12/08/2008

Awaiting the Christ Child

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

One of my favorite authors, Christine Sine, has produced a very meaningful video to celebrate Christmas.
Watch it here:


12/02/2008

The Seven Deadly Sins of Evangelicals and Politics

Here, courtesy of John Ortberg at the Out of Ur blog, are the "Seven Deadly Sins of Evangelicals and Politics."

Messianism. The sin of believing that a merely human person or system can usher in the eschaton. This is often tipped off by phrases like: “The most important election of our lifetime” (which one wasn’t?); or “God’s man for the hour.”

Selective Scripturization. The sin of using Scripture to reinforce whatever attitude toward the president you feel like holding, while shellacking it with a thin spiritual veneer. If the candidate you like holds office, you consistently point people toward Romans 13: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.” If your candidate lost, you consistently point people to Acts 4:10 where Peter and John say to the Sanhedrin: “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.” It’s just lucky for us the Bible is such a big book.

Easy Believism. This is the sin of believing the worst about a candidate you disagree with, because when you want them to lose you actually want to believe bad things about them. “Love is patient, love is kind,” Paul said. “Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth.” But in Paul’s day nobody ran for Caesar. There was no talk radio.

Episodism. The sin of being engaged in civic life only on a random basis. The real issues never go away, but we’re tempted to give them our attention only when the news about them is controversial, or simplistic, or emotionally charged. Sustained attention to vital but unsexy issues is not our strong suit.

Alarmism. A friend of mine used to work for an organization that claimed both Christian identity and a particular political orientation. They actually liked it when a president was elected of the opposite persuasion, because it meant they could raise a lot more money. It is in their financial interests to convince their constituents that the president is less sane than Jack Nicholson in The Shining. Alarmists on both sides of the spectrum make it sound like we’re electing a Bogeyman-in-Chief every four years. I sometimes think we should move the election up a few days to October 31.

One Issue-ism. Justifying our intolerance of complexity and nuance by collapsing a decision into a simplistic and superficial framework.

Pride. I couldn’t think of a snappy title for this one. But politics, after all, is largely about power. And power goes to the core of our issues of control and narcissism and need to be right and tendency to divide the human race into "us" vs. "them."


Read the entire article here.
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11/26/2008

Homosexuality: Yes? No? Maybe?

Don’t underestimate the importance of the issue of homosexuality.

For the upcoming generation of Christians, this is going to be a very disturbing issue. The younger evangelicals are looking at faith with fresh eyes and listening to ideas with fresh ears. They are also growing up in both a post-Christian culture and a postmodern culture.

The post-Christian culture is less familiar with the Christian worldview. The postmodern culture is skeptical of anything that can be called an over-arching worldview. This coming generation has to deal the difficult issue of homosexuality as they also deal with post-Christendom and postmodernity. This is the world in which our young Christians are living. Most of them know someone who claims to be both gay and also a Christian. To simply state that the Bible says that homosexuality is sin will not do.

When California voted for Proposition 8 that defined marriage as only between a man and a woman, many were shocked. They could understand states like Ohio doing so (as we did in 2004), but liberal California? What was truly shocking was that a majority of African Americans voted for the bill. The conventional thinking in our culture is that “Gay Rights” is just the latest in the progression of “Civil Rights.” So, how in the world could those who had suffered and had been liberated by way of one of the greatest civil rights movements in history be against gay civil rights? The San Fransisco Chronicle's John Wildermuth wrote, "Californians voted their religion, not their political party, when they pushed Proposition 8 to victory and banned same-sex marriage in the state, campaign officials and political experts said."

Open, honest dialogue must take place. The biblical texts dealing with homosexuality need to be carefully examined. Hard questions will need to be asked and answered.

Why?

Because we evangelicals have been wrong before: Look at how we used to defend slavery based on Scripture, or outlawed inter-racial marriage based on Scripture, or created theocracies that killed dissenters based on Scripture (as was the case in Calvin’s Geneva), or subordinated women based on Scripture.

We might be wrong again. We had better be sure, and give a very convincing argument for what we’re sure of, for young evangelicals who are skeptical of the status quo to buy in.

How should we go about talking about it?

Maybe we need to sit down and talk with people with differing views than us. We need not fear this; when our views are challenged, it can either result in sharpening why we hold our position or it can moderate our position as we seek the Lord on what is his truth.

Tony Jones, author of The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier and former national coordinator for Emergent Village, has taken a great risk and began a conversation with conservative blogger Rod Dreher on the issue. It was risky because Tony admits, "I now believe that GLBTs can live lives in accord with biblical Christianity (at least as much as any of us can!) and that their monogamy can and should be sanctioned and blessed by church and state." Dreher disagrees, and they have started a generous debate about it (they even have a video of the two of them talking about it).

I strongly disagree with Tony Jones on this issue, but I need to do so in a respectful way. And I need to listen and interact. Much in the same way that Rod is modeling. Recently, I commented at Bob Hyatt's facebook page inappropriately criticizing Tony for his views. Tony called me out on it, which I appreciated. I apologized for how I went about it, and he has forgiven me. It taught me a lesson: When addressing other brothers and sisters in Christ that we have strong differences with, we need to do so with grace and kindness.

For the next generation, homosexuality will be a major issue, and the heat that will rise from the frictional debate will inevitably cause some of us to say things we will later regret. Let's do what we can at the outset to enter the debates with humility and grace.

11/20/2008

Radio Pulpits

Do this as an experiment:
Turn on your AM radio and find one or two of your local Christian radio stations. Listen for a while to the preachers there.

Because they are on the radio, they have your loyal attention. They are great at rhetoric. Rhetoric is defined in various ways – from the positive ("using language effectively to please or persuade") to the negative ("grandiosity: high-flown style; excessive use of verbal ornamentation") (Debating which radio preachers match more closely to the latter definition than the former is a discussion for another day!). Regardless of who you're listening to, most radio preachers have a weight to their words, an underlying authority. They claim to proclaim the only truth you need. They speak in a monologue seeking to convince you of how to think, how to live, and what to believe.

Once you’ve done that for a while, hit the "seek" button on your radio until you get to one of the many politically conservative radio stations in your community. As you listen to Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, or Rush Limbaugh, reflect on this: How is their rhetorical style similar to the preachers on the Christian radio stations?

They have the loyal attention of their followers. They are great at rhetoric, using grandiose language to effectively please and persuade their audience. They claim to proclaim the only truth you need. They speak in a monologue seeking to convince you of how to think, how to live, and what to believe.

They have successfully emulated the rhetorical style of the radio pulpit.

No wonder
so many Christians are so enamored with these guys.

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11/12/2008

The Dignity of Plants?

Colson's Misunderstanding of the Goodness of All of Creation

In today's Breakpoint Commentary, "The Silence of the Yams: The Dignity of Plants?", Chuck Colson laments how a new film and the parliament of Switzerland seem to be raising the dignity of plants up to the level of human beings.

"One country appears to have taken the threat from plants seriously enough to sue for peace with the plant kingdom. That’s Switzerland. How? By enshrining the "dignity"—their word, not mine—of plants in their constitution. A molecular biologist at the University of Zürich...had to satisfy government officials that (a scientific) trial 'wouldn’t "disturb the vital functions or lifestyle" of the plants.

Dignity? Lifestyle? Of plants?

...Last spring, the parliament asked a panel of “philosophers, lawyers, geneticists and theologians” to determine how this requirement applies to plants. The panel’s report concluded that people do not have “absolute ownership” over plants and that “individual plants have an inherent worth.” Therefore, they concluded, “we may not use them just as we please, even if the plant community is not in danger.”

Plant community?

Unfortunately, the damage from this worldview isn’t limited to making Alpine countries look silly or creating more paperwork for researchers. While some of the sought-after parity between man and the rest of creation is achieved by raising the status of animals and plants, most of it comes through lowering our status as humans.

That’s where the real danger lies. Research that could help feed countless millions is made more difficult and even impossible because of concerns over plant “dignity.” Even worse, carrying the logic to its conclusion, the sanctity of human life becomes a matter of what you can do, not who you are—that is, someone created in the image of God. (read or listen to the entire commentary here)


I respect Chuck Colson. I've been reading his books and columns for over 20 years. He was the plenary speaker at CCO’s Jubilee Conference last year.

He is certainly right when he says, “While some of the sought-after parity between man and the rest of creation is achieved by raising the status of animals and plants, most of it comes through lowering our status as humans. That’s where the real danger lies.”

The line of thinking that Colson is espousing is correct, as long as we remember not to swing the pendulum again in the other direction by LOWERING the status of animals and plants in our effort to RAISE the status of humanity. Historically, the Christian church has been guilty of exploiting the rest of Creation, using the "image of God" (imago Dei) as our rationalization – we have basically said that animals and plants do not have dignity because they do not have the imago Dei. This is a pendulum swing too far the other way.

The biblical worldview places humanity as the pinnacle of the Creation; the only created thing with the imago Dei. Absolutely.

However, the biblical worldview also at least implies that all of Creation has “dignity” in that it all declares the glory of God.

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world" (Psalm 19:1-4).

"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse (Rom. 1:20).

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being" (Rev. 4:11).

Further, the biblical worldview goes on to refute the idea that humanity is supposed to exploit the Creation. Rather, we have the duty of responsible dominion – instead of being lords over Creation, we are meant to be good stewards of the Creation.

As Cornelius Plantinga Jr. writes in Engaging God’s World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning, and Living, “In the Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed, dominion is never ‘lording over’; it’s more like ‘lording under’ by way of support. In the Kingdom of God, to have dominion is to care for the well-being of others. To have dominion is to act like the mediator of creation. This means that a human steward of God’s good creation will never exploit or pillage; instead, she will give creation room to be itself. She will respect it, care for it, empower it. Her goal is to live in healthy interdependence with it. The person who practices good animal husbandry, forest management, and water conservation shows respect for God by showing respect for what God has made.” (p. 31)

The first ontological distinction that has so often been made by Christians has been that humanity is the special creation of God (the imago Dei), and that all else is irrelevant. How I’d like to hear this articulated differently is this: the ontological distinction is that we are a part of the entire creation, and God is the only one that is wholly different. We, however, are the pinnacle of the creation, meant to care for the rest of Creation because we are made in God’s image. God's purpose in Christ is to redeem not only humanity but the entire created order.

"For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood shed on the cross" (Col. 1:19-20).

"The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies" (Rom. 8: 19-23)

I am a supporter of the Evangelical Environmental Network, which has an excellent way of stating these things. They especially have a great statement answering the question, “How are we to treat non-human creation? Are not people more important?”

Again, to reiterate, Colson is correct that Switzerland is not basing their concern for plants on a Christian Worldview. However, I think that a Christian Worldview could also conclude that “plants have an inherent worth.” Contrary to the conclusion of Switzerland’s parliament, humanity does have the authority to “use them just as we please.” God has placed us in dominion over the plants to use for the good of all beings, especially for humanity. If we responsibly use plants and animals for the common good, for the shalom of the entire earth, then we are righteously operating dominion. However, we must never use our authority as a rationale to exploit the creation for our selfish desires - especially for our materialistic and consumeristic desires, as so often happens.

11/05/2008

Evangelical Fear - Rise Above It!

Here are some wise words from Evangelicals for Social Action in light of this presidential election:

"My Tribe" by Bret Kincaid

I grew up a Roman Catholic but entered the Protestant fold when, as a college freshman on a secular campus, I fell into an evangelical conservative crowd calling themselves Campus Crusade for Christ. Through unconditional love and discipleship these new friends instilled in me a fresh and powerful desire for marinating my mind in Scripture and sharing my faith with others. Because at the time I felt a vocational calling to psychotherapy, they steered me to a Christian college and assured me that I would be better off learning Christian psychology rather than the psychology of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and B.F. Skinner taught at the secular university. I followed their advice, but at the Christ-centered college I attended, I unexpectedly came to face what they feared—i.e., the psychological theories of modern thinkers who started their thinking from non-theistic assumptions—and learned to love looking for truth wherever one can find it.

The last days of the 2008 presidential election reminded me of this fear-based approach to culture. I recently became aware of it when I watched an invocation given by an evangelical pastor at a McCain rally. Then Focus on the Family Action issued the “Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America.” Of course, I had already heard the rumors circulating in the evangelical camp that Obama is a Muslim, not a US citizen, is the anti-Christ, “pals around with terrorists,” and the like. Last week I received a DVD from my evangelical in-laws that cast Obama in a scary light. I haven’t bothered to look, but I’m sure this kind of fear is expressed throughout the evangelical Christian corner of the internet. And just last weekend a former evangelical pastor and relative of mine said he plans to move back to the Eastern bloc country from which he escaped in the 1940s because it is less socialist than Obama’s nation will be.
This reaction to an Obama presidency is rooted in fear, and as any good horror flick demonstrates, fear often distorts what is real. I believe president-elect Barack Obama and his administration will make mistakes, and he will push for or tolerate policies that many will find problematic, even repugnant. I also expect some of those policies will be just and some won’t be. But he is no more likely to be an ogre—or, in evangelical parlance, the anti-Christ—than John McCain, the boogey man of the radical left.

I used to be surprised by this political fear, but I’ve gotten used to it. Nonetheless, I never cease being severely disappointed in many of my tribe for being so predictably fearful rather than hopeful, especially in the face of what they believe will be a political disaster. Since evangelicals became a powerful political force in the US, we have become widely known as fearful rather than hopeful people. Yet, the most common command of Scripture is “Do not be afraid,” a command tethered to hope. When election races are tight we so often act as though 1) God is not sovereign over history; 2) when God intervenes in history, it is primarily through politics; and 3) few of us are working in organizations that help move civil society in a healthy direction. Instead, let’s remember that the US is so fortunate to have a strong, richly textured civil society, a bulwark against tyranny, and a potential vehicle for encouraging a just society. Through our faith-based organizations—i.e., churches, colleges, businesses, nonprofits, etc.—and through our memberships in the political parties and various interest groups, we have the privilege and opportunity to express our living, vibrant, and hopeful faith, which will naturally reverberate in ways God can use.

I offer this reflection in the spirit of Paul’s common admonition to be content and to be thankful to God, while rolling up our sleeves to live into the prayer “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."


I've written before about how fear is all too often the rule for evangelicals.

Let's live with faith, hope, and love. Let's not give in to fear.

"God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." (2 Timothy 1:7)

"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear." (1 John 4:18)

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11/04/2008

Finally...

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

11/03/2008

McCain or Obama ? - A Plea for Unity

Evangelicals and the Election, Part 3 of 3

No matter who is voted into office tomorrow, Christians must unite behind our new President-elect, and prayerfully move forward together with him as we deal with the major issues and crises that currently face our nation.

We should thank God that we live in a free Republic, in which we are able to hold our political leaders accountable by way of the electoral process. We should celebrate that we are allowed to vote any way we choose. And, as this series has attempted to show, there are good reasons for people (even evangelicals!) to vote for each of the candidates.

We also should celebrate that we have the right to freely speak – we can criticize and/or celebrate what our leaders are doing. But this is where things need to change…

As Christian citizens of the United States, we should see ourselves as a part of a society where people of different ideologies, religions, and political parties must co-exist and even work together for the common good. If your candidate does not win tomorrow, you will have to get over it and commit to working with the candidate that did win. Politics, by its very nature, is a give-and-take; it is about forging compromises so that we can make decisions for the country as a whole.

Special Interests are not what run the government. An interest group just pushes for one thing, regardless of how it affects other issues and people, and without ever having to deal with the demands that other people raise. Paul Marshall writes in his must-read book God and the Constitution: Christianity and American Politics, “A genuinely democratic politics means that decisions should, in principle and in practice, be accountable to all the population: Greenpeacers and forestry workers, New Yorkers and Californians, Christians, Jews, Muslims, and atheists.” The apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4). Evangelical Christians have mistakenly and haughtily believed that their current political interests are in the best interests of everyone else in the country. However, how many of the issues that we see evangelicals fighting for are actually more about protecting themselves from their perceived threats in a secular and/or pagan society? And, more telling, how can evangelicals be so pompous as to think that they have all the right answers? Our history has shown that we often get it wrong. A lot.

I am also sickened by how ugly our nation has become over politics. And what is even more sickening is how we evangelicals have been dragged down into the scum of it all. Radio talk show hosts and cable television talking heads spew the most hateful, disgusting, and slanderous lies, and instead of Christians separating themselves from such slander, some have embraced it and even emulated it. This should not be.

What I fear is that if Obama is elected, he will be demonized by the Religious Right, and if McCain is elected, he will be demonized by the Religious Left. This has got to stop. We need to quit buying what the hate-filled partisan sleaze machines are selling, and instead move above it, showing the character of Christ.

Partisan punditry not only hurts our Christian witness, it also hurts our country.

Read all three part of this series:
Part 1: Reasons Why Evangelicals Should Vote for MCCAIN
Part 2: Reasons Why Evangelicals Should Vote for OBAMA
Part 3: McCain or Obama ? - A Plea for Unity

10/30/2008

Reasons Why Evangelicals SHOULD Vote for Obama

Evangelicals and the Election, Part 2 of 3

We have listed the reasons why I think that Christians should vote for John McCain. Now, it’s time to list the same for Barack Obama.

1. The War in Iraq.
Simply stated, the United States should have never gone to war with Iraq. Even under the most liberal interpretation of Christian Just War Theory, it did not meet the standards. For the first time in history, a country conducted a “preemptive war” and had the gall to call it “just,” and Christians, by and large, accepted it. It is now clear that the Bush Administration immorally drummed up the war with faulty intelligence. The U.S. Subcommittee on Intelligence issued a report stating that, “on numerous occasions,” the Bush Administration’s prewar statements “misrepresented the intelligence and the threat from Iraq.” Barack Obama was one of only a few voices that opposed the war from the beginning, warning against undetermined cost, length, and consequences, and said that we should focus instead on Bin Laden and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. He has been proven right. With the realization that the war in Iraq is actually draining us of our ability to fight our real enemies, we must now implement a plan for a responsible, phased withdrawal. Obama has a plan for doing so; McCain refuses to see this as a viable option. So far, the war has cost $566,591,361,000 and counting. The war is costing American taxpayers $10 billion a month! Do we think that money grows on trees? Couldn’t this money have been spent on health care, education, infrastructure, poverty or AIDS relief? Martin Luther King prophetically said, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” Also, for many Christians, being “Pro-Life” means more than being against abortion (though it certainly does not mean less). To be bull-headed about winning a war that we should not be fighting puts lives in danger unnecessarily. How many more thousands of our brave soldiers are going to have to die in this war? How many more hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians will die do to this war?

2. The Economy.
Solomon's plea to God in Psalm 72 was, “Endow the king with your justice, O God, the royal son with your righteousness. He will judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice.” The Christian Right’s steadfast belief that government does not have the responsibility to care for its people is contrary to Scripture. The biblical prophets spoke frequently to kings and rulers, as well as to the powerful who have economic advantage in a society. Those in charge were the ones called to greatest accountability. A nation that does not care for “the least of these” is guilty of not fostering justice (mishpat) and righteousness (tsedeq). In a just society, those who are able to work must have genuine access to resources so that they can contribute to society as dignified members of the community. In a just society, those unable to care for themselves are cared for by the society. There is nothing unchristian about society having programs that help the poor and needy. I agree with Ron Sider, who wrote, “The biblical story holds together the inestimable worth of each individual person and the communal nature of human beings. Both the radical individualism of contemporary Western democracies and the totalitarian communalism of twentieth-century fascist and communist societies are one-sided perversions of a profound biblical balance. Therefore justice from a biblical perspective must pay equal attention to the rights of individuals and the common good of all.” John McCain seems to be living in the age of the cold war, where American individual freedom and unfettered capitalism were held up as the Christian virtues against those godless communists. Capitalism is the world’s best economic system, no doubt. However, the Republican faith in the “invisible hand” of the free market, in which individuals pursuing their personal self-interest will make for a good society, is seriously flawed. In fact, for the Christian, having this kind of faith in free market capitalism is idolatry, plain and simple. The economics of unfettered capitalism has proved to be destructive to society. If anybody doubted that before the Wall Street collapse, they must not doubt it now. While there is plenty of blame to go around for the recent financial collapse, a major cause for it is a pervasive desire for little regulation of business. McCain has stated unequivocally that he is "fundamentally a deregulator,” that his "fundamental difference" with Barack Obama was that Obama favored "more regulation" while he favored less. McCain’s chief errors during the Keating Five scandal that nearly ended his political career were underestimating the importance of regulation and relying too heavily on the slanted advice from corporate CEOs who benefit from deregulation. He has not learned his lesson. We need to promote “controlled capitalism” in order to ensure that everyone in America has the chance to flourish.

Also, John McCain wants to make the Bush tax cuts for the very wealthy permanent, and has proposed even more on his own. Equitable taxation is not “socialism” as Sean Hannity has labeled it. The very wealthy should carry their fair load of the tax burden. Under John McCain's tax plan, the rich would pay much less than they do now, the poor and middle-class would pay a bit less, and the result would be that the federal deficit would grow, a study by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center found. The rich would pay more under Barack Obama's tax plan, and the poor and middle-class would pay less. Contrary to the McCain campaign’s claim, Obama is not seeking to raise taxes. According to Business Week, Obama seeks to “hold most income tax rates steady, making permanent the Bush tax cuts for the vast majority of individual taxpayers. With those cuts scheduled to expire in 2011, he would allow rates for households making more than $250,000 (or individuals making more than roughly $200,000) to return to earlier levels. Earners who now pay today's maximum 35% rate would see their top marginal rate go back to the 36.9% in effect in the Clinton years.” This seems very reasonable in our financial times. It seems fair to me to let the taxes for the very rich expire as they were originally planned, reverting back to the 1.9% higher rate. The Congressional Budget Office projects that if Bush’s tax cuts are made permanent, the budget deficit will be $443 billion by the end of the next president’s first term. Let that sink in: Four Hundred Forty Three Billion Dollars in the hole! On top of that, McCain has promised to cut corporate taxes by a hundred billion a year ($4 billion of this for American oil companies, more than a billion for Exxon-Mobile alone). Not enough? Add in McCain’s promise to get rid of the Alternative Minimum Tax, designed to ensure that the very rich pay at least a minimum percent of their income in tax. Non-partisan tax experts put the ten year cost of this at $1 trillion. The McCain plan provides tax cuts to the very rich and to big corporations. The Tax Policy Center estimates that 25 percent of McCain’s cuts would go to people earning over $2.8 million a year (the top one-tenth of one percent). Each would get an average tax cut of $269,000, over and above what George Bush gave them. As Time Magazine wrote, “When Barack Obama says a John McCain Administration would amount to a third term of George W. Bush, he's not just blowing smoke, especially when it comes to economic policy.” It is time for a change. This cannot go on any longer. Barack Obama's economic agenda—health-care reform, infrastructure investments, and alternative energy—are not radical ideas but very rational solutions to the growing problems of our times.

Lastly, we must realize that abortion is an economic issue. Obama certainly is properly labeled “Pro-Choice,” but he recognizes abortion for what it is: a tragic moral choice often confronted by a woman in adverse economic and social circumstances (struggling as a single mother, without a steady income, without good employment prospects, without health-care guarantees, and a stigmatic and cumbersome adoption procedure). Obama proposes to reduce the incidence of abortion by helping pregnant women overcome the ill effects of poverty that block a choice of life.

3. Foreign Relations
In the wake of the Bush White House, the nation’s reputation in the world is at an all-time low. What we need now is diplomacy that will act less unilaterally and rebuild our alliances. The first step to our “loving our enemies” is to actually listen to them, to seek to understand them and why they are hostile toward us. Obama has been ridiculed for saying that he “will pursue tough, direct diplomacy without preconditions to end the threat from Iran.” Obama’s website further explains his stand: “Barack Obama will present the Iranian regime with a clear choice. If Iran abandons its nuclear program and support for terrorism, they would offer incentives like membership in the World Trade Organization. If Iran continues its troubling behavior, Obama and Biden will step up our economic pressure and political isolation.” On the other hand, John McCain’s combative tendencies are troubling. I agree with Fareed Zakaria when he wrote that McCain “wants to keep the battle going in Iraq, speaks casually of bombing Iran, and is skeptical of the Bush administration's diplomacy with North Korea. He wants to kick Russia out of the G8 and humiliate China by excluding it from that body as well. He sees a "league of democracies" locked in conflict with an alliance of autocracies. This is cold-war nostalgia, not a strategy for the 21st century.” The United States, as the super power, needs to be seen as a benevolent and good neighbor, not a tyrant that does what it wants whenever it wants. Barack Obama offers a new way that is desperately needed.

4. The Campaigns.
In spite of what the McCain-Palin campaign has been implying, Barack Obama is not a covert Muslim (McCain has allowed speakers to call Obama by his middle name) with ties to terrorists (McCain has succumbed to the Hannity-esque fear mongering over the non-issue of Bill Ayers) who has a radical agenda for taking over the country from real Americans (Palin has actually called supporters of Obama “un-American”). The McCain campaign has been disgraceful in its win-at-all-costs tactics. We need to rid our nation of the politics of fear, division, character assassination and the outright propaganda of Karl Rove and his underlings. This kind of politics obviously works – it is what got Bush the Republican nomination over McCain in 2000 (Bush and Rove shamelessly exploited the fact that McCain had adopted a daughter from Bangladesh to stir up racism against McCain in South Carolina, telling people in “push polls” that McCain had an illegitimate black child). After having been the victim of the tactics of the Republican political hacks, you’d think that McCain would have done the honorable thing and scorned them. Instead, he has let them run his campaign and he has let them tarnish a reputation that he had created that was honorable. This says a lot about the character of John McCain. Slander is not a strong enough word for what the McCain-Palin campaign has done. Christians should stand up and say, “Enough with hate-filled politics!” To his credit, Barack Obama has withstood a grueling campaign of attacks. Certainly he has stretched the truth himself (as all politicians sadly do), but nothing from the Obama campaign compares with calling his opponent un-American or a pal to terrorists. He has remained cool, even-keeled, and has provided thoughtful and reasoned responses and ideas throughout both the primary campaign and the campaign versus McCain. After two years of campaigning, Barack Obama has been fully vetted, and he has shown that he is ready to be President.

I think that if you are going to vote for Obama for any of these legitimate reasons, then it is a good, wise decision. However, there are some illegitimate reasons to vote for Barack Obama.

1. We have to move as far away from the Religious Right as possible.
A new generation of Christians does not want to be associated with the ugliness of the Religious Right. They are repulsed by the history of the “Moral Majority” and the “Christian Coalition;” they are scornful of Jerry Falwell and James Dobson. However, the answer to the disaster of the Religious Right is not to swing the pendulum and create a new Religious Left. I fear that this is what Brian McLaren has done, along with many of the young evangelicals with whom I associate through my ministry to college students. It should be said that Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo have always been thoughtful voices from the evangelical left, voices that we need to hear. But evangelicals need to be outside of partisan politics if we are to have any sway with either party. As long as one political party thinks they have our vote sown up, they will no longer listen to us. As Paul Sartarelli said yesterday at The Chapel’s Current Critical Issues Forum, “we need to strike a balance between the two Jims” (that is, Dobson and Wallis).

2. John McCain is old and may die in office.
As you drive into Cleveland, there is a huge billboard on the interstate that simply states, “McCain is old.” Okay; I knew that. He’s 72. So is my dad, but he’s a pretty bright man. Sure, my dad can act crotchety now and then, but I’ve been acting that way for several years myself! As The Politico's Roger Simon wrote, John Kennedy “was sick from age 13 through the rest of his life, was on chronic-pain medication throughout his presidency and had Addison's disease, an endocrine disorder that until 1940 was a terminal illness. Kennedy survived it through cortisone injections, which at the time only rich people could afford. Dr. Jeffrey Kelman, who examined Kennedy's medical records in 2002, said, ‘He was never healthy. I mean, the image you get of vigor and progressive health wasn't true.’ The point being: Electing a young person to the presidency is no guarantee that he or she will be healthy or stay healthy.”

3. McCain = Bush on everything.
Certainly, it is true that as McCain closed in on seeking to become the next president, he began voting more and more in line with his fellow Republican, George Bush. The “Maverick” voted 100% with Bush in 2008, but that number drops the further back you go: 95% in 2007, 77% in 2005 and 67% in 2001. One gets the feeling that in order to get the Republican nomination and to shore up the base of the Republicans, McCain was less reluctant to be “mavericky.” But voting records do not tell the whole story. It is clear that McCain’s policies on Climate Change, Health Care, and Torture are different from George Bush. And these are not small issues.

4. Obama is a transcendent figure that will change the world.
Bob Hyatt has had a running series on his blog that he calls “Messiah Watch,” where he shows YouTube videos and artwork from people who are placing a bit too much hope in a mere human being (see here and here and here). Nancy Pelosi introduced Obama at a fundraiser by calling him "a leader that God has blessed us with at this time." Oh, come on. We need to get a grip. Obama is not the second coming. Not even close.

Read all three part of this series:
Part 1: Reasons Why Evangelicals Should Vote for MCCAIN
Part 2: Reasons Why Evangelicals Should Vote for OBAMA
Part 3: McCain or Obama ? - A Plea for Unity

10/28/2008

What Are Your Three Favorite Podcasts?

I want to discover good podcasts. So I've started this meme.

What are your three favorite podcasts?

I tag nine people, and they tag some people...
and so on...
and so on...
Until we all have discover new podcasts!

And, of course, you can comment here as well with your favorite podcasts, and why you like them.

My three:

1. Fermi Project
The best podcast, period (IMHO). In a concise 20-minute podcast, Gabe Lyons and Andy Crouch interview thought leaders on the topics of the Culture, the Future, the Church, and the Gospel. A vital podcast for anyone wanting to explore how people of the Christian faith can and should shape culture.

2. Pray as You Go
"A new prayer session is produced every day. It is not a 'Thought for the Day', a sermon or a bible-study, but rather a framework for your own prayer. Lasting between ten and thirteen minutes, it combines music, scripture and some questions for reflection. The aim is to help you to:
  • become more aware of God's presence in your life
  • listen to and reflect on God's word
  • grow in your relationship with God.
It is produced by Jesuit Media Initiatives, with material written by a number of British Jesuits and other experts in the spirituality of St Ignatius of Loyola.

3. Behind the Lines
This is a three hour weekly music show from The Dividing Line internet broadcast network, featuring the latest in progressive rock, plus an hour dedicated to everything Genesis (rare live cuts, solo works, and covers by other bands).


I tag...
Gideon Strauss
Dan Turis
Byron Borger
Scot McKnight
Michael Kruse
Steve McCoy
Tedd Gossard
Bob Hyatt
Rick Meigs

10/23/2008

Reasons Why Evangelicals SHOULD Vote for McCain

Evangelicals and the Election, Part 1 of 3

Today, I will list the legitimate and illegitimate reasons why Evangelical Christians can vote for John McCain. Next, I’ll list the same for Barack Obama. With the third post, I will make the case that, no matter who is voted into office on November 4, Christians must unite behind our new president and prayerfully move forward as we deal with the major issues and crises that currently face our nation.

In spite of what many Bible-believing Christians think (see James Dobson a year ago when he said, “I would not vote for John McCain under any circumstances” and the rhetoric of many “progressives” in the evangelical camp), the election of John McCain will not be the worst possible result of this election. There are several legitimate reasons why evangelicals could or even should vote for John McCain:

1. Consistently Pro-Life.
In the 2000 campaign, I stopped supporting National Right to Life because they were sending me information saying that the only pro-life candidate to vote for was George Bush. The truth was that they were not supporting McCain because of his campaign finance reform agenda that would have put them out of business. McCain has consistently voted as a senator for pro-life bills.

2. Supreme Court.
The next president will most likely appoint one, and perhaps even two, justices to the Supreme Court. Even though McCain says that he will not have a litmus test for justices, everyone believes that his appointments would be pro-life, and that this would mean that Roe v. Wade would be overturned.

3. Limited Government.
A Christian concept of government states that it must be limited. McCain is correct that government is not supposed to be the central aspect of public life. There are other authorities, such as churches, parents, associations, businesses, organizations, and individuals, that have an authority that is not derived from government, and therefore cannot be replaced by governmental fiat. As Paul Marshall writes, "The authority of the government ends where the authorities of others begin…We can say that the governing authority is justly to interrelate the authorities—the areas of responsibility—of others. It is not to supplant other authorities in their roles." In society, there are diverse offices with diverse responsibilities that possess their own authority. And government must not encroach upon those areas of responsibility.

4. McCain has opposed Bush on several issues.
While McCain is aligned with Bush on two key issues in this election (taxes and the war in Iraq), he has taken stands contrary to the Bush administration. He has been a vocal critic of how Bush has actually conducted the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Very importantly, McCain has been a major critic of the Bush administration’s use of torture. Also, McCain differs with Bush about climate change, saying “We stand warned by serious and credible scientists across the world that time is short and the dangers are great.”

If you are going to cast your vote for McCain based on some of these reasons, then I think that it is a legitimately thoughtful Christian vote. However, there are a number of illegitimate reasons I’ve heard evangelicals use for why we should vote for McCain. Here are reasons that SHOULD NOT be used to vote for McCain:

1. Obama is a secret Muslim.
Our church just had Missions week, with missionaries sharing their stories in adult Sunday classes. In our class, we had four missionaries that specialized in reaching Muslims. In the midst of a good question and answer session, one guy asked a question that made me fume. “In your opinion, is Barack Obama a Christian or a Muslim?” My wife grabbed my hand and said, “Robert… Settle down.” I later raised my hand and asked, “In your opinion, is John McCain a Christian or an adulterer who divorced his wife for a wealthy beer distributor?” It was a joke. And yes, people laughed (while some looked at me strangely). It is strange that McCain’s credentials as a believer are never questioned even though he does not make his faith a major part of his identity, while Obama’s Christian faith is held in great incredulity because he is a democrat. I find it remarkable that in spite of Obama’s eloquent statements of his faith at a ground-breaking speech in 2006 and in his answers to Rick Warren at the Saddleback Forum (where he said, “Jesus Christ died for my sins...I am redeemed through Him”), evangelicals simply will not accept him as a true believer.

2. Obama pals around with terrorists.
He does not. He has not. Citing a New York Times article on Bill Ayers and his acquaintance with Barack Obama, Sarah Palin said, “Our opponents see America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who would bomb their own country.” In fact, the very newspaper article that Palin cited made it clear that Sen. Obama is not close to Bill Ayers, much less “pals.” The Times article says, “The two men do not appear to have been close. Nor has Mr. Obama ever expressed sympathy for the radical views and actions of Mr. Ayers, whom he has called ‘somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8.’” The intention of this campaign tactic is the paint Obama as a covert radical. Notice that Palin said "terroristS" (plural), and that the campaign has been asking, “Who is the real Barack Obama?” Christians must not be snookered by emails they receive claiming that Obama is some detestable threat to the country. He is not. McCain himself has recently refuted those at his rallies that are “scared” of Obama.

3. McCain picked a Christian as his running mate.
The fact that Palin has confessed faith in Jesus Christ does not mean that she would be a good Vice President or President. George Bush was very vocal about his Christian faith, and his presidency was a disaster in many ways, including misleading the American public by manipulating the intelligence to drum up support for the war in Iraq and then, astonishingly, the most despicable and immoral of things – endorsing the use of torture. Just because a person says he or she is a Christian does not necessarily mean that he or she will be a good leader. I’ve even known pastors that have been bad leaders, and even scoundrels (and so have you).

Yes, there are good reasons to vote for John McCain. If you are in the McCain camp, good. However, know that there are also good reasons to vote for Barack Obama. That is next.

Read all three part of this series:
Part 1: Reasons Why Evangelicals Should Vote for MCCAIN
Part 2: Reasons Why Evangelicals Should Vote for OBAMA
Part 3: McCain or Obama ? - A Plea for Unity

10/09/2008

Jesus Creed reviewed by Dan Turis

My friend Dan Turis, campus minister at The Ohio State University and a great thinker, is writing a detailed review of Scot McKnight's The Jesus Creed at his blog, "Feelin' Fine."

The series starts here
and then continues on his blog.

Great Googly Moogly!

In honor of our newest commenter, I present one of my favorite commercials:

10/07/2008

Work in Community for Community

A Christian Perspective on Work, Part 4

Humanity is built for community and community is built for humanity. We were created to work in harmony with others in order to serve the community, a synergistic force for the good of all. We work together to move society forward. This work is the Hebrew concept of Shalom – the universal flourishing of everyone in the community through our work.

In the community there are mini-communities that do the same basic services – creating specializations for the good of the larger community. There are mentors and apprentices, whether in the trades or in the professions. This is the way it is meant to be.

In Genesis, we read of families that train up members in specialties. We read how these specialties arose in Genesis 4:19-22,
“Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play the harp and flute. Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron.”

Work is a social activity. Jabal’s skill in animal husbandry, Jubal’s skill in the arts, and Tubal-Cain’s skill in craftsmanship were all handed down to others, so that they are called the “fathers” of these trades. We were meant to create sub-communities in which specialists can teach the skills needed for specific types of work. These are what we see in trade associations, colleges in universities, mentorships and internships. It is good that humans work together in this way.

Work is accomplished in cooperation with others. When Moses is given the mandate to build the tabernacle, he was not commanded to do everything on his own. He was to work cooperatively with gifted people in the community.
"Then the LORD said to Moses “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given ability to all the skilled workers to make everything I have commanded you.” (Exodus 31:1-6)

Bezalel and Oholiab were gifted for work, and in cooperative community, the work that glorifies God was done. Spiritual Gifts for work is yet another subject that needs to be explored. That will be my next post.

The point here is this: Work was not meant to simply be an individualistic endeavor, something that we do on our own as we seek to fulfill some personal desire for worth. It is meant to be communal – in the training for work, in the cooperation to get work done, and in the benefits to society.

A Christian Perspective on Work:
Part 1: The Imago Dei and God the Worker
Part 2: Satisfaction in Work
Part 3: God Provides Through Our Work
Part 4: Work in Community for Community

10/05/2008

FactChecking Biden-Palin Debate

The candidates were not 100 percent accurate. To say the least.

From FactCheck.org:

Biden and Palin debated, and both mangled some facts.
  • Palin mistakenly claimed that troop levels in Iraq had returned to “pre-surge” levels. Levels are gradually coming down but current plans would have levels higher than pre-surge numbers through early next year, at least.

  • Palin repeated a false claim that Obama once voted in favor of higher taxes on “families” making as little as $42,000 a year. He did not. The budget bill in question called for an increase only on singles making that amount, but a family of four would not have been affected unless they made at least $90,000 a year.
  • Biden wrongly claimed that McCain “voted the exact same way” as Obama on the budget bill that contained an increase on singles making as little as $42,000 a year. McCain voted against it. Biden was referring to an amendment that didn't address taxes at that income level.
  • Palin claimed McCain’s health care plan would be “budget neutral,” costing the government nothing. Independent budget experts estimate McCain's plan would cost tens of billions each year, though details are too fuzzy to allow for exact estimates.

  • Biden wrongly claimed that McCain had said "he wouldn't even sit down" with the government of Spain. Actually, McCain didn't reject a meeting, but simply refused to commit himself one way or the other during an interview.
  • Palin wrongly claimed that “millions of small businesses” would see tax increases under Obama’s tax proposals. At most, several hundred thousand business owners would see increases.
For full details on these misstatements, and on additional factual disputes and dubious claims, read to the Analysis at FactCheck.org.

10/02/2008

The Blame Game – Pointing Fingers Concerning the Financial Crisis

Like many of you, I receive emails from friends from both sides of the political spectrum, forwarding "sure-fire evidence" that either the Republicans or the Democrats must be blamed for the Wall Street meltdown.

Sadly, most of us are so ideologically slanted that we are unable to see this as mere punditry and automatically buy into the mud that our side is slinging.

However, it needs to be said that there is plenty of blame to go around for this mess. The Economist writes,
“All evidence suggests that the current meltdown was built from layered irresponsibility. This financial crisis is a genuinely democratic one, with hard-working homeowners and billionaire villains each playing a role.”
Both the Right and the Left are attempting to simplify this multilayered and complex problem by pointing the finger at the other. FactCheck.org takes on two ads– one from MoveOn.org and the other from the McCain campaign – and shows how shallow these quick swipes at the other party can be.

Joe Miller and Brooks Jackson of FactCheck.org write,
“The U.S. economy is enormously complicated. Screwing it up takes a great deal of cooperation. Claiming that a single piece of legislation was responsible for (or could have averted) is just political grandstanding. We have no advice to offer on how best to solve the financial crisis. But these sorts of partisan caricatures can only make the task more difficult.”

According to Miller and Jackson, here's a partial list of those who might need to share in the fault:
  • The Federal Reserve, which slashed interest rates after the dot-com bubble burst, making credit cheap.
  • Home buyers, who took advantage of easy credit to bid up the prices of homes excessively.
  • Congress, which continues to support a mortgage tax deduction that gives consumers a tax incentive to buy more expensive houses.
  • Real estate agents, most of whom work for the sellers rather than the buyers and who earned higher commissions from selling more expensive homes.
  • The Clinton administration, which pushed for less stringent credit and downpayment requirements for working- and middle-class families.
  • Mortgage brokers, who offered less-credit-worthy home buyers subprime, adjustable rate loans with low initial payments, but exploding interest rates.
  • Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, who in 2004, near the peak of the housing bubble, encouraged Americans to take out adjustable rate mortgages.
  • Wall Street firms, who paid too little attention to the quality of the risky loans that they bundled into Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS), and issued bonds using those securities as collateral.
  • The Bush administration, which failed to provide needed government oversight of the increasingly dicey mortgage-backed securities market.
  • An obscure accounting rule called mark-to-market, which can have the paradoxical result of making assets be worth less on paper than they are in reality during times of panic.
  • Collective delusion, or a belief on the part of all parties that home prices would keep rising forever, no matter how high or how fast they had already gone up.

10/01/2008

McCain or Obama?

I have been an admirer of Ron Sider, President of Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA), for years. He is perhaps the most thoughtful and insightful evangelical leaders of political thought. Among is many books include Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generosity, The Scandal of Evangelical Politics: Why Are Christians Missing the Chance to Really Change the World?, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience: Why Are Christians Living Just Like the Rest of the World?, and Good News and Good Works: A Theology for the Whole Gospel.

In this article from PRISM (the magazine from ESA), Sider gives some great insights into the candidates on many of the issues that should concern evangelicals in this election.

McCain or Obama? (pdf)

9/30/2008

God Provides Through Our Work

A Christian Perspective on Work, Part 3

I don’t play Ohio’s State Lottery. I know that many who confess to be Christians do.

I don't hope to make money by playing the lottery. God has created us to work. And one of the benefits of the work of our hands is that it provides for our needs.

We should agree with the Teacher when he says,

“This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for people to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives people wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 5:18-19)

Work is a good thing in that it is the means by which God wants to provide not only for us, but for others as well.

“Those who have been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need(Ephesians 4:28).

But, as with all good things, we humans warp this - we begin to think that we are able to take all the credit for the provision our work gives.

“You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:17-19)

There are many reasons why it is good to work. One of them is that it is the means by which God provides for our needs. When we work hard, we should be able to experience God’s provision in our lives (though the Fall gets in the way of this a lot! More on that later). But if we are lazy, that provision from God is less likely to be found.

“I went past the field of a sluggard,
________past the vineyard of someone who has no sense;
_____thorns had come up everywhere,
________the ground was covered with weeds,
________and the stone wall was in ruins.
_____I applied my heart to what I observed
________and learned a lesson from what I saw:
_____A little sleep, a little slumber,
________a little folding of the hands to rest—
_____and poverty will come on you like a thief
________and scarcity like an armed man.” (Proverbs 24:30-34)

A Christian Perspective on Work:
Part 1: The Imago Dei and God the Worker
Part 2: Satisfaction in Work
Part 3: God Provides Through Our Work
Part 4: Work in Community for Community

Help! I need to name this conference!

I am heading up a conference at my church (The Chapel in Akron, Ohio) on March 7, 2009 that will seek to help Christians in our region understand how to take their Christian faith in God's plan for the redemption of all things and apply it to their vocations. Unlike other "faith at work" conferences, this will not be primarily talking about “Christian ethics in the workplace" or "How to use your vocation as a means for the only really important thing, which is evangelism" (just a tad bit of sarcasm there...).

The discussion at this conference will center on how we live out God's Creation Mandate to "have dominion" and to "cultivate and take care of" the world in our vocations. It will offer a way for people to live out their Christian faith in the main thing that they do in their lives: work.

Our speaker will be Mike Wittmer, author of Heaven Is a Place on Earth: Why Everything You Do Matters to God. After Mike speaks, we will have lunch and break the attendees out into cohort groups for discussions on how to bring Sunday into Monday in the following vocations:

Medicine
Education
Legal/Law
Business
Stay-at-home
Tech
Office / Clerical
Arts
Athletics

Here's where I need your help. I want to promote this so people get it and will want to attend. What should I call it? What kind of "tagline" should I add so that people "get it?" Any suggestions on how to make this thing a success?

9/29/2008

$700,000,000,000

What you could do with
$700,000,000,000
  • Give every person in the U.S. $2,300 or give every household $6,200
  • Pay the income taxes of every American who makes $500,000 or less a year
  • Fully fund the Defense, Education, State, Veterans Affairs and Interior departments next year, as well as NASA
  • Buy gasoline for every car in the U.S. for 16 months
  • Buy every NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball team and build each a new stadium--and pay your players $191 million apiece for a year
  • Create the 17th largest economy in the world--roughly equal to that of the Netherlands*
These are admittedly kind of silly. But it does help us understand how astronomical this dollar amount is - a 7 followed by 11 zeroes.

I makes me wonder what we could, as a nation, spend this kind of money on. Maybe...
  • create an affordable healthcare plan for all Americans
  • invest in research for renewable energy to rid ourselves of our dependence on foreign oil and address the issue of climate change
  • eliminate the inequity in the quality of our schools so that poor children have just as much opportunity as suburban children
And then it also makes me wonder about why (oh WHY?!) we are fighting a war in Iraq. Bush's war of choice, an unnecessary war, has not only cost us 4,175 deaths and 30,634 wounded**, it has cost us financially:





***

Does anybody else find this simply incredible?!

Sources:
*Time Magazine, Oct 6, 2008 p. 36
**icaualites.org/oif/
***http://www.nationalpriorities.org/costofwar_home

9/28/2008

Trey's First Catch!

Trey Robinson with the catch. FIRST DOWN EAGLES!!




Trey is 10 years old, playing Tight End for the 4th and 5th Grade Lake Youth Football Team, the EAGLES.

The team hardly ever passes, and this was their first time passing to Trey and the team's first completion of the season!!

Yes, I know... I'm playing the Proud Papa.

9/26/2008

Are you sick of the term "Emerging" getting in the way?

Scot McKnight is. And so am I.

Thanks to Scot for writing this important post on his blog, Jesus Creed.

"For the last year and a half I have spent far too much time explaining the terms 'emerging' and 'emergent' and I’m tired of it. I don’t need either one to describe what is going on anyway… Most of us don’t give one rip if we are called 'emerging' or 'emergent.' Not one rip. I know I don’t.

Dan Kimball and I…are both evangelistic and we are not convinced that the emerging/emergent conversation is doing enough of it.
Our concern is that being missional leads to evangelism. We want to participate in this big emerging movement in ways that focus on evangelism, in ways that reach out to postmoderns, and in ways that focus on local churches. So, we are forming some partnerships with other leaders who want to support one another in this missional-and-evangelism direction.

What about theology? Yes, we differ from EV in this regard. We are committed to the Lausanne Covenant, where you will find a global emphasis on sin and salvation and the ultimacy of evangelism as the vanguard of the mission of God in this world."

Read the entire post here.


YES!! YES!! YES!!

Count me in!

The Whoppers of 2008

How Obama and McCain have misled voters.


FactCheck.org has a tally of how both McCain and Obama have misled voters.

"Normally we post a 'Whoppers' compilation the week before Election Day. This time we've already seen such a large number of twisted facts, misleading claims and outright falsehoods that we are doing that now.

It's not just Sarah Palin's claim about killing the bridge project that she had supported until it became a national laughingstock and Congress turned against it. That's just the whopper that got the attention of many news orgaizations earlier this month. There have been lots of others.

McCain has made multiple false representations of Obama's tax proposals. Obama has made false claims about McCain's stance on Social Security. Both McCain and Obama have traded some whoppers about their energy policies, about Iraq, and about Iran, and about supporting troops."

See the list here.

Satisfaction in Work

A Christian Perspective on Work, Part 2

I am looking for your help in creating a “Christian perspective on work.” This is different from creating a “Christian ethic in the workplace.” The discussion on “Christian Work” usually starts and ends with ethics. However, while Christians are to be ethical in every aspect of life (exemplifying honesty, integrity, love and excellence as we work but also as we play, as we do our taxes and also as we care for our families, as we interact with people and also as we live in our private lives), we need to look at work in a much more specific manner. What is work? How does it reflect God? How are we to glorify God in work? How are we to understand calling or vocation? These are the deeper issues that I’m trying to deal with here.

In my last post, I stated that God is a worker, and since we are created in the image of God, we too are intrinsically workers. But, contrary to our normal thinking, work is meant to be enjoyable and satisfying! We are meant to find pleasure in our work.

Think for a moment about the character of God. He works, not because he has to, but because he wants to. God works, and finds pleasure in it.

As we read the beautiful poetry of the Creation that opens the book of Genesis, we hear the repeated refrain at the end of each day: "God saw that it was good." And then when he finished, “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). You hear in those words the satisfaction God has in the work he has accomplished. Psalm 104 proclaims, “May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works.”

God continues to work in sustaining the whole universe. The Apostle Paul explains that “all things were created by him (Christ) and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together(Colossians 1:16-17). God is not sitting idle, letting things go as they go. H. C. G. Moule wrote, “He keeps the cosmos from becoming a chaos.”

And God’s greatest work is the redemption that comes through Christ. And God takes great pleasure in this work! We read in Ephesians, “In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace… With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ" (Ephesians 1:5-6, 8-9).

At the end of a long day of doing lawn work—mowing, weeding, doing the mulch, trimming the hedges, edging the flower gardens, cutting down dead tree branches—I love to sit on my back patio with a cold lemonade and look at the work of my hands. “Ahhhh… This is satisfying!” I am proud of my work. I see all that I’ve done, and it is good.

We are created in the image of this working God – the God who finds satisfaction and pleasure in creating, sustaining and redeeming. When I think about this, it brings a smile to my face. No wonder I like to create (I love to write, to draw, to come up with new ideas for ministry); no wonder I like to sustain (I love to take something somebody already has made and work with it, tweaking it, modifying it, maybe even improving it); no wonder I like to take part in redemption (I am highly motivated to bring about justice and shalom in the world around me, I love to see somebody meet Christ for the first time, I enjoy helping a person begin to realize their God-given potential).

What about you? As an image-bearer of the Triune God, how do you reflect the God who enjoys and finds satisfaction in work?


A Christian Perspective on Work:
Part 1: The Imago Dei and God the Worker
Part 2: Satisfaction in Work
Part 3: God Provides Through Our Work
Part 4: Work in Community for Community

9/25/2008

Fearful Politics and Evangelicals

"God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." (2 Timothy 1:7)

"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear." (1 John 4:18)

I was reading Fareed Zakaria's new book, The Post-American World. Starting on p. 251, he talks about how FEAR has gripped the nation, and how this is NOT a good thing. This section of the book is an expansion of an article he wrote for NEWSWEEK late last year, entitled "The Fearful Superpower."

"Ever since the [9/11] attacks, the United States has felt threatened and under siege and determined to carve out maximum room to maneuver. But where Americans have seen defensive behavior, the rest of the world has looked on and seen the most powerful nation in human history acting like a caged animal, lashing out at any and every constraint on its actions.

At the heart of this behavior is fear. Americans have become scared of the new world that is emerging around them. As long as this atmosphere of fear envelops U.S. politics, it will surely produce very similar results abroad. Washington's real task, therefore, is to combat such unthinking emotion."

As I read these words, I think of the Christians on the cable news shows wringing their hands in fear and the conversations I've had with fellow evangelicals about the post-9/11 world. Most support the Republicans in this election, believing that they are the strongest on national security issues.

Zakaria continues,
"Republicans are falling over each other to paint an atmosphere of dire threat that requires strong, even brutish action to protect the American people. Democrats, while far less guilty of fearmongering, have been afraid to combat this hysteria."

Are we going to vote based on FEAR?

With the threat of terrorism and with congress deciding this week how to deal with the Wall Street collapse, I think of the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who (if we can remember our history) was elected to lead a generation that faced both the Great Depression and World War II. In his first inaugural address, he said,
"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."