Friday, April 30, 2010

Fading Away

“People never crumble in a day – it’s a slow fade.” This is the chorus of Casting Crown’s “Slow Fade” song. The lyrics are just as applicable to a nation as to an individual and unfortunately for America, we have been in a slow fade for some time now. When “I dream of Jeannie” made its debut on television in September of 1965 it was the most embattled show to come across the airwaves. Television rating organizations had all kinds of problems allowing “Jeannie” to show her belly button. Today, that is laughable. One evening I was forced to turn “King of Queens” because it had 4 curse-words in 2 minutes. That’s just not appropriate for my children. Sorry. Then I found my wife turning an episode of “Bones” because of inappropriate sexual content. In fact I found myself encouraging my wife to watch sports with me because it’s the only thing on that doesn’t have cursing, sex, or violence - at least not at an audible level. It has been a slow fade.

I was told by someone I know this week that I view the world in black and white. She told me that there is a lot of gray out there and that it is irresponsible of me to view rules as being hard-fast. As a lawyer turned financial consultant I know a few things about gray. In law school they taught us that you could take the case if it passed a “straight face test.” This meant that if you could argue your client’s side with a straight face then you could bring the suit. There are a lot of shades of gray in law. In the financial realm everything is speculative. Talk about gray. You do your best to predict tomorrow's outcomes, but truly you are trying to predict the future which is as gray as it gets.

But God's word has no gray in it, not even a hint. It is black and white. I have sinned enough for 10 lifetimes and I still feel my own self-inflicted scars about the things I have done, but it was not God’s word that wavered, it was me. God didn’t suggest the 10 Commandments he commanded them. They are not the 10 suggestions. God is the same today as he was when he made the world and when the world ends, God will still be the same. God doesn’t slow fade even if his people do.

You see God hasn’t changed his stances on divorce, homosexuality, cursing, gambling, etc, etc, etc. We as a culture have changed our stances. We have replaced spanking with grounding, the doctrine of “love the sinner, hate the sin” with “have tolerance on different ideas and cultures.” Do you realize how many times tolerance is in the Bible? Zero. God is merciful, God is good, but God is not tolerant. God doesn’t say – “well it’s ok this time.” God says – “IT IS WRONG!" If it was wrong yesterday in God's eyes, it is wrong today in God's eyes. And it will always be wrong in God's eyes. While not tolerant, God is forgiving. He says "repent, come to me, and I will forgive you.”

Oh America, why have we been in a slow fade? Oh Christians, why us too? We have allowed this thing to happen without the slightest of a whimper of protest. In Casting Crown's song it says "Be careful little eyes what you see." We have slowly allowed questionable things into the culture, and now that slippery slope is causing a large avalanche.

The positive thing to remember however is that God is merciful – let us repent of our sins no matter how great and take this country back for God Almighty! What has been a slow fade can be an instantaneous snap back to reality, back to worship, back to repentance. Let us pray for our country, but let us turn off our televisions when questionable shows are on. Let us write letters to networks. Let us, turn off our radios when things counter to the will of God begin to play. Let us live like we are from another world, not of this one. Lest we continue to slow fade to a point of no return.

Rapping Up Eternity

I come from a day and age where rap was first making its appearance on the scene. I admit that I enjoyed Run DMC, Kool Moe Dee, Will Smith (back then Fresh Prince), and Kid N Play as much as the next guy or probably more. However, the lyrics of those rap artists are a far cry from the violent and vulgar lyrics of many of today's artists. Today if I want to listen to rap music I will listen to Christian rappers KJ-52, T-Bone, or the eclectic styles of Toby Mac. Yes, there is such a thing as Christian rap music and many of the artists are trying to impact their more worldly brethren. Take for instance KJ-52 and his numerous letters and even songs reaching out to Eminem.

Reaching out to explicit rap artists seems to be paying some dividends. Jason Bellini, aka "Sketch the journalist," is a freelance hip-hop writer from Texas who has been writing letters to rappers behind bars. And, he is encouraging other Christians to do the same. He has had some success as apparently "Lo Life" of the "5th Ward Boyz" has been converted and is now doing Christian concerts behind bars for the other inmates while spreading a positive message. He has even changed his handle to "New Life."

Let us hope that "New Life" really has found a new life and turned over a new leaf. It is certainly not unheard of. Just check the guys from my day and time. If you want to listen to Run DMC now - well, they have went Christian as well. And while rap may not be your thing, and it usually isn't mine, it is an influential type of music. Rap music has the ability to reach a great number of people that more traditional types of music would never be able to. I for one am all for sending a positive message no matter what the medium used to do it. The Bible says to "sing a new song." Maybe, just maybe rapping a new song will work just as well or better.

If you should decide to write a letter of encouragement to a rapper behind bars, Jason Bellini has provided a list of addresses and names in this linked article.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

From Teen Heartthrob to Worthy Role Model

He was a teenage heartthrob upon whom all the girls had crushes and all the boys wanted to be like. I should know, heck, I dressed like him and even had my hair styled like him. Now, some odd 25 years later, you could still do worse when picking a celebrity to pattern yourself after.

Fame is a tough gig, it usually chews up and spits out its childhood stars, but every once in a while there is a surprise. During the 1980s there was no bigger child star than Kirk Cameron who played Mike Seaver on television’s Growing Pains. Cameron played the typical teen leading man: cool, cute, and mischievous with a penchant for trouble and a teenage libido for the ladies. Behind the scenes however Kirk Cameron was also living a typical life…the typical life of a Hollywood teen star. By his own admission Cameron was making more money than his parents and with that money came a freewheeling lifestyle that was very self centered. He had never really given much thought to God, but the fact that he could not see him, nor really had any need of him lead the teen idol to be a self proclaimed atheist.

All that changed during his late teens when Cameron started doing a little soul searching. He had been enjoying a lifestyle where he had everything he ever wanted, yet, he was not happy and he began to wonder if there was something more to life. At age 17 Cameron became a Christian, but he struggled at first with denying himself and truly following God. As he strengthened his relationship with Christ, Cameron began to change the way he related to Hollywood too. He began to ask that certain lines be removed from his scripts. He began truly living the Christian lifestyle. It was not easy.

“I have had people tell me, well Kirk you sure picked the wrong religion in Hollywood didn’t you,” Cameron said when relating how he has often been blacklisted from acting parts due to his Christianity. Indeed, Hollywood is more than willing to allow you to worship God, so long as it is not “THE GOD” of the Bible Cameron suggested. Cameron is quick to point out that he didn’t find God, God was not lost. Instead, God found him and he is very thankful that he did.

Today you can find Cameron on the big screen as the star Buck Williams from the ultra popular Christian series Left Behind. Or perhaps you are more familiar with the efforts he has put into trying to save the American family in his encouraging and uplifting movie Fireproof. And while we are on Fireproof, perhaps there is no better example of the stark difference between Kirk Cameron and the rest of Hollywood than when he refused to kiss his “stage wife” during the movie. In one of the final scenes where Cameron kisses his wife, the director was forced to bring Cameron’s actual wife in and turn her back to the camera so that Cameron could truly perform the kiss scene. Now that, my friend, is conviction.

As if making Christian movies isn’t enough, Cameron also has become a fixture in Christian television with his award winning evangelism television and radio show The Way of the Master. And he even managed to be a burr beneath the skin of the Darwin crowd when he reproduced Darwin’s On the Origin of Species with a creationism slant. Copies of the work were then distributed free at numerous universities.

In a day and age where Hollywood teens grab the press for all the wrong reasons, Cameron is an inspiration. He is also an outcast. Cameron wouldn’t have it any other way. He has had all this world has to offer, now he is putting up his treasure in another world.

Christian Leaders See Problems With Being Politically Correct

This is a strange day and time to be a member of the United States military. At a time when special interest groups beg a sympathetic President to allow gays in the military, the military is taking a hard line stance on Christian speakers. In the past two months the armed forces have rejected public speaking engagements featuring two of America's most prominent Christian leaders. First, Tony Perkins the president of the Family Research Council was dis-invited to speak at Andrews Air Force base. On the heels of that decision, the Pentagon dis-invited Franklin Graham to speak during the National Day of Prayer.

Tony Perkins believes that Christianity is being victimized by political correctness ran amok. "We see a federal judge who's been on the bench since Jimmy Carter appointed her. She's not a new judge. This is a judge who's been around for quite some time. And she decides all of a sudden that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional. So I do think what we're seeing is an environment that is hostile to Christianity," Perkins said.

Personally, I believe that the current administration is trying to be so politically correct about religion that it refuses to allow anything at all resembling a national religious identity. Indeed President Obama stated as much last year when addressing the press in Turkey: "One of the great strengths of the United States," the President said, "is ... we have a very large Christian population -- but we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values."

While I will agree with President Obama that there are numerous religious factions within the United States, I do not agree that America does not consider itself a Christian nation. Furthermore I think it does a tremendous disservice to our troops to prevent prominent Christian speakers from speaking to them. Though the military is certainly eclectic from a faith standpoint, it, like America itself, is a predominantly a Christian body. At what point will we the Christian people in this country stand up and demand more from our country and from our elected officials? At what point will be willing to put our political differences aside and join together based on our religious similarities? For there are few more foul and despicable words in today's modern vernacular than "political correctness."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Divine Investment

We have the Dow Jones, the S & P 500, the Nasdaq, and now the STOXX. Monday morning saw the creation of the STOXX Europe Christian Index which consists of the stocks from 533 European countries which are said to be "ethical" stocks. The STOXX Index screens out companies that generate revenues from pornography, weapons, tobacco, birth control, and gambling.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Superman’s Mom Urged by Doctors to Abort Baby

He was born to Christian missionaries in Makati City, Philippines despite the urging of doctors to abort him. The mother had suffered a life-threatening infection while pregnant and the drugs used to wake her from a coma created a severe placental abruption that the doctors expected would cause a stillbirth in the child and potentially take the mother’s life as well. This story could be a lot different if the parents had decided to follow their doctor’s advice and have an abortion, but due to their Christian convictions abortion was not an option. The mother survived and the child, well, the child became Superman.

Yes, yes I know that Superman doesn’t really exist, but try telling that to the football players in the South East Conference. You see that child that was supposed to be stillborn, the one that doctors advised the parents to abort for the safety of the mother – he became the first player in NCAA football history to pass for more than 20 touchdowns and run for more than 20 touchdowns in the same year. He became the first sophomore in the history of college football to win the Heisman Trophy as the sport’s top player. He became Tim Tebow and with that he became both reviled and idolized simultaneously.

Tim Tebow’s story is an amazing one, but without his mother Pam deciding to have Tim in the first place, the story would never have been written. You can make the argument that Tebow may very well be one of the most influential athletes in history – already. Oh, and he hasn’t even played professionally yet. Tebow chose to play at the University of Florida and while his accomplishments on the field make him arguably the most accomplished collegiate football player in history, it is his Christianity and his willingness to share his faith that has turned him into both a role model and a whipping boy.

You see, Superman’s legend wasn’t just forged between the hash marks, it was created when he helped lead his coach to Christ. It was enhanced when with each and every touchdown he acted like a gentleman and with each and every interview he used the exposure as a bully pulpit to spread his faith. Not since the late great Reggie White the proclaimed Minister of Defense has football seen such an outspoken Christian. And with all respect to White, not even he reached 90 million people at one time. Indeed, Tebow is credited with reaching that insane amount of people when he wore John 3:16 on his eye-black during the national championship game. The next day over 90 million people searched Google for “John 3:16.” Among those who were affected by Tebow’s eye black was former University of Tennessee quarterback Jonathon Crompton who was born again this year after becoming interested in Jesus due to Tebow.

But with success comes enemies and numerous detractors have emerged to urge people that Tebow must be “too good to be true.” National Football League talent gurus like Mel Kiper project that Tebow’s motion is too long and his accuracy is too questionable. Jealous fans of other schools and those people who are just tired of seeing Tebow on ESPN have dubbed him “Baby Jesus” and a “goody two shoes.” The NCAA has even passed the Tim Tebow Rule banning messages on eye-black.

Despite this, the Denver Broncos traded into the first round to take Tebow with the 25th draft pick in the most recent NFL Draft (a move Mel Kiper gave an “F”). So now Tebow is on the big stage where he will be right where he wants to be – in the spotlight. However, unlike other attention hounds in the NFL - see Terrell Owens and Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson - Tebow will look to use the attention to spread a slightly different message - one of hope, peace, and forgiveness. Tebow will once again use the soap box to urge others to experience Christ. And as for the detractors, Superman has had his cape pulled on before and he has overcome much greater odds.

Christianity's Continuance Commemorated by Cluttered Crosses

If a picture is worth a thousand words then what are a thousand crosses worth? How bout 100,000 crosses? The Hill of Crosses boasts in excess of 100,000 crosses to remind on-lookers of the sacrifice that Jesus Christ paid for the sins of mankind. Located in Lithuania, the Hill was first decorated with crosses during the 1831 uprising known as the Cadet Revolution whereby Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, and the Ukraine rebelled against the Imperial Russian Army. Since that time, the Hill has seen numerous Christian pilgrimages and each one seemingly left a cross as a remnant reminder. Over the years, the Hill has come to represent the endurance of Catholicism and to a larger degree Christianity in general in Lithuania despite a great abundance of political and military upheaval. Today the Hill continues to expand as it remains under no one's jurisdiction, rather people are free to build crosses and leave remnants as they see fit.

University's Expulsion of Honor Student Brings Lawsuit

Eastern Michigan University (EMU) has a fight on its hands, and well it should, after expelling a masters student with a 3.91 GPA because she refused to accept a client whose issue concerned a homosexual relationship. Julea Ward a Christian student in the EMU counseling program had previously informed her supervisor that she would not counsel said client in affirmation of his homosexual relationship due to her religious convictions. She told her supervisor that she was willing to counsel the client on any other issues, but that she would not counsel him regarding his sexual lifestyle choice. Upon this decision, Ward was investigated by an academic committee and expelled from school, despite being an honors student just months from graduation. Ward has since filed a lawsuit against the University through the Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom. Kudos to Ms. Ward for sticking to her convictions and not backing down in the face of overwhelming pressure. This will be a case to watch in the upcoming weeks. Prayers of support be with Ms. Ward.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

An Abortion Gone Oh So Right.

Her medical record reads "born during a saline abortion." Her body has the "gift" (her words not mine) of cerebral palsy. She was born in an abortion clinic and raised as an orphan in a foster home, yet Gianna Jessen isn't going to complain. You are more likely to find Jessen running a marathon than complaining about her cerebral palsy. She just completed a 26.2 mile marathon in 7 hours. For all of us who sometimes think life can be overwhelming, Jessen is a swift dose of reality. For everyone who believes a woman's right to choose overshadows a child's right to live Jessen is God's answer.

Jessen was born with cerebral palsy as a result of a failed third trimester abortion attempt by her then 17 year old mother. For 18 hours Jessen's body was burned in the womb by the saline, but she survived and was born a 2 pound baby girl. Doctor's doubted whether she would ever hold her head up. When she began to walk she needed the aid of braces. And now, well now she runs marathons. If the story ended there, it would be remarkable and awe inspiring. It doesn't. You see Jessen is a devout Christian that now travels the world sharing her testimony and speaking to young people about the horrors of abortions. She has a pretty good perspective from which to speak.

I can find a myriad of excuses not to talk about the Lord. Ms. Jessen has the perfect excuse and instead uses it to her strength to reach people for Christ. Jessen is an inspiration, but I doubt she would see it that way. I think she would be quick to say that Jesus is the true inspiration. As a Christian Jessen lives life to the fullest in a way pleasing to God without excuses. Oh that the same could be said of each and every one of us.

Gianna Jessen was a guest speaker at the 13th Annual Banquet for the Hope Resource Center at the Christian Academy of Knoxville's Campus Center on Saturday April 24th.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

How Amazing Is Our God?

Sometimes I stand in awe at God's power and might. What an amazing world he has created. Look at these pictures of volcanic eruptions in Iceland and Chile and let me know if you are not in awe of his might. The picture on the left is of a volcano in Chile that created an instant thunderstorm. The picture on the right is the current eruption in Iceland which is existing right along side the aurora borealis. Simply amazing!

What can FAITH do for you?

My favorite song at this moment is WHAT FAITH CAN DO by Kutless. I invite you to listen to the words to this song. The youtube video is one I thought was rather appropriate for the song.

Jesus fulfilled scripture, not replaced it.

A Casper Wyoming man is making headlines because he has painted his fence with a Bible verse that denounces homosexuality as a sin. Some are saying that this is hate speech. Where has the First Amendment gone? Perhaps the most frightening trend is the thought that his neighbor articulates in the article, mainly, that Jesus somehow came to contradict the Old Testament. This is not true. Jesus came to fulfill scripture. In fact in John 1:1 it states "In the beginning was the Word (notice the capital "W"), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." To contradict the Old Testament would require Jesus to contradict himself.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

NCAA - No Christians Allowed Anymore?

As a huge sports fan I found it interesting over the weekend when I discovered that without so much as a whisper the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) sucker punched the First Amendment of the Constitution. Among the proposed rule changes rolled out by the NCAA for the upcoming year is a ban on messages that appear on eye-black. Eye-black is the gummy black tape like stuff that football players wear beneath their eyes to eliminate glare from light. It goes without saying that the most notorious player who adorned himself with eye-black was former all-world Florida Gator quarterback Tim Tebow who would always put a Bible scripture verse on his eye-black in hopes that he would - gasp - make a positive influence in someone's life. In fact in the 2009 National Title Game Tebow sported the infamous John 3:16 Bible Verse on his eye-black. The result, 90 million Google searches for the verse the next day. In fact, the University of Tennessee's starting quarterback this past year Jonathon Crompton was saved after getting interested in the Bible when he saw Tebow's eye-black. In a day and age when football players bellyache about having to be role models, Tim Tebow has embraced the roll. He used his eye-black as a way to promote a positive message. Congratulations to the NCAA for getting yet another rule change wrong and in the process of removing messages from eye-black, giving itself a black-eye.

Palin Draws a Line in the Sand

Sarah Palin stood up and declared that America is still a Christian country founded on Christian principals. This may come as a shock to President Obama who said that America is no longer a Christian country, but rather a country of many different religious beliefs. Kudos to Sarah Palin on this one.