Monday, December 19, 2011

The War on Christmas & Consumerism In the Name of Christ

Photo Credit: violscraper
Syke Jethani, an editor for Christianity Today, offers an intriguing perspective on what has become known as "The War on Christmas." In a recent post, Jethani writes of the historical view that American Christians have taken of the modern holiday of Christmas and how our materialistic culture has influenced our celebration of the birth of Christ.

He says:
"It amazes me that in less than a century Christians have gone from opposing over-consumption at Christmas to demanding it be done in Christ’s name alone. The explanation may be in the numbers. Two-thirds of the U.S. economy is based on consumer spending, and 50-75 percent of most retailers annual profits are generated during December. This means the weeks before Christmas are the high holy days of consumerism. If Christians engaged the Advent season as they did in generations past, by modeling moderation and self-denial or by ignoring the holiday altogether, it would likely destroy (what remains of) the economy. 
To ensure economic survival consumers are stirred into a buying frenzy every winter with the goal of making this year’s shopping season more prosperous than the previous. Santa Claus has been the mascot of this manipulation since the early 20th Century, but if more Consumer Christians have their way the season of shopping would be inaugurated by the appearance of Jesus Christ at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade instead."
As a Christian who can be influenced by the culture I live in as much as anyone else, I hope that I can remain true to my celebration of the birth of Jesus without being unduly sucked into the consumerism that so invades one of my faith's most precious holy-days. I'm not so concerned about whether a retailer that is more interested in my money than in the birth of Jesus wishes me a hearty "Merry Christmas" or not. I'm much more concerned about whether my heart rejoices in the birth of the Christ child more than in temporal presents under my tree.

To read Skye Jethani's complete post please click here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Why Christian Growth Is About More Than A "Personal Relationship With God"

Photo Credit: emdot
Richard Beck at Experimental Theology offers some challenging thoughts in a post he entitles "The Bait and Switch of Contemporary Christianity." Beck argues that focusing on our personal relationship with God while neglecting how we treat other people is a trap for the modern Christian.

A highlight:
"The point is that one can fill a life full of spiritual activities without ever, actually, trying to become a more decent human being. Much of this activity can actually distract one from becoming a more decent human being. In fact, some of these activities make you worse, interpersonally speaking. Many churches are jerk factories. 
Take, for example, how Christians tip and behave in restaurants. If you have ever worked in the restaurant industry you know the reputation of the Sunday morning lunch crowd. Millions of Christians go to lunch after church on Sundays and their behavior is abysmal. The single most damaging phenomenon to the witness of Christianity in America today is the collective behavior of the Sunday morning lunch crowd. Never has a more well-dressed, entitled, dismissive, haughty or cheap collection of Christians been seen on the face of the earth. 
I exaggerate of course. But I hope you see my point. Rather than pouring our efforts into two hours of worship, bible study and Christian fellowship on Sunday why don't we just take a moment and a few extra bucks to act like a decent human being when we go to lunch afterwards? Just think about it. What if the entire restaurant industry actually began to look forward to working Sunday lunch? If they said amongst themselves, "I love the church crowd. They are kind, patient and very generous. It's my favorite part of the week waiting on Christians." How might such a change affect the way the world sees us? Think about it. Just being a decent human being for one hour each Sunday and the world sees us in a whole new way. 
But it's not going to happen. Because behavior at lunch isn't considered to be "working on your relationship with God." Behavior at lunch isn't spiritual. Going to church, well, that is working on your relationship with God. But, as we all know, any jerk can sit in a pew. But you can't be a jerk if you take the time to treat your waitress as if she were your friend, daughter or mother."
Seeking to grow in our walk with God through personal Bible study, prayer, church attendance and worship are all good and necessary things. But if I don't become a more loving person towards others in that process, then my relationship with God might not be as strong as I think it is. The basic message of Christianity is quite simple, actually -- Love God with everything you have and love your neighbor as yourself. The two really do go together.

To read Beck's complete post please click here.

(h/t to Matt Mikalatos for the link.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Why Hollywood Is Not The Place To Learn About Native Americans

Photo Credit: Paco Lyptic
Whenever I talk with others about doing cross-cultural ministry, one of the points that I emphasize time and time again is that building deep friendships with those from different cultural backgrounds than our own is the most effective way to learn about another culture.

As a missionary that has served in cross-cultural environments for most of my adult life, I view myself as a lifelong learner of people. In addition to building solid friendships with those from ethnic backgrounds different than my own, I am also intentional about pursuing resources that can help me learn from the experiences and the stories of members of the ethnic communities that I am learning about.

The types of resources that I often pursue are books, subscribing to blogs, digesting any newspaper or online articles that I can that speak to race and culture, watching films & documentaries and being exposed to music that is popular to specific ethnic communities. Even though many of these resources can be helpful, they can, at times, miss the mark. So is the case with the traditional portrayals of Native Americans in Hollywood movies.

Reel Injun, a riveting documentary that examines how First Nations peoples have been depicted throughout the history of Hollywood, sheds light on the failure of filmmakers to offer an accurate picture of those the movies commonly refer to as "Indians." Documentarian Neil Diamond (no, not the singer...this one, a member of the Cree tribe) interviews such notables as Clint Eastwood, Adam Beach and Russell Means in order to uncover the unfair stereotypes that have typically accompanied the over 4,000 Hollywood produced films that have attempted to tell the Native American story.  Most movies featuring a Native storyline have been written by non-Native people, often featuring white actors who wore makeup and outfits to appear as Indians. It might be funny if it wasn't so sad.

What is sad is that for many Americans, the primary source for information about Native Americans is Hollywood films. So when the bulk of these movies lean towards negative stereotypical portrayals and inaccurate historical re-enactments, most Americans simply do not have a fair view of First Nations peoples. It is why personal friendships are so important. If all I knew about Native Americans is what I saw in the movies, I would have no other option than to subscribe to cliched stereotypes and outdated depictions.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia
One of the most telling stories that Reel Injun tells is of Iron Eyes Cody, an American actor that was featured in a number of films throughout the 20th Century. If you're of my generation or older, however, you'll most likely remember Cody as the Native American who sheds a single tear over the increase in littering during the "Keep America Beautiful" ad campaign that ran during the 1970's. I remember this iconic image years later even though I was just a young boy when these commercials aired.

But in recent years, it was discovered that Cody, who passed away in 1999, was not even Native American. Though he had claimed to be of Cherokee-Cree descent, Cody was actually of Italian heritage. Cody lived nearly his whole life pretending to be someone he was not. It does not mean that his efforts to help the causes of indigenous people were insincere or unappreciated. It just means that the image that he gave of himself was not truthful. Sadly, the picture we have been given of Native Americans by Hollywood has also not been truthful.

Unfortunately, this has often been the case not only with Native Americans, but also with those of other ethnic minorities communities when it comes to how these people groups have been represented by Hollywood.  Often relying on caricatures and majority culture perceptions, we simply can't trust most Hollywood films to give complete and fair representations of traditionally marginalized ethnic groups.

If you want to utilize film to learn about a particular ethnic group, please seek to watch movies that were made by and star actors that are actually from that community. But even better than that is to seek to build friendships with members of that group. I've found that it is fundamentally impossible to subscribe to sweeping generalizations about a group of people when I've actually gotten to know people from that community. When you've sat with people, spent time with their families in their homes and listened to their stories, you can't help but grow in your appreciation and love for them.

All people, no matter what their ethnicity, are made in the image of God and are, therefore, image bearers of God. We get a small glimpse into what God is like when we look into the soul of another human being and appreciate them as another image bearer of our Creator. This is a simple reminder of the words of Jesus that we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

If you would like to view the documentary Reel Injun and you are a Netflix member, the movie is currently available for live streaming here.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Prayer From St. Francis of Assisi

Photo Credit: dawnzy58
A Prayer from St. Francis of Assisi:
"Lord, make us instruments of Thy peace: Where there is hatred, let us sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is discord, union; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy. 
O Divine Master, grant that we may not so much seek To be consoled, as to console; To be understood, as to understand; To be loved, as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; And it is in dying that we are born To Eternal Life. Amen."
(h/t to Josh Bales for leading us in this prayer this morning at Lake Baldwin Church.)

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Is It Harder For Asian Americans To Get Into College?

Photo Credit: UBC Library
According to a recent Associated Press article, an increasing number of Asian Americans feel that their ethnicity may be working against them when it comes to getting accepted into their college of choice.

Although many of us in the majority culture might think being an ethnic minority makes it easier for someone to get into college, that may not be the case as often as we think.

From the USA Today:
"For years, many Asian-Americans have been convinced that it's harder for them to gain admission to the nation's top colleges. Studies show that Asian-Americans meet these colleges' admissions standards far out of proportion to their 6 percent representation in the U.S. population, and that they often need test scores hundreds of points higher than applicants from other ethnic groups to have an equal chance of admission. Critics say these numbers, along with the fact that some top colleges with race-blind admissions have double the Asian percentage of Ivy League schools, prove the existence of discrimination. 
The way it works, the critics believe, is that Asian-Americans are evaluated not as individuals, but against the thousands of other ultra-achieving Asians who are stereotyped as boring academic robots. Now, an unknown number of students are responding to this concern by declining to identify themselves as Asian on their applications. For those with only one Asian parent, whose names don't give away their heritage, that decision can be relatively easy. Harder are the questions that it raises: What's behind the admissions difficulties? What, exactly, is an Asian-American — and is being one a choice? 
The article continues...
Asian students have higher average SAT scores than any other group, including whites. A study by Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade examined applicants to top colleges from 1997, when the maximum SAT score was 1600 (today it's 2400). Espenshade found that Asian-Americans needed a 1550 SAT to have an equal chance of getting into an elite college as white students with a 1410 or black students with an 1100. Top schools that don't ask about race in admissions process have very high percentages of Asian students. 
The California Institute of Technology, a private school that chooses not to consider race, is about one-third Asian. (Thirteen percent of California residents have Asian heritage.) The University of California-Berkeley, which is forbidden by state law to consider race in admissions, is more than 40 percent Asian — up from about 20 percent before the law was passed."
The ramifications of our country's checkered history as it pertains to race continues to affect us deeply today. To assume that hard working and high achieving individuals will always be given a fair shot regardless of their ethnicity might be a little naive...even in 2011.

To read the complete article please click here.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Why Biblical Submission Might Not Mean What You Think It Does

Photo Credit: Daniel Andre
There are many positive ways in which the Bible can be read. It can used to comfort, to encourage, to challenge, to direct, to instruct, to guide, to teach, to discipline and to train. Unfortunately, there are other ways that the Holy Scriptures has been twisted and distorted to demean others, to subjugate others and to hate others.

One of these areas in which the Bible has been misused is the topic of biblical submission. This subject relates specifically to how men and women are to relate to each other in marriage, church leadership and society at large. There are a variety of perspectives on this matter but, in general, there are two specific camps when it comes to the area of submission.

Complementarianism is the belief that God created men and women distinct from one another with differing, yet complementing, roles. For example, the man is the head of the household and the role of a pastor is reserved exclusively for men. Those that hold to this view will typically hold to more traditional roles between men and women when it comes to vocations and service in their local church.

Egalitarianism is the view that any roles both within the home and within the Church are not limited by one's gender. This would mean that a woman could be the final decision maker in a marriage relationship and that woman could hold any leadership role within the Church that she is gifted for. Egalitarians typically advocate women stepping into positions traditionally held by men if they feel they are called by God.

The proponents of both of these positions use the Scriptures to back up their views and both believe that their view is correct. My point in this post is not to argue for either position but to offer a different slant on what biblical submission truly means. Russell Moore explains in a recent post why he feels that even if one subscribes to a complementarian position in marriage it doesn't mean that women are to submit to all men everywhere.

Dr. Moore says this:
"Too often in our culture, women and girls are pressured to submit to men, as a category. This is the reason so many women, even feminist women, are consumed with what men, in general, think of them. This is the reason a woman’s value in our society, too often, is defined in terms of sexual attractiveness and availability. Is it any wonder that so many of our girls and women are destroyed by a predatory patriarchy that demeans the dignity and glory of what it means to be a woman? 
Submitting to men in general renders it impossible to submit to one’s “own husband.” Submission to one’s husband means faithfulness to him, and to him alone, which means saying “no” to other suitors. 
Submission to a right authority always means a corresponding refusal to submit to a false authority. Eve’s submission to the Serpent’s word meant she refused to submit to God’s. On the other hand, Mary’s submission to God’s word about the child within her meant she refused to submit to Herod’s. God repeatedly charges his Bride, the people of Israel, with a refusal to submit to him because they have submitted to the advances of other lovers. The freedom of the gospel means, the apostle tells us, that we “do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1). 
Despite the promise of female empowerment in the present age, the sexual revolution has given us the reverse. Is it really an advance for women that the average high-school male has seen images of women sexually exploited and humiliated on the Internet? Is it really empowerment to have more and more women economically at the mercy of men who freely abandon them and their children, often with little legal recourse? Is this really a “pro-woman” culture when restaurant chains enable men to pay to ogle women in tight T-shirts while they gobble down chicken wings? How likely is it that a woman with the attractiveness of Henry Kissinger will obtain power or celebrity status in American culture? What about the girl in your community pressured to perform oral sex on a boyfriend, what is this but a patriarchy brutal enough for a Bronze Age warlord? 
In the church it is little better. Too many of our girls and young women are tyrannized by the expectation to look a certain way, to weigh a certain amount, in order to gain the attention of “guys."
Biblical submission, when properly understood, doesn't mean that men are rulers over women. Too many men treat women as second class citizens or "less than" in the eyes of God because they are of a different gender. A wife who graciously submits to her husband is to be loved by her husband just as Jesus loved His followers, even to the point of death. A man that seeks to abuse submission to his own advantage simply does not understand the gospel of Jesus. Pastors on ego trips that play the submission card whenever someone disagrees with them probably need to find a new line of work.

One passage that is often quoted in this discussion is Ephesians 5:22: "Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord." However, it is rare that the verse right before it is also included -- "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." Ephesians 5:22 specifically speaks to husbands and wives; Ephesians 5:21 speaks to all of us.

To read Russell Moore's complete post please click here.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

What's Really Behind The Tebow Bashing?

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Beall
I am not really a Florida Gators fan nor a Denver Broncos fan but I have been following the strange twists and turns of Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow's journey in the NFL. Tebow, who had arguably one of the most accomplished and recognized college football careers in my lifetime while winning the Heisman trophy and two national championships, was predicted by many football experts to be an utter failure in the NFL.

It was said that Tebow's style of play, his unorthodox throwing motion and the previous lack of success of many QB's coming out of a pro style offense in college would mean that Tebow had no chance of a productive NFL career.  The Broncos surprised most football observers by taking him with the 25th pick in the 2010 draft and some commentators scratched their heads in what they felt was a wasted pick by Denver.

Fast-forwarding late into the 2011 season, Tebow still has much to improve in his game (as most young quarterbacks do), but his team is consistently winning games and looking towards a potential spot in the playoffs. In a league where winning is supposedly all that matters, I've been surprised by the consistent negativity that has been directed towards Tebow.

Larry Taunton has written a splendid piece in the USA Today that, in my opinion, hits the nail on the head as it pertains to Tebow. Taunton says this about the Tebow detractors:
"Now 5-1 as a starter, Tebow's critics are indignant that the Gainesville upstart didn't pack his cleats and go home the moment they declared him inadequate. The simple fact is, they want him to fail. And now, after so much ink and vitriol predicting just that, they need him to fail. So what gives? Why does even Tebow's own coaching staff and management offer so little public support? 
Jake Plummer, the latest to take pot shots at the embattled Denver quarterback, might have been speaking for anti-Tebowites everywhere when he said in an interview on a Phoenix radio station that he would like Tebow more if he would "shut up" about his faith in Jesus Christ. And with that little comment, the cat, as they say, was out of the bag. Plummer said what the commentators wouldn't say. Their dislike for Tim Tebow is not, as they would have us believe, about his throwing motion or his completion percentage; it's all about his open professions of faith and his goody-two shoes image. 
When it comes right down to it, we don't want heroes who are truly good. We want them to fail the occasional drug test or start a bar fight from time to time. It makes us feel better about ourselves. Tebow, however, doesn't make us feel better about ourselves. People like him make us feel a little convicted about the things we say and do. So we find a reason to dislike them. Or, when Tebow says that glory goes to God and the credit for a victory goes to his teammates, coaches, and family, we are suspicious. An increasingly jaded culture, we don't believe that anyone can say such things and really mean them."
As a fellow evangelical, I can't help but feel that at least some of the animosity that is directed towards Tim Tebow has to do with the openness with which he talks about his faith. It seems to me that Taunton is onto something here. The amount of criticism that Tebow has received is simply not commensurate with the winning ways of his team. There has to be something else beyond just football to cause so many "experts" to be so fixated on Tebow and I think Taunton has it pegged.

When it comes down to it, Tim Tebow is a winner, is well-liked by his teammates and is someone, from all appearances, that lives a life that is consistent with the beliefs he professes. From my perspective, I wish more professional athletes were like Tim Tebow and I find myself rooting him on as the season progresses and frustrated analysts seek to find new ways to justify their negative views towards him. Tim Tebow is far from perfect but I hope he finds years of success in the NFL.

To read Larry Taunton's complete article please click here.  

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Combating Latina Negative Stereotypes on Television

Photo Credit: roniweb
Although Hispanics and Latinos now make up over 16% of the U.S. population, they remain woefully underrepresented on our country's most popular television shows. Hiispanics, especially when it comes to Latinas, featured on prime-time shows often fit narrow, stereotypical roles.

Melissa Castillo-Garsow addresses this issue:
"A 2008 study published in Human Communication Research found that Latinos continue to be hugely underrepresented on primetime television - at they time, they were 3.9% of the television population and 12.5% of the U.S.population. Latina characters were generally more likely to have the following traits than white or African-American characters: “addictively romantic”, “sensual”, “sexual” and “exotically dangerous.” 
These researchers also found that in comparison to characters of other races, Latinas were the “laziest”, “least intelligent” and most “verbally aggressive.” 
But what really bothers me about the roles of Adrian on “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” Alice on “Hellcats” and Santana on “Glee,” is that these are shows marketed towards young audiences – teens and younger – who are still forming their impressions of the world. It makes me wonder who is watching, taking in and possibly acting on these stereotypes. 
Worst of all, Adrian, Alice and Santana are not stupid, or lazy, either. They are actually the cream of the crop – talented girls who excel at school, art or sports, representing real possibilities at diversifying the portrayals of Latina women in the media. Even so, they are still the sluts, still the manipulative characters that antagonize the likeable white character."
Castillo-Garsow points to America Ferrara's role in the ABC series, Ugly Betty, as an example of a stereotype breaking role for a young Latina. Ugly Betty, which left the air last year, helped to present a more complete and accurate portrayal of a Hispanic woman without overly sexualizing her or placing her in a domestic help role.

While it can be argued that some of these same stereotypes can be applied to white television characters, there is a plethora of personalities and characteristics, both positive and negative, that make up the complexity of majority culture television roles. The same can't necessarily be said for people of color. Television still has a ways to go in accurately representing the diversity that is in our country without playing to cliche and inherited stereotypes.

To read Ms. Castillo-Garsow's complete article on please click here.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

How Are Broken People Different Than Proud People?

Photo Credit: ashley rose,
There are few books that I have found as personally convicting as Nancy Leigh DeMoss's book, Brokenness: The Heart God Revives. DeMoss goes into great detail about what makes a person's heart proud and how brokenness before God and others is a necessary reality in order to truly experience personal revival.

DeMoss recounts the story of the revival that happened among Campus Crusade staff out during our staff training in Colorado during the summer of 1995. I didn't join the staff of Campus Crusade until a few months after this happened so I wasn't there, but DeMoss shares about how God met all those present in a deep way. Sincere awakening happened among those present as many people confessed and repented of their sins against God and others.

Contrary to what some may think, those of us in vocational Christian ministries such as pastors and missionaries struggle with all the sins everybody else does and our lives are not perfect. We need the same Savior, Jesus, that everyone does and we, too, need to experience the gospel on a daily basis. DeMoss provides a list of the different characteristics of "Proud People vs. Broken People." There are over thirty areas on the list so I won't list them all, but here is a sampling:

  • Proud people focus on the failures of others; broken people are overwhelmed with a sense of their own spiritual need.
  • Proud people have a critical, fault-finding spirit and look at everyone else's faults with a microscope, but their own with a telescople; broken people are compassionate and can forgive much because they know how much they have been forgiven.
  • Proud people are self-righteous and look down on others; broken people esteem all others better than themselves.
  • Proud people have to prove that they are right; broken people are willing to yield the right to be right.
  • Proud people desire to be served; broken people are motivated to serve others.
  • Proud people desire self-advancement; broken people desire to promote others.
  • Proud people have a drive to be recognized and appreciated; broken people have a sense of their own unworthiness and are thrilled that God would use them at all.
  • Proud people feel confident in how much they know; broken people are humbled by how very much they have to learn.
  • Proud people are concerned about the consequences of their sin; broken people are grieved over the cause, the root of their sin.
  • Proud people compare themselves with others and feel worthy of honor; broken people compare themselves to the holiness of God and feel a desperate need for His mercy.
  • Proud people don't think they need revival, but that everyone else does; broken people continually sense their need for a fresh encounter with God and for a fresh filling of His Holy Spirit.
  • I don't know about you, but after reading this list, I'm confronted with the fact of how filled with pride I can be. I frequently blame others instead of accepting my own wrongs. I want to be served instead of serving others. I desire to be recognized above others. I justify my own sin while wanting the sins of others to be exposed. I can assume myself better than others but utterly fail the test when compared with God's standard. We all need to pray more consistently that God would root out the pride and sin in our hearts and replace it with brokenness, humility and grace.

    To order your own copy of this book you can find it here.

    Thursday, November 17, 2011

    The Danger of Becoming an Internet Busy-Body

    Photo Credit: Internet Society
    If you spend a similar amount of time online as I do, you are also at risk of becoming an "Internet Busy-Body." What is that you ask? Trisha Wilkerson writes about this type of person as one who spends an inordinate amount of time online with no real purpose -- just surfing the web, bumping around from site-to-site, wasting time by ingesting massive amounts of trivial news and random updates that don't necessarily serve any real purpose.

    Wilkerson says this:
    "When was the last time you found yourself going around from house to house being idle? Or, perhaps calling or texting too many friends in one day? Does boredom lure you in to busy-bodying? What do you gain by knowing more stuff? When does being curious distract your heart away from what God wants you to focus on? 
    The sin of the busy-body is often when desires are disappointed and we either demand or settle for the pleasure of knowing others’ business. Instead of being connected relationally to God and people, we slip into false intimacy and gather knowledge that doesn't grow us, but instead wastes time. Like greed or lust, busy-bodying is a thirst for more. We are saying to God that he doesn’t satisfy our hearts."
    This is a helpful reminder that although this is much that is positive about our ability to connect with another and learn new information on the Internet, there is also the temptation to flutter away significant amounts of time each week by wasting time online. We can all-too-easily trade the realities of our seemingly boring and mundane lives for the salacious and exciting news of celebrities and others we don't know.

    While there is certainly a place for entertainment and recreation, we should be concerned if we find ourselves spending more time living vicariously through the lives of others online than we do seeking to become better people ourselves who are growing closer to God and who connect in healthy relationships with others in real life.

    To read Trisha Wilkerson's complete post please click here.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    Sinclair Ferguson on The Holiness of God

    Photo Credit: Andre Maceira
    From Sinclair B. Ferguson's, A Heart for God:
    "What does the Holiness of God mean? It is this: His holiness is an attribute of God that encompasses all of his other attributes. It is His "God-ness." When we speak of God's holiness we are speaking of His purity, power, perfection, all-sufficiency, eternality, immutability, transcendence, omnipresence, omniscience, righteousness, wisdom, goodness, mercy, sovereignty, faithfulness, love. It is God's holiness that makes Him separate, sacred and above all other things. Nothing can be compared to Him. God's holiness means He is separate from sin. But holiness in God also means wholeness. God's holiness is His "God-ness." It is His being God in all that it means for Him to be God. To meet God in His holiness, therefore, is to be altogether overwhelmed by the discovery that He is God and not man."
    (h/t to Derrick Grow for the quote)

    Friday, November 11, 2011

    Chevy Chase on the Downside of Fame

    Photo Credit: Alan Light
    I am currently reading Tom Shales & James Andrew Miller's book, Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, a book of interviews with those associated with the show during its nearly forty years of existence.

    I came across the following quote from Chevy Chase, a breakout star from SNL's inaugural season who went onto become one of the biggest comedic movie stars of the 1980's. Having personally gone from obscurity to fame seemingly overnight when SNL became a breakout hit in 1975, Chase says this about fame:
    "I think if there is one perception that the public feels about people who become famous, it's that it is a great, wonderful, marvelous, magical thing. And that's true up to a point. But in fact it's also a very, very frightening thing, because it's one of the most stressful things. There's a certain amount of post-traumatic stress involved in being regular guy and then suddenly an extremely famous one.
    By and large, people who are looking for some sort of immediate gratification to being with, some validation of what their identity is, who they are, some acceptability. They're not novelists who are waiting after ten years to see how they did. They want it right away. They're children, basically. And in all children there's this reservoir of self-doubt and guilt and sense of low self-esteem, I think. And so one lives with this kind of dualism, this disparity between the marvelous magic of becoming accepted by so many so fast and, at the same time, a lingering sense that one doesn't deserve it and sooner or later will be found out."
    Fame is fleeting for most who find it and most people will never achieve the kind of recognition that television and film stars find. But true satisfaction and meaning is not found in the applause we get simply for making people laugh or by being really good at pretending to be someone we're not.  We can take comfort in knowing that there is a God who knows everything about us and still offers a love to us that is not based on our performance. To find out more about this God, please click here.

    Thursday, November 10, 2011

    Tim Keller on Marriage

    Photo Credit: 19melissa68

    Our society is currently grappling with the meaning of the institution of marriage. We're told that one out of every two marriages fail. We celebrate reality television unions based more on celebrity than that of commitment. And here in 2011, we find that even the very definition of marriage is being re-examined.

     So what is the purpose of marriage? Dr. Tim Keller, an author and pastor in New York City, sheds some light on this subject in his new book, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God. In a recent television interview, Keller expounds on his belief on the institution of marriage. You can watch the video here.
    Dr. Keller offers a counter cultural definition of why marriage exists. It is much more than emotional love, although it certainly includes that. At its heart, marriage is complete commitment to another person and with that commitment comes a freedom to be completely oneself with another. It is a beautiful illustration of God's commitment to those that He is in covenant relationship with and we humans get the opportunity to get a small taste of God's view of us through our experience of the marriage covenant. It is love in its purest form.

    Wednesday, November 09, 2011

    World Missions & Western Guilt

    Photo Credit:
    royalconstanstine society
    We missionaries from the West often get a bad rap in the increasingly secularized culture in which we live. Because of shameful aspects of our past such as the Crusades, Western colonialism and the African slave trade which some missionaries contributed to, those of us that travel to other cultures to tell people about Jesus can find ourselves apologizing for the calling we feel that God has given to us.

    In our efforts to be culturally sensitive, we may shy away from the verbal proclamation of the gospel message of Jesus and instead focus on humanitarian aspects of mission such as provide food, housing and clean water for those in need. While these things are good and appropriate for missionaries to participate in, our guilt over past atrocities committed in the name of Jesus may cause a hesitation in identifying ourselves as Christians who believe the message we have is needed by all. Western guilt can drive much of what exists in Christian missions today but it doesn't have to be that way.

    In a recent article for Christianity Today, Bishop Hwa Yung challenges Western missionaries to not be driven by unhealthy guilt but to be compelled by the gospel of Christ. A highlight:
    "We've witnessed many conquests and imperial expansions throughout world history. Many of these were done in the name of religion. But I am not aware of a society that has self-critically developed a guilt complex as deep and extensive over past mistakes as today's West. One can easily name a number of non-Western societies and nations that have practiced territorial expansions and various oppressions in the name of religion or national interests. In which of these do we find serious wrestling with guilt? I am not saying those from other cultural and religious traditions aren't able to develop guilt complexes. I am saying that, outside Western culture shaped by a Christian history, I do not see evidence of such a complex on a similar scale. 
    The point is this: The very fact of Western guilt may be one of the supreme evidences for the enduring validity of the gospel in the post-Christian West. For it shows that the gospel has the power to shape the conscience of a culture, even when its propositional claims have been forgotten or largely rejected by that culture. Seemingly, despite being abandoned by many Westerners, the gospel continues to simmer in an unquenchable manner in a society that once acknowledged Christ. 
    What do we conclude from this? That yes, Western guilt should lead to repentance for presumptuous, insensitive, ethnocentric, and triumphalistic missions. The wrong conclusion, however, is to suggest that we must forgo Western missions because such missions have lost integrity. The very guilt that troubles the Western conscience over past failures points to the moral power and enduring validity of the gospel. Without this burden of guilt, which the Spirit imparts, this world would be far more cruel, heartless, unjust, and oppressive than it is. Only when our hearts and our cultures have responded to the call of Christ and experienced the work of the Spirit can such a conscience develop on the sort of scale that we find in the West. Thus, the Western guilt complex properly understood is also a profound call to humble confidence and boldness in mission."
    For sincere missionaries not seeking to convert others to their own culture but to simply introduce them to a God that makes Himself known in all cultures, Yung's words are a comfort. Many missionaries have confused their calling and attempted to force new believers to adopt the culture of the missionary. A good missionary knows that the gospel of Jesus does not exist in just any one culture or people group but it has the power to flourish and prosper within any culture on the planet.

    Though the gospel message should never change, how it gets expressed and how it gets delivered should always adapt to the culture in which it is being lived out. It is possible to celebrate and appreciate my own culture while, at the same time, celebrate and appreciate the culture of others. The God of the Bible is not limited to any one culture but He expresses Himself in all cultures. I need not be ashamed of my culture nor should I presume it upon others. As a missionary, my calling is to introduce others to the Jesus of the Bible and to step aside so that that same Jesus can make Himself known within that individual's life and the culture in which they live. There is no need to feel guilty when that is my motive.

    To read the complete Christianity Today article please click here.

    Monday, November 07, 2011

    John Piper: A Recovering Racist Changed By The Gospel

    Photo Credit: Micah_68
    Dr. John Piper is a renowned pastor, author and speaker that is considered by many to be among the country's top Christian leaders. But in a newly released book, Piper confesses to the racism that infiltrated his heart while growing up in a segregated South in the midst of the American Civil Rights movement.

    In Bloodlines: Race, Cross and the Christian, tackles a topic head-on that few of his peers in conservative, evangelical circles are willing to address -- racism. Piper adeptly uses the Holy Scriptures to argue that not only is the Christian God opposed to the racism that has so tainted our land but that He cares deeply for people of all cultures.  By courageously sharing his own journey on this road, Piper demonstrates that the gospel of Jesus can transform hearts in deep and undeniable ways.

    While I am quite supportive of this book and would encourage you to read it, I do have one glaring concern with the potential for how it is being received within certain corners of evangelical and, more particularly, Reformed Christian circles...

    On one hand, I am unbelievably encouraged that a white Christian leader of Piper's stature has chosen to write so explicitly about a topic that so many of us white American Christians would wish to simply go away. On the other hand, I am troubled that a number of people seem to be promoting this book as the first effort that a Christian has ever made to address Christianity, the Bible and racism.

    Though Piper's work is theologically rich and plentifully backed up by Scripture, his is not the first to do so.  There are a number of solid Christian leaders that have written on the same subject over the years but have essentially been ignored or dismissed by some of the same types of people that are champions of Piper's book because they don't subscribe to the same systems of theology or have a different cultural background.

    I am excited about the potential that Bloodlines has to influence a generation of Christians that love John Piper but don't expose themselves to many writers of color or those outside of their narrowly defined theological bubbles.  These individuals may be led to consider issues that they never have before and for that I am grateful. Racism has affected our lives as American and as individuals in ways that few other sins have.

    Brave Christians need to be willing to look within our own hearts to recognize the sin that lurks within and be obedient to God to address this first in ourselves and then in the society around us. I agree with Piper that it is the gospel of Jesus Christ that is the antidote to the disease of racism. It's just unfortunate that so many Christians feel like we're not infected.

    To read Dr. Tim Keller's introduction to Bloodlines please click here.

    For a moving video in which John Piper shares about his journey with racism please watch this video below.

    Bloodlines Documentary with John Piper from Crossway on Vimeo.

    Friday, November 04, 2011

    Making A Positive Impact Through Coaching Youth Sports

    My football team from last year
    Upon graduation from high school and entering college in the fall of 1991, there were two things I wanted to do with my life career-wise. I wanted to be an elementary school teacher and a coach. I enjoyed the satisfaction that came with teaching children and having enjoyed participating in multiple sports throughout my childhood and youth, I particularly enjoyed the combination of teaching and athletics that coaching brings.

    I had the chance to coach junior high school football and basketball while in college and looked forward to the opportunity to potentially coach as a profession. But God had other plans for me and led me into Christian ministry with college students. The chance to coach athletics didn't really present itself for a number of years after college but I was able to get back into the game several years ago due to my son's participation in a league near our home.

    I have found coaching flag football and basketball in an Upward league especially rewarding. Upward is a Christian-based sports league that teaches children the importance of sportsmanship, teamwork and positive attitude. It also places competition in its proper perspective by limiting the amount of practice time that each team has and ensures that each child gets an equal amount of playing time. It's been a joy coaching in a league that recognizes that athletic competition can be fun without having a win-at-all-costs attitude.

    The New York Times recently wrote of the difference that positive coaching can make in the lives of youngsters. David Bornstein writes:
    "Coaches can be enormously influential in the lives of children. If you ask a random group of adults to recall something of significance that happened in their fourth or fifth grade classroom, many will draw a blank. But ask about a sports memory from childhood and you’re likely to hear about a game winning hit, or a dropped pass, that, decades later, can still elicit emotion. The meaning that coaches or parents help young people derive from such moments can shape their lives.

    But today’s youth coaches often struggle to provide sound, evidence-based, and age-appropriate guidance to players. Part of the problem is that of the 2.5 million American adults who serve as volunteer coaches for youth sports less than 10 percent receive any formal training. Most become coaches because their kid is on the team ― and they basically improvise. I did this in soccer and, through my over-eagerness, almost destroyed my then-6-year-old son’s delight for the game.

    But a bigger problem is that youth sports has come to emulate the win-at-all-costs ethos of professional sports. While youth and professional sports look alike, adults often forget that they are fundamentally different enterprises. Professional sports is an entertainment business. Youth sports is supposed to be about education and human development.

    That’s why it is so disturbing that, over the past two decades, researchers have found that poor sportsmanship and acts of aggression have become common in youth sports settings. Cheating has also become more accepted. Coaches give their stars the most play. Parents and fans boo opponents or harangue officials (mimicking professional events). They put pressure on children to perform well, with hopes for scholarships or fulfilling their own childhood dreams. Probably the most serious indictment of the system is that the vast majority of youths ― some 70 to 80 percent ― drop out of sports shortly after middle school. For many, sports become too competitive and selective. In short, they stop being fun."
    Sports can teach kids a number of important life lessons and they can be a tremendous way to teach kids how to be humble winners and gracious losers. But they don't need over-competitive adults spoiling the fun. Parents and coaches have the opportunity to provide a memorable, fun experience for kids through participation in athletics. But they can also take something that used to be fun for a child and ruin it through too high of expectations and not letting kids be kids.

    While growing up, I had the privilege to play for many very good coaches and a few bad ones. I seek to model the things I learned from my good coaches and do the opposite of those who had a skewed perspective on what is most important in life. Simply put, the number one goal for someone who is coaching youth sports is to provide their players with a fun experience. Kids have fun by improving as a player, by coming together as a team, by doing things they didn't think they were capable of and by just getting to play a sport they love. I'm grateful that, hopefully, I help kids get to enjoy sports the way I did as a kid.

    To read the complete New York Times article please click here.

    (h/t to Linda Perukel for the link.)

    Tuesday, November 01, 2011

    Halloween Fun 2011

    The Avengers - Thor, Captain America & the Incredible Hulk

    My little pop star

    One proud dad

    Our pumpkin creations:
    Detroit Tigers, Cookie Monster, Owl and Christian fish & Cross

    Wednesday, October 26, 2011

    Halloween, Culture & Bad Costume Ideas

    Photo Credit: &y
    "Thinking about donning a kimono to dress like a geisha for Halloween, or a Mexican mariachi suit?

    Students from Ohio University have a message for you: "We're a culture, not a costume."

    With ethnic and racial stereotypes becoming increasingly popular Halloween costume themes, members of the school's Students Teaching About Racism in Society are launching a campaign to make revelers think twice before reducing a culture to a caricature, the group's president said.

    Posters from the campaign are expected to go up on the Athens, Ohio, campus Wednesday. Meanwhile, the images are making the rounds online, raising debate over whether it's ever OK for people to paint their faces black, impersonate a racial stereotype for fun, and where to drawn the line.

    It's a seasonal point of controversy, but even after widely publicized controversies such as the "Ghetto Fab" wig at Kohl's and Target's illegal alien jumpsuit, costumes of stereotypes abound. On Google's shopping section, several pages of Mexican costume ideas are available, from gauchos and "Mexican donkey costumes" to sexy serapes and tequila shooter girls.

    The ad campaign from Ohio University show students holding photos of different racial and ethnic stereotypes in costume: an Hispanic guy with a picture of the Mexican donkey costume, an Asian girl with an image of a Geisha, a Muslim student with a photo of a white guy wearing a traditional ghutra and iqal over his head, bombs strapped to his chest.

    "During Halloween, we see offensive costumes. We don't like it, we don't appreciate it. We wanted to do a campaign about it saying, 'Hey, think about this. It's offensive,'" said senior Sarah Williams, president of STARS.

    "The best way to get rid of stereotypes and racism is to have a discussion and raise awareness, which is what we want to do with this campaign," said Williams, who is black and plans on dressing as singer Janelle Monae for Halloween.

    The most obvious offense occurs when someone who's not black decides to go blackface, because of the historical context, she said. But the message applies to all races and stereotypes -- and not just during Halloween.

    The dean of students fully supported the campaign, calling it a "clean, succinct" way of delivering an important message.

    "We've always tried to get a handle on what it means to be thoughtful and appropriate when it comes to talking to students about choosing costumes and making the best decisions for celebrating Halloween," Ryan Lombardi said.

    "I think it's a clean way of raising awareness of how the costumes you choose might be offensive. In many cases, students aren't doing it maliciously, but they might not realize the consequences of their actions on others."
    If you're thinking about dressing up as someone from another culture for Halloween, please reconsider. It may not be as funny as you think.

    To read the complete article please click here.

    Thursday, October 20, 2011

    Leadership, Humility & Sins of Omission

    Photo Credit: The_Warfield
    From Patrick Lencioni:
    "See, in most organizations, the biggest problems arise not because leaders are actively promoting the wrong behavior, but rather because they’re passively doing so by allowing people to get away with this behavior without impunity.

    The most common reason that leaders commit sins of omission is simply because they just don’t feel comfortable confronting people about what they are or are not doing. Instead, they look the other way and hope that the problem goes away. And so, when they see that the problem has spread throughout their organization, they really have no one to blame but themselves. This is a moment of great humility. And a moment of truth.

    Great leaders, like great parents, will grit their teeth and accept the painful reality that they are almost always the reason that something is awry in their organizations. They’ll accept the pain of being humbled and set themselves on a course of correction. In the end, their egos may be temporarily bruised but the organizations they lead will improve. Poor leaders, on the other hand, will try to protect their egos by continuing to blame others. Ultimately, their organizations will suffer, and their egos will get much bigger bruises, the kind that last a long time."
    To read the complete article please click here.

    (h/t to Greg Hersey for the link)

    Sunday, October 16, 2011

    Michael Vick: Can He Ever Be Forgiven?

    Photo Credit: warpafx
    ESPN: The Magazine took an interesting approach with its NFL preview issue this year by centering the magazine around the resurgence of Michael Vick, his impact on the NFL and our society. Several articles explored Vick's upbringing, his influence on the game of football and his involvement in dog fighting and his subsequent time in prison.

    One article, "The Dog in the Room: A lot of people will never forgive Michael Vick. A lot of people wonder why, too." by David Fleming, particularly interested me as it examined our culture's view of pets, especially dogs, and why Vick is so vilified in some pockets of our society.

    Fleming writes:
    "In the fight for sole possession of the moral high ground, the fierceness of Vick's supporters and foes often leads to a complete dismissal of the opposition's valid points. For some African-Americans, a suspicion that somewhere along the way this increased devotion to animals directly correlates to a decreased respect for humans has hardened into excusing Vick of any wrongdoing altogether. There are cries of racism when perhaps speciesism may be more accurate. At the same time, animal rights activists can seem to be indulging their misanthropic side. Pets are easy to love -- humans, not so much.

    This blurring of boundaries between the welfare of humans and animals is at the heart of Vick's pariah status. In this country, almost 40 million dog owners consider their pets to be a part of the family. A 2001 survey of pet owners revealed that 83 percent referred to themselves as their animals' "mommy" or "daddy." That's one reason that when Vick pleaded guilty to managing a dogfighting ring, people responded as if he had serially murdered children. "Vick should never ever, be publicly supported again -- ever," said Simon Cowell of American Idol fame. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a public letter to the NFL titled "Is Michael Vick a Clinically Diagnosable Psychopath?" White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle admitted in an interview with to openly rooting for Vick to get hurt. "Some things are considered sacred in our culture, and they tend to cluster around the defense of the innocent such as animals and children," says veterinarian and USA Today columnist Patty Khuly. "There are a lot of pitfalls in directly comparing animals and babies, but the need to defend them comes from the same place."

    In December of last year, just as Vick was making a run for MVP (he lost to Tom Brady), pundit Tucker Carlson appeared on Fox News and declared that the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year "should have been executed" for his crimes. The outrageous statement was denounced so quickly (even by Carlson) that it denied us the chance to examine the hypocrisy and moral paradoxes behind Carlson's -- and our own -- viewpoints on animal cruelty. For starters: Did Carlson also believe his stepmom should be put to death? She is, after all, the heir of Carl A. Swanson, founder of Swanson frozen foods -- a company that in its heyday slaughtered hundreds of millions of chickens. "People should look at what they're eating and what they're spending their dollars on and what kind of animal abuse they themselves are supporting," says Singer. "And if they haven't taken a good look at that, I don't think they have much right to criticize Vick."

    The same night Carlson went after Vick, the TV was awash with Old Spice deodorant commercials starring Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. "Women want me, men want to be me," said Lewis. Surreal, considering that less than 10 years ago the pitchman stood in an Atlanta courtroom and pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in a double stabbing murder following Super Bowl XXXIV. The reason Vick's crimes continue to stay in the spotlight while Lewis' history or Ben Roethlisberger's alleged acts of sexual misconduct don't is that there are at least 40 times as many animal lovers as there are NFL season-ticket holders. And their pets have become the antidotes to something Mother Teresa described as the most terrible poverty of human existence: loneliness. "I don't know if dogs are sacred. But so many people have these personal relationships with them," says Singer. "They are very loyal animals, very uncritical animals. Because of that people can't imagine doing to them the kinds of things that Vick did."
    Vick's case has raised all sorts of issues about which animals should be protected and which shouldn't. For example, would we feel the same about him if he had done the things he did to chickens or cows? Some people have questioned whether a person like Vick can be truly rehabilitated. Can he?

    Since I'm a firm believer that those that have done horrible things to people can be forgiven then I have to believe that Michael Vick can be forgiven. He has admitted what he did was wrong. He has done his time. He's seeking to help educate others of the horrors of animal cruelty. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and trust that his remorse is sincere. What Vick did was inexcusable but I wonder why some of us are more troubled by what he did than the crimes that are committed towards our fellow humans that don't affect us as deeply. It's something to think about it...

    To read the complete ESPN article please click here.

    Thursday, October 13, 2011

    Money Can't Buy You Love

    Photo Credit: brandon king
    "I'll give you all I got to give if you say you love me too/
    I may not have a lot to give but what I got I'll give to you/
    I don't care too much for money, money can't buy me love
    " ~ The Beatles

    Can money buy you love? Apparently not. Money may enable you to get more stuff but it won't necessarily help your relationship. From USA Today:
    "Researchers have found that focusing on money and possessions can take a toll on couples' happiness and stability.

    In conducting the study, investigators from Brigham Young University analyzed relationship evaluations completed by more than 1,700 married couples across the United States. The participants were asked how much value they placed on "having money and lots of things."

    The study, published in the Oct. 13 issue of the Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, found that couples who believe that money is not important scored up to 15 percent higher on marriage stability and other measures of relationship quality than materialistic couples.

    "Couples where both spouses are materialistic were worse off on nearly every measure we looked at," lead author, Jason Carroll, a BYU professor of family life, said in a university news release. "There is a pervasive pattern in the data of eroding communication, poor conflict resolution and low responsiveness to each other."
    To read the complete article please click here.

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    Can Reading The Bible Reguarly Make You More Liberal?

    Photo Credit: knowhimonline
    "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." ~ Hebrews 4:12

    According to recent research, regularly reading of the Bible can influence how one views certain subjects like how the government should respond to criminals, caring for the poor and being good stewards of the environment.

    Christianity Today weighs in:
    "Frequent Bible reading has some predictable effects on the reader. It increases opposition to abortion as well as homosexual marriage and unions. It boosts a belief that science helps reveal God's glory. It diminishes hopes that science will eventually solve humanity's problems. But unlike some other religious practices, reading the Bible more often has some liberalizing effects—or at least makes the reader more prone to agree with liberals on certain issues. This is true even when accounting for factors such as political beliefs, education level, income level, gender, race, and religious measures (like which religious tradition one affiliates with, and one's views of biblical literalism)."
    Personally, I see these findings as fascinating when considering my own spiritual journey. As a church-going young person that rarely (if ever) read the Bible myself, I held quite rigid political views. After coming into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as a sophomore in college, I began to read the Bible regularly for the first time in my life.

    Over time, my personal Bible reading went from "regular" to daily. I've read through the complete Bible a dozen times in my adult life and, over the years, my political persuasions have become much more liberal in nature than what they were previously. I do not hold a liberal stance on all matters (for example, I am conservative as they come on abortion) but am much more left-leaning on a variety of issues than my more conservative, evangelical friends.

    For example, I once did an in-depth study of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and focused on three specific areas: 1) How did Jesus view money?; 2) How did Jesus view the poor; and 3) How did Jesus view the religious leaders of his time? I came away from this personal study with a much different view on each of those areas than I initially carried with me. Why is that?

    CT's Aaron B. Franzen offers a compelling reason:
    "The discussion becomes even more interesting when we consider who is most likely to read the Bible frequently. It's evangelicals and biblical literalists, those who tend to be more conservative on these topics. In other words, those who read the Bible most often are more conservative, but the more they read the Bible, the more likely it is that their views will change, at least on these topics.

    Why does this happen? One possible explanation is that readers tend to have expectations of a text prior to reading it. Given the Bible's prominence in our society, it's little wonder that many people think they know what's in it before they open it up. But once they start reading it on their own, they are bound to be surprised by something, and this surprising new content is then integrated and grafted on to the familiar. Beliefs do change with the addition of new information.

    But it doesn't have to be unfamiliar content to surprise the reader. It just has to be personally relevant. Frequent Bible readers may have different views of biblical authority, but they tend to read it devotionally, looking for ways in which Scripture is speaking directly to them. They will read until struck by something that sticks out in the text. Even if the reader thinks the Bible has some error or needs a lot of interpretation, this thunderbolt moment can take on tremendous personal significance.

    But frequent Bible readers don't just see the Bible as personal. They also see it as authoritative, written by an author who had a specific context and intent, and they want to conform to its message. After all, why read the Bible with no desire to embrace what it teaches?

    In short, sometimes reading the Bible can change views and attitudes because readers are surprised by what's in it. Other times, it's just a matter of discipleship."
    When I look at my own life, I found that the more I studied the Bible personally and didn't just listen to others talk about it, I discovered much in there that surprised me. Many of my assumptions and personal biases were challenged and, as a result, I have become a much different person with a different view on the world. The point here is not that everyone that understands the Bible well will naturally become more politically liberal.  It could be that a person that initially falls more liberal on the politically spectrum might become more conservative after engrossing themselves in the Bible.

    There are those that also read the Bible every day and come to much different conclusions than I do politically.  It is not always how we view certain policies that is paramount, but the manner in which we express our opinions and disagreements that indicate whether the Bible has taken root in our heart.  Because even if I'm right about a certain topic but others experience me as a prideful, arrogant jerk, then I haven't quite yet understood the message of the Holy Scriptures.

    In my opinion, there are some things that conservatives get right and some things that liberals get right. But neither have the corner on truth. If I want to get timeless truth, I need go no further than my Bible. Politicians and political pundits may have good insights, but they can never speak for God in ways that God does not speak for Himself.  If you have not read the Bible much on your own, I encourage you to do so. It will provide direction for your life and lead you to the one that is the Way, the Truth and the Life -- Jesus Christ.

    Tuesday, October 11, 2011

    Walking Into The Future

    Photo Credit: _guu_
    From Phil Cooke:
    "So many people are locked into old ways of thinking, tired methods, and useless techniques, that it’s almost impossible to get them to see the possibilities of the new. I’m often brought into an organization facing serious challenges, only to be limited by their frustrating desire to continue old ways of thinking. The truth is, if the old way of thinking worked, why would they need me? And yet they persist in doing the same thing(s) in the same way(s) but wanting different results.

    It’s ultimately about insecurity, and I could write an entire book on that issue alone. I’ve discovered that when faced with the possibility of change or a new way of doing things, people react in two different ways. Secure people react with excitement and anticipation. But insecure people react with fear and hesitation. Insecure people are the ones who drag their feet, “forget” to do things they’ve been asked to do, subvert meetings, and figure out a million other ways to sabotage the process.

    Perhaps you were told that you’d never make it, you don’t have what it takes, or you’d never amount to anything. Whoever told you that had no idea of all your capabilities, because no one can know the full potential or the full range of possibilities in another human being, and no one can tell for certain where your limits are or how far you can reach."
    To read the complete post please click here.

    Friday, October 07, 2011

    Detroit's Sports Teams Bring Healing

    My family at Comerica Park, 2011
    Photo Credit: Sandy Gresko
    Detroit's sports teams are on a roll. The Tigers just advanced to the American League Championship Series. The Lions are 4-0 and preparing for a rare Monday Night Football appearance. The Michigan Wolverines are 5-0 and looking like they are ready to restore the program to its former glory. It's a good time to be a sports fan from Michigan.

    So even as our teams are succeeding, the thoughts of Michiganders near and far never stray for too long from the challenges faced by our beloved Motown.

    Detroit writer and radio host Pat Caputo writes of the ability of the city's sports teams to bring healing. From
    "History has shown that when the city's sports teams start doing well, it's a sign of healing in Detroit. In 1968, when the Tigers won the World Series, it brought a racially divided region together after race riots. In 1984, the local economy rebounded from the recession at the same time the Tigers again won the World Series.

    What makes 2011 different? The Tigers' magical summer is being followed by a surprisingly solid performance from the usually underperforming Lions, behind a triple threat of quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receiver Calvin Johnson and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

    It's not just that the Lions are winning but how they're doing it. They were down 20 points against the Minnesota Vikings on the road September 25 and then, the following Sunday, down 24 points against the Cowboys on the road.

    The Lions won both games, representing the city's come-from-behind spirit and fight to win in the midst of adversity.

    This tenacity is not lost on [Jim] Schwartz, the [Lions'] coach, who has seen the Lions at their worst and now their best.

    "When I became the Lions coach, it didn't take me long to understand what the team means to the people here," Schwartz said. "No matter how bad it has been, they have never stopped caring. They are vocal but never apathetic. It's like a lawn that has been dormant. It just takes one good watering, and it's back."

    Eminem's tag line in January's Chrysler ad -- "that's who we are. That's our story" -- sums up the motivation for these teams who know that the wins are helping Detroit's image and giving residents a sense of hope and pride that's been missing.

    It seems that Detroit is back -- for now."
     To read Caputo's full article please click here.

    Thursday, October 06, 2011

    Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Civil Rights Pioneer, Passes Away

    Photo Credit: waynetaylor
    The death of Apple, Inc. visionary Steve Jobs has dominated the news cycle over the past day but another great influencer of American society has also passed away. Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, a contemporary of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and an icon of the American Civil Rights movement, entered into eternity yesterday at the age of 89.

    Although not nearly as widely known by most Americans as Dr. King, Rev. Shuttlesworth was a key figure in helping to secure basic rights for African Americans during the civil rights struggle of the second half of the 20th century. tells some of his story:
    "When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against segregated busing in Montgomery, Alabama, Shuttlesworth rallied the membership of a group he established in May 1956 -- the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights -- to challenge the practice of segregated busing in Birmingham.

    Shuttlesworth also helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, with King and other civil rights leaders.

    Shuttlesworth's efforts weren't without a price: his home was bombed on Christmas Day in 1956, but he and his family were not injured.

    He was, however, hurt in 1957 when he was beaten with chains and whips as he sought to integrate an all-white public school.

    That same year, Shuttlesworth helped King organize the SCLC, serving as the organization's first secretary from 1958 to 1970. He later served briefly as its president in 2004.

    In 2001, President Bill Clinton awarded Shuttlesworth a Presidential Citizens Medal -- the nation's second-highest civilian award -- for his leadership in the "non-violent civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, leading efforts to integrate Birmingham, Alabama's schools, buses and recreational facilities" and helping found the SCLC.

    Shuttlesworth also protested segregated lunch counters and helped lead sit-ins at the eateries in 1960.

    He participated in organizing the Freedom Rides against segregated interstate buses in the South when he joined forces with the Congress On Racial Equality.

    In 1963, he was injured again when a fire hose was turned on him during a protest against segregation in Birmingham. The blast of water, directed against demonstrators by order of Birmingham Commissioner of Public Safety Bull Connor, slammed Shuttlesworth against a wall. He was hospitalized but recovered.

    He was also a principal in the historic march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, which he helped organize."
    To read Rev. Shuttlesworth's obituary on please click here.

    Tuesday, October 04, 2011

    Hank Williams, Jr. & Playing The Hitler Card

    Photo Credit: jcrawford3505
    Hank Williams, Jr. is a country music singer that is perhaps best known to my generation for the "Monday Night Football" intro that he's been doing for the past two decades. But Williams has now become known to millions more for his recent comments about President Barack Obama.

    While being interviewed on Fox News recently, Williams made a comparison between President Obama and Adolf Hitler. When asked by the interviewer to clarify his remarks, Williams held firm in what he said. gives the background:
    "This week, in an appearance on Fox News' "Fox and Friends" on Monday morning, Williams referred to a June golf game with Obama and House Speaker John Boehner on the same team, against Vice President Joe Biden and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, as "one of the biggest political mistakes ever."

    Asked what he didn't like about it, Williams said, "Come on, come on. That'd be like (Adolf) Hitler playing golf with (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu. Okay. Not hardly."

    When one of the Fox News interviewers later pointed out that Williams invoked "one of the most hated people in all of the world to describe ... the president," Williams responded: "That is true, but I'm telling you like it is, you know. That just wasn't a good thing. It just didn't fly. So anyway, like Fred Thompson said, you don't want to ask me a question because I'm going to give you too straight of an answer. So talk about something else."
    After his remarks became a hot topic, ESPN decided to pull Hank, Jr.'s MNF intro this week. He then issued the following statements on his website:
    "Some of us have strong opinions and are often misunderstood. My analogy was extreme – but it was to make a point. I was simply trying to explain how stupid it seemed to me - how ludicrous that pairing was. They’re polar opposites and it made no sense. They don’t see eye-to-eye and never will. I have always respected the office of the President.  Every time the media brings up the tea party it’s painted as racist and extremists – but there’s never a backlash – no outrage to those comparisons… Working class people are hurting – and it doesn’t seem like anybody cares. When both sides are high-fiving it on the ninth hole when everybody else is without a job – it makes a whole lot of us angry. Something has to change. The policies have to change.”

    “I have always been very passionate about Politics and Sports and this time it got the Best or Worst of me. The thought of the Leaders of both Parties Jukin and High Fiven on a Golf course, while so many Families are Struggling to get by simply made me Boil over and make a Dumb statement and I am very Sorry if it Offended anyone. I would like to Thank all my supporters. This was Not written by some Publicist.”
    In his attempt at a mea culpa, Williams commits the classic error that so many of us are guilty of these days. It is the "non-apology" apology. The reason why we are apologizing in the first place is because we hurt or offended others. But the language that Williams uses of "I am very sorry if it offended anyone" simply isn't sincere. If Williams said what is truly in his heart, then he should stick to his convictions and deal with the consquences.  If he feels like his statements don't accurately reflect his true sentiments, then he should offer a more sincere clarification and apology.

    Based on his "non-apology" apology, it appears that Williams meant exactly what he said in his original comments and I doubt he's sorry at all. Because we live in the United States of America, he has the freedom to say what he'd like. But the rest of us also have the freedom to call him on it when he makes a ridiculous comparison of a democratically elected president to an evil dictator that was directly responsible for the loss of millions of lives.

    Part of Williams' political frustrations is that members of the Tea Party, who he sympathizes with, are often unjustly characterized as extremist or racist and there is no resulting media outcry. And he may have a point there. But if he doesn't want to be painted as an extremist, why would he make an absurd comparison between President Obama and Hitler? Standing up for hard-working Americans is noble but Hitler analogies are just a bad idea.