Tuesday, October 31, 2006


I think the three greatest days in the life of a kid are Christmas, their birthday and Halloween. Of course, for a children that places their faith in Christ, the day of salvation is the greatest day in their whole life -- but rarely does a little one understand this. What they do understand is presents and candy.

My previous post presents my view on Halloween. I do not think that we should celebrate the evil and dark aspects of the holiday, but I do like letting my kids dress up, roam the neighborhood and get tons of candy that I can steal from them when they're sleeping. My dad used to raid every one of my Reese's Peanut Butter Cups as soon as we got home from trick-or-treating when I was a kid (Me - "Hey, why are you doing that?" Dad - "Um...because I'm the dad"). And, as a good son should do, I am passing on the family tradition as I just scarfed down a few of my kids Snickers bars.

I know that Christians hold different views on what to do with Halloween and I respect the different perspectives. Halloween has come to us in its present form by drawing from many different elements of history -- both sacred and secular -- just as other holidays like Christmas and Easter have done. There are some positive elements to it, and, unfortunately, many that glorify and celebrate death and the occult. But like many aspects of society, we can seek to redeem the good from what appears to be evil. Lori and I have decided that we are not going to hole our kids up in the house or at church on the one day throughout the year that everyone goes to each other's houses and talks to their neighbors. Our kids are not going to dress up as witches and goblins and skeletons, but positive heroes like The Incredible Hulk, a cowgirl and...ahem...Darth Vader.

I think that Halloween is one way that we can engage the culture through the building of relationships and not setting up yet another form of Christian isolation from those we're seeking to reach. For those that choose not to participate or do something at their church, that is fine by me. I respect their reasons. But I really don't have time to debate that right now. I have some Skittles and Hershey bars to swipe...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Lessons From the Amish

I happened to be home in the afternoon a couple of weeks ago and turned on Oprah. She was describing her car trip with her best friend Gayle, which I guess you know plenty about it if you watch the show, but this was the first I had seen of it. One of their stops was an Amish community in Ohio and they talked with a young married couple about their life, especially in light of the recent shootings among the Amish in a Pennsylvania town.

It was a pretty interesting interview. Not only were Gayle and Oprah pretty surprised that they were well aware of who Oprah was and knew that 50 cent was more than just half a dollar, but they were visibly impressed with the emphasis that the Amish put on reading. They don't use many of the modern conveniences that many of us have as part of our daily lives, but they read a lot and that is how they learn about the outside world. The gentlemen said that it's not like they have something against progress and technology. They just think that the reliance on technology can distract from the importance of faith and family.

The guy pointed out that so many of these things that are so important to us and that are supposed to make our lives so much easier actually do just the opposite. He went on to say that their lives are very simple and relaxed and the people in the "real world" are the ones running around busy and stressed out. Think about it...are our lives really simpler than those 100 years ago? Of course, we probably smell better and medical advances help us to live longer, but I don't think anyone could argue that our lives are easier or that our families are fundamentally better off.

One of the reasons why the Amish have been so shocked by the shootings in Pennsylvania is because nothing like that ever really happens to them. I'm sure that this may vary from different parts of the country where they are located, but the couple that Oprah was talking with stated some pretty startling facts about their lifestyles. They said that divorce was non-existent among their people; that they knew of no one personally that had committed adultery; that most of them don't date until they turn 18 and, even then, physical interaction was limited until marriage.

This is what seemed to get Oprah and Gayle... that the people in their community actually wait until marriage to have sex! The absurdity of it! Gayle stated that a lot of people she knows would have a really difficult time having sex with only one person over the course of their life. The Amish lady responded that she couldn't imagine ever having sex with multiple people. Ole Gayle didn't have much of an answer for that.

Why is it that we mock and put down a group of people that virtually never sees divorce, has strong family ties and doesn't have many of the problems of broader society? Because they don't use computers or drive cars? Why do we look down upon them as simplistic and backward? To be fair, they do have their problems. Their separatist attitude doesn't seem to mesh with Jesus' instructions in Matthew 28, they do seem to have a works based salvation mentality and some do partake in worldly pleasures during rumspringa.

But if I'm honest with myself, I admire the lifestyle of the Amish. What would it be like to not have the clamor of traffic, the loud echoes from a T.V., or 70 e-mails waiting to be returned each day? Might I hear more from God if I didn't treat him like a microwave giving me my food in thirty seconds or less. I don't see the rush, rush, rush and busyness of our society slowing down anytime soon. Maybe we need to be intentional to step back, eliminate the distractions and return to a simpler lifestyle. I'd write more, but I've got to go check my e-mail...

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Blogging on the Web

A local columnist by the name of Linda Shrieves recently interviewed me for an article on blogging that was featured in today's edition of The Orlando Sentinel. You can read the full article here (you'll need to jump to page two of the article to read my part). I had recently written a post on the new season of Survivor and sent along a link of this post to one of my favorite writers for the Sentinel, Tammy Carter. She read my article and introduced me to Ms. Shrieves since she was doing a story on Orlando bloggers. It still amazes me how the internet has given us all the ability to communicate our thoughts to the world.

Here's some interesting facts that the Sentinel article points out:
  • 12 million American adults keep a blog and 54 percent of them are under 30.
  • 57 million Americans read blogs.
  • 60 percent of bloggers are white; 11 percent are African American; 19 percent are English-speaking Hispanics.
  • 37 percent of bloggers cite "my life and experiences" as the primary topic of their blog; 11 percent focus their blogs on politics and government.
  • 52 percent of bloggers say they blog mostly for themselves, not an audience. About one-third of bloggers say they blog primarily for their audience.

I got introduced to the blogging world a little over a year ago and I really enjoy not only posting my own thoughts, but I get a lot from reading others' thoughts also. Check out my "Blogroll" at the Crocker Chronicle to look at some of the blogs I read on a regular basis. The internet has given us the ability to communicate what's on our mind without having to publish a book or get a job writing for a newspaper. Of course, this does mean a lack of accountability in people having to back up their sources and stating the veracity of their assertions, but I like the "give and take" of posting thoughts, starting a dialogue and challenging thinking. If you think if you've got something to say, why don't you start your own blog? C'mon, join the fun...

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Friday, October 13, 2006

The Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals

Christianity Today recently listed their Top 50 Books that have shaped evangelical Christians. The books with an "*" next to the number are those that I have already read. Some introductory comments and explanation of the selection process can be found here. I'd love to hear your comments on any books that you think should/should not have been included...

50. Revivalism and Social Reform - Timothy L. Smith. The new evangelicals were rightly wary of the liberal "social gospel." Yet they knew Jesus called them to serve the oppressed. Historian Timothy L. Smith destroyed the myth of the "heavenly minded" evangelical and helped us remember our history of personal and social holiness.

*49. Knowledge of the Holy- A. W. Tozer. The Christian and Missionary Alliance pastor and mystic invited us behind the curtain and into God's presence.

48. The Hiding Place - Corrie ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherrill. The staple conundrum of late-night ethics discussions in Christian college dorms—Do you lie if the Nazis knock on your door asking for the Jews you are hiding?—was a question ten Boom lived.

47. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?- F. F. Bruce. Yes, they are. And it took F. F. Bruce only 120 tiny pages to show it.

46. Out of the Saltshaker and into the World - Rebecca Manley Pippert. "Christians and non-Christians have something in common," author Rebecca Pippert noted. "We're both uptight about evangelism." Out of the Saltshaker helped generations of fearful students (and other would-be evangelists) to loosen up.

45. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind - Mark A. Noll. Few people have accused evangelicalism of being an intellectual movement—but now we feel bad about it, at least.

44. The Gospel of the Kingdom- George Eldon Ladd. Ladd's work called a generation of evangelicals to a higher level of scholarship, and his "already-but-not yet" take on God's kingdom influenced charismatic theologians and cessationists alike.

*43. Operation World - Patrick Johnstone. The who, where, what, why, when, and how many of unreached peoples.

*42. The Purpose-Driven Life - Rick Warren. A recommended resource to have on hand when faced with a home intruder (a la Ashley Smith) or when seeking to turn around an African nation (a la Rwanda).

*41. Born Again - Charles W. Colson. As we now know, the metamorphosis of a Nixon administration crook into a prison evangelist wasn't just a phase.

*40. Darwin on Trial - Phillip E. Johnson. This Berkeley law professor's takedown of scientific naturalism launched Intelligent Design and gained creationists a level of public attention they hadn't enjoyed since the Scopes trial.

*39. Desiring God - John Piper. Who expected a Calvinist Baptist to redeem hedonism for Christ?

38. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society - Lesslie Newbigin. "A profound rethinking of missions in a pluralist context," says Wheaton College English professor Alan Jacobs, who nominated the tome.

*37. God's Smuggler - Brother Andrew with John and Elizabeth Sherrill. Brother Andrew's autobiography "instilled in me a concern for the persecuted church and ignited courage in my heart to serve those who suffer for Jesus," writes Charisma's editor J. Lee Grady.

*36. Left Behind - Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. The book launched a series that launched a marketing empire that launched a new set of rules for Christian fiction. The series spent a total of 300 weeks—nearly as long as the Tribulation it dramatized—on The New York Times's bestseller list.

35. The Stork Is Dead - Charlie W. Shedd. Shedd published his sex advice for teens in 1968 and got evangelicals talking about the topic four years before The Joy of Sex was published.

*34. This Present Darkness - Frank E. Peretti. InterVarsity Press editor Al Hsu says Peretti's horror thriller "challenged evangelicals to take spiritual warfare and the supernatural seriously." Maybe, in some cases, too seriously.

33. The Late Great Planet Earth - Hal Lindsey with C. C. Carlson. In the beginning—before the Left Behind series was a sparkle in the cash registers of religious booksellers—there was The Late Great Planet Earth. It's hard to imagine that Jenkins and LaHaye would have sold 43 million copies of their bestsellers if Lindsey hadn't first sold 15 million copies of his dispensationalist hit.

*32. The Cross and the Switchblade - David Wilkerson with John and Elizabeth Sherrill. Amazing things started happening when, in 1958, a country preacher arrived—Bible in hand and Holy Spirit in heart—in the ghettos of New York City. Christian Retailing reports that "more than 50 million copies are in print in 40-plus languages of the book that gave birth to the ministry of Teen Challenge."

31. The Next Christendom - Philip Jenkins. The Penn State professor confronted North American Christians with the shocking truth that they were not the center of the universe.

*30. Roaring Lambs - Robert Briner. Back in the early '90s, when engaging the culture wasn't the "in" thing to do, Roaring Lambs inspired countless Christian artists to become artists who are Christians.

*29. Dare to Discipline - James Dobson. In the permissive '70s, Dobson did what he still does best—calling us to focus on the family.

*28. The Act of Marriage - Tim and Beverly LaHaye. The explicit marriage manual told men how to satisfy their wives. "Fundies in their undies," joked religion scholar Martin E. Marty.

27. Christy - Catherine Marshall. A privileged city girl finds faith and a husband in rural Appalachia—sounds like a TV series to us.

*26. Know Why You Believe - Paul E. Little. Now we do.

*25. Boundaries - Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Sometimes, it's good to say no. This, in a nutshell, is the message that some ministry-weary Christians still need to hear.

24. The Meaning of Persons - Paul Tournier. Swiss physician Paul Tournier awakened us to the deep interconnectedness of the physical, the emotional, and the spiritual.

23. All We're Meant to Be - Letha Dawson Scanzoni and Nancy A. Hardesty. Scanzoni and Hardesty outlined what would later blossom into evangelical feminism. For better or for worse, no evangelical marriage or institution has been able to ignore the ideas in this book.

22. The Genesis Flood - Henry M. Morris and John C. Whitcomb. In 1961, hydraulic engineer Henry M. Morris and biblical scholar John C. Whitcomb infused young-earth creationism with new energy. They argued that the biblical deluge could explain fossils and geological layers.

*21. The Master Plan of Evangelism - Robert Emerson Coleman. Using Jesus' methods, Coleman showed the intimate, indispensable relationship between evangelism and discipleship.

20. A Wrinkle In Time - Madeleine L'Engle. Madeleine L'Engle told CT that when she tried to be a Christian with her "mind only," she ceased to believe. But then she realized that God was a storyteller. Her 1962 classic modeled the power of imagination to energize belief.

19.The Cost of Discipleship - Dietrich Bonhoeffer. "Although cheap grace has entered into the common vocabulary of evangelicals," says theologian Roger Olson, "the full weight of Bonhoeffer's exploration of true Christian discipleship has yet to be borne by many of us." Translated into English in 1949, Bonhoeffer's classic remains a devastating critique of comfortable Christianity.

18. The Divine Conspiracy - Dallas Willard. With this call to discipleship, "Willard joins the line of Thomas a Kempis, Luther, Fenelon, Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, Zinzendorf, Wesley, Frank Laubach, Dorothy Day, and other master apprentices of Jesus," wrote Books and Culture editor John Wilson in a review, praising the University of Southern California professor's "philosophical depth" and "penetrating understanding of Scripture."

*17. What's So Amazing About Grace? - Philip Yancey. With trademark self-deprecation, Yancey wrote: "Grace comes free of charge to people who do not deserve it, and I am one of those people. I think back to who I was—resentful, wound tight with anger, a single hardened link in a long chain of ungrace learned from family and church. Now I am trying in my own small way to pipe the tune of grace. I do so because I know … that any pang of healing or forgiveness or goodness I have ever felt comes solely from the grace of God."

16. Basic Christianity - John Stott. The slim volume "has introduced more people to Christ than any book I know other than the Bible," says author James Sire.

15. The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism - F. H. Henry. Henry's call to cultural engagement seems unremarkable today. That's because we took his advice to "pursue the enemy, in politics, in economics, in science, in ethics."

*14. Let Justice Roll Down - John M. Perkins. The civil rights activist got white Christians thinking about his three-pronged solution to America's systemic race problem: relocation, reconciliation, and redistribution.

*13. Evidence That Demands a Verdict - Josh McDowell. Who says faith is only for the heart and not the head? Not Josh McDowell.

12. Power Evangelism - John Wimber with Kevin Springer. Lifestyle evangelism is great, but signs and wonders are spectacular.

*11. Celebration of Discipline - Richard J. Foster. It "opened the door for many evangelicals to intentionally practice spiritual disciplines and find a connection with the church throughout history," writes Phyllis Alsdurf, professor of journalism at Bethel College.

10. Evangelism Explosion - D. James Kennedy. This more than any other book ("The Four Spiritual Laws" is a pamphlet) gave evangelicals a systematic way to share their faith. It made the question, "If you were to die tonight, do you know for sure that you would go to heaven?" standard evangelistic fare.

*9. Through Gates of Splendor - Elisabeth Elliot. The account of the martyrdom of five young missionaries at the hands of a feared "Stone Age" tribe in Ecuador helped launch a generation of cross-cultural evangelists into the world's hard places. Author Jerry B. Jenkins told CT, "The story left me feeling spiritually slain."

8. Managing Your Time - Ted W. Engstrom. Evangelicals have historically been entrepreneurs and mystics, so we have run into much personal burnout and organizational chaos. With this book, Ted W. Engstrom gave evangelical leaders permission to organize their ministries rationally and efficiently.

7. Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger - Ronald J. Sider. "God is on the side of the poor!" Sider writes. To neglect them is to neglect the gospel.

*6. The Living Bible - Kenneth N. Taylor. One of the first in a wave of easy-to-read, modern English versions of the Bible, Kenneth N. Taylor's Living Bible came out in 1971, complete with its signature green cover. Book design has come a long way since then.

*5. Knowing God - J. I. Packer. Packer was magisterial in substance, but adopted the tone of a fellow traveler. He convinced us that the study of God "is the most practical project anyone can engage in."

4. The God Who Is There - Francis A. Schaeffer. "This book, and its companion volumes, accomplished something startling and necessary: It made intellectual history a vital part of the evangelical mental landscape, opening up the worlds particularly of art and philosophy to a subculture that was suspicious and ignorant of both," writes John Stackhouse, professor of theology and culture at Regent College.

*3. Mere Christianity - C. S. Lewis. Anyone who has read this far into the list doesn't need any explanation about why Lewis's work of apologetics placed this high—right?

2. Understanding Church Growth - Donald Anderson McGavran. Although evangelicals have always been enamored with large and growing numbers (e.g., the Great Awakenings), it was Donald McGavran who gave us phrases such as "church growth" and "the homogeneous unit principle" and who made the endeavor a "science." Today, every pastor in North America has a decided opinion about whether or how much he or she buys into church-growth principles.

1. Prayer: Conversing With God - Rosalind Rinker. In the 1950s, evangelical prayer was characterized by Elizabethan wouldsts and shouldsts. Prayer meetings were often little more than a series of formal prayer speeches. Then Rosalind Rinker taught us something revolutionary: Prayer is a conversation with God. The idea took hold, sometimes too much (e.g., "Lord, we just really wanna …"). But today evangelicals assume that casual, colloquial, intimate prayer is the most authentic way to pray.