Honestly, say this with a straight face. What are you waiting for?

Monday, December 31, 2007

The Top 10 Albums of 2007

I hope you all have had a wonderful holiday season so far. I know I have. Teresa and I are finishing our winter tour of Kansas and Oklahom and will soon be heading back to Louisville. Before we do, here's my annual Top 10 Albums of the Year. Enjoy.

10. Relient K - Five Score and Seven Years Ago - An almost complete departure from the pop punk genre, this strictly pop album is not as good as their previous Mmhmm, but it is a strong release from the band. Many of the songs are instantly catchy and Matty T's lyrics are just as witty as ever, although some of the tongue in cheekiness found in their previous releases is now gone.

9. MxPx - Secret Weapon - This album came out in July, but I didn't get it until Christmas, which leaves it a little low on my list, but barges its way into the top 10 anyway. I'm pretty sure these guys will never make a crappy album, they're still going strong after over 15 years and this album is even better than their previous two efforts. Upbeat, fun, positive, and full of all the things you love about MxPx. Hats off to the kings of pop punk.

8. Chiodos - Bone Pallace Ballet - Chiodos definitely takes a step forward with this album. It's much better produced than All's Well That Ends Well and Craig Owens' vocals are much more on point. However, you have to wonder how long a band like this can keep up steam in a genre on the decline, but as for now, Chiodos may be the emo/screamo/whatever the crap you want to call it top dog amongst the scenesters in 2007.

7. The Academy is - Santi - This may have been my most anticipated album of the year. Santi is far from over-produced and holds onto much of the rawness of a live performance. William Beckett is a fantastic frontman and his voice is just beautiful. Also, We've Got a Big Mess on Our Hands may be the catchiest song of the year. They're not as big as Fall Out Boy, Panic!, and now Paramore, but the guys of The Academy is push the boundaries of the indie rock scene and may blow up with their next album.

6. LA Symphony - Unleashed - This is a collection of new songs and songs that were lost and didn't make the cut over the past seven years. It features former members Pigeon John, Btwice, and J-Beits, and as you can expect, is solid throughout. LA Symphony is indie hip hop at its best and features hysterical moments along with focused and emotional songs that keep you listening from start to finish.

5. Paramore - Riot! - This is easily my guilty pleasure of the year. Yes, they're all high school age, but they've put together an extremely solid album. It's full of pop appeal and apparently MTV loves it, which is very odd since MTV and I rarely agree on anything. Don't let the first single Misery Business fool you, this album is much deeper than their first hit and is full of hidden gems. It's one of the few albums that I can listen to this year from front to back without having to reach for the skip button.

4. Chasing Victory - Fiends - Sadly, this is the best and last album from Chasing Victory. The band took about 10 steps forward with this release and easily shredded the boundaries of screamo that coralled them in the past. Musically, this album is incredible and the lyrical content cuts me to the core (it's a concept album based on many of the vices we have).

3. Anberlin - Cities - At first, this album was a bit of a letdown for me, but as the year rolled on it became one of my favorites. It's a bit more mellow at times than their previous works, but that's okay. It's honest and transparent and Stephen Christian may be the coolest dude in music. They have gotten more mature, even better live, and are ready to break out with a new album on Universal in 2008.

2. 12 Stones - Anthem for the Underdog - Don't ask me why I still like 12 Stones, I just can't explain it. Maybe it's because they make other alt rock bands look silly. Maybe it's because they stay true to their path and make the music they love. Maybe it's because Paul McCoy is an incredible vocalist and isn't out to prove anything other than he loves rock n' roll. Maybe it's because time and time again this band's songs affect me in a way no other band does. Maybe this is why I STILL (and always will) love 12 Stones.

1. The Almost - Southern Weather - Was there really any question? Aaron Gillespie is absolutely unbelievable. He recorded every sound on this album and made it near perfect. It's nothing like Underoath, and actually, that's a good thing. It's a true expression of Gillespie's passions and his desire to create unique music. This album was easily the soundtrack to my year and I can't wait for what Aaron cooks up next.

In case you were wondering, there were some let downs this year. Several in fact. Here are my biggest musical let downs in 2007.

3. Thousand Foot Krutch - The Flame in All of Us - Trevor, I know you can do better.
2. Falling Up - Captiva - I guess this is what happens when you lose half of your band.
1. Emery - I'm Only a Man - Apparently so. But I've seen you men make MUCH better music than this.

Enjoy your final day of 2007 everyone!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

My Stance on Rob Bell, the Emerging Church, and Off-Brand Soda

Okay, so I said that this post was going to happen last week, but it didn't. Which is actually good, because I've done some more reading since then on various things and I hope that I have a better idea of what I want to say.

Keep in mind, my views almost always annoy someone somewhere, usually many someones. However, the blogs I've written so far have gotten surprisingly good feedback (although the ideas, when expressed verbally elsewhere have received quite a bit of venom. I guess that just means that people only reply to my blogs/notes if they like what I say and save the criticism for when they see me face to face.) I expect this blog to receive quite bit of jeering from both sides, which may be why I delayed it some, but I think I'm ready for it now.

For starters, if you've spent any amount of time talking theology with me, you've probably heard me state my views on Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, and many other Emerging Church figures. I have been one of the more outspoken people I know against this movement, in particular, Rob Bell. Strikingly, I had not read any complete volume of any of these men, I'd read clips, reviews, opinions and seen a few Nooma videos. Because of this, I decided it would be of my best interest to spend my time off from school over the winter break to read as many books on or about the Emerging Church and their views as I possibly could. What I've discovered so far has been quite a surprise.

I started by reading "Velvet Elvis" by Rob Bell, a book I've heard nothing but bad things about from people I really respect and hold to many of the theological views as I do. I read it in one day.

It's the best book I've read this year.

Now, before you hit the reply button and praise me for coming to my senses, let me explain why. I do not think Rob Bell is the greatest theologian of our time, as a matter of fact, I learned nothing theologically from this book and would not advise anyone to look to Bell for growth in the area of Biblical doctrine. That being said, I felt that as far as Christianity in practice, the book was outstanding. Bell called out several areas of our "Christian culture" that are in desperate need of revision and/or overhaul. Many conservative, right wing, Christians would do good to listen to Bell's call for activism in our communities, churches, and relationships.

I also completely agree with his view of how the right side builds a wall of doctrines (some essential, some non) that keep others out and make sure that the right ones are in. I would not have gone so far as to use the example of the Virgin Birth to make my point on this issue, but I see what he is trying to say, and I believe him to be mostly correct on the issue.

I also found in the book that he upholds substitutionary atonement, which was very important for me to read. I know that others in this movement don't, or at best don't talk about it, which I find extremely troubling since it so foundational to the Christian faith.

Did I agree with everything Bell said in "Velvet Elvis?" No, but the things I did agree with stirred my soul for days as I contemplated the ways that my Christian life fails to reflect the life that Christ has called us to live. I would not recommend this book to those who are very young in their faith, simply to avoid confusion on particular issues, but for those who are mature and have a good idea of where they stand theologically, I think the book could be a great help. I look forward to read Bell's next book "Sex God" when it comes back to the library.

Now, I spent a day this week reading a book by Brian McLaren called "A Search for What is Real: Finding Faith." I am sad to say that the book did nothing to change my view of McLaren. I think that, like Bell, McLaren has much to say to a culture that has become apathetic to loving the lost and reaching out to those in need. However, McLaren's pluralism is just too much for me to swallow. It appears from what I've read that McLaren does believe that Christianity is the best way, but simply the best way of many other good ways such as Judaism, Islam, or whatever else.

So for what it's worth, here's my take on the Emerging Church:

I believe that they are right on when it comes to communicating with our culture and loving people where they are. They have a very good understanding of the social part of the Gospel and our obligation to help the poor, the sick, the downtrodden, and the despised. I commend them for their efforts to reach out and invite anyone and everyone into a loving relationship with God.

Unfortunately, this is where it ends. I believe in the inerrency of Scripture - that it is God's Word, written through the hands of men inspired by the Holy Spirit, and it is completely perfect and it is exactly what God meant to say. It is complete truth to me, and I need not look beyond God's Word for authority in my life. Because of this, I believe that there is not salvation apart from the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross. To abandon this or to downplay it would be a travesty. Because of this, I cannot affirm the complete mission of the Emerging Church.

On the flip side, I am becoming more disgusted with the right-wing, conservative church as each day goes by because of the unwillingness to love and accept those who do not agree with our complete wall of doctrine. I would be happy to partake of communion with someone who was not baptized in a Baptist church. I would also be happy to work alongside a brother or sister who has a private prayer language, who is not a Calvinist, who is a woman pastor. I refuse to limit my ministry to consist of only those who hold to each and every non-essential doctrine as I do.

Therefore, I find myself in a bit of a pickle. It appears that I lie in somewhat of a no-mans-land between the right and left, unable to choose an allegiance. Maybe this is where I'll stay, or maybe others will join me in an effort put our differences aside and work together for the good of the Gospel. I'll leave you with a quote from D.A. Carson in his book "Becoming Coversant with the Emerging Church."

"No worldview, no epistemological system developed by us in this fallen world, is entirely good or entirely bad. God's gracious "common grace" assures us that even systems that are deeply structurally flawed will preserve some insight in them somewhere; our sin ensures that even a system closely aligned with Scripture will be in some measure distorted. Thus thoughtful Christians should not identify themselves completely with either modernism or postmodernism, nor should they utterly damn either entity. "

Feel free to say whatever you want. Next time I think I'll be writing about tolerance . . . dun dun dun. See ya then.

P.S. - Go have a Pibb Extra. It'll kick your mouth in the butt.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Disaster Tourism

I officially turned in my last assignment of the semester yesterday, and I'm now completely done with school for over a month. As a result, I've got a double whammy for you this week! I can't tell you how weird I feel for saying "whammy." I promise, it won't happen again.

This Friday marks the release of the film "The Golden Compass." This movie has sparked an extreme amount of controversy due to its anti-Christian imagery and the fact that the author of the three book series, Philip Pullman, is a self-proclaimed athiest who has written the books to open people's eyes to the evils of the Christian faith. I personally think Pullman is a bozo, and could care less if he decides to adapt his books to the big screen, but several Christian groups have already called for a boycott of the movie among Christians, lest we support an evil endeavor and become indoctrinated with its lies.

But this post isn't about The Golden Compass.

In the late 90s, the Southern Baptist Convention began an 8-year boycott of Walt Disney Co. because of a so-called "gay agenda." Apparently Disney offers health benefits to homosexual employees and particular days at their theme parks are directed towards the gay community. Why don't we go ahead and boycott businesses that offer benefits to unmarried people living with their boyfriend or girlfriend? Or even a company that allows its employees to have a cigarette outside the building during their 15 minute break?

But this post isn't about Disney.

Last month at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention in Arlington, TX, Messengers approved a bylaw change to replace the word “drunkenness” as it appears in several instances to “the use of alcohol as a beverage,” stipulating that such practice is unacceptable for employees and members elected to the executive board, committees and offices of the SBTC. Therefore, if you are an employee anywhere within the SBC in Texas, you now prohibited from partaking of any alcoholic beverage. I could go into a rant about the use of alcohol in the Bible and the fact that it's not a sin to partake of an alcoholic beverage . . .

But this post isn't about alcohol.

This post also isn't about Harry Potter, public school, the environment, or any other topic we could name that may cause controversy among Christians over what's right and wrong to be associated with. This post IS about the real issue:

We are not teaching our brothers and sisters the truth of what the Christian life looks like and are copping out by passing laws, rules, and boycotts to cover up for our failure to address what the Bible says we should be doing.

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." - Romans 8:1-2

What this means is, because Christ came to fulfill the law that we couldn't keep, we are now free from condemnation and set free from the law that once kept us from being who God wanted us to be. Jesus came and took our place by keeping the law, dying, taking our sins to the grave, and rising again on the third day, leaving us guiltless and righteous before God! Does this mean that we're free to sin? Of course not, but it means that we're free to live a life of joy and happiness as we enjoy the things that God has given us and share with others what it really means to be a Christian.

And being a Christian doesn't mean boycotting, shaking our fists, and adding laws that the Bible does not in order to make sure our Christian brothers and sisters don't "screw up."

The truth of the matter is, if we were teaching in our churches the truth of the Bible and helping our people understand what it means to be a Christian and how to live a life holy and pleasing to God, we wouldn't need to be scared that our friends might be indoctrinated with false truths from "The Golden Compass." We could actually smile and say "enjoy the movie!" Perhaps they might even be able to discuss it with their non-Christian friends after it's over and tell them why the way of Christ is better.

What do I know, though?

Stay tuned, because later this week I hope to be writing a new post about Rob Bell. Have I gone to the dark side? Have I gone off the deep end? Have I become *gulp* a liberal? You'll have to check back later this week. :o)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Acceptance is what holds us here, and you my dear are the one I fear tonight

I would like to take a moment to remember two men who have passed away in the past few days. First, this weekend Casey Calvert, guitarist and back-up vocalist for Hawthorne Heights, died in his sleep just days after the band began their Wintour. At this point, it is believed that he may have died of accute asthma. Casey was just 26 and leaves behind his wife.

Also, early this morning, Sean Taylor of the Washington Redskins passed away at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Taylor was shot in the upper leg, severing his femoral artery, after an intruder broke into his home early yesterday morning. Taylor was a free saftey and was in his fourth year with the Redskins. Sean was 24 and leaves behind his daughter.

I'm not a Redskins fan, but I did follow Sean Taylor enough to know quite a bit about him. Casey Calvert was a member of one of my favorite bands, and I'm sad to see both of them pass away so young.

When things like this happen, we all hear stories of the great things that the deceased person has done and stories of the character of the person. These stories are rightfully told, and remembering a person through these great memories may, even for a moment, lessen the pain that we feel. Soon though, the grieving of family, friends, and onlookers is almost inevitably followed by questions. "Why did this have to happen, they were such a good person." Or "why would God let this happen when there are so many awful people in this world that go on living?"

Being close to the music community that Casey was a part of, I've seen many of these questions and those like them during the past few days. Reading through all of them brings a couple of things to my attention:

1. I think people may have some sense in them of the sovereignty of God. Even those who don't believe in God or have a vague understanding appear to have some sense during tragedy that God is the one in control and is the one making the decisions.

2. The "goodness" or strong character of an individual is not enough to ensure them long life and put them out of reach of the sovereign will of God. A truth such as this may not be timely when introduced to a family or loved ones of a recently passed individual, but it should be a sobering reminder to the rest of us who may not realize that we may fail to wake up tomorrow.

Deuteronomy 32:29 says:

"See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand."

I don't believe that much commentary is needed for this one verse. It should be a call to believers and unbelievers alike that we are not entitled to our next breath. Considering our current sinful state, the fact that any of us is able to sit up in our chair and inhale a breath at this very moment as an immese act of sovereign grace from God. We are not deserving of tomorrow, and God would be completely just to take the life of each and every one of us.

So what about that family member who you've been waiting to share the Gospel with because of a fear of rejection? What about that desire for the mission field that you've put off because your career got in the way? What about that person who you have yet to forgive because the time isn't right and you just can't let that wound heal?

James has strong words for each and every one of us in the fourth chapter of his epistle:

"Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.' As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins."

I hope that you take the time today to think about the things that you've been pushing aside until a more convenient time. Pray for me as well, as I am just as guilty about forgetting where my priorities lie and assuming that I am captain of my own destiny. I pray that it doesn't take something horrible to remind me that I am not.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A final opinion is of less value than an appreciation of, and tolerance for obscurity

Southern Baptists irritate me.

So I guess I irritate myself.

With finals only a week away, I find my brain overloaded with knowledge and ideas that will soon spill out in a sloppy mess onto the white paper filled with questions that will lay upon my little lap desk. I can't even explain how much I've learned this semester, it's been incredible. I've been studying under some of the best evangelical teachers in the world and reading books by some of the most intelligent and Godly writers around. I've been stretched, pushed, and stressed at times, but all in all, I think it's been worth it.

There's just one problem. I have had absolutely no opportunity to put it into practice. Maybe opportunity isn't the right word, because honestly, if I wanted to, I could walk out of this apartment right now and meet people on the street or in their homes and start building relationships. I think what's really happening is one of two things:

1. I'm lazy.

2. I've been brainwashed into thinking that because I'm a seminary student, I need to focus my attention on my studies and stand around in the morning sipping on my coffee and participating in the hot theological debate of the day.

It's probably both, but it's really starting to tick me off. I met a guy recently who pastors a small church here in Louisville, he's the interim pastor while they search for a full time guy. This church has been around for decades and the congregation consists of people in their 50s, 60s, and up. It's dying, and the people have no desire to outreach to the community even though they're only one mile from the University of Louisville. This guy tells me that there's a 16 year old girl that's been coming to church and has told him that she's been cutting herself and struggling with depression. My first response was, "did you direct her to a leader in the church for counseling?"

His response - "the leaders in my church have told me that they don't feel comfortable teaching, counseling, or dealing with problems that others in the church might have."

My response - " . . . "

Are you kidding me? How in the world is it that we end up with a bunch of churches with people sitting on their butts in the pews, claiming to be "leaders" who refuse to step up and help out those who are in need of it? Folks, this isn't an isolated issue, churches all over the place are doing this same thing. But get this, the Church of Christ a couple of blocks down the road from this church is drawing 70 youth off the streets every Wednesday with a sign outside that says "no guns allowed." I told this guy to send the girl down the street where it appears that people actually "care" about showing the love and compassion that Christ called us to exhibit.

What does all of this have to do with finals week, you ask? Well, if I've learned one thing about ministry this semester, it's that standing around trying to "out-smart" the other guys during the day's theological discussion IS NOT ministry. Helping the girl that comes in off the street and showing her the love that Christ showed me IS ministry. What in the world makes us think that we have the right to stand around filling ourselves with pride and puffing ourselves up when real people with real struggles are asking for someone, anyone, to reach out to them.

I'm ashamed to say that I've been doing this very thing all semester long and have seemingly fallen into the pit of theological nonsense that gets you nowhere if you're not willing to put your faith into practice. I do not, and I repeat, DO NOT want to turn into the 60 year old "leader" in the church that's too much of a coward to be the man that God has demanded that I be. Wow, you could be a Christian your whole life and be in church your whole life and REALLY waste your life.

Please God, give me the courage to be a real man and step outside of my comfort zone and start acting like a Christian. People are struggling, searching, and dying without anyone there to put their arm around them and tell them that you love them. Give me the grace to have mercy on all of your people and to be willing to step up when someone is in need and not let my pride convince me that I've got better things to do.

Better things to do . . . wow, someone I know named Kiel really needs to straighten out his priorities. By the grace of God alone, maybe he will.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Nickels is Money Too

I've always had a fondness for commercials. Especially funny ones. There's nothing quite like being caught off guard by a humorous advertisement while you wait for your favorite show to reappear on the television screen. I could make a laundry list of some of my favorites, but that's really not what this post is about. It is, however, about one commercial in particular that didn't cause me to laugh, chuckle, smile, or even smirk. In fact, it made me quite upset.

I can't recall the company (the first sign of a bad advertisement), but I remember the concept vividly. It involves a couple, presumably in their late 60s or early 70s, who have recently retired and are very happy with the company that has counseled them in their savings over the years. However, after all those hard years of working and putting money away for retirement, they are now faced with a dilemma - how are they going to spend all this money? I mean, no one ever told them what to do with it once it was time to spend it. How awful that must be!

The commercial goes on to explain how this financial company not only helps you save, but when it's time, will help you spend. The ad ends by the husband deciding that they're ready to "tackle the coral reef." But wait, the wife wants a trip to Paris! Well, I guess Paris will come first and then it's off to the reef. Aww, what a great story. A nice couple livin' the American dream!

I would bet that most people watched that commercial, took slight note, and continued on with their lives as if nothing had happened. I mean, what's the big deal right? We're all supposed to be saving for the future, one of these days we'll have wished we'd listened when our neighbors have two million in their retirement account and we've got a measly 500 thousand.

Listen closely . . .

If you claim to be a Christian and this is the life that you see yourself living or hope to have, you need to take a serious look at who you are and what you believe in. Let me toss a few numbers at you, just for the sake of casual information.

In 2005 alone, AIDS claimed an estimated 2.4–3.3 million lives, of which more than 570,000 were children.

It has been estimated that in 2001, 1.1 billion people had consumption levels below $1 a day and 2.7 billion lived on less than $2 a day.

One third of deaths - some 18 million people a year or 50,000 per day - are due to poverty-related causes. That's 270 million people since 1990, the majority women and children, roughly equal to the population of the US.

Every year nearly 11 million children die before their fifth birthday.

800 million people go to bed hungry every day.

I'm fighting back tears as I write this and I think of the two dollar coffee I bought myself during my break in class this afternoon. Not to mention the 15 dollars I drop on a new CD every month or the 200 dollars I dropped on an mp3 player after I graduated college.

"Oh, but Kiel. That's not our problem! There's people that will step up and take care of this. And even if they don't, it's not our fault that we were born here in America and they were born there."

As one woman I worked with last year put it, after telling me that her son was wanting to live in Africa and treat the sick after he received his degree in medicine - "I can't believe he wants to waste his life like that."

I wonder what Jesus has to say about this?

"And he told them this parable: The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.

Then he said, This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.

But God said to him, You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?

This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God." - Luke 16-21

"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'" - Matthew 25:41-45

Shame on all of us for shrugging our shoulders to a culture that tells us to hoard money for ourselves and build bigger barns so that we will have ample goods for ourselves while millions die from a lack of food to eat and clean water to drink. If you are a Christian, take a VERY serious look at what you stand for and what you want to do with your life, because one day every one of us will be asked to give an account for what you did with what you were given.

God help us.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

HTML ruleZ d00d

I’ve been blogging, chatting, pm’ing, and generally wasting precious hours of my life away on the internet since before it was cool.

Yeah, you heard me. It all started back in middle school when the wonderful world of message boards was introduced to me. It didn’t take long before I was well known on a number of websites (mostly music sites, hip hop ones to be exact) and had more online friends than I had “real” ones. I even developed some very strong relationships that are still going to this day. I went by the name NternetCritic because of my strong (but rather rude) personality when it came to critiquing other people’s music on the web.

Back then, it was all about the drama. I mean, that’s why high school is for right? I’ve made people angry, been made angry, cried, caused others to cry, made threats, posted under false identities, and even played a roll in the collapse of one of my favorite web sites because of drama (i.e. little stuff blown WAY out of proportion).

I’m not always proud of the way I acted back then, but I learned a lot about how easy it is to be fake, cause problems, and generally make a mess of stuff when you’re communicating through the computer screen. It’s one of the reasons that a couple of years ago I stopped almost all of my online activity, including message boards, instant messaging, chat rooms, blogging, and the like. I know others who did too, but it’s funny to know that some people I knew are STILL doing the same things and haven’t changed a bit.

For all the drama, slander, hate, irritation, and just plain stupidity that goes on in the world of blogging and chatting, it sure is a blessing that Christians don’t get involved in this kind of activity. Right?

Uhh, not so much. Since coming to Southern Seminary, my eyes have been opened to the wide array of Baptist blogging that goes on and the devastation that comes with it. It’s not that I didn’t know about any of this though. Wade Burleson, my pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, and easily one of the most influential men in my life, blogs regularly on thoughts and life of the Southern Baptist Convention. This is significant because of the amount of heat he has taken for his blogs about the trustee meetings he attends for the International Mission Board.

However, I had no idea the number of other Baptists that blog regularly and the amount of absolute nonsense that goes on with it. People posting anonymous accusations against people in power. Folks cursing and threatening those who don’t hold to the same non essential doctrines as they do. Guys, who it seems as though it’s their life’s goal, who want to completely tear down the life and ministry of another. What the heck is going on here?

Recently, Jerry Corbaley, a trustee with the International Mission Board, sent a 153 page email to every trustee on the IMB calling out Wade Burleson for his continual “slander” on his blog. Just to note, there’s not a trace of slander in the information he provided, but this is beside the point.

Look, I’ve only been a Southern Baptist for two years, and I decided to make it my first church membership because of strong doctrine, a cooperative program, and people who care about the sovereignty of God and the inerrancy of Scripture. I did NOT join to find fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord slandering, blasting, arguing, and just plain hating each other of issues that are of little (at best) importance. Is this what the church is supposed to look like? It’s bad enough that there’s a zillion different denominations out there, but even in our own denomination, there are allegations, refusal to accept small differences in non-essential doctrine, and pure anger towards one another in public forum over issues that barely deserve the time of day.

It’s sad that the same things that were going on between me and my friends in high school are going on between grown men and women of faith. What kind of example are we setting for the world? “Hey, come join our church, but beware! If you happen to hold a different opinion on anything than we do, we’re going to publically humiliate you!”

I’m pretty sure that absolutely no one within the Southern Baptist Convention gives a darn what I have to say about it, but I would like to issue a call for personal integrity among Southern Baptists and other Christians alike. Let’s get back to settling disputes and disagreements within the church in a kindly manner instead of making a mockery of ourselves over the internet for thousands to witness.

Is it possible? Yes. Likely? Probably not. But if you read this, take the time to think about the things you say and the way you represent Christ when you’re talking to someone through a computer screen. A piece of glass and some plastic doesn’t give you anymore right to treat your brother poorly than if you were face to face with him. Maybe if we all took the time to think about the eternal significance of these things and all show a little integrity over the internet, we can begin to slowly turn a medium used for drama into one used for uplifting encouragement.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hey John, what's your name again?

Well, I've officially completed half of a semester of classes at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I call it that, and tell people I attend there possibly because it makes me sound smart or spiritual. The fact of the matter is, that while I'm honored and flattered at the chance to attend such an institution, I'd never even considered attending seminary until I found it to be a requirement for the International Mission Board. I thought places like this were for special people - people who are much Godlier than I.

Don't get me wrong, higher learning in the area of theology certainly has it's place, but I'm just not sure where we draw the line between a desire to learn more about our God and a desire to earn more letters to tag onto our name. It seems that many people I meet are very excited about their next degree and career move in the area of ministry, but does God really care how many hours we've completed, where we got our MDiv from, or how many classes we're capable of teaching? Can His Gospel be preached and received even if no one within one hundred miles has even heard of a school of theology?

Awhile back, I read in Luke about Jesus taking a trip home to Nazareth, a small town where everyone likely knew your name, your parents' names, what your favorite dinner was, and how many times a day you took your dog (err, I mean sheep . . . goat . . . llama . . . whatever) for a walk. That particular Sabbath day, Jesus attended his boyhood synagogue and read from scripture for his hometown family and friends. That day, Jesus told them that the prophecy of the Messiah was fulfilled - He was who they had been waiting for day after day, year after year, finally, He had come!

What's even better, is the deliverer of the message! While others chosen by God were fallible and unable to present the Gospel in all of its perfection, here, right in front of their eyes, was the Son of God! Perfect in every way, and most certainly the most perfect presenter of the best news ever. Imagine your favorite pastor or speaker - times a million! Jesus IS the Word and could obviously present it in all of its Glory, in perfect form. It must have been an unbelievable sermon to listen to.

To make things even more amazing, it was Jesus, Joseph and Mary's boy! Who in that synagogue would have though that God would send the Messiah right into their laps, their hometown! Everything was perfect . . . right? The people rejoiced and flocked to Jesus to praise Him . . . . right? RIGHT??? No, the crowd was so angry, so enraged, that they threw Him from the city and tried to throw Him over a cliff! What in the world? The Son of God has walked into their city, into their synagogue and proclaimed that He is the promise they've been waiting for. The Gospel in perfect form is right in front of their eyes and they choose to exile Him from the town. What is going on here?

You see, our God is sovereign beyond our imagination. He holds your life in the palm of His hand, and your life dangles by a single thread of grace. He wounds and He heals. He gives and He takes away. And NO ONE can deliver from His hand. He also supplies mercy to those on whom He has mercy. And when He wants to harden a heart and blind someone from His Gospel, even the best sermon in the world won't open the eyes of a sinful, hardened, self-righteous, non-believer. He's proved that time and time again through His word. Yet time and time again we see the most unlikely, the most sinful, the most down-trodden of people fall face down and plead for the mercy of God - and receive it. Not because the of the delivery, not because of a degree from an institution of higher learning, not because of something special that you only learn in the classroom, but because God has mercy on whom He has mercy and compassion on who He has compassion.

I thank God for that, because without it, the best delivered sermon in the world couldn't have convinced me of my need for Christ.

So while I am extremely excited about what I've been learing in my amazing classes at Southern, I pray that I remember this. I expect to learn a lot more and I expect to be challenged as much as I've been challenged in my life. I expect to make new friends and receive tools for what God would have me do on the mission field. But pray that I remember that it is our sovereign God that causes the earth to spin and causes people of all nations to come to Him, and it has absolutely nothing to do with my knowledge, confidence, or ability.

"The Glory of God has everything to do with Christ and nothing to do with me. And when, in some measure, it does have something to do with me, it's not about my being made much of by God, but about God mercifully enabling me to enjoy making much of Him forever." - John Piper

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Maestro, Please . . .

So, it looks like I've created a new blog site. Just when I thought my days of posting my thoughts on the internet were through, here comes another calamity in the making. You see, I have this uncanny ability to make those around me very irritated at my ideas and opinions . . . not by my intentional doing, but simply by the fact that my ideas and opinions seem to be a little edgy to people.

This is just one of my many faults that you may be subject to experiencing while reading this web page. If you struggle with the failures of fallen man or are quick to anger at the sometimes outrageous claims of individuals, please view the contents of this page at your own risk.
*End Disclaimer*

I'm not sure how everything about this site works just yet, so be patient with me as I learn the new techniques of blogimonium that is sweeping the nation. This ain't Xanga.

Peace out homies.