Fighting the Wrong War?

In case you missed it, we Christians are involved in the Culture Wars.  If you haven’t yet, you’ll probably get your draft notice soon.  You’re not allowed to remain neutral.

So what the heck are these Culture Wars?

The enemy is anyone who stands against biblical values.  The heated battle of the moment – thanks in part to the “news” of Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy’s views on the subject – is the issue of same-sex marriage.   The weapons of our warfare are outraged words, political wrangling, boycotts, legislative maneuvering.  What’s at stake – as the name suggests – is American culture.

In this war over the culture, biblical values appear to be steadily losing ground.  Is it because we’re not wielding our weapons well?  Is our strategy at fault?  As I mulled this over, at first I thought that perhaps we’re using the wrong weapons.  That’s part of it, but the full truth is much worse.

We are using the wrong weapons against the wrong enemy in the wrong war. The right weapon is the Gospel.  The real enemy is Satan.  We fight for the souls of men and women who are oppressed.

The Wrong War

Why shouldn’t we fight for the culture?  Well, what is culture?  One definition on is “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization.”  The culture is not some concrete object or place that we can fight over.  It is a set of ideas and values that finds its origin in the people.  In order for the culture to change, the people must change.

That’s how we got here, remember?  Americans used to hold different values.  Now they hold these values.  Therefore, the culture is what it is.

And the people.  All of us – every man, woman, and child on Earth – are oppressed, enslaved by sin.  (Romans 6:20)

Let’s fight the right war – to free the slaves from sin.

The Wrong Weapons

Our only hope of salvation is the Risen Savior who died to free us from the very thing that enslaves us. (John 14:6)  Therefore, our words hold no sway over the souls of men and women.  Only the Gospel does.  In fact, our words just get in the way. (1 Corinthians 1:17)  We cannot change the values of the people by fighting over them, shouting, making laws, or buying a chicken sandwich.

The Wrong Enemy

Imagine the United States Army during World War II.  The soldiers enter France to liberate the land.  They begin gunning down terrified men, women, and children in the streets.  Meanwhile, Hitler’s forces march ever forward, conquering all the peoples of Europe.  In every moment of the Culture Wars this is what we do.

We are using the wrong weapons to fight against people who are oppressed, and it is their oppression that that has led the culture to dismiss biblical values.  Our true enemy is their oppressor – Satan.  (1 Peter 5:8)

The people are so deceived by his lies that they believe God’s hatred of sin to be bigotry.  They are intolerant of the truth, but it’s because they are enslaved.  We can’t expect them to know and love the ways of God until their chains are broken and He remakes them into His likeness.

Let’s stop all the shouting and political maneuvering.  Instead, let’s pick up the Gospel and fight Satan for all we’re worth to free these slaves.

Review | Two Sides by Darren Sutton

Two SidesFirst off, a disclosure – Darren is a close friend, so maybe I’m not being entirely unbiased in my review of this book.  But here’s the deal: I’ve had the opportunity to work with many student pastors over the years, and Darren’s insight, passion, and love for students make him the best of them.

Two Sides is not a book that is designed to give you a specific model for any facet of youth ministry.  Rather, it gives you views from both sides (hence, the title) of different issues that are commonly faced by youth pastors.  The topics range from office hours (fixed or flexible) to curricula (pre-written or write-your-own) to the age of volunteers (older or younger) to summer schedules.  And the contributing authors are experienced youth workers from a variety of backgrounds.

It’s an easy read at 74 pages and isn’t incredibly complex.  The format is straightforward, just as you want a book of compiled essays by a variety of contributors to be, and it provides questions to ponder after each topic.

The book does well what it sets out to do: it gives the reader ideas to chew on.  What does my ministry look like?  How do the views presented here mesh with that?  Which view or combination of views would be the best implementation for me?  Don’t expect to get the answers to those questions from Two Sides, but expect helpful guidance in forming your own answers and strategies.

You can buy the Kindle edition of the book by clicking on the image above.  If you need a hard copy, try here.

Feeling Inspired

I got really burned out on music toward the end of Jud Kossum Band in late 2007.  I should have been really excited about our last show (we were opening for Starfield at Murray Hill Theater in Jacksonville, Florida), but I was already so dead tired it almost didn’t matter.  We finished our set.  I had to get up early the next morning, and the guys were gracious enough to load up our stuff and haul it back home without me.  I didn’t even stay for Starfield’s whole set, which is very unlike me.  I always tried to support the other bands we played with.

I haven’t spent much of my limited free time playing guitar in the ensuing four years.  I have written maybe two or three songs since then – nothing in the last couple of years.  I haven’t been playing in a band.

I have been leading worship on Sundays at Magnolia Creek.  I love it, but it’s a different animal.  I do it because I love leading worship, not because I love playing music.  Because, quite honestly, since the band broke up and we moved back to Houston, I haven’t loved playing music.  Haven’t even really liked it.  Too much work and pressure and expectation and disappointment and frustration and exhaustion were tied up in it.

But a weird thing happened a couple of weeks ago.  The Smashing Pumpkins came out with a new album.  That in itself, of course, is not really weird.  The weird thing is that it got me interested.  I’d never really been what you’d call a fan of SP.  I liked what I heard on the radio, but for some reason, I never felt the urge to buy a CD.  But I previewed the new album on iTunes, and it piqued my curiosity.  Through a course of events, I downloaded first Siamese Dream, then Oceania (the latest).  That got me thinking about all the music I used to listen to – the stuff that really inspired me.  Especially Pearl Jam.

For quite some time, Pearl Jam Twenty languished in my Netflix queue.  Last Friday night, I decided to watch it.

Mind.  Blown.

This is no “Behind the Music” exposé, airing all the band’s dirty laundry.  It’s simply a very well done history of the band and a love letter to the music of Seattle in the early 90s.  From the early days – the death of Andrew Wood and, consequently, Mother Love Bone – to the whole Ticketmaster debacle, to the horror of the Roskilde Festival (nine fans were crushed to death, which nearly led the band to break up), to today as the band continues to make its own way across the musical landscape.

And the music.  Oh, man, the MUSIC!

I saw in this movie what I’d always wanted as a musician.  Not rock stardom.  Not unbridled creativity.  The Seattle music scene of the late 80s and early 90s was a scene where everybody knew each other, and they were friends.  They had fun together.  I always wanted to play in a band with my friends and have fun doing it.  And I wanted to be part of a scene where everybody supported and liked each other.

So, I talked to Kacy about how I was feeling.  I picked up my Strat for the first time in ages.  I rewired my pedal board and cranked up my amp.  I laid down a few riffs in Garageband.  I texted some friends and asked them to come jam.

I probably won’t be recording a new album or playing any shows, but I will be making music again.

Man, I love music.