Bible Reading Program for Slackers and Shirkers

Link: Bible Reading Program for Slackers and Shirkers

Today as I was meeting with some students I recommended this resource that has served me well in the past.  The article I’ve linked to is a great one written by Margie Haack.  The actual plan is linked to at the bottom of the article.

If you have ever struggled to get through a Bible reading plan, this resource is for you.  It took me nearly 4 years to get through the Bible this way, but the important thing is that I got through the Bible!


Swedish Left Party: ‘force pastors to perform gay weddings’

Link: Swedish Left Party: ‘force pastors to perform gay weddings’

Check out this article by my favorite English language Swedish news source.  (ahem… the only English language Swedish news source) It’s a frightening look at where a false view of “tolerance” will eventually lead.  Forcing pastors to go against what they believe is “neither safe nor right” according to another European from a few centuries ago.

I find it remarkable that the irreligious (and anti-religious) left in Sweden here attempts to do the same thing the church did back in the day, to institutionalize their doctrine, and force others to act accordingly.

It’s my prayer that Christians will respond with grace and truth.  It’s the only thing that will diffuse an otherwise volatile situation.

The Bigger Story

I’ve had two weeks to process what happened during Blanket Appalachia (other than the Just As I Am incident) and I figured if I don’t write it down, it is quickly going to get swallowed up in my brain.

I’ve never been that close to that much devastation wrought by drugs.  There is a distinct difference between seeing some pictures on a website and standing close enough to smell the smoky breath of a guy who fried his brain on years of abusing drugs.   It was an eye-opening experience.

I could dwell all day on the bad news from my time in Manchester, KY.  But then, like the news media, I’d miss the real story.  God is at work there.  He is “restoring what the locust has eaten” (check out Joel 1 and 2).  Friday night we met an amazing pastor of the First Baptist Church in town and he told us the story of he and a Pentacostal pastor in town getting together to pray once a week for the city.  Over the course of a year those two pastors meeting to pray became 150 pastors and laypeople meeting to pray for their community.  Through that prayer meeting they formed a march against drugs that would eventually lead to even high-ranking local government officials being carted off to jail in FBI handcuffs.  All because God’s people prayed.

The best part about that pastor’s story was the end, when (like a master artist) he painted us into the story.  Some yuppie North Carolina college students, campus ministers, and church people fit right into this story.  We were directly answers to prayers of those pastors and laypeople.  He told us how God was going to use us the next day to bring people into His kingdom.  Not only had they had a political and social renewal and overhaul in Clay county, KY—they were ripe for a spiritual renewal. And God had brought us in to love the people well, to challenge them with the gospel of grace, and to take a few giant leaps of faith with them.

I don’t know if I would have appreciated what I was doing all day Saturday had I not been painted into the bigger picture.  Sharing my faith with strangers without a bigger picture is exhausting.  Joining God in what he is doing, on the other hand, is exhilirating.  We got the chance to see 26 people trust Christ the next day, and 1300 people left with jackets, blankets, socks, and Bibles.  We initiated spiritual conversations with every person that walked through the door.  Some of them had all of their teeth rotted out of their head from several months of meth abuse.  Some of them couldn’t complete sentences because they were still blitzed from the night before (at 9 AM).  I talked to one guy who was about my age and said he had never had a job of any kind, but instead just made and sold drugs for a living.  And he didn’t even look alive.

Some of our students who had never gotten up the guts to have a spiritual conversation ended up initiating conversations by the end of the day with ease, and got to see multiple people trust Christ.  In the midst of the devastation, we saw God planting flowers.  Restoring.  Bringing new life.

I marvel at the bigger story I am a part of.  What bigger story are you helping to write, whether you know it or not?

Art as a Bridge, a Weapon, or a Tool?

I am in the midst of preparing for an interactive study of art and spiritual issues that I will be leading at UNC Asheville next semester, and I am struck by how poor of a job we as Christians have done when it comes to our interactions with art.  Here are some of the extremes that I have seen in my own heart and life.

On the one hand, there is bad art and copyright infringement masqueraded as parody or as a way to be “relevant.”  At best, this type of art is reactionary and childish.  And I have done it.  I have been the guy who didn’t listen to anything but “Christian music.”  By “Christian” I meant that the content had to be blatantly about Jesus.  In fact, it was best for it to state right on the surface what it was about, so that there would be no doubt.  We’ll take a popular secular song and steal the production, the beat, the instrumentation, and even some of the lyrics, and we will “Jesus it up a little.”  Take a love song meant for the artist’s significant other and make it about Jesus.  Use that song as a way to lure in unsuspecting folks who thought they were walking into a Los Lonely Boys concert, and then kick them in the face with the Bible (metaphorically, of course—with some rare exceptions)

On the other hand, some Christians have demonized art.  Anything with a synchopated beat is of the devil.  Any art used in a worship service is idolatry and a breaking of the 2nd commandment.  Anything Eminem has ever written should be burned, and therefore there is nothing redeeming in any form of rap music.  “Gospel Rap” is an impossible hyperbole.  We can only sing hymns in church.  Some denominations even take it so far that you can’t even have instruments at all in worship.  It seems that Elvis sinned so much that any type of instrument he ever touched is now beyond redemption.

Is there another option?  Can art be, as I think it was meant to be, a window into the soul of the artist?  Here’s my first attempt at a promo blurb for our upcoming study. And you get to read it before it’s done!

Strip: (v) to remove extraneous or extra material from, to make bare or clear.

What’s your label?  Democrat? Republican? Christian? Buddhist? Gay? Straight? White? Black?

What’s your cause? Abortion? Legalized marijuana? Same sex marriage? Religious freedom? A new baseball stadium? AIDS in Africa?

Those questions all draw us into our corner.  The evil people on the other side of our line in the sand become less and less our fellow humans and more and more our enemies.  All we need is proof that they don’t really care about the world, and we’ll bury them.  Whoever can find the biggest stone to throw wins.

Art is a unique window in the soul of the artist.  A glimpse across the line drawn in the sand and into a heart of a person with real cares, real fears, and real passion.  And if we let it, art can be a tool to strip us, to take us (even if only briefly) out of our corner, and engage with life using a new pair of eyes.  If we begin to see the people in the other corner as fellow travelers on a spiritual journey, we realize that we have much to learn from each other.  We are stripped of our label and our cause and are forced to engage others on a singular level, that of human.

Our goal is not to eradicate the labels, but to give them a context.  We want to engage with others of different opinions, and create a place where two things guide our discussion:  No question or observation is off limits, and nobody gets to apply truth to anyone other than themselves.

Join us for Stripped, an interactive experience where we look at the world through each other’s eyes, and the eyes of artists like Rembrant, Gauguin, Munch, and others.  Brought to you by Campus Crusade for Christ at UNC Asheville.

Our Pre-promo video for “Stripped,” the upcoming art discussion at UNC Asheville. It gives some perspective on “Christian Art” that will help to form a basis for our discussion of art in general.