Category Archives: Church and Culture

Operation Christmas Child and Public Schools

OCCkids

There’s a brouhaha going on in our Denver metro area over a public charter school that organized a gift drive with “Operation Christmas Child.” The school decided to cancel this year’s project because of concerns from the American Humanist Association.

You can read more about the story here.

I will try to be wise about what I say because some of the parents organizing this drive are from a church that I used to work at. Also, I would like to point out that we as a family have participated in Operation Christmas Child before and it helped to focus our kids on giving instead of getting over the holidays.

Here are some of my concerns with a public school sponsoring a project with Operation Christmas Child:

Our country is based on religious freedom for all religions. In my opinion, this means that we need to create equal opportunity for all religions in the public square. For this reason, public schools stay away from religion because if they go down that road, they have to provide equal access for all religions. For some reason Christians push their religion in public schools, yet don’t provide equal opportunity for Muslims, Jews and Buddhists.

Operation Christmas Child and its parent organization Samaritan’s Purse are unapologetically Christian. Their website states, “Gift-filled shoeboxes are a powerful way to introduce children to God’s greatest gift, salvation through Jesus Christ.” As a follower of Christ I don’t have anything against Samaritan’s Purse. But Operation Christmas Child is clearly evangelistic and to use the secular word “proselytizing.”

Therefore, I don’t think it’s appropriate for a public school to partner with Operation Christmas Child.

This issue is very important to me because we have friends at our daughters’ school who come from different religious traditions. As followers of Christ, we need to be aware of those who view the world differently from us. Fighting for our religious rights and pushing our beliefs into the public schools does not build bridges. If anything it pushes people away from Jesus.

If you want to participate in Operation Christmas Child, join with church members or other believers. Just don’t bring it into the public school. And if you really want to protect your religious “rights,” enroll at Front Range, a great Christian school right up the road in Littleton. They offer an excellent Christian education for elementary and high school students.

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Why Edgewater Collective Isn’t Faith Based

Over the past couple of months, I have been investing a good amount of time in launching our grassroots community development organization, Edgewater Collective. Thankfully, the mistakes and lessons learned from starting, maintaining and closing a coffee bar has helped me in starting this new venture. This time around I am seeking advice from those who have gone before me and done the same type of community development organization.

One of the big questions from the start has been, “Are we a faith based organization?”

I sought advice from others, talked with our board and came to the conclusion that some of our board members might be “faith-motivated” but our organization will not be faith based.

Wait! What?! Why would a seminary trained pastor with over ten years of experience in the church not start a faith based organization? Read the rest of this entry

Response to Tragedies Like Newtown: Get Your Hands Dirty

'Gun Wall' photo (c) 2011, Michael Saechang - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

In the wake of national tragedies like Newtown, we rush to solutions. We demand the elimination of assault weapons. We want to arm teachers and school staff. We ask the government to solve our problems because then we don’t have to get our own hands dirty. And we don’t look at the solutions that demand action on our part.

Do I believe we can find solutions that will end violence for good? No. There will always be violence and evil this side of Heaven because there is sin and free will.

But as followers of Christ, we can work for solutions that will lessen violence and bring about good in our communities. But these solutions demand action from each of us. Read the rest of this entry

War on Christmas

waronchristmas2

 

It’s that time of year again. Not just for Christmas trees, presents and carols but for the WAR ON CHRISTMAS!

Whether it’s just a fabricated, blown up message from Fox News or not, as followers of Jesus Christ, we need to think through what our response is to a changing culture.

If we look at the statistics of church attendance, we must realize that our culture is increasingly moving away from the historic Christian faith. Some are responding to these changes by blaming atheists and secular progressives. They call people to fight for celebrating Christmas by putting up nativity scenes on public property and saying “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.” Fox News seems to be capitalizing on this fight response.

But I would call us to a different response. Read the rest of this entry

The Ministry Value of Proximity

A normal day begins with walking our daughters to school just down the street from our duplex. At school I see my bartender whose son is in my daughter’s class. I see members of our Community Group who work at the school or are dropping their kids off at school. Then I walk a little over a mile to work at church. In the afternoons I work from home or at a local coffee shop a few blocks from our house. Then I pick up our daughters from school with my wife. Then I close off the afternoon with a run around a beautiful lake just down the road from our house.

Most of my work and family life happens within a one mile radius of our house.

I am beginning to realize that one of the most strategic values of ministry life is proximity. Read the rest of this entry

Man of Steel and Discipleship

The first time I watched the Man of Steel trailer with Russell Crowe narrating, I listened intently to what he said. After watching it a couple of times, I was struck by the correlation to discipleship and following Christ.

Watch it below and read the narration.

“You will give the people an ideal to strive towards,” he says. “They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.”

What do you think? Is there a correlation?

MMA and Fight Church

From Fight Church

In college I served as a part time youth pastor at a local church in rural Indiana. Three of the students I brought each week were from some pretty tough home situations and worshiped the fighters of WWE. They would put wrestling moves on each other and sometimes me. They some pretty big kids so I didn’t stand a chance. I wondered what effect watching wrestling had on their development and especially on how they expressed their anger.

Recently, I have noticed pastors like Mark Driscoll talk about redeeming UFC and mixed martial arts. Now there is even a documentary talking about the interaction of the church and MMA called Fight Church. You can watch the trailer here.

Questions about how Christianity should interact with a violent culture are not new. The early Christians in the Roman Empire asked these same questions about gladiators. How do you follow a Jesus who said to turn the other cheek and beat the snot out of your competitor? Are there negative ramifications of pushing such a masculine Christianity?

As a father of daughters questions like this don’t come up much. But for those that are raising sons it can be more of an issue. How do you think Christians should interact with MMA? Would you let your child watch UFC?

LGBT, Grace and the Church

After four years at a Christian college, my first job was at a Peaberry Coffee in Colorado. I quickly found out that I was no longer in the bubble of an intentional, Christian community. Misha, one of my fellow baristas, had long, black hair and sometimes wore a dress to work. Misha was bisexual. But Misha was one of the nicest people I had ever met. He taught me the intricacies of making the perfect coffee drink. He didn’t hold it against me that I was a Christian and I treated him with love and grace. It was a pretty eye opening experience for me. I had grown up with the idea that those on the other side of the political and religious aisle were living evil lifestyles. I was totally blindsided by the fact that Misha and others in the LGBT community I have met since exhibited more love than some Christians I know. Read the rest of this entry

Principled Living in a Post-Christian Culture: Learning from Daniel

Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were the cream of the crop taken from Judah. They were to go into three years of training to serve the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. This involved training in language and literature and eating the food from the king. They were also given new Babylonian names. Daniel didn’t have an issue with the Babylonians renaming him or the education. The text of Daniel 1 says that Daniel didn’t want to defile his body with the king’s food. He stood his ground on this. The guard gave in and after ten days the four men from Judah were in much better shape than the others so the Babylonian guards changed the diets of all the trainees. Then after three years of training they came to Nebuchadnezzar for questioning. The four men were much wiser than the other magicians and enchanters in the kingdom.

In a foreign land and a culture opposed to the things of God, these men immersed themselves in studying the culture and learning their new roles. They stood by their principles on their diet even though they risked death. They didn’t run from certain aspects of the Babylonian culture but didn’t allow themselves to be defiled by other things. In the end, the Babylonians were impressed by the wisdom and understanding of the four men from Judah.

In our American culture, what do we immerse ourselves in to understand our culture? What principles do we stand by so that we don’t defile our minds or bodies? As our culture moves farther away from the principles in Scripture, the story of Daniel and the other men from Judah will be increasingly valuable.

How do we stand by our principles yet immerse ourselves in learning about our culture?

2011 in Review: Books, Music, Movies and Television

This being the time of the year when we reflect on the past year in the rear view mirror, I thought I would reflect on my favorite media choices.

Books

  • Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson – Having worked for Apple Retail and hearing stories of what it was like to cross paths with Steve, I was excited to read what he was really like. He was a flawed human being like all of us but in spite of those flaws he was a relentless genius.
  • The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins – I just devoured this trilogy over the holidays. It tells the story of Katniss, who is an angst teenage girl who is thrust into the spotlight of competing for her life in a post-apocalyptic world. I can’t wait for the first movie in the series coming out in March.
  • Weird by Craig Groeschel – Hillary and I love Craig’s honest, practical and biblical wisdom. This book was no exception. In Weird Craig challenges Christians to go against the lifestyles of those around us and live like Christ even if it means being weird.
  • The Restless Heart by Ronald Rolheiser – My counselor recommended anything by Rolheiser and this book was definitely thought provoking and soul stirring. Rolheiser dives deep into explaining the soul stirrings that we all have to connect with others and ultimately God.

Music

I’m only including full albums because I firmly believe that artists should be judged by their full albums not just one catchy song that gets radio play.

  • Gungor (Ghosts Upon the Earth) – by far the most innovative and beautiful worship music I have heard in a long time
  • Civil Wars (Barton Hollow) – a group that features a former CCM artist and a Johnny Depp look alike just has to be good
  • Mumford and Sons (Sigh No More) – thanks to Spotify I haven’t had to buy this album yet but once I get the cash I’m springing for it
  • Coldplay (Mylo Xyloto) – the song Paradise is so addictive I keep coming back again and again to listen to the full album
  • The National (High Violet) – The National is my soundtrack for deep thought moments while I drink coffee

Movies

  • Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol – you can’t go wrong with former Pixar director Brad Bird in charge of this movie
  • The Way – Emilio Estevez’s beautiful description of the spiritual journey is well worth seeing
  • I Am – Tom Shadyac’s documentary journey of finding out what’s wrong with our world and how we can fix it
  • The Beaver – I love stories of redemption and this one had an interesting connection to the real world as Mel Gibson played the role of a depressed man trying to find himself
  • Ides of March – this rather depressing and hopeless take on politics played into my current view of selfish, people pleasing politicians who deserve to be unemployed

Television

  • White Collar – my brother-in-law works on the show and we love the intrigue and team dynamics of this show about a FBI agent and “former” white collar criminal working together to solve crimes
  • Parenthood – though Sarah Braverman annoys the heck out of me and I play with my iPhone during scenes with her in it, Hillary and I still love the family dynamics and raw emotion of this show
  • Friday Night Lights – we miss our favorite coach and long for the small town life of Dillon
  • Modern Family – we are in danger of giving up on this show as most of the characters are venturing toward the extremes of their archtypes