Thursday, November 30, 2006

New Link Added

I've added to the list of links. It's a clearinghouse of just about every "urban legend" imaginable.

Even if you've never heard the term "urban legend" you know what they are. Stories like "the vanishing hitchiker" or that needles full of the HIV virus have been found in payphone changeslots all over the country. These are stories meant to frighten or to make some kind of point.

With the advent of the internet, these stories are no longer passed on by word of mouth (maybe around a campfire), but through e-mail which means they make it around the world in a matter of hours.

Here are five of the top urban legends circulating today (one of them is actually true, though).
  1. Terrorists have not acquired UPS uniforms.
  2. Ashley Flores is not missing.
  3. If you enter your PIN in reverse at an ATM, it will not summon the police.
  4. Tom Hanks did not fall to his death while making a film in New Zealand.
  5. Mentos added to a 2-liter bottle of Diet Coke does cause an explosion (I know. I've done it).

The reason I've added is because so many Christians get caught up in these things. We get an e-mail or hear a story, believe it hook, line, and sinker, and then pass it on to every one we know. The problem is that most of these stories are not true and it makes us look stupid.

I can think of two examples off the top of my head. It's been falsely claimed that NASA found 24 hours in their computer models that they can't account for (evidently, they tried to look back in time somehow). Christians know what happened to the extra 24 hours - the long day in Joshua 10. Voila! The Bible is vindicated! Wait a minute - no, it's not, because the story is totally false. The second urban legend is that Hell has been found in Siberia (now, somebody might think Siberia is hell, but that's another story!). The story goes that as a well-drilling outfit was drilling an especially deep well, they heard screams of terror coming from the hole (for some reason, unknown to me, they put microphones in the hole). Therefore, they had to have found Hell. Again, voila! The Bible is vindicated because we have empirical proof for Hell. Yes, we have proof for Hell (Jesus taught that it exists), but it doesn't come from this piece of fiction - it's a complete fabrication.

We all receive e-mails from our friends and co-workers (at times we're asked to forward them). Some of those e-mails repeat urban legends - stories that we should not pass on to others as if they're true. And especially we shouldn't use them as arguments for the truth of Christianity. Christians are pretty gullible. I know. I am one.

The next time you get one of those stories, go over to the folks at and figure out whether it's fact or fiction. As followers of Jesus, we're supposed to be people of the truth and that even applies to the e-mails we forward and the stories we tell.

So, Conservatives Really Are Compassionate

Arthur Brooks has wriiten a book called, Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservativism. He found "that religious conservatives are far more charitable than secular liberals, and that those who support the idea that government should redistribute income are among the least likely to dig into their own wallets to help others."

What makes this interesting is that Brooks is no friend of conservatives. He says he's written his book to motivate liberals to step up and dig deep, so to speak.

Tip of the hat to the blogging folks at World.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Starbucks Backlash

I just read a good post (in addition to the comments) on an "anti-Starbucks" movement and how it relates to the church. It's interesting and worth some thought and conversation.

Praise God for Charlie Brown!

ABC aired A Charlie Brown Christmas this evening, and I, for one, am glad they did.

Charles Schultz, creator of Peanuts, had a lot to do with my understanding of Christmas. I didn't grow up in a Christian (or even church-going) home, so my thinking about Christmas was limited to Santa Claus, reindeer, and Burl Ives.

Jesus - the real reason for the season was nowhere to be found. That is, until I watched Charlie Brown! Linus' explanation of Christmas and his recitation of Luke 2 was where I found at what Christmas was all about.

Something about it fascinated me. The program was (and is still) my favorite Christmas special. Linus' part was always my favorite, too (even long before I was a Christian). I know why now. The Lord was drawing me to Himself, even though I didn't know it.

Thank you ABC. Thank you Charles Schultz. Most of all, thank You, Lord.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Isn't this interesting?

"I recently read an article in Psychology Today stating that 'reading fiction, it turns out, is a surprisingly social process. A study in press at the Journal of Research in Personality showed that frequent readers of narrative fiction scored higher on tests of empathy and social acumen than did readers of expository non-fiction. A follow-up study showed that fiction could actually hone those skills."

Until the last ten years or so, I didn't read much fiction at all. I read what I was assigned in school (including university), but very little more. As time has went by, I've read more and more fiction, although I'm still partial to non-fiction. I've realized that you can learn a lot from stories (whether they're presented in the forms of books or movies) and communicate truth and a worldview in ways you can't in straightforward non-fiction.

Just another step in the growth process.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Give Thanks for Squanto

The story of Squanto should be required reading - especially near Thanksgiving (and I hope we haven't completely blown right past it). A fabulous story!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Please don't call it "Turkey Day" (or heaven forbid, "Tofurkey Day")! It's Thanksgiving - the day we set aside to give thanks for the myriad of blessings God has given us.

Take time to give thanks to the Lord for His bountiful blessings before you dig into your meal. Think about something you're thankful and grateful for that you weren't when you first experienced it. In other words, something that you never would have thought you'd be thankful for, but now you are.

I'm thankful for the sovereignty and goodness of God. He's in control and He's good - I can absolutely count on it. I'm thankful for my wife Karen. She's a blessing from God which I do not deserve.

Enjoy the turkey and family (and football) and don't forget to give thanks.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Evidently, We're the Problem

Robert Reich, former labor secretary in the Clinton administration, thinks that those who believe in God and believe that the Bible is a revelation from God are a more significant threat to the world than terrorists.

Gary DeMar responds here (does a good job of it, too).

I wonder how this will play out in the Democratic party, especially with a number of conservative-leaning and even openly-evangelical members getting elected a couple of weeks ago? There is a strong secularist sentiment in the party that may not want to welcome them. We'll see what happens.

I would like to see Democrats take the evangelicals and conservatives in their party seriously. Don't just trot them out when election-time rolls around. The church should never be, or perceive itself to be, captive to any specific political party.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Recommended Reading

Pastor Mark Roberts is in the process of writing a series of comments on the "Unintended Lessons from Ted Haggard on his blog. Please read the last two posts (as of today) if you are a pastor or you know a pastor on pastoral pressure and expectations. Dead solid perfect - that's all I have to say!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

We Need More of This

Andree Seu writes wonderful, insightful, challenging, convicting, and powerful columns that appear in World. In the November 4th edition, her article is entitled, "Drastic in Love." She tells a bit of the story of Republican Representative Jim Ramstad (Minnesota) and Democrat Representative Patrick J. Kennedy (Rhode Island). The two congressmen meet every Tuesday night at a Washington D.C. restaurant to encourage and strengthen each other in their battle against alcoholism (they meet as part of their involvement in Alcoholics Anonymous).

Seu then quotes the comments of Samuel Shoemaker, rector of Calvary Church in New York City, after he had seen AA at work in 1935.

"The first thing I think the Church needs to learn from AA is that nobody gets anywhere till he recognizes a clearly defined need. These people do not come to AA to get made a little better. They do not come because the best people are doing it. They come because they are desperate. They are not ladies and gentlemen looking for a religion; they are utterly desperate men and women in search of redemption. Without what AA gives, death stares them in the face. With what AA gives them, there is life and hope. There are not a dozen ways, there are not two ways, there is one way; and they find it or perish..."

"The second thing the Church needs to learn from AA is that men are redeemed in a life-changing fellowship. AA does not expect let anybody who comes in to stay as he is. They know he is in need and must have help. They live for nothing else but to extend and keep extending that help. Like the Church, they did not begin in glorious Gothic structures, but in houses or caves in the earth...[An AA's] soul gets kept in order by trying to help other people get their souls in order, with the help of God...He may be changed today, and out working tomorrow - no long, senseless delays about giving away what he has got."

Shoemaker's statements sounds a lot like what the church ought to be - a life-changing fellowship of men and women who are convinced they're sinners in desperate need of redemption. Not only that, but a place where we "help other people get their souls in order." We need a lot more of this in the church today.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Website Recommendation

Make sure to check out this site! Some of the most inane, awful, and theologically incorrect statements ever made have been seen on church signs. Hate to say it, but it's true. Read 'em and weep (or laugh).

Sunday, November 12, 2006

What to Pray For

If your prayer life needs a jolt (and who's doesn't?), read these comments by John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Good Quote

This is a great quote from C.S. Lewis (from his book Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer)

"We - or at least I - shall not be able to adore God on the highest occasions if we have learned no habit of doing so on the lowest. At best, our faith and reason will tell us that He is adorable, but we shall not have found Him so, not have 'tasted and seen.' Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could never get from reading books on astronomy. These pure and spontaneous pleasures are 'patches of godlight' in the world of experience."

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Good Thoughts from Ray Pritchard

Ray Pritchard (who I enjoy reading and am challenged by) has an excellent article called "When Pastors Fail to Practice what they Preach." As a pastor, it's important that I listen to what Pritchard has to say. Thanks, Ray!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Drifting Spiritually

John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim's Progress as well as other books, gave the following checklist to see if you're drifting spiritually and becoming complacent in your following of Jesus Christ:

1. A forgetfulness of God, and of the reality that we will one day meet Him.

2. A gradual loss of private holiness, private prayer, and the curbing of our lusts and genuine sorrow for sins.

3. Avoiding the company of "lively" Christians. (They appear to be fanatical, but they actually convict us of our own complacency.)

4. A disinterest in public worship. (Even if we attend - maybe even regularly - we're not engaged.)

5. A picking of faults (fault-finding) in others.

6. Association with the godless. (Putting more value in how we appear to non-Christians than to our "fanatical" brethren, or even to God.)

Something to think about. We always have to be on our guard against drifting spiritually - just going through the motions. Remember what Jesus said, "These people worship me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me."

Monday, November 06, 2006

Ted Haggard

Pray for Ted Haggard, his wife, and his children - they're going to need it.

One of the verses in the passage I preached from this morning was 1 Corinthians 10:12 ("Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall"). We all have to be careful that we don't look at Haggard with scorn and think that we could (or would) never fall like that. Yes, we could. Even though we are justified (declared righteous by God), we remain sinful. Because of that, all kinds and degrees of sin are possible for each and every one of us. None of us can get on our "high horse" and look down on someone else. We may not buy meth or visit a prostitute, "but each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust" (James 1:14). My point here is not to absolve Haggard (he's responsible and accountable for what he's done), but rather to remind us not to drop ten tons of condemnation on him before we can utter the phrase "tsk, tsk, tsk."

Gordon MacDonald, who knows something about moral failure in ministry, has some good thoughts on the Out of Ur blog. Make sure to read the comment section, too.