Culture and the Beast

March 7, 2017

Beauty-and-the-Beast.jpgAs you may have heard, for the first time, Disney has produced a live-action film with a gay character.  Social media and blog sites will be filled with comments about it for the next weeks.  Coming off a great apologetics conference this weekend I am more assured than ever that how biblical Christianity responds to the film, Disney and others is as important as what words of truth we respond with.

I am not exactly sure what our response should be, but it should not be any different that how we respond to other sinful behaviors.  If you feel convicted to boycott Disney and their products you might want to be careful who you tell.  Are you prepared to keep your word even after the hype dies down?  A person without Christ may not understand your motives and modifying a person’s behavior should not be our first concern, their salvation is. Not to mention it is not our job, it is the role of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps a silent boycott would be better and reconsider not uploading the video of you running over your Disney movie collection with the lawnmower.

Here are a few thoughts for believers to consider.

  1. Do not be surprised. It has almost been 2 years since SCOTUS ruled that gay marriage is legal in all 50 states.  There are so many other television shows and movies that have already included it for years.  I am surprised that Disney did not join them earlier.  No doubt they considered this earlier and held off for various reasons.
  2. Use this as an opportunity to discuss sexuality and biblical marriage.   Our culture does not hesitate to show a variety of sexual behaviors and parents and Christian educators should be ready to respond to them with biblical truth and existential examples of how the consequences will be played out. I recommend a book by Sean McDowell and John Stonestreet  called Same-sex Marriage.  It is a gentle and caring approach that explains what the Bible teaches about homosexuality and how we can respond to others in love.  This same discussion should happen of course with other topics like drugs and alcohol, language, violence, and so on.
  3. Use this to teach others about the power of media.  We all under stand the use of media and the power of suggestion.  Scottish writer Andrew Fletcher once said something close to “Let me make the songs of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws.” He knew the power of media in his day and we should also be aware of the messages in ours.  What percentage of Americans claims to be gay?  If you said two or three percent you are correct, but if you guessed much higher it is likely because the media over inflates reality with so many gay characters.  Some will dismiss this movie as just mere fiction, a rewrite of a cartoon classic, or chide you not to take it serous, but even in cartoons aspects of real life can be portrayed and are just as powerful.
  4. Say something, respond.   The worse thing you can do is nothing.  You may be tempted to just be quiet for a number of reasons.  You don’t want to lose your social media friends, you do not know what to say, or maybe you are apathetic and figure what is the use, we can’t stop the huge cultural wave that hits the shoreline again and again.If your friends unfollow  you it might be because they really were not that close to you after all, maybe you responded too harshly, or they are too easily offended. Just keep posting the cute kitten videos!  There are many negatives that come with social media that should be avoided.  It is better to speak to smaller groups that are like minded and one on one conversations are really best.  Know where you can speak freely and where you need to guard your tongue carefully around others.If you do not know what to say, this is a clue for you become clued in on this discussion.  Read and research the details so you can have a an intelligent conversation with someone about what you believe and why.  There are great resources that you can download, apps with podcasts to listen to, and a growing Christian resources that we have at our disposal.

    Finally, if you are apathetic about this issue, go ahead slap yourself now and wake up.  You may not be able to stop the oncoming waves hitting the shore but you can keep a lookout for someone to save in the water. It matters to them and you might not be able to save everyone, but you can save one.

I am sure that some will respond with truth by stating biblical verses and facts that support traditional marriage or condemning homosexual behavior.  Others may take the opposite approach and say it is our job to simply love and pray for those who live a homosexual life style.  The apostle Paul encouraged the Christians in Ephesus to “speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Eph. 4:15).  This combination requires us to boldly and lovingly share Scripture with others. We must temper our words so that we are not out to bash someone, win an argument, or defend God as if he needs defending.  Have conversations with people to educate them, to consider a different point of view, or understand a Scripture passage.  It is not only about what we say, but how we say it.

 

Notes:

The NHIS reported in July 2014 that 1.6 percent of Americans identify as gay or lesbian, and 0.7 percent identify as bisexual.[1] In a Williams Institute review based on an June–September 2012 Gallup poll, approximately 3.4 percent of American adults identify themselves as being LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender).


Politics and Presuppositions

January 13, 2017

With one week left before the inauguration of Donald Trump as our 45th president there has been much talk over his cabinet and staff appointees, like there always is with each administration. The senate and house are allowed to “grill” as I saw one headline this past week, each of the  people that Trump has chosen and determine if they will approve some of the people to serve.

In the midst of all the leaks and “fake news” that has been talked about, the presidential appointees have been given more discussion this year than perhaps I remember. Each president has the right to put in place his/her own people and usually does. They want like minded people that will support and offer a hand in completing the agenda that they believe will work best over the next four years. This sharing of a similar philosophy allows them to work more efficiently together.  Examples of these political philosophies could be raising or lowering taxes, regulations, job competition, and so on. These are the political presuppositions that each of these people have found to be trustworthy and rules to live and govern by.  If you need a definition of presupposition you can check this previous post.

Would it be smart for a president to  have someone on his cabinet or as an advisor that would offer a dissenting view or opinion that would offer advice to them?  I say yes, making the best decision would include having all the information available to make an informed decision. Sadly many will not do this. We only like to hear compliments or praises from those who agree with us.  Keep in mind we do not have to follow or take their advice, but at least give them an ear and listen with an open mind.  Ever read a post you disagreed with but were not approved to post a different opinion? Ever notice how the talk show host will mute the person on the phone when things start to get messy or out of control.

I have found this to be the case when having conversations with people over spiritual discussions or when using apologetics with people of other worldviews.  Each person comes to the discussion with certain presuppositions that they are not willing to let go of.  These may include things like; a naturalistic or supernatural belief, a belief in miracles, or a Reformed theology vs. a Wesleyan.

One thing I have found helpful before spending large amounts of time with someone is to ask if they will be open-minded and willing to consider certain basic ideas in the discussion you want to have.  If you are willing to talk with those understandings it will be less frustrating for both of you and you can remind the person again that they agreed to hear your case with an open mind.  Maybe this will help them, or you, understand the topic more completely and you may win them over to your side politically or in your religious worldview.


Witness Online vs Face to Face

October 9, 2011

With the  invention of the internet, chat rooms, Blogs, Facebook, Skype,  and other social media, sharing your faith can be done in a variety of ways including,  not the least of which, still face to face.  I’m not here to stir the debate whether sharing the gospel online is better or worse than sharing it in person.  I view it like missions both near and far, both need to be done, the more you can do to share the Gospel in any way is good.   If you have access to a computer and feel confident in using it to talk with others about what you believe, go for it!  What I do want to point out is the differences between the too and also caution you about over the computer sharing.

BODY LANGUAGE & EMOTION:
When you talk with someone face to face you can look them in the eyes, change the inflection of your voice, body language.  It is easy for you to show someone you really care for them.  You have taken time to visit them, or perhaps give time out of your day.  The old adage that, “people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care” is true.   When you are talking to someone online, there is a loss of body language, emotion, and depending on of you are using Skype or some other video program your voice.  You also have to be careful how you type.  For example, TYPING IN ALL CAPS CAN GIVE THE IMPRESSION THAT YOU ARE YELLING, to many young people online.  Depending on your grammar usage,  it may also be hard to understand what someone types out.

BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS:
Building relationships is key in sharing your faith with others.  Often times it will take many conversations with people to get them to understand or trust your worldview.  Relationships can be built both in person and online.  I do believe that they can be built faster in person.

ONLINE INFORMATION:
As you talk to people online one of the advantages is that you can have a lot of information at your fingertips from your personal collection of notes to websites that hold endless amounts of information.  As you may have already discovered, not everything on the internet is true.   I wish  I had a nickel for every time I see a Facebook post telling me to click here if  I don’t want to have to pay for Facebook.  It is so easy to put things online today.  It is also much easier for people to write blogs and articles online rather than in an actual book that can be examined closer by more people.   Knowing your information is key to catching lies and false information on both your view and others.

CUT AND PASTE MEMORY:
How many of your good friends or family members cell phones do you have memorized?  Not many I bet.  Thanks to the great inventions of cell phones, contact lists, and other electronic devices studies have shown that we are not using our minds like we used to use them.  With everything now digital you don’t have to remember many things because most likely you have them in your pocket or on your computer.  Cut and Paste is a great time-saving feature, but it also has its negatives as well.  We might not memorize scriptures as much, if we can just cut and paste them from our favorite website.  The same is true of arguments of apologetics as well.

You also run the risk of overloading the person you are talking with too much information.  You can cut and paste so much information that it can become a turn off, that no one wants to read.  (That’s why  I try to keep these blogs short, easier said than done.)  If you are a slow typist you will also run the risk of losing people’s interests also.

CLOSING THE DEAL:
As you talk to people and began to show them the evidence behind your worldview or beliefs.  You may bring them to a point where they become frustrated and just log off the internet.  While someone can do this in person, it is harder to walk away from a live person.

Got any other ideas or examples that you want to add?  As always, questions, comments, and discussions welcome.  Online or face to face, if you know where to find me.


Building a Firm Case for Christianity

October 4, 2011

Once you know what people believe  you will know where to start building a firm case for a Christian worldview.   If you missed the Conversational apologetics post I suggest you read it.  It will help you discover what people believe, or what worldview they have.  As a disciple of Christ we all know that it is our responsibility to share the Gospel of Jesus with those who ask us about our faith.   You may even have the desire to do so, and have been preparing for an opportunity to do so when the chance comes.  Where do you start?  Should you take a straight path to the cross?  Should you share Bible verses with them?  While it is never wrong to share the message of the cross with anyone, there may be a few other helpful points to consider as you began building your case for Christianity.

If you look at the illustration below, it shows you the progression that it takes to hold a Christian worldview.  You cannot hold a Christian worldview until you move from an atheist position.   Similarly, you cannot hold a Christian worldview, until  you know what type of theistic position you hold.  Do you believe in one God (monotheistic), more than one god (polytheistic), God is in everything (pantheistic), etc…  Likewise, you will have difficulty trying to convince someone that the Bible is the inspired word of God, if they don’t believe that a God or gods exist.  The same way someone will have difficulty with the claim that Jesus is God, if they don’t trust the Bible as a reliable source.

As you talk and ask questions to others about what they believe you will discover what they believe and where they are in the progression above.   Then you will know where to start with helping them along the way towards a Biblical worldview.  A friend of mine, Chris Sherrod, who teaches apologetics and has been published in several books uses an illustration of a set of pillars to show how the different evidence builds upon more evidence to provide a solid case for Christianity.

Building a Case for Christianity

Over the next weeks and months we will begin to break down the 4 pillars above and examine the evidence that God has given us.
As always, questions, comments, and discussions are welcome.


The Light Bulb Comes On!

September 28, 2011

Last night after typing up My Story and posted it to my blog,  I went to bed I had some trouble falling asleep.  I usually don’t have any trouble, maybe it was the mountain dew I drank around 11pm, not sure.  My mind was full of different things from the day.  Things I am reading about, church and family things.  Then it hit me, I had been considering getting back to writing more on my blog and was wanting to find a way to organize some of my thoughts in a coherent way that  I could keep up with.  I believe I had found the way to go.  I have  kept a notebook of my studies and notes on books that I have read over the last year.  I had organized it into a way that I could find what I was looking for quickly.  I would just simply use the same type of format that I have in my notebook.  Now I really couldn’t sleep my mind was racing with ideas and how I would start out.   I have loved teaching apologetics, but I know  I couldn’t get away with that each week at church, so, I decided that I will use my blog to post articles, thoughts on what I believe, and bits and pieces of arguments and definitions within the apologetic studies.  I have found my angle, to educated anyone on how I came to believe and trust in God, specifically in my Christian faith.

I realize that this will be lots of work, but I have a passion for it, and I will enjoy doing it.  I know that there are going to be those might read my blog that disagree with me and my worldview, that’s OK.  I would just hope that they as well as anyone would keep an open mind to the ideas that are presented, as I try to do with the books, articles, and blogs that I read.  I will welcome any comments for and against my views expressed.  The only thing I will ask is that the discussions are kept clean of hate speech and name calling.  I will post anything in response as long as it is truthful and free of meanness.    I will follow the rules for myself as well.   I was frustrated a few weeks back when I started dialoging with a gentle man from San Francisco about the truthfulness of the Bible, and after reading his article I found a few things that I questioned and posted a response to.  I gave him a few facts and things to consider in a reply, but he never approved my comments to be seen by the public readers.  I was disappointed that he didn’t post my comments  for whatever reason it was.  I suspect that it might have made his article look bad, I guess I will never know, because after several attempts to contact him now, he has just ignored my messages.    That is also something that I will try not to do to anyone who leaves comments on my blog.  If it becomes time-consuming, I may have to change the time frame in which I respond, but I don’t think that will be a problem, I’m not anyone famous, and I don’t care to be, and hundreds of people will not be reading my blog daily.

So here goes, let the blogging begin, and I hope that it will help you in your journey, to discovering what I have found to true and trustworthy in my relationship to Christ.  As always, I will welcome any comments, questions, and discussions about anything I type.  In my next blog I will summarize what are the factors, evidence, and reasons for my belief in God and my Christian faith.


My Story

September 28, 2011
Amy and me

Amy and me

A few weeks ago our pastor challenged the church congregation to “Be Courageous and Share Your Story”.  A few days later it hit me that one way, not the only way, I could do that would be online through my blog or on Facebook.  So here it is, Here is my story and I welcome any questions, comments, or snide remarks.

I grew up in a great home, a happy home, and while  I felt very sheltered from a lot of crazy things in life, I knew that  I was blessed because of the environment I was raised in.  My parents were both involved in church and so consequently, so was I, but again I didn’t mind.  I loved church, I love the people in the church.  My friends in church were different from most of the other students at school.  I had a few good friends at school, but most of my close friends were in the church with me.  Because I had a long history of being in church I knew a lot about the Bible, facts about God, and felt like I had a grasp on why things were the way they were.  As an early teen I began to notice that my brother and some other friends were making a choice to trust Jesus as their savior and they were baptized later on.  After a few months, it hit me that I knew a bunch of facts about the Bible and God, but I had not yet taken those facts to heart.  I had not really placed my faith, my trust in Jesus in my own personal way.    One night, while at a youth ministry event I really felt convicted within me to stop putting off what I already knew I needed to do and go talk to someone about making my faith personal.   I still get reminders today, because of my job,  of how scary that can be for a teen, to walk out of a pew or crowd and go talk to someone.  I knew what I had to do, grab the closest person near me and make them go with me!  I grabbed a great friend named Susanne and stepped out to find someone to talk to.

That night, April 30, 1988 I sat down with a man who went over the gospel of Jesus with me quickly to make sure I understood what I believed and what my need was.  For the first time I placed my trust in Jesus, that His death on the cross was payment for my sins and even though I didn’t understand it all, I knew that I was far from perfect and that I needed Jesus not only for an eternal life, but for a great life now.  I said a short prayer and asked God to forgive me of my past sins, I placed my belief in Jesus, for who He said he was, and I turned my life over to God to be my Lord, or boss for a lack of a better term.  A few months later I was baptized by my grandfather, who also was a pastor, in Yazoo City, Mississippi.

Since I have placed my faith in God I have had some interesting times, some great times, some challenging times, but they have all helped me grow in my relationship to God.  During my college years, I struggled with the idea that, perhaps I was a Christian only because I was raised in a Christian home.  I didn’t want the faith of my parents, I wanted to own my own faith.  I began to look at all the other worldviews and examine then for myself.  I knew after all, that not all the different worldviews could be correct.  I begin reading books on other religions and studying them to get a better understanding of them.  I admit at first I kept a close grip on my faith and didn’t want to be pulled from my own faith.  Some might say I was studying with a presupposition.   I was lucky enough to be taught though by my pastor and other teachers that I should do the research and examine things for myself and not just except the way things are because someone tells me so.  Trust is earned.  What I read was backed up by what I read for myself and what I found to be true in life.  My faith was becoming my own.

Right before finishing college, I began to question my career and what God really wanted me to do after I graduated.  I had always felt that God wanted me to be a teacher, but the last few months before graduation, I believe that God used a few different people to speak to me about being a pastor/minister.  After a few months of pushing the idea aside I finally quit telling God “no”, and I told God that if He wanted me to do something different with my life I would do it and trust Him for the things I didn’t know.  It was amazing what happened immediately after I had that conversation with God in my prayer time.  I felt this peace just fall over me like a heavy blanket.  I knew right then and there that I was not going to be an orchestra teacher anymore.

Right about this time, God opened a door for me to work in a church as an intern for the youth ministry.  Six months later the church came back and offered me the job permanently.   That was in 1997.  Fourteen years later I have had the joy of serving 3 churches as their student pastor  and have loved every minute of it.  I don’t feel like it is a job, but rather a calling.   Over the past 14 years I have grown in my passion for teaching the Bible and have also found a love for apologetics.  Apologetics is the study of “why you believe what you believe” or backing up your faith with reason and evidence.  Apologetics has allowed me to get a better grasp in what I believe and made my faith stronger.  Over the last few years I have opened up my reading and began to read books from both sides of the debate between atheists/agnostics and believers.  I try to read both sides to get an honest view-point from both sides of the aisle.  I have yet to find anything that worries me or that might cause my faith to stumble.  My passion today still lies with both the teens in this generation and teaching them apologetics that will prepare them for the vastly different world in which they live today.  It is a different world in which I lived in 20 years ago as a teen.

If you have any questions for me I would be glad to try to answer them for you.  I don’t know all the answers, not even close, but I would be glad to share what I have found to be solid ground to stand upon in my life.

God Bless,

John