______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

Yeah, He Said That. September 29, 2010

“I’m a Christian by choice.”
“My family didn’t – frankly, they weren’t folks who went to church every week.
And my mother was one of the most spiritual people I knew, but she didn’t raise me in the church.

“So I came to my Christian faith later in life, and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead – being my brothers’ and sisters’ keeper, treating others as they would treat me.”

“And I think also understanding that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings, that we’re sinful and we’re flawed and we make mistakes, and that we achieve salvation through the grace of God.”
“But what we can do, as flawed as we are, is still see God in other people and do our best to help them find their own grace.”

“That’s what I strive to do. That’s what I pray to do every day.” “I think my public service is part of that effort to express my Christian faith.”

— Barack Obama

[Yeah, he said that.]



Faith Unashamed September 28, 2010

Shawn Thomas: “Faith Unashamed”


Sing Along With David September 24, 2010


I’ve been listening to the Psalms again. Back in the 70’s, scripture set to music was very popular. That’s pretty much all we sang in our meetings. Plus, then contemporary groups like “New Creation Singers” had whole albums of scripture songs.

Recently, a friend of mine loaned me a CD of a current group called “sons of korah,” who have, afresh, set the Psalms to music. They’re really good. I hope he loans me more of their CDs. (hint hint. [Ok, more an outright request than a hint.]).

The Psalms are beautiful: Songs of praise, songs of worship, songs of victory, as well as songs of fear, and songs of doubt. This is very human stuff. Although I truly enjoy, and am encouraged by these new musical interpretations, something else unexpectedly struck me: The obvious and blatant fact that these songs were written under a different covenant.

We may certainly turn to the Psalms, as we may all true scripture, for guidance and encouragement. But our view of God, ourselves, and our lives will be greatly distorted if we do not realize we are in a different kingdom than the one in which the Psalms were written.

It seems to me many Christians (at least, most evangelicals I know) still try to live under both the old and new covenants. Yes, I know “The God of the old testament is the same one as the God of the New testament!” but His method of operation is Very different. As the scripture teaches, if the old would have worked, there would be no need for the new (Mk. 2:22, Heb. 8:7,13).
Jesus repeatedly said “You have heard,” and then quoted the old covenant, followed by “But I tell you,” explaining a new way of doing things, often directly contradicting the old way (e.g. Mat. 5:43).

There are parts of the Psalms that really expose some of the differences between covenant theology (or philosophy). One such example is Psalm 56:7 “Because they are bent on violence, do not let them escape! In your anger bring down the nations, O God!

I can just see a large number of people using this to justify hatred, violence, war, etc. I often have heard Christians praying “against” other people. This brings to mind the passage in Luke where James and John said, “Lord, do you want us to call fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” After all, that was the way “the God of the old covenant” would have done things. Jesus, of course, corrected their wayward thinking, reminding them that we are not of that spirit.

Jesus addressed the old versus the new when He said about retaliation:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist the evildoer. But whoever strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other to him as well. And if someone wants to sue you and to take your tunic, give him your coat also. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to the one who asks you, and do not reject the one who wants to borrow from you.”

and about love for your enemies:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the tax collectors do the same, don’t they? And if you only greet your brothers, what more do you do? Even the Gentiles do the same, don’t they?”

As I said, the Psalms are beautiful. But, as someone else pointed out, “we must turn to God to understand the scriptures, not turn to the scriptures to understand God.” We have a dreadfully ugly history of what happens when those get out of order! We can walk away with a very ungodly worldview if we do not recognize our “new creature” status; all the while justifying that worldview as “biblical.”

We can still sing songs about the destruction of our enemies. We just need to know that our enemies are not people. They are not nations. They are not flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12). Our enemies are spiritual. One of my biggest personal enemies is selfishness. We must fight enemies like hate, poverty, homophobia, jealousy, and greed. We must fight an unwillingness to reach out in love, for fear of thinking that that is equal to condoning actions we may disagree with.

When I recognize, under the new covenant of Jesus, who and what my true enemies are, I will whole-heartedly join with David in singing “In your anger, God, bring them down!”

— David Foreman
(PS Thanks again, bro, for the CD)

Scripture quoted from the New Engligh Translation


The Misunderstood God September 19, 2010

On the cover, Wayne Jacobsen is quoted as saying:
“Be ready to have your spiritual world rocked.”
OK, Mr. Jacobsen. Exaggerate much?
Look.  I’ve read an awful lot of books these past years.  I’ve been challenged, encouraged, strengthened, entertained and enraged.  I’ve been taught, stretched, and had many things, already in my heart, confirmed.  But to say that a book would “rock my spiritual world” is a pretty bold statement.  I assumed Wayne was being a bit generous toward the author.
He was not.

Darin Hufford’s
“The Misunderstood God: The Lies Religion Tells Us About God” is, in fact, a world-rocker.
It takes the simplest, most basic premise, “God is Love,” and turns it into something more profound than I could have possibly imagined.
I had to stop reading many times to just consider the enormous ramifications of what was being said.

This book not only attacks, but completely slaughters more sacred cows than…
than something that attacks and completely slaughters a LOT of sacred cows!
As one reviewer has said,
“Though it sounds like a basic, Sunday School lesson, the results are profound and often disturbing. If he is right, some of the common characteristics we have clothed God with are full of holes…Though I wished I’d read through his chapters unscathed, I found that many of the thoughts, beliefs and actions he confronts are ones that I’ve heard, accepted and repeated myself.”

Mr. Hufford declares that many of the traits we have attributed to God are not only false, they are actually the very traits of Satan himself.  Religion has created a false God; one of true horror, and shoved this concept so deeply down our throats that to even question it is often labeled blasphemy.
In these pages, the often unquestioned lies we have been taught about God are torn apart, piece by piece, and replaced with the Truth that sets us free!

Early on, he relates an incident where he was speaking to a group of about 100 pastors. When asked what would happen if they found Buddhists, Hindus, and homosexuals walking around with Jesus in heaven, they were unanimous: they would all be angry. [This sounds an awful lot like some workers hired early in the day, getting angry at the generosity of their employer. Then these same kinds of Christians have the nerve to say they don’t earn their way to heaven. Please.]

Darin goes on to cover the proud God, the offensive God, the needy God, the angry God, and a host of other views of God that we have created in man’s image.
The chapter on “Trust” discusses not only how we have misunderstood what it means to trust God, but completely missed the point of how God actually trusts us.
Darin’s discourse on God’s protection shines a beacon of light into an often dark and desolate place in our hearts. It could forever change the way you judge others, yourself, and God. (If you tell me you’ve never judged God, I won’t flat-out call you a liar. I’ll think it, I just won’t say it.)
Later, our false definition of “hope” is contrasted with the biblical version. Truly, hope is an anchor, not simply wishful thinking.

The whole book leads to the final chapter, where Mr. Hufford brings it all together and applies it to our lives. The conclusion is simple profundity. We often miss the depths of truth because we think we already understand it. That could easily happen with this book, unless you determine to see and hear beyond the surface, deep in you inmost being. The truth is both more simple, yet infinitely harder than all the religious sewage we use as a substitute.

Obviously, I enjoy all the books I recommend, and they are many. They all add something special to the conversation, and to our relationship with God and each other. Often, the best one is whatever I’m reading at the time. But I think THIS BOOK will permanently remain one of the most important.
I give away a lot of books. A LOT of books. (also some CDs and DVDs). When something has a profound effect on me, or I just really enjoy it, I like to share that with others. However, this is the FIRST time I’ve started handing out copies of a book before I’ve even finished it. This book is that good.
If begging you to read it will help, then this is me begging:
“Please read this book.”
– df
Buy the book HERE.

     Some Other Reviews:

“If you are willing to set aside what you think you already know about God, this may be one of the most important books you’ll ever read.” – Jim Palmer

“Darin Hufford has hit the nail on the head. I am savoring it, there is teaching in this book for everyone. A+++ reading.” – Philip A. Liszewski

“This book will help you get that heavy pack of religious assumptions and misunderstandings off your back, because you were never meant to carry that.” – Jim Robbins

“If you let it, it’ll blow apart the lies you’ve been told about God…
I gave this book a 5 star rating only because I couldn’t give it a higher one.” – Aida Calder

“I have often remarked that God must look down upon His creation, shake His head, and say “That is not what I meant!”.
…we are portraying a God Who is the antithesis of what the scriptures say He is!” – mbw

“If you have ever struggled with the schizophrenic, seemingly contradictory notions of how this God of love is often portrayed as an angry taskmaster, full of rules and judgment, THE MISUNDERSTOOD GOD will make refreshing sense out of all the religious nonsense. This book scratches where The Shack caused you to itch.” – Brad Cummings
Buy the book HERE.

     And Some Quotes

“‘Do you love God?’ My answer was no. I didn’t even like Him. ‘What’s there to love?’ I thought. He’s never satisfied, He wants all the glory, He likes it when we cut ourselves down, He threatens to kill our children, He wants all our money, and He’d light us on fire and feed us to spiders if we didn’t give it to him. What was there to love?”

“God is not impressed or more predisposed to bless you because you’ve come so far in your spirituality. He’s proud of you because you are His child.” “God does not bless us for being good little boys and girls. God blesses us because God blesses.”

“During the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, it was quite common to hear our nation’s pastors explain that this was a plague sent by God to punish the homosexuals. Every bad thing that happens in this world gets blamed upon God. We truly believe that God has the character and personality of the devil.”

“If Jesus Christ were walking the earth today in human form, I believe His message would be the same to us as it was to the Pharisees of His time: “You belong to your father, the devil.” This is precisely the point He was making two thousand years ago. The Pharisees and religious teachers had painted a picture of God that made Him look like Satan himself. They had made it impossible for the people to have a relationship with God simply because they were terrified and repulsed by Him. We are no different today.”

Buy the book HERE.

“The wrath of God should never scare you.” “The wrath of God is never pointed toward His Children. It’s used on behalf of His children.”

“I saw a bumper sticker that read ‘God is Love.’ That made me laugh out loud. ‘If that were true,’ I thought, ‘it would mean that the entire Christian religion is wrong.'”

“Today, in the minds of most Christians, Christianity is a religion about not sinning.”

“We now believe that Jesus had to die because God was ‘gonna bust a cap’ in someone’s head over this sin issue.” “Jesus did not die on the cross to satisfy God’s moral rage at your sin. He died to save you from the beast of sin.”

Buy the book HERE.

“God does not delight in fear tactics. Love simply never thinks this way.” “The kindness of God leads people to repentance.” “Threats of hell were never meant to be the argument that drew people to God.” “God didn’t create men to save their souls from hell. He created men and women to have relationships with one another and with Him.”

“God’s vengeance is never on people; it’s on the devil. God does not delight in getting revenge on people, and He never participates in it. God delights in forgiveness.”

“I’ve seen people actually get excited when they think God has gotten back at someone on their behalf.”

“Religion doesn’t rejoice in the truth about Christ. Religion hides it.”

Buy the book HERE.

“God did not delight in that torment you may have endured, nor did He cause it. He did not even plan for it to happen. In the midst of it happening, however, He used it to strengthen your ultimate purpose in life.”

“If you are a Christian and you don’t believe you are secure in Christ, you have no hope. All you have is a wish and a dream.”

“We’ve created a remote-control god who jumps into action the moment the right buttons are pushed, and many people spend their entire lives trying to figure out the correct code to punch into the God Keypad so they can get what they want.” “We quote scripture to God in an effort to ‘legally’ force Him to follow through with what He said He would do.” “We say ‘If it’s in His Word He has to do it.'” “I call it a ‘vending machine’ god.'” “We come up with hundreds of little ‘tools’ that supposedly provoke God to act on our behalf.”

“The bottom line is that when people say they know He is patient, kind, protective, trusting, and all those other things, when push comes to shove, they don’t believe a word of it.”

“The word ‘revival’ is not even in the Bible. It was never the intention of God to have a religion that routinely suffered from heart failure.

“Relationship with God to this generation of Christianity is all about reading the Bible.” “We have even exchanged God for the Bible, attributing all the attributes of God Himself to it.”

“His love never fails.”

Everything from Bible reading to church attendance to the way we pray has been affected by Old Testament thinking. Popular teachings on worship, generational curses, fasting, tithing, receiving blessings, and even hearing the voice of God have all been poisoned by our lack of accepting and standing upon the substitution of Christ’s death in place of anything we could ever do.

The purpose of the Old Testament is to point the way to Christ …
the church continues to run back to the Old Testament principles…
They prefer to embrace the comfortable rules of religion rather than the confusing, difficult freedom of relationship.

When we routinely act and behave as though the Cross has provided nothing of any value, we are literally giving ourselves to an anti-Christ spirit.

The way we know the truth about God’s limitless perseverance is when we accept grace and leave law-minded thinking.

Buy the book HERE.

[And in a completely unrelated manner, check out this:
Tribbles vs. Labels


Christianities versus Christianity September 16, 2010

by Brian McLaren

I think David Gushee gets it right:

I remember the first time it became crystal clear to me that there is no such thing as Christianity, but only competing Christianities. It was when I was working on my doctoral dissertation on Christians who rescued Jews during the Holocaust. During that time I attended a most remarkable conference in New York on hidden children of the Holocaust. This gathering brought together the now-grown adults who had hidden from the Nazis to survive. Some of these children were saved by Christian families.The most memorable speaker for me was a hidden child, and now a sociologist, named Nechama Tec. A Polish Jew, she survived the war hiding with Christians. She was asked after her address whether it was Christianity that motivated her rescuers. Her unforgettable response went like this: “It wasn’t just any kind of Christianity that would motivate a rescuer. Only a certain kind of Christianity would lead someone to risk their lives for us.”

A certain kind of Christianity — the phrase stayed with me. It is enormously helpful. From hard experience, young Nechama Tec learned the difference between versions of Christianity that teach hatred of the religious/ethnic other and versions that teach sacrificial and inclusive love. Her very survival depended on being able to tell the difference between these competing Christianities and the people who embodied them.

Of course, this is what was in my mind when I wrote A New Kind of Christian and A New Kind of Christianity. It’s also at the heart of my upcoming book, the title of which will be released soon.

Gushee adds this important note, reflecting on recent tensions among Christians of competing Christianities and Islaams:

So the Christianity of “International Burn a Koran Day” exists. It is a sorry version of Christianity, but it exists. It must be defeated by better versions of Christianity. Maybe some progress has been made on that over the last week.Could it also be that there is no such thing as “Islam,” but only competing versions of Islam? Could it be that those who are casually declaring that al Qaeda’s Islam just is Islam are about as accurate as those who would say that Terry Jones’ Christianity just is Christianity? Could it be that we need a moratorium on people who know nothing about the competing Muslim traditions making blanket declarations about the eternal nature of that religion?


Evolving In Monkey Town September 5, 2010

When I first heard of
“Evolving In Monkey Town: How A Girl Who Knew All The Answers Learned To Ask The Questions,”
I wasn’t sure I was going to read it. I’d read four Donald Miller books and two by Anne Lamott.
“Do I really need another memoir about postmodernism, questioning traditional faith, and rethinking our relationship with God and man?” I wondered.

Apparently, I did.
And I’m glad I did.

Certainly, this book covers some familiar ground, but it also covers enough different ground that it is well worth adding to your queue. More than new material, Rachel looks at things with her own particular perspective. She add insights and conversation that only she can add.  Many can relate to her experience, but everyone’s journey is just unique enough that we can all learn from each other.  I think this would be a good companion piece to one of my all-time favorites, “Velvet Elvis” by Rob Bell.

Ms. Evans is a not-quite-thirty year old, who was raised in a fundamentalist evangelical environment. She took great delight in winning her school’s “Best Christian Attitude” award 4 years running.  Like all the best writing, Rachel leaves the truth of her less-than-perfect-being plainly exposed.  Concerning those giving her the award, she says,
“It means they have no idea that beneath it all, I’m a complete fraud.”

I totally loved her take on “why” she was a Christian.  She talks of how the answer to that question kept changing through various periods of her life.  The answer she settles on as being the “most truthful” is not a very good answer for an evangelical.  It is however, possibly the most perfect answer I have ever read.  You’ll find it in the section: “When Believers Ask.”

Like many of us, she was taught to “always have an answer,” and that “knowing facts” is of the utmost importance. Especially when you must gain the upper-hand in a debate or argument. We do, after all, need to prove to the skeptics and unbelievers that we are smarter than they are. She grew up in a time when apologetic prowess was nearly worshiped. Questions, doubt, or just saying “I don’t know,” were simply not acceptable.

I’m not sure why “I don’t know” is so hard for evangelicals. It’s still hard for many of my fundamentalist friends.  It seems, if they don’t have the perfect answer to those suffering or questioning, they fear their faith is lacking.  I think, for many, their faith is in their belief system, rather than truly in the Person of Christ.

The author finally began to see (or maybe began to admit to seeing), all the mental gymnastics, sidesteps, games and just plain foolishness it takes to reconcile all the contradictions and pseudo-logic used to defend much of evangelical fundamentalism.
“The problem with fundamentalism,” she says, “is that it can’t adapt to change.  When you count each one of your beliefs as absolutely essential, change is never an option.”

There’s a chapter called “God Things.”  After reading just the first section of that chapter, I had to sit there for awhile before I could move on.  It’s a touching, sad story of eight-year old Kanakaraja that helps us see just how narrow and self-centered our vision can be.

I always highlight when I read, so I can go back and just read those portions. I’ve highlighted a lot in this book. There are some absolutely wonderful portions that deserve much, repeated meditation.  There are also those parts that bring to me recollections of a past life of religion that make me shake my head in shame. There’s so much I was once a part of; so much I thought dear to my faith, that I now clearly see as anything but Christ-like.
Rachel has reminded me, again, there are many on this journey; even if I have very few nearby who are on a similar path.
I just wish I had realized all this at her age, instead of at such a late stage in my life.
This really is a wonderful book.

Buy the book HERE.


From the Back Cover
Eighty years after the Scopes Monkey Trial made a spectacle of Christian fundamentalism and brought national attention to her hometown, Rachel Held Evans faced a trial of her own when she began to have doubts about her faith. Growing up in a culture obsessed with apologetics, Evans asks questions she never thought she would ask. She learns that in order for her faith to survive in a postmodern context, it must adapt to change and evolve. Using as an illustration her own spiritual journey from certainty, through doubt, to faith, Evans adds a unique perspective to the ongoing dialogue about postmodernism and the church that has so captivated the Christian community in recent years. In a changing cultural environment where new ideas threaten the safety and security of the faith, Evolving in Monkey Town is a fearlessly honest story of survival.

About the Author
Rachel Held Evans is an award-winning writer whose articles have appeared in local and national publications. She lives in Dayton, Tennessee, with her husband, Dan. Find out more at

Other Reviews
“Rachel’s humorous yet humble memoir of growing up in the evangelical world serves as an encouraging guide for anyone looking to navigate through that particular subculture. The story told here is both faith and doubt affirming, a beautiful reflection of a heart earnestly seeking to follow God fully.”
— Julie Clawson, author of Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices

“This book is an argument–Rachel argues with herself, God, the Bible, and Southern fundamentalism. Somehow, though, we are the winners in this argument because we learn and watch as a young woman emerges into a maturing faith that lets the kingdom vision of Jesus reshape her life. I found myself cheering her on.”
— Scot McKnight, Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies, North Park University

[My favorite] “That Evans wrote a remarkable debut at such a young age makes me want to slap her, bless her heart.” – Karen Spears Zacharias

Buy the book HERE.


Some Quotes

“I consider myself an evolutionist — not necessarily of the scientific variety but of the faith variety.”  “I believe the best way to reclaim the gospel in times of change is not to cling more tightly to our convictions but to hold them with an open hand.”

“I’m pretty sure that by the time I asked Jesus into my heart, he’d already been living there for a while.”

“I grew increasingly uncomfortable with how verses were lifted from the Bible to support political positions like gun rights, strong national defense, capital punishment, and limited intervention in the free market.  These seemed more like Republican values than biblical values to me.”

Buy the book HERE.

“To fight the good fight, the most important weapon was the sword of absolute truth, and the goal of the Christian life was to learn how to use it.”

“Jesus responded more with questions than answers.  He preferred story to exposition.”  “You can’t get too far into the Gospels without noticing that Jesus made a pretty lousy apologist.”

‘I always wanted a gay friend.  But, as embarrassing as the is to admit, I wanted the sort of gay friend who would give me fashion advice [and] make me look edgy and open-minded, not the kind who would actually challenge my thinking or stereotypes.”

“This time, I wasn’t asking these questions rhetorically or in preparation for an imaginary debate with a skeptic.  I was asking them because I didn’t know.  This time, I was the skeptic.”

[I really like this one]  “The longer our lists of rules and regulations, the more likely it is that God himself will break one.  The more committed we are to certain theological absolutes, the more likely we are to discount the work of the Spirit when it doesn’t conform to our presuppositions.”

Buy the book HERE.


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