Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Josh McDowell Shares How God Can Use Our Past For His Glory

Noted Christian speaker and author Josh McDowell came from a difficult background. He experienced a troubled home life and was sexually abused as a young child. He developed a stutter and after becoming a Christian later in life, he never thought that God could have use for someone like Him. But he found that God could use even our weaknesses and troubled past for His glory.

In the video here, listen to Josh tell his story and how he learned that God could work through the seemingly insurmountable obstacles of his life.

To hear the stories of other veteran Campus Crusade for Christ staff members, visit the YouTube channel for The Legacy Project here.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Why Single Women Need To Wait For The Right Man

Photo Credit: de.laina
Here are some challenging thoughts from Ruthie Dean urging single women to wait on the right mate by being the right mate:
"As women, I believe we in part perpetuate the man-boy problem by failing to hold the highest standards for ourselves, standards God desires for us. I recently heard a friend complaining that she couldn’t get Phillip* to call her. Two minutes later, she responded to his text, “Wanna watch a movie at my house?” in the affirmative. I’ve seen it too many times—brilliant, accomplished, God-fearing women making excuses for the players and the deadbeats and the guy who aren’t interested in anything more than sex. A lot of us have been there. We’re strong. We aren’t settling. And then we lose sight of what’s important and start “hanging out with” that guy. If a man can’t call to ask you on a date, he’s certainly not going to man-up and put a ring on your finger. 
The arguably most dangerous way women are contributing to the man-boy problem is in regards to sex. Oftentimes, women, including Christians, go further physically than they want to, hoping that their prowess will help them ‘catch a man’ when in fact, the opposite happens. Sex gives men the benefits without the promise of commitment and fidelity. Sure, there won’t be as many guys lining up to date you, but marriage will be a different story. Keeping the highest sexual purity standards will ensure he isn’t dating you just because he likes seeing you naked—and keep his intentions honorable. 
Another way women perpetuate the problem comes with the well-at-least-he’s-better-than _____ game. My hairdresser told me yesterday she had a hard time ending a relationship with a non-Christian, because the last Christian she dated had sent her pornographic text messages. Infuriating! However, standards should not be created based on the worst examples but instead on what God deems right. 
Many women also fall prey to the lie that dating or hanging out with “that guy” does not hold future implications. I found this especially true in college when friends (and myself, ahem) would date Mr. Text or Mr. I Don’t Believe in Organized Religion believing we could end the relationships as soon as someone better came along. However many of my friends are still entangled with or damaged by these men—especially in cases where sex was involved. By dating or playing around with the wrong men, we are essentially displaying mistrust in God’s plan and harming ourselves when the right man comes along. Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church, challenges singles: “Become the right person the right person is looking for.” A woman who dates placeholder men is most likely not who “Mr. Right” is looking for."
To read the rest of the article "Real Women Don't Text Back" please click here.

Monday, January 23, 2012

What Latinos Can Teach the Rest of Us About Culture & Race

Photo Credit: Lafayette College
When it comes to the topics of race, culture and ethnicity, few of us make much of a distinction between these complicated and often misunderstood words. Though commonly used interchangeably, their actual definitions may lead us to believe this subject is much more nuanced than what initially meets the eye.

It may be helpful to share how I view these categories in the simplest way I know how. According to my understanding, I view them in the following manner:
Race - deals with shared physical characteristics
Culture - deals with shared values and behavior
Ethnicity - deals with shared culture and, oftentimes, shared race (although this is not always the case)
For a growing number of Latino Americans, their ethnic identity is defined much more by shared cultural values rather than common racial characteristics.

The New York Times reports:
"This argument over identity has gained momentum with the growth of the Latino population, which in 2010 stood at more than 50 million. Census Bureau officials have acknowledged that the questionnaire has a problem, and say they are wrestling with how to get more Latinos to pick a race. In 2010, they tested different wording in questions and last year they held focus groups, with a report on the research scheduled to be released by this summer. 
Some experts say officials are right to go back to the drawing table. “Whenever you have people who can’t find themselves in the question, it’s a bad question,” said Mary C. Waters, a sociology professor at Harvard who specializes in the challenges of measuring race and ethnicity. 
The problem is more than academic — the census data on race serves many purposes, including determining the makeup of voting districts, and monitoring discriminatory practices in hiring and racial disparities in education and health. When respondents do not choose a race, the Census Bureau assigns them one, based on factors like the racial makeup of their neighborhood, inevitably leading to a less accurate count. 
Latinos, who make up close to 20 percent of the American population, generally hold a fundamentally different view of race. Many Latinos say they are too racially mixed to settle on one of the government-sanctioned standard races — white, black, American Indian, Alaska native, native Hawaiian, and a collection of Asian and Pacific Island backgrounds. 
Some regard white or black as separate demographic groups from Latino. Still others say Latinos are already the equivalent of another race in this country, defined by a shared set of challenges. 
“The issues within the Latino community — language, immigration status — do not take into account race,” said Peter L. CedeƱo, 43, a lawyer and native New Yorker born to Dominican immigrants. “We share the same hurdles.” 
At a time when many multiracial Americans are proudly asserting their mixed-race identity, many Latinos, an overwhelmingly blended population with Indian, European, African and other roots, are sidestepping or ignoring questions of race."
In a country like the United States where the race and ethnicity of people has often been a determining factor in the type of life they would enjoy, I'm grateful that an increasing number of individuals are refusing to be placed in the boxes that those who have gone before us have put them in.

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

(You may also want to check out a previous post of mine which addresses this topic, "Why Latino is Not a Race.")

Thursday, January 19, 2012

John Piper on Heaven Without Christ

Photo Credit: giopuo
What is your motivation for wanting to go to heaven? John Piper addresses this question in his book, God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God's Love as the Gift of Himself:
"The critical question for our generation—and for every generation— is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ were not there?" 
"...Christ did not die to forgive sinners who go on treasuring anything above seeing and savoring God. And people who would be happy in heaven if Christ were not there, will not be there. The gospel is not a way to get people to heaven; it is a way to get people to God. It's a way of overcoming every obstacle to everlasting joy in God. If we don't want God above all things, we have not been converted by the gospel."
Getting to heaven and finding that Jesus will not be there would be like a groom entering his wedding ceremony and learning his bride will never show up. A man does not go to his wedding primarily to see his friends and family; he goes there to begin the rest of his life with the one he cherishes more than anyone else. There are many reasons that I look forward to eternity but my heart aches for heaven more than anything else because I will get to see Jesus.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Slavery & Christian Heroes of the Faith

Photo Credit: WELS.net
In a recent blog post, Trevin Wax tackles a difficult question for the modern Christian -- How do we respond to the great heroes of our faith that openly subscribed to racial prejudices and may have even owned slaves themselves?

Due to the uncomfortable nature of this topic, most of us choose to ignore the question. We would rather act like we don't know that Jonathan Edwards, the great Puritan preacher, owned slaves or that Martin Luther, the courageous instigator of the Christian Reformation, is widely known to have been anti-Semitic?

So how do we wrestle through the reality that some of those that are generally regarded for their deep understanding of the gospel failed so miserably to live out this understanding as it pertained to their fellow man?

Wax offers this:
"The one thing we cannot do is to explain away our theological forebears’ attitudes and actions by appealing to the historical context of their time. It’s true we must take into consideration their context in order to understand them and refrain from unnecessary vilification. But we must make sure that as we point out the general social ethics of the day we do not diminish the sinfulness of their practice. Otherwise, we run the risk of elevating right doctrine over right practice in a way that departs from the teaching of the apostles. 
Attitudes and actions matter. When Paul confronted Peter for separating himself from the Gentiles, he wasn’t worried that Peter had abandoned justification as a doctrine. Paul called him out because Peter was denying the truth by his practice. In other words, we cannot paper over the sinful actions of our forefathers by appealing to the soundness of their doctrinal beliefs. And let’s be clear. Racial and ethnic superiority is antithetical to the doctrine upon which the church of Jesus Christ stands or falls. 
...Slavery is a great evil, but even slavery cannot stand in the way of the grace and glory of the gospel. And just as we learn from the blind spots of the generations who have gone before us, we trust that the blood of Christ will cover our own blind spots. That’s why the more we walk with God, the more we cry like David: "Cleanse me from my hidden faults.""
The men and women that went before us were fallible human beings, just as we are today. Because they "missed it" in such an important area does not negate the truth of the message they preached, even if they failed to always live it out in their own lives. These men were influenced by the culture they lived in...and we are influenced by ours. It's a reminder that just because a popular preacher advocates something, it doesn't always mean it lines up with what Scripture teaches. We should always compare what we're being taught to what the Bible actually says.

Just as we are horrified to learn that Bible-believing Christians participated in the slave trade, future generations will be shocked to learn of issues that we tolerated (e.g. abortion). If history has taught us anything, it is not that people are inherently good and that the gospel is not needed but it has shown us that we are wicked and in desperate need of a Savior. Fortunately for us, that Savior is not found among sinful Christian leaders but He stands at the right hand of the Father pleading on our behalf.

To read the rest of Trevin's well-written post please click here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Primer For Politicians: The Facts About Poverty & Race

Photo Credit: tizzie
"Stereotype: A fixed, commonly held notion or image of a person or group, based on an oversimplification of some observed or imagined trait of behavior or appearance." (From Media Awareness Network)

Those of us in the U.S. are in the midst of another presidential election and the issue of race is figuring prominently into the national conversation once again. When discussing the issue of race, there are a number of misconceptions that politicians often contribute to by reinforcing stereotypes that are based in perception...but not reality.

For example, take recent comments made by Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. When commenting about the state of the welfare system in the United States, Santorum is quoted as saying this:
"I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money."
Newt Gingrich, when commenting on the realities of poverty in America's inner cities, says this:
"Look,” Gingrich said, “at a time when you have up to 43% black teenage unemployment, you have entire communities that are devastated, you have neighborhoods where nobody has worked and nobody has any habit of work, I’d be delighted to — that’s why I want to challenge Obama to 7 three hour debates — I’d be delighted to have a conversation about our current approach to children. 
“Young children who are poor ought to learn how to go to work,” he continued. “What I’ve said is, for example, it would be great if inner city schools and poor neighborhood schools actually hired the children to do things. Some of the things they could do is work in the library, work in the front office. Some of them frankly, could be janitorial."
It can be agreed that poverty is a problem that needs tangible and long-term solutions. But one of the misconceptions that politicians like those quoted above have, along with many of us, is that poverty is a black issue. For many people, when the topic of conversation turns to poor people or the subject of welfare, there is a stereotype in many peoples' minds that poor=black. It is simply not true.

Here are the facts: According to The Root.com, the numbers from the 2010 census tell us that 31 million of the 46 million people living in poverty are white. Although the stereotype that many of us may assume to be true is that the bulk of those who are living in poverty are black, just a little over two out of every ten Americans living in poverty are African American. And poor white people don't just live in rural areas -- nearly half of the urban poor are those that look like me.

Furthermore, many people of all races who fall below the poverty line are employed or actively seeking work in this troubled economy. These individuals, considered the "working poor", comprise nearly 60% of all those who are considered poor. So any person who says that everyone who grows up below the poverty line doesn't know what an honest day's work looks like simply does not know the realities on this matter. In fact, some of those who we define as poor are some of the hardest working people that any of us will ever meet.

My concerns here in raising this issue are not that there are politicians who desire to see those in poverty elevate themselves into a higher economic class. Nor do my hesitations come from a place of not wanting economically disadvantaged individuals to earn a living for themselves. I think it is good and right that those in poverty seek employment, if at all possible. My trouble is with the condescending tone that accompanies these pronouncements, as well as the perpetuation of the stereotype that poor=black.

From personal experience, I know that this myth that all (or at least most) black people come from poverty or grew up in the inner-city is well-ingrained in the psyche of many of us. For example, I've spent much of my adult life ministering to African American college students. Although some of the students I've worked with have come from less than ideal family situations and grew up in economically distressed neighborhoods, many of them grew up in stable, two-parent homes in nice communities.

But time and time again I've had people assume that my ministry focus is in "the hood" after they've learned I work with African Americans. I say I minister to African American college students...and their mind immediately shifts to an "urban community" with "disadvantaged youth." Yes, I've spent some time ministering in poor communities in urban areas but most of my work with students has been spent on college campuses in college towns.

My desire is that the leaders at the highest level of our country would at least know the facts when it comes to addressing complicated challenges like systemic poverty in distressed communities across our country. People from all ethnic groups face economic challenges. It is not just a black problem. It is an issue for all of us. If political leaders are sincere in wanting to solve problems like cyclical poverty, my suggestions is that they spend some time in disadvantaged communities -- whether that's in the barrios of Los Angeles, the streets of Harlem or the hills of Appalachia.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The Importance Of Character Over Reputation

Photo Credit: tartanpodcast
Do you find yourself giving more thought to what others think about you or more thought to developing your own character? Donald Miller, an author who I respect for his honesty and vulnerability, offers a challenging perspective on why our character should matter more to us than our reputation.

Miller has this to say:
"So, what would it look like for us to have great character in 2012 and stop working on our reputation? Who really cares what people think? 
I learned this lesson several years ago. I ran into a person who worked endlessly on their reputation but had terrible character. When their character was revealed (which happens in intimacy) they were a complete let down. The truth is, they wouldn’t have been a let down at all if they would have been themselves. 
People don’t judge who we are, they judge who we’ve led them to believe we are. The more time and effort we put into making ourselves look great, the longer and harder the fall when the truth comes out. And eventually the truth comes out. 
What I took from that relationship was difficult, but it’s something we have to face in our early twenties, usually, and that’s there’s a difference between our reputation and our character. Since then, I’ve decided not to work very hard on my reputation. Or at least I hope that’s true. I air most of my dirty laundry, so nobody will judge me. People only judge those who claim to be better than others, more holy, more righteous more moral. When I’m ethical, I just look good. When somebody who works on their reputation isn’t ethical, they find themselves in social court. Working on our reputation is just a dumb move."
To read more of Miller's thoughts on this important topic please read the complete post here.