Reflecting on the Tragedy of #Aurora – It’s OK to Watch Some of the News and It’s OK to Grieve

Like so many, I am still processing the tragedy in Aurora, CO. It’s heartbreaking and what’s further devastating is that this is one tragic story among so many. Right now, there are 2 girls that are missing in Iowa and the parents are not cooperating with authorities. Right now the population of Syria is going through hell. Right now, our Twitter feeds are giving us new updates and reactions on the Sandusky/Penn State scandal. Right now there are painful reports that happen each day and these include acts of violence, abuse, human-trafficking, theft, disease, freak-accidents and countess other evils.

We’ve observed that events like the tragedy in Aurora immediately create a boiling point in society. The death toll, the drama, the horrific details are not only delivered to the public in dramatic fashion, but in some ways these tragic [Read more…]

Reflecting on Sunday’s Message, Women In Ministry, Depression and Hope

This past Sunday, our Pastor of Global and Regional Outreach, Jeanette Yep gave a powerful message as part of our summer series entitled, “Psalms: A Soundtrack For Our Lives.” You can watch/listen to it here.

Jeanette got me thinking about a number of things. This is the first church that I’ve served at where we’ve had women preaching from the [Read more…]

My Review of One B1G Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do by Phil Cooke

Phil Cooke has a new book out and it’s called One B1G Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do and I think many of you should read it.

I saw Phil speak a couple years ago and was really taken by him. The first book I read was Jolt!: The Power of Intentional Change in a World that’s Constantly Changing and here’s my review. Then I read through Branding Faith: Why Some Churches and Nonprofits Impact Culture and Others Don’t

Initially, I wasn’t sure I’d like this book because from the descriptions, it already felt a lot like [Read more…]

The God-Particle is Our Friend – Reflecting On the Divide of Science and Faith, Even When There’s Good News

First, I had to laugh a little at the first line of this Huffington Post article – “Physics fans went wild over this week’s announcement that scientists…”

There are fans of physics?? Might as well be. I know I’m nerdy when it comes to faith and religion but the thought of a Facebook Group possibly identified as “Phans of Physics” struck me as funny.

Then I got sad when I saw the tweets coming out from whom I am sure are sincere, good-hearted Christians like:
“They said they discovered the God particle that created all of life. Who created the God particle? Atheists ar stupid…” (hiding twitter identities)
“Atheists are freakin’ out about the “God Particle” – so scared we might use that info to prove Gods existence. They don’t know about faith!”
“higgs boson? more like higgs BOZOS. u know what the REAL god particle is? the bible. #owned #science #higgsboson #fake #lies #god #tcot”

If he had just 6 more letters, I imagine he would have added #ZING! – That one was painful.

But this is among the reasons I blog. To be another Christian voice that doesn’t sound like some of those above. [Read more…]

Reflecting on the Fourth: Nationalism vs Patriotism, Thankfulness, America & Egypt Part 2

Being an Egyptian-American, Egypt has been on my mind for quite a while now and certainly this past week of the 4th was no exception. Though I was born in New Jersey and most of my family lives in the States, and although my Arabic is pretty bad, and although I still don’t like foul (it’s just boiled and mashed fava beans but they smell absolutely wretched. I think it’s the spices that are added), Egypt is an important place to me. And if even if we knew no one in Egypt, it would still be – it’s part of our family’s story and just that is enough for me.

Now given you don’t know what you don’t know but as you would imagine, I have always been extremely grateful that my parents immigrated here. And I’ve never wished to be anything but Egyptian. If I am completely honest, I think the [Read more…]

Reflecting on the Fourth: Nationalism, Patriotism, Thankfulness, America & Egypt Part 1

I hope you had a great 4th of July.  For us, it was a great weak, enjoyed the 4th with some new friends, got to spend a lot of time with Susan and the kids, went down to the Cape with some friends, (Jersey friends, it’s like saying we’re going to the Shore :), listened/watched the Yanks win 3 out of 4 in Boston and all went well in our worship services on Sunday. Found Tom’s sermon on A Song for the Season of Good to be a very appropriate ending to the weekend.

So like with everything, I try to reflect on these days – I find this discipline to be extremely helpful. Similar to just about every year I find myself in the same tension when thinking/celebrating/reading about American freedom, nationalism [Read more…]

A Bit About Our Reading Circles

I’ve received a few DM’s and emails about our Reading Circles so here’s a bit of the what and why.
At first glance, one might mistake this for a book club. But it isn’t. For one, I dislike the term “book club.”
And two, our time is not about the book necessarily, the focus is intended to be more on those that have gathered.

The Reading Circle is about conversation to create community for our GC@Night service. Of course anyone can attend, as we have regulars who come from the morning services but because the evening service does not have ministries like Adult Discipleship (and doing these classes in the evening generally do not work), the idea of facilitating discussions in our cafe after the service made sense.

It’s also helpful for those that are not able (or not ready) to be part of a small group. Obviously those who like to read will be drawn but it’s also for people who like to converse and connect and that’ s been the real strength of this time. When people share from their minds and hearts, it goes from being a book club to a moment of community.

The first Circle we did this year at Grace Chapel was Don Miller’s A MIllion Miles in a Thousand Years (We actually did it twice, once in the morning, then in the evening – both went very well). Then we took a month off and Andrew Sullivan’s article “Christianity in Crisis” which was featured on the cover of Newsweek back in April. And today to be consistent with our summer series on the Psalms, we are are starting Reflections of the Psalms by C.S. Lewis.

We’re trying to create community and conversation so the idea is to pick books that will allow for dialogue. Not all books do that easily. If you are in a group of people you don’t know very well, it can be hard to be interesting because most people wish to avoid awkward moments potentially brought on by critique. My idea is to select books/readings that let you disagree. Don Miller is one. Sometimes he’s flippant, sarcastic, irreverent, too honest, and at moments he can come across as self-centered (which he acknowledges when he makes the comment Million Miles is about me writing a book about me making a movie about me which is based on a book about me ….

“Christianity in Crisis” was another example. It was brief, easily accessible and relevant. Honestly, I liked a good bit of the article, and here was my initial review when it first came out  “Wishing Andrew Sullivan a beautiful Easter …”  I think what I liked least was the title – it was so dramatic. But a more appropriate title like, “Issues the Christian Church Should Look Into Resolving So It Can Move Forward” isn’t going to move a lot of Newsweek’s or generate a lot of clicks.

And here we are with Lewis’ Reflections of the Psalms. What I like about the book is that it’s not a scholarly commentary and lives up to its title of being reflective. My hope is that those gathered will feel free to push back against a figure and a mind like Lewis because I think he allows for that in this book. I also hope that his take opens the door for our take on some of what naturally comes out from reading the Psalms.

In all honesty, I’m excited. So, if you around Lexington, come on out, we’ll likely start a little after 7.30p, we’ll have fair trade coffee and tea, some light foods and will be meeting again on the July 8th, 22nd, and August 5th.

We’ll be starting another one in the fall and will most likely be A Faith Of Our Own by Jonathan Merritt. If you are in a book club/reading circle or been a part of one, feel free to add your thoughts. Also, if you are interested in starting one and need some help, know that I’d love to connect – send me an email if it’s easier than posting below.

It’s Time for Believers to Talk Graciously About Abortion Again – Part 2 #ODC

Over the weekend, I saw this article on Christianity Today online entitled “Critics Challenge National Association of Evangelicals’ Abortion-Reduction Initiative’s Funding.” Here is the first line:
“Recent criticism over the National Association of Evangelicals’ (NAE) choice of funding partners highlights the continued difficulty of seeking middle ground across the abortion divide.”

I was disappointed after reading the post. Not because people and organizations have strong pro-life convictions, I admire that, and I consider myself among them and am grateful for so much of their incredible work.  I was disappointed because it’s clear that some do not want to converse and seek middle ground.  To some, this is nothing new, but in another sense, I have been sensing a shift happening within evangelicalism that is understanding that growing divide between the Christian narrative and the American narrative. I trust that shift is still happening because I do see the evangelical world is filled with bright, generous, Spirit-led people (that may not get a lot of media attention). I hope this scene is not accurate of the changing big picture.

Here’s the brief recap from the CT post:
“The Generation Forum, a four-year-old NAE initiative to “converse and cooperate without compromising” in order to reduce abortions, drew criticism from World Magazine last week for being primarily funded by a pro-contraception group.”

The Manhattan Declaration issued a statement that they removed from their blog but here’s part of it:
“Reducing unintended pregnancy is a laudable goal, but here, as in all things, how matters a great deal … If, as in this case, it is through programs that undermine God’s plan for sex in the context of marriage, we must not compromise our values.”

World Magazine’s Marvin Olasky had a bit to say including: “He also noted that Sarah Brown, CEO of the National Campaign, was one of four panelists invited to speak about reducing abortion rates at a Q conference in April. In a vote during the panel, moderated by Q executive director Rebekah Lyons, nearly two-thirds of audience members said churches should advocate contraception use by single 20-somethings. Such poll results send the message that it’s fine for unmarried evangelicals to use contraception …”

“As a professor and elder, I’ve seen how conflicted many young unmarried evangelicals are,” Olasky said in an e-mail to Christianity Today, “Many are hoping to garner some wisdom from their elders. It’s neither helpful nor compassionate when the elders follow polls rather than the Bible.”


As one who wants to see among other things, the number of abortions reduced and as one who attended Q this year, here are my push-backs. I offer them not as retaliation but for perspective in hopes of creating conversation:

Just a few days ago I wrote that we needed more dialogue and that there are still a number of especially younger evangelicals who do not wish to reenter the conversation. The reasons they do not want to renter the conversation are exhibited by the tone demonstrated by those mentioned in the CT article. I’m not trying to be mean or in my small way, exasperate this, but I do want to point out when the big players in the evangelical put out these statements, they generally do more harm than good, even in their own camp.

I imagine in their minds they believe they are holding the line, but to people like me, the conversation is being stifled.

Regarding the poll we took at Q, we can debate the wording of it but in fairness to the moment, by that point in the panel discussion it had already been established that abstinence was understandably the preferred message but we also had the reality of three-fourths of evangelicals admitting they have had pre-marital sex and how do we reduce the 1.2 million abortions that happen in our country each year. Bearing in mind that this is not the number of the abortions that are happening in the evangelical world and bear in mind that we would assume that the three-fourths number does not accurately represents the larger culture’s admission to having pre-marital sex. (It would be higher but it would be incredibly interesting if it were lower, wouldn’t it?).

In light of that, if you want to reduce the number of abortions among those that are choosing not to be abstinent, eliminating the option of contraceptives increases the number of pregnancies, thereby increasing the probability of the number of abortions and at some point, creates a greater distance between the Church and the general culture.

Let me put another way to my fellow pro-lifers – if we think it’s inexcusable to terminate a birth because of someone’s act of free-will to engage in sexual activity, is it not just as inexcusable for us to condemn the use of contraception that would prevent the conception that would potentially terminate the pregnancy?  If we believe in free-will, we as a followers of Jesus must present the options of abstinence, adoption, and prevention.  As an adoptive parent, this seems not only logical to me, but theologically responsible.

Like everyone, I wish everyone thought and acted the way that I think we should.  However, even in the Christian narrative, we  know that is not how a humanity created in God’s image, marred by the consequences of a sinful, fallen world but being offered God’s redemption through Jesus works.

If the goal is to advance the message of the Christian values concerning sex, marriage, and family and gain ground in the culture war, then that’s another thing all together. But let’s be clear – fighting that type of culture war is not the same as seeking Jesus’ kingdom.

Does it not seem more Christian to channel our efforts to reduce the number of abortions (and yes, promote adoption and abstinence)? I believe the distinction between advancing the Christian ethic on sex and family and reducing the number of abortions is a necessary conversation within the pro-life camp and I do not mean to be condescending towards people I respect but this is why conversation is helpful. By saying that, I am not suggesting that we cannot do both. But we need to be clear here – being pro-life is not the same as promoting the Christian sexual ethic.

Further, As Olasky points out, I too have seen how “conflicted young unmarried evangelicals are” but to suggest that pastors/leaders/elders/etc. are responding to polls over Scripture is an unintelligent statement from a mind that knows better. That straw-man rhetoric is not helpful. In other places, I have discussed my suspicion with polls and statistics, but even I must admit at the very least, they must represent someone. And if we are serious about reaching those outside the church and if we are serious about going after the one lost sheep, we need to pay attention to what is being said.

Though I appreciate some of what World Magazine has to say, I stopped renewing my subscription back around 2003-2004. My simple reason is that’s it’s too much “culture war” language and Olasky’s reaction here is indicative of that. Prior to not resubscribing to World, I admired Olasky’s courage and his skills of reason but I couldn’t get past his insistence of a “black and white world.”  There needs to be more graciousness and nuance in these conversations.  I find myself wondering is it an incapability of nuance or a business move to rally the subscriber base because what was said at Q seems clear to me.  I commend The CT post in being fair in highlighting it:

“During the panel, Brown noted that most people in the room likely preferred encouraging unmarried men and women to not have sex.  “I think that’s a very good idea,” she said. “But for those who are having sex and are unavailable to that message, we have to talk about contraception. I understand that may be choice number two.””

Friends, it’s not about compromising our values, it’s about compromising our approach in sharing them. Jenell Paris said similar during her introduction of the panel discussion.   There is a difference.  Further, this is what people like me appreciate so much about the Q conversation and the Lyons tone should not go unnoticed (from at the event and in the CT article).

Lastly, the Church is so much more than the pastors, elders, and the words being said from the pulpit, magazines, digital print, etc. If the Church really is about glorying God and not agenda, and is really concerned about loving people, we must be able to have numerous and varying types of conversations with each other and among other things, they need to be be marked with gracious words and attitudes.

May we listen to the other, may we be willing to discuss these crucial matters graciously and may we people of prayer committed to the way of Jesus.