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Showing posts from June, 2013

The Personal Touch

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We're really good at generalizing. If someone asks for the time and it's 3:41pm, we're inclined to say, "it's a quarter to 4." If someone's waiting for us, we often say, "be there in a minute" or "be ready in 5." And if someone asks for directions, we don't sound like a GPS. We'll say, "it's about a mile down that road."

Now are we always ready in 60 seconds or is that destination more like 7,500 feet down the road? Granted, for the most part, these approximations are harmless. But when generalizations are directed at people, we call them stereotypes. And for the most part, stereotypes do cause harm.

Consider the flurry of social media activity recently over DOMA. The liberal left has made a killing in the public eye by pigeon-holing conservative Christians as homophobes. In fact, the phrase "traditional marriage" is considered hate speech by many activist groups. As if religious notions of morality are …

Lost in Translation

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A few months ago, a good friend of mine wrote a blog post entitled Bible Translation Snobbery. And within this short treatise lies a simple premise: many people are tired of being persecuted for liking easier-to-read translations like the NLT instead of the more *cough cough* scholarly translations like the NASB or NRSV.

Now I agree that Bible snobbery is a very real issue with its root in arrogance and pride. And I agree that the purpose of Bible reading should be to deepen our relationship with Jesus, not flex our intellectual muscles. However, I disagree that the solution to this is as simple as picking the translation that makes the most sense to you. Because I believe that there's another issue at play: biblical illiteracy.

Not long after the apostles passed away, the early church grew concerned about how to maintain orthodoxy amid the uneducated masses. And back in the days of handwritten manuscripts, the easiest solution according to Cyprian of Carthage was to consolidate t…

Don't Fear the Reaper

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A few years ago, The Barna Group released a study that indicated 60% of American Christians agreed (in varying degrees) that the devil was more like a symbol than a person. As I recall, this terrified most of the church folk I knew at the time. They had suspicions that the country was taking a religious nosedive, but statistics like these confirmed their biggest fears. It was bad enough that America's morality was in decline, but one could only imagine what would happen to the church if its own patrons became oblivious to their bifurcated enemy.

The very fabric of the faith would be torn asunder as Christians everywhere would fall prey to the most insidious of heresies. Church morality would plummet faster than the 2008 recession, and the pulpit would be tasked with telling those belligerent masses exactly what they wanted to hear. Because without a roaring lion to keep us on our toes, we're vulnerable and weak. We need an enemy. We need the fear. As my sarcasm begins to sink …

The Sacred Divide

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I've devoted a lot of time recently to the repercussions of modernity on Christianity (e.g. knowledge, relationship, behavior). But possibly the most expansive modern concept we've been influenced by is the division of sacred from secular. And many would argue for its continuance based on the idea of sanctification (i.e. the setting apart of a thing to God). However, I will argue that this was not intended to be accomplished through categorical distinctions, but rather through people. To this end, I want to consider three negative outworkings of the sacred/secular divide.

1. World

The first outworking is that the Christian has been removed from the world. If you've grown up in the church like I have, you're probably familiar with this arbitrary hierarchy of Christian service:
1. Missionary (foreign)
2. Pastor (senior/teaching)
3. Missionary (domestic)
4. Pastor (youth, worship, associate)
5. Other Christian non-profits (e.g. Moody Bible Institute) Now I would never say …

Werewolves

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Money. Sex. Power.

Most people feel particularly drawn to one of these three things. Or so the saying goes. And it's true enough for me. I want power. Because I have no regard for money. Brothels are nasty. Fame and recognition are useless. And Mumford & Sons are sissies (metal is awesome). No, just like Tim Allen in Home Improvement, I always need "more power." This hasn't translated well into life, however. Try as I might, power has always eluded me.

When I left my youth group, I saw that the youth band I had left behind was disorganized and fractured. So I took it upon myself to return in a leadership capacity. And I excelled at it. My first taste of power. It felt good to exert my control in an area in which I was gifted. My musicianship already spoke for itself in my local church context as I was the son of the worship pastor and choir pianist.

But this experience was short-lived. God soon moved me completely outside of my context--not something us introvert…

Grace Upsidedown

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I will not sign that.

That came as a bit of a shock to me. There I was: sitting in my classroom at Moody Bible Institute, nodding off as we were talking about conservative America's latest attempt to wrestle the country away from the dreaded liberals. Otherwise known as the Manhattan Declaration. And out comes that statement from my conservative professor's mouth--the words like a lasso around my chair leg.

After I picked myself up off the floor, I continued to listen in amazement as he said things like "historically skewed" and an "inability to tell the full story." Here was a man who admittedly was in, "full agreement with the positions presented on the three issues covered by the Manhattan Declaration" (his full discourse here). Yet he felt duty-bound by his conscience to withhold his signature. I suppose, as some Christians would say, he's not willing to stand up for his beliefs. But this isn't about belief or courage. This is about gr…