Wednesday, May 11, 2011


When I was a sophomore at Penn State, we got a new campus minister who was very particular about one thing: excellence in all things.  If we were going to do something, we were going to do it very well.  It's an interesting concept in theory.  In practice, it's very difficult to pull off.

In my ministry, I find I fall somewhere in the middle of two sides on the issue.  On one hand, some argue that excellence or perfection puts God in a box.  We can only plan out so much and it's a little arrogant to say to God, "Ok God, this is where we've planned for you to come in and do some amazing things."  Because God tends not to respond to such requests on demand, those who plan things out, tend not to plan on the miraculous happening.  Some churches rely on being so perfect that there is a minute by minute breakdown of the service.  Every detail is planned meticulously and critics argue that there is no room for God to influence anyone or anything... that God only does what the planners allow Him to do.  These are the churches that work for hours to perfect the look that they just threw together a worship service last minute that happens to be the peak of excellence.

On the other side of the fence (on the issue of perfection and excellence), observers can find people who say that one should not give anything less than his absolute best.  These are the churches who tend to have their members show up in suits and ties, if they're men, and dresses if they're women.  The conservative attitude makes church less scripted, but less adventurous.  It might not be uncommon to find two bulletins with the exact same order of worship, but a date 30 years apart.  These churches have found what works and stuck with it.

Now, I mentioned before that I find myself somewhere in the middle here.  I think most people would.  Obviously, the object of ministry is not to give God any less than our best, but there's no reason that we should be legalistic about that.  Even though my church tends to dress conservatively, I showed up in sandals last week and everyone survived.  Someday, I vow I WILL preach in jeans, but that day is still to come.  However, our services are fairly scripted, mainly because there is very little that can't be controlled.  Because we don't have live music, I know *exactly* what verses are coming up next in the worship songs since I've had the CDs at my disposal all week long.  In the 5 months or so that we've had an LCD projector, I've averaged less than one typo every two months.  How many churches can say that?

With the resources that I have to work with at my church, I think our services are about as excellent as anyone could expect them to be.  So there... I've given God my best... good enough right?

And that's the root of the problem.  If all we're doing is trying to give our best to God... without involving God in the process, we're going to end up climbing up an infinitely tall hill.  Jesus came because our best wasn't good enough, so why do we try to fool ourselves into thinking otherwise?  

But then you go to the other side of the coin... if our best is never going to be good enough, why try at all?  God can take those mountains and turn them into molehills without our help... why not just let him do everything?

It's led me to realize that I need to reorient what I think is excellent away from my own preconceptions.  I've seen some pretty excellent things turn out to be pretty sour, and some things that I thought were lost causes turn out to be great.  Ironically, the key is in preparedness, but not in dressing super-nicely or making sure that church begins at 11:00 AM and ends promptly at 11:59:50.  We need to prepare ourselves to be ready for God to use us to glorify Him at any given time, not just on Sunday mornings.

We must humble ourselves and accept the fact that our idea of excellence pales in comparison to God's.  We can come to Him and say "God, our best isn't ever going to be good enough, but we know that You have given us many gifts, talents, abilities... we realize we need to work to hone all of those things so that we can use them whenever you call us to do so.  But we also acknowledge that apart from You, our best is useless.  Empower us with Your Spirit as we learn to give You what you have called us to do, in the way that You would have it done."

Eph 2:8-10

8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Sacrificial Living?

With Easter being last week, I thought a lot about the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross and I thought, "Am I content with what I'm giving to God?"  You see, as a preacher, it's easy for me to think, "Well surely I'm doing my duty as a Christian.  I preach on the weekends. I lead and participate in Bible Studies during the week.  I'm often encouraging and counseling my church members and friends.  I tithe.  I'll even go out of my way to bake cookies or do some other random acts of kindness around town.  I must be on the right track."

But then I take a step back and when I look at it... I enjoy all of those things.  I would probably be doing them whether or not it was my job, but when I look at what bigger things I could be doing... things that I'm not very good at... things that I wouldn't be able to do without the help of God, I wonder, "Am I allowing God to use me the way that He wants to use me?  or the way that I want Him to use me?"

I still haven't reached a conclusion, but I don't know that I'll necessarily like the answer when I do.

There are two major schools of thought bouncing back and forth in my brain:

1.) God has gifted me for certain things and I perform them adequately enough.  This is the option that would certainly make me feel better about what I do for God and how I'm living my life.  Clearly I enjoy talking to people, getting to know people, and meeting their needs.  God has gifted me for it, and I'm doing it.  Simple!

but then I think about...

2.) God is calling me to bigger and more difficult things, but I'm contenting and busying myself with smaller things.  What if I'm supposed to be doing more with my faith than I currently am?  I feel called to Culpeper for now, but am I supposed to focus only on my church or the people of Culpeper?  Should I be starting new ministries?  Could I hold a huge event that attracts lots of people just to begin sharing about the sacrifice that Jesus made?  Or should I just be ok with handing out cookies at Walmart every few months?

Jesus said that the road to heaven is a straight and narrow path... there are tons of options, but only one way to the Father and that's through Jesus.  I think the real heart of the issue is: Am I consistently doing things that glorify Jesus?

I'm sure it looks like different things for different people, in fact it looks like different things for just one person at different stages in life.  But the question I think we all need to be asking ourselves is, if we've been given so much, what are we doing with it?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What does this have to do with Easter?

Jurassic Park: The Ride (Spoiler Alert if you've never been on the ride before... it shows the whole thing).

Listen to my Easter sermon coming up this Sunday...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sharing the Good News

As I write this, I'm sitting in the office of one of my friends in ministry.  He's not here right now, so I figured I'd commendeer his computer and do my job (with his permission... apparently his "eye health" is more important than our friendship).

One of the things that strikes me, however, is how he and I have grown to trust each other in the eight short months that I've been here.  We share stories and victories and pains.  We're confidants and ministers and encouragers.  We're friends.  When I do good things, I expect to hear from him.  But flip it around.  When I do bad things, I expect to hear from him.  When there's an issue in my life, when I'm discouraged, when I'm angry, he's able to call me on it.  I'd do the same for him as well.

It's a very simple concept really... we put our trust in the people we know best.  We share our hearts, our dreams, our desires, our weaknesses, our struggles, our depressions with those that we know and love the most.  It's the natural human condition.

I suppose that's why pictures like this confuse me so much:

Ok, perfect picture for my purposes.  First off, don't you really want to meet the ONE drunkard and the ONE general heathen from that sign?  There are potentially millions of of the other categories, but only one of those two.  Poor two people on the face of the planet who struggle alone with drunkeness and... general heatheness?  Huh, that didn't come up on spell check, guess it is a word.

Now, let me ask you, if you were one who actually would identify as a drunkard, fornicator, masturbator, atheist, abortionist, adutlerer, witch, reveler, sodomite, hypocrite, blashphemer, liar, or general heathen, would you be inclined to talk to this man?  To listen to anything he had to say?  I'm a Christian and I don't think I'd really have anything kind to say to him.  There's no relationship there... no trust... nothing but judgement and damnation.

Now look at his sleeve.  The mega-irony would be if that last word was "LOVE" but I think it's "LORD" which would make a lot of sense since a message of love and peace doesn't seem to be portrayed.  Now, it should be noted that Christianity is NOT simply a religion about love and peace, and he's right in that there WILL be judgement, but that judgement is God's, not ours.  The reason that God gets to make those calls is because He *IS* Lord and we are not.  As Lord He called us to live lives holy and pleasing to him and to make disciples for Him.

But He did not call us to hold signs scolding people, unless discipleship looks entirely different than I imagine it to be.  Ok, time to look at that Bible verse.  Hebrews 9:27--

Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,

Ah!  There we go all questions answered!  People are destined to die and then to face judgement.  Period.

What?  There was no period?  It was a comma?  Well I guess it would be pretty important to read the whole sentence, but surely it's just going to talk about how judgement is the only option awaiting sinners.  Let's see:

27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
Oh.  So wait... there's hope?  That seems rather important.  Maybe someone should share that with people instead of just telling them that only Hell awaits them.  Form a relationship... share in life... teach the Good News.

Maybe someone should.  Maybe you should.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


I'm sorry if I've been letting anyone down in the last few weeks... I think God is doing some amazing things in Culpeper and I'm looking forward to those, but it's been requiring a lot of time reflecting and praying on my part.  Add that to the fact that my computer's power connection is very finicky now (update: dead) so I haven't really been able to spend much time on my computer to write a blog.  The church has purchased a new one however, so things should be able to move forward as usual.  The last two weeks of sermons have been uploaded to as well.

You see, until it gets fixed, the power cord for my computer has to be tilted in a very specific way just so it can make an electric connection and charge the battery.  If it moves at all, I have to spend about 5 minutes getting it back into the proper place... it's annoying to say the least.  There should be a solid connection from the electricity flowing from the cord to the power adapter inside the computer which leads to my battery and allows it to charge.  When any of that is out of sync or alignment, the whole machine loses power until finally, it won't turn on anymore.

It's amazing to me how vastly important connections are in my every day life.  If I have a bad phone, TV, or internet connection, I become very disgruntled and want it fixed immediately.  When I have friends and we just aren't on the same page, it's very frustrating.  When God and I aren't sharing a solid connection, all of those feelings come rise again.  In each one of those instances, I blame something else... Comcast or Verizon or AT&T, my friends.  And yes, even God.

Hebrews 11:6
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

The writer of Hebrews knew that it was important for man to maintain a connection with God.  Even though the Bible is filled with numerous instances where God seeks after man, it's clear that God wants the connection to be a voluntary one.  We must do our part to seek after him and maintain the connection.

To often, we neglect the connection with God as one that is important to our lives, yet when we experience the negative feelings that go along with the bad connection, we're so quick to blame God for our troubles.  "God's not listening, God's not answering my prayers." Not nearly often enough do I turn the tables and say "I need to do a better job of maintaining this connection."  But that's what we need to do.  The best part is, God's always waiting for us to turn back to Him, offering that strong connection through his Son Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Delayed blog post

Hey all,

I'm going to try to get a blog post up this week, but God has been laying some things on my heart and I have a friend in town this week too.  Nothing's wrong, I just don't really feel like composing anything at the moment.  I want to sit on this and allow for some time of reflection before I blurt out my thoughts.  Pray for me during this time!

Adam... P.S. Maybe look for a blog post around Friday... probably?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Recap 3/16/2011

I can't share all the "behind the scenes" details of my church life, but just like anything, there are ups and downs.  What I can say is that the first week in March was an "up," and the second week in March was a "down."  Going into Sunday the 13th, I had been through two incredibly busy weeks and had to preach two separate sermons that day to two different groups of people.

About three weeks ago, I was asked to preach for the Culpeper County Ministerial Association's (CCMA) Lenten Service.  Now, I love to preach-- I can't imagine a point in my life when I won't want to preach on a regular basis-- but I've discovered that, if I had my preference, I'd rather not prepare two sermons for one week.  Still, it's what the Lord had in store for me, so I did it.  Fortunately, given the short amount of time I had between the time I agreed to preach and the time when I actually had to do so, the chapter from which I was instructed to preach suited me very well: John 13.

In this chapter, Jesus washes the feet of His disciples and demonstrates for us how we're to love each other.  The sermon went really well (you can listen to it here).  Over 40 people were hearing me preach for the first time and I wanted to leave them with something that was meaningful and impacting.  Fortunately, Jeff Light, the preacher at Novum Baptist Church where this event was being held had thought even one step ahead of me.  I had asked people to consider ways to humble themselves and serve, and he provided basins with water in order to wash each other's feet.  People were given the opportunity to come have their feet washed and to wash others.  Several people dropped denominational differences to unify in an act of humbling service.

To be perfectly frank, I think we need to see more of that.  In the sermon, I described what the church should do as the ultimate "show and tell."  Show Christ's love first, then you get to tell people why you're doing it.  Think about that this week... especially if you're having a "down" week.  Chances are, so are other people around you.  To put it in context, Jesus wasn't exactly having the week of his life either.  Two of his friends were about to betray Him, and he was about to die a horrible death.

Two acts of service (the footwashing and the dying) and things turned around for the better by the following Sunday.  Give it a shot, let me know how it goes.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


I went swing dancing once.  It didn't go well.  My date/teacher (Lisa) was great at it, but I was just having so much trouble picking it up and I couldn't quite figure out why.  To me, it sounded like the basic count was "One, Two, Rock-step," but when we actually started to dance it would be four separate steps, "One, Two, Rock, Step."  I asked Lisa if "Rock" and "Step" were two different counts and she said, "Yes, of course..." so I reverted from a three-count to a four-count.

That made more sense, but something was still off and I figured it out immediately.  The music was in a three count, meaning there were three beats for every measure-- but marching band songs were almost always in four, and the first beat of every measure the left foot hits the ground (unless you happen to march with the Cadets).  Suddenly, I understood exactly why I was so horrible at swing dancing.  Then I understood that it would take along time for me to get any good at it at all.

When I was a junior in high school marching band, we played a movement from Bernstein's Jeremiah Symphony (Profanation, the second movement).  This song had changing meters-- 4/4 mostly, but also 5/8 (counted in one long beat and one short beat) and 7/8 (one long beat and two short beats).  I'd estimate that in learning how to play the music and march correctly, we probably spent about 10 hours in preparation JUST working on that part of the show before it was ever performed, and then we continued to perfect it all year long.  In fact, while I'm fairly certain I understood it by the end of the season, I must admit I was still far from automatic when it came to marching that part of the show correctly.

The point is this: sometimes it takes an awful lot of time and an awful lot of work to get out of the habits that we make for ourselves.  To this day, I can't run while I'm listening to music because I always try to make my left foot hit on beat one of a measure, my pace changes with the tempo of the song, and that awkward period between songs almost always makes me stumble.  Who knew that marching band would cause so many problems?

So often, I'm finding that my own method of doing things and my own preconceptions of how things "have to be done" gets in the way of effective ministry.  For me, I wish I understood better how "the South" works, or at least what things I say and do might be seen as odd, awkward, or even offensive.  Too many times, I want things done my way, rather than any other way... and most times I don't even think that there may BE another way than my way.

Confusing?  Probably-- but perhaps it should be.  I've gotta believe this is how outsiders of Christianity look at God.  I was raised in the church.  It has always been a very safe and familiar place in my life.  It took me a long time to learn that other people didn't have the same experience.  How much longer would it take someone outside the church, who has grown up with nothing resembling it to learn our customs, our language, our behaviors?

As the church, we need to do a better job of helping people through this process.  It's not an easy one by any stretch of the imagination.  I don't really feel like looking up the number right now, but there's a statistic that says somewhere in the area of 4 of every 5 new American Christians will not be attending church a year from the time that they start.  That needs to get better.

If my series on Ruth taught me anything, it's this: Ruth was an extraordinary woman who was very devoted to her mother-in-law Naomi, and not to God at first.  Just because she crossed over into Israel didn't mean that she automatically understood all of the Israelite customs, laws, religion, etc.  It took time and people being patient with her, coming along side her, helping her to get out of her former habits and to adapt new ones.

It may have seemed like a lot of trouble, but ultimately, Ruth became one of the ancestors of Christ.  I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that any new Christian will not have that honor anymore-- but we risk wasting so much potential if we do not help new Christians adapt to learning about God in a schedule that fits them, rather than us.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Infinite love.

I was listening to a talk by Dr. Lawrence Krauss the other day titled "A Universe from Nothing."  Krauss is a theoretical physicist, he's an atheist, and he's really full of himself.  In fact, he's that special "full of himself" kind that probably wouldn't mind that I called him full of himself.  This post has nothing to do with him EXCEPT for the fact that he brought up a paradox that I hadn't heard before.  So thanks for that Dr. Krauss.

So, Hilbert's Paradox of the Grand Hotel.  I must say, I don't fully understand this topic, nor do I expect anyone to.  I wouldn't be surprised if David Hilbert doesn't understand it either.  Here's the simplest explanation that does it any justice.

Imagine a hotel that is infinitely large with an infinite number of rooms all of which are occupied.  Then imagine you walk in and want to check into the hotel.  The manager says, "We're full..." but then he remembers that he has an infinite amount of rooms... so he just moves the guest in room 1 to room 2, room 2 to room 3, and so on and so on.  Therefore, room 1 is now unoccupied and ready for you to move into it.

Confusing right?  The only way I can conceptualize it is when I think of some of my friends.  Just the other night, one of my friends was nervous and sick.  She didn't want to inconvenience anyone, but she said "Hey, you're up late, can I call you if I can't sleep?"  Of course I said she could.  Then she asked, "How late is too late to call?" and I replied something like, "Aw, that's cute... you think there's a time that you could call when I wouldn't pick up for you."

She's not alone.  There are certain people in my life who I love an infinite amount and I would literally do anything I could for them.  Nothing they could ever say or do would ever make me love them any more or less than I do now.  It's an infinite love.

God has that same kind of love for us.  It will never decrease, nor will it ever increase.  It is ALREADY full.  Not only is His love infinite, but His actions back up that love.  His gift of a Son to come to earth to give His life as a ransom for us was all we'll ever need to forever be justified in God.  He's done everything He can for us.  Here's the kicker though... His love is infinite... for an infinite number of people.  He has loved every single person in His Creation the same way.  He always has and He always will.

It's nearly impossible to understand... Hilbert's paradox seems to have as many detractors as it has supporters.  But when it comes to my faith in God and how He loves me, I take comfort in the fact that it's even purer, better, and just as infinite as I love I have for my friends.

1 John 4:16b-19

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
 19 We love because he first loved us. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Aptronyms and Encouragement

For those of you who have heard my story about Ms. Clara from my church when I younger, you know that I've spent a LOT of time in Acts chapter 9 (81 weeks in a row!), but lately I've been coming back to Acts 4 over and over again.  There are so many good habits for the church to "re-adopt" in that chapter, things that we really should focus on.  That's one reason I'm writing this blog entry.

My favorite verse in the entire chapter is Acts 4:36:

Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”),...

There aren't too many times that I stop mid-sentence to point out verses, and while I realize that verse 37 is still the Inspired Word, I can't help but be amazed by verse 36.  Barnabas, yes, of "Paul and Barnabas" fame, was born with the name Joseph.

"Uh... so what?" you might be saying.  Well, did you know that?  Did you know that we've been calling Barnabas by a changed name?  It seems that Barnabas had earned himself a bit of a reputation.  It's basically a purposeful aptronym (a name that matches an occupation... e.g. George and Pete Hammer who own a hardware shop in Kentucky, or Dr. David Toothaker, a dentist from Arkansas).  Barnabas apparently was SO overwhelmingly encouraging, that the Apostles just decided to call him "Son of Encouragement."

I feel like I've made this point on this blog before... but I'd LOVE to be called something as awesome as "Son of Encouragement."  To gain a reputation for doing God's Work that is so much a part of oneself that it just becomes an identifier would be a great honor.  I think, if I had to choose one, I would love to be known as "The Conduit" since I like to find out what people are passionate about and connect them to other people who either share that passion, or have a need that can be filled by that passion.  What do you think you would be called if you honed the gifts that God gave you?

     But the first step in that is getting used to the idea of openly praising people.  We don't do that enough.  Thinking of people's strengths, and helping them grow into them and reach their full potential, with the help of the Holy Spirit is a task that the church SHOULD do for each other.  Check out 1 Thessalonians 5.  As a church, we need to become more encouraging as a whole.  Looking at the example of Barnabas, the fact that he was such an encouragement to other people led the Apostles to call him by another name, so that EVERY time someone said his name, he too, could draw encouragement from the fact that he knew he was serving God.  It's like... an encouragement cycle!

     Think about it... is there anyone in your life who could use a little attention for the good he or she has done for the Kingdom?  Step out, disregard the social awkwardness, and tell that person how appreciative you are of their service.  Who knows? the encouragement might come back around to you!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Disclaimer (seriously, how many of my blog posts begin with disclaimers?  An inordinate amount, I tell you!  I guess I'm just a careful guy.): I have no affiliation with THON anymore, they're not paying me to say nice things, my views do not necessarily reflect the views of THON, I'm not trying to solicit, but feel free to donate if you want, etc, etc, etc,)

Did you know that one of my favorite numbers is 5,240,385.17?  (Yes, really).  On a related note, in my experience there haven't been too many moments in life when I knew "This is a life changing / shaping experience!"  February 16, 2007 at 9:00 PM exactly, I knew it, because I walked into a scene that looked like this:

This is actually THON 08... THON 07 was also powerful enough that I knew I had to buy a digital camera to record the next year's for myself

A little background first to help you understand.  If you've read this blog, ever, you've probably gathered that I'm a huge Penn State fan and have been my entire life.  It got to the point where I was proselytizing.  In fact, I think that perhaps my friends Lauren and Kristin did end up choosing Penn State due, in part, to my influence.

I gave people all kinds of reasons why Penn State was AWESOME ranging from academics, to football, clubs and activities, and everything in between.  But at 9:00 PM on that Friday night, I found myself texting Lauren and asking, "Are you at THON?"  Turned out she was, and I went to find her and said "Remember when I was giving you all kinds of reasons that you should come to Penn State?  Well if I had known about THIS at that time, this would have been number one."

Basic information about THON:  THON is a dance marathon that started back in 1973.  It has evolved since then and currently stands as a 46 hour dance marathon that takes place every year on the third weekend in February.   About 700 dancers from all across Penn State University take place every year.  Now to be completely honest, there isn't a LOT of real dancing that goes on at THON.  Basically, it's a grueling 46 hours worth of staying awake and fighting to stay on one's feet.  The only reprieve that the dancers get are 10 second rubdowns on what are called the "Slides of Strength."  So, in a span of 46 hours, dancers spend about 45 hours 58 minutes and 40 seconds or so standing.  There IS dancing at least once an hour though as they have hourly line dances. (H/T david06pa)

But why subject one's body to such torture?  That's something that can be answered in three letters-- FTK.  For the kids.  When THON began, it was supposed to support a deserving charity.  Every year since 1977, the Four Diamonds Fund has been that charity.  The Four Diamonds fund supports patients (and their families) in the pediatric cancer ward at Hershey Medical Center.  When a young child with cancer shows up there, the family gets welcomed into the Four Diamonds family and are assured that almost anything that their insurance doesn't cover-- operations, treatments, lodging, food, transportation to and from Hershey-- will be taken care of by the Four Diamonds Fund.  These families come to visit THON every year to share how much the physical, emotional, and financial help means to them.  A few hours before the dancers are finally allowed to sit, some families take the stage usually one family who lost a child to cancer, and one whose child beat it, to share their stories and to thank the kids for their support and what they do all year-round.  One of the important things to recognize about THON is that as driven as the college students are on THON weekend, the kids and their families fight cancer all year round with the same drive and strength that the dancers draw on in hours 45 and 46.

There's so much that makes up THON.  It's an all-year process that climaxes at one weekend in February.  Fundraising starts on October 1 every year and culminates at the end of the weekend with a dramatic reveal... like this one from THON 07 (you'll definitely want to turn your volume down for this-- (H/T to Pituch3))

Hence, 5,240,385.17 being one of my favorite numbers

There is much more to point out... and I could drone on and on (like I haven't already) but the question I have is, why don't we see more events like THON?  As special and unique as THON is, it had humble beginnings because someone had an idea and took it to action.

Gretel and Bijal-- Christian Student Fellowship's dancers for THON 07-- with some wimpy dude who was only there for 30 hours of the 46

I love THON, but as a Christian, I'm somewhat secretly envious.  If I could bottle THON and let people get even one sniff of it, I believe it would show people that passion and excitement can bring greatness.  Let's face it-- THON is doing work that the church wants to be known for, and it's doing it better than most churches.  Organization... passion... success... kindness... caring... community... it's all there.  I encourage you to log onto this weekend to view the live webcast and take a look at the activity going on and pray about how you may be able to get THAT excited about something that you can't do anything BUT spring into action.

Now obviously, just because THON is not a religious organization doesn't mean that Christians aren't involved.  Nor does it mean that THON shouldn't do this kind of work, like the church has a monopoly on it. THON has it's own issues as well, but I'm convinced that those aren't my concern.  The only standard that THON has to meet is its own-- the church needs to meet God's.  Are we?

Take a look at this description of the early church from Acts 4:32-35:

32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

And how about this from Paul? (Ephesians 2:8-10)

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

So I ask again, are we doing that today?  If not, I believe we still can and should.  If we look at THON as a fantastic example of what can be done without God's explicit guidance, imagine the POWER that would be added if we include Him in the plan.

THON runs from 6:00 PM Friday night through 4:00 PM Sunday.  The money total should be announced by 4:45 PM I'd imagine.  Anything you need to know about THON, including its history and how to donate can be found at

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Grandpap Sandy

     This blog post might end up being pretty short.  That's mostly because I've been thinking to myself "I will NOT be controversial this week, I will NOT be controversial this week, I will NOT be controversial this week!"  But uncontroversial can be boring, and boring doesn't always make for a very enjoyable blog.  Let's see if I have anything meaningful, and non-controversial to say-- I think I do.

     I got an e-mail on Monday from my mom.  It was forwarded on from one of our family friends who lived across the street from us when I was very young, and it contained an obituary.  Our former next door neighbor, a man who I called "Grandpap Sandy" had passed away.

      It had been years since I had seen him, so his death didn't really feel like loss to me, at least not in the way that most people associate loss with death.  No, I had already "lost" him just through various circumstances in life... my family moving, too many years passing, and the fact that, according to the things written in his obituary, I had never really "known" him to begin with.  But I knew him as my Grandpap Sandy, and that's how I'll remember him, and I can live with that.

     My fondest memories of him, and his wife "Grandma Ruth," involved what I always refer to as "the spot" at "the fence" where my parents would always talk to them.  They had a pretty extensive garden set up, especially for that part of Northern New Jersey, which despite its epithet as the "Garden State," has more houses than trees I think.  Grandpap Sandy and Grandma Ruth would always send over bags and bags of eggplant, which I didn't like, but I guess my parents did, or at least accepted.  They were a weird and wacky couple who had one of those 90's answering machine raps, and a radio that was shaped like a Tropicana Orange sitting on their kitchen table.  Their generosity was evident, as well, as I have the first 14 or so Hess Trucks of my life because of them (batteries came with the Christmas present).  I'm fairly certain I still have BOXES of animal crackers left in my parents pantry from them as well.

     I can live with those memories, and look back fondly at that time with those people, but when I think about how I proceed from here, I'm never quite sure what I want.  It's funny that my mom got the obituary from who she did-- her son's was one of the first deaths that I had experienced, when I was 7.  To this day, I attribute the fact that I refuse to leave friends on bad terms to his death... not because we were on bad terms when he died, but because I learned at a very early age how fragile life can truly be.  I wish I had time to truly know and keep in touch with everyone I've come across in life... I'm sure there are literally hundreds of thousands of stories, smiles, and tears that could be shared, but it's so easy to get swept up in the "business" of life.  Just yesterday, I caught up with a woman who was a camp counselor for me in middle school.  Since then, three kids have shown up in her family photos on Facebook!  I think I remember the first one-- but three?!

      It comes back to my concept of "investing" in people's lives.  Depending on how much effort one puts in, that's about the return you should expect-- and I don't think it qualifies as a friendship if you don't expect some return.  I can't return the investment that Grandpap Sandy made to my life anymore, at least not to him.  Another name that pops up is Jesus Christ.  How can I return the investment He made in my life?  I think the answer for both of those men is the same-- pay it forward (Literally, perform the action of paying it forward... don't go out and buy the movie with Haley Joel Osment and give it to people).  Matthew 25:40 reads: “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’"

    So I'll pay it forward... but I don't want to forget the people who are still around me today, the investments, or the returns.  Let's make the most of having the people who are still in our lives.  In chapter 4 of his letter, James writes "You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes."  We might not have tomorrow to do that, to rectify relationships, or to have the option of telling people how much they mean to us.  Similarly, we might not have the ability to give the same to God, to glorify Him.  If I can implore you to do anything... don't wait.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Science in the Classroom

Well, after 2 straight weeks of controversial subjects (homosexuality and pro-life rallies), I figured I'd take a break from blogging about another controversial subject.  But then I changed my mind because I'm in a bad mood and venting makes me feel better.

I'm becoming convinced that many of the problems that the church is facing in finding its place in our world today can be traced back to the public school system in America.  Now, before anyone gets bent out of shape, let me throw a disclaimer out here:  I am a product of the public school system, and I have a degree in Secondary Education, so I don't criticize my upbringing and professional degree lightly-- but I believe it's fair criticism.

I was debating my friend Lance the other day, and it occurred to me that most people still think that Darwin's Theory of Evolution is accepted by most members of the scientific community.  Did you know that's not true?  No one denies that Darwin was onto something, and with the limited knowledge he had, he was still able to accurately detect natural selection.  Most scientists accept this as the driving force behind current evolutionary trends, but it is not complete.  Yet most graduates believe that Darwin's original theory was correct-- But why?

The answer is simple.  Kids still learn about Darwin's Theory of Evolution in school, even though it's not up to date by scientific standards.  If we're willing to teach kids something that we KNOW to be incorrect, why can't we teach kids something that we can't discern whether it's correct or not?  Our current theory of evolution falls under that umbrella... and emergent evolution... then again, so does Creationism... and so does the Mormon account of Creation... and Greek Mythology... really any mythology... Shinto as well... and if we're going to bring Shinto and Mormonism into the fray, we shouldn't exclude Buddhism or Hinduism either.  Really, where should that line get drawn?  I'm in favor of teaching kids all of those theories and belief systems in science classes in high school, or none of them.

"That's not a science class then," some of you might say... in fact, that's what Lance said to me.  My question is, "When did science, as we know it today, become so arrogant?"  What I described in the previous paragraph would have been science class if your name was Aristotle or Socrates, Ptolemy or Caesar, Newton or Galileo... but apparently it's not science class if your name is Hawking or Sagan.

When I ask science-supporters why Creation or Intelligent Design shouldn't be taught in the classroom, I get one consistent response: they don't fit the scientific method.  Now as I understand it, they're looking for observable, empirical evidence which can also be repeated so we can predict future results.  Creationism and Intelligent Design do neither of those.

But, then again, neither does Darwinian evolution. It is not observable in nature, it's not repeatable, and there are many holes in Darwin's original theory.  Current evolutionary theory does what it can to plug up those holes, but it can't be proven using the scientific method... it's still very hypothetical.  To me, that means it's no more reliable than smacking your hands together and saying, "It's MAGIC!"

But what about the other things that we learn in science classes that don't fit the scientific method?  Gravity comes to mind.  Newtonian physics largely apply on Earth, but we believe that the laws begin to collapse when dealing with subatomic particles, and also near the event horizon of a black hole.  We can't observe what happens in those instances, but we're content with saying "Well it works in most cases and explains almost everything... so it should be taught in schools."  But it isn't SCIENCE... at best it's belief.  We have NO IDEA why gravity exists, we only know that it does, and most of the time we can predict how it will work.  Until 10 years ago, we didn't even know that Gravity actually travels in waves.  We believe that acceleration due to gravity is constant, except when it isn't. It varies, not even between planets, but at various places on Earth itself.  But ask any student in a physics classroom "What is the accepted number for acceleration due to gravity on earth?" and they'll (hopefully) tell you, "9.8 meters per second per second."  We're taught that it's a constant, that it's observable, that it's repeatable, but it isn't!  We even have a pretty good idea why it changes, but we don't teach that in school because... I actually have no idea why.

If we're supposed to be teaching our kids science, based on the scientific method, we're doing a terrible job.  If we're allowed to teach our kids unreliable theories, why NOT also be allowed to teach Creationism, or at the very least, not mock it. What difference is there between "So you believe a god created everything that's around us?" and "So you believe that we got here because of an explosion that arose from nothing to create everything?"  Neither are observable, neither are repeatable, neither are empirical... yet one is the widely respected opinion and the other is lampooned as theological crazy talk, for no better reason than the established order says so.

I'm not the first who has arrived at this conclusion, and I'm sure I won't be the final one either.  The late Paul Feyerabend comes to mind when discussing this issue.  He went so far as to say that science should be separated from the state IN THE SAME WAY that church and state should be separated.
The way towards this aim is clear. A science that insists on possessing the only correct method and the only acceptable results is ideology and must be separated from the state, and especially from the process of education. One may teach it, but only to those who have decided to make this particular superstition their own. On the other hand, a science that has dropped such totalitarian pretensions is no longer independent and self-contained, and it can be taught in many different combinations (myth and modern cosmology might be one such combination).
Science and church getting equal treatment?  Sounds like a pipe dream... but to the rational observer, perhaps it doesn't sound so crazy after all.

EDIT: I've gotten too much heat about "Emergent evolution" to keep it in.  "Current leading evolutionary theory" or something to that effect replaces it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

March for Life

(Quick editorial note: This blog was started on the back of a train ticket holder envelope thingy... so if this blog post becomes really really famous (which is won't, don't worry) we'll have another one of those stories where something life-changing was written on a piece of seemingly inconsequential paper.  Yes, I believe I just compared my blog to the Gettysburg Address (and yes, I know that story is an urban legend... not the Gettysburg Address, just the thing where it was written on the back of an envelope... or a napkin... or something).

(Quick editorial note #2: Pay no attention to "Quick editorial note #1).

Right or not, I consider myself to be one of the most open-minded people I know.  Since I have such an opinion of myself, I suppose one could argue that I'm actually closed-minded, and to you, I say, "START YOUR OWN BLOG AND COMPLAIN ABOUT IT.  Pansy."  Let's say for the sake of argument that I'm pretty open minded.  I say that, not to mean that I'll agree with anything that someone would say, and I doubt I'll ever change my mind about my deep-seeded beliefs just become of an argument that someone brings up, but I'll always listen to someone's viewpoint, consider it, and usually be able to understand why someone would hold that particular point of view.  I can make a fantastic devil's advocate when I want to.

However, there is one group of people that I never really gave a fair shake.  It's a little surprising, especially considering the fact that I agree with their position, but my perception (largely fueled by the media and some unfortunate incidents at Penn State) was skewed.  I'm talking about the Pro-Life Political Rally crowd.

About 2 weeks ago, I got an e-mail from Grace Prep, a Christian High School in State College, and one of the places where I student taught.  Grace Prep is an amazing place filled with amazing people... it's long overdue to be mentioned in this blog, and I'll brag about them all sooner or later.  The e-mail contained information that my former mentor teacher (certainly not the least of those amazing people) would be heading up a trip to Washington D.C. for the March for Life and would be bringing students with her.  I got so excited to see the kids and my mentor teacher, that I immediately started looking into transportation to Washington to see them.

The only thing that didn't really excite me were the words "March for Life."  I'm pro-life; always have been, always will be.  I'm one of those pesky pro-lifers that also sees the necessity of war and the death penalty, so call me what you will, but when it comes to a fertilized egg and sperm, I consider that to be life, and I think it should be protected. But, as I told many of my friends who asked what I'd be doing in Washington, I said "Well the kids are going to the March for Life... Don't get me wrong, I'm pro-life, but I'm very anti-pro-life-rally."  In my mind, I saw Washington FILLED with GIANT posters with pictures of mutilated fetuses, people screaming and yelling, never listening to the opposing viewpoints, and loud raucous simpletons coming up with not-so-clever slogans.

Now, before we progress any further, I feel I should offer a warning: Those of you who know me well... who have talked at length about any Biblical, political, social, or sports issue with me... please take this opportunity to find a comfortable, safe, balanced spot, and sit down.)

I was wrong. (Is everyone ok?  Did we make it?  No one's concussed from hitting the floor because of that admission, right?)

I guess I was partially right (see? We all knew I wouldn’t admit to being TOTALLY wrong)... all of the stuff I mentioned was there, but it wasn't the focus, not by a long shot.  The entire day was educational, and peaceful, and really cool (and cold… brrr).

It started off by me waiting for about an hour to see my students from Grace Prep, but once they finally got there, you might have confused me for Barack Obama for a minute... I was in Washington and dozens of people were chanting my name and happy to see me.  It was a fantastic (delayed) reunion.  I cannot stress enough how much I love those kids.  But, oddly enough, it wouldn't even be the coolest moment of the day.

Our first stop was to see several of the Congressmen from the delegation of Pennsylvania who were to address their constituents (and in my case, former constituent) about the importance of the issue at hand.  We were to meet in the Cannon House Office Building promptly at 1 PM, and at about 12:50 we were all in line waiting to get through the metal detector.  However, when we arrived, we found out that we had the wrong time.  The Congressional reception wasn't slated to start until 2.

Rather than go outside, join the March, and then get all the way back and go through security again, Nancy (my mentor teacher) decided to have everyone sit down to learn about the issue that the students were there to support.  What looked, at first, to be a mistake ended up being an incredible blessing.  Jenny Summers from A Woman's Concern, a State College run pregnancy resource clinic, and Nancy shared stories about women that they knew who had wrestled with this issue of abortion.  Statistics, Bible verses, anecdotal evidence all came to the surface.  I had heard much of it before, agreed with it, but still didn’t feel entirely comfortable “rallying” about it.  After the Congressmen shared their piece about their various efforts to help in the pro-life cause, we all got up and headed out to the March.

It was unlike anything I’d ever seen… rather than stopping in the middle of roads, with a stage and lots of music and speakers shouting vitriolic statements, it was just a bunch of people (a conservative estimate is around 400,000) walking up a street.  Some people shouted, some people carried signs, and some people just walked and talked, unified under a cause that they passionately believed in.

I felt bad about my previous misconceptions of the people of this event, so I knew I had to blog about it.  Most people know where they stand on this issue, but even I, someone who will discuss and debate anything, didn’t give these people a fair chance.  The stories that I heard yesterday were stirring… women who had had abortions and regretted them, a story from a girl whose family took a fetus to term, who by scientific standards “should have been aborted,” and stories about women who had an abortion that didn’t kill the baby, decided to take that baby to term and raise it as a beautiful, perfectly healthy boy that is still alive today.  These are stories that never get play in the media, stories that I had never heard before, all because a few people who make stupid decisions get all the air time.

Now, more than 24 hours after the March, ABC, CBS, and NBC have yet to report on the March for Life.  It was only mentioned once on CNN.  It’s not even a part of the media discussion… but it certainly should be.  Four-Hundred THOUSAND people from all over the country descended on the nation’s capital to take a stand and it doesn’t even get a mention on, but the fact that Jersey Shore will be filmed next season in Italy is front page news.  How messed up is that?  Have you ever heard of the “Million Man March?”  Bet you have.  Was it important?  Certainly.  Guess how many people are estimated to have gone to that?  Four-hundred thousand.  Once.  The March for Life has been an annual event every year since 1974, an ongoing, peaceful demonstration asking politicians to pay attention, and asking the nation to get involved with the conversation.  So I’ll ask you to do the same.

Abortion is a hot issue in America, and not something that should be done frivolously or in ignorance.  Find someone from both sides who is knowledgeable and can make cogent arguments.  When you hear the phrase “There are always two victims in an abortion… the baby and the mother,” don’t just shrug it off… ask a mother who has had an abortion what that’s like.  This issue isn’t going away, not according to the 400,000+ people that I saw in DC on Monday, and not according to the Congressmen who I heard from.  Think about the implications, the consequences of such a weighty decision.  But in all things, act in love, discuss in love.  And please, be open, like I wasn’t.

Psalm 139: 13,14
For you created my inmost being; 
   you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
   your works are wonderful, 
   I know that full well. 

(Special Thanks to those who I asked about using the word “pansy” in this blog post.  I hope it didn’t offend anyone.  I went so far as to ask someone I consider “more paranoid than God” and she didn’t have a problem with it.  It was for comedic effect... sorry if it offends.)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Compromise is not always a good thing

Note: You get it three hours early this week... enjoy... probably won't happen frequently.

The Huffington Post published an article last week in which the author and one semi-famous Christian pastor came out in defense of homosexuality in the Bible. You can read it here, if you so desire, or you can keep their traffic down as well and just read my rantings and ravings as to why it's wrong.

Jay Bakker (son of Jim and Tammy Faye... if those names don't mean much to you, that's ok), has struggled with a problem for years. When he graduated from Wheaton College, many of his Christian friends came out of the closet. His response at that time was the right one: "Love them. Unconditionally, without caveats or exceptions." However, he has now decided that after thousands of years of scriptural inquiry, the translators of the Bible were wrong, and the Bible doesn't actually say that homosexuality is a sin... at least not in the New Testament.

"The simple fact is that Old Testament references in Leviticus do treat homosexuality as a sin ... a capital offense even," Bakker writes. "But before you say, 'I told you so,' consider this: Eating shellfish, cutting your sideburns and getting tattoos were equally prohibited by ancient religious law.

"The truth is that the Bible endorses all sorts of attitudes and behaviors that we find unacceptable (and illegal) today and decries others that we recognize as no big deal."
Leviticus prohibits interracial marriage, endorses slavery and forbids women to wear trousers. Deuteronomy calls for brides who are found not to be virgins to be stoned to death, and for adulterers to be summarily executed.

"The church has always been late," Bakker told me in an interview this week. "We were late on slavery. We were late on civil rights. And now we're late on this."

I met Jay Bakker at his church when I went to New York on Spring Break trip with my campus ministry from Penn State. I think to call him "seeker sensitive" would be fair. He strikes me as someone who tries to love God, but has decided that he would rather love people first. I get that, I do that a lot too. However, Bob Russell once pulled from the Bible that God's Word is perfect and true... sharper than any double-edged sword... and if we preach the truth, then people will respond. If they don't respond to the truth, it doesn't much matter because following a false doctrine isn't guaranteed to get you into heaven. However, teaching false doctrine is pretty much guaranteed to keep you out. That's where Bakker has made his fatal mistake.

I basically hate anything that HuffPo puts out there because it's usually wildly inaccurate, but based on the article, and his direct quotes, I think Bakker is the one at the most fault here. Using the logic that "Jesus didn't talk much about homosexuality" is stupid... He also didn't talk about bestiality; that's another issue where the Old Testament condemns the practice, and the New Testament doesn't... Hey! Where's the nearest goat and I'll sign Jay Bakker up!

I'd love to know which Scripture he's talking about that has been mistranslated, but of course the article writer didn't feel the need to put it in, and I don't plan on buying this book. Specifically, I'd love to see the explanation for Romans 1:25-27
25 They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. 26 That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. 27 And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.
BUT IT DOESN'T USE THE *WORD* HOMOSEXUAL, SO IT'S OK!!! Please. Now, let's get a few things straight. I do not hate gay people... in fact, I have friends who are gay. They like me and I like them. But when it comes down to it, I respect the Bible more than them, or any of my friends. As I said last week, I'm not perfect, I mess up, and I've sinned. I am as guilty as any gay person who walks on this earth. Both of us deserve to go to Hell. But when Jesus said "Go and sin no more," I think He meant all sin, and not just what we can rationalize as being "not sin" to our depraved minds. I like how Paul puts it in Romans 6:1,2
1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
A good, honest reading of the Bible, for those who trust God and trust his Word, shows that the Bible frames homosexuality as a sin. It's not a mistranslation, it's not an error. So for gay people who try to find excuses to remain in their sin, instead of repenting like the entirety of Christianity, nay, the world is called to, they're in trouble.

That being said, out of the two, homosexuals as a community and Bakker, I feel like the homosexuals are actually in a better place. I'd love to see Bakker respond to 2 Peter 2 (I'll just quote the first three verses)
1 But there were also false prophets in Israel, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will cleverly teach destructive heresies and even deny the Master who bought them. In this way, they will bring sudden destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their evil teaching and shameful immorality. And because of these teachers, the way of truth will be slandered. 3 In their greed they will make up clever lies to get hold of your money. But God condemned them long ago, and their destruction will not be delayed.
I do agree with Bakker that people need to be shown the love of Christ. However, the love of Christ isn't always as lovey-dovey as we'd like it. Far and away, the most common attribute used to describe God in the Bible is "holy." We are to "Be holy, because [God] is holy." Sin is not holy, and false teaching is even less so. And so, for people like Bakker, I fear it's not the love of Christ they'll be experiencing, but the anger.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Motivational Speaker

Ever sat through a motivational speaker who just didn't do it for you? That was me last week. The problem isn't so much that I wasn't motivated... it was that everyone else around me seemed to be buying into it, and I wasn't.

Disclaimer (for those of you who were there and may read my blog): I would like to make it clear, I fully respect and am not disparaging the people who liked the talk, nor am I disparaging the speaker himself, but I don't agree with much that he had to say.

Full disclosure here: I'm honestly one of the MOST cynical and judgmental audience members that you will ever come across. I hate being told what to do by someone who doesn't know me. I've always ascribed to the view that there is not one quick "fix-it" for all people, except to point them to God, and I admit- even THAT looks very different for all people. So when someone gets up in front of me and tells me, "You need to start thinking in this way," I immediately think "NO, YOU BIG STUPID HEAD!" (Hey, no one said I was mature in my thinking)

Besides the obvious disagreements that I would have with someone whose one-stop-quick-fix-it plan does not really center on "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself," I felt my frustration growing at every suggestion he made. Here were some highlights.

  • "As a society, we need to invest in our youth! The youth is our future!"-- Michelle Tanner, you wanna take this one for me?
  • Paraphrase: The solution to all our problems is getting kids to play outside. I sent my kids to an outdoors camp that focused on nature, leadership, maturity, and I never had to check my kids grades again. -- I'm still not sure how those things all run together.
  • "You've got your soil... that's nature, the basis for everything... then you've got water, and that provides the life into nature, it allows things to grow. Then there's sunshine... that's where you come in, you can control sunshine and figure out where it shines." -- Last I checked, I don't control the sun. I think the analogy was that we can choose to focus on kids who are acting mature, but I'm not sure... primarily because of the next point I'm going to touch on.
  • Many people who attended this meeting would probably bemoan that I missed the point entirely, or that I wasn't listening. They're probably right. That's mostly because my brain locked up when I heard this: "I've read all the great thinkers, and every single one of them says that when you stop thinking about yourself, you start being successful in life. That's what I'm here to tell you."

    Let's look at that again... All of the great thinkers say "Don't think about yourself," but listen to ME because I've read all of them and have figured it all out and can fit it into this 25 minute presentation!!!

  • And that wouldn't be too bad if he didn't immediately move into "The truth is inside you... only you can know what that truth is." -- So ignore those thinkers I was telling you about, and ignore me, because only YOU have the answers!
Now, I'm 23 years old. I can get a pretty big head about me sometimes, and a lot of times I think I have answers to all of life's questions. But I think the fact that I admit that I can, at times, have that pride should show that I have enough sense to know I don't have it all figured out. I know that not everyone believes the same things I do, but I don't make anyone listen to what I say without first finding a place in the Bible to back it up. If you don't believe in the Bible, you're not going to agree with my hard-line stances. But whenever anyone says to "look within yourself" you need to be VERY careful about listening to anything that person tells you.

Bottom line: If you get to look within yourself, that means I also get to look within myself. If what is within myself doesn't jive with what's within yourself then we're going to have a problem... in which case neither one of us has authority to prove anything because we're looking within ourselves.

That's why I rely on the Bible. I'm not going to let anyone read this and think that I'm perfect and follow everything that the Bible says 100% of the time (in addition to listening to anyone who says that you should look within yourself for answers to life, you should also be wary of people who claim they're perfect). I screw up just like anyone else-- but if you want to know where I stand on an issue, or why I have that stance, don't be surprised when I flip open the Bible to answer that question. The Bible has been around for a good 1900 years by now... 1600 of those it has been canonized and in its current order. In my opinion, that's a whole lot better than "Well, I just decided that this is what's right for me, and you can decide what's right for you... unless I happen to disagree with the conclusion you draw from inside yourself."

This is probably best illustrated by a conversation I witnessed at Penn State. But first, a little background. Gary Cattell, aka "The Willard Preacher," faithfully stands outside of the Willard Building beginning at Noon on every class day and preaches God's Word to the students at Penn State. I disagree with some of his viewpoints and some of his methods, however, what I do not disagree with is his genuine care for the students at Penn State. I'll also say this... don't expect compromises with Gary... it's his way or the highway. We've had our disagreements over the years (as recently as last week), but we still like each other and I respect him (fairly certain he respects me too).

One day Gary and some Penn State students were talking just outside of the Willard Building. The topic was something along the lines of "Why do you think you're right Mister Preacher Man?" Gary had one question for the students who asked that, "From where do you draw your moral authority?"

"Society!" one of the students answered.

"So you think society is always right... no matter the issue, you'll always agree with society?"

"Well no, sometimes society is wrong," the student replied.

"How do you know when society is wrong?"

"The majority of people will know when society is wrong and will rebel against society."

"Ohhh, so the majority is always right," said Gary.

"Well, no, not always."

Gary looked at the student, "So if society isn't always right... and the majority isn't always right... how do you know you're right?"

"Well you just know it... there's something inside of you that says, 'This is the right thing to do.'"

"Ah ok. So if you are your moral authority, then I guess I'm MY moral authority... and if I feel that it's right to rape four year olds, then I guess that's nothing that you or anyone else would have a problem with."

"Of course I'd have a problem with that!"

"Why?" asked Gary.

"Because that goes against society!"

"Oh, so you draw your moral authority from society? So society is always right?"

I'll spare you the rest of the conversation because I swear it repeated about three times without the kid realizing that he lost the logic battle.

There are good approaches that argue for morality outside of the Bible. Greg Epstein's Good Without God: What a Billion Non-religious People Do Believe is one of them. I've not read much by him, but I've heard that John Loftus also makes a compelling argument. That being said, I think most people would agree that some degree of consistency is necessary when dealing with issues such as these.

I'm of the opinion that if you believe in something strongly enough, you should be able to tell me exactly why you believe it, and you should be able to argue for it. Note that I said argue FOR your viewpoint... don't tell me why you DON'T believe in something else as proof for your own beliefs. And there's hope for people out there who don't know why they believe what they do... just don't argue.

So there's some advice to you. I'm not saying that your speech should be restricted, but that you should truly and honestly figure out WHAT you believe and WHY you believe it before you start to spout off motivational mantras. I love to debate, discuss, inquire, but I think back to a quote that my dad had on his facebook a while back and I think it's an appropriate way to wrap this up:

"Nothing is as frustrating as arguing with someone who knows what they're talking about"

and my addendum: "Also, it's very frustrating having to sit through a speech by someone who doesn't know what they're talking about, and you don't even get to argue!"

Special thanks to Elise O'Loughlin for making sure that I sound at least somewhat rational. All grammar errors are mine and mine alone.