Two Different Religions and American Politics

December 12th, 2015 Comments Off on Two Different Religions and American Politics

Do not misunderstand this as a political post.  It is not intended to be that.  It is to clarify something way more important than who wins the election this year.

But during political season, everybody keeps talking about who might win the evangelical vote.  Now, it is important that we recognize that evangelicals are not somehow honor bound to vote for a Christian.  As US citizens I think we should vote for the person we believe best represents the interests we want to see in the oval office.  And I am deeply committed to the idea that whether you vote or not and who you vote for – it is a personal choice and no one should tell you how or even if you ought to vote.

But winning the “evangelical vote” has been such an important piece of rhetoric in the last several presidential elections.  For this reason politicians (most commonly of the Republican variety) continually talk about their faith.

I happened across a couple of videos about the personal faith of two candidates.  If you have a few minutes and if you interested in this sort of thing.  It is really eye opening to compare these two videos.  One clearly understands the Christian religion.  One does not.

I am not writing this or comparing these two in order to get you to vote for one of them. Based on current polling data, unless something significant happens, the one who best understands Christianity will not win the primary anyway.  And that’s ok.

I am posting this because this time of year you are more likely to hear Christianity explained by a republican candidate than by a pastor.

Again, I don’t really care who you vote for. Politics is not my calling, helping people understand true religion is my calling.  My concern is that when you enter the polling booth you understand the actual message of Christianity.  Whether or not that sways your vote is irrelevant to me.  But if you want it to sway your vote, and if you want to vote for a Christian candidate.  Then please understand that not all who claim to know Christ understand the basic message message of Christianity.

After watching, before you ask “who should I vote for,” ask a much more important question:

Which Gospel do I believe? 





The Art of War 2 – Plan Ahead

June 24th, 2012 Comments Off on The Art of War 2 – Plan Ahead

26. Now the general who wins a battle makes many
calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought.

Ouch! I can have a tendency to come up with a good plan and rush ahead with it, hoping all the details will just fall into place.

Sun Tzu warns against this when he tells us to make many plans ahead of time. Apparently, the temple of Sun Tzu’s day was a quiet place of reflection. A real temple was actually set aside for the general. The general would be given the use of the temple for planning and important meetings.

I suppose in my own context, that’s a bit like the pastor’s study. Sun Tzu tells me to spend time in there making plans, expecting contingencies and planning on how to defeat the enemy.

I am called to do battle against an unseen enemy. Sun Tzu encourages me to plan ahead – carefully – about how to defeat that enemy. I think there is something very valid in that which I can learn from.

A leader Worth Following

June 16th, 2012 Comments Off on A leader Worth Following

I am finally after many years of thinking “I really ought to,” reading the art of war. I think there is actually a lot to learn from this for any leader. And I thought blogging through some of the main points might be helpful. Maybe it will be useful for someone else too.

The first thing I highlighted was:

15. The general that hearkens to my counsel and acts upon it, will conquer: —let such a one be retained in command! The general that hearkens not to my counsel nor acts upon it, will suffer defeat: —let such a one be dismissed!

this made me think of this simple thought: be a leader worth following.

Sun Tzu encourages military leaders to be wise enough to learn and grow.

It is tempting to think you have it all figured out, or at least to want to project that image. But the reality is, none of us have it all together. we need to be willing to learn something, and that usually begins with an admission that we have something to learn.

A good leader is one who recognizes that they have something to learn and never stops growing. listen to counsel and always be growing, or as Sun Tzu says – be dismissed.

A Shocking Discovery

January 13th, 2012 Comments Off on A Shocking Discovery

I was doing a little research into pop culture (one of my favorite things about my job), and I discovered something.  Have you ever heard of Katy Hudson?  She was a little known Christian singer from a few years ago.  Katy grew up the child of Keith and Mary Hudson, ministers who I might not have exact theological agreement with, but who nonetheless continue in their faithful service of helping people know the good news of the gospel.

Katy released the song below on her first album.  I really like the tune, its got a jazz element and soft melodic vocals that remind me a bit of Norah Jones.

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This song is not exactly a good representation of the musical stylings of the album (also named Katy Hudson), because the album is rather diverse and a good demonstration of her range of musical abilities.

Now if you know me, you know that I am ahuge fan of Christian singers that choose to not record on a Christian record label and either go independent or even mainstream.  Some good examples of artists like this would be U2 and the Fray.  The fray is one of my new favorites because I think their lyrics describe a depth of hurting and questioning in the world, yet a truly redemptive longing that I believe embodies the message of the gospel.

I have to say though, I cannot say the same for Katy Hudson, or as she is now known, Katy Perry.

Katy Perry. to her credit still writes most of her own songs and her musical talent is undeniable.  With 4 (or is it 5?) number one hits from her last album, there is really no arguing that the girl can sing.  I find myself in the car listening to her music sometimes and I have to say I enjoy her hooks, I love her style and her voice is still as fresh as it was on “When there’s nothing left.”

Her lyrics though, and frankly her character, deeply saddens me.

Her latest number one hit “Last Friday Night” is below.  She said she wrote this song celebrating Friday night after waking up Saturday morning having experienced much of what she sings about.   A word of caution, it is the censored version, but still could be offensive to some.

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Katy said in an interview with Vanity Fair in May that she had a strict upbringing where she was not allowed to say “deviled eggs” or “dirt devil.”  She says she has evolved from this into the person she is today.  Let me just say that I am not necessarily an advocate of that sort of child raising (whether or not it is actually the case – you can never really believe everything you read).

But I am not writing to take jabs at Katy for her own life choices or her parents for “failing” as they have no doubt been made to feel by some.

I am writing because I know that a good percentage of the teenagers in my church like her music.  I am writing because I know a good percentage of the adults in my church like her music, and I am writing because lyrics aside, frankly, I like her music.

As a church, as people being reshaped into the image of God, we need to know how to interact with this.  We cannot simply scoff and cast Katy off as some sort of evil person.  Katy is made in the image of God and her voice and her talent come from her creator.  We also cannot just enjoy the music and not talk about what it means.  More importantly, we need to understand how this tragedy can happen.

What’s the tragedy?  The tragedy is that a girl raised hearing the gospel, even singing about the gospel, would go out and have a Friday night like the one described and wake up in the morning without shame, guilt or most importantly repentance.  How she could wake up and celebrate what happened?

Jesus gives grace and mercy for every imaginable unimaginable thing we might do.  But in order to get that grace, we need to come to him and recognize that it’s him we need.  Not to do it all again next week.  There is only emptiness in these lyrics.

The emptiness of the song is believing that there is hope and joy and goodness in having this kind of night.  To wake up in the morning and not remember who you are with or how they got there might sound fun to some, but it absolutely leads to emptiness, despair and hopelessness.  This kind of tragedy happens to us when we start to believe that “Last Friday Night” is about anything other than a hopeless and empty life.  True Peace, or Shalom, is the opposite of emptiness.  This is what Jesus came to bring, Shalom.

It’s my hope that we remember this more than anything else if we enjoy Katy’s talent given to her by God, we continue to hope for her to find shalom in the faith she once sang about.


Sydney Spies and a Lost Civilization

January 11th, 2012 § 1

Have you seen the debate going on over Sydney Spies and her yearbook photo?

Apparently Sidney, a high school senior, and her mother are fighting the school yearbook committee because they think her picture is too sexy to print.

The debate goes like this: One side says a high School yearbook is not the place for sexually provocative photos, while the other says its all about self expression through art.

The debate really centers around cultural morality.  Some say that it is immoral for a young girl (still a high school student, regardless of her age) to flaunt her sexuality in such a “degrading” way.  Others think it is appropriate for a person to express who they are.  That is all Sydney is doing, since after all, she does seem to enjoy modeling.

I am personally a huge fan of artistic self expression.  It is my understanding that we live in a democratic society that holds the viewpoint that all people should be allowed the freedom of self expression.

I just think it is terribly sad that our culture has declined to the point of the debate going to these two fundamental opinions.  At one time western civilization held to the fundamental understanding that humanity was beautifully sacred.  While fallen and imperfect, we were nonetheless important enough to be redeemed through Jesus by the God who made us.

An underlying principle to which everyone agreed was that humanity was special.  Now we live in a culture where human torture and pornography have ripped away our fundamental value of humanity, and the moralist point of view seems as evil and corrupt as the other.

One Facebook post said,

It’s school not a runway or magazine. Guess that family doesn’t have Jesus. What happen to modesty. So many young people are acting like eye candy and worried about how to look to get ahead instead of brains.

According to this person, Jesus is about modesty and morality (you might even say rudeness and hatred).  It is true though, “young people are acting like eye candy.”  I saw a girl at an elementary school just the other day in an outfit that intentionally displayed her unnecessary bra strap.

Girls act like eye candy because they live in a culture which tells them that their value is in their ability to be “sexy.”  The degree to which a young girl can be sexy is her value.  Look at the cover of any magazine in the grocery store if you doubt that.

Actually, a young girl’s value comes from the fact that she is created in the image of God. But we have not taught that, we have not modeled that, and so young girls are demonstrating exactly what their culture has taught them for two generations.  Their value comes from their sexiness.

Sydney, I hope you know that you are a beautiful girl, and a valuable person – no matter what you wear or how you look.  I don’t know you, but I hope that instead of learning modesty you learn to exude that beauty that comes not from your body, which will eventually fall away, but from the creator who made you in his image and died to redeem you from the failures of your culture.

Who Is Jesus?

July 25th, 2011 Comments Off on Who Is Jesus?

I have been thinking alot lately about who Jesus was and is.  We christians come to church every week and worship Him.  Those of us who show up once in a while for church maybe think he is a guy who promises us heaven one day.  And some of us wonder if he is really an historical person at all.  I suppose there are still others who are pretty sure he wasn’t.

So with all the questions and doubts out there, who is and was Jesus?  There are many different ways to answer that I suppose.  But this coming week our church will be exploring a letter that was written by this guy named Paul who lived nearly 2,000 years ago, so I am really asking, “who did Paul think Jesus was?” 

It is worth remembering that at one point in his life, Paul killed people for talking about Jesus.  Then something happened.  He changed.  

And he wrote a letter to a church a long way away.  In that letter he said that Jesus was the first and most supreme being.  He said that everything was made by him and for him.  And he went on to say that this guy named Jesus was the one who reconciled everything to himself! 

That’s pretty powerful.  

We all live with sort of two different ideas.  We sometimes feel that the world is against us.  We think that we should get what we can out of it but that it will like a fight and we had better hold on to what we get.  This leads to the second general idea we have, that the world is not the way it should be.

This message Paul gives us about who Jesus is sort of begins to make sense if we think about it.  The world exists FOR Jesus, (I guess that means us too).  The reason it’s not right is because it’s broken.  But this message sort of deals with that too doesn’t it?  He is the one who is reconciling it to himself! 

So I guess this makes me think that what we need to do is start living like we belong to another and then ask him if we can be a part or the process of reconciling ourselves and our world to Him.  

I wonder what that might look life in your life and in mine? 

Now I understand the controversy

January 1st, 2011 Comments Off on Now I understand the controversy

I have lived in several differnt parts of the US now, and I have always been accused of labeling all soft drinks “coke” even though I don’t.  I refer to them specifically.   A Mt. Dew is a Mt Dew, a Dr Pepper is a Dr Pepper, a Sierra Mist is a Sierra Mist (even though it used to be a Sprite).  Generically and taken together, they are known to me as soft drinks.

I saw this map, and now it all makes sense.  I was raised in a portion of the country that largely chooses “other” an finds itself in the vast minority.  Wow.  So whats up now all you mid-westerners who accused me of saying Coke all the time?  Now I have my empirical data!

Boo Yow –

(click for larger image)

(Boo Yow)

What about those fanatics and extremeists?

December 18th, 2010 Comments Off on What about those fanatics and extremeists?

In Revelation Chapter 3, Jesus says to one of the churches, Was it Laodicea?  I could look it up, but that’s not the point.  He says, ” I wish you were either hot or cold, since you are just lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

I have been thinking about that a lot lately.  It would seem to be better to be lukewarm than cold.  isn’t it better to go to church on Sunday, sing some songs, listen to a sermon and help once in a while at the soup kitchen; than to turn your back completely on the gospel and ignore Jesus completely?  Not according to him.  It seems he would prefer that we be either hot or cold as long as we are not lukewarm. 

That is terribly frightening.  How many of us are most concerned about the here and now?  How many of us really are lukewarm, simply doing the things we must so we can get a “passing grade.”  The gospel says that there is only one passing grade and it comes to us freely in Christ. 

This should fundamentally alter us at the deepest levels of our being.  When we are handed the perfect record of Christ, when he intervenes on our behalf and promises us righteousness and life, we ought to be different people.  But often we aren’t. Many of us who claim to have “recieved Christ” are trying to live out a comfortable American lifestyle.  We like to say things like, “Well, I am no religious fanatic, but i believe Jesus died for my sins”

This is how we justify living exactly like everyone around us.

Jesus doesn’t call us to live like everyone around us.  He calls us to be fanatics, extremists who will give up their comforts, their safety and their peace for the sake of the gospel.  Religious zealots who will invite orphans and widows into their homes.  Wackos who will confront injustice and inequality even if it means opposing the status quo and alienating their families.  Dare I say even Bible thumpers who will graciously and lovingly point hurting people to the source of hope and life. 

If we are not willing to be hot, perhpas we should consider being cold.  Apparently there is no place in the kingdom for a lukewarm Christian. 

A Good Point About Service to the King

June 17th, 2010 Comments Off on A Good Point About Service to the King

Interesting that I often ask myself , “just how much do I have to do…” If only what I really wanted was to be wasteful in my service to the king.

I loved the LOST finale

May 28th, 2010 Comments Off on I loved the LOST finale

Beware – if you are way behind but still watching LOST you may not want to read what follows….

I know there have been some murmurs about the LOST series finale, but I loved it! Absolutely loved it.

Before I get started just let me make certain that I say I am not suggesting that the complete story is a perfect example of Biblical Christianity.  Even though I said that, some people will still think that is what I said.  It is a hodgepodge of different spiritual beliefs.  You hear that?

Ok now to what was so excellent about the story.

First, this was a wonderful artistic portrayal of redemption.

Jack’s time on the island (and indeed all of the passengers who survived the crash) was full of pain and misery.  Many of the people we grew to love even lost their lives in that dreadful place, one in particular never holding his own daughter in his arms.

The pain they endured was a part of resolving some heart issue that each of them overcame along the way.  Jin and Sun overcame pride arrogance and rage to find true love.

Claire overcame the thousand heartaches of a young single mom, Hurley found meaning at purpose near the very end, Charlie, who was once selfish fulfilled the ultimate act of selflessness, Kate the murderer watched first hand as life entered into the world and it completely shaped the rest of her days, Sawyer who was on the plane because he killed a man in a failed attempt to find resolution finally found it on the island. This list could go on and on all day.

Jack who struggled his whole life with purpose, meaning, and hope finally found it all.

And in the very end all the troubles, all the pain they each faced was obliterated by the joy they found when they discovered each other and a life where the good remained and the evil was stripped away.

At its core, this is the hope of redemption that Christians have.  We hope that at the finale of this mortal coil, the good will remain and the evil and pain will be erased.  “every tear will be wiped away.”  In the final scene, there were many tears, but only tears of joy.

I also loved the finale because it was well done (the whole series was) and true to its hope.  Did you know that the final scene was filmed right after the pilot?  The writers managed to weave all the parts of that story together to come back around.  Think – the opening scene in the pilot was Jack’s eye opening with Vincent at his side.  The finale was a truly fitting conclusion.  Magnificent piece of art with great story telling throughout.

And to all you naysayers who wanted all your answers handed to you, let me say this.  A good story will make you think.  Rarely in a true piece of art are you just a spectator.  You need to be a participant.

Time for you to participate.  Please feel free to post your thoughts here, but remember, the answers are somewhat subjective, and unknown to us since the writers did not clearly communicate every to us.

What do you think of the unanswered questions?  What is the island?  Why did the light need protecting?

What is your favorite unanswered question and your theories about its answer?