Archives For pop culture

Here’s my theory:  God created people like this to reveal His genius.  When we create, and what we create is beautiful and real, we honor God by reflecting His nature.  So go CREATE.  🙂  Enjoy this…

You may be one of the four and a half million people that have already viewed this jaw dropper on You Tube.  If not… you’re welcome.  If so… you’re probably due for another ride on the Sonseed Express.  Destination: fantastic.

That just happened.

Top Ten Savory Moments from “Jesus is a Friend of Mine”

(1)  0:07  —  Bearded guy’s hand dance.

(2)  0:38  —  Sal’s rock-star double head bob, Christian-style

(3)  0:57  —  “rock and roll…”      BWAAAhahahahahaha!!

(4)  1:14  —  The sudden vocal tone shift out of the curious and inexplicable quasi-ethnic pop staccato of the majority of this song into a swarthy baritone, for just a moment, bringing special emphasis to the text for “…of mine.”  Genius.

(5)  1:51  —  Jesus is a Mountie, eh?

(6)  1:56  —  You know it.  “ZAP.”  Good times.

(7)  2:11  —  Pretty sure we’re seeing a drug addled Mandy Patinkin rocking those acrylic drums.

(8)  2:22  —  “Hoo.”

(9)  2:25  —  The evil spirit of Elvis Presley’s lascivious hips seems to be possessing of our poor bespectacled guitar player.

(10)  2:35  —  “I have a friend in je-SUS.”

I’m just going to sit here another minute and savor the goodness.  Can’t wait to rock this one at Living Hope with matching outfits.  So reverent.  So real.  So good.

 

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“four and a half million shades of wrong :: ‘jesus is a friend of mine’ top ten list” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

I’ve been using RockMelt, a brand new social-media infused browser this past week, and I love it.

RockMelt is fast, like Chrome (built using the open-source Chromium platform from Google), and looks similar in many ways.  But it’s injected with awesome sauce, like social media rocket fuel for the attention deficit disorder crowd.  Of course, as with all things tech, the interwebs are already glutted with elitist opinions being spouted with zealous contempt for those on the other side.  RockMelt is building a base of enthusiastic new users whose main evidence for it’s sheer awesomeness is that they are using it… and loving it.  On the other side are vocal critics who lambaste the new browser as nothing new… or a major step backwards.

I say, if you like it… good times. I don’t think it is revolutionary… it simply leans on FaceBook’s infrastructure and allows you to connect other media sites (ala Twitter, Picasa, Vimeo, Posterous, Tumblr, etc., etc…) right into your browsing experience.  But it certainly seems like a logical and well designed method of “synthethizing” your on-line presence and connections while you browse.

NOTE: If you’re not that interested in social media, this browser won’t appeal to you.  On the other hand, if you’re reading this right now, you most likely found it through my FaceBook, Twitter, or Tumblr connections… so you may be the target audience.  You may also prefer to do one thing at a time.  This browser is built for the ADD afflicted, the multi-taskers, and the relationally-wired web set.  Like I said… I am LOVING it.

You can use RockMelt by invitation right now.  I’ve got a handful of invites to distribute.  If we are connected on FaceBook, leave a comment if you want to give it a shot, and I’ll hook you up! 

 

Glenn Beck drives people nuts.

Love him or hate him, most likely you’ve got an opinion.  He doesn’t produce fence-sitters.  That fence is POINTY, baby.  You’re going to fall on one side or the other pretty quickly if you spend any time listening to his show or watching him on the telivizzle.

And believe it or not, the rest of this post will have nothing to do with politics.  So you can exhale.

At the end of August I posted “glenn beck: the new voice of evangelical christianity” as a follow-up to his non-political/spiritual revival pro-America rally on the national mall on August 28, 2010.  My main point was to say that I’m growing increasingly uncomfortable with Glenn’s religious rhetoric, because he’s a Mormon, and therefore means something very different when he claims to be “listening to the voice of God” or leading us to “do the will of God.”  We believe in and follow different Gods, me and Mr. Beck.  Therefore, I urged my fellow evangelicals to listen if you must, but exercise discernment… it’s dangerous ground.

The post generated some good discussion at the time, but I just received a new comment today, and it was a good challenge.

The gist was this:I’m confused.  You seem to often call for unity between churches.  Mormons believe Jesus is the Son of God, too, right?  How come we shouldn’t listen to Glenn Beck, then?  Should we not listen just because he’s a Mormon?”

Fair question.  Here was my response:

I understand your confusion. Let me clarify a few things…

First, Im not saying no one should listen to Glenn Beck simply because he is a Mormon. I love to listen to Dennis Prager, for example, and he’s Jewish. There is wisdom to be found in all kinds of people, and truth is truth… meaning, if I say the sky looks blue, and The Pope says the sky looks blue, and Christopher Hitchens says the sky looks blue… we are all saying something true. Our philosophy or religious affiliation doesn’t make it any LESS true when Chris the atheist says it. Right? So, Glenn Beck’s Mormonism, per se, doesn’t necessarily disqualify him from my listening list.

What I am uncomfortable with – and that’s putting it mildly – is Glenn Beck’s increasingly bold “spiritual leader” talk.  He throws around phrases that indicate he believes he is doing the “will of the Lord,” and that he speaks for God and is encouraging people to do His will.  He SAYS the name Jesus, but his belief is very different than mine.  My caution is to listen critically, and be very careful not to confuse his Mormon “word from the Lord” with the authority of the ACTUAL Word of God, given to us in the Bible.

Now, to briefly clarify the difference between my calls to the church for unity around the core doctrines of the Christian faith, and my stiff-arming of Mormonism, it is important for you to understand that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a cult. It is NOT in any way a branch of the Christian church, like Baptists or Lutherans or Methodists. Nope. Mormons are often wonderful people, productive citizens, kind to their neighbors, and raising good kids in strong families. I’m not saying they are “bad” people – any more than you and I are sinful people – in the way that EVERY soul on the planet is born corrupted by sin. But they tend to be “good people” all the same. Even so, Mormonism is a false religion that diverges from Christianity in several KEY ways.

Christian core doctrine has remained grounded in the Word of God and been basically unchanging for 2000+ years. Cults change their core doctrine often – when it becomes necessary to do so. There have been about 4,000 changes to the Book of Mormon since it was first published in 1830, and some BIG ones to boot. They have changed their stance on Polygamy, for one. And they now support the religious equality of African Americans, which required a huge change in their doctrinal positions.

Mormonism is poly-theistic (many gods) and Christianity is monotheistic (ONE God). They believe God the Father was once a man who *progressed* to God-hood. We believe God is the unchanging “I AM.” They believe the Trinity is actually three separate gods… we believe in the three-in-ONE. They also believe that we, as humans, can progress to God-hood status. This is the FIRST LIE from the Garden of Eden, when the serpent told Eve, “You can be like God…” All of the sin of the world followed that lie and it’s line of reasoning. It is the CORE poison of the human soul.

Mormons believe Jesus is the child of God the Father and a heavenly Mother, and that he was born incomplete and had to *progress* to God-hood status in the spiritual realm. They deny the incarnation of Jesus in the womb of the virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ unchanging nature as God and His condescension and virgin birth are foundation truths Christianity is built upon. While Mormons DO believe that Jesus is God’s only Son, their understanding of what that means and the very nature of God and Jesus as our Savior is a mess – and dangerous, theologically.

Mormon’s see Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden as a noble act, enabling man to become mortal – a key step forward in the process of attaining deity status. They believe that Jesus atonement basically grants everyone salvation and immortality, whether we believe in Him or not. There are many, many other important differences, as well.

This stuff is important. Mormons market themselves as another Christian option. But it is not at all Christian. We have no reason, of course, to treat Mormons with disrespect, OR to disregard everything they say simply because of the religion. However, I WILL disregard anything they say with “the authority of the Lord” behind it. Glenn Beck’s Jesus is NOT my Jesus. Therefore, when He speaks about the “will of God,” I know he’s not listening to the same voice of God that I am. Therefore… I turn him off.

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“mormons are christians, too, right? :: glenn beck might be right… and wrong” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Mark Driscoll knows the Emergent Church… or Village… or Emerging…  um, Conversation? …better than almost anyone.  He was there at the start.  Watched it unfold and grow from the inside.  And he left it as it left Christianity to pursue new ideas – a higher evolution of thinking about spirituality and how Jesus might have a role therein.

As I’ve been preparing to write a Seminary paper about the short history and current theology of the Emerging Church, I listened again to Mark Driscoll’s address to the 2007 Convergent Conference, hosted by the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.  If you’ve got an hour and a half, it is an OUTSTANDING picture from the inside of the start of the Emerging Church movement and its theological dangers.  I’ve posted it here if you’re interested.

As I listened and learned and thought about the implications for ministry today, Mark focused his attention on an issue that has me by the throat right now…  CONTEXTUALIZATION.  This post is a summary of his thoughts, blended with my own, in the hopes that we would be passionate preachers of the truth RIGHT NOW in this culture – neither bowing our doctrine to the whims of culture, nor stiff-arming culture as if to protect ourselves from it.

In the world… but not of it.  But still in it.  Right?  And not of it.

Basically this:  the local church exists (according to the Great Commission in Matt. 28 and the Greatest Commandments in Matt. 22) to make disciples of Jesus Christ who love God and love people.  We (believers) have been born into this time and this place.  In this cultural context.  For THESE people.  Therefore, we must find a way to take the timeless truth of the Gospel (and the hard truth that we are all depraved sinners who need rescue and resuscitation) and CONTEXTUALIZE it for the culture we have been placed in by God in His perfect wisdom.  We’re here, right now, on purpose.

I see much energy being spent  by by church people in the pursuit of conflict rather than converts.  I see the liberal left wing of the Christian community, as personified by the open theism and narrative “trajectory” theology of the Emerging Church conversation, and the fundamentalist far right wing characterized by zealous dogma and self-righteous condemnation of cultural contamination in the church, as two hostile camps, each with their sights focused on the other.

In the middle ground are contextual cultural missionaries (like me), trying to find ways to communicate in today’s culture the timeless truth that we all need Jesus, and that his gospel message of hope is for us. Right now.  These pastors, teachers, evangelists, writers, and church folk with a burning heart for God and a passion for the lost souls that surround us are getting shot in the crossfire, and the Church (capital “C”) is suffering for it.

We must be people of the middle ground.  As Jesus prayed for us in John 17, not that we would be removed from the world, but that we would be protected from the evil one and united with other believers as we take the gospel to the time and place we have been sent to serve.  Contextualization of the Word of God.

This stands in contrast to the left and right wings engaged in a theological cage match…

In the far left corner we have those emerging theologians who believe that theology, and God Himself, is evolving with culture.  They are the syncretists, blending Christianity with paganism.  They hold a low view of scripture, and they are asking the same basic question that the serpent asked Eve in the garden…  “Did God really say…?”  They have two hands.  In one they hold DOCTRINE and in the other they hold church PRACTICE.  In the far left corner, BOTH hands are open.  Doctrine and practice are both open to change.

In the far right corner we have the cultural separatists and doctrinal purists who are more concerned with being contaminated by the culture than they are in changing it.  They are the sectarians, who see New Testament references to the “world” as synonymous with “culture.”  Ergo, “cultural relevance” = “worldliness.”  They hold a high view of scripture, but practice “sanctification by separation” from sinners and their interests.  They have two hands.  In one they hold DOCTRINE and in the other they hold church PRACTICE.  In the far right corner, BOTH hands are closed.  Neither doctrine nor practice are open to change.

I’m with Mark Driscoll on this one.  I don’t want to be a syncretist.  I don’t want to be a sectarian.  I want to be a SUBVERSIVE, infiltrating culture and speaking their language, with every intention of infusing that culture with the life-giving message of Jesus Christ.  We hold a high view of scripture, and we embrace the culture to the degree that we can identify WITH it and not be identified BY it.  While there are certainly elements of culture that are worldly, there are things we can receive, things we must reject, and things we can REDEEM in culture through the power of the Word of God.

We, the people of the middle ground, have two hands.   In one we hold DOCTRINE and in the other we hold church PRACTICE.  The cultural contextualizers (like me) hold doctrine tightly, like a treasure, with a CLOSED hand…  but our other hand, the one gripping our church practices and the way we’ve always done things, that hand must always be OPEN.

We present timeless truth using timely methods.  We seek to be Biblically faithful and culturally fruitful.  We CONTEND for the faith (Jude vs. 3 — “Defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to His holy people…”) against creeping liberal theology, and at the same time we CONTEXTUALIZE our message for the culture we live in (per 1 Corinthians 9, verse 19  —  I have become all things to all people in order that some may be saved.”)

That’s where I plant my flag.  Next to Pastor Mark’s.  And I stand with the greatest subversive, cultural contextualizer of all time, Jesus Christ, who did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself in human likeness and humbled himself to save us from our sin.

If you have the time and want to consider all of this more carefully, please scroll up and listen to Pastor Mark Driscoll’s address to the 2007 Convergent Conference, hosted by the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary…

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“emergent vs. fundamentalist smackdown :: where christians and culture collide” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

I’ve been hurting and praying for the family of Tyler Clementi.  His death is deeply tragic.  And I believe that bullying is a big deal.  We ought to treat each other in civil society with respect, and we need to raise our children to treat other people with respect.  Even those we disagree with.  Especially those we disagree with.

This post will take a little time to develop, so I want to be clear about my purposes for writing it up front.

FIRST:  If you’re a student somewhere being bullied because you are gay, and you are considering checking out – just to escape the pain of it – please don’t.  You are loved.  I know that to my very core.  God didn’t screw up when he made you.  He wants to fill your life with purpose.  There are hundreds of voices on YouTube and everywhere right now sending you the message that “IT GETS BETTER.”  And if you can make it through this tough season of life, where you’re surrounded by jerks, you’ll soon come out the other side and enter a new phase of life – free from that kind of intense bullying that cuts you down.  So my first message to you is this:  HANG IN THERE, because you’re deeply valuable.  And I’m a Christian guy who believes that being gay is not God’s plan for you – I’ve written about this stuff before.  But listen, you are more than your sexual nature, and you matter to us and to God, no matter what your sexual orientation.  I hope you’re willing to keep reading this, and keep thinking.

SECOND:  Gene Robinson is an enemy of God.  He is one of the voices proclaiming the “it gets better message,” and I have posted his video below.  While I believe he means well, and many gay young people have been encouraged by his message, he is misrepresenting God, and God’s Church.  I do not hate Gene Robinson, and I do not oppose his message because he is gay.  Rather, I oppose his message because he is wrong.  More on that below…

You’ve maybe never read this blog before, so I want to help you put what I’m about to write into context.  Everybody has a foundational set of beliefs building the framework of their life story, even those of us who never think it through or put it into words.  Here are a few of mine:

With regards to Faith and Life:

(1)  I believe that God is sovereign, and His Word (the Bible) is perfect and authoritative on all issues pertaining to faith and life.

(2)  I believe that every single person on earth (myself included) has been born with a sinful nature, and is therefore condemned to an eternity apart from God.  We can’t fix it through anything we do. Period.

(3)  Jesus Christ died on a cross to save us from that sin.  He is the only road to forgiveness and a restored relationship with God.  Yes, that message is exclusive.  Jesus alone is our only hope.  That’s basic Christian doctrine.

(4)  God is a God of love and justice.  His standards are not flexible, because He is holy, and that means He is pure and “other than us.”  Our human minds cannot contain or explain Him in this regard.  But He also loves us with a fierce, protective, all-consuming, life-changing love that is not bound by the limits of even the deepest love of man.  Our human minds cannot contain or explain Him in this regard. 

With regards to homosexuality:

(1)  I believe that God’s Word makes it clear that homosexual activity is sin.  I know many believe they can explain away the several passages in scripture that make this clear.  But those arguments do not stand up to sound standards of Biblical interpretation.  Therefore, I reject the argument that “God didn’t really say that.”  He did say that.  People have the free will to choose to live set against His Word.  But it is simply not true that the Bible is in any way unclear on this matter.

(2)  I’m not sure what my Christian brothers and sisters would say to me in this one, but here goes…  I believe that the evidence of nature, personal witness, and common sense makes it clear that some people are born with a homosexual proclivity.  I am making a clear distinction here between homosexual nature and homosexual behavior.  The clear testimony of many homosexuals, including some of my friends, is that their very earliest memories of a sexual nature involved same-sex attraction.

So, now what…?

The two statements above create tension.  On the one hand, God is saying that acting on one’s homosexual feelings is sin, and a violation of His relationship with us – enough of a violation (actually, EVERY sin is enough) to separate us from God forever.  No heaven.  No hope.  Just regret, guilt, pain, fear and darkness.  On the other hand, some people seem to grow up with an attraction to people of their own gender.  How can this be?  How can God allow this?  It isn’t fair.  It is too much to ask…

I have a lot of empathy for those with a homosexual predisposition.  Some fight it.  Others embrace it.  Still others live in the middle ground somewhere.  At some point, to come to a degree of mental peace about this issue, a person with a homosexual nature has to examine what they believe about the morality of homosexual behavior.  If you’re gay, and have looked at the Bible and agree that it seems clear that homosexuality (expressed through lifestyle) is wrong, you must be either full of conflict, or you have chosen to reject the Bible as a valid authority in today’s culture.  If, on the other hand, you simply discount the Bible, being a homosexual today is much easier.

But easy does not equal right.  It’s often the hard road that is the best one.  And doing the right thing comes at a cost.  That’s true in every area of life, and it really matters.  It’s easier to cheat on tests and papers in school.  It’s easier to follow the crowd into all kinds of bad moral choices than it is to humbly go the right direction.  It’s easier for any man, gay or straight, to chase his sinful sexual nature into multiple relationships, but committing to one for life through marriage is so much better – and it is the only moral choice, with the authority of the Bible making that clear.

Unfortunately, the evangelical Christian community has often handled our relationships with gay people clumsily – or with venom.  A mean-spirited approach to people with a homosexual predisposition destroys our ability to share the life-giving message of Jesus.  We have not, in general, loved gay people very well as a community, because (to some degree) we don’t know how.  But we do know that the Bible says “don’t do it,” so we point our fingers and feel justified in doing so.  It is possible, Church, to be clear on moral lines, and still love people well.  In his way, Gene Robinson is trying to tell gay young people that we (evangelical Christians) have failed to show love, but that doesn’t mean God isn’t loving.  In as far as that goes, I agree with Gene.

HOWEVER, Gene Robinson is not just a random dude on the street.  Gene Robinson is a Bishop – a “representative” of God and God’s people.  He is influential, and many outside the church see him as a representative of those of us who identify ourselves as a part of Jesus’ family.  For this reason, when he speaks on behalf of God, and boldly proclaims lies as the truth, he becomes an enemy of the truth.  He is working against God.  And he is working against you, too.

Here is Bishop Gene Robinson’s “It Gets Better” message:

Gene Robinson, I’m sure, wants to help and encourage you if you are gay and are facing hostility, bullying, or just differing points of view.  I respect people’s freedom to live as they please in this country, and I am grateful for free speech.  But that door swings both ways.  Gene is free to proclaim things about God and about His people that are not true, and I am free to publicly oppose that message as not just a little bit off base, but actually demonic heresy.  Gene Robinson is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  He may be a nice man, but I will take a stand today against his message.

When he says that your Baptist parents’ message  that God does not accept a homosexual lifestyle is “flat out not true,” he is wrong.  God won’t stop loving you, but his moral standards do not endorse homosexuality.  That is a hard truth, but being hard doesn’t make it wrong.

Mr Robinson goes on to say that God wants you to “be the way you are,” and that God made you that way… that He doesn’t want you to change.  The hard truth is, sin in the world has corrupted men – every one – so that we want things that we should not desire, and we long for things that go against God’s will for us.  In fact, all of us have sinned and have a broken relationship with God.  That’s why Jesus came and died for us.  So that if we trust Him, he cleanses us from our sin and buys us back from the kindgom of darkness.

Gene Robinson is a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ by TITLE, but he is serving the wrong team.  If he were truly serving Jesus, he would tell the truth – that Jesus Christ died to save everyone because we all desperately NEED him to save us from our depravity.  Every sinner.  Gay and straight.  And Gene would tell you that God’s laws aren’t rewritten when they are hard to understand or seem too hard for us to live by.  God’s justice (His law) and His love (Jesus’ rescue) never change, even when the culture does.

So, if you are gay, and wondering what to do with it all, I want to tell you the truth in love.  Most Christians don’t hate you.  They (and I) may do a lousy job of loving you, but don’t write off Jesus for the failures of his kids.  We are all broken people.  We may not understand your struggles and desires, because straight people just haven’t been there.  But God does set a clear standard.  Homosexual behavior is sin.  And many, many, many people born with a homosexual inclination or nature have learned to fight that fight for love of God and the truth.  The message of the gay community right now is “It Gets Better,” and they are right.  This culture is making more and more efforts to affirm the gay lifestyle as a normal, healthy choice.  If you choose not to wrestle with the moral implications of a gay lifestyle, it will only get easier for you the older you get.  But there is grave danger in that choice.  Your life on earth is only a blink.  And then you face eternity. 

You need Jesus, because it is too hard for you without Him.  So do I, because in my way, resisting sin and earning heaven by living the perfect lifestyle is too hard for me, too.  Only in Jesus do we have any hope.  If you want to talk with me more about this, use my contact info and shoot me an email or call me up.  God does love you like crazy, and there is great hope in that truth.  But that isn’t to say we can do anything we want, and God will simply endorse it as a “no big deal” decision.  Love and justice.  Moral boundaries BECAUSE He wants the best for us.

Gene Robinson gets it ALMOST right when he says, “God wants you to live in the light of His love, and that light will take away all of this darkness…”

Unfortunately Gene is implying that we Christians, speaking the truth about God’s clear Biblical guidelines, we are the darkness.  He would seek to put a dividing wall between God’s love and “religious people.”  Gene is wrong.  SIN is the darkness.  He is on the wrong team.  One day Gene will answer to God for his life.  So will I.  So will you.  And on that day, the light WILL take away all darkness – all sin, of every kind will be eradicated.  Between that day and this one, we all need Jesus.  Thankfully,God DOES love us beyond our wildest imagining.  He loves us enough to show us the hard truth in His Word, and to send Jesus to do the impossible on our behalf.

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“it will get better, but that’s not the point :: a response to gene robinson, with my gay friends and the church listening in” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

This made me happy.

I love the passionate undercurrent of unchecked self-confidence and Don Juan worthy machismo in Grover’s final, “Now BACK to ME.”  So good.

I’m a huge Donald Miller fan.

I mean, I’m pretty much regular-sized… but I do love me some Don Miller.

This summer I read two of his books in a week. One of them was A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, the story of Don’s best selling book Blue Like Jazz being made into a movie, and how that caused him to examine his life story… to see if he was living one worth telling.

I loved it. LOVED it.  He challenged me to live a life story of passion, risk, purpose, and adventure.  To help my boys see themselves as heroes – as men of honor – purposing to live out valiant life stories of their own.  I’ve been waiting for the theatrical release of “Blue Like Jazz” with the kind of anticipation six-year-olds exhibit between dinner and the opening of the gifts while the grown-ups wash the dishes on Christmas Eve.

But now… well, watch this:

Save Blue Like Jazz from Save Blue Like Jazz on Vimeo.

So I figure now we have a chance to make this story even more unique. What’s more fitting than a fan-funded effort to help birth this great story on the big screen? You want some ownership in a great story?       >> Go here.

 

There was a little get together this weekend on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  Attendance reports vary from 87,000 (CBS news) to over half a million (Sky News) largely conservative (including many evangelical Christians) gathered for… um… a non-political, pro-conservative, limited government, support-the-troops, uh… revival meeting.

I’ll put my cards on the table.  More and more, Glenn Beck is giving me the weebers.  And, as a conservative (socially, economically, politically), I actually agree with him on many issues.  But still… weebers.

On the uncomfortability scale, I think “the weebers” fall three steps past the jibbilies, two degrees beyond the heebie-jeebies, a full stride beyond the willies, but not quite all the way to “freaked out.”   This tension is growing in me the more I listen to Mr. Beck.  A rising score on the creep-out scale that has nothing to do with his political views – but much to do with his rising influence as a leader of evangelical Christians.

That’s right.  A mormon calling evangelicals to revival.  What?

“Something beyond imagination is happening. Something that is beyond man is happening,” Beck said to the crowd on Saturday from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  “America today begins to turn back to God.”  And later, “For too long, this country has wandered in the darkness…”  What does he mean by darkness… the Biblical variety?  With the earnesty of a gospel revival tent preacher Beck urged the crowd to “Realize that He is our king. He is the one who guides and directs our life and protects us.”

He.  Him.  “He” is our king.  Even the term “God” can remain a little nebulous, right?  I mean, how many of us stand shoulder to shoulder with complete strangers and sing “God Bless America” during the 7th inning stretch at our local ball park?  Surely at least of few of the assembled 53,000 some other people at the last Twins game I attended were Mormons, or Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Muslim, or agnostic.  There’s no way no how we were all sold-out Christ followers.  America has made a deal with each other… the “God” in “God Bless America” can remain user-friendly and non-threatening to people of many faiths because we recognize our Judeo-Christian roots while affirming religious freedom.  “In God we trust.”  Yes we do.  But that means something very different to ME than it does to Mr. Beck.

His Mormon faith believes in a different Jesus.  Not the one and only Son of God, Savior of the world.  Not the Jesus of authentic Christian faith.  And yet, Glenn Beck’s rhetoric is increasingly becoming more and more a blend of spiritual guidance and political ideology.  He frequently uses the name of Jesus Christ, as if he is just one of the evangelicals who rally with him.  He talks about “The Lord,” a name reserved only for the One true King of Kings, as someone that he knows personally and follows with devotion.  And I hear a growing boldness in his faith-talk.  More and more he challenges believers to return to God, listen to the Lord, do His will… which Glenn has figured out and is sharing with a growing audience on the radio, television, and various live venues across the country.

My hypothesis:  Glenn Beck continues to increase in boldness as a “spiritual advisor” to the masses because evangelicals have not pressed back, not urged their fellow Christians to be cautious.  Many evangelicals seem to be comfortable with Beck’s increasing spiritual language, because he is influential, and his conservative principles are on an uptick on the political clout meter.  Many Christians seem happy to ride the band wagon, driven by a Mormon spiritual advisor, because they like the music the band is playing.

My word to fellow brothers and sisters in Christ:  DANGER.  DANGER.  DANGER.

When people accuse Christianity of being exclusive – of claiming to be the ONLY path to God – my response is always the same: exactly.  To be more specific, JESUS is the only Way.  The only Savior.  The only Lord.  The only King of Kings.  Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  This is core evangelical Christian doctrine.  While churches may disagree on whether to use wine or grape juice during Communion, or when is the appropriate time to baptize someone, evangelicals agree on this: we believe in the exclusivity of Jesus, the ONE and ONLY.

I’m not trying to pig pile Glenn Beck in the avalache of negative press and hate that seems to be pouring down on him right now.  I think he’s brilliant, and a smart marketer of conservative ideas.  And I don’t have any hatered for Mormons, either.  As far as I can tell, most Mormons are family-loving, well-meaning, kind-hearted good citizens.  I have had good friends in the Mormon faith.  We simply believe different things about who Jesus is, and in a spiritual sense, that makes all the difference in the world.

As an evangelical Christian, I want to be led by the Holy Spirit, and encouraged in the Truth by the Word of God and by others who know the Word and hear the Lord’s voice.  Glenn Beck claims to know and hear the Lord’s voice.  He has a HUGE platform, and for some reason, scads of evangelicals lean in to hear his intepretation of what the Lord’s will is for us.  He may be hearing some inner voice, some guiding spirit, something “bigger than man” may be going on here.  But without Jesus, he can have no indwelling Holy Spirit.  So if it is not God’s voice Glenn Beck is hearing, who is he listening to… and why are evangelicals so quick to follow?

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glenn beck: the new mormon voice of evangelical christianity by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

 [NOTE:  For another excellent post about Glenn Beck’s influence on evangelicals, click here for a great piece from RELEVANT.]

My smartphone is practically a Transformer.  Freaks me out.  If I program it correctly, it will get up before I do, put on a pot of coffee, and whip me up a nice plate of Eggs Bene (with scrambled eggs… poached eggs are gross) and a side of Hash Browns.
 
But with all that my phone can do, and all of it’s multi-media functionality, I still hold on to my trusty 3rd Gen clickwheel iPod to listen to music.
 
Why?  Because Apple flat out dominates the market when it comes to well-designed, high quality, easy to use, techno-magical user interface driven music players.  My Smartphone can play music.  It could crank out U2’s “Beautiful Day” as it gently browned my morning potatoes if it wanted to.  But it does so many other things that it is a little clumsy to use as a music player. For music, my iPod is magic.  It does exactly what it is designed to do very well.
 
Today the long awaited new Kindle from Amazon is slated to be released.  When specs for this next generation of the Kindle were released last month, technofiles watched closely for signs of video capabilities and a flashier, more interactive e-book experience.  In an online article from engadget.com, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos responded, “For the vast majority of books, adding video and animation is not going to be helpful. It is distracting rather than enhancing. You are not going to improve Hemingway by adding video snippets,” adding later, “there are going to be 100 companies making LCD [screen] tablets… why would we want to be 101? I like building a purpose-built reading device. I think that is where we can make a real contribution.”
 
I love that.  A clear, focused purpose.  A device designed to fulfill a specific mission.  We don’t need more bells and whistles.  We want to produce the best electronic device for reading e-books.  Ever.  That’s it.  There is no “cook me breakfast” app.  Streaming video, shmeaming video.  But if you want to read an e-book, let me tell you why this baby is the cat’s pajamas.
 
(As a side note, what does that MEAN?  Cat’s pajamas?)
 
But this post isn’t really about e-readers or music players.  It is about church.  It is about the value of a clear, focused purpose.
 
I think most churches would say they agree on WHAT we are called to do as a local church… and it probably sounds something like “Helping build a community of people who used to be far from God and now are growing into fully devoted disciples of Jesus.”  Basically, local churches look at the “big ones” from Jesus about our mission here on earth in Matthew 22 (“Love God. Love people.”) and Matthew 28 (“Go and make disciples…”), and try to word it in a unique way that fits on a t-shirt.
 
But God has uniquely wired your church, and my church, to reach specific people… in a specific way.  If you go to church, and your church family and leaders love Jesus, we probably agree on 99% of the WHAT.  But your church and my church NEED to listen to God on the SPECIFIC mission we are called to, in the community we are placed, with the specific mix of personalities and gifts that God unites in our congregation.
 
Without a clear, specific, focused purpose, many churches simply rely on what has been done before.  Others are innovation junkies, trying to stay just a step ahead of the Church of the Joneses across the street.  Others think the best way to accomplish the WHAT of Matthew 22 and Matthew 28 is to do more and offer more and be more…  They run the risk of becoming a “menu-of-ministries” church, driven either by the felt needs of the community, the whims of the crowd, or the personality of the pastor.  There’s nothing wrong, per se, with offering a long list of ministries, groups, events, etc… But when a local church UNITES around a common, God-given vision for accomplishing the big WHAT, there is energy in our synergy, there is clarity in our purpose, there is intention in our action, and there is a deep sense of community in the process.
 
When Jeff Bezos was asked about whether the new Kindle would offer more bells and whistles, he said no.
 
Does your church or ministry have a clear, focused purpose?  It will help you decide what God-stuff to embrace, and what good-stuff to say “no” to.
 
[For much more on this general theme, I highly recommend the book Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Grieger.  You could read it on your Kindle…]
 
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“new kindle launches today :: yeah, but can it cook me breakfast?” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.