Are Christians confused?

My journey has been long.  My upbringing was atheist/Lutheran, my commitment to God came by way of Independent Baptists, and now I’m the pastor of a Baptist General Conference church.  Along the way I’ve been concerned that evangelicals seem to confuse politics with Christianity.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my country, and I have certain political leanings.  I also believe that one of the most important things we can do as Christians is to vote for Biblically qualified candidates (whatever that means, and we could have a long discussion about that!).  But we have to understand that real change in our country can’t come about from the political process; it can only come about through changed hearts.  And changed hearts can only come as a result of the gospel message being preached.  Not nationalism,  republicanism, liberalism, or any other political movement.  I find Russell Moore to be a kindred spirit on this issue.  He has a nice commentary on the recent Tea Party event in Washington D.C.   It’s entitled, “God, the Gospel, and Glen Beck.”

An interesting article on WI drinking

I’m in the midst of preparing messages for both Wednesday and Sunday, and I came across this article from the New York Times.  The good news is that new drunken driving laws will be in place on July 1st of this year.

November 16, 2008

EDGERTON, Wis. — When a 15-year-old comes into Wile-e’s bar looking for a cold beer, the bartender, Mike Whaley, is happy to serve it up — as long as a parent is there to give permission.

“If they’re 15, 16, 17, it’s fine if they want to sit down and have a few beers,” said Mr. Whaley, who owns the tavern in this small town in southern Wisconsin.

While it might raise some eyebrows in most of America, it is perfectly legal in Wisconsin. Minors can drink alcohol in a bar or restaurant in Wisconsin if they are accompanied by a parent or legal guardian who gives consent. While there is no state law setting a minimum age, bartenders can use their discretion in deciding whom to serve.

When it comes to drinking, it seems, no state keeps pace with Wisconsin. This state, long famous for its breweries, has led the nation in binge drinking in every year since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began its surveys on the problem more than a decade ago. Binge drinking is defined as five drinks in a sitting for a man, four for a woman.

People in Wisconsin are more likely than anywhere else to drive drunk, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The state has among the highest incidence of drunken driving deaths in the United States.

Now some Wisconsin health officials and civic leaders are calling for the state to sober up. A coalition called All-Wisconsin Alcohol Risk Education started a campaign last week to push for tougher drunken driving laws, an increase in screening for alcohol abuse at health clinics and a greater awareness of drinking problems generally.

The group, led by the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, criticized the state as having lenient alcohol laws and assailed a mindset that accepts, even celebrates, getting drunk.

“Our goal is to dramatically change the laws, culture and behaviors in Wisconsin,” said Dr. Robert N. Golden, the dean of the medical school, calling the state “an island of excessive consumption.” He said state agencies would use a $12.6 million federal grant to step up screening, intervention and referral services at 20 locations around Wisconsin.

The campaign comes after a series in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel titled “Wasted in Wisconsin,” which chronicled the prodigious imbibing among residents of the state, as well as the state’s reluctance to crack down on alcohol abuse.

Drunken drivers in Wisconsin are not charged with a felony until they have been arrested a fifth time. Wisconsin law prohibits sobriety checks by the police, a common practice in other states.

“People are dying,” the newspaper exclaimed in an editorial, “and alcohol is the cause.”

New media and musings about Avatar…

New sermons have been added to the audio page, including Sam’s sermon from November!  There is also a link to the song of the month on the main page.

I went with the kids to see Avatar a few weeks ago, and it was absolutely stunning in 3-D.  I thoroughly enjoyed the artistry that went into making the film.  The storyline, however, is a completely different story.  It attacks corporate greed, imperialism, and military might, while elevating mysticism, pantheism, environmentalism and science.  I felt like I was hit over the head with a political message the whole time I was in the movie, even in the midst of the stunning special effects.

Yes, imperialism can be bad, and corporate greed has cause many problems in our world today.   However I very rarely hear the term “imperialism” used in our society without having the word “American” before it.  And am I the only one that is nonplused that most of the ex-military in the movie come across as bloodthirsty jerks?  Or that scientists are seen as saviors?  I’m afraid that certain stereotypes are being reinforced under the guise of entertainment without many people even realizing it!

That goes for the religious message of Avatar as well.  Avatar does affirm some sort of afterlife, but it is  more in line with mysticism, spiritualism, and the new age than with Christian thoughts and ideas.  While immersing ourselves in the story we shouldn’t allow our thoughts and ideas to be affected by the non-Christian worldview of James Cameron.

Ironically, while elevating the mystical ideas of the “Navi”, I think that the film actually undercuts their beliefs.  There does seem to be some sort of soul or essence that continues after death and that can communicate with others, but the scientists describe the ancestral tree and it’s connections with terms like “neurons” and “synapses”, and they liken the entire system to a  computer network.  It seems that although the Navi are more in tune to their environment, they still can’t understand it like the scientists can.  They can describe it phenomenologically, but  only the scientists are the only ones who can really understand what is going on behind it all.

In summary, there may be some good ideas present in Avatar, but don’t check your mind at the door.  You may find that you’ve been invaded by aliens!

Life in the hood…

Audio and video for my mother’s day sermon on marriage are up!  We’ve also had an interesting week in the hood.  One person that I normally help with bus fare was in need of some food assistance, so we were able to help him out.  Another person contacted us for food from the food pantry, but only wanted “healthy” food!  We managed to accommodate him as well.  The third person was someone Val and I saw while we were walking.  He was older, looked a little the worse for wear, only had one shoe, and had just about walked the sock off of his other foot!  We gave him some food and I offered him my shoes, but he said that he “had never worn sneakers in his life”!  He also admitted to having been out on an all night bender!  The good news is that we saw him later and were able to provide an “appropriate” pair of shoes.

Why do I mention this?  Because I think that it’s a great illustration of the way we treat God.  He says, “Can I help you my child?”  We say, “Well, I don’t like the way you want to help me.  Can you do it a different way?”  Or perhaps we say, “I don’t need your help.  I can take care of it myself.”  In truth, we need his help not only for our salvation, but we also need it for everything else we do every moment of our lives!  Let’s remember that “Pride goes before destruction, and  a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).

Paying taxes…

As Christians, do we really need a reminder that we should pay our taxes, and be honest in our dealings with the government?  Hopefully not.  But that doesn’t mean that it is any less painful!  I did find the Obama’s tax information interesting though.  Starting on page 28 there is a detailed statement concening what they paid to charities.  I am impressed that they reported so much charitable income, but I am concerned that there is so little income to churches mentioned.  Why am I concerned?  I honestly believe you give to the things that are important to you.  Now, maybe they will say that they didn’t report all of their charitable giving (like the Biden’s did), but I don’t know why you wouldn’t when you report about $175,000 in other giving!  I think that the Biden’s reported a couple of thousand in giving, and then said that they didn’t report their church giving.  Anyway, food for thought…