"God draws straight lines with crooked sticks."

- Joni Eareckson Tada
Facebook Survey

1. Do You Have A Facebook Page?

2. How Often Do You Check it? (or do you just leave it on all the time?)

3. Do you accept friend requests from anyone who asks?

4. What are your criteria for accepting friend requests?

5. What is your facebook philosophy?

6. Why are you on facebook?

7. Do you post tons of pictures, and status updates and other stuff about yourself or do you just kind of lurk and watch what everyone else does?

8. Do you have facebook friends that you don't actually know in real life?

9. Has facebook helped you find old friends?

10. Have people found you through facebook that you wish hadn't?

11. Do you understand this article? Can you explain it to me?

the company announced today that it has begun making status messages, photos and videos visible to the public at large by default instead of being visible only to a user's approved friends.


12. Does the above article concern you?

13. What else can you tell me about your facebook experience, habits and philosophy?

"Godology" Giveaways!

Godology

I've got books to give away!

Christian George's new book Godology (Moody Press, foreword by J.I. Packer) is a book that makes theology fun. From Trevin Wax's review:

What makes this book stand out is not its content, but the accessible way in which it is written. Teenagers, college students, and young adults with little theological knowledge will be able to pick up this book and receive an informative book that is easily understandable (and even entertaining!). If you are looking for a book to pass on to others, Godology is one you will want to pick up.

I've got 3 copies of Godology to give away. If you'd like a chance at winning one, just leave a comment in this post telling me your favorite "theology is fun (or funny)" story. Interpret that however you want. Tell me about the time you bucked the system and trick-or-treated even though your church said it was a sin, or the time you challenged your Sunday School teacher to Bible Trivia, or the time you cannonballed into the baptistry, or the time you verbally duked it out with some Jehovah's Witnesses at your door . . . or whatever. Loose connection to "theology" okay; heavy on the fun/funny.

In a few days, I'll pick the best three stories, and you'll each get a free copy of Godology. I'll throw in a copy of my book Your Jesus is Too Safe for the best one too.

Let's hear it!

UPDATE:

Okay, contest's over!

Here are the winners:


Runners up and winners of a free copy of Godology are:

SV -- Because I couldn't get the image of dead body dust floating around out of my head. I s'pose something about it appealed to whatever it is about me that prompts my zombie fixation. And zombies are cool.

Junia -- Because I remember too well "demon stories" when I was a church kid and getting freaked the heck out telling them to each other.

And first place, winner of Godology and Your Jesus is Too Safe:

Peter Mular -- Because piranhas in the baptistry is so stinkin' awesome.


Thanks, all, for playing. I'll do some more giveaways in the coming weeks for Your Jesus is Too Safe.

Winners, see the comment thread for details on getting your swag . . .

AFTER 3 WEEKS, NONE OF THE WINNERS EMAILED THEIR SHIPPING ADDRESSES TO ME OR CONTACTED ME IN ANY WAY, AND I HAVE TO GIVE THESE BOOKS OUT SO I'M PICKING NEW ONES. SEE COMMENT THREAD

Some Basic Parliamentary Rules I'd Like To Suggest

I don't think what I'm about to suggest is all that revolutionary. I would hope there's common ground here, regardless of whether you're a conservative or progressive, Republican or Democrat, right-wing nutcase or bed-wetting liberal.

And this has nothing specifically to do with the Cap and Trade bill the House of Reps passed yesterday, although that legislation was the inspiration behind this post (as was the TARP vote earlier this year).

So, without further ado, here are some basic parliamentary principles I'd love to see our elected representatives follow:

  1. A bill presented to Congress needs to be about what it's about. In other words, every part of the bill needs to be about the main theme of the bill. For instance, if the bill is about stopping global climate change, then it can't have provisions in it that authorize the expanding of some non-climate-change related boondoggle project (a museum, airport, etc) in an on-the-fence member's district
  2. As a corollary, if said member wants to use federal funds to fund the aforementioned boondoggle project, he or she should submit a bill to Congress that is specifically about funding said project.
  3. Voting on any bill in Congress should not occur until the bill has been finalized and published on the internet for at least 72 hours. Most bills before Congress run hundreds or thousands of pages (though principle #1 above would put the kibosh on that). It's insane for our Congresspeople to vote on bills that they haven't read. Most of us won't spend our own money on something if we haven't done at least a little research to know what we're getting. How come Congress thinks it's OK to spend our money when they have no real way of knowing what they are spending it on?
  4. As a corollary, it's insulting for our representatives to vote on bills that their own constituents have not been at least given the opportunity to read. It makes the whole business look really shady.
  5. I realize that there's give and take when debating pieces of legislation, and that a bill will morph over time. So I'd relax the 72 hour time-line for additional amendments to a bill that arise in debate. But any amendment would need to adhere strictly to principle #1 above, and at least a 24 hour period should be required for amendments to be published and digested before rushing through a vote.

A note to our Congressional leadership: I understand that it seems important, sometimes, to finish a vote before a long weekend or holiday. But, trust me, the world will survive just fine, even if it has to wait a few more days for our representatives to make sure they know what they are voting on.

These principles seem fairly common-sense to me. Uncontroversial, even. Do I ask too much?

Bloglines

I think I've fixed the issue with Bloglines not always displaying all the posts in the Thinklings RSS feed. The problem was, as far as I can tell, undue finickyness on Bloglines' part regarding the structures allowed in one of the XML tags in the feed. This has been fixed.

If anyone out there uses Bloglines to read Thinklings, can you let me know if the feed looks good to you now?

The fix will be going out in the next general release of Bloo.

Update - well, it's still ignoring the posts entered today. Not sure why but I'll continue doping this out.

Update 2 - actually, it seems to be working very well now. Check that one off the list!

How Sharp The Edge

Mark Driscoll at Desiring God 08 on God's use of tough words. Yes, it's long! Maybe you can do what I did and watch it in 15 minute bites. It's well worth it.



Quick outline: Driscoll says we should:

1. Feed the Sheep
2. Rebuke the Swine
3. Shoot the Wolves
4. Bark at the Dogs
5. Pray for the Shepherds

I will NEVER forget this message ever. Every minister and church leader should watch this.

God is love, and Jesus loves you, but neither one of them is always nice.

"That Didn't Take Long"

From Mona Charen over at The Corner


New York State has decided to use taxpayer funds to pay women to donate their eggs for embryonic stem cell research. That didn't take long. We warned, didn't we, that proponents of this research who claimed that they were only going to use the frozen embryos in fertility clinics slated for destruction anyway were deceiving the public. Welcome to the brave new world of creating human embryos in order to use them as commodities. This is a terrible descent.

Evangeline Grace

Welcome to God's beautiful world, Evangeline. :-)

eve1

A Good Reminder

The video's a little amateurish (it's by a fan) but I love this song.



Of course it took some Calvinists (Lecrae and Shai Linne) to finally make some good Christian rap. :-)

MJ



I remember where I was when I first heard the "Thriller" album. Still have it on vinyl.

Like millions of others, he turned into a messed-up man.
Pray for his kids.

Peace.

Congrats to Bird and Brandi!

I believe Bird's lovely wife Brandi gave birth to their 4th child this morning, a little girl named Evangeline. (Named for the gospel! Love it.)

The number of little Thinklings grows!

When Good Words Turn Bad And When Bad Words Turn Good

Just when this previous post makes me look like a prude or a legalist...I write the following that may make me look like the opposite. :)

I wondered "aloud" in the last post if we should utter anything at all when angry or hurt. I think to a point, some of that's OK. After all what else is many of the Psalms but expressing pain through words? If we look at Job, he cursed the day he was born, yet didn't sin. So maybe there are times when it's OK, not to use foul language, but to use exclamations to express pain. (Like "ouch" when you stub your toe.) (But I'm not really sure what to do with Jesus cursing a fig tree that didn't bear fruit. Does that mean we get to curse the chair we stubbed our toe on? I doubt it ;-)

Of course the Bible also says,

3But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. 4Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. (Ephesians 5:3-4)


So it's obvious that foul language is right out. But wait, there's more...

Listen to this guy. (And hey, though he uses the "s" word to illustrate his point, this is from "Desiring God" ministries (John Piper) so it has to be good, right? :)



Perhaps Paul's use of the word "dung" in Philippians 3:8 illustrates his point? "Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as dung/refuse/rubbish/garbage. All I want is Christ" (Literally the Greek word is referring to dung. Most translations avoid that reference. Only Eugene Peterson lets us know that the word is scatological. Apparently, Daniel Wallace, Greek Scholar extraordinaire, says that the Greek word Paul uses here falls somewhere between "crap" and "s**t".) That verse really gains some power to me when I realize that Paul is saying that all his prior righteousness is crap compared to Jesus!

Can coarse language ever be God-honoring? There are times when God uses strong language. (Watch this one hour sermon by Mark Driscoll at "Desiring God" 08 for not just some examples, but every example! :gwah:)

I, myself, admit to using (ahem) salty language at times in a pastoral counseling situations as a way to get someone's attention about the seriousness of sin. (I do this very rarely, both for the sake of my own heart and it's effectiveness. It wouldn't work if I did this often.)

I used the point of what Dr. Tripp said about words with my kids earlier this week.(Without the "s" word) First, my 7 year old complained that the 6 year old had called him "dumb". The 6 year old claimed that he hadn't actually called his brother "dumb" just something else. I told him to watch his words, because people could think that he was calling them "dumb". I just told him not to use the word at all.

Two minutes later they were both back. The 7 year old now said that the 6 year old was saying "burrito, burrito, burrito" over and over.

I had a quick teaching moment with them. I said,
"OK, listen guys. It's not about the words. It's about the heart. Any word can be bad if you mean it that way. Even "chair" can be a bad word, if you are being mean in your heart towards your brother. That's what matters. Pay attention to your heart today, and then your words will be fine."


Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)

We can't just limit "unwholesome talk" to swear words. "Unwholesome talk" is any words that tear people down. We have to watch our mouths AND our hearts.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

The Book is Dropping!

Your Jesus is Too Safe

Got word today that my book has already hit the shelves of some stores earlier than I expected. If you've got a LifeWay close to you, may wanna check there. Not sure about other retailers yet.

This also means that my copies to give away should be arriving soon. If you'd like a shot at winning a free book, you can still join the fan page on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

Blog tour folks, I will be emailing you in the next day or so. Thanks for your patience!

What Makes A Curse Word A Curse Word?

Personally, I find curse words pretty offensive. They jar me every time I hear them. (This is the main reason, that I don't watch rated "R" movies. I just can't handle 80 occurrences of the "F" word. I don't even like one.)

But here's my question for you: What about words that aren't technically bad? You know the ones I mean. The ones we "wholesome Christians" use as substitutes. Words like:

Shoot
Snap
Shucks
Gee-Whiz
Gosh
Darnit
Dangit
Butt
"fouled up"
screw
fudge
Jeez
Jimminy Christmas
"For Pete's Sake"
Crap
Sucks
Frack (from Battlestar Galactica)

And on and on. I'm sure there are more. When it comes to "cursing without cursing" people are endlessly creative.

Here's what I'm wondering. For the Christian, is this OK? Should we be using any exclamation words at all?

Why is that we feel like we have to say something when we stub our toe, or spill something, or something goes wrong? Why, when we are mad, do we have to add some kind of adjective like "stinking" or "stupid" or "darned"?

Even if we come up with a word that sounds nothing like one of the official big four-letter words, so that it's not an obvious substitute. Like "Cheerio! I just stubbed my toe!"

Is this OK? Is this Christ-honoring? Or am I making a big deal out of nothing? Is it within Christian liberty to use exclamations, and extra words out of anger, as long as it's not one of "those words"?

And what about those substitute words?

Let me give you an example, to help you hear my concern and then tell me if I'm nuts:

The word "screw" really bothers me. I wish Christians wouldn't use it. I hear strong Christians say it, and even ministers use it from the pulpit. It bothers me, I think, because I "know" it's just a substitute for the big "F" word. That's how it's used. Think about it. When the word screw is used for any other purpose other than to describe the piece of hardware that holds furniture together, it is a substitute for some of the uses of the "F" word: I "screwed" up. "Screw" you. She "screwed" him.

So when I hear that word, it still offends me, because I think I know what's behind it.

On the other hand, I know that not everyone who uses it is thinking of the "f" word or intentionally using a nicer "curse" word. For many "screwed up" has just become a part of the vernacular, like "darnit" or "gosh".

What do you all think?

Unintended Consequences

Liberals often have a misguided, yet sincere, belief that the enemy and barrier between where we are now and where we need to be is Big Business. A common rallying cry on the left is that Big [Fill in the Blank] is being unfair and must be punished.

Now, of course, there have been and continue to be businesses that operate in a less than ethical manner and/or crush their competition ruthlessly. But we're entering an era of governmental involvement in business hitherto unseen in this country, and one thing that should be noticed is that many of the biggest businesses are all for it.

There's a law of unintended consequences that always gets passed when Congress begins to take on "Big Business", and it is this: the biggest businesses can generally afford whatever onerous burdens Congress decide to lay on them, and often they encourage Congressional action as a way of eliminating their smaller competition.

For instance, I work for a medium-sized Natural Gas exploration company. We find the stuff in the ground that you use to heat your house, cook your food, etc. The Obama administration and the congress have not yet set their sights on "Big Energy", but, trust me, that's coming. When they do, it won't be companies like Shell and Exxon-Mobile that go down. It will be smaller companies like the one I work for, and in the end the big boys will be the only ones standing, stronger than ever. They are, you see, "too big to fail".

Read the rest of this entry . . .

Book of the Year

WORLD Magazine chooses the ESV Study Bible as its Book of the Year.

If I had to name my book of the year, I'd say it's a tie between Christless Christianity by Michael Horton and The Divine Commodity by Skye Jethani.

What's your Book of the Year?

How To Find A New Church

Over at another post, the comment thread is veering off the subject. I decided that this new discussion is worth it's own post. I want to share something I wrote with all of you and get your feedback.

By the way, what I'm assuming here is that you are looking for a new church because you moved, not because you are leaving your previous church for other reasons. That's the subject of a whole 'nother post. There are legitimate and illegitimate reasons for leaving a church. I'm assuming below that you had a legitimate reason for leaving your previous church.

Here's the advice I give to people looking for churches.

First, make a list of all the things that are important to you in a church. List everything you can think of. Spend some time on this.

Second, prioritize them. Spend several days on this. Pray about it. Talk to your spouse. Work on it.

Third, take the paper, and after number 3 tear the list off and throw away everything below. Go find a church that meets the top three, and don't worry about the rest. You'll never find a church that meets all your criteria, but if you find one that meets the top three, you're doing very well.

And never worry (or complain) about the other stuff again.

I know people always say, "I know there is no such thing as a perfect church." Then they proceed to look for one that's as close as possible.

People need to stop that. Find one that has what really matters, and then DON'T WORRY ABOUT THE REST. (Unless it is to help, with a humble attitude.)

What do you think?

Turn Or Burn?

With a nod from John Calvin, the Geneva city council in 1553 burned Michael Servetus at the stake. Servetus was a heretic who denied the Trinity of persons within the Godhead and denied paedobaptism. While Calvin preferred to give Servetus a quick death via decapitation, he had to compromise with the council who preferred to let Servetus burn to death.

On a related note, a few years earlier, Swiss reformer Ulrich Zwingli, and his council, persecuted Anabaptists by giving them their "third baptism": a death by drowning. Zwingli would later die by the sword, fighting Catholics in neighboring counties.

Sadly, the history of Christianity is rich with bloodshed. Thankfully, these days we don't kill guys like Joel Osteen and whoever the guy is who wrote The Shack, but I think the history of dealing with heresy should teach us that orthodoxy -- right thinking -- really matters. To be sure, I don't condone certain ways the church has dealt with heresies in the past; in fact, I find many of those ways appalling. While I'm not a pacifist, I tend to think that the Anabaptists had a lot of right ideas when it came to their aversion to violence.

Heresy is serious, and an appropriate response to heresy is something the evangelical church needs to grapple with in this age of pluralism, "tolerance," and sweltering anti-Christianity. As far as an appropriate response goes, violence is not the answer.

The Death of Emmie's Baby

A woman is counseled toward terminating her pregnancy online, here, here and here.

Painful read. I titled this post the way I did because the woman seeking counsel, who ultimately had an abortion, calls her unborn child her "baby" throughout.

Hat Tip: K-Lo at the Corner:
It Takes an Online Village to Have an Abortion.

Follow up responses on the Corner: This one from a woman who had an abortion twenty eight years ago.

And an email from a person who was adopted.

Jesus Wants the Rose

A passionate, heart-jostling illustration of why moralism is the antithesis of the gospel.

Matt Chandler is seriously the best thing going in the "mega pastor" world right now.

Those Seemingly Innocent Moments

"Your danger and mine is not that we become criminals, but rather that we become respectable, decent, commonplace, mediocre Christians. The twentieth-century temptations that really sap our spiritual power are the television, banana cream pie, the easy chair and the credit card. The Christian wins or loses in those seemingly innocent little moments of decision."

-- Raymond C. Ortlund, Sr.

Via my friend Ray Ortlund, Jr.

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