Please Don't Go To Church Tonight

Please beware: This is one of my yearly soapboxes that will likely offend the majority of my readers. I apologize in advance. Cute baby pictures to follow tomorrow...

Please don't go to church tonight. 

Go on Sunday. Go on Saturday. Go any night of the week you want, any night of the year, but please don't go tonight. 

Lots of churches have Fall Festivals tonight for lots of different reasons. Some of them are good reasons (to give kids in unsafe neighborhoods a chance to get safe candy), and some are bad reasons (to pretend like we don't celebrate Halloween - just Fall... in costumes... with candy...). 

Either way, please don't go. 

One of the most obvious arenas in which we as Christians can live-out Christianity in front of an unbelieving world is in our neighborhood.  We see those people mowing the yard while we're walking the dog. We wave as we get out to our cars at the same time to go to work. 

We know we should reach out to them. We know we should form connections with them. Because connections and relationships are the primary ways we are able to point others towards the hope that exists in a relationship with Christ. But, we "never get the chance" to cross the threshold of relationship with the people who live next door to us. Our personal connections are limited to waving and nodding. Something keeps us from crossing the street. 

Tonight is the one night where our neighbors come to us. Sure, they're being dragged by Frankenstein and Tinkerbell in hot pursuit of a bite-sized Snickers Bar. But they knock on our door and give us the chance to say hello... to begin a relationship... to learn their name. 

Nothing more. 

But nothing less. 

People who cloister themselves in Church tonight are missing an opportunity to live Christianity in front of people who don't know Christ, just so they can get candy from the already convinced.

What a sad trade-off. 

Please stay home. Meet someone new tonight. Begin a relationship. Not because Christ is an ulterior motive... because Christ-like living is our ultimate motive. 

The Flag and the Faith - Part 4

This week, I've tried to think through some of the issues facing the individual and the institution when it comes to how we as Christians should respond around voting season in the United States. Frankly, I think we as Christians (both institutionally and individually) have been guilty of falling on both ends of the spectrum in the past several years. 

Many, many churches have abused their opportunity, and in doing so have confused the Gospel by promoting political candidates above promoting the King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16). And this has happened on both sides of the aisle. We rightly recognize Jeremiah Wright's rank abuse of the pulpit, but gloss over Pat Buchanan's similar outrageous tendencies because we're a bit more inclined to agree with his point. 

On the other hand, many of us as individuals have been far too passive when it comes to our individual stewardship in participating in the workings of government. Luke 12:48 applies to politics as much as it does personal finance. As an American (though I realize many of you reading this are not American), I enjoy an involvement in the direction of the government that hoards of people throughout history have not enjoyed. That is a great gift, and a great stewardship for which I believe I'll ultimately be held accountable. 

Yet whether or not you're an American citizen with the privilege in participating in a Democratic Republic, one thing is important to remember: Our hope is not found in politics. 

I'm reminded of one of my all-time favorite hymns that contains some pretty important Truth to remember next Tuesday:

My hope is in the Lord 
Who gave Himself for me,
And paid the price of all my sin at Calvary.

For me He died, 
For me He lives, 
And everlasting light and life He freely gives. 

Daniel 2:17 reminds us that God is sovereign even over the election process. It is God who ultimately controls the outcome, and He will not be caught off guard. Whether our country elects John McCain, or sends Sarah Palin back to where she can see Russia from her house, God will not be taken off-guard. 

Proverbs 21:1 says, "The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes." As important as the election process is, God is a God who can (and will) work His will, regardless of the political party we choose. Some of my far-right friends believe we're headed for World War III if we elect Barack Obama, and they may be right. But I won't lose a minute of sleep in the meantime. My far-left friends believe John McCain will destroy life as we know it, and they may be right. But that won't affect my eternity one iota. And that's where I'm going to focus - Today, next Tuesday, and for as long as I've got breath. 

No amount of "change" will match the change He can do in your life. No "maverick" ideals will come close to the revolutionary work of the cross. 

His grace has planned it all
'Tis mine but to receive
And recognize His work of love and Christ receive

For me, He died
For me, He lives
And everlasting light and life He freely gives. 

The Flag and the Faith - Part 3

Yesterday I posted about the fact that the church has a responsibility to point people to eternal issues rather than temporal issues. If we do anything as an institution or as individuals that distracts others from the message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, I believe we are in sin. Unfortunately, I don't believe the Church as an institution has done this well. We've made people believe that they have to be against gay marriage to go to heaven, which I believe is a sin more heinous than homosexuality itself since it distorts and confuses the Gospel.

When the Church as an institution affiliates with a party, platform, or candidate, it sends the wrong message to a watching world. The Church needs to demonstrate that our focus is not in the reformation of society, but in the reconcilliation of a world to Jesus Christ. From the pulpit on Sunday, politics are a distraction from what's really important. 

However, I don't want to take that too far. Mark Batterson, who is the pastor of National Community Church in Washington DC has an interview worth reading here. I think he thinks through the issue really well. Here's part of what he says: "Part of my driving desire as a pastor is to remove every obstacle except the cross that would keep people from coming to faith in Christ. That means we don't want to affiliate with a party. We don't want to affiliate with a candidate. But we also don't want to avoid important spiritual issues simply because some people consider them political."

I believe to my core that freedom is a stewardship. Our ability to participate in government is a gift from God, and we as Christians should absolutely be involved in that process. And our faith should absolutely inform the way we as individuals vote.

We as believers have a stewardship to take what we know and believe as ambassadors of Jesus Christ into the world, and into the voting booth. But not just on one or two issues - on the entire spectrum of issues that are all spiritual. And it's not always so cut and dried.

Issues like assisting the impoverished, abortion, homosexuality, war, personal character, capital punishment, and freedom are all spiritual issues, not political issues, that the Christian must consider when going into the voting booth. But as a matter of stewardship, we have to balance them all.

Take this, for example: I am unashamedly pro-life. I don't believe I could ever vote for a candidate who would have a direct affect in legislation that would affect the lives of unborn babies. That comes from my understanding and application of Scripture, and I'm passionate about it. But I think being a one-item voter is bad stewardship. Not long ago I voted for a candidate for state senate who was pro-choice, because the pro-life candidate he was running against was a snake, who fell short on a number of other spiritual issues that I couldn't support. As a good steward, I couldn't in good conscience vote for the pro-life candidate because in almost every other way he stood antithetical to what I believe. I don't believe it would have been good stewardship to vote him into office. 

The Church as an institution needs to be faithful to teach its members what God has said apart from the political spectrum. The church of individuals has a personal stewardship to examine and apply those Truths in every aspect of their lives - including the voting booth.

The Flag and the Faith - Part 2

Yesterday, I started a series of posts about the relationship between the Flag and the Faith, especially around the time of an election. 

Government is instituted and established by God (Romans 13:1), but God never gives the Church clear instructions on how active they're supposed to be in government - probably because citizens in the first century didn't have much of a choice. You submitted to the king, or you died. 

I do think it's important to note, however, that the primary emphasis in Romans 13:3 is on us doing right as individuals... not on attempting to persuade the government (whatever its form) to reform society. 

See, we as a Church are not called to make sinners behave, but to shine as lights in a fallen world. That's not a call for a reformation of government - it's a call for personal and corporate reform of our own lives in such a way that unbelievers see us and are persuaded to examine the claims of our God because of the way we live - not because of the way we force them to behave. 

The Bible always calls for bottom-up leadership (servant leadership) rather than top-down leadership (leadership by mandate). Our role in society is no different. 

Sometimes when we get so focused on legistlating temporal morality we forget about eternal reality. Wasn't that the problem with the Pharisees? In fact, I think it's a key point to remember that when Jesus showed up on the scene, He didn't affiliate Himself with the political "party" that the rank-and-file religious person would have anticipated. Because their proposed legislation was simply designed to put lipstick on a pig, not point people towards Jesus Christ an Him crucified. 

The entire book of 1 Corinthians was written to remind the church that their entire message should be about Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and that they should cut out anything that didn't point people toward the Truth of that Message (1 Corinthians 2:2). If people get the idea that they can't be a Christian unless they vote Democrat, we have completely skewed the message.

On the other side, abortion is a huge issue to me - more on that tomorrow, maybe - but nobody ever gained a right relationship with God by being pro-life. It seems to me that our view of the sanctity of life should move beyond just the baby in the womb to the eternal life offered to the world - and that's something that isn't going to be legislated. 

When the Church begins to think about what role we should take in the political spectrum, we need to be absolutely, one-hundred percent certain we don't do anything to confuse the real issue: we as humans have been separated from our creator as a result of our behavior, and need a Savior to restore that relationship. That's the message the Church should champion above any other platform on either aisle of congress. If the gospel is lost in a bunch of less significant issues (and they're all less significant), we have completely missed the point. 

The Flag and the Faith

Last Friday while I was waiting on Kari and her mom to meet me for lunch, I started two books in Barnes and Noble. One of them was a book by Rob Bell and Don Golden called "Jesus Wants to Save Christians." 

I should be honest; I'm not a big fan of Rob Bell. He's a phenomenal communicator, but has (in my view) some huge theological blind spots (If you want more information on a few of those blind spots, you can listen to this talk by MarkDriscoll).  Nonetheless, he's typically more than a little thought-provoking. 

One quote jumped out at me  - it's on page 018 of his book (which is primarily a treatise on social justice and the Christian). Here's the quote:

"A Christian should get very nervous when the flag and the Bible start holding hands. This is not a romance we want to encourage."  

A week from tomorrow, the nation in which I live will be heading to the polls to elect a new leader. And it seems as though everyone has an opinion about exactly what the roll of the Church should be in that process. Some believe the Church should endorse political candidates from the pulpit. Others believe the Church should have zero influence in the political arena. 

So, what do you think? Should we encourage the flag and the faith to hold hands - or do we need to sit between them in the car? I'm going to try to go there this week. 

First, a distinction: There's a vast difference between the responsibility of the institution and the responsibility of the individual. I want to talk about both this week, but not all at the same time. A lot of times we don't make that distinction well, and it causes us problems. One of the blessings of the Protestant Reformation, which we celebrate on October 31st is a plain distinction between the Church as an institution and the Church as a collection of believing individuals. 

Why is that important to a discussion of politics? It's important because we need to not repeat the sins of the past. I'm convinced that we all have a moral responsibility in the voting booth, because freedom is a stewardship (more on that later). But I'm equally convinced that the moral responsibility is an individual issue, not an institutional issue. We need to vote according to a Biblical worldview, but it's our responsibility as individuals to interpret Scripture and determine how what the Scripture says informs how we vote as individuals.  The Church doesn't need to interpret for us, or as an application of that, tell us how to vote. 

It's a big issue, and I'm not intending to solve it in the next three posts. I'm just hoping to raise a couple of issues that I think are pertinent to the discussion. We'll see where we go from there. 

This is a huge election, and has some major implications on the local, state, and national level no matter which side you're on. And it's messy, because many of the issues in an election are moral issues - and the Church has a lot to say about moral issues. But the Church has a bigger responsibility than just taming a nation's morality... so how should we expect our church to respond? I'll try to go there this week without affecting my church's tax-exempt status. Wish me luck.

Family Friday - Part 2

Shots stink.

So do Dads who let their baby cry so they can snap a picture.

Family Friday

We're getting to see faces like this more and more. Although Casen still favors the "contemplative," "studious" look, we're to a place where he's responding to us a little more. At times he catches your eye and smiles - it doesn't get much better than that. 

Kari and her mom are taking him for his two-month appointment today, which means the dreaded first round of shots. No, I'm not going. 

I endured the epidural, the IV in the hospital, and the blood-letting during Casen's two-day follow-up, all without passing out. Kari and I both agreed that we would be testing our luck for me to try to go today. So, Kari and her mom are going to do the deed, and I'm going to deal with the aftermath. Something tells me the responses I get this afternoon are going to be a bit different from the responses I'm getting this morning. 

He's sleeping better too. That makes a huge difference  all the way around. He's happier, Kari's happier, and I'm happier. At least for now, we seem to have turned a corner. 

My buddy Erick swears that the only reason pastors have children is for sermon illustrations. I don't know about that, but I do know that having a son has better informed my view and appreciation of God as a loving Heavenly Father who desires the response of His children. 

"Be imitators of God, therefore, as beloved children." Ephesians 5:1

Intimacy or Idolatry

I'm re-reading J.I. Packer's Knowing God, and came across this quote the other day:

"Some Christians seem to resign themselves to following afar off, believing the Bible record, indeed, but neither seeking or expecting for themselves such intimacy and direct dealing with God as the men and women of the Bible knew."

We tend to idealize the situation of the people in the Bible. But they struggled with a similar challenge to the one we face. It's hard to balance God's nearness with His farness. (Jeremiah 23:23), but the people of the Bible felt that too. God is a God who called Abraham His "friend" (Isaiah 41:8), but also a God whose face cannot be seen because His presence would utterly consume a sinful person (Exodus 33:20). 

We struggle with that, and most of us fall to one end of the spectrum. I counsel a lot of people who seem to really believe that Jesus is their homeboy, and who see God as a friend who doesn't really care what you do or who you do it to. 

Packer seems to be speaking to the people on the other end of the spectrum; those who see God as distant, uninvolved, and separate from us. They read the Bible and wish they could have lived during those times - while failing to remember that the people of the Bible struggled with the same issue. 

Remember the people of Israel in Exodus 32? Moses was up on Mt. Sinai receiving a hand-written note for the people of Israel, and they had a hard time feeling like God was near. They needed something - something more. So they built a calf out of gold and bowed down to it. That kind of thing happened over and over throughout the Old Testament. 

In fact, that's the danger of falling to the end of the spectrum that doesn't believe God is a "near God." It will always drive us to worship something that isn't God. We as humans are hard-wired to worship, and we're hard-wired for intimacy. When we don't rightly understand that God is near - that He lives inside of us (John 14:16; 16:7), is actively defending us against the accuser (1 John 2:1), and who invites us to draw near to Him (James 4:8) - we inevitably end up worshiping something that is not God. We turn to something that we feel like can be pursued and obtained - a job, a husband or wife, a child, our golf game, or knowledge itself. 

We have an even greater capacity to know and obey than those in the Bible - we have a more sure word than they had to know the God of the Universe (2 Peter 1:19). So, who (or what) is it that you are worshiping? Is God the source of your worship and intimacy, or are you seeking those things in something else? 


I'll be MIA tomorrow and Wednesday because our staff is headed to Pine Cove for a two-day retreat. This is a highlight of my year, because it's a chance to connect on a deeper level with several of our staff members and their spouses. It's virtually impossible to make those kinds of connections during a regular schedule - you have to get away. 

We made a decision a year or so ago that we were going to stop using retreats for work or planning purposes. We've got a perfectly good conference room here at the church that works for most of our work and planning. These retreats are primarily about connection and relationship-building, especially since we bring our spouses.  We need to maximize that opportunity. 

We'll spend some time praying for each other, spend some time playing together, and a lot of time eating together. It's going to be a great time. Wish you could be there! 


Yesterday morning, we had Rob Sweet  in our staff meeting. Rob was an executive at Chick-Fil-A doing team-building for their owner-operators before leaving to attend and work at Dallas Seminary. He currently serves as the Associate Director of the Center for Christian Leadership. 

Rob talked about the 5 Commitments of Dynamic Teams, and led our staff team through some exercises to discover how we can take our team from good to great. Here are some thought-provoking things Rob said: 

- You can only lead or attract people to the level you occupy. 

- People always have more fun when they know their objectives and get to keep score.

- Could you convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that your people are growing spiritually?

- In meetings, there is so much you can do (information, collaboration, celebration, etc...). The question is, "what will you do?" 

- Energy management is more important than time management. If you manage energy well, you can get a lot more done in an amount of time. 

And my favorite:
- Here's a secret: Leadership is not just about setting vision. It's often about removing obstacles to achieving that vision. 

There's more, but you'll have to call Rob. We didn't instantly move from good to great yesterday, but we're running on the right tracks. 

You can't do things like that all the time, or you become an inwardly focused team. But, it's certainly an important exercise for groups of people who work as a team.  

Economic Hardship

Unless you live under a rock, you're aware that the last few weeks have been pretty tumultuous for the United States economy. That, in turn, has affected economies all over the world. Frankly, I don't know why someone doesn't just go find Frannie Mae and her husband Freddie and haul those guys in. I guess they're with Osama.  

Either way, these are financially uncertain times. 

Some of the people I'm acquainted with who are affected most by the economic realities are local and global ministry partners. The state of the dollar was already in the toilet, and a lot of missionaries and mission organizations were struggling already just to make ends meet. We had a fairly steady stream of missionaries through the offices this summer who were already struggling to survive on the field, and recent events haven't helped. 

For the vast majority of you who are like me, the economic situation right now doesn't impact your day-to-day life right now. You weren't planning on retiring next year, and don't work in an industry where your job might be lost tomorrow. And gas prices are down, so your financial world actually feels better than it did a month or two ago (at least until you turn on CNN). 

Try being a contrarian. 

These economically uncertain times (at least for now) probably only mean you can't get your $10 cup of coffee from Starbucks every morning. But for some of our local and global missionaries, the situation will mean they have to leave their homes and jobs, because (sadly) over-and-above giving is one of the first things cut from many budgets. 

Instead of pulling back, can I urge you to lean in to uncertain times by ramping-up your generosity over the next few months? Consider adding more support to those people whose ministries depend on our generosity so that you can compensate for those who are unable to continue their support. Kari and I are going to lead the charge with some of the missionaries we support. We're not cutting back - we're ramping up. This is as good a time as any. 

We're called to live in an eternal reality investing in eternal things. Our treasure and heart should be in the same place (Luke 12:34)  and to us, economically uncertain times are the best time to be dumping our resources into things guaranteed not to fail. 

Be a contrarian. Find a ministry that's having an eternal impact, and consider partnering with thing or ramping up your support during these times. If you need some recommendations, I'd love to give you some insider investing tips. Invest in things that are insured forever. I promise you won't miss the money. 

The Spirit in our Teaching

I'm studying through J.I. Packer's book "Knowing God" with several guys on Tuesday mornings. This week's chapters contained a quote I think is pretty important: 

"Do we remember that the Holy Spirit alone, by His witness, can authenticate our witness, and look to him to do so, and trust him to do so, and show the reality of our trust, as Paul did, by eschewing the gimmicks of human cleverness?" 

This is important for two different groups of us. First, those of us who struggle with talking about spiritual things with others can take some great comfort in what Packer is saying here. We don't have to stress about using all the right words to be used of God in speaking Truth to another person's life. In fact, in my case - some of the times I have felt my communication was a jumbled mess have been the times God has used my words most powerfully.  The Holy Spirit works in and through us to reveal Jesus Christ to others. It isn't our responsibility to open the eyes of our friends - it's our responsibility to be available and faithful tools of the Holy Spirit as He does His work.

Second, some of us could use the reminder that our creativity isn't the clincher with people. I spend a lot of time thinking about how to communicate creatively, speaking Truth in a relevant manner. I spent a good deal of Saturday mulling over a single sentence in my sermon on Sunday because I wanted to say it in just the right way, and that's a good thing. We should value creativity, but never to the point where we feel as though our creativity replaces - or even helps the Spirit's role in our teaching/preaching/sharing/whatever you call it.  If God doesn't work in the lives of people, it doesn't matter if you're the most creative, articulate, intellectual person on the planet - lives won't change. Sometimes I wonder functionally whose role we value more: our creative team, or the Holy Spirit. 

Just something I'm thinking about this morning...

Values in Balance

Yesterday, I was talking to our Young Singles leadership team about our values, and how important it is for values to be in balance. 

Two of our values are authenticity and maturity. We value being a ministry where people are able to be "real" with each other. And, we value being a ministry where people are constantly growing toward spiritual maturity. 

Neither of those two values is much of a challenge to purse; the trick is pursuing them in tandem. Authenticity has been a good "buzz word" for Christians in the past decade, and is an important value for the church. But if we have authenticity without maturity, we have a bunch of people who are open and honest about sharing in sin together. If we pursue maturity without authenticity we will either become monks/nuns, or a bunch of legalistic hypocrites.

We have to constantly be pursuing all of our values all of the time, and consistently checking to ensure that our pursuit of one is helping our pursuit of the others. 


Yeah, that picture's from Casen's first day. But, you get the picture of what our last couple of days has been like. 

Kari's got some kind of stomach bug, and spent most of yesterday and today dancing with the Porcelain Queen. Casen's been constipated since yesterday morning, which means he hasn't been much fun to be around. And I spent all day yesterday interviewing a guy for a staff position at the church, so I wasn't much help. 

Right now, Kari's at Care Now begging for some medicine, Casen just ate, and is crying himself to sleep after having absolutely obliterated a diaper just now, and I'm trying to get my sermon finished up for Sunday. It's a shame - the weather here is perfect for golf and the course is calling my name. 

The Walk

Last week we kicked off a sermon series called "The Walk," in which we're studying Ephesians 4-5. Paul uses the word "walk" several times as he gives instruction on how to pursue spiritual maturity both corporately and individually. 

Since there is a corporate and individual aspect to being spiritually mature, we decided to do something a little  different than normal, and put together a book for the study that contains personal devotions for every day of the week that are taken directly from the passages we'll be studying the next Sunday. Those devotionals are written by people from within our church, which is a really neat touch. It's neat to be able to read how others are applying the passages we're studying. 

The book also contains questions for our small groups. We don't always do sermon-based studies (some of our small groups do, though some choose to study other things), but we asked all of our small groups to participate in this particular sermon series. Those seem to be going well also. 

One of the major challenges facing preachers is the lack of retention. We're hoping that through small group questions, personal devotions, and sermons on Sunday, the church will be able to get an even more firm grasp on Ephesians 4-5, and be able to apply it in a lasting way. 

Unity Requires Diversity

I'm preaching this Sunday on Ephesians 4:7-16, a passage where Paul talks about unity and diversity. 

When you think about it, the very concept of unity requires diversity. If we're not different, we can't be unified; the best we can be is the same. And if you and I are the same, one of us isn't essential. 

Scripture is pretty clear that we're all essential to what God's doing. God calls us to unity of purpose (growing towards maturity), which should reflect our already existing unity in Christ. 

Our culture has a value on sameness - uniformity rather than unity. If you don't believe me, read the facebook statuses of people tonight during the presidential debate. If you don't agree with them and support their candidate, you're evil and don't love your country. They want you to be the same as them. If you're not, there must be something wrong with you.  

Scripture celebrates diversity - not in our understanding of Truth, but in matters of who we are created to be. It's okay for someone to serve God in a different way than I serve Him (so long as they're serving the true God, of course). It's okay for someone to have different gifts, talents, and abilities. It's okay for them to use those gifts in a different way than I use mine. It's okay for us to be different - our differences are essential to our unity. 

My Weekend

Yeah, I'm blowing off another post today with some gratuitous pictures of my weekend. We had a great trip to Oklahoma, and made it back safely Sunday morning around 2am. We always feel like we need to stretch as much as we can out of those trips, which sometimes leaves us feeling more tired when we return. It's worth it though - always good to spend time with family. 

Saturday night we got to go to the Oklahoma State football game. It was our nephew John Michael's first college football game. As you can tell from the empty seats, this is well before the game started. When Oklahoma State ran out on the field, Pistol Pete (the mascot) shot off a huge sawed-off shotgun. That was when John Michael headed for the door. He and his dad headed for the car to watch movies instead. It's fine - his dad cheers for the "other" school in Oklahoma and wasn't too interested in the game anyway. 

We played Texas A&M, and got to watch their band perform. If you've never watched them perform, the Aggie Band is worth the price of a ticket to a football game. I meant to take a picture of them before they left the field, but forgot. So, this is the Aggie Band leaving the field. 

The Aggie Band makes it worth putting up with Aggie fans, who have to be among the most obnoxious in college football (sorry guys... love ya, but it's true. I'm all for tradition, but some of the stuff you guys do is pretty creepy to everyone else but you!) Even still, they're a nice bunch of people, and were (for the most part) very gracious guests on Saturday. 

Casen didn't get to go to the game - he stayed in Edmond with Iron-Millie. Kari's mom stayed behind with a 6 week old, and twin 11 month old girls, and seemed to be of sound mind when we returned. I'm not sure how she did it, but if I find out, I'll let you know her secret. 

I'll try to give you some substance tomorrow once I get ahead of this sermon that's staring me down on Sunday. 

For Young Men Only - Book Review

From time to time, Multnomah sends me advanced copies or new releases of books to review. It's a neat partnership. They get a little bit of discussion started about books they're publishing, and I get a free book to read before anyone else.

The latest free book on my desk is a book called "For Young Men Only, a Guy's Guide to the Alien Gender" by Jeff Feldhahn and Eric Rice. It's a book aimed at junior high and high schoolers in an attempt to help them figure out the creatures from Venus who sit next to them in class.

Honestly, when I got the book I didn't know the intended audience. I was expecting a book for young men like me - not young men who have only been driving for a year or two. But by page two I had the audience figured out, and decided to stick with it while being a bit skeptical. See, as a youth pastor for several years I used to loathe the new book on girls for high school guys (or vice versa). The vast majority of the books written "for" high schoolers are written at about a middle school level. The vast majority of the books written for middle schoolers are books my 6-week old might be interested in. And the vast majority of books on dating for teenagers are either cheesy, legalistic, or completely unhelpful. For Young Men Only is a very nice exception to "the vast majority."

Though the book is written by two middle-aged guys, the gratuitous "try-to-be-cool-so-the-teenagers-think-I-speak-their-language" lingo is at a minimum. The book is honest, straight-forward, and has some really good information.

The book is based on interviews and surveys of more than a thousand teenage girls concerning what exactly they're looking for in a guy. Feldhahn and Rice take the reader through a discussion of "why ordinary guys have a real chance with great girls," and have a chance of winning her heart even above the guy in school who looks like an Abercrombie model. They talk about why girls are attracted to the "bad boys," and how good guys can keep the sense of adventure without sacrificing their integrity. They break the "code" of baffling female behavior, and discuss how to keep from getting crushed by a girl. A chapter is devoted to communication skills, and another chapter to sex, before the authors summarize the book with a chapter reminding guys that character counts.

This book is completely accessible for middle school or high school guys, and isn't anything like the awkward birds-and-bees book you gave them a few years ago. They'll walk away with an honest grasp of what girls want, and how they can be confident in who God created them to be without trying to be like some other guy.

The book is written from a Christian perspective, although young men who read it won't feel as though they've been Bible-beaten by the principles in the book. In fact, more often than not the authors point to their surveys with girls as evidence something is a good idea rather than pointing explicitly to the Bible. That's okay though. This book isn't a Bible Study. It's a practical guide to understanding girls that will augment young men's understanding of Biblical Truth concerning relationships with the opposite sex, and give practical evidence that girls really do want a man with godly traits and character.

If you've got a teenage son, grandson, nephew, or friend, For Young Men Only needs to be under the Christmas tree this year. They'll never tell you they read it, but they will, and will be uber-thankful. I absolutely wish I had read this book when I was in junior high. It would have saved me a lot of heartache, and would have helped me catch that cheerleader I was chasing all those years.

Pulpit Freedom Sunday

This Sunday, several pastors throughout the United States will be celebrating "Pulpit Freedom Sunday," where they will take on the federal tax law which prohibits leaders of tax-exempt organizations from endorsing or promoting certain politicians.

This is a really, really bad idea. 

In the article linked above, pastor Gus Booth is quoted as saying, "I have a First Amendment right to say whatever I want to say, and I've never thought it was appropriate that as a pastor I could not share my political concerns with the congregation." Respectfully, Pastor Booth, your church also has the rights to pay taxes to the IRS for your failure to obey federal law. 

Regardless of federal law, the church has absolutely zero business endorsing political candidates as an institution. It's a horrible idea that confuses the issue the church is called to face, turns the pulpit into a political stump, and shrinks Christianity's scope from a global focus to a national focus. It also assumes that either the Christians in our pews are too stupid to read the Bible and reach their own conclusions in the voting booth, or that our preaching has so confused the biblical issues the Christians in our churches don't understand how to make spiritual decisions in matters like these. Either way, it's a poor reflection on the church. 

I have strong opinions when it comes to political issues, and firmly believe that one candidate is a much better candidate to be the president of the United States than the other. I'd be happy to share my opinions over coffee, but never from the pulpit. The pulpit is about Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2), and every minute we spend promoting a candidate from the pulpit is a moment we're choosing not to promote the Message of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, as a church, the citizenship we should be pointing to is greater than even the United States - as much as we're thankful for this country's freedom (1 Peter 2:9-11). 

Politicizing the pulpit will only serve to distract people from Jesus, increase the degree of corruption as political candidates woo pastors to make statements, and flat-out breaks a federal tax law. Forget that you think the federal tax law is unconstitutional... breaking it intentionally is unbiblical (Romans 13:1). 

The pastors who endorse candidates from the pulpit this Sunday should be ashamed of themselves, and the Alliance Defense Fund should be as well. Not only are they missing and confusing the issue, they're likely to screw things up for the rest of us. The IRS would be perfectly justified in doing away with tax-exempt status for all churches, which would mean financial contributions to the church would not be tax deductible, and that churches would be subject to taxes themselves. That would be a huge hit to the budget of every single church in America... and all because a few pastors have decided to miss the point altogether.