Category Archives: Culture

Who are you cheating?

Well over a decade ago, I read a book by Andy Stanley entitled, Choosing to Cheat: Who wins when family and work collide? The book was later retitled, When Work and Family Collide: Keeping your job from cheating your family.

The premise of the book is that all of us have a limited, finite amount of time. Consequently, we must cheat to be successful. You have to cheat your family if you want to be successful in your career, or, you have to cheat your career to be successful in your family responsibilities. We have to determine our priorities and decide who is going to get the most amount of time.

While the book focuses on work and family, the principle holds true in every area of our lives. You cannot be equally successful at home, work, school, church, friendships, sports, etc. You have to make difficult choices where you will invest your time and energies. You have to give yourself permission to get a “B” instead of an “A.” You have to be satisfied with being an employee rather than a manager or an owner. You have to be content with having an apartment instead of a house, or a house and car rather than a house in the city, a cabin in the country, and two cars and a boat.

At some point in time, you have to wrestle with the question, who are you going to cheat? But spend much time in prayer before you make that choice to insure you make the right one.

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Posted by on March 6, 2018 in Books, Culture, Personal growth


I’m confused by double standards

I admit to being simple minded and naïve, but I do not understand the double standards when it comes to this issue of sexual abuse and sexual harassment. Lest you be concerned, I don’t approve of sexual abuse or sexual harassment in any way, shape, or form. It is sinful and should be condemned. However, I am confused by the double standard surrounding this issue.

Dozens of women came forward to accuse former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of decades of alleged sexual harassment and assault. The #metoo movement spread virally shortly after the revelations about Weinstein. At the same time, however, Hollywood produced the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, which promotes sadomasochism. Despite being widely panned by critics, the three films were a box office success, which indicates a tacit approval and interest in deviant sexual relationships.

Gymnast Aly Raisman was one of the many who accused former USA gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar of sexual abuse. However, she posed nude in the Sports Illustrated 2018 Swimsuit Edition and made the statement, “Women don’t have to be modest to be respected.”

In September 2017, the world mourned the death of Hugh Hefner. As the founder and editor-in-chief of Playboy, he helped fuel and promote the loosening of sexual mores and the growth of the pornography industry.

I am confused. On the one hand, we rightfully condemn sexual abuse and sexual harassment. On the other hand, we feed, fuel, and promote sexuality and sexual misconduct through movies, magazines, and TV. Don’t we understand that the latter opens the door to the former?

It seems like the truth of Romans 1:18-32 is being played out before our very eyes.

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Posted by on February 15, 2018 in Culture, News stories, Scripture


To the Church in Pergamum: A Church that Compromised

In her book, When is it Right to Die: A Comforting and Surprising Look at Death and Dying, author Joni Eareckson Tada makes a statement about euthanasia and assisted suicide that could be applied to any number of social issues today.

“In the last few decades, though no one can say exactly how it happened, the unthinkable became tolerable. And then acceptable. And then legal. And now, God help us, applaudable.”

In Revelation 1:11, Jesus sent a message to each of seven local churches in Asia Minor. Though each message is different, the letters have some similarities. The letters address the problems churches have faced throughout history and provide insight into how Christ evaluates local churches.

The message to the church at Pergamum (2:12-17) is a warning against compromise in morals or teaching and against deviating from the purity of doctrine required of Christians. Jesus Christ does NOT approve of compromise. Don’t Flirt with the world.

The Church (12a) – Not much is known about the church. Most likely it was founded during Paul’s three years in Ephesus (Acts 19:10).

The City (12a) – The city was about 70 miles north and 20 miles inland from Smyrna. As the ancient capital, Pergamum was considered Asia’s greatest city. Pergamum was a wealthy city, but it was wicked. People in pagan cults worshiped Athena, Asclepius, Dionysus, and Zeus. It was a religious hub. Pergamum was the first city to worship the emperor. In other cities, Christians might be in danger one day a year when a pinch of incense had to be burned in honor of the emperor. In Pergamum, however, Christians were in danger every day of the year for the same reason.

The city was an intellectual center. Pergamum was famous for its university with a library of about 200,000 volumes. It was also known for manufacturing parchment resulting in a paper called pergamena. There was a famous hospital and temple of Asclepius located on the plain close to a large modern military command.

The Character of Christ (12b) – Jesus presents himself as the one who has a sharp, double-edged sword. The sword is the long, flat, heavy sword, used by the Romans in battle to kill their enemies. This sword symbolized Jesus’ power to judge and conquer his enemies. This note gives the letter an ominous tone.

The Condition of the Church: Commendation (13) – Jesus recognized the difficulty of their situation. He is well aware of the efforts of Satan to destroy the work of Christ and of Christians in the city of Pergamum through its various pagan affections. They lived where Satan had his throne. This may refer to the great temple of Asclepius, a pagan god of healing represented in the form of a serpent. It may also refer to the huge altar to Zeus that overlooked the city.

The saints were commended for being true, even when Antipas was martyred. Nothing is known about this incident. “Martyr” and “witness” are the same word. A martyr is one whose witness for Christ led to his death. While believers in other places may have buckled under pressure, these believers did not renounce their faith in Christ. Jesus complimented them for this.

Obedience in one area does not cover for or make excuse for disobedience in other areas.

The Condition of the Church: Concern (14-15) – The believers in Pergamum were guilty of tolerance. Rather than testing and rejecting false teachers like the church in Ephesus, they had uncritically accepted people who held the teaching of Balaam. Balaam had counseled King Balak to cause Israel to sin through intermarriage with heathen women and through idol-worship (Numbers 22-25). Intermarriage with heathen women was a problem in Pergamum where any social contact with the world also involved worship of idols. The issue of eating food sacrificed to idols is that Christians are never to violate their consciences. They may have been subtle pressure to say that sin is all right.

They were also condemned for following the Nicolaitans’ teaching. The name means “devourer of the people.” It probably speaks of a group that dominates rather than serves people. While the details are unknown, this sect probably is tied in the practices of Balaam which involved sexual sin in worship. The religion tried to redefine faith to allow Christians to fit in with the surrounding culture with its idolatry, immorality, deceit, and false worship.

The Command (16a) – Jesus rebuked the church with an abrupt command, “Repent!” They were warned. They needed to recognize and forsake their sins. The church must take action if we want to receive the blessings of God.

The Consequences (16b) – If they don’t repent, Jesus will be their enemy. The Lord himself will become their opponent and will fight against them with the sword of his mouth.

There is a distinction between “you” and “them.” The Balaam-like teachers and Nicolaitans are not truly part of the people of God, even though they have succeeded in infiltrating the congregation. Using the sword of his mouth, Jesus would contend with them. The word of God sharply judges all compromise and sin.

The Challenge (17a) – Take the message to heart. Hear and heed the message.

The Commitment (17b) – There is the promise of hidden manna and white stone with a new name written on it.

The children of Israel received manna. The hidden manna may refer to Christ as the bread from heaven, the unseen source of the believer’s nourishment and strength. Whereas Israel received physical food, manna, during their 40 years of wilderness wandering, the church receives spiritual food (John 6:48-51).

There are different meanings for “white stone.” One is found in a legal setting. In a courtroom, a white stone was given to someone who was acquitted while a black stone was given to someone who was guilty and condemned. Another meaning is that a white stone was given to the victors in an athletic contest. The stone, possibly with the athlete’s name on it, was their ticket to the awards banquet. In this sense, Christ promises the overcomers entrance into an eternal victory celebration in heaven.

Principles – (1) It is difficult to persevere in certain environments. (2) Staying faithful to Jesus is directly related to being a faithful witness. (3) Christians are often tempted to compromise with the world in the areas of idolatry and immorality. (4) Jesus’ future promise of acceptance, fellowship, and identity can help us endure now.

Jesus Christ does NOT approve of compromise. Don’t Flirt with the world.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church on January 28, 2018. It is part of a series on The State of the Church. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


The downward spiral of compromise

“In the last few decades, though no one can say exactly how it happened, the unthinkable became tolerable. And then acceptable. And then legal. And now, God help us, applaudable.”

Joni Eareckson Tada, When is it Right to Die: A Comforting and Surprising Look at Death and Dying

The context of the quote is that Joni is talking about society’s acceptance of euthanasia and assisted suicide. The quote can also apply to any type of sin. What was taboo only a generation ago is celebrated today. Compromise is a slippery slope that leads to destruction.

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Posted by on January 20, 2018 in Culture, Quotes


21st Century gods

I am working my way through a thought provoking book, A Practical Guide to Culture; Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World, by John Stonestreet & Brett Kunkle. In Chapter 5: Identity after Christianity (pgs. 104-106), the author explain that in today’s culture, people find their identity in what they do rather than what they think. Behavior defines identity more than beliefs. Consequently, we have developed a whole new set of idols.

Our twenty-first century, having inherited that twentieth-century baggage, is full of contradiction. We strive to champion and expand human rights without knowing what a human is. We educate students with whats and hows but offer no coherent vision of why. We dramatically protect, heal, and save some babies in the womb while targeting others for extinction, particularly those with disabilities. We fill our lives with entertainment, gadgets, experiences, activities, and other distractions but have no clear telos, or ultimate purpose. In short, we want human flourishing without God. But it won’t happen.

Of course, those who reject God still worship, only at other altars. We may snicker at those who, in the past, carved an ear on a block of wood and then prayed to it, but we have our false gods too: gods that make us into their images. “Those who make [idols] become like them,” wrote the psalmist, “so do all who trust in them” (Ps. 135:18).

The modern pantheon of idols includes the following:

Self. The first of the Ten Commandments is “You shall have no other gods before [Me]” (Exod. 20:3). Today we have no other gods before me.

State. The apostle Paul wrote, “My God will supply every need: (Phil. 4:19). Today we increasingly look to the state to supply our needs, and even many of our wants.

Sex. This very good gift of God, a means of expressing love and marital oneness, is for many life’s highest pursuit, an end in and of itself.

Science. The word of science (or, more accurately, of scientists) has replaced the Word of God as the source of absolute truth. Rather than pointing us to the God who made the world, science allows us to remake the world, and even ourselves, as we see fit.

Stuff. Blaise Pascal famously wrote of a God-shaped void we all have that only God can fill. Today, the constant barrage of commercials and marketing slogans proclaim that our void is stuff shaped. Yet the more we fill our lives with stuff, the less we’re satisfied.

Of course, idols can never replace God, but even more, they dehumanize us. We see ourselves and others in the image of whatever it is we worship. People become sexual objects, valued because of their appearance and used for our pleasure, rather than subjects with inherent dignity and value. Just as we value stuff that is useful and convenient, we devalue those with disabilities, and those who aren’t sufficiently useful or convenient are targeted and dismembered in the womb. In the twentieth century, many government, in godlike fashion, eliminated those who stood in the way of Marxist, fascist, or Nazi agendas. In the twenty-first century, many governments ostracize and silence those who refuse the agendas of sexual ideologies.

Insightful, challenging, and thought provoking.

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Posted by on December 23, 2017 in Books, Culture, Quotes, Scripture


Making sense of contemporary Islam

Book Review: Muslim: What You Need to Know About the World’s Fastest-Growing Religion, by Hank Hanegraaff

Is Islam a religion of peace? Does culture under an Islamic caliphate outshine culture under Christianity? Does Islam blend church and state or keep them separate? Is Islam a threat to the west? What do we need to know to understand Islam?

Hank Hanegraaf serves as president of Christian Research Institute (CRI) and hosts the internationally syndicated Bible Answer Man broadcast and the Hank Unplugged podcast. In his latest book, Muslim: What You Need to Know About the World’s Fastest-Growing Religion, the author seeks to provide insight into the many questions surrounding Islam.

In the Introduction, the author states,

Islam is the only significant religious system in the history of the human race with a sociopolitical structure of laws that mandate violence against the infidel. This graphic global reality makes Islam a religious ideology espousing terrorism as a permanent policy rather than as a temporary expedient. Such is historical reality, from the early seventh-century Medina massacres to the 9/11 twenty-first century Manhattan massacre and beyond.

The current narrative is that to tell the truth in this regard is tantamount to radicalizing Muslims and exacerbating hostilities that may otherwise lie dormant. A common refrain has reverberated throughout the West: “Islam is not our adversary.”

Still later in the Introduction, the author asks,

Are such acts of terrorism a function of a hijacked religion, or is this what we should expect from authentic Islam? … Is it possible to attribute the reality of millions of peace-loving Muslims to a sort of cognitive dissonance that allows them to enjoy their teachings and traditions despite the bloody history in which they were forged? Could it be that what they wish were true about their religion isn’t actually so?

To answers these questions, the author uses a series of acrostics to explain the facts about Islam. He codified the fact around the acronym M-U-S-L-I-M.

  • M – Muhammad: From rages to riches to radicalization. The author takes a close look at the life and legacy of Islam’s quintessential man.
  • U – Unreliable Revelations: The emperor has no clothes. The author points out the discrepancies in the Qur’an. He shows that the Qur’an sanctions murder, adultery, stealing, false testimony, and coveting.
  • S – Sharia is state and state is sharia. Rather than being a sanitized religion in the Western sense of the word, Islam is a comprehensive socioeconomic-political juggernaut riding on the rails of sharia. One of the core values of sharia is inequality for women.
  • L – Levant: Crossroads of world history. The Levant is a land-bridge linking three continents (Europe, Asia, and Africa). The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem reflects Islam’s unmistakable message—Islam is the culmination of Judaism and Christianity, and Muhammad is the climax of the prophets.
  • I – Islamic State: Return of the caliphate. The author explains that Islamic State is a moniker not only emblematic of a twenty-first-century terror network but is indicative of the way of Muhammad.
  • M – Major Muslim Misapprehensions. To explain the differences between Christian and Islamic beliefs, the author employs another acrostic—D-O-C-T-R-I-N-E. He explains what Christianity and Islam believe about the Deity of Christ, Original sin, the divine Canon or doctrine of Scripture, Trinity, Resurrection, the Incarnation, New Creation or doctrine of salvation, and Eschatology or the doctrine about future things.

The book is thoroughly researched and well written. It is well worth the read.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Posted by on October 24, 2017 in Books, Culture


When I was a kid …

Interesting comics this week about the days when technology was not quite so modern.

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Posted by on September 8, 2017 in Culture, Non-Sequitur, Zits