Thursday, May 28, 2009

California Politics And The Private Bible Study

I've gotten a few emails of late, wondering why I hardly ever post anymore.

I have to be truthful. I'm watching the American Experiment be trashed. I'm watching it be stolen. I'm watching the plane being deliberately flown into the hillside. And there's nothing I can do about it but watch it all go down in real time. And an America, one with the crow totally lodged in their throats, is ordering more crow in a take home container.

Such is why I just cannot muster enough motivation to vary my posts with chaff and oatmeal filler about Twitter, MySpace, or anything else that relfects an apostolic alumni better versed on Brad and Angelina than on an apologetic defence against secularism and its negative darwinistic theology. It's all going to burn. And to try and wrench some redeemable quality from any of it feels about like trying to throw helium down a hallway.

And on that note, I do have this fine bit of love, peace, and tolerance from those peace-loving, southern-Californians:

SAN DIEGO -- A local pastor and his wife claim they were interrogated by a San Diego County official, who then threatened them with escalating fines if they continued to hold Bible studies in their home, 10News reported.

Attorney Dean Broyles of The Western Center For Law & Policy was shocked with what happened to the pastor and his wife.

Broyles said, "The county asked, 'Do you have a regular meeting in your home?' She said, 'Yes.' 'Do you say amen?' 'Yes.' 'Do you pray?' 'Yes.' 'Do you say praise the Lord?' 'Yes.'"

Me too. I am shocked. SHOCKED that the same culture that celebrates The DaVinci Code would take umbrage with a group of people that didn't. This little confrontation is of course explained in the most pedestrian of terms by the local government:
The county employee notified the couple that the small Bible study, with an average of 15 people attending, was in violation of County regulations, according to Broyles.
So was Tiennemen Square. Nothing to see here folks. Move along.


Monday, May 25, 2009

I Am Not a Preacher!

(From the 90&9 Cover Story)

A good teacher understands the value of a good curriculum. Good curriculum makes a good teacher’s job easier and more rewarding. The teacher’s job is to relay Scripture to the student in a way that will be unforgettable. Curriculum is the solid foundation they will modify and enhance for their class. A bad teacher does not know how to relate the material from a good curriculum in a relevant manner, so often makes up their own lessons that don’t fill the allotted class time. A preacher does not like any curriculum because they believe it quenches their freedom to hear from the Holy Spirit.

We want to hear your thoughts on the difference between preaching and teaching and their respective impacts on believers and unbelievers! Comment now!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorial Day Chuckle

I guess this has been circulating for quite some time, but an alert reader shared this with me for the first time.

Hope you laugh - & think about it...

Footprints in the Sand - The Sequel

"One night I had a wondrous dream,
One set of footprints there was seen,
The footprints of my precious Lord,
But mine were not along the shore.

But then some stranger prints appeared,
And I asked the Lord, "What have we here?
Those prints are large and round and neat,
But Lord, they are too big for feet."

"My child," He said in somber tones,
"For miles I carried you alone,
I challenged you to walk in faith,
But you refused and made me wait."

"You disobeyed, and would not grow,
The walk of faith you would not know,
So I got tired, I got fed up,
And there I dropped you on your butt."

"Because in life, there comes a time,
When one must fight, and one must climb,
When one must rise and take a stand,
Or leave their butt prints in the sand."

-author unknown

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Why is it...

...that parents will get upset about Bibles being made available to kids at school, but not condoms?

Twitter = Wiki-Spam?

For all three of you out there who have not jumped on the Twitter bandwagon at least once (it's ok, I'm number four), Adam Sternbergh has an interesting article on its popularity and inevitable demise.  He quotes Nielsen in reporting that 60% of first-time Tweeters fail to return the following month.  Those who do seem to enjoy Twitter are people who "think that (a) their every stray thought is publishable poetry and (b) it’s crucial to constantly insert their name—their brand—into the conversation."  Most others, after using it, feel that the Twitter concept is "less like a communications breakthrough than a form of torture devised by Philip K. Dick."  His final analysis is that Twitter is nothing more than the newest tool to advertise your product to the public, whether that product is your newest book, or yourself.  In other words, spam.


Hmmm... guess I don't really need to see what all the fuss is about then.


josh r

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tackling Terrifying Topics (90&9 Cover)

(From the 90&9 Cover)

“Never discuss politics or religion.”

This advice is imparted on a regular basis with the implication that failure to heed this time-tested rule in any relationship may result in hard feelings and loss of friendship between the participants. We threw out the rulebook a couple Wednesday nights ago at Abundant Life Church and kicked off a series entitled, “Sects, Drugs and Rock-n-Roll,” with a discussion of the church’s role in politics.

What would you have said on the panel? Comment here.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

And on the 8th Day Man Created God in His Own Image, After His Likeness...



We don't really know what Jesus looked like.  He didn't leave behind any photos, paintings, sculptures, or even detailed descriptions.  The closest we get to anything is a prophecy written hundreds of years before Jesus was even born describing him as having "no beauty that we should desire him." 


Consequently, artists have often portrayed Jesus as physically similar to themselves.  Bearded Jesus and clean-shaven Jesus, black Jesus and white Jesus, laughing Jesus, and somber Jesus, 20th-Century businessman Jesus, and now, 21st-Century casual Jesus !  I know the purpose of evangelism is to translate the Gospel into a language the culture understands, but do we sometimes go too far? 


Bronze statue showing Jesus in baggy jeans: 'Jesus in jeans' sculpture unveiled


In trying to make Jesus accessible to our culture, the danger of losing Jesus altogether is ever present (not that Father David Buckley et al have necessarily done that).  When the message of Jesus sounds too much like our own, when we are able to use Jesus to support all our views, when Jesus fails to challenge us we have probably strayed from who Jesus really is.  This is why we need to constantly examine ourselves in light of the Bible.  It is easier to remake Jesus in our image than to remake our lives in His image.


josh r

Friday, May 08, 2009

We shall endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit until we all come into the unity of the faith, at the same time admonishing all brethren that they shall not contend for their different views to the disunity of the body


This is the closing line of the Fundamental Doctrine of the UPCI.  The basis of our fellowship is our beliefs in the oneness of God and salvation.  In all else we are guided by the Articles of Faith and, more importantly, Romans 14 .  Or at least that was the way it was originally intended.  But since these words were originally penned, peripheral issues have become more and more important.  This is not just occurring in the AP movement, however.


In a challenging article about the Southern Baptist Convention's struggle with the issue of alcohol, Eric Reed discusses how different groups have responded to peripheral issues.  He quotes historian Mark Noll: "Some evangelicals have made opinion on liquor [insert television, casual preachers, or any other "AP issue" here] more important for fellowship and cooperation…than attitudes toward the person of Christ or the nature of salvation."  In other words, it's easy to make peripheral issues more important than Jesus.


in Paul's day, the primary holiness standard up for debate was circumcision.  There was even a faction that would refuse to fellowship with Gentile Christians who had not undergone this rite.  When Peter sought to please this faction by separating himself from Gentiles in Antioch , Paul famously got in his face and said that "their conduct was not in step with the truth of the Gospel."  Why?  Because they were elevating personal standards of holiness (not a bad thing to have) above love for their brothers and sisters in Christ. 


It is important to have personal convictions about holiness.  It is important for pastors to draw lines that are contextual to their communities.  But when these lines--when these convictions--turn into walls that keep out fellow Christians, then we have lost sight of the Gospel. 


Thanks to Toby Stevens for turning me on to this article.  For a different AP response to it, and a call back to mission, read his post here .


josh r

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Is Church Too Girly?


Ok, maybe it's a British thing... After all, I don't recall ever seeing a church decorated with flowers and embroidered banners.  Maybe an understated arrangement in front of the pulpit, but embroidered banners?  No wonder an online survey of readers of the UK men's magazine Sorted showed that men would like church to be more manly.  "Sentimental lovey dovey songs," dancing in church, hugging, holding hands, and sitting in circles were also on the list of things the men felt uncomfortable with.   Put all of that together, and it sounds like a pretty feminine church. 


So what would a "manly" church look like?  Respondents suggested "proper, macho hymns" and doing more stuff together.  It should feel more like "the football (soccer) terraces" than "Laura Ashley showrooms." 


I guess the long-haired hippie version of Jesus doesn't help very much either.


josh r

Monday, May 04, 2009

The Holy Ghost Can't Be It: 90&9s Cover Story

(This is the final paragraph for 90&9's Cover Story)

It’s long overdue for us to get our graduates off the graduation platform and into their specific callings. It’s time we taught our best and brightest how to shine for Christ outside of the Pentecostal movement. It’s time we grew in crazy, Acts-like proportions because all of our graduates are working overtime to get outsiders into the spiritual graduation program while the church kept working overtime to get them trained to master their callings to go back into society. It’s time we stopped cheering about the same people re-receiving the Holy Ghost and got outside to turn our world upside down.

Agree? Disagree? Undecided? Comment now!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Sharing God's Grace: Yann Martel

I have to admit, I still get a thrill out of getting an article printed in another publication. Sometimes it can take a maddeningly long time, but then you see it and you fall in love again.

In this case, I did an interview in April, 2008 with Yann Martel, author of the Booker Award-winning Life of Pi. He's a fabulous story about an atheist writing a novel about a believer named Pi, and literally converting himself into belief. Now he speaks to lit conferences around the world about the importance of belief.

One interesting sidebar to this story, from my angle, was how few Christian publications were interested in this piece after they realized he didn't convert to their denomination. (Of course, the secular publications weren't interested either.) Don't get me wrong, he's still in the early stages of his walk with Christ, yet I was amazed at God's grace in his circumstances. I mean, he converted himself by writing fiction!

Thankfully, there were magazines as intrigued as I was, so here's the story (with fabulous artwork) in the latest issue of Relevant Magazine.