Seven Obstacles to Sharing Your Faith, Part 1

While web-surfing the other day, I ran across an article on by Chris Lutes entitled Seven Reasons Not to Share Christ (and why we should go ahead and do it anyway).  I thought it would make a good a good blog series.

Lutes writes for his first reason:

1) “I’m not smart enough”

Fact: Jesus’ disciples weren’t known for their brains or theology degrees. They were pretty ordinary guys, really. Take the time Peter and John were telling a hostile crowd of religious leaders about Jesus. Here’s how Acts 4:13 puts it: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (ESV). Look at that last part again: And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. Maybe you’ve heard this saying: “It’s not what you know that counts. It’s who you know.” Knowing Jesus is what matters. You are smart enough to tell others about Jesus because you have a friendship with him. And the closer you get to him, and the better you know him, the more you’ll have to say about him.

It doesn’t take a theology degree to share the Gospel.  In fact, theologians often use so much technical language that nobody understands a word they say.

The Gospel is actually very simple.   All of us are sinners – we all do things that offend God.  Sin separates us from God, and the penalty for sin is death.  There is nothing we can do to get rid of sin – our good works simply cover up the problem.  The only way to for us to get rid of sin was for a perfect substitute to take the penalty in our place.  Jesus Christ was that perfect substitute.  In Jesus Christ, God became a perfect man, who lived a perfect life, and who voluntarily died on the cross as our substitute.  His resurrection is our guarantee of eternal life.  If we repent of our sin and ask Jesus Christ to forgive us, and believe God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved.

Many people want to add a lot of deep, theological stuff to the Gospel message.  While the extra stuff may very well be theologically and Biblically correct, it’s often more information than a person needs in order to be saved.  If you are a young Christian, and don’t understand all the deep, theological stuff, don’t let it stop you from telling others about Jesus.  As you study God’s Word, over time, you’ll start getting a better grip on all the deeper theology the Bible contains.  In the meantime, don’t be afraid to tell others about Jesus.  Just tell them how you were saved, how you came to know Him as your Lord and Savior, and how He has changed your life.  If you’re not comfortable doing this, just ask them to come with you to church, or have a Christian friend talk to the person with you.  Like anything else in life, the more you practice, the easier it gets, and the better you will become at sharing your faith.  If the person you’re talking to starts asking a lot of questions that you don’t know how to answer, don’t panic; just explain that you don’t know the answer yet, and that you’ll get back to them.  Then, have a Christian brother or sister help you find the answers, and then share the answers the next time you talk.

A Scout is…Thrifty

At the beginning of every Boy Scout meeting, each Scout recites the Boy Scout Oath and Boy Scout Law.  Many Scouts don’t realize the connection between the Scout Law and Oath and the Bible.  Lord Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouting movement, once said, “Scouting is nothing less than applied Christianity” – (Scouting & Christianity, 1917).

This is the continuation of the series of blogs examining the connection between the values of Scouting and the Bible.

A Scout is…Thrifty

A Scout works to pay his own way and to help others.  He saves for the future.  He protects and conserves natural resources.  He is careful with his use of time and property.

The ninth point of the Scout Law is, “A Scout is thrifty.”

Thrifty living is encouraged in the Bible.  Proverbs 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, But those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.”  The Personal Management Merit Badge, which is required for the Eagle rank, requires the Scout to create a budget and track income and expenses for a period of time.  In 2 Thessalonians 3:10, Paul writes, “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”  Scouts also help raise the funds for troop expenses, as well as camping trips and other activities.

Thriftiness not only applies to money, but also to natural resources.  Scouts are taught to both use and conserve the environment.  Genesis 1:28 says, “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”  Genesis 2:15 says, “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.”  The Biblical principle is for mankind to take care of the earth, but also to use its resources in a thrifty manner.  Having dominion implies ownership; subduing the earth involves learning how to use it; tending and keeping involves taking care of it.

The value of thriftiness is one of the key values held by Scouts, based on Biblical values.  Baden-Powell considered Biblical values to be the key to proper living; this is why the values of Scouting were based on these principles.

Intolerant Toleration

Tolerate  verb \ˈtä-lə-ˌrāt\

2 a : to allow to be or to be done without prohibition, hindrance, or contradiction
    b : to put up with <learn to tolerate one another>
synonyms:  let, permit, allow

One of the most highly overused buzzwords in American culture today is tolerance, along with its antonym, intolerance.  According to many people, intolerance has become the greatest evil.  Anyone who disagrees with abortion, homosexuality, universal health care, gun control, open immigration, or welfare is intolerant; anyone who supports the death penalty, big business, or public expression of religious belief is intolerant.  The list could go on ad infinitum.

It’s interesting to note that the words tolerate, toleration, and intolerant, do not appear anywhere in the United States Constitution, nor in any of its amendments.

What is Toleration?

What does it really mean to tolerate something or someone?  According to the dictionary definition, toleration involves allowing or permitting things with which one does not agree.  It means that a person puts up with ideas and practices they may disagree with or find offensive.  For example, I am personally offended by the odor of fish; I despise eating fish, and the smell is disgusting to me.  To me, the odor of fish is about the same as the odor from a gym shoe that has been left in a locker for far too long.  However, I tolerate other people who eat fish in the lunchroom at work.  I don’t ask them to leave because they are violating my right to a fish-odor free work environment.  If the odor becomes too offensive to me, I simply find someplace else to eat.

When the word tolerate is used in most political or religious discussions, it means something very different.  When the argument is made that Christians are intolerant of gays, what is usually meant is that Christians disagree with the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) lifestyle.  The meaning of the word “tolerate” is shifted from “to allow to be” to mean “to agree with and endorse.”  If a person believes the LGBT is immoral, they are labeled as “intolerant.”  If a person does not agree with and endorse the beliefs of others, they are labeled as intolerant.

Is it Always Wrong to be Intolerant?

There are times when it is obviously wrong to tolerate certain beliefs or behaviors.  For example, if a 2-year-old wants to play in the middle of a busy street, it should not be tolerated.  Nearly everyone would agree that rape, child abuse, and armed robbery should not be tolerated.  These things should not be permitted or allowed under any circumstances.  Clearly, tolerance of child molestation would be immoral; therefore, intolerance is not always a bad thing.

The problem arises in the fact that our culture does not have a universal standard for defining morality and ethics.  Most people, regardless of their political or religious persuasion, would agree that society should not tolerate immoral and unethical behavior.  Where we disagree is in defining what is immoral and unethical.  In general, liberals consider abortion and gay marriage to be basic human rights; conservatives consider them to be abhorrent.  Conservatives generally consider gun rights and competitive capitalism as basic freedoms; liberals consider these things repugnant.  Americans do not have a consensus on the morality or ethics of most issues, and as a result, the divisions between Americans have never been greater.

The Consequences of “Tolerance”

Judges 17:6 (NKJV) 6 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

In Israel, the king stood for an absolute standard.  When there was no king, or when the king tolerated it, the people always chose to do whatever they felt they could get away with.  They worshipped idols, murdered each other, raped the women, and committed other atrocities.  When they had a king who followed God’s Word and refused to tolerate open sin, the people lived in peace.

In American culture today, there is no absolute standard, and people are doing whatever they think they can get away with.  Crime has skyrocketed; the rich get richer, while the poor get poorer; teen pregnancy, drug addictions, child abuse, poverty, and many other evils are at or near their all-time highest levels.  The economy has tanked, hatred has risen, and there is no peace.

Because in America we have come to view tolerance as our supreme value, we are suffering the consequences.  America was founded on Biblical values, and the country thrived.  However, now that we have largely abandoned those values, America is a land of discord and upheaval.  We have reaped what we have sown.

Intolerant Toleration

Dan Savage

What bothers me most about the entire “tolerance” movement is the hypocrisy.  Let me give an example.  At a recent National High School Journalism Convention, journalist Dan Savage, who is gay, was scheduled to give a speech on tolerance and bullying.  What he gave was an intolerant, mocking rant against Christians and the Bible.  When students walked out on his speech, Savage publicly called the students “pansy-assed” for leaving.  Apparently it’s intolerant and bullying to believe homosexuality is a sin, but perfectly acceptable to publicly mock and verbally bully Christian teens.


There is a modern myth that believes that true tolerance consists of neutrality. It is one of the most engrained presuppositions in a society based on relativism.  In reality, however, there is no neutrality; the presupposition of relativism is itself a non-neutral bias.  In effect, the doctrine of tolerance leads to the view that all beliefs must be accepted – except the belief that some things are absolutely right, and others are absolutely wrong.  It’s OK to be intolerant of intolerant people.  The logical silliness of this position is that, by being intolerant of intolerant people, one becomes an intolerant person.   It’s a self-refuting, unworkable, hypocritical belief.  All worldviews, beliefs, and behaviors should be permitted and embraced – except those that disagree with this position.  Such incredible hypocrisy!

The Christian Response

As a Christian, how should I respond to the issue of tolerance?  In the Romans 12:18, Paul exhorts the Christian: “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”  Those who follow Jesus Christ are called to love all people, despite their lifestyle, sexual orientation, or beliefs.  However, we are not to accept or endorse sin.  It sounds cliché, but Christians truly are called to love the sinner, but hate the sin.  God hates sin; but, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Unfortunately, some who call themselves “Christians” haven’t gotten this through their thick skulls yet.  Idiots like Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist “Church” are even more evil and hypocritical than people like Dan Savage.  Both ignore God’s call to love your neighbor as yourself , but if one claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ, yet still hates people, I can’t help but doubt that they’re actually saved.  Jesus said we would know the true believer by their fruit; when a “Christian” is full of hatred and intolerance, their fruit says they aren’t true Christians.

How should a Christian engage the political process regarding the issue of “tolerance?”  I think it’s important to oppose abortion, poverty, homosexual marriage, euthanasia, corporate greed, and similar moral issues.  It’s also important to stand up for our rights under the United States Constitution to believe as God has directed, and to publicly express those beliefs. Ultimately, however, we need to realize we cannot create moral behavior through legislation.  The only way to restore the Biblical values that America was founded on is to change people’s hearts and minds, one person at a time.  It is only by the saving power of Jesus Christ that sinners’ hearts and minds can be changed; it is therefore the Christian’s prime responsibility to share the Gospel.  America can only be restored when Americans once again turn to God as the foundation for their worldview, and this will only happen when individual Americans receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  Yes, we need to continue to influence the political process with Biblical principles and practices, but our true impact will be to see people come to Jesus Christ.

Evangelical Christians also need to be very careful that they do not embrace un-Biblical beliefs simply because they are “conservative.”  Because we hold to conservative moral beliefs, there is a tendency to uncritically adopt other conservative principles without searching the Scriptures to see if they are valid.  The words of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are no more the Word of God than the words of Dan Savage or Barack Obama.  Christians must base their beliefs on the Bible, not the ideas of men, or else they will end up just as hypocritical as any non-Christian.

Random stuff from Facebook and emails, Part 2

Random pictures I either
found on Facebook
or had emailed to me.

Part 2:  Religious pictures/sayings/humor

Because these pictures all came off Facebook or emails, I’m not sure where any of this stuff originated, so if anyone knows, post a comment, and I’ll credit the source and link to it.

Click on a photo to see a larger version:


Geocaching 101

Rich with a geocache

Since October 5, 2001, I have been playing a game called geocaching.  What is geocaching?  It’s sort of a high-tech treasure hunt.  People hide a container of some sort – a “cache” – containing a logbook and sometimes other stuff somewhere out in the world.  Using a GPS device, they obtain the latitude and longitude coordinates for the hiding spot, then post them online.  Other people then download the coordinates, and go look for the container.  When they find the container, they sign the logbook.  If there is something else in the cache, the player has the option to trade something they brought with them for something in the cache.  They then re-hide the container in the place they found it.  Later, they can go to the website where the cache is listed, and create an online log documenting their visit.

By far, the biggest and most popular geocache listing website is  As of the time this was written, there were 1,728,669 active geocaches listed on  Other geocache listing sites include,,,, and

The only things a person needs to go geocaching is an account on one of the listing websites, and a handheld GPS device of some sort.  If a person is good with aerial photos, they can even get by without the GPS, using a service such as Google Earth to download aerial photos with the cache location marked.  I did this for years, and still do, from time-to-time.

Geocache under a bridge

Geocaches can be hidden almost anywhere – in forests, on the side of the road, in city parks, or in a Wal*Mart parking lot.  I have one hidden in my front yard.  Some places – such as national parks and some nature preserves – will not allow caches, and most sites have some kind of guidelines regarding where is considered acceptable, or not, to place caches.

The containers can range in size from a 5-gallon (or bigger) container, to a “nanocache” no bigger than a pencil eraser.  There are even a few “virtual” caches, without an actual container.  All caches (except the virtuals) contain some sort of log book or log sheet for the finder to sign.

Some caches contain trade items – called “swag” – in addition to the log book.  Very seldom is the swag valuable; typically, it’s small toys, nick-knacks, and dollar-store trinkets.  If a cacher finds a cache and wants a swag item from the cache, they are supposed to replace the item with something they have brought with them, of equal or greater value than what they remove.


Some people ask me, what’s the point of geocaching, if there’s not a real treasure to find?  The fun is the hunt.  There’s something about hunting for things that other people have hidden that seems to be intrinsically entertaining for a lot of people.   It’s like hide-and-seek for geeks.  It’s fascinating to see all the different, creative ways people can hide a cache, often in plain sight, so that a passer-by won’t find it, but someone who is looking for it can find it.

Another thing that makes geocaching fun is the variety of kinds of caches.  Most caches are of the “traditional” variety – the GPS coordinates take you to the cache location.  There are also “multi-caches” where the GPS takes the person to a clue, that gives them another set of coordinates leading to another clue, leading to another, eventually leading to the final cache location.  “Puzzle” caches require the hunter to solve some sort of puzzle to obtain the coordinates for the cache; some puzzles are simple, but others can be extremely difficult.  There are even “event caches” where geocachers meet at a certain place and time to swap stories, share a meal, and/or participate in geocaching-related activities.

Geocaches can be easy or difficult to find.  Caches are given a difficulty and terrain rating by the hider, on a scale of 1 (easy) to 5 (difficult).  A terrain of 1 should be wheelchair accessible; a terrain of 5 requires specialized equipment, such as climbing gear, scuba gear, or a boat.  A difficulty of 1 means the location should be obvious once the cacher is nearby; a difficulty of 5 means that the cache will be very difficult to find, even if the hunter is right next to it.

Travel Bug

Many geocaches also contain “trackable” items.  These items have a unique serial number attached, which allows them to be assigned to a specific cache.  When a cacher removes the trackable item from the cache, they move it to a different cache, and log the move online using the serial number.  In this manner, trackables can be tracked as they move from cache to cache, and from cacher to cacher.  Common trackable items include Travel Bugs and geocoins.  Trackable serial numbers can even be attached to vehicles, ballcaps, and t-shirts.

Geocaching is a great way to see new places and meet new people.  Many areas have geocaching clubs that meet together from time to time, volunteer in parks, or work with local governing authorities to keep geocaching safe and accessible.  If a person has an interest in the outdoors, moderate computer skills, and a flair for adventure, geocaching is a great way to explore the world.  Most caches are good for small children, the elderly, and everyone in between.  My son has been hunting them since he was barely 3 years old.  Many can be accessed by people with physical disabilities.  Geocaching is a great diversion when traveling – most highway rest areas have at least one cache, and tourist areas are popular places to hide geocaches.

If you think geocaching sounds interesting, give it a try.  But beware – it’s addicting!

For more information, visit the website.

The Christian Foundation of Atheist Values

What most atheists fail to recognize is that the majority of the beliefs that they value are Christian in origin.  In an April 15, 2012 article posted on, atheist Chris Berg acknowledges the Christian foundation of modern secular values.  Berg writes,


…virtually all the secular ideas that non-believers value have Christian origins. To pretend otherwise is to toss the substance of those ideas away. It was theologians and religiously minded philosophers who developed the concepts of individual and human rights. Same with progress, reason, and equality before the law: it is fantasy to suggest these values emerged out of thin air once people started questioning God.


He is, of course, correct.  For example, most atheists highly value the scientific method as the primary means of gaining knowledge.  The scientific method was developed by Sir Francis Bacon – a Christian.  Bacon wrote, “There are two books laid before us to study, to prevent our falling into error; first, the volume of the Scriptures, which reveal the will of God; then the volume of the Creatures, which express His power.”  The scientific method was derived from Biblical principles.

A mantra of atheism is the separation of church and state – the core of atheist political philosophy.  Berg points out the Biblical origins of this concept:

Early Christian philosophers thought seriously about what Jesus’s words, ”Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s,” meant for the formation of political society.

Another core belief of most atheists if human rights.  Again, Berg points out the Christian origins of human rights:

The idea of human rights was founded centuries ago on Christian assumptions, advanced by Biblical argument, and advocated by theologians. Modern supporters of human rights have merely picked up a set of well-refined ethical and moral arguments.

At the end of his article, Berg makes the following profound statement:

But while our age may be secular, it is, at the same time, still a deeply Christian one. If atheists feel they must rip up everything that came before them, they will destroy the very foundations of that secularism.

I doubt that even Berg understands the implications of this statement.  Since modern atheism is built on a foundation of Christian beliefs, it is ultimately self-refuting!  If atheism is true, then God does not exist;  if God does not exist, then Biblical principles, such as truth, love, human rights, honesty, and reason are meaningless;  and, if these values are meaningless, modern atheism is also meaningless!

Here’s another example:  Atheists typically believe the scientific method is the source of knowledge.  The Humanist Manifesto III states, “Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis. Humanists find that science is the best method for determining this knowledge as well as for solving problems and developing beneficial technologies.”  The scientific method is predicated on the fact that the universe follows absolute, unchanging, universal laws.  Here’s the paradox:  If there is no God, then why would the universe follow absolute, unchanging, universal laws?  If there is no God, then the universe should be random, and should not follow any laws at all!  Yet, it’s not random; it’s highly organized by absolute physical laws that should not exist if God does not exist.

Chris Berg is correct to recognize the Christian foundation for modern atheist values, but he’s completely missed the implications of this truth:  atheism is self-refuting, and therefore irrational.  Atheism couldn’t exist if it were true.  “If atheists feel they must rip up everything that came before them, they will destroy the very foundations of that secularism.”  If only atheists understood the implications of this statement!

Did Jesus Die For the Whole World?

Some Christians would argue that Jesus Christ only died for the “elect” – that God chose, or elected, certain people that would be saved (the Elect), and chose to send the rest (the Reprobate) to Hell.  Human beings have no choice in the matter; if God picks you, you will believe and be saved, but if He doesn’t pick you, you have no chance to be saved.  This belief is fundamental to Calvinism.

There are several verses in the Bible that contradict this belief.  One of these is 1 John 2:2:

 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

First, what does “propitiation” mean?  Propitiation can be defined as the act of appeasing one offended and gaining his favor.  When John says that Jesus Christ is the propitiation for our sins, he means that only the blood of Jesus Christ can appease God’s wrath against human sin, and can put sinners into God’s favor.  Only through Jesus Christ can our sins be paid for; only through Jesus can we be reconciled to God.

The problem for Calvinists is the second part of the verse:  “…and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”  Taken in a straight-forward manner, this verse says that the propitiation for sin is available not only to John’s audience, but to everyone.  Who was John’s audience?  Most scholars believe John was primarily writing to Jewish Christians – first century people who were born and brought up as Jews, but who became Christian believers after the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

John Samson, a reformed pastor, writes on

… we approach the First Epistle of John, and remember that it is a letter written to a primarily Jewish audience. So in 1 John 2:2, as in the rest of the letter, we have the Apostle John, a Jew, writing primarily to fellow Jewish believers in the Messiah. He writes of Jesus Christ being “the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world.” It is possible that the word “world” here refers to every person on planet earth, but in my estimation, not very likely, because of the fact that we have a Jew, writing to fellow Jews. I think it is far more likely that John is here declaring that Christ died not only for our sins (the sins of Jewish people), but for also for those of the whole world (the sins of Gentiles throughout the world).

Samson is arguing that the phrase, “the whole world,” doesn’t mean the whole world, but the elect gentiles.  This is an example of coming to the text with a preconceived idea, and forcing one’s understanding into the text.  Samson presupposes Calvinism, but when the text contradicts his presupposition, he simply forces his presupposition into the text to make it say what he wants it to say.  He even acknowledges that a plain reading of the text doesn’t support his view –  “It is possible that the word “world” here refers to every person on planet earth” – but he then explains why he thinks the text means exactly the opposite of what it says.

What did John Calvin have to say about this verse?  Quoted on, he writes:

Here a question may be raised, how have the sins of the whole world been expiated? I pass by the dotages of the fanatics, who under this pretense extend salvation to all the reprobate, and therefore to Satan himself. Such a monstrous thing deserves no refutation. They who seek to avoid this absurdity, have said that Christ suffered sufficiently for the whole world, but efficiently only for the elect. This solution has commonly prevailed in the schools. Though then I allow that what has been said is true, yet I deny that it is suitable to this passage; for the design of John was no other than to make this benefit common to the whole Church. Then under the word all or whole, he does not include the reprobate, but designates those who should believe as well as those who were then scattered through various parts of the world. For then is really made evident, as it is meet, the grace of Christ, when it is declared to be the only true salvation of the world.

Calvin is arguing that “the whole world” actually means “the whole church,” which would exclude the reprobate, and only include the elect.  Again, the problem is that John didn’t write, “the whole church.”  He wrote “the whole world.”  Again, this is an example of trying to fit one’s personal beliefs into the Scriptures, despite the fact that they don’t fit.  In effect, Calvinists must claim that John didn’t write what he meant to write; he didn’t phrase his statement clearly.  And, since God Himself inspired John to write 1 John, God must have gotten it wrong, too.  It is ironic that Calvinists, who focus so much on God’s sovereignty, must in effect deny His sovereignty, and argue that God goofed, because  1 John 2:2 doesn’t mean what it says.

What does 1 John 2:2 mean?  Does it mean, as others would argue, that everyone is saved?  1 John 2:2 states that Jesus is the propitiation for the whole world.  This means that in Christ is found everything that is necessary to appease God’s wrath, and gain His favor.   What is doesn’t state is whether the propitiation is actually applied to the whole world.  Other verses, such as John 3:16 and Romans 10:9-10, make this clearer:

John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Romans 10:9-10 – if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.   For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

These verses, as well as many others, indicate that a person must believe in order to be saved.  Neither the one extreme of Calvinism, nor the other extreme of Universalism, is correct.  What is correct?  I think Calvin himself stated it well, although he didn’t believe it to be true: Christ suffered sufficiently for the whole world, but efficiently only for the elect.  The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ were sufficient to cover the sins of every person in the whole world, but are only applied to those who God elected, based on His foreknowledge of who would choose to receive the gift of salvation.  1 John 2:2 makes it very clear that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world; John3:16 makes it clear that one must choose to believe in order to receive the benefits of Jesus’ propitiation for sin.

Review: “The Loudest Sound Ever Heard” by The Choir

The Choir - 10/15/2011
Greenwood, Indiana

I’ve been following The Choir since I first heard them in about 1986, when they were the warm-up band at a Steve Taylor concert at SMU’s McFarlin Memorial Auditorium in Dallas, Texas.  They’ve been one of my favorite bands ever since.

For those readers who have never heard of them, The Choir is a Christian alternative-rock band that has been together since 1984.  The band is composed of Derri Daugherty on guitar and vocals, Steve Hindalong on drums, along with Tim Chandler on bass guitar, Dan Michaels on saxophone and lyricon and Marc Byrd on guitar.

The Choir is not a typical contemporary Christian band.  The lyrics, primarily written by Steve Hindalong, are not the cookie-cutter praise and worship or evangelistic lyrics common to the vast majority of CCM artists; rather, they are known for their poetry, vulnerability, and honesty, particularly about the challenges typical in relationships and the simple joys of life – lyrics that ask questions and make a person think, rather than just giving the answers.  The instrumentals range from alternative rock to mournful to ambient;  Derri’s guitar work is effect-laden and ranges from hard-driving rock to soulful ambience.

I had been disappointed by The Choir’s last release, “Burning Like the Midnight Sun.”  A few of the songs, especially “The Word Inside the Word” and “It Should Have Been Obvious,” contained some lyrics that promoted theopolitical positions that I found Biblically indefensible.  So, it was with a bit of fear and trepidation that I popped the CD into my player and began to listen, while perusing the lyrics on the album sleeve.

I was pleasantly surprised with what I found.

The album’s title, “The Loudest Sound Ever Heard,” is a reference to the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, an event referenced in the song “I’m Learning to Fly.”.

The first song, “Strange Girl,” could be an anthem to my fifteen-year-old daughter Stacey:

She’s such a strange girl

In such good ways

A strange girl

She’s so strange

In such good ways.

Stacey particularly likes the line: “She doesn’t care about sparkling jewels / Got a sparkle in her eye.”  She also loves Dan Michaels’ saxophone work on the song.

“I’m Learning to Fly” deals with the problem of pain and suffering in the world:

I’m learning to love in a dying world

I’m learning to fly

The song recognizes the difficulty of reconciling the pain we all experience with the mercy of a loving God, but rather than trying to give an answer to this paradox, the song focuses on rising above and loving, despite the suffering.

“Cross that River” is about overcoming fear.  As Christians, God calls us to step out in faith and take chances, knowing that He is there when we stumble:

But you’re not gonna make it if you don’t take a chance

And there’s somebody on the shore holding out a branch.

Probably my favorite song on the album is “The Forest.”  The song is about the cycles in our lives; we all go through good times and bad, mountaintop experiences and valleys.  We must learn to trust God in all circumstances:

I believe the sun will shine on you and me, my friend

I have learned to trust the turning of the seasons

Even now the sun is breaking through the clouds again

But I still don’t know the causes or the reasons

And I still can’t see the forest for the trees

When we go through difficult times, the key is to remain focused on Jesus Christ.  Even though we can’t understand why things happen as they do, He does understand.

The Choir 4/25/2012
Kettering, Ohio

Another highlight of the album is the song “After All,” which features Leigh Nash on vocals.  When I first heard the song, I recognized the same music as on Derri’s ambient instrumental solo piece, “My Imaginary Friend.”  This version, however has fantastic vocal harmonies between Derri and Leigh.

Another pleasant surprise was the song “A World Away.”  It has an almost oriental sound, mixed with Derri’s ambience and Steve’s poetic lyrics.  The song acknowledges humanity’s inability to completely understand the mysteries of God.

Overall, this album is another strong work by Steve, Derri, and the rest of the band.  I love Dan Michaels’ sax / lyricon work throughout, and Derri’s somber guitar work.  One thing missing is the usual off-the-wall song about something random, like falling off a stage, a misspelled name on a boarding pass, or a rifle-toting television icon.  But, overall, I thoroughly enjoyed “The Loudest Sound Ever Heard.”  If you’re looking for the typical CCM or gospel lyrics focusing explicitly on Jesus Christ, or typical praise-and-worship music, you probably won’t appreciate this album.  But, if you like music that’s honest about life’s struggles and asks more questions than it answers, give “The Loudest Sound Ever Heard” a listen.

Rich, Derri, Stacey, and Steve 10/15/2011

You can purchase “The Loudest Sound Ever Heard” at The Choir’s website:

A Scout is…Cheerful

At the beginning of every Boy Scout meeting, a Scout recites the Boy Scout Oath and Boy Scout Law.  Many Scouts do not realize the connection between the values of Scouting and the Bible.  Lord Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouting movement, once said, “Scouting is nothing less than applied Christianity” – (Scouting & Christianity, 1917).

This is the continuation of the series of blogs examining the connection between the values of Scouting and the Bible.

A Scout is…Cheerful

A Scout looks for the bright side of life.   He cheerfully does tasks that come his way and tries his best to make others happy, too.

The eighth point of the Scout Law is, “A Scout is cheerful.”

Cheerfulness implies an optimistic, positive outlook on life that rubs off on those around us.  It doesn’t mean that a Scout is supposed to be happy that unpleasant things happen, but that he should have a positive outlook despite unfortunate circumstances.

Jesus taught His disciples to be cheerful despite their circumstances.  In John 16:33, Jesus said:

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

The disciples were not to be cheerful because of their tribulations, but in spite of them.  Of the eleven disciples (excluding Judas, who hanged himself), all but John died a martyr’s death.  Peter was crucified upside-down.  John died in exile on the island called Patmos.  Christians have been persecuted throughout history, and continue to be persecuted, imprisoned, and martyred today in many places.  Voice of the Martyrs is an organization that is dedicated to assisting persecuted Christians worldwide.

With all the opposition and persecution, as well as just the everyday issues we all face, what basis is there for a Christian to be cheerful?  Jesus gives us the answer:  “I have overcome the world.”  Without Jesus, there is no real hope, no real peace, and no real reason to be cheerful.  As the bumper sticker says, “Life’s a b****, and then you die.”  But, because Jesus took our sin upon Himself, died, and then rose the third day, the Christian has real hope, can know real peace, and has every reason to be cheerful, despite the garbage and hopelessness around us.  And, by sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we can give the hopeless world real hope, and a real reason to be cheerful.

This doesn’t mean the Christian will never be in a bad mood, or be apprehensive, or get depressed.  We all have bad days; we live in a sin-filled world, and it can be very disheartening.  Our fallen, sinful bodies can get biochemical imbalances, and we can suffer from depression or other mental illnesses.  However, despite all of these problems, Jesus declares, “but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

The musical group Casting Crowns does a song called “”Praise You In This Storm.”  The chorus says:

And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

How can the Christian be cheerful in the midst of all that life throws at us?  By praising God in the midst of life’s storms.

“A Scout is…cheerful” is a value that is firmly rooted in God’s Word.  Cheerfulness is what gets us through the difficult times in life, as well as the good times.  Cheerfulness, optimism, and a positive attitude can make the difference between merely enduring difficulties and growing through them.  Cheerfulness is a trait that benefits both the Scout and the Christian.

A Scout smiles and whistles under all circumstances. ~ Baden-Powell

Random stuff from Facebook and emails, Part 1

Random pictures I either
found on Facebook
or had emailed to me.

Part 1: Political Commentary

Because these pictures all came off Facebook or emails, I’m not sure where any of this stuff originated, so if anyone knows, post a comment, and I’ll credit the source and link to it.

Click on a photo to see a larger version: