Thursday, March 19, 2015


It was parody song genius Weird Al Yankovich who said it best:

"All you need to understand is everything you know is wrong."

I've always been one to stand for his beliefs while respecting other opinions. I honestly do not mind if someone challenges my philosophy, because a) the truth has nothing to fear and b) I might just learn something I do not know, thus giving me the opportunity to adjust my beliefs and be the better for it.  Mostly, I could hold to my views because I knew there were like-minded people who also held the same views.

But there is a phenomenon sweeping through American Christianity that has more in common with Weird Al's song than my own stand on the truth. For lack of a better term, it's the "Everything You Know Is Wrong Syndrome." And what is surprising is its source. We as Bible-believing Christians expect our beliefs to be put down by the atheist, the skeptic, or the far-left theological/social liberal, but many of today's contrary voices are coming from within the evangelical culture itself. Otherwise good, knowledgeable, legitimate proponents of conservative Christianity are taking up positions contrary to what is often believed within those circles.

"OH, come on, Timotheous!" you may say. "There have always been various views on, say, the rapture. What makes your view right and all the others wrong?"

That's a very good question.  And if those who want to discuss the rapture, whether it's pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib or even if there is a trib or if everything is post-millennial, want to sit down with their Bibles and notes and discuss it, I'm all for it. Over the years, I have enjoyed, yeah and verily thrived, on such dialogues. In the end, I never changed my esteemed colleagues' views, nor did they change mine. But we both gained a greater understanding and appreciation of the other's position.

But within the "Everything You Know is Wrong Syndrome," the rapture debate goes something like this: "The pre-trib rapture is a late invention of the church and not a single reputable Bible scholar holds to it."  In other words, you may be in one of those churches where you were taught that there was a pre-trib rapture, but...everything you know is wrong!" End of discussion, debate, dialogue, examination, and so on.

Another example is origins. For some time, it was pretty much a given that evangelical Christians believed in the Genesis account of creation as opposed to evolution. Even those who adopted "accommodation" views (gap theory, day-age theory, and so on) were still convinced that it was God, not random chance, that ultimately brought the universe into existence. But lately, the buzz is that reading an actual week-long creation into the first chapter of the Bible is actually inconsistent with what the Bible really says. Genesis 1 and 2 is simply a metaphorical story that really has nothing to do with origins. You may believe that God created the world in six days, but...everything you know is wrong! While we're used to the secular scientific community and media saying that to evangelicals, it's a little disheartening to hear evangelicals saying it to other evangelicals.

Theological issues, moral issues, and even practical issues are all being summarily dismissed under the syndrome. For example, if you are a pastor, you may think that part of your calling is to bring a sermon. But, according to some very good people I admire and respect,...everything you know is wrong! The sermon is irrelevant, outmoded, and dead (open mic Q & A, anyone?).

So why is there this growing shift among church people to revise long held stands? I think in the case of the sermon, it's an honest and sincere attempt to help equip God's people more effectively. I don't think eliminating the sermon is the way to do it, but at least we can agree on the need and the goal. We can discuss the matter at length, but if the attitude is "everything you know is wrong," then the dialogue ceases.

In some instances, particularly with moral issues, the world has been successful with brow-beating Christians with labels such as "ignorant," "narrow-minded," and even "bigoted."  So who really wants to be stuck with those labels? I want my worldly friends to say, "Yeah, he's a Christian, but he's so open-minded and tolerant."  I want to sit with the cool kids, so I'm going to adopt their point-of-view, even if it means cutting down my fellow believers.

There are other reasons for the "Everything You Know is Wrong Syndrome."  Sadly, some Christians are lazy and uninformed (yeah, that's harsh) and so they don't know enough about their own belief systems to take a stand.  I think other evangelicals are just tired of fighting. I think in this case, the critics are right: we've sometimes fought the wrong battles in the wrong way. In our quest to hate the sin and love the sinner, we've ended up being against everything and not figuring out just what it means to love.. We've come up with pat answers to hard questions and left some hurt people in our wake. And when those who struggle with sin, wrestle with doubt, or suffer with issues leave the church, we react in surprise.  So in our quest to not hurt anybody or not offend anybody or not diminish anybody, we allow ourselves a way out and end up abandoning the views we've long held.

There's got to be another way. I'm going to periodically address some of these issues, not as an "expert," but as a fellow traveler.  But my motivation is a simple one: can someone maintain an evangelical, Bible-believing Christian faith and still engage the issues which so many categorize as "everything you know is wrong?" I'm going to try. And I may end up ticking everyone off. But if I can get people talking again, maybe we can figure some of this out together.

I have a list of items, and I would like to hear your suggestions as well, plus any comments as we go along. But as always, please remember to keep your comments respectful and clean, or else I will exercise the power of the delete button!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


You may not know this, but I'm a writer.  Of course, that may be obvious, since I'm writing this blog. But I've written many other things, published things, and even got paid, which, I guess, makes me a professional.

But up until this year, I've never felt comfortable calling myself a writer. I've said that I like writing, but writing and being a writer imply two different things. I don't know why, they just do. There is no pressure in writing, because a lot of people do it.  It's a pastime, a hobby, a diversion. But to be a writer, the stakes go up. For instance, many of you are now looking at this post to find every grammatical, spelling, and punctuation error in order to make judgments on my abilities. "He split the infinitive and he calls himself a writer?"

When you identify yourself as a writer, people want to know two things: what have you written and what are you writing? As far as the first question goes:
  • Besides a semi-regular blog which has been highlighted on web aggregate sites and ministry networks, most of my stuff has been unpublished short stories, plot lines for television shows, skits and plays.
  • Two collections of original, serialized super hero stories (kind of like Marvel and DC, without pictures).  I still have them (The O'Neill Factor Serials and The World of Galactic G) and if a major publisher wants to take the characters and basic plots off my hands, give me a call.
  • An almost finished novel that is trapped on the floppies from a dedicated word processor. Sadly, the processor is obsolete and its proprietary software is not readable by modern computers, so I cannot retrieve the masterpiece (and the fact that some of you don't know what a "floppy" is pains me).
  • In high school, my friend and I wrote a short story that was to be the foundation of gospel publishing empire. A friend who owned a printing press gave us a deal on 100 copies. We gave them away and...that was the end of that.
  • A critical thinking workbook for the college where I was an instructor. I got paid for this, but sadly, the cover designers spelled "college" as "collage," which makes me cringe to this day.
So what am I writing now? A novel. I've let a a few people in on the plot, mostly to get their expert advice in their fields.  They will get a free copy of the book.  I'll even autograph it. But I'm not too open to share at this point because it is a work in progress. The basic plot is the same, but its execution has shifted gears several times since I started writing it. I have no prospects for publishers. I have no extra money for independent publishing. I don't know when I will finish and I don't know when you'll be able to pick it up from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

I've been working on this novel for several years. But up until now, writing has been a diversion, a hobby, a pastime. But now it's different. Things have changed.

Now...I'm a writer.


Tuesday, January 06, 2015


Let's see...decorations put away, check. 

Desk organized for maximum efficiency, progress.

List of resolutions for 2015, started (paper on clipboard with heading "List of resolutions for 2015".  Rest of page is blank).

Blogging subjects for new year, in progress. Let's see, what am I thinking so far for 2015 posts:
  • Encouraging and instructional posts related to ministry in general and children's ministry in particular.
  • Bible related mini-thoughts (positive)
  • Bible related deeper subjects and controversies (gasp)
  • Thoughts on the "everything you thought you knew was wrong" trend
  • Trivia, commentary, and observations from pop culture and current events
  • Glimpses into my life and travels
  • Maybe subjects suggested by blog readers.  I love looking stuff up that I don't know, just for the fun of it.
Yeah, some of what I usually do, mixed in with stuff from which I usually shy away.  Might make for a good blog.  Check.

Write blog post about future blog posts.


Oh...Happy New Year!

Monday, December 01, 2014


What do Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch have in common?

They are shining examples of the Christmas spirit!  No, seriously, they are!

Don't believe me?  Read the books:

"It was always said of him (Scrooge) that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge." (A Christmas Carol). I can't imagine a more sterling reputation.

In How the Grinch Stole Christmas, it is implied that the Grinch is an honored guest at the Who Feast on Christmas.  What a truly festive figure in the annals of Whoville.

Of course, the Grinch and Mr. Scrooge have something else in common:  they are two characters who
have been defined by their sin.

Sadly, there are many believers today who are in the same situation. They or others around them define themselves in terms related to their former lives.  But listen to 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
Pay close attention to verse 11.  After listing all these manifestations of unrighteousness, the apostle says, "And such WERE some of you."  In other words, all these bad things that used to define you are in the past. If you have trusted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you have a new identity. You are a Christian, a believer, a child of God.  You have a brand new life, so why be identified with what you were before?

Of course, this doesn't mean we will never sin again. Nor does it mean that we get to skip all of the natural, societal, or legal consequences of our actions. Nor does it mean that we should put ourselves in the same situations that would lead us to commit the same sins.  If you were an embezzler before you got saved, you may still need to answer for your crimes. And the church board will not let you help count the offering.

But with those caveats firmly in mind, I would encourage you to quit defining yourself in terms of your former life. It may take work and discipline--energized by the Holy Spirit, of course!--but you can be and act like the new person you are, to the point that people will see it. 

Okay, Grinch and Scrooge: what are the last few lines in your book?

Tuesday, August 05, 2014


Over the years, I have read many articles about revitalizing your ministry.  And among the principles listed is this one sage piece of advice: attend conferences.

I wholeheartedly affirm this.  If you have an opportunity to attend a local children's ministry conference, by all means go.  If you have an opportunity to attend a larger conference outside your area, do it.  And if you have the chance to go to one of the humongous national conferences (like the Children's Pastors' Conference), you will not regret it. Getting together with people outside your current ministry and learning from experts will only help and challenge you...and maybe even change your whole life and ministry.

That's what happened to me.

It was the late 90's. I didn't know what CPC was.  I was an unpaid children's pastor (the leadership didn't even call it that at first) and I was at the end of my proverbial rope. Although I have had other times in my ministry when I felt like quitting, this particular time was one of the darker times I remember. I didn't sense the leadership had any kind of vision for children's ministries.  I was having a hard time getting volunteers. I was under stress, lonely, and feeling like I had exhausted my internal resources and getting no results.

Every year, we took a group to our local children's ministry network conference. It was a one day session, with workshops and a few vendor tables, and usually a nationally known speaker.  I always got a lot out of these conferences.  But this particular one was different.  After the conference ended, I planned to hand in my resignation.

I don't remember who was leading our worship time.  But one of the songs he delivered was "I Am Child" by Mr. J.  I had never heard of Mr. J, but this song hit me hard.  It talked about something I had always known, but maybe never comprehended; namely, that children have the same power of the King in them as do adults.  I listened....and gulped...and fought back tears. The ministry to children was more than just the children's program at the was vitally, deeply, eternally important!

And then came the keynote speaker. I won't tell you who it was (msg me if you really want to know), but even though I had heard other speakers through the years, this one approached children's ministry like it was not only the most important ministry in the world, but the most fun.  I laughed, I cried, I scribbled notes, and felt I couldn't breathe.  This man was articulating all the reasons I enjoyed children's ministries, plus all the ways that children's ministry could be so much more than a Sunday morning program.

I didn't resign.  Instead, God used that conference to rip into my being and pull out a fire for children's ministry.

I've had other low times.  I've also been to other conferences, including CPC (don't get me started...if you can, you have to go!). I'm no longer the children's pastor (another long post), but the Lord has allowed me to teach some children's ministry workshops.  And to think I almost walked away from one of the greatest adventures of all.

Why do I think you ought to go to conferences?  Because our God can use it to provide the turning point in your ministry. 

That's what happened to me.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Dear Cartoon Network:

Many years ago, I heard that one of the perks of basic cable was this channel that ran many of the classic cartoons I grew up with. Sadly, by the time I joined the 21st century and got hooked up, many of the "oldies but goodies" had been replaced with more modern stories and original programming. My visits to Cartoon Network became very scarce. Then came the programming block known as "Adult Swim." My periodic visits to CN slowed to none.

So imagine my surprise--well, not "surprise", more like "oh really?"--when I heard about Black Jesus, described as a hard drinking, weed smoking, obscenity spewing take on the Savior of the world.  I watched the trailer for the series, complete with bleeped parts, and wondered, "did anybody at Cartoon Network think this through?"

I mean, seriously!  After my initial revulsion, and after reading some articles and comments about the show, I understand the premise.  The title character is not intended to be the real Jesus (as if anybody would mistake him for the genuine article). Instead, he is a crazy homeless man who thinks he's Jesus.  I get it.  The plot line of someone thinking he is the Son of God has been done in books, plays, tvs, and movies.  When done well, the device can call attention to the role of religion and identity, the plights of the mentally ill, and society's reactions to those who are different.  But based on the trailer, I feel as though Black Jesus totally misses the opportunity to explore these weightier issues.

I haven't seen every representation of "disturbed man thinks he's Jesus," but in the ones I have seen and remember, the deluded individuals tend to almost out-Jesus Jesus. In other words, they take the meek, quiet, loving stereotype of Jesus to the nth degree, making him almost super meek, super quiet, super loving and gentle, with pious platitudes and all.   Black Jesus, on the other hand, is crude and foul mouthed and violent.  Aside from self-identifying himself as "Jesus," there is nothing in his actions, attitudes, or speech that would identify him as Jesus. Little kids certainly are not going to want to be around him. He is a stereotype, not of the Lord, but of a hardened gang banger or street thug. The opportunity to comment on bigger issues is lost.

Is Black Jesus satire or parody?  I don't know. I have seen some excellent and amusing sketches about Christians, Christianity, and even Jesus. I've also seen a lot that fall flat with Christian audiences. Why? Because the writers of these comedies go for the quick laugh by trying to make fun of a caricature.  They rely on exaggerated claims, half-truths, and prejudices and play these things for chuckles.  It works for audiences who don't really know the subject of the parody, but comes across as cheap and even mean to those who do. You may have the noble goal of lampooning society's attitude toward those who are different.  You may even believe that your interpretation of Jesus sticks it to church hypocrites. But unless you make it very clear that the "Jesus" of this show is a crazy, homeless man, it's just going to fall flat as "cutting edge" social satire or parody or even plain comedy.

Why use Jesus? My sneaking suspicion is that the writers and producers got together and somebody meekly raised his hand and asked, "Excuse me, but won't this offend Christians?" To which the head echelon chuckled and said, "Golly, gosh, yeah it will." I've already seen comments from supporters of the series lauding the show and chiding the faithful for their objections.  Cartoon Network appears to say, "Yeah, we're taking potshots at your Lord and Savior.  You got a problem with that?"

So, Cartoon Network, here's the thing: based on the trailer and the initial comments, I think Black Jesus fails as social commentary, fails as satire, and only succeeds in being deliberately offensive to the Christian community. I don't know your demographics to know how many evangelical, Bible-believing Christians tune in to Adult Swim. I'm sure the born again market won't be watching Black Jesus. I will not be watching and I will not recommend it to my friends. There will be an audience, but I doubt you will win any converts.



Monday, June 02, 2014


(Disclaimer: this post is just for fun).

Before file sharing, I-Tunes, YouTube, and the greater world of digital recording, my little reel-to-reel tape recorder was also the means by which I could record my favorite songs.  My sister handed it down to me when I was a kid. With this device, I produced five minute shows featuring audio skits, impersonations, and variety programs. I captured sound effects and theme songs in order to produce my own parodies and spin-offs of Star Trek, Emergency!, Adam-12, and more. It was a fun time. But I also tried to capture my favorite tunes. For hours, I would listen on my trusty transistor radio to my favorite station (KDZA, for all you southern Colorado natives old enough to remember).  My microphone would rest in front of the speakers, the tape reel cued up and ready.  As soon as the opening notes of a "must capture" tune would start playing, I hit record and remained absolutely silent while my electronic marvel recorded a song I would then be able to play and enjoy whenever I wanted.

The following are the top six songs that I attempted to record.  This list doesn't mean there weren't other songs I enjoyed.  It was tough to narrow down the favorites.  It also doesn't mean I necessarily succeeded in producing a recording for each song.  But for me, and perhaps for some of you, these songs will bring back memories.

My Eyes Adored You (Frankie Valli). 
Some of the best stories start with "There was this girl..." In second grade, that girl was Ida.  My crush on her wasn't so serious as to be debilitating, but when I moved to a different town, I found myself missing her.  And then I heard this song and it seemed to sum up all those feelings.

Ida and I later reconnected via snail mail and continued a friendly correspondence through junior high and high school, until some misunderstanding ended the communication. Yes, kids, before Facebook, there was still....drama!

How Do You Do (Mouth and MacNeal)
With most songs, I didn't stop to ponder the lyrics.  I can't even say I knew most of the lyrics. But my connection with How Do You Do is that my sister and I made up our own parody about two monkeys meeting each other.

      How do you do, uh, huh (shaking hands in rhythm to the song)
      I thought I saw na-na-na-na
     Just me and you
     And then we eat bananas (peeling bananas)
     Just like before... (I don't remember the rest)

What can I say...I was a bit of a dork back then.

The Night Chicago Died (Paper Lace)
As I said before, I wasn't always aware of the lyrics of each song.  But this one is special, in that I actually memorized the words.  And while I enjoyed the song on its own merits, I also had fun imagining the sound effects that could applied.

     I heard my momma cry (uncontrollable sobbing)....
     There was no sound at all, but the clock upon the wall (loud ticking sounds)....
     And the door burst open wide (loud crashing)....

Yeah, fun times

Old Black Water (Doobie Brothers)
Yes, poor innocent me didn't know what a "doobie" was until a few years later. But I enjoyed this song, with its easy going melody, harmony, and amazing acapella part.  C'mon, you know you want to hear some funky Dixieland, pretty mama gonna take me by the the hand (hand), take me by the hand (pretty mama).....

Frankenstein (Edgar Winter Group)
Even if you don't know the title of this instrumental, you would probably recognize some of the portions.  This song had hard driving guitars, drum duos, and special effects with synthesizers and amplifiers.  As I listened to it on the radio, I waited for the end part where it sounded like a UFO was about to land.

When I rediscovered the performance on YouTube, I found out the radio version was an abbreviated version of the song.  The original was 9-12 minutes (depending on the performance). And whenever I watch it, it seems as if Mr. Winter throws in something different each time.  That's talent.

Long Tall Glasses (Leo Sayer)
This was another song whose lyrics I remembered.  It was just a fun song about a guy who finds himself at a fancy dinner with only one requirement: you've got to dance like Fred Astaire.  As I sang along with my best voice, my family's attention was quickly diverted from my dancing skills.

What were your favorite songs growing up?  Did you try to capture a song off the radio?  Share in the comments below.