Saturday, June 25, 2005

A Player or A Pastor Be?

In his book, In But Not Of: A Guide to Christian Ambition, Hugh Hewitt has a chapter titled "Either A Player Or A Pastor Be- But You Can't Be Both". In it, Hewitt argues that the pastor today has "next to zero credibility on any issues of politics or public policy outside of his own congregation"; therefore, they ought to stay out of the political realm, and instead focus their energies on developing and applying the entirely different set of "skills and disciplines" necessary to fulfilling their calling. Mr. Hewitt says that we may deeply resent that this is the case, but we must accept it as the current reality and respond accordingly.

I'm not so sure. Hasn't this country come into its current state of affairs because the steady erosion of Christian influence in all the most influential arenas of life (politics, the law, the media, the arts, the university), and the concurrent, growing influence of a humanistic secularism, has been met with the progressive surrender of these areas over to these forces and retreat into our Christian sub-cultures?

Is Christian truth only Christian, or is it Truth with a capital "T"? Are we not commanded to be the "light" and "salt" that permeates our entire society with the truths of the gospel? So let people laugh and make derisive remarks when we quote the Bible, and we will respond with wisdom from the Spirit, the kind that only comes from deep meditation on the revelation of Scripture.

I understand Mr. Hewitt's advice is meant to be pragmatic and realistic, and it certainly seems to be, yet at the same time my ire is raised by the thought that the secularist can enter into whatever sphere he or she likes, and say whatever he or she wants, but I cannot? I have just as much right to engage the marketplace as the secularist. Like Jesus, we can appeal to reason, and debate with intelligence, we can be shrewd as we speak to people in language and concepts they can relate to. More than that, we must present ourselves as examples, holding ourselves accountable to live in such a way that our lives too will speak a good and powerful testimony for our Christian convictions.

I admit that I only read this one chapter as an excerpt from Mr. Hewitt's book. He might agree, in the remaining chapters of his work, with some of the sentiments I'm expressing here. Yet I guess I react to the separation of sacred and secular implied by his advice. I don't think I can divide myself up that way. I is what I is-- (though I don't happen to be a pastor). If other people can be who they are, unselfconsciously expressing their opinions in the marketplace, I will too. Let the chips fall where they may.

P.S. Joshua Davey has an excellent post on this subject: Christians Must Be Political at letters from babylon.

See also Jollyblogger's post Pastors and Worldly Influence

What do you think?

Friday, June 24, 2005

Going on the Road with The Christian Carnival

In my web travels recently, I stumbled upon something called The Christian Carnival. It's a terrific concept founded by Nick Queen, of Patriot Paradox (aka Basically, The Carnival is a weekly gathering of some terrific Christian blog writing, collected, arranged and hosted by a different website each time out. The aim of the Carnival is to highlight Christian thought in the blogosphere, and to that end, it showcases some of the best posts written during the preceding week.

The Christian Carnival is now administered by the folks at Wittenberg Gate. If you want to participate in the Carnival, here's a link to the Christian Carnival Participation Instructions. Remember, your entry needs to have been written and posted on your site sometime in the preceding 7 days prior to the day of the Carnival.

I am proud to say that one of my recent posts, Gimme Some Truth, was selected for participation in this week's June 22nd Christian Carnival, titled "Road Trips and Journeys", and hosted by In the Spirit of Grace. The owner of the site, Dee Kreidel, has done a terrific job, ingeniously arranging all 63 (by my count) posts according to her theme of the spiritual journey.

So what are you waiting for? Put on your (metaphysical) travellin' shoes, get on your bike, jump in your car, or hop on your horse, and continue your spiritual travels! This is one road trip you won't regret; you'll have interesting company, and plenty of food... for thought.

Kiss Me-- I'm an "Adorable Little Rodent" in the "Ecosystem!"

Well, I'm really moving up in the world! Recently I became part of The Truth Laid Bear's Ecosystem, a site that ranks participating websites according to how many others sites are linking to it. I'm still not sure I understand it all, but BloggingPoet Billy Jones has a very helpful article that explains all about it at his site.

Since joining the Ecosystem just a few weeks ago, I've rapidly progressed from an Insignificant Microbe to a Crunchy Crustacean to a Flappy Bird, and right now, I'm an Adorable Rodent! Don't you just want to kiss me? Click here if you want to see My Ecosystem Details.

Well I don't believe in evolution, but I do get a kick out of the funny names given to various rankings within the Ecosystem. Starting from the bottom up, there's:

Insignificant Microbes
Multicellular Microorganisms
Wiggly Worms
Crunchy Crustaceans
Lowly Insects
Slimy Molluscs
Flippery Fish
Crawly Amphibians
Slithering Reptiles
Flappy Birds
Adorable Rodents
Marauding Marsupials
Large Mammals
Playful Primates
Mortal Humans
Higher Beings

As BloggingPoet points out, participating in the Ecosystem doesn't necessarily increase traffic to your site, but it can give you a sense of how much your site is being visited, in comparison with others. I'm encouraged by my speedy "evolutionary progress", though I don't plan on taking it too seriously, as you can probably tell. But I'm happy to find more people visiting my site, and this will give me a handy tool to continue to monitor how I'm doing in that regard.

Growing Your Christian Life Via the Web

Having learned recently how to post and organize website links within a blog, I have now created links to some web resources I hope readers will find helpful. In keeping with my recently adopted philosophy on this, I include links to pages I have personally visited and have benefited from, or that I believe have potential to bless. I can't vouch for the theological validity of the vast array of websites you might encounter as you use these links. However, I think that, employing discernment, one might use them to tap into some fantastic and exciting spiritual resources. I am grateful that such resources exist, and especially, for all the effort on the part of many that goes into making, and also, locating, these sites. It is such resources that, to my mind, reveal what the Internet can be at its best: a place where people might find wisdom that turns into power and revelation in their lives. In fact, through these links one might a acquire a virtual Christian education, receiving not only high-quality teaching and theological discourse, but even opportunity to encounter the Spirit of God! Is is beautiful yet frightening to contemplate that Internet ministries have such a high privilege. Yet such things are possible, and I'm pleased to be able to play a small part in such enterprise through this site.

Below I highlight some of the new resource links I've added (Note: I will likely continue adding to the resources, and tinkering with their organization):

Bibles/Bible Study Resources

It is simply mind-boggling to me that, right from the Internet, you can read a favorite Bible translation or even hear it read to you (Bible Gateway, also includes commentary and search functions), use study tools to search through and study it (,, or even download sophisticated, excellent FREE software (e-Sword). You can learn of the history and reasons for the many translations of the Bible, (Bible Translations-Why so Many?); you could set your home page to a site that will to help you daily to dig more deeply into the Word (, IVP Quiet Time Bible Study). Or you might devise your own reading and study plan, downloading a daily Bible reading plan to get you started (DJ Bible Reading Plan). In time, you could become a virtual Bible scholar!

And in becoming more intimate with the Lord, many have found that devotionals are very helpful. I have two excellent lists to help you locate one to your liking.


I am pretty good at finding out resources on the web (I have over a thousand bookmarks!), yet I find multi-link sites come in very handy in locating even more sites. I'm most impressed with an eclectic and well-organized links site put together by a couple of Berry College alumni (Mike Morrell and Philip Scriber) called Sites Unseen. Check it out!

On-line Sermons

My lists for these areas is comprised of sites I visit quite often, since I enjoy listening to sermons. These links are largely geared towards listening to free audio sermons via a media player (the players are free too, and can usually be downloaded at the sites, if you don't already have one). You can also also find lots of text sermons at

Christian Teaching

There is real wealth of good Christian teaching material that can be found on the Internet, on almost any topic. One thing I enjoy is doing a "Google" search on a subject I'm interested in researching, say, "The Baptism in the Holy Spirit". When I was working on putting together my own teaching on this topic, I found numerous related articles posted on the web, with many different views represented. These were invaluable in helping me to think more deeply about my theme and formulate my own thoughts. There are so many great teaching sites; I have listed but a few choice ones. Net-burst Net a ministry founded by Grantley Morris, is one of my current favorites, for the range of subjects it tackles, its sense of humor and its serious mission. My link to Desiring God Ministries will bring you into the vast on-line library of teachings by John Piper, pastor, author and Reformed thinker. Other recent discoveries of mine include the Twin City Fellowship (Critical Issues Commentary), Enjoying God Ministries library with Sam Storms, who is described as a charismatic Calvinist on "Sites Unseen" and the Stand to Reason Commentaries. All three of these sites give highly intelligent and well-written teachings on various issues of importance to the Christian community.

There's many more links in areas such as Apologetics & Culture (check out Breakpoint --I use this as my home page in Firefox), Music and Arts, Film Reviews, and Theology, but I'll leave it to you to explore and to discover these. You may ask, why do I have both Reformed and Charismatic theological resources listed? Well, I think that there is truth to be learned about living a more full Christian life in both of these theological perspectives, although I know there are Reformed thinkers who don't regard Charismatic thinking very biblical, and vice-versa.

For PDA lovers, I list some sites that will help you find ways to use your PDA for spiritual growth. Memoware's religion section has many classic public domain Christian works that you may download and read on your PDA. A nifty tool is iSiloX, a software that enables you to download web pages and view them on your PDA.

And finally, there are lots of free Christian books you can view or even download and print out. Check out some of the links.

Happy surfing, and may God bless you through these sites!

P.S. If you have any favorite sites you think I should add to any of these categories, please post me a comment!

Monday, June 20, 2005

Blogroll, Anyone?

I'm a relative "newbie" in the world of blogging and I've visited many blogs, with a view to getting some creative inspiration. One thing I noticed is that many blogs list huge numbers of websites, or "blogrolls", as they are called. Thinking these were important for a successful blog, I added them to my site too.

Some blog/sites organize such lists under categories, which is certainly helpful to the reader perusing them (I just learned how to do that). But I have wondered lately, are exhaustive lists of blogs/sites truly necessary? Do the person(s) who create these enormous blogrolls really visit all of these sites? Perhaps, but it seems to me that it is highly unlikely that they would continue to visit all these places regularly, or else that's about all they would be doing.

Perhaps because some blogs have been around for a while they end up with these extravagantly long blogrolls. Still, I wonder. As a new blogger, I gave into the temptation to add popular blogs to my blogroll, with the vague hope that somehow this would generate traffic to my site. I think I also wanted to give the impression that I was well-versed in the "blogosphere".

But after giving this issue more thought, I think I'll be more selective about which websites and blogs I promote on my site. I don't want to link to sites just because they're popular or because it might benefit me to be associated with them. I think I'll feel a lot more comfortable if I link to sites I have personally visited, respect, and genuinely admire. Plus, I don't want to inadvertently endorse sites (which I think I would do by listing them), whose views I may be in total disagreement with-- just so I can have a vast, "representative" listing. I think I can engage with the world without listing worldly blogs.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Why Blog/The Faithful Blogger

OK, so I am trying to be a good blogger. Meaning, I'm writing on topics that interest me and hopefully, saying something that interests others. I also want the writing to be high-quality, although I am also trying to be spontaneous and free-flowing, not belaboring every single post.

But all is for naught if people aren't even reading my blog, right? Well, not necessarily. I do feel that even if no one at all read my blog, it is still worth my time to put my thoughts into writing as I have done; it helps me think through issues more deeply, clarify my thinking, and in the process, gain better insight into what I really do think and believe.

Of course, these are pretty well-known benefits of writing-- so why blog? Why not just put my musings into a private journal or computer diary?

Hmmm. That's a good question. Why am I blogging anyway?

My blog is Christian, so I'm presenting a Christian point of view; adding my own (hopefully distinctive) voice to the dialogue in the marketplace of thought and ideas. I have learned, from people like Francis Schaeffer and C.S. Lewis, that a particular worldview is expressed by the thoughts and ideas we embrace and promote, and that ideas have powerful consequences. The ideas of thinkers, philosophers and people of influence in media and elsewhere eventually trickle down into popular thinking, becoming embedded into a society's way of life through the passing of laws, the writing of textbooks and curricula that reflects these views, media promotion, and other means.

For example, why do so many today consider abortion to be a woman's right? The view of abortion that many hold today can ultimately be traced back to ideas-- ideas that crept into the thinking of the Supreme Court justices that made the ruling in the famous (infamous) Roe vs. Wade case. Subsequently, a practice that was once illegal and viewed as immoral progressively came to be seen as not only legal, but also moral. Surely many since Roe vs Wade have thought, could it be legal if it were not also moral? So the passage of laws that have made abortion legal and the promotion of abortion values by various propagandists (artists, media, film directors, political organizations, etc.) have together shaped the thinking of the last generation, so that many now grow up thinking of abortion as this sacred "right" (if they have not questioned the popular notion).

So one important reason for me to blog is to promote a Christian point of view on issues of the day, pointing people to the revelation of God as the source for truth on such matters. Although, as mentioned in my previous post Gimme Some Truth, it isn't very easy to talk about truth these days because our postmodern way of thinking doesn't recognize or define truth in the way it has been previously defined. Still by writing on such topics I can hopefully show the flaws, and ultimately the futility, of such thinking, and perhaps influence a few towards truth that is substantial and meaningful and makes a real difference to their lives.

Another reason to blog is that it helps keep me honest. Hey, I don't want to be found to be among the hypocrites by saying one thing in my blog, but living in a different way. I'm sure pastors who preach sermons and others who teach can relate to this point.

Now, is there a part of me who wants to blog so that people will read my posts and think, "My, what a clever fellow!", or "My gosh, what insight this man has!"? Yes, I admit I'm guilty of such base motivations. But, I also find within myself the artistic impulse to express myself-- which comes out in my music and songwriting as well as in my blogging. I don't think that this impulse is evil. On the contrary, I think it is God-given. But like all of God's gifts, this impulse should be submitted to Him, so that it functions properly in my life, serving Him rather than myself.

So I'm hoping, as "fluffy" and lightweight as the practice of blogging sometimes feels to me, that in the end, it will not have been a waste of time, that it won't be burnt up on Judgment Day as a mere work of my flesh. So that's one more reason why I hope to make this blog more effective in reaching people, which necessitates that I will likely have to learn a lot more about the technical aspects of a good webpage, including good design, good coding, using links, optimization for search engines, etc.

[As an aside, I have been working on this kind of stuff lately. For example, I had added a whole bunch of links to my site, which I picked up lock, stock and barrel from Adrian Warnock's UK Evangelical Blog. I have decided to delete all but a few of the links, because I'm quite sure that there's some I wouldn't necessarily want to endorse, though they may be well-read and popular. Mr. Warnock's philosophy on this expressed on his own site is that he doesn't have time to visit all the sites he lists, and that even if he lists sites he wouldn't endorse theologically or otherwise, listing them may create worthwhile points of dialogue (an interesting thought to consider). I think what I'll do is add sites as I visit them, which I can do with just a click].

2nd aside:
[I don't know about you, but a lot of blogs annoy me! I mean I don't know what's going on when I visit them. They seem entirely esoteric, full of knowing insider references that make me feel like I'm not "in the know". Also, there's so many visual distractions at many blogs--you just don't know where to look. I guess these are blogging trends, since many blogs seem to have these characteristics. Anyway, I hope I can keep my blog simple and clear, though I would like to add more options to my blog/website in the future, such as links to my music.]

Could blogging become a source of income, could it be a paying vocation for me someday? Perhaps-- this too will require research and prayer. But for now, I'm just striving to be a faithful blogger, who writes intelligently and in a way that honors God.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Gimme Some Truth

Ah, I’m sick and tired of hearing things
From uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocrites
All I want is the truth now
Just gimme some truth

John Lennon, from the song "Gimme Some Truth"

A recent book by reporter Dave Shifflett (Exodus: Why Americans are Fleeing Liberal Churches for Conservative Christianity) chronicles the exodus of Christians from liberal denominations and into conservative ones. The reason for this exodus, he explains, is that "Most people go to church to get something they cannot get elsewhere. This consuming public--people who already believe, or who are attempting to believe, who want their children to believe--go to church to learn about the mysterious Truth on which the Christian religion is built. They want the Good News, not the minister's political views or intellectual coaching. The latter creates sprawling vacancies in the pews. Indeed, those empty pews can be considered the earthly reward for abandoning heaven, traditionally understood."

If Shifflett is right in his analysis, and I believe he is, there is a hunger among many to find answers-- truth-- in a world that is increasingly violent, chaotic and seemingly devoid of principle. With the identity of "Deep Throat" revealed recently, we are reminded of the political spectacle of Watergate and the changes in the social and political landscape that followed in its wake. Post-Watergate, we have lived in an age extremely suspicious of power and authority, an age that doubts that any one group, be it church, political party or the media, can be trusted to give us the Truth.

This cynicism has been reflected in the way media and the arts have been relentless in presenting stories of moral failure, with exposes of failed preachers, dirty politicians, and drug-addicted superstars. Few today are lifted up as heroes or examples to follow, and the public image of even those few considered recent American heroes, men like John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King, have been tarnished by many reports of their pecadillos.

What I think many today want to know is, "Can anyone be trusted?" Is there a politician that we can say is a good man, who isn't covering up some dark secret? Is there a genuine religious leader we can look up to with confidence? Is there a sports star or athlete who isn't just out for himself, who plays for love of the game?

Yes, there are men and women in these arenas who live with integrity and pursue their vocations honorably. But for the most part, we hear more about moral failures-- athletes who take steroids or cocaine, actors who get into repeated fights, adulterous preachers and lying politicians. It's almost as if there is an expectation that secretly everyone is not really what he or she claims to be-- that no one is good (but then again, it's not really their fault)!

Well it is true that not one of us is good-- the Bible teaches that "there is no one who does good, not even one" (Psalm 14:3). This simply means that every human being experiences moral failure, that is the result, not primarily of our parent's failures or a lousy social environment, but mainly because of flawed human nature. On the other hand, the Bible also teaches that Jesus challenges all to "love our neighbor as ourself" and that this means in part that we ought to look for the best in others. "Love is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance (1 Corinthians 6-7).

So we're a bit confused. We hunger for truth, but we're not sure it can be found anywhere, whether in people or institutions. We long for answers to the timeless questions of life-- who am I, where did I come from, where am I going, why is there suffering, etc., but we're not so sure there are clear answers. Is it presumptous for Christians to say that we have found the Answer? After all, what is true for one person may not be true for another, right? Might it not be better to make a commitment to seek for knowledge, rather than "Answers", making adjustments as we get new information, and stay faithful on the never-ending path of seeking?

This sounds perhaps democratic, an enlightened way to live. If all paths ultimately lead to the same destination, why not glean from the wisdom of all kinds of traditions, and connect all my understandings together in a way that makes most sense to me? It sounds great, but there's a problem with this approach--it makes me the arbiter of truth. I pick and choose this idea or that principle, put it all together and pronounce-- "this is my truth." But is there any objectivity to this process? How can I be sure that the things I have chosen to believe are not merely ideas with personal appeal to me, but are indeed True? One might object, what does it matter, so long as it works for that individual?

Well, if you're one who says that, then at least be honest-- you're not looking for Truth, you're looking for something that suits you. Because truth, by definition, stands over against what is false. But if truth is only what happens to suit a person, then it isn't truth, it's just preference.

Truth is universal; it applies to all, it stands over against the false. If I were to assert for example, that John Lennon was not murdered by gunshots in 1980--that in fact, tired of touring and fame, he secretly left the Beatles back in 1967, married his lover Brian Epstein, staged Brian's death and had a look-a-like take over for him in the Beatles and marry Yoko-- you would say that's preposterous! Because there are facts known about Lennon, who was in the public eye for many years, and these simply do not bear out such an insane story. Yes, I agree, this story is not true.

But today people want to say truth is relative and subjective and can't be found out through observation. I say hogwash. We all live as if truth is something that can be ascertained--albeit imperfectly, but nevertheless we do our best to find it, because we believe it's out there. For example, what is the truth in the Michael Jackson case? Did he molest those children or not? Well, I don't know because I wasn't there (now if I had been I would know the truth, right?) but that's what the trial was all about. Arguments and evidence were presented by those who assert that he did molest a particular child, and counter-arguments and evidence presented by those who believe and assert that he didn't. A jury then decided the "truth", based on the presented evidence. Now, has the real truth been revealed? Jackson was acquitted on all counts, but even some members of the jury who voted him innocent now say that they believe that he has molested children, just not the child who was accusing him in this case.

I would argue that most everyone believes that the truth of what really happened in the Michael Jackson case exists, it's just that it's pretty hard to determine, what with all the expert lawyers, and all the media coverage and the determination of many to hide it. But if someone had set up, unbeknownst to Jackson, video cameras that recorded virtually everything that had taken place in his home, his innocence or guilt could probably be proven conclusively in this matter (that is, if such evidence was allowed to presented in court).

My point is that we yearn for truth and instinctively know that it means more than just personal opinion, but a part of us is also afraid of the Truth. We don't want to be nailed down, to be committed to accepting truth, for fear of then having to live according to the truth that has been revealed. The truth is often unpleasant.

And yet, like the many who are returning to the conservative churches that offer the revealed Truth of the Word of God, people are drawn to someone who can offer them definite answers to the burning questions of life. We want something or someone that offers hope and meaning to live by.

Those who are flocking to the churches are on the right track, because the message of salvation that is in the gospel may be found there. Still the follower of Christ must remember that truth is more than merely facts and principles and abstractions; Truth is a Person, Jesus Christ. And if we want to become men and women who can reveal truth to others, we must become more and more like Him. He lived what he preached, He spoke of things He knew, He modeled the Way of Truth for us.

We ought not to be "hypocrites" like John Lennon's song condemns, or like the Pharisees of old, but rather men and women for whom truth is a way of life, a means of expressing the love that God generates within us. And we ought to be humble, knowing that without the gracious light of truth that came through Jesus Christ, we would have no real understanding. The Bible says that the Law came through Moses, but grace and truth came to us by Jesus Christ. So as we share truth, let's do it with all the grace that God gives.

And if you are not a follower of Christ, but you hunger for truth, consider that Jesus said of Himself "I am the Way, and the Truth and the Life, and no one comes to the Father, except through me"? Doesn't sound very democratic, does it? But what if it's true?...