May 11th 2011

Christians and Conspiracy Theories

Most of Americans rejoiced at the swift justice we unexpectedly witnessed on Sunday with the capture of terrorist mastermind, Osama Bin Laden.  Many gave important cautions against too much celebrating about the eternal damnation of a soul once created in God’s image.

In the days since, as with any news story, there are conflicting accounts of what happened in the raid by our brave Navy SEALS, including how involved the President was, why they buried Osama at sea, etc. And as such, there are a raft of conspiracy theories emerging. I won’t get into these here, but I think it’s a good jumping off point to discuss something I’ve been wanting to write about for some time.

It’s the subject of Christians and conspiracy theories. Alternate theories of history have abounded since the beginning of time, because we live in a fallen world, infected by sin, sinful leaders, and anterior motives. But it seems that the proliferation of new media, the vast reach of the Internet, and general distrust of authority has given rise to even more conspiracy theories.

Almost every day I receive an email forwarded from someone who forwards information about a political figure, religious figure, or institutions with which they disagree.

The question for us is this. How should we approach these ideas? Here are a few guidelines I’ve found helpful to me as I process stuff like this:

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May 6th 2011

Friday Five – John Dyer

John DyerWhat is the effect of technology on our souls? And how do people of faith discern what is good and what is harmful? Today I’ve invited my friend John Dyer for a thoughtful discussion on the intersection of faith and technology.

John Dyer (Th.M., Dallas Theological Seminary) has been a web developer for more than ten years, building tools for Apple, Microsoft, Harley Davidson, and the Department of Defense. He currently serves as the Director of Web Development for Dallas Theological Seminary and lives near Dallas, Texas with his wife Amber and two children, Benjamin and Rebecca. He has written on technology and faith for Christianity Today and Collide MagazineFrom the Garden to the City is his first book.

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May 2nd 2011

A God in My Head but a Hole in My Heart

Twice the Psalms tells us, in identical language, “ a fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God’” (Psalm 53:1;Psalm 14:1). I have loved these passages most of my. They are a wonderful rebuke to atheists such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.

But the last time I read them, I realized they may not simply be written to expose the foolishness of those who rule out the presence of God. Perhaps they’re written for those who do believe in God.

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Apr 29th 2011

Friday Five – Alex Chediak

Alex Chediak

Today more kids go to college than ever before and yet many wonder if kids are truly ready. How do parents and pastors and influencers prepare young people for this important phase of their lives? Today I’m blessed to chat with Alex Chediak, author of the newly released book, Thriving at College. Alex is an Associate Professor of Engineering and Physics at California Baptist University.

I think Alex has written a powerful and much-needed book. What like about it is that it is so comprehensive. I’d highly recommend it to any high-school senior or college freshman (or their parents, for that matter!).

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Apr 28th 2011

Mini Book Reviews

I’ve been reading a lot lately. Here are two mini-reviews of two rather excellent books:

A God Sized Vision by Collin Hansen and John Woodbridge.

I loved this book for many reasons. It’s a novel idea–to present a basic history of revival. Revival is a subject I had little knowledge of, other than being part of “revival meetings” at times. What Hansen and Woodbridge describe are historic movements of the Spirit upon a nation or group of people. What I love is that they don’t whitewash the warts of the leaders in each movement, they chronicle the excesses of movements, and they generally put forward the idea that revival in a country is something that God decides to do when He decides to do it. But, as people of God, it’s something we should pray for. This book really inspired me to pray harder and longer for revival in our midst. I’m challenged by the fact that revival isn’t for those people “out there” who we think need to change but it happens first among the people of God.  I highly recommend this book. It’s not too long, it’s wonderfully readable, and it will inspire you to greater depths of faith.

Spiritual Rhythm by Mark Buchanan

I received this book to review as part of my involvement in the Amazon Vine program. When I saw that it was available, I immediately snatched it up, even though I already had a stack of books in the que. I’ve always enjoyed the work of Buchanan, pastor of New Life Community Baptist Church in Duncan, British Columbia. I’ve read other of his books, such as Your God is Too Safe and others. He’s a profound thinker and an amazing writer. He’s the rare pastor who can articulate good sound theology . . . and write well. Spiritual Rhythm explores the spiritual concept of seasons. Mark’s assertion is that if we are to be fruit-bearers, we must understand the concept of seasons of spirituality. He then mines Scripture and shares powerful truths for each season of life. He’s also painfully honest without being melodramatic. And as a master wordsmith, he doesn’t waste a word. I find myself soaking this book in a chapter or two at a time and then thinking deeply about each section. Mark talks biblically and with doctrinal precision about subjects such as sin, repentance, and the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible reading, and church involvement. I highly recommend this book. It was a terrific read and a boon to my spiritual life.

Apr 27th 2011

Can We Retire This Word?

I’ve only been preaching for three years, so technically I’m a “rookie pastor.” But already I’ve seen some tendencies I’m working to correct. One I find in myself and also see in other Christian communicators is an over- use of the word, “most.”

We arrive at a countercultural truth in our study, perhaps a doctrine nobody seems to want to hear and we easily transition to, “You won’t hear that in most churches.”

Or we say, “In most churches . . . .” or “many Christians . . . .” It’s an easy thing to do. I not only hear this crutch in preachers preaching, but read it in blog posts and in books.

But I wonder if it’s healthy. For one thing, do we know what “most churches” believe? defines “most” as “in the majority of instances.”

Can a preacher like myself honestly say with any degree of honesty that I actually know what “most churches” believe? There are over 450,000 churches in the United States. To honestly say you know what goes on in “most churches”, you’d have to have visited at least 226,000—that would tip you from half to “most.” I’m guessing even the most widely travelled speakers haven’t frequented that many churches. So we really don’t know, do we?

We employ “most”, I suspect, for two reasons. 1) It’s an easy cheap shot to the “out there” problem we perceive. 2) It makes us “better than most” by default. 3) It’s a lazy way to provide some application.

I’m learning, the hard way, that for me, God isn’t as concerned with “most churches” as he is with my church. And God isn’t as concerned with “most Christians” as he is with this Christian. I’m also learning it’s easier to dwell on the “out there” problem in Christianity than to apply radical gospel surgery to my own heart.

So who is with me? Let’s try to retire the lazy assumption of “most” in our preaching, our writing, and our gospel living. It’s both dishonest and disingenuous.

Apr 23rd 2011

Easter Meditation: What Am I Doing With Jesus?

I’m writing this as I’m meditating on the most beautiful moment in the history of the world. It is the moment when the risen Jesus says, “Mary.” Jesus, the Good Shepherd, knows the names of his sheep. And Mary was a most earnest seeker of Jesus. She had a past to be ashamed of, baggage that would embarrass most of us, things we wouldn’t talk about in polite company.

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Apr 21st 2011

Good Friday Meditation: Psalm 22

This Good Friday I’m preaching on perhaps the most powerful passage regarding Jesus on the Cross. It’s actually found in the Old Testament in Psalm 22. What I found amazing about this passage is that it is the psalm of David, a mixture of lament and celebration. But none of the details David describes are events that happened in his life. He was never crucified. And nothing David did caused the entire nation, much less the entire world to bow before the Lord. So this is clearly a Messianic passage, God superintending the lament of King David and employing David as a prophet to present a shadow of Christ on the cross (Acts 2:30). And beyond the cross, this psalm looks to the age of the church and the coming Kingdom, with its “already, not yet” view.

I encourage you to read Psalm 22 this week and identify for yourself the pivot points of the story of Redemption. You will be encouraged and challenged in your faith.