A Poor Understanding

 —  January 23, 2015 — Leave a comment

You likely have an opinion about the poor.

You may have even served the poor.

Do you have an understanding of the poor, though?

 

CheckCashing

“When you are broke, you can’t plan ahead or shop sales or buy in bulk. Poor people wait to buy something until they absolutely need it, so they have to pay whatever the going price is at that moment. If ten-packs of paper towels are on sale for half price, that’s great, but you can only afford one roll anyway. In this way, poor people actually pay more than others for common staple goods.”

That quote was spotlighted in a Washington Post article that compiles a Reddit thread discussing this very topic.

It’s worth a read, even if it’s for insights on things in youth culture you’ve never fully understood:

“I just learned this from a teenage burglar a couple years ago. Baseball caps with a completely straight brim and the sticker still on it were made popular because inner city kids wanted to prove they could afford brand new name brand things. It’s kind of sad that’s how some trends start.”

So…

what is something you wish you or others understood more about poverty?

creation3How did the world come to be?

You either have a quick response to this question, or find yourself a bit more pensive and contemplative about that questions these days. Students also seem to be stuck between what they’re hearing at church and what they’re finding at school or online.

The question used to be “Do you land on creationism, or do you land on evolution?”

Now the question seems to be a two-part tension:

“If you believe God created the world, do you believe He used evolution to do it? If you believe in evolution, do you believe there comes a point when the data runs out and faith in something supernatural begins?”

For a long time in youth ministry and children’s ministry, churches could “get away” with teaching a somewhat guilt-based ideology. It usually fell along the lines of, “You either have to believe that God made everything in a literal six-days, or else you don’t believe in Him at all.” Science wasn’t always thought to be “evil” (although in some circles it may have been presented that way), but you certainly didn’t need to bother with it.

“God said it. I believe it. That settles it,”

tumblr_lnqxojk7Cn1qah2gzI’m not questioning whether or not we should take God at His word. I am, however, asking if you find it difficult in today’s culture to exclusively take that approach. And for that matter, should we ever have taken that approach?

The Information Age has made us more responsible at talking about how faith and science are not enemies. Science is able to reveals things about God that we otherwise wouldn’t have known, just as art, music and poetry do. The challenge with any human achievement is we do have limits, and all formats will in some way create their own heresy – nothing natural could ever completely explain the supernatural, but it can take us closer toward it.

I’m finding more and more than when students are presented with “an answer” (i.e. “The earth is young. Don’t question it.”) they often don’t know what to do with their questions when they face challenging data. Again, not that the answer doesn’t exist… but does youth ministry need to take on more of an approach to helping students learn how to think than telling them what to think?

evolution_christianitySo let’s wrestle this out together on this topic.

  • Have you discovered an approach, resources or a website that helps students wrestle with evolutionary data from a Christian perspective?
  • If we don’t present evolution as a possible way God worked in Creation, are we setting up students to reject their whole faith? Should that matter?
  • Is it possible to be a Christian and believe that evolution was a method God used? If not, why not? If so, explain the foundation for this.

I can almost feel you either leaning in to write a quick reply or pause and think about coming back to this later. How about something in between? What do you think?

Does youth ministry now involve honoring creation and evolution?



fightchurch“The thing that attracted me to this project in the first place was the idea of Christianity and fighting, two things that seemingly don’t fit, being paired together.”

This quote comes from director Bryan Storkel regarding his project “Fight Church.” This film offers an intriguing synopsis:

Fight Church follows several cage fighting pastors in a quest to reconcile their faith with a sport that many consider violent and barbaric.

Can you really love your neighbor as yourself and then, at the same time, knee him in the face as hard as you can?

Giving a voice to both sides of the argument, Academy Award® Winning director Daniel Junge and Bryan Storkel allow audiences to reach their own conclusions about these God-fearing men who beat the holy hell out of each other… because Jesus never tapped out.

Storkel was invited into the project after creating a film about card-counting pastors who won thousands in Las Vegas. Fight Church even participated in a Kickstarter campaign.

So basically… this film is about skilled Christians beating each other down, and finding affirmation from their faith in doing so… while other Christians cheer it on.

Imagine if this was how conflict was worked out in the church.

Oh, wait…

um… yeah.

Any takeaways?

How long does it take to make a fossil?

How about… two weeks or less?

dino_egg

The fossilized teddy bear took about 3 months to make through the same process (called permineralization) that occurs with dinosaur bones. The object underneath is still there, and has been coated with, and permeated by rock.

According to one town in the Czech Republic, its mineral waters have fossilized “around fifty thousand objects that people have chosen to be preserved as keepsakes. They include roses in bloom, wedding bouquets, toddler’s shoes and beloved small toys.” The selected objects are placed under a steady stream of mineral water which is cooled and oxidized.

Take that, evolution.

(pounds nail into the coffin)

Then again, scientists don’t date artifacts based on “how fossilized” they are. They use carbon/radioactive dating and/or by the position of the artifact in the geological strata.

Take that, creationism.

(pounds nail into the coffin)

Debates like this happen all the time.

Actually, “debates” is the wrong word. Very little interaction happens with hot topics like this that is anything more than one side trying to secure its argument against the other.

Most of the time it has to do with our sense of security/insecurity over the issue than it does with what the topic is actually all about.

I’m friends with a twenty-somebody who used to be an active part of our church. He’s really dove into science through college, and feels awkward in his faith because of the duel pressure he’s felt in both camps to “pick a side.” Among his evolutionist friends, talking about Jesus immediately becomes a heated debate about how old the earth is. When he’s with his church friends, he feels weird suggesting that maybe God used a longer process than what many of them believe in regard to Creation.

How do we serve this?

I personally appreciate some of the language Thom and Joani Schultz have introduced through “Why Nobody Wants To Go To Church Anymore.” The value of “fearless conversation” challenges us to be people/churches who nurture:

  • Seeking to understand.
  • Listening, really listening, before speaking.
  • Asking great questions.
  • Asking ‘wondering’ questions.
  • Allowing others to talk—even in a sermon or Bible study.
  • Using pair shares.
  • Offering nonjudgmental responses.
  • Trusting the Holy Spirit and believing that God is on our side.

You can look for the next nail to pound into the coffin, or you can help fix their eyes on the One who took the nails for them.

The question is… how do we do that? Any thoughts?



Do miracles happen?

If so, how often?

If not, why not?

I came across this quote that I think sums up the tension quite well:

meatballs“Miracles are like meatballs, because nobody can exactly agree on what they are made of, where they come from, or how often they should appear.

Some people say that a sunrise is a miracle, because it is somewhat mysterious and often very beautiful, but other people say it is simply a fact of life, because it happens every day and far too early in the morning. Some people say that a telephone is a miracle, because it sometimes seems wondrous that you can talk with somebody who is thousands of miles away, and other people say it is merely a manufactured device fashioned out of metal parts, electronic circuitry, and wires that are very easily cut.

And some people say that sneaking out of a hotel is a miracle, particularly if the lobby is swarming with policemen, and other people say it is simply a fact of life, because it happens every day and far too early in the morning.

So you might think that there are so many miracles in the world that you can scarcely count them, or that there are so few that they are scarcely worth mentioning, depending on whether you spend your mornings gazing at a beautiful sunset or lowering yourself into a back alley with a rope made of matching towels.”
― Lemony Snicket, The Carnivorous Carnival

miraclesThe ministry of Jesus is filled with miracles that stand out like extraordinary wrinkles in an otherwise flat world. Each occurrence announces that God’s reality can break into our broken existence, from those who receive sight after being somehow blind to the oppressed who are freed from their particular captivity. Such wonderful transformations are not only good news, but also make known the Good News.

So… do miracles happen?

If so, how often?

If not, why not?

Creation Debate: Who Won?

 —  February 4, 2014 — 2 Comments

When all is said and done, someone will have “won” the big debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye.

Bill_Nye_debate_1391531223170_2262516_ver1.0_320_240

Chances are, whomever that person is deemed to be will be less about the actual presentation and more about the person who proclaimed the winner.

It’s difficult to have an open mind.

Arguably, there may be a third (or more) voice that is missing.

Maybe that’s because we’re not quite sure what an open mind actually means.

  • “Does it mean everything I believe has to be suspended and potentially redone?”
  • “Does it mean I have to acknowledge that someone/something I’ve built a case against could be right?”
  • “Does it mean… could it mean… well, I don’t even want to think about that.”

The Bible itself says to “Test everything. Hold on to the good.” (1 Thes 5:21)

So… test everything. Including your own convictions. Do it through truth and humility… fear and trembling.

You can’t do that by waiting to see if someone else falls on his face.

So on this topic, how do we actually do this?

michaelangeloConsider…

To know Michelangelo, one could read his biography or study his works. Both are needed for a fuller picture. Still, pieces of him would remain a mystery to us.

Why do we forget this when it comes to God? 

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)



If you like a good old fashioned debate, click over to the “Bill Nye Debates Ken Ham” stream on youtube.  One thing I have learned so far is that both Christians and Evolutionist love the MacBook Pro!

Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 7.29.05 PM

**UPDATE**
If you missed the LIVE feed because you were watching NCIS Los Angeles and are still interested in watching, I have good news for you. The two hour and forty-five minute video is available for viewing today on the Answers in Genesis YouTube Channel (or you can watch the embedded video below).

Brandon
@uthguy9

Gay + Agenda?

 —  January 29, 2014 — 18 Comments

(Before you read any further, pray. Please do. This topic is less about what you already think and more about us digging deeper to what we have missed. Maybe we can listen to God on this and let Him have the most important word on this. Deal?)

——————–

Once upon a time in Christianity, there was a phrase that began to float around: “Gay agenda.”

gayagendaIt gained steam quickly. People who felt uncomfortable with even the word “gay” in conversation had something to hang onto that they could talk about. After all, it did seem like there was a deliberate effort by someone – let’s call that person “Hollywood” – to get a certain way of thinking into culture, households and the next generation with greater intensity. Christians felt like they had language to defend something that felt under attack.

The backlash was comical.

I mean that literally. Stand-up comics from George Carlin to Ellen Degeneres were among many who retorted back, almost making the phrase “gay agenda” its own punchline – as if a group of people met on a regular basis to make plans against the heterosexual world. The absurdity of the extremes they proposed softened things quite a bit. Pretty soon sitcoms were featuring major characters who were overtly homosexual, and we got used to the idea of them not going away… from one show to anotherfrom one character to another.

Lately, it’s become an anthem.

Again, I mean that literally. Glee is, well… quite gleeful on this. Popular songs that are repeated day-in and day-out on iPods and smartphones are full of lyrics that shred anyone who would stand against “homosexuality and happiness,” especially if you think God is involved on your side of the fence.

“The right-wing conservatives think it’s a decision / And you can be cured with some treatment and religion / Man-made rewiring of a predisposition / Playing God, aw nah here we go / America the brave still fears what we don’t know / And God loves all his children, is somehow forgotten / But we paraphrase a book written 3500 years ago.” - Macklemore

Some worried if young kids would catch on.

It’s understandable if you toss in an endorsement from Toy Story’s Woody, change the orientation of a Disney female character, and create new books for children on how this is more common than you think… and you have the ingredients for your answer.

1390925823_good-luck-charlie-lesbians-lgSo.. should we be surprised at the two headlines this week around this subject matter?

  • Good Luck Charlie introduced Disney’s first same-sex couple. According to Miley Cyrus (I can’t believe I just wrote that), “I commend Disney for making this step into the light of this generation. They control…so much of what kids think! Life isn’t bright sets & wardrobe & kids becoming superstars! This is INSPIRING.”
  • The Grammy’s hosted a mass wedding of couples from all orientations. 34 couples, gay and straight, exchanged rings and said, “I do.” It was officiated by Queen Latifah (although I’m not sure she’s actual royalty, wink-wink). The audience gave it a standing ovation. Others pushed back in other ways, tweeting “Why can’t the event just be about the music? So tired of political and social messages being infused into everything” or “I don’t care if they are gay or straight this is wrong. Quit shoving your leftist agenda down my throat. Enough is enough.”Christian singer Natalie Grant even came under some accusational fire for leaving the show early.

It’s not just the Grammy’s. It’s not just Good Luck Charlie. It’s not the next thing GLAAD will demand (you might want to read about it).

It’s not even the Super Bowl, where allegedly Bruno Mars will officiate an LGBT friendly ceremony while he sings “Marry You.” (That’s a joke, by the way – but not everyone knew that and the unbelievable-yet-somehow-believable rumor has gone viral.)

This isn’t a quiet topic, is it?

We’re not being given the chance to “get around to this,” are we? We’re having it placed in front of us, one awards show after another… one sitcom after another… one school group after another.

999da4b1dReady for the Olympics?

Again, I mean that literally… does Bob Costas have plans for a featurette I might want to know about as I watch snowboarding with my kids?

But now I also mean the “Olympics” figuratively… or rather, theologically.

You have been invited to take part in an Olympic-level calling to share Jesus Christ with the world. To “make disciples of all nations,” according to someone who is actual Royalty.

  • Will you instead be passive, assuming it will go away?
  • Will you instead be political, whichever way that is?
  • Will you instead begin sentences on this topic with, “Well, I just think…” or “Well, I just feel…” – instead of taking people to someplace deeper than thoughts and feelings?

bestillandknowthatIamGod

Can we somehow foster a Jesus-centered conversation here?

We have a role in this, don’t we? Do you think it’s merely a squeek… or a roar?

The reality is that whatever is happening in one moment isn’t static. Someone is always pushing for change, and when culture hands a majority of microphones over to artists and musicians (people, who by definition, push the envelope for the sake of their craft), should we be surprised at how things develop?

Another factor is the accusation that Christians seem to care about this more than they should. It’s a fair challenge for some, but… on the other hand… maybe some Christians are coming across a little louder because it feels like someone else starting shouting and we need to speak up more than we normally would to compensate in the conversation.

The other thing is this isn’t just “an issue” or a “topic.” Very real people (many of whom I consider friends) have personal reasons why they’re engaged in this from whatever side they’re engaged in.

So again, can we move off of our sides on this and come around the Cross of Christ together?

  • Would you agree or disagree that there seems to be an increasing amount of strategy on how often this is coming up?
    (Note: According to LGBT advocate GLAAD, there are more gays represented in TV scenarios than actually play out in real life. It’s causing Americans to assume that 25% of Americans are gay, when the actual number is between 2.2% to 3.4%)
  • Would you agree or disagree that it’s hard to listen to God on this and personally opt for how you “think” or “feel” on this?
  • Would you agree or disagree that it’s possible to somehow find a Jesus-Centered style approach on how we proceed?

Again, pray…

and then let God speak in you and through you.

“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:3)