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August 11, 2005

I have been reflecting this week on the Apostle’s admonition to “avoid evil.” Heady stuff for a vacation, I admit! My need to more fully understand this concept arose as I wrote about movies and the Christian obsession with watching and enjoying them regardless of their content. It took me some time, but I realized that I had reflected on this in the past, though it was several years ago.

The last time I remember writing about the importance of avoiding evil was after reading an article about Jeffery Dahmer. I assume that most North Americans are familiar with him, as he gained great notoriety in the 1990’s as one of America’s most vile serial killers. Over a two-decade period he was responsible for the murder (and sometimes cannibalization and other unmentionable acts) of seventeen men. The usual American media circus accompanied his trial and sentencing. His life came to a violent end when, shortly after being sentenced to life imprisonment, he was murdered by another inmate.

I read the story of his life, from his upbringing in a normal family to his gruesome death in prison, with a kind of horror, but also with a kind of fascination. Though the article was, thankfully, short on specifics, it certainly provided enough detail to show just what a depraved individual Dahmer was. And despite the depravity, I lapped this story up like a dog lapping up his own vomit.

Later in the evening I reflected on the fascination I had felt when reading the article. Why is it that I could be absorbed with something so vile and so unnatural? Why would I even want to know the details of such a life? A couple of possibilities came to mind.

Perhaps it could be that it is simply inconceivable to me that such evil could exist in a mind and body just like mine. In many ways Dahmer was little different than me. He was raised in the same society (albeit a few years before my time) with many of the same values, had a job and paid his taxes. Yet within him lurked this terrible evil. So perhaps my fascination was simply my mind crying out in disbelief that this was a man not too terribly unlike me.

The second possibility may be easier to explain by analogy. I was reminded of a recurring theme within that timeless story Lord of the Rings, a story that most people are now familiar with. Frodo Baggins has been bequeathed a ring of immense power. Though at first he does not realize it, this ring is actually a source of incredible evil. It contains within it the wrath, fury and evil of the sorcerer Sauron, who represents the source of evil within Middle Earth. As the story progresses, we see that Frodo has begun to fall under the ring’s power. The ring has a kind of mind of its own and desires to return to its master. As Sauron’s minions search for this ring, Frodo finds himself drawn to them. The ring, which he wears on a chain around his neck, pulls him towards the power of evil. This evil ring around his neck, desires to return to its wicked master.

Within every human there is an evil nature. The Bible, in Jeremiah 17:9 says, “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Anyone who denies that he has these sinful inclinations is in defiance of the obvious. So perhaps the fascination I felt in reading about someone so vile as Dahmer is simply the evil within me drawing me to an even greater source of evil. Perhaps the evil within me is just crying out and pulling me to allow it to return to its master. It is a daunting thought, that lurking within my heart, just barely beneath the surface, is an evil that is fighting to escape.

The third possibility is that my fascination was based on a combination the other two reasons. The side of me that is appalled by wickedness recoiled at the thought of such evil. At the same time, the part of me that delights in all manner of wickedness was drawn towards more and greater evil. One thing that is certain and is beyond possibility is the wisdom of 1 Thessalonians 5:21-24. “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”

While I may be drawn to evil, and in fact, am willing to admit that I am drawn to it, the fact remains that God commands that I avoid it. And not only am I to avoid evil, but I am to avoid every kind of evil - the mere possibility or hint of evil. God’s standards are high. So is my propensity towards evil. Evil has a magnetic pull that draws me towards it. Thankfully God, in His great wisdom, has placed within me the Spirit who graciously allows me to see this evil, to hate it, and ultimately to avoid it.

August 08, 2005

I began my postsecondary education by concentrating on the study of English and history at McMaster University. After only a few months, I found myself increasingly frustrated with the English courses. It seemed to me that the courses were based primarily on what, in theology, we would refer to eisogesis. We would study an assigned story or a poem and read into it whatever we meaning we felt existed within. It seemed that the more wild our speculations, the more satisfied the instructor became. I eventually walked away from the courses, frustrated that instead of finding what the author was really saying, we pushed our agendas on their works, making these books or poems say what we wanted them to say.

It seems to me that many Christians do this very thing with the arts, and with movies in particular. I cannot count the number of articles I have read in the past weeks dealing with movies, exhorting Christians to engage in popular culture by watching film. Denis Haack, in an article in By Faith Magazine (May/June 2005), asks whether movies “truly help us engage our world with the gospel, or is that simply a thin excuse by Christians who want to justify watching movies.” He concludes that “We don’t have the luxury of ignoring the common grace expressed in film, unless we are content to be deaf to the postmodern generation.” In other words, we need to watch movies if we want to be faithful ambasaddors of Christ in this world. To ignore popular entertainment would be to ignore a God-given means to engage unbelievers in spiritual conversation.

Haack goes on to say that while God extends His saving grace to the elect, He also showers creation liberally with common grace which allows creativity to flourish even among those who deny God’s existence. He feels that we need to seek out this common grace so we can then praise God for it. “We won’t be grateful for God’s common grace if we don’t have eyes to see it…Reformed Christians dare not be dismissive of culture, nore dare we be dismissive of God’s common grace simply because the film in which it appears is part of the cinema of Babylon.”

But what of movies that glorify sin or that portray what Christians are commanded to flee? Haack tacitly suggests that we can watch anything, provided it does not fall into an area, specific to the individual, that would cause us to sin. “Certainly we must be discerning. We must discern accurately our areas of weakness so we can avoid films with scenes that will tempt us to sin.” Much seems to depend on motives. He says that he does not watch movies in order to see scenes of depravity, but that he watches movies because he loves them. Christian maturity, he says, is necessary for watching movies.

Through the article the author provides examples from movies that portray incest, orgies, paganism, as well as any amount of sex, swearing and blasphemy. Surprisingly absent from the article is any clear biblical support for watching such movies. He makes a couple of appeals to Calvin, but the article depends primarily on his interpretation of common grace.

But I often wonder if the redemptive themes in movies are not merely what we read into them in order to justify watching. Do we really watch movies in order to seek out themes of common grace, or do we watch primarily for our own entertainment, or even to feed a human lust for God, in His wisdom, has forbidden us?

I read another article, which is as yet unpublished, that speaks specifically of The Shawshank Redemption, a movie written by Stephen King that has become something of a modern favorite for many believers and unbelievers alike. The author provides a warning for any readers who may have a “sensitive disposition.” He provides three reasons Christians should embrace this movie, despite swearing, blasphemy, brutal violence and scenes of homosexual rape (albiet non-graphic ones).

“God is the creator and he is the author of creativity and the arts ever before any efforts of the enemy to hijack proceedings.” This seems to indicate that the artist has within him the ability to create art that is good and pleasing to God. But then the enemy interferes with it and makes it something less than pure. Our job as Christians, then, is to examine this art and draw out the redemptive themes.

“God’s omnipotence is such that he is able to use whomever he chooses to speak into the lives of whomever he decides - we are speaking of a God who raised up Cyrus to lead the Israelites back to Jerusalem and a donkey, no less, to speak to Balaam, not to mention Saul of Tarsus, the persecutor of the church to reach and revolutionize the Gentile world.” Poor reasoning, really. Just because God has, in the past, used any number of ways to reveal Himself, this does not mean that He will now use movies or any forms of art. I see no biblical support for the idea that God may speak to the believer through film.

“Sometimes our rush to divide the “spiritual” and the “secular” mean we miss God’s attempts to address us through the world of the arts…there is gold to be mined by those with an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying to His church.” This strikes me as near blasphemy, to suggest that the Spirit is attempting to communicate to His church through film. God communicates to His church through the Bible, and to ignore the Bible is to ignore the Spirit.

These are just two of the multitudes of examples. I think also of John Eldredge’s books, which are filled with references to movies. Many other authors, attempting to engage a postmodern generation, depend on movies to provide a link to the culture.

I am increasingly concerned by the way I see Christians embracing film. While films become filled with more and more of the world’s utter depravity, Christians are turning to them for entertainment or even for spiritual reasons, in ever greater numbers. As we have seen, there is any number of ways of justifying this behavior, but I think that if we are honest, we have to admit that we watch movies primarily for their entertainment value. Movies are fun. They are a wonderfully effective distraction from the drudgery of daily life. They can transport us to different worlds and make us feel joy and pain that we have no reason to feel in our real lives. Haack says that “The Royal Tennenbaums allowed me to feel a bit of the brokenness and alienation the books [books dealing with divorce] described but couldn’t emote. [They] have been a window of insight into a world I do not inhabit.”

But God calls us to a high standard. God’s instruction to His people, through the Bible, is that they avoid the very appearance of evil - every form of evil. We are to embrace a higher standard of purity and godliness. I see nothing in the Bible that would convince me that I can and even should watch movies in order to engage the culture. In fact, I find the opposite. How can I be an effective witness if I begin a coversation with an unbeliever by proudly proclaiming that I have just watched a movie that is filled with the very acts my faith tells me I must avoid? Will unbelievers not immediately note the inconsistency between what I do and what I claim to believe?

A clear theme throughout the Scriptures is that “a little leaven leavens the whole lump.” This is as true of evil influences as it is of good. In the Old Testament, God considered something defiled when it had only the smallest suggestion of evil mixed with the good. Yet we have turned this around, suggesting that the smallest glimmer of good, when mixed with abhorent evil, brings redemption. We seek to redeem what we should not be redeemed.

I am not opposed to movies, but I do believe that we need to prayerfully consider if we have allowed ourselves to justify what God forbids. There are many movies that I have enjoyed tremendously and I acknowledge that it can be a powerful, effective medium. But I believe it is of utmost importance that we use discernment in the movies we watch - not a discernment that pushes the limits of what I should or should not see - but a discernment that asks whether this is a movie that a Christian should watch. I ought not to ask if this is a movie that I can watch without falling into great sin, but if this is a movie that brings glory to God.

August 07, 2005

One more reason to hate spammers.

I get vast quantities of trackback spam. I have installed a couple of tools to try to deal with it, which is especially important with the links I now have in the sidebar. It seems my measures are either too loose or too tight - I can’t quite seem to get the balance. If anyone out there knows anything about SpamLookup, the Movabletype plugin, I’d love to hear from you!

August 07, 2005

Mark was determined to die. And in retrospect there was nothing anyone could have done to stop him.

His first attempt came when he was 18 and it left him with scars running the length of his arms. His sister found him sitting calmly in the bathtub, a razor blade lying in the pool of blood. Help arrived in time to save him. When he was released from hospital his parents took him to the finest psychiatrists in the city. Each one of them diagnosed him with something different: one said he had a personality disorder and another schizophrenia. One even told him that he was “just a punk” who was bent on defying his parents and making their lives miserable.

Mark overdosed on pills on his sister’s birthday. She had invited a few friends to spend the night and they were in the family room watching a movie when he came down to the basement, delirious from the medication cocktail he had consumed. Another call to 9-1-1 and another stay in the hospital once again saved his life. This time he was admitted to a psychiatric institution where he spent several months resting and recovering. Upon his release, ominously, he told his parents that if he wanted to kill himself there was nothing they would be able to do to stop him.

So what was the family to do? Sure, his family could have tried to ensure that someone was with him every hour of every day, but that would have left his entire family in a state of bondage. They hoped against hope that he had, indeed, recovered. They prayed that he would find something worth living for. They grew to trust him, believing at last that he had found reason to go on living. Perhaps his artwork or even his writing could give him the inspiration to face life.

His artwork was dark. His room was filled with dolls, covered in blood and in various states of torture and dismemberment. It sends chills down my spine just to think of it.

One Sunday in July Mark finally won his battle. No one knew he was still so determined to die. His plan was elaborate. It was cruel.

Sunday morning his mother climbed into her car, planning to go to the store. On the steering wheel was a note from Mark saying that he had taken his life, that it was too late to save him, and that he had left clues about his suicide in places they did not expect. His mother, hysterical, ran into the house. After quickly reading the note, his father ran upstairs and into Mark’s room. Mark lay on the floor, already stiff and cold. A mask ran from a tank of helium to his face. A block of wood had held the valve open as he breathed in the poisonous gas. Mark was dead.

I was asked to come and be with the family just hours after Mark’s death. The coroner had just left when I arrived. The phone was ringing as neighbors called to ask why there had been police cars and an ambulance outside the house. My wife and I sat with the family as they poured out their grief and their guilt. Shouldn’t they have known that he was going to try this again? Shouldn’t they have been able to prevent it? If only they had decided to walk into his room the night before! Mark’s father, searching for meaning in the face of tragedy, spoke of Mark’s death as a gift to the family. Maybe, he said, Mark had seen how his problems had contributed to the troubles the family had experienced recently. Maybe Mark took his life so that the family could put aside their differences and renew their commitment to remaining together. Maybe, in some bizarre way, Mark sacrificed himself for the good of others. Maybe this was Mark’s gift.

Mark gave his family another gift. He left little notes in unexpected places. After his death the family would open a book and find a cruel note he had left there just before he died. His sister opened her Bible and found many passages highlighted. Mark had asked to borrow it and had highlighted passages throughout the Gospels and through Romans that outlined the way of salvation. I’ve often wondered if he understood the passages he had highlighted. I hope he did.

Aileen and I along with our home church gathered around the family, which has no relatives in North America, providing them with food and taking care of the funeral planning. One of the strangest experiences of my life was returning the helium tank to the store Mark had rented it from. The clerk was quite upset that I did not have the receipt for the tank and told me I could not return the tank until I found it. He finally relented when I told him that there had been a tragedy within the family and he was not going to get a receipt.

In the days following Mark’s death, his parents did reconcile. His mother, who had been living a few minutes away, moved back in with his father. His sister moved home from school, and for the first time in many months the family was truly together.

The funeral was a study in opposites. Or perhaps it was a study in unity. Mark’s friends occupied one side of the church. They dressed in jeans and t-shirts, mostly black. Many of them wore the distinctive makeup of so-called “Goths.” Many wore pentagrams. Yet these people, so obsessed with death, seemed unable to deal with death’s stark reality. As they stared at his body, lying at peace in the coffin, they broke down. Many of them felt the need to touch him, tousling his hair or touching his shoulder. One or two of them pushed little baggies of marijuana into his coffin.

The friends of Mark’s sister occupied the other side of the church. These seemed mostly to be clean-cut businessmen and churchgoers. His parent’s colleagues, largely professors and scientists, were mixed among them. An overflow room has needed to hold the members of his sister’s church (my church) who came to show their support for her.

These two groups, so different from each other, were united in their grief. Some grieved for the loss of a friend. Others grieved for the grief their friends were feeling. Two of them grieved for a son they were unable to help. One grieved for her only sibling. Throwing herself on her brother’s body, Mark’s sister wept as she poured out her grief that she would never be an aunt. She was now an only-child.

I love her as a sister. She spent countless hours with my family when she was younger and seemed to become another sibling. I’ve told her that if she ever needs a big brother I am only a phone call away. But I know I’m a cheap substitute for the God-given gift of a flesh-and-blood brother.

The family asked me to read from the Bible and pray at the funeral. What could I say about a young man who hated God and did all he could do to defy Him? What could I say that would provide some comfort to the family and help them through this terrible time? The answer, obviously, was absolutely nothing. So I prayed that God would comfort them. I prayed that God would make Himself real to them and provide them with the strength to go on.

I carried Mark’s coffin to the grave. We laid it down beside the little patch of fake grass, placed there to cover the stark reality of freshly-dug soil, and solemnly stepped back. His friends soon surrounded the coffin, pulling out their cigarettes as if to share one last smoke with their friend. I was surprised to see that they tossed their cigarette butts to the ground beside his coffin. One or two placed a flower on top. The pastor led us in a prayer. And then we turned and walked away.

Several months have passed since Mark’s body was laid to rest in a quiet cemetery in Dundas. Mark’s gift has been forgotten. His parents have decided to divorce. His sister has returned to her studies, moving to Australia. She insists she went there for the opportunity to study abroad. I can’t help but think that she ran from her grief. She has since become involved in a missions organization and is serving the Lord in China. Her mother was baptized at our church about a year ago, having been led to the Lord by the simple love of the Christians who surrounded them during those dark days. Her father has moved away and remarried.

Mark left pleasant memories of his childhood, but nothing but heartbreaking memories of his teenage years. The family has fractured, unable to find grounds for reconciliation. His death was senseless; purposeless. Mark left his family no gift.

But God, who specializes in working good from evil, was able to take what was senseless and purposeless and use it to build His kingdom. All credit goes not to the person who caused the pain, but to the One who used it for good.

August 05, 2005

I recently finished reading Talking About Good and Bad Without Getting Ugly, written by Paul Chamberlain, a professor at Trinity Western University (Langley, British Columbia) and director of the Institute of Christian Apologetics. This book discusses ways Christians can talk about difficult issues - abortion, homosexual marriage, euthanasia - in our pluralistic society. It was quite good and I will be reviewing it sometime in the next few days.

The final chapter of the book was a case study using William Wilberforce, the British Parliamentarian, as an example of a man who used his Christian convictions to affect change in the culture. Wilberforce was a driving force behind the abolition of slavery within the British Empire. A Member of Parliament for forty-five years, the results of his efforts are still seen and understood in Western society to this day. His impact was felt not only at his time, but has extended through history.

There was on particular aspect of his strategy to abolish slavery that gave me pause to think. Wilberforce was a realistic man and knew (to borrow a cliche) that Rome was not built in a day. He knew that the kind of change he desired would take time, for it required the British people to adopt a whole new mindset. They had to be led to see that slavery was an afront to the God-given value of human beings, even those of a different skin-color. They had to see that the conditions of slavery were an abomination to a nation that claimed to be Christian. They had a lot to learn - a lot to understand. This would take time.

Wilberforce, then, was willing to accept incremental improvements. For example, at one point he supported a bill, passed on a trial basis, that would regulate the number of slaves that were permitted to be transported on a single ship. Previously slaves had been laid in rows on benches, chained on their sides with the front of one pressed against the back of the next. Following the legislation, improvements were made. However, the bill implictly and explicitly supported the continuance of slavery. Wilberforce saw it as a step in the right direction and was willing to support it. Another time he voted for a bill that required plantation owners to register all of their slaves. While this bill also supported slavery, Wilberforce saw that a registry of slaves would keep plantation owners from adding to their number of slaves by buying them from illegal slave smugglers.

Wilberforce saw these incremental changes as accomplishing two goals. First, at the very least, they improved the living and working conditions of slaves. While slavery may continue, at least the slaves were afforded a greater amount of dignity, even if it continued to be minimal. Second, he believed that affording slaves greater rights set the Empire on a slippery slope. Having acknowledged the humanness of the slaves, people had to admit that slaves were something more than animals. The British Parliament had given approval to bills that Wilberforce knew would lead to nothing short of abolition. And of course his beliefs proved to be correct. The incremental changes for which he lobbied proved to be the starting point for the eventual abolition of slavery.

Chamberlain points out that this same strategy has been used by those opposed to the dignity of life. Abortion is a prime example. What was first allowed as a concession to protect the physical health of a woman, soon became a measure to protect her mental health. Mental health is far less objective than physical health and soon abortion was widespread. From there it was only a small step to societal acceptance.

As I read about Wilberforce I wondered if I, put in the position of a parliamentarian, could support legislation that supported abortion or euthenasia or homosexual marriage, even that legislation seemed to be a step in the right direction. Would doing so be pragmatic, as I convinced myself that the results validated the means? Or would it be sinful to tacitly support something so wrong, even while believing that it would lead to a more biblical end?

Chamberlain suggests that this principle, which we see in the life of Wilberforce, is the hardest to accept. He writes, “In their zeal to achieve a specific goal, whether banning abortion on demand, eliminating poverty or improving labor laws, some today operate with an ‘all or nothing’ mentality. Anything less than accomplishing one’s full goal all at once is viewed as an unacceptable compromise, as giving tacit approval to an unjust practice” (page 120).

But I think Chamberlain also helps uncover the solution. We need to be careful, when pondering such a choice, that we do not make a decision based on two alternatives, only one of which is real. Wilberforce did not have the opportunity to vote for or against slavery. Instead, he was given the opportunity to decide between the status quo and a slight improvement on it. He voted for the improvement. While we might say that in doing so he also voted for slavery, and there may even be some truth to this, the fact is that this vote was not, in reality, for or against slavery. He kept focused on what was immediately attainable, but with his eyes gazing longingly at a future target of complete abolition.

Might we do the same with abortion, euthenasia and the cheapening of marriage? I know of politicians who have refused to vote for incremental change, stating that nothing but the end result would be worth their support. Is it possible that these people missed a golden opportunity to enact at least some level of change that may have proven beneficial? I can’t say. In fact, only God knows for sure. But it is certainly possible that these people were too fixated on the final goal, not realizing that this was simply not attainable. Not yet.

One lesson Chamberlain wants us to learn from Wilberforce’s life is that change, especially change that is as wide as society, comes in increments. This is true whether the change is for good or for ill. Those who promote abortion, euthenasia or homosexual marriage seem to realize this and have been effective in their strategy of bringing about change. Perhaps as Christians we have been too focused on the final result and have not been able to know a good thing when we see it.

Amazon Link to Talking About Good and Bad Without Getting Ugly

August 04, 2005

As you may have noticed, unless you’re on of those people who only reads the site via RSS, I have done a fairly major revision to the layout of the site. While leaving the design much the same (if it ain’t broke…) I added a new sidebar which contains all sorts of good information.

Most important is the SideBlog. I have often lamented (though only to myself) that the format of my blog is not conducive to post multiple short entries to the blog. The site is created for articles more than for news-bytes. The SideBlog gives me the ability to post tidbits: links to other sites, nearly-insignificant thoughts, and so on. It also allows people using RSS if they’d like to subscribe to that blog or only the main one.

I also added a list of recent Trackbacks. These are links to other bloggers who have recently referenced a post on my site. They may be talking about me or about you (the people having the discussion). It is fun to watch how discussions filter across the Internet and I thought this would be a good way of keeping tabs on that.

Finally, I added a list of books I am currently reading. I may remove this in favor of something else if and when I think of it.

Despite the use of some reasonably complex CSS (code) I trust most browsers will be able to cope with the changes. Those of you using 800x600 resolution (which appears to be only about 16% of users) now have another good reason to upgrade to a bigger monitor or a higher resolution. The site will still look fine, but the SideBlog will be off the screen to the right.

Feel free to let me know your thoughts, especially if you have other ideas about what I might do with that space.

August 02, 2005

Ron Gleason, (pastor, doctor of something or the other, and all-around nice guy) who posts in the Community Blog has begun a series called “The Death Knell for the Emergent Church Movement.” The first article in the series has been posted and the other parts will follow in coming days.

Ron begins by saying, “Bad theology usually manifests itself in an attack on the ordinary means of grace that God gave to the Church of Jesus Christ. We also need to understand that when such an attack occurs, it is not an isolated event. Rather, it extends its tentacles across a wide range of biblical truths and everything-either directly or indirectly-becomes infected, tainted. Whatever the current language of the attack is-either frontal or subtle-we should not spend a lot of time attempting to “appreciate” what precious little good in found in the movement itself.”

He goes on to say, “By and large, when the attacks occur, people spend a lot of time giving “left-handed” compliments to the attackers, especially if they come from an evangelical church. This is akin, in a church setting, to Americans walking on eggshells around the politically correct crowd.”

Ron is not willing to give nearly as much respect to this movement as many other Evangelicals, as you’ll see in this articles and no-doubt in the ones that follow.

Keep reading it here.

July 31, 2005

This morning I received an email from Rick Warren. Yup. Rick took time out of his Sunday morning, which I assume is quite busy, to send me an email. I would have thought he’d be busy putting the final touches on his sermon or perhaps praying, but no, he emailed me to ask if I can help him with a very special project.

I noticed that his style of writing is a little bit different in this email than in his books. All I can conclude is that he must have a really good editor - one he did not consult prior to sending me this email.

Below is the complete text of the email he sent me (which was sent from rickwarren@jojomail.com, so it must be him!).

Am Pastor Rick Warren the Author of THE PURPOSE DRIVE CHURCH AND THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE. As you may know.

It is my great pleasure to write to your church on behave of a church that is need of help, partaining to their uncompleted building purposely want to made for church activities, am so much in a great condition to donated $5000 us dollar to nthe church which is the 4% of what they are in need i.e the ground total of what they need is $20000.

Thus: Blessed are those merciful, for they shall obtain mercy!
Mark 5:7.

This church is like a brethren to us will need to encourage them in building the uncompleted building which we think is possible as a child of God, we need all sources to help each other to encourage each other in many that we can preach the Gospel of God is very important.

So therefore, brethren this church need to build the image of God i.e Church of God

Any amount you donated is highly appreciated & granted, I pray in the name of Lord that it shall brings it back to you in multitude. If you found it in you heart to help, please reply this message how much you are minister by God to donate while the information of where to send the money, will be mail to you back.

Thus: Blessed are fortune and happy and spritually prosperous are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be completely satisfed!

The Gosple of Mark 5:6.

Am so much happy and most concerned about the work of God as you’ve may know I will be so much happy and greatful if you can try and send the church any amount, is welcome by them and I too. Remain bless!!!!.

These are the picture of the uncompleted building. If the picture does not show, you can e-mail back for the picture. [Sadly, the picture did not show, but I have not yet emailed him.]

Your brethren in Christ.

Rick Warren.

Unfortunately I cannot, at this time, spare $20,000. So sorry Rick, you’ll have to find your support elsewhere.

July 30, 2005

I suddenly find myself in a most strange position. After years of trying to provide rational discourse on Rick Warren and his Purpose Driven teachings; after posting discerning reviews of his books and even going through The Purpose Driven Life day-by-day; after expressing concerns with 40 Days of Purpose and 40 Days of Community; after posting an article just a week ago showing how Rick Warren seems to be involved in abusing his position to suppress a book; after having these articles read by hundreds of thousands of readers; after all of this people are accusing me of waffling on the issues. Why? Because I interviewed Richard Abanes.

This morning, Ingrid Schlueter, someone whose site I read and quite enjoy, posted an article entitled “Tim Challies Gives Richard Abanes Platform.” It has since been retitled “Richard Abanes on Rick Warren’s Critics.” You can read it here. While I suspect she was unhappy to see the interview on my site, she was at least pleasant. No so some others who have since emailed me. And for far worse than that, check out the comments at Ingrid’s site. Here’s a sampler:

“Thanks Tim, for helping Richard Abanes out of obscurity. His website, which registers almost no traffic whatsoever, according to the online services that measure such things, is sure to see an increase in hits, thanks to your pragmatic efforts. I suspect his book sales will improve, as well.”

“I dont care much what Challies says in defense of propping up Abanes. I watch his fruit trail….what he does.”

“Shame on you Tim Challies…Choose a side…oops…. it appears you have”

“Perhaps a few years in HELL will wake Tim Challies up to the unimaginable damage he has done to the kingdom of God and the cause of Christ!”

Despite those, there are a few which are more helpful. An Anonymous poster said, “I understand, but disagree strongly with Tim Challies posting this article…Brother Tim, I know you mean well, but in reality will you have caused even more confusion?” Now this is helpful. He or she respectfully disagrees with what I have written. I can learn from this type of exhortation.

Another person wrote, “I KNEW Tim was part of the end times apostasy… I just KNEW it! No one can have a website that looks that good and be serving God.”

A person posting as Clement of Rome writes, “Great, Paul… so now we need to start “discerning” Tim Challies?!?!”

Of course those are just plain funny.

You get the drift. I can’t help but wonder if I’ll soon find myself in the unenviable, though ironic, position of being examined by both sides of this controversy. I am simply astounded, amazed and shocked that people are so upset. I have posted two parts of a three-part interview (the third part, as indicated, will be reflections on the interview) and people are already turning on me and writing me off as a deceived tool of the Devil. Most of these, none-too-courageously, are doing so anonymously. At least let me post the third part of the interview. Surely by now I’ve earned the benefit of the doubt.

So before you cast me outside the camp, at least think back to my contribution to the discussion about all things Purpose Driven. I think you’ll find that my record speaks for itself.


Ingrid posted the following at her site:

Good Grief!

When I posted the piece below it was by no means intended to be an attack on Tim Challies. I even altered my headline because I didn’t like the first one I put up. Tim Challies has been doing a wonderful job in bringing out many of the strange things that are going on in evangelicalism. I am not going to say that I’m pleased that given Richard Abanes’ anger and vitriol aimed at those who critique Rick Warren, he was allowed so much space to further the confusion, but I have nothing but respect for Tim. Tim has his site and he needs to run things according to the way he believes God would have him. The comment section here is clearly out of control. Let’s back up folks and take a deep breath. Yes, we do grow defensive when we have worked hard under a lot of attacks to speak the truth. But let’s give Tim a chance to post his concerns about Richard Abanes’ interview before we are ready to start making charges here. I understand the strong feelings of those who have posted because after seeing so much error promoted with big bucks and big campaigns, you feel very alone sometimes in standing for the truth. Let’s not let it get us so defiled we turn on others who may differ in their approach. My apologies for letting this get out of hand.

Thanks to Ingrid for posting that. While I knew she had not turned on me my concern was with those who did. Thanks for post that, Ingrid!

July 29, 2005

Justin Taylor points the way to RSSxl.

Justin Taylor points the way to RSSxl. I had never heard of this service before but it looks excellent. Bookmark it for when you just need to receive an update when a page changes. This is just one more good use for RSS!