The GOP Field Doesn't Surprise Me

In the past five years I have only published one political article on my blog. It was published in 2013 as praise to Ted Cruz' decision to filibuster Obamacare. I appreciated the boldness of such a move and I found it fascinating to watch how little support Cruz had among his fellow Republicans. Cruz' decision was bold and different. He stood out as a man of principles.

I also wrote a political article early last Fall but did not publish it. That article was an affirmation of Donald Trump hours after he had suggested that John McCain was no hero. It was not an article that defended Trumps disrespect for McCain, but rather was an explaination on why it was a brilliant political move as the GOP nominee. In the article I noted the pent up frustrations that many Republicans felt towards McCain for his continual comprises with Democrats in Washington. And I suggested that Trump's attacks on McCain were perfectly in tune with an inward anger felt by many conservatives. I didn't publish that article because I feared looking like an idiot buttressing an egotistical outside candidate.

But here were are. The two remaining GOP candidates are Cruz and Trump.

When playing politics there is something to be said for strength, guts, and bold communication. The supposed political decorum has been turned on its head. This time around... Strong, bold personalities have won the day.

I actually don't like either candidate. Neither man will do a good job of representing my political views. But I respect both men's political acumen.

Pastor Saeed Abedini Release

I was delighted to see the news about the release of Saeed Abedidni this morning. It has been a long, heart-breaking, saga since Saeed's imprisonment in 2012. His wife Naghmeh Abiding did an amazing job advocating on his behalf. She was perpetually available to the press and requests for interviews. Here is Nagmeh's tweet from this morning:

This past summer Naghmeh gave me an interview update on Saeed.

Christianity Today has started an article journalling the news of Saeed's release. You can find that here.

On Sunday, January 18th, 2016 I spoke with Naghmeh about Saeed's release: I'll update this article as more information becomes available.

The Kim Davis Situation May Not Be Persecution…

Are your views on the Kim Davis situation a slam dunk? I’ve been following the County Clerk situation in Kentucky for the past couple of weeks. Once she was sent to jail yesterday there was an outcry from Christians. Many on Facebook were suggesting that this is a preeminent example of Christian persecution. On the surface that is how it appears. A Christian has a particular conviction. She is sent to jail for being faithful to that conviction.

But starting yesterday afternoon an alternative view has been emerging. It now appears that support of Kim Davis’ position may be self-defeating.

This is an emotional situation because of the recent defeats that Christians have experienced within US culture. But it is vital that we do not respond emotionally at the expense of logic.

There are some particular principles at stake as Christians opine on this situation.

  1. We don’t want to respond on a superficial level without understanding the particulars of the case.
  2. We ought to make sure our opinion is logically consistent across the board.
  3. We must make sure our opinion is rooted in a biblical understanding of government, conscience, and work.

I haven’t come to a conclusion yet, but I am concerned about a Christian misstep in the public square. Here are some articles that shine more light on the matter.

I’m seeing really good arguments for and against Kim Davis actions which means that this is not a slam dunk issue. And if it isn’t a slam dunk issue we should use less emotion and more humility to share our opinion. Remember, the world is looking on.

Finally, the Christian worldview lost on June 29th when SCOTUS ruled in favor of SSM. The ramifications of that decision are now playing out in real life situations. Those ramifications are going to be incredibly painful for Christians. The next generation of American Christians will live in a world pos-SCOTUS ruling. The faster we can embrace this new reality the better we will do at strategically plotting the way forward.

Periscope, Meerkat, and The Church

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This morning Twitter introduced their livestreaming app called Periscope. This is Twitter's response to the run away success of an app called Meerkat that launched about a month ago.

Both of these apps run on your iPhone and allow you to immediately start streaming video and audio from you phone.

Meerkat was well accepted and even got some usage by Jimmy Fallon this past week.

I have tried out both apps and have some initial thoughts.

1. This Has The Potential to Be Huge

Everyone of these new technologies are a platform for communication and relationships. People using them is what makes them valuable. To be more precise, my friends using them is what makes them valuable. Right now it looks like people are really interested in this type of platform.

2. Use Cases for the Church

Obviously, any church can stream their worship service over this platform. That is a no brainer. You should do it this weekend like my friend Mike Neglia did last week. 

But beyond that, it is a great leadership tool. It gives church leaders an opportunity to communicate with their local congregation and with a global audience.

I think it also is a great tool for missionaries to give live updates from the field. It is another platform for connecting your local church with the missionaries that they support.

I would love to hear how you are using it for ministry or business. Leave a comment below.

 

The Gospel Offers a Robust Identity

Yesterday Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, came out of the closet and announced that he is gay  This has been a well known fact for a number of years, but yesterday was his formal announcement.

One of the reasons I am broken hearted over the gay agenda is the impoverished identity that it gives to it's adherents. I can't imagine being primarily identified off of my sexual orientation. It is a very narrow identifier. The leaders of the LGBT community are using many wonderful people who have same-sex attraction to further their agenda. But the benefit of primarily being identified as "gay" is not equitable exchange for the follower.

Aside from the fact that I agree with scripture when it says that homosexual acts are sin, I am sad that wonderful people are allowing themselves to live off of such a narrow identity. And I wish that people who find themselves attracted to the same sex would buck the trend of identifying themselves with only that feeling. Even if they are not convinced of my ethical system I wish they would consider whether being primarily identified off of sexuality is the most beneficial label to take on.

Humans are hungry for an identity. Just consider some of the movements that have developed over the past 100 years. Civil rights... Feminism... Anti-war... People want to be a part of a movement that changes society for the sake of change as much as they want to gain an identity.

Your identity determines so much of what you do and how you interact with others.

That is where the propositions of Christianity should be considered. Christianity is not just a moral code that opposes homosexual acts. It is a life giving identity that gives endless possibilities.

Just consider the first chapter of Ephesians.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it,to the praise of his glory. - Eph. 1:3-14

Even if a gay person is not ready to relinquish their lifestyle they have to consider what identity is most beneficial.

Is it possible that coming out as gay is only abrogating a significant amount of freedom and life that God intended for you? Is is possible that the LGBT community is handing out cheap and shallow identities that give the movement leaders power while the followers are restricted.

On this Halloween, as people take on a new identity for a couple of hours consider the benefits of these costumes. Are all Halloween costumes created equal? Can you dress up however you want without ramification? What about the guy who dressed like Ray Rice and was dragging a female manikin behind him? Was that a win?

Not all available identities are created equal and there are ramifications that flow from identity.

I love and have a great deal of compassion on those who are struggling with their sexual identity. I am upset with the narrowness of the "gay" label. And it is my hope that all who have homosexual desires will consider how they identify themselves moving forward.


Why I Use Cultural References in My Sermons

Yesterday I got a question from a very sweet person about my use of Star Wars as an example of Dualism when I was preaching. You can view the sermon here… The person who asked the question was concerned that I was using secular movies in my message.

Here is their question: 

I am curious as to why you use secular movies to demonstrate the Word of God.  In the one reference you used, Star Wars, there is the Dark Side and the Force, which really are both evil.  It would be like saying the bad witch and the good witch, as they are both witches.  The Force is a form of sorcery and witchcraft as they use manipulation to get what they want.  The Force is not relying on God for trust and help, it is manipulating things and people to get what they want.  I am so watchful in this world where bad is called good and good is called bad that I think our only commentary to the bible should be the bible itself.  If I compromise that to try and get the world’s attention, then I am what the bible calls, weakening their consciences and compromising the Word.

Here was my response…

Using references to movies, novels, poetry, and art are common practice for CC pastors when they preach. We make these cultural references to illustrate the point in a familiar way or to bridge the 2000 year cultural gap that exists between our culture and the culture of the Bible. 

We do this based on the example of Jesus and Paul. Jesus made broad use of cultural (secular) examples when he made his points. When Jesus talked about the hypocrite in Matthew 5-6 he was talking about the theater actors of the day. The audience that Jesus was talking to got Jesus point because they were familiar with the theater. Jesus also used examples from business, agriculture, and the judicial system. 

In Acts 17:27-28 Paul quotes the greek secular poets that were familiar to the Athenian audience when he preached. 
Jesus and Paul did an excellent job of borrowing from a familiar culture to make their spiritual points. They didn’t seem worried about contaminating their listener with the world by borrowing examples from their culture. 

Now… translating that practice over to my sermon on Sunday. I brought up Star Wars as an example of the philosophy of dualism. And I was talking about dualism because 1 John was written to believers who were being threatened by that type of false teaching. 

I would encourage you to check out a recent series that we ran on CalvaryChapel.com about this idea of our relationship to culture. These articles do a good job of explaining our relationship with modern culture and how examples from culture help us share the gospel. 


HumansofNY and the Gospel

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If you don't follow HumansofNY on Instagram yet you should. They currently have 1.5 million followers and the account is growing by 100 thousand followers every 2 weeks. The author of the account, Brandon Stanton, has also published a book that is on the New York Times Bestsellers List. The pictures and stories inspire me on a regular basis. It is a beautiful reminder of the imago dei; God's image in humanity.

It is also a clear example of how sin effects the human life. The unvarnished nature of each post reveals the brokenness in the world.

It leaves me wondering "how would the gospel change its persons life?"

So if you haven't discovered HumansofNY check it out. And if you enjoy it as much as me I'd love to hear why?

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Thoughts on Being Culturally Relevant

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I recently read through Tim Keller's Center Church ($2.99 as a Kindle book) and appreciated many of the things he had to say about cultural relevance. I was reminded of the need for these great quotes as I saw a few people opposed to what Brian Brodersen said in the recent Christianity Today article.

In the United States, Anglo-Americans’ public and private lives are lived in the same culture. As a result, they are often culturally clueless. They relate to their own culture in the same way a fish that, when asked about water, said, “What’s water?” If you have never been out of water, you don’t know you are in it. Anglo Christians sometimes find talk of contextualization troubling. They don’t see any part of how they express or live the gospel to be “Anglo” — it is just the way things are. - pp 96

Keller expounds at length about contextualization. I found this quote to be profound:

I believe that faithful contextualization is a direct implication of the gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone. Paul used the gospel of justification on Peter in Galatians 2: 14 when he criticized Peter’s failure to be culturally open to Gentile believers. As we have seen, the gospel gives two impulses that lead us toward balanced, biblical contextualization. Religion (“ I obey — therefore I am accepted”) leads to pride if we are living up to standards, or to inferiority if we are failing to live up to standards. But the gospel (“ I am accepted through Christ — therefore I obey”) makes us both humble and confident at once. And these two attitudes are critical for doing faithful and sound contextualization. If we need the approval of the receiving culture too much (not enough gospel confidence), we will compromise in order to be liked. If we are too proudly rooted in any one culture (not enough gospel humility), we will be rigid and unable to adapt. Only the gospel gives us the balance we need. - pp 115-116

And finally:

No church can be all things to all people. There is no culturally neutral way of doing ministry. The urban church will have to choose practices that reflect the values of some cultural group, and in so doing it will communicate in ways that different cultural groups will see and hear differently. As soon as it chooses a language to preach in, or the music it will sing, it is making it easier for some people to participate and more difficult for others. - pp. 174

I would love to hear your thoughts on this issue of cultural relevance and contextualization. Leave a comment below.

Link Fest 2-13-14

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Events/Holidays: 
 
Theology and the Church: 
Culture:  
  • Abortion numbers drop to the lowest rate since legalization in 1973 Linked here…
  • Justin Bieber was seeking spiritual help after his run in with the law. Linked here...

Politics: 

Books: 

Now My Dad Makes Sense

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I had an ah-ha moment this afternoon. You know that moment when a mental puzzle piece finally falls into place. I thought I would share it here briefly. I love my dad, but his teaching ministry is so different from the Calvary Chapel tribe. He is extremely practical. Daily application along with concrete steps is one of his highest priorities. He is always on the lookout for wisdom principles that can help people do life in a way that glorifies God. He was a lifehacker before such a thing existed. He has written half a dozen books about family life and speaks around the country at conferences and ministry events. My wife has said, and I agree with her, that my dad has the gift of wisdom.

But his teaching style is so different from most Calvary Chapel pastors. And I have wondered where his style and emphasis fits within the variegated call of God to preach.

When I read this quote from Zack Eswine it was like it finally clicked.

"Notice that wisdom speech possesses a missional capacity. Like the prophetic and priestly paradigms, God’s Word for the wise is true and absolute. But unlike the prophetic and priestly literature, the roles of the exodus or the covenant are not made explicit; they are assumed. Wisdom remains covenantal but carries a “generic” ethos. The wise do not require one to possess an up-front understanding of God as Israel’s redeemer in order to meaningfully learn about God. They hold to the law and promises of their fathers, yet they offer instruction without explicit reference to Abraham, Moses, or the exodus. Familiarity with the Bible is not, therefore, required for one to access the sayings, stories, and speeches of the wise. The stuff of life rather than the stuff of redemption as a starting point enables those unfamiliar with salvation history to access the message." - Eswine, Zack. Preaching to a Post-Everything World

This is taken from chapter 8 where he is talking about the preacher’s ministry be based upon the sage-like material of the Old and New Testament. In essence, Eswine is saying that wisdom principles can carry the water on gospel truth for nonbelievers who have not yet been persuaded of the whole gospel.

And this is exactly what I have seen in my dad’s ministry. He has offered free parenting classes to the community as an outreach to the community. These classes have served as a communication bridge that the gospel can also be carried across.

It is genius and now I know where it fits.

[Here is a video interview that he did regarding his latest book.]

Puzzle Piece

Thoughts on Leadership in Light of the Weak Republican Senate

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This is going to be a rough, shoot from the hip post about culture, politics and communication. You might want to duck. I've been caught up the past couple of days with the effort to Defund Obamacare. Sen. Ted Cruz gave a 21 hour and 19 minute speech from the floor of the Senate in an effort to draw attention to the GOPs efforts to defund Obamacare. It was a bold move and it is doesn't appear like Sen Cruz is done fighting. He has communicated that he is willing to filibuster a vote later in the week regarding the same issue.

The interesting part of the story is the pushback that Sen. Cruz is getting from his fellow Republican Senators. The contingency opposing Sen. Cruz is afraid that Republicans will be accused of shutting down the government. They argue that Republicans will be vulnerable to getting a public black eye from the Democrats  leading to defeat at the poles in 2014. Sen. Cruz believes that every effort must be made to shipwreck Obamacare before it is implemented on October 1st. His opponents are willing to allow Obamacare to be funded with the hope that they will regain a majority in the Senate after the 2014 election. (Mind you, Obama will still be in office for two more years and would have veto power.)

This has been an extremely interested story to watch unfold. Sen. Cruz is making a very bold move that escalates the conflict. Those who don't agree with Sen. Cruz are hopping to appease Democrats and beat them at the polls next year.

Here is what I think...

Most of the current Senate Republicans that are opposing Sen. Cruz don't have good ideas on how to lead from the position of a minority. Republicans lost in 2012 and are acting like losers. Sen. Cruz is not willing to fit into that mold.

Thus far I have not seen unified leadership from the Republican senators now in office.  Unfortunately this type of weak leadership has been the trend among Republicans for the past decade. Somehow Republicans have managed to act like losers even when they had the majority.

One of the greatest failures of the Republican party is communication. They whine and cry about how the mainstream media does not give them a fair shake or does not accurately portray Obama's failed policies. But these same Senators are unwilling to learn new communication techniques. Their thinking is along the lines of "Oh well, we can't get the mainstream media to treat us fair and square so we are just going to act like losers." From what I can tell these same Republican Senators plan to act like losers until 2014 with the hope that Democrats will loose at the polls.

In other words the Republicans are hoping to win in the future on the failure of Democrats. What kind of strategy is that? Who ever wants to win a game because your opponent played poorly? That is not the type a leadership I want to vote for.

I believe this is the time to recognize that the old rules of communication that in large part hinged off of the mainstream media have changed. There are a wealth of new methods to communicate available to these Senators.

A few minutes ago I jumped on Facebook and saw a link to a Jon Stewart piece being shared by three or four different friends. Mind you, Jon Stewart is a big liberal who mocks God, but he was able to create a video clip that connected with my conservative Christian friends and excited them enough to repost the video. This is a perfect example of how to communicate a point to a large demographic of culture. Republicans (and Christians) could learn a lot from these types of viral videos.

Stewart

Sen. Cruz has manage to create a 24 hour narrative within the media. His bold initiative has given Republicans an opportunity to communicate some very important truths about Obamacare. This window of opportunity will remain open the rest of the week and into the weekend talk shows if Republicans take a strong stand. Unfortunately it looks like Sen. McCain and Sen. McConnell are going to to put on an exhibition on how to be losers.

Summary of Responses to DOMA and Prop 8 Decisions

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There is a cultural shift taking place as homosexuality finds broader acceptance within the United States. The recent decisions by the Supreme Court are only a small piece of that overall shift. There has been a steady march towards acceptance for decades. The first cultural event that I remember was Ellen's coming out on TV. But the shift started much earlier. There were a number of quality responses that I want to recommend.

Albert Mohler Talks about DOMA

[quote]Instead, the majority decided to send a clear signal that such a case will now be well received. It struck down DOMA by employing a logic that, as Scalia noted, cannot stop with the striking down of DOMA. It can only stop with the full legalization of same-sex marriage in all fifty states by judicial fiat.[/quote]

Read more here

Ed Stetzer on the Christian Response

[quote]For those Christians seeking to witness real cultural impact, our public conversation should not begin with opposition to homosexuality-- but with our witness for Christ in word and in deed. We need to show grace and friendship to those who struggle, while holding fast to what the Scriptures teach.[/quote]

Read more here

Joe Carter with 9 Things You Should Know

He makes a number of important technical points about the specific cases that were brought. Again, the most important decision had to do with DOMA. The SCOTUS decision paves the way for a homosexual couple to claim discrimination on the grounds that a state will not permit them to marry.

Read more here

Denny Burk on Religious Liberty

[quote]We have already seen that private business owners such as bakers and florists have been sued by their state governments for failing to provide their services for gay weddings. We’ve also seen Catholic Charities have to leave Massachusetts for refusing to provide adoptions for gay couples. In none of these has there been any legal accommodation for the deeply help religious beliefs of traditional marriage supporters. These cases are already cropping up across the country, and we can imagine countless other conflicts that may arise. What if a Christian university were to decide to limit its married student housing to heterosexual couples? Will there be any accommodation for this under the new regime?[/quote]

Read more here

Jesse Johnson on Prop 8 Craziness

[quote]We should be impressed at the legal finesse of such a maneuver. By constructing a trial on the definition of marriage, but banning anyone who had an interest in putting on a legitimate defense, the resulting case was obviously one-sided. Eventually the Federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a group that gathered funding for Prop 8 could defend it in court, which they did unsuccessfully.[/quote]

Read more here