Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Where I Got The Idea For Honest August

As the month of August ends, so does Honest August. I got the theme of honesty from a blogger I regularly read and highly respect. Anne Jackson. I have her listed in my 'Bloggers Who Inspire Me'. On that page I say that I am inspired by her honesty. And amazingly enough, she took the time to comment her appreciation on that page!

But honesty is who she is.

Today is her book release. Permission to Speak Freely hit the shelves in paperback and websites as an audiobook. I managed to get a pre-released copy. It's short. I read it over the course of 2 cigars* (about 3 hours).

And I was deeply moved by her words. She is calling for the church to be honest. I wanted to post my Amazon review of her book here:

"This book hurts. Because it is messy.
Anne Jackson has a one of a kind boldness to publicly confess her deepest and darkest secrets. To show that she is broken. And to show that she is healing.
This book is a gem. One that I want all of my friends to read.
I read the first half of the book in one sitting. Heartbroken, I closed the book to ponder what I read. I left the book closed for a few days. Re-opened and read one chapter (#14, Sanctuary).
In it, she states,
"Churches have been sacrificing the beauty of confession and brokenness for religious trappings and the malady of perfectionism."
Wow. I had to sit the book down again and wonder about this for a day.
This is a short book. I suppose it could be read in one sitting. But for me, I wouldn't be able to digest the massively important ideas she presents in one sitting. It took breaks. It took chewing.
Usually, with a book like this, the author will use a powerful real life example at the end to prove their final point. What did Anne pick to display confession and the power of healing? She chose To Write Love On Her Arms. And believe me. It drove the point home.
Lastly, the art and images she picked to separate the parts of her book are wonderful confessions. They're messy, just like the rest of the book. But expect to be moved by some."

Thank you Anne for being honest.

I really want you guys to buy and read this book. I want us to truly discover the sacredness of confession. In too many ways, I believe the American Church has trapped itself in perfectionism, professionalism, and false impressions. Our only way out of this corner is to be honest. To God, ourselves, and others.

This is the end of Honest August.
But not the end of honesty.
This is a boy and his God.

Let me know if you decide to read this book. And let me know what you think of it.

*Yes. I smoke cigars. Just being honest. ;)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Addiction (Honest August)

I read recently that 37% of women and 18% of men check their Facebook before they use the bathroom in the morning. In other words, they are addicted to social networking.

Most of us cannot leave without our phone. We argue that our rationale is safety, saying that our phone is access to help in our time of need. But when I forget my phone, I don't think of safety, I think of how I won't be connected. I am addicted to my phone.

Some are addicted to books, acceptance, coffee, World of Warcraft.

The chains of addiction are too light to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.

Is addiction to social networking or technology or other innocent means wrong? I think so. It absorbs our attention. It complicates, when we should move towards simplicity.

But what I really want to talk about is much more serious.


Is there anything more addictive?

Is there a secret we guard more closely?

Other things we talked about during Honest August are much more innocent. I rationalized lying, swearing, and drinking. But there is no rationalizing porn. It's always wrong. It's always destructive.

And this is the hardest topic to be honest about. Especially for women. Yep, porn is not just a guy's problem. When women confess addiction to porn, they talk about how alone they feel, thinking that only men struggle with it. Not women. (Women, click here for a powerful confession)

So what is the solution?


Honesty in the form of accountability. A lifestyle of transparency. Not transparency with everyone, but just with one or two people you really trust.

If you are waiting and praying for the day where you wake up to be delivered or freed from your addiction, it's not going to happen. It takes one on one accountability. Once we admit we are broken, once we shed our image of perfection, honesty becomes much easier.

XXX Church is the first and biggest online Christian Porn Site. Obviously not to show porn, but to help those in addiction. They're greatest product is a free software program that offers honesty in accountability groups: X3 Watch.

I know this is a difficult topic. In the comments section, I'm expecting to hear crickets (get it? because it will be so quiet?). If you want to talk about this, feel free to email me at aboyandhisgod@gmail.com.

I know it's tough. If you want to talk about it, I'm here.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Doubt (Honest August)


It's hard to talk about doubt.

Uncertainty twists your stomach.

Your misgivings make you shameful.

It's the feeling when you take a step, thinking there is a place for your foot. Expecting to land and find solid ground. But find yourself in a moment of free fall.

This question is all too common. "What if everything I've ever believed in is a mistake?"

And what's more is that we hate to talk about it. Churches are hardly the place to express unbelief. Part of this is due to the fact that we've created a church culture where transparency is difficult and perfection is a false image that we celebrate. It's difficult to be honest. But being that it's Honest August, I want to create a safe environment to ask these questions.

The very idea of doubt feels wrong.

-Does God exist?
-If he exists, does he care?
-Is the Bible true?
-Or does it have contradictions?
-What about evidence for evolution?
-Does prayer really work?

We tend to think of doubt as the opposite of belief.

But I don't think that's true. The opposite of belief is not doubt, but unbelief. When you believe an idea, your attribute it as truth. When you disbelieve an idea, you attribute it as false. The middle ground is where you find doubt. This is when you become uncertain of what you believe. You don't disbelieve, but you don't fully believe either.

Instead, doubt is a time of searching.

And this can be a great place to find both yourself and your faith. And the Christian Faith is worth the time spent searching. This is a great time to solidify your beliefs.

Doubt gives us the opportunity to deconstruct what we've been told and reconstruct a stronger faith.

Do you doubt that God loves you? Now is the time to deconstruct your image of God.


And question.

And ask.

And research.

And pray.

And find why God loves you.

Deconstructing your misconceptions. Reconstructing something stronger and more beautiful.

Do you doubt that Jesus was and is fully God? Again, allow your presuppositions to fade and rebuild on a solidified foundation.

The hard part (and I would add 'foolish', even 'dangerous') is to try and do this on your own. Rather, this is a time spent asking God and asking mentors.

I believe these questions should be asked because I believe these questions have great and powerful answers about who God is.

What did I doubt? I doubted the historical validity of the Bible. I questioned the method that God's word had been passed into the hands of men.

So I was directed to Josh McDowell. So I read his book The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict. God and I created a firm Biblical and historical foundation to rest my relationship. My relationship with God was stronger after I searched my doubts.

Doubt is an awkward, scary, lonely place to be.

But doubt can be an awkward, scary, lonely place to grow!

The trouble is that we've created a church culture where voicing doubts is risky. But far more dangerous is the doubt that is never investigated. Uninvestigated doubt becomes unbelief.

The book of Habakkuk is a powerful short story of how a man doubted God's goodness. He boldly brought his questions to God. And God responded in a powerful way. Not in anger with Habakkuk's doubts. But in a loving, mind blowing, prophetic way.

His bold questions?

"God, how long must I cry for help, and you not listen?"
"God, why do you tolerate wrong doing?"

Read the book for yourself.

So be honest. Ask your questions here.
And we can help connect you with mentors to work through your doubts.

So it's your turn to be honest.
What do you doubt?
If it was a past doubt, did you grow stronger after you searched? 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Lying (Honest August)

The way my mind is wired, I am always searching for exceptions to the rule. So I have a hard time with absolutes. I think this is why I am attracted to ethical dilemmas, questioning cultural or timeless principles, and dealing with supposed absolutes. 

(Pictured above is Corrie ten Boom's home, The Hiding Place)

To be sure, lying is wrong and hurtful. 

God hates a lying tongue. Proverbs 16:19

Lying lips are an abomination. Proverbs 12:22

Put away your falsehood. Ephesians 4:25 

But is this absolute? Is lying always wrong? 

I think of the book of Joshua and the prostitute Rahab. Joshua's spies were scouting Jericho. They found themselves lodged in the prostitute's home, hiding from the authorities. When Rahab was questioned about their presence, she replied, 
"True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. And when the gate was about to be closed at dark, the men went out. I do not know where the men went." 
She lied.

They hadn't escaped. She hid them in her roof. She spoke to them about how the wonders of how God saved Israel at the Red Sea, about how God was with their armies. She confessed that the Lord God is the God of the heavens above and the earth beneath. 

Profound words from anyone. More so from a lying prostitute. 

James later said of Rahab, "And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?" (James 2:25)

So to save a life, is it right to lie? 

Two contradictory examples come to mind. 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, an expert in ethics, was also a pastor in Nazi Germany. He was faced his own ethical theories when he lied about the locations of hiding Jews. His truth would be their execution. His lies would be their escape. He chose to lie, eventually bringing Bonhoeffer's own execution. 

Corrie and Betsie ten Boom likewise hid Nazi resisters. On one occasion, while hiding refugees under the floor beneath the table, soldiers barged in and demanded to know their location. Without missing a beat, they replied, "They're under the table." The soldiers moved the table clothe, saw nothing, and sent the sisters laughing hysterically at the misunderstanding. Angry and embarrassed, the soldiers stormed off. 

Unlike Rahab and Bonhoeffer, the sisters chose not to lie. 

The question then becomes, who is right? Are all three examples justified? Or only the sisters? 

And to be honest, I think we are far too critical of Rahab and Bonhoeffer, when we ourselves have lied or deceived for our own self gain. Rahab and Bonhoeffer lied to save lives. We lie to save face. 

Lastly, Jesus makes the following statement about following the Law word for word leading to acts of evil. 

"One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from dropsy. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, 'Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?' But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him away. 

Then he asked them, 'If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out? And they had nothing to say." (Luke 14:1-5)

Does this apply only to the law of the Sabbath? Or does it apply to all laws when a human life is on the line? 

So your turn to be honest.
Are all three examples justified? Or only the sisters?

I found this moving postcard on PostSecret.com that adds to this discussion.

This girl doesn't make a claim to faith, or try to justify herself. This is just a simple, powerful confession of a lie. Is she right or wrong? 

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Alcohol (Honest August)

Years ago, I was sitting in my theology class when my professor made this simple statement,

“You know, in Europe, many theologians discuss their views of theology over pints of beer in pubs. Alcohol is viewed very differently over there.”

And his short comment began to deconstruct my idea of drinking. Isn’t the very idea of drinking wrong? Or is this just what I’ve been told. Maybe it’s cultural.

Later, another professor showed us Psalms 104:15.

“You [God] cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the the heart of man.

I knew about the many of passages that condemn drunkenness. But thankfulness to wine was something very new to me.

Martin Luther once joked,

“Do not suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the object which is abused. Men can go wrong with wine and women. Shall we then prohibit and abolish women?”

Last week, we talked about the shift in perspective about our language. Now I want to talk about the shift in the perspective of drinking. What changed?

Are the reasons similar to swearing?

1. The Bible doesn't say anything specifically against drinking. Drunkenness, yes. Consumption, no.

2. It's cultural. Some cultures permit it, others disapprove.

3. In general, Christians are getting tired of being told what they can and cannot do. Is that pride? Or freedom?

One aspect that I have noticed is that there are two types of drinkers.

The Frat Boy. This individual drinks for the sole purpose of getting buzzed or drunk. Sometimes socially. Sometimes alone. As I grew up, I thought this was the only reason or mentality to drink. To get drunk.

The Aficionado. This person appreciates and respects the culture and taste of alcohol. The goal is not to get a buzz or to be drunk. But rather to enjoy community and conversation that is had over a drink or two.

Some churches have adapted and established Pint Nights (evenings to gather, drink, and enjoy conversation). Others have Theology on Tap (theological conversations to take place in bars, where people who don't feel comfortable visiting churches can talk about God).

Years ago, I went to hear Rob Bell speak in Atlanta. Instead of speaking at a church, he spoke at a music venue. I was sitting close to the front, and I heard a guy comment behind me, “The bar is open! I’ve never had a beer while listening to a sermon before.” And sure enough, I looked, and behind me sat the man with his lager. My mind spun as the two worlds collided.

Author Stephen Mansfield, in his book The Search for God and Guinness, said this,

"A brewer once told me that he did not think of himself as brewing beer, but rather as creating conditions in which brewing takes place. He told me he felt closer to God brewing beer than he did in church, because when he is brewing he feels like he is participating in the secret ways of the Creator."

My friend Sam, who brews his own beer, said,

"I began to notice that conversations over beer were much more meaningful than conversations I had over cokes. Instead of talking about videogames, we talked about worldviews, theology, and personal convictions."

To be sure, beer isn't a necessity to have good conversation. But if the culture is changing, if it is permitted by everyone around, then is there a problem with that?

Now, I know too that alcohol can lead to serious problems.

Excess leads to drunkenness.

Drunkenness can lead to destructive decisions.

 can lead to driving under alcohol’s influence.

Abuse can leads to alcoholism.

All terrible consequences. Maybe these reasons good enough to completely abstain.

Lastly, I want to bring up the cost of alcohol. It can be expensive, especially if you drink at bars or restaurants. To those of you who drink, how do you spend the rest of your money? Do you spend more on alcohol than on your giving? I am a huge advocate of International Justice Mission. I think there are more important things in the world than tasty beverages. I don't think money spent on alcohol should exceed what you give to organizations you believe in.

Your turn to be honest. If you need to, you can leave a comment as Anonymous. 
Do you drink? Why or why not?
What do you think has caused this cultural shift? 

I saw this church sign and thought it appropriate to add it to this blog. There are still some who take a strong stance against drinking.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Search for God and Guinness - A Great Historical Read

As one who is not a fan of books on history, I found this one fascinating. Most likely it was the subject matter, but i think Mansfield did a great job on organizing his thoughts.

I was first struck on how alcohol, even beer, had such a strong presence in the church. St. Bartholomew was the patron sait of mead drinkers. St. Arnold was the patron of saint of beer. The term ‘bridal’ comes from the two words Bride’s Ale, when the bride would serve her guests with the house ale. Martin Luther was known for joking, “Do not suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the object which is abused. Men can go wrong with wine and women. Shall we then prohibit and abolish women?”

The rest of his book does a great job surmising the life and legacy of the Guinness family. I learned, I laughed.

A great read.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cussing. Swearing. And Dirty Words. (Honest August)

So, it’s Honest August.

And I wanted to take these 5 Sundays to talk about tough issues.

But I wanted to take it slow. So we are starting out with an easy one: our language.

Mostly I write about my experiences, opinions, and perspectives.

Not this week. 

This week I ask you to speak. What's your opinion?

As you have probably recognized, I like to talk about shifts in thought in the Christian community. And one of the shifts that I have recognized is about our language. More and more Christians use language that, just a few years ago, was endowed unspeakable. I think so because of:

1. The Bible doesn't say anything against it. Not specifically, anyway. Ephesians 4:29 and James 3:5-6 speak against destructive language, but they don't give a list. Which brings me to number 2.

2. There isn't a set list. The list would change from liberal to conservative interpretations. "This word isn't that bad. But that one is a doozy."

3. If there was a list, it'd be cultural. Both chronologically and geographically. Meanings of words change over time and vulgarity is culturally bound. True story: one culture in Scotland finds 'crap' as offensive as our vulgar counterpart s***. But they say s*** as everyday as our 'crap'.

4. In general, Christians are getting tired of being told what they can and cannot do. First, dancing. Then, movies. Later, tattoos, drinking, and cussing. For better or for worse, there is a laundry list of do's and don't's that people are tired of following. Is that pride? Or freedom? I'm not sure.

While we're on the subject, two distinct examples come to mind. Both from pastors taking place during their sermons:

“I don’t want people to think God is full of s***!”

Did the pastor really say that? I couldn't believe it. I was flabbergasted. I’ve heard swearing. I’ve heard pastors swear. But had never heard that word fly from a pulpit.

Was he right? Well, truth be told, I agree with him. I don’t want people to think that about God either. 

Was he wrong? Being that there is reverence found in sermons, sanctity in a pulpit, are there some four letter words that are forbidden from a church stage? I don't have that answer. 

Later, I heard this one.

"While you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Most of you don't give a s***. What's worse is that you're more upset with the fact that I said s*** than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night." -Tony Campolo

How would I have reacted if I heard that in person?

“He said s***! But 30,000 people died last night. Does that justify him saying s*** on stage? Why do I care so much about him saying s*** if 30,000 people died last night? I can’t believe he said s***!”

An endless cycle. Funny. Sad. True.

I have a lot of questions. Few answers.

Your turn. And let's be honest.


Do you swear? Why? Why not?
Are these two spiritual leaders justified? 
Why are these words considered vulgar? 
When is swearing right? Is it ever right? 
When is it wrong?