A Great Journal Introduction by Jim Elliot

Jim Elliot

I have been writing in some form of journal for the better part of 20-25 years now off and on, sometimes with purpose, sometimes with without any at all. Some things inspire more than others. Lately, thanks to the people over at Bloom with the Day One App, they have inspired my digital journal into the next level.

Whether you call it a blog, a diary, a journal, or a log, if you are writing for a specific reason it is always helpful to have a good strong introduction to the journal to give you some direction, inspiration, and understanding. Later on when you wonder why you started writing, you can go back and read this intro again, hopefully to reconnect with your original purpose.

In my hand written Moleskine journals, on page 1, I always put an introduction, purpose, thesis, mission statement, or some kind of reason for why this journal exists. After sitting on my shelf for over a year I finally picked up this magnificent book, “The Journals of Jim Elliot” and read his introduction paragraph. What an amazing way to start a new journal. I say this in part because I have long had this very notion, and some how connected with every word he wrote, which said:

What is written in these pages I supposed will someday be read by others than myself. For this reason I cannot hope to be absolutely honest in what is herein recorded, for the hypocrisy of this shamming heart will ever he putting on a front and dares not to have written what is actually found in its abysmal depths. Yet, I pray, Lord, that You will make these notations to be as nearly true to fact as is possible so that I may know my own heart and be able to definitely pray regarding my gross, though often unviewed, inconsistencies… these remarks are to be fresh, daily thoughts given from God in meditation on His word.

I love that.

10 Reasons To Learn Social Media if You Are a Christian

Scott Fillmer on Facebook

I decided to start a series of sorts on social media and how we the people of the church body use, don’t use, or outright diss the majority of the world at this point. I’m hereafter coining this series of sorts as the SMFT (Social Media, Facebook, and Twitter) discussion. Part of the necessity of this discussion comes after reading some of Viral: How Social Networking Is Poised to Ignite Revival by Leonard Sweet (or @lensweet), which I would highly recommend to anyone, but should almost be required reading for anyone born prior to 1985. I have written on this many times before, but I do so now mainly because there are still some in the church today who continue ignore this medium, which has now become the most powerful tool in the world to connect with other people.

Much of the premise behind Viral is to bring the older generations of believers (that is those born prior to about 1985) into the fold of understanding in the world we live in today. It is far easier to say “I’m not part of the world, the culture, the depravity of our society,” and ignore everything our world has become, even though we do still live in the world. We are supposed to be the salt and light to the world, not to be just the salt and light to the baby boomers. Many of us do ignore the power of social media in our calling as Christians to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20).

How in the world can we make disciples if we don’t know and understand the different forms of social media like Facebook and Twitter? So you say I’m on Facebook, got that covered… well, I would say Facebook is the most closed, the least evangelically available social media tool there is. You can close yourself off in Facebook by locking every aspect of your Facebook account and never be heard from again, what type of witness is that? Did you know that most younger generations are moving away from Facebook at this point (partly because we are now on there). It’s extremely important to get beyond Facebook and into other areas like Instagr.am, Pinterest, Foursquare, FlickrSpotify, YouVersion, Kindle Books (yes it’s social), blogging, texting, and various avenues on Twitter.

[On a side note… if you are only on Facebook, you are not a part of the social media revolution, this is basically pseudo social networking at best. I say this because Facebook is close to reaching saturation levels. Facebook has become like the telephone or cable TV of the 80’s. Once everyone is on there who wants to be on there it’s growth is all but flatlined. I don’t mean if you aren’t on there yet, you shouldn’t get on there, and fast, but If you are only willing to get into one single social site, I would not recommend it be Facebook, I would first make it a smart phone, where you can learn how to access everything the world now takes for granted.]

So, if you are a believer, and think this social media thing is going to go away, I’m sorry, it’s only going to get more and more ingrained into the very fabric of the world we live in. In another 5-10 years it will encompass the world’s population, except for those who ignore it’s existence. For us the church to ignore social media is akin to the church ignoring electrical power and the car when they were invented, choosing instead to stick with candles and horses.

10 Reasons To Learn Social Media if You Are a Christian

  1. Jesus would have used this media (this is a later post, but I will show from Scripture why this is the case)
  2. We are called to disciple the world, and the world is connected via social media
  3. If you don’t learn the basics, instead of you teaching your kids, your kids will be teaching you at some point
  4. By the time you are ready it will be too late (it’s already quite late as it is)
  5. Your target audience are all sitting right there waiting for your witness
  6. How many people in your neighborhood have your talked to (witnessed to) lately?
  7. Door to door is dead. Buried… and greatly frowned upon in our society. Social networking is the norm.
  8. The disciples used every tool to their advantage (they wrote books and distributed them)
  9. The Bible is the greatest social media tool every created, it’s meant to be socially shared
  10. Because there are lost people who do not know Jesus and you may be their only connection

So there you have it. That’s just a start. I didn’t put a lot of references, or other specifics as to where my ideas came from, I will put those in future SMFT posts, and those 10 reasons are just off the top of my head, I’m sure there are a ton more. I beg the church body to not let itself become irrelevant in such an overwhelming way as to not be able to reach our world today. We make disciples by investing in people’s lives, and more than any other time in the history of the world, we have access to more people, to discuss the good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ with more people, than any generation who ever lived before us.

Reasons Why Google+ is Already Better than Facebook

So I almost felt obligated at this point to do a post about Google+ just because it really wasn’t what I was expecting from Google. What I was expecting from Google was another failed attempt at doing something social (they do have a good long history of trying social networking and missing big time), but this time I think they created something that just might work long term. Of course, it works, because basically they finally developed a format stream that is just like Facebook except without much of the garbage that is Facebook. When (not if) Google adds an iPhone AND an iPad app they will have surpassed Facebook, at least in functionality.

When Zuckerberg made the statement that the iPad was not a mobile device, and therefore Facebook would not be developing an app for the iPad, he pretty much told everyone using Facebook that Facebook is whatever Zuckerberg says it is. Google, even though they seem to have the biggest rival with Apple, can no doubt see beyond this and will very quickly release apps for the iPhone and iPad. Once Google+ hits the iPhone/iPad users they will grow at an alarming rate. It’s the “mobile” users that will feed Google+ and the easier Google makes it to use on ANY mobile device the faster they will grow Google+. The misses right now with Google+ remain the lack of an iPhone app and some other minor functionality issues like being able to hide comments in a stream, being able to view several circle streams at the same time, and at the moment people. The people thing is a plus and a minus at the same time. The millions and millions of masses on Facebook are what makes Facebook work. Google+ has a different genre of people right now and I don’t see that as a bad thing, but they do need more buy in.

Why is Google+ better than Facebook already?

  • No Ads
    so far (who knows how long this will last) there are no ads, anywhere. This is top on my list, and key. This is why I like twitter, this is why the experience on Google+ is better right from the start. All that junk on Facebook’s sidebars is the worst. You never know what’s going to come up but you know you don’t want to look at it.
  • No Spam
    Facebook and spam go together like spam in a can, or something like that. Spam is not the telemarketer calling you at dinner anymore. Spam is ANYTHING sent to you unsolicited. Facebook is full of this stuff from Mafia Wars to stupid games and poll questions, event invites, and all the other stuff that clutters up your feed stream with stuff you don’t want to look at. The stuff you do want to read is so buried in the mess of Facebook I often just give up trying to find actual real high quality content.
  • Design is Cleaner
    everything is cleaner, but making a cleaner design makes it easier to read, has less clutter, call it whatever you want but Google+ is just flat out easier on the eyes. Google has long since prided itself on simplicity of design, and in this case it works so much better than Facebook
  • Messaging System
    while Facebook has been vastly improving their messaging system, trying to overtake email, the message system on Facebook has always been one of their weakest points, and until recently, no one wanted to look at that inbox, it was just annoying. Google+ has made sending a message to a single person, or a select group, extremely easy. I would expect this since Google has built it’s non-search business around Gmail, but Google+ has the potential to be able to do away with email all together.
  • Integrates with Google Everything
    this is a no-brainer but it’s worth pointing out. There are some things I like better off Google, like their photo system Picasa (Flickr still has better functionality) but overall everything you do throughout the day is basically run on Google’s cloud anyway, you are already there, so adding Google+ isn’t too much of a burden.
  • People Who Don’t Like Social Networking Will Like Google+
    there are still some people that are not attached to a social network at all (really, I know this for a fact). For those people, Google+ is a way into that social networking circle without being in Facebook or Twitter. For many (or most) of these people they are already on Google. They use Google, they use Gmail, they are familiar with Google and in some ways have a trust built with them as a company. If you aren’t on Facebook or Twitter or anything else, you are probably already on Google, and Google will make trying Google+ a breeze for the non-adopters.
  • It isn’t Facebook
    there are many people who just hate Facebook, for them, this isn’t Facebook and that is good enough for them.
  • It is Google
    this is just like the Apple vs Android thing. Some people think Apple is straight from the devil himself and think Android is not. Facebook has a lot of “you are the devil” fans so being anything but Facebook is a plus.
  • It’s New and Has a Lot of Potential
    everyone doesn’t necessarily like change but new is always a big seller. Since every company puts out products or services today that are a work in progress (beta) and not a final completed entity, Google will continue to develop and improve Google+. Yes I know Facebook does this too, but they seem to take 2 steps forward and one step back and make everyone mad in the process.
  • Facebook still Doesn’t Give you Ownership of Your Data
    some will say Google doesn’t either, but they have made far more progress in this realm than Facebook has, and Facebook has no intention of ever letting go of your data. Every time you put content on Facebook instead of your own blog or somewhere that you have access to your own data you are building up the mother ship, not your own history. Google+ has a really cool download data set functionality that will probably improve over time. Facebook has nothing. Facebook owns everything you put on there and you own nothing.
So there you have it. I am sure there are plenty of other points I could make but those are my first and initial observations after using Google+ for about a week now. What has your Google+ experience been so far? If you need an invite just send me an email and I will send one over.

5 Reasons Why You Can't Ignore Facebook Anymore

I have always loved this clip from Friends where Chandler goes in and tries to “quit the gym” Everyone who has ever joined a gym like Gold’s Gym or President’s knows… it’s impossible to quit the gym, but today, it’s even harder to ignore Facebook than it is to quit the gym.

This week I started reading Tim Challies new book called The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion, which talks about how to balance our faith with the explosion of technology. Challies makes a great point to say right off, completely removing ourselves from all forms of technology is not what we are called to do, or as Challies puts it “there is no biblical reason to utterly separate ourselves from them“, but we must be disciplined and discerning.

We cannot run away from digital technology—mobile phones and computers and the Internet and television are likely to be with us in one form or another for some time. Nor would we necessarily want to run away from them. Certainly, not all technology is harmful or dangerous. Is there a way, then, to live virtuously, immersed in this strange new digital reality?

Today, Facebook has made it far more difficult to get away from than it ever was years ago, and I have tried for years to stay far far away from Facebook. The short of it is, if you are in business, work for a non-profit organization, or are part of any organized group at all, it’s almost impossible for you not to have a presence on Facebook. And if you don’t, your organization, peers, co-workers, and friends, do, and they will be exchanging ideas, planing meetings, and discussing the overall day to day business of the “group” whether you are there or not.

It’s not that you personally have to be in the know on every single piece of information that goes on in your organization, but where meetings and information use to be exchanged face to face, they now can (and are) easily take place between private Facebook groups and even the new Facebook messaging system. If you are not on Facebook, you are out of the loop at this point. They may not be a big deal to you at all, but it’s more than finding out who went where on vacation, it’s impacting the world within your sphere of influence.

Reasons You Can’t Ignore Facebook Anymore

  1. Facebook is Where EVERYONE Connects Now
  2. This is basically everything Facebook has going for them in a nut shell, with 600 million people on Facebook, there is no other single organization that has more people connected and has a bigger area of influence. Yes there are far more than 600 million people in the world, but that is the single largest collection of people in one single organized area, and Facebook really hasn’t scratched the surface yet of what they can do, especially in China.

    Facebook has been embraced collectively by people and groups all across the world that never agree about anything, everyone from churches to commercial organizations, to government entities, to even the Vatican.

  3. You’re Kids Are or Will Be on Facebook
  4. Even if you don’t let your kids on Facebook yet, eventually they are going to go to college or get a job, and chances are they will end on Facebook, mainly because that’s where all their friends are. You don’t have to use Facebook to spy on your children but not knowing how it works or what Facebook is all about leaves you on the outside looking in. There are a thousand other things that go along with this but I’ll leave those points to someone who knows more about the subject at hand.

  5. It’s a Buy-in Method for Group Communications
  6. Your church, non-profit, charity, company, softball team, any group of like minded people can and will meet on Facebook. I have spent several years trying to find a better communications method that didn’t include Facebook and, while there were many great options, buy in was difficult outside of Facebook. No one wants to learn a new system and keep up with something new when they are already on Facebook.

  7. Someone Else Will Speak For Your Organization
  8. This is one of the biggest reasons to me. If you are not on Facebook as a company or organization, you are leaving a huge void that is going to be filled by someone, and probably not someone your organization has invested hours and hours in, like yourself, developing that organizational DNA. Eventually someone will make the “abc group” that represents your organization, and everyone on Facebook will join in and develop your presence for you. This is never a good idea. Your organizations has probably spent an enormous amount of time and energy into developing a specific marketing and organizational plan, why leave your business to the untrained masses where they can run wild with your image or passions, especially when it’s free?

  9. There Will Never Again Be a World Without Facebook
  10. We are not going to wake up one day in a world before Facebook. It is best to learn and understand how Facebook functions and use it to our advantage than to ignore the single largest organization of people on the planet. This is an organization that started in February of 2004. It isn’t even 10 years old yet and it has 600 million users! It’s not a fad, it’s not a passing gimmick, it’s a privately held company, estimated to be worth over $50 billion.

    I spent years trying to just ignore the Facebook monster, but in the end, it goes back to my first point, it’s where everyone is. I have thought about pulling the Facebook plug and deleting my account many times but there are many people I communicate with on a weekly basis that only communicate through Facebook. Some people are ok with just not communicating, but if part of your job includes “communication” of any kind, I don’t see how you operate without Facebook, even if it’s just a user ID.

So there it is, my Facebook rundown. This really only scratches the surface of what is Facebook. I can’t imagine the influence Facebook with have in another 5 years when they have 2-3 billion users. As with all technology, there are things about Facebook that aren’t cool, and aspects that enable great connectivity with other people. Learn how to use Facebook, understand the privacy issues that go along with being on Facebook, but don’t ignore Facebook because you don’t understand it.

Top 10 Best Apps for the iPhone or iPad iOS 4.3

Since the new iPad2 and the Apple iOS 4.3 was released last week I have had several people at church ask what “Christian” apps I would recommend for their iPad or iPhone, and I finally just decided to do a blog post about it. Since there really was only one app I would call a “Christian” app that applies to a lot of people that I would highly recommend (YouVersion), I have included an overall top ten I would recommend for people just starting to use an iPad or iPhone instead.

This list can easily apply to anyone wanting to get a lot of good use out of their new iPad, I say that above only to show that this app list is from a Christian perspective on currently available apps and I would consider all of these safe to download, and would also provide some productive value in your daily use of these two devices.

If you are new to the iPad or iPhone App Store then these might be a good place to start. For those who have been around the iPad for a while now these may seem old news, but I still like to evaluate the apps I use periodically to determine if they are still worth keeping. Most of these below I have used now for more than a year. I tend to find a good app and stick with it while the developers continue to improve it’s performance and features.

I will have an in depth review of a few of the apps listed below in upcoming blog posts, it was just too long to list right here. In the mean time, here is the brief overview of each of the top 10, plus four extras that almost made the cut:

Top Ten Best iPad / iPhone Apps

  1. YouVersion – Bible app
  2. Rating, 9/10 :: Best bible app available, period. It’s free, has tons of translations and is constantly updated. Most heavily developed app (possibly ever), has both iPad and iPhone formatted versions, and you can download some translations for offline reading. Access to live events, post to Twitter, Facebook, SMS, and email, loaded with features and still be developed. The best of the best. Price, free. (app info)

  3. Official Twitter app – Social Networking
  4. Rating, 8/10 :: If you are on twitter this is the first (but not only) app to have. Price, free. (app info)

  5. Facebook – Social Networking
  6. Rating, 4/10 :: Still included because of it’s siginificance but no official iPad app available, only iPhone app, which is awesome. Still, you can bookmark the Safari homepage but surely Zuck is working on an iPad exclusive app for Facebook. After almost a year, we still only have impostors available. (app info)

  7. MaxJournal – Journaling or Diary
  8. Rating, 6/10 :: Best journaling app available for iPad (no iPhone) but has room for improvement. If you’re not a big fan of MaxJournal, try iJournal for $4.99 with a higher rating but has less features. MaxJournal has far more features and options like fonts, import-export abilities (though somewhat limited), and the ability to create multiple journals. Price, $3.99 (app info)

    UPDATE: According to the developer they are possibly handing off this app to someone else, best to keep an eye on development if you are a heavy users of this app. Hopefully they will work it out. Another option (a few here too) is to use MacJournal from Mariner, which has a long running desktop app to sync with. They then added an iPad/iPhone app, so it’s not just a mobile app developed, it’s full fledged. The reviews are all over the map but I have used MacJournal Desktop app for years and love it.

  9. Amazon’s Kindle app – eBook Reader
  10. Rating, 8/10 :: Best eBook app reader, recommended over iBooks, Nook, and several others. I picked Amazon’s Kindle app over all the others for 3 reasons; (1) total books available, (2) price of available books, and (3) features. In depth review coming soon. Another GREAT feature of Amazon’s Kindle app is that you can access your highlights and bookmarks via the cloud at https://kindle.amazon.com/, that alone got me to switch from iBooks. Price, free. (app info)

  11. The Daily – Daily News and Current Events
  12. Rating, 8/10 :: New to the app store but has great content, always updated, highly interactive. This is the future of newspapers or online news in general. Complete review available, see Pros and Cons of The Daily app for iPad. Price $9.99/Mth or $40/year (app info)

  13. USA Today – Daily News and Current Events
  14. Rating, 9/10 :: Best overall rounded source for news with a dedicated app for the iPad. Not as feature or design rich as The Daily but more in depth news and constantly updated. Price, free. (app info)

  15. Pandora – Music
  16. Rating, 9/10 :: Best music streaming app available, at least until Spotify can get out of the UK and over to us here in the United States. If you like music I would highly recommend the paid version at $35/year, you get commercial free music with higher bit rates. Price, free. (app info)

  17. Evernote – Notes/Archiving of All Kinds
  18. Rating, 8/10 :: Best app for saving and archiving notes of all kinds, syncs across all platforms including a desktop app. This is the archival app, scan, scrape, email, text right into a cloud based note program that integrates with a host of other apps and programs. They offer a free service but once again I recommend the premium version of their service (app is free) as they give you much more for a small price. Price, free. (app info)

  19. Netflix – Movies
  20. Rating, 7/10 :: Online steaming movie app for both iPhone and iPad. Title selection needs improvement but it’s getting better every month. Most new releases are delayed and not all titles are available for streaming, some you still have to get the DVD mailed to you. Netflix has led the way in movie streaming and I suspect delays in titles or other issues like that are not their doing but the movie industry. Price, app is free but service will cost $7.99 per month. (app info)

Other Apps That Almost Made the Cut

5 Reasons Why I Love My Job at Cornerstone Church

Cornerstone Church

I haven’t posted consistently here since November because every time I went to write something, words didn’t suffice. This week, and the past several weeks, have been so unbelievable that I really can’t describe my feelings into coherent words yet (see Deb’s blog post in brief). The ups and downs of life that have occurred is something I have never faced before, and I don’t really know where to start, other than to say we have a great God, worthy of every ounce of praise we can muster.

As a way to just get myself started unpacking the events of the last few months I thought I would start with my job at Cornerstone and go from there. I’m well into my third year (see I Have Now Joined the Ranks of Church IT), and starting in 2011 I moved into a slightly different role, one that I am really looking forward to in the year ahead. It has been quite an adventure, something I would never trade if I had to do it all over again, and this past week was a big exclamation point on that statement.

Thinking over the reasons why I love my job I started realizing there were 100’s, so in a nut shell, here are five off the top.

1. It Combines My Life Passion and My Career A “life passion” is probably inadequate to describe my faith. Being a Christian isn’t about being passionate about something, like I love Auburn football, or love to eat, it is who I am. Being able to go to work every day and play a small part in something big is huge to me, but it’s more than that, it’s the combination of the 100’s of reasons I love working for the Church.

This is a catch all reason. Everything about my faith is played out each day, for better or worse, and I have the honor of being supported by the members of Cornerstone. The support that I receive in my life, especially over the last few months, transcends a “job” and has become a way of life.

2. The People I Work With are Unbelievable I can’t say enough about the staff at Cornerstone. In the almost 25 years I have spent in the work force so far, I have never worked with a greater collective group of people than those staff and those who lead the church than at Cornerstone.  I could write a post about each of them and how much they mean to me individually, and as a group.

3. Cornerstone’s Vision and Direction This is something the staff and leaders talk about all the time. Where is God leading this church, and how can we best follow His direction. Much of what goes on at Cornerstone Church comes from the statement Leading People To Know and Serve Jesus, and our jobs, whatever that job is, should ultimately work towards that goal, and I love that.

4. Margin, Prayer, and Study, are Expected Finding time to live the life we are called to live out as Christians can be hard. We get so busy with work and everything else that is life, but as a Christian we are called to live out our faith Monday through Saturday too. At Cornerstone, the leaders expect us to live out a life of faith that is taught in scripture, and I love that about my job.

5. The Willingness to Learn and Adjust An amazing quality of Cornerstone Church is the willingness of the leaders to listen, learn, try something new, fail if needed, then adjust and try again. This is no small thing at all, and few businesses, let alone churches, can stop that train once it gets rolling, or try something new to try to make a difference in someone’s life.

That’s my top 5. If you’re in the Auburn area please come by on Sunday morning (or during the week), we would love to meet you.

Three Solutions to the Problem of Evil

In one of my discussions this week we took a brief look at some of the reasons and solutions to evil.  Using Erickson’s Christian Theology as a base, he identifies three solutions to the problem of evil and how God’s greatness, goodness, and the presence of evil can all be active forces at work in the world today.  The three solutions outlined are; a rejection of Omnipotence in the form of Finitism (a finite God), a modification of the concept of God’s goodness, and the outright denial of evil.

  • Rejecting Omnipotence
    The first solution, rejecting Omnipotence, is something the 21st century culture has embraced with open arms.  Not only has society accepted a finite God, the eastern philosophy also known as dualism has taken a stronghold in western society Christianity.  This form of dualism present today was introduced by subtle infusion over an extended period of time to where today; even Christians accept dualism.  The worldview promoted in this respect is good verses evil, dark verses light, and ultimately God verses Satan.  The problem with this solution is that it philosophically fails when compared to scripture.  God and Satan are not on even ground, battling against each other for supremacy.  God created everything, including Satan, the fallen angel.  Angels are perhaps shown to be more powerful than humans (2 Peter 2:11; Psalm 103:20), but nowhere in scripture does it say they are equal with God.
  • Modification of God’s Goodness
    The second, a modification of God’s goodness, is sometimes seen by a hyper-Calvinist view (a view some argue is more Calvinist than Calvin himself was), where God is the ultimate cause of everything, including sin, and man has no freedom of the will to do anything other than what God has predisposed man to do.  God’s cause of good and/or evil that occurs is simply what God does.  This view brings forth its own questions; such as, if evil is good, then what is recognized as good, lending itself to ask, does evil even exist.  This view is also inconsistent with God’s own nature since we know that God, by nature, is good.
  • A Denial of Evil Itself
    The third, a denial of evil, is also a popular notion in the 21st century worldview. Known as the option for Christian Science, they believe that matter or material is just an illusion where evil does not really exist. Their conclusions, based upon the notion that (1) material existence is an illusion, (2) since all is God, all is good, (3) therefore evil is an illusion.  The issue with this view is somewhat obvious in the fact that evil has not ceased to exist just because this particular worldview exists, and there is no explanation to the “illusion” of evil.

In an oversimplification stated here, Erickson’s conclusions are that evil is a necessary accompaniment to human existence and that evil in general is the result of sin, Adam’s choice to sin, and God’s allowing this sin to take place.[1][2]

[1] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 437-456.

[2] This is a greatly over simplified post on a very complex topic. The solutions provided are an overview of the scholarly examples currently being studied. C.S. Lewis also had some great arguments on the problem of evil and why it exists in the world today.

Reasons Why Apologetics is Important in Ministry Today

In this particular article I was asked to choose the three most important reasons for including apologetics in my own personal ministry.  The answer is the following post.  Originally published on May 13, 2009 and republished for this blog on June 4, 2010. Although it is very important to understand the differences between religions like Jews, Christians, and Muslims (which is what the Coexist campaign seems to be trying to do), it is more important to me as a follower of Christ to understand our own reasons behind what we believe.

The three most important reasons for including apologetics as a part of my ministry, and to me any ministry, are personal truth, cultural relativism, and discipleship.  More specifically, apologetics, to my ministry and to me is:

  1. For personal truth: To know the salvation I seek and trust is the actual Truth.  To know why I believe what I believe to be true and not just to believe because I feel It to be true.
  2. Cultural relativism: To be able to defend the perceived truths of our highly relativistic culture, as we are commanded by scripture, in being able to lead others to a relationship with Christ and to do this through truth in scripture, knowledge, and love, not through a blended Christian worldview of the truth as we know it.
  3. Discipleship: To eventually be able to disciple, mentor, or lead other Believers to the truth in scripture so as not to be deceived by a cultural blending of Christian truths and worldviews.

For many years after I became a Christian I went through the motions of being a Christian.  Not questioning the truth but accepting all known teachings from others as truth without understanding why.  Taking a more apathetic approach to the truth of Christian philosophy, I became a lazy Christian believing the truth as truth, but not ever testing or seeking out the truth beyond an emotional basis.  Similar to how it is said in No Doubt About It, “He is real to me. …So I cannot doubt His existence, and you don’t need to prove it to me”.[1]

I took God as self-evident, and although no one in more than 15 years as a Christian introduced me to an apologetic view of my faith, I didn’t need one either.  Just because I hold God and Jesus as self-evident doesn’t mean everyone else does, and if I don’t have an apologetic understanding of my own faith, how can I effectively explain it to someone else.

It seems our understanding of truth in our culture today is relative.  This may be a trend that started in America many centuries ago, but in the age of information everything seems to be on an accelerated course.  Our society is constantly bombarded with inaccurate statements, reports, other media and information of all kinds and it seems goes unchecked.  Unchecked so much so that one person can look at a door, call it red, another call it blue, and both agree the contradiction is true.  Mis-information is bad, but one of Satan’s best weapons is to blend truth and falsities into one and make people believe it to be truth and fact without question.

According to Kinnaman in UnChristian, most outsiders see Christians as too hypocritical, too antihomosexual, too sheltered, too political, too judgmental[2] and most of what the outsiders perceive to be true about Christians is a blending of truth according to what scripture says and truth according to what our culture says is true.  For these reasons, apologetics plays an important role in cultural relativism.

To be a disciple of Jesus is something as Believers we all strive towards as we grow and mature in our walk in Christianity.  To become a disciple, Jesus poured truth into the original 12 during his ministry so they could in turn do the same to others when Jesus was physically absent.  At any point in a Believers life they will be pouring into some other Believer, or will be poured into by a Believer, or possibly both at the same time.  To achieve this we can and should follow the example Jesus gave during his ministry on earth and be ready to learn, and teach apologetically when called.

[1] Winfried Corduan, No Doubt About It: the Case for Christianity, 1st Edition (Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1997). 45.

[2] David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, Unchristian : what a new generation really thinks about Christianity… and why it matters, 1st Edition (Baker Books, 2007).

We are No Longer Selling Books as Amazon Marketplace Sellers

Books for Sale

It’s official, we are no longer selling books on Amazon.  For those of you who didn’t know, we have been selling books on Amazon in the Amazon Marketplace (those are the used and new books you see when Amazon is sold out or when you just want to buy the same book Amazon sells for $39.99 for $.01) for years.  Yesterday we sold all our remaining inventory, some 4,000 used/new books in one large bulk sale to a buyer in Texas.  For Deb and I, the books had become (as Andy Stanley put it last week) the old sofa that no one wants to get rid of because it has always been there.

We started selling book on Amazon at the same time we were full time eBay sellers (eBay lost out as a viable place to sell as a business long long before Amazon) back in 2005, and sold full time on Amazon in 2006-2008, and it was some of the hardest work, most laborious, and in the end least profit making work I can ever recall doing in my life.  It came at a time when Deb and I needed to work from home, needed and wanted to work together, and many blessings came our way over those years of selling books online.

Over our selling life on Amazon, we sold over 9,000 books at a retail price of $65,000 (that’s not as much as it sounds when you divide by 3 years and then start thinking profit margins), kept a high feedback rating, and learned a lot about hard work and to appreciate what we were given.  Not much different than what we gained and learned from our previous businesses we started and ran together, except that this particular one took over our entire house top to bottom.

Amazon Marketplace Seller

After running several small businesses over the past 10-12 years I have come to understand that each business or product has a defined life cycle, especially when you are running very small self made businesses.  Products come in and out, jobs, customers, and life in general, has a lifespan or timeframe where some things work well.  The key is to know when it is time to move on and get rid of the old sofa.  For the books, yesterday was that day, and we were both thrilled.  There were many many reasons, but knowing it was indeed the right time to let it go was a good feeling.

Anyone that wants to know the inner workings of selling on eBay or Amazon feel free to drop me an email.  Combined I think we have about 12-15 years experience selling on both platforms and we lived and breathed eBay and Amazon, so we do know our way around.  We certainly know how to get in trouble with big brother, and how to survive when the rules get changed (and they always do).

Our online selling life was great, and really is always something we think about no matter what we are working on or doing.  In those years, we managed to:

  • work together 24/7, netting 20,800 more hours spent together
  • fought off fraud
  • and copyright infringement issues
  • fended off domain landsharks
  • had $300,000 in sales without making a profit
  • sold alongside corrupt competition
  • continually fought customer theft
  • avoided a few lawsuits
  • didn’t sue a few times when we could have
  • were falsely accused of anything and everything
  • Witnessed to many (I hope)
  • were praised and awarded
  • ridiculed
  • made some great friendships
  • ate at a huge unknown number of restaurants
  • filed for our own patents and trademarks
  • never clocked in once
  • travel to every state in the country
  • live in a bus, apartment, house, tent, campground
  • lived in Nevada, North Carolina, Florida, Texas, Alabama (and many others)
  • filled approximately 250,000 orders
  • counted approximately 2 million crystals
  • imported products from Austria
  • invented our own products
  • worked for a competitor
  • took 50,000 product images
  • went through about 30 computers
  • used miles and miles of tape, boxes, and packaging
  • cried, laughed, bled, and cherished every second

Thankfully for us, now, we have both moved on to a new chapter in our lives together and it doesn’t look like there will be much online selling involved, and that’s a good thing, because I am exahusted.

Top 10 Reasons Why I Don't Like Father's Day

Scott and William

Ok, so call me strange I guess. There are a few holidays that come up each year that I really don’t like, and Father’s Day is one of them. Don’t get me wrong, I love my father dearly (see photo left), and I am sure I will make sure he knows that on Sunday.

In general, when you work for yourself, holidays just become a pain in the neck anyway. No one works, you can’t ship orders out, sales go down, and the entire world is “out” running around when they normally are not. But, fathers day is the topic. I will say that there is one reason why I like fathers day, to be able to honor my own earthly father, who to me is one of the greatest and most meaningful people in my life, and to remember that we have a father in Heaven that is better than any earthly father we could have in any form.

But there are more reasons I don’t like this particular holiday, what about you? Not a father yet? Well, here is what’s in store for you.

1. It is a Made Up Day

You can say this about most holidays in general, they are man-made, made up days. Father’s Day was a celebration inaugurated in the early twentieth century to complement Mother’s Day, and first celebrated in the U.S. on July 5th 1908

2. Churches Celebrate This Day in Services

For some reason, even though it has long since lost its Christian heritage it is still put forth as a day we celebrate in the worship service itself. I would rather see its spiritual meaning talked about than how important fathers are (yes, I know they are) to all of us.

3. Churches Don’t Seem to Know its Origin in Faith

No church I have been to in the last 35 years (yes I have been going to church that long) has ever explained to me the spiritual meaning on how Father’s Day was started. In Germany is was called Männertag and was always celebrated on Ascension Day (the Thursday forty days after Easter), and it was a day for men to go do something together, like hiking or some other manly activity.

In the Roman Catholic tradition, Father’s Day is celebrated on Saint Joseph’s Day, commonly called Feast of Saint Joseph, March 1, but it is pretty much a secular day or secular celebration. Here in the U.S., the first celebrated Father’s Day was in a church. The Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South, now known as Central United Methodist Church. It was suggested to the pastor (some believe) because of a deadly mine explosion (called the Monongah Mining disaster) that had just happened killing 361 men. Another reason is Mother’s Day was first celebrated two month prior.

4. It’s Another Day of Required Gift Buying

Notice I said gift buying and not gift giving. I love gift giving, but I don’t like to be told by the calendar when it should be done. My wife and I have always thought this way. If you want to give someone a gift, give it to them, don’t hold back for some government made holiday. I don’t like the feeling of required giving that comes with holidays.

5. It Reminds Me How Old I Am

Remember back when Father’s Day would roll around and your mother would have prepared something for you to give your father or you would do something in church for your father. All designed to make sure you didn’t forget it (as a kid how could you remember it), but some day, you were required to remember yourself. Now my son is old enough to remember without being told.

6. It Reminds Me What a Lousy Father I Was

I have a feeling that some people don’t like Father’s Day because they had lousy fathers. I for one did not. My father took me to baseball games, football games, and all the normal fatherly stuff.

But that didn’t make me a good father (I say past tense because now that my son is out of the house I think that has made me a better father, haha). Father’s Day for me personally just reminds me of my shortcomings when my son was at home. My grandson William (see photo above of me and William) however is the cutest little guy ever (I am sure he doesn’t want to hear that) and I was thrilled to get to spend some time with him. He has a great dad. Don’t know where he gets it from but Bryan (my son) is such a fantastic dad to William.

7. It Reminds Me of the Fathers Who Are No Longer Here

Mother’s Day this year was different for my wife. She had just lost her mother to cancer less than a month earlier. This has to be the same thing with son’s who have lost their father over the last year. I know one in particular, Josh (see WILLIAM WALKER AGERTON), our Connections Pastor at the church.

I know he will be remembering his father this Sunday (although he is in Uganda right now) as my wife and I remembered Georgia on Mother’s Day. Others I know won’t get to see their fathers like my brother over at Worship Journey who’s father is a missionary in Africa.

8. You Are Reminded to Spend Time With Dad

Not that celebrating fathers is not important, but it usually has some time requirement attached to it. You can’t do this or that because it is Father’s Day. I spent time with my dad almost every day. I am lucky, yes. We usually walk about 2-3 miles together at the end of each day when he is in town and I am home. That usually equates to 3-4 days a week, but we often work together on the weekends or attend some sporting event together.

I don’t need to be reminded to spend time with my dad. I do it because I want to, not because the calendar tells me to.

9. The Restaurants Are Always Full

You can never get a table at a restaurant without waiting on Father’s Day. Being that it is on a Sunday (thank goodness for that), everyone finds it necessary to take fathers out for lunch after church. Don’t these people take their fathers out to eat any other time during the year? Same as with mothers day, if you want to eat after church (most do) you have to wait more than usual.

10. It is One More Day to Commercialize

And I saved the big one for last. Yes, it is yet one more day we can listen to a barrage of advertisements telling us buy buy tools and gift cards for our fathers. This starts just about when Mother’s Day ends. Walmart changes everything over the Sunday of Mother’s Day and that’s it, we’re toast.

For the next two months we are overwhelmed with advertisements from every angle, radio, tv, Internet, church, work, school, you name it. Somehow NASCAR and Father’s Day seem to go hand in hand now to. They actually take off on Mother’s Day and don’t have a race. How in the world could anyone who is actually breathing forget what day is Father’s Day. I love the Peanuts Christmas special. After the tirade that Charlie Brown and Linus goes on about how commercialized Christmas has become and then Linus reads Matthew.

We seem to be a society of one that moves from one holiday to the other commercially. There is no down time, we are constantly being told what holiday is next on the buying list. Do me a favor, don’t buy me anything for Father’s Day, oh, and by the way, I love you dad.

Scott and Larry Fillmer on the Weekend

Auburn Football with Scott and Larryhttps://www.scottfillmer.com/wp-content/uploads