Sad News

Kyle Lake, the pastor of University Baptist in Waco Texas, died yesterday after being electrocuted during a baptism. Apparently, a microphone dropped into the water and electrocuted him. (This is the church where David Crowder serves as the Arts and Worship Pastor.) Be sure to pray for Kyle's family. The full article is available here.


More thoughts on apologetics

For those of you who are interested in apologetics and/or the emergent church conversation, then you may want to check out this article: Emergent Apologetics. While discussing the (re)emergence of originality, Myles writes the following:
No longer can the same sermon be preached without care to the specific people in our context. One strength of emergent apologetics is its emphasis on genuinely listening to people and getting into their world. In doing so we can craft our conversations and messages around who they are (instead of who they are not). This will help us to avoid copycat formulas and instead inspire original conversation that is alive with the spontaneity of the Spirit.
Let me take a few moments to comment on this quotation. We must be listeners! I am afraid that we are often more ready to be heard than to hear. I love having the opportunity to express my thoughts/ideas/passions/concerns, but I also realize that other people love to do the same. Those of us who are naturally talkative must be cautious that we do not dominate every conversation that we enter. (In reality, does healthy conversation even take place when one person dominates the speech?) If we strive for genuine conversations, then I believe we will also learn how to more clearly speak forth the Truth into the lives of those people in our context.


On the Horizon

I am not sure how much I will be able to blog over the next few days because my weekend is packed: Amy and I will taking Alora to my parents after I get off work today. Then, we're meeting Emily in Columbia for dinner at the Mellow Mushroom and the "A Collision Concert." On Saturday, we are taking some youth for a hike and picnic. Then, we are all going to the Stewart Farms Cornfield Maze. Hopefully, I will be able to make some posts on Sunday afternoon after church. Until then, here's a preview of some posts that you are likely to see in the near future: Are We Progressing? (Dealing with racial issues within the church); The Emerging Church part 2: Aspirations and Goals; Thoughts about the concert (Hopefully, I'll remember to bring my camera, so that I can post some pictures!); etc.


Stop Assuming. Start Digging.

I grew up in a medium-sized baptist church in the small town of Honea Path, SC. Every so often, we would watch an evangelistic play or film that portrayed the "secret rapture." (Yes, I am talking about the classic Dispensational--Thief in the Night--Left Behind--view of the rapture.) Anyway, for most of my life I assumed that this eschatological view was true. And why wouldn't I assume that this was true? This was what I was taught from the pulpit, the sunday school classroom, and of course, the films. Yet, over time I began to realize that I had made many assumptions in regard to my beliefs (such as the rapture). Instead of truly searching the Bible, I had assumed that everything that I had been taught was correct. Granted, most of the doctrine that I had been taught was true (I was very fortunate to learn from many great pastors/teachers). Yet, I soon discovered that some of my assumed beliefs did not line up with the God's Word. Discovery is difficult, but refreshing. My prayer is that I will always base my beliefs on God's Word instead of my assumptions. I am sure that some of you are wondering what I discovered about Christ's return and the "secret rapture." Of course, I still believe that Christ will return one day (and what a wonderful day it will be!); but, I can honestly say you won't find any of Tim Lahaye's "prophecy" books on my bookshelf. And in regard to the "Left Behind" movie that is currently sitting among my DVD collection...let's just say that if I ever move anywhere, this is one movie that will get left behind.


The Emergent Church

Over the next days/weeks I am going to attempt to post my thoughts on what is often referred to as the emerging church (also refered to as the emergent conversation, church in emerging culture, emergent movement, Emergent, etc.). In all honesty, it is difficult to summarize the goals/beliefs/practices of those within the emerging church for a number of reasons. First, those involved in the emerging conversation come from various denominational/ecclesial backgrounds (conservative, liberal, charismatic, non-charismatic, calvinist, arminian, baptist, methodist, presbyterian, etc). Second, many of those who oppose the emergent church fail to recognize/acknowledge the distinctions that do exist among those within this movement; therefore, their comments can be misleading. Yet, despite these difficuties in discussing the emerging church, I believe that many issues do need to be address. So, I will attempt to highlight some of the strengths and weaknesses of the movement. In case you are totally in the dark about the emergent church, I am going to list some links to various sites (both pro-emergent and anti-emergent) that directly/indirectly address the emerging church. Please note the following: First, I have only listed these sites in order to aid those who are interested in investigating this movement for themselves; I do not nessessarily endorse or agree with the all of information/assessments/beliefs contained on these sites. Second, I have not taken the time to indicate which sites are pro-emergent as opposed to anti-emergent because some of these sites cannot be broken up into such distinct categories. (For instance, the Monergism site contains both pro and con material) Third, most of these sites contain links that will help you continue your research. With all of that said, here are some links: Wikipedia, Monergism, Emergent Village, Emergent No, The OOZE, Challies Dot Com, Emerging Church.

Tickets and a Baby Sitter

Thanks to Emily (who got us tickets even though they were sold out) and my parents (who are going to baby sit Alora), Amy and I are going to the "A Collision Tour" with David Crowder Band, Shane and Shane, and the Robbie Seay Band this Friday.


Capital Punishment

There is an interesting discussion going on at my friend Abigail's blog. Be sure to check it out the discussion under the heading Turow and the Issue of the Covenants.


Healthy Living...Maybe.

For the last few weeks, Amy and I have been running a couple of miles around our neighborhood. We usually do this about 3 times a week. During these past weeks, something has become painstakingly clear to me: I am out of shape. Gone are the days of effortless running and soccer-produced endurance. Granted, I still play football, basketball, soccer, and other sports with the youth, but it doesn't take long for before I have to stop and catch my breath. Well, tonight after Amy and I finished running, she came inside and did push-ups and sit-ups. What did I do? Well, I sipped a Dr. Pepper and ate potato chips. I know one thing is for sure: I am sure glad that I have a fast metabolism...and I hope that it doesn't slow down anytime soon.


Seal Meal

Here is an interesting story I found while on the internet:
The average cost of rehabilitating a seal after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska was $80,000. At a special ceremony, two of the most expensively saved animals were released back into the wild, amid cheers and applause from onlookers. A minute later they were both eaten by a killer whale.
Okay, so I don't know if this is a true story, but it did bring a couple of thoughts to mind: First, I think seals are great but I'm not going to spend $80,000 to "rehabilitate" one. Second, who paid for the rehabilitation? I sure hope it wasn't my tax dollars. Third, that is the most expensive meal that I have ever heard of!


Current Tunes

I bought the David Crowder Band CD yesterday, and I love it! I also found out that they will be in Columbia, SC next Friday. They are touring with Shane and Shane, and the Robbie Seay Band. Amy and I are going to try and go if we can get tickets and a baby sitter.

I had never heard of The Afters until I saw a review in student ministry magazine. Although I bought the CD a couple of weeks ago, I haven't had a lot of time to listen to it because I let one of the youth borrow it, and I just got the CD back tonight.


Thoughts on apologetics

Probably the most quoted verse in regards to apologetics is 1 Peter 3:15: "But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence." This is a wonderful verse, but I am afraid that many people disregard an important phrase in this verse: "with gentleness." Many people are more concerned with "winning an argument" or appearing to be intelligent than they are with seeing people become followers of Jesus. Because of such inappropriate concerns, we are often unnecessarily offensive. Granted, the gospel of Jesus is offensive, but we shouldn't be contributing to the offense (by our misguided attitude and actions). On his blog, Dan Kimball addresses some issues similar to the ones I have just discussed. Here is a summary of his points:
I agree that apologetics in a post-Christian world is not useful when:
1. We use apologetics to display the clever answers that we have come up with to prove people wrong.
2. We use apologetics like bullets to shoot people down.
3. We use apologetics like we are lawyers on a television episode of Law and Order.

However, I agree that apologetics in a post-Christian world is useful when:
1. We use apologetics when people actually ask us for them.
2. We use apologetics and don't see saying "I don't know" as a weakness, but as a strength.
If you would like to read Dan's blog entry "Thank you Josh McDowell (sort of)" , it is available here.

Current Readings

I've almost finished reading Radical Reformission, and I have found the book to be very helpful. I love the way in which Mark Driscoll is concerned with with bodly proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ and engaging our post-Christian society in culturally relevant ways. I just started reading Walter C. Kaiser's "Reformed" reponse in Perspectives on Spirit Baptism.


Soap in the mouth

When I was young I had to go to my church daycare. While I was there I was taught many things such as Bible stories, new games, and swear words. Granted, I did not learn the swear words from the teachers; rather, I learned these words my fellow playmates . (And I imagine that they learned these words from parents, television, etc.). So, when I decided to share my "newly discovered language," I was met with an unexpected consequence: soap in my mouth. The reason I am reflecting on this experience is because I found an article that deals with the issue of "swearing." Below I have posted a relevant part of the article:
Okay, I’m sorry I said ‘suck’ in the previous section; I meant no offense by it. But the word is a perfect illustration of a battle being waged in churches around the country that should be stopped. There is really no theological basis for us telling kids to stop using those four-letter words. Scripture does tell us to use our words wisely and not to harm people. But it does not specify a vocabulary. The word "suck," when used by teenagers in particular, carries with it no harmful intent other than to characterize something as sub-par (i.e., ‘I suck at baseball’). Other words are used equally as casually. If the word is not used to hurt, then I believe we should turn a deaf ear.
If, however, the word is used to be hurtful, then by all means, we should intercede. But this is true if it is a swear word or a non-swear word. Kids can use the word ‘special’ with far more venom than any established swear word, so we obviously cannot limit ourselves to George Carlin’s list of seven words you can’t say on television. Rather, it is the intended meaning and effect of words that we must teach about. As Jesus says, it is what comes out of a person’s mouth that makes him or her unclean. This doesn’t refer to a given set of phonemes, but to the spirit behind the words.
So if a teenager says that the teachings of the Pharisees were bulls---, then are they being any less colorful than Jesus when he ranted on at them for several paragraphs? Or, in a more likely scenario, if a teenager accidentally drops the F-bomb in the van on the way to a mission trip, or in the youth room, or even in the sanctuary, is it really worth our attention? We should concern ourselves with things more important than vocabulary. We should embody the truth that it’s not the word choice that is important but rather the spirit behind the words. And we should never forget that teenagers can intuitively smell what our concern over swear words really is: prudish discomfort. If they see us using faith as a means to protect our delicate sensibilities, they begin to see faith as little more than a means to pursue our own comfort. This is the wrong message to send.

Before I respond to this article, I would like for some of you to comment on your thoughts. Here are a few questions to help get your brains churning: Did you agree or disagree with any part of the article? What scripture passages helped lead you to your conclusions? Who determines which words are deemed inappropriate? Are "slang" words different from "curse" words? What type of speech honors Christ? We must be prepared to answer these type of questions. The full article is available here.

Proclaiming Christ in School

Recently, my 12-year old sister-in-law Tiffany had to write a summary/review of a non-fiction book and then give a class presentation. So, what non-fiction book did she choose to review and present to her class? The gospel of John! Although Tiffany could have chosen to talk about any book, she chose to talk about the most important non-fiction book that is available to man--she chose to proclaim God-breathed scripture to her classmates! I am thankful that she took such a bold step, especially considering the religious hostility that is so prevelant in our public schools. This is just another wonderful example of how believers can (and should!) use every opportunity to share their faith in creative ways!


Jesus and Potato Chips

So, what do Jesus and potato chips have to do with one another? Well to Uncle Ray, potato chips give him an opportunity to share about his faith in Christ. I first came in contact with Uncle Ray's Potato Chips about a year ago while shopping in a local convience store. I was looking for a bag of cheap potato chips, so when I saw a $0.99 bag of Uncle Ray's, I quickly grabbed a bag. As soon as I purchased my chips and drink, I tore into the bag and began to eat the chips. They were wonderful! Yet, my greatest joy did not come from the price or taste of the chips; rather, it came from a story on the back of the bag. Every bag of Uncle Ray's Potato Chips contains a chapter from "The Life and Times of Uncle Ray." In these chapters, Ray takes the opportunity to reflect on his past and express his faith. (Most of these chapters contain many relevant scripture passages.) Ray is not ashamed of Christ. His website proudly displays the company's purpose statement: "We are in business to make a product that satisfies the consumer and to give a testiment of faith to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." I truly admire people who are willing to glorify God in whatever they do--whether it is selling potato chips, teaching, cutting grass, preaching, working at a factory, or whatever. I believe Ray is doing exactly what the Scriptures command: "So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31). I pray that each of us realize that we must use every opportunity we have to bring praise to our Lord and Savior. Ministry is not reserved only for those who serve as pastors, missionaries, or evangelists; Every believer must see themselves as a minister (priest) of the Lord Jesus Christ. Are you doing your part?

Challenging Youth Ministry

I recently came across an interesting article called, "Jesus Isn't Cool: challenging Youth Ministry." Here is an excerpt from the article:
Religion may help teens find a sense of purpose, stay focused on schoolwork, avoid drugs, drive responsibly, and so on. These are good and important things and they are all part of the "religious package," but they are not the point. They are like the paper bag you get for free if you buy the groceries.Christian faith takes root and begins to matter to teens when they discover the difference the details make. In the Christian story, we discover a fiercely loyal God who creates, loves, lives, dies, lives again, and calls teens into the passionate grace of the baptized life. That is something teens can get excited about and sink their teeth into, but these details are available only in the Christian story as told in the Bible and creeds. Seeing these details alive in the lives of other baptized people ignites youthful passion in teens more than any youth event or personal sense of purpose ever could. Living these details of the gospel is not supposed to be easy, or necessarily safe, but it's what Christians do.

The full article is available here.


A Day at Bald Rock

Our family had an awesome day at Bald Rock! This is one of our favorite places to go in the mountains. I never ceased to be amazed at the beauty of God's creation. We serve an awesome God who deserves our praise!

"The mountains rose, the valleys sank down to the place that you appointed them. You set the boundary that they may not pass...May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works! -Psalm 104:8,31 (ESV).


Authentic Worship

Tom Ascol has recently posted some thoughts on what is means to have "authentic worship." Here is an except from his post:
Individual worshipers form a corporate body who approach God together in our times of gathered worship. Who are those individuals? First and foremost, they are disciples of Jesus (others may be with us, but worship is the activity of believers). This reality trumps but does not obliterate all other distinctions. Race, ethnicity, age, education, understanding, experience, marital status, language, etc.--all these and more make individual worshipers unique, but none of them is more important than knowing Christ (which means that I have more in common with a believing Zambian than an unbelieving sibling). Each covenanted member of a church adds to the tone of the body's "voice."Here is how I see that working itself out in practical ways. A village church in Zambia will sing songs not only in the official language of English but also in the tribal languages of that village. The cadence, harmonies, bodily movements (such as swaying) and instrumentation may be completely different from those that mark the singing of equally orthodox churches in Houston or Beijing. There may also be differences in the way the Scripture is read and preached in those congregations. Scripture can regulate worship in all three settings without the expectation that worship in the three churches will look exactly the same.
You can read the entire post here.


Yesterday, as I left for work, I was met with a pleasant surprise: rain! The rain broke the 5-week drought that we have been experiencing in the Upstate. Praise the Lord for the refreshing rain!

Nobody Knows

About a week ago, Amy and I watched the Japanese movie Nobody Knows (originally released as Dare mo shiranai), which is based on actual events. Although the movie is sad, there are joyful, inspiring moments scattered throughout the movie. So, if you don't mind watching a long (2 and 1/2 hours) foreign film with subtitles, then you might enjoy Nobody Knows. Anyway, here is a very brief plot summary:

When we first meet the family, the mother and her oldest son Akira are carrying suitcases into a new apartment. When they arrive inside, they open the suitcases and two siblings emerge. (Later, Akira picks up his other sister from the airport.) The mother then informs the children that no one can know that they (i.e. the other siblings) are living in the apartment; therefore, none of the children (except for Akira) are allowed to go outside of the apartment. The movie takes a dramatic change when the mother leaves the children and never returns. The remainder of the movie centers on Akira and his three siblings as they try to stay together even in the face of loneliness, poverty, and death.


Exhausting Days

I am sorry that I haven't post anything new over the past days, but I have been extremely busy with family, ministry, and work. To be honest, the last few weeks have been exhausting because I have only slept about 4 hours a night, and I've had to work overtime at the college. I think each of us go through days/weeks/months where we feel overloaded. Yet, the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and enable us to serve Him. If you think about me during the week, please pray that I will be able to get some much needed rest.