The Temple

Evangelicalism’s End?

Michael Spencer (the Internet Monk) has written a series of articles on what he calls the “Coming Evangelical Collapse” which he parlayed into an article in the Christian Science Monitor.

March 10, 2009 Posted by | Christianity, Church, Culture - Values | , | Leave a comment

Should we tell the kids?

To tell or not to tell, this is a common problem many parents with shady personal  histories face.  Should we tell the kids about our past drug usage?  How about a relational indiscretion?  What part of our past must we reveal to our children?

This is not as difficult as it may seem at first glance.  Here are the parenting principles to guide you through this question.

It is none of their business…

First, the behavior you demand from your children has no reference to how you behaved as a child/teen.  Many people have told me something similar to this:  “Our kids have a right to know, I don’t want them to find out from someone else.”  My response is:  “it is none of their business.”  Parenting is not about defending my past, it is about establishing a healthy context for growth in the present, with good results for the future.  My children don’t have an inherent right to know every detail about my past.

Parenting is about breaking bad habits and patterns that reside in the family dna and establishing the healthy values  that characterize our family now.  What I did in high school is irrelevant to the values I want to instill in my family now that I have grown up.  My behavior cannot be used as a license for my children’s desire to act out.  If you allow residual guilt over indiscretions in life to rule your present parenting posture, you will equivocate in your communication to your kids.

My father smoked and drank before I was born.  He came to faith in Christ when I was young and he changed many patterns of behavior.  I did not need to know the information, it was not my “right” and it had no impact on whether it was ok for me to smoke or drink.   I found out these details about my father as an adult, and it didn’t traumatize me, nor should it have traumatized me.

You are in charge…

The underlying problem that lurks here is the notion that the children are in charge, or that they have a right to make these egregious and stupid choices for themselves.  Now when it comes to “being in charge” the best approach is to exhibit a healthy and positive lifestyle that is attractive to emulate.  I don’t mean enforcing values that you do not hold yourself.

It is good for parents to be in control.

First, of their own life and values.  Living a positive and strong lifestyle becomes the key to parenting, and passing on values to your children.  So be in control of your life, that is the fruit of the Spirit the Bible describes as self-control.  If your past contained indiscretion, join the human race.  Whose hasn’t?  Don’t allow your children to use the stupid manipulation that claims a right to your prior misbehaviors as license for their own.  Instead turn it around on them.  Say something like:  “we obviously recognize that such and such behavior is unattractive/stupid/destructive and we don’t all have to suffer through it.

So many parenting challenges come from the reversal of authority.  It is really the same problem described in Genesis 3, the authority structure gets rearranged.  When we usurp God’s rightful authority, things get all messed up.  When the authority structure in parenting gets rearranged, things get all messed up.  Being in control in parenting means leading to godliness:  first by example then by instruction.  It is imparted with confidence, and there is no concession to manipulation.

This bears repeating.  It amazes me that people allow their children to think that they have a right to “experience” vices for themselves.  I have never taken drugs nor have I ever been drunk.  I haven’t missed anything, and I didn’t need to “experience” drug abuse or drunkenness to see it’s downside.  It does not have to be a part of my children’s experience.  In the same way my children don’t need to experience violence to know it is bad, they don’t need to experience other vices, even if I did.  We wouldn’t say:  “my kid needs to be beat up a few times so he can learn that violence hurts.”

So should you tell your kids about your past?  Maybe, maybe not.  Use your head and don’t let your past control your confidence in parenting.

March 10, 2009 Posted by | Christian Living, Culture - Values, Parenting | , | 5 Comments

Ash Wednesday and Lent

I am not a holiday fan.

I know, grinch-ish.  Nonetheless, they tend to move people in the opposite direction of their intention.  Valentine’s day causes men to believe that the only day they need to buy flowers for their wife is Feb. 14.

“What more do you want from me?”

Burial of the Sardine

So Ash Wednesday and Lent birth Mardi Gras and the false asceticism of lent practices.  Mardi Gras brings out the worst in human behavior, all before we have to get better for lent.  Then we purge for forty days prior to Holy celebrations of Easter only to revert back to “normal” after it is all over.

This is not healthy Christianity.

Here are some of the things we are “giving up” for lent (from Twitter):

Facebook
Texting
Beef
Caffeine
Ben & Jerry’s
Despair
Fast food
Peanut butter
Negative Thinking
Extraneous spending
Alcohol

So the assumption behind the “giving up” for lent is that when it is over we can revert to unhealthy, petty, insignificant, destructive behaviors and restore a “normal” life.  Holidays should not discourage us from maturity, but spur us on to “holi”ness.  So don’t give up a thing for lent. Instead, add a good habit that will begin in the forty days and stick beyond Easter, and because of Easter, which is a celebration of life.  Lent , like all holidays, should be a time of exaggerated living, that is, people trying to increase good behavior.  Give more, pray more, love more, help more, make an extra effort at positive holiness.

We demean the celebration by highlighting our negative behavior, appeasing  our conscience by refraining from them for a season when they should not be a part of our life or an issue at all.  Giving up texting is an unnecessary and trivial exercise.  Texting?  We use these issues as excuses to ignore  the root of the matter.  Instead of giving up texting, do what you are supposed to do when you are texting.  If you are feeling guilty about texting, is it because it is keeping you from…working???  So get to work.  You should probably give up fast food forever, it will kill you early.  Why give it up for lent?  Why not regard your body with the respect it deserves as a precious gift from God and care for it, all year.  Are you seriously going to go back to “negative thinking” after Easter?  Stop using holidays as an excuse for mediocre living.

The Battle between Carnival and Lent

"The Battle between Carnival and Lent"

Maybe I am overreacting, but I for one find this cyclical pattern harmful to my overall progress in Christ.  Make this Holy Season a time to celebrate Christ in a superior fashion.

Christian growth is attempted in one of two ways:  The first attempts the giving up of certain practices.  “Stop doing that!” is the mantra of this camp.

The second, and superior way, attempts to add healthy and positive behaviors to life, and like bermuda grass, the strength and tenacity of health chokes out unhealthy and destructive behavior.

The first way only has limited success and results in legalism and arrogance.  The second way is rewarding and helps us to get to the goal: Christlikeness.

Ash Wednesday, Lent, Easter, Christmas should reflect ongoing values and behaviors, affirming and celebrating the upward journey.  Fix your eyes on Jesus.

February 25, 2009 Posted by | Christian Living, Christianity, Church, Culture - Values | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Why Does the Wedding Ring go on 4th Finger?

Fun video, irritating audio, but worthwhile anyway…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "Why Does the Wedding Ring fo on 4th F…", posted with vodpod

February 5, 2009 Posted by | Culture - Values, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Great Story: Jason McElwain

This kid played basketball in Rochester New York, my kind of hero. Sports needs more stories like this one.

January 28, 2009 Posted by | Culture - Values, Sports | 4 Comments

All I Want for Christmas is Water

Here is a worthy paradigm shift for Christmas, check out these two websites.

December 18, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Culture - Values | , , , , | 1 Comment

Assault

My friend Blaine and I were assaulted this morning on the last leg of our bike ride.

On a small two lane road leading to my house, a car honked as he passed.  We waved as we usually do.  He said we flipped him the bird (not true).  He pulled off the road in front of us, popped his trunk and emerged with an 18 inch baton and immediately lunged at Blaine as he screamed obsenities.  He missed Blaine by inches.  Full swing.  I was proud that my friend did not get off his bike and pulverize this guy (he is very capable of doing so).  I called the sheriff, we filed a complaint and the guy was picked up within an hour.  He apologized, but felt it necessary to give us a bike safety lecture…which was unnecessary and unappreciated.  Finally, after a lengthy conversation, he apologized, we accepted and declined to press charges, although Blaine has up to a year to do so if he changes his mind.

Do you share the road with bicycle riders?  with other vehicles and pedestrians who have a right to the roads?

Here are two things you should know (there are many more things your should know but here are two things):

  1. People riding bicycles are people.  They have friends, family, jobs and are generally very nice people.  They are not debris in the roadway.
  2. People riding bicycles have a right to be on the road.  They have a right to be in the lane on some roads, especially roads that are narrow and there is no designated bicycle lane.  Oftentimes the shoulder or the right part of rural roads are dangerous for bicyclists.  They are not cleaned as often as city roads and are often filled with glass, garbage and gravel.  These are hazards for a bicyclist.  In order to avoid them and be safe, we need to get into the roadway.

In  accidents which include a car and a cyclist 90% are the fault of the motorist.  Often when cars hit cyclists, the driver of the car is not even cited, even when at fault.  As a cyclist for over 20 years, I find an inordinate amount of drivers are oblivious to cyclists, with a  large number of people being antagonistic toward cyclists.  I am at a loss as to why.  I hope you  aren’t one of them, and if you are one of them, I hope you refine your attitude.

I posted this video in a prior post, it is worth reposting.  Please watch.

December 12, 2008 Posted by | Culture - Values, Personal | , , | 2 Comments

We Did It!?

I wrote this blog post the day following the election, November 5, 2008.  I decided to postpone posting it because of its sarcasm, and I really don’t think the issue is gay marriage, rather how we impact and influence society and culture.  Now, here is where people will get sidetracked from my argument, so let me clarify.  I am not “for” gay marriage.  The phrase gay marriage is an oxymoron.  The gay lifestyle and disposition has no appeal, people do not aspire to homosexuality, they resign themselves to homosexuality.  Parents do not hope for gay children, and for good reason:  the gay lifestyle and predicament is a burden not a nobility.  It argues against itself.  Christianity  should offer hope and freedom.

Last night, Californians saved marriage.

It was almost pulled away from us by the gay population, but we beat them back at the ballot box.  Christianity prevailed.  We did it.  We saved marriage.  If we had lost, marriage as we know it would be lost forever.  It would have been our fault that we didn’t get out the vote.  But thank God we did, who knows what my household would have been like today if we hadn’t.  Congratulations.

I have been holding out saying much about this until the election was over.  Now it is time to talk about politics and the influence of politics on the church and it’s method and message.

First, we got caught in lies.

Political rhetoric is shamefully obtuse and deceptive.  It leaves out key facts that paint the full picture and it speaks in hyperbole, mostly to engender a response most often a response of fear.  So, Barack Obama was said to have voted “present” in many of his Senate votes as if that were a bad thing when in fact it isn’t as bad as it was made out to be.  So McCain was “attached” to the Bush administration so that he could be marginalized by people who want “change”.  So the economic crisis is pinned on the President when the realities are much more complex.  And the Prop. 8 campaign also spoke in hyperbole.

Here is a quote from the Prop 8 website (“protectmarriage.com” even the name is hyperbolic):

“It is imperative that all pastors and Christian leaders view this for what it is: an irretrievable moment, with profound and lasting consequences.  We must vigorously support Prop 8, as if our ministries and our lives depend on it.  Ultimately, they will.”

That is the end paragraph, the conclusion of a lengthy quote which included statements like:  “hinge of history”; “major change point”; “threatens to forever muzzle Bible believing Christians”.

I disagree.  Yesterday was not an irretrievable moment.  My ministry in no way was dependent on the outcome of prop. 8.  My life was not in danger.  This will not be a shining historical moment for the church, nor would it have been a blight on our history if the proposition failed.  Bible believing Christians will never be muzzled, even if called to die for the gospel proclamation. In many periods of church history, the voice of the church has never been as clarion as it is when the church was persecuted.

This kind of language is harmful to the church and it’s message.  Critics are rightly branding this speech as “untrue”.  Is it worth it to have the reputation of truth tarnished by the language we use to “get out the vote”?  I say it is not.  And today, we will begin to feel the repurcussions of our political dalliance.

Second, we forgot our mission.

Our voice, our strength, our purpose is not to change society or protect our values through legislation.  I heard yesterday on the radio (Southwest Radio Church) that the gospel message needed to be 90% law and 10% grace (they claimed to be quoting Wesley). Now the book of Galatians says that the law is a tutor that leads to Christ.  But this is not a template for evangelism nor is it a template for influencing culture.  If the passage is read carefully, faith precedes the giving of the law!  This is Paul’s argument in both Romans and Galatians.  “Are you so foolish?  Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”  We don’t preach the law, we preach Christ crucified.

Third, we are missing/losing the more important battle.

Pursuing the battleground of the law when we have lost the battleground of the mind, is to lose the war.   Christians have abdicated the intellectual arena of our culture.  It used to be that the presence of Christian thinkers permeated the major universities of our nation.  The minds of the leaders and opinion makers of the nation were first indoctrinated and influenced by truth and a Christian worldview.  That has changed dramatically.  The rise of  Christian colleges and universities has caused a void in the secular university.  The best and brightest Christians are no longer teaching or attending the major universities.  That change has extended to the market place, where now we seek businesses marked with the sign.

Policy makers and opinion shapers are also the unique home of the secular.  Christian youth are not encouraged to enter the fields of journalism, media, politics or law.  We see those areas of our culture as tainted, ungodly.  This abdication has hurt the cause of truth.  It has hurt the cause of Christian values being the underpinning of our society.  And the more we play the fortress game, the further the divide will become and the more we will bemoan the encroaching evil all around us, and the more we will appeal to the past (this is a nation founded on Christian principles) and the more we will resort to muscling our views on this increasingly secular and non-Christian society.

The real battle lies in our ability to re-enter the culture war and fight the battle for the mind.  It is an intellectual battle and unfortunately there is a raging anti-intellectualism in the evangelical movement.  It is a lifestyle change but we are too comfortable in our modern monasteries that we call church with the accompanying accoutrement of cloistered lifestyle choices:  homeschooling, Christian colleges, exclusive social circles.  All these things, if designed to protect us from “the world” instead of preparing us to engage our culture, keep us from really winning the war.  It is not an election war; it will take much longer than an election cycle.

Lastly…

Proposition 8 just seems like bad strategy to me.

First, it will go before the same 9th Circuit Court at some point when challenged legally.  They have already made their opinion clear on the issue.  There is a good chance “the voice of the people” will be overturned by the 9th Circuit on legal and constitutional grounds rather than on Christian moral grounds.  I am willing to be shown wrong on this point, not being a legal expert, but all propositions must in fact be constituional or they will not become law.  The proponents of Proposition 8 say this is exactly why this was put in the form of a constitutional amendment, nonetheless, it will be challenged.

Second, is the issue homosexual marriage? or is it homosexuality period?  Christians are not simply opposed to homosexual marriage, we are opposed to homosexuality.  It isn’t going away.  If we are opposed to homosexuality and not simply homosexual marriage then shouldn’t we really support legislation against homosexuality?  The reason we would answer no to this is the same answer we should not fight in this arena. America is not the church.  We don’t legislate church law.   Homosexuality cannot be overcome by the law, only by the gospel.

December 9, 2008 Posted by | Christianity, Culture - Values, Ethics, Politics, Politics and Religion | , , | 3 Comments

More Signage Evangelism, and Just Stupid Signage

More Signage Evangelism in our small town.  These handmade signs pop up on a regular basis and they always have a “compelling” message.  I love this sign.  It is soooo appropriate.  We should be afraid of the verichip in the same way we were afraid of bar codes in the 70’s and 80’s.  Look at the power the anti-Christ has with bar codes.  Sheesh.

Now that the bar code has been with us for some time, the shift is on.  It is not bar codes per se, but now it is bar codes in conjunction with implantable chips  (read about this pablum here).  This is the equivalent of Christian grafitti, it is a blight on the environment and most municipalities don’t allow this sort of signage.  Since I live in the “county” there are less controls.  nonetheless, the foil border is a nice touch of class.

The VeriChip is the new “projected” tool of the anti-Christ, his means of controlling what we buy and sell.  In essence, what left-behinders have done in the last few decades has been to brand any sort of technological achievement as a sign of the end times.  As things become better, they call them worse.

News flash to all who oppose technology: Evil people in positions of power have used whatever means available to them to control and abuse their subjects.  We have nothing to fear from technology, only the people who may misuse it.  Hence, the VeriChip is a  potentially helpful and therefore beneficial or potentially misusable and therefore harmful piece of technology.  So was fire.  Fire is used to warm us, cook, heat our water, and fire was used to burn Christians.  I oppose fire.

Staying with the same theme of stupid signs;  who is it that needs this sign?  Notice the step by step instructions!  The sign also implies that washing is optional for non-employees.  Some of you probably take it that way.  What particular educational system failed to tell us how to properly wash our hands?  This photo was taken at the Starbucks in Granada Hills, but I think it is in all Starbucks.  Is there not a hand washing section for Starbucks employees in their employee handbook?  Do they not cover it in orientation?  Are they hiring kindergartners???  And for all you slobs out there who forgot the basics of personal hygene, the foundation of a civilized people is:  WASH YOUR HANDS!!!!

If you are easily offended, stop reading here.

For all you Boston Legal fans, do you remember when Alan Shore first meets Shirley Schmidt?  It is in the men’s restroom at the firm, and Alan extends his hand without washing his hand- a response to her inappropriate intrusion into the men’s room – and says “don’t worry, I have a very clean p$@#s”.  Trust me, you are not that clean.

December 8, 2008 Posted by | Culture - Values, Eschatology, Silly Stuff, Stupid Stuff, Technology | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Westmont vs. Azusa Pacific Soccer Match

Westmont College is my alma mater.  I met my wife Kelly there.  My oldest son Timothy graduated in 2007.  My sons Levi (Junior) and Caleb (Freshman) attend presently and my youngest (Joseph) has always wanted to attend and will probably attend.  So it was with anguish and a heightened sense of anxiety that I watched the college burn last Thursday night.  I watched my son’s dorm as it was on fire.  We are still waiting to find out the status of his room and whether his belongings are intact.  We have had some of the displaced Westmont students in our home the last few days.

In the middle of all of the tragedy, the Westmont men’s soccer team was scheduled to play the Golden State Athletic Conference championship game against Azusa Pacific University (APU) on Saturday. APU graciously agreed to postpone the game.  And Monday was a soccer day for me.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching Westmont win, I will leave the cliche’s and hyperbole for the articles listed below.  I simply love to see Westmont beat APU, and especially under these circumstances.  Read about the wonderful relationship between the coaches (they are brothers), the good sportsmanship displayed by APU, and the hospitality and camaraderie that comes from both competition and common faith.  Really heartwarming.

Read a great story before the game on Azusa’s Website about the rivalry and friendship among the teams.  The website PresidioSports.com ran this story about the game.  Bill Plaschke of the LA Times wrote this really good story as well.

November 18, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Culture - Values, Sports | , , , , , | 3 Comments