Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Random Prayer Breakfast thoughts

Here's some quotes and thoughts from last week's National Prayer Breakfast:

"We do not need cheerleaders but partners." Tony Blair, speaking about promoting peace in the world

Greatest obvious truth: "If faith becomes the property of extremists, it creates discord." Tony Blair

Greatest not-so-obvious truth: "There are limits to humanism, and beyond those limits only God can work." Tony Blair

Most obvious statement that may not be true: "There is no religion whose central tenet is hate." President Obama.

Curse the darkness or light the candle or both or what?

Yesterday's "Breakpoint" by Chuck Colson (copied below) challenges President Obama on his statement that "no God condones taking the life of an innocent human being" at the National Prayer Breakfast. Colson rightly argues that for the President to make such a statement and only apply it to war and not to abortion is faulty logic. Just as faulty as the Christians who apply it only to abortion and not to war.

But this post is neither about abortion or about war. It's about some of the incessant whining we hear decrying our "postmodern" world.

I will be the first to admit I live in a postmodern world. Postmodernity has affected my worldview. It's hard for it not to. I also admit I have not jumped deeply into postmodern philosophy like my friend the 7-foot ninja. I have only skimmed the surface of those writers, and probably don't have a grasp of the nuances of postmodern thought.

But here's what I know: today's Christian leaders, like Colson below, bemoan our fall into a world where there is no absolute truth recognized in societal circles. There can be "your truth" and "my truth" and they may contradict each other and that's okay.

Now, is such a philosophy correct? No, of course not. Most 5th graders can point out the illogical nature of such statements at basic levels. Both Christianity and Hinduism cannot be true in their fullest forms.

But is a cultural belief of "no absolute truth" a bad thing for the kingdom of heaven? I say no.

We have moved away from a society that took certain pieces of Christianity (yes, only "certain" pieces, not the whole gospel) and favored a public, outward form of Christian religion as "the truth." The church typically enjoyed this public religion, because it made church attendance at times a given in our society. That's what good Americans did.

But I maintain that the real gospel--life lived in the kingdom of heaven under the effectual reign of God--is better served and promoted by postmodern thought than by the times of watered-down-Christianity-as-public-religion.

Much like the first two centuries after Jesus' life, in many circles the gospel now stands on equal footing (or yes, even looked down upon footing--oh the horror!) with other religious or irreligious beliefs. And like Colson below, we complain about what is, instead of using what is--tailoring our message and more importanly our lifestyle as followers of Jesus--using what is to move the gospel forward in our world.

Are there those who use postmodernity to say that God/religion is dead? Of course there are. Are there those who use postmodernity to say that morality has no place in our world? Yes. But instead of complaining about postmodernity's unabsolute influence on the world, let's start living lives and speaking words that reflect that "effectual reign of God" and embrace postmodernity as what is. The Spirit will help us make disciples that understand truth is not relative. But we have an opportunity for the kingdom of God to spread that we did not have in a "christian" America.

NO GOD CONDONES WHAT?The President and the Innocent Chuck Colson At the national prayer breakfast last week, President Obama seemed to signal that he has seen the light and is abandoning his radically pro-abortion agenda. At least, that's the only reasonable conclusion one could make after hearing the President, who says he's a Christian, also say: "There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being. This much we know." So I could only surmise that the President now concludes that "no God" would condone the 1.6 million abortions performed each year in America: 1.6 million innocent lives destroyed. But I've checked the White House website, and it's very clear that God's disapproval hasn't changed the administration's agenda one bit. Here's what the White House website says: "President Obama understands that abortion is a divisive issue, and respects those who disagree with him. However, he has been a consistent champion of reproductive choice and will make preserving women's rights under Roe v. Wade a priority in his Administration." Well, in one way I'm glad I wasn't at the breakfast this year - I was speaking instead at Moody - because I'm not sure I would have been able to stay in my seat. How can a president of the United States say that "there is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being," when he himself favors a woman's right to have an abortion under virtually every circumstance? How can he say that when, as an Illinois state senator, he voted against the Illinois Induced Infant Liability Act, which would have protected the lives of babies who survived late-term abortions? When he even had the audacity to describe the act as "One more burden on a woman . . . I can't support." President Obama is a highly intelligent man with a huge job on his hands. I know what the White House is like, and I pray for him fervently every day. But how does such an intelligent man make a statement like this without understanding its implications for his own pro-abortion policies? The only way to explain it is to understand the intellectual environment, called postmodernism, in which President Obama and his peers have been raised. Generations of Americans have now been taught that truth is subjective. You have your truth, I have mine. And, even worse, I can't "inflict" my version of truth on you. The law of non-contradiction has been suspended. So politicians can tell us over and over that they can't allow their personal faith to affect their views on public policy. Or they can take two completely opposing positions at the same time: like believing that no God condones the taking of innocent life and at the same time, condoning-even promoting-the taking of an innocent life. The problem isn't simply President Obama and his views on life; the problem is a postmodern culture which believes that truth is merely a matter of opinion, and that therefore the sanctity of innocent human life is simply an expression of one viewpoint among many. I have argued for the last 20 years that postmodernism would lead to the unraveling or our society. The fact that so few noticed the contradiction in what the President said and the policies he pursues tells me that we're far along in the unraveling process.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

You have to read this

The funniest and best customer complaint letter ever. (HT:Texas in Africa)

The post-retreat break up

I have "Stuff Christians Like" on the blog list to the right, but this one was too good to not send you to directly. If you grew up in the church or where a youth minister, you have seen this all too much--laying down your boyfriend/girlfriend for God.

Check it out here.

Pet Peeve #6

I don't have very many pet peeves, but a couple of weeks ago I was at lunch with some friends and mentioned #6--combovers. I spotted a guy in the restaurant and wondered aloud "doesn't he have friends who love him enough to tell him what he looks like?"

One of the guys at lunch with me sent me this. Just thought I would share.

Praying in the name of Jesus

I've blogged about the National Prayer Breakfast before, so you'll have to search the archives for some background if you want it. It's an amazing event. This year was the 57th annual breakfast. The goal is prayer and fellowship in the name and spirit of Jesus of Nazareth.

Now that's really interesting. Many of the capital "E" Evangelicals I have been around during my 42 years have a pretty narrow view of what it means to pray and fellowship in the name of Jesus. And it has something to do with the words you say at the end of your prayer.

Ultimately it has nothing to do with that. Really, as Mike Breaux says, "in the name of Jesus, amen" really means, "I'm done praying." So he ends his prayers in the voice of Forrest Gump: "that's all I got to say about that."

In the name and spirit of Jesus is more about how our lives reflect on the name of Jesus. Violating the command to not take the Lord's name in vain is less about a cuss word and more about our character reflecting on his character. When our lives are full of words but empty on love and grace, our words invoking God take his name in vain.

It is not about words. It is about loving God and loving neighbor. That is living in the name of Jesus.

More to come about the breakfast...

Monday, February 02, 2009

Happy Groundhog Day

If you had to live the same day over and over, what day would you pick?

For years now my wife and I find a way to squeeze watching "Groundhog Day" into every February 2nd. It's a great movie, featuring former Ghostbusters buddies Bill Murray (playing the lead, Phil Conners) and Harold Ramis, who directs and has a cameo in the movie. You've seen it, I'm sure, so I won't go into too much detail. Phil Conners is a prima donna weatherman who is sent to Punxutawney, PA to see if Phil the groundhog sees his shadow. But every morning he wakes up and its groundhog day again (great choice of alarm clock music), and he has to relive the same day again.

Then begins the modern day version of Ecclesiastes. In that book, usually attributed to Solomon, you have the man who has it all--the girls, the money, the great job--but in the end nothing satisfies the itch inside (all is vanity). Phil Conners explores all these and more, but ends up trying to kill himself; more than trying, succeeds in killing himself but can't, still waking up to Sonny and Cher at 6am. He too finds that all is vanity, all this life has to offer is empty if the deeper itch isn't scratched.

People today look to scratch that deeper itch the same way humans have for centuries now: money, sex, and power.

But the truth is that deeper itch is scratched only by authentic relationships. In the movie version, Phil tries hard to seduce Andy McDowell's character, but the manipulation fails. In the end, when he gives himself to serving others, getting to know them and their real dreams and passions and failures, he becomes the kind of man she can fall in love with.

You and I have the same opportunity today. We can seek satisfaction in money, sex and power and forever be disappointed the itch is still there.

Or we can pursue authentic relationships with God and people and find that in serving others out of our own sometimes successful/sometimes failure life, we find satisfaction. We find our itch gets scratched.

Anything else is vanity.

Sunday, February 01, 2009


Apparently I missed this the first time around--like I said in my 25 random things on Facebook, I'm really not a huge sports fan. I'm rarely on ESPN, unless they are showing the golf tournament of the weekend.

But this video was posted by a friend on FB today, and I saw it, and I cried like crazy. It is unbelievable.