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OPEN SOURCE CHRISTIANITY PAGE 8 ABORTION POLITICS ISN’T SAVING LIVES PAGE 10 SEARCHING FOR SPIRITUAL GIFTS PAGES 12 I’M FINEWITH GOD... IT’S CHRISTIAN I CAN’T STAND PAGE 16 I’M IN LOVEWITH ANOTHER MAN’S BRIDE PAGE 20 SUBVERSIVE CHRISTIANITY PAGE 24 UNANSWERED PRAYER PAGE 26 MIRROR, MIRROR ONTHEWALL PAGE 30


tHE ALPHA

editoRial I was 23 years old, newly married and working a job that I utterly hated. Melissa and I had only been married a year when we decided that we’d give this full-time ministry thing a shot. Like, ya know, the real deal.

I had been the youth pastor at my local church for roughly three years and felt an enormous call to work with young people. So, being the not-so-much gregarious person that I am, I pasted my resume online and left the work in God’s hands. “If this is what you’ve called us to do, then God, I’m leaving it in your hands.” That was my first mistake – because He did just that. We received calls and emails and more calls and more emails and the next thing you know, we not only had a ministry offer but we had multiple offers. Large churches, small churches, churches from all over the United States were contacting us, wanting more information, family pictures, vials of blood – you name it. It was overwhelming to say the least and it left me feeling directionless. But then I got the call. It was from a church in New Mexico and, from their description, it sounded like it was established just for Melissa and I – like God had pre-ordained it before the beginning of time. And the pastor, though I’d never met him in my life, felt like one of my best friends. He’d frequently call and tell us about his church and I’d listen. He’d ask about our lives and I’d pour out my heart. It was as if we were stuck in the movie Dude, Where’s My Car … “Dude!” … “Sweet!” This went back and forth for weeks. We were trying to get direction and kept asking ourselves, “Is this the place Lord?” Yet in the meantime, I was still receiving calls from other churches. But truth be told, I was already sold. My heart was with this church. I wanted to work there. I had to work there. And then I got the other call. Some pastor by the name of Lance, from some no-name town in Iowa , saw my resume and thought he’d give us a call. He mentioned something about corn and something else about a great opportunity the church had to offer. Blah, blah, blah is what I thought at the time, all the while a voice from within was tugging at my heart. It was the same voice that I’d heard all day and night, the same voice that had already answered the question, “Is this the place?” It was the same voice that I was refusing to listen to. Back to the church that was, in my mind, prophetically predestined to take us under their wing; the church where we would learn all-things-ministry and the church where we could spend time ministering for ages to come. Millions, no, billions saved because of our ministry. Well, needless to say, I can’t even remember that pastor’s name. The voice that I was refusing to listen to was telling Melissa and I where to go. It wasn’t just speaking to me, Melissa heard it too. It was loud and clear and it just so happened to be directed toward that little ol’ church in that little ol’ town in that little ol’ state of Iowa.

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And so the story goes. That church in New Mexico hired someone else. I’d like to say that I was a little upset but I wasn’t. Because I knew that God was, in fact, speaking to our hearts and leading us to make one of the best ministry decisions we’ve ever made. Although God had called us there, Iowa wasn’t the easiest place to minister. But through all the learning experiences, Melissa and I grew closer. We established a secure belief in our ministry and knew that we were in God’s will. It’s a feeling that can’t be exchanged for anything. It’s a feeling of peace and humility. Even in the difficult times and in the difficult situations, we were satisfied. That was almost six years ago and a lot has changed since then. Two kids, different jobs, and lots of hair loss. Good mistakes and bad mistakes. Good choices and bad choices. Being hurt and seeking healing. Moving and moving again. These are just a few of the things that have plagued our lives over the past few years. They are the same things that have kept us up at night; the same things that leave us asking “Why God?” But, at the same time, they are the things that continue to help us grow. These same have helped me come to the understanding, especially when I look into the eyes of my children, Benjamin (now 2 years, 7 months old) and Bella (now 14 months old), that God really does have everything under control. Even when I look in all directions and see confusion and frustration and lack understanding, they are our gentle reminder of His love for us. So, where does that leave us today? Remember that little voice that I so easily dismissed several years ago when Lance, now a good friend, called and told us of all those neat little opportunities in Iowa? Well, I love God’s voice. But sometimes I have a hard time listening. Why? Because it usually involves a rush of uncontrolled emotion. It throws my world out of whack and, being completely truthful, I don’t like feeling like that. I don’t like stepping out of my comfort zone. I don’t like confrontation and I surely don’t like letting my guard down. But I’m going to make a decision. I’m going to lay myself down. I’m setting my own agenda aside and I’m asking God to speak to me again. I’m asking Him to tell me where to go and what to do. I have to hear Him again. I need Him to break my heart for the things that break His. Do you?


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MONTHLY

RETHNK rethinking God in today’s culture ..............................

What does it mean to be in the world, but not of it?

JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2009 - ISSUE 5 ............................... EDITORS/PUBLISHERS > Bo Lane > bo@rethinkmonthly.com Melissa Lane > melissa@rethinkmonthly.com

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RETHINK, Inc PO Box 17316 Salem, OR 97305 Phone: 503-856-4430 Fax: 503-394-7121 info@rethinkmonthly.com www.rethinkmonthly.com www.rethinkpodcast.com After you’ve read every single word of this magazine and have shared it with all your friends and family, please consider recycling it - or add it to your collection of Rethink Monthly magazines and save it forever.

Every generation must answer the most basic ethical question of the Christian faith, “What does it mean to be in the world, but not of it?” Answering correctly yields relevance, something the world deeply desires, but rarely sees. The Fine Line re-envisions what it means to integrate Christianity with culture. For more information on the book and the BLOG TOUR schedule go to www.karyoberbrunner.com

AVAILABLE DECEMBER 2008


FAtHER BY JOHN FEHLEN

Father. All would agree that this is a word that is under an amazing amount of attack and scrutiny in our modern days. In certain situations, the critique is justified. In others, it is unfortunate how the title carries with it a level of suspect and disdain. Many of the fathers portrayed in media are intended for a laugh, and yet the joke cuts deep in many homes in which the father is either absent or disconnected. Did we get this way because of popular media or is media simply reflecting what has developed in real life? Perhaps it’s nature. Perhaps it’s nurture. Regardless, we have some problems that are not easily fixed, but are having a profound impact upon this generation, and the ones to come. For years I’ve worked with individuals and families in need and I’ve been haunted by these questions and concerns. The reason is because so many of the issues facing families are rooted in what I call “Father Matters.” When one peels away the layers of hurt and unrest, it’s quite common to find that at the core is a breach with the father. This broken or misplaced relationship can serve to tear at the fiber of our esteem, erode our ability to connect, and undermine our capacity to cope. In my opinion, the father really matters. Interestingly and unfortunately, the image of our earthly father is often superimposed upon that of our Heavenly Father. The two uniquely go hand in hand. Not only have our biological fathers gotten a bad rap, but so has our Father God - who lives in heaven. He desires an intimate relationship with his children, but often we are unable to get past the volume of preconceptions or fears. We have heart cries such as: Will you hurt me? Are you going to be there? Will you be involved? How much do you love me? Why are you absent and uninterested? These questions are hurdles of the heart that stand between us and our earthly fathers. They often remain in place for our Heavenly Father to have to jump over as well. This is because our relationship with our “seen father” becomes a mirror of our relationship with our “unseen Father.” The mental paradigm is set. The emotional mold has formed and it will take a work of the heart AND mind to renew and restore us to a right relationship. The journey of renewal and restoration begins with understanding the distinguishing features between God our LORD and God our FATHER. Our starting point is in Psalm 68. “Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds – his name is the LORD – and rejoice before him.” (v4) The word “preeminent” means “surpassing all others and

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very distinguished.” He is the Lord that is often viewed as “out there.” He is the one that “rides on the clouds,” and we are to extol and praise him. For the most part, we’ve got this part down. It’s easy to view him in this way because we technically cannot see him. He is God and he can do whatever he wants so we just mind our own business and go on praising him as Lord. Much of our current worship services are built around the model of God as Lord. We are comfortable worshipping him from a distance. A popular worship song reinforces this: “God of Wonder, beyond our galaxy…” When he is the Lord that is “out there” then we don’t have to contend with matters of the heart – the intimacy issues that float to the surface. Here is where a rub of sorts emerges. At some point we have to wrestle with the reality of him also being Father. The next verse of Psalm 68 speaks to this. “[He is] A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, [he] is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families…” (v5) Now the Lord who is “out there” moves into close proximity – right here – right where we are. He comes to where we are hurting, where we need to be defended and cared for. This is a bit more troublesome for many today because our paradigm of father has been so badly marred. How do we rectify what is spoken about God in scripture - of being a father to the fatherless, a defender, a caregiver to the lonely - when much of what we’ve known historically of our earthly fathers does not support that notion? Perhaps you are particularly sensitive to the pains of the past. Perhaps you’ve experienced abuse or neglect. Perhaps your father’s image has been tarnished. What do you do now? How do you approach your heavenly Father with all this accumulated distrust? My encouragement to you is that you would draw near. Come close to God as Father and discover the warmth of his heart. He will not hurt you. Perhaps you’ve seen the work of his hands from afar. You’ve seen the work of his hand and know him to be Lord of all – continue to extol, praise and rejoice in him. But now add to your praise a personal connection with who he is as Father – feel the warmth of his heart. Whether or not you’ve been let down by your earthly father, I believe you’ll find what so many have found to be true: God is good. God as Lord and God as Father. Lord and Father. Both matter. One is preeminent – way out there. The other is personal – right here. That’s the Lord we praise. That’s the Father that loves us so much.


IST CHR FOR E SAD CRU PUS CAM AT CHEMEKETA COMMUNITY COLLEGE PRESENTS

FREE DOUBLE & door prizes! E TUR FEA Ben Stein’s “Expelled:

No Intelligence Allowed” & Jonathan Wells’ “Icons of Evolution”

FEB. 11-12, 2009 11th: 2-5pm & 12th: 6-9pm

In response to the 150th anniversary of Darwin's "Origin of Species", Campus Crusade for Christ at Chemeketa will hold a free showing of "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" & "Icons of Evolution" at Chemeketa CC on Feb. 11th from 2-5pm and again on Feb. 12th (Charles Darwin's birthday and Academic Freedom Day) from 6-9pm. The free showings will be held in the Building 6 auditorium. Please check in at the Chemeketa Information Booth for a free parking pass.

For info visit www.crossandemptytomb.org or contact Jannel at daisymaymoses@msn.com


open S urce Christianity BY RAY DECK III

What does “open-source” mean to you? To a developer, it means a chance to contribute to the world. To the technology companies it means that their competition isn’t another company but the entire world. To technology users like you and I, it means free technology like Firefox and Skype. “Open-source” has become a cultural buzz word. Everyone has heard it, but not nearly as many people know what it means. Over-simplified, open-source is a project model in which a company releases the super-secret product details for a piece of technology. This means that any developer in the world can work to improve their product. It also means that they can’t make any money off of their technology. Why would anyone pay for it, if they can get it for free? It sounds like a really bad business model, but it has created some of the best software in the world today. If the whole world becomes your development team, just imagine how much work can be done. The company usually still manages the changes being made to their product, but once a product becomes open-source it belongs to the masses. Open-source is exciting for small businesses and individuals because software that used to cost a small fortune is totally free. Open-source is exciting for technology companies, because they can literally have the whole world working on their development team. Open-source is exciting for hackers because they can get all the information they need to create viruses or other nasty computer bugs. The only people who don’t like open source are the big companies who are trying to compete with it. Open-source has become so popular; it has become more than just a way to create new software. It has become a way of thinking. Open Source says that information belongs to everyone. Open Source is about combining our skills and experience to tackle massive problems ourselves instead of waiting for Microsoft, Apple, Intel or IBM to do it for us. Open Source allows for swarm-style ingenuity. The open source way of thinking is creeping into our culture, and without a doubt we will soon see it in our churches as well. It has been well documented that Christian culture lags behind secular, so it’s not here yet. But soon… Just wait. The natural question is – What does an Open Source Church look like? What about an open source Christian? Imagine with me a church in which we all collaborate

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absolutely without organizational barriers. Imagine a world in which spiritual understanding, decision making rational and creative ministry ideas are the property of the masses. Imagine a world in which Christians tackle massive jobs like world poverty or Biblical illiteracy without waiting on an organization or an expert to tell them how to do it. Imagine a world in which we shared resources and ideas freely. It sounds a lot like the way the church should be in the first place. The danger comes to an open source church in the same way that it comes to an open source internet browser. If anyone can contribute, anyone can do so with malicious intent. As always, the greatest strength can easily become the greatest weakness. In guarding against cyber attacks, every one of us has our own firewall, anti-virus program and spam filter. Defenses are individual, because attacks affect individuals. In closed source Christianity, our defenses have been corporate. We have made our stand on theology by attaching ourselves to the “right” organization. But when the open source model reaches the church, each of us will need to develop our own defense system to protect us against spiritual attacks. That means church leaders must train individuals to study the Word of God for themselves. In a perfect world that would already be true. Is it true in your church?


HURTS HABITS HANGUPS Celebrate Recovery

“Recovery” isn’t just about alcohol and drugs. Celebrate recovery is for all types of struggles. These may include: food disorders, financial issues, gambling, sexual addictions, depression, divorce, self-esteem, codependency, grief, anger, abuse, smoking, etc.

Is there a stumbling block in your life that is hindering your relationship with God and others? You don’t have to walk the path alone. You can be free from your hurts, habits, and hang-ups.

Welcome to an amazing spiritual adventure.

Bud Austin // Ministry Director

Salem First Church of the Nazarene 1550 Market St NE Salem, OR 97301 503-581-3680 // www.oasiswestsalem.com

Every Sunday Night

5pm // Dinner: pizza, chicken, or BBQ. All at a modest price. 6pm // Large Group. Join the Celebration! 7pm // Small Groups. Safe support groups. 8pm // Solid Rock Café. Most selections are free.

a place of restoration A NEW CHURCH BEGINNING FEBRUARY 1 sundays • 10:30am • west salem high school www.oasiswestsalem.com


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Abortion has been a hot-button political issue since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, which has resulted in more than 46 million abortions. Over the past three decades, pro-abortion and pro-life groups have raised and poured millions, if not billions, of dollars into political campaigns and legal battles aimed at furthering their agendas. This year’s election season was no exception, with referendums in several states to ban abortion and establish legal personhood for unborn children--all of which were soundly defeated. Unfortunately, the politicizing of abortion has done little to actually help women deal with the crisis of an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy.

attitudes toward abortion. Their findings revealed that teens, regardless of race, sex or residence, associated abortion with death.

The Guttmacher Institute provides some sobering statistics: every year, more than a million pregnancies end in abortion; the majority of abortions (88%) take place during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy; 57% of abortions are obtained by women in their 20s; roughly one-third of all women in the U.S. will have an abortion during their reproductive lifetime; 86% of women who have abortions are unmarried.

From a practical perspective, it has also been economically more feasible to have a child--until recently, that is. There is no way to overstate the toll a child takes on one’s finances. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the annual cost of raising a child is between $10,930 and $12,030. For someone already in the lower income bracket, the decision to have a child most often becomes a choice between survival and abject destitution. However, with the economy in decline, we could very well see an increase in abortions. As an article on a medical website recently pointed out, the last four recessions in the U.S. have been followed by a dip in the number of babies born each year.

The majority of women obtaining abortions are poor or low-income. When asked to explain their decision to have an abortion, almost three-quarters say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or other responsibilities. About three-quarters say they cannot afford to have a child, and almost half say they do not want to be a single parent or are having problems with their husband or partner. These numbers should speak volumes to anyone who claims to truly care about women and children. Here’s what they say to me: whether or not Roe v. Wade is ever overturned, and the likelihood of that happening is low, the only way to effectively prevent abortions right now is to ensure that pregnant women have viable alternatives to abortion. In other words, rather than spouting platitudes about choice or religion, we need to use our money and time to help women faced with a difficult, life-changing decision. This is the time to do it because a life-affirming cultural shift is taking place in America. Abortion rates are presently at their lowest level in 30 years. At the same time, the way Americans view pregnancy, and consequently abortion, seems to be changing, at least culturally and socially. And it apparently has little to do with politics or legislative efforts to outlaw abortion. Developing medical technology may, in part, be driving a change in cultural attitudes. For instance, cutting-edge in-utero surgeries, along with the increased use of ultrasound, are conceivably providing a connection and relationship with a unique developing life. When abortion was legalized in 1973, most people had little understanding of fetal development. The proliferation of ultrasound images from the womb has lifted that veil. Life-affirming films are now in vogue. Juno (2007), Children of Men (2006), Bella (2006), Waitress (2007) and Knocked Up (2007) are among a growing list of movies in which women faced with unintended pregnancies choose to have the babies. Although they’re born into chaotic, far-from-ideal conditions, the popularity of these films seems indicative of a cultural longing for children.

There are also other factors that point to the fact that the country is on the cusp of something significant. For example, the growing interest in environmental issues is rooted in a concern for the world that will be left to younger generations. There’s also the trend toward adoption and child-rearing epitomized by celebrities such as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. And, of course, there’s the recent baby boom: 4.3 million babies were born in 2006, the largest number of children born in 45 years.

So where do we go from here? How do we build on this positive social and cultural shift toward children? We need to recognize that no matter how strongly one feels about the abortion issue, we’re not getting anywhere by politicizing it. If Christians, in particular, truly believe in saving lives and helping the poor, they need to put their money where their mouths are. Just imagine if even a portion of the $102 billion donated to religious institutions in 2007 were put toward private programs designed to help women, especially poor women, find alternatives to abortion. Furthermore, both sides need to stop acting as if the abortion debate has a nine-month time limit. For pro-choice groups, abortion is the end of the story. Likewise, for many pro-life groups, a pregnancy that ends with a baby is the end of the story. But that’s a large part of the problem because, for the woman who chooses not to have an abortion, it’s just the beginning. Thus, if people who claim to be pro-life are truly concerned about saving the life of an unborn child, they need to take responsibility for that life and commit to caring for that child as long as it takes. That means ensuring that the mother-to-be has a job, a home, good medical care, counseling, child care and the means to raise that child in a safe and healthy environment. At the same time, groups that claim to be pro-family need to be pro-children.

This cultural trend has been building for years. For example, in the early 1990s, 46% of the respondents in a CBS New York Times poll said that abortion was murder. The age group most likely to voice that opinion ranged from 18 to 29. Also during that time, the Center for Population Options held a series of focus groups to explore teen RETHINKMONTHLY.COM_11


Searching for by Tim Challies

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Spiritual Gifts Often when I hear people speak of spiritual gifts they do so in this manner. “I have the gift of [insert gift here] and my church has no way for me to serve in that way.” Or “I know what my gift is and I am looking for ways to use it.” To these people I would suggest that they may have an inaccurate or incomplete understanding of the way the gifts work. The way to properly exercise spiritual gifts is not to be willing only to do what you’ve determined is your gifting, but to do anything that the church needs to have done, and to do it with joy and excellence. And as you do that, you may find that God gifts and equips you for something far outside your comfort zone. The Bible seems to indicate that Christians will typically know how they have been gifted. There is certainly nothing that would hint at the modern methods of discovering gifts through surveys or assessments. And yet, while most Christians know that the gifts of the Spirit are given to God’s people, they continue to struggle with identifying the ways in which God has gifted them. Because gifts are given for the benefit of the body, it seems likely that where there is a need, there will be someone with the gifting to fill that need. If a church has a desperate need for a person with the gift of teaching, it seems likely that someone within the church has been given such a gift and may fill the need, at least for a season. Similarly, if a person is a member of a church where there is no opportunity to exercise a certain gift, it may be that this church needs to create opportunities for that; in extreme cases, the person needs to seek a church where his gifts can be of service to others. The leaders of churches should seek to ensure that they are providing opportunities for members to exercise the full spectrum of gifts. Wayne Grudem writes, “Though the lists

of gifts given in the New Testament are not exhaustive, they certainly provide a good starting point for churches to ask whether at least there is opportunity for these gifts to be used.”

tians, those who know you best and who lead and guide you, where they feel you should serve within the church. Ask them to prayerfully consider your gifting. Their wisdom and guidance may surprise you.

For those who continue to struggle with identifying how they have been gifted, here are five principles that will prove helpful:

Try Them

Begin with Prayer God promises to give wisdom to any who ask for it. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5). Thus we should begin our search for gifting by asking God to make it plain to us how he has gifted us and how he desires that we serve him by serving others. We must ask for wisdom in seeing how God has gifted us and in opening our eyes to opportunities to serve him. Look for Passion Where God has given a gift, we can expect that he will also give passion. A good place to begin when considering spiritual gifts is to see where God has given desire and passion. A person who is passionate about having people into her home may well have a gift of hospitality; a person who loves to organize events may be gifted with a kind of leadership; a person who is passionate about the truth of God may be gifted with discernment. Those who look for their gifting should look to what interests them and what makes them feel passionate. As they look to their passions they may just find their gifts. Ask Others Another way of seeking gifting is to ask other believers, especially those in spiritual leadership over you. Simply ask other Chris-

Christians should try different opportunities to serve within the church. As we attempt different things and do so in the power of the Holy Spirit, we can expect that he will reveal passion and gifting in ways we may not expect. There is a danger in doing only those things that we are comfortable with or serving only in the ways we think we are most talented. Think of Moses, a frightened and timid man being called to lead a nation, or the apostle Paul with a thorn in his flesh being called to take the gospel to all the nations. God does not always gift us in ways we are comfortable with or in ways we might expect. By attempting different gifts we can look to those where God brings blessing and success and perhaps see that we have a special gifting in these areas. Keep Trying The Bible does not tell us that all spiritual gifts are given at the time of conversion or that, once given, they are given permanently. As we grow in our knowledge and love of the Lord, we should continue to seek ways of serving him. We may be surprised to find that our gifting changes along with the needs of our local church. We may find that God wishes us to emphasize different gifts now from those we emphasized in the past. So keep serving God and keep searching for his gifting in your life. If confusion continues, take heart, wait patiently for God’s wisdom and guidance, and serve him whenever and wherever possible. He will answer your prayers.

RETHINKMONTHLY.COM_13


LIFE CAN BE TOUGH.

Sometimes, all you need is a sense of humor to roll with the little challenges, but at other times the struggles are more serious. Family issues, financial problems, illness, unexpected loss – it’s not always a laughing matter. We can’t eliminate the problems, but at Hope Point Church we’re exploring how God can get us through the tough stuff, all while discovering friendship, support and encouragement. Don’t come up short, join us this weekend!

We’re on a roll.

Sundays 11am @ Walker Middle School 1075 8th St NW, Salem • 503-689-1494

Because your friend’s cousin Jimmy isn’t quite the “web designer” he made himself out to be. Website Design •Logos & Branding • Biz Cards Church Websites • Band Posters • E-Commerce

WWW.VINTOM.COM


FIREPROOF

THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES

Releases: January 27

Releases: February 3 At work, inside burning buildings, Capt. Caleb Holt lives by the old firefighter's adage: Never leave your partner behind. At home, in the cooling embers of his marriage, he lives by his own rules. After seven years of marriage, Caleb and Catherine Holt have drifted so far apart that Catherine wishes she had never married.

Neither one understands the pressures the other faces—he as firefighter and she as the public relations director of a hospital. Regular arguments over jobs, finances, housework, and outside interests have readied them both to move on to something with more sparks. As the couple prepares to enter divorce proceedings, Caleb's father challenges his son to commit to a 40-day experiment he calls "The Love Dare." Wondering if it's even worth the effort, Caleb agrees, but more for his father's sake more than for his marriage. When Caleb discovers the book’s daily challenges are tied into his parents' newfound faith, his already limited interest is further dampened. While trying to stay true to his promise, Caleb becomes frustrated time and again. He finally asks his father, "How am I supposed to show love to somebody who constantly rejects me?" When his father explains that this is the love God shows to us, Caleb makes a life-changing commitment to love God. And— with God's help—he begins to understand what it means to truly love his wife. But is it too late to fireproof his marriage? His job is to rescue others. Now Caleb Holt is ready to face his toughest job ever... rescuing his wife's heart.

“The Secret Life of Bees,” based on the New York Times best selling novel and set in South Carolina in 1964, is the moving tale of Lily Owens (Fanning) a 14 year-old girl who is haunted by the memory of her late mother (Burton). To escape her lonely life and troubled relationship with her father (Bettany), Lily flees with Rosaleen (Hudson), her caregiver and only friend, to a South Carolina town that holds the secret to her mother’s past. Taken in by the intelligent and independent Boatwright sisters (Latifah, Okonedo and Keys), Lily finds solace in their mesmerizing world of beekeeping.

MADAGASCAR: ESCAPE 2 AFRICA Releases: February 6

All the loveable characters are back - Alex the lion, Marty the zebra, Melman the giraffe and Gloria the hippo, King Julien, Maurice and the penguins - in “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa.” Left marooned on the distant shores of Madagascar, the New Yorkers have hatched a plan so crazy it just might work. With military precision, the penguins have repaired an old crashed plane - sort of. Once aloft, this unlikely crew stays airborne just enough to make it to the wildest place of all - the vast plains of Africa itself - where our zoo-raised crew encounter species of their own kind for the very first time. While discovering their roots, they quickly realize the difference between the concrete jungle and the heart of Africa. Despite long-lost relatives, romantic rivals and scheming hunters, Africa seems like a “crack-a-lackin” great place... but is it better than their Central Park home?

“W”

Releases: February 10 Whether you love him or hate him, there is no question that George W. Bush is one of the most controversial public figures in recent memory. In an unprecedented undertaking, acclaimed director Oliver Stone is bringing the life of our 43rd President to the big screen as only he can. “W.” takes viewers through Bush’s eventful life -- his struggles and triumphs, how he found both his wife and his faith, and of course the critical days leading up to Bush’s decision to invade Iraq. RETHINKMONTHLY.COM_15


Every segment of society has its members of the lunatic fringe, but Christianity seems to have a disproportionately high percentage of them. This fact wouldn’t present any problems if Christians kept a low profile. For example, we’re sure the Amish have a few wackos in their midst, but they don’t get up in your face with billboards that hint at your eternal destination, and they don’t try to impose their moral criteria as a filter on the public airwaves. Of course, the Amish don’t use electricity, and that contributes to their cultural obscurity. But at least their goofballs remain an Amish problem that isn’t inflicted on the rest of us.

Unfortunately, many Evangelical Christians don’t have the unassuming qualities of the Amish. They are bold and brash with their oddities. They seem intent on exposing and publicizing their own peculiarities. The most weird among them rise to public prominence. Shouldn’t the natural tendency be for Christians to keep their most bizarre brethren (and sistern) locked in the church basement (or cistern)? We could only hope so. But no, they are free to roam in society, subjecting all of us to a veritable religious freak show. You’re probably already familiar with the cast that we’re talking about: • The clown (literally) who sat in the end-zone seats at every Super Bowl. He was easy to spot. He wore the rainbow colored wig, and he held up a large “John 3:16” sign when the television camera set up for a field goal attempt. Did he really think that people would stop watching the game on TV so they could look up that Scripture in a Bible that is conveniently nearby on the buffet table between the Budweiser and the pork rinds? • The televangelist who harangues his cable-network congregation with fund-raising solicitations, sounding as if the Almighty God of the universe is impotent to keep the network going unless Granny signs over her monthly social security check: “Jesus wants to save you, but He can’t afford to do it for free!” • The Christian plumber who advertises in the yellow pages with a big fish symbol displayed prominently in the ad. The sign of the fish was an effective secret symbol among Christians in the first century AD, when being identified as a Christian meant being used as lion bait in the Roman Coliseum. But 20 centuries later that fish symbol means this: “Hey, come to me for your plumbing repairs. I may do a lousy job cleaning your clogged pipes, and I might charge you more than the other guys, but at least you’ll be reamed by a fellow Christian.” • “Faith healers” who can cure diseases and ailments that people don’t even know they have. Is their supernatural power divinely bestowed on them only during the hours of their televised crusade? If they possess the power continually, why don’t they spend a little time walking through the corridors of their local hospital (or curing their own comb-over)? CONTINUED ON PAGE 18

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But It Gets Worse…Much Worse Perhaps such Christian lunacy and hypocrisy would be tolerable if for no other reason than for its periodic comic relief, but unfortunately it doesn’t stop there. Some Christians invite disdain upon themselves—and the God they claim to represent—with despicable behavior that contradicts any notion that God is love. The gun-toting, bomb-planting, Christian antiabortionists are prime examples. In the name of their God, who loves unborn children, they maim and murder physicians, nurses, and patients at health clinics where abortions are performed. There is no theological justification for this heinous conduct. If God abhors the killing of unborn babies, doesn’t He also loathe the illegal assassination of these health-care workers? Are these so-called Christians blind and brain-dead to this tragic irony of their atrocities? Some self-defensive Christians might say the preceding paragraph cites an extreme and unfair example; surely such antiabortionists are mentally unstable. Obviously so, but what about the many other instances in which prejudice and bigotry run rampant in the Christian community? The world is forced to suffer through the hatred harbored by some Christians every October 6. On that date in 1998, a 22-year-old college student named Matthew Shephard was bludgeoned by two men and left hanging on a fence in the nearly freezing temperatures of Laramie, Wyoming. Eighteen hours later, passing motorists discovered Matthew’s almost lifeless body. This was not the first time Matthew had been beaten because he was gay, but it was the last time. He died after being in critical condition for several days. The four people arrested in connection with Matthew’s murder did not claim to be Christians, but the people who picketed Matthew’s funeral proudly proclaimed their Christian faith. To our way of thinking, the behavior of a Baptist minister and his congregation from Kansas revealed perhaps more premeditated hatred than the murderers had. The signs held by these so-called Christians along the route of the funeral procession did not protest the murder; instead, they protested Matthew’s lifestyle. Their message to Matthew’s grieving family was clear: “God Hates Fags!” Members of this church reiterate their bigotry annually on the anniversary of Matthew’s death as they post similar 18_RETHINK MONTHLY

signs near his grave. And the church’s website keeps a running count of the number of days “Matthew has been in hell,” including a picture of Matthew with animated flames burning around his face. And if you have the proper computer plugins, you can hear “Matthew’s voice” scream from hell that you should listen to the church’s pastor as he warns against the evils of a homosexual lifestyle. Personally, we don’t want to hear what this pastor says, and we’re sure that God doesn’t want to hear it God Doesn’t Want Anything to Do with This Whether these Christians are kooks, charlatans, or bigots, God doesn’t want anything to do with their attitude and behavior. They degrade His name. They give a false representation of His character. They distract others who are sincerely searching for spiritual truth—and that is the reason for this book. We’ve read bumper stickers that tell us that “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” But Christians don’t need to announce to the world that they aren’t perfect; this comes as no surprise to anyone. The fact is painfully obvious to every person who isn’t a Christian. But we’re not so sure it is obvious to the Christians themselves (despite the sticker on their bumper to the contrary). Even if they aren’t part of the murderous and bigoted extremists, too many Christians tend to be hypercritical, self-righteous, judgmental, and intolerant. In the marketplace of ideas, God deserves a fair shot. Whether people believe in Him or not ought to be their free choice. But God shouldn’t be handicapped with the baggage of harebrained followers who claim His name but do not accurately reflect His principles. We aren’t on a crusade. (It is more of a rant.) We heard no booming voice emanating from the heavens (in a tone reminiscent of James Earl Jones) telling us to write this book. We’re just fed up with Christians who give God a bad name. Yes, we assume that God can take care of Himself, and He doesn’t need us to come to His defense. But we also want to make sure that people on a spiritual quest don’t avoid God simply because so many Christians are repulsive.


Q&AWITH BRUCE AND STAN What prompted you to write I’m Fine With God...It’s Christians I Can’t Stand? Reading the newspaper and channel surfing on TV. Hardly a day goes by without some news story about the eccentric behavior of a Christian, and the cable channels are populated by outrageous activity in the name of Christ. It might be a newspaper article about a Christian pediatrician who refused to treat a child because the mother had a tattoo in violation of a verse in Deuteronomy, or a televangelist who is asking for donations and promises that God will give back to the donor “millions and billions of dollars.” (We aren’t making this stuff up.) Along with many other Christians, we are embarrassed by the behavior of the lunatic fringe in our faith. They make the rest of us look bad, and more importantly, they give Christ a bad name. We believe it is time for Christians to publicly admit that a lot of goofy stuff happens under the banner of Christianity. Once that has been acknowledged, we might have a better chance of establishing an honest dialogue with nonbelievers about our beliefs. Who are the readers you envision for this book? First of all, we hope Christians will read the book. We think there are a lot of people of faith out there who are just as frustrated as we are with the offensive attitudes and actions of people who claim to believe in God but act in a manner that contradicts His character. But it’s not enough to blame the “black sheep” in the Christian family. All of us who call ourselves Christians have to take responsibility for our actions and live in a manner that truly reflect who God really is. Second, we hope that honest seekers will read the book. One of the points we make is that a person who truly wants to know God should not be distracted by the idiotic behaviors of some Christians. Just as Christians should take responsibility for their actions that reflect poorly on God, non-Christians have to take responsibility for their attitude towards God. Blaming someone who doesn’t truly represent God is not a good reason for rejecting Him.

You point out many problems with modern-day Christians. What’s your call to action--both for Christ-followers and for nonbelievers? While most Christians are not guilty of the outlandish and offensive behavior of some, we all need to be sensitive to how our words and actions may be perceived by nonbelievers. So, for the Christ-followers, we attempt in our book to give a biblical basis for how we should live in the culture as salt and light without projecting an image of being the 21st century Pharisees. For the non-believers, we want them to realize that the behavior that they find repulsive in some Christians is not the approach that Christ advocated. We want them to evaluate Christ on the basis of what He said and did, not on the basis of bizarre behavior done by some under His name. The basis message of our book is this: To our Christian brothers and sisters we say, “let’s learn to laugh at ourselves, and let’s learn from what we’re laughing at.” And to those outside our Christian family we say, “Much of your criticism against us is well-deserved. But don’t blame God. He agrees with you.”

Excerpt from “I’m Fine With God ... It’s Christians I Can’t Stand” by Bruce Bickel & Stan Jantz © 2008 by Harvest House Publishers ISBN # 978-0-7369-2197-8 Retail: $13.99 Used by permission.

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by Jim Moore

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It was to be a pretty normal Sunday morning. I was in a side room off of the main sanctuary of our newly planted church. I was pastoring at a church called “The Fathers House.” I was preparing for my sermon and I was waxing eloquent. I don’t remember what the offense was, but the little group of believers was about to get a tongue lashing. I was mad about something that I observed in our group that was inconsistent with the character of Christ, and it needed to be addressed. I did not see myself as “practicing” my sermon because I never did that…unthinkable. And I was not saying anything out loud, but I was yelling in my head as I paced aggressively back and forth across the room. I was delighted as each new righteous thought crossed my mind. I knew I would certainly win the one-sided argument that I was having in my head with the fledgling group.

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Suddenly in the middle of my “message,” I was stopped dead in my tracks, literally. It was as if I had bumped into an invisible wall. It was the Lord. I can’t explain how I knew it was, but it was as if He was standing six inches right in front of me, and He wasn’t happy. I was not sure what I had done, but I knew that something was wrong. He didn’t waste any time speaking:

“It is a fearful thing to be angry with another man’s bride.” I knew exactly what He meant. For years I had been “correcting” this man’s bride with less respect than I would show any other man’s bride here on earth. I was showing her less respect than I would show someone else’s wife, when she deserved at least the same. I was horrified. I then realized that if any man spoke this way to my wife…the way I was about to speak to His…that I would be very angry, and simply would not allow it. Even if she was totally wrong and in need of correction, I would demand that they do it with love and respect, period. She is mine, and I love her, and would not allow anyone, no matter how right they were, to trample on her. I understood that as a pastor, I had been addressing the Lord’s Bride this way for years. I had been giving myself permission to address her this way because of the faults I saw in her. I justified myself because I was defending righteousness. I have since discovered that God is concerned, not only about our being “right” but also about our being “right-hearted.” We must be right and right hearted. Love must rule our motives as well as our actions. From that point on, I have had a growing love relationship with the Bride. I now see things…good and bad… through the eyes of the genuine love for the one that He loves enough to give his very life for. I hope to be able to give my life for her, too.

We believe that God is the ultimate artist and we are his masterpiece: our human "anatomy" if you will. He is our inspiration and we are blessed to have the opportunity to praise him through the talents which he has given us. Some people say that clothing is an outward expression of who they are; it expresses their individuality, personality, and sometimes feelings. To an extent, clothing becomes a part of our human anatomy.

www.anatomyclothes.com RETHINKMONTHLY.COM_21


{ music review } by Lindsay Goodier

CULTURE

{ visit } www.avionblackman.com

With an ease-inducing voice reminiscent of Shaday and musical stylings that reflect her Caribbean heritage, Avion Blackman’s new album Sweet Life is a breezy blend of folk, worship, World, soca, R&B and neo-soul. Aside from her solo career, Blackman is also a member of the group Christafari. She continues to perform with the band, performing more than 100 shows in 25 countries in 2008 alone, including concerts in the USA, Iceland, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Poland, Germany, The Netherlands, England, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Spain, Antigua, Trinidad and Brazil. Born in Trinidad, Blackman lived in luxury as a daughter of the famous calypsonian, Lord Shorty, who was the inventor of Soca (the pulse of Carnival) and Jamoo music. As a young dreadlocked child, she began singing on stage in front of crowds at 4 years old. That year, her life drastically changed when on a spiritual quest, her father transplanted his massive family to the jungle, where she would spend the next 20 years living seven rugged miles from the remote Indian village of Pirapo.

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The Blackman home was a log cabin with no doors, windows, plumbing or electricity. Blackman was home-schooled and her large family (24 brothers and sisters) lived primarily off the land growing virtually everything that they ate. Their days were filled with Bible study, intense rehearsals, various tour dates and regular performances for curious visitors.

Marlin Awards for Contemporary Female Vocal Performance of the Year (“Marvelous Beauty”) and Packaging of the Year. In addition to her solo work and Christafari, Blackman has lent her voice to an assortment of songs for network television, where she can be heard regularly on popular shows such as General Hospital and One Life to Live.

Blackman learned the art of harmony while touring and singing background for her father, who took on the name Ras Shorty I after his conversion to Christianity. At 14, she began playing bass for the family band, The Love Circle, and eventually began recording solo material of her own.

On her new album, Blackman combines honest worship with island rhythms.

In 2003, she moved to Los Angeles and married Christafari founder and lead vocalist Mark Mohr, and subsequently became Christafari’s bassist and one of the group’s vocalists. Avion Blackman released her debut album, Onyinye, in 2005, and the following year the project was nominated for nine Caribbean Gospel Music Marlin Awards. Blackman took the top honor, becoming the first non-Jamaican to win Album of the Year. She also won

Some songs, like ‘Sweet Life,’ have jazz undertones, and are the perfect compliment to a Sunday afternoon drive around town. “On ‘Sweet Life,’ I unapologetically sing about the sweetest life of all,” Blackman says. “The abundant and eternal life that is freely given to those who place their faith in Jesus Christ.” Other songs on the album, like “It Is For Freedom,” incorporate melodious Caribbean melodies minus the steel drums. Blackman’s music introduces spiritual themes, from forgiveness to progressing in the spiritual walk, to trusting God.


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{ music review } by Shawnee Randolph

In the Christian music scene you don’t find many Shawn McDonalds or Jennifer Knapps – those originals that stick out of the crowed like a flashing neon sign. Instead, we find artist after artist and band after band that sound just like the one before them. However, if you’re into original sounds and lyrics with meaning that go deeper than the surface, check out Francesca Battistelli. Originally I was drawn to her hit song “I’m Letting Go,” which sounds eerily like mainstream secular artist Sarah Bareilles’ “Love Song.” However, after purchasing Battistelli’s CD, “My Paper Heart” my ears were blessed with fresh songs and creative lyrics. Battistelli’s has the instrumental sound of Michelle Branch with an extra pop and a hint of soul, and her vocals are a raspy Joy Williams/Sara Bareilles. To learn more about Francesca Battistelli’s music check out www. myspace.com/francescbattistelli.

the only

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e r a w t f o s y t i l accountabi on the internet


COMMUNITY

I have a horrible memory, which makes it all the more surprising to me how vividly I remember the moment that “Lisa” walked up to me. You might think this is weird, but it’s times like this that make me love being a pastor. It was after one of those infamous church potlucks in a basement fellowship hall, my empty plate still in hand, that she approached me with a burning question. The concern was written all over her middleaged face. Lisa had a dilemma, and in her mind I knew the heart and mind of God in all things…if only she knew.

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“Pastor, I don’t know what to do…a gay couple just moved in next door.” Those were the only words that left her lips as she then stood there staring at me. Talk about left field, I didn’t see that one coming. In the two seconds before I responded, I had a variety of emotions race through my body. Part of me wanted to laugh because judging by the look on her face you would have thought that she discovered a terrorist cell in her cul-de-sac – AlQaeda right here in Oregon. Another part of me was disappointed. What about the neighbors on the other side who broke the Sabbath, or the father who worked too much and neglected his family, or the two women who met at the mailboxes to share the dirt on the other neighbors? Why didn’t those require a pastoral consultation? This is why, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made me step down and rescue myself from the jury. We can’t be trusted to dispense judgment evenly. Mostly, though, as I looked into her waiting eyes, I was proud of her. Proud that behind the question was a woman that wanted to get it right. Proud that she was trying to sort out what faithfulness to God meant on her street. When you become a follower of Jesus, you are making the choice to walk down a different road than what most of those around you are walking. As people who are “in the world but not of the world,” we face these kinds of issues daily. It is helpful to know that the early church took their cues from Jesus


on how to conduct themselves in a world where they were the minority, and what they stood for was being consistently violated by culture. According to Luke’s Gospel, as Jesus stood before Pilate, trumped up charges were flying left and right, but there was one accusation that was true. “Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, ‘We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.’ “So Pilate asked Jesus, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ ‘You have said so,’ Jesus replied.” (Luke 23:1-3 NIV) If we were sitting in a Bible Study, I’d have you underline that word “subverting” five times, maybe six. It is really a powerful concept. To “subvert” literally means to “turn from beneath.” It carries with it this idea that something can be overthrown through unassuming means. It is the stealing of an allegiance as opposed to forcefully gaining control. Think about it. According to Jesus’ accusers, in just a few short years, Jesus had managed to dethrone both Caesar and Herod in the hearts of people and win over the allegiance of many…without ever picking up a sword. How can someone be such a threat when his weapon of choice is a towel? The concern that I have is that the church is losing its subversive power when it favors the sword over the towel. The religious right has made a name for itself as a political force to be reckoned with, but it has come with unintended consequences.

Rather than vying for hearts, we have tried to seize the scepter, and as a result, hearts have been hardened toward the faith, and a divorce has happened in the minds of people who are drawn to Jesus but want little to do with His church. It may be that when the church is in the majority, you can use political tactics to shape culture because there is an agreed-on set of values, but not when you are the minority. I saw subversive Christianity at work several years ago. When I first moved to Salem and introduced myself to my old neighbor Fred, he was pleased to meet me…until he found out I was a pastor. Upon the delivery of the bad news, Fred proceeded to do his best Lou Piniella imitation as he kicked the dirt in disgust. His dumb luck that a preacher would live across the street. Every now and then, I would see a girl in a wheel chair visiting Fred along with her grandpa. One day I walked over to meet this girl whose head kept slumping off to the side, a bib gently placed around her neck to catch the drool. Cerebral Palsy had immobilized this beautiful little girl. The grandpa expressed frustration that the wheel chair wasn’t adequate to hold her head up and that he didn’t have any money to fix the problem, and that the government had not come through as they had promised. A week later, I was still upset about this when I mentioned her story in a sermon I preached on the brokenness of our world. I wasn’t soliciting anything, I was just venting. Our people, led by our senior pastor, rose up and committed to purchasing a new wheelchair for this complete stranger. I will never forget the look on Fred’s face as he

overheard me extend the offer to the girl’s grandfather. All of his angst against religion and the church had been…subverted. From that point forward, Fred never once missed an opportunity to chat or wave as I drove by. The new church some of us are planting in West Salem, Oasis Community Church, recently held a Heaven on Earth Campaign where I commissioned four teams to bring a taste of heaven to someone whose life might be a living hell. We sent them out with $500 each. Several of our teams experienced that same kind of story that I just told, where an openness to the things of God was created where there was previously a closed door. We have no idea how powerful love really is. Subversive Christianity is the church that served lemonade to those waiting in line at a Marilyn Manson concert. It is our Lord extending forgiveness to the soldiers at Golgotha shocking them and igniting faith. Subversive Christianity undermined the idol making businesses in Ephesus leading to a riot in the book of Acts. These businesses weren’t tanking because someone signed a petition, but because so many of the former patrons became followers of Jesus. Subversive Christianity is what happens when you and I genuinely care for people and express the love of God in ways that make no sense to the unbelieving world. Perhaps that is why, in His last meal with his disciples, Jesus then put us in charge of the towel. So, what to do about the gay couple that moved in next door. I told her to “bake them some cookies.”

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FAITH

I will never forget shaking Dennis’ hand, squeezing their baby, and hugging Christina as they exited the church door. They were telling me that they were heading south to Dennis’ parents to help his family get the last of the logging done before the snow set in. They wouldn’t be seeing me for a few months. I wished them well and told them that I would be saving their seats.

Early the next morning, our phone rang. As my wife answered the phone, I could hear a lady’s voice screaming on the other end of the line. I grabbed the phone and suddenly realized that it was Christina’s mother screaming and sobbing about Dennis, Christina, and the baby. They were dead? I couldn’t believe my ears. This had to be a bad dream. Unfortunately, it was not. I remember making our way to their house in the country like it was yesterday. We were shocked, bewildered, and helpless about what to say. Talk about really depending on God to show up and give me some divine word to speak or proclaim! However, it was pretty quiet, awkwardly quiet. I felt like God had left me to handle this one on my own. Unfortunately, the story isn’t finished yet. Within a year, I found myself answering the phone in the middle of the night and once again it was about this family. Their neighbor was on the phone telling me, “Thought you might like to know that the Johnson’s house is currently burning to the ground.” Once again, I jumped up and found myself crying out to God, “What am I to do this time?” Once again, it was pretty quiet. Has God ever been really quiet when you desperately needed to hear from Him? How many people do you know who have had disappointments with God? Do you ever find yourself wondering why your prayers go unanswered? Especially, when you have

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been purposeful in really trying to conscientiously live for God? Why do you suppose that God would seemingly ignore the prayers offered up from a sincere heart, and why is it that we so quickly start to doubt God? The story of Jesus asleep in the midst of a massive storm reveals our doubts about whether He really cares for us and is in control. Two unexpected questions arise… In Luke’s writings (Luke chapter 8), we read of a time when the disciples of Jesus had a similar experience asking, “Where is Jesus when I need Him?” Why should they not wonder? These disciples knew all about sailing. They were professionals when it came to handling a boat. I have no doubt that they looked at the sky before they set out and scanned the horizon for indicators of bad weather. I suspect that all the signs pointed to smooth sailing. Then, something unexpected happened; they found themselves fighting some of the toughest waters they had ever faced and wondering if they were going to make it out alive. A squall arose. It dropped from the sky like a bird of prey swooping down on their small craft with so much velocity that they were helpless in the face of it. The storm must have howled like a category two as it tore through the rigging and churned the sea to a boil. This was the kind of storm that could snap a mast, or cause a small craft like the one the disciples were in to keel over and sink in seconds. I am reminded of a time just a couple of years ago when I was crossing the Sea of Galilee on the north end. The captain told us that we were fortunate to be up north because there was a violent storm at the south end of the lake; it still happens today. It was this kind of wind that fell on the disciples’ little craft. Certainly, if the disciples

had been able to see this storm looming on the horizon, they would have tried to steer clear of it; however, there was no such warning. If they had been unable to get out of its path, they might have at least been able to brace themselves and try to sail through it to the best of their ability. This is what you do in times of trouble. You batten down the hatches and adjust the sails. You do the best that you can. Nonetheless, this wind was just too big for the disciples to handle alone. I wonder how long they had been fighting the storm before someone asked, “Hey, where is Jesus?” To their surprise and dismay, they realized that Jesus was right where they had left Him at the beginning of this voyage, fast asleep on a cushion in the stern of the ship. How do you suppose these disciples felt when they realized that Jesus was sleeping through the storm? Do you suppose they crept up to him on tiptoe and shook him gently? Did they whisper in His ear the way your mother whispered in your ear when she woke you as a child? I don’t think so. I think they cried out in terror, if only to be heard over the shrieking of the wind. There is a note of chiding. “Master, how can you sleep at a time like this?” they cried. “Don’t you see that we are all about to die? Don’t you care?” Can you blame them for these feelings towards Jesus? The storm is raging, and the ship is going down. But Jesus … well, He is a different story. He does not leap to His feet with a gasp, nor does He demand to know why they did not wake him sooner. He gets up and speaks, not just to his disciples, but also to the wind and waters. The effect upon the storm is immediate. Jesus rebukes the wind and it grows quiet, He speaks and the churning waters settle themselves, like a kid who has just been seriously told to, “knock it off.” Even so, a different kind of storm is just beginning to brew in the disciples’ hearts. “Where is your faith?” Jesus asks them. They reply with a question of their

own, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.” I cannot help being struck by the counterpoint reflected in these two questions. First, there is the question posed by Jesus. “Where is your faith?” he asks his disciples. Something inside me wants to answer back what do you mean, where is my faith? How can you ask such a question, Jesus? The ship was sinking! What did you expect them to do, walk on water? They have not learned that trick yet! By the way, Jesus, where were you as the storm was raging? Asleep. What would have happened if the disciples had not called on you for help? Where would you be? What would have happened to the rest of your ministry? Any challenge, I might offer, dies quickly and subsides when I hear the question asked by the disciples. “Who is this?” They also said, “He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.” What do you disciples mean, “Who is this?” Why are you so surprised? If you did not think Jesus could do anything about the winds and the water, why did you wake him? What makes these two questions most disturbing is the way they reveal the true landscape of our spiritual lives. Like zeroing in with Google earth, these two questions mark the boundaries of our struggle with doubt. At one point is the question of Jesus: “Where is your faith?” “Where is your faith?” Jesus asks his disciples. I hate this question because it is so confrontational, and besides, it is not an easy question to understand, let alone answer. CONTINUED ON PAGE 28

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UNANSWERED PRAYER CONT.

What can Jesus mean by it? Is He just being grumpy? Is He irritated with the disciples for disturbing his nap? That seems doubtful. It certainly does not match the picture of Jesus we have elsewhere in the gospels. Jesus was often interrupted. He frequently put His own concerns aside to meet the needs of others. The gospel writers never portray Him as someone who was impatient, selfish, or moody. So perhaps Jesus felt the disciples were overreacting. This does not seem to be the case here. Verse 23 says the boat was “being swamped.” The waves were crashing over the side. Verse 24 says the waters were “raging.” This little ship really was in trouble. Verse 23 also says, “They were in great danger.” So what is the rebuke implied in Jesus’ question? What does He mean when He asks, “Where is your faith?” I think Jesus is partly responding to their implied criticism that He had been asleep on the job. Have you not at times come to the point in your Christian faith when it appears as if God is asleep on the job? When this happens, we cry out as these disciples did, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” This is precisely the tone of much of our praying. We sometimes treat prayer like a petition. We are convinced that if we obtain enough signatures, God will be compelled to act. We are convinced that our prayers have a better chance of being heard if there are more of us praying, or if we pray longer or louder and more passionately than anyone else. Jesus throws a direct question, “Where is your faith?” Frankly, this seems hard to me—even harsh—and entirely out of character with what I expect from Jesus. Until I hear Jesus’ question in concert with the one posed by the disciples. 28_RETHINK MONTHLY

At the other extremity is the question of the disciples: “Who is this man?” Jesus’ question may be hard to understand, but it is this question of the disciples that is even harder to accept. That’s because it points to something in my heart that I would really rather ignore. It shows me that despite all of my Bible reading, my assertions about faith, and all my prayers, that I am not entirely convinced that God will do what I have asked Him to do. In verse 25, Jesus asks his disciples, “Where is your faith?” In fear and amazement they ask one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.” It is easy for us to smirk at their amazement. After all, we know what Jesus is capable of; we’ve read the gospels. What we are not entirely convinced of is that Jesus will do the same for us—and rightly so! Our own experiences have shown us that the story does not always end this way. Jesus does not always speak to the wind and the waves and quiet them right before us. If we fail to recognize this, we may misinterpret our circumstances. In some cases, it is the mistake of thinking that easy sailing is a mark of God’s favor, and trouble is a sign of His displeasure. If we are healthy, if things are going well with the kids, if the job is going great, and traffic through Wilsonville to the I-205 has been a breeze, we may conclude that God is pleased with us. However, when the skies darken and the seas begin to rise, before you know it, we are experiencing a crisis of faith. In his book Spiritual Depression, Martyn Lloyd Jones writes: “God permits storms. He permits difficulties. He permits the winds to blow and the billows to roll, and everything may seem to be going wrong and we ourselves to be in jeopardy.” God’s guidance in our lives does not always steer us away from the storm; sometimes He sends us into it. That is the time to remember that it is not

you who charts the course but Christ. It is not the heavy weather on the horizon of our lives that bothers us the most. It is God’s apparent lack of interest that sends us over the edge. It is the silence of God that causes us to stumble. We are haunted by the fear that we are still on the course that God initially charted for us, but Jesus has checked out. In the midst of that painful silence, we are compelled to redefine our concept of prayer. How, then, should we interpret Jesus’ sleeping in the midst of the storm? Surely it is not as a sign of His absence or a mark of His disinterest. While His need for sleep does bear witness to the reality of His humanity, it was a reflection of His peace. The storm was part of God’s plan. To God it was no big deal. Christ’s ability to sleep in the midst of the storm helps us to see a new dimension to the “peace of God.” We usually think of the peace of God primarily as something we experience. We think of a peace that we receive—the peace that passes all understanding. However, our experience of peace must ultimately have its origin in God’s own peace. God is not anxious, nor is He afraid. God is certain of the future. The wind and waves that are so troubling to us cannot reach Him. Though He may be removed from them, He is not unmoved by them. This, then, is the answer to Christ’s question, “Where is your faith?” Our faith is not in the wind, in the waves, in the sails, nor in the ship. Faith is neither in our charts and maps, nor in our skill as sailors. Our faith is in the One who “commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.” Our faith is in the God who became flesh and dwelt among us. Our faith is in the One who died on the cross and rose again. Our faith is in Christ alone.


CONTRIBUTORS

FILMS LOOPS VISUAL LITURGY STILLS

John Fehlen serves as the Lead Pastor of West Salem Foursquare Church. He digs his wife Denise and their four kids. John can be found sipping an Iced Grande Triple Espresso with two pumps sugar-free vanilla. Check out his blog at www.johnfehlen. com. Ray Deck III is involved in ministry on two different fronts — in creative communications for Word of Life in Schroon Lake, NY, and as the co-founder of MinistryLIVE.org. You can always reach him at ray@ministrylive.org. Jim Moore Is Director of the Salem House of Prayer - a city-wide, multi-denominational 24-hour worship and intercessory ministry to the body of Christ in Salem and the surrounding areas. Check out their website at www.salemhouseofprayer.org. Keith Ritter is Lead Pastor of Oasis Community Church - a new church in West Salem. Keith has served for many years as pastor and is excited about the launch of Oasis. Check them out on website at www.oasiswestsalem.com.

A COMMUNITY OF ARTISTS CREATING VISUAL MEDIA FOR THE CHURCH TO RE-ORIENT GOD'S PEOPLE AROUND JESUS' MISSION TO MAKE ALL THINGS NEW. WWW.TWOTP.COM

Lindsay Goodier is a journalist living in Houston, Texas who loves the beach, sailing and running. You can find her blog at www. goodsforlife.wordpress.com. John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. Whitehead's concern for the persecuted and oppressed led him, in 1982, to establish The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties and human rights organization whose international headquarters are located in Charlottesville, Virginia. Visit the website at www.rutherford.org. Tim Challies, a self-employed web designer, is a pioneer in the Christian blogosphere, having one of the most widely read and recognized Christian blogs. He is also editor of Discerning Reader, a site dedicated to offering thoughtful reviews of books that are of interested to Christians. Check out his blog at www.challies.com. Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz have co-written 60 books with combined sales of more than 3 million copies. “I’m Fine With God ... It’s Christians I Can’t Stand” is part of a larger publishing initiative with Harvest House Publishers called Conversantlife.com, a new media website designed to stimulate conversations about faith and culture. Visit their website at www.conversantlife.com.

SO, YOU’RE IN A BAND.

AND YOU NEED PICS. THAT AREN’T LAME.

WWW.BENDERIENZO.COM

615.478.4796

BEN@BENDERIENZO.COM


FINAL THOUGHT

I remember waking up one day, going to the mirror, and looking at myself. I didn’t know or even recognize the person looking back at me. Suddenly, I felt so scared. I just wanted to run as far away as I could. But I couldn’t move – I couldn’t take my eyes off the eyes looking back at me. Those eyes looked so empty, so lost. I could see tears, but when I touched my face, it was dry. I was numb – numb to what I was feeling – numb to who I was. The person looking back at me wasn’t real, but that person was me, how can I not be real? I was put together by the outside world. I had no identity, feelings, opinions, or voice. I needed to be what others expected. So I graciously surrendered myself to them. And after so many people put their hands on me to mold or shape me to their standards, any piece of the real me was no longer existent. Eventually, there was no trace of me left. That day, I stood in front of the mirror dirty, violated, abandoned, alone, and broken. I felt broken beyond repair. I wanted to scream and cry out to anybody, but I couldn’t. I had no voice. So I turned and walked away from the nobody, the ugliness looking back at me. I walked away from me.

I wish that I could say that was the day I stopped allowing others to determine my identity, and that I went searching for who I was. But I didn’t. I ran straight out into the world to anyone and begged them to tell me who I was, who they wanted me to be. Eventually, over time, the girl in the mirror went away. She was no longer there to haunt me. There were no eyes looking back at me pleading for truth, no tears, no unrecognizable face, no fear. I could look into the mirror and no one looked back at me. The girl in the mirror didn’t exist. I didn’t exist.

Again, I wish I could say that I woke up one day and there I was again, the real me. But the truth is, it is a slow and painful process. Everyday as I grow and get to know me a little better, I see bits and pieces of me reflecting back at me. At times I still want to run. I feel uncomfortable and exposed, and I don’t always like what I see. I can see my flaws from pieces of me that have been broken in the past that now don’t fit back together perfectly. I still surrendered myself, but this time I surrendered myself to God. I cried out for forgiveness and understanding, but mostly I cried out for courage. Courage to take the first step, courage to see the truth, and courage to accept me for who I really am – flaws and all. Today I look in the mirror and I love the woman I see. I am a strong, independent, courageous, beautiful woman full of love and life. I have a beautiful voice that speaks the truth and expresses my own opinions, feelings, and thoughts. My eyes are alive and dance with excitement and hope. I am not running from me anymore. When I walk away from the mirror, the woman in the mirror goes with me. She is me and I am me. Today I am real and true. I love myself beyond my flaws. These flaws are another piece of me and my identity. Is my identity complete today? Absolutely not, I will forever be growing and changing. The difference today is that my growth and change will be done on my terms, and come from within me.

30_RETHINK MONTHLY


The bi-weekly RETHINK Podcast features a few local guys who discuss local news and events, issues - both spiritually relevant and non - and entertainment that matters to your life.

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Building Bridges. Building Bridges. www.salemlf.org

Building Bridges. www.salemlf.org

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Rethink Monthly - Jan/Feb 2009