Monday, May 2, 2011
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Here's what I'm reading...
"Now I Can Die In Peace" by Bill Simmons. A book by ESPN's Bill Simmons about his lifelong Boston Red Sox fandom, and how it was finally rewarded by their 2004 World Series title.
"Transforming Church in Rural America" by Shannon O'Dell. Pretty much exactly what the title indicates.
"Church Planter" by Darrin Patrick. Not so much about planting a church as it is about being the man God uses to plant His church.
Here's what I'm watching(my weekly television and film recommendations)...
"Get Low" , a film starring Robert Duvall and Bill Murray. Robert Duvall plays a 1930's-era hermit who wants to hold his funeral while he's still alive. Wouldn't give it an A, but it's well-acted, well-written, and raises provactive questions about forgiveness, legacy, and reconciliation.
"Modern Family" , a comedy that airs Wednesday nights on ABC. Quite simply the best comedy on television. Very few things make me laugh out loud, but this show does, on a weekly basis.
Here's what I'm clicking on(a website or two that I recommend)...
http://www.straightcashhomey.net-a/ A blog that invites readers to send in candid pictures of people wearing random sports jerseys, notably obscure and/or retired players. If you're even the slightest of sports fans, you should take a look. Pretty hilarious stuff.
http://www.timothykeller.com/ A pastor from New York City whose preaching and writing has deeply affected me, not only as a Christian, but as a pastor. Great stuff.
Here's what I'm listening to(music for this week)....
"The Cave" by Mumford and Sons. An amazing band, and I'm late to the party on this one.
"Wilderness" by the OC Supertones. One of my favorite songs ever, of any genre.
Look these up, because the blog isn't letting me post the links, for some reason. And thank me later.
Happy Thursday, everyone.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
*A clarification....not everyone who had objections to Christianity lobbed them like grenades. Many, if not most, were simply honest objections or questions, posed in a reasonable manner. But we were encouraged to view them as attacks in many cases.
So for 20 years, I spent a good bit of time defending my faith, learning to argue, and teaching others to treat criticism and tough questions the same way. But along the way, I realized that two of the "grenades" that I had been trying to defend myself(and my faith against) were actually.....true.One is a criticism that I've heard for a long time(and it's probably been around a lot longer than that)...."Churches are full of hypocrites". That one stings, because nobody likes being called a hypocrite(and if they say they do, they're being hypocritical. So whatever). But it's a criticism that's been lobbed at church-going folks for as long as I've been around, and a lot longer. One of the definitions found in the Merriam-Webster dictionary for "hypocrite" reads as follows...."a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings". If that's the definition, then the criticism is true. The church is full of hypocrites. And I'm included. I know what I believe, and I believe it with the fullness of my soul. And I try to live in such a way that reflects those beliefs. But there are times(daily, in fact), when my actions, my thoughts, my attitudes betray those convictions, and betray those beliefs. There are times when I catch myself speaking, thinking, and acting in a way that is completely contradictory to my faith. That's when I'm a hypocrite. And it happens every day. Since I think most people are the same way, then I would have to agree...the church is full of hypocrites. The church is full of people who live inconsistently. Any honest Christian would admit to that. But admitting the hypocrisy isn't reason enough to pat ourselves on the back and say "look how honest we are...we're just so genuine, so transparent" and be done. The admission is the first step. Step two is change. Change to be more like Jesus. Change to love like He loved, serve like He served, teach like He taught, and lead lives that are, as the Bible states, "above reproach". In other words, to strive for our actions/thoughts/attitudes to be aligned with those of the Savior whom we claim to worship and serve. Simply admitting hypocrisy, and then doing nothing about it, isn't acceptable. The other grenade, and one that has taken on more traction in recent years, stems from a comment by one-time Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura(that is so strange to type...."Jesse Ventura" and "governor" in the same sentence), who famously stated that "Religion is a sham and a crutch". I think it goes without saying that I disagree with the "sham" comment. But the second part, the "crutch" part, that intrigues me. Actually, at first, it didn't intrigue me....it angered me a bit. I assumed it was just Jesse Ventura trying to live up to his reputation for machismo and controversy. Then I realized that others had said it too, and it continued to be said. So I took a closer look. And here's what I realized: He's right. My faith is a crutch. My wife is on crutches at the moment. She uses them because it she is physically unable to walk without them. She uses them because if she relied solely on her own strength, she would fall. She uses them because it is too painful to hold herself up without any help. I have had a relatively easy life, I won't lie. I haven't been hit hard by tragedy. My family life has been stable and fulfilling. I have enjoyed a strong marriage, beautiful children, and God has provided me with steady employment, a ministry about which I'm excited, and friendships that encourage me. Others, most others in fact, have had a much harder road than I have. But I need a crutch. Could I go through life without faith? Sure I could. Many do. And they have good marriages, and lovely kids, and a fulfilling career, and health and prosperity and all those things. But I have questions in my soul, and my faith provides an answer for those questions. I need purpose, and my faith gives me that purpose. I want to hope, and my faith grants me that hope. I know myself. Without my faith, I would undoubtedly lead a life full of questions, uncertainty, emptiness, and anxiety about what to do with this life, and what awaits on the other side. And I would try to figure it all out myself, providing my own purpose/answers/hope/peace, and here's what would happen... I'd fall. I'd fall under the weight of my own shortcomings. I'd struggle against the weight of my own sin. I'd wilt in the awareness of my emptiness.
I know this because I know myself. I know this because there have been times when I've laid faith aside, so to speak, and tried to wrestle with the "big picture" questions, and not only have I made no progress in finding the answers, the lack of answers drives me to a real sense of hopelessness. And when I try to "fix" things myself, I either mess up(90 percent of the time) or burn myself out trying(10 percent of the time).
So I need a crutch, and I'm not afraid to admit it.
Sometimes I think that more people outside the church would have a different view of the church if it was just honest about things. Instead of kneejerk reaction to perceived attacks(such as the "hypocrite" and "crutch" comments), a genuine, honest response would probably make a difference.
Yes, faith is a crutch. And that's okay.
Yes, the church is full of hypocrites. And that's not okay.
I'm not afraid to admit either one.