Wednesday, December 16, 2015


I confess that I don't attend too many holiday parties. I would say it's because of my hectic schedule, but I know folks that attend three or four parties a night and still have time and energy to go to work, spend time with their families, and be productive citizens. So I guess I have no excuse.

But I do have some parties and gatherings under my belt, each one providing fun and meaningful memories. I don't always have detailed recollections, but more like snapshots of events.

Sunday School Move. I don't remember if I was in middle school or high school, but our small Sunday School class held our own Christmas party during class time. We had refreshments and music and a gift exchange. I liked Sunday School because it was one of the few places where the popular and the unpopular hung out together. And the holidays, with preparations for Christmas programs and caroling, were especially fun.

When we exchanged gifts, I received a model kit of a German roadster.  I laughed and said, "That's funny. At the school gift exchange, I got a model kit of a German bi-plane.  I wonder what it means?"

Without planning, the whole class said, "you should move to Germany." It was a funny moment that always sticks out in my mind (and yes, they were teasing).

Bible Study at Pastor's House. Back in Colorado, our Wednesday afternoon Bible Study moved to the Pastor's house on the week of Christmas for a special gathering (the Pastor in this case was me). We enjoyed treats, relaxed, shared, had a short, informal study, and just enjoyed each other's company.

Candlelight Fellowship. Our church in California rented a facility for Sunday Morning Services, so our other weekly gatherings were in homes. So, as expected, it was a tight fit for the annual Christmas Eve candlelight service. But what we lacked in space, we made up for in fellowship. It was a party, really, with guests bringing refreshments, sharing, and laughing. We just sort of blended into the service, with music, Scripture, and then the candlelight ceremony (accompanied by Evie's "A Thousand Candles"). It was a time of love and warmth.

Day Care parties. Our church operated a day care center for a number of years. At Christmas, we came together to eat a meal, share treats, and exchange presents. Two things stand out about these parties: 1) The laughter. The stress and difficulties of the week seemed to vanish as we shared our stories and broke out in glee over the smallest things.  2) Jazz Choir. The local high school had a special group of singers that toured local businesses and events. We tried to make it a point to invite them each year to sing for us. To this day, when I think of "Santa Baby," I think of the Jazz Choir.

I haven't been to a lot of parties, but I've been to enough to have had a lot of fun. May you enjoy your own set of memories as you gather with friends, family, and co-workers to celebrate.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


I have a lot of special Christmas memories. Some are very detailed and specific. Others are like quick photographs, out-of-context images embedded in my mind.

Several of these "pictures" involve travel. During my college days, I went back and forth between Colorado and California via the goodness of friends or courtesy of the bus lines. It was the trips during the holidays that always stuck in my mind.

Music: Hurtling down the highway. It's dark and most of the passengers in our car have settled in to a quiet reverie. Except  for the few who are listening to Evie's "Come On Ring Those Bells" for the 20th time. Or the highly techno cover of the "Hallelujah Chorus." Or when our driver croons along with Bing Crosby's "White Christmas", along with distinctive warble. Even today, when I hear some of these songs, I can hear the drone of the vehicle and see the landscape slipping past my window.

Fatigue: It sounds funny to list this as a memory, but plug a few college students in a car for a thirty hour drive and see if you don't remember it.  Not that there weren't moments of tension (getting lost has a way of doing that). But what usually comes to my mind are the jokes, the laughter, the time at the 24 hour diner, at which I am convinced there is a yellowing bulletin by the counter warning about us (ok, we laughed and joked a lot...we were a bunch of Christian college students, not rowdy bikers!).

Lights: All cross-country trips, whether in a car or a bus, have the same view of city after city, town after town, one right after another. Unless you stop for gas or meals, they all approach, pass, and fade out your window.  But at Christmas time, it was as if each burg brought out its finest to welcome one and all to their town. It was as if it was a shared party. And each year, whether with one or six or a bunch of fellow travelers, I always thought, "I know Who the Guest of Honor is!"

The Reunion: Most of my Christmas travel memories happened in college. When I got married, "home" was where my wife was. But one year, we went through a transition and a move. My family relocated to Oregon, but I had to stay behind in Colorado to wrap up lose ends. It was a difficult time and I feared that I'd never be able to afford to make it to Oregon (not that I could stay in Colorado either). But thanks to some friends, I was able to get a bus ticket to travel the week of Christmas. I had no idea what the Lord had in store for me in the months ahead, but I knew that I was going to be with family.

The trip on the bus had everything.  I saw city after city with lights. Theological issues aside, Salt Lake City knows how to deck out a town for Christmas. There was the drone of the bus, the weariness of travel, but the shared camaraderie of fellow passengers heading for holiday destinations. We even had music, as the bus driver valiantly attempted to lead us in "Jingle Bells."

And then, the day before Christmas Eve, a foggy day, I arrived "home" to my wife and three "tator tots."  And the destination made the long bus ride all the more memorable.

I have many Christmas thoughts and memories which I look forward to sharing. But those scenes of buzzing over the highway in anticipation to Christmas celebrations with family and friends stick in my mind and heart to this day.


Saturday, October 17, 2015


I like all kinds of music and genres, from rock to Gregorian chants. I especially enjoy music covers, when different artists perform an established song. And if they can do it in a different style or genre, all the better. It's cool to hear a rock anthem performed like a country ballad or a classical piece given a heavy metal twist. When artists have a different take on a popular song, I find myself listening to the lyrics more closely.

Today, I'm going to count down my top 5 different covers of Disney songs. Why Disney? Disney has had a big influence on music in our culture, and Disney songs have likely been covered hundreds of times by hundreds of artists.  I chose these particular tunes because of their slightly different approach to the songs.  Yes, this is a highly subjective list and there are no doubt many songs that could be included (if you have a favorite, list it in the comments below!). And who knows, next month or year I might claim a different list.

Another disclaimer: I do not necessarily endorse the individual performers in these videos or do any extensive research as to their background, values, and political views. So please do not say, "hey, I heard that guy kicks puppies, so why is he on this list?" For now, just enjoy and evaluate the songs. If someone indeed is on America's Most Wanted, I'll write about that another time.

5.  "I'll Make a Man Out of You" (Mulan)  Jackie Chan (in Chinese). 
Martial arts star Jackie Chan shows he has some halfway decent singing chops as he performs this standard from Mulan. The video is full of Chan's martial arts moves, which are more than halfway decent.

4. "I Have No Strings" (Pinocchio) Ultron
This isn't strictly a cover, but it makes you think. It was featured prominently in the trailer to the hit movie Avengers: Age of Ultron, about a maniacal sentient robot who wants to wipe out humanity. By sampling Pinnochio and bringing in Ultron to some deep dark music, it is genuinely creepy and well done. (the folks at the pop culture parody sight How it Should Have Ended have a fun take on this in their video).

3.  "Let It Go" (Frozen) Daniel Taylor
"Let It Go," the song that launched a million covers, is an inspiring and motivational song. But enter this artist who uses numerous Disney characters to belt out the tune. His skill in transitioning from one voice to another is fun to watch.

2.  "Prince Ali" (Aladdin) Jonathan Young
Metal is not my thing, unless I can understand the words. In this video, we are given a hard, energetic translation of the "Prince Ali" song that allows us to hear every single word clearly and forcefully.

1.  "Friend Like Me" (Aladdin)  Bri Ray
When I first saw this video, I was stunned. Bri Ray is not only an incredible singer, but an actress whose facial expressions and body language fit this song perfectly. Yes, it reminds me of Robin Williams' original performance, but in a unique, fresh way that would suggest, "What if the Genie was a young woman?"  Seriously, it's that good.

What are your favorites? Suggestions? Rebuttals (be nice!)? Use the comment section below.


Tuesday, September 08, 2015


I recently heard about a church official who had strong opinions about children's praise and worship DVDs. Upon hearing that one of the music leaders was looking to add to the children's department's DVD music collection, he said, "I thought we determined that DVDs were no longer allowed. It's just another video that the kids sit in front of." He promised to talk to the music leader and put his foot down, so to speak. In this official's mind, DVDs (and other media based items) constituted "passive entertainment" and were not worthy of the goals of Christian education.

And I agree: DVDs and other forms of media are, indeed, passive entertainment . . . if used passively!

The fact is, many churches do not have a band, musicians, and song leaders that can effectively do live contemporary children's praise and worship. I don't have enough technical knowledge to tell you what distinguishes modern kids praise music from adult or even teen music, but there is a difference! And so several companies have attempted to bridge the gap with music videos that have music, words, and even motions. It's like bringing in a band to help lead your music.

But music DVDs are a tool . . . and like most tools, they have to be used properly. If you stick in a DVD and tiredly expect the kids to sing along, you will likely get tired results. But even the musically challenged among us can get good results using the tools in the right way. I am not a singer and I probably lack certain motor skills to do complicated choreography (although I've got a little game). But in my years in kidmin, I've learned some principles in working with DVDs.
  • Look at the kids, not the screen. There are two reasons for this. One, it keeps you from having to contort your back and neck to look over at the screen for the lyrics, and second, with your attention on the kids, you can pick up those subtle signals that every children's leader needs (like the two fifth graders who are sitting in the corner with their arms crossed).
  • Interact with and use the music. By knowing the music and words of the DVD, you can interject prompts ("a little louder now!") at the right spots, or take advantage of longer musical gaps to insert a quick devotional thought ("and Jesus loves you too and you can love one another, so let's sing it together..").
  • Move it, move it #1. Clap your hands, try the moves, shuffle back and forth . . . do something! If you can't pull off all the moves, try to do the major ones. You may not be able to get those fifth graders moving, but you can virtually guarantee they won't move if you won't move.
  • Move it, move it #2. Recruit some kids to help with the moves. Be on the lookout for the children who are into the music and motions and bring them up to help. Kids love seeing other kids in action. You can even try bringing the two fifth graders up and ask if they would be willing to help lead songs (they might just surprise you with their enthusiasm).
  • Transition smoothly. Try to eliminate that awkward time when you are switching songs. Have something happening while your sound guy makes the switch. Or if you are your own sound guy, designate someone to do an announcement while you work controls. Better yet, have all your songs lined up and ready to go in a "mix." One of the more recent innovations is the availability of songs on MP3, where they can be mixed and lined up seamlessly on a computer, which sure beats cuing up VHS tapes (yes, I am that old).
  • Put the songs in context. Relate the songs to the lesson or theme when possible. And that requires advance preparation, not just loading a DVD in the player that morning.
Sure, live music is best. You can do things with live musicians, song leaders, and a praise team that you can't do with a DVD. Even a talented, on-fire guy with a guitar can get a group of kids going in ways that electronic media cannot. But if you don't have those things, children's praise and worship DVDs can be just the tool you need.

Does your church used contemporary children's worship DVDs or other media, or is your music live? What resources do you use? Feel free to respond in the comments below.

Monday, July 13, 2015


Frowny kids? Stressed-out volunteers? Directional anxiety?

Have we got a solution for you!  These seven things are absolutely guaranteed to transform your children's ministry from grump to up!

Okay, not quite. Like any anything involving children, there is a host of factors involved. And the reality of ministry is that sometimes you can do everything right and still get bad results.

But if you need a little injection of "different" and "happy" in your weekly routine, or you just want to take the edge off some ruts that you're in, these are good things to start with.

1.  Smile. A lot!
One of the first things that vanishes when we're rushing around trying to get things done is our smile. Kids respond to smiles, adults respond to smiles, and even you will respond to your own smile (don't believe me? Look in the mirror and make the silliest grin you can and see if your mood doesn't improve.).

2.  Take the time to hang out with parents.
Politicians affectionately call what they do "grip and grin." Why do they do it? Because the few moments they spend shaking hands and engaging in a few moments of conversation makes a big impression. So too, it pays to connect with the parents. If your church has a foyer where people mingle before and after the service, go visit there. Take advantage of fellowship opportunities with other grown ups.  Make a connection.

3.  Do a funny voice.
Seriously, do it. While you're teaching the lesson, suddenly deepen your voice. Or make it higher. Or strange. Or break out into Minionese.  Kids love the unexpected.

4.  Educate yourself.
I'm not just talking about self-development resources, such as books, magazines, articles, and conferences.  I'm talking about educating yourself in what kids are involved in. In point #3 above, I mentioned speaking "Minionese". If you have no clue what a Minion is, then it's time to get on Google (or ask the kids!).  I remember a little girl coming in with a lunch box featuring the Power Puff Girls. I asked her what her favorite Girl was: Blossom, Bubbles, or Buttercup? Her eyes grew wide and she looked up at her mom and said, "He knows who they are!" Even just knowing the name of someone on the child's t-shirt will set you apart from most of the grown-ups.

5. Turn distractions to opportunities.
One of the kids brought an action figure to church. As he played with it during the lesson, it became more and more of a distraction. I could have confiscated the figure and warned him never ever to bring it again or else. Instead, I asked if I could borrow it to help teach the lesson. The boy hesitated for a second, then handed over the toy. I incorporated it into the lesson and the kids seemed to be paying more attention (maybe to see if I would keep it). But I learned that sometimes, distractions can be springboards to better opportunities. When the little girl wants to sing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" in worship time, it's a great opening to talk about the Creator of the stars. Restless older kids can be transformed into helpers. Tune in to the vibe of the kids and see if there might be ways to channel their distractions into opportunities for greater ministry.

6.  Always, always, always lift up the team.
Whenever you have opportunity, encourage your volunteers. Compliment them, thank them, pray for them. And if you don't have opportunities to do this, then make the opportunity. No matter what your level of leadership in your children's department, you don't do it alone. Consistent affirmation of volunteers translates into joyful energy in the overall ministry.

7.  Take your children's service seriously.
 Don't ever justify a half-way effort by saying, "It's just for kids." Plan, prepare, pray over each and every Sunday or mid-week service. It doesn't mean you can't be flexible, but it does mean that children's ministry deserves the same quality and attention to detail that the adult service does. Kids are important, so it's important to treat them that way.

What things do you do to add a little fun, energy, and positive vibe into your children's ministry? Please share in the comments below.

Friday, June 26, 2015


June 26, 2015

The Supreme Court has struck down all laws banning gay marriage.  The President has made a brief statement. The analysis has begun, but if the mainstream networks are any indication, there is much rejoicing over this landmark ruling.

So here I am, thinking through my keyboard again, and wondering, "What's next?"  Before I get to my random thoughts, just a couple of disclaimers:
  • These thoughts are random, and raw, and unrefined. They are initial thoughts as they come to my mind. I'm sure some in-depth analysis will follow later, so please be gentle, especially if you disagree with me.
  • These thoughts are mine and mine alone and do not necessarily represent those of my church, its leadership, its members, or those of my friends, or neighbors, or associates. As always, if pregnant or nursing, do not take...ooops, sorry, got carried away with the disclaimers.

Here we go

1. The Supreme Court is not Lord, Jesus is Lord.

2. What will change for the church?  Nothing. We will still meet, we will still pray, we will still study God's Word, we will still tell others about Jesus. This has been true of the church throughout history, regardless of the political environment in which she has lived.

3. We are still commanded to love our neighbor. I know we haven't always been good at that. I think one of the takeaways of the SCOTUS decision is that the church will have some serious discussions on how to love our neighbor in word and deed, while not rejecting our Biblical convictions. The critics say we can't love the members of the LGBT community without surrendering those convictions. I think it would be cool to lovingly prove them wrong.

4. I still can't find an example or commendation of same-sex marriage in the Bible. There's a ton of stuff about traditional marriage, but nothing on same-sex marriage.  Just pointing it out, folks.

5. I'm not a slippery-slope, "the sky is falling" kind of person. I rejoice in being a Christian in America, where I still have the right to believe and practice my religion the way I choose. That being established, is there anyone out there who does not think this ruling will have both subtle and profound political and social implications on "religious freedom" in the future?

I know some of my friends and readers may disagree. That's fine. Keep the disclaimers in mind as you comment.  And remember, disrespect, foul language, overt hostility, and so on will likely result in a deletion of your comment. I love smart people who disagree with me, but I've had my fill of the spew of cranky critics.

Friday, June 12, 2015


You've no doubt heard the story of Josh Duggar from 19 Kids and Counting, how at 14, he inappropriately touched his younger sisters and how his parents dealt with it in house, not notifying the authorities for 16 months (and after the statute of limitations had expired). And now that a magazine has obtained previously sealed records and exposed it for all the world to see, there are cries for 19 Kids and Counting to be cancelled. At post time, TLC has already temporarily pulled the show from its lineup.

To think through this, let's agree on a couple of basics:
  • Child abuse is never okay. It's never justifiable. It is wrong.
  • The parents should have reported it immediately.

While the overwhelming majority of reasonable people will agree on the root-level basics, the water gets a little murkier when we get into the details. Sadly, it seems, anybody suggesting some alternate viewpoints on the murkier details is liable to be flamed themselves. I'm going to trust that my friends, colleagues, and those who know me will understand that I'm stimulating discussion, not justifying abhorrent behavior.

  • At 14, Josh Duggar touched his sisters inappropriately. He did so on three occasions. As we already established, that was wrong. But there has been no indication that he has ever done it again. In fact, there is no indication that it was ever an issue in the Duggar household past that time. So is it fair to call the 14 year old boy an "evil monster" or "horrible predator" and demand that he fully disclose and carry that label with him for the rest of his life?
  • The parents were negligent in not reporting this to the authorities. Yes, I agree. But being familiar with Child Protective Services (or whatever it is called in your locality), I can understand their hesitation to let the state step in. This would take a whole series of blogs (and I'm still collecting some data), but CPS is not always just and fair in their actions. And sometimes, Christian families get hit the hardest. Please don't shoot me and start demanding my evidence for that yet (this is a work in progress!), but it's not hard to imagine Josh in jail, the parents prosecuted, and the kids scattered to foster care by a crusading case worker (and in a late breaking development, a 9-1-1 call has surfaced from a social worker who was allegedly denied access to a Duggar child. Social Services will not comment, but why a visit now?)
  • What is an appropriate punishment for the Duggars? After over a decade, comments have suggested anything from imprisonment to castration for Josh, prison for the parents, and forced restitution to the victims. There is outrage that they "got away with it" and therefore, there needs to be punishment. Which leads us to the next thought....
  • This is a theological point, for Christians who believe the Bible is the Word of God: does Jesus love Josh Duggar? Is there no grace or forgiveness for the likes of him? Or did he commit an unpardonable sin, for which he will forever be damned to hell? Is there no healing for the girls or are they required to go through the rest of their lives as "victims," as if their forgiveness of their brother and their moving on with their lives is a bad thing?
  • A lot of people hate the Duggars. But something I noticed is that most people who hate the Duggars, hated the Duggars before this scandal was revealed. Like the Duck Dynasty family, the Duggars have been blasted for their Biblical worldview, their social/political views, and their lifestyle choices.  And I think this is telling: reading the comments, there is almost an "Ah hah! Gotcha!" glee that has nothing to do with child abuse. A dear friend of mine inadvertently made this point when she said that members of the Christian right would not hesitate condemning this if it was somebody we already hated. Yes, that's right. And with this scandal, haters of the Duggars jumped all over it.
    To be fair, some researchers have serious and well-thought out Biblical disagreements with the Duggars' particular brand of Christianity. I respect that. But often, the critiques of the Duggars start with statements like this: "Fundy Christians with lots of kids...that's bad." "Fundy Christians who denounce liberal ideas...that's bad." "Fundy Christians who are  uneducated hicks from Arkansas, no less! That's bad."  Haven't our liberal/progressive friends taught us that referring to "those kind of people" is the worst form of stereotype? Criticizing 19 Kids and Counting for a variety of reasons isn't new, we just need to be honest as we comment.

Let me state again: child abuse is reprehensible. And failing to report abuse is wrong. But there are answers we still don't have and questions that need to be asked. And like any controversial issue, we must often examine our own biases, our own values, and our own world view before trying to work through a very sad, very tragic, and a very explosive situation.

And once again, let me remind those who comment that name calling, foul language, and excessive ad hominem arguments are not allowed. I love smart people who disagree with me, and civility, sound reasoning, passion, and maybe a touch of humor are preferred.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


I think weddings are wonderful! I've lost count of the number of weddings I've officiated or attended, but safe to say, weddings are among the most joyous of human passages.

I believe in traditional marriage, but I had never really thought through what that means from a Bible point of view. So I looked up various combinations of husband, wife, bride, bridegroom, man and woman, marry, and marriage to see what I could learn.  What I found took 40 plus pages to print. At first, I thought I'd be a smart-alec and just print the list, but you would probably tune out at about the 25th or 26th verse (plus why should I cheat you out of the fun of looking them up yourself?)  So I picked a few and categorized them.

So with much joy (and in celebration next month of 33 years of marriage!), I present "Why I Believe in Traditional Marriage."

1. Viva la difference:
  • Creation: It all started in the beginning: "So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." (Genesis 1:27)
  • Compatibility: In the zoom lens account in Genesis 2, we're given the details of this creation: "And the Lord God said, "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him." (2:18). After Adam names the animals, the account states, "But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him." What kind of companion, what kind of helper was compatible with Adam? The answer came after history's first surgical procedure: "And the Lord caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man." (verses 21-22).  In verse 23, Adam responds by saying, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, for she was taken out of man." I've been told by a few Hebrew scholars that Adams' reaction was one of enthusiasm. This was it!
  • Commentary: In bringing the Woman to the Man, God offers this commentary: "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be  joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." (verse 24). Jesus reaffirmed this pattern in Matthew 19:5, while the apostle Paul reaffirmed it in Ephesians 5:31. If it's in the Old Testament, if it's in a New Testament letter, and if it's spoken by Jesus Himself, it must be a valid commentary!

2.  Getting to know you
  • The act: Almost immediately, we read that "Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived...." (Genesis 4:4). As most students of the Scripture are aware of, the word "know" means "have sexual relations with." This is not surprising, since one of the reasons for marriage is reproduction: "Then God blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply..."(Genesis 1:28). Notice that reproduction is one of the reasons, not the only reason or even necessarily the main reason for sex. But nobody would argue that it's irrelevant, because without it, the human race would have ended with Adam and Eve!
  • The fact: Not to get too far into Biology 101 (or worse, the dreaded "birds and the bees" talk!), but the Man and the Woman are uniquely equipped for the sexual act. And if we were to get into the conversation about reproduction, it is a biological fact that a man's sperm and a woman's egg are required to create a new life. So we see the constant reference in Scripture: "he knew his wife and she conceived."  "He knew his wife and she conceived." "He knew his wife and she conceived."
    God invented sex and He intended for the Man and Woman to enjoy it, and, through it, keep producing the human race. What a great command to keep!

3.  Famous examples
  • Ruth and Boaz (the line of which produced the Messiah!)
  • Song of Solomon--yeah, I know, the man Solomon blew it and later had a bunch of wives and porcupines, but this erotic romance ballad is a tribute to the love of a man and a woman (and has also served as an allegory of the relationship between Israel and God and later, Christ and the Church).
  • Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptizer, faithfully married for years without a child, until one day, Zechariah enters the Temple....
  • Mary and Joseph
  • The apostles. It seems that many of the apostles had wives. Reference is made to Peter's mother-in-law (Mark 1:30) and 1 Corinthians 9:5 alludes to the right of Paul to travel with a wife, "as do also the other apostles."

4.  Let me illustrate
  • Marriage is used to describe the union between Israel and God. There are a few examples in the Old Testament, both negative and positive, but one of my favorites is in Isaiah 62, which describes the restoration of Israel. In verse 5, we read, "For as a young man marries a virgin, so shall your sons marry you; and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you."
  • Marriage is used to describe the union between the Church and Christ. After a description of the relationship of husbands and wives in Ephesians 5, Paul concludes by saying, "This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church." (verse 32).
  • Marriage is used to describe the descent of the New Jerusalem. Regardless of your eschatological leanings, this is a beautiful picture: "Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." (Revelation 21:2)It's no wonder the bride's arrival at a wedding is accompanied by such pomp and majesty! Every wedding is a royal wedding!
As always, I welcome your comments, but please be respectful. Rudeness, name-calling, foul language, and so on will cause your comment to be removed.

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!