Thursday, April 26, 2007

Psalm 95 & 96

Read these Psalms this morning and I think they lift up God in such a great way...

Psalm 95

1 Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.

2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.

3 For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods.

4 In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him.

5 The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.

6 Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;

7 for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if you hear his voice,

8 do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the desert,

9 where your fathers tested and tried me, though they had seen what I did.

10 For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, "They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways."

11 So I declared on oath in my anger, "They shall never enter my rest."

Psalm 96

1 Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth.

2 Sing to the LORD, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.

3 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

4 For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.

5 For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.

6 Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

7 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of nations, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

8 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts.

9 Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth.

10 Say among the nations, "The LORD reigns." The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.

11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it;

12 let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy;

13 they will sing before the LORD, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Holding Out for a Hero

One of the most troubling aspects of the media coverage of last week's massacre at Virginia Tech is the incessant focus on the killer. Lori and I happened to catch much of Oprah last night (it replays at 9pm here in Orlando) and the episode was on the role that the media has played in giving to the killer at Va Tech. NBC News defended its decision to play the home videos that the killer made as psychiatrists and parents of the victims chimed in on whether they think the media has overdone it with the attention given to the murderer.

One question that was asked was why are we putting so much attention on an evil person that destroyed many lives when there are some amazing stories to be told among those whose lives were taken? There were at least four of those murdered that were involved with Campus Crusade. I hope the media will speak of their faith as college students and their desire to live for Jesus. If they were really living for Him and that was the central thing of their life, then tell it! Why don't we talk more of the heroes of this tragedy instead of the killer?

One of the most amazing stories is that of Liviu Librescu, the professor who blocked the door to his classroom so that his students could escape. A Holocaust survivor, Dr. Librescu was no stranger to tragedy. It has been said that difficult times do not necessarily shape our character, but these times reveal it. At a time of shock and terror, Dr. Librescu's character was revealed as heroic and sacrificial. Of the 23 students in his classroom at the time, just one was killed. How many of those 23 wouldn't have made it out were it not for Professor Librescu's heroics?

Our society often calls people heroes. Great stars. There is a difference between being great at your craft or being nice and being a hero. Its a term that seems to be used too loosely. I think a hero is someone that willingly put their life in harm's way for the benefit of others. Dr. Librescu and others in Blacksburg that saved others fall into this category. Police fighters...lifeguards that jump into the water to save drowning victims...those in the line of fire in the military are heroes. And the three individuals who lost their lives last week because they simply wanted to put God's Word into the hands of those that hadn't read it are big-time heroes in my book.

And I can't leave out the greatest super-duper hero of all time, Jesus the Christ! He put His life on the line so that my sin and junk could be forgiven. I just hope that if I'm ever in a situation like what happened last week that I would gladly give my life to save others. And if it ever comes to that, I know that my hero, Jesus, will take care of me and my loved ones just fine.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

The Challenges of Contextualization & Reconciliation

I had the privilege a few months ago of spending a few days with Richard Twiss, the President of Wiconi International, a ministry committed to reach Native Americans with the love of Christ in a culturally relevant way. I was first introduced to Richard through his book, One Church, Many Tribes, several years ago when I was browsing through a Christian bookstore and saw this picture of a Native guy in full regalia on the cover. The book discusses how to reach Native peoples effectively through the use of contextualized ministry.

I find that there are many misconceptions when it comes to contextualized ministry and what it really means. In a nutshell, contextualization is simply presenting the gospel to a specific people group in the context of their culture by effectively using elements of that culture such as language, dress, music, food, humor, values and customs. Since every person is a part of a culture and the Christian faith is expressed by people, there is nowhere on the planet that Christianity exists apart from culture. Every expression of the Christian faith in the world today is expressed in the context of a culture.

Understanding that each and every one of use has a culture is vital for the cross-cultural missionary or minister. There has been a big problem that those of us involved in missions throughout the history of the church have struggled with. It is this: that when taking the gospel to a new people group we often forget that our culture does not have to go with it. As Twiss says, “We are all creatures of culture that are narrow-minded and ethnocentric who see only in part.” Though some may argue otherwise, ethnocentrism is not the exclusive property of white Americans. Though we (myself included) are guilty of this, other people groups also struggle with thinking their way is right…that their culture is the best…and that if everyone else would just “act like them” the world would be a much better place.

The time that I got to spend with Richard was very helpful for me as I, along with a dozen other leaders seeking to reach First Nations people with the gospel, was able to wrestle through what it means to reach individuals within their own culture for Christ. I received a recent newsletter by e-mail from Richard as he shares some of his frustrations in seeking to effectively reach his own people for Christ while also expressing his hope in being a member of the universal Body of Christ. Here are his thoughts:
“I have always been deeply committed to the idea of unity among believers in the bigger picture of things. I think a cross-cultural, multi-cultural biblical unity is a profound picture of what God the Creator intended for creation from the very beginning. This commitment has often, and at times, been severely tested as some of my views of faith and culture have not been so warmly received by my brethren. I talked with a friend a few weeks ago who told me that the Native leaders of the Native district of a denomination had placed me on their “black list” because I was promoting syncretism
I have on several occasions been crushed by the decisions of Caucasian denominational leaders who dealt so selfishly and unjustly with their Native leadership (my dear friends) over issues of self-governance, co-equality and management of financial assets and resources. I have been deeply disappointed by local pastors and missionary workers who were unwilling to consider that some of their attitudes were still very paternalistic and controlling toward Native people. I have at times been angered over the simplistic demonizing of our cultural expressions of faith by people who were largely ignorant of our ways, espousing authoritative views based on hearsay, misinformation and just plain discriminatory prejudice. 
Over a year ago Kath and I left a church that we had been attending for nearly four years. I love the pastor and people, some of whom we have known as friends for twenty years. The leadership, in my humble opinion, however, never “got it” concerning diversity, Native people and indigenous ministry. They’re not bad people, just very consumed with who they are, and committed to what they believe God has called them to. Who am I to say God has not directed them that way? So I bless them. We remain committed to unity, despite having plenty of reason to justify becoming distrustful, non-involved and critical of denominations, Anglo missions agencies and the "dominant culture" or "white church.” 
Though Wiconi maintains a certain independence legally and organizationally, we cannot, however, justify withdrawing from the Body of Christ, in terms of fellowship and active participation in the wider church. In some small way we think this honors Jesus and presents a biblical alternative to disunity, factionism and the myth of the “homogenous church.” Will I ever join a denomination, mission organization or association for reasons of credibility, status or need for a “covering?” Probably not. 
That being said, neither will I judge those who feel they should, for those, and perhaps even better reasons. This posture in no way minimizes Katherine and my life calling to develop culturally appropriate, biblical and unique cultural expressions of Christ and the Kingdom in our Native communities; and doing it in ways that communicates the love of God in the “heart-language” of Native people. Before we “check out” we hope to see a truly North American indigenous church emerge from ours, and so many others efforts. Since leaving that church we have found a nice piece of ground to grow some roots – Living Hope Church – here in Vancouver. I now get to be a “roving around” kind of “pastor-at-large” of Living Hope Church in Vancouver, whatever that means. No, not a large pastor, just a guy who enjoys a high quality of mutual respect, love and honor with the formal leaders of our church. 
Several months ago I spoke at Living Hope after attending for about a year, along with my sons Daniel & Phillip and Jacob and Jodi Trevizo dancing in full regalia with me as part of my sermrabbling (my new word to describe rambling posing in the guise of a sermon – which is what I do). After speaking and dancing at six weekend services, I/we have been graciously, honorably and respectfully received as having an important contribution to make to the life of the church/our church. It is a church that is really working hard to authentically “get it” and has made room for this Native fellow to add his secret Indian portion to the mix (my hair growth tonic). May we all find the grace of God to do what we believe God has called us to do for Him, while avoiding the same ethnocentric impulses to consider “our way” the best way, as compared to the way our missionary predecessors did, and still do. Not easy for me at so many levels.”
Richard’s commitment to reaching Natives encourages me. So does his continuing desire to persevere within the broader family of God. Just as Jesus prayed in John 17 for the unity of all His followers, we, too, should demonstrate that same commitment. But just as Christ stated in Luke 10 that He came to “seek and to save that which was lost,” we, too, must demonstrate that same kind of commitment. If we are truly committed to reconciliation in the Body of Christ, we must also show a commitment to doing what it takes to reach the lost. As has often been said, in order to truly be reconciled my culture can't be the only one represented at the table. True reconciliation involves a coming together as equals. We value one another and what each of us “brings to the table.”

To be biblically reconciled means that I do not expect someone to change who they are in order to sit at the table with me, nor do they me. As people come to Christ right where they’re at, then they can be introduced to the wonderful reality of being part of a bigger family than what they may be aware. I think my relationship with God is so much richer because I've gotten to be friends with people of many other cultures within the context of their culture and vice versa. As equal members of the Body, we esteem, value, uplift and encourage one another. Though we do acknowledge our cultural differences, they do not become a barrier to us. They instead become a bridge in celebrating the diversity of God’s design and the unique contribution that we can all make in God’s Kingdom. The marriage of contextualization and reconciliation is a beautiful thing!

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Hip Hop, Racism and Sexism

I had started to write a post that more directly addressed the role that hip-hop plays in the prevalence of the negative language in our culture that led to the firing of Don Imus. However, I didn't think my thoughts were organized well and it would be easy to be misinterpreted on much that I was saying. After all, I am a fan of hip-hop, but I am concerned about the images that are presented through mainstream rap videos and the influence that this music has on our youth. So I decided to scrap the post...

But then I came across this article which was linked to on a blog I regularly read, The piece, entitled "Are You a Hip-Hop Apologist?", is written from someone within the industry (rap artist Paris) and provides a balanced perspective without falling off either edge of the debate (i.e. Hip-hop is all good or it is all bad). Paris writes what I would want to say in a much better way than I could.

You can read the article here. Warning: There is some strong language used (i.e. swear words) so please don't read it if that would offend you.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Dealing with Tragedy

In response to the tragedy this week at Virginia Tech, Pastor Scott Wenig has written some suggestions on how we can approach times like these. Wenig is a pastor in Littleton, Colorado and shares as one who has experienced the grief of a similar event. You can read his thoughts here.

In addition, has several articles on responding to tragedy. You can go here for the articles.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Uniqueness of African Americans in World Missions

Christ's call to make disciples of all the nations is a compellling motivation for all of us who call Jesus Lord. God's desire to see worshipers of Himself represented in every culture of the world is woven throughout Scripture -- from Genesis to Relevation. Within the United States, we have been blessed with some great experiences and a wealth of resources. Part of being blessed so greatly also leads to a great stewardship of what we've been given. As Americans traveling the world, we are able to easily get into some countries and have difficulties entering others.

For those of us that are white Americans, our ethnicity may work against us in places where the gospel has gone forth along with cultural imperialism. Though most missionaries have been devoted and sincere in their efforts, there have been some that have misrepresented Jesus to the very people they were seeking to reach. Fortunately, this is not the case everywhere in the world, but it is true in some locations and it has made it more difficult for those of us with white skin to be trusted and accepted. Not impossible...just makes it more difficult sometimes.

But because of the diversity that exists within the United States in the body of Christ, we (followers of Christ) are literally able to go anywhere. Because of the variety of physical characteristics as well as other cultural and linguistic differences, we can travel to countries where we have a shared history that can be advantageous in sharing the gospel. I've seen this no more prominent than for African Americans that travel overseas. Since many in other countries have never met an African American in person, there is an intrigue in meeting someone that is black and is an American. Particularly on the continent of Africa, there is a receptivity and openness to hearing what black Americans have to say.

The following is from Shaunika, a student who was involved with The Impact Movement during her time in college in the States and is now studying abroad in the African country of Tanzania. Check out her experiences as an African American living in Africa and how the Tanzanians have responded to her:
"I feel like I should clarify someting about my last email since people seem to be a bit confused about why my roommates parents were shocked to find out I was black. Maybe shocked is not the right word...just surprised. It's because it is very rare for people to meet a black American here. Of the close to one hundred students that are studying abroad here this semester including students from all places in Europe, Asia, America and Canada only three of us are black Americans.
People usually assume we are Tanzanian when they meet us , and are always surprised to hear us speak and find that we are American. Most people just flat out don't believe me when I tell them and they assume that I must have gone to study in America and am back home now so I usually have to explain to them that I was born in America, and so were my parents and grandparents. When they finally believe me the responses vary. Some people have procedded to tell me all the slang words they know and I just laugh and tell them they have seen too many music videos. I have actually had one guy tell me "Oh, you're black American. I have never met one of you before. I used to wonder what you were like over there."
It has been a little awkward at times. for example I've come to my room more than once and found my roomates friends there waiting to meet me because they didn't believe her when she told them I was a black foreign student. They usually ask me to speak in English to prove that I'm an American. I've even come across people that I have never met before and had them say to me "Oh, yeah, you are the black American girl. I've heard about you. Another good example is that I'm taking an African American literature class in which I am the only foreign student this semester. On the first day of classes, the teacher pointed me out and told the class, "Luckily we have the privelege this semester of having an African American student in class with us to provide us some insight to our discussion."
It's not a bad thing or anything its just very interesting and unexpected. So when my roommate told her parents that she was bringing her American roommate home, they automatically assumed that if I was American I would be white. From their experience all the Americans they've met have been white. I hope this clarifies a little."
This is just one example how the uniqueness of our culture can be used in opening doors as we enter into other countries. Let us all continue to use the way God made us for His glory!

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

New Orleans Being Redeemed

My friend, Kathryn Taylor, is one of our ministry's leaders in New Orleans. Kathryn, along with a team of staff and interns, relocated to New Orleans this past fall with the dream that God could somehow use them in the lives of the city's residents and college students to make a real difference. Many individuals, myself included, have traveled to this great city since Hurricane Katrina to help rebuild homes and to share the love of Jesus with interested individuals.

However, most of us have been visitors. We went down there for a few days or few weeks, put in some hard work, talked to some people and went back home. Kathryn and her team moved their belongings and their families to New Orleans to not do ministry as visitors, but to do it incarnationally by becoming a resident themselves.

Kathryn recently expressed some of her thoughts on what God has been teaching her during this process and I thought it would be worthwhile to share them with you (with her permission). Here you go:
"Today I participated in the Crescent City Classic - the most attended and most known race in New Orleans. I say participated because even though I had good intentions of running the race, after a month of visitors, spring break, regional visits and planning, I was wiped out. It was all I could do to walk the 6 miles.

Lately I've been feeling the New Orleans "funk". It's this feeling you get when you've not had a break from the city for weeks on end. No matter how much you love this city, it's still a hurricane devastated old city and you need a break every once in a while. My last exodus from the city was in February. March was a full month and an exciting month but at the end of it I felt worn out and very down. It was funny how participating in a race reminded me of how much I have grown to love this city.

The race started down in the French Quarter. Twenty thousand people lined up to run and walk. Many people were in costume (of course they were, it's New Orleans). I ended up doing the race with my friend Melanie. It was fun to walk through some of the beautiful neighborhoods of New Orleans and talk about life and the gospel.

I've watched this crazy phenomenon in New Orleans. American Christianity was divided right after the storm - some believed that God was judging the city and some believed that God was going to open the door to missionaries who would "save" the city. I was in the second camp, but now I even realize how self-righteous and self-focused that attitude was. By God's grace, I've fallen in the love with this city. I no longer want to "save" it, I want to be a part of the redemptive thread that God is weaving in the city of New Orleans. All around me there is pain and suffering. I am no longer an outsider to that. I am sad when I see the pain of my neighbors (not the neighbors who necessarily live on my block, but the neighbors as Jesus described them). I am convicted at my lack of action, my commitment to my own comfort rather than to serving those around me. I am in love with the city - I walk down the street and I am thankful I live here. I love the history, I love the culture of celebration, I love the people and the food (well, not the crawfish). I love that I see the good in this city along with the bad. It's interesting to see what God is doing in this city - it seems that he's bringing a new kind of missionary to the city....not some one who is here to change the culture, but to embrace all that Christ would embrace in the culture and be a light to the city through loving the city.

I don't know what I used to think about New Orleans.....probably that it was a hopeless city, a place that God didn't really care much about. I must say, living in New Orleans has given me a greater picture of the celebration that awaits us in heaven. I cannot help but believe that God is crazy about this city - that he desires to redeem it! I really believe that God is using the devastation of Katrina in a way that most of Christianity never dreamed would be possible. All around me, I meet Christians who have moved to New Orleans and have fallen in love with this city - they love the being part of the culture, the life and the pain of the city. It seems that God has put his heart in their hearts! We're not here to "save" a city, we're here to live the gospel.

It seems like in Christianity we sometimes focus so much on 'getting saved' and living for heaven that we miss the in between. I am thankful to be brought to a place where I daily see the tension of reality and hope. I believe that living in New Orleans has taught me more about the heart of God than any place I've ever lived. New Orleans is changing and shaping me more than I am changing and shaping it."
Thank God for those that have sacrificially given of themselves to share Jesus in word and deed with the people of the Gulf Coast. Continue to pray for them...

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Power of Words

The old children’s saying goes, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. The recent controversy surrounding shock jock Don Imus’s comments concerning the Rutgers women’s basketball team show this to be true. As you have probably heard, in an apparent attempt to be funny, Imus referred to the Rutgers women as “nappy headed hos.” There are a number of things that are troubling about Imus’s comments, particularly the racial and misogynist undertones of his words.

His reference to the women as “nappy headed” is directly related to the fact that the women are African American. We can be certain that if he was referring to a group of white women that he would not use that phrase. For those of you that aren’t familiar with the term, it is specifically a phrase that African Americans use amongst themselves sometimes to describe their unique hair texture. It can, at times, be used in a negative connotation. In this case of Imus’s use of the word, I can’t see any other way than he was using it in a negative context.

There is a common belief that pervades our American culture that bodily features that are more European are somehow more attractive than those that look more “African.” Within the African American community, there is even talk among women of those with “good hair” and those with “bad hair.” Good hair would be that hair which is straighter (more European looking) and bad hair is that which is in tight curls (i.e. “nappy"). Because of centuries of degradation in this country, many young African American girls are led to believe that if their hair isn’t as straight, their nose isn’t as skinny, or their skin isn’t as light as the white girls they see on television, then they are somehow not beautiful. If you don’t believe me, you may want to watch this video.

I have witnessed this belief recently on television’s most popular show, “American Idol.” There are some talented African American women this season and in seasons past. But something troubling has caught my eye this year. I’ve noticed that for at least a couple of the African American women on the show, the stylists that the show employs have changed their hair dramatically. They’ve straightened it out in order to give them a more “white” look.

Why is it that none of the black women on the show seem to have braids, locks or corn rows? I know a lot of African American women and many of them have these kinds of hairstyles and they look beautiful. Why is it that the stylists, in attempt to make these women look more beautiful, feel compelled to change their hair to something else? Far be it from me to tell women how to wear their hair… but I just wonder if this is the contestants doing or the urging of some white dudes from England in order to make them more marketable to mainstream white America.

Back to Imus... Not only is his use of “nappy-headed” reminding us of this negative perception of African American features, but his use of the word “ho” to describe these women can be construed in no other way than to be considered demeaning and disrespectful. I can think of absolutely no circumstance or situation where referring to a woman as a ho would be positive or respectful. A shortened form of the word “whore” (i.e. a prostitute), it is used to describe women with loose morals. For Imus to call these college educated women who he has never met nor knows anything about, is nothing short of mean-spirited and rude.

This situation has once again raised the question of what someone from one cultural group can say about someone from another group with it being “okay.” Some have argued that since Imus is white his comments were wrong. I would argue that anyone referring to someone else as a ho is wrong – regardless of the circumstance or the person using the word. Some have brought attention to the fact that African American male rappers have been using this term, in addition to the term b*tch, to describe women for years. This is also wrong. Some rappers, such as Snoop Dogg has done in recent days, are attempting to justify their calling women b*tches and hos is somehow alright because they are African American. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is offensive and disrespectful no matter your ethnicity or gender.

As a white male, I am offended anytime I hear a woman described in the preceding terms. As beings created in the image of God, women should be honored, cherished, cared for and respected. They should not be demeaned by these hateful words. I’ve had the privilege of meeting, being friends with, and working closely with scores of African American women over the years. The women that I know are beautiful, strong and intelligent and deserve better than to be degraded with coarse talk and references.

I see part of my role as a Christian man is to watch out for and protect those that are being treated unjustly. So for any men that are reading this, please don’t ever refer to another woman by using one of these negative terms (even in weak attempts at humor). Even when referring to one woman in these terms, we are doing this to all woman. When we make negative jokes about people of one ethnic group, we are making the joke about everyone of that group. As Ephesians 4:29 says,
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Are You Related to Betty Crocker?

My friend, Sam, inspired me recently by sharing the story behind the origin of his last name and its relationship to Easter. If you’re a friend of Sam’s on Facebook, you can read it here. For my last name, a Crocker was simply one who made pottery used for cooking. So, a Crocker was someone who had a knack for cooking. Not a gene I inherited (nor other members of my family that shall go unnamed).

Since I have a unique last name that I get frequent questions about, I thought I would let you in on a little family secret. NO, I AM NOT RELATED TO BETTY CROCKER! It still amazes me that grown adults think they are so creative when they ask me the following question, in one of these forms: “Are you related to Betty?” “Is your mom’s name Betty?” “Do you have a sister named Betty?” Each time someone asks me this, they think that they are the first person in the whole world to ever to be so intelligent, brilliant and witty to ask this of me.

As children my parents had instructed my sister and I in how to deal with prank phone callers. Because of caller ID and cell phone use nowadays, my guess is that prank calls are down. But when I was a kid, they were quite popular. I may have even made one or two myself…I really can’t remember J Every now and again we would get some smart aleck that would see the name “Crocker” in the phone book and figure they would call and ask for Betty. When this would happen, our trained reply was: “No, she can’t come to the phone right now. She’s in the hospital. She burnt her buns.” This would usually get a good laugh from the caller.

In high school, I got saddled with the nickname “Betty” by my freshmen football coach. His assertion was that since he thought that I hit like a girl, that I should have a girl’s name. I was a receiver in a run-dominated offense and I guess I wasn’t the best blocker. Maybe that’s why I eventually got to be a pretty boy quarterback J

Now when I get asked by adults if I’m related to Betty (as has happened at an airport security checkpoint and the checkout line at Target recently), I say with a stone-cold, no expression face: “No, that would not be possible. She’s a fictional character.” Most reply that they thought she was real (I guess like Orville Redenbacher or Sara Lee). But, alas, she is not. If you’re really interested, you can learn all about Betty Crocker and why I’m not related to her here.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Why Good Friday is Good

Shortly after I began to walk with Jesus in college, my mom gave me a copy of the devotional book "My Utmost for His Highest" by Oswald Chambers. Since then I have read the daily entry in this classic almost every day. Here is today's entry, entitled 'The Collision of God and Sin,' which happens to fall on Good Friday this year:
"The Cross of Jesus is the revelation of God's judgment on sin. Never tolerate the idea of martyrdom about the Cross of Jesus Christ. The Cross was a superb triumph in which the foundations of hell were shaken. There is nothing more certain in Time or Eternity than what Jesus Christ did on the Cross: He switched the whole of the human race back into a right relationship with God. He made Redemption the basis of human life, that is, He made a way for every son of man to get into communion with God.
The Cross did not happen to Jesus: He came on purpose for it. He is "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." The whole meaning of the Incarnation is the Cross. Beware of separating God manifest in the flesh from the Son becoming sin. The Incarnation was for the purpose of Redemption. God became incarnate for the purpose of putting away sin; not for the purpose of Self-realization. The Cross is the center of Time and of Eternity, the answer to the enigmas of both.
The Cross is not the cross of a man but the Cross of God, and the Cross of God can never be realized in human experience. The Cross is the exhibition of the nature of God, the gateway whereby any individual of the human race can enter into union with God. When we get to the Cross, we do not go through it; we abide in the life to which the Cross is the gateway.
The center of salvation is the Cross of Jesus, and the reason it is so easy to obtain salvation is because it cost God so much. The Cross is the point where God and sinful man merge with a crash and the way to life is opened - but the crash is on the heart of God."
To read My Utmost for His Highest please go here and to learn more about the life of Oswald Chambers click here.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Early Christians

Since it is Holy Week and we are coming upon the recognition of Good Friday and celebrating the resurrection of our Savior on Sunday, it's fitting to look upon some characteristics of the early followers of Christ and the Church in its infancy stages.

This list is taken from David Fairchild's blog and his post "10 Marks of the Early Church." It is interesting to note what we as 21st century American Christians have in common with the early believers and what we don't have in common.

Here are ten things that was true of early Christians:
1. They refused to attend blood thirsty entertainment. They wouldn’t go to gladiatorial events because they believed it defiled humans who were created in the image of God. This made them appear to be anti-social. Tertullian and Augustine both write about these events in a negative light.

2. They did not serve in the military to support Caesar’s wars of conquest, which made them appear weak.

3. They were against abortion and infanticide. In this culture, both were considered acceptable. To throw your baby out on the dung heap if you didn’t want it was not taboo.

4. They empowered women by showing their value and dignity in places of learning and service which had previously been exclusively for men. Christians held women in high regard and treasured them rather than viewing them as just a step above expendable children and servants.

5. They were against sex outside of marriage. This fidelity was considered odd and against culture. Sex was viewed as nothing more than a desire like eating or sleeping. Christians held a high view of the bed and kept it pure and would not engage in sex outside of marriage.

6. They were against homosexual relationships. This was odd in a time when same sex practice was not frowned upon.

7. They were exceptionally generous with their resources. They shared what they had with one another and welcomed others in with a hospitality that was unparalleled.

8. They were radically for the poor. In a time when the poor and downtrodden were viewed as getting what they deserved, they were aggressively committed to loving and serving people in the margins of society.

9. They mixed races and social classes in ways that were unseen in their gatherings, and for it they were considered scandalous.

1o. They believed only Christ was the way to salvation. This was in a time when everyone had a god and could believe something entirely different and it was totally acceptable to be polytheists and pluralistic. Christians dared claim that Jesus was the only way and refused to bend to other gods.
Gets you thinking, doesn't it?

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Bono on Grace

I joined with a few other men from our church last night for a small group Bible study. The content of what we covered was very familiar material for me as it was stuff that I have gone through dozens of time to help others get established in their relationship with God. It is the core, foundational truths of how our sins are forgiven, how our relationship with God is established and the difference between placing our faith in Christ versus trusting our own good works.

But what is good to remember is that I will never be mature enough and be old enough in my faith to have "moved beyond" the foundational beliefs of Christianity. It is always good to revisit this basic material because it is easy for us to think we've got it down and don't need the gospel anymore. But the truth is that the gospel is for believers as well as non-believers. I need to be reminded each and every day that apart from Christ, I am a sinner dead in my transgressions, but that God's tremendous love offers another way.

Our group camped out on Ephesians 2:8,9 for a bit and discussed the concept of grace. With it being a free gift and unmerited favor, grace is something that is hard for our brains to wrap around. It just doesn't make sense that in spite of our ourselves and our own sin and shortcomings, God still offers this free gift.

When thinking about grace, my mind took me to an interview that I read in which Bono, the lead singer of pop group U2, shares about his Christian faith. While some Christians question the sincerity of Bono's faith, I think this interview clearly shows that he is a devoted follower of Christ and that he actually understands the gospel message better than most. Some highlights:
"But the way we would see it, those of us who are trying to figure out our Christian conundrum, is that the God of the Old Testament is like the journey from stern father to friend. When you're a child, you need clear directions and some strict rules. But with Christ, we have access in a one-to-one relationship, for, as in the Old Testament, it was more one of worship and awe, a vertical relationship. The New Testament, on the other hand, we look across at a Jesus who looks familiar, horizontal. The combination is what makes the Cross."

"It's a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people..."

"You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics—in physical laws—every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It's clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I'm absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that 'as you reap, so you will sow' stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff... I'd be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. It doesn't excuse my mistakes, but I'm holding out for Grace. I'm holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have to depend on my own religiosity."

"The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That's the point. It should keep us humbled… . It's not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven."
You can read the rest of the interview here.

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