Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Jesus Loves Me This I Know...

Stop. Right there. You were singing the song in your head, weren’t you? You were gonna say, “…because the Bible tells me so.”

I would encourage you not to.

Jesus does not love you because the Bible says he does. He loves you because he is the very definition of love.

Now you might be thinking, “Wow… He’s being a little harsh.” That’s an understandable reaction. But it actually is quite an important distinction.

A few months ago I received an advanced reading copy of Jesus Loves You This I Know by Craig Gross ( founder) and Jason Harper. I finished it in four days. The book’s thesis is this: Jesus loves you.

That’s it. It’s not about theology or religion. It’s about love. Period.

Jesus told us quite clearly what the most important part of the law was. And no one ever argued with him about it.

Which raises the question: what in the world happened?

“‘Jesus loves you’ has become an overstated Christian cliche from the religious establishment. What was once meant to be a statement of concern, a thought, or a pronouncement of spiritual enlightenment has been reduced to a casual exchange in passing.” (p. 79)

But sadly, this is only part of the problem. It is true that Jesus does in fact love you. The statement itself is true. But do we really believe it? I think that is the question worth asking.

Ever since Jesus’ time the church has done the same thing: “Christians become too safe and choose to gather together in small groups, or holy huddles, hoping ‘the world’ doesn’t get in.” (p. 157) We saw the Pharisees do it, and we see our churches today do the same thing. Don’t get me wrong – there have been exceptions, I know. The church in the first and second centuries for example very much succeeded where we today have devastatingly failed (in the love department, that is).

So what now? Luckily, we have a really good example of what it looks like when someone actually believes that Jesus loves us. His name is Jesus.

Jesus demonstrated real life. And how did he do it? “His willingness to meet a practical need before he asserted a spiritual answer proved that he cared about people where they were in life.” (p. 93) When people were blind, sick, even dead, Jesus did not tell them, “I love you” – even if it was true. He gave them sight, he healed them, he restored them. That’s what love looks like. Or what it is supposed to look like anyway.

Now as for us, the church. The church is Jesus’ hands and feet. Our job is to be Jesus in today’s world. To show the world his love. So how do we do that? I think the biggest step that the “religious right” could start with following Jesus’ lead: “Jesus did not have an argument to win. He just loved.” (p. 157)

We find ourselves in an extremely argumentative culture. When it comes to “the issues” we whip out our practical and systematic theology guidelines, our three supportive Bible verses that are manipulated completely out of context, and our misinterpretation of the Bible as a whole to defend our political views that we don’t even know how we ended up with. Instead of loving gay people, we tell them why they shouldn’t be gay. Instead of serving partying teenagers, we ignore them. Instead of ministering to porn stars, we avoid them.

That is not the Jesus of the Bible that I read.

This book calls the church to something better (and frankly, more productive). To go to the broken. To serve the sinners. To realize that we live in a dark world and we’re not supposed to be hiding our light under a blanket. And sadly, there are consequences to this resulting from the very people that are supposed to be doing it: “… when the outcasts are loved, the religious begin to get cynical and skeptical toward the one who reached out.” (p. 142) Essentially, people will hate that we go to dark places. That we leave our comfort zones. But that is still what we are supposed to do. If we don’t, then we are not the church.

I understand that this may seem a bit like a hopeless cause or a rant aimed at the church’s shortcomings. But after reading Jesus Loves You, this is what I have come to realize:

  1. We are the church. We are Jesus for today (in a sense). The church needs to do what Jesus did.
  2. Jesus loved and went to the darkest places. The church needs to look more like Jesus in this sense.
  3. There are hurting people that need to be told not that they are sinners in need of a Savior (most of them even know it), but that they are made for something better and that they are still loved no matter what.
  4. The greatest commandments are to love God and love people. It is our primary job to do this. Not to argue theology or use reasoning to reach a conclusion. Love. Period.

Well done, Craig and Jason. I think the world needs to hear this message. (And yes, that means the church too.)

Go read this book.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Other One

I have posted again at the other one.

Go take a gander.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Just A Little Conan Genius

I don't know who's been following The Tonight Show's new host Conan O'Brien. I've been a long-time fan of Conan, and he's freaking hilarious.

Anyway, he's talked a lot about paparazzi in Los Angeles as opposed to in New York and how weird it is. Which is true. How do we even get used to that?

So he has this segment called "Conan's Tabloid Moment" where he essentially makes fun of himself and gets a scandalous photo so that he can sell it to the tabloids and keep the money. I guess I just admire anyone who makes fun of celebrity popularity and what not.

Here's his submission:

You should watch The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien. It's funny.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I'm actually done.

I finished Dallas Willard's The Divine Conspiracy!

I really did it. It only took me about a year.

Now if you'll excuse me, my brain will be exploding shortly.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Some Quotes

Some quotes I found.

"To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom." - Bertrand Russell

"What worries you masters you." - Haddon W. Robinson

"Oh do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be strong men and women. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work will be no miracle; but you shall be the miracle. Every day you shall wonder at yourself, at the richness of life which has come to you by the grace of God." - Phillips Brooks

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Secret's Out

So I've actually begun to start a new blog.

I'll probably continue to use both. But I wanted to try out Wordpress and see how I liked it.

Warning: it's edgy. Well, sort of.


Let me know what you think.


So I may or may not have started the thunder storm today.

Okay. I probably didn't.

I was watching this video called The Book of Mormon Vs. the Bible. You can guess what it's about. I'm no spoiler.

Anyway, I'm watching the video, and right at the end, they're summarizing everything and begin talking about how the Book of Mormon could be the most deceptive piece of literature in human history (you know, with big scary language), and all of a sudden, this storm comes from out of nowhere.

And I'm not talking some lame rainfall. I'm talking crazy, loud, wild thunder and lightning. The loudest thunder I've heard in quite a while.

I'm not saying I caused the thunder. I'm just sayin'...

Sunday, May 31, 2009

House Genius

Good quote from House (the tv show):

Almost dying changes nothing. Dying changes everything

Think about it.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

James - Day 6

Know this, my beloved brothers: let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger...

This is where James starts in. We've seen the return to Eden. We know where this is going. We're learning how to be the firstfruits of God's creatures.

This passage (ch. 1, vv. 19-27) was really hard for me to put together at first. But then I made the connection. He refers to each of these three areas (hear, speak, anger) but in a strange order. To be honest, I don't know what the reason is. Maybe we'll find out later. Anyway, he first discusses anger, then hearing, and then speaking.

...for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires. Therefore, put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your soul.

Okay. So anger isn't helpful in learning to be the firstfruits of God's creatures. Specifically, it doesn't help produce dikaiosune. Dallas Willard describes this "righteousness" as "true inner goodness." God wants this goodness for us. And anger doesn't help us get there. So James makes a suggestion: do away with anger. But not just anger: all the wickedness and filth that goes along with it. And as you remove that... stuff, receive the word. Logos.

But he calls it the implanted word. Implanted? As if it belonged to someone else and it was given to us in order to save us? Sure enough - to save our soul. This word can save us. This truth can save us. And the Greek suggests that it will in fact save us from our sin. Another important observation is that if the word is implanted, that means that we didn't have it before. In other words, someone gave us this truth so that we may live. Powerful stuff. Anger moves us away from that life. Slow to anger is the key.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

Off to hearing. Quick to hearing is the advice James gives us. Why? Well, the key is more than just hearing. You guessed it: doing. But obviously, you have to hear before you can ever do. Luckily, these verses are straightforward. It's stupid to listen and not do. So do truth. Hear it. Learn it. Do it. You'll be blessed.

By the way, law of liberty? Gotta love that phrase! So perfect. The truth was implanted so we can live. The law was given so we can have liberty.

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless.

Slow to speak. The last part James goes into.

The word for religious (threskos) has one and only one appearance in the entire Bible: here. That's not the point. It's just interesting.

The point is this. James is telling his audience: you want good, outward, ceremonial, religious appearance, watch your tongue. Think about what you say.

James adds one last bit on this "religious" topic. And it may or may not come up again. But it closes up chapter one, and I think it's just an interesting statement to conclude with.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

I don't think James is telling his audience that they should do this. I actually think it is closer to being advice for the Pharisees who were all about appearances. Interesting. I like James more and more each verse.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Missionary Visit

Last night some Mormon missionaries visited my home. I had ordered a Book of Mormon and it took a while, so they finally brought me a movie too (haven't watched it yet).

It was actually funny because Caitlin and I had left my house a few minutes before and then returned to find our visitors in my living room. My dad was talking to them which was great. He never tells them he's a pastor and he just whips out Bible reference after Bible reference. It's hilarious. I would imagine being quite impressed if I didn't know that he had gone to seminary.

Anyway, I thought I would share some of the conversation here.

For the first twenty minutes or so, I didn't say anything. My dad just bantered back and forth with Elder McGrew and Elder Salinas. I listened. Actually, Elder Salinas did most of the talking too. He was from Chile. Mason and Caitlin even sat in for a minute.

They discussed heaven a little bit, and essentially, my dad was trying to show that Mormonism and Christianity were very different and had very different views. Eventually though, Elder McGrew stepped in and began sharing the view of Jesus and Lucifer having different views originally and then a war breaking out. I knew a little about this, thanks to Amanda, so I stepped in.

"So... was there anybody in this war that didn't take a side?"

Both elders just kind of looked at me. Uncomfortably, I might add.

I clarified: "Well, the way I've been taught, there was a third group that remained neutral. And they were cursed with black skin."

"I don't know anything about that," Elder McGrew responded. Rather quickly too.

"Really?" I kept going. "Because Joseph Smith and Brigham Young both taught this belief."

"Wow. That's horrible," my dad said kind of quietly - but you knew what point he was making.

Slowly, the elders began sharing a little. Slowly. It was almost as if they were reluctant to admitting it was true.

Elder Salinas kept saying that Joseph Smith was very concerned about this issue. He said that Joseph Smith prayed about it, and that God never answered that prayer until 1979. There were a lot of other things that could have been discussed on that issue, but eventually the subject changed.

We also discussed historical and archaeological evidence. And I spent about 5 minutes prefacing my question which was really still never answered.

"Don't you think it's at least a little coincidental, or ironic, that Christianity has two thousand years of history and Mormonism doesn't? Archaeologists have confirmed that a man named Jesus existed. They've recovered fishing boats from the first century. Linguistic experts have confirmed that the languages the Bible references were actually used. Mormonism has none of that. The Book of Mormon doesn't even have maps."

Elder Salinas refused. "That doesn't affect me. I have faith. I've prayed about it."

I kept going. "I know it doesn't affect your faith. In fact, I wish I had the kind of faith you had. But that's not what I'm asking. I'm asking you this: doesn't seem at least interesting that atheists will confirm some truths from the Bible, but none from the Book of Mormon?"

He held to his answer: "I've prayed about it. I have faith."

I resigned. "I know you have faith. And I respect that. All I'm saying is that man, it feels awfully good to have faith and believe in something, and then to have my faith confirmed by people who don't even believe the same things I believe."

Nothing. And I really meant it when I said I respect and admire their faith.

The last interesting thing (and I might remember more later) is that when they got up to leave, I asked them for their email addresses because I had some stuff I wanted to send them. But they weren't allowed to give them out because they were LDS emails or something. Very hesitantly, Elder Salinas gave me the address that he wouldn't be checking until he got home. In a month. I told them I was sorry, but I didn't know their names. So they introduced themselves as Elder McGrew and Salinas. I didn't bother specifying for their first names.

But I got a Book of Mormon. I got a movie. And now my research begins. For myself at least. There's still a lot to learn. And I really feel passionate about this subject. It's personal (for reasons I won't go into here). And I need all the help I can get to talk about this subject lovingly with people that I know personally. It's not about arguing to be right - which is always tempting. It's about having a conversation that is open and honest, and loving the person you're talking to for who they are and not what they believe.

Friday, May 22, 2009

"Here's How Not To Live" and How Helpful That Is

Sometimes I wonder why I still attend the Men's Breakfast.

The only real benefit I find for myself is learning a little more about right-wing Christianity (as if I don't know enough already) each meeting.

This morning we discussed "Carnate Christians." The whole discussion was essentially the phrase "salvation by grace alone" repeated over and over. "If a person believes in God, they go to heaven." Apparently we didn't feel like talking about how to live, just how not to live.

Or maybe we just wanted to feel more comfortable in knowing that no matter how lazy our faith is, no matter how cheap our grace gets, we still go to heaven. Wow. Can't you tell I feel better?

Here's my response.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

It's Decided

I am going to blog again. I really need to. It's summer and there's no reason not to. Somebody keep me accountable.

Friday, March 13, 2009


This morning I found myself in a discussion at the bi-weekly Men's Breakfast meeting with probably about fifteen or so men - all at least twenty years older than me. We were covering the topic of sin. We like to be clear and concise about we're discussing.

We started getting onto the idea of exactly what constitutes sin, and then were creating hypothetical examples of when an action is considered a sin. Not me - I should specify. The other guys. There were several, but one example was if the guys around me are using bad language, is it a sin if I don't say anything to them?

I was really uneasy about the whole direction the conversation was going. I felt like we were missing the point. We had read a couple of Bible verses previously. For example:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (Gal. 5:16)

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:5)

... How can we who died to sin still live in it? (Rom 6:2)

I finally spoke up and said that I think we need to be careful that we don't become legalistic. I mean, knowing what constitutes sin is good and all, but we're missing the point. We're not called to live "not cursing" or "not lusting." We're called to something much bigger than that. (You'll especially notice this if you read the rest of Galatians 5.)

We're called to a life in Christ. Or, a life "in the light" if you will. My point was that if we live the way we're supposed to, these legalistic mentalities are a waste of time.

My dad (pastor of the church) looked down and said slowly, "I think I would mostly disagree with you."

He talked about how we are all under the law and have to avoid antinomianism.

I sat there trying to figure out what exactly we were "disagreeing" on. I agreed with what my dad said, and he didn't say anything that contradicted me. What gives?

If he had said, "Wait. Let's clarify what you mean..." Fine. No problem. Instead, he destroyed my credibility by saying he disagreed with me, and at this point everything I have said has been lost. No one will remember it. Every word has been invalidated.

I think all in all it comes down to rhetoric. I think my dad heard me say something along the lines of not being "under the law" (Gal 5:18) which made him squirm. I was quoting the Bible, but the words didn't sit well with him. So he said the same thing as me - but in different words. Which is fine, even good because now more people at the table might understand what I was trying to say. Unfortunately though, there was the "disagreement" that enabled my dad to be right and me to be wrong.

For the record, I'm fine, and I'm not mad at my dad. We talked it over after, and there will be no hard feelings. I guess I only want to stress the importance of rhetoric. When in a discussion with someone, explore your options before saying that you disagree. Maybe you do agree and you're just in the mood for a debate.

As Christians, we need to focus more on what we agree on rather than what we disagree on anyway.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

James - Day 5

Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

So we pick right up from where we left off. There's an interesting paradox here (obviously). And we all know how much Bible writers like a good paradox to mix things up...

The "lowly" man is the one rejoicing. Why? Why would he rejoice when he encounters trials of many kinds? Oh, yes. Wait a minute... We've seen this before.

James is coming back to the first thought: trials ultimately lead to being perfect and complete - a reason for joy, yes?

The rich man cannot attain this sense of perfection and completeness that we as humans are designed for.

It is an important journey that we have made so far to understand this. Normally, I think we as Christians have this belief when we read verse 2 and 3 that is simple - like "God will work out all the bad things, so be happy that He does that." Now we understand the verse means so much more than that. Without these trials we cannot become all that we are supposed to be. Rejoice when you face trials! You're on the right track!

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those that love him.

The "crown of life." Interesting. It's as if trials are a test to see whether or not we will gain this special sort of life. Perhaps one of completeness...

Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one, But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.

James seems to be combating some sort of worldview or widely held belief that God tempts us. Ironically, I think most Christians today more or less do believe that.

The other thing I notice here is that James uses this metaphor to express what sin ultimately brings about: death. This is a polar opposite of what he has been talking about up until this point. That's probably important.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

The way James refers to God is different here. There is a creational (not a real word) tint to his language now. It's almost as if he's saying, "All these wonderful things come from the God who created everything to begin with - even light!"

Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

This creation idea continues. James is suggesting that the God from the previous verse (that really big, unchanging God) not only makes good things, but He has in fact designed humans with a purpose out of His will. He wants us for something. That's huge!

I mean really when you think about it. We've clearly already started to grasp how big this Creator God is, and yet He desires us to do something. What exactly? To be a "kind of firstfruits of his creatures."

So where do we go with this? I think the question starts with, "What does it mean to be a firstfruit of creation?" Well, I know that this question forces us to look at Eden. A place of perfection. A place of completeness. There was no emptiness. Only wholesome community and fellowship.

I feel this is a good place to sort of end this section. We get the idea. We know the thesis of James' letter. We're on the right track. And although we're going to start a slightly altered discussion with James now, these ideas will come back. We must remember the purpose of the writing. We must remember that James desires us to be "perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Comfort In Fairness

It's comforting to know that Jon Stewart can tease Obama too.