Wednesday, April 20, 2011

No Comment 2 of 2:

I’ve been putting this post off for a while.  Mostly due to time (I just finished finals for the current semester).  But also because I wanted to ensure that I had my own personal thoughts finalized before presenting them for the whole world to see.

In my first post I made note of the judgmental (sometimes hateful) words that are shown all throughout the user comments written in the “comments” section of news media articles online.  To be honest, I’ve disobeyed my own words in my “note to self” and have read some additional comments over the past few days.  I wish I hadn’t, as the behaviors in the self-made examples I posted continue to be seen.  Seeing words of hatred spewed toward the U.S. President, or each other causes me great concern.

With this being said, the question now is, “Is there ever a time when commenting is appropriate?”  A great question.  And I think the answer is undoubtedly yes, but “choosing our battles” has to be first and foremost, as far too often what one may choose to post doesn’t go through a filter first.  A disagreement comes to mind, and instead of thinking it through, a reply is made.  Pretty soon a debate can begin about something that really isn’t of much importance.  So one has to think, “Is this really worth putting out there or not?”  Many times, comments are not worth putting out there.  Or they’re put out there to purposefully change the subject at hand instead of providing actual feedback or dialogue.

Not only should we choose our battles, but we should think through the absolute importance of the subject at hand.  “Christians” will many times post comments about subjects that are not (or should not be) of greatest importance within the Christian life.  To illustrate this, I generally turn to an analogy of 4 Jars. (Note: I’ll likely refer to the Jars analogy a great deal in future posts, so it’s certainly worth understanding my perspective on this).

Generally speaking, subjects that should be of greatest concern to a follower of Jesus fall into Jars 1 & 2.  These are sometimes referred to by others as “close-fisted” subjects.  They are the topics that one doesn’t change their theology or understanding of.  Examples may include:

Jar 1: What’s essential to be a follower a Jesus?  - Faith in Jesus as resurrected Savior, etc.

Jar 2: A Set of beliefs of a church or group of churches that are essential to the Christian faith – Scripture as having full authority, the doctrine of the Trinity, Jesus as God, etc.  Some may include doctrines such as Eternal Security, or a biblical definition of marriage here as well.  (It should be noted that a biblical definition of marriage – one man, one woman – does not mean one should not advocate domestic partnerships or other “rights” of all individuals.)

After these two Jars, are two more which are doctrines and personal beliefs, of which there may be disagreement.

Jar 3: A set of beliefs of a church that can be disagreed on – Various theological positions on the rapture, speaking in tongues (earthly language vs. angelic language), etc.

Jar 4: Personal beliefs or convictions: Alcohol is one often brought up in an area like this.

There could also be a Jar 5.  These are subjects which are far too often promoted to Jar 1.  This includes subjects like Politics.  I’ve heard countless people tell me, “One cannot be a democrat (or republican) and be a Christian.”  I find this so very frustrating!  The same logic would say, one cannot be a murderer and be a Christian, or a prostitute, or whatever.  But scripture is full of examples to the contrary.  Once one is a follower of Jesus, they are part of the Kingdom of God.  That is the first priority.  Not Western Politics, but representing the King.  Let’s leave these subjects where they belong…

Sadly, far too often people will comment and even have huge amounts of disunity on Jar 3 / 4 subjects.  These are the areas many people spend the bulk of their study and attention and discussion, leaving the crucial aspects of the Christian faith lying on the side.  I find this a bit disheartening, and believe that if followers of Jesus would spend more time in the word (not just talking about what the word says about consuming alcohol), we would all see the subjects that are of much greater importance to the faith.

Now, if this rule of thumb is followed well, it will significantly decrease the number of comments made, and will (at the very least) have one think a little differently about a Jar 3 / 4 subject before posting comments to news articles online.  Nevertheless, when one sees a book, blog, article, etc. that disagrees with something that would fall into a Jar 1 /2 or “close-fisted” belief, then that’s when [I believe] a well thought-out comment is worth providing.

For example, as many of you are probably aware, there’s a new book out titled, “Love Wins”.  Why is there so much commenting or blog articles about “Love Wins”?  For one, when a book comes out by a Christian/Orthodox author (as Bell claims to be) which discusses the subject of eternity, that’s a subject that may be worth commenting.  There is a firm (perhaps “fundamental”) belief that one has on this subject.  If one has their understanding on eternity based from the Scriptures, and it differs from somebody else’s understanding, then there should be dialogue about it.

What troubles me is that there isn’t a whole lot of actual dialogue.  Instead, there’s a great deal of he-said/she-said…  Don’t get me wrong, I have read and seen some great reviews and blogs on the subject where the author fully commends Bell for some of his perspective but disagrees with some of his conclusions and offers scriptural passages and references to back it up.  To these writers, I commend you.  I have also seen snarky reviews where there was absolutely nothing good to say about the book at all.  I find this strange, as Bell has always inclined me to think of things in a different perspective.  While I certainly don’t always agree with him, he has always given me food for thought.

Unfortunately, it seems to be a very two-sided issue.  One either agrees with Bell, or they don’t.  There is no dialogue.  It’s very much a “pick your side” kind of conversation.  This is frustrating to the core.

Personally, I’m in the middle.  I believe that Bell makes some good points throughout the book. Nevertheless, one of the major arguments in the book focuses on a biblical text (in Greek) and discusses how it should be translated and how it’s been incorrectly translated throughout the centuries.  There’s only one problem with this: Rob Bell changed the Greek text.  He changed the phrase using similar verbiage, but nevertheless, words that have a slightly different contextual meaning.

Why is there so much commenting on the book?  Because this is a Jar 1 /2 issue.  The scripture has authority, which means we don’t have authority of the scripture.  If one changes the text, they’re claiming their own authority over God’s Word.  This isn’t a “no comment” kind of situation.  If somebody is a follower of Jesus, I think a published rewording of a biblical text is something anybody should feel free to call out.  One should not reword a biblical text to purposefully give it a slightly different contextual meaning than scholars have given it for centuries.   As Dave Ramsey has said, “If something is 98% true, it’s still a lie.”

Don’t get me wrong, there are insights within “Love Wins” that are valuable.  Quite valuable.  But changing the biblical text causes me great concern.  This is something that should be discussed.  If Bell isn’t willing to discuss why he changed the text, I can see why some would seriously question his theology in other Jar 1 / 2 areas.  However, I don’t think one should judge Bell (that’s God’s job) or rid themselves of all Rob Bell literature believing that he will never provide valuable insights.  He always has and always will be a gifted teacher.  And as with any teacher, some lessons will be of little value, but others will be of great value.  Hold onto the ones worth holding onto, and move on from all others.

To those in one “camp”, I understand your concern about Bell changing the text.  But were there no other benefits to reading the book?  Did you not gain any insights or biblical perspectives that will help you mature in your relationship with Jesus?  To those in the other “camp”, please understand that showing concern for changing the biblical text is a noteworthy concern.  And this type of concern can be made in love.  It is not hate speech for somebody to suggest that an author may have made an exegetical error by changing the text.  Speaking biblical truth shouldn’t be frowned upon.  To both camps, I’m sure if you’ll actually discuss the subject instead of just continuing to use the same talking points, you may discover that you agree on more than you may realize.  And if that’s the case, let’s stop wasting our time and get back to focusing on Jar 1 / 2 issues, and reaching others in the name of Jesus.

What are your thoughts on commenting (on news media, blogs, etc.): Do you believe people comment far too often?  Are their comments made to have dialogue?  Other thoughts on Jars 1-4?

Monday, April 11, 2011


Every year of my life I've suffered with some sinus/allergy issues.  They've been most prominent from around November-April every year.  Due to this, over the past 3-4 years my family doctor has been telling me to go see an ENT or Allergist.  This year, I finally listened.  After some brief Q & A they quickly determined that I should be tested for mold/dust allergies.  I asked about diet and environmental changes, but they wanted to wait until all testing was complete before making any recommendations.  After weeks of waiting, last week the allergist pricked my skin with lots of different molds, dust mites, cockroaches and candida (a natural yeast in the human body).

As it so happens, I have some allergies (no surprise there).  An average dust-mite allergy and an average mold allergy were the two first culprits.  But the Candida pricks just kept coming.  Turns out, I have a pretty severe intolerance to candida.  In fact, the allergist told me she had never seen a case as "extreme" as mine.  And apparently, anytime I eat "moldy" foods, it severely exacerbates the problem.  I knew a diet change was in order, but I didn't expect it to be to this extreme.

Foods I can't (or shouldn't) eat include:
  • Cheese of all kinds (Farmer's Cheese and Amish Butter Cheese are the only acceptable cheeses.)
  • Chocolate - all of it
  • Peanuts and Pistachios
  • Citrus Juices (Orange juice, lemonade, etc.)
  • All soft drinks, regular or diet (coke, pepsi, root-beer...all of it -- gone!)
  • Anything fermented (beer, wine, soy sauce, a1 sauce, worchestershire sauce, etc.)
  • Anything with refined sugars (all sugar should be all natural / organic.)
  • Anything with aspertame (splenda, sweet n low, etc.)
  • And all yeasty breads/pastas/etc.  Whole grain or whole wheat everything...and even that should be in lower amounts than before.
Apparently, I have a huge amount of Candida in my system (which in and of itself causes problems), but when I eat anything on this list above it essentially ferments and causes digestion issues, as well as overall sluggishness...and sinus/allergy issues, too. 

Today, I'm five days into my new eating routine.  I've quickly discovered that I must have been "sluggish" I'm feeling really good!  I DO have some severe cravings for sugary snacks and breads right now, but it'll go away in good time.  And while I realize that I'm very early on in this process, it's good to finally have answers and get on the right track.

Of all the items listed above, what would be the most difficult for you to give up?

PS: If you know of any chicken/beef marinades that don't contain any of these items in them, feel free to pass the recipe along!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What's on your mind?

I'm working on a new post (No Comment 2 of 2), but was thinking that you all could give me ideas on what you'd like my observations on.  Sure, I've got lots I can write about, but much of it may not be of interest to you, personally.  So is there anything you want my perspective on?  Let's keep it to God / Music / People for now.

No guarantee I'll choose your suggestion(s), but feel free to let me know what you want my perspective on.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Musical Monday: Jars of Clay Concert!

Jars of Clay recently traveled to within 30 minutes of my home.  I've seen JOC in concert before, 3 times actually.  But it's been years.  I probably haven't seen them on tour since their Much Afraid album was selling well.  And to be honest, they were never very good live.  I think they were young and still trying to figure out how to have solid stage performance.  That being said, I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to see them on "The Shelter" tour with Audrey Assad, Matt Maher and Derek Webb.

Before the concert, I had a decision to make.  Do I get the regular ticket, or do I go all out and purchase the $45 VIP ticket which included a "Special Merchandise Item" and a meet & greet with the band before the show.  I did some asking around, and the JOC management just would not disclose what the "Special Merchandise Item" would be, other than to say, "It's worth it."  I'm a sucker.  So I bought the "It's worth it," comment, hook, line & sinker.  

The "Bad" of the Concert:
The "Special Merchandise Item" was a poster.  Not music.  Not even a t-shirt.  But a poster.  Sorry Jars', but disappointment doesn't even begin to cover how I feel about this.  $25 for a quick Q & A and a poster.  If you wanted to sell "Gold Circle Seating" for $25 or $30 that may have been worth it.  But $25 extra dollars for a poster and a seat in the 1st-2nd row.  That's not "worth it".  Please be more open with communication in the future.  (On a positive note, I was with a friend who also had a VIP pass, so we were in the 2nd row.  We gave our seats to other friends, one of whom happened to be in town during a break from a military tour in the Middle East.  It felt really nice to give them great seats to enjoy the concert.)

The "Good" of the Concert:
Everything else!  This is probably one of the best concerts I've attended in years.  Seriously, it was amazing.  Audrey Assad began the concert with "Sparrow".  Shortly after she shared a song she had originally written for her (at the time) boyfriend.  When the song was written, they had yet to say, "I love you," to one another.  But, "I love you," sounded so much better than, "I like you a whole bunch," when writing the lyrics, so she went with it.  When playing the song for a small group of friends for the first time, she realized that they hadn't yet said, "I love you," to one another...and she was singing the song!  Uh -oh.  Fortunately, it all worked out, and now they're happily married.  

Matt Maher was up next.  He opened with "Your Grace Is Enough" (no surprise there) and went on to sing "Hold Us Together".  I confess, I don't like "Hold Us Together" very much.  But I can see why others do.

Derek Webb played a number of tunes as well.  He was sure to include "The Spirit vs. The Kick Drum" as well as some new electronic/instrumental tracks from his newest record.  It was pretty cool to hear how Derek transformed the Lord's prayer to music.  I was impressed.

Finally, Jars' performed better than I'd ever seen them perform previously.  "We Will Follow" was a big hit, but they were sure to sing songs not only from "The Shelter" (many of which they included Audrey, Matt & Derek), but also performed songs from "Redemption Songs", "Long Fall Back to Earth", and even a couple from their self-titled album. They were all over the place.  While I would've loved to hear "Headphones" and/or ""Out of my Hands" live, it certainly wasn't a deal-breaker.  They played well and the sound was perfect for a "live" event.  It was wonderful. 

If you have a chance to see Jars of Clay on tour, take the opportunity.  Seriously.  While a VIP ticket may not be "Worth it," the concert is certainly worth the price of admission. 

No Comment (1 of 2):

The growth and success of social networking is evident our culture.  Due to this success, news media outlets are more frequently allowing user comments at the end of the majority of news articles.  Many of them even accept replies to comments so that a public dialogue/debate can go forth.  This has been a blessing for the news media outlets, as it allows advertisers to get their name seen by the same people repeatedly. 

However, it also shows that we have a large number of experts in just about every field out there!  And when the “experts” are silent, others who are more judgmental (even hateful) crawl out of the woodwork.  For example:

CNN News Headline #1: US is 18th in the World in Education

User Comment #1: We’re losing the race! We need to get more engineers, physics majors, etc. out into the workplaces pronto. 

Replies #’s 1-4: I agree!  I can’t believe that the US is now behind all of these other countries.

CNN News Headline #2: Radiation Problems Continue in Japan

User Comment #1: I have a PhD in Nuclear Physics.  The problem in Japan isn’t that severe.  It’ll take time, but no worries, folks.

Reply #1: I have a PhD in Nuclear Physics as well.  Are you crazy!?  This is a serious problem! I don’t want to use fear tactics or anything, but this problem is much more severe than you make it out to be…

Reply #2: I have an advanced degree in chemical engineering and I’ve worked in Nuclear Energy for 25+ years.  You’re both right, but here’s what people really to know…

Reply #3: Wow, apparently the US isn’t at all behind in our Education system.  “Experts” are everywhere!

This is a simple example.  A worse one would be:

FoxNews Headline: 4-year old Kidnapped in Park

User Comment #1: It’s our Mooslem Kenyan President’s fault! The family allowed the child to be kidnapped on purpose because the health care bill will be detrimental to their family...and the rest of the nation, too!

There will ultimately be 20 replies, with many of them justifying the political statement made in the original post, but going on to say they’ll be praying for the family and the well-being of the child.  Seriously?  This is the best they can come up with?  Perhaps our Education system is more behind than we realize.

 Note to Self: Stop reading user comments.  Just stop.  While observing culture should continue to remain important, reading these comments swings wide the door to a judgmental attitude (Romans 2:1).  Always remember that there will be scholars and philosophers ready to share their “wisdom”, but that true wisdom comes in preaching Christ crucified (Proverbs 2:6; 1 Cor. 1:20-25).

Friday, April 1, 2011

Relational Vomit:

Operator: “911, what’s your emergency?”

Caller: “Oh it’s awful!  Just awful!  I don’t know what’s happening next door, but it sounds dreadful.  Please send somebody right away!”

Operator: “Sir, what seems to be the problem?”

Caller: “I don’t know.  I can’t see into their house.  But something isn’t right.  Some kind of strange disturbance.  Some… wretched noise…seriously, you need to send help right away!”

Operator: “What’s the address?”

Caller: “Yes it’s…”

Operator: “Sir, there’s no alarm.  His wife informed us this morning we may receive calls.”

Caller: “What’s wrong?”

Operator: “He has the flu, sir.  Have a good day.”

Caller: “Ok….?”

Operator: *click*

Vomiting is a horrendous experience.  Well, maybe not for everyone.  Some people walk into a bathroom, open their mouth, and quietly allow the contents of their last meal to traverse from the depths of their stomach, up their throat, out their mouth, and it’s all done in secret.  Nobody even knows it happened.

Not me.  When I vomit, everybody knows about it.  The flu has encased my very soul.  The contents of my last meal have betrayed me with the worst kind of betrayal known to man.  And it will pay, it will pay dearly.  I will get down on my hands and knees and use every muscle in my God-created body to spew that meal out of my system.  Velocity and carnal damage is of no consequence.  That meal is coming up, and it’s coming up hard.  If any small bits and pieces stay behind, I’ll be coming back to the throne-room again.  Six times if necessary.  Neighbors may wonder what’s happening.  Ocean currents may be impacted.  But that meal is coming up.  And I’ll be danged if I’m not kicking some rock-hard abs when it’s all said and done.

Our culture doesn’t comprehend that relationships require vomit.  I’m not sure how many people have told me this, but it’s evidenced throughout our culture that one must have an affinity with another human being to have a relationship with them.  Did you know that?  It’s true.  I’ve heard it from countless numbers of people.  If you don’t have an affinity toward another person – or common interests in the same interests they have – then no real bond can ever form.  You’re off the hook.  You can go hang out with others who are more like you.  Who think more like you.

Hmmm…that’s never sat well with me. 

In fact, somebody I considered a good friend of mine once told me this very same thing – relationships require affinity...period.  Unfortunately, we had very little in common.  The writing was on the wall, this relationship was headed for disaster.  After some honest discussion, things went downhill…fast.  So I did the only thing I knew to do.  I vomited my thoughts and feelings all over the place.  It was messy.  He looked at me as if I may need some kind of medical attention.  But when it was done, something amazing happened.  I’ll never forget it.  He picked up a towel and started helping clean up the mess.  It changed my life.  It changed his life, too.  And after dozens of hours of dialogue of trying to get on the same page, our relationship is fully restored.  It wasn’t pretty.  There were disagreements.  Maybe even some yelling.  But the vomit is gone.

Unfortunately, this situation isn’t the norm.  Sometimes I vomit my thoughts and feelings up all over the place and receive returned looks of pity.  I start cleaning up the mess; they start walking out the door.  Months later, they may wonder why things aren’t working out the way they once were.  It’s because the vomit is still there.  My personality reeks of it.  I’m still the same person, but they’ve moved on.

One cannot base all relationships solely on affinity.  Instead, one must choose to have a relationship with another human being.  That’s my conviction.  “Relationship” is a verb.  It takes action.  Transparency.  Determination.  This is an amazingly simple understanding, but living it out is extremely difficult.  Most people don’t even want to try.  It’s too messy.  Too smelly.  They give up.

This conviction of mine is all based on the life of Jesus.  Now, if Jesus was simply a human being and teacher, then one could argue that his relationships were based on affinity.  He was homeless.  He was a wanderer.  And he hung out with those who lived a similar lifestyle, giving bits and pieces of wisdom along the way.  But if Jesus was God (which I believe to be the case), then his example is completely different.  He created the universe and everything in it.  He came from heaven to earth.  And while on earth he began relationships with people who had no affinity with God.  There was no similar lifestyle.  No similar education.  No similar family life.  Yet he destroyed all socio-economic norms.  He began to form relationships with them.  Living with them.  Laughing with them.  Crying with them.  Even moments of vomiting thoughts and feelings occurred.  And Jesus decided to help clean up the mess.  It changed their lives.  Their broken relationships with God were fully restored.  Amazing.

If you have a relationship that seems to be going downhill, give it a good vomit and see what happens. You may receive the cold shoulder.  You may be left to clean up the mess all by yourself.  But maybe, just maybe something beautiful will happen.  The relationship will be restored. And maybe you’ll be restored, too.