of kids used to.

    Order of service at Cornerstone Church Sunday, April 5th

    • A44.5 – All This For A King
    • G67 – God of Wonders

    Announcements
    Special Music

    • B57.5 – Blessed Be Your Name
    • W135 – The Wonderful Cross
    • H152 – Here I Am To Worship

    Greeting
    • H195 – Holy, Holy, Holy (Worthy to Receive Glory)

    Ransomed – Bluefield College Drama Team

    Song of Dismissal
    • H195 – Holy, Holy, Holy (Worthy to Receive Glory)

    Wednesday, April 1, 2009

    Vending Machine Jesus???

    Here's a clever video produced by Community Christian Church that makes a point about our prayer lives. What do you think? Is it accurate?


    Monday, March 30, 2009

    Salvation by Chicken Wings and Napping

    Last week, ABC's Nightline aired a debate on the existence of Satan - and all the things that go along with that. Arguing for the Biblical position of the existence of the devil were Mark Driscoll (pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle) and Annie Lobert (former prostitute and founder of Hookers for Jesus - not what it sounds like).

    Arguing against the existence of Satan were Deepak Chopra (New-Age author of many popular books who dresses like a classic James Bond villain) and Bishop Carlton Pearson (former evangelical demon-caster-outer).

    Here's a short YouTube clip:



    One of the best lines came when Mark Driscoll said (as only Driscoll can say) that if people would have made up a religion and voted on it, they would have come up with something like a "salvation by eating chicken wings and napping". At least he said that is what he would have voted for.

    You can watch the entire debate by clicking here. Scroll down and click on the video labeled "Driscoll Slams Pearson's Religious History" to see a great exchange.

    Thursday, March 26, 2009

    Diversity: Is It Really All That Great?


    Okay, that title was intentionally inflamatory - but still an honest question. For the record, I'm not talking about racial diversity, or physical diversity of any kind. I'm talking about a spiritual and philosophical diversity that threatens our relationship with God. Hear me out.


    Here's the article that sparked the thought: Parents Sue Florida School District Over Religious-Themed Song.


    Apparently, some parents were outraged that their children were being taught an overtly religious song in a public school. The song - "In God We Still Trust" by Diamond Rio - contains the following lyrics:


    "You place your hand on His Bible/When you swear to tell the truth/ His name is on our greatest monuments/And all our money, too/And when we pledge allegiance/There's no doubt where we stand/there's no separation/We're one nation under him."


    Now, there are a lot of directions my mind went on this story, but the one I wanted to explore - and get your thoughts on - was the idea that we can't publicly teach our children songs about the Christian God of the Bible because we might offend the devotees of some other religion (and that includes Atheism, btw).


    Even though this country was founded on Christian principles by mostly Bible-believing men, we are taught - in the name of diversity - to honor, respect, and treat as equal other belief systems. We are told over and over again how rich our culture is to have so many varied inputs into our "melting pot". Other cultures have so much to teach us we hear them say. But I can't help thinking (over there in the stubborn, politically-incorrect portion of my brain) that the "melting pot" has become a standing cesspool of diluted truth (how's that for a word picture!).


    You know, there's a reason why God warned Israel about fraternizing with diverse cultures and "learning their ways". He knew it would cause them to fall away from Him and eventually bring about their nation's demise . . .

    Tuesday, March 24, 2009

    Bonus Post: The Small God of The Shack


    Here's an article by Travis McSherley over at Chuck Colson's BreakPoint site. In it he makes some quick, salient points about the insidious nature of The Shack. Here are a few quick quotes:


    "[The God of The Shack] is not God. At least not the God of Scripture. He (or she, in this case) doesn’t speak like God, doesn’t judge like God, and—despite the entire premise of the book—doesn’t love like God. Nearly every aspect of God’s glory and power are distorted and diminished in the “Trinity” of The Shack."


    "And as much as God’s majesty and power and authority are diminished, His Word is completely disregarded . . . With the tether to Scripture broken, the book makes plenty of bold, though unsupported, assertions involving God’s sovereignty, man’s free will, forgiveness, submission and relational hierarchy, the purpose of pain, the design of Heaven . . ."


    ". . . there are a number of truths in The Shack, even valuable ones . . . But these small nuggets of truth are in no way worth taking in the abundance of theological distortion."


    You can read the entire article here.


    To play off an old Jerry Reed song title: William P. Young got the gold mine; truth got the shaft.

    Mark Driscoll on The Shack

    Here's the second of two posts on the Christian publishing phenomenon known as The Shack.

    This video features Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll debunking the book - which he refers to as heresy. As you'll see, Pastor Mark is one of these up and coming church leaders who is well-grounded in solid Biblical doctrine.

    The purpose of this is to really lay out the facts about the book and let Christians decide. Is this a serious misrepresentation of Almighty God, or are we to view it as simply a harmless little allegory that deeply touches our emotions?

    The Shaft

    Here's the first of two posts on the Christian publishing phenomenon known as The Shack.

    A good, Biblically-solid friend of mine was carrying around a copy of the book just recently, and I realized that the deception still continues! Just so there's no confusion about how I feel about the book, here's a cartoon I drew several months ago:


    BigDog Robot Being Used in Afghanistan



    I love this kind of stuff! Here's a 4-legged robot that looks like a headless canine and uses a gasoline engine that whines like a pack of killer bees - CREEPY!

    Here's more from the article:

    "Its robot brain, a sophisticated computer, controls locomotion sensors that adapt rapidly to the environment. The entire control system regulates, steers and navigates ground contact. A laser gyroscope keeps BigDog on his metal paws — even when the robot slips, stumbles or is kicked over."

    Read more here.

    On a related side note: I took the fam to see Knowing this weekend and saw previews for the new Terminator movie . . .

    Thursday, March 19, 2009

    Town Outraged After Pastor Takes In Child Killer

    FOXNews.com reports:
    A pastor in this quiet, picturesque New England town opened his doors to a
    convicted child killer who had served his time but had nowhere to go.

    You can read the article here.

    Is this good Christian charity or just plain irresponsible? Would you want this in your neighborhood? Would you open your home up to someone with this history? WWJD?

    Global Warming Research Expedition Called Off Due to Cold Weather

    No foolin'! Here's a quote from the article:

    Three global warming researchers stranded in the North Pole by cold weather
    were holding out hope Wednesday as a fourth plane set off in an attempt deliver
    them supplies.

    “We’re hungry, the cold is relentless, our sleeping bags are full of ice,”
    expedition leader Pen Hadow said in e-mailed statement.

    Read the article here.

    You can't make this stuff up . . .

    Holy Cheetos! People are seeing Jesus everywhere!



    Okay, so what are we to do with this?

    We could be skeptical: That was about as legit as a Fred Phelps smile.
    We could wax sarcastic: Wow! I just saw Jesus in a liberal church! What're the odds? Never seen that before . . .
    We could be really spiritual: Yes, but do others see Jesus in yooouuu?

    What do you do with this?

    American Idol: Over Half the Finalists are Christians (or have strong ties to the church)


    This season's American Idol is shaping up to be a gospel music showdown.

    MTV.com reports that:

    "This season . . . Christians . . . are . . . watching because more than half of this year's crop of finalists — including Danny Gokey, Michael Sarver, Kris Allen, Scott MacIntyre, Matt Giraud and Lil Rounds — either have a strong affiliation with the church or are worship leaders in their communities."

    And here's an interesting quote that begins the article:

    '[This year's 'Idol'] shows that a Christian singer can have artistic integrity,'

    Read the entire article here and come back and respond to these questions:

    Understanding that we are called to come out and be separate (2 Corinthians 6:17), is this a case of Christian sellouts trying to come as close as possible to the world (you know, the whole "friendship with the world = enmity with God" truth that James talks about)?
    Or are they being providentially elevated to a position of incredible influence because of their faithfulness (like the Old Testament prophet Daniel)?

    Wednesday, March 18, 2009

    Ignatius! The future of youth ministry . . . or are we there already?

    Many thanks to Todd Rhoades over at the Monday Morning Insight blog for this little gem.

    Watch this hilarious mockumentary about a seriously pathetic youth-speaker-wannabe. There arent' really "ministers" like this out there . . . are there?


    Ignatius from travis hawkins on Vimeo.

    Tuesday, March 17, 2009

    Though We May Be Small . . .



    . . . we can accomplish much when we pull together.


    Christians and Alcohol: The Age Old Debate Continues

    ChristianityToday.com's Out of Ur blog has an interesting post that's sure to distill some controversy. Here's a sample:

    "Some younger pastors in traditionally teetotalling denominations are beginning to view bans on alcohol use as out of date. Is their so-called liberty in Christ simply an excuse for bad behavior? Or are the old timers adding laws to the gospel?"

    Read the rest of the article here, then come back and post your thoughts on this intoxicating subject (sorry about that).