Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Adam Shellenbarger's life in 2010

Greetings, felicitations, and salutations!

Hm, perhaps I should include three synonyms for a random word in each sentence in this letter/blogpost/update. Though that could get old/aged/mundane really quickly, and I don't feel like grabbing my thesaurus.

Let's restart, shall we?

Hi everyone!

I've received quite a few Christmas letters this year, and was surprised to see how short some of them were. I think that this is because no one actually expects people to read the letter. There's nothing wrong with that, but I figured that if someone actually takes the time to read the letter part, they must genuinely be interested, or have nothing better to do. What you are about to read is for those of you who care about me for one reason or another, or those of you who are bored out of your mind. The rest of you can just skip down to the bulletpoint list at the bottom of this update, or stop reading right after I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year acquaintances and busy friends!

For the rest of you, I'll give a quick summary of my life thus far, in case you forgot (By the way casual friends... this is not the bullet list that you need to pay attention to... keep going down):

  • I was born on a Monday

  • I lived in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

  • I was a REALLY boring kid.

  • Though I won my first grade spelling bee on the word “dinosaur,” so I guess I was mildly interesting.

  • I wanted to be lots of things “when I grew up” but in the 6th grade, I decided I wanted to be a preacher and never looked back.

  • In high school, my parents and a campus minister at Penn State decided that I might be better served at a secular college, rather than a Bible College at first, so I could get immersed in a secular society so I could hopefully have an effective ministry. This led me to Penn State, which I've loved since I was in my mother's womb for Joe Paterno's 200th victory, in which he beat Bowling Green.

  • I majored in Secondary Education with concentrations in English and Communications.

  • I got engaged in 2009

  • I'm pretty sure most of those don't qualify as “bullet points”

→ Real update starting now *buckle your seat belts!* (If you haven't even chuckled up to this point, seriously, just skip to the bottom... the rest of the letter is just more of this flippant stream-of-consciousness stuff... fun fact, I submitted one of my recent blog entries into a computer algorithm that supposedly analyzes one's writing and then says who that person writes like... mine was James Joyce. Oh yeah, you're gonna LOVE yourself for deciding to read this whole thing (sarcasm)... Ironically, after writing this whole thing, I went back to that thing at and this is apparently in the style of Cory Doctorow, who's a Canadian blogger. I feel multi-cultural now!).

→ REAL real update starting now: At this point last year, I was getting ready to begin my Student teaching semester at Great Valley High School in Malvern, Pennsylvania. I was told that at one point in the semester, I would experience all of the following: laughter, tears, illness, frustration, anxiety, anger, and a bunch of other emotions that I don't remember, but if you were paying attention, only the first one sounded remotely attractive.

Well, lo and behold, I did experience all of those emotions and more. My student teaching was filled with wonderful students, a fantastic mentor, a Penn State adviser who was my nemesis all semester (but someone whom I hold no grudges against), and a ton of work. I can honestly say that Student teaching was the hardest I EVER worked in school, but it was an incredibly rewarding experience that led to sermon illustrations for DECADES to come.

I had the opportunity to teach Of Mice and Men, Greek tragedy, Antigone, Julius Caesar, A Raisin in the Sun, The Princess Bride, and I helped my mentor teacher's AP kids through The Canterbury Tales, King Lear, Frankenstein, some poetry, and Time's Arrow. It was an action-packed semester that was tons of fun, and partially miserable. I loved being in a classroom with the students, though, and continue to look for opportunities to impact high school students in some capacity.

Once May rolled around, I prepared for graduation. My fiancee's dad had told me that I couldn't marry her unless I found a job. I had made a trip out to Columbus, Ohio to interview for a church in Ohio State Buckeye territory, and though the church and I had a very positive interview, God must have known that there was no way I could minister to the non-Christians in the area if I was too busy working on the Ohio State cheering heathens within the church there. A week before graduation, I really had no prospects, but I did find a job posting for another church in Culpeper, Virginia. I decided to shoot off an e-mail to them, hoping that they would pay attention to a 22 year old kid from Penn State with no Bible degree. As it turned out, I graduated from Penn State, and they did pay attention and granted me a phone interview, and after that, a trial sermon / physical interview.

The trip to Culpeper went well, and I felt very good about the church and the direction in which my life was heading-- then my fiancee broke up with me. Don't freak out, it's ok now, but if you saw somewhat alarming statuses on facebook between July and October, that's why. I'm not going to go into great amounts of detail on this subject (that's too personal to share in a mass-mailing / blogpost... and besides, we'd get out of James Joyce territory and head straight for Leo Tolstoy... not because the entire breakup took place in social-economically depressed Russia... I was driving for the whole “War and Peace is LONG angle of things... in case you didn't pick up on that). Anyway, long story short, the breakup was MUCH more of a surprise to me than it was to her, and I now faced the prospect of taking a job in Virginia where I knew no one, if the church hired me.

I called the church and informed them of the newly tumultuous situation in my life. After discussing it with the congregation, the elders of the church decided to recommend that the congregation vote on whether or not to accept me for the position of “Preacher.” I'm not sure how many people were there, so let's define the number of people present at church that day to be x, and t can be the total number of people who voted for me, so that works out to x-1=t. The one guy who didn't vote for me has since confessed that it was him, and he said it was due to uncertainty he had about my breakup. Anyway, with a nearly unanimous vote, I became the preacher of First Christian Church at Culpeper, Virginia. 2 and a half weeks later, I was on my way down to Virginia.

While it's true I wasn't exactly overflowing with cupfuls of cheery sunshine and unicorn flavored lollipops at first (… that didn't work... you know what I'm going for) God definitely has been using me in Culpeper. In the time since the breakup, I've come to a point of genuine peace, I've forgiven my fiancee for the things that she did to hurt me and have asked for forgiveness for the things that I did to hurt her. She's still a great girl, and we've reached a point of peace. God has truly shown His faithfulness to me, and for that I'm grateful.

The beginning of my ministry had its trials and tribulations which you can read about on the rest of this blog, or listen to on the podcast at The one BIG thing to hear about is that I suggested and implemented a “Campaign of Kindness” at my church. I challenged my church of about 20 people to do 2500 acts of kindness in 6 months. I'm not sure whether or not we'll reach that goal, but I think it's pretty clear that even a little church can do great things. Our most recent project came on Christmas Eve when we sought out those who had to work and spend time away from their families. We took time with our families to spread Christmas cheer to them in the form of tasty desserts. My family alone served somewhere in the vicinity of 80-100 people with cookies, and the rest of the church rose to the challenge as well. It was such a blessing to look at the reactions of the people who work in the service industries when they were the ones being served. For more information on the Campaign of Kindness, check out the article that made the local paper (click), and for more information about our Christmas Eve service project, click here.

My church still has a long way to go, but the people are wonderful and really seem to be getting excited for a new direction. We've recently purchased an LCD projector, so I have a new toy to play with. I feel that God is moving in this church, but I'm not going to pretend to understand exactly what He has in store for us.

As for my personal life in Virginia, I participate in two games nights and have been spending a lot of time talking with friends in Pennsylvania, as well as trying to meet various people in Virginia. I live in a basement apartment in a home with a very fun family who live upstairs. I have the Big Ten Network now, so I can still follow Penn State sports as well!

If you ever feel inclined to come visit Virginia, I would love to see you! Virginia is a beautiful state (which you'll have plenty of time to enjoy as Virginia drivers tend to go 10 miles an hour under the speed limit at all times). Give me a call or shoot me an e-mail to let me know you're coming!

I feel like I've put you all through enough at this point, so let me make that bullet list I promised everyone else:

BULLET LIST (you can start reading again)

  • Student teaching was hard, but it went well

  • Graduated from Penn State with a degree in Secondary Education-- English and Communications

  • Went through a breakup, but am at peace about it

  • Got a job as a preacher in Culpeper, Virginia and am enjoying it!

  • Would love to host visitors!

And so that's it! Feel free to pass this on to whoever might be interested in it. You can leave comments on the blog, or you can e-mail them to me at

Lastly, I want to thank those of you who have shown how much you care about me. 2010 was not my favorite year of my life so far, but it's a year when I'll always remember my friends and family who helped me through some really rough patches and helped me to grow into a stronger Christian, person, and preacher. I don't know what 2011 holds, but I feel very confident in moving forward with such a great support system behind me. Thank you.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Despicable Tradition

One of my longest lasting traditions is going to end in a week and a half. Every year of my life my family has hosted a New Year's Day party centering on football, food, and fun. The only people not-blood related to me, who have been at every single one of those parties will not be there this year, and while they will be sorely missed, it has made me think a thought which would probably make many people uncomfortable.

Does anyone feel like tradition is overrated?

I guess I've never been one for many traditions. My family didn't have too many when I was growing up, and many of the ones that I do remember only stuck for a few years until we moved on to other things.

Some traditions are not important at all. We used to have ham on Christmas. I despise baked ham. The year that I made a ham sandwich for Christmas dinner was the last year we had ham, and now we have beef. Much better.

Other traditions are incredibly important. No one in our household is allowed to open any Christmas presents until we read Luke 2:1-20. That's a tradition that my family will continue this year, and the year after that, and it's one that I will pass on to my kids as well.

But, for the most part, I feel tradition really isn't as big of a deal as we make it. In fact, I feel like many traditions that people hold are because OTHERS expect them to hold those traditions. Unfortunately, I'm always reminded of this around Christmastime, and then I think back to one particular Bible verse. This is God speaking to the nation of Israel through the prophet Amos:

Amos 5:21-24 NLT
"I hate all your show and pretense--the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won't even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your hymns of praise! They are only noise to my ears. I will not listen to your music, no matter how lovely it is."
"Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, a river of righteous living that will never run dry."

Merry Christmas Everyone!

But in all seriousness, we all come together to celebrate Christmas... but what are we truly celebrating? The birth of Christ? or the exchange of presents? Is Christmas that one time a year when you make an effort to get to church?

A New Year is approaching, a time where we tend to hit the reset button and try to readjust our lives to better ourselves. Examine your heart this Christmas season, see what you're truly celebrating, and if need be make a correction.

In all seriousness, Merry Christmas. Next week I'll be home with my family, but if you check back, I presume there will be a link to some kind of Christmas update letter or something. In the event that I don't get on here next week, though, Happy New Year as well!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Profitable Ideas

I know it's not necessarily a good thing to be stubborn, but sometimes it pays off.

I experienced that last one this last week when I discovered that a couple in my church had purchased a new television stand for a large and awkward television that we had. Until this point, we rested the TV up on two small chairs which were already on top of a table, so the new TV stand was a welcome addition, one that I didn't even know was coming until I found out that we couldn't use it. The couple had assembled the stand in one of our little classrooms, but when they went to wheel it out into the main room in the basement, they discovered that it couldn't fit through the door frame. They tried everything: removing the door, pushing it through, twisting it and turning it from every angle, but it just wouldn't go. It was too big... by about 1 centimeter.

Now as a preacher, I love to hear things like that, "Oh? It was too big by 1 centimeter? That seems like such a small minor difference, but it's enough to hinder you from your goal... kind of like being on the straight and narrow path!" Analogies would have abounded from that point, except, I decided to give it a try to get it through the door. I assume I tried all the same moves that the couple had first tried, to the same result. Then one of my members came over and jokingly mocked me saying, "You can't get it through that door." Since I've been watching a lot of the television show "How I Met Your Mother," my response to that was, "Challenge Accepted!"

Another woman saw my struggle to try to jam it through the door and believed we could find some way to get it through. After about 5 minutes, we made major progress. Our list of accomplishments now stood at

1.) We have jammed the television stand in the door, making the doorway impassable.
2.) The woman helping me was stuck in the room.


Well now I really had to make something happen, so I crawled over the TV stand and put myself in the room which I will now refer to as "Mount Doom" as it where this television stand was forged (or at least assembled). The woman and I pushed-- it didn't budge. We got a hammer from the other side and started pounding-- it didn't budge. I leaned all my weight on it-- nothing. I took a running start and lunged into the stand-- still nothing.

At this point, I was started to get nervous... is downsizing your available classroom space by 33% and depleting the churches resources by an additional 1 television stand a fireable offense?

My next attempt to get it to move was to try to wiggle it free... that still didn't work. I laid on my back, drew back both of my legs, and sprung them both out as hard as I could, directly on the bottom of the stand, not thinking that if the stand didn't move, I could probably seriously injure myself. Thankfully, the stand gave a little and I heard cries of delight from the crowd which had now gathered around to see the spectacle that was the "preacher vs. the television stand."

"DO THAT AGAIN!!! YAY ADAM! YOU'RE AWESOME!" (I'm sure that's what they said)

So I kicked again, this time at the top of the television stand, and it simply popped out with minimal damage to the door or the stand. Amazingly, no one was hurt, and perhaps even more amazingly, I didn't even gloat... I was just so glad to get out of Mt. Doom!

My stubbornness got the best of me, and then I supposed I got the best of the television stand. But I got to thinking about that, and about some experiences that I have had in my life before. I realized that, in churches today, we tend to hear "No" a lot more than we hear "Yes;" we hear "You can't" rather than "You can." And even a stubborn mule like me tends to get beaten down after hearing "No" too many times. We need to get away from that.

I'm an advocate that individuals, small groups, ministries, churches, and the entire body of Christ should have a direction in which they're moving, but many of those entities don't. I'm very grateful that my church doesn't say "No" outright very often. Sometimes I get a "Let's wait" but very rarely do I receive a "No." When I got to First Christian Church at Culpeper, we didn't have much of a direction, and we're still defining what that direction is fully, but now we have one, and we're a stronger church for it.

As Christians, I think we should all examine ourselves and look for where our lives are heading. If you can't find a direction that you're heading toward, pray to God for ways that you might be able to impact His Kingdom. Think back to passions that you once had, or things that you wanted to see, when someone told you "No," and try to implement it.

That being said, I don't think we need to swing completely in the other direction and just say yes to any idea that comes along. Here's a list of unfinished criteria that I've thought up for "Acceptable ideas"... do you have any other suggestions?

  • An acceptable idea should never contradict anything the Bible has forbidden.
  • An acceptable idea should be profitable for the Kingdom of God.
  • An acceptable idea should have a clearly defined direction, with observable benchmarks.
  • An acceptable idea should not utilize a ridiculous amount of church resources, including time, money, and manpower, unless the church leadership specifically encourages this.
  • An acceptable idea, if given the chance to succeed, should be graciously retracted if it doesn't work out.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The True Meaning of Christmas

Chuck Sackett, the former President of Lincoln Christian College, once told me something that I'm sure has been repeated hundreds of times, but he was the first I'd heard it from. He said “If you can do anything other than preach, do it... if you don't have a passion for preaching, you're never going to make it.” That stuck with me throughout college, even though I decided not to attend Bible College, and when the time came to start looking for jobs, I spurned immediately looking for jobs in my degree area (teaching English) and focused on ministry jobs. My decision was questioned by some, but most people supported me... except for one person who challenged my readiness in a way that no one else dared.

Apparently, her brother had died when she was younger. I'm a little fuzzy on the details of that part of the conversation because the next part shocked me. She told me that her father's faith was shaken to the core and that the minister of her church had gone over to talk to him, to console him, and to counsel him. That minister was met with this response: “Which of your sons has died?” The minister hadn't had any of his sons die and told this woman's father that. The father replied, “Then you have nothing to say to me.” The woman then asked me how I would respond to that when I was a preacher... how a 23 year old might be able to comfort someone who had been through such an ordeal.

I responded first with the fact that, when I was 7, I had a friend pass away and that I understood loss. She retorted, “It's not the same as a son, Adam.” So then I said, “Well, then I suppose I might say, God lost His Son.” This was the end of the conversation. Both she and I were so exasperated at each other that neither one of us really felt like talking about it anymore. I don't really blame her for having these feelings-- it was pretty obvious that we had been treading on some pretty serious ground, but I still think I had a valid point.

Christmastime is that special time of year when we tend to conceptualize the fact that Jesus was actually once a baby, that he was the Son of Joseph and Mary, but also one to God Himself. Joseph and Mary cared for this child, loved this child, raised this child. So did God, but God knew fully what was in store for Jesus when He grew up. The fact that God loved us enough to send His Son, His Holy perfect Son, as a sacrifice for humanity is nothing short of amazing. I'm not a father, so I don't know that I'll truly understand just how BIG that is until I am one, but I know that it's big.

I don't want to gloss over that fact at all. It's enormous. So I gave it this mini-paragraph. And I'll follow it up with Romans 8:3,4

The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.

Now we know that God desires all men to be saved. Romans 11 talks about how Jews and Gentiles and how the Jews are the true descendents of Abraham, but some have fallen away. Those Jews are like dead branches on an olive tree, and the Gentiles can replace them: Romans 11:17

But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree—some of the people of Israel—have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree.

To me, that would have been more than good enough. If God had said, “Ok humanity, you messed up, but we'll let you come along for the ride,” that would have been great. Think of it like a prosthetic hand. There are now prosthetic hands with individually powered digits which are controlled using myoelectric signals (which are generated from the residual limb).* It's not quite a real hand, but it's the next best thing. No one, I don't think, would complain and say, “I'd rather have no hand at all than this stupid prosthetic!” But that's not where God drew the line. Romans 8:14-17

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.

Christ was a Son to God, and we're told that Christ loves us like the Father loves Him-- and since Christ and the Father are one, we're loved as sons and daughters of God as well! Just as Jesus was God's Son, that's how God views us.

I mentioned last week how Christ was the redemption plan since Adam and Eve's first sin. To put this in perspective, I like to imagine Adam and Eve taking that piece of fruit and partaking in the first sin as the moment where all the angels collectively go “NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” like someone just missed a crucial field goal in a football game. But when Christ was born on earth and all the angels are there to announce the birth of Christ, it's like the game winning kick and everyone starts to celebrate.

Check your inboxes in the next few weeks and you'll start to see e-mails circulating about the “True Meaning of Christmas.” There will be talk about how Christmas is over-commercialized, and how “Jesus is the reason for the season.” That's all true. But just as true is this-- when the angels said the “First Noel” they were celebrating the birth of Christ, as well as the fact that millions of other believers would soon be adopted as true sons and daughters into the family.

The end of the second passage I quoted from Romans 8 “But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering” is telling. Just because we're sons and daughters of God doesn't mean that things will be peachy, or even easy. God is a loving gracious father, but He is also fair and just. Sometimes fairness and justice hurt. I can't give an account for why God chooses to do what He does, and I never will be able to. I also don't know if it would provide any solace to the father of that woman to whom I was talking, but I do know this-- God cared for her brother enough that He sent His actual Son to die for him, so that he could be justified as a Son of God, and loved him like one too... just like He cares for all of those who faithfully follow Him.

*Thanks to my friend Nicole for giving me the “jumping off point” that inspired this blog entry. All of that prosthetic limb technical business are her words, not mine.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chritophanies and Advent Season

Have you ever gotten a reference to something and said to yourself, "I wonder if anyone else caught that...?" One of my favorite television shows is Bones. For those of you not familiar with it, it's a crime drama in which the main character and forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan and her FBI Agent partner Seeley Booth join forces and expertises to solve murders. The writers on that show exhibit their brilliance on a weekly basis by letting the audience catch on to small subtle jokes.

I was treated to TWO cool moments this week! One: the murdered character of the week (there's pretty much one of those every episode) went to Penn State, which I found neat (and a little sad :-( poor dead fictional Penn Stater). Two: she was a spy named Harriet... aka Harriet the Spy! Quickly wondering if anyone else caught that, I pulled up my Twitter client and searched for "Harriet Spy Bones" and sure enough, other people were having the same kind of "HEY! HARRIET THE SPY! I see what you did there writers!" moment that I was having.

I think God does this as well.

Someone (Bret Koontz? Kevin Brungard?) who was a leader in my church camp when I was a kid pointed out what he called "Jesus cameos" in the Old Testament. These "Jesus cameos" were little parts in the Old Testament where it seems that Jesus pops in for a bit. For example, check out the "Fiery Furnace" scene in Daniel 3. For those of you who may be a little fuzzy on the details to the story, I'll sum it up for you.

Basically, there was this jerk king named Nebuchadnezzar. He had a bright idea to make a statue of himself out of gold and get everyone in his kingdom to bow before it. If anyone refused, they'dget tossed into a furnace. Reasonable, right?

Anyway, there are three guys (friends of Daniel) who are faithful to Daniel. We know them as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (aka Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah). They talk amongst themselves and agree they're not going to bow to this image of the king, because they know the second of the Ten Commandments says they shouldn't. In fact they're so emboldened, they give this response to Nebuchadnezzar: "“King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."”

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that I'm pretty sure there was a little of this going on:

But I digress. I love their actual, Biblically recorded response just as it is, their faith, and their total dependence on God. It's for this attitude, I believe, that God uses them to demonstrate His awesome power. Nebuchadnezzar, being royally (get it?) ticked off, declared that the furnace should be heated SEVEN times hotter than normal. It was *so* hot that the guards who took the three men to be tossed in the furnace DIED from the heat. But not Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

"Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”

They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”

He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

Many Bible commentators believe that this fourth man was not a "son of the gods" but The Son of God, Jesus Christ. This kind of appearance is called a Christophany, and I honestly believe that one of the reasons God chooses to do this is to allow us to say, "Huh... that's kinda cool." It also generally means that people should pay attention... Nebuchadnezzar certainly learned his lesson (until the end of that chapter of the Bible anyway). Daniel 3:28

"Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God."

This kind of thing pops up all over literature as well (Hagrid mentioning Sirius Black in the first chapter of the first Harry Potter book, for example). Maybe I'm weird, but it always gives me a little bit of joy and pleasure when I find these things.

I think my favorite of all time, though, is that Jesus Christ is mentioned in the THIRD chapter of the Bible. Now to put that in perspective, it takes LESS than 0.336417157% of the Bible to get to a mention of Jesus.

Genesis 3:14-15: (emphasis mine)

So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”

From the very beginning of time, even before the beginning of time, God had a redemption plan in place, and Jesus keeps checking in periodically. We can see Him throughout the Old Testament, and of course in the New Testament. One thing always remains the same--when Jesus shows up, people pay attention. We're getting into the time of the year where we think about His arrival on this planet. Jesus showed up... pay attention. Keep that in mind as you delve into all your Christmas shopping.

Happy Advent Season everyone!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Q & A: The Essentials- Sin

I'm without a computer still (FedEx's fault) and I'm travelling, so this will be a pretty quick post today. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone from me to you.

I heard from several people about my post from two weeks ago, the one about the two men who decided to continue to serve in ministry even though they no longer believe in Christ. Many people told me something to the effect of, "Of course they're sinning, you didn't need to tell me that," but I feel that many people (especially those outside the church) would not recognize their sin. My friend Emily took that a step further and commented on my post. Here was her question:

Since the economy is so bad and it sounds like these men haven't really held a lot of other jobs, where could they go if they don't continue to preach? Do you give them any credit at all for at least attempting to stick to the parts of the Bible that they believe in and preaching about being a good person, instead of preaching things that they straight out don't believe?

I was really excited when I got this, because I figured I'd have way too little time to blog this week and I knew I could answer this with one passage from the Bible! It's not that the question is elementary, but what these men are doing is SO blatantly wrong, it's easy to find things in the Bible to refute them.

Titus 1:6-9
An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless-not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

Now, it's important to note that the word "elder" here probably translates better as "pastor" meaning "shepherd." Really anyone who guides and oversees the flock would fall into this category, meaning that these two men do. These men came into this ministry which Paul calls in 1 Timothy 3 a "noble task." That task is not that they're doing their own work, but they're doing God's. Their flock have entrusted their hearts and souls to these men who no longer believe or desire to believe in God. Clearly they have trouble maintaining any of the things that Paul says they must do, but obviously the ones that jump out at me are "not pursuing dishonest gain" and "hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught."

So no, I don't give them any credit at all. I know they no longer submit to the authority of the Scripture, so they probably don't care one lick about what God has said. That makes it a lot easier to do what they're doing, but they should still adhere to the Bible since that's pretty much where their job description lies. In fact, I can think of no other profession where this would be considered fair game, so why should ministry be any different?

I'll leave you all with this. Just because these two men have lost their way, I encourage you to maintain yours. Going into Thanksgiving, I thought Paul's words to the church at Colossae would be appropriate:

Colossians 2:6-7
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him,
rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Essentials- Sin

I stumbled upon an article yesterday that I wish I would have found prior to my sermon on Sunday. It involves two men, one a Southern Baptist minister with over 20 years of ministry experience, and another, a man who calls himself "Adam" who serves on the pastoral staff of a small evangelical church (don't worry-- not me). Both of these men have reached the conclusion through "careful" study of the Bible and arguments both for and against religion that God probably does not exist. They continue to serve in their ministry, mainly because they cannot fathom how they'll make it financially if they leave their positions.
"I want to get out of the position that I'm in as quickly as I can because I try to be a person of integrity and character," Adam said. "With the economy the way it is, with my lack of marketable skills other than a seminary education, it has me in a tough spot."
Now there is an important thing to say here, right off the top: these men are sinning. There is no question about it. I do not know these men at all, so I do not know what's going on in their heads or in their hearts, but I do know what their doing is wrong and is most likely teetering on some dangerous ground for their own spiritual walk (Matt. 12:31, Mark 3:29, Luke 12:10, 1 John 5:16). I say this not to judge them, but just to be unequivocal about what I think, and what the Bible says about men like these.

What's worse is that these men are leaders of a flock of believers. They're supposed to be an example of what to do rather than what not to do. But we need to work with what we're given, so let's look at the situation (and speculate a bit).

The Good

These men did at one point have a faith of their own, and were looking to make it real.

The Bad

They fell short of their goal. Challenging one's belief systems can be a good thing. It should make a believer's faith stronger; however, in order to do that, he should make sure that his belief is grounded on the solid truth of the Bible.

"The more I read the Bible, the more questions I had," Jack said. "The more things didn't make sense to me -- what it said -- and the more things didn't add up."

Jack said that 10 years ago, he started to feel his faith slipping away. He grew bothered by inconsistencies regarding the last days of Jesus' life, what he described as the improbability of stories like "Noah's Ark" and by attitudes expressed in the Bible regarding women and their place in the world.

"Reading the Bible is what led me not to believe in God," he said.

The Bible doesn't change. For anything in life, there's usually some kind of manual. One can choose to read than manual and get to know everything there is to know about it, or he can get his information elsewhere (the knowledgeable people on Yahoo! Answers would, I'm sure, love to help anyone out*). If one chooses to work outside the framework of that manual, that person is still responsible for whatever the manual contains, regardless of whether or not he has read it. To serve in ministry, or even call themselves Christians, for any length of time, and then become surprised by things in the Bible, especially such biggies like the Great Flood, is ludicrous. I realize that as one's faith matures, opinions and understandings can change, but this is rather dramatic.

Another thing that's noticeable here is that both of these men have chosen a path of extreme and utter loneliness. My biggest pet peeve in Christianity is that Christianity is NOT meant to be done alone. Jesus surrounded himself with 12 friends, three of which he was closer to than all the rest. Paul complains time and time again about being lonely; he shares in his struggles with sin and perseverance. Why then, do we try to be supermen and superwomen when it comes to struggles in our faith?

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

By trying to challenge an immature faith by themselves, and still serving in ministry, these men have put themselves in a nearly impossible, and lonely, situation. That leads us to:

The Ugly
Matthew 15:13-14
He replied, "Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots.
Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit."

The worst part of this whole ordeal is that these men continue to serve in their ministry posts:

He and Jack said that when speaking to parishioners, they tried to stick to the sections of the Bible that they still believed in -- the parts about being a good person.

I wonder if these men ever truly understood what their supposed "calling" was about. Their spiritual immaturity resonates throughout their churches. Who are they accountable to? Hasn't anyone in their church confronted them about preaching the Truth? About their apparent lack of faith? Pray for their congregations, pray for YOUR leaders, and pray that you don't ever fall victim to false teachers such as these.

Matt 7:15, 16

"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?

Whether they like it or not, or if they even still care, the only example these men have set is precisely what not to do when one finds himself in sin. Rather, look to the Bible for the Truth, and then look to others for help. Challenge each other regularly to inspect your lives and earnestly seek after God's will in order to produce good fruit. Sin is a part of the human condition, but if we have the Spirit within us, we don't have to be slaves to sin (Romans 8). Always look for opportunities to grow, and even challenge your faith, but when doubts begin to creep up, don't feel ashamed, but submit yourselves to those more mature in their faith. Lastly, encourage those who minister to you. Don't allow them to feel like they can't share their troubles.
1 Thessalonians 5:11-13
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.
Whew... just had to get that off my chest. Just so you all know, the blog may be a little late next week (maybe non-existent) as I'll be travelling to Hershey, Pennsylvania for the Eastern Christian Convention... maybe I'll see you there! If you're in my congregation, remember the outreach event at Wal-Mart this Saturday! I can't wait to hear about what God does through your service!

*Disclaimer: If any of you actually takes the advice of people on Yahoo! Answers, I assume ZERO responsibility for the horrible, horrible things that will probably happen to you)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Thank God for the Bible, literally.

If Election Day 2010 taught me anything, it's that no matter who we vote into office, one of two things is going to happen. Either Americans will vote for someone to affect change, which they will, then we'll vote them out of office in the next election OR Americans will vote for someone to do nothing, which they will, and they'll keep their office for at least 3 terms. I feel that's a pretty fair, unbiased, and nonpartisan assessment of US Politics, so let's not debate that... it was just important for me to make my next point.

Don't get me wrong, I love living in America, and I love the fact that we get choices in our government-- heck, I even love voting! But at a certain point, I realize that my opinions are just those-- opinions. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, and they will always vary. I'm so glad that not everything in my life is based on opinion.

One of the things I love about Jesus is that He *is* Truth. I love democracy (or the democratic-republic of America, as it were) when I have to submit to the authority of fallen men-- but when it comes to my Creator, I have no problem with His monarchical reign. Christianity is not a single-issue system, but it isn't a huge complicated multi-faceted one either. Rather, it's a one-man system and Jesus made it very very simple.

John 14:5-7 (NIV)
Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?"
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."

To a lot of people, submitting to Christ may not sound entirely pleasing, and many people find it reprehensible. However, Christ has given us the only true freedom there is in life. If we do not act according to His will, we're slaves to sin. But if we do ground our life in Him, we find our freedom.

Galatians 5:1 (NIV)
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

The Bible is where we find that Truth today. It's our guidebook and our path to explore God's Will. In truly discovering what God has done for us, we can learn to put our trust in Him. That way, we can realize that the short-sightedness we display in our earthly elections and other decisions pale in comparison to the full understanding that God has for us.

Psalm 119:105-112
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.
I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws.
I have suffered much; preserve my life, O Lord, according to your word.
Accept, O Lord, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your laws.
Though I constantly take my life in my hands, I will not forget your law.
The wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from your precepts.
Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.
My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end.

Jeremiah 29:11-13
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Seek Him and understand. I promise, Jesus will never let you down. I can't say the same for the folks in Washington.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Testing... One, Two, Three this thing on? Oh good, it still works. Yes, yes, I know I didn't blog last week, so this blog post will be partially in response to the clamoring that I heard about getting another post up... all the e-mails (none), phone calls (zero), and trips down to Virginia, demanding that I write a blog post (zip) can now be put to rest!

I just didn't really know what to write about last week, and if you do bother to take the time to read this, I might as well have something useful to say. The past two weeks have been rather enlightening for me. I wrapped up the Fruit of the Spirit sermon series at First Christian Church with a sermon called Fruit Salad. If you missed any of the sermons, they can all be found at but if you don't want to listen to EVERY one of them, Fruit Salad does (in my opinion) a pretty nice job of wrapping everything up and providing the main gist of what I was going for.

Next, we moved onto the Essentials of what First Christian Church believes. Now, I'm not in the business of telling everyone to believe what I believe, I'm in the business of telling everyone to believe what the Bible says... I just try to do my best to figure out what the Bible says and live that out. Hopefully, someday I'll do a good enough job that people who are looking for a Godly example, they can look to me, but it's always an uphill battle.

One of the things that I've been particularly interested in both in the last two weeks and while fighting that uphill battle is trying to figure out what God wants from me. I want to know what he wants from me in the next 5 days, weeks, months, years, though more and more I feel like I should be focusing more on the next 5 minutes.

As it stands, I've been trying to figure out my entire future. Am I always going to live in Culpeper? Doesn't God want me to be able to find friends? Who am I going to marry? All of these questions come up a lot more than they should. In fact, they tend to distract me from things that are going on in my life right now.

I've developed a system of testing. I'm not necessarily testing God-- rather, I'm resorting to what Gideon did in Judges 6:36-40. All throughout the New Testament, we're told to test things by the Spirit so we can discern God's will. I don't really ask God for signs, I just ask for opportunities. I say things like, "God, this is what I think I'd be good at, could you show me a way where I could serve you through this?" or "God, I think you're leading me to talk to that person over there. Could you provide me an opportunity to make it feel less awkward?" As I continue to find things, I can start to feel God tugging me gently one way or another. I've learned to stop doubting myself, and start trusting God. Ultimately, I aim to please Him... not myself or others.

God is clear in what He wants us to do. He wants us to seek the lost and expose them to His eternal glory. If we make that a desire of our hearts, and draw close to God, we'll begin to experience what He truly can do through our lives.

I'll leave you with a few Bible verses:

1Th 2:4 - On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.

2Cr 13:5,6 - Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you-unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


As we've meandered through the Fruit of the Spirit, I had been looking ahead to self-control for quite some time. In some ways, it really does seem out of place with the rest of this section of the Bible, but at the same time one can view it as an underlying force behind all the rest of the "Fruit."
If you take the rest of the Fruit of the Spirit and lay them out, Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, there isn't really any ONE that stands out where if you're lacking it, someone might point it out. No one I've ever heard has said, "Look at that random person over there, he sure lacks peace in his life!"
But when someone lacks self-control, we notice it right away. In fact, lacking something like love for other people, or kindness might even get attributed (correctly) to a lack of self-control. Like most things in life, the world always is able to pick up on shortcomings rather than successes, so while most people will never be praised for their great self-control, several people will be criticized if they don't have it. It's definitely something to be worked on and honed as a skill.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


I’ve been thinking about this gentleness thing a lot. I especially like the antithesis that gentleness cannot exist with great power. Two Saturdays ago my friend Brad took his black belt test in the World Tang Soo Do Association. A couple days before that, we had been talking about what this test meant, how long he had been studying this particular martial art, and how confident he was that he could pass.

The conversation weaved around, but a couple things stood out to me. If he does acquire his black belt in Tang Soo Do, he will be open to a new world of great “perks” of being a black belt. He explained to me that a certain level of respect comes with earning a black belt, but there is also a whole new world of the martial arts open to him when he does pass. All of the studying, all of the practicing and skill-building leading up to this point, he explained, basically just consisted of the basics. After achieving the rank of black belt, that’s when the masters assume you know the basics, and you can start getting into the really cool stuff.

That idea somewhat surprised me. I knew that there were varying degrees of black belts in many martial arts, but I never really considered a black belt as anything other than a pinnacle
that one strove for-- certainly not a beginning.

The other thing that really spoke to me is that when Brad does earn his black belt, there is a certain standard that he’ll be held to. I don’t think he’ll actually have to register any of his body parts as lethal weapons, but I’m sure that Brad has the power to do some serious damage, if not cause fatalities, with the skills that he has gained. But as Uncle Ben in Spider-Man said, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” If someone attacked Brad in hand to hand combat, unless his life was in danger, he really shouldn’t cause a fatality, even though he has the full POWER to do so. He needs, to some degree, practice restraint.

That’s what we need to learn as Christians. Some of us need to learn that we DO have power... we have the power of the Holy Spirit within us! There’s nothing more powerful than that. But once we realize that, accept that, and begin to wield that power, we need to immediately learn to be gentle with it. Too often, we fall into what Dan Merchant, author and documentarian of “Lord Save from Your Followers,” calls the “gospel of being right.” We have the Spirit inside of us, there’s just some way we know that Jesus is who he says he was.. and we want to TELL PEOPLE ABOUT IT!!!

It’s a fantastic calling, but it’s one that needs to be done responsibly. As you go throughout your week, become emboldened by the power that lives inside of you, but at the same time, harness that power and ask Jesus for help in directing it in a way that will be used to glorify Him, not to tick other people off!

Monday, September 27, 2010


Last week at this time, I was preparing for a trip to State College, Pennsylvania, home of The Pennsylvania State University, my alma mater. This was my first time going to a Penn State football game as an official alumnus, and while that was truly the reason for my visit, I knew going into it that I would see some old friends, and have a chance to build some friendships with new ones.

As I mentioned in my sermon, faithfulness manifests itself through three things: trustworthiness, investment, and an expectation of a return. Well, last week I got my return after years of the other two.

From the moment I got out of my car, I felt incredibly welcome. The entire weekend flew by, in part because I barely had a moment where I wasn't surrounded by people who loved me and wanted to see what was best for me. Everyone was incredibly interested in what God was doing in my life through graduation, a breakup, moving to Virginia, and preaching at First Christian Church. I was just as awed by what God had been doing at Penn State, especially through Christian Student Fellowship, New Life, and my pre-service teaching school, Grace Prep.

And that's pretty much what led to my sermon of last week. My friends and I have reached a point where we're trying to be faithful to God, and, in doing so we've been able to remain faithful and loving toward each other. Truly, I see the Word of God living within us, and what a great feeling that is to see. Check this out:
1 Thessalonians 5:10-11

He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Proverbs 3:3-4

Never let loyalty and kindness leave you!
Tie them around your neck as a reminder.
Write them deep within your heart.
Then you will find favor with both God and people,
and you will earn a good reputation.
Hey Pennsylvanians, keep up the good work... A+ for the whole week, honestly.

There came a point, then, on Saturday when I didn't want to leave. I mean, how could I want to leave a place where I felt so welcomed, so loved, and so encouraged? But then I started to realize that there was never a point when I was talking to my friends when we said "Hey, remember this encouragement *if* you go back to Virginia," because rather than the word "if" we always used the word "when." "...when you go back to Virginia."

I don't know if Virginia will always be the place for me, but it is for now and I'm so excited about that. My friend Britainy told me tonight that people in Virginia will like me just as much as the ones in Pennsylvania... they just don't know me yet. So it looks like I get to start being a faithful servant of God, and a faithful friend all over again.

How are you doing walking in faithfulness? Join in the fun... I promise you won't regret it.

"...let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds" -Hebrews 10:22-24

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Kindness is a pretty clear concept... so why do we continue to be so ineffective in it? I have a theory. We're less interested in being kind, than we are in looking good. Many people in Christendom have bought into the idea that if “I'm a good person, then Jesus will love and accept me,” even though the Bible clearly teaches that this is not the case:

Psalm 14:2-3

The Lord looks down from heaven
on the entire human race;
he looks to see if anyone is truly wise,
if anyone seeks God.
But no, all have turned away;
all have become corrupt.
No one does good,
not a single one!

I've never understood the concept about how “goodness” leads to conversion. “If I act like a good person, then I am a Christian,” is totally false doctrine. The Bible clearly says that we must believe in Christ, confess that he is Lord of our lives, repent of our sins, get baptized, symbolizing the death to our sin and our new life in Jesus, and walk in His footsteps every day. That is conversion, and if you have followed that, then the Bible says you can call yourself a Christian.

But there is a problem. You see, while most Christians to agree on the fact that being “good” cannot save you, we fall into a pretty awful trap: “Well, if I just act like a good person, then people will realize I am a Christian, and they will wonder what it is about me that makes me different, and then they will discover I am a Christian, and then they will want to become a Christian too.” Does anyone know of even one person who was brought to Christ in this manner? Even Jesus had to explain who He was... why should we feel that our lives are worthy of showing Christ's love any better than His own?

To truly be good, and to truly exemplify this concept, we need to first admit that we could not be good without Jesus, and accept his gift of salvation. Once we call ourselves Christians, we go into the mode of show-and-tell. In no way am I saying that trying to be a “good person” is a bad thing... it's just ineffective to leading other people to Christ.

For instance, if you just randomly decide to pay for someone's meal at a restaurant, but do not tell them why, they'll probably think, “Wow, that was really nice of that person,” but I doubt they'll leap to, “They're probably a Christian, so I should become a Christian too.” If you do good, tell people why you're doing it! Teach people that God loves you, and because He loves you and has commanded you to love others, you're doing that to show them that God loves THEM as well.

Every conversion in the Bible has some aspect of “show-and-tell.” Even the apostles, who could whip out some pretty cool stunts in order to “show” people the power of Christ, made sure to explain that it was through faith in Jesus that they were able to perform all their miracles.

So this week, as you try to do good, remember to take it the whole way. Don't just tell, and don't just show, but make sure that both are working together for the good of the kingdom.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I remarked right at the beginning of my sermon this Sunday that I didn't want to waste a lot of time talking about the concept of "Kindness" because there is nothing to explain. Kindness happens, and when it does, we know it immediately. It has varying degrees and levels, but in the end kindness is kindness.

Although I'm only 22 years old, I've lived long enough to figure out a few things about kindness. For one, as much as it is clearly evident when it happens, kindness doesn't seem to happen enough. Two, kindness appeals to a huge demographic of people. Three, when Christians aren't kind, the world is quick to point out that we're being hypocritical... and they would be correct:

Phil 2:12-18

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

Now, I need to confess that I don't always feel like shining like a star, especially when it comes to being kind to those who make me angry, but that's not what Paul seemed to have in mind. I've always respected Paul, because I always figure that no matter how bad I perceived my life to be at the time, Paul had it worse-- so when Paul tells me that I should treat people with kindness and respect, I should probably listen... but at least it's somewhat sneakily “righteously vengeful.” :-P

Romans 12:14-21

Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,

I will take revenge;
I will pay them back,”
says the L


If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap
burning coals of shame on their heads.”

Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

I'll be completely honest and say that I feel uncomfortable in reading that. I know I need to get better, but I also had an recent experience where I got to live this out, and what a phenomenal experience it was (listen to this week's sermon on Kindness for more info). Reacting to those who angered and upset me in a loving and kind way was a very liberating experience, and one that I know God smiled on. It's a start, and it's something I need to improve. It's what the church needs to improve as well.

When it comes right down to it, I have to ask myself, who would I rather have as a face of modern Christianity: Mother Teresa or Terry “Koran-burning” Jones?

This spiritual battle is changing. For proof, I submit the following video to you. It comes from a Skeptics conference, and the speaker in this clip, Dr. Phil Plait, is a self-professed atheist, and a very entertaining blogger over at “Bad Astronomy.” Someone in the atheist community has discovered what Paul knew 2000 years ago... people don't respond well to yelling, nor do they respond well to being called an idiot. Now, the video has some language that probably wouldn't be considered kosher for this blog, but it's pretty astounding just how amazingly similar his rhetoric sounds in comparison with my own.

Phil Plait - Don't Be A Dick from JREF on Vimeo.

For hundreds of years, Christians have relied on the fact that the message would get passed on, no matter the delivery. But until we actually SHOW Jesus' love FIRST, we won't have an audience to tell SECOND. Now the atheist community has started to change their delivery, and their tone. They will have an audience, and though I feel our message is superior, we need to figure out a way to pass that message along in a way that people will want to listen and respond. Chew on that, and I'll have a follow-up on this next Wednesday in relation with this week's coming sermon on "Goodness."

Please feel free to post comments and questions in the comments section. Also, I suppose that I should put a disclaimer that I do not agree with much that Dr. Phil Plait has to say about God, or Christianity in general, but this blog post is not meant to debate his a-theology, and I don't want the comments section to devolve into a scientific debate... thanks in advance.