That Medium Show Is a Large Waste of Time

As I sit here at home after filling out my bracket for our family challenge for the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, and awaiting the beginning of a show on the Hallmark Channel my wife likes to watch (and, so I watch it with her) we're flipping channels. It's at these times it becomes clear that even though we have hundreds of channels available...THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ON!

Nevertheless, we stop on TLC for a moment (not sure why) and a show about a women in New York who claims to be a medium. After watching about five minutes, it becomes clear this show is ridiculous. That's five minutes I'll never get back. Oh, and while losing these five minutes, a commercial for a new show, featuring a young man in Hollywood was shown. He, too, claims to be a medium. (GROAN!!!)

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Photo credit: ERIO via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

So, before discovering Steve Harvey has a new show where he interviews kids that actually seems entertaining, my wife and I talked a bit about this concept of being a medium.

According to GotQuestions.org, here's a pretty good, biblical answer regarding mediums

In both modern and ancient times, a medium is a person who communicates with spirits, usually apart from the use of witchcraft. A medium is, literally, an “intermediary” between the spirit world and ours. The Bible condemns the practice of mediumship, and attempting to speak to the dead, through séances or other means, is expressly forbidden.

Sometimes mediums are called “channelers,” as they allegedly “channel” communication from the dead to the living. A medium might only communicate with one or more specific spirits (called “familiars” or “familiar spirits”), or the communication may be spread across many different spirits. The messages may come audibly, visually, or through physical sensations. Modern mediums distinguish themselves from psychics, who only read the “energies” of a person or place and do not communicate with actual spirits. (The term “psychic medium” can confuse the issue.) Also, a medium is not necessarily a witch, wizard, sorcerer, or necromancer, since mediums believe that their communication with the spirit world is an inherent ability. The fictional character Cole Sear in the movie The Sixth Sense would be considered a medium.

Mediums are referenced in several passages of the Old Testament. In Leviticus 20:27 mediums are condemned along with “spiritists.” Deuteronomy 18:10–11 echoes Leviticus and expands it, including diviners, sorcerers, witches/wizards, anyone who casts spells, and anyone who practices child sacrifice.

In a culture where a biblical worldview is a foreign concept, the desire for spirituality remains. We are, at our core, spiritual beings. We are made in the image of God. We worship in spirit and truth. When it comes to mediums, I'd recommend avoiding the shows highlighting the practice and, more importantly, do not engage in the practice or with those who do. If you ever feel like talking to the dead, go watch a Steve Harvey show instead. 


Why the Jokes About Jenner Have to Stop

This has been a landmark year for advocates of the LGBT community.

In addition to the SCOTUS ruling that changed state recognition of same-sex marriage, a prominent celebrity (Bruce Jenner) slid to the far right of the acronym to announce that he is transgender and will begin living not as the gender he was born, but as a woman.

To be clear, I do not support the shift in gender that Jenner has and is going through. I don't even know the man, but my belief in identity and bestowed gender, founded on what I believe the Word of God to reveal, means that I cannot affirm this lifestyle choice. I wrote about Jenner's announcement here. I also believe that God loves Jenner as he loves all. Love, nevertheless, is not synonymous with affirmation and acceptance of life choices.

Jenner
CREDIT: Tony Duffy/Allsport/Getty Images, Annie Leibovitz/Vanity Fair

Since Jenner's "coming out" as Caitlyn, the entertainment and sports media has pointedly fought to find more details about Jenner and this has effectively pushed him back on the cover of magazines, on the stage at awards shows and as the lead story on many entertainment "news" shows. Some say this was what he desired all along. Perhaps, but I doubt that was the driving force. 

It's Not About Political Correctness

In a culture where political correctness reigns and celebrities, politicians, and athletes spend more apologizing for saying or Tweeting things that have been labeled as insensitive by the self-proclaimed political correctness police, I am not calling for the end of Jenner jokes and other LGBT jokes for this reason.

Like most guys, I love a good joke. Like most jokes that are really funny, there's always a hint of truth in them. Sarcasm is easy for me. Humor that may offend some has always been a default for me as well. While I find no humor in jokes laced with profanity, racial stereotypes or hurtful words, there are times I have told jokes, or at least laughed at some that are hurtful. What's worse than couching hurtful language in a joke that may cause an individual to feel personally ridiculed is the hurt that takes place for God and His Kingdom.

It Is Mission Critical

When missionaries are sent to international lands, they are sent with a mandate - a Commission. This is to love God fully as they love people with the intent of leading people to the rescue that is found only in Jesus Christ. Our missionaries are not taught to "Americanize" the natives. They are not taught to look down on those whom they been sent to serve. They are not led to water-down the Gospel for any reason, just to be accepted either. They are sent equipped to live among the culture that does not know Jesus, or in some cases is loudly opposed to Jesus.

Christians in America are discovering that the mission field is no longer only overseas. It's not just on another continent where a different religion reigns supreme. The mission field is here. In some cases, the mission field is within one's home and family.

Our culture is growing more loudly opposed to Christ and Christians. The marginalization of the church in cultural life is upon us. Yet, rather than lament the reality, we must celebrate that God has seen fit to place us here, now, for "such a time as this." Apparently, he is equipping us to be His ambassadors and His church for a mission field that is very dark.

Love Wins

While #LoveWins has trended recently as a call for unity and celebration by the LGBT community, the truth of the matter is that Love who wins has already won. Jesus Christ is the embodiment of love. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. And. . .lost people do not know that. Sometimes, they have been blinded to that truth because of religion, unfortunately.

So, Why Stop the Jokes?

Maybe you've never told or laughed at "gay jokes" or "transgender jokes." Or ... maybe you're like me. Here's why I feel the conviction to stop. I believe God has given us a unique opportunity to share His love and hope with those in our community who struggle with same-sex attraction and even deeply troubling gender issues. I know that previous statement is a challenging one, especially for those who are LGBT and are not struggling with it, by their own admission. Nevertheless, based on my faith convictions and understanding of Scripture, I would stand by my wording.

That being said, the Great Commission does not have an asterisk by it that eliminates certain people from our love through Christ. 

This is the biggest challenge - loving truly without affirming sin (and I mean any kind of sin - so don't think I'm just saying LGBT lifestyles. I do mean adultery, fornication, thievery, gluttony, etc.) If we can't love people who sin. . .well, we have to eliminate much Scripture.

Humor Is a Gift, But Can Be a Barrier

I believe humor is a gift from God. It's not a spiritual gift. It's not even a primary gift. I just believe that God, in his sovereignty and glory has gifted us with the ability to laugh (at ourselves mostly) and circumstances. Laughter can be healing (Ever see "Patch Adams?")

However, jokes can be hurtful. 

How many times has someone said something hurtful to another and then tagged "just kidding" at the end, thinking that makes it all okay?

Tweet: If we're going to live as missionaries in a culture far from God, we can't continue to make fun of those we are seeking to reach. @davidtarkIf we, as Christians, are going to be living sent, as missionaries in a culture far away from God, we cannot continue to make fun of those we are seeking to reach.

  • It would be like a white Christian missionary being sent to a tribal area in an African nation and telling "black jokes"...
  • It would be like an American moving to Europe and continually making fun of European accents and customs...
  • It would be like moving to Miami and telling jokes that make fun of Cubans...
  • Or living in South Texas and telling Mexican jokes...

It would be like doing all these things and more and then expecting to be able to share the Gospel message with those you have just made fun of, expecting a good response.

Tweet: Christians, we cannot construct walls from within the church by laughing at the lost and expect the lost to respond to our Christians, we cannot construct walls from within the church by laughing at the lost and expect the lost to respond to our "love."

I know, some of you are already poking holes in my premise by stating that the LGBT community is not a racial or cultural people group. I agree. It is different. I do not equate them as the same. I oppose the use of the Civil Rights Movement in our nation as a parallel to the LGBT causal movement of today. They are vastly different.

However, this is what we do know to be a reality. The LGBT community is just that - a community. In most cases, there is unbridled acceptance within the community (unless you are vehemently opposed and then there is no place at the table.) Most are not angry gay men or lesbians. Many just want to live their lives and be left alone. There are some (and they're loud) who advocate pretty harshly. Harshness often attracts harshness.

Love Without Affirmation of Sin

The church is going to have to make a decision in this world where the biblical worldview is being pushed aside and redefined by many (wrongly, I might add.) Some denominations in our culture are already capitulating. In other words, they are wimping out and have sacrificed the authority of Scripture and adherence to such for short-lived applause by those who really don't like them anyway. 

Tweet: The church must decide if people are really worth loving and ultimately worth reaching with the Gospel. @davidtarkThe church that stands firmly on Scripture and does not bend in this area, must decide if those within their membership (and there are quite a few) and those who are seeking God really are worth loving and ultimately worth reaching with the Gospel. 

While some say that's an offensive statement, I say no. If we truly love God then we can truly love people (all people, not just those who live with church approved sins). If we love people, we must show that love so that ultimately LOVE WINS. This is not a bait and switch. This is what we have been called to do.

We are missionaries to a culture that is as dark as any unchurched part of the world. Let's live well, live holy, live uncompromisingly on the Gospel and love well and tell some good jokes along the way, but let's not build unnecessary walls.


"Reverend Camden" Falls and It Will Impact Real Lives

The news blew up yesterday with reports of actor Stephen Collins' alleged admission to child sexual abuse. The recording, said to be made secretly by his ex-wife, actress Faye Grant, during a therapy session years ago has gone viral over the web and has elicited numerous reactions and responses.

Many who grew up watching the family-focused television show, 7th Heaven have responded with  despair, frustration, anger and confusion. Some state that their childhood has been ruined. Some have found this an opportunity to state that no "pastors" should ever be trusted.

 

It's unfortunate, especially since Reverend Camden is a fictional character played by an actor in a television show. More unfortunate is that there are enough real pastors in the real world who have fallen into the same sinful situations.

Collins' is a dreadful story and is leading to numerous reactions and false follow-up stories.

  • 7th Heaven has been removed from syndicated view by numerous television stations.
  • Collins has resigned from the SAG Board.
  • He has been removed from the cast of Ted 2.
  • Neighbors haver erroneously tweeted that he committed suicide earlier today.

Sadly, in the midst of this story, regardless the reason for the leaked audio tape, there is indication that at least three children were sexually molested. The NYPD is continuing to investigate, so at this point everything is alleged.

Yet, in this story of depravity is a marriage that was lost and a skewed identity of manhood. As prognosticators and entertainment analysts attempt to create fodder for conversation along with explanations and justifications for such behavior, the root of all such behavior continues to be ignored.

SIN.

Yeah, it's now a term that is not politically correct and in a culture that has excised absolute truth from its vocabulary, the term seems to be relegated to a small sub-group known as the church. It has become offensive to refer to anyone else's actions as sinful, especially in a world where "what's true for you may not be true for me."

In the strange version of church presented in 7th Heaven, I'm not sure the biblical view of sin, justification, redemption and repentance was every clearly shown. Those seeking their theology from such a show will always be sadly lacking. A liberal, feel-good, tickle-the-ears, message was often presented in an imaginary church that was always way too full to be an accurate representation.

As for Stephen Collins, people are irate that their imaginary pastor has apparently fallen.

Personally, I never viewed Collins as a pastor. He was the adventurer from "Tales of the Gold Monkey" and Commander Decker from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Ultimately, he was none of these characters and perhaps that's a revelation of a deeper problem in our culture.

Behind these false worlds and imaginary characters in film and television is a man. A real man. A man named Stephen who at this juncture must feel as if his world is falling apart. This is a man who seems to be caught in a sin that cannot just be "personal" because it impacts others (the three alleged victims) and a multitude of fans.

What should happen? 

Justice. There's no debate on this matter here. Accountability for such heinous acts is not something to be ignored. At this point, the police and legal system is involved and must do their jobs. The court of public opinion has already spoken, but, as always, there's most likely more to the story than has been made known.

In the midst of this, the young girls need healing as do their families. The girls are unknown to the public (and should remain so) and yet, they need to know the healing touch of a loving God who is true and pure. This is my prayer for them. Sadly, as the story cycle ends and everyone has forgotten this instance, these girls will not have, so join me in praying for their hearts.

Stephen needs help as well (in the midst of his consequences.) I pray that he will encounter the true God (not the imaginary one who plays a character on a television show) in a very real way. May he gain identity not in characters, roles, titles or even accusations (even if true) but in Jesus Christ.

While some would say this is just an "entertainment" story and does not impact the church, I beg to differ. For some, the imaginary "Reverend Camden" was the father they always wanted, the pastor they always desired and the image of hope and right. Now that this story has come to light, these images are gone and many have been fooled by the Enemy to believe that all is hopeless and that no one offers Truth.

May we offer clear images of Christ, not skewed ones. 

May we offer true church, not imaginary ones.

May we be obedient to God as we wear His name. We are his ambassadors.


How Does One of the Most Respected Coaches Become the Most Ridiculed?

Tony Dungy, former coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts, current NFL analyst for NBC Sports, founder of All Pro Dad and Family First, husband, father, and outspoken follower of Jesus Christ has been moved from many people's lists of "Most Respected" to "Most Hated" in just a little over a week.

Ai_120485It all began with a a question posed to Dungy by a Tampa Tribune reporter a number of weeks ago. The question was about gay linebacker Michael Sam of the St. Louis Rams. Sam, who went public with his sexual orientation after a stellar career for the University of Missouri and prior to the NFL draft, is the first openly gay football player drafted by an NFL team.

Sam was a great college player, but even before his public announcement, was not considered a "sure thing" as an NFL lineman. As many in the northeast Florida area where I live know, just because a person excels at the college level does not always mean he will excel at the professional level.

Nevertheless, Sam's announcement skyrocketed him to cultural stardom as news agencies rushed to interview him, Oprah Winfrey attempted to chronicle his journey into professional football for a television show, and pro-LGBT groups and magazines labeled him a courageous figure.

Then, Dungy said this. . .

"I wouldn't have taken him," Dungy told Ira Kaufman of The Tampa Tribune. "Not because I don't believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn't want to deal with all of it. It's not going to be totally smooth…things will happen."

Dungy's answer to a question by Kaufman has gone viral. 

Sportscasters, bloggers and many in the Twittersphere have labeled Dungy a "loser," "hater," "hypocrite," "bigot," and worse.

Arguments appear in op-ed pieces referencing Dungy's work with Michael Vick and his opinions regarding Tim Tebow as evidence that he is two-faced. Some have even sunk so low to create stories about Dungy's son who tragically committed suicide a while back, as ways to show Dungy's unloving nature. 

It's amazing and terribly sad.

It is wrong.

Read Dungy's original statement again - he said nothing that could be construed as "homophobic" or hateful. While it is public knowledge that Dungy has opposed measures to legalize gay marriage (as do many American citizens and the vast majority of evangelicals) his statements related to drafting Sam are purely his opinion. The problem is that his belief system is not politically correct and his Christianity places him (in good company, I might add) in a minority in our culture.

Nevertheless, though unecessary, Coach Dungy released this statement about his previous statement:

I was asked whether I would have drafted Michael Sam and I answered that would not have drafted him. I gave my honest answer, which is that I felt drafting him would bring much distraction to the team. At the time of my interview, the Oprah Winfrey reality show that was going to chronicle Michael's first season had been announced.

I was not asked whether or not Michael Sam deserves an opportunity to play in the NFL. He absolutely does.

I was not asked whether his sexual orientation should play a part in the evaluation process. It should not.

I was not asked whether I would have a problem having Michael Sam on my team. I would not. ...

... I do not believe Michael's sexual orientation will be a distraction to his teammates or his organization.

I do, however, believe that the media attention that comes with it will be a distraction. Unfortunately we are all seeing this play out now, and I feel badly that my remarks played a role in the distraction.

A good, but unecessary statement. Dungy's explanation will do little to placate those who have already categorized him negatively. 

I respect Coach Dungy, not just for his ability to coach professional athletes, but for the leadership qualities he has shown, the love of Christ that comes forth when I hear him interviewed, the stances he has taken on biblical manhood, parenting and marriage.

As culture shifts at breakneck speed, many in our communities and churches struggle with how to live "in the world" but not "of the world." A child of God cannot simply ignore biblical truth and the transformational power of the Spirit of God. God's Word and His Truth is never celebrated by the world. It never has been. It never will be. Therefore, instances like Dungy's will happen, again and again, and more often.

I always wondered how long Dungy could remain in the public eye before being labeled this way. 

Regardless how many are taking Dungy's quotes, it seems to me that he is exactly the same man who was highly respected, regarded and loved by many.

 

Stand firm, Coach Dungy. You do not stand alone.

The world cannot hate you (regarding Jesus' brothers who did not follow Him), but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. John 7:7 (ESV) 

 


The Inevitable: Phil Robertson Speaks His Mind & Is "Suspended Indefinitely" by A&E

Whether you are a fan of Duck Dynasty or not, you cannot help but notice their popularity and presence everywhere. I don't begrudge the Robertson family at all for realizing that reality show fame is fleeting and taking every advantage of their "fifteen minutes." The real-life characters in this family have become caricatures somewhat, and yet, millions still love to watch their antics on television.

Phil robertsonThe show has definitely taken off and allowed a cable network previously known for Biography and Horatio Hornblower to suddenly become one of the most watched cable and satellite channels on televisoin. 

When A&E approached the Robertsons about doing a reality show based on their family, even those in the family were shocked. The patriarch, Phil Robertson, was reluctant and not so sure anyone would watch. He theorizes in his autobiography, Happy, Happy, Happy: My Life and Legacy as the Duck Commander, why he believes the show has garnered such a following:

Everything else on TV nowadays is dysfunctional and for the most part has been that way for forty years. The last TV shows we saw that featured functional families were The Andy Griffith Show, The Waltons, The Beverly Hillbillies (don't laugh), and Little House on the Prairie. That was a long time ago! (Robertson & Schlabach, 1)

He may be right, but whatever it is, the audiences are responding. Millions tune in weekly and just recently, the Season 4 premiere broke cable/satellite ratings records with 11.8 million tuning in to watch. That means there were millions of people wearing T-shirts purchased at Walmart with pictures of the bearded ones on it, sipping iced tea from Uncle Si Tupperware tumblers watching the Robertson family welcome their clean-shaven, preacher brother to the show for Phil & Miss Kay's renewal of vows. (Yes, I was one of the 11.8 million, Jack!)

IT WASN'T ALWAYS "HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY."

The folks at "I Am Second" released one of the most watched film shorts in their library this year as well. This one featured Phil, his son Jep and grandson Reed. These are real stories, of real men, struggling with real issues and it's refreshing to hear them speak honestly. 

 

PHIL HAS NEVER BEEN KNOWN FOR BEING SUBTLE

Phil and the Robertsons faith in Jesus Christ has never been a secret. It's evidenced in the above "I Am Second" trailer. Fans of the show know that each episode closes in prayers ending in "Jesus' name" which, amazingly, is signficant in our culture today. When Phil surrendered his life to Christ, everything changed. At hunting conventions, he would take the time to share the Gospel which garnered him the nickname "The Billy Graham of Duck Hunting."

THE FIRESTORM HAS BEGUN

Well, it was inevitable. Phil has been featured on numerous talk shows, news shows, and magazines. He's a character and speaks his mind. Today, social media is blowing up over statements made by Phil and the response of A&E. The statements were made in a recent interview with GQ Magazine and they are controversial, at least to some.

The writer of the article, Drew Magary, interviewed Phil. You can read it here, but be warned, this is not an article for Christianity Today. The author uses words that. . .well, you probably wouldn't say in Sunday School. Some in social media are angry at Magary for the wording of the article, calling it "baiting" and worse. I'm not sure why people ever expected an article in GQ to be anything but what this is. Nevertheless, it seems that Phil's opinions have moved from being categorized by the mainstream as "quirky, old fashioned, and plain-spoken" to "hateful, anti-gay, and divisive."

It was inevitable.

Based on Phil's remarks, A&E has put him on "indefinite hiatus." That means, for now, he's been fired. Fans of the show, especially Christians are up in arms.

Though Phil used some pretty graphic anatomical descriptions (which I believe were unnecessary) as to why he views homosexuality as unnatural, his quote in the article that has led to the firestorm is below. This statement follows a question by Magary to Phil asking him to define what he believes to be sin:

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

That was it. Partnered with the graphic descriptions he gave earlier and his questions as to why any man would ever want to be with another man sexually, the flame was lit. . .and the firestorm has begun.

MAYBE ALL PUBLICITY IS NOT GOOD PUBLICITY

I don't disagree with Phil. His statement is a pretty accurate paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. Therefore, it is truth. He even has the right to state his beliefs. His follow-up comment that has been released today gives clarity of his love for "all humanity" and the grace that God gives all of us.

The cable network has responded by atttempting to distance itself from their current cash cow, so as not to find themselves in trouble with GLAAD and other LGBT rights groups. This should not be a surprise to anyone.

THE "CHRISTIAN" RESPONSE

Here's the challenge as we now see it. Hundreds, if not thousands, of those who claim to be Christians are responding with new Facebook pages  and postings supporting Phil, tweets and blogs about the story (this one included.) The anger at A&E, GQ and the "liberal media" is spewing. On the other side, anger at Phil and his family grows as he's labeled a bigot, homophobic, anti-gay and un-Christian.

We have seen this before. When Christ-followers share their opinions and beliefs in a culture that professes to be tolerant, it is soon realized that this tolerance is really one-sided. Tolerance for every belief other than biblically grounded ones are celebrated.

READ MORE

Dr. Albert Mohler, Dr. Russell Moore and Micah Fries and others have written some good posts today related to this story. Rather than restate what has been said so well by these men, I recommend you read their postings, linked below.

 


Thanks Andy - 1926-2012

Today one of my favorite actors of all time passed away. For most Americans, Andrew Samuel "Andy" Griffith will forever be known as the folksy small town Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry, North Carolina.

However, Andy's career was much more diverse than just his time as the Mayberry sheriff.

His career really took off in 1953 when his comedic monologue "What It Was, Was Football" was first delivered. Griffith told of this thing called football from the point of view of a rural backwoodsman trying to figure out what was going on at a football game. Take a listen. It's hilarious.

I remember seeing Griffith in a replay of No Time for Sergeants on "The United States Steel Hour" on television a few years ago. This was not the film version (which was hilarious - especially when the toilets saluted and when Andy said "Somebody done brung their trumpet" when reveille was played) but a theatrical presentation with little background scenery (similar to Wilder's "Our Town"). This showcased Andy's acting ability. He acted on Broadway for a time as well. 

AGS-Man-in-Hurry1It was in the 1958 film version that Griffith was paired with Don Knotts. This began a life-long association that was seen in "The Andy Griffith Show" and even later in "Matlock."

Griffith was from Mt. Airy, North Carolina, the inspiration for the fictional Mayberry. Small town values and simple life surprisingly captured the nation for years as his television show, and subsequent spin-offs gained large followings.

There have been many stories written about Andy Griffith and his success in television, but also his desire to break away from the character known as Andy Taylor in other projects. He played good, moral characters in most of his films, but occasionally ventured to play the polar opposite of what the audience expected.

I remember watching the made-for-television movie Murder in Coweta County back in 1983. It co-starred Griffith and Johnny Cash. In a creative switch on typecasting, Cash played the heroic sheriff and Griffith the murderous villain. I was a teenager, but this film shocked me.

Andy Griffith was much more than just a comedic actor. He was versatile and creative as seen in his numerous roles and productions throughout the years.

I even liked him in series that were less than successful. One of my favorites was 1979's "Salvage I." What? You don't remember that show. It was great. Andy was the owner of the Jettison Scrap and Salvage Company who built his own rocket to go to the moon. It was a big hit at first, but sadly only lasted about 20 episodes. Still, it was no TAGS.

Andy Griffith was a very talented man, an actor, director, writer and singer. He will forever be tied to his most famous character. I know he was much more than one character, but I do appreciate his creation of the Sheriff from Mayberry.

I know TAGS was just a show, but it was a show that my parents never had to fret me watching as a child. It was a show that was funny, especially during the black and white era, and fun. I don't remember ever being offended by the subject matter. It was something that could be watched with multiple generations. In truth, the humor in the episodes are timeless.

Yeah, I'll miss that.

I know we still have reruns and DVDs of episodes. 

There, however, is a sadness in knowing the actors and actresses on the screen are no longer with us. Our senior adults are planning to go to Mt. Airy, North Carolina this fall for the annual "Mayberry Days." Every year a few actors from the show appear. In truth, these are mostly character actors who played small roles, but are known to die hard fans. I may have to go to "Mayberry" this year. It looks like fun. Maybe I'll go to the Snappy Lunch and get a tomato sandwich in honor of Andy. If I have time, maybe I'll get a haircut at Floyd's.


Rebranding Doesn't Always Work - Why "Great Commission Baptists" May Send The Wrong Message

First of all, I'm not against rebranding. In fact, I'm not against the new informal descriptor "Great Commission Baptists" for Southern Baptist Churches to use. If you're not aware of the proposal by the special task force to be presented at the Southern Baptist Convention this summer, you can read more about it here.

 

GCB_624x351

However, I do believe it is important when rebranding, especially in this age of acronyms and abbreviations, to explore all possible "other" messages a new name or logo may accidentally reference.

 

While I do not believe the task force could have seen this coming, it's now here. It's obvious to me. It's troubling and looks to be a punchline for comedians for a while. The brand "Great Commission Baptists" is inevitably going to be shortened to "GCB." 

In case you haven't noticed, the new ABC television comedy-drama titled "GCB" has recently begun airing. I kept seeing the advertisements for it and could not figure out what "GCB" stood for. Then, I read an article about the show. Apparently, it's based on a book titled "Good Christian B------" or "Good Christian Witches" with a replaced letter if you cannot figure out my cryptic blanks. The producers changed the name to "Good Christian Belles" but that didn't go over well either apparently, so now it's just "GCB." 

Hmmmm.

The show is being marketed as similar to "Desperate Housewives," but set in Texas and features "good" church-going women who fight with each other, embarrass each other, gossip and cheat, etc. and use the church as a venue to voice their issues. 

Is this reason enough to shelve the "Great Commission Baptist" tag? I'm not sure. However, in a world where media drives so much and pop culture often becomes the commonality between cultures, it may be more difficult to build bridges to people in other parts of the nation by calling ourselves "GCB Churches" rather than "SBC Churches." 

You think branding is not a big deal? Check out these stories. . .

  • Wisconsin Tourism Federation rebranded as the Tourism Federation of Wisconsin. The acronym TFW avoids the negative press of the offensive acronym they previously used.
  • The National Union of Teachers in the UK uses the acronym "NUT" on their website and promotional materials. There's even a link on their site to help teachers find employment that states "NUT Jobs." (No, I'm not making this up.)
  • The Georgetown University Hospital's webpage has a link with information on Disability Benefits. Under the heading, there is a subheading titled "Short Term Disability (STD)" and throughout the page the acronym STD is used.
  • The Boston Redevelopment Authority uses their acronym "BRA" throughout their advertising.
  • Lighting Solutions and Design. . ."LSD"
  • Bellingham, Washington has used a promotional piece advertising music in their area. The logo states "I BM's"
  • From 1884 to 1912 the District of Alaska was known as "DOA"
  • Progressive Management Systems. . ."PMS"
  • The student organization developed by students in university called the Students of Women Studies goes by "SOWS"

These are funny, and all very real, but you can see what happens when you're not really, really careful with your acronym of choice.

Should we use the "Great Commission Baptists" moniker, we had better be ready to laugh at ourselves because of the likely connection with the show "GCB." Of course, the show probably won't last long, so this may be a moot point.

And, just to be fair, SBC has multiple meanings as well. . .

  • Southern Baptist Convention
  • Sweet Briar College
  • Southport Brewing Company
  • Somali Broadcasting Corporation
  • Structural Biology Center

There are more. This is just the first page of the Google search.

Oh well, whatever title we have and use, may we truly be Great Commission Christians. It's in the personal relationships with others that the Gospel is shared and disciples are made.


Kirk Cameron & Warren Barfield Remind Us That Marriage is Worth It

What a weekend!

Yesterday was definitely a full day. We began with our regular services on Sunday morning only to find one of our video projectors wasn't working at all. We could not even get it to turn on. Now, I know it's just a projector, and for the worship services it wouldn't be that big a deal to not have it. However, at 3pm yesterday, we were hosting Kirk Cameron and Warren Barfield for the "Love Worth Fighting For" Marriage Event and I knew the projector would be needed. 

Guess it was just  a case of trying to get us to lose focus. The projector came back on. Yeah, I prayed it would. Kind of a weird prayer, because I wasn't sure God was too concerned about the video projector. I couldn't find any verses in the Bible where prayers over broken video projectors were said. Still, I believe it was more about distraction than technology. Unfortunately, I would have been worrying about that thing all day (and yes, I know worry is a sin, so I've repented of that almost worry already.)

Nevertheless, the projector worked throughout the afternoon. It probably doesn't work today, but I don't care. I'm sitting in the Miami International Airport on my way to Honduras with five other people from our church.

By the way, Miami's airport code is MIA. That's not too comforting. "Our entire mission team is now MIA!" doesn't bring comfort.

Back to yesterday.

The morning services went well as we began a new series titled "Worth It." It's a series to last through August with a focus on God's design for marriage. Yesterday was basically an introduction to the topic. It's a difficult topic to speak about when the crowd listening is so varied. Yet, it is my conviction that whether a person is married or single, an understanding of the biblical standards and purpose of marriage must be known. God even used the marriage relationship as an illustration of Christ's relationship with the church. 

So, we're going to swim through the cultural understandings and teachings regarding marriage and land firmly on the foundation of God's Word on this subject. It will not be an easy series, but will be "worth it."

The guys for the conference were there as soon as the 10:45am service was over. Warren Barfield and his brother Jeffrey arrived early and were in the foyer. They had been traveling all morning from Orlando and were in casual-mode (which is common for these guys. . .and makes them my heroes.) Warren shared that apparently, they confused or maybe even scared our ushers. One of our men kept quizzing them as to why they were there and just hanging out in the foyer. They laughed about it as they shared the encounter with me. Apparently, some of our ushers were at "Threat Level Red" and were concerned about these casually dressed guys with guitar cases claiming to be musicians. So much for first impressions.

Mike Williams, founder of Feed Your Faith, and the sponsor of the event arrived. They had just completed two days of conferences - one in Ocala and one in Winter Park. We were the last leg of this three day tour. I know these guys were beat, but they had great attitudes. There was a team of about 10 that were here to set up product tables, organize Feed the Hungry child sponsorships, set up the sound and stage and get everything ready for the event.

We had a great team of volunteers ready as well who gave up their early afternoon to get everything ready and just be available as needed. Thanks to all of them.

Kirk and his son Jack arrived and we set them up in the "green room."

We are at a point of having to fix that air conditioner in the "green room" - also known as the C Building. The comfort level in that room is terrible. Whew! I'm sweating just thinking about sitting in there. So, we ended up moving them to my office, where the air conditioner defintely works (just ask our secretaries.)

Kirk had a special Q & A time with those who purchased VIP tickets. This was a great time for him to share his story of how he came to Christ and why he does what he does. The questions were great, for the most part. As I was standing with Warren over to the side, he began sharing that just about in every town, an aspiring actress will arrive just to give Kirk a headshot photo with hopes he will pass it along so she can become the next big star. No, it's not the same woman in each city, but there seems to always be one.

Yes, there was one here yesterday as well. Kirk was gracious and took questions. Warren just hid in the corner and laughed.

The building started filling up and we knew that about 900 tickets were sold ahead of time. When the doors opened, people just kept coming. The worship center was as full as I've ever seen it. It made me wonder what a Sunday morning would look like if the house was packed. Maybe if Kirk was there each Sunday?

DSCN0328 At our church, people often complain . . . voice their concerns about how cold it is in the worship center. That's one room where the air conditioner works very well. It was cool that morning, but apparently, when the doors are propped opened at noon as people are leaving church, all of the cool air flows outside. Go figure. Since it's 90+ degrees outside with a heat index of 187 degrees, the building doesn't stay cool. Then, when you shove 1200+ people into the building, all with their 98.6 degree temperatures, it gets hot in the room. 

Wow! I'm sorry it was so hot. I checked the air conditioner about five times during the event, and it was blowing. I knew it was working, because when everyone left, it was freezing in there. 

I was able to spend some time talking with Warren and his brother Jeffrey. I really like these guys. Not only are they gifted musicians and singers, there is a depth to them that is inviting. We talked for some time about church, frustrations, and family time and things I won't go into detail about. I look forward to finishing this conversation in the future. We may meet at Applebee's in Nashville sometime to talk more.

I also had the opportunity to talk with Kirk. Kirk has a passion for the things of God. One reporter asked me if I thought Kirk's celebrity status played a role in attracting people at the event. I wanted to say "Duh!" but didn't. Of course it plays a role, but the thing I discovered about Kirk, is that he understands God has given him a story. His story and his celebrity history as "Mike Seaver" has enabled him to have a platform for sharing boldly about Christ and about things that matter.

Kirk as Mike Kirk and Warren were great on stage. Kirk opened with a self-depracating act that took people back to the days of "Growing Pains." It was a good start because he knows that's where most people first came to know him. 

He soon transitioned into the teaching about life and marriage. He readily admitted he is not a marriage counselor or pastor. He shared that his experience as a Christian husband of twenty years to Chelsea Noble and father of six children gives him some things worth sharing.

The message was clear and plain. The points and ideas shared are not new, for there is nothing new under the sun, but were good, clear reminders of what it takes to live our lives for God and to be the husband or wife God has called us to be.

Later in the evening he used illustrations and clips from his film "Fireproof." These were great clips that really showed the truth of what he had been saying.

I personally liked his challenge to the men to be godly fathers and husbands. The "Mancard" he distributed had some great reminders for all husbands based on 1 Peter 3.


Warren didn't sing much, but when he did, it was incredible. What a voice! I love the acoustic set that he and Jeffrey put together.

Warren's most well-known song may be "Love Is Not A Fight" as featured in the film "Fireproof." One of the most poignant moments of the day was when Warren shared how the song came to be. I had thought he must have written it for the movie. That's not so. It was written after a pretty serious fight with his wife that almost led to their separation. Warrren has a great sense of humor and is a great story-teller. Even though the story about the fight was hard for him to share, the way he shared it drew the crowd in and held us. Then, he performed the song. Wow! It was an incredible moment. Much more than a "concert performance."

DSCN0330 Events are not always the best things for churches to host. Many times, events are just events. What I mean by that is they are short-sighted and built upon a model that believes if people are in the building or that a group shows up, it is successful. 

I talked with Mike Williams about this and determined that this event would be more than just an "event." At least it had the potential to be. 

It really is up to the couples now. What will they do with what they heard?

Kirk asked me if we had a program for the couples to join that could help them in the area of marriage and life. I shared that our desire is that believers grow together in community. That is best fleshed-out in our small groups. Now some small groups don't get this and I'd never suggest anyone join them, but others do and more are beginning to. Joining a "Sunday School class" isn't the answer. Couples won't grow closer to each other and with other couples in community if they are just atteding a class one hour a week where someone else reads the Bible to them and tells them the "truth of the day."

DSCN0333 However, if couples (and individuals) will invest in each other, if they will become a part of a small group that is intent on growing deeper and more intimate with God together, some incredible life change can happen.

Married couples need other married couples (men need men and women need women) living the journey with them. Older couples can pour into younger ones. Mistakes and challenges can be avoided. Life can be abudant and full. This is God's design. 

So, you can read a marriage book together. This is a good thing to do.

You can go to a marriage conference or retreat together. This is a good thing, too.

You can even go see a marriage counselor. Still another good thing.

However, it is my conviction, that couples need to be in community with other believers. It needs to be a pure, holy, safe community for faith development and growth. Love is worth fighting for, but you don't have to fight alone. 

The event started with fun stories and music and clapping and laughing. It ended with husbands and wives on their knees together praying for transformation in their lives. What happens now is dependant on the obedience of us as men and women, not to Kirk Cameron's challenge, but to God's calling.

Love is worth fighting for.

Your marriage is worth it.


Kirk Cameron Here Sunday & Setting the Record Straight About "Growing Pains"

Tomorrow we begin a new teaching series titled "Worth It" that covers the history of and true meaning of marriage. Timely since we're hosting Kirk Cameron and Warren Barfield tomorrow afternoon for the "Love Worth Fighting For" Marriage Event.

This event was scheduled months ago when I began talking with Mike Williams of Feed Your Faith Ministries. This is the group hosting this event and others like it throughout the nation. What started as one event in the Knoxville, Tennessee area a few years ago has now expanded to many cities and multiple events. 

Mike's Feed Your Faith site says this about the ministry:

Feed Your Faith was started in 2006 by Mike Williams.  His concept was simple:  Bring in the best and brightest Christian speakers, authors and musicians to spiritually feed believers while raising money to physically feed those in need.  Feed Your Faith has worked with nationally known writers and music groups including Kirk Cameron, Warren Barfield, Lee Strobel (former legal editor of the Chicago Tribune and author of The Case for Christ), author Mark Mittleberg, DecembeRadio, Decyfer Down and Sanctus Real (Dove Award winning Christian Rock and Alternative band), NEEDTOBREATHE and Sarah Reeves.  To date, Feed Your Faith has raised tens of thousands of dollars for charities throughout the Southeast United States.

It's a great concept and more of a missional strategy for conferences and concerts than we have seen in the past. We're proud to be partnering with Mike and Feed Your Faith for this event.

Lwff_poster.2011-07 Kirk Cameron, of course, is best known for his portrayal of Mike Seaver on the 1980s hit sit-com "Growing Pains." While a teenager, he was an avowed atheist, but God revealed Himself to Kirk and Kirk surrendered his life to Christ. At that moment, everything changed. The platform of being a celebrity and an actor has provided Kirk with numerous opportunities to share the Truth with others.

His appearance in the Sherwood Pictures release Fireproof moved him to a place of speaking not only of knowing Christ personally, but of living out one's faith in everyday life. The theme of Fireproof was marital reconciliation and God's design for marriage (one man, one woman for life.) This is the backdrop for the "Love Worth Fighting For" events.

Musical guest Warren Barfield will be at the event as well. He has numerous songs to his credit, including the song "Love Is Not a Fight" from the Fireproof movie.

Kirk's celebrity recognition opens doors to reach many who otherwise would not be interested in a Christian marriage event held at a church. The local news agencies have run and are running stories about the event. Numerous 40-something ladies are calling the church upset that there are no more early access tickets available. I hope they still come. Hopefully, they won't bring their old copies of Tiger Beat with them. Regardless, Kirk will be ready.

We're glad to be hosting this event, primarily for the emphasis that Kirk and Warren are going to give regarding God's plan and desire for marriage. Simply put - marriage is "worth it" and "worth fighting for."

There are still tickets available for the event. It begins at 3pm at First Baptist Church and will last through 6:30pm. There is no child-care available. Kirk and Warren will have resources for sale as well. 

I hope to see you tomorrow. You can buy tickets at the door or online here.

 

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT ABOUT MY EXPERIENCE ON "GROWING PAINS."

A few months ago, when we announced we were hosting this event, a friend asked me via Facebook how I knew Kirk Cameron. I joked and said that I appeared on Growing Pains as Mike's best friend. I was just kidding and I thought that would be obvious, but apparently, sarcasm doesn't work on Facebook. He ended up going to work and telling others that I was on the show. They did a Google search and couldn't find me on IMDB.COM. No doubt. I'm not an actor and was never on Growing Pains. Unlike some who pad their resumes with jobs they never had, I was just kidding and thought my friend knew this. He does now. So, I apologized to my friend. All is good.

I did watch Growing Pains and I'm sure if I had lived in Southern California in the 1980s, I would have  been chosen to play Boner (Mike Seaver's best friend and the worst character name in the history of television.) Just to set the record straight, I was never in the show. Boner was played by the late Andrew Koenig (son of Walter Koenig - "Mr. Chekov" of Star Trek fame.)

Oh, and even though I look like Murray Wiggle of The Wiggles, I was never on that show either. I was on Romper Room about 36 years ago in Biloxi, Mississippi, but that's another story.


When a Royal Marries a Commoner

William-and-kate-kiss This morning all around the world, millions of people gathered in front of their television sets, computer screens or smartphones to view the wedding of a Royal to a Commoner. The vast majority of people watching this event and taken by the splendor of the wedding have absolutely no connection whatsoever to those being married. In fact, most are not even residents of the realm of this royal family.

Yet, people watched.

News reports were aired live globally.

Merchants were and are making quite a bit of money off this wedding.

Of course, I'm talking about Prince William and Kate (oops - she's now only known as Catherine) Middleton.

This brought to mind another wedding. One that seems supernatural and almost like something from a fairy tale. It's hard to get our heads around it because, according to the story - we (Christians) are in this wedding.

In John's vision as recorded in Revelation 19, he saw and heard multitudes praising God because the wedding feast of the Lamb - literally "the marriage supper" - was about to begin. Of course, wedding customs in the days of John and other first century Middle Easterners is much different than our Western customs. 

According to the description on www.gotquestions.org, there were three major parts to the wedding customs of the day. First, a marriage contract was consummated between the parents of the bride and groom. The parents of the bride would pay a dowry to the groom or his parents. This was the betrothal period. In some countries, this is still the practice today. This was actually the period that Mary and Joseph were in when she was found to be pregnant with the Son of God.

The second step normally took about a year later (so much for quick engagements.) The groom, accompanied with his friends, would go to the bride's house at midnight by torchlight and parade through the streets. The bride would know this was going to happen and would be ready with her maidens. They would then join the parade and end up at the groom's home. Jesus spoke of this in his parable of the virgins in Matthew 25. It's also a picture of the "thief in the night" coming to receive his bride.

The third step was the wedding supper. This event could go on for days. You can get a picture of this in the story of the wedding in Cana as shared in John 2.

So, back to John's vision.

In this vision, he sees a wedding feast. This was a common scene during John's day, but in this vision, the bride and groom were unique. The groom was a Royal - a King. The groom was Jesus. The bride was a commoner - His church. I have to be honest, this illustration always confused me, because I never saw myself as a bride (still have a hard time with this.) However, as I have discovered the "rescue" motif of the Gospel, and realized that we (humanity) are the ones being rescued - with our hero, Christ Himself, coming to receive us . . . just like a thief in the night . . . the story begins to resonate.

The wedding feast of the Lamb is this third phase as described above. This means that the first two phases have already happened.

Phase One was consummated on earth when we, as invidual members of the Church, the body of Christ, placed our faith and trust individually in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. There was a dowry paid. This dowry, paid to the groom's father (God), would be the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross on behalf of the Bride (that's us - remember, it's a debt we cannot pay.) Now, the Church would belong to Christ in the sense of betrothal and, lie the wise virgins in the parable, all would be watching and anticipating the return of the groom.  This is the Second Coming.

Phase Two is the rapture of the Church that will happen when He returns. The Bride (us) will be taken to the Father's house. 

Phase Three, and this is the good part, is the marriage supper.  

Wow!

This marraige supper includs not only the Church as the Bride of Christ, but others as well. The "others" include Old Testament saints who are going to be raisd at the Second Coming. Also, the martyred dead of the Tribulation who form the "multitude" will be there. 

The angel told John to write this. . .

And the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he said to me, "These are the true words of God." (Revelation 19:9 ESV)

You may not have received your invitation to the wedding in London, but guess what? You've been invited to this one. . .and it's really a bigger deal.