Category Archives: All about today

Marketing the Gospel

I think part of the reason the Church isn’t spreading in America like in other places of the world is the lack of good marketing. The Church is in the business of saving people. That’s the product. As disciples, it is our job to sell that. It costs them nothing to buy it, but it costs everything. What I mean is this: It’s free. There is no monetary cost to being a Christian. Some will tell you that you have to tithe and what not, but your time is an offering as well. And that’s what I mean by it costs everything: it’s about giving up your life. No longer living for yourself and what you want to do, but living for God and what He wants for you.

I think we do a terrible job, as Christians, expressing this point. Too often we talk about being saved from Hell. But what about being saved in this world? I look at this recent Adrian Peterson situation with his two year old son being beaten and killed. No matter what his relationship was with the kid, the publicity is good because it highlights an issue with abuse. When I was first reading the story, it made me sick to my stomach. What can a two year old do to make an adult male so mad that he beats his head in? A kid that can’t defend himself at all. There is no answer. But this is just a minor glimpse at the evil present in this world. Christianity offers something no other belief system can offer: a hope that there is justice and reconciliation. Punishing the man that did this won’t bring the kid back. Yes, justice can be served in a sense, but it still doesn’t feel like it fixes the situation. Christianity says that God will fix it. Maybe not right now, but at the end, He will.

We need to do a better job of getting this point across. Being saved from Hell and God’s wrath isn’t what makes Christianity worth living for. Living for God and recognizing His power and Will and Sovereignty is. One of our ministers said something the other day that hit me: When you look at the Grand Canyon, a mountain range, a sunset, and recognize God’s glory and power and majesty and beauty, that’s great. But humans are the pinnacle of His creation. Those things are fantastic, but God values us so, so much more. We need to feel the same way about our fellow humans. And this means expressing to them the hope that Christianity offers here and now, not just in some distant future after death.

The thing is, this should be easy. With all of the evil and sin that are in this world, it shouldn’t be hard to open people’s eyes up to that fact and introduce them to the solution. But we don’t for some reason. I think part of the reason is that the Church doesn’t end up valuing its own expertise within it. You have business people who market stuff for a living. Why not use them? We don’t let people who can’t sing lead worship. So why would we let people who don’t know how to market be in charge of outreach? We utilize the expertise of a minister who went to Bible College, but not the guy with the MBA.


Tattoos vs. Taboos: Old School vs. New school

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Tattoos have been a hotly debated topic in recent years within the Church. Some say the Old Testament forbids them, as well as piercings, and argue that since our bodies are the temple of God and where he dwells, we must be pristine and not blemish our bodies. On the other hand, it is argued that the Old Testament laws on tattoos are the same as dietary laws: outdated and no longer binding. They may also say that tattoos and piercings are a way to decorate our bodies as the Temple was decorated by the Jews.

Here’s my thoughts on the issue: A) “tattoo” as translated from the OT is not the same thing we mean by “tattoo” today. A “tattoo” back then was what was left after Pagans cut their bodies in god worship, it was a scar. Not “tattooing” yourself meant making sure you looked different than the Pagans. The same goes for dietary laws and circumcision. It was about differentiation. Even if the “tattooing” definition was the same, the fact that Christ and Paul opened up salvation to the Gentiles meant the need for differentiation in the same way as in the OT was no longer needed. It may be useful for some to abstain, but it was not in and of itself a sin.

Point #2: I have a hard time believing that a tattoo of a cross or a Bible verse or praying hands displeases God. A) it’s a permanent reminder to you of your faith. B) it’s a visible display of your faith that others can see. And who knows, maybe it starts a conversation that leads to meaningful discussion!


Praying with a Purpose: Why We Suck at Praying

I have to be the first to admit that my prayer life is rather sucky to say the least. Not only do I not pray as much as I ought to, but I don’t pray as deeply as I ought to either. There are a lot of reasons why. I’m busy. I’m lazy. I’d rather do something else. But I think part of why I suck at praying is because most of the time, I think of it in an incorrect way. Maybe I’m not as bad as others, but I know I’m not very good either way. And I’d like to change that.

First of all, what is the point of prayer? That’s kind of a deep question, so we will answer it in a few different ways. First, what are some problems with how we, as a Church and as individuals, view and/or portray prayer? Second, what makes good prayer? And third, some helpful tips that have been shared with me that I will pass on.

First, prayer is often seen as our grocery list that we take to God. It often consists of asking for persons x, y, z to be healed from whatever ailment, physical, emotional, spiritual, that they are facing. Or maybe asking for help with things in our own lives. While these aren’t necessarily bad, who said that the purpose of this life was to be healthy all the time and happy? Not Jesus, that’s for sure. Prayer for many of us is a monologue. We speak prayer, as if it was a language, to no one in particular and act like we are talking to God. We don’t actually expect a response. Of course there’s much more that can be said, but these are some of the main issues.

Second, good prayer really is easier than what we see above. Honesty is essential. I mentioned earlier that sometimes I just don’t feel like praying for whatever reason. Guess what!? It’s ok to tell God that in a prayer. He would prefer you to be honest that to fake pray or not pray at all. Maybe we should pray about stuff we really care about, even if it seems mundane to others. Again, honesty is something that God values. As to the grocery list issue, think of things this way: When we pray for someone to be healed, our goal shouldn’t be merely that they feel better because we don’t want them to feel bad. Rather, the purpose of healing is to glorify God. Rather than praying for a healing, pray that in that situation, God’s glory can be manifested to it’s greatest potential. But make sure you honestly mean that. As I mentioned, prayer speak is a major issue in the Church. We lift up these lofty prayers with words we never use except in a prayer. Why? To sound better? Prayer is supposed to be a dialogue, a conversation, not a speech. Pray like you would speak to your dad, because God is your heavenly dad (have you ever called your dad “father”? Speak to him like a friend).

Here’s a little list of some tips I was given on things that can help your prayer life:
-Posture your prayer: Kneeling, prostrate, walking in a place of solitude.
-Give your prayer an address: If write a letter, you write “To (insert name here),” who are you praying to? Master, Lord, Dad, Father, God…
-Check yourself for honesty: Do you mean what you are saying or just trying to prayer speak? He knows.
-Take time to be still: “Be still and know that I am God.”
-Let your passion for God rise to the surface: If you are excited, God likes to know that, especially when it relates to him.
-Confess
-Speak your heart cry to God: Genuine spiritual need where you struggle
-Ask that the conversation continue: This is an eternal dialogue.


What and Where is the Kingdom of Heaven? Pt. 1

This will be the first post in a series of post that attempts to answer the question in the title.

This is a question that has been on my mind recently, especially as I’m reading through Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright. Many people criticize Christians for being ‘Too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good.” And, unfortunately, there tends to be some truth to it. We often have the tendency to talk about what happens after death, as if it is an escape from this life. And while there may even be some truth to that, as well, that is not the whole story.

Wright has helped me refine my understanding of what exactly the New Testament writers meant by “Kingdom of Heaven” or “Kingdom of God.” Instead of some future place of residence, as it is often depicted, it is something that we create and live out now.

When we analyzes the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven/God,” we must define our terms. A Kingdom is the area reigned over by a King. The “Heaven/God” aspect is more often simply associated with God. So the interpretation would be stated simply as “God’s reign.” When we “parse” this out in this way, the “Kingdom of Heaven/God” can hardly be said to be some future place, because that would be to deny God’s sovereignty over us now.

The answer to the question in the title isn’t that simple, however. A reigning king also has servants that abide in his will, and a people to reign over. He must have real power, not just a feigned power like many see the monarchy of England as having, since it is no longer the singular governing body. We must ask ourselves, then, is this the case, and how is it accomplished?


Definition of Science: What can be an explanation?

In listening to a podcast today, I was getting more and more frustrated. It was two Christians discussing the origin of life. One kept saying that intelligent design was a science stopper and that minds should not be an explanation for anything in science.

I find this to be ludicrous. If it is the case, because it is certainly at least possibly true, then your definition and limits of science are science stoppers themselves. How can you have such things that would potentially give you necessarily false answers. For if it could be true that there are agent causations(which there certainly appears to be and all other fields permit them, just not biology and physics), then you are operating on a concept that necessarily prevents you from finding the true explanation.

I don’t understand why this is so common, and why some of the smartest people in the world think this way. Agents cause things. We know this from experience. How can you then rule that out simply because it is “science” and not something else? If you are limiting yourself from particular explanations because they are “unscientific,” then you have a faulty concept of what science is, because science is suppose to study reality, and the things that take place in it and effect it. If there is a dimension of this that you leave out, you the are no longer doing honest and open science and are bound to have false answers.


Where does God fit into my life?

This past week has been full of awesome thoughts in regards to faith and action and such. Our church has been going through the book of James, discussing a lot of the basic practical applications for a Christian. This past week reminded me of a great video I saw a few years back. The sermon was about submitting to God, while the video was about where God fit into our lives. But they were extremely related in their practice.

First, the sermon merely reflected what it meant to submit to God, which seems so obvious to us, yet so hard to actually do. The whole “Your will be done” idea, not my will. The video was something that merely popped into my head in the middle of the sermon that had a similar effect on me in remembrance as it did the first time. It’s a short animated clip of a boy who has the most awesome house ever, a mansion, with so many cool things inside. One day, he sees a giant ninja statue, and just has to have it, knowing that his house will always seem incomplete without it. He tries to get it in, but it just won’t fit. He can’t find a way to get it in. Instead of giving up his hopes of having it in his house, he decides that this statue is so important, that he will destroy his house and rebuild it around the statue. This is submission to God.

If it isn’t clear, which it didn’t stand out right away for me the first time, or at least not the huge impact it has had on me since, let me explain. God is the ninja statue, not in an idolic sense, but merely in an metaphorical sense. God doesn’t just fit neatly into our lives, it just doesn’t work that way. It’s a “nice” theory, to adapt a lifestyle that has God in it along with other things, since family and work and friends are important too, and they need attention and space as well. But in practice, it leads to a mere nominal Christianity, one that isn’t very Christian at all when you compare it to the “Christianity” that Jesus was asking of us. I put this in quotes because it’s not about the religion or the things that we do. In fact, this was part of the sermon that I thought fit so well into this. Doing the right things just simply isn’t enough.

This requires some more explanation as well. We were left with a question to ponder when it comes to making decisions, “Is this consistent with my call to be a disciple of Christ?” Everything goes through this filter that we say, do, etc. This is where the video comes back in. The tearing down of the house was the radical change that is required for a Christian in their lives. Everything changes. Rather than having some God in one’s life, their life should be built around God. Everything is for Him.

And then comes Steven Curtis Chapman, one of my favorite music artists. He recently released a song called “Do Everything.” The chorus goes like this:

Do everything you do to the glory of the One who made you
Cause He made you to do
Every little thing that you do to bring a smile to His face
And tell the story of grace
With every move that you make
And every little thing you do

It’s this idea that we should go about every aspect of our lives for God. Eating in thanks, working in praise, doing homework for His glory, playing sports to honor Him, everything. You can’t be a Christian and do these things for yourself, and only go to church or pray for God. It’s a life for God, not a moment or part of your day for God.

So tear down your “nice” houses and rebuild around God. If you find this hard, pray for it. You can’t do it on your own. You need God’s help. Don’t be afraid to ask for it.

God doesn’t fit in my life, your life. We fit in Him.


Lack of “Child abuse” is why there is a trend to deny Hell. So spank your kids… for God

This may seem crazy at first, but let me explain. By “child abuse” in the title, I simply mean good, old-fashioned child rearing. You know, that crazy one that actually involved punishing bad behavior? Yeah, that. But how in the world would this play into people becoming unorthodox? Let’s take a look…

Psychologists and the like today tend to say that spanking a child is bad and can lead to them being abusive when they are older and mal-developed. I tend to disagree, but I’m no expert I guess. Apparently looking around at behavior exhibited by Gen Y that wasn’t reared what I call properly compared to that of the behavior of Gen X and prior isn’t enough to show these “experts” that they are wrong and that if anything it leads to children being defiant, stuck up SOBs. Yeah, I said it. 50 years ago, no kid would have ever dreamed of calling his mother an inappropriate name because he knew mom would slap him in the face, make him eat soap, and then wait til dad got home, and that was worse. Now, not only is it not uncommon, but I’m surprised if I go to the mall or grocery and I DON’T see it happen. But for some reason the parent takes it in stride and simply gives them a verbal warning, followed by more name calling and back talking from the child, and yet another verbal warning ensues. Effective, eh? Not really. Now that is just one example, and while I don’t have any hard and fast studies to quote here, I reckon that crime in the teen age group as well as behavior and grades in school have dropped as well, and while there may be more than one factor for these, I would bet quite a bit that how children are raised has affected this.

But where does orthodoxy and belief in Hell come in? How about right here. What the child ends up believing is that punishment is evil, and that a parent should never hit a child, and if they do, that’s abuse, and EVIL. What this leads to is the belief that God surely couldn’t punish people if He loves them, right? That’s evil and unloving, and God is supposed to be benevolent and all loving. So while the problem of evil doesn’t concern us quite as much, because this is within the Christian camp and they affirm God exists, and whereas in the problem of evil, we know evil exists and can’t simply deny that to get around the problem, here, we don’t have “evidence” of Hell. Teaching that punishment, that justice, is evil is ludicrous. Its almost as if we are taught that only the REALLY bad people deserve punishment. So murderers and rapists and terrorists, right? But the idea of justice isn’t just that great people get great things and horrendous people get horrendous things, but that decent people get decent things, not so great people get not so great things, etc. You get what you deserve, you reap what you show, you get out what you put in. And this is across the board, and not just for extremes. Otherwise the petty thief shouldn’t be punished because he’s not THAT bad.

This is the world infiltrating Christianity. Let me explain a bit more. In Christianity, a little sin is a big sin. One sin, and you are no longer perfect. It doesn’t matter whether you raped and murdered a child, or whether you disobeyed your parents when they asked you to help clean the dishes. They both separate you from God. That’s the nature of sin. This is not to say that the degree of sin is unimportant in the end, because I think it is since God is perfectly just. But just as a petty thief gets punished some, and a murderer gets punished more, hopefully in a somewhat proportional manner, I would think something along those lines would occur when it comes to sin as well, though I do not have the knowledge to say how it actually works, but I trust that it does. But either way, there is in fact punishment even for menial sins if they are not repented of. Its one and done in God’s eyes if you are outside of Christ. Christ is the only second chance.

And we can also play up emotions to make people think that Hell surely doesn’t exist. Rob Bell likes to do this, he asks if we really think God won’t win in the end, that He won’t get what He wants. Its easy to think that of course He will, He is God. But what Bell doesn’t tell you is that God doesn’t want sin now, or ever, and by giving us free will, He already has relinquished getting completely what He wants because He wants us to choose. And if I choose and God doesn’t, that argument fails.

Certainly nobody likes the idea of Hell and nobody wishes it upon another. But I don’t like that fire causes pain, or that gas costs $4 a gallon, or tests in school, or etc., but that doesn’t mean that that is not the case and that I am better off acting as if they are not the case, because all that would get me would be burned, in prison, and flunked. And in the case of Hell, its eternal, and not something I can possibly fix. Jesus/God said it was real, and that is enough for me. I don’t have to go there to believe in it. So by teaching kids that they should not be punished for bad behavior in the home, that they should not be punished in school, that things should be changed so that they can succeed, they start to think that that is how the world is. It isn’t. God doesn’t change for me. I change for Him. Hell isn’t designed for me and He doesn’t want me there, but I get to choose. If I don’t change, well…

Proper child rearing, therefore, not only leads to better behavior and more respect of others, it will lead to more orthodox beliefs in things like Hell and justice. So spank your kids… for God. It will do them good.