Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Carl Medearis' Take on the U.N. Vote for Palestinian Statehood

Great Mosque of Cordoba

I always love what Carl Medearis has to say about anything related to Western-Muslim relations. His most recent article on CNN's Belief Blog is no exception. I could probably say what he says just as well, but I don't have the clout that he does. What follows is an excerpt and then a link to the full post. The comments are racking up quickly as well.

The most important part of the article:
Rather than allowing obscure Old Testament promises to dictate our foreign policy, what if we stuck to the clear commands of God - love your neighbor, your enemy and the foreigner in your midst - which appear in Exodus, Leviticus and three of the four gospels.

Many Christians in America think of Jews and Christians as “us” and anything that sounds Muslim or Arab as “the other.” But the call of Jesus is to be more loving towards the “other” than towards the people we think of as “us.”

This command works both ways. When I’ve had audiences with leaders in the Hezbollah or Hamas, I tell them the same thing: That Jesus said to love your enemies. Who are your enemies? Israel.

It’s true that there are elements of Palestinian society that do not want peace, no matter the price. They need to be isolated and dealt with.

The same goes for elements of Israeli society that don’t want peace. The good news is that extremists are a minority on both sides of the conflict.

People ask me all the time what I think about Israel and end-times theology, and how the Palestinians factor into that.
Here’s my answer: If your end-times theology trumps the clear commands in Scripture to love neighbors and enemies, then its time to rethink your theology.

Link: My Take: Jesus would support Palestinian statehood bid by Carl Medearis




10 Ways to Get Free Music Online

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="275" caption="Image via CrunchBase"]Image representing NoiseTrade as depicted in C...[/caption]

I love music. I love getting things for free. Every Tuesday, free music gets added to my collection via various sources. I would like to share those various ways I get this free music.

  1. iTunes offers several free selections every week. If you have iTunes, just browse to the home page of the store, scroll to the bottom and you'll see the free section. They also offer free music videos and free TV shows. There is also a page on Facebook, called "Free on iTunes" which offers free samplers from time to time. Here's the link to the app on Facebook.

  2. Noisetrade is a service started by Derek Webb (formerly of Caedmon's Call) fame some years back to help independent artists get their music out. It works on the principle that you pay what you want to pay. In other words, you don't have to pay anything. I have gotten lots of great music this way. A lot of it tends toward the singer-songwriter genre. Webb and his wife, Sandra McCracken have released several of their albums on there. Other artists use it to release samplers or older albums. You can also pay with a tweet or a post on Facebook letting others know about the music. There are both Christian and non-Christian artists on this site, but most of it is good. I have discovered quite a few new favorites this way. Look up Blake Aaron Guthrie's "Love in Different Lights." It's awesome.

  3. Come&Live! is another independent music site which also offers a model similar to Noisetrade's, except it is strictly Christian. They offer a bit of a heavier music selection, such as hard rock, punk, and grunge. However, you never have to pay for the albums either. There is some really good stuff here too. Ascend the Hill's "Hymns" and The Ember Days' albums are really good and really solid with their lyrics.

  4. New Release Tuesday offers a selection of up to 3 or 4 songs a week on their site. You have to be a member, and it offers solely Christian music, but some of the music is still pretty good and current.

  5. Hear It First is another Christian site you have to sign up for. They offer at least one, sometimes two free songs a week through their mailing list.

  6. iTickets is a Christian event site similar to Ticketmaster. However, they offer anywhere from 1 to 3 free songs a week. You have to be a member, but there is some good stuff there.

  7. FreeCCM is a site started by INO Records and Mercy Me. They offer a free song a week as well, and a few other sampler downloads. They also offer some devotionals and a blog.

  8. CCM Magazine also offers a free song a week via their weekly newsletter. Sometimes it duplicates the other newsletters and sometimes it doesn't. You can check their website weekly or sign up for their newsletter

  9. Gospel Music Channel (GMC) also offers a free music download a week. Sign up for their newsletter to be notified or just check their website.

  10. Last.FM has a recommended music based on your listening preferences which you can subscribe to as a podcast. It's pretty much hit or miss. Some strange stuff has been recommended for me.

Bonus non-music freebie: offers a free audiobook download once a month. Some past freebies have included Jon Acuff's "Stuff Christian Like" and John Piper's "Desiring God".

I may have missed a few. If you know of any, please let me and others know in the comments.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Myth of a Christian Nation

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="194" caption="Cover via Amazon"]Cover of "The Myth of a Christian Nation:...[/caption]

My apologies to Greg Boyd for borrowing the title of his book, but this is a topic that needs to be addressed, I believe. I have not read Boyd's book, so these ideas are my own. What I would like to address is this idea that The United States of America was at one time a Christian nation or even the idea that it is a Christian nation. I would like to ask for evidence to support this and also ask what makes a Christian nation.  We know that Thomas Jefferson was very clearly a Deist and that he put together his own version of the Bible with the verses he liked. We like to quote Benjamin Franklin, but it's not clear if he was even a Christian. These are our founding fathers. Sure, our country was founding on the principle that people should be free. They should be free from the oppression of religion. They should be free from the tyranny of big government. They should be free from taxes without representation as the battle cry went.

So, what happened? Was America a Christian nation? Should it be a Christian nation? Should the values of what we call Christianity be forced on all peoples who reside in the United States of America? What are we calling people back to? This is the same nation that fought over the issue of slavery and secession while soldiers and politicians on both sides both advocated for and were against the owning of human beings. Note that I said both sides. Thomas Jefferson hosted Muslim dinners in the White House and call President Obama a Muslim for doing the same thing, when every predecessor before him did the same thing. But I digress. I suppose we're really talking about the values of Christianity. What are these values?

Let me give a list of what I think the values most people are talking about when they call for us to return to a "Christian" nation:

  • Other religions are free to to worship unless it's Islam.

  • The only sin we can't tolerate is homosexuality.

  • The government should sponsor prayer, nativity displays, and other Christian acts in the public square, but God forbid any other religion from being allowed the same right.

  • If you're a Christian, you should be Republican. To be anything else means that you're a kook if you're a Libertarian or you support homosexuality and abortion if you're a Democrat.

This is a short list and for time's sake I kept it that way. If you have some more, feel free to let me know. What should our Christian values be? They should be what Jesus laid out for us in Matthew 5 and what Paul laid out in Galatians 5 with the fruits of the Spirit.  We have lost our way and focus on a me-centered Christianity. Do we not know that all sins are equal in God's eyes. We focus on homosexuality and abortion, when we openly advocate divorce, in the Church.  We lie, cheat, and steal and yet, the unforgivable sins seem to be homosexuality and abortion.  We also don't like to forgive. Take for instance the Islamic Center being built a few blocks from the former site of the World Trade Center towers and the other mosques being protested against around the country. We tell them to allow us to build churches in places like Saudi Arabia and they can build their mosques here. Isn't that hypocritical? Our Constitution guarantees them the right to worship as they please. We should be the model, not the copycat. It only shows fear and hate to single out someone because of their religion or the color of their skin or their sexual orientation. We are not being Jesus at all to them. Jesus told the woman caught in adultery to go and sin no more. Should we not be expressing the same attitude? Instead, we say, "stop doing this and I'll like you and Jesus will like you to. " Instead, we should be showing them Jesus in order for Jesus to change them.

Let's stop espousing this idea that the U.S. should be and will be a Christian nation. In reality, it never was, nor will it be. The only Christian nation is the people of God, the Church, the true Israel, comprised of people from all people groups who trust in Christ as their Lord and Savior. It is not America.  Our laws may mostly reflect a slight Christian heritage, but most laws around the world do that. Instead, let's stop being hypocritical, and let's show them Jesus instead.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Divorce your spouse who has Alzheimer's?

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Logo of Alzheimer's Society.[/caption]

I ran across this news story this morning.
Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson told his "700 Club" viewers that divorcing a spouse with Alzheimer's is justifiable because the disease is "a kind of death."

During the portion of the show where the one-time Republican presidential candidate takes questions from viewers, Robertson was asked what advice a man should give to a friend who began seeing another woman after his wife started suffering from the incurableneurological disorder.

"I know it sounds cruel, but if he's going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her," Robertson said.

Now, Robertson claims to represent Evangelical Christianity (whatever that means these days anyway) and divorce in the church is always a hot topic, but publicly advocating for divorce due to a deadly illness? Robertson offered no Biblical support for his answer and the reporter even brought up divorce and remarriage from the Gospel of Mark as something that could contradict what Robertson told his viewers. Robertson would do well to look at the life of another Robertson, Robertson McQuilkin for a Biblical response to a wife suffering with Alzheimer's. It's a fairly well-known story that Robertson McQuilkin, President Emeritus and son of the founder of Columbia International University, stepped down from his presidency at CIU to take full-time care of his wife, who had Alzheimer's. See this news story.
It's a story that continues to pop up nearly every day on the Internet.  The story is linked from Web site to Web site, from blog to blog.  It's the story of "A Promised Kept" - the story of Columbia International University President Emeritus Robertson McQuilkin and his late wife Muriel.  It's a simple story in one sense.  A man sets aside his career as the president of a thriving college to care full time for his wife who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

But it's perhaps the counter-culture nature of Robertson McQuilkin's decision that makes the story so compelling - and to some so foolish.  He made a vow "till death do we part" and he kept it, even in an age where some say suicide is the best answer to a debilitating disease.

What would McQuilkin say to Robertson on this issue? How should we respond on this issue? Personally, I think it's time for Pat Robertson to fully retire and stay out of the limelight. Every time he opens his mouth lately, it seems that he further damages his credibility (if he has any left) and the credibility of all those who support him.  God has called spouses to be with each other until death literally does us apart. Robertson is suggesting otherwise, very unBiblically, of course. Your thoughts?

UPDATE: At the time I wrote this, I had no idea that Christianity Today had also linked both Robertson's together. Seeing as how I'm linked to CIU via my Alumni and former employee status, it was a natural connection for me.

Friday, September 9, 2011

8 Google Music Beta Invites to Give Away

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Google Logo officially released on May 2010[/caption]

I recently noticed that Google Music Beta has given me some invites to give away in case others want to try the service. It's not a bad service, but they don't offer recomendations like Spotify or Last.FM, though I found Spotify to be useless unless you pay for it. Anyways, Google Music is pretty cool, but it took me months to finally get nearly 15,000 songs uploaded. I'm looking forward to seeing Spotify-type features such as recommendations and friend-sharing, should they offer them.

Anyways, if you want one of these few invites, leave a comment telling me what you've been listening to. It could be a podcast, album, artist, audiobook, etc. Recent, not so recent.

I'll pick 8 random winners to receive invites.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

[Book Review] The Bone House by Stephen R. Lawhead

This book was provided free for review by Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze program.

Anyone who gets to know me eventually learns that I am a huge fan of Stephen R. Lawhead. In my opinion, he is perhaps the greatest living science fiction/fantasy writer today. His attention to detail when describing either historical settings or even mythical settings is on par with J. R. R. Tolkien. So, of course, when I saw that his latest book, The Bone House (Bright Empires)
, was being offered for review, I took it. This is the second of five books to be written in The Bright Empires series. The first was The Skin Map, released in September 2010. The premise is that there are these "ley lines" running through the earth, where one might be able to stand at a certain time of day in a certain way or certain location and enter a different dimension or time. This similar to how Lawhead's characters in The Song of Albion trilogy entered the other world, with an exception or two.

In The Skin Map, we meet Kit, Cosimo, Sir Henry, Mena, and Lord Burleigh as they seek out this map tattooed on someone's skin which details the locations of the ley lines. A couple of the characters come to an end and that's where The Bone House (Bright Empires)
 picks up as we follow Kit and Mena around the world through various locations and time periods as they seek the second piece of the skin map. One criticism of The Skin Map was that there wasn't enough character information, as is typical in Lawhead's books. He seeks to rectify that in this book, by providing a good bit more of back story to the different characters. Maybe still not enough, but you do get to see a little bit more of how the characters got to where they are.

For many years, Lawhead has been focusing on historical fiction with books such as Byzantium and The Raven King trilogy. In The Bright Empires series, he draws from all of his previous writings to craft an imaginative tale somewhat similar to The Song of Albion, but unlike his others. Lawhead knows how to draw on your emotions to make you even see through the eyes of the bad guys to feel what even they are experiencing. He knows how to keep you reading and wanting for more in the series. One has to wait for The Well of Souls, the next book in the series, for another year, but The Bone House has been well worth the wait, so I'm sure the next will be as well. If you have not read Lawhead before, I encourage you to do so. This book has been described as an interdimensional time-traveling treasure hunt, and that it is. Think, H. G. Wells meets C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien and Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas and comes up with Indiana Jones. I now have Lawhead's son's (Ross Lawhead) book, The Realms Thereunder, to read. Someone is taking after his father quite well.

Monday, September 5, 2011

150 Google+ Invites to Give Out

You know you want one, if you don't have one yet. So, what are waiting for?

The first 150 comments telling me the name of the latest book they've read and a two to three sentence summary, get an invite.