Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Prosperity Gospel as a Pyramid Scheme

When I was in college, I read a book by a prominent megachurch pastor. The author told me to live like a child of God. He told me God wanted to bless me. He also mentioned that if I only believed, God would give me the nicest house in the neighborhood. That seemed to make sense.

The author explained that he once wanted the nicest house in the neighborhood, and God gave it to him. Here was a man with evidence. Not only did he have the story about the house, and other anecdotes, he also had a very nice set of white teeth (Ah, supernaturally white, I thought). 

This was my first introduction to what is popularly called the “prosperity gospel” or the “health and wealth” gospel. At the time, the logic seemed airtight: “If it worked for him, why shouldn’t it work for me?” 
If I had dug a bit deeper, though, I would have seen the actual reason it worked for him and not for me. It’s because the prosperity gospel is a pyramid scheme.
You can read the rest here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Rest of "Unbroken"

The John Templeton Foundation, NBC Universal, and the film Unbroken have released a 6-minute film that explores what happened to Louis Zamperini after he came home, furthering and amplifying Unbroken’s themes of faith, resilience, and the power of forgiveness.

For those of you who wanted to see Louis’ embrace of faith and forgiveness, you’ll love Ross Kauffman’s short film.

Click here to view the film, which will also be included on the Unbroken DVD.

HT: Nancy French

Monday, January 26, 2015

9 Things You Need to Know About Widows

This is a vulnerable and powerful testimonial about widow-hood and how they can be shown the love of Jesus Christ. 

While compassion walks beside the bereaved, pity stands off at a safe distance. The day my husband collapsed, my boss—a physician and head of a busy community clinic—canceled his appointments immediately and came to the hospital. He looked after my in-laws with uncanny tenderness and prayed with them. When my children came in from out of town, he wrapped his arms around them both and shed tears as I told them their dad was not expected to survive. To offer compassion in any circumstance is to share in another’s suffering, and in so doing, we mirror the suffering of Christ on our behalf.

You can read the rest here.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Fun:

I have to admit that this may only be fun for someone like me who finds the history of malls that I've visited as fascinating. Maybe it's part of my enjoyment of what's sometimes termed as "cultural exegesis." Maybe I'm just plain weird.

In any case, I recently stumbled over a website called If a mall you know and appreciate is included in their stories, it's not a good sign. It seems that, for every mall that's terminally struggling or has been torn down, this site has an informed eulogy. 

Do you know any malls on this list? I'm familiar with three:

-Memorial Mall in Sheboygan, WI
-Westdale Mall in Cedar Rapids, IA
-Shipyards Shop Outlet in Wilmington, DE

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Recent History of American Church Diversity

Pastor and author Mark DeYmaz of Little Rock, AR, recently posted on Christianity Today about the recent history of American church diversity. The city of Chicago is mentioned a few times.

You can read about it here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Thinking/Obsessing About Heaven?

In light of the criticism that has been brought on, arguably, all testimony and study of the Christian afterlife because of Alex Malarkey's recanting of The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, Dr. Michael Wittmer of Grand Rapids Theological Seminary writes four reasons for us to stop obsessing about Heaven:

1. We were never supposed to go to heaven.

2. Scripture says little about heaven.

3. Heaven is not the goal.

4. Fixation on heaven can forfeit the gospel.

You can read his explanations here. While I might have a few questions about a few of his points, I think this article brings up a good point in getting us to ask ourselves why we want to learn about Heaven. It's an important question, and the honest answer can reveal quite a lot about us. 


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Ancient Christian Ministry of Satire

While cyberspace is hopping with heated discussions about the importance of freedom of speech and the philosophy of satire (and its difference from plain and vicious ridicule), I stumbled over a curious article that surprisingly introduced an historical figure as, also, an early satirist: Tertullian. He used satire as a gracious (apologetic, in the full sense of the word) means of observing reality, defending truth and appealing to justice and the common good, not as a graphic condemnation and/or assault on fellow children of God.

He was a North African adherent of what was a minority religion in the territories in which he lived and traveled. He had seen his faith mocked publicly, with opponents parading cartoonish images in the streets to inflame the animus and contempt already directed against his beliefs. They declared his religion the threat to social order and cherished values, and they blamed its inexplicable increase in followers for the calamities befalling civil society. Many of his fellow believers had already been imprisoned, even tortured. He blamed “ignorance as the chief root of [the] unjustifiable bitterness” toward his faith.
This pious man predicted that a cataclysmic judgment was coming that would dismantle the very civilization that was threatening him, and that only his creed could save it and prevent a chaos and lawlessness heretofore unknown.
He decided the time had come to enter the lists and fight the good fight.
His name was Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus. He was a Christian. And his weapon was . . . satire.
Here's an excerpt from Ad Nationes, noting some discrepancies in the justice system:
. . . when Christians, however, confess [to practicing the Christian faith] without compulsion, you apply the torture to induce them to deny. What great perverseness is this, when you stand out against confession, and change the use of the torture, compelling the man who frankly acknowledges the charge to evade it, and him who is unwilling, to deny it? You, who preside for the purpose of extorting truth, demand falsehood from us alone that we may declare ourselves not to be what we are. I suppose you do not want us to be bad men, and therefore you earnestly wish to exclude us from that character. To be sure, you put others on the rack and the gibbet, to get them to deny what they have the reputation of being. Now, when they deny (the charge against them), you do not believe them but on our denial, you instantly believe us.
There are other examples of satire to be found in Tertullian's works, but it gets a bit more PG-13 rated.  

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Faith of Selma's Lead Actor

Christianity Today had the recent opportunity to interview David Oyelowo, who plays Martin Luther King, Jr. in the film Selma, which has gotten rave reviews. I hope to see it soon.

On the 24th of July, 2007, God told me that I was going to play Dr. King in this film. The reason I know the date is that it was a real surprise to me. I'm not American, I'm from England, and I'd only just moved from America two months before reading the script. The idea that I would be the one to play Dr. King was, to be honest, a bit shocking to me.
But I do know God's voice. I became a born-again Christian at the age of 16, and my spirit didn't doubt it. My flesh was a little more skeptical. I auditioned for the role, and the director who was attached didn't feel I was right for the role, which kind of surprised me spiritually. But like I say, my soul was like, okay, I understand. I hadn't done many films, really.
HT: Christianity Today

Thursday, January 15, 2015

History and Information About Boko Haram

Here's some history and information about Boko Haram. Remember to pray for all hearts and safety of all those involved in Boko Haram's acts of violence.

HT: Joe Carter

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Introducing The Gray Havens

There's a Chicagoland-based "narrative pop folk" group on the rise named The Gray Havens.

You can find their website here.

Their interview by the The Gospel Coalition is here.

HT: Bethany Jenkins and The Gray Havens

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Another Reason to Celebrate the Buckeyes

I was proud that a Big Ten team won college football's first and historic national championship last night. I'm also proud of who they've invited onto the sidelines for emotional support. You can watch a video about the story here.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Fifty-Nine Years Since Jim Elliot's Passing

Almost four years ago, I helped put on a church play called "Bridge of Blood: Jim Elliot Takes Christ to the Aucas." We wanted to make it a real period piece and multi-sensory experience, so we showed pictures from Elisabeth Elliot's The Savage My Kinsman, provided a very accurate soundtrack (featuring the Statler Brothers, George Beverly Shea and Andy Griffith, among a few others) and a museum, complete with authentic food and even pictures of Wheaton College's memorials to the martyred missionary team (three of which were Wheaton College alumni).

I'm thankful that, in the Christian blogosphere, we're still remembering the servanthood and passion of this missionary team. 

Jim and Elizabeth Elliot spent their married life serving as missionaries in the jungles of Ecuador, giving up earthly comforts and pleasures for the sake of spreading the Gospel. In 1956, while attempting to build relationships and share God’s love with the Huaoroni people in Ecuador, Elliot and four other missionaries made plans to visit the Huaoroni people. One of the tribe members lied to the rest of the trip about the missionaries intentions, resulting in the Huaoroni warriors planning an attack on Elliot and the other missionaries.

The missionaries were massacred on January 8, 1956  by the Huaoroni warriors.

Even though the lives of the missionaries were prematurely ended, the story of their dedication to God, to the point of death lives on. Believers across the world have been encouraged and edified by the life and legacy of Elliot.

You can read the rest of the article here

Friday, January 9, 2015

Friday Fun: The Pi Pie

This was inevitable. Anyone hungry?

So, when should the math lovers be told that that's not universally how the Greek letter has been pronounced?

Or you could visit this place if you're feeling like math pun food but not ready for dessert yet.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Stuart Scott and Internet Criticism

There's a nice tribute and some good advice:

Like many people I was saddened to hear about Stuart Scott’s death on Sunday. As a lifelong sports guy (watching and rooting at least, if not playing particularly well), I’ve “known” the ESPN anchor for years. His catch phrases, his professionalism, and his general likeability made him as cool as the other side of the pillow.
Until I went back and reread portions of the big ESPN book, I didn’t know Scott received so much criticism for style. I’m hardly an urban hip-hop kid, but I always found his street-smart style to be genuine and entertaining. Apparently, some people hated it and sent in emails or wrote online about they found his schtick unprofessional, inauthentic, or just plain annoying. Scott’s approach to this kind of internet criticism was refreshing.
You can read the rest here.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Not-So-Positive Review of "Five Armies"

I still plan to see the movie, despite the understandable deviations from Tolkien's arguable intent of the story that are laid out in this article.

(Warning! There are minor spoilers in his second point). 

HT: Samuel James

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Our Daughter Kaylee is 5!

Almost 5 years ago, I had a Skype interviewing for the church position I currently hold. One of the elders of the church apologized that he couldn't attend a previous interview because his wife had recently given birth to their baby girl.

"Oh," I said. "My wife and I just had a baby girl, too!"

Just yesterday, that same elder and I met each other while dropping off our baby girls to preschool, and my daughter handed his daughter an invitation to her 5-year birthday party.

How time has passed.

I think my wife summed it up best in her message to our passionate and feisty middle-child:

Happy 5th Birthday to my sweet Kaylee Joy! Can not believe you are 5! You are such a delight to have in our home and just love to give us kisses  You live your life with passion and are a loyal friend to those around you. You love music and anything Disney and when you get the giggles, there is no stopping you  We love you, Kaylee!

Monday, January 5, 2015

The New Year and Why We Should Keep Learning

I stumbled over this interesting take on a writing and endeavor by William Bradford:

In the late decades of his life William Bradford, long governor of the Separatist colony in Massachusetts, tried to teach himself Hebrew. On the blank pages preceding his manuscript of the history of that famous settlement, Of Plimouth Plantation (here from full text at Project Gutenberg), Bradford explains his motivation:
Though I am  growne  aged, yet I have had a long-
ing desire, to see with  my own eyes, something of
that  most ancient language,  and  holy  tongue,
in which  the Law, and  oracles  of  God  were
write; and in which God, and angels, spake to
the holy patriarks, of old time; and what
names were  given  to things,  from the
creation…to see how
the words, and  phrases
lye in  the holy  texte;
and to dicerne some-
what of the  same
for  my  owne

Friday, January 2, 2015