How would you begin to respond to Fake Steve?

From time to time, I like to check in on the blog of the Fake Steve Jobs. Although I do not like and disapprove of his periodic use of profanity in his posts, much of what he writes is funny and on target with things happening related to Apple. The recent post, “Hate-spewing “Christians” need to listen up,” makes some good points but also leaves me asking, “How should I respond to this?” After starting with an initial denial of Jesus as the resurrected Son of God, fake Steve (a.k.a. Daniel Lyons) shares with a great deal of accuracy the stories of the good Samaritan, the woman at the well, and the prodigal son. His points on the first two stories are on the mark, he seems to miss that grace definitely IS a huge part of the prodigal son story, however. In his older post, “FWIW, Jesus didn’t always tell the truth, either,” he reveals a clear background in Bible study and awareness citing the scene of Jesus before Pilate prior to his crucifixion. His conclusion, that Christ lied frequently and was inconsistent in discussing his identity, is off base, but I find it noteworthy Daniel reveals some background in Biblical study but BIG misunderstandings about major points.

My goal with this post isn’t to debate Daniel Lyons’ ideas point by point, but rather to raise the startling point that in this widely read, written for laughs blog – Christianity is being not only discussed, but also brazenly attacked. Certainly Christ is maligned and mis-interpreted by Daniel. It strikes me as quite remarkable, however, that this kind of frontal attack on core ideas of Christianity and the gospel is being carried out on this blog. The 199 comments on this post (as of this writing) also reveal an engaged debate about many of the issues Daniel raises, with people chiming in from multiple vantage points.

My main response to this is to pray. It’s not ultimately up to me to change Daniel’s mind about Jesus and who He is, it’s in God’s hands. That does NOT, however, mean I should disengage from this discussion or shy away from sharing Christ with Daniel as well as others in my life. I know prayer is the right path in every circumstance, and these messages from Daniel are so challenging prayer seems to be the natural, reflective response. If you’re reading this, I encourage you to also pray for Daniel Lyons: That God would reveal himself to him, that he would read the Words of Christ in the Bible again and be transformed, that (like Saul who became Paul) he would stop persecuting the church on earth and instead be transformed to become its agent and champion.

Daniel is 100% correct that Jesus and the Bible do not command us to hate other human beings. We are, however, commanded to hate sin. He is also correct that the Catholic church historically strayed FAR from the teachings of Christ. I’m pleased indulgences are no longer for sale, but it’s understandable many are disillusioned by the checkered past of “the church” and those proclaiming to act in God’s name as well as the name of Jesus.

Overall, reading this post as well as others in which Daniel takes jabs at Christians as well as Christ reinforces my conviction that we must be vocal and speak out in the world about Christ and for Christ. This is a basic idea behind the “3 Minutes About Jesus” video campaign. In our lost, postmodern world, we need to shine as lights in the darkness.

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1: 4-5

We’re not called to shine alone. We’re called to shine together.

Let Your Light Shine

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Initial Christian focused videos with Storyrobe

Cross-posted to BLASTcast.

Encouraging 10 and 11 year old students in fifth grade to think deeply about the ways God speaks to us in our lives, what the Bible means for our lives, and how we should respond to challenging situations in our lives using the words of Jesus is hard work. We are continuing to encourage our students to share their understanding, their thinking, and their questions about their Christian faith through multimedia in our 5th grade Sunday School class. Today we used the iOS application “Storyrobe” to create short videos about several topics. Students worked in pairs and were given the challenge of creating short videos (using five still images and finger puppets) which illustrated either:

  1. Bible Verses (explaining their meaning, application to their life, or special personal significance)
  2. A SINtuation (a real-life situation they have seen or encountered which involves fear, temptation, action, and consequences)
  3. Questions (challenging questions about God, faith, the Bible, or other topics related to faith)

Story Options

Students were required to create a plan for their story and write down some ideas, and explain it to one of our four adult teachers / shepherds who were present for today’s lesson.

Finger Puppets and Story Scripts

We had four groups out of eight complete their stories in class today. We’ll share and debrief these next week.

Kelly and Suzie created this video about “The Birth of Jesus.” December and Christmas time often presents confusing messages about the birth of Jesus as well as Santa Claus and consumerism. We’ll discuss these topics in upcoming weeks.

Another group (I didn’t get their names written down but will add them later – if you know please comment!) created this video which I’ve titled, “The Good Samaritan.” This story references Luke 10:25-37, which is very relevant to the way we live our lives and treat others. It also connects to questions one of our students asked last week, about “Who decided who got to go to heaven and hell before Jesus came?” We discussed that a bit in class and will talk more in the weeks ahead.

Sarah and Hannah created this video which they titled, “Building Problems.” This is based on Ezra 4. Rather than select and explain a verse they have studied previously and has personal significance, they chose to just select a random verse from the Bible and illustrate it. We’ll discuss next week how this example not only missed the purpose of our assignment, but it can also be confusing for people watching it. What does this mean? What is the main idea of this verse and the lesson we should take away from it? While this particular video didn’t meet our lesson objectives, it does provide a great opportunity to further discuss our purposes of doing this activity and how we want to both seek and share truth in our lives, rather than random ideas that can be confusing.

The last group to finish a video in class today was Gracie and Darla, who created “John and Lily.” They wanted to illustrate a situation which challenges faith, when a person is dying. In addition to illustrating the scene and the role prayer and faith can play in giving hope, they tried to explain this in the end of the video.

Overall today’s lesson was MUCH more successful than some others we’ve tried using media and technology, in part because we used mobile devices (iPhones with cameras and Storyrobe pre-loaded) to create our stories instead of more cumbersome, larger cameras and computers. Next time we do this I’m going to prepare an empty storyboard for students to complete, which lists spaces beside the five photos they plan to take and has room for character dialog planning. This may have been the first time many of our students had a chance to create a video project like this in Sunday school, and there is a LOT to learn both for students and adult facilitators. Next week we will definitely praise and recognize our students who DID complete their projects, because it took focus and work to get done in just 30 minutes! I’m hopeful this process will help us do even better next time. Many of our student groups worked hard in the time we had, but there’s a lot to do here in just 30 minutes!

If you have comments or feedback about this activity or this process please share them on this post!

Have a blessed week!

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Is Jesus the only path to salvation?

The following comment and question was posted on my main blog on a recent entry, “Message for Oklahoma Christians: Muslims are NOT our enemies.” The comment was:

I have one thing to ask of the people who claim their respective religion is the “only” path to God, and that is to ask themselves what happens to people who are atheistic or of the “incorrect” religion, but are truely [sic] good people? Does this mean that they are never saved, never loved by God in heaven (or whatever you believe happens when you die)?It is an interesting question, one that I have wondered often, especially when some christians claim that the path to God is only through embracing Jesus.
Jeff – a high school student who stumbled on this article

Here’s my response:

Jeff: Great question.

In the case of Christianity, I go back to what CS Lewis wrote in “Mere Christianity.” A lot of people want to put Jesus in a box and say something like, “He was a good moral teacher but not the Son of God.” Lewis says Jesus was either a raving lunatic or exactly what he said he was: God on earth. Jesus in his teachings was clear about “the path to salvation” being through a narrow gate. This is a HUGE stumbling block for many people who consider themselves Christians today, but have a more unitarian / universalist view of salvation. It may sound much nicer to say “all religious roads lead to the same path” but that is not what you’ll read in the Bible. So a fundamental question to answer for yourself in this regard is, “Who do I believe Jesus was and is?”

Jesus, of course, did not endorse a terrible list of evils which have been perpetrated throughout time in his name: the inquisition, the crusades, actions by white supremacists, etc. These are big issues that keep many people from understanding Jesus and his message as well.

Christianity is differentiated from all other religions in the world in one significant way: Grace. In every other faith, you’ll learn about how you need to work and “do things” to earn your way to salvation. For the Christian, a transformed life is one filled with good works for God– but salvation is not a result of works. You don’t find this in Islam, Hinduism, or any other mainline religion but you do in Christianity.

My encouragement to you is to keep seeking the answer to the question you’ve asked here, keep asking other people, and keep praying to God to open your eyes and reveal Himself to you. Read the Bible and seek God’s spirit through it, especially reading the gospels.

Ultimately there are MANY things we don’t know and can’t answer with certainty, even when we have a strong faith and conviction in knowing God. He is infinite and so definitionally He’s beyond our limited abilities to fully understand. This is not a cop-out, I think it’s actually wisdom which you will find with many “religious” people, Christian and non-Christian alike. This does NOT mean truth is relativistic and “unknowable” either, but it does mean we aren’t going to get everything figured out while we’re still all mortals on this planet.

If you see or hear someone who claims to be a Christian espousing damnation and a condemning judgement on others, in a hateful spirit, be wary. When you read about the life of Christ in the Bible, you learn he never acted that way toward everyday people. He was most severe and condemning when he criticized the religious leaders of his day, the Pharisees. Believing that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” and the “narrow gate” through which we are able to be forgiven and accepted by God does NOT mean we are to go around condemning everyone we meet who doesn’t believe the way we do. Jesus simplified all the laws in the Old Testament in these two commands: Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. There’s not any condemning in those commands.

What would you say in response to Jeff’s questions?

Memorial at Ponte Vedra Beach
Creative Commons License photo credit: minds-eye

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Discussing Matthew 7:21-23

These were our discussion questions about Matthew 7:21-23 this morning in my men’s group. “What Does It Take to Enter the Kingdom of Heaven?”

1) Jesus envisions conversations that will take place “on that day.” What is the day about which Jesus is speaking?

2) What role does Jesus envision for himself “on that day?” How does that affect your view of and relationship with him?

3) What sums up “the will of my Father in heaven” which one must do in order to enter heaven? How do you make sense of the messages that we are saved by the work of Christ on our behalf and that we are saved by doing the will of the Father in heaven? Are these not contradictory statements?

4) To prophesy, cast out demons, and do many mighty works in Jesus’ name seems like a strong, spiritual pedigree. Why would Jesus reject anyone who has done these kinds of works in his name?

5) What then do you think Jesus means by his response to such people, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of iniquity…”?

6) What do you anticipate you will say “on that day” when you stand before Jesus?

Humanity and Sin

These are my notes from Mateen Elass’ lesson on “Humanity and Sin” on January 27, 2010, at First Presbyterian Church in Edmond, Oklahoma. He is using a curriculum from:

www.reclaimingthemind.org

This is the course “Humanity and Sin.”

Tonight we are going to talk about how and when the human soul is created, and when it enters the body, and other questions….

MY THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS ARE IN ALL CAPS, THE REST HERE ARE NOTES I TOOK THIS EVENING. I’M ABLE TO TO DROP IN ON THIS CLASS TONIGHT, BUT WON’T BE ABLE TO ATTEND AGAIN FOR SEVERAL WEEKS.

Psalm 8

when was the soul created?
What part, if any, do our parents play in the creation of the soul?
Is the soul “inserted” into our body? If so, when? At conception?

3 main theories about the soul’s creation
1- pre-existence theory
2- creation theory
3- traducing theory

pre-existence theory
– souls / spirits are eternal and pre-exist the creation of their bodies
– sin nature can be attributed to the former state of existence in which the person sinned

this view is not Biblically supported, but is a common outcome of Gnostic Dualism

John 9: People ask about a blind man, who sinned in his family past
– it was a common Jewish view that souls before birth could do things (sins) that would result in judgement, manifested as a disease

Romans 9: 11 (around there) Paul is talking about Jacob and Essau, God chose Jacob over his brother before they came out of the womb
– God’s choice is not a matter of human choice or decision, it

There is no Biblical evidence that the human soul pre-dates conception

Adherents to pre-existence theory include Origen, Delitzsch
– 3rd Century Church Father (gnostics)

this view holds that souls pre-exist in space before they inhabit bodies

even though this view isn’t Biblically based, it DOES undergird Morman theology

Gnostics view the body as the repository of evil

Creation Theory is #2
– teaches God himself creates each person’s soul individually
– then God places the soul in the body

Adherents: Grudem, Hodge, Berkhof, Calvin, and Roman Catholics

Genesis 2: God fashions Adam’s body out of the earth, and breathes life into him
– that looks like the insertion of a soul / life giving force

Traducian Theory
– comes from Latin “tradux” meaning “inheritance, transmission”
– teachers the soul is created in and with the body by the parents
– God is the ultimate creator, but uses people intermediately or as secondary causes
– at conception a soul AND a body is formed
– so in this view an abortion would need an extra-ordinary justification, because it definitively says at conception the body and the soul is created

Adherents: Tertullian, Luther, and Jonathan Edwards

Louis Smeed argues the Bible always puts its message down on the side of life
– you always need an overriding reason to take a life
– it is always better to err on the side of life

Others say life enters the baby at “the time of quickening” when the mother can feel the baby moving inside her body
– some used to argue you didn’t have life until birth, this may have been the Jewish tradition

Hebrew concept of foreknowledge means that God decided to enter into a relationship of love with us before we were born

Jonathan Edwards is one of Mateen’s personal theological heros

In Mormon theology, there are lots of pre-existing “spirit babies” as well as “spirit adults” who have ascended
– Jesus and Lucifer, in Mormon theology, are spirit brothers at the same meta-physical level
– they believe historically Lucifer had a plan that was rejected by God they call father, and Jesus’ plan was accepted

Gostic Dualism dovetails well with “creation of the soul” theory
– it makes a separation between the body and soul
– the union of the soul / spirit and body with body is viewed as a temporary, necessary evil

Zechariah 12:1
“The revelation of the word of the LORD concerning Israel, The LORD– He who stretches out the the….

Hebrews 12:9 “…the Father of spirits…”

MY OWN THOUGHT AND ASIDE: I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW WHAT DOCUMENTS ARE BEING KEPT SECRET IN THE VATICAN LIBRARY 🙂

If God’s creation is good, how could the soul end up already tainted at the point of birth?
– reformed theologians argue our nature from birth is always away from God

Traducian theory better explains the inheritance of original sin and corruption as being handed down, in both body and soul, by Adam

In Roman Catholicism, infant baptism is the sacrament which is seen to deal with the problem of original sin
– this is why Catholic parents with a baby who is dying will ask for a priest to baptize the baby as well as perform last rites, the baptism is seen to clean the baby from sin s/he may have committed in their short life, while the last rites clean the baby so s/he will inherit the kingdom of God after death

MY THOUGHT: HAVING SOME FRIENDS WHO LOST A BABY IN THE HOSPITAL JUST AFTER BIRTH, THIS IS A SITUATION WITH WHICH I HAVE PARTICULAR INTEREST

Question: If God creates each soul directly, and each person is born sinful in both body and soul, then how did the soul become sinful? Did God create a sinful soul and then unit it to he sin corrupted body? This would make God the author of sin — not man.

Jonathan Edwards wrote a sermon about sovereignty of God, the conditions of life are not ultimately what destines a person to a particular fate
– look at Romans 9:18
– that sounds a lot like double pre-destination
– in the end it is a mystery, but God remains sovereign about the decision of who ends up in heaven and who does not

Biblical evidence, in terms of human beings charting our own course, sides with a view that humans are not born with a neutral nature with respect to God, but rather with a nature which turns away from God

total depravity means every part of human life is tainted by sin

in reformed theology, “free will” is defined as pursuing what you most want to do in life
– the nature of humans is to turn away from God
– we have all the freedom in the world to follow that master
– it is Christ who gives us the possibility of a new freedom, to no longer obey that old master (the flesh) and instead offer ourselves up to a new master (God)

we are slaves to sin until Christ sets us free
– until that day we think we are free, but our nature is cast or set in a direction that is opposite to God

There is field of thought which holds:
If you change someone’s behavior over time, you will change their way of thinking
– based in the idea of cognitive dissonance

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Why are we not perfect?

Update 26 Dec 2014: The podcast links for BLASTcast in 2009 are unfortunately broken due to a server change. 🙁

(If you’re looking for our podcast recording from December 6th, this is it! Please be sure to SUBSCRIBE to our blog to receive email updates, using the form in the right sidebar of our BLASTcast blog. Cross-posted to BLASTcast.)

Today in our 5th grade Sunday School class we continued our unit of study focusing on the question, “What is the point?” We talked about how there are so many images and themes all around us at Christmastime, but often VERY few of these have to do with Jesus and his birth! We listened to the free Pandora Internet Radio Channel “Peaceful Holidays” and viewed some secular holiday images/themes represented in the Flickr Group, “A Very Flickr Christmas.” (There are over 50,000 shared Christmas photos in this group, and none of the ones we saw had anything to do with Jesus, his birth, the church, or Christianity!)

We discussed whether or not it is a sin to be “tempted,” and Matthew 4:1-11 (New International Version) when Jesus was tempted in the desert by the devil. We talked about how it is not a sin to be tempted, but our actions and choices determine whether or not we sin when we face temptation. While Jesus WAS tempted, he did not give in to temptation and always responded to temptation with the “sword of the spirit:” God’s word.

We next listened to our podcast recording from class two weeks ago, when we considered the question, “Why Did God Create Me?” We played images from the Flickr Creative Commons image search for “nativity Christmas” as we listened to our five minute podcast, and then discussed some of the “answers” we heard our classmates share during that audio recording.

We played a game of tag that proved to be very challenging because of the difficult rules we had to follow, and then talked about how that game connects to our theme today, “Why are we not perfect?” We then broke into three groups for a jigzaw activity. Each group read and discussed one of the following verses, discussing how it applied or related to our question, “Why are we not perfect?”

  1. Genesis 1:26-27; Genesis 1:31 (New International Version)
  2. Psalm 139:13-16 (New International Version)
  3. Romans 8:35-39 (New International Version)

Finally, we recorded a seven minute podcast, discussing these verses and how they apply to our theme, “Why are we not perfect?” Please listen to our podcast and share feedback as comments on this post.

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Why did God create me? (Lesson intro and class podcast)

Cross-posted to the BLASTcast blog.

This morning in our 5th grade Sunday school class we started a new unit with the theme, “Why did God Create Me?” We read and discussed the following verses:

Ephesians 2:10
Psalm 139: 1-12
Romans 5:8-11

We recorded a five minute podcast in class (unfortunately no longer available online due to server changes), sharing these verses and some of our own ideas about what they mean in the context of God’s purposes for our lives. It is important to think about these ideas as we celebrate Thanksgiving here in the United States this week, and as we move into the month of December to celebrate Christmas.

We started off our lesson today talking about the following advertisement I saw at Pier 1 this weekend, and what the advertisers might be saying “our purpose” is in the world.

Sleigh Bells Ring, Are You Gifting?

God HAS made us to share our gifts with each other, but he has made us for so much more than to just buy things! He has made us to love him, to worship, and to be his hands and feet on earth. We are called to do his good works each day of our lives.

In December, we’ll be discussing questions like:

How Come I’m Not Perfect?
Why Didn’t God Make Us Like Robots?
What Does God Want from Me?

Next week (Sunday, November 29th) we will meet in Creation Station to make advent wreaths along with other elementary students. In December we’ll be back in our “normal” classroom for Sunday school.

If you have comments and feedback for our 5th graders on their podcast or on any of the ideas we’ve shared here, please leave a comment here on this post! Thanks for visiting our blog and listening to our podcast. We’d love to hear from you, and will share comments / feedback we receive here during class.

Here are some additional photos from our brainstorming, discussions, and prayer time today.

Key verses for today

Prayer concerns today

Great questions tonight at dinner

These are some of the great questions our two daughters asked tonight at dinner. Shelly and I did our best to answer these. Wow this was challenging!

In Mulan they pray and speak to “the ancestors” instead of God. Why do they pray to “the ancestors” and not God?

Is God the only God? Other people believe in other gods, so are those gods true?

How do we know God is the most powerful God in the world?

If you go up into space, will you get into heaven?

Why is God so confusing? We’ve lived on earth more than 2000 years and don’t know it all yet.

Are you saying we can’t get into heaven without Jesus’ help?

Are there secrets about God?

Did Jesus know he was “going to be the One” when he was a little boy growing up?

Could Jesus come again to earth as a person?

“Why does Jesus be mean to people when he said ‘let me people go’ like pharaoh?”

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Week 1: The Truth Project

Our church is offering an adult summer school class this year using “The Truth Project” as the curriculum. These are my notes from week 1. (I took these notes on my iPhone via EverNote, and am pasting them later– actually after week 2 which was today!) MY REFLECTIONS AND COMMENTS ARE IN ALL CAPS. Dr. Del Tackett is leading and presenting in this video series. His blog is on deltackett.com.

Setting up dichotomies: God’s view vs the world and devil’s view
– reminds me of Angels and Demons and the Catholic separation of the church and science

Postmodernism is the same old battle

What is truth?

Ravi Zacharias, RC Sproul, Os Guiness

Defines from Noah Webster in 1828

Isaiah 44

What is insanity: losing touch with reality and believing that the lie is real

Our actions reflect what we believe to be really real

Lies are powerful

Truth is fundamentally about who God is, he provides the reference point fir what is true and false

Colossians 2:12

Overarching message: the cosmic battle around us
– our faith is in the truth claims if God
– faith, hope, truth

Faith like a child
– image of child jumping off a diving board to his mom in the water

Our hope and faith us not a feeling, it overcomes our feelings

Our beliefs and perceptions determine our actions

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