Monday, June 25, 2007

Cheap Books

If you're interested in stocking up your John Piper collection, all books in the Desiring God Online Bookstore will be on sale for $5 June 27-28 only. Get some!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Haiku is the New Road Game


I am in Kentucky visiting friends and family. My wife and son flew. I drove. What better way to pass the last 350 miles of my 10-hour road trip than to bust out some haiku? Enjoy.

Ode to Haiku
This is better than
Iambic pentameter.
It is a haiku.

Cops
Dave Whitfield, I was
Pulled over by a cop while
Listening to you.

Okay, I told you
A lie, but I was afraid
It would become true.

After all, maybe
Ninety-five in a sixty-
Five is not so good.

An Inconvenient Truitt
Truitt, will you go
To Texas and leave us with
Just your empty cube?

Ode to a Windshield
Dear windshield, thank you
For saving me from like a
Hundred million bugs.

To My Unborn Childe
Mom sure is mad you
Kick her bladder so much, but
It's cool. Get here soon.

Trey McInnis
You were my best friend
In high school. Are you really
A Catholic priest?

Cursing Out Loud
I missed my exit
While writing down this stupid
Haiku poetry.

Wife
I love how your eyes
Show me the deep parts of your
soul. And also mine.

Six Hundred Three Miles
My wife took a plane
And I chose to drive a car.
Why why why why why?

Sister
You have a willing
Heart but you are afraid of
Something I can't see.

Paterfamilias
Mom and Dad, now I
Am a parent like you are.
Will I do as well?

To Allie
You are the only
Jewish person that I know
Who knows about Jews.

Sister Jak
You'll be a great kid,
I think. Your mom and dad are
Way cool. Wait and see.

To Caleb
I wish you could stay
In your world longer. My world
Is not quite as fun.

BPC
Your lens is so good.
I wish my kung fu was as
Good as your photos.

MSW
Maybe we will be
neighbors. I hope it is so.
Well, I think I do.

Kentucky
Kentucky, you are
Stereotypically
Just how I left you.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Parenthood


As of 10:30 tonight, my boy Erik and his wife have a beautiful new daughter. Welcome to the 'hood, Diddy.

Christ Killa

Now this is just plain silly. A digital video artist in L.A. has put together an installation-piece-slash-video-game called Christ Killa.

"Described as the ultimate arbitration between politics and Christianity, 'Christ Killa' is a video game linked to video projectors and television monitors. A first person shooter in which the player shoots hordes of homicidal Jesus Christs, the game landscape is filled with Googled images of Christian propaganda posters, religious shrines such as St. Peter's in Rome, and clich├ęd representations of Christ who constantly mumbles messages of tolerance and compassion. The audience is invited to participate in the carnage by playing the video game and watching short videos of the game in action." [HT: Bully Pulpit News]

As part of the installation, participants with the most Christ kills won trophies.

Interestingly, the gallery that hosted the showing (Niche.LA) appears to have recieved "numerous anti-Muslim and anti-homosexual complaints, including a death threat" and have closed the show due to "safety reasons." (screenshot from the gallery homepage)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Fetus is Squirming

William Saletan argues that the real challenge to the continued legalization of abortion is the ultrasound machine. From the Washington Post:

Abortion opponents are often caricatured as stupid creationists who just want to put women back in their place. Science and free inquiry are supposed to help them get over their "love affair with the fetus." But science hasn't cooperated. Ultrasound has exposed the life in the womb to those of us who didn't want to see what abortion kills. The fetus is squirming, and so are we.

Around the country, ultrasound bills are all the rage. Most of them require clinics to offer each woman an ultrasound view of her fetus. Mississippi enacted a law on March 22. Idaho followed on April 3. Georgia's legislature passed a bill a week ago; South Carolina's is about to do the same.


Critics complain that these bills seek to "bias," "coerce" and "guilt-trip" women. Come on. Women aren't too weak to face the truth. If you don't want to look at the video, you don't have to. But you should look at it, and so should the guy who got you pregnant, because the decision you're about to make is as grave as it gets.


Interestingly, from what I understand, Saletan is not pro-life.

[Full Article]

Monday, April 30, 2007

Driscoll on Daily Sex

After I saw Driscoll's video today (see previous post) I found this post from Internet Monk that gives a friendly critique on Driscoll's "style of maleness" and his particular assertion that men want to learn how they can have sex with their wives at least once a day. While I think that particular remark was not really the point of Driscoll's message, I.M. uses it as a launching pad to articulate a fear that many seem to have about Driscoll, namely that he may be presenting Christianity "primarily as a way to great maleness."

With Driscoll's emphatic - and often brutally brusque - call to male leadership in the church, I can see how many may not be able to see past this. Yet, his read on the culture is accurate, at least in my experience; both within the Church and without, we generally have men who are practically neutered and passive or irrelevantly hyper-masculine. I appreciate Driscoll's frankness regarding the issues with which he is passionate. I like that he walks a fine line between the overindulged secular culture and the oversheltered church culture. I like that he addresses sex in the context of Christianity (I laughed when he talked in the video about dudes "banging their girlfriends." Not because that is funny, but because the 2 times I have heard sex referred to by the pastors at my church, it is called "physical intimacy" - two very different approaches, methinks. I find it sad that most of us have learned way more about sex from wherehaveyou than from the church.)

I think, like myself and everyone I know, Driscoll falls at times into imbalance with the issues he pushes. But at the end of the day, I think this dude loves Jesus more than his issues.

If you know much of Driscoll or have comments regarding the video, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

A Good Soldier

Here is a link to Mark Driscoll's video "A Good Soldier" that he put together for a church planting conference. Bill Hybels apparently banned the video from the conference,* however, as Driscoll neglected to mention women church planters. The eight-minute clip is worth a look though. I like when he says Jesus is not a gay hippie in a dress.

[HT: Off the Wire]

*Addendum | In doing some more reading after I posted this, I realize that to say Hybels banned the video is misleading. Ben Arment, a pastor and church planter here in No. Va., was apparently at the conference and gives a less-dramatic account. Hybels apparently just made a very brief comment regarding the video, and the folks who sponsored the conference made the decision to pull the plug on passing them out.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Sovereignty of God & the Virginia Tech Shootings

I invited my good friend Dave Doyle to speak to our young adults group last night regarding the sovereignty of God over tragedies like the Virginia Tech shootings. Dave was already scheduled to speak on the will of God, but graciously agreed to change his topic last-minute in light of the recent events at VT. Dave is not only one of my favorite people, but one of the smartest guys I know - he is a black belt theologian and an excellent pastor. His teaching was excellent and I have posted it below - click the green button to play it, or the link to download the mp3.

The Sovereignty of God in the Virginia Tech Shootings
by Pastor Dave Doyle


Dave Answers Some Questions

Why doesn't God just stop sin and evil in the world? Answer

If God created everything, did He create sin? Answer

What is the difference between God causing and allowing things to happen?
Answer

How can I really worship God in the midst of suffering? Answer

Monday, April 16, 2007

Virginia Tech Shootings

What does one do in the face of such tragedy as today's shootings at Virginia Tech? Several of our church staff spend much of the afternoon contacting parents who attend our church who have VT students enrolled. We praise God that this event - at least as far as we know up to this point - has not directly resulted in the death or injury of anyone within our church community. But certainly, this is far from true for at least thirty three families who are now dealing with the pain of great loss. Beyond that, there are countless individuals emotionally impacted by these shootings.

How should we respond? How can we best comfort the mourning and exalt Christ in the midst of such circumstances? How does one answer the questions that surely follow tragedies such as this?

I found the following list, originally published by John Piper after the Columbine shootings, encouraging as I seek to comfort others in such a time as this. I have copied Pastor John's main points below, as well as the link to his full article:

21 Ways to Minister to Those Who Are Suffering

(Scripture references to accompany each item on this list are available in the full article.)


1. Pray. Ask God for his help for you and for those you want to minister to. Ask him for wisdom and compassion and strength and a word fitly chosen. Ask that those who are suffering would look to God as their help and hope and healing and strength. Ask that he would make your mouth a fountain of life.

2. Feel and express empathy with those most hurt by this great evil and loss; weep with those who weep.

3. Feel and express compassion because of the tragic circumstances of so many loved ones and friends who have lost more than they could ever estimate.

4. Take time and touch, if you can, and give tender care to the wounded in body and soul.

5. Hold out the promise that God will sustain and help those who cast themselves on him for mercy and trust in his grace. He will strengthen you for the impossible days ahead in spite of all darkness.

6. Affirm that Jesus Christ tasted hostility from men and knew what it was to be unjustly tortured and abandoned, and to endure overwhelming loss, and then be killed, so that he is now a sympathetic mediator for us with God.

7. Declare that this murder was a great evil, and that God's wrath is greatly kindled by the wanton destruction of human life created in his image.

8. Acknowledge that God has permitted a great outbreak of sin against his revealed will, and that we do not know all the reasons why he would permit such a thing now, when it was in his power to stop it.

9. Express the truth that Satan is a massive reality in the universe that conspires with our own sin and flesh and the world to hurt people and to move people to hurt others, but stress that Satan is within and under the control of God.

10. Express that these terrorists rebelled against the revealed will of God and did not love God or trust him or find in God their refuge and strength and treasure, but scorned his ways and his Person.

11. Since rebellion against God was at the root of this act of murder, let us all fear such rebellion in our own hearts, and turn from it, and embrace the grace of God in Christ, and renounce the very impulses that caused this tragedy.

12. Point the living to the momentous issues of sin and repentance in our own hearts and the urgent need to get right with God through his merciful provision of forgiveness in Christ, so that a worse fate than death will not overtake us.

13. Remember that even those who trust in Christ may be cut down like these thousands who were in New York and Washington, but that does not mean they have been abandoned by God or not loved by God even in those agonizing hours of suffering. God's love conquers even through calamity.

14. Mingle heart-wrenching weeping with unbreakable confidence in the goodness and sovereignty of God who rules over and through the sin and the plans of rebellious people.

15. Trust God for his ability to do the humanly impossible, and bring you through this nightmare and, in some inscrutable way, bring good out of it.

16. Explain, when the time is right, and they have the wherewithal to think clearly that one of the mysteries of God's greatness is that he ordains that some things come to pass which he forbids and disapproves of.

17. Express your personal cherishing of the sovereignty of God as the ground of all your hope as you face the human impossibilities of life. The very fulfillment of the New Covenant promises of our salvation and preservation hang on God's sovereignty over rebellious human wills.

18. Count God your only lasting treasure, because he is the only sure and stable thing in the universe.

19. Remind everyone that to live is Christ and to die is gain.

20. Pray that God would incline their hearts to his word, open their eyes to his wonders, unite their hearts to fear him, and satisfy them with his love.

21. At the right time sound the trumpet that all this good news is meant by God to free us for radical, sacrificial service for the salvation of men and the glory of Christ. Help them see that one message of all this misery is to show us that life is short and fragile and followed by eternity, and small, man-centered ambitions are tragic.

[HT: GCX, DGblog]

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

If No One Hears

Yesterday, I read a very interesting article in the Washington Post about Joshua Bell, who is an internationally acclaimed violin virtuoso. By "acclaimed," I mean he is indisputably one of the best classical musicians in the world. This year, he was the recipient of the Avery Fischer prize as the best classical musician in the U.S. (an award so prestigious, apparently, that one has not been awarded in three years.) This guy earns roughly $1000 a minute playing packed-out concert halls. He is just that good.

Back in January, the Post arranged for Bell to play during the busy morning at the L'Enfant Plaza stop on the D.C. Metro "as an experiment in context, perception and priorities -- as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste: In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?" Bell donned jeans and a baseball cap, put a couple dollar bills in the violin case at his feet and played for about an hour as commuters went their busy ways.

Playing his $3.5million violin (handcrafted in 1713 by Antonio Stradivari himself), Bell played classic masterpieces "that have endured for centuries on their brilliance alone, soaring music befitting the grandeur of cathedrals and concert halls." Of the nearly 1,100 people who passed him as he played that hour, a few stopped to listen for a bit, twenty tossed some change his way, but most were so wrapped in up their commute they ignored him completely (I'm sure I would have done the same - talk about pearls before swine...) Interestingly enough, only one person out of over a thousand recognized him.

The article itself is fascinating - but equally interesting was Off The Wire's insight that this is "An Exquisite Picture of the Gospel." Bell was playing next to vending machines where folks would line up to buy lottery tickets, even during their busy commutes. Wireman observes:

As the article says, lotto tickets are hot items in the metro area. People spending their money on a chance to win a million or two, while a chance in a lifetime plays right before them. Hundreds of people walk by without even hearing a note. It is quite astounding.

One person recognized him and knew the worth of what she was hearing. One.

Friday, April 06, 2007

On Suffering

"It is a strange and terrible perversion of the gospel to say that since Jesus suffered for me, therefore I don't have to suffer—I can be comfortable and prosperous. The stumbling block of the cross is removed if we say he became homeless that I might have the finest of houses. He was rejected by men that I might be admired among men. He lived in poverty that I might live in luxury. He endured suffering that I might enjoy ease. Jesus taught just the opposite: "If any man would come after me, let him take up his cross daily and follow me." If we suffer with him, we shall be glorified with him (Romans 8:17). Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21)." - From Into Thy Hands I Commit My Spirit, a Good Friday meditation by John Piper.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Seven Songs

Allie tagged me on Seven Songs I Have Been Enjoying This Week. This is good timing, for (as you may have noticed) I am a little short on material lately.

Long Distance Call by Phoenix: If Kings of Leon were on tranquilizers, from Paris, and yet somehow spoke better English, you'd probably have something like Phoenix.

The 80's by Denison Witmer: That melancholy little tune makes me want to wear my Reebok Pumps, watch Ghostbusters, and whip out a slap bracelet or two (which I am pretty sure I left in my Trapper Keeper). Things were simpler then.

Personal Jesus by Depreche Mode: Pick up the reciever - I'll make you a believer.

A New Law by Derek Webb: I haven't taken this song off my play list since I first heard it. Don't teach me about politics and government/Just tell me who to vote for/Don't teach me about truth and beauty/Just label my music/Don't teach me how to live like a free man/Just give me a new law/Don't teach me about moderation and liberty/I prefer a shot of grape juice/And don't teach me about loving my enemies/Don't teach me how to listen to the Spirit/Just give me a new law/I don't want to know if the answers aren't easy

Easy by Dave Whitfield: You don't know Dave, but he knows you. And he knows you will dig this catchy little tune. You can scroll around in his MySpace player to ch-ch-ch-check it out. This kid could go somewhere if he'd just take my advice and use more cowbell.

Time (The Revelator) by Gillian Welch: Classic Gillian right here. Oh mercy yes.

How to Save a Life by The Fray: Say it with me; "O-V-E-R-P-L-A-Y-E-D." I knew you could do it. Anyway, it's true, and I admit it. But I'm not tired of it yet. Yet.

Monsters by Band of Horses: Band of Horses is a new find for me. In fact, I heard them for the first time this very morning. I like this song mucho. I am really just a sucker for a good banjo lick.

That is eight songs. This is why I will never be an accountant.
You're it: Graham, Matt, Will, and Diddy.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Athiest's My Nightmare

I found two things today that make me embarrassed to be associated with certain aspects of Christian culture. Permit me, friends, a brief rant on said dos cosas:

1.) The first is a "Christian video sharing website" called GodTube. There have been points in history where the Church lead society (in a good way) in innovation and trend-setting ideas. Now we just follow it. Nigh everywhere, apparently. Okay, maybe GodTube is not that big of a thing to get worked up about, but I think it is symptomatic of the Christians' tendency to pull out of society and make our own exclusive clubs on the fringes. When I was in college, there was a particular Christian organization that had its own building on campus all to itself. I was involved with a different organization, and I remarked one day to a friend that I wished we had our own building too. I thought his answer profound: "The thing about building walls is that people tend to stay behind them."

2.) The second thing I found was a particular video on the aforementioned website. It is the only time in my life I have ever heard the sentence "Behold - the atheist's nightmare!" immediately followed by "Now, if you study a well-made banana..." As if this dynamite wordplay weren't enough, you get some questionable ...um... visual aid, as well. Worst. Apologetic. Ever.

My rant is over.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Intellectually Credible & Existentially Satisfying

Here is an excellent lecture by Tim Keller on how Jesus Christ is "intellectually credible and existentially satisfying." That is to say, Jesus (and thus biblical Christianity) is rational and coherent, while at the same time relevant to the current needs of all people.

Free Mp3 Download

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Down With Hymnns Organs Drums Rap

Last fall, I remember seeing a video of Curtis "Voice" Allen, an independent Christian rap artist, perform at John Piper's church. If you've ever been to Bethlehem Baptist, you know it is probably one of the last places you'd expect to hear rap. I remember thinking "good for Piper for stepping out of his norm."

As a result of his performance, however, Allen - and the rap genre as a whole - was harshly criticized in Christian blog circles as being "un-Christian."

Allen writes about his experience in dealing with that criticism and his humble response in An Emcee's Gentle Word.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Of Pigs, Puppies, and Political Correctness

An elementary school in England recently changed the name of its school play from "The Three Little Pigs" to "The Three Little Puppies" in an effort to be sensitive to Muslims, who are forbidden to eat pork.

Even though this is an isolated incident, it is certainly indicative of trend toward hyper-sensitive, all-inclusive political correctness that continues to emerge and express itself in absurd ways. I suspect we will continue to see more and more instances of this sort of idealism taken to extremes in our society, government, and churches.

Interestingly enough, the Muslim Council of Britain referred to the school's name-changing hiijink as "bizarre."

The contenders for next year's school play include The Ugly Duckling The Duckling That Was Judged on Its Personal Merits and Not on Its Physical Appearance (HT: James Finn Garner), The Princess & The Pauper The Equally-Able Non-Gender-Specific-But-Fashionably-Effeminate Individual & The Economically-Marginalized Individual With Deferred Success, or Snow White & The Seven Dwarves Lakeisha and the Shorties.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Unlove

"Unlove is deadly. It is a cancer. It may kill slowly but it always kills in the end. Let us fear it, fear to give room to it as we should fear to nurse a cobra. It is deadlier than any cobra. And just as one minute drop of the almost invisible cobra venom spreads swiftly all over the body of one into whom it has been injected, so one drop of the gall of unlove into my heart or yours, however unseen, has a terrible power of spreading all though our Family, for we are one body - we are parts of one another.

If unlove be discovered anywhere, stop everything and put it right, if possible at once."

- Amy Carmichael

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Knowledge Without Love

People relate to God in different ways. Myself, I generally tend to relate to God through theological study. I love me some systematic theology, and I find great value in being able to articulate and teach doctrine. I have a distaste for doctrinal wishy-washiness, so I seek knowledge. The downside of knowledge, however - even biblical knowledge (maybe especially biblical knowledge) - is that knowledge can easily feed the flames of pride. I read the following this morning from Alexander Strauch's Leading With Love. In this section, Strauch is discussing 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:3. It was a good reminder for people like me:

"Paul... speaks of himself hypothetically as possessing the gift of prophecy in such full measure that he would know "all" mysteries and "all" knowledge. He would thus have the theological answers to all the mysteries of God that people crave to understand. He would be a walking, talking, encyclopedia of knowledge.

Some people love to display their intellect and theological superiority. They are proud of their learning and speaking ability. Such pride had become a serious problem at Corinth. Some people were arrogant because of their knowledge and puffed up with self-importance. They wanted recognition for their prophetic insights and superior wisdom, and they looked down on others with lesser knowledge and giftedness. As as result of their arrogant misuse of knowledge, they harmed the church body (1 Cor. 8).

Knowledge without love inflates the ego and deceives the mind. It can lead to intellectual snobbery, an attitude of mockery and making fun of others' views, a spirit of contempt for those with lesser knowledge, and a demeaning way of dealing with people who disagree. I know of a pastor who had a phenomenal knowledge of the Bible but who hurt many people with his doctrinal scrutiny and divided his own congregation repeatedly until there was no one left but himself. He had a big head but a little heart. His theology was as clear as ice and twice as cold. Such is the path of one who has knowledge without love."
Lord, keep my theology from being cold and unloving.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Wilberforce to be Reckoned With?

Amazing Grace, a movie about the life of William Wilberforce, opens this weekend. Wilberforce is one of the greatest proponents for social justice from his day, and his life is certianly worth learning about. This year marks the two-hundredth anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade, largely due to his efforts. Not sure if I'll get to see it this weekend or not, but if anyone does, let me know if it was any good.

For some info on Wilberforce and his role in ending the slave trade, here are a couple resources:

Wilberforce.org
Official Movie Site
The Life of William Wilberforce (free online book by John Piper)

Friday, February 16, 2007

Religion of Fear

Does God's judgement make Christianity a religion of fear? The Internet Monk has a good post on the subject. Of notable quotability:
I am particularly interested in how evangelicals tend to see events in their lives and in history as expressions of God’s direct judgment. The belief that God is actively judging people through the events that happen in life is a significant source of fear for many Christians.

Much of this phenomenon transcends evangelicalism or any particular expression of Christianity. It is a human behavior that even unbelievers may engage in. When bad or undesirable events occur, there is a deep human impulse to see the event as a punishment from God (or fate, etc.) Christians, because of examples of God’s judgment in scripture and because of how many Christian teachers and leaders interpret events in the light of God’s judgment, often experience fear that God is punishing them directly and will do so in the future.
...

Does the judgment of God ever occur in history? Christians certainly believe that God is working his purposes out, and we believe that temporal judgment is one of those purposes. At the same time, we do not believe that a human presumption of judgment is dependable. It is not pastorally dependable and it tends towards cruelty and arrogance.

We believe that God is for us. In our suffering, he is not experimenting or entertaining himself, but we can be sure he is, even in the midst of the worst events, working towards an ultimate good. His discipline is shaping us into the image of Christ, not judging us for our sins. Christ has been judged for us. God’s wrath as judge has been exhausted on his Son. He is the propitiation for our sins, and no sacrifice - or judgment - is left.

Read the whole post here.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I Am a Huge Nerd

Is it just me, or did Google leave off the "L" in their customized Valentine's Day logo? What better way to say "Happy Valentine's Day" than "Googe"?

...Ugh.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Church for What Purpose?

Here is an excellent - and concise - article from Jean Luc Picard Tim Keller summarizing the purposes of the Church.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Suffer, Little Children

Here's an article from CNN about children being abducted and brainwashed to become soldiers and killers. Honestly this is such a difficult thing for me to read about - especially as a new father. I first became aware of stuff like this through the documentary Invisible Children. I know sin is sin, but when I see things like this, I am amazed that God does not immediately obliterate us off the face of the earth.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Get Hosed

A church congregation in Los Angeles recently held a "mass baptism" by spraying folks in the street with water hoses. Interesting.

From the L.A. Times - Fire hoses were used in the street, said Pastor Wilbert Swaringer, because Los Angeles does not have access to the river Jordan, where the faithful believe Jesus was baptized. When asked about the Los Angeles River, Swaringer looked alarmed and said he had not considered that. Swaringer said church leaders found resonance in the symbolism of the hoses. During the civil rights era, hoses were used "to fight people." But now, he said, "we are using the hose for healing." All members of the church were encouraged to take part, even those who had already been baptized. Community members were also invited, as were members from congregations around the country. [Full Article]

Friday, February 02, 2007

A Calvinist Faces Death

Interestingly enough, TIME magazine interviewed Al Mohler after he recently recovered from pulmonary embolisms, a frequently fatal form of clotting in the lungs. Check out the interview, now posted on TIME magazine's web site: A Calvinist Faces Death

[HT: T-mac]

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Vandorsten.blogspot.com is now www.thedieselblog.com. You probably think this blog is about you. Don't you? Don't you?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Re: Design 2

The newly redesigned and improved vandorstendesign.net is up and running. Huzzah! You know you want a sweet new banner for your blog.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Digital Blasphemy

Have a soul you're not using? BlasphemyChallenge.com is an anti-Christian website that offers a free movie to the first 1001 people who will "record a short message damning yourself to Hell" and upload it to YouTube. From the site:

"You may damn yourself to Hell however you would like, but somewhere in your video you must say this phrase: 'I deny the Holy Spirit.'

Why? Because, according to Mark 3:29 in the Holy Bible, "Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin." Jesus will forgive you for just about anything, but he won't forgive you for denying the existence of the Holy Spirit. Ever. This is a one-way road you're taking here."

I assume that most folks who read this blog are Christian(-ish), and as such may have some strong opinions about yon "Blasphemy Challenge." While I am begining to find this sort of thing too juvenile and sophomoric to be deeply offensive (maybe I'm just getting old), there are plenty of folks who take campaigns like this pretty seriously. Maybe the Blasphemy Challenge should be seriously addressed by the Church... but maybe not. To be honest, I have a hard time believing the Blasphemy Challenge and the anti-Christian activists who sponsor it, like The Rational Response Squad ("Fighting to Free Humanity From the Mind Disorder Known as Theism!"), are really much of a threat.

Before you go all fundamental on me, let me briefly explain. First, I'd be hard pressed to say that putting a video on YouTube would keep the Holy Spirit from calling folks to Christ if He in His good pleasure wants your soul. Secondly, I highly doubt droves of good Christian folk come across the site, see Penn Jillette denounce the Holy Spirit, and immediately become atheists. Like much of the Christian church (sadly), I would say the Blasphemy Challenge reaches no further than their own choir. (And, speaking of racism, why is it that all the videos are pissed-off white kids? I guess YouTube blasphemy is not racially diverse.)

My question though, is how should a Christian respond to something like this? Should we just shake our heads and talk to each other about what a sad shame it is? Those sinners! Should we write these folks some nasty, scripture-quoting emails telling them to go to hell? Should we upload some "I believe in the Holy Spirit" videos on YouTube? Or hack the Blasphemy Challenge servers? Maybe start up BlasphemyChallengeIsDumb.com?

What manner of response to this sort of thing - if a response is even needed - is both effective and glorifies Christ?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Monday is a Fun Day

Yesterday, Truitt sent me a link to a post by Adam Omelianchuk about breaking off your dating relationship according to theology. Pretty funny stuff. Here they are, shamelessly reprinted:

Atheist: The burden of proof is on you to establish the existence of this so-called “god” but I believe that if there was any such divine entity “it” would not want us to continue dating.

Intelligent Design Theorist: Our relationship bears the marks of irreducible complexity making it too difficult to explain by way of natural causes. Therefore, there the most reasonable conclusion is that we were designed to break up since things have gotten so complicated.

Calvinist: We were predestined before the creation of the world to break up according to God’s good pleasure. I am, on my own power, unable to break up with you apart from the irresistible draw of God’s sovereign grace which leads me to end this relationship. Those that truly break up will not get back together in the end.

Arminian: While you love me and have a wonderful plan for my life, I have the power to resist your will. If I did not, love would not be possible. For our relationship to be loving it needs to include the possibility of breaking up—something I am doing right now.

New Perspective on Paul Scholar: Rather than earning God’s blessing, it is established on the basis of our covenant courtship (I asked your dad to date you didn’t I?) which requires the proper response of an intentional and deliberate pursuit of marriage. Yet there is no such pursuit, therefore God’s blessing on or relationship is no longer maintained.

Open Theist: I am not really sure if we are supposed to be together, because neither is God.

Theistic Evolutionist: The beauty and rhythm of random variation and natural selection over long periods of time has presented us with a world where God has shown us that our relationship is too biologically expensive to maintain and is destined for extinction.

Young Earth Creationist: No, I do not believe we have been going out for that long. Our relationship is only six days old and the on the seventh God rested. I think we need a rest too.

Emergent: The question if whether we are in relationship or not is mired in Modernity’s obsession with propositional truth. A better a way to look at this is to enter into God’s story about how he lead us together and is now leading us apart.

Catholic: Honey, I think the Virgin Mary is leading us in different directions. I think it is her will that we break up.

Nice work, Adam. There are a few add-ons in his comments section that are pretty funny too. Enjoy.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Marijuana with a Side of Injustice

Is justice really blind, or just stupid?Here is a case of backwards justice: Today two border patrol agents serve the first day of eleven- and twelve-year prison sentences, respectively. In February of 2005, the two guards stopped a suspicious-looking van on the U.S. side of the border. Inside they found an illegal Mexican immigrant, who had successfully (well, up to that point anyway) smuggled nearly 750 pounds of marijuana into the U.S. When the illegal immigrant/drug smuggler tried to escape by running toward the Mexican border, one of the agents shot him in the butt in an attempt to prevent his escape.

The drug smuggler did get away, but was later contacted by a U.S. Homeland Security official who heard about the incident and offered immunity to the smuggler if he would testify against the two officers. Last March, a jury found the officers - the U.S. officers protecting our country from 750 lbs. of marijuana to be sold and distributed to your friends, neighbors, and children - guilty of several charges including assault with a dangerous weapon and violating the drug smuggler's "civil rights." Does that seem strange to anyone but me? An illegal immigrant smuggling drugs into our country is - at the initiation of an agent of our own government - is given excessive liberties while U.S. officers in charge of stopping said illegal immigrants/drugs are punished, and punished severely.

At this point, nearly two years after the incident at the border, there are allegations - and even some evidence - that the border patrol guards did not follow standard operating procedure in firing upon the smuggler. Whether that is true or not, the fact is that these two officers are serving double-digit jail sentences (away from their families and children, I might add) for preventing over $1M worth of illegal drugs from entering our country. One of the officers (Ramos, who was nominated Border Patrol Agent of the year in 2005) is quoted as pointing out, "There's murderers and child rapists that are looking at less time than me."

Meanwhile, as these men serve the first day of their decade-plus years in jail, Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, the illegal immigrant attempting to smuggle in the drugs, has been granted complete immunity from all charges by the U.S. That's right - because someone thought the U.S. border guards needed to be made examples of, Davila is no longer legally culpable for entering the U.S. illegally or bringing in almost a ton of pot with the intent to sell and distribute to American citizens. He is now actually suing the U.S. Border Patrol for $5 million, citing that his civil rights were violated. (I suspect he is doing so with the help of several opportunistic lawyers and U.S. officials looking to make some cash.)

Has justice been served here?

If you don't think so - and I certainly do not - let the White House know. You can call the White House directly and leave a message at 202-456-1111 or email them at comments@whitehouse.gov. Ask that President Bush pardon Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, the two border patrol agents imprisoned for doing their jobs and guarding our borders. They'll know who you are talking about. Seriously. In less time that it took you to read this, you can send an email.

Monday, January 15, 2007

I Wish I Weren't Racist

Being a white guy on staff at a predominately white church does not often lend itself to thinking outside of my own racial culture. That is not an excuse, just an observation. I am ashamed to say that in the four years I have been here, I cannot recall racial issues ever having been discussed beyond a few comments here and there. Those comments were generally about the need for our staff to strive to be "culturally sensitive." While I am not apathetic toward racial issues, I cannot say that I have put the thought and effort into these issues that perhaps I should. In the end, is not my negligence its own passive form of racism?

For MLK Day, Edward Gilbreath, editor of Today's Christian, wrote a thought-provoking article for Christianity Today regarding why so many blacks are leaving evangelical ministries and churches. His admonishment:

White Christian, you have people of color on your staff, but are you seeking their ideas and perspectives? Does your corporate culture reflect sensitivity to the feelings and concerns of nonwhite individuals? You've spoken to the black people who attend your church, but have you had them over to watch the game after service? Have you invited them to join your small group?

Black Christian, have you been keeping at an arm's distance those white acquaintances who have attempted to get to know you better? Have you written off some whites as racists because of silly comments they didn't realize were offensive? Have you taken the time to educate them about your culture, answering all of their probing questions about your hair care or your opinion of some black celebrity?

White Christian, you hugged and apologized to that nameless black person at an out-of-town conference, but have you made any new friends across racial lines since you've returned home? Are you now more attuned to the subtle ways society treats whites differently from blacks?

Black Christian, are you hanging on to unresolved bitterness against whites? Are you harboring bigotry of your own? Have you been ignoring God's command to extend grace? Are you resisting his call to become a bridge between the races, because you realize that bridges, by definition, must be stepped on?

As Christians, it's possible for us to do wonderfully holy things cross-culturally without ever experiencing a fundamental change in our thinking. To break out of the monochromatic status quo of today's evangelical movement, we must confront hard truths about ourselves and about the things that truly drive our institutions. If we don't, we'll never find ourselves in that place of total freedom and faith and unity that allows us to be used by God in radical ways. (READ THE ARTICLE | HT: BETWEEN TWO WORLDS)

Friday, January 12, 2007

Piper: God "Kicks Our Ass"

potty mouthAt a breakout session at Passion07, Pastor John Piper used a phrase that some may find inappropriate. Here, Pastor John explains why and his reflections afterwards. Of notable quotability:

I think if I had it to do over, I would not say it. On the one hand, I don't like fanning the flames of those who think it is hip and cool to swear for Jesus. That, it seems to me, is immature. On the other hand, I want those hip people to listen to all I say and write, and I hope that the Lord may get a hold of them and draw them out of immaturity and into the fullness of holiness. But it backfires if one becomes unholy to make people holy.

I like where he is going here. I realize this is a debatable issue, but there do seem to be some biblical evidences for the use of strong language in certain circumstances. It seems like there could indeed be cultural situations where it could be appropriate. The problem though, as Pastor John states here, is crossing the line into becoming "unholy to make people holy." I don't think the pulpit is an appropriate context to drop some language bombs, but are there times and places where strong "non-churchy" vernacular (i.e. cussing) could be culturally permissable - even useful - in relating to folks outside of the Church?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

In the Army Now

Below is an email sent this afternoon from my brother in Colorado Springs, who serves as active military in homeland security:

Greetings friends and family,

My original intent of this note is to inform you of the possibility of our Army Chaplains being prohibited to use the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in their prayers. This is most absurd. Being a follower and believer in Jesus Christ myself, and in the Army, this of course concerned me greatly.

I don't know how you feel about signing petitions, but there is an online petition at the American Center for Law & Justice (
www.aclj.org) that you can sign if you like which expresses your opposition to this attack on our faith. There is also a lot more info on the above mentioned website concerning this issue, if you'd just like to read more about it.

Peace in Christ
-Jeremiah VanDorsten

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I Want One

As any self-respecting technophile or Mac geek will know, Apple introduced three new devices yesterday: a widescreen iPod with touchscreen capabilities, a phone, and a "breakthrough internet device." The kicker was that they are all the same device. Experience has generally led me to believe that devices that try to cram a lot of functions together into one inevitably trade quality for quantity and rarely do any of said functions well. Apple's iPhone, however, could be the exception to that rule. Time will tell. In the meantime, if anyone has an extra $500 they'd like to donate to my iPhone fund, just let me know. Now please excuse me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Gimme a Burrito

As a bonafide out-of-the-closet Chipotle burrito addict, Crossings Church in Richmond, VA may be on to something here:
"They worked a deal with Chipotle to give each visitor a free burrito. Crossings passes out a playing card (provided by Chipotle) that serves as the free burrito coupon. If you've never been to Chipotle, this ain't your momma's Taco Bell tortilla roll-up. This thing is huge, and costs about $6-8." [HT: Church Marketing Sucks]
I like the idea of local churches building a rapport with local businesses in the community. I also like the idea of free Chipotle burritos. Free. Huge. Burritos.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Person of the Year - Me?

Let me just say how honored I am to have been chosen as Time magazine's "Person of the Year." Oh, hey - you won too.

"The annual honor for 2006 went to each and every one of us, as Time cited the shift from institutions to individuals - citizens of the new digital democracy, as the magazine put it. The winners this year were anyone using or creating content on the World Wide Web." (Larry McShane)

Rasberries to last year's winners, Bill Gates and Bono.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Snow Bunny Part 3: Death of a Dream

The ride up Copper Mountain was slow, cold, and utterly beautiful. Dozens of skiers and ‘boarders whipped down the slope, which lay roughly three vertical miles below my dangling feet and board. I tightened my kung-fu death grip on the rail. The snowfans below zigged and zagged, leaving flowing streams of fresh powder in their wake as they gracefully wove through the beautiful evergreen trees that spotted the landscape. Soon, brethren, I will join you! You and I, bound by board and blade and powdery snow! Soon, we will… wait –hold up. Who the crap puts trees in the middle of a freakin’ ski slope? How the heck am I supposed to rip it up while dodging large copses of evergreens? Easy, friend, I think to myself. Don’t forget - you’re a natural at this. Trees shmees. You’re the Chosen One of the snowboarding elite.

Well, no matter now, anyhow – here comes the top, the end of the lift. After a passable (if slightly unsteady) dismount from the lift, I was ready to show the world my previously unknown snowboarding skills.

My first attempt at actual movement with both feet strapped to the board took me a grand total of about six feet. Not bad. Unfortunately, that six-foot trek left me flat dab in the middle of a flat spot just off the side of the lift. It did not take me long to understand why someone had earlier referenced flats as “snowboarder’s hell.” With no way to gain momentum, I spent the next ten and a half minutes crab-crawling/butt-scooting over to the actual slope. Determined not to further humiliate myself, I joined my brother and his friends at the crest of the slope, regained my composure, and tried to catch my breath after that initial display of jaw-dropping athleticism.

What followed was the death of a dream, and can only be described by two words: UTTER. DISASTER. I would go into all the gory details, if I could actually remember them. It will suffice to say, however, that I spent the next several hours falling, tumbling, rolling, sliding, and/or scooting my way down the slopes. I’m pretty sure the high altitude must have affected my memory, but there are several highlights that stand out between long periods of gasping for air and recovering from massive quad cramps. In no particular order, here are my top ten most memorable moments:
1.) On my first of three runs, I “deviated” from the “recommended path” (read: I careened into a pit of trees) and ended up chest-deep in soft powdery snow. Chest-deep, I kid you not. With a six-foot board strapped to both feet. Twenty minutes later, I finally managed to haul myself back onto packed snow. Fifteen minutes after that, I managed to make it back to the actual slope, where I had to rest for another ten minutes.

2.) My least favorite people on the slopes were the dudes who were really good who zipped by and sprayed snow all over my newbie face while I was crashed out. C’mon guys. Seriously. I know you did that on purpose. And if I could catch you…

3.) My favorite people were the five-year-old kids doing insane jumps, flips and spins. Interestingly, they were also runners-up to my least favorite people, but only because I was really jealous.

4.) I also liked the parents who had “ski leashes” for their kids. That was pretty funny. Seriously, their kids skied while their parents held them back on a leash. Funny.

5.) Did I mention I fell a lot? Mostly on my face. Hard. The best (or worst) fall was the time I landed squarely on my back, which whiplashed the back of my skull into the ground while simultaneously flipping my legs all the over so that I landed facedown. One of the slope medics actually came over for that one. I told him I was fine, but I cannot remember if I was actually telling him the truth or not. He must not have thought so, because he followed me at a distance for a little while after.

6.) After my second run, I realized my cell phone, previously secured in my Camelbak, was gone. For those who left voicemails while I was away, I’m sorry I never called you back. It’s not that I don’t like you, I promise. It’s that I no longer have your phone number.

7.) While recovering from a fall, I saw a man in skis going at least 120mph down the slope. Backwards. It was amazing because he was not at all looking where he was going. Mostly because he was drinking a huge bottle of water.

8.) By my third run down the slopes, my body was so tired, it mostly stopped working and generally refused to do what my brain told it to do. I was warned earlier that this would happen, but scoffed.
My Brain: "Go, Body, go!"
My Body: "Who's scoffing now, sucka?!"

9.) I remember seeing a man in an orange vest riding a snowmobile up the slope. He stopped to check something just a few yards from where I was resting. I briefly considered sneaking up behind him and clubbing him in the back of the head with my snowboard so I could take his snowmobile and ride it the rest of the way down. But then he drove off.

10.) At one point, I saw a man ski down wearing only boxer shorts. No kidding. But it is quite possible I had altitude sickness and/or a concussion and was hallucinating.
By the time I limped back to the car, I was convinced that I had shattered both my wrists, knees, my left elbow, and my tailbone (which my friend Joy, who is a nurse, told me is called the coccyx when I later lamented about having much pain in that region). I pretty much felt like I had just done 10,000,000 push-ups while someone punched me repeatedly about the face and throat.

So, in conclusion, snowboarding was pretty much awesome.

And yes, I would definitely go again.