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Category Archives: Culture

Should you go see “50 Shades of Grey”?

What’s the harm in reading the book 50 Shades of Grey and its sequels? Is it ok to see the movie? Is it really that big a deal?

For those who have read the books (I haven’t) … for those who plan to see the movie (I don’t, though it’s hard to avoid seeing the trailer) … you might want to read Tim Challies  and Helen Thorne’s blog post, 7 Lessons from 50 Shades of Grey. It will help you to better understand the impact on your life and our current culture.

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2015 in Culture, Tim Challies

 

Truth is how I define it

In his book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, author James Emery White describes the belief system of those who don’t identify with any particular religion. In pages 57-63, he explains that their system includes three primary concepts—truthiness, wikiality, and mistakers.

  • Truthiness: the assertion that we are not only to discern truth for ourselves from the facts at hand, but also to create truth for ourselves despite the facts at hand
  • Wikiality: reality as determined by majority vote, such as when astronomers voted Pluto off their list of planets
  • Mistakers: to avoid calling ourselves sinners, we’ve become mistakers; to turn everything we do into a virtue where lust becomes “sensuality,” and anger is just “being honest with your emotions”

I found it interesting that this week’s panels in the comic Non Sequitur, the character, Danae, practices truthiness and wikiality. If someone corrects her, then that person is “preachy.” Once again, it demonstrates how comic strips reflect values and culture in a humorous manner.

truth is preachy 1 truth is preachy 2 truth is preachy 3 truth is preachy 4 truth is preachy 5 truth is preachy 6

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2015 in Books, Culture

 

Can you have religion without God?

Can you have a God-neutral faith? Can you have religion without God? Can you have the benefits of church and yet have a hesitant or non-existent faith?

Author T. M. Luhrman, a professor of anthropology at Stanford University, answers all of these questions with “Yes” in her article, “Religion without God.”

She concludes the article with these thoughts,

Religion is fundamentally a practice that helps people to look at the world as it is and yet to experience it — to some extent, in some way — as it should be. Much of what people actually do in church — finding fellowship, celebrating birth and marriage, remembering those we have lost, affirming the values we cherish — can be accomplished with a sense of God as metaphor, as story, or even without any mention of God at all.

Yet religion without God may be more poignant. Atheists trust in human relations, not supernatural ones, and humans are not so good at delivering the world as it should be. Perhaps that is why we are moved by Christmas carols, which conjure up the world as it can be and not the world we know.

May the spirit of Christmas be with you, however you understand what that means.

Ms. Luhrman’s conclusions reminded me of what the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 regarding what will take place in the last days.

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be … having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” (2 Timothy 3:1, 2, 5)

People try to find meaning in religion and rituals. Yet they completely miss the point that salvation, forgiveness, purpose, significance are only possible through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2014 in Church, Culture, News stories

 

Redeeming the holidays

Blogger Ben Connelly has written an insightful post entitled, “The Most Wonderful Time(s) of the Year.” He points out that in the book of Leviticus, God created holidays and “commanded His people to pause several times each year, simply to feast and celebrate.” He gives several examples of how Christ followers can use holidays such as Halloween, Christmas, and events such as birthdays and funerals to share Jesus with others. “Some of the best chances for mission involve inviting our mission field into our special occasions, and joining theirs.”

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2014 in Culture, Holidays, Quotes

 

Open the front door of the church

In his book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, author James Emery White has one chapter devoted to key components of a church’s ministry that will keep the front door open and help attract the unchurched. Here’s a summary of his principles.

  • Friendliness—You must be intentional about the guest’s experience and cultivate an atmosphere of acceptance. “Acceptance is not affirmation, but it is an embrace.”
  • Children’s Ministry—Children are the heart of your growth engine. And if nones ever come to your church uninvited, it will probably be for the sake of their kids.
  • Music—Music matters, and the key is cultural translation. And remember, there’s no such thing as traditional music.(See yesterday’s blog.)
  • Building—From the moment when nones first view the church and its grounds, the initial impression is made; physical surroundings convey strong messages.
  • Importance of the Visual—Over the last twenty years we have decisively moved to a visually based world and the church needs to move with it.

Does all this matter? It depends on whether or not you are expecting company.

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2014 in Books, Church, Culture, Quotes

 

There’s no such thing as traditional music

In his book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, author James Emery White addresses to issue of music in the worship service. His perspective might surprise you.

There is no such thing as traditional music. All music was, at one time, newfangled, contemporary, cutting-edge, and probably too loud. The great hymns of Martin Luther are considered traditional and sacred to our ears, but they were anything but traditional and sacred to the people of Luther’s day. Many of the great hymns written during the Protestant Reformation, such as “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” were based on barroom tunes that were popular during that period. Luther simply changed the lyrics and then put the song into the life of the church. The result? People were able to meaningfully express themselves in worship—or at least connect with it stylistically.

Charles Wesley also borrowed from the secular music of his day, and John Calvin hired secular songwriters to put his theology to music, leading the Queen of England to call them “Geneva Jigs.” Bach provides a similar pattern, as he used a popular form of music known as the cantata for weekly worship music. He was also known to seize tunes from “rather questionable sources and rework them for the church.” Even Handel’s Messiah was condemned as “vulgar theater” by the churchmen of his day for having too much repetition and not enough content.

The last line is worth rereading. The point? Throughout history you’ll find a connection between church growth and contemporary music. Sorry if that’s too crass for you, but it’s true. Don’t ever downplay music—remember, there’s an entire book of the Bible that is almost nothing but lyrics you can work from so here are two words that will serve you well: music matters.

Just as the deeper issue with friendliness is an atmosphere of acceptance, the deeper issue with music is cultural translation. Let’s retire such words as relevant and contemporary, shall we? The heart of it all is a missionary enterprise: learn the language of the people, the music, the dress, the customs—and then translate the gospel for them.

Chase this with me for a moment. If we were dropped into the deepest reaches of the Amazon basin as missionaries of the gospel to reach a specific unreached tribe of people, we would attempt to learn the language, dress in a way that is appropriate, craft a worship experience that uses indigenous instruments and styles, and work tirelessly to translate the Scriptures into their language. No one would argue with that approach. It’s Missiology 101. Now realize that your mission field is the West. Are you doing the work of a missionary?

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2014 in Books, Church, Culture, Music, Quotes, Worship

 

How can I know for sure if I’m going to heaven?

When you ask the average person, “If you died tonight, do you know for certain if you’d go to heaven?” their response if often like this comic.

Non Sequitur - uncertainty of the afterlife

Scripture, however, explains that we can know for certain.

Romans 6:23 points out that I have a problem. I am a sinner in need of a savior.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The bad news is that because I am a sinner by nature and by choice, I deserve to be punished. Like receiving a paycheck at the end of the month for my work on the job, death is the just wages for my sin.

The good news is that eternal life is available through Jesus Christ. Even better news is that heaven is a free gift. It’s not earned or deserved.

Romans 10:9-10 goes on to explain how I can receive this free gift.

“…because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

  • If
    • I believe the good news that Jesus died on the cross for my sins and that he rose from the dead on the third day
    • I confess Jesus is Lord by asking him to forgive my sins
  • Then
    • I can know for certain that heaven awaits me when I die
 
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Posted by on October 27, 2014 in Culture, Evangelism, Fun, Heaven, Scripture, Theology

 
 
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