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Words, Part 2

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Last week I wrote a post entitled Words, where I suggested that what we write must serve a purpose. I received a comment that I didn’t really understand at first because I was reading it within the context of what I had written. The author was kind enough to explain where he was coming from in a later comment, and I couldn’t agree more with his point:

@kelybreez said:

At the risk of being a hypocrite, because I’m usually guilty of anything that gives me pause…

It troubles me when I read something done in the name of “doubt,” questions about God, or the motives of the church or ministers, etc… And the overall feeling is that the person is actually just trying to fit into the trendy, cute genre of “being a questioner.”

It’s great form these days. People read it. People love it. And so it’s cute, and it’s fashionable…

And the writer doesn’t even have to ask intellectually honest questions of themselves anymore, such as, “Do I really have the doubt myself, or am I writing this to sell my blog more?” (and as a result, their novel, or their persona, or whatever it is they’re trying to drive traffic to.)

Or they don’t ask, “Does this question truly help someone work through their doubts and grow into a place of seeking God, or am I just tossing out controversy for my own benefit?”

Again, I’m honestly not trying to be a stick-in-the-mud. I just want us, myself included, to be honest. When we write our words in such a way that they CAUSE more doubt, rather than with the hope of probing doubt (with a growth of faith as the hopeful result)… Well, then I think we’ve missed it.

If our desire is just to rattle people’s cages so we’ll be more popular, then I’m asking myself, Am I being like Jesus?

He rattled cages, yes, but with a loving purpose in mind. Always. (I think.)

Being the sarcastic and sometimes snarky person that I am, I often find myself laughing at things that perhaps wouldn’t be so funny if I took the time to consider if doing so would be at the expense of others. Yes, I post some fairly outlandish things, but I make a serious effort not to be hurtful. To Kely’s point, I have found some blog posts published by Christians to be mean-spirited and sometimes downright cruel. And I have to ask myself the same question Kely posed: “Does this truly help someone work through their doubts and grow into a place of seeking God, or am I just tossing out controversy for my own benefit?”

A couple of months ago, I watched a video on a very popular Christian blog. There was no story to go along with the video, and as best I could tell, its sole purpose was to laugh at the woman on said video because she was praying and speaking in tongues (and causing those around her a considerable amount of discomfort). Based on the comments associated with the post, the blogger’s apparent intent hit its target. The comments were incredibly cruel and insensitive, and I couldn’t help but wonder how the subject of the video might react to reading that post. I’m not going to mention the name of this blogger, and if you mention it in the comments section, I will not approve your comment. That’s not my point. My point is, if you feel it’s necessary to make fun of an alternative viewpoint in order to bring weight to your own, might I suggest you spend your time making a better argument? As Christians, we can laugh at ourselves and we can laugh with (and sometimes at) each other. Jon Acuff and Matt Appling accomplish this consistently and effectively without being cruel or overly offensive.

Warning: Some may find the following video offensive, but if you’ll hang in there, I do have a point:

I am a Christian who writes a blog, but I don’t consider to be a Christian blog. The words God, Jesus, Christ, church or Christian do not appear anywhere in the title or description of this site. Does this mean I think I have a lesser responsibility to represent Christ through what I write on this blog? Yes, actually. I do think that. Because I’ve never represented this blog to be anything more than my own ramblings. Yes, I write about my faith, but that’s not what this blog is primarily about. I don’t think I’m ever un-Christian, but that’s not my only focus here.

As Bob Kelso says, “There is a time and a place for the truth.” If you’re a Christian, you have the added responsibility of speaking the Truth in love. It may not always be sexy or hip, but consider Who you’re representing and to Whom you belong.

Enjoying the Barbecue (by Peter Pollock)

Today is my friend Peter Pollock’s birthday. I give him a hard time, but in all sincerity, I will say he is one of the kindest, most considerate people I have had the pleasure of “meeting” here on the internets. I have also had the privilege of working with him on a very rewarding project this past year. In celebration of his birthday, I thought I would repost a guest post he wrote for me last year. Happy Birthday PP Bottle!:

Don’t get me wrong, I love ribs. BBQ ribs, when done right, are some of the most convincing arguments I’ve ever seen to the existence of God. Nothing beats ribs, in my opinion.

I also like chicken, carne-asada and tri-tip – (oh tri-tip, you’re so wonderful) but nothing, I mean nothing makes a good barbecue complete like burgers and hot dogs.

Maybe it’s just because when we were growing up burgers and ‘dogs were all we could afford, I don’t know. What I DO know is that I love my burgers and hot dogs.

Now, I’m sure that there are plenty of people out there who will disagree with me. Many people don’t like either burgers or hot dogs. There are also people (like my wife) who like one but not the other.

I don’t understand it personally. I like just about every kind of meat, but burgers and hot dogs, despite their differences, just happen to be my favorites.

Do you have a meat preference? Do you have a meat prejudice?

As I was sitting here salivating over the thought of some great BBQ food, I started thinking just how different burgers and hot dogs are. Burgers are round and flat, hot dogs are long and fat. Burgers are made from beef, hot dogs are made from… other stuff that I don’t want to think about right now. Burgers are dark brown (or black if I forget and leave them on too long) hot dogs are a lighter brownish color. As for the taste… there’s really no comparison, totally different.

Yet both are foods, both are great when cooked on a barbecue grill and both have little or no nutritional value, which is not surprising when they taste so good!

This all reminded me of the Church.

I’m on a journey with the Lord, a journey to rediscover his Church. A Church that I thought I knew but I’m rapidly discovering I don’t know the half of.

We, the Church, the family of God, brothers and sisters born again into the family by Christ’s blood, are a vast and incredibly diverse bunch of people.

We’re as similar (and different) as burgers and hot dogs and, just like I love my meat both circular and tubular, I’m learning that I can love this big, crazy family and everyone in it.

It’s easy for us to say that we don’t like a certain kind of BBQ food and dismiss it as nasty and inedible and we often apply to same ease of dismissal to other Christians. We don’t like something that they do or say or believe so we distance ourselves from them and turn our noses up at them like they’re tofu-burgers.

That’s not what God created the Church to be. Yes we all need a little correction now and again and we all have some bad theology that we believe. None of us are perfect but we’re all God’s children – and Daddy just wishes that we would appreciate our differences and get along instead of hating our differences and constantly fighting.

Let’s all enjoy the huge barbecue that is the Church and appreciate the wonderful diversity that God has built into it.

To read more from Peter (and to wish him a Happy Birthday), check out his blog, Rediscovering the Church and follow him on the twitter: @peterpollock.

The deep wisdom of Gene Simmons

Before I go any further, I want to clarify something. Almost without exception, every quote I have ever heard or read attributed to Gene Simmons would fit into the category of “Things that make you go Eweh!” But this one is really good.

This past Sunday marked the last Sunday C3 would meet as a core group. On Easter Sunday, we officially open our doors to the public — our “launch” Sunday. We considered an advertising campaign, but decided against it for now. Jeff shared a little about his experiences with the last church plant he was involved in. They had over 200 in attendance at their launch. Which is awesome. Unless, of course your lead guy was expecting 700 or more. At this point, I am tempted to point out the total ineffectiveness of sending out 75,000 mailers on four different occasions with a net return of one visitor, but I digress…

The following Sunday was an even bigger pill to swallow, as they had less than 100. How do you get excited about a measly 90 people when you are expecting 700 or more? The answer came from the drummer, Jason. (Who, I am happy to say, is now the drummer and core group member of C3.) Jason came to Christ as an adult, after living what many would consider a very prodigal son sort of life; and he is a testimony to God’s redemptive power through the life of a humble servant. (Sorry – brief explanation tangent.)

As the leadership team gathered before the service in a “group prayer huddle”, the funk of sadness and disappointment was visible in the hunched shoulders and downcast faces of those in the circle. The unspoken question on everyone’s lips seemed to be, “What now?”

Jason begins, “I’ve been reading the autobiographical story of KISS…” At this point, Jeff (who is the worship pastor and Jason’s best friend) is thinking, “OoohKaaay, where’s he going with this?” Jason continues, “When asked what type of audience KISS was hoping to attract at a concert, Gene Simmons said:

‘We’re not here for the people that aren’t here, we’re here for the people who are’.

This Easter Sunday, and every gathering thereafter, when we meet together to worship God, pray and fellowship with one another, can we simply remember that thought?

Thank you so much for your prayers and encouragement. I can’t express how much our little ragamuffin body of believers appreciate you all. You da bomb.

Authenticity, Transparency and other annoying Christian buzz words

Google Search: “church authenticity” Results: 2,910,000
Yahoo Search: “church authenticity” Results: 37,000,000

Google Search: “church transparency” Results: 1,600,000
Yahoo Search: “church transparency” Results: 13,000,000

Google Search: “authentic worship” Results: 287,000
Yahoo Search: “authentic worship”: Results: 9,210,000

What can we learn? For starters, Yahoo seems to be a superior search engine to Google.

Don’t get me wrong. I think the church should be about all of the above. But when we say, “Our church is all about being transparent and culturally relevant with authentic corporate worship that draws people closer to God,” to me, it sounds like we think we already are. Or at least we think that’s what we should be. Must we overuse those terms to a point where they begin to sound laughable?

I suppose it is helpful to know our target audience. If we hope to increase the membership of our individual church bodies by targeting Christians who haven’t been to church for awhile, or those who are currently part of another congregation but are shopping around for a better offer, then I suppose that’s a pretty good slogan. But if I had never stepped inside a church building before in my life, I would read that description and think, “What in the hell are they talking about?”

I love the fellowship of believers. My brothers and sisters in Christ support and encourage me. They also give me some much needed accountability. Having said that, I think it is very easy for us to become so comfortable with only being around other Christians that we forget the task at hand, or worse – we become judgemental and Pharisaical.

I’m not a big fan of Penn and Teller. I really don’t care for magic shows of any kind. Not so much because of the negative spiritual undertones sometimes associated with it. The main problem I have with magicians is that they practice deception as a trade. I really hate dishonesty. I certainly don’t want to pay someone to lie to me. I already do that — I am a taxpayer. (Sorry – tangent.) Many of you have already seen the following video. Whether you’ve seen it or not, I’d love to get your thoughts on it and the post in general:

What makes you laugh?

Is it wrong that I think this guy (and this bit in particular) is hilarious? If so, please pray for me…

Christianity can save the World (Subtitled: Pardon me, I’m a bit blogstipated…)

To borrow a term from a friend and fellow blogger, I’m a bit blogstipated. I have a few ideas in my head, but I just can’t seem to get them down the brain stem, through the arms and fingers on to the keyboard. I’ve also been a bit preoccupied with life in general. I hope you won’t think this is a cop out, but I wanted to share a small snippet of an amazing book I’m reading.

I first saw Tim Keller earlier this year at a church planting conference in Florida. Among all the cool, hip, young church planters and pastors I heard speak, Tim Keller stuck out like a sore thumb. I knew absolutely nothing about him and was completely unprepared for what came out of his mouth. This very conservative looking man comes out, sits down in front of his notes and proceeds to talk about the Gospel of Christ in a way that had me and the majority of the audience absolutely riveted. You can have your Rob Bell and your Donald Miller. To me, Tim Keller is a rock star.

In his book, “The Reason for God”, Keller makes a strong argument that both secularism and orthodox Christianity are on the rise, and we must engage in dialogue instead of writing one off as the radical left or right wing of society. If you are a skeptic, atheist or agnostic — read this book. If you are a Christian — read this book. I promise you, it will answer many questions and doubts that you may have about those who don’t share your beliefs, and even questions and doubts you may have about your personal spirituality or lack thereof.

This book is jammed packed with cerebral awesomeness. The following excerpt is from Chapter One: “There can’t be just One True Religion”. Don’t let the title mislead you. Part One of the book is devoted to addressing arguments against Christianity that skeptics have posed and have been largely left unanswered. This is one of many.

Christianity Can Save the World (Part 1 of 2)

I’ve argued against the effectiveness of all the main efforts to address the divisiveness of religion in our world today. Yet I strongly sympathize with their purpose. Religion can certainly be one of the major threats to world peace. At the beginning of the chapter I outlined the “slippery slope” that every religion tends to set up in the human heart. This slippery slope leads all too easily to oppression. However, within Christianity–robust, orthodox Christianity–there are rich resources that can make its followers agents for peace on earth. Christianity has within itself remarkable power to explain and expunge the divisive tendencies within the human heart.

Christianity provides a firm basis for respecting people of other faiths. Jesus assumes that nonbelievers in the culture around them will gladly recognize much Christian behavior as “good” (Matthew 5:16; cf. 1 Peter 2:12). That assumes some overlap between the Christian constellation of values and those of any particular culture and of any other religion. Why would this overlap exist? Christians believe that all human beings are made in the image of God, capable of goodness and wisdom. The Biblical doctrine of the universal image of God, therefore, leads Christians to expect non-believers will be better than any of their mistaken beliefs could make them. The Biblical doctrine of universal sinfulness also leads Christians to expect believers will be worse in practice than their orthodox beliefs should make them. So there will be plenty of ground for respectful cooperation.

Christianity not only leads its members to believe people of other faiths have goodness and wisdom to offer, it also leads them to expect that many will live lives morally superior to their own. Most people in our culture believe that, if there is a God, we can relate to him and go to heaven through leading a good life. Let’s call this the “moral improvement” view. In the Christian understanding, Jesus does not tell us how to live so we can merit salvation. Rather, he comes to forgive and save us through his life and death in our place. God’s grace does not come to people who morally outperform others, but to those who admit their failure to perform and who acknowledge their need for a Savior.

Christians, then, should expect to find nonbelievers who are much nicer, kinder, wiser, and better than they are. Why? Christian believers are not accepted by God because of their moral performance, wisdom, or virtue, but because of Christ’s work on their behalf. Most religions and philosophies of life assume that one’s spiritual status depends on your religious attainments. This naturally leads adherents to feel superior to those who don’t believe and behave as they do. The Christian gospel, in any case, should not have that effect.

It is common to say that “fundamentalism” leads to violence, yet as we have seen, all of us have fundamental, unprovable faith commitments that we think are superior to those of others. The real question, then, is which fundamentals will lead their believers to be the most loving and receptive to those with whom they differ? Which set of unavoidable exclusive beliefs will lead us to humble, peace-loving behavior?

There are a few more paragraphs that complete this discussion. I will share them with you tomorrow.

For me, the deeper my desire to live a life devoted to Christ, the more I realize how, in the past, I have sometimes been a Pharisee and lived under the false illusion that God’s love for me was somehow greater because I loved Him. When you begin to make the effort see others through the eyes of Jesus, to speak the truth without judgement or disdain, I believe you are moving closer to the fullness and abundance of a life of service to the King. I have seen some positive movement within the church to return to the practices of the early church. I pray that this movement is a revolution and not just a fad.

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