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The Disaster That Is Pop Culture

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Heard about last night’s American Music Awards. A good friend of mine showed me a few Youtube clips and my disdain for gimmicks and machinery masquerading as good pop music continues. The lowlights:

3. Jermaine Jackson barely mentioning the brother (who was the only reason he was invited in the first place). Tacky, tasteless, and tired. This kind of blatant grandstanding on a sibling’s grave defies words.

2. Lady Gaga and the Flaming Piano. Listen, I’m all for edginess but like “relevant” theology in the church, folks can overdo it a bit. I miss the days when artists were known for their talents and could stand tall even after you turned off all the pyrotechnics and all the sound equipment they hid behind in the studio. Why this poor girl is setting her piano on fire made about as much sense as Bonnie Tyler’s 1983 headscratching video “Total Eclipse of the Heart” (please watch this hot mess…I have yet to grasp ridiculousness of it all).

1. Adam Lambert’s Coming Out…and Out and Out. Perversion with no melody accompanied by an overrated screaming voice to boot, Lambert simulating a certain sex act is exactly why I’ve reverted back to the playlists of my childhood when the last bastions of melody and good messages were still around (although on its last leg). I’ll take the last leg. Nasty nonsense wrapped in pleather. No thank you.

Written by missional girl

November 24, 2009 at 3:19 am

Posted in Culture, Music & Me

Christ In You & The Kingdom of God

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After reading and re-reading the parable of the sower (Matt. 13:3-23), I am convinced that Christians must sow not only the word of the gospel but also our own lives, which incarnate that very word. People must see Jesus working in and through us; otherwise, our faith is abstract and theoretical with no earthly use for people in the midst of the life’s struggles. This is the crux of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).

Written by missional girl

August 30, 2009 at 11:12 am

Posted in Culture, Kingdom of God

Could the Church Have Dealt With a Saved Michael Jackson?

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The unexpected and untimely death of the King of Pop three weeks ago today literally rocked the world and completely altered the landscape of entertainment as the world said goodbye to the biggest star–however controversial he was–in the world.

But do not think for a minute that his death also silenced debates and arguments about the entertainer. Hardly, now Christians are literally fighting over whether or not Jackson was saved before he died.

I posted a link from legendary gospel singer Andrae Crouch’s Facebook page where people were telling of how the Crouches led Jackson to Christ 3 weeks before his death. Crouch denied this story later and the fight was and still is on.

On one side are those who believe that God was pursuing Jackson while knowing the end was coming. On the other side are those Christians who believe that Jackson’s alleged sins and his lack of a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ PROVE that he could not have possibly been saved before his death.

I’ll hold my own opinion on the matter until the end but I will say this: what if Jackson hadn’t died? What if he DID make a public profession of faith.

Would the Church today, especially in America, been able to deal with it?

In my opinion, NO.

Why?

Because the church in America is a fraud for the most part, masquerading in a loveless apologetic and theological bravado vigorously defined as Christ-centered, Spirit-driven discipleship. There would certainly be those wise, seasoned saints who would have walked with the singer through his faith journey without compromising the truth of God’s inerrant Word.

But I fear that the majority of Christians, especially those with any kind of media platform would have either attempted to exploit his newfound faith in Jesus OR hounded him about child molestation allegations and the trial (being tried and acquitted means nothing to Romans 13 Christians, I suppose), plastic surgery, his appearance, his sexuality, his marriages, his children, and on and on.

And ministry?

Forget it. By virtue of everything I just listed, he would have been deemed unqualified for any kind of ministry. The child molestation allegations alone would have done him in, even in the minds of some readers right now who have priests, pastors and bishops who wink at their indiscretions (AKA sin but don’t tell anyone).

The entire Jackson-salvation discussion has caused me to think long and hard about what salvation is and how the Spirit of God “does” it. I am deeply troubled by the legalistic and narrow view that anchors genuine, biblical faith to saying the “Sinner’s Prayer.”

What in the world is the sinner’s prayer? I never said one. I just remember lying on my bed at the age of 16 and saying “Jesus, I’m yours.” I stumbled along the way but I never looked back. One of my dearest friends doesn’t even have a date for her salvation “experience.” She just remembers it finally “clicked” in her heart that Jesus was exactly who He said He was and she started her journey.

Public professions of faith in Jesus are absolutely awesome—when they are real. Too many people have been duped by the false belief that if you say the right things, then everything is “cool” with you and King Jesus. But we all know people who walked the aisle, uttered the prayer but their hearts were never in it and they walked away from the faith.

So much for leaning on confession to prove you’re saved.

The last few weeks of Jackson’s life were marked with an accelerated spiritual search that culminated June 25th. God alone is absolutely certain Jackson is spending eternity.

But if some Christians can easily dismiss even the possibly of Jackson’s 11th hour salvation, then I can take the opposing view. I personally believe that at some point before his death, he DID surrender his life to Jesus.
And then Jesus took him and spared him the foolishness of having his faith ran over by both a world that made fun of him and a Church that would have constantly questioned his credibility.

No matter which side it “right” I think what is most troubling is the horrific, tabloid-saturated legalism that misguided saints (including me) get wrapped up in when judging. I just want the heart of Jesus to beat through me even if it makes my flesh uncomfortable.

How funny that Jesus loved the one lost sheep enough to risk everything for it while the 99 probably questioned the quality of that sheep. Spiritual amnesia—forgetting the hole from which one was rescued by the Lord Jesus—is dangerous and I believe dampens our passion for reaching the lost.

Just my opinion.

Written by missional girl

July 9, 2009 at 11:09 am

Posted in Church Issues, Culture

Incarnate Christ Series Part 1: It Starts With Jesus

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It Starts With Jesus

Understanding who Christ is matters not only to the life of the believer but also to that of the nonbeliever. The Prologue in the gospel of John captures the essence of who Jesus is and serves as the foundation of what I personally believe makes a follower of Jesus Christ a most powerful and equipped ambassador of the Savior.

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

(John 1:1-5 TNIV)

He is the Word and God

Despite the intentional interpolation of an indefinite article (which definitely does not exist in the Greek), the Watchtower’s mishandling of John 1:1 does not to silence the divine bravado of the preexistent Christ. Jesus simply was before beginning knew what time it was. Life starts with Jesus. In addition, that Life-giver is Word is the Divine Word that helps everything else make sense.

He is Creator

Jesus is the agent of creation and all things were made by Him. Compare the words of John with the words of the apostle Paul in Colossians 1:16-17:

16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven

and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones

or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been

created through him and for him. 17 He is before all

things, and in him all things hold together.

But what does this mean for the body of Jesus Christ right now? Understanding Christ as Creator means that we embrace Him as the Source of our existence but also the source of every creative means by which we fulfill the Great Commission.

In short, the substantive, creative nature of the Lord Jesus Christ must be unleashed in the Church, corporately and individually. If all things are made by Him, then it makes perfect sense to rely on His wisdom and power when we seek redemptively creative and powerful ways to reach the lost in our cities. Besides, who knows the creation better than its Creator?

Life in the Word and Word of Life

We learn that in Christ Jesus, there is not only life but a life defined: “the light of all people.” In Hellenist culture, light was a symbol of knowledge and illumination. Jesus, then, as the Light is the Source of true knowledge and wisdom, a point that Paul drives home to the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1-2)

We learn something else about the Light. First, it shines in the darkness. Big deal, you think. But sometimes the obvious is such as that we Christians overlook the powerful implication of the obvious. I believe the powerful principle for Christians to grab hold of and embrace is that there is a discernable and clear difference between the light and the darkness.

Can anyone tell the difference between a Christ follower and a nonbeliever?

Notice that the light does not overcome the darkness by becoming like the darkness. Rather, the light does what it is supposed to do: shine. The life and light of Christ Jesus was meant to shine, not in the illuminated halls of your pristine churches but rather in the nasty, stinky, grungy darkness where the power and presence of God must go to set the captives free. We must engage the lost where they are, letting our lights shine IN the darkness.

The Promise of Victory

John also tells us the darkness did not “overcome” the light. The Greek word καταλαμβάνω can either mean “to seize upon, take possession of” or “to perceive.” I believe both apply here for in the ministry of Jesus, misunderstanding of who He was and what He was about abounded (and still do). Furthermore, the supernatural demonstration of His power over creation, over sickness, and over satanic power is clear and decisive. The light of Christ was never vanquished.

That should encourage the Church today to stop whining and start shining. Why we waste time crying about how dark and evil the times are blows me away. Should we expect anything less in the face of clear biblical warnings that the last days would indeed be evil (cf. Matthew 24:5-12; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 4:3-4)? That the darkness exists is a given. The question is are we the church going to stand courageously and shine in the darkness. We see that the darkness does not overcome or put out the light.

So shut up and shine!

Written by missional girl

November 30, 2007 at 5:12 pm

unChristian: Lazy Faith

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I have inhaled many books on church, ministry, and engaging culture with the Gospel over the last ten years and even posted early in this blog’s “life” about books that shape my ministry ethos.

But I have to say that David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons’ book unChristian about what a generation (ages 16-29) really think about Christianity and the church.

I tell you that even as I wrap this book up, I have never been more shaken after reading a book than this one.  I am wrestling with what a church would look like that ministered to the “outsiders” that the book describes.  The overall perceptions of these outsiders according to the research are startling.  The perceptions they hold are that:

  1. Hypocritical
  2. Too focused on getting converts
  3. Antihomosexual
  4. Sheltered
  5. Too political
  6. Judgmental

The authors then devote a chapter to each charge and end the chapter with insights and observations from Christians from various walks of life including the likes of Mark Batterson, Andy Stanly, Brian Maclaren and Chuck Colson.

We have a very big problem with how we are perceived by the next generation.  I had to remind myself, as the authors did on numerous occasions, that there will always be tensions when the kingdom of God and a biblical worldview collide with culture.

But we don’t have to be bungholes as we are sharing our faith.  I plan to focus over the next few days on some of the charges levied against Christianity (but interestingly, not Jesus).

“Too focused on getting converts” (pp. 67-90)

The chapter that is still kicking me in the behind is the chapter on the church’s concern with making converts.

I have intentionally used terms in this post that only add to the problem.  Can I just add that Jesus did not call His disciples to “share their faith.”  I am convinced that we Christians have forgotten that Jesus called us to be His witnesses for Him (Acts 1:8).  The Greek word used for witnesses is martu.  Sound familiar?  The word martyr comes from the same.

We are living witnesses who give our lives metaphorically and literally if necessary to incarnate the Good News of Jesus. 

This is not to diss gospel tracts because God has certainly used those to bring people to Himself.

But by and large, God has always worked through PEOPLE sharing their Jesus-saturated lives oozing the grace and truth that embody the Son of God.

Why do these outsiders feel like we’re more concerned with getting converts?

Perhaps because we are disconnected from their lives and only hit them up to “score” a salvation for the kingdom and then walk away from that babe in the faith.

How many spiritual motherless and fatherless children are floundering and walking away from the faith because we are doing a half-behind job discipling and sharing our LIVES, not just a four-point plan to salvation that speaks louder than your so-called Christian witness?

Kinnaman and Lyons lay it out clearly for the reader: “Intentionally or not, we promote the idea to outsiders that being a Christ follower is primarily about the mere choice to convert.  We do not portray it as an all-out, into-the-kingdom enlistment that dramatically influences all aspects of life” (79).

I need to re-read that last sentence because I want to be a witness worth listening to and watching for the nonbeliever.

People need to see Jesus in us the same way the people saw Jesus in their time.  How do we expect to help people connect with God if we are not willing to connect with them?  We must share our lives like good “martyrs” and be about making disciples, not Powerpoint slides we hope will fulfill our responsibility as Christians.

I leave you with words of Andy Stanley, whose suggestions I take to heart on this matter:

“…we have put the cart before the horse.  We have communicated that we want people to believe something that is critical to their lives before they know us, have experienced us, or have received anything from us…and before we know them.  If we were able to rewrite the script for the reputation of Christianity, I think we would put the emphasis on developing relationships with nonbelievers, serving them, loving them, and making them feel accepted.  Only then would we earn the right to share the gospel” (88).

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Written by missional girl

September 29, 2007 at 5:21 am

Me and My iPod

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I recently purchased an iPod (yes, I’m late) and love the fact that I can upload a mishmash of my favorites jams on to this tiny device. If you expect to hear nothing but Hillsong praise and worship, you’ll be very disappointed.

Among my “must haves” in no particular order:

1.) Michael Jackson: Yep, dangit. I love Michael Jackson. But before anybody starts off with the “But he’s a child molester” rant, keep it. You’re not his judge and I for one, having read through hundreds of legal docs and court case transcripts, am pretty comfortable in asserting his innocence. Issues? Yes. Pedophile? No. Now to the music. I grew up listening to Michael. I had his posters all over my wall during the Thriller and Bad eras. I own every one of his solo albums and consider him the greatest entertainer I’ve personally seen in my generation. Justin Timberlake and Usher are great at being themselves but they don’t even come close to Jackson. One of the things I appreciate about the songs Michael wrote is that they paint vivid pictures. That might explain why I love the 1978 cut “This Place Hotel” because you can’t help but imagine this hotel where former girlfriends seeking revenge on him are hiding in every crevice of the place. And frankly, Michael provided me with my top TV memory moment outside of “Who Shot J.R.?” on May 16, 1983 when he moonwalked to “Billie Jean.” I thought, “This is too much for my 11 year old heart.” It wasn’t. I haven’t forgot it and despite all the troubles and dramas Michael’s been through the last 14 years, I’m still a fan. He’s on my prayer list.

2.) Keith Green: He died tragically in a 1982 plane crash, some 19 years before I ever popped a CD of his into my CD walkman. I worked at a Christian bookstore during breaks while I was doing my undergrad and was curious as to who the white man with the afro was on the CD cover I’d pass every day. I asked the Music manager and she gave me a rundown of what he was about. I listened to The Ministry Years collection and never looked back. Keith Green was a prophet and the place discipleship had both in his music and ministry are something sorely needed on today’s pathetic Christian music scene. “The Prodigal Suite” is my favorite Keith Green offering, although “You Put This Love In My Heart” and “Your Love Broke Through” are close behind. When I need to shake myself out of spiritual monotinitude (is that a word?), besides reading my Bible and spending more time with God, I put on “Asleep In the Light.” OUCH!

3.) Aretha Franklin: I want to be specific here. I love the Queen of Soul’s classic soul joints like “The House That Jack Built” and “Respect.” But it’s her 1972 gospel album Amazing Grace that has impacted me since I was a child. Although that album came out the year I was born, I remember my parents playing that when I was small. It never left me. Her rendering of “How I Got Over” and “Mary, Don’t You Weep” are astounding and, dare I say, anointed. Not bad for a “secular” artist. Franklin has never been shy about her faith and to her credit, whenever some friend of hers is ill, she is known to call for church-based prayer vigils. I ain’t mad at her.

4.) Rich Mullins: When Mullins died in 1997, all I could think to ask was “God, why do the good ones have to go so young?” Mullins’ work leaves me speechless. His “Hold Me Jesus” is probably the one song that sums up my DNA better than anything I could come up with. The vulnerability and mindless intoxication he clearly had with God saturated his music. I miss him dearly.

5.) Walter Hawkins: There would be no contemporary Christian or gospel music scenes today without the contributions of the Hawkins family (along with Andrae Crouch and Larry Norman). Hawkins took the gospel out to the streets and set it to a beat some older saints considered “worldly.” “Goin’ Up Yonder” and “Changed” are timeless.

6.) 4HIM: I love these guys. Their Best Ones is one of the best greatest hits you will ever find. “Where There Is Faith” and “Why” continue to help me through the mini-crises of life.

7.) Stevie Wonder: I LOVE this man’s music. I remember rockin’ to “Superstition” when I was just 4 years old! VH-1 just released his “Ones” collection and I must say it is a very nice selection considering the depth and breadth of his career. “You Haven’t Done Nothin'” and “Livin’ For the City” still resonate for 21st century inner city culture–sadly. Ask the folks in Ward 9 in New Orleans.

8.) Diana Ross & the Supremes: Girls groups like the Pussycat Dolls market sleeze. But the girl group to end all girl groups had class and talent (sadly missing today, ladies).

9.) Lauryn Hill: Her MTV Unplugged offering a few years back revealed a woman struggling with invading restorative grace of God and most music critics were uncomfortable with something as open, naked spiritual wrestling. Sad thing is I rarely get that same vibe from most of the Christian music the big music companies are pushing. Her version of “The Mystery of Iniquity” and “Rebel” stunned me. I remember sitting in my graduate dorm during seminary listening to “Just Like Water” where she moans the line “He’s changin’ me/He’s purgin’ me/And movin’ me around.” That lyric perfect captures what I experience during my John 15:1-7 experiences under the pruning knife of the Spirit.

Other folks you will likely find on my shuffle list:

Marvin Gaye
Whitney Houston
The Gaither Vocal Band
Fred Hammond
The Eagles
Five for Fighting
Shawn McDonald
Jason Upton

Written by missional girl

September 24, 2007 at 3:49 am

Posted in Culture, Music & Me