Tattoos

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS A HIGH VOLUME OF IRRITATION & SARCASM

If you go to Journey, for many of you this has been the elephant in the room. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. The elephant in the room is the thing that everybody knows about but doesn’t talk about. Reports keep getting back to me on people who “have issues” with my tattoos. This, of course, means they ARE talking about it, they just aren’t coming to me about it. I’ll ignore for the moment they are violating the biblical principle of going directly to your brother if you have an issue with him. So let’s settle this here once-and-for-all. And if in the future anyone says anything to you about my tattoos, I would strongly urge you to kindly send them this link.

Do I have tattoos: Yes, I do.
Do I think tattoos are bad: Obviously not, or else I wouldn’t have gotten them.
Do I plan on getting more tattoos? Yes, as a matter fact, I do.
What does the Bible say about tattoos? I’m glad you asked…

Are Tattoos Sinful?

Well, to be honest, the issue is pretty simple and straightforward. There is one verse in Scripture that is often used to support the idea that it is sinful to tattoo your body. Here it is. Continue reading

Why I’m a Die-Hard Fan of Caribou Coffee

Caribou Well, if you follow me on Twitter, by now you know that I'm
pretty much a coffee addict. But I'm not just addicted to any coffee. I like
good coffee, and good coffee can be hard to come by. Now there are some pretty
good shops in the Triangle that have good coffee, but few of them have
consistently good coffee. For instance, Starbucks has a few roasts that are
good. "Pike's Place" (pretty much the only coffee they offer after
noon), which I affectionately call "Puke Place," is not a good
coffee.

But the one coffee shop that is pretty consistent is Caribou
Coffee. That being said, lately I've been frustrated, because the only Caribou
location that is convenient to where I live and work has only been offering one regular coffee, and
it's usually a lite roast. Now, I'm not necessarily a lite roast "hater," but there are only a few lite roasts that I really enjoy. When I inquired from a barista as to why they only offered one regular coffee, I was
told it had to do with the economy and it was too expensive to brew two
different types of regular coffee. So basically, they have been more concerned
with saving a few extra bucks than attracting the picky coffee aficionados like
myself. That sounds more like Starbucks than the Caribou that I know and love. So when I go in the morning (as I did this
morning) and they are only offering their "Columbia" roast (which I
don't care for), that's irritating. So I pay the extra cash to have French
press of a roast that I do like.

Well, this morning I was reminded of why I'm such a die hard
fan. After paying the extra cash for a French pressed Mahogany, I sat down, went
on-line to their website, and filled out a survey. I was very kind in the
survey, but expressed my irritation at the daily roast selection. No more than
2 hours later, I received the following email from the district manager:

Hi,

I am the District Manager with Caribou Coffee and first off
want to say Thank you for taking time to write us with your feedback regarding
Triangle Town Center. At Caribou we strive to offer products of the highest
quality while delivering superior customer service. I apologize that was not
the case during a recent visit to one of our locations.  I have spoken with the team at the location
in an effort to not have this happen again. 
The staff will be developing a way to offer a better variety of our
blends and a plan to be able to offer a french press at the coffee of the day
price in the event we are not brewing a particular roast.

As a token of my appreciation for your feedback and to
express my regret for your recent experience, I would ask you to respond back
to me with a mailing address that I can send a gift card for your next visit to
any of our locations
.  Thanks again for
your feedback and for allowing Caribou to be a part of your coffee experience.

Thanks and have a great day!

Sincerely,
 Richard Freeman
 District Manager – Raleigh, NC

That is what I call customer service. Thanks Richard. Thanks for reminding me of why I'm a die-hard fan. And
thank you Caribou for caring about coffee, maybe as much as I do.

A Call to Action

Wow. I just saw this posted on my brother's blog and had to post it here as well. The numbers are shocking. It would behoove every believer to take this call to action seriously. I hope this video shakes you to your core, as it did me.

I've got baby # 3 on the way. We're doing our part!

Vision Breeds Anger

Recently, my brother and best friend, Josh Via (those who are near and dear simply call him "Fro"), commented on my live blog posting of Perry Noble at the Innovate Church conference. His comment was worth noting and my response is even more worth noting (Just kidding… not really). Anyway, the comment in questions from Noble is highlighted below. Fro's comment and my response are below that.

**********
"Here's how you know you have a vision from God: It will make people mad."
8:26

 28"The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.  29But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.  30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'

 31" 'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.  

**********

Fro's Comment

I'm not sure that anger is the best barometer for measuring vision. Obviously, I wasn't there to hear Perry's talk, but from the context of Scripture, the younger son didn't exactly have a vision from God to begin with, so the anger of the older son doesn't correlate.

My Resonse (This is the part you really want to read!)

I would agree that "vision" never even comes into play in this text. If you kno
w Perry, you know his preaching style: dude is all over the map. So his comment on vision wasn't directly related to the text. It was more of a bonus comment that he made along the way while following a rabbit trail.

I would also agree that anger may not be the "best barometer" for measuring vision. But would definitely say that there is a correlation between God giving you a vision and other people responding in anger. We see it all throughout scripture.

  • Moses wants to lead God's people out of Egypt: even the people of God get angry at Moses (multiple times).
  • Moses, Joshua, and Caleb are ready to take the promised land: the people were angry and ready to stone them…
  • Joseph had a dream from God that made all of his family angry. His brothers were angry enough to kill him.
  • King David's faith made Saul angry.
  • The prophets always had visions from God, and they were always pissing off the powers that be.
  • Daniel preached that it was God's will for the king to surrender to the enemy in order to be saved. The king threw him in prison.
  • Jesus had a vision for drawing together for himself a people redeemed by his blood. His revolution was so counter culture, that religious leaders and political leaders alike were angry at him.
  • The disciples had a vision to reach the lost, and were constantly being killed for it.
  • Paul had a vision that God's church was to include the Gentiles, and pretty much everyone who wasn't a Gentile was angry about it.
  • The early church had a vision for a pure and holy church abstaining from all pagan practices while waiting for the return of the King. The Roman government was angry.
  • Over the next century, there were many "prophets" who had a vision to bring Roman Catholic church back to it's pristine beginnings, and they were hunted and killed for it.
  • Others during the same period had a vision to print the Bible in the language of the people, and they too were hunted and killed for it.
  • The imperial reformers had a vision for church that preached salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, and the Roman Catholic church (and government) was angry.
  • The anabaptist reformers wanted to take seriously every word of scripture and questioned infant baptism. The imperial reformers were angry and killed them for it.
  •  Many years later a fresh wind of missionary fervor swept through the world and people like John Wesley, Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, and many others wanted to reach the world for Jesus Christ, but the stagnant Calvanist powers-that-be were angry.
  • Throughout the years since the Reformation, there have been numerous revivals and "awakenings" across the world. All of them have made many people (even Christians) angry.
  • In the 70's there was a movement among "hippies." They were being unexplainably and irresistibly drawn to this man called Jesus. It made the straight-laced church people angry, and the hippies were marginalized and the movement fell into doctrinal error and disarray. 
  • Today there is a movement of people and churches desperate for an authentic community of faith where they can serve and worship the One True God in their own cultural expression. And never in my life have I seen so many Christians angry about things that don't matter.
  • One more (for all you Baptists): Danny Aiken has a vision to call Southern Baptists back to focus on the Great Commission rather than so many peripheral issues… and already the controversy has begun.

It may not be an exegetical point (though it might be), but I think it is safe to say that a vision from God breeds anger from those who are unable to see God's vision for his people.

“Leavin’ on a Jet Plane…”

In just a few short hourse, I will be on an airplane headed for Uganda. Jimmy, his wife Beverly, and I are going to visit with my Ugandan family, introduce Jimmy and Beverly to the ministry there, and to do tons of training for pastors and their wives. Arise Africa (the Ugandan organization that we partner with) has over 200 hundred churches under their care that they have planted in the last 10 years or so. We are going to meet the pastors of every single church and provide them with training and encouragement. We are also going to visit the orphanage that Arise Africa is building that we (as a church) have supported financially.

Last year, we took the very first Journey Church team to work in Uganda. Now we are going back with a small team, and plan to return with a larger team in October of this year. God is doing great things in Uganda, and it is an awesome thing to get hooked up with what he is already doing. When we returned last year, I posted a highlights video on this blog. I'm posting it again here for those of you that have never seen it. By the way, the music is from Josh and Tasha Via's CD, "The Healing." You should buy it.

Lastly, our access to internet will be extremely limited. I will post as I am able. Continue to check back here for updates!

Controversy and Some Points of Clarification

It seems that two of my recent blogs have created a bit of controversy. That's good. I happen to like controversy. I kind of thrive on it. Of course, needless controversy is not a good thing. But if there is controversy because I have caused people to think about and think through some necessary issues, then that's a good thing.

However, due to some comments that I have received both online and in person, I would like to make a couple of points of clarification.

Clarification # 1: I like Dr. Reid a lot. I commented about his blog not because I disagree with him, but because what he wrote so desperately needs to be said. Dr. Reid is a man of God who desires to see his convention reach the younger generations in a culturally relevant way. He works closely with and supports both of my brothers who lead  Two-Four, a weekly gathering for the collegiate generation where they can experience authentic community, passionate worship, and relevant teaching. The world needs more men like Dr. Reid.

Clarification # 2: I like Dr. Aiken. He has been nothing but kind to me. In fact, during the conversation which I referenced in a former blog I told him that I believe he is God's man for the job and that if anyone could help bring reform it would be him. I'm doubtful that it will ever happen convention wide, but SEBTS has seen several changes due to his leadership.

Clarification #3: When I say that I'm done with the SBC, I mean that I'm done fighting for it and identifying with it. I don't hate the convention. I don't harbor any resentment towards the churches, church members, committee members, and Directors of Ph.D. studies, etc. who have intentionally marginalized me, belittled me, or treated me unfairly. Contrary to what Rev. Palmer may think, I can say with some certainty that you will never find me holding a position within the SBC. I don't mean that I am against the SBC or think that they are evil as my good buddy John seems to think I mean. It may, however, be beyond saving. History will tell. Perl S. Buck said that "every great mistake has a halfway moment, a split second when it can be recalled and perhaps remedied." The question which plagues me is whether or not the SBC has already missed that "split second." But let me be clear: I'm not against the SBC. I would love to see the "Great Commission Resurgence" succeed. Journey still gives money to the Cooperative Program. As the senior leadership team here at Journey we decided to give to the Cooperative Program as a means of contributing to missions and supporting conservative theological training. We do not, however, identify ourselves as Southern Baptists, and you will not find any of us serving on this or that committee or going to this or that convention fighting for a voice. We just don't care. The whole point I was trying to make is why would I expend so much time an energy trying to make a convention "look" more like me, when I can just join with people who are already of like mind, spirit, conviction, and mission? I feel no responsibility toward the convention. I am not responsible for whether or not they follow Jesus (and just for clarification right doctrine does not necessarily equal following Jesus). I AM responsible for me. I am responsible for what I do with the calling that God has given me, and to waste my time and energy is irresponsible. It's sideways energy. 

That is where I (and others like me) am coming from. Why bother? Because of the missional impact the convention can have, you say? Again, I'm responsible for me. Maybe others are called to "save" the convention. But the reason that "young people are jumping ship by the thousands" and that Dr. Reid has to talk "good younger men off the ledge from leaving the SBC" is because saving the convention is not our calling. 

On the Effectiveness of Reforming from Within

Today I found a great site from some young culturally relevant Southern Baptists at baptisttwentyone.com. I thought the timing was interesting because of my recent post entitled "Wish you would step back from that ledge my friend." I was encouraged to find a group of young evangelicals like me who desire to reach our culture in order to see Jesus' kingdom expanded and his name glorified. I have to admit that I have pretty much written off the Southern Baptist Convention in the area of cultural relevance, and it is encouraging to see a resurgence growing among them. 

The article which caught my attention was again regarding the controversy surrounding Mark Driscoll. In particular, they were responding to the Baptist Press' scathing article about Driscoll which I mentioned in a former post. What is interesting is that they too were making a plea for people like myself not to leave the convention but to stay and help reform from within:

We at Baptist21, along with several “older-40” pastors and leaders in our denomination highly disagree with this inaccurate portrait of Mark Driscoll and ask that you stay in our denomination and let your voice be heard. We desire to affect change in our denomination and the world by remaining focused on what matters…


Great thoughts, and even better motive. However, people like myself who have gotten the shaft time and time again find ourselves wondering whether there are many more than just the guys at Baptist21 and "several other 'older-40' pastors and leaders."
One must also wonder about the effectiveness of reforming from within. One glance at church history, and it seems that the cards are stacked against you. Of course the conservative resurgence worked, but could a second resurgence only several generations removed work again?
I think of Erasmus of Rotterdam. He lived during the reformation and even offered his own scathing reviews of the Roman Catholic Church in works such as In Praise of Folly. But he was committed to reforming from within. Erasmus, of course, has his place in history, but he essentially failed at his efforts in reforming the church. Marin Luther, likewise had thoughts of reformation from within. He finally realized, however, that if reformation was going to happen it was going to happen from without rather than from within. Much of what we have as protestants today, we owe to Martin Luther. Where would we be if he never decided to step outside the Convention… um.. I mean Catholic Church?
Reformation from within is possible. Reformation from outside the convention is far more likely. And with only one life to live, I'll take my chances on the outside. After all, my ultimate allegiance was never to the convention. Why spend my time fighting over it, when there is so much more important work to be done. I believe that the modern church is at a major turning point, and when the history books are written about this era, I don't want to be found on the side of Erasmus. I want be found among the Luthers, Calvins, Zwinglis, and Hubmaiers. These guys saw errors that needed be corrected and actually had the cajones to step out and do something about it. Personally, I think Erasmus was scared. Sometimes I wonder if determination to save the convention is bred not out of conviction but fear. Staying within the SBC is safe and familiar. Whatever it takes, I want to be about my Father's business. I laud the guys at Baptist21 and hope there are many more like them. Who knows, maybe the SBC is cabable of another resurgence, but I for one am not going to wait around to find out.

“Wish you would step back from that ledge my friend…”

My good buddy and Production Assistant John Cheatham alerted me to a great article through his blog. Basically, the topic is Mark Driscoll. Recently, Mark came and spoke at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS). It seems that every time Mark comes to the seminary there is some kind of controversy. If you know anything about Southern Baptist seminaries and anything about Mark Driscoll, you know that they don't exactly fit the same profile.


Anyway, the article to which John alerted me was by Dr. Alvin Reid, a professor at Southeastern. Dr. Reid basically came to Driscoll's defense stating that all the great heroes of the faith had their flaws and we shouldn't write someone off just because they do something we don't agree with. John reproduced the whole article on his blog and you can read it here, but I want to focus in a couple of statements. 

Statement # 1: 

I have a problem with Alvin Reid. Yes, I have a problem with myself. I am pretty sure I really love Jesus and my main motive in life is to bring glory to God. I love my family, my students, and my convention. But sometimes I have added to the institutionalism and programmatic ministry that plagues us now. And I have a problem with that.

Wow. That's a solid statement and a sober admission. So many people from my generation are done with the SBC because it has become so institutionalized and programmatic. The SBC has become a well oiled machine which should be a good thing. But anyone who operates machinery knows that a machine doesn't stop for you. It's programmed a specific way and refuses to operate outside of its programming. Anyone who doesn't fit well within the pre-programmed package will get chewed up and spit out. 

That is essentially my story with the SBC and particularly SEBTS. I was an applicant to their Ph.D program. When I didn't make it in, I knew it wasn't because of my 3.929 GPA, my solid academic recommendations, or the way that I nailed the entrance exam. So I tried to inquire as to why I was not admitted, but I was met with resistance and rudeness. When I spoke with a trustee about the way I was being treated his words were that this was "not in keeping with basic christian fellowship." After several months and a review of the situation by the Dean of the Faculty (Dr. Nelson), I was told that it would not be worth my while to reapply as they had no intention of ever letting me into the program. There were several reasons stated (although somewhat veiled) for my outright dismissal. They basically all boiled down to the fact that I don't fit in very well. I was young and naive (still am) and thought maybe I could have an impact on my convention from the inside. Turns out, they don't want people like me and do everything they can to chase us away. Ironically, one of the specific complaints was that I use language that "some have deemed coarse and inappropriate." It's ironic because the seminary now seems to have such a close relationship with Mark Driscoll who has been criticized as using coarse and inappropriate language.  

Statement # 2:
I have a problem with my convention, when we… continually confuse personal preferences with unchanging truth, and when we castigate younger men who love Jesus and His truth for simply doing what we taught them to do: study and honor the Word (when they come to different conclusions than some of us on secondary issues, they scratch their heads at the response they get).

Statement #3:
I am tired of talking good younger men off the ledge from leaving the SBC.

Wow. If I had known Dr. Reid better at the time, perhaps he could have talked me back from the ledge. Instead, several months later I found myself in President Aiken's office saying these words: "I'm over you. I'm over this school. I'm over this convention. I've had enough, and I'm done." Dr. Aiken made no attempt to talk me back from ledge. To be fair, he could probably tell I had already taken the plunge.

The World’s First R-rated Christian Horror Film?

Is that a contradiciton in terms? I don't think so. Actually, I don't think I could be more excited about this film. The movie in question is "House" based on the novel by Ted Dekker and Frank Perretti. The book completely freaked me out. It wasn't scary in the typical sense of the word, it was just good old fashioned freaky. Check out the preview for the movie below.

It's a horror story for sure, but it's also part psychological thriller. Of course, it's written from a Christian perspective, so the overwhelming theme of the story is that light overcomes the darkness. But even that simplifies the story too much. The novel (and hopefully the movie) has an allegorical element to it that is as solid as the allegorical elements in "The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe." And this is what makes it such a great story on so many levels. It's a great story. It's a great scare. It has a Christian worldview with an ending that doesn't leave you feeling dirty or depressed. And it's the first horror story that I've ever read or heard of that has a deeper level of meaning to it.

There is just one problem for many Christians. The R rating. Fox Faith was supposed to release it last year but shied away from it when the MPAA slapped it with an R rating. Now it is being released by Lionsgate which is no stranger to the horror genre. Why is it rated R?  For violence and some terror. The producers appealed the R rating multiple times, but ulitmately the MPAA said that there was nothing they could do to change the rating. It wasn't about cutting out some content, it was the story line itself. There is no blood, gore, sex, or bad language. It's just a really freaky story. 

So where does that leave most Christians? Too many will shy away from it. I would urge all believers of High School age and up to go see it this weekend. It's a great story of redemption, and paints a proper allegorical picture of where we are as sinners without Christ. How do you deal with the R rating? I think we as believers need to be re-educated on ratings. Why in the world do we let a lost and ungodly world decide for us what movies we will see? Too many Christian parents decide on what movies they will let their children go see based on the MPAA rating alone. Let me say this clearly, there are MANY R rated movies that parents have NO BUSINESS alowing their teenagers to go see. But let me say this even more clearly, there are MANY PG and PG-13 rated movies that parents have NO BUSINESS letting their teenagers go see. It's about worldview and the viewer's ability discern between a Christian worldview and a worldly secular worldview. This movie is the perfect example. It's downright scary and younger viewers should be very cautious. But it's worldview is strictly Christ centered, and has a very redeeming story line. Parents, do some research about what movies your kids are watching. Make educated decisions based on your own kids, the content of the movie, and the worldview it is preaching and not based on an arbitrary MPAA rating.

Presidential Election Assessment

America has elected a new president, and regardless of your politics who can help but stand in awe of the fact that we have elected our first African American president? I am not a Republican. Neither am I a Democrat. I'm actually registered as an Independent. I have registered that way because I am a firm believer in voting conscience and morals over party. While my conscience did not allow me to vote for Barack Obama due to his extremely liberal stance on abortion, I cannot help but honor him today for what he has accomplished.

Dr. Al Mohler of Southern Seminary as provided an excellent assessment of the election day outcome from a Christian perspective. It would behoove you to read it. You can check it out here.