Traditional vs. Contemporary Worship

A few months ago, I wrote about the different versions of the Bible, and I was surprised at the flack I got for thinking the Message was completely worthless. So, this time I thought I’d tackle a much less controversial topic: what’s the difference between contemporary and traditional worship?

I think we’d all say that the two styles are equally acceptable to God and equally holy. But there’s a bit of a misconception that contemporary worship is the exact same as traditional worship but with different instruments or a different musical style. I think anyone who’s been in both types of services can tell you there are more differences than musical styles. The main differences actually come down to the emotion of worship, the style of worship, and the underlying purpose of worship. 

And again, before I hear anything from people who are ardent defenders of one style or another, both types are equally valid, holy and necessary for Christian living.

Emotion of Worship

The fact that congregational worship includes music goes to show that a key purpose of worship is to bring up your emotions. The goal of musical worship is to shift your mindset away from what you’re seeing in the world and get you into the mindset that you are in the presence of a God who is to be worshiped.

In traditional worship, this is accomplished through a sense of reverence. There’s always a certain ceremony to traditional worship, encouraging you to wear your “Sunday best” and sing along to these hymns, full of well-written classical accompaniment that contains sophisticated lyrics full of words we wouldn’t use in our everyday speech. It’s a symbol that God is worthy of the absolute best of our dress, our culture, and by extension, our lives.

Contemporary services accomplish the same through intimacy. The music is simpler, but the fuller band and the style of the music is designed to set a particular atmosphere. Often the lights are brought down, delay is put on guitars, and it begins to feel like a spiritual setting. The lyrics to the songs are about God’s closeness to us, with the instrumentals and the lyrics together guiding us to a sort of emotional high in which we recognize both God’s greatness and His goodness. People often have a deeper understanding of the easier to understand lyrics in songs like Good Good Father and Holy Spirit. The goals of contemporary worship are mainly to come as you are and experience God in the most intimate way possible.

Style of Worship

Most people could identify the real difference between traditional and contemporary worship through the response of the congregation. In each case, you’ll find people responding as the worship leaders intended, but you see very different results. Both styles are designed to praise and worship God for who He is.

In traditional worship, the most important thing the congregation can do is sing along. The hymns are songs of praise, full of words that God deserves to hear. The congregation sings along to the (admittedly pretty complicated) melodies. Instead of just one worship team, even with a choir present, the general feel is that the church is all singing together. No one is really leading or following, but they are all uniformly singing together.

That uniformity isn’t really present in contemporary worship. Contemporary worship tends to focus more on a physical or emotional response. Usually the worship team are the only people who are heavily focused solely on the content of the music. Many people in a contemporary service will reflect on the music, meditate on the words, and give an emotional response. Sometimes that’s closing their eyes, or lifting their hands, or dancing, or falling to their knees. There’s a lot of motion in contemporary worship, and the generally attitude is that there’s just as much for us to gain from worship as there is for us to give unto God, which leads me into the final difference:

Purpose of Worship

Musical worship is all throughout the Bible and is used for a variety of reasons, so to say the purpose behind one church’s worship is wrong and another is right is pretty asinine. In any case, however, the primary purpose is to life our praises unto God. Beyond that, however, there are many options. In the Bible, musical worship has been used to celebrate, to mourn, to ask for victory, to declare God’s promises, to mark special occasions and plenty of other tasks.

Traditional worship mainly uses the music portion of its service to transition to the sermon. It has you sing praises of God for the glory of God and to shift your mindset so you’re ready to hear the Word of God. You tend to think of God in a broad context in traditional services, rather than in terms of your own life.

In contemporary services, often the worship is just as important as the sermon. It’s often used to speak personal truths about God to the congregation. It is also for the glory of God, but now there is a spiritual benefit. It’s designed to give you an emotional connection to God. The music leads you to think about what God means in your specific individual life, which then leads you to understand God in a broader context (rather than the opposite direction found in traditional services).

At the end of the day, the difference between traditional worship and contemporary worship is simple. Traditional worship is about reverence for a big God who lives outside of time, created the universe and has infinite power and wisdom. Contemporary worship is about an emotional connection to a God who loves us and wants a relationship with each and every one of us.

Obviously, there are plenty of times of overlap. Contemporary services spend plenty of time talking about how great God is and traditional services spend plenty of time talking about how good and loving God is. But in terms of the general moods of the worship service, this is the case.

Both forms of worship are necessary for a full relationship with Christ. The purpose of this post was to point out how profoundly different and profoundly necessary they both are. So look at your own church services, see which way they lean, and use that to determine what you really need from your personal time with God. If your service is very traditional and leaning toward the omnipotence of God, focus on the relational aspects of God during your personal time, and vice versa. The God of love and the God of power and might are not separate in the Word of God, and we shouldn’t neglect one in favour of the other in our lives either. Just something to think about.

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The Problem with Life Verses

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭3:12-17 (ESV)

I don’t like life verses. 

Actually, it’s not just that I don’t like life verses. I find them maddeningly unhelpful. I find them 100% counter-productive when it comes to Christian life.

Let me explain life verses for those of you who don’t know. A Christian’s “life verse” is the one verse that speaks to a Christian and applies to their life more than any other. 

Now, in the right situations, these verses can be a good thing. For example, if you struggle with thinking your sins are lesser than others’, as I have, maybe you should keep James 2:10 in mind. Or if you’re worried about how to live out your Christianity, remembering Romans 12 is a good place to start. 

But the fact there will never be one verse or passage that applies to you in every single situation. I talked about a year ago in a post called The Importance of Context that a verse by itself doesn’t mean anything if you don’t know why it’s being said. In the same way, Philippians 4:13 may not be a great verse to use if you have a good friend stuck in sexual sin. 

I know most people don’t ONLY use their life verse for situations, but it’s time to be honest. By picking ONE verse, you’re essentially saying the rest of the Bible is not as good. You’re saying that what the Word of God says about one thing is more important than another. We’d never admit that, but yeah, that’s what it means. 

So next time someone asks what your life verse is, just say “The Bible.” The entire book is your life. Don’t let your search for a “life verse” get in the way of making you a better Christian. Just something to think about. 

Thoughts on the Christian Culture

Now that my wedding and move-in are done and I can actually settle down to write one of these. I’ve been sitting down trying to decide what to write about and several topics have buzzed through my mind over the last few days dealing with the Christian culture (a nice break from all the politics I’ve been talking about lately). Instead of spending weeks talking about each one, I thought I’d convey them all briefly in one post, as they’re related to things I’ve experienced very recently and waiting on them would make them no longer timely.

Christians Don’t Think They’re Doing Christianity Wrong

Back in December, I wrote a blog about what versions of the Bible are more accurate than others. In it, I was kind of hard on The Message:

The Message just makes God a liar: “The moment you eat from that tree, you’re dead.” That explicitly states that as soon as Eve ate the fruit, she’d have died before she could have even gotten it to Adam, which makes God a liar. Now you can argue that they died a spiritual death, which is true, but it’s clear that’s not what God was saying. That doesn’t fly.

The ESV paints a picture of a God who hates when people do one thing at religious meetings and another thing at home. The Message paints a picture of a God who hates religious meetings, and says they’re just a waste of time and we should do other things instead.

Verdict: The Message contradicts itself and standard biblical teaching in so many places that I have to discourage anyone reading this from ever using it, even for just a small illustration as some people do. It’s not accurate, it’s not scripture, it’s not helpful and it’s not worth you wasting your time on it.

I stand by everything I said and even more so as I’ve looked through the Message even further. I’ve found that, especially in the New Testament, the Message replaces hard commands with soft suggestions and calls to action into calls to “not judge people.” It’s really soft on people where the Bible is really hard on people. It’s a quasi-commentary that passes itself off as scripture.

Some people commented that the Message was useful if you don’t understand something from the Bible itself. Well, that’d be true if the Message weren’t wrong about everything. The fact is you can flip to any chapter in the Message and compare it with any other version, and you’ll find something in that chapter where you’ll say “What the Message says isn’t what that means.” Go ahead and try it.

This incident, along with some others that I’ve seen in my life, has given me a sort of revelation about Christians in general and about myself: people (myself included) are okay being called out on sin, but they can’t accept when something they think is God-glorifying is wrong.

I don’t think we latch onto everything with the name “Christian” on it and run with it; most of us understand that Joel Osteen and Rob Bell aren’t the kind of brilliant theologians we should be listening to. But I do think that once we do latch onto something we believe is good Christian practice, we don’t want to let it go, even if it doesn’t line up with the Word of God.

That essentially makes us Pharisees. Often, we try to see ourselves as the poor, helpless victims Jesus saves in the New Testament. But for most of the people who read this blog, we’re the Pharisees. We’re the spiritual leaders, and even though we’d never admit it, we think we have Christianity figured out. We don’t. One of the functions of the Bible is to show us how our Christian walk can be better, and to warn us against things that claim to be Christian, and even have the best of intentions, but are harmful.

Christian Celebrities Aren’t Better Than You

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.  For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in,  and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,”  have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Christians love their celebrities. Whether it’s in the Christian media world like Chris Tomlin or Francesca Battistelli or Christians in the secular world like Tim Tebow, Christians go nuts over their celebrities.

We shouldn’t treat celebrities like celebrities, much less the Christian ones. After all, they’re just normal people doing their job. Pay to see their concerts, sure, and try to meet them, but they aren’t worth getting starstruck over. Just like you, they’re doing their job, and God has given them everything they have. Let them be just people.

And Christian celebrities also need to act like regular people instead of celebrities. Some of them are already good at this. One woman in particular, V-Rose, has blown me away with the way she treats her “fans”, for lack of a better word (even if I don’t enjoy her music myself). My boss at the TV station has a young daughter who loves V-Rose’s music, so they brought her into the station to sing at a few events. V-Rose actually spent time with this little girl, let her have her phone number, sent a video for her birthday, and really treated this girl like she mattered to her. V-Rose, Todd Agnew and Rush of Fools are among the top 5 biggest names I’ve worked with, and they’re likely among the top 5 most humble and easy-going people/groups I’ve worked with.

Other Christian celebrities know their fame and act like celebrities. This needs to stop. You’re not better than anyone. You’re just a human being.

Emotions Are Okay

So, a big problem I have with the culture at large is the fact that feelings dictate everything, and I’ve talked about that a lot. So it may surprise you that I think Christian culture has a problem of trying to suppress their feelings too much.

Job is a wonderful study in human emotion in a relationship with God. Job weeps and mourns everything he’s lost; he is constantly upset, fearful or even angry. Yet he never uses it in a way that leads to sin. He’s lost everything, he has sores everywhere, his friends are trying to tell him that it’s somehow his fault while he’s trying to defend himself. The range of emotions is there, but he still trusts God the whole time. He doesn’t even get answers in the end, but he trusts God.

I think Christian culture today says that if you’re upset or worried, you’re not trusting God. I don’t think that’s true. I think you can trust God while still understanding the clock and the bank account.

When Tabatha and I got married we started our marriage without a place to live and I still didn’t have a job with benefits or decent pay. It was hard to cope with because I have spent a year searaching for a job with benefits and good pay so that I could even afford a place to live and provide for us. We knew God would provide for us eventually, but that didn’t make it easy. It has been a difficult time full of anger, sadness, confusion, and pretty much any emotion you can think of. Thanks to Christian culture’s obsession with making sure we’re always happy because God will handle it, I felt really guilty about that. But Job teaches us that we can feel those negative emotions as long as those negative emotions don’t guide us or change our feelings toward God.

And I know what the response is: “Philippians 4:6.” Well, context:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:4-7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

More of a call to pray WHEN you’re worried because God is there than a call to think you can never worry. 

All of those things together have been on my mind lately, what with all the wedding stuff and working at a Christian television station and such. Just a few things to think about.

With the stress of a wedding fresh on my mind, I’d like to talk to anyone currently planning a wedding. I know everything for weddings is super expensive and sometimes you have to make sacrifices. So Tabatha and I are starting a little side business. We know that weddings and live events can be expensive, especially since people hear the word “wedding” and crank up their prices. We want to do something about that. Our business, Natural Frame Media & Production, is designed to help you with some of the more expensive parts of live events. We do photography, videography, DJ’ing, live music, and we have all of our own equipment ready to go. We charge absurdly low prices because we believe you shouldn’t be able to make twice your money back for your equipment every time you work. For more information, visit our Facebook page here: Natural Frame Media & Production.

 

The “Anti-Science” Label

For a society that cares so much about treating everyone fairly and not judging people, they sure do love to slap labels on everyone and assume motives that don’t exist. If you think we should enforce immigration law or that white privilege doesn’t exist, they label you a racist. If you don’t believe in the pay gap or you think people shouldn’t be allowed to murder babies in the womb, you’re labeled a sexist. If you don’t think men should be allowed to use the women’s bathroom because rapists could take advantage of that situation, you’re labeled a “transphobe.” I don’t think any of these labels are anything to worry about, because they’re based on absolutely no facts about you whatsoever.

The funniest label society likes to give today, however, is that people are “anti-science.” The label used to be common for atheists to use against Christians, and many Christians can be anti-science at times, but now it’s become more of a political tool. If you don’t think climate change is man-made or you think a fetus in the womb is a human, you’re “anti-science.” This is, of course, mainly used by Democrats and liberals to target Republicans and conservatives. So here’s a look at why conservative viewpoints are often more pro-science than liberal viewpoints.

1. Science Reveals that Babies in the Womb are Still Human

This should go without saying. Planned Parenthood likes to lie to their patients, not let them hear their babies heartbeat and tell them that the body parts clearly visible on the ultrasound are just “globs of cells.” The baby’s heartbeat begins at 6 weeks, according to Baby Center, which is before the time the government decides they’re human. The brain begins developing after 3 weeks. That “glob of cells” is not going to come out as a chicken, or a bit of broccoli. There is a 0% that this will come out as anything other than a human baby, because it is a human baby. Ultrasound science has given us a clearer picture than ever of the baby’s development of its HUMAN body. Anyone who claims that a fetus in the womb is anything other than a human growing is just anti-science.

2. All of the Predictions from “An Inconvenient Truth” Were Wrong

Remember when everyone who claimed global warming was a myth was a science denier? Turns out we were smarter than they thought. The South Pole melting was supposed to cause sea levels to rise to a catastrophic level. Instead, the South Pole has been growing as steadily as it always has, and sea levels are rising as steadily as they always have. Mr. Gore clearly didn’t have much faith in this prediction, because he bought a beachfront mansion. Katrina wasn’t man-made, and it didn’t lead to more catastrophic hurricanes. In fact, we’ve had the longest drought of Level 3+ hurricanes on US soil since these things have been recorded in the time since. There are more polar bears now than when Al Gore was born, so they aren’t dying off. Science seems to have disproved these so-called “scientific claims.” Denying this would have to mean you’re “anti-science.”

3. Mainstream Media Continues to Preach Narratives that Evidence Doesn’t Back

“Hands up, don’t shoot” was proven false. Mainstream media continues to bring it up. Michael Brown was either a robber or a drug dealer depending on who you believe that fought the police offer who was arresting him. After months, there is still zero evidence of Trump being in bed with the Russians, and anyone who showed even the slightest evidence of such collusion has been removed from the administration. While the Russians did indeed hack the DNC, there’s no evidence of them hacking the election itself, and many liberals fail to acknowledge the fact that it wouldn’t have affected the election one bit if there were no sketchy dealings going on to begin with. I can admit there’s some of this on the right too, what with the wiretapping scandal, but at least there was a SHRED of evidence pointing to the possibility. It wasn’t just made up out of thin air to tell a narrative. There was something there that was misconstrued. But making claims with no evidence is the very definition of “anti-science.”

4. Men Can’t Magically Become Women

Men and women should absolutely be treated equally by society. I think I  can believe that and at the same time believe that men and women are naturally different. There’s a reason men can win women’s weightlifting contests and women tend to be better singers than men. We are all born with these biological tendencies one way or another. These biological tendencies are what forms the gender identities associated with the sexes. This is the reason that people who want to change their gender have to change the chemical balance of hormones in their body, which is incredibly unnatural. Let me ask you something: if it’s so natural, why is every method of treating it artificial? Now, I understand some people have serious gender identity disorder and I pray that they get treated for that, but we conservatives acknowledge this for what it is: an illness. That’s why the transgender suicide rate is upwards of 40%. Bullying or mistreatment by society doesn’t do that. Only 20% of bullied students in school even think about committing suicide, far fewer actually attempt it. Suicide rates of Jews in Nazi Germany were between 50 and 100 per 100,000. A 40% suicide rate only occurs through severe mental illness. We who understand science know that. To embrace mental illness as the norm is just anti-science.

5. Christianity Can Be Scientifically Validated

While many scientists still debate on how scientifically accurate creationism might be, the realization that there is evidence for such an event is growing. Many in the scientific community are following the Intelligent Design Theory, which states that some intelligent being created and designed the universe to fit exactly the way it does. More scientists sign onto this theory as it becomes clear that the conditions necessary to create any sort of life did not exist on earth during the time science says life began on earth. Scientific and archaeological evidence exists for many of the events of the Old Testament, Jesus’ resurrection, and loads of other biblical events. With so much evidence existing, you’d think society would accept that there might be some merit to Christianity. Instead, the ignore the evidence that’s there and say it isn’t scientifically valid. Well, as we’ve established, ignoring evidence is anti-science.

So we don’t really have an issue of science vs. faith or racism vs. equality or tradition vs. progress in the battle between conservatives and liberals. The main difference is this: liberals craft the story first and hope the facts add up. Conservatives wait for the facts to come out to form the story based on those. There are exceptions, of course (looking at you, Donald Trump), but in general the mainstream media and liberals use science, emotional appeals or anecdotes as tools in an attempt to push agenda. Science is the answer when they want to say Christianity is for idiots. But Christian values are important when Trump wants to keep refugees out. But Democrats did the same thing and they didn’t protest. The same women who march for their rights in America think you’re Islamophobic if you point out the incredibly sexist laws in islamic countries. Islamic “feminists” running the march were advocates of sharia law. They only care about their narrative of “I’m really good and care about tolerance and helping people, and anyone who disagrees with me is a bad person who I care nothing about, I won’t tolerate and I won’t help.” Meanwhile, conservatives will continue to call out the hypocrisy and ask for change, but they will just ignore the evidence of hypocrisy, because they’re anti-science. So if they think I’m anti-science, I’d say it’s just the pot calling the kettle black. Just something to think about.

 

Deceptive Evangelism Doesn’t Work

The wisest of women builds her house,
    but folly with her own hands tears it down.
 Whoever walks in uprightness fears the Lord,
    but he who is devious in his ways despises him.
By the mouth of a fool comes a rod for his back,[a]
    but the lips of the wise will preserve them.
Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean,
    but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.
A faithful witness does not lie,
    but a false witness breathes out lies.
A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain,
    but knowledge is easy for a man of understanding.

Proverbs 14:1-6 (ESV)

Why do some Christian groups try to trick people into following Jesus?

My fiancée recently ran into my former university’s Baptist Collegiate Ministry. Of course, she wasn’t aware it was them until much later, as no one told her who they were representing, but that’s who they were. She was asked if she wanted to take a survey. When she agreed, they asked if she was a Christian, to which she said yes, because she is a saved, Bible-believing Christian. They then proceeded to question her faith for the next 20 minutes.

So, I want to pick what they did apart, because it’s both deceptive and judgmental. That’s no way to preach the gospel.

In order to ensure her Christianity, she was asked who Jesus is, how she was saved, what happens after death, what she would say to God if He asked her why she should get to heaven, who God is to her and how she would preach the gospel to someone.

Many of these questions are the wrong questions, because they are based in all kinds of Christianese and Christian culture logic that new believers or Christians who didn’t spend their entire life in church might not understand.

What about those believers who don’t actually remember their exact moment of salvation, as many who were saved young or saved more gradually don’t?

What if a believer answered the question of who Jesus is with a historical answer and not a personal or emotional one? (i.e. He’s the Son of God who died on the cross to save the people from their sin)

What if a believer answered what happens after death with “I don’t know exactly how it works” because they don’t know exactly what happens between dying and getting to Heaven/hell?

What if the answer to why God should let me into Heaven isn’t “I don’t deserve it” but is “The righteous make it to Heaven and Jesus’ death on the cross makes me righteous”? It’s technically correct, but it’s not the answer the people who ask that question look for.

These are loaded questions, and the people who ask these questions are attempting to make assumptions about someone’s salvation essentially based on how much Christianese they know. This is definitionally judgmental. It’s judgmental to assume someone isn’t saved because they don’t answer a question exactly how you think it should be answered. It’s one thing for someone to say “I don’t believe in God” and you assume they aren’t a Christian. It’s another for someone to say “Yes I do deserve to get to Heaven” and you assume they aren’t a Christian even though there’s a biblical reason for one to say this (namely that Jesus’ death causes God to see us as deserving of Heaven if we accept Him).

But my biggest problem is the deceptive evangelism technique used here. The tent they were coming from said “Take a Survey and Get a Free Book.” It turns out the survey wasn’t really a survey at all but an attempt to assume your salvation (again, judgment). And it turns out that the book was a New Testament (by the way, I hate when people only give out those New Testaments, as if Psalms and Proverbs are the only important books of the Old Testament).

This is deceptive because the intentions of those involved are not made clear until after it’s too late for either party to back out. And sure, people may be less likely to participate if you say “Hey, I’m from BCM, and I wanted to ask a few questions about your faith,” but at least I know I can trust you at that point. Honesty is unbelievably important in matters related to faith. To deceive someone to try to preach the gospel to them is like smashing someone’s windshield to pieces and then telling them you’ll fix their brake lights. You cannot break trust with someone through a lack of transparency and then expect them to take you at your word when you give them the Gospel.

So what would I have done?

I would have labeled the tent “BCM: Come talk to us about Jesus!” or something. I would not give out New Testament Bibles, because most people on college campuses who want to read a Bible have one, and those who don’t won’t ever read it. It’ll be a waste. Then I would approach people with the opening line I mentioned earlier, and then I would ask if that person is a Christian.

If the answer is yes, the ONLY other thing I would ask is if they’re involved in a local church and, in the case of a college campus, a campus ministry. Then I’d invite them to attend the ministry functions and get involved if they’d like. Boom: simple. The method they were using of asking everyone all of those loaded questions was making believers feel attacked and non-believers feel judged. You’re allowed to assume that people know what they’re talking about when they say they’re Christians. You have no right or obligation to make them prove it until they’re the ones trying to preach the gospel to you.

If they say they’re Christian but they aren’t actually saved, maybe they’ll come to one of the functions and learn what living for Jesus truly is, but it’s not your place to assume anyone is or isn’t a “born again Christian.” The only litmus test given in the Bible is the fruit of the spirit, and if you don’t know someone, you have no idea what fruit they are or aren’t bearing, so you just can’t make those assumptions based on a few loaded Christianese questions.

If someone says they aren’t a Christian, I’d probably ask them why that is (since most people in America today understand at least what Christianity is). Of course, if they say they’ve never heard of Christianity, it’s easy just to tell them about it (just make sure you actually use the Bible). But most people have a reason for avoiding Christianity in this country, and that’s something you should discuss with people if they’re willing. You can come to the root of why they don’t believe it, come to understand the lies they believe about Christianity, and then show them where they’ve been misinformed in Scripture and show them that Christianity is a beautiful path to a beautiful and eternal life.

And the Bible shows that you don’t actually have to deceive people to get them interested in what Jesus can do for them. In the early church, many people were drawn to the church, not in spite of the fact that they were talking about Jesus, but BECAUSE of it. Their authenticity and willingness never to sacrifice their public affirmation of their faith because of the culture or even the law allowed God to perform miracles through them and speak to thousands of people on a regular basis. Authentic Christianity naturally draws people in. If we can be honest and authentic with the people we encounter, we can lead far more to Christ than if we lie about it, make them feel comfortable, and then blast them with questions about their religion. Deceiving people, judging people: these things do not make for effective evangelism. Only authenticity and a true willingness to serve Christ in a true, biblical and loving way will do that. Just something to think about.

 

 

Here’s Why FADA Would Be Such a Good Thing

Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭18:7-9‬ ‭(ESV‬‬)

So as of this writing, the First Amendment Defense Act hasn’t been passed, but boy I hope it is soon. Essentially, the act would remove sanctions placed on Christian businesses for refusing a service for religious reasons (for example, the Christian baker who refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding). It will protect the religious freedom of business owners.

NBC says it’s a bad thing. They basically claim that “It’ll let people discriminate because they hate gay people.” Hating gay people is the fake mainstream news’ means of making Christians, the most loving religion on the planet, look like a bunch of bigots. 

Of course, this is false. We don’t hate gay people. But many Christians believe that because homosexual acts are listed as sinful in the Bible, they shouldn’t participate in them. After all, the Bible tells us all that it’s awful to cause another to sin. 

 This wouldn’t have been such a giant problem if the sanctions against such businesses didn’t seem to apply exclusively to Christian businesses. However, in the video below, a man poses as a homosexual and goes to Muslim-owned bakeries to ask if he can have a cake for a gay wedding. I’d encourage you to watch the video below, but long story short, they all turn him away. No government sanctions or media backlash come their way, of course. 

The First Amendment says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Essentially, the government has no right to prohibit the free exercise of religion. Again, there are some reasonable regulations, like no murdering people or worshiping in a way that could get people killed. But speaking reasonably, the government shouldn’t be allowed to force a business to participate in activities they don’t want to participate in. 

You can say anti-discrimination is a reasonable regulation for religious businesses, but that’s just not true. Again, Muslim bakers are totally ok in the public’s eye for doing the exact same thing. 

Not to mention, we live in a capitalist society with a free market. If you can’t be served in one place, you can find another baker who doesn’t have the same policy. Now, does this justify racial discrimination or other forms of discrimination? Of course not! But if a business is taking an action for religious reasons, the government has no right to force them into anything. And the FADA will make sure the government follows the First Amendment and stays out of our religion. . Just something to think about. 

Truth Isn’t Relative

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭4:1-5‬ (‭ESV‬‬)

Donald Trump was inaugurated a week ago, and  since he was elected we’ve heard proclamations that Donald Trump is “Not my president.” Black America Web, New York Times and others have called for people not to call Donald Trump “President,” and then suddenly he magically won’t be in the highest office in the nation.

Well, you can call Donald Trump “not the president” all you want, but he’s still sitting in the White House right now, signing executive orders and doing a pretty decent job running the country. It turns out that when he signs a bill into law that affects you, you can’t just pretend it doesn’t exist.

This all stems from the idea that truth is relative: truth doesn’t actually exist, and instead it’s all just based on how people perceive the world. The sky is only blue because people generally agree that it is.

This idea is complete and utter nonsense, especially because people disagree. And what do we do when two people disagree? Well, we should look at facts to determine which side is true, or we should dismiss both sides as opinions and carry on being friends.

Another issue with taking your perception as the truth over facts is that perception can change. Any number of things, from drugs to events to opinions, can change the way you see everything in the world. If the verifiable facts contradict your perception, it generally means your perception is being altered.

That kind of thinking also allows you to alter your own perception to your own convenience. For example, the Donald Trump situation again. Some people want so badly for Trump not to be president that they’re willing to alter their own perception to make it not so. But what happens when they can no longer do so? What happens when policy changes he makes affect them and therefore affect their perception? Eventually, people will have to come to terms with reality.

Some things simply are objectively true. The fact that I am typing this blog, for instance, is objectively true. The fact that you are reading it is objectively true. We know both of these things because of the verifiable facts that the words I’ve typed are now visible on your screen and the fact that you are now reading them and taking them in. To say that I never wrote this post, or that you did not read it, defies all logic and sense of reason.

Many people have an idea of what the world is like, and they bend the facts and use them to fit their own narrative. Instead, the facts themselves should twist and shape our idea of what the world is. Indeed, the facts should determine how we view the narrative; the narrative shouldn’t determine how we view the facts.

At the end of the day, we should embrace the idea that we are not the ultimate deciders of what is true. After all, we are all sinners, and in our hands the truth would simply collapse into a pile of dust as we see now in the media. Instead, we as Christians should allow God to show us what is true, through things that are objective and plainly visible to us.

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

‭‭Romans‬ ‭1:19-20‬ ‭(ESV‬‬)

Just something to think about.

Does the Truth Matter Anymore?

So what do these three videos have in common? The primary issue that I saw wasn’t that DeVos couldn’t answer questions, or that she wasn’t aware of whatever debate was happening. What stood out to me was that the Democratic senators never actually let her answer their questions. On multiple occasions throughout the videos, she’s interrupted, she’s accused of being incompetent or uncaring and her words are taken out of context.

Why is this the case? And more importantly, why is this a mark on her reputation instead of the Senators posing unfairly leading questions and refusing to allow her to answer the logic or reason (remembering that the Obama administration never received such treatment during confirmation hearings)?

All three videos show one thing: once one of these Senators develops an opinion about this woman, it’s game over for her after that.

In the first video, she asks for some clarification on a question that Senator Al Franken asks. And in all fairness, his question was worded in the most confusing way possible, and he did stumble over his words for a moment. She just wants to make sure they’re on the same page as far as the definition of terms. However, Al Franken doesn’t like DeVos, and he decided from the moment Trump appointed her that she was incompetent. So instead of simply giving her the clarification and allowing her to continue, he seemingly tries to confuse her more, and then he berates her as incompetent.

“I can’t believe you’re not aware of this debate.” And social media justice warriors all chimed in “I can’t believe she’s not aware of this debate.” Keep in mind, first of all, that no one else is either, because these particular Senators have done nothing with any of the information in this debate since they took office. No one who’s calling her incompetent  understands what’s happening either, and that is the fault of the Senators who have been in office the last six years.

Secondly, he never gave her a chance to actually answer. He just kept rambling on, for which he was actually chastised a moment later, but of course CNN wouldn’t show you that part.

In the second video, Senator Christopher Murphy, instead of listening to DeVos’ reasoning behind supporting Trump’s opinions on guns on campus, he chooses to stand on the graves of the Sandy Hook victims to paint her as an uncaring villain who wants students everywhere to be shot. Clearly that isn’t the case, but that’s his opinion of anyone who disagrees with his position.

In the third, Senator (and former accomplish to a murderer’s attempt at becoming president) Tim Kaine tried to trap DeVos with a yes or no question, a trapping which DeVos expertly avoided. DeVos tried to explain her opinions but was met with “Just answer yes or no.” When she did finally give a yes or no answer, he interrupted her explanation, not giving her a chance to give any kind of logic or reason behind her disagreeing with Kaine (because if you disagree with a Democrat, you’re just an evil racist, and not someone who just thinks about things differently).

Again, all of this is based on a prejudice that she’s incompetent, and instead of getting an actual answer to their concerns based on facts, they use these hearings merely as a tool to confirm in the eyes of the world their own suspicions. They don’t care whether they’re factually correct, they just care about whether people think they’re right.

This kind of thinking is ruining this country and its culture. Making assumptions about people based on your own preconceived notions is disgraceful, and it shouldn’t be tolerated in our government.

What should have happened, and what should always happen in life, is someone thinking, “Hey, that doesn’t sound right to me. Maybe I should invite her to explain her reasoning so we can come to some sort of consensus and figure out what to do from there. Maybe she’s not an incompetent psychopath who wants our children to die and our educational system to fail. Maybe she wants the best for everyone and has different ideas of how to get there.”

The method in much of the liberal world right now is to question people’s actions and make assumptions about their intentions. Really, we shouldn’t assume anything and we should always ask people about their intentions. And we should always consider that just maybe we aren’t the smartest people on the planet and other people’s ideas work sometimes, especially if you’re part of a Senate education committee when the American education system is as broken as it’s ever been. Just something to think about. Not to feel about, but to actually think about for more than five seconds.

 

 

This “God Our Mother” Nonsense

I’ve always heard that people believed in “God the Mother,” but I thought it was all universalist hippies. But then World Mission Society TV made a video, and social media evangelists are trying to preach this new gospel, so I feel like it should be addressed, so no one turns into a universalist hippy. 

I have transcribed the video below and will discuss it piece by piece. 

Since the beginning of Christianity, we have been familiar with God our Father. We even call ourselves children of God. But have you ever wondered why the Bible tells us to call ourselves children of God? And why Jesus Christ taught us to pray to God our Father? 

The first thing we need to do to discuss this video is remember why we actually refer to God as our Father. He is not our Father in the sense that He impregnated our mother who gave birth to us. He is our Father in the relational sense: He created us, and He cares about and wants the best for us. That’s why we are “children” of God. He loves us and disciplines us like a parent. 

The existence of a father naturally indicates that there are children. But are children born from just a Father? Children can only have life if there is a mother, because it is the mother who gives birth. We can clearly see that Christ showed us to pray to God our Father in heaven, because as children of God, we also have God our Mother.

Usually, when people use phrases like “we can clearly see,” it’s because the logic and evidence is irrefutable. This logic, however, is a joke. If this is the kind of biblical basis they’re using, it’s going to be a long day looking at this. 

It’d be one thing if Genesis said God gave birth to man, but that’s not the case. If there were a God the Mother, birthing would be the easiest thing to do, but as we see in Genesis 2:

“When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”

‭‭Genesis‬ ‭2:5-7‬ ‭

So no involvement from this alleged “God the Mother” whatsoever. To say that it can’t be done without a Mother denies the power of God. Let’s continue. 

And she is testified in the Bible from the beginning to the end.

Pretty sure we’d have heard about this before now if that were the case. 

She is testified at the very beginning: “Then God said, ‘Let us make human beings to be like us, in our image.'” Now, many think the “us” in Genesis refers to the Trinity. The Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit is described as masculine throughout the Bible. If the “us” refers to the Trinity, human beings would all be males. This is not the case! “So God created human beings in His own image. In the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.” God created two images. Not only were males created, but also females. So the “us” in Genesis can not refer to the Trinity. It refers to the male image of God the Father and the female image of God the Mother. 

So again, they completely ignore Genesis 2, because man and woman were not created at the same time. Man was created in the image of God. Woman was also created in the image of God, but woman was created later, out of the rib of man, so she could be different and so together they could “multiply the earth.” If man were created in the image of a God who was both Father and Mother, the two genders would have simultaneously been created. 

On top of that, “in the image of God” does not mean “exactly like God.” If it did, man and woman wouldn’t have even been able to sin against God in the first place, for God is no where near sin. 

And the reason many people think the “us” refers to the Trinity is because there’s compelling evidence throughout the Bible that the Trinity exists, not to mention that the Trinity is eternal. In order to believe otherwise, we need definitive biblical evidence, which isn’t given in this video. 

And she is testified in the end. “The Spirit and the Bride say ‘Come!’ And let everyone who hears say ‘Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty come, and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.” Here, the Spirit and the Bride (God the Father and God the Mother) are calling their children to grant them eternal life. Now, you may be thinking, “How do we know the bride is God the Mother and not the church?” Well, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb. — and showed me the holy city, coming down out of Heaven from God.” The Bride is the heavenly Jerusalem. “But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.” Galatians 4:26. 

Now let’s look at Galatians 4:26 in it’s context,

“Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written, “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.””

‭‭Galatians‬ ‭4:21-27‬ ‭ESV‬‬

It’s an allegory. The idea is that through Jesus Christ, we are no longer born into slavery to sin. We are born again, free. The heavenly Jerusalem refers to the gathering of the saints in heaven. It does refer to the church, those members of the church who have already made it to heaven. 

This is yet another example of the importance of biblical context (see The Importance of Context). Sure, if you just search for every time the word “mother” appears in the Bible, and you read that verse by itself, it can seem that way. But just a few verses before, Paul makes it clear that it’s a metaphor. Guess these people didn’t pay attention to that. 

Ultimately, the biggest argument against this is the lack of a direct biblical mention of God the Mother. Every other important theological point: the Gospel, grace, the Trinity, spiritual gifts, even the concept of God the Father: all are explicitly stated throughout scripture. Everything we need to know about God is plain to us in Scripture. With no direct mentions of God the Mother in scripture, it has to be taken as pure nonsense. 

As Christians, we cannot believe extra-biblical nonsense. The Bible is the inspired Word of God. Anything outside of that should not dictate our Christian beliefs. Just something to think about. 

Here’s What Happened at Passion 2017

Here’s a summary of Passion 2017, at least according to everything I’ve seen on social media and the news:

Carrie Underwood showed up for a little while. There’s something else too, I can’t think of it.

Oh yeah, there were some really pretty lights, too.

That’s what all of my friends were talking about on social media, especially the Carrie Underwood thing. I know I’m always hard on Passion, but this has taken the whole conference to a new low.

According to Fox 5 Atlanta, one Instagram user said “I’m dead! I was screaming so hard!” Similar posts were made by tons of people among my own Facebook and Instagram friends. Keep in mind that no one really talked about the movement of God in this conference, or the power of the Holy Spirit, no subjects of the sermons, just Carrie Underwood and the cool lights that accompanied this concert.

Let’s be intellectually honest for a moment: this is exactly what they wanted.

The main reason Carrie Underwood agreed to show up and sing at Passion was for the headlines, and the folks in charge of Passion were more than happy to make headlines as well. And why does anyone want to make headlines? Cold hard cash.

One could make the claim that Passion wants headlines to bring people in to experience God, but based on what I’ve seen from the people attending this year, it seems that the whole “experiencing God” thing isn’t happening there anymore.

As hard as I’ve been on Passion for just being a temporary Jesus high, at least normally I see people talking about what God is doing in their life through it, or how incredible the worship experience was, live and in the moment. At least in the past, it’s been of some spiritual value to those who have attended.

This year, it was all “Look, there’s John Piper!” “Look, there’s Carrie Underwood!” “Look there’s David Crowder!” Just a big gathering of Christian celebrities rather than an actual worship event, and Christians from around the world paid over $100 dollars to see famous people do what people in their own churches do every week.

I have a problem with the distractions brought into Passion this year. I have a problem with Carrie Underwood showing up, pulling everyone out of the presence of God to take Snapchat and Instagram videos of her, forgetting that the whole reason they’re in the Dome is to glorify God and no one else.

I have a problem with the fact that I’ve seen more social media posts about the lights and the worship leaders and the speakers, not based on the content of their words, but just who they are, than I have about God doing anything worthwhile.

It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

-William Shakespeare, Macbeth

When you make an event for the sake of people coming together to worship God and all the attention goes to a country music star, you should probably re-evaluate the way your conference is set up.

And to everyone who seemed to care more about Carrie Underwood than the presence of God, I know it’s hard when all this is going on, but you have to stay focused on the goal. Pulling out your phones to tell everyone Carrie Underwood was there is just taking you out of worship. To be honest, it’s abandoning the things of God to focus on the things of the world. Carrie Underwood is just a human being as flawed as you are. When you’re glorifying God, He should be the one and only focus. Carrie Underwood may be exciting to see, but that shouldn’t pull you away long enough to pull out your phone, record it, write something to attach to it and post it to all your friends. Just something to think about.

 

 

Scripture matters more than your feelings.