3 Thoughts on Facebook, being Missional and the Movies

I have to confess that my Facebook feed has brought me much grief over the last few weeks. Facebook has been an excellent tool in my own life to help me see pockets of hypocrisy and need for growth… it’s also given me a window into the lives and thoughts of others. What saddens me the most is how easily I engage in a debate about the trivial… like my opinion matters more than the person I’m talking too. Rarely ever do we communicate well in these short gusts of phrase and the opportunity for miscommunication is high.

It’s been awful to watch the discussion around the Noah Movie. Before the movie was released there were already debates waging about whether Christians should go see this movie or not. Then the mud began to sling. To be fair I don’t know that anyone on my feed called any person out in particular but there were a lot of straw men put down… Straw men are what we build and destroy to prove a case when no one enters the debate with us. In our minds we may picture real people we are too cowardly to approach or we may just be trying to show an assumed audience that we are with them by verbally attacking a mutually disliked position. How easily Facebook distracts us from the real mission field.

The problem develops when we allow a trivial thing like a movie to cause an apparent rift between brothers and sisters in Christ. We say things in general to the public we would never say to each other in person. A difference of opinion on a movie (mainly whether or not it’s worth someones time to go see it) is all it takes to cause a virtual schism of my Facebook friends. No matter which side of the debate you are on it becomes so easy to build your straw men, aim in the general direction of the opposition, and fire your volleys of well put phrase.

It’s so easy to tear down… So hard to build up. That’s why after some time of thought and reflection I came up with these 3 guidelines to keep me from tearing down my friends (real or imagined) on Facebook over trivial things like the movies.

1. I am accountable to God for everything I post. The following passage is talking about food but given the current conversation there is room to make application to how one posts on Facebook.

So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. (Romans 14:12-20 ESV)

2. Not everything that I’m free to do, is good to do. The following passage also deals with food (in a different way). The gist of the passage indicates that my personal freedom isn’t the most important aspect of my life and that even personal freedom when it comes across a brother of weaker conscience can be limited for the sake of his good and God’s glory.

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience– I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. (1 Corinthians 10:23-33 ESV)

3. Correction and discipline need to be applied in private and on a personal level. There are those occasions where a person has sinned against you and you need to address their sin. They may have sinned against you on Facebook or other areas of the public forum. Their sin still needs to be addressed in a private and personal manner.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.
(Matthew 18:15-19 ESV)

I’m not there yet. I have a long way to go. I found that out the other day in the midst of the whole Noah debacle. I thought I’d add to the fray and call some folks out in “general” who were fighting straw men… Little did I realize I was falling to the same temptation.

How about you? What are your thoughts on facebook, being missional and the movies? What other points would you make or add?

Girls Life Application Study Bible (NLT)

The Girls Life Application Study Bible is a great Bible for pre-teen and teenage girls.  The cover has a leathery feel and is a purple with the imprint of a pink butterfly and flowers.  It is quiet feminine in its appeal.  My wife and daughter (4 years old) were both very interested in flipping through the Bible once it arrived in the mail. The editors and artists who worked on this Bible have certainly done a great job of getting the reader from the cover into the pages of Scripture.

The Bible is full of great insights and articles that catch readers on a surface level and draw them into the text of scripture for an answer.  (Can I just say that it is refreshing to finally see a publisher put out a Bible that challenges teen and preteen girls to see what the Scripture says!).  Included all throughout the text are girl-specific applications.  The New Living Translation is a decent translation to read (especially for girls who are in the preteen age range).

I would highly recommend this Bible to teen and preteen girls who are wanting to grow in their relationship with God.  This is also a great Bible to hand to a girl who is a new believer or someone who is otherwise unfamiliar with the scriptures.  It is apparent that the Bible was designed not only to have a feminine appeal, but to be very user friendly as well.

The retail price is $29.97 (Imitation Leather) and is worth every penny. It is also available at places like Amazon.com for $19.78. I give it 5 Stars and would give it more.  It truly is a great Bible for teen and Pre-teen girls.

One Note: Amazon has it listed as Girls Life Application Study Bible NLT (Kid’s Life Application Bible: Nltse), it is not really a kids Bible, the publishers recommend it for girls age 11 and up (and I would heartily agree with that recommendation).

Disclaimer: As a blogger I received a complimentary review copy from Tyndale House Publishers through the Tyndale Blog Network program.  There was no requirement to give it a positive review, just for the reviewer to call it like they see it.

Review: “Smart Faith” by J.P. Moreland & Mark Matlock

Smart Faith: Loving God With All Your Mind by J.P. Moreland and Mark Matlock is a great book geared towards students.  I really wish the book had been around when I was a teenager.  The aim of the book is to challenge young men and women to think about the Christian Faith and not just live off their parents faith or emotion.  The book is full of keen insights and practical challenges to help teens grow deeper in their capacity to think about the things of God.

The book is a great blend of Philosophy, Theology, and application.  The later chapters in the book are especially relevent as the authors move the reader from the realm of deliberate thought to the realm of living a fully integrated life.  This book is a great read for any teenager with a desire to grow or for adults with teenagers in their life.  I just wish it had been around when I was fifteen.

This is a very well written book that challenges the reader to dig deeper every step of the way. The retail price is $12.99 (Paperback). It is also available at places like Amazon.com for $10.39. I give it 5 stars.

Disclaimer: This book was provided for review by NavPress. There was no requirement to give it a positive review, just for me to call it like I see it.

Review: Five Who Changed the World

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet a few gentlemen from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.  I was looking down the road a few years and trying to figure out what doctoral work would look like.  In the process of conversation the representatives of Southeastern were able to share with me in great detail about the seminary and their president, Daniel Akin, and offered me a copy of his book, “Five Who Changed the World.”

Finally last week I had the opportunity to read through the book.  While I am greatly familiar with Christian biographies (I’ve been reading them since I was 16 and helped found and sponsored the Christian Heritage Conference that we held in Mobile for several years), I was blessed to read Akin’s book.  Originally each chapter was a missions message delivered in the chapel at Southeastern.

These five messages now written down and combined in book form are challenging and motivating.  Though these messages do not contain a great amount of biographical detail they are very motivational and challenging.  I was blessed to be drawn to the heart of worshiping God through mission.  Each chapter details the life of a missionary (William Carey, Adoniram and Ann Judson, Bill Wallace, Lottie Moon, and Jim Elliot) combined with a passage of Scripture that each missionary illustrated throughout their life.

You can find the book in hard cover on Amazon.com for $15.  You can find our more about Daniel Akin and resources he has written and produced here.  The original sermons that have been recorded in print in this book can also be found free of charge here on his site.

I highly recommend this brief book to anyone interested in understanding Christian mission.  It is a quick read and highly motivational (I was drawn to tears over and over again).  I give it 5 stars.

Every Student, Every Neighbor

It was 4 AM and I couldn’t sleep.  So I just laid there in bed with thoughts racing through my head about prayer, how to pray, why we pray, why we don’t pray enough and who would be at their flag pole in the morning.  I was worried because I am not normally compulsive about simple events like asking students to show up and pray at their flag pole.  So I eased my mind and began to call out to Jesus for clarity and  for focus.  In my heart he began a burden that was more fully realized later at the flagpole that day.

Flag's at Ransom Middle School (iphone)

I stood around with a crowd of about sixty teenagers at a flag pole as they prayed.  I watched from my huddle of adults as hundreds of other kids piled around the court yard wondering what was going on at their flag pole.  My heart broke for the students.  Sixty at the pole and about three hundred on the outside watching, more arriving each minute.  As I stood there I could see it like a sign over thier heads.  People lost like sheep without a shepherd.  Words about addictions, struggles, and issues that lead to death filled my mind. Words like anorexia, school violence, drugs, depression, peer pressure, alcohol poisoning, drunk driving, bulemia, abortion, suicide, rape, racism, bullying… lies that people believe.  My heart was broken knowing that many have never even heard the name of Jesus other than a cuss word.

Then I called out to God from the noise in my head and pleaded for him to empower these sixty, these few to reach their school for Jesus.  Though much of the freedoms once afforded teachers and other adults on the campus were coming under attack in our area, one thing was clear… students still have the freedom to share the gospel and tell their friends about Jesus.

Yet peer pressure stands in the way.  That is what kept sixty around the pole instead of in the crowds.  Its also what kept students from finding their way to school on time and praying at the pole.  The older I get, the easier it is to see.  Like going on a mission trip and seeing the need in another culture, I look at students, now that I am a generation removed, and see more clearly than ever their need for the gospel.  Indeed, I am a missionary to another culture.

Then it struck home.  What about the place where I live?  What about my culture?  What about my neighborhood just a few blocks away?  Do I see the need there?  There is a need.  Though my neighbors have houses like mine, cars like mine, kids like mine, and experience the same weather I do, many do not know, or have not heard about Jesus.

So I transitioned out of thought and into thoughtful action.  Rebekah (my 3 year old) and I are out walking the streets in the evenings meeting neighbors and developing relationships for a bridge to the gospel.  My aim is to meet and find opportunities to share the gospel with all of my neighbors.

I am still burdened for our schools and the student culture (and their parents) that I have been called to pastor and be a missionary to.  My prayer is that as we pray and ask God to send laborers that students and families would catch a vision for God and He would use them to share the gospel with every student, teacher, and faculty member by the end of the school year.

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”  (Matthew 9:35-38 ESV)

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”(Romans 10:13-16 ESV)

What about you?  What is your strategy to reach your neighborhood, school, or workplace?  Are you partnering with others to see Jesus proclaimed where you are?

3 books that have profoundly influenced my life

I have to be honest about two things. First, I should state that I was influenced by the authors, not just the books themselves. I have since read many books by many of these men and enjoy the conversation I have with each one. Second, with the exception of John Piper, the authors on this list are dead. God has used them in a mighty way past the years he has given them on this earth. I am thankful that though they are dead, they still speak.


1. Desiring GodJohn Piper

I first read this book while still in school at the University of Mobile and it opened up a world for me to begin to understand God in a way that I had never understood him before.  I was amazed to discover that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”  I don’t think any other single person (short of my parents) has had the level of impact on my thinking.  I was blessed to hear a sermon by Dr. Piper a little later that year entitled “Doing Missions When Dying is Gain.”  (you can listen to the same sermon for free here.) I have never been the same.

2. Pilgrim’s ProgressJohn Bunyan

I read pilgrims progress when I was a child at a small Christian School in Montana.  I have since read and reread it in several different modern English versions.  It was through John Bunyan that I was introduced to the rich application of the scriptures.  I have never read another book that so completely described the Christian journey.  I think this is the book I have shared most often with others. It was once a theme for a Disciple Now and a Christian Heritage Conference Its an easy read, but spiritually challenging.

3. How to Win Friends and Influence PeopleDale Carnegie

I picked up the 1936 edition of this book and read it when I was 16 years old.  A speech teacher had told me about it and I set out to read it.  It profoundly shaped the way I communicate and made me a different person.  Dale Carnegie taught me to take a genuine interest and really care about people.

What about you?  What books or people have greatly influenced your life?

5 Questions About The Kingdom

2906018712_386fd8e288 I read a several books while I was visiting family for Christmas.  One book was a particularly good read but it had a catch.

The author put a lot of stock in his understanding of Luke 17:21 “The kingdom of God is in you.” Theologians have discussed the meaning of this passage at length. The debate is over whether Jesus is saying “inside of you” or “in the midst of you” (both appropriate rendering of the Greek word entos according to the context).  Since Jesus is responding to a question posed by Pharisees (by implication unbelievers)  it is my understanding that he would be stating “the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

5 Questions about the Kingdom?

This only seems to be a big deal when you start listening to the way people are beginning to use “kingdom of God” speak.  The term “kingdom of God” has come to mean so many things to so many people that it is almost mind numbing.  I am sure that someone has done the world a great service of defining the different usages of the word “kingdom” and how different camps are using it.  I have yet to stumble across it.

To be sure, I doubt the author meant anything more than the rule and reign of Christ.  I just question the hermeneutic.  However doubtless to say, there are others who carry the same hermeneutic who have begun to talk about the kingdom in purely philanthropic ways.

The question the book raised in my mind are many.

  • Is the kingdom now, or yet to come, or both?
  • Does God love the poor more than the wealthy? (do the poor need the gospel more?)
  • Is the unity of the kingdom centered on the work of the kingdom or the king?
  • Is the Kingdom about what the king wants or the what the citizens need or is it the same thing?
  • What distinguishes the “work of the kingdom” from others who under take purely philanthropic endeavors like Bill Gates and Oprah? In a nut shell, “What makes mission Christian?” Apparently a current issue of debate (See IJFM Issue 25.2)

As always I would love to hear your comments and get my hands on some resources as I work towards understanding a solid definition of the kingdom.