12 Witnesses

Let these stones be a witness to what we have done here this day.

The American Church Grieving the “Loss” of American Culture

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I’ve been an engaged observer of the church in America and it’s interaction with the culture in which it is immersed for some years now.  Last week, I watched through news articles and social media as Christians in America convulsed, reacting with deep emotion, ranging from anger, to sorrow, to bitterness, some even to satisfaction all in response to the Supreme Court’s rulings on DOMA and Prop 8.

On the other side, as the previously linked article noted, there was jubilation.  One quote I read in the social media wash of commentary was from an advocate of these laws being struck down, and it read something like this: “And now, in respect for our opponents, a moment of silence, as they have lost ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!”

The sentiment struck me as extremely myopic, though I can’t fault the person for being so.  After all, Christians in America have not been overly sympathetic to those with whom we’ve disagreed, nor have we communicated our values or motivations in a way that was easy for others to understand, even if we do differ dramatically.

So, to those outside of our tribe, let me clarify the motivation for the strongly negative reaction of some in the Christian community.  They have lost an American culture that more accurately reflects their deeply held religious beliefs.  This had become an expectation for many. An inheritance that they believed they had a right to pass on to their children.  It feels to them that people have stolen their lives, or at least their lifestyles, and that of their children. And that of their grandchildren.  They grieve the knowledge that their line of descendants will look more like their “opponents” than like them, at least in what they value and accept as “normal.”  They know they’ve lost something significant.

That begs the question, “Do these people have the right to such an expectation?” and of course, different worldviews collide in the answering.  Hopefully in a respectful way, but if history is any indicator, probably not.

So let me now speak to the Christians of our nation, my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Why do you expect that the world not be worldly?  Is it wise or in any way Biblical to expect that those who do not hold your values to act as though they do?

Let me share with you when this American culture you value so greatly was lost.  It wasn’t last week.  Though I can not point to a single event or even a string of events, I can easily say that the American culture was lost to the American church when the church began to rest on the expectation that the culture would look like it instead of working to ensure that the culture would actually be transformed by the power of the Gospel.

You see, by and large, we’ve become quite a secluded lot. Not all of us, to be sure, but undeniably most of us.  We prefer the holy huddle of the frozen chosen in our Sunday gatherings.  A smaller bunch than years before, meeting in aging buildings that are far larger than are necessary and falling apart because we can’t keep them up as well as we once did.  After all, we are older, on fixed incomes, and our children have left our buildings.

And those large buildings where some of our children attend are flooded with just that: attenders.  Loads of people who show up, sing, drink lattes and frappuccinos, listen to whatever is being served up this week, and then go home and go about their business.

Again, not all of us are in that situation.  Not every church looks this way.  But to say that the majority of American Christianity doesn’t fit one picture or the other is, to put it not so gently, not really in touch with reality.

Still, I want to offer a word of encouragement to us all.  We believe in something miraculous and transformational.  We don’t have to be the people who simply shout dismay at those who value different things and see the world contrastingly.  We can be the people who offer the Gospel to people who need to know that God does not hate them because they are pushing back against Him, but loves them in spite of it.

The power to change the world, is in the Gospel.  That is not a word commanding conformity to an outward morality.  It is a word of redemption.  That healing can come to the wounded.  That fulfillment can come to the empty.  That those who are in prison in this world can be set free.

If we are failing to speak that to our world, and many of us are, then it is no wonder that our culture thinks we have no stake in this conversation.  They don’t know that they are the stake for whom we are to live and die, because we’ve not told them nor have we showed them.

Nutrition prof sheds 27 pounds on Twinkie diet – Chicago Tribune

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Having yo-yo’ed my weight over the last four years in an attempt to get back into shape, I found this article very interesting.

Nutrition prof sheds 27 pounds on Twinkie diet – Chicago Tribune.

A few things to note:

  • The professor isn’t recommending this diet, just observing the effects of calorie reduction.
  • Not only did he lose weight, but his body chemistry (LDL, HDL, Triglycerides) all improved on the junk food.
  • Exercise wasn’t mentioned.  It’s all about the intake of calories.

I’m sure the professor would encourage exercise as a part of everyone’s overall health.  It’s just that he studies nutrition, so that’s what he measured and reported.

The bottom line, though… Stop eating so much.

Where’d I put those Twinkies?

Ray Boltz new single: Don’t Tell Me Who To Love

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You may recall that Ray Boltz “came out of the closet” last year and openly confessed that he is living a homosexual lifestyle in Florida now.  You can read my article and the link to the Washington Blade magazine that carried the news in an interview with the singer:  Ray Boltz Confesses He Is Gay.

He’s just released a new single paralleling the desire of homosexuals’ to marry and the struggle to do so in America with the 1960′s era struggle of a white man’s struggle to marry a black woman detailed in the 1967 Supreme Court decision from the suit “Loving v. Virginia,” in which Chief Justice Warren wrote, “Marriage is one of the basic civil rights of man, fundamental to our very existence and survival.”

You can read the lyrics, hear the song and read what Boltz has to say about it on his blog:  Ray Boltz Blog.

I’ve heard it several times predicted, and Ray seems to agree, that this issue will be the next great civil rights struggle in America.

*NOTE:  No bashing in the comments.

Using the Super Bowl

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super-bowl-2009Even though the NFL relented from its harsh stance against churches showing the Super Bowl, our church decided that we would be better to spin out our gatherings to homes of members in hopes that unchurched friends might feel more welcome and more likely to participate.  We had two sites last year and branched out to 5 sites this year.  Also, our sites were age graded 1st – 5th grades were invited to the home of some faithful children’s workers so they would have something special and their parents would be free to mingle at their parties.  Youth went to another house, Young adults, Median adults and Senior adults all had other gathering places.

We like this model because it is a step toward decentralizing our “programs” and creating more opportunities for conversation.  Eventually, we would like to get to a place where each small group chooses how to incorporate our Missional values into its own gathering and use the Super Bowl as it chooses.  (We are not yet utilizing small groups, but hope to transition within the year.)

As I told the church the week prior, it isn’t about the game, but about conversations that build relationships that open doors to the Gospel.  It’s always about the Gospel.

Well, what did you do?  Why did you do it?  How did you do it?  What happened as a result?

Why are Christians always pictured in a moment of ecstatic worship?

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Just curious, but why is it, especially among media writing negatively about Christians, but even among those writing more “neutral” stories, are pictures shown of a group at a point of ecstatic worship (speaking in tongues optional)?

For an example, check out this picture, entitled “evangelicals.jpg” used in an article slanted harshly against Christians in general and evangelicals in particular:

evangelicals

You can find the article here:

Evangelists: Cashing in on Hard Economic Times

Most of the Evangelicals I know NEVER look like this, and those that do, only for a couple of moments per week.  Do people think we really walk around like this all day long?

Pew Research Shows Americans’ Spirituality Schizophrenic

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Here’s a quote from the Washington Post Article:

The study detailed Americans’ deep and broad religiosity, finding that 92 percent believe in God or a universal spirit — including one in five of those who call themselves atheists. More than half of Americans polled pray at least once a day.

This is what comes when attending church becomes the culture instead of the Church shaping the culture via the proclamation of the Gospel which results in the salvation and then sanctification of the lost.

Read the whole thing here: Most Americans Believe in Higher Power, Poll Finds

Stimulus Checks?

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Have you gotten your “Economic Stimulus Check” from the government yet?  If not, like me, there is a pretty easy solution for finding out your check’s status.  The website has a printed schedule, but the IRS seems to be behind in sending out the money.  Hmmm.  Surprised?

Anyway, if you call the IRS’ automated hotline, with a few easy questions, you can find out when your check is due to be mailed.  The number is:  1-866-234-2942.  You should know where you stand in a few minutes.

Now, what will you do with yours?

Oklahoma City Bombing Anniversary 13 Years

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Today is the 13th Anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building building in Oklahoma City. It’s a scar that the heartland still bears.

okc bombing 2 photo by Kent Harville.

You can find some interesting pictures and a first hand account over at the Lifeway News Blog in a post called Friday Photos 4/18/08: Remembering The Oklahoma City Bombing, 13 Years Later.

I remember that I was in Seminary and my Mother-in-Law was in OKC for the day when I heard the news on the radio. It was tense until we were able be sure she was alright. She later said that the explosion shook the chandelier in the meeting room where they were in a hotel all the way by the airport.

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