What Satan Can Teach Us About Lent

Several years ago, I read a dramatic billboard sign that compelled the reader to think about Satan. The billboard read:

Do you believe in Satan? He believes in you.

A striking message, isn’t it? Many of us choose not to think too much about the forces of evil or how Satan plays a part in the Christian story. However, Satan is very much a part of the Christian story, but he is not an inspiring character. Since the beginning of the biblical record, Satan (in Hebrew hasatan means “accuser”) existed in various forms. The presence or mention of the demonic is documented in Genesis, Job, Psalms, Zechariah, the Gospels, and Revelation.

As a way to prepare for the celebration of Easter, Christians all around the world will prepare through the season of Lent. For 40 days (not including Sundays) Christians mark this time through study, prayer, fasting, reflection, worship, service, and meditation on God’s word. Lent provides a way for Christians to change the rhythm of their life by contemplating the less glamorous Christian imperatives such as forgiveness, morality, repentance, suffering, and penitence.

Believe it or not, Satan can teach us about Lent in the Christian life. How? Beginning in the book of Luke, Jesus departs for the wilderness in chapter 4 and confronts Satan, the Accuser: [Read more…]

Lets Freak out about Rob Bell!

Run for the hills! Rob Bell is heretical! Ahhhhh!!!

If you have not followed the story, famed pastor, speaker, author, and Nooma guru has a new book coming out entitled, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. A few chapters were released to a few bloggers and writers.

Those who have read the incomplete manuscript resolve that Rob Bell is a heretic  and his career is over. The claims have ranged from he is an Universalist or he is the devil.

Here is the video that is causing the stir

Let’s all freak out about Rob Bell!

Folks, Bell has always been on the edge of Christianity and that is a good thing.  More on that later. I have not read the book or seen the pre-released chapters, but let’s not jump to conclusions like some other big time Christian figures, authors, and pastors.  Check out their comments: [Read more…]

Justin Bieber Says, 'Just Pray'

As tween pop culture singer Justin Bieber just celebrated his 17th birthday, he makes it clear that he is serious about his faith in Jesus Christ. Bieber’s new 3-D concert film/documentary “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never,” features the singer praying, speaking about his beliefs and speaking about his commitment to Jesus Christ.

Millions of Bieber fans might not know but he received his start from singing Christian songs on YouTube. His current songs feature religious messages such as his single “Pray,”:  “I close my eyes and pray. I close my eyes and I can see a better day.” The music video concludes with the word, “God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer.”

Young pop stars sharing their faith is nothing new. The Jonas Brothers certainly made their beliefs known in very public ways. I was surprised to see an interview with Bieber’s mother, Pattie Mallette who talked about guarding her son from the music world’s pitfalls. [Read more…]

What Lent and Weddings Have in Common

One the ways weddings become such a momentous and exciting event is the fact that there is an engagement period.  A couple announces their intent to be wed and sets a date.  Over a period of months, planning becomes paramount.  Flowers, dresses, guest lists, food, location, and a million other little details go into planning a wedding.  Anticipation builds as the wedding comes closer.  The ceremony begins, vows are given, rings exchanged, and finally the pronouncement (and the kiss)!  Usually, there is a joyous reception that follows which signals the end of waiting and celebrates the joining of two people together in marriage.

Lent is fast approaching.  A time in the Christian Church where preparations are made in anticipation of Easter.  Lent is a period of forty days before Easter (not counting Sundays). The word “lent” comes from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “spring” and refers to a season when the days become longer.

Many Christians question the usefulness of Lent.  “It’s Catholic.” or “It’s about punishment.” are typical responses to Lent.  Christians for hundreds of years have made Lent into a spiritual journey. However, many contemporary Christians ask, “Do I really need a structured way of preparing for Easter?” [Read more…]

St. Valentine a Myth?


Today, February 14, is the celebration of Valentine’s day. A day in which lovers exchange gifts, cards, and candy to express love. Many think this is a holiday created by card companies and businesses to encourage people to buy more stuff. Is there a source to which we can either blame or thank for the genesis of this holiday?

The observance of Valentine’s Day become popular in England during the Victorian era. Traditions of sending love notes to lovers were made popular by famous writers, such as Geoffrey Chaucer, who help perpetuate the holiday.  Throughout history, many connected Valentine with love, but clear evidence is lacking.

The origin of Valentine’s Day is mysterious. Valentine’s Day comes from a figure in Christian history but the exact identity of St. Valentine is difficult to prove. Tradition holds Valentine was a priest in Rome, who aided and sheltered Christians in persecution under Claudius II. In addition, he would marry Christian couples under the newly found faith of Christianity. Valentine was caught, and sent to Rome to renounce his faith. Valentine was be beaten with clubs and was be beheaded. He was executed on February 14, sometime around year 270.

One tradition holds that Valentine himself sent the first “Valentine” card:

While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl — who may have been his jailor’s daughter — who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today.

But, was there more than one man known as Valentine?

[Read more…]

Egypt: Blessed Are The Peacemakers

As I write this post, I’m watching the people of Egypt celebrating the end of nearly 30 years of autocratic rule of their country.  President Mubarak resigned and left the country. People are setting off fireworks, waving flags, cheering, and singing in the streets of Cairo.

Despite brief isolated incidents of violence, there were no wide spread  incidents of violence by protesters in 18 days. Though over 300 people were killed by anti-protesters, it took the peaceful protests of passionate and patient people to topple an unjust government.

We have seen Tunisia and Egypt change. Two countries in the Middle Eastern world champion a revolution. In Cairo, men, women, and children camped out for more than two weeks to protest. Christians and Muslims protected one another through this revolution. [Read more…]

Debunking ‘The Debunking of Biblical Marriage’

Recently, a fellow American Baptist wrote a  challenging article concerning marriage in the Bible. After reading it, I decided to respond by debunking, “Debunking ‘Biblical marriage': Why the Bible can’t dictate today’s sexual morals” by Jennifer Wright Knust. Knust recently posted a column for the Washington Post’s On Faith blog where she basically throws out many key understandings of marriage and sexuality in the Bible.

Much has already been said about the fading of marriage in this country and around the world. Many Christians have sought to understand where Christian marriage fits in today’s culture.  Is it an outdated institution?

Jennifer Wright Knust is an Assistant Professor of Religion at Boston University and an ordained American Baptist. She is bright and logical, but her conclusions on biblical marriage are not faithful to understanding scripture. She says:

[Read more…]

Why I Wear A Clergy Collar

As many in my church know, I often wear a clergy collar for hospital visits.  When I visit parishioners or when I’m asked to give an opening prayer at a fireman’s dinner, the collar goes on.

For those who are versed in denominationalism or protestant traditions, you know that vast majority of Baptist ministers do not wear clergy collars. Those funny looking white tabs or rounded white collars that ministers wear are most identified with Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran traditions.

If collars are not required for Baptist ministers or not a part of the Baptist tradition, what is a Baptist doing wearing one?

[Read more…]

'Banned' Religious Super Bowl Ad Airs

A Super Bowl ad that was originally “banned” by Fox Television because it was potentially  offensive aired during the big game. The ad features several people watching a football game and the camera zooms in on the television. A football player’s eye black displays “John 3:16″. The people watching the television wonder what it means and one man says, “I’ll look it up.”  Watch the video here:

Of course, John 3:16 reads: For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (NRSV)  This verse from the Bible is used by Christians at sporting events. Tim Tebow was known for scripture verses on his eye black during his college days.

Who is behind this ad? Larry Taunton, the executive director of the Fixed Point Foundation explains: [Read more…]

An Apology To Readers

Here's my "I'm sorry" gift basket.

I must fess up. I’ve neglected my blog for the last two months. I’m sorry to my readers. What keeps a blog going are consistent posts that are thought provoking and timely. My blogging output was seriously deficient the past two months.  I apologize and owe you an explanation.

Several things have held my attention. Namely, finishing my book manuscript on associate minister ministry for Judson Press was paramount. Writing, proofing (thanks to Kristen Champion-Terrell for her help), and completing 159 pages was an exercise in patience.  My editor was gracious with my revised due dates. Finding time for manuscript writing was a learning process. Every writer has their process and I discovered mine.

Being a pastor and writing a book is no small task.  I am fortunate and thankful for a thriving congregation. Putting writing off for late night hospital visits, retreats, evening meetings, and other church events was a constant reality. If pastoral work was not enough, certainly my duties as a General Board member for the American Baptist Churches and serving on the Board of Directors for the American Baptist Home Mission Society took up a few days here and there.  Finally, attending my Lewis Fellows meetings takes away writing time too.

Don’t get me wrong. All of this good, really good. I’ve learned a lot and connected with many new people to help broaden my ministry. However, I discovered a few important realities when trying to write a book and balancing work, life, and family: [Read more…]

Forgive Me iPhone, I've Sinned

The ever growing bridge between technology and religion is expanding everyday. No longer will digital Bibles apps be the only religious tool that populates Blackberrys, iPhone, and other electronic devices. A newly released iPhone app allows uses to connect to a “confession” community to admit personal transgressions.  The app description explains:

The fundamental manner in which Penance differs from other confession apps is that it is structured to create a self-sustaining community rather than be a simple whiteboard for posting confessions (that can at best be rated by those who view them).

Apparently, download users must be over age of 17 in order to download the app. This suggests that users can face some racy confessions. It appears there is a gimmick to the app because like 4square users can earn destinations based on use:

[Read more…]