Christian Porn

I first became acquainted with Mike Foster and Craig Goss's ministry during an online church service I watched about a year ago. The People's Church in Frankin, TN archives their worship services, and when I was a worship leader I frequented their sites as a way to learn new songs. Because of time restraints, I didn't usually listen to the sermon although Rick White, their pastor is an extremely good communicator and worth listening to.

One day, I logged on to listen to a worship service and heard someone announce that it was "Porn Sunday" at The People's Church. Now, you need to know that although they don't make a big deal about it, The People's Church is a Southern Baptist congregation. Having grown up in a Southern Baptist church, my jaw just about hit the floor. I didn't know Southern Baptists knew what porn was, and I was darn sure they weren't allowed to talk about it in church - much less devote a Sunday to it. But that's what The People's Church did. And you can bet I didn't miss the sermon that week.

The People's Church was hosting a couple of guys named Mike Foster and Craig Goss, the founders of the self-proclaimed "#1 Christian Porn Site on the Internet." Don't worry - you won't find distasteful pictures of Billy Graham on the site. It's a site dedicated to combatting the porn industry, and to helping those involved in that industry and those addicted to porn.

I read about a year ago that addiction to porn was the #1 addiction among males. More men are addicted to porn than are addicted to cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs. And it's easy to get. Twenty years ago, you had to drive to the gas station to pick up your magazine of choice. But we run into people we know at the gas station all the time; most people wouldn't be willing to take the risk.

But today, you're only two clicks away. Men (and women) can access porn for free in the privacy of their home without anyone else ever finding out. And it's rampant in society. Forget the disgusting picture it gives men and women of the opposite sex; it's tearing families apart. I know guys at seminary who are hooked on this trash, and it's destroying their marriage, destroying their family, and destroying their ministry.

Craig and Mike are determined to see the trend reversed. On their site you can download free software that will email a list of sites you visit to your parent, spouse, or accountability partner. There are resources for parents, for those addicted, and for those who just want to see some staggering statistics about the dangers of pornography.

Not everyone agrees with their methods. These guys are the creators of the "Jesus Loves Porn Stars" t-shirts, and of Pete the porn control puppet. They bought a booth at the Las Vegas porn festival, and handed out materials to the porn stars and porn addicts who attended. They're blunt, slightly off color, and thrive when they're teetering on the edge. But regardless of some of the means they use to acheive the end, the end is a desperately needed ministry in today's culture.

Marriage and Faith

There's a good article about marriage and faith on MSNBC's home page this morning. Apparently, those who base their marriage on the foundation of faith fair better than those who don't. Imagine that.

This past weekend during a class on marriage at DTS, the topic of divorce and its consequences to the family unit came up. It's a hard discussion, because I've seen the devastation that comes from divorce in a family, and its impact on the divorcer, divorcee, and the innocent bystanders of the decision to divorce. As we discussed it, I was reminded of how thankful I am that Kari and I both grew up in homes not only with two parents, but in homes where divorce was not even a vocabulary word. It wasn't ever an option for our parents under any circumstances.

Our faith has been far and away the most important thing to Kari and my marriage - so much so that I often wonder how unbelievers make it in marriage. When there is no eternal perspective present in the life of husbands and wives, what keeps those people going through the really tough times? When there's no ultimate picture of the purpose of marriage, what keeps married couples together when everything falls apart? How could marriage last and be based on anything other than faith?

Church Based Training

I'd love to write a book. When I was a freshman in college, I started one. But you need two things to be able to write a book: knowledge, and experience. As a freshman in college, I had neither. So I finished the prologue, wrote the dedication page, and quit. Maybe I'll take it back up when I'm 50 and actually have a little more life under my belt.

For now, I read a lot of other peoples' books. And I've noticed something about books recently: many of the very best ones don't come up with revolutionary ideas that have never been thought before. Conservative estimates believe humans have existed for at least 6,000 years, so to believe one of us actually has a novel idea that was never before thought of by one of the billions of people who have existed throughout history is pretty far out. Instead, some of the best books out there take things we already knew, package them in a new way, and sell them to those of us who didn't know we knew what we know.

That's what Rowland Forman, Jeff Jones, and Bruce Miller have done in their book "The Leadership Baton." These men are all affiliated with the Center for Church Based Training, which is a group that functions as a part of Fellowship Bible Church North, where I'm now employed. This book defines the principle that drives the ministry at Fellowship Bible Church North, and has helped not only FBCN, but the numerous churches planted by this ministry.

The principle is called "Church Based Training," and it's not new - not completely. One could argue Paul was practicing the philosophy of "Church Based Training" when he told Timothy to take the things he had learned, and teach them to others who could teach others as well. But somewhere in history, the church got away from Church Based Training. Oh, we had discipleship class. We had Bible Studies. We taught people how to be scholars, and students, and theologians. But we didn't teach them to be leaders.

That's the downfall of the seminary today. Every year hundreds of men and women graduate from seminaries and Bible colleges with a grasp of God's Word, a knowledge of theology, and sometimes even a familiarity with the Bible's original languages. But when they show up in our church as our pastor, they don't know how to lead. The luw paradigm won't help even the best Greek scholar survive a board meeting, or set direction for the church.

Don't get me wrong. I believe, and know the writers of this book believe graduate studies are vastly important. I wouldn't trade my seminary experience for anything. But seminaries can't teach everything.

And Church Based Training is not just for pastors. This principle drives all of Fellowship's ministries. The youth ministry, worship ministry, men's and women's ministries, and the small group ministry of which I'm a part have all bought in to the Church Based Training philosophy, and it has made Fellowship a better place.

The philosophy isn't complex. There isn't a secret meeting room full of charts, graphs, names, and pictures. Only a group of people who are determined to be intentional about developing the people around them. Each emerging leader is given a baton like the ones used in a relay race. It is inscribed "2 Timothy 2:2." The leader is told that the baton isn't for them, but for the person they will train to come after them. And from day one, the leader is given a tangible reminder of the importance of passing a legacy from one leader to the next.

All over the church, batons are being passed along. Small group leaders train other small group leaders. Youth leaders train other youth leaders. Pastors train other pastors. Elders train other elders. It's a simple concept, but because the church and its leadership are serious and intentional about it, it is making a huge difference.

I'll write more in coming days and weeks about how this philosophy actually plays out as I get the opportunity to observe it. For now, buy the book. You won't be disappointed.

Enjoy the Ride

At DTS I'm currently enrolled in a Bible Exposition class with Dr. Jay Quine. He's a new addition to the faculty at DTS, who comes from Philadelphia College of the Bible. Prior to his career in ministry, Dr. Quine was a successful attorney and the youngest judge appointed in the history of the state of Washington. So, the perspective he brings to our discussion of the Major and Minor Prophets is truly unique. I've particularly enjoyed the wisdom he has employed in showing the practical relevance of the Old Testament Prophets to ministry and culture in today's society.

Last week we began studying Isaiah. The class discussion centered around Isaiah's call in chapter 6. If you're familiar with the story, you know that God called Isaiah to proclaim a message of judgment and destruction to the people of Israel. It wasn't a pretty job. Isaiah would be responsible for prophesying the doom of a people who would eventually be carried out of their homes on meat hooks. His message: Repent or be judged. And the response is already declared by God (6:9-13). The people won't listen to Isaiah.

For Isaiah, success is failure. The people won't listen to his message. They won't respond in faith. They will be judged despite Isaiah's pleas. In order for Isaiah to be faithful to God's call, his proclamation of the message must fail. A similar concept is found in ministries throughout the Old Testament, but specifically with the prophets. Success, in God's eyes was failure.

What does this mean for current ministries and ministers as we attempt to define success for our ministries? Is it possible that some of us must fail in our ministries to be successful before God? Is it possible that we're misdefining what success in the church truly is?

I posed this question to Dr. Quine after class, and his answer blew me away. "Success in ministry is none of your business," he said. "Your responsibility is to enjoy the ride."

At first, I didn't like his answer. I'm a type-A, success-driven guy. I want my church and ministry to be successful. But the more I think about it, the more I think he's right.

My responsibility as a pastor isn't to have a successful church. My responsibility as a pastor is to live every day in fellowship with God, and leave the results of my ministry to Him. Whether my church converts four thousand or four isn't any of my business in the ultimate scheme of things. We may plant seeds, but God causes the growth.

Why is Saddleback pushing twenty thousand members while many gifted, talented, visionary pastors are working in churches of less than fifty? If we think it's because of the gifts of the staff, or the vision of the leader, I'm afraid we're short sighted. God's grace has allowed that church to explode, and God's grace has allowed the other church to remain small. "Success," as we define it, is not any of our business. Our business is to enjoy the ride.

So here we are...

I'm typing today's blog from my new office at Fellowship Bible Church North in Plano.

Life is good, except for the acute bronchitis and lung infection the doctor diagnosed me with this morning. I've already hacked up my left lung, so after the right one follows I think I'll feel better. But I didn't think it would be good to call in sick for my first day of work. (That's usually frowned upon).

Later in the week, I'll be blogging about prophets for hire. It was a problem for Micah, and seems to be a problem with America's philosophy of the church today as well. I'm also working on a philosophy of ministry success that I'd like to hang out here to dry. I'm seeking to answer the question of what it means to truly be successful in ministry in light of a recent study in the major and minor prophets. For many of the prophets, success was failure. Truly following God's will meant nobody would listen to them or respond to the message. How does that relate to what we're called to do today?

For now, I'm going to the bathroom to cough so the other guys in the office don't hate me my first day on the job.

Some Thoughts on the Multi-Site Movement

The newest fad in the church today is the concept of multi-site churches. According to this concept, churches plant new churches complete with their own support staff and music team, but without a pastor. Instead, the Sunday morning message is streamed in from a pastor who may be located thousands of miles away, and is broadcast on a video screen.

Although the fad is just now catching on, it isn't a new concept. Several years ago I became acquainted with several people who were a part of a multi-site church. Instead of a pastor, they sat around a tape player and listened to the messages from a church in Houston that furnished tapes to several such groups around the country.

I'm no expert on the multi-site movement, and certainly don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water, however I have several concerns about the philosophy behind the movement.

The first concern is illustrated by the Houston church mentioned above. The multi-site concept presents a pastor who is larger than life. Don't even think about shaking his hand after the sermon. You might never even see him in person. You won't run into him at the grocery store, or see his kids playing t-ball. He lives hundreds of miles away from you, the church, the fellowship, and the accountability of the local church. The pastor of the church in Houston began as one of Dallas Seminary's most distinguished graduates, but over time became one of its most notorious graduates. I believe much of this can be attributed to the lack of accountability that comes with having a pastor who is bigger than life.

I believe the multi-site church also demonstrates an overemphasis of one person's spiritual gifts. Many of the pastors who lead these multi-site churches are extremely gifted communicators. Craig Groeschel of in Edmond, OK (and Phoenix, and Tulsa, and Stillwater...) is a prime example. But are we to believe that he is the only great communicator of God's truth in the tri-state area? It seems to me that we are overemphasizing the talent of the messenger over the message.

Throughout Scripture, God seemed to use the most unlikely messengers so this mistake wasn't made. God promised in Isaiah 55 that his Word would never return to him void, but would alway accomplish the purpose for which He sent it out. The talent and giftedness of the speaker is not nearly as important as the content of the message. But the multi-site concept seems to indicate otherwise. Either that, or it insinuates that there is only one person in the area that can communicate the truth accurately. Unfortunately, that's the road the Houston church mentioned above started down, and that's a dangerous road to hoe.

Along with an overemphasizing of one person's spiritual gifts comes a deemphasization of other spiritual gifts. The multi-site concept seems to indicate that a talented communicator of God's word can't be found in a 500 mile radius, but that other pastoral staff and musicians are growing on trees.

The most ironic challenge I see with the multi-site church is its complete inability to be culturally relevant. This is ironic because the multi-site church is supposedly the most culturally relevant church. What could be more hip than cranked-up music alongside a message from cyberspace?

The multi-site church might meet the culture on a broad level, but has a complete inability to meet local cultures where they are. It doesn't take a cultural expert to know that the culture of Phoenix is different from the culture in Oklahoma City. The only way for a multi-site pastor's message to fit each of the contexts to which he's preaching is to water the message down to the point that the impact is lost.

The multi-site church is likely to be the future of the church in America. But until some of these issues are addressed, someone else can take my spot on the bandwagon.

Not in school...

Monday's post was with regards to the debate about Intelligent Design, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster theory. Although the theory was meant in jest, it does an apt job at pointing out the ludicrous ends to which the tolerance argument can lead. If we allow the tolerance argument to go to its logical end, society finds itself with an obligation to teach kids about the Flying Spaghetti Monster in the same breath they teach kids about the Almighty Creator of the Universe. It may not surprise you, but I'm not comfortable with that.

It may surprise you however that I am also not comfortable with the concept of Intelligent Design being taught in public schools. Of course, I don't think they should teach Darwin's theory of evolution in public schools either, as it is a theory that has been abandoned by honest science long ago. Unfortunately, since science doesn't have an alternate answer to either Darwinism or Intelligent design, it has allowed the public school system to continue teaching a system that hasn't been honestly accepted for years. Why was it abandoned? Because Darwinism doesn't answer the question it sought to answer; it only pushes the question back a billion or so years. What did the first organism to evolve look like and what did it evolve from? Even a simple-cell organism had to come from something. And Darwin doesn't explain it.

But that's another post.

The public school's job is not to explain to my kids how the universe was created. That's my job as a parent. (I don't have kids right now, so I guess I should say that will be my job). From the very beginning of humanity, it has been the responsibility of the family unity to teach children truth about God - not the school system. Deuteronomy 6:4-9, the "Purpose" that "drove" Israel, commands fathers to teach their sons about God, not teachers.

I was blessed to have many wonderful teachers during my elementary, junior high, and high school years. Many of those wonderful women were also believers. But their responsibility was to teach me how to read, write, do math, and how to survive in a capitalistic society. My parents' job was to teach me truth about God.

I don't want my kids learning truth about God from their public school teacher who may or may not be a believer. That isn't why I will send them to school. It's my responsibility, my job, my privilege.

I hope the Kansas School Board decides not to force teachers to teach intelligent design. Maybe that will force some of the parents who want pawn their responsibility to someone else to get to work.

Intelligent Pasta

Well, today is my first day as an unemployed pastor. (No fear Mom, it's only until I start my new ministry next Monday, but send money if you want).

I could get used to this house-husband thing. I actually caught Sportscenter this morning for the first time in a couple of years. I sent my wife off to work so we could eat tonight, and played with the dog for an hour. Now I'm leisurely catching up on my email and blogsurfing. Life is good. Of course, when my wife gets home from work and finds the house is a mess, the dog has eaten her shoes, and I'm still sitting in front of the computer in my boxers where she left me, there will be some 'splainin to do. But for now, I'm living the high life.

I ran across this link this morning in the newspaper.

Apparently someone has decided to mix my two favorite pastimes: the pursuit of Truth, and the love of food. Unfortunately, the result is worse than three-day old road kill.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster is one guy's addition to the Intelligent Design debate. Bobby Henderson created the idea in response to a Kansas School Board debating on whether or not to include a discussion of Intelligent Design in their science curriculum. Henderson wondered if the school board allowed discussions of ID, whether it would be a distinctly Christian intelligent design that was taught, or if other faiths (such as the followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster) might be given attention as well. What began as a joke has snowballed into a group of people who call themselves "Pastafarians," and give credence to my philosophy that some people really will believe anything.

I don't think there are really people do homage to the Flying Spaghetti Monster theory of creation(although my obsessive love for The New Yorker Pizza and Pasta Restaraunt in Arlington may be evidence to the contrary); or that the decrease in pirates is the real cause for global warming, something this site also claims. But unfortunately, the point Henderson makes is representative of a mindset our society holds. Whether it's the God of the Universe, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the tolerance culture believes each deserve equal time and respect in our schools and society.

When it's time to change...

Peter Brady sang it best on the Brady Bunch... "When it's time to change, you have to rearrange, who you are into what you want to be." Although the occasion of my song is not the same as his (my voice hasn't cracked like that since tenth grade), the point is well taken.

Kari and I announced to the Elders of our church several weeks ago that this coming Sunday would be the last Sunday at our church. We've taken a position in Plano, TX at Fellowship Bible Church North. I'll be working under the Adult Ministries Pastor in the areas of small groups and leadership development.

Although leaving a ministry is never easy, Kari and I are extremely excited about this opportunity. My long-term vision for ministry is to be involved in the training of non-staff church leadership, to help them lead the church more effectively. We often recognize men as Elders or Deacons in our church because of their skill in the secular workplace. We assume men who have effectively led banks or other businesses will be apt leaders within the church. In many ways, we're right. The organizational skills, communication skills, and visionary skills that are needed to effectively run a business can be put to good use within the leadership of the church. However, the church is a Body, not a business. It's a fellowship, not a firm. And there are distinct differences between leading a church and leading in a corporation.

Fellowship Bible Church North sponsors the Center for Church Based Training, which exists in part for this purpose. Their philosophies can be found in a book called "The Leadership Baton," which is co-written by three representatives of this organization.

I'll write more about the book, and about Fellowship Bible Church North in the future. Meanwhile, I have an office full of books that aren't going to pack themselves.


My post yesterday about Inclusivism sparked a couple of personal conversations via Instant Messenger with teenagers who were present at our Bible Study Sunday Night. (That's right - Instant Messenger. We're cutting edge down here). During one of those conversations, I was lamenting the vastness of the church's task in the future based on the changes in logic that the current culture is attempting to make acceptable. You know, the logic where yellow can be blue to you as long as you don't argue with someone else who says it's red?

At one point in the conversation, I mentioned that I thought this type of thinking was the single most important thing preventing the modern generation from embracing Christ as their Savior. The student with whom I was conversing disagreed.

"No, Chris. We don't embrace Christ because Christians are weird," he said.

Today, I'm at the seminary all day. And after observing the guys and girls walking around this campus, I'm afraid my friend was right. We are weird.

The guy sitting on my left in the computer lab has fourteen earrings in his left ear, give or take a couple. He's cooler than me, (I think he's Emerging), so I'm trying not to get caught looking at him. The tattoo on his ankle says "Servant" in Greek. It's too bad he couldn't have tattooed the entire luw paradigm on his ankle - at least that would have come in handy during a quiz.

The opposite end of the spectrum just walked in. He's carrying a stack of books a mile high, that are obviously just for effect (What class would require a paper where you would use BDAG, a commentary on Ecclesiastes, one of Howard Hendricks' books, and a Hebrew Bible among other things?). He's wearing a suit, and has the perfect evangelical combover. His glasses, I swear, are the same glasses that Chuck Swindoll wears now. He makes the rounds around the computer lab shaking hands with everyone, punctuating the silence with a huge belly laugh like he's heard Swindoll do a thousand times.

My friend was right. Christians are weird.

When the Bible alludes to the fact that this world is not our home, I don't think the application is that we should live like we're from another planet.

A real danger of living in the holy huddle is that we forget what real people are like. We forget how to start conversation with something other than "what's God doing in your life?" We don't know how to talk about life, or our faith without theological word-dropping. We aren't real. We aren't human. We're weird.

I think much of the answer lies in the fact that Americans feel the need to look to someone or something else in order to form their identity. We model our speech patterns, our dress, our habits after others we like, who are doing influential things. If Michael Jordan wears the shoes, we want to wear the shoes. If Britney Spears is wearing it, stores can't keep it on the shelves. If Will Ferrel or Napolean Dynamite says something funny, we want to say it too. We're obsessed with being someone else.

The Church is doing the same thing, only worse. Where I live, in Arlington, Texas, every church in town has had Forty Days of Purpose. What's the purpose? To be a huge church with lots of money the way Rick Warren did it. Because if Rick Warren's doing it, we want to do it too. We all want our small groups ministries to look like Willow Creek's, because they're cool and we want to be too. And if Charles Swindoll tells a good story on the radio Tuesday afternoon, three thousand pastors across America start scrambling to change their sermons so they can use the illustration Sunday and be as great a communicator as Chuck.

We're obsessed with fitting the "cool mold." But we haven't figured out that it's only cool when someone else does it. Elvis impersonators are never as cool as Elvis. They're just creepy.

Most of us learned in Sunday School as kids that God created us just the way we are. As we've grown up, our Sunday School teachers' words were proven right by the test of Scripture. Ephesians, 1 Corinthians, Galatians, and other books go to great lengths to describe who we are in Christ, and the gifts God has give us so that we can be uniquely used by God in His work on earth. (Operative word: uniquely).

We hear sermons all the time from 1 Corinthians 12, about how the hand shouldn't gripe because it didn't get to be the eye, or how the ear is not more important than the big toe. And those sermons are packed full of illustrations about how the janitor shouldn't harbor resentment against God because he didn't get the gifts to be the pastor. Pastors couldn't preach in dirty churches, we're told, so both are important. And those illustrations are accurate, needed, and applicable in today's society.

But when was the last time someone reminded us that the left hand shouldn't gripe because it isn't the right hand? Or that the big toe shouldn't gripe because it isn't the left toe?

Isn't that exactly what we're doing when we try to model everything God has given us after someone else? We're terrified of being unique. We're scared to death of having our own responsibility and our own sphere of influence. We don't want to be the left hand, because John MacArthur's the right hand, and he's doing such a good job we don't see ourself as useful. So we try to be more like him.

If you're right handed, have you ever tried to write with your left hand? You can do it. And people can read it. But that isn't the task your left hand was intended for, and your writing is awkward... weird... at best. But that's what we do when we decide that the gifts, talents, abilities, and ideas that God has given us aren't as good as the ones he's given to someone else. We limp along trying to use someone else's gifts and talents to make us seem more effective. In reality, it just makes us look weird.

Stump The Chump

Sunday Night is "Red Pill" night at the church where I'm a Pastor of Students. Red Pill is a Bible Study named after the blockbuster The Matrix, in which a red pill stands for truth. Recently, the Bible Study has been led by students who are instructed to teach a Scripture passage that they are attempting to live out in their own life. It's been a very effective opportunity for the teenagers, many of whom are actually excited about the application of God's Word. It's weird; the whole thing has become like a huge game of charades, where teenagers start living out specific passages of Scripture weeks before their "lesson" and try to get other teenagers to guess what passage they'll be talking about.

Yesterday morning I got word that my speaker wouldn't be showing up. Her soccer team made the finals of some tournament, and her assistance was needed on defense. So the lesson fell to me.

Of course I've been doing my best to study and apply Scripture in my own life, but that's what I teach about all the time. I needed something different. So my wife recommended we play a game I like to call "Stump the Chump." Basically, it's a free-for-all, where the teenagers are given permission to ask the hardest questions they can think of about the Bible or life, and I give the best answer I can. After my answer, I get either thumbs-up if I answered the question adequately, or I get the buzzer if I didn't answer the question adequately. It sounds cheesy, but the kids love it, and the benefit is two-fold. First, I get a glimpse into what they're really thinking about. Secondly, through their use of the buzzer, I figure out pretty quickly how well I am articulating what God's Word says.

Frankly, it wouldn't be hard to stump this chump. I'm a glutton for punishment when it comes to this game, but fortunately I've played it a couple of times before and tend to be able to anticipate the questions they'll ask. (By the way, I've always promised them if I don't know the answer to a question, I'll admit it, and then buy them dinner for coming up with such a perceptive question. And it's happened before).

Last night, at first, was no different from usual. I got the usual barrage of "Why do bad things happen to good people?" "How far is too far to go on a date?" "Could God make a burrito so hot that not even He could eat it?"

But then the questions moved into a new area. About four of the forty or so kids present started pelting me with similar questions. They all started centering around the inclusivist debate. You know... "If God is really loving, how could He let my Muslim friend go to Hell?" And, "Is Jesus really the only way to God?" (I found out later that one of the main questioners had recently converted to Islam with his family). As the time wore on, the questions started getting more and more intense, and my answers were getting "buzzed" faster than flies in a bug zapper.
Some (not all) of the teenagers at this Bible study weren't buying it.

I explained to them that all religions couldn't be true; that Christianity believes there is one God, Hinduism believes there are more than nine-hundred gods, Mormonism believes you can become a god, and certain forms of Buddhism believe there is no God. Those ideas are contradictory, and therefore cannot all be true. Then I pointed to one of the kids and took the question further. "If I say Matt is wearing a yellow shirt, and you say Matt is wearing a blue shirt, we can't both be right. Either he's wearing a yellow shirt and I'm right, he's wearing a blue shirt and you're right, or he's wearing a different color and we're both wrong. Those are the only options. We can't both be right."

Four hands shot up at the same time. I called on one of them.

"Sure you can," he said, "The shirt is yellow to you, and blue to me. Just because you see it differently doesn't make me wrong."

The remaining three hands went down. "He took our point" they said.

I'm not a person who is normally left speechless. But last night, I had nothing to say. The chump had been stumped, but not with a question that was too hard to answer. The chump had been stumped by the sheer lunacy of the junk with which our kids are being brainwashed. I felt like I was talking to four brainwashed zombies rather than the well-dressed, all-American teenagers I was talking to.

Today's culture is presenting the church with some major obstacles to combat in the coming years. They disguise themselves as intellectual pursuits, but intellectual responses aren't accepted as answers. There's a different mindset in the minds of our youth, and it's terrifying. Blue isn't yellow, black isn't white, and truth is not relative. And the concept of absolute truth needs to constantly be reinforced by the church who believes in truth from an Almighty God, absolutely.

Was Hurricane Katrina a Demonstration of God's Wrath?

An organization called "Repent America" has taken the opportunity to step into the limelight after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and Mississippi, claiming that Katrina was God's judgment on a "wicked city."

If you can stomach it, read the entire press release here.

"Although the loss of lives is deeply saddening, this act of God destroyed a wicked city," stated Repent America director Michael Marcavage... "We must help and pray for those ravaged by this disaster, but let us not forget that the citizens of New Orleans tolerated and welcomed the wickedness in their city for so long," Marcavage said. "May this act of God cause us all to think about what we tolerate in our city limits, and bring us trembling before the throne of Almighty God," Marcavage concluded. "[God] sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matthew 5:45)

It saddens me when groups like this volunteer to speak on behalf of the entire Christian community. But it sickens me when groups like this volunteer to speak on behalf of God Himself, especially while in the same breath mangling what God really has said.

Who gave Repent America the authority to speak on behalf of God? Who told him that this horrible event was a result of the "Southern Decadence Festival," a party catering to homosexuals that was to be held in New Orleans this week? Even if it were, why did the hurricane wipe out other parts of Louisiana and Mississippi? I suppose that's where Marcavage's quotation of Matthew 5:45 comes into play.

Unfortunately for Marcavage, Matthew 5:45 seems to make the opposite point. Jesus' comment in the Sermon on the Mount was spoken in the context of His instruction to love others, even the unlovely. When Jesus mentioned rain in this context, he wasn't speaking of it in a torrential, tragic, judgmental sense, but in the sense of a blessing. In an agrarian culture, rain was seen as a blessing from God (just as sunshine, which is also mentioned in this passage, but not quoted by Marcavage), not a curse. Just as God bestows a certain amount of blessing on the entire earth, of which sun and rain are examples, followers of Christ should not show partiality in their love of others.

What do we say of Katrina? Why did Katrina ravage New Orleans and leave it in complete and utter shambles? Because it was a hurricane. That's what hurricanes do.

Why did Mount Pinatubo erupt in the Phillipines in 1991 killing more than 800 people? Because it's a volcano. That's what volcanoes do. If they didn't erupt, they wouldn't be volcanos.

I'm not saying God doesn't have control over nature. He surely does. But we shouldn't look at every natural disaster as evidence of God's wrath against a culture any more than we look at sunny days as evidence of God's acceptance of a culture.

To claim inside knowledge of God's ultimate reason for every event that takes place on this earth is presumptious. Job was one of the most righteous men to ever live, and he didn't know why disaster after disaster came into his life. Furthermore, as we look back on the story we recognize that it was not because of God's judgment of Job, but because of God's pleasure with Job that He allowed Job to be tested.

God's thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). Although we as Christians would like to be able to give an answer for everything we do not understand, that is not our responsibility. Why did God allow this horrific tragedy to happen? Maybe we'll understand someday. For now, it's not our responsibility to speak concerning God's purposes where God's Word has not given us that privilege or responsibility.