Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Five Cities that Ruled the World - A Book Review

I have always enjoyed big cities. They offer a large variety of multicultural events and a swarms of people from all over the world. When I heard about 5 Cities that Ruled the World by Douglas Wilson, I was excited about reading and reviewing it. I am not one to jump into reading historical books. I will watch documentaries about aspects of history, but my reading travels other directions for the most part. All that to say that reading this was a stretch. Unfortunately, it confirmed the reason why I don't do much reading of history. Excepting the occasional interesting anecdote about the cities (Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, London, and New York) I was rather bored with the book. I felt cheated, wanting to know more than what I was given. The subtitle offered to answer how these cities shaped global history, but didn't deliver much substance. I would have felt better served had Wilson chosen to stay within the parameters of a specific aspect of global history, instead of jumping all over the board.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Bluetree - God of this City

From the opening of this CD, I knew I was about to have a great musical, and spiritual, experience. The chorus of the first song "Life's Noise" says

He wasn't in the fire, He wasn't in the quake
He wasn't in the wind, He's in a whisper

This reference to 1 Kings 19 is amazing. I was just thinking this week about this part of Elijah's life. He has just witnessed the power of God over the prophets of Baal, yet he quickly falls into a period of depression and feelings of defeat and despair. I am no different. My spiritual life tends to be like a roller coaster with all of the ups and downs, turns and spins, upside downs and right side ups. I am encouraged that the great people of God in the Bible are just like me...normal and constantly wrestling with life.

Now, back to Bluetree. This band is from Belfast, Northern Ireland. Anyone who knows me well can tell you that I love Ireland, so the accent in the vocals immediately caught my attention. I had heard the title track on the radio and was struck by the chorus and overall message of the song.
There is none like our God
There is none like you God
For Greater things have yet to come
and greater things are still to be done in this city.
There is none like our God.
I asked myself, "Do I really believe that for my city?" and if so, "What am I doing to be a part of it?"
Occasionally a song will come out that really nails down what the church is to be about and what the hope of the Gospel is about. God of this City is one of these. Here is the video telling the story behind the song. It is amazing how God works in the most unlikely of places.

Some of you may have heard the song on the new Passion CD by the same title.

Great song and even greater CD by Bluetree.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Green:The Circle (Book Zero) by Ted Dekker

I have been a Ted Dekker fan since reading Thr3e in 2003. When he published Book One (Black)of The Circle Trilogy, I gobbled it up in a short time. A few months later, I did the same with Book 2 (Red), and again a few months later with Book 3 (White). When I came to the end of the last installment, I remember screaming, "He can't do that to us on the last page of the last book!" Well he did do "that", but has returned with Green: Book Zero of the Circle Trilogy, which completes the Circle by serving as both the beginning and the end.

Green retells our history through a fantastical tapestry of good and evil, future and past, fantasy and reality. It is an apocalyptic tale that will intrigue you and frighten you.

I have to admit that I made my way through this book at a much slower rate than I did the other three books of the trilogy. I believe part of the problem was that it has been 5 years since I finished my reading of White.

In addition, there were points when I thought the story was dragging in comparison with the other books.
I wrestled with understanding how this book could be read either first or last. All that said, I was satisfied with the ending/beginning and pleased with how Dekker completed the circle. Overall, I see how someone could benefit from reading this book first or last and that there is much that can be gained from the truths found in this Circle Trilogy. Watch the trailer below for an introduction to this book.

The Holocaust- 3 Movies

Last weekend, I watched 3 movies about the Holocaust: Inheritance, Schindler's List, and The Pianist. As I watched these movies, I was reminded of the horrors and evil that lie in the depths of the human heart. When I hear people make statements like "People are generally good," I have to think of some of the people involved in the holocaust atrocities and, if I think more seriously about it, I will be frightened by the darkness in my own heart. Fact: The Holocaust happened. Fiction: It couldn't happen again. Don't forget Bosnia and Rwanda. I believe that any person, put into a particular situation, can commit great evil. That is why we can't save ourselves, only Christ can. There is still goodness in the world...glimpses of light in the darkness. Each of these films show the light as well.

I won't get into the details of the movies I watched, but will include the trailers. If you have never seen them, watch them. If you have, watch them again and remember.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Just Courage by Gary Haugen

The subtitle of Just Courage by Gary Haugen provides insight into what is in store for the reader: God's Great Expedition for the Restless Christian.

Gary Haugen voices his observation that Western, specifically American, Christians are restless and bored, attending church on Sunday and, for the most part, not living an adventure with God on any given day of the week. Haugen serves as President and CEO of International Justice Mission (, a human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression.

Just Courage is a challenge for Christians to be move from being rescued by Christ to being the rescuer of those in the world that are bound by the chains of injustice...from rescued to rescuer. He asks a poignant question at several points in the book: Do you want to be be brave or do you want to be safe?
He notes that God doesn't call us to be safe, yet our life decisions seem to point to personal safety as a top priority. He points to Isaiah 1:17 and 58:6-14 to get to the heart of God's desire for those who want to walk with Him and be brave, not safe. Haugen sounds the horn for Christians to cross their boundaries of fear out of a life of restlessness into a life of rescuing the oppressed, a life that is significant.
I recommend this book to anyone, but it will be particularly helpful for the American Christian that is bored or staganant in their walk with Christ and wants to be more involved with making a difference by being part in the global atrocities that occur daily. Do you want to be brave or do you want to be safe?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

To Save A Life

I was able to catch an advance screening of To Save A Life which is set for release in January.
The film follows Jake, a high school student with everything going for him: a scholarship to play basketball for his favorite team, his lifelong dream; his girlfriend is the most popular girl in the school, and he is the life of every party. A tragic event involving his former best friend begins the unravelling of Jake's life and relationships. Should he have treated people differently? Was his life really going anywhere that mattered? What is a real friend? These, and many more, questions swirl through Jake's mind and heart as he digs for answers.
I would recommend this film for anyone that interacts with teenagers, whether you are a teacher, youth minister, involved in a youth community program, or a parent. It will assist you in understanding the world that our teenagers live in everyday. It may even stir up your own life.
I encourage all of you to see this film which is set for release in January 2010. I have included the trailer below for your viewing. Learn more about the movie: here

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller

In A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald Miller works alongside two filmmakers to adapt his life to the screen as they write a screenplay of his life. Miller shares his thoughts on life as a story as he comes to the awareness that if his life were shown on the big screen the way it is, that the viewers would "stab each other in the necks with drinking straws." To summarize too much would ruin your reading experience of this book.

My thoughts
Let me start by saying this book changed me and the way I see life. I have read this book twice in the last few weeks, wrestling with what could possibly be said in a review and how I am going to "rewrite my life." Buy the book .

It motivated me to want to live a better story and help others do the same. Think about what makes your favorite movies or stories meaningful to you. "The elements that made a story meaningful are the same that make a life meaningful" (p.39). Buy the book
In his usual style of humor and mental wanderings, Donald Miller has released his most powerful book to date. I want everyone I know to read this book; I think it is that important. We all want to live a great story, but we don't want to pay the price and make the sacrifice to do it. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is a challenge to live. So live!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sir Dalton and the Shadow Heart by Chuck Black

Sir Dalton and the Shadow Heart by Chuck Black is Book 3 of The Knights of Arrethtrae series.


Sir Dalton is a knight in training, being raised up for service of the King and the Prince. He is well-liked and respected among his trainers and his fellow trainees. When a new trainer is brought in to lead the future Knights, Dalton immediately sees that something is not right, as the training becomes less serious and the adherance to the Code is minimized. When Sir Dalton is sent on a mission, he encounters Lord Drox, a shadow warrior, who imprisons him and ,after Dalton suceeds in an escape, tracks Dalton down and leaves him for dead. Dalton is rescued by an old hermit who provides him with the tools he needs to face his enemies, both within himself and those around him.

My thoughts

My initial reaction when I received this book was that I wouldn't like it. I am not generally a "Knight" kind of person (in real life or in my preference for books), but I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised with Sir Dalton and the Shadow Heart. It is not necessary to have read the first two installments of the series to appreciate it. Black has created a plotline filled with symbolism that will keep the reader engaged and anticipating the next clash of a sword or shadow of the enemy, all the while exposing the weaknesses of the heart and the crevices where doubt in the Prince can show itself. There were quite a few moments in my reading that I had to put the book down and deal with my own commitment level to the Prince. I have to admit, however, that there were times when the spelling of words resembling biblical names and places was a bit distracting for me, but the story and characters were interesting enough that I was able to get beyond it. Overall, I believe that this series would serve as an excellent tool for teaching young men and women some foundational principles in living in God's Kingdom. This is Black's intention, evidenced from the inclusion of discussion questions and answers found at the back of the book. I thought it was a fun and informative read and I may just pick up one of the other installments. Happy reading.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Samson and the Pirate Monks by Nate Larkin-A Review

Over the years, possibly thousands of books have been written for and about men and manhood. I have read many of them. Some were helpful and others, sadly enough, I felt did more harm than good. Samson and the Pirate Monks by Nate Larkin is in a category by itself. It is not a self-help book for men because it speaks against the idea of a man "helping himself." It is not a theological treatise even though it has scripture as it's foundation. The subtitle of the book describes it: Calling Men to Authentic Brotherhood. Authenticity and Honesty are the keys.


Samson and the Pirate Monks is divided into four parts.

Part 1: Confessions of a Preacher's Kid is the author's story told with brutal honesty of his struggles with addiction and sin.
Part 2: I, Samson contains a fascinating comparison between Samson and King David and the differences between how they lived their lives. Larkin discusses what he has learned about walking with other men.
Part 3: A New Way of Life addresses becoming a new man.
Part 4: The Pirate Monks tells the story of the formation and early days of The Samson Society, how The Society works, and the point behind each part of The Fact, The Path, and The Pact.

My Thoughts

I have to say first that the title is great. Pirate Monks, how cool is that! Adding Samson to the front of it make it even more intriguing. After reading the book, you will understand more of what it means. Larkin makes his points of the book primarily through a retelling of his life's journey which proves to be effective because most, if not every, man will find something he connects with that will make the overall point of the book deeply impactful. With a surface glance, the book could look like a promotion of The Samson Society, but since The Society collects no money or dues and doesn't own anything, what would the point of that be? The book is about brotherhood and men walking with other men in honesty and openness. Warning, this is not a book to pick up and use in your next men's bible study. It is also not a how-to guide to starting a men's group because, as The Samson Society website says, "Most of us have had it up to here with men's groups" It could help you in starting a group of The Samson Society, which I will guarantee will be different than most church men's groups you have attended and quit. Having attended a couple of meetings myself prior to reading the book, I assure you it is a different experience. If possible, attend meetings before starting one and never do it alone. Reading the book has helped me understand the purpose for the way things are done in the meetings.

I love this quote from page 139:

"In the Samson Society, it's our failures even more than our successes that bind our fellowship together. No longer are we spending our days alone in the darkness of our caves, hiding our failures for fear of rejection and ridicule. Instead we are walking together on a sunlit path that is taking us somewhere. We are carrying each other's burdens, and Christ is walking with us."

This book helped me to see my need for close bonds and connection with other men, something I have neglected most of my life. It has also revealed to me that brokenness, weakness, and pain don't keep me from being a man. It is these things that make me a man and opens the door for God to work in me to make me whole and work through me to do the same for other men.

I recommend this book for all men. Men, buy it and read it. Women, buy it for the men in your life. If it all sounds suspicious to you, visit

Saturday, September 12, 2009

North! or Be Eaten - A review

It began on the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness. In North! Or Be Eaten, Andrew Peterson chronicles the travels of the Jewels of Anniera north to the Ice Prairies, where rumor has it an army is being assembled to take on the dastardly Fangs of Dang.

Laced with betrayal, family division, battle, and magic, Peterson has constructed an adventure unlike anything I have encountered since my first reading of The Hobbit. I was captivated by the people and places I visited. (Please don't take me back to the Fork Factory!) Watch out for the Stranders: those murderous, thieving scoundrels. You will continually ask yourself Who is friend and who is foe? as you travel with the Wingfeathers.

Peterson holds nothing back when he shows evil things as they are: pure shadow and in ghastly form. In contrast, the beautiful things ride on the golden song of the whistleharp and carry you beyond all that is wrong. Through it all, the theme of knowing your name and who you are is driven like a nail into the hearts of the characters and the readers alike.

I light a fire on the shore, waiting to see that speck in the distance, the ship that carries the Jewels of Anniera. I wait for the restoration of things lost. I wait for Book 3 of the Wingfeather Saga.

Friday, August 28, 2009

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness-Book Review

The old stories tell that when the first person woke up on the first morning in the world where this tale takes place, he yawned, stretched, and said to the first thing he saw, “Well, here we are.” The man’s name was Dwayne, and the first thing he saw was a rock. Next to the rock, though, was a woman named Gladys…the first sentence was taught to children…all speaking creatures referred to the world around them as Aerwiar.

So begins On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, Book 1 of The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson. The story focuses on the Igiby children (Janner, Tink, and Leeli) who live with their mother and grandfather in the Glipwood Township that sits next to the Dark Sea of Darkness. Apart from the annual Dragon festival, Glipwood is a town just like yours and mine, with the exception of being completely unlike anything we have ever known, with the lizard-like Fangs of Dang lording over the townsfolk and the fear of being eaten by the toothy cows or being carried away at night by the Black Carriage. Then, of course, there is Peet the Sock Man walking on his hands and Zouzab the ridgerunner sitting atop Books and Crannies, the kids playing Zibzy, and the secret talk of the Jewels of Anniera. Other than these minor differences (and a few more), it is just like the world we have come to know. All of these elements are skillfully crafted into the beginning of an adventure that will have you longing for a world that used to be and that your heart tells you one day shall be again.
Peterson has created a world in which the young and old alike will want to get lost and wander freely for a while, a world that will help each of us discover who we truly are. Fans of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis will feel at home here, curled up in front of the fire with a hot bowl of cheesy chowder. Buy it here and read it to your students (if you’re a teacher), or read it to your children (if you’re a parent), or read it to your parents (if you’re a child). If you’re none of these, just read it to yourself. It will be time well spent.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Crazy Love by Francis Chan: Book Review

I had picked up Francis Chan's Crazy Love several times in different stores, wondering if it worth the time or is Chan going to be another "cool" young preacher wanting to redefine Jesus and God, not that either can be defined adequately in human terms and language. So I didn't get it. Not long ago, I saw the audio book offered free of charge and took advantage of it. It rested on my hard drive for a while, then one day I started listening. Three days later, I was done.

I was pleasantly surprised at the content of this book. Chan effectively interweaves scripture with stories from ordinary people outside the Bible to illustrate his point of Crazy Love, God's crazy love for us and the crazy love we are to have of Him. For those who are engaged by the visual, Chan has video clips that can be found on his book website( to accompany the book. This book can start anyone thinking about the bigger things in life. Even if you are not a Christian, there is much here to be considered. Each reader (or listener as was the case with me) will take away different points of impact, so I will focus on what captured my heart and mind.

Early in the book, Chan reminds us that in 50 years no one will remember you or me and they will not care what jobs we had, what car we drove, etc. This is a point that is terrifying (what am I doing that matters beyond my years of life?) and reassuring (I can be free to live differently and radically for God). In talking about the parable of the sower in Matthew 13, Chan makes a stinging statement: "Don't assume you are the good soil." Like many of you reading this, I immediately want to assume the best of myself even though I know I display many traits of the unfavorable soils. Chan dedicates a chapter to a lengthy discussion of lukewarm Christians and what characterizes their lives. Again, this was hard to read, since I saw my face in more of these than I am comfortable admitting, though I just did. Oops! The point Chan is trying to put forth is living in radical obedience and following of Christ.

Here are just a few statement and questions to give you a taste of the book:

  • Half-hearted following is not following at all.

  • We are comfortable with the little bit of God we have.

  • Are you really willing to say to God that He can have anything He wants?

  • Actively running to Christ is getting fulfillment in Him alone; Wholehearted surrender is the only way to please God.

  • Something is wrong when our lives make sense to unbelievers.

  • Allow God to be creative with you.

  • What are you doing right now that requires faith?

  • Would anything you are doing now be different if you didn't believe in God?

Chan states his purpose toward the end of the book : "I wrote this book because much of our talk doesn't match our lives." Ouch!

I was pleased that Chan addresses the importance of how believers live without embracing a gospel that makes Jesus to be just a social worker. The book is a call to radical love for God. I recommend this book because of it's ability to get you thinking about the daily living of the gospel with others. Crazy Love will be helpful for individual growth or group study.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Is Jesus only loving?

The topic of hell has grown so unpopular these days tha people either ignore it or make attempts to redefine it. There is a question that always comes up in "religious" conversations and it goes like this: How can a loving God send someone to a place of eternal punishment? or Wasn't the message of Jesus love and not condemnation? The need for these questions is totally understandable, but what I am interested in is the presuppositions found in the question and the motivation behind the question.
In having these types of discussions with people, I have discovered that what people want is for God or Jesus to be fair and just. That makes sense and is perfectly reasonable. The apostle Paul wrote in the book of Romans (3:23) that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
I agree with that because I have yet to discover a single person, including myself, that is completely righteous. In fact, there is not a single thing we do or say that is not tainted with sin in some way, whether it be a hidden selfish motive, pride, or whatever. Since we are all sinners and can't measure up to the standards of God, do we really want God to be fair and just? Justice would be for the wrongdoing to be paid for, a punishment to make amends for the crimes against God that have been committed. We all want guilty parties to pay for their crimes, especially when we are the victims of the crimes. But we want God to just look over our crimes (or sins) against Him and make Him out to be some villain if he stands for justice. This is justice as we define it: We are sinners and guilty and are deserving of Hell, every one of us. This is justice on our terms.
But God is loving, just as we would hope he would be. But He is loving in the greatest of ways. He knows we are sinners and utterly incapable of doing anything righteous (even our righteousness is filthy rags), so he provides the payment for the crime. He offers to come down and live through the treachery and sin-filled world we inhabit. He offers himself as payment. That is not justice, that is Grace. Those that belive in Him on His terms will be saved. "..whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son."(John 3:18). These are the words of Jesus, not mine. It is amazing to me that this follows the famous John 3:16 passage that "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son." My generation of church attenders memorized this as a child, but never discussed the condemnation passage that followed. Now the most quoted passage by people is Matthew 7:1 when Jesus says,"Do not judge, or you too will be judged." Many use this to prohibit any judgement, but this refers to men judging men, not Jesus judging men which is the case in the John passage.
What I am trying to make plain is that Jesus is loving, but he is also wrathful. It is not necessary to choose one over the other when it comes to God. He loves us so much that he provided the way to avoid His wrath which is in faithful belief in his Son, Jesus. It really doesn't get any more fair than that. It's like a man guilty of murder being given the information to share that will bring a verdict of not-guilty. He is still guilty , but will be free because he had someone provide the means necessary for freedom from wrath. Another illustration: Suppose you are backpacking on a trail and come to a place where the trail forks and you have to make a decision of which path to take. Another hiker points one direction and says, "That path takes you to a dangerous cliff-edge that few make it past." Pointing to the other,"That one takes you back to town and safety." If you take the first trail and it ends in destruction, is it the other hiker's fault? Couldn't it be that you were told and just chose to deny and do it your way regardless of the consequence?
Jesus is loving, but not only loving. Jesus is wrathful, but not only wrathful. Jesus is loving, by providing the grace for all of us to enjoy eternity with Him, beginning today. He is also wrathful, by letting unbelief have it's just punishment which is eternal separation from Him (John 3:36).

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Note, The Soloist, and Eliot

In the past week, I have viewed 2 movies and one online video diary that all seemed to drive the same point home. I could go into great plot details on the 2 movies but I will just give the points that impacted me, in the hopes that you will watch them and have a similar takeaway inspiration.

The first movie was The Note. I am not usually one to watch Hallmark-type movies because I typically dismiss them as chick-flicks and move on to something of greater interest to me. I had picked the movie up several times at the library, but never watched it. This time I did, which I have concluded was God's timing, considering all the other items he put in my path right soon thereafter. The story revolves around a note found in a plastic bag washed up on the shore-a note written in the final minutes of someone's life as the plane they are traveling on plummets to the ground. The note is found by a reporter, a woman who is trying to save her job as a columnist of a small newspaper. She needs the perfect human interest story and found it in the mystery of the note. The movie follows this reporter as the note transforms her life and all that cross it's path.

The second movie was The Soloist. My wife and I caught this at the dollar theatre. I wanted to see it because it involves a musician (I am a huge music fan) and a reporter (I also am interested in writers and the birth of a good story). We were both moved by this true story of a reporter for the L.A. Times and his discovery that a former Juilliard music student was homeless, yet still playing his music on the streets of Los Angeles. As in The Note, the reporter is in a dry spell for something to write about. He hears music while walking the streets in search of a story, meets this homeless man, and the story is birthed. The reporter discovers the homeless man has a mental illness, but is still moved deeply by the music he plays and the music he hears, both outwardly and in his heart. In his attempts to save this man suffering from mental illness, the reporter is changed as he befriends this man and finds new purpose and meaning for his own life's journey.

Lastly, the video diary. This short clip (link below), is a brief diary that a young couple put together for their son. I will let it speak for itself.

What was the impact these three things made on me? They reinforced my belief that God has a plan for all of us, even me, and He has swept us up into an amazing journey called Life. Our Life is not about seeking to "save our job" or "find the perfect story." Life is about making a difference, living to the fullest the story we are already in. I was reminded of how I rush through each day and I miss the the way my story intersects with the stories that those around me are in. We are in One Story and it is God's story. The girl that scans my food at Wal-Mart, the guy I tell to put me on the "Do Not Call List', my family members, my coworkers and my neighbors, and any of you who my take the time to read this. I am reminded daily of how we have only a few short breaths of life and we are gone. Many people I have spent fleeting moments with have already passed away and there will be more, including myself. So what am I going to do? What are you going to do? Am I making a difference? Are you?

As for me...

...I am going to try to have my eyes open, to truly see the brilliant images that flash before my eyes and I will join the display. Right now, East Tennessee is being washed clean by a July shower and the multi-shades of green are exceptionally beautiful in a summer right before sunset.

...I will listen for the music that plays and add my own melodies and notes to the symphony of life. The rest of the house is quiet as afternoon naps commence, backdropped by the sound of the thunderstorm outside. Peace and thunder mixed to perfection.

...I will breathe in deep the air that encircles us and smell the aromatic fragrances that blend together in sweetness and joy. The scent of freshly brewed coffee, one of God's special gifts to the nose, ranking high on the list somewhere close to the mesmerizing scent of honeysuckle growing on a bank off the main road in rural Georgia.

...and in everything I will taste that God is good because it all comes from him and is meant to point us to Him. Wow, if all that surrounds us is this good, imagine what a totally restored New Earth will be like. Hope to see you there.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


In a casual conversation with a guitarist from my church, he mentioned to me that he had recently heard a band he was really impressed with. I filed the name of the band in my "Music to check out Later" vault located in the back of my mind. Sometimes I retrieve from this vault, sometimes I don't. That was two months ago. A few days ago, I entered the vault and dusted off the name of the band and found the CD.

The band is Fireflight and the CD is Unbreakable.

The title track opens with the following:

Where are the people that accused me?
The ones who beat me down and bruised me
They hide just out of sight, Can't face me in the light
They'll return but I'll be stronger

On the band's website, Bassist Wendy Drennen says the title track represents the new album and is "about overcoming a defeated mentality and finding the power to remain strong amid the landscape, not allowing fear to hold us back from having victory over the things that used to control us."

The rest of the Fireflight lineup consists of Wendy's husband Glenn (guitar), Justin Cox (guitar), Phee Shorb (drums) and Dawn Richardson (lead vocals).

My first listen to Unbreakable caught me off guard because the band sounded so tight and the vocals were strikingly passionate. It is rare these days to hear a debut full of such power. When I went to the band's website, I discovered that it was not a debut, but the band's fourth release, preceded by The Healing of Harms (2006), On the Subject of Moving Forward (2004), and Glam-Rok (2002). Fireflight has been around a while.

What can you expect from Unbreakable? If I had to compare, I would say the vocals are reminiscent of Pat Benatar with edgier guitar work that reminded me of Coheed and Cambria, with continual changes in syncopation and rhythm. Each composition is filled with lyrical pictures that all people will be able to identify with, delivered in a package of flawless vocals and superb musicianship.

It is my hope that this latest installment of the Fireflight story will propel the band to receive the fruits of their efforts allowing them to continue to bring more quality music to a decaying world of musical shallowness.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Adoration That Offends

This appeared on the Desiring God Blog ( on April 22, 2009

(Author: Tyler Kenney)

There is no other name [than Jesus] by which men can be saved.
These words from Acts 4:12 filled the screen in worship as we sang "There Is No Other Name." And it struck me again how incredibly exclusive they are.
I thought to myself, "Man, what a strong thing to say! In singing this, I'm immediately dismissing every other religion in the world. If they could hear me, no doubt I'd offend billions of people."
Paul commands the Corinthians,
Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. (1 Corinthians 10:32-33)
So why would I sing something in worship to Christ that I know is causing others (who I want to be saved!) to be offended?
Here's why:
Offense is only one result of my singing, not the aim. I'm not singing in order to make other people upset. Nor am I trying to gloat over them or "seek my own advantage."
We sing "no other name" because it is the truth. And we sing it with joy because it glorifies our Savior. It is a beautiful expression of his worth and our love for him. And to refrain from singing it so as not to offend others would instead be an offense to him.
We show more love for others than we do for Christ if we don't say that his is the only name by which men can be saved. And that's wrong! Jesus is our first love.
We shouldn't stop singing humble, honest lyrics to our Savior that happen to offend others. But with our singing, we must also spread the good news that no one needs to remain offended. God is still gathering a choir of people reconciled to him from every tribe and tongue.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Bill Maher, the comedian, takes his place among many to make his contribution to the criticism of religion by presenting Religulous. Rather than trying to be clever through the combination of "religion" and "ridiculous," Maher would have captured the totality of his point by aptly naming his documentary Ignorance: A Fool's Approach to Theology.

I have viewed many films, TV shows, and documentaries relating to religion and spiritual matters, but Religulous struck a nerve with me because this is the type of information that I see people blindly embracing as if it were full of facts. We'll come back to some of these errors in a moment.

Maher makes several statements throughout his presentation that provide the foundation of the points he is trying to make. Here are a few of them:

  • "Religion is detrimental to the progress of humanity"

  • "I am promoting doubt, that's my product; the other guys are selling certainty."

  • "How can smart people believe in things like a talking snake and the virgin birth?"

  • "Religion is a neurological disorder."

  • "The plain fact is: Religion must die for mankind to live."

  • "The only appropriate attitude about the big questions that is correct is doubt. Doubt is humble."

I found a VERY big discrepancy between this film's stated purpose and the content which pointed to a different purpose. As quoted above, he states that he is promoting doubt, but what he is actually doing is attacking, refuting, and, at most times, making a mockery of Christianity and those who say they are Christians and believe the Bible to be Truth. He says he is talking about all religions, but he spends over 80% of the movie bashing Christianity. I understand (not agree with) this approach, considering it has now become hip, cool, or trendy to criticize Christianity. Being a Christian myself, I am not surprised when I hear someone like Maher say the things he does. Why would a non-Christian believe in the foundational tenets of a belief system he does not adhere to? What does rattle me is when he speaks as if he has knowledge and authority on things he is obviously incorrect about, which I will touch on now.

Maher states that none of the gospel writers met Jesus. Hmmm. Let's see. It is true that not all of them met Jesus, but it is not true that none of them did. Yet, even the ones who did not meet Jesus had personal access to people who did. Matthew (also known as Levi in the gospels) was one of the twelve disciples (Mark 2;Luke 5). Mark (or John Mark) was a companion of Paul and Peter, so had access to their eyewitness testimony. Luke was a companion of Paul and would have spoken with him. (I believe that is very likely that Paul witnessed the trial and execution of Jesus, because he was a Pharisee at the time and was present for the stoning of Stephen in Acts 8:1. Paul also encountered the living Christ in Acts 9). According to scholars, John was most-likely written by John, one of the twelve disciples. Maher either did not do his research or has simply convinced himself of these errors. An important thing for Christians to pay attention to is the fact that standards for authenticity and accuracy are placed on the Bible that are not placed on any other ancient document. Every year hundreds of biographies are published that are based on the same type of eyewitness accounts as the gospels, yet they go unquestioned. Why is that? It is all about the nature of the content, not the accuracy of the accounts. If the Bible is based in fact and inspired by God, and I believe it is, it demands my attention and obedience. Maher, like millions of others, does not want to live for anything but self. Maher makes a big issue of the virgin birth by saying that only one gospel mentions it. Matthew and Luke both mention it, and Maher would benefit to know the importance of Luke choosing to include it. Maher says a good reporter would not miss something like a virgin birth. Well, the one gospel writer (Luke) that specifically says he did a thorough investigation of the facts chose to include it. That is just 2 examples of the ignorance oozing from this film. One more is up next.

No anti-Christian film would be complete without more promotion of homosexuality and an attempt to make anyone that disagrees with it look like an imbecile. Like all effective propoganda, he parades video clips of extremists, demonstrations with "God Hates Fags" signs and a lady saying that God Hates Them. Maher conveniently fails to mention that this approach is taken by a very small percentage of Christians. Let me note here that God does not hate homosexuals, but he does hate homosexuality as he does all sin, a point the minister tries to make in the film. In keeping with his ignorance, Maher promotes the false belief that homosexuals are born gay, which is simply a false claim and based on no reputable data, scientific included (Even if there was, it would not change anything, but that is another topic). Maher tries again to pretend he knows something about scripture when he says that "all the references against homosexuality are in the Old Testament. Jesus never mentioned it; why didn't he bring it up?" I agree that Jesus never mentioned it specifically, but why would he bring it up if he is speaking to people that already knew it was wrong? It was commonly understood as wrong so why spend unnecessary time on it. It is important to note, however, that when questioned about divorce, Jesus makes it clear in his reply that marriage is defined as male and female (read for yourself in Matthew 19). If there were other acceptable options (i.e. male-male or female-female), it seems to me that he probably would have mentioned it. Maher must have also forgotten about Romans 1:27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9 and the last time I looked , these were in the New Testament. The bottom line is this is just another part of his agenda.

Religulous, as expected, attacks Christianity on the basis of "science" which interestingly has become its own religion, so should come under the attack of Maher as well. Science, in the way it is being used in the current world to attempt to answer deep questions of origin, is Humanism in a lab coat holding a test tube over a Bunsen burner. When speaking with Ken Ham, the founder of the Creation Museum, Maher notes that the majority of scientists line up on the side opposing the creation account of Genesis. He says "there would have to be an enormous conspiracy between scientists of all disciplines and all different countries." Maher is on to something here and if he would like to pursue this hypothesis further, he might want to watch the documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.

I found many things lacking in this documentary, with the primary being the obvious absence of mainstream biblical evangelical scholars when discussing areas of theology. Maher knows that he would not be able to stand up under the scrutiny of Truth coming from the mouths of well educated Christians, people that would have an answer to his questions. Apart from Ken Ham, Maher has chosen people off the beaten path, people he could make look stupid (which he does through his mockery and insertion of subtitles during the interviews). Where are people like Ravi Zacharias and Stuart McAllister, intellectuals that regularly debate the truth of the gospel. There are countless others that could have provided stimulating conversation, but that is not what Maher wanted; he couldn't respond and would probably risk becoming a believer himself in the process.

What is bothersome to me regarding this film is the fact that people will watch this and actually believe it contains the Truth, when it actually pointing a direction that leads to destruction. People will actually forget that Bill Maher is a comedian.

One final note on the film. Maher ends with a statement that "the only appropriate attitude about the big questions [like what happens after we die] is doubt...and doubt is humble. The reason you don't know is because I don't know and you do not possess mental powers that I do not possess." It is ironic that if doubt is the only appropriate response and man must be humble, then why take 1 hour and 41 minutes to show how you are right and all religions are wrong. If you don't know, which Maher admits several times in his film, then it doesn't seem to be a posture of humility to me to say you do and there is only one response. Why is that more "tolerant" and humble than saying there is only one way to the Father? Watch the film, make your own decision. As for me, I think Religulous is ridiculous.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Adam by Ted Dekker

My first exposure to Ted Dekker was his psychological thriller Thr3e. I then went on to read his Circle Trilogy (Black, Red, and White). Apart from the trilogy (which is in a category of its own), Adam is my favorite so far.
The story follows Daniel Clark, an FBI behavioral psychologist, who is on the trail of a serial killer, known only as Eve. A face-to-face encounter with Eve at the latest crime scene ends with Daniel being shot and killed. Twenty one minutes later, he is revived. Daniel is the only one who has seen Eve’s face, so he embarks on the journey to retrieve the face of Eve from his mind. Interspersed in the novel are installments of “Man of Sorrow: Journey into Darkness,” the account of Eve. This adds a layer of realism to Adam that haunts you with a “this could be anyone” chill down your spine.
Reminiscent of the movie Seven and laced with flashbacks of The Exorcist, Dekker takes his readers on a hellish trip into the mind of a serial killer as they ride shotgun with the FBI. Laced with a shot of romance, this story leaves you reeling in a drunken stupor, hoping to wake up to find it was only a dream. ..and hoping that the guy next door likes his mother. No questions, just read the story.
I have to admit I am a fan of serial killer stories, having been terrified in my early years with the story of Charles Manson and his Family. Several years ago, I went on a learning binge, drinking in the experiences found in the books of John Douglas, a pioneer in the profiling department of the FBI. I am fascinated by what makes people do the horrific things that they do, and how, to their friends and coworkers, they can appear normal and even be enjoyable to be around…when they have a contorted head in the refrigerator.
Adam addresses the heart of humanity as it struggles with truth, evil, Satan, God, religion, redemption, love, and hate. Dekker paints a picture of the reality of the spiritual battle, whether we choose to view it or not.
If you share my oddities in this area, I suggest you pick up a copy of Adam, lock the door behind you, turn on all the lights and make sure you have a full charged cell phone with the FBI on speed dial.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Last Lecture

For the past few months, I have eyeballed The Last Lecture in stores, at the library and other places I have seen it. I had been wanting to read it, but I just always ended up reading other things. One of my daughter's teachers was reading it to them in class in short bits at a time (It has really short chapters). She, my daughter, prefers to read rather than be read to, so I grabbed the book a the library for her. Since it is short and it was there, I started reading. I just finished it last night. For those of you who haven't heard of it, it is basically the last lecture given by Randy Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon. The topic was "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams." What keeps the lecture moving is the knowledge we have that Randy Pausch has only a few months to live as he meanders his way through a battle with pancreatic cancer, a battle that finally took his life in July 2008.

The lecture is an easy read ( I read it in just 3 very short sittings) and is full of good advice for people of all ages. Pausch talks about marriage, children, career, persistence, and the importance of being honest with and about yourself. He also stresses the importance of teamwork and giving to others what you have been given by helping them achieve their childhood dreams. Overall, I liked the book and would recommend it. I laughed, smiled, and even cried at one point as I thought about my own life.
I was concerned, however, over one missing element in the book; for someone about to die and giving advice on life, it is a very important element.

I was reminded of a story I heard told several years ago:

A young man went to visit a much older man, a man he respected and would go to for advice. The old man asked, "So what are you going to do with your life?"

The young man answered, "Well, I think I am going to go to school and do the best I can in my classes."

"That's good," replied the old man. "Then what?"

"I'll have my college degree and I will get a good job."

"Okay, then what?"

"I'll work really hard at the job and move up the ladder."

"Then what?" the old man continued.

"I suppose I'll get married and have kids."

"That's great. Then what?"

"I' ll raise those kids, retire one day, and hopefully have grand kids."

"Grand kids are nice. Then what are you going to do?

"Well, I suppose I'll get older and then die."
"Then what?" asked the old man.

The young man looked confusedly at the old man's penetrating eyes. He then replied, "What do you mean, then what? I'll be dead."

The old man said, "Son, You haven't thought your life through far enough. I suggest you go take some time to think a little more about what happens after you die."

That is what is missing from The Last Lecture. I know the purpose was "Achieving Your Childhood Dreams" but if there is no hope of seeing again these people you've helped, then what's the point. He vaguely mentions faith toward the end, but it is unclear what he means, especially when he mentions "karma" at one point. I wish Pausch would have gone the next step, but he didn't. If he had, we probably wouldn't have "The Last Lecture" to read, especially if anything remotely Christian was revealed. That would have immediately kept Oprah and all the major media networks away and his little book would be in a little notebook on the shelf at home for his kids to read someday, as they wished their dreams would have included their father.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Horton Hears a Who!- A Review

You have to love Dr. Seuss. If you don't, seek counseling! Like many Seuss fans, I approach any film adaptation of his books with hesitancy and reservation. I have found that that the result is either a delightful enhancement of the original story or a total disappointment. The Grinch fell into the first category (Jim Carrey nailed the character of Grinch) and The Cat in the Hat falling into the latter (Michael Myers was just Austin Powers with whiskers). I put Horton Hears a Who into the first category, with Jim Carrey returning to Seuss-land providing the voice of Horton.
The story follows Horton, an elephant, who hears a voice coming from a speck on a flower. The speck, as it turns out, is an entire world. Only one person on "the speck", the mayor of Whoville(voiced by Steve Carell), can (or will) hear Horton. The mayor tells people of the voice, as does Horton in his world. Both find they are being ostracized for believing such a ridiculous thing. You can imagine the possibile outcomes when given such a storyline.
This movie is full of talking points regarding God and Christianity. It deals in detail what can happen when someone says they are "hearing a voice". When a person "hears from God" it is so intensely personal that he/she may do what seems to be extraorodinary or insane things. Others close to the person often respond in disbelief. The kangaroo in Horton says that if you can't see something, it doesn't exist. The mayor and Horton develop a relationship as they dialogue about their lives. Horton is very "God-like" in that he goes to great lengths to save "the speck" because his world wants to destroy it because they think he has lost his mind. Horton is a picture of what God has done in his pursuit of his creation, a pursuit that culminated in him becoming the saving sacrifice for it. I found it very interesting that in Horton Hears A Who that the Mayor's "only son" is the one who actually saves his world by being the one to break through and connect with Horton. How is our world (only a speck) saved? By the ONLY SON (John 3:16). He broke through and satisfied the wrath of God in his sacrifice on the cross, a debt that can never be repaid, but one that can be received as a gift of Grace.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


My purpose is to help people to understand Jesus as we can get to know him in the New Testament. The last thing I want to do is present something and have people take issue with my presentation and never go to the Bible to find out for themselves. If you disagree with what the Word teaches, then your issue is with God, not with me. I don't have the authority or power to change a human heart. If you choose to reject the Bible as being authoritative to life or have concluded that the Bible is in error, inconsistent, or just irrelevant for current times, then it really doesn't matter what I say because you have already made up your mind and have no intention of growing to be more like Christ anyway, since the Bible is where you would get to know Him. I am concerned over your spiritual growth and the eternal state of your soul, as I am my own.

It concerns me that so many are deceived as they are creating their own god(s) instead of seeking to know the one true God. Jesus said it would be that way (Matthew 7:13-14). I heard someone say not long ago that the churches are filled with "baptized unbelievers." That thought has stuck with me because I am finding it to be more and more prevalent. These are people who have supposedly accepted Christ at some point and claim to be Christian, yet defend anti-Christian ways and beliefs. Something to think and pray about.

In this post I want to deal with the topic of Jesus being the only source or author of salvation, the one and only way to God and eternal life. Some call this the exclusivity of Christianity, a sore spot for those advocating an inclusive system of belief. I won't discuss all the major world religions here, but I have done formal studying of Islam ( college level independent study with an archaeologist who supervises a "dig" in Jordan and knows Islam fairly well) along with studies in the Old and New Testaments, which covered Judaism and Christianity, including the various sects of each. I say that not to set myself up as an authority on world religions (I have only scratched the surface), but I have spent enough time looking at them to know that each of the 3 major religions mentioned above is exclusive and ,in their purest forms, excludes the others. Judaism, however, is the first part of the story of God's pursuit of man which is completed in Christ (The Book of Hebrews or Stephen's speech in Acts 7 can give you a good background for the connection).

That being said, Christians are often attacked as being narrow because they are limiting salvation to only those who follow Christ. I know that is not popular and won't get a high-five from your non-Christian friends, but that is what the Bible teaches and it reveals Jesus saying the same thing, in a variety of ways. This doctrine was supported by Jesus' disciples and continued on in the church as it grew in numbers and influence. Yes, there was rejection of it and continues to be in the current age as those opposed to it call it foolish, intolerant, hatred, just to name a few of the labels attached to it. The cross is central to the gospel of Jesus Christ: "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (1 Corinthians 1:18) Without the cross there is no salvation. When other ways are treated as equal ways to redemption, you spit on the cross and say it was meaningless and unnecessary and those who understand the cross know that daily clinging to the cross is what provides hope and assurance of eternal life and victory over the things of the world. And there is only ONE cross and ONE savior.

Below you will find a list of verses for meditation:
Matthew 10:32-33
Mathew 12:32
Mark 16:16
Luke 9:23-27
Luke 12:8-9
John 3:16-21
John 5:19-47
John 6:26-58
John 8:31-32
John 10: 1-18
John 12:44-50
John 14:6
John 15:5-6
Acts 4:10-12
Acts 5:31-32
1 Corinthianns 3:10-23
Hebrews 9:24-28
1 John 5:1-12

If you want to dig really deep in full-book studies, I recommend reading the Gospel of John, Hebrews, and Romans. Be prepared to be challenged in your soul.

If you want to add to your reference library, I recommend Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem and New Testament Theology by Donald Guthrie.Happy Reading

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Elementary Teachings

It is no secret there are certain "hot buttons" that create discussion with very little effort among Americans of all different belief systems. I obviously hit on one of these with my audacity to suggest that homosexuality is a sin. Homosexuality, along with abortion, are probably the 2 biggest political buttons that cause the most controversy and upheaval because of the deep convictions on either side of the arguments. I won't, as you probably can tell, hold back my beliefs on either issue. What is a major concern for me (in fact, I have had trouble sleeping since my "Prayer..." posting) is what many "professing Christians" actually believe. I am troubled by comments on my blog, what I hear people say on television and on the street, and things I read in the newspaper and magazines. Sadly, what is being communicated is what the majority of Americans think is truth (I use a lowercase "t" because "truth" according to most is like silly putty that can be manipulated to whatever shape someone desires).

The problem with some of the things people are saying is that they are teachings that are simply not found in Christian scriptures. By Christian teachings, I am referring to the full word of God, both New and Old Testaments. I am convinced more than ever that many people call themselves Christian but have absolutely no clue what the Bible teaches on most any subject, including the very basics of the Christian faith. I will be posting individual articles on some of these to attempt to show that what some people are holding so dear is in direct conflict with what Jesus and his followers believed, taught, and died for. Much of what people say is simply what they want to believe, not what is found in the Christian scriptures.

Hebrews 5:12 says that "by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again." It seems that "Christian" America could benefit from a return to the basics of what it means to be a Christian. If you are not getting the foundation of what you believe from the Word of God, then what you are claiming can be turned on its head at any moment.

You can usually brace yourself to hear non-truths when someone begins a statement of belief with "It doesn't make sense to me that God..." or "My experience has been..." It is the me/mine theology.

I acknowledge that God doesn't seem to make sense according to human logic and I am keenly aware that experience will shape one's character and worldview. However, if someone arrives at a place where logic and experience is given priority over what God says in His Word, then that person has put self in the place of God. It is the Christian's responsibility to study the Bible and align his/her thoughts, beliefs and actions with God, not the other way around. God doesn't make mistakes and He doesn't have to adjust to what we "feel" is right. It is in God's infinite wisdom that he provides the Holy Spirit to illumine our hearts toward such an enormous task.

If you call yourself a Christian or not, my recommendation to you is read your Bible for yourself and let God speak to you with the guidance of the Holy Spirit through His Word. He will guide you into Truth (now I use a capital T because this Truth is unchanging) if you are seeking it. Looking for something to back up your predetermined belief system will only fail you and frustrate you. Many people, some that are more crafty and intelligent than any of us, have set out to disprove the validity and Truth of the Gospel, only to find themselves on their knees in total submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

What America needs now is Christians who have their roots planted firmly in God's Word, persevering to the end in Truth, for the the Glory of God alone.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I Have A Dream

Below is the famous "I Have A Dream" speech:

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.
As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "For Whites Only". We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."
And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Prayers in the spotlight

Inauguration 09 has put prayer in the spotlight once again as various groups have celebrated or become outraged over what prayers will be offered up at this momentous event. First, we saw gays outraged over Obama's choice to allow Rick Warren to pray, since he was publicly supportive of Proposition 8 in his state of California. They saw the invitation as a slap in the face of their cause to see gays given the same treatment as traditional man/woman marriage.

So as we should have suspected, Obama's see-saw team crumbled under the pressure and invited gay New Hampshire Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson to offer prayer at the kick-off event. While conservatives expect Warren to deliver a prayer in the name of Jesus, Robinson has made it very clear he will not offer up anything resembling a Christian prayer. In the New York Times, he said that "this will not be a Christian prayer and I won't be quoting scripture or anything like that." He goes on to say that he might pray to "the God of our many understandings," a phrase he learned from a 12 Step program he was in at one point. It should not come as a surprise for someone like Robinson to offer up a non-Christian prayer, much the same way that it is no surprise that an apple tree doesn't yield oranges. I don't expect a non-Christian to pray in the name of Jesus. Robinson told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that "God never gets it wrong. The church often takes a long time to get it right. It is a human institution, but one capable of self-correction. I believe in my heart that the church got it wrong about homosexuality. There is great excitement in my heart to be living in a time when the church is starting to get it right." I can sense his enthusiasm and joy in his proclamation, but can't share in his celebration. To be frank, the only part of what he said that I can agree with is the first statement that 'God never gets it wrong.' After that, I got a little lost. No, I take that back. I was trying to shake all the nonsense out of my ears so I could make sure I was actually hearing correctly. We went from God to Humanism in just a few brief words.

Let's look at it piece by piece.

First, "the church often takes a long time to get it right. It is a human institution...." As soon as I saw this, it made perfect sense why Robinson would not be quoting scripture. He doesn't know scripture. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says to Peter "on this rock I will build my church." Note that Jesus will build His church, not man. If Robinson meant that it is made up of humans, I could accept that, but that is not what he means. He says it is capable of self correction. In other words, people can choose at will to rewrite scriptures to suit themselves and their own self-interests, in this case the gay lifestyle. One of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness (John 16:8). If Robinson would submit to the conviction of the Spirit of his sinful lifestyle, he would experience a more intimate relationship with God. Yes, I called homosexuality a sin. I know that is not politically correct, but I'm not running for anything and I'm not very political anyway. So why should you expect me to be politically correct? Before you start calling me a homophobe, intolerant, gay-hater, or some other media-hyped name, let me make a few things clear. I am not "afraid" of gays. I have had close friends in the past who chose that lifestyle, but I never agreed with or embraced it. As far as tolerance, I can tolerate it as long as it is not forced upon me, but that doesn't seem to be the case with the media. I can't "force" my religion on others, but the gay lifestyle forced on me is done in the name of equality and freedom. I don't hate gays either. I can love them just as Christ loved them. Unfortunately, our society has this blindness that claims I have to embrace and support it to be loving. If I substituted murder for homosexuality in Robinson's statement, people would say that is outrageous: " I believe the church got it wrong with murder. It's not really wrong. I'm glad to see the church is finally getting it right." There is no end to where scripture-rewriting will go. Hence, why Robinson doesn't use scripture. He obviously doesn't believe it's truth. I am merely saying that we don't have the right to decide something is not a sin simply because we don't want to wage war to rid the sin from our lives.

So how should the church respond to gays? We should love them and accept them and help them in their journey out of sin, just as we would someone caught up in any other sin. Can you be a "gay Christian"? It depends on what you mean. I believe you can become a Christian while gay, but you won't willingly stay there. The Holy Spirit will continue to sanctify you and lead you out. Mind you, it may be a lifetime process, but you will be in the process nevertheless. All believers are in process. Philippians 2: 12-13 says to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." The answer is not to rewrite the Bible, but to allow God to rewrite your heart. That is what I pray for Bishop Robinson and his flock and any of you out there in the same situation.

I love the way Jesus handles people caught in sin. In John 8 we read the story of the lady caught in adultery. Jesus calls for the one without sin to cast the first stone. No one casts a stone and they all leave. Jesus asks her if anyone has condemned her and she replies that no has condemned her. Jesus says "Go now and leave your life of sin."

Jesus is not about instant condemnation and death for sinners, though he could take that approach and still remain totally justified in it. He is also not just about grace. He is about grace (loving acceptance of the unworthy) and sanctification (helping people grow into being Christ-like). Jesus is saying this to Gene Robinson, Rick Warren, me, you, and all of those we know. He says,"I love you more than you could ever imagine. I died and took on God's wrath against sin, so you wouldn't have to. Leave your life of sin and come to me."

What prayer do you want lifted for our nation?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Leatherheads- A movie review

I must be honest up front in saying that I am not a big sports fan. You won't catch me sitting on the couch for hours on end watching Bowl games with my buddies, high-fiving when the favorite team scores. However, I do enjoy on occasion watching a sports movie and I have seen my share of the overkilled plot lines of "coach saves underdog" or "unknown becomes star and fulfills dream." I was taken by surprise with the George Clooney-directed Leatherheads.

The time is around 1925 and the popularity of college football overshadows professional football and the latter is viewed as a joke, a point made in the opening scene when Carter "The Bullet" Rutherford (played by John Krasinski of The Office), a college football star, is asked if his next step is professional play. He pauses for effect, then breaks out into hysterical laughter along with all the reporters. It turns out that Carter's next step is the military where he becomes a war hero. The movie follows Dodge Connolly (Clooney), a middle-aged professional player who helps get "The Bullet" recruited for his pro team. Enter Lexie Littleton (Renee Zellweger), a reporter with an assignment to uncover the real scoop on if this young buck, Carter, really is a war hero because there is talk that the story of his heroism is greatly over exaggerated. Competition ensues, both on the football field and on the romantic field, over "Miss Littleton," between Dodge and "The Bullet." At times there are some rather humorous exchanges as the two men battle to see who is the better man. Who will emerge victorious? Will Lexie Littleton get her story and, if so, what will her story be? Will professional football finally be taken seriously? You will have to watch and see. I enjoyed it.

So, apart from the storyline and the entertainment value, what does THE BIGGERNESS have to say about Leatherheads? This story demonstrates what happens when someone puts too much value in image and popularity. We see in Leatherheads what can happen when people will do anything to increase themselves, whether in position or wealth. I am not saying it is wrong to desire a fulfillment of your dreams or to want to better yourself in your chosen vocation. That is ambition. Selfish ambition is what I am referring to...ambition that is only self-serving and self-glorifying. This is what empowers people to walk over others on the way up the phantom "ladder of success." Another powerful theme illustrated in Leatherheads is old vs. new / young vs. old. Life has phases and there will always be new things replacing the old and old giving way to the young. There are some things that should never be replaced. Postmodern America wants to replace God with self and desires to rewrite (or rid of completely) the Bible to fit into this framework.The urgency and need for foundation in the Word of God is more evident now than for any other time in history. The media plays an important role in Leatherheads and a powerful statement made in the movie is "We Love Our Heroes." Pick up a newspaper or watch the news today and you will see that we do love our heroes. The world is constantly looking for a hero and it seeks anyone to try to put into that role. Right now it is the Obamas; in a couple of years (if it takes that long) they will will be insufficient to fill the hero void. The problem is the heroes we are loving are not worthy of worship. Only Jesus the living Christ is worthy of worship. In the past few days, I have become increasingly annoyed at the media's coverage and questioning of whether or not Michelle Obama will revive the fashion industry. Who Cares? A real hero is one who will stand up for Truth of the Gospel regardless of the cost to reputation, position or status. If fashion is what we compare ourselves to, we are to be pitied for our shallowness. Philippians 2:6-11 reveals the hero we should be loving:

Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

However, Jesus is not just a hero to love...He is a Savior and Lord.