From Trevin Wax:


Trillia Newbell – Women, Don’t Waste Your Summer!

Using Ephesians 5:15-16, Newbell expounds on the phrase “making the best use of” our days by asking, how can we redeem them? She encouraged the readers to turn relaxation into fellowship with friends and with God, to involve kids and their activities, and to keep your quiet time.

Aaron Armstrong – Family, Don’t Waste Your Summer!

Aaron is right, sometimes we forget the opportunities God puts right in front of us to teach our children about Himself and the world He has given us. He encourages parents to find ways to teach their kids about the beauties and promises of the gospel through walks, gardening, and by having a good time.

Eric Mason – Husband and Father, Don’t Waste Your Summer!

Mason reminds us husbands and fathers that the summer is a prime opportunity to take initiative to lead our families. He writes, “…step up and be the husband and father that God has called you to be. Be intentional about being home, engaged and interested in your family. Take the task of spiritual formation and gospel promotion in the home seriously. This is the most important legacy you can leave your children, and the most formative way to love your wives.”

Jamie Ivey – Mom, Don’t Waste Your Summer!

“Use the summer to truly minister to your children and ask God to move their hearts towards His. You have so much time with them and are investing in their lives every day, so use this time to ask God to point out specific ways that you can pray for them.” Ivey encourages moms to use that time to explore God’s Word with them, to pray with them and for them, and to show them more about this God that loves them deeper than you ever could.

Michael Kelley: Men, Don’t Waste Your Summer!

According to Kelley, we usually ” play defense against the pressures of life. But what if instead of playing defense this summer, we chose to play offense? What if we had a redemptive mindset toward the time we have rather than a defensive one?…Summer could become something different. A time to walk boldly. A time to engage rather than pull back. A time to stride through life, looking this way and that, determined not to miss any opportunity.”

Josh Cousineau: Parent, Don’t Waste Your Summer!

Cousineau contends that “…the summer should be a time to dive deeper into the story of who God is. Children will have less school, work for us as parents can slow down, vacations happen. All of these things are chances for us as parents to lead our family to invest the summer for the glory of Jesus… This may mean thinking through our vacation time and building a rhythm into it of Bible study and learning more about our Lord and Savior.”

Free Cells

May 28, 2013

Why are we footing this too?

Citing rampant fraud and abuse by telephone service providers, GOP Senator from Louisiana David Vitter called on the U.S. Senate last Tuesday to end the welfare subsidy for cellular phone service in the federal Lifeline Program that cost Americans nearly $2 billion in 2012.

Created in 1984, Lifeline was designed to expand landline telephone service to low-income households through the Universal Service Fund. In 2008, however, the program was extended to wireless service providers who, according to Sen. Vitter, have used fraudulent means to increase the cost of this component of the program from $143 million in 2008 to $2 billion last year.

“I think the whole program is an entitlement mentality gone wild … There has been widespread fraud and abuse in this program and I’m convinced it is at the core of this program and can’t be scrubbed out,” charged Vitter in a recorded video of his presentation to the Senate posted on YouTube where he explained why cellular phones should be cut from Lifeline.

“The FCC is in charge of the program, it itself estimates that about 270,000 of these beneficiaries have more than one of these free government cell phones. That’s interesting, that’s important because that’s completely against the law and against the rules,” said Vitter. “The FCC also says that the top five companies that benefit from the program, couldn’t confirm the eligibility of 41 percent of the folks they signed up.”

“The cell phone welfare program has expanded far beyond its original intent, and as so many middle class Americans struggle underneath this economy, it is really offensive for Washington to make folks pay for free cell phones for others,” he added in a release.

Vitter who made the recommendation as an amendment to the Farm Bill had earlier introduced the idea as a standalone bill. He pointed out that while defenders of the program have argued that improvements are being made to increase efficiency and cut fraud, a lot more was being said than done in this regard.

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He provided evidence showing how a friend, Clarence, who did not qualify to receive a phone under Lifeline’s eligibility criteria was able to acquire a phone under the program anyhow just over a week ago.

“Now it’s paid for by you and by me, it’s paid for by our land lines and cell phone bills. We all get a charge on our bill, if you actually pay your phone bill, land line or cell phone, you get a charge and you pay that charge and that’s what funds this program,” explained Vitter.

“There are tents popping up on every other street corner handing out these free government cell phones like candy. And why is that happening? Because the people handing out the phones have a vested interest in doing that, have a vested interest in not worrying about whether eligibility criteria are met because every time they hand out a phone they get $9.25 per phone per month as long as they can sustain that gravy train,” added Vitter.

TracFone, a company owned by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, is the largest recipient of Lifeline funding and collected $440 million last year to subsidize service for 3.9 million low-income households, according to one report.

The report noted that the company has been running ads in Beltway publications defending the program, and registered to lobby on the program in March. It also went on the attack last week with an advertisement in the New Orleans Times-Picayune featuring an aerial picture of a flooded New Orleans under the headline: “Lifeline’s wireless benefit was born out of Katrina.”

“Senator David Vitter must have forgotten. Today, this vital benefit helps seniors, veterans and low-income families stay connected to their communities, first responders and employers,” noted the ad while warning that Vitter’s bill would “hurt a lot of families in Louisiana who struggle each day to make ends meet.”

But in his response in the Senate last week, Vitter charged right back.

“They’re the biggest welfare abusers of this. Rich owners of companies who milk the system to get richer who I would call government welfare kings. This abuse needs to stop … and my amendment would help do that,” he said.


May 28, 2013

Someone please explain why?

SANFORD, Fla. – Attorneys won’t be able to mention Trayvon Martin’s drug use, suspension from school and past fighting during opening statements in the trial for the neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot the teen, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Circuit Judge Debra Nelson also refused to allow jurors to travel to the shooting scene during trial, and rejected a defense request to delay the trial set to begin June 10.
The judge also ruled that some of the Martin’s texts and other social media statements won’t be allowed in opening statements, though some of his personal material could be allowed later depending on how the case progresses.
Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, told the judge that Martin’s marijuana use and past fighting was central to the argument that Zimmerman used self-defense when he confronted Martin last year at a gated community in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty.
“We have a lot of evidence that marijuana use had something to do with the event,” O’Mara said. “It could have affected his behavior.”
The judge ruled against a defense request that the pool of jury candidates be sequestered during jury selection. She said jurors will be referred to by their jury numbers and prohibited their faces from being photographed. Nelson denied a prosecution request for a gag order that would prohibit attorneys from talking about the case.
O’Mara said he is concerned potential jurors could be affected by publicity the case is receiving.

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The Bible makes it clear that self-righteousness is the premier enemy of the Gospel. And there is perhaps no group of people who better embody the sin of self-righteousness in the Bible than the Pharisees. In fact, Jesus reserved his harshest criticisms for them, calling them whitewashed tombs and hypocrites. Surprisingly to some, this demonstrates that the thing that gets in the way of our love for God and a deep appreciation of his grace is not so much our unrighteous badness but our self-righteous goodness.

In Surprised by Grace: God’s Relentless Pursuit of Rebels, I retell the story of Jonah and show how Jonah was just as much in need of God’s grace as the sailors and the Ninevites. But the fascinating thing about Jonah is that, unlike the pagan sailors and wicked Ninevites, Jonah was one of the “good guys.” He was a prophet. He was moral. He was one who “kept all the rules”, and did everything he was supposed to do. He wasn’t some long-haired, tattooed indie rocker; he was a clean-cut prep. He wasn’t a liberal; he was a conservative. He wasn’t irreligious; he was religious. If you’ve ever read S.E. Hinton’s novel The Outsiders, than you’ll immediately see that the Ninevites and the sailors in the story were like the “greasers”, while Jonah was like a “soashe.”

What’s fascinating to me is that, not only in the story of Jonah, but throughout the Bible, it’s always the immoral person that gets the Gospel before the moral person. It’s the prostitute who understands grace; it’s the Pharisee who doesn’t. It’s the unrighteous younger brother who gets it before the self-righteous older brother.

There is, however, another side to self-righteousness that younger-brother types are blind to. There’s an equally dangerous form of self-righteousness that plagues the unconventional and the non-religious types. We “authentic”, anti-legalists can become just as guilty of legalism in the opposite direction. What do I mean?

It’s simple: we become self-righteous against those who are self-righteous. We become Pharisaical about Pharisees.

Many younger Christian’s today are reacting to their parents’ conservative, buttoned-down, rule-keeping flavor of “older brother religion” with a type of liberal, untucked, rule-breaking flavor of “younger brother irreligion” which screams, “That’s right, I know I don’t have it all together and you think you do; I know I’m not good and you think you are. That makes me better than you.”

See the irony?

In other words, some of us are proud that we’re not self-righteous! Hmmm…think about that one.

Listen: self-righteousness is no respecter of persons. It reaches to the religious and the irreligious, the “buttoned down” and the “untucked”, the plastic and the pious, the rule-keepers and the rule-breakers, the “right” and the “wrong.” The entire Bible reveals how shortsighted all of us are when it comes to our own sin. Steve Brown writes:

You will find criticism of Christian fundamentalists by people whose secular fundamentalism dwarfs the fundamentalism of the people being criticized. Political correctness and the attendant feelings of self-righteousness have their equivalent in religious communities with religious correctness. If you look at victims, you’ll find self-righteousness. On the other hand, if you look at the people who wield power, they do it with the self-righteous notion that they know better, understand more, and more informed than others…arrogance, condescension, disdain, contemptuousness, and pomposity are everywhere.

For example, it was easy for Jonah to see the idolatry of the sailors. It was easy for him to see the perverse ways of the Ninevites. What he couldn’t see was his own idolatry, his own perversion. So the question is not whether you are self-righteous, but rather, in which direction does your self-righteousness lean? Depending on who I’m with, mine goes in both directions. Arghhh!

Thankfully, while our self-righteousness reaches far, God’s grace reaches farther. And the good news is, that it reaches in both directions!


The chair can be more unhealthful than cigarettes, an Australian study suggested.
May 25, 2013
“Prolonged sitting is not what nature intended for us,” says Dr. Camelia Davtyan, clinical professor of medicine and director of women’s health at the UCLA Comprehensive Health Program.

“The chair is out to kill us,” says James Levine, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine.

Most of us have years of sitting experience, consider ourselves quite good at it and would swear that nature intended us to do it as much as possible.

PHOTOS: 17 ways to fight the inertia, step by step

But unfortunately, a good deal of data suggest that we’re off our rockers to spend so much time on our rockers — as well as the vast variety of other seats where we’re fond of parking our duffs. Here’s a sampling of what scientists have learned about the insidious nature of sitting.

Repurposing gone awry

The human body was designed for walking, and people did a whole lot of that for millenniums. But lately, not so much. In general, scientists believe, Americans now sit for more than half of their waking hours. Sadly, the sitting position exerts forces on the body that it’s not built to accommodate, Davtyan says, and so, as comfy as it may seem, couch potato-hood can lead to a host of woes, including poor circulation and assorted aches and pains.

Obe-sit-y epidemic?

We’re not using much energy when we’re sitting still, which is no doubt part of its appeal. But, of course, “not using much energy” is just another way of saying “not burning many calories,” which is just another way of saying “watch out for extra pounds.” “There is debate as to whether it is the chair or the knife and fork that have caused the increase in obesity rates,” Levine writes in a 2012 article. A person with a desk job may burn 300 calories a day at work, he reports, but that same person might burn 2,300 calories a day in a job that requires considerable physical effort.

Assessing the damage

Sitting at your desk for hours on end, slaving away diligently, can increase your chances of getting a promotion — but also diabetes, heart disease or even an early grave. A study published in the journal Diabetologia in November 2012 analyzed the results of 18 studies with a total of nearly 800,000 participants. When comparing people who spent the most time sitting with those who spent the least time, researchers found increases in the risks of diabetes (112%), cardiovascular events (147%), death from cardiovascular causes (90%) and death from all causes (49%).

“Sitting is the new smoking,” says Anup Kanodia, a physician and researcher at the Center for Personalized Health Care at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. As evidence, he cites an Australian study published in October 2012 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine that compared the two pastimes. Every hour of TV that people watch, presumably while sitting, cuts about 22 minutes from their life span, the study’s authors calculated. By contrast, it’s estimated that smokers shorten their lives by about 11 minutes per cigarette.

How can this happen? Not only is sitting lousy at calorie burning, but it has been shown to suppress the production of an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase, which is essential for turning bad cholesterol into good. Sitting can also lead to insulin resistance and, therefore, trouble metabolizing sugar. All these strikes against it help to explain, at least in part, its association with heart disease and diabetes.

PHOTOS: Standing desks: Designs to stay on your feet

Is exercise the solution? Suppose you do 100 sit-ups every morning. Can you safely sit back and rest on your laurels the rest of the day? Research says no. Despite the good it does for you in many ways, exercise is not a vaccine against the ills of sitting. Once you burn a bunch of calories, they’re gone, of course. But it doesn’t take long for some of the other beneficial effects of exercise to wear off and the detrimental effects of sitting to set in. For instance, lipase production can go down by 90% within hours, a 2008 study in the journal Diabetes found.

Is there any hope? There are ways of outwitting our penchant for sitting. Levine has a treadmill at his desk that he strolls on all day long. He made his own, but many models are commercially available. Indeed, whole lines of furniture have been developed to facilitate what David Kahl calls “active sitting.”

It can take a while for people to adjust to this new way of sitting, says Kahl, who owns the Ergo Depot in Portland, Ore. “But in the end I haven’t had anybody say, ‘I can’t do it.'”

There are simpler steps to take too — e.g., merely increasing the number of steps you take during the day. But can such small things really make a difference? A study published last year in Diabetes Care showed you can improve your glucose metabolism with a two-minute walk every 20 minutes.

Considerable anecdotal evidence points in the same direction. True, many — perhaps including you yourself — have done some of their best work while sitting at their desks. “That’s where I shine,” the late writer Robert Benchley once said. But many others have achieved remarkable success while standing up on the job, including Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens, Benjamin Franklin, Ernest Hemingway and Mark Twain.

And then there was Einstein, Levine notes: “He was riding a bike when he came up with e = mc².”

Corruption All Around

May 25, 2013

This such a corrupt govt.

The Story: According to a report by the Taxpayer Advocate Service, in 2012 the IRS requested additional information from 90 percent of returns claiming the adoption tax credit and went on to actually audit 69 percent.

The Background: As David French, an adoptive father explains, the adoption process is so extraordinarily expensive that it is out of reach for many middle-class families. The adoption tax credit helps offset the costs since under current U.S. tax law, Americans do not have to pay taxes on qualified expenses related to adoption. These expenses include adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees, traveling expenses, and other expenses for which the principal purpose is the legal adoption of an eligible child. French adds,

This audit wave got almost no media coverage, but what was the experience like for individual families? In a word, grueling. Huge document requests with short turnaround times were followed by lengthy IRS delays in processing, all with no understanding for the unique documentation challenges of international adoption.

[. . .]

As an adoptive family, it’s sometimes difficult to describe the immense challenges in gathering paperwork, opening your lives to social workers for home studies, then expensive travel to sometimes-corrupt foreign locales to then launch a new life with a child you love immensely but who is also experiencing his or her own culture shock and adjustment. All of this places a great strain on family finances and emotions. To then face an audit on the other side? All so the IRS can collect a whopping 1 percent additional revenue? It’s beyond the pale. If the IRS is concerned about fraud, it can audit random samples, not the vast majority of adoptive families claiming the credit.

Why It Matters: Christians in America will never fully agree on social and political policies. But as a general principle I’d recommend we support policies that give people incentives for doing good and avoid doing evil (1 Peter 3:11). Most of our current legal incentives, particularly in the form of criminal law, focus on the latter (e.g., if you steal, you’ll go to prison). All too rarely are we provided adequate incentives to do good, especially acts which go beyond the requirements of duty. The best we can usually hope for are incentives that protect us from bad consequences when we attempt to help others (e.g., Good Samaritan laws).

There are valid disagreements to be had about what constitutes incentivizing the good and how such policies should be implemented. But I suspect most Christians would agree that adoption is the type of supererogatory act that should be encouraged. That is why many Christians lobbied the U.S Congress to approve the adoption tax credit, an addition made in 1997 which allows American families to offset the high costs related to the process.

But why should Christians care that the IRS gives special increased scrutiny to those who claim this exemption? Because it provides a disincentive to adopt a child and could potentially leave thousands of children without parents.

No one chooses to adopt simply because they can deduct the expenses. And the tax credit likely doesn’t affect the decision of most adoptive parents. But as almost all economists would say, when considering a policy we have to think about the margins by considering the cases where the decision can be swayed by seemingly minor incentives. Some people can only afford the expenses of adopting a child because of the tax credit. Other people may be eager to adopt but are so fearful of an IRS audit that it changes their decision. Whether or not we agree with the way they weigh such economic considerations, the fact is that in making life-changing choices incentives and disincentives can have profound consequences.

While Americans must be accountable to government authorities, we should also ensure that those authorities are being fair and just to all concerned. And one of the most significant ways we can give justice to the weak and the fatherless (Psalm 82:3) is by making it easier on prospective parents who want to give them a home.

Joe Carter

Footing the Bill

May 25, 2013

How are we footing the bill for this guilty person? What a broken system.

They were 12 ordinary citizens who didn’t oppose the death penalty. But unlike spectators outside the courthouse who followed the case like a daytime soap opera and jumped to demand Jodi Arias’ execution, the jurors faced a decision that was wrenching and real, with implications that could haunt them forever.

In an interview Friday, jury foreman William Zervakos provided a glimpse into the private deliberations, describing four women and eight men who struggled with the question: How heinous of a killing deserves a similar fate?

“The system we think is flawed in that sense because this was not a case of a Jeffrey Dahmer or Charles Manson,” Zervakos told The Associated Press.

“It was a brutal no-win situation. … I think that’s kind of unfair,” the 69-year-old added. “We’re not lawyers. We can’t interpret the law. We’re mere mortals. And I will tell you I’ve never felt more mere as a mortal than I felt for the last five months.”

Zervakos said the most difficult time of the entire trial was hearing directly from victim Travis Alexander’s family as his brother and sister tearfully explained how his killing has shattered their lives.

“There was no sound in that jury room for a long time after that because you hurt so bad for these people,” he said. “But that wasn’t evidence. That’s what made it so hard. … This wasn’t about them. This was a decision whether we’re going to tell somebody they were going to be put to death or spend the rest of their life in prison.”

Zervakos described a deliberations room full of tears and spinning moral compasses as each juror struggled to come to grips with their own beliefs about what factors — including Arias’ young age at the time of the killing and her lack of criminal history — should cause them to show mercy and spare her life.

“You’ve got Travis Alexander’s family devastated, that he was killed, that he was brutally killed. You’ve got Jodi Arias’ family sitting in there, both families sitting and seeing these humiliating images and listening to unbelievably lurid private details of their lives, and you’ve got a woman whose life is over, too,” Zervakos said. “I mean, who’s winning in this situation? And we were stuck in the middle.”

Zervakos declined to discuss his thoughts or those of other jurors on whether Arias should have been sentenced to death or life. But he said he was torn between her two personas: a killer and an average young woman struggling through life.

“You heard (prosecutor Juan) Martinez say she was only 27. … She’s old enough that she should have known better,” Zervakos said. “I didn’t look at it that way. I’m looking at 27 years of an absolutely normal everyday young woman that was living a life that was perfectly normal. Then something changed the trajectory of her life after meeting Travis Alexander, and it spiraled downhill from there.”

The same jury on May 8 convicted Arias of first-degree murder in Alexander’s killing, but couldn’t reach a decision Thursday after about 13 hours of deliberations on whether she should live or die.

Judge Sherry Stephens was forced to declare a mistrial of the penalty phase and dismissed the panel.

A conference with the judge and attorneys is set for June 20 to determine how both sides want to proceed. In the interim, Stephens set a July 18 retrial date.

The mistrial set the stage for a whole new proceeding to determine whether the 32-year-old former waitress should get a life sentence or the death penalty for murdering Alexander five years ago.

Arias stabbed and slashed him nearly 30 times, slit his throat slit and shot him in the forehead. Prosecutors said she attacked Alexander in a jealous rage after he wanted to end their relationship and planned a trip to Mexico with another woman. Arias contends it was self-defense.

Prosecutors now have the option to take the death penalty off the table and avoid a new penalty phase. The judge would then determine whether to sentence Arias to spend her entire life behind bars, or give her life with the possibility of release after 25 years. Given Arias could not afford her own defense, taxpayers footed the bill for court-appointed attorneys at a cost so far of nearly $1.7 million, a price tag that will only balloon if the case moves forward.

Should the state decide to seek death again, jury selection alone could take months, given the difficulty of seating an impartial panel in a case that has attracted global attention and become daily cable TV and tabloid fodder with tales of sex, lies and violence, said jury consultant Jo-Ellan Dimitrius.

“Will it be impossible? No. Will it be tough? Absolutely,” she said.

Dimitrius noted that jury selection in the widely publicized trial of infamous serial killer Richard Ramirez, known as the “Night Stalker,” who is on death row in California, took six months as attorneys weeded through more than 2,000 prospective jurors.

If Arias faces a new penalty phase, her murder conviction would stand, leaving the new panel tasked only with sentencing her. However, the proceedings could drag on for several more months as the new jury reviews evidence and witness testimony.

If the second jury cannot reach a unanimous decision, the judge would then sentence Arias to one of the life-in-prison options. The judge cannot sentence Arias to death.


May 23, 2013

This has to stop.

HOUSTON — The man accused of hitting and killing a Harris County sheriff’s deputy while driving drunk was in the country illegally, a judge said in court overnight.

Andres Munos-Munos, 23, was charged with intoxication manslaughter in the death of Sgt. Dwayne Polk.

According to the Houston Police Department, Munos-Munos allegedly ran a red light on Little York at N. Shepherd and hit Polk’s personal truck shortly after 3 a.m. Sunday. HPD said there were no skid marks to indicate Munos-Munos even attempted to stop prior to the crash.

The deputy died at the scene. He was in uniform, and officials believe he was driving home following an off-duty job.

During his court appearance early Monday, Munos-Munos was ordered held without bond. Details weren’t immediately available on his attorney.

Police said the suspect suffered minor injuries in the wreck and was taken to the hospital prior to being taken to court. It was there he underwent a mandatory blood draw.

Polk, 47, had been with the sheriff’s office for 16 years. On Sunday afternoon family and friends left small mementos at the Houston intersection where the deputy was killed.

“Tough morning,” Sheriff Adrian Garcia tweeted. “The HCSO suffered a terrible loss & we are all grieving. Keep HCSO members & their families in your prayers.”

According to the Houston Chronicle, Polk grew up in Houston with his two brothers, three sisters and many cousins. The Bible was among the books his mother used to teach him and his siblings to read, according to a 2012 obituary for his younger brother.

The suspect accused in Polk’s death has had trouble with the law before.

Records show he was arrested on June 10, 2012 for driving while intoxicated. He also was charged with unlawful carrying of a weapon. He was deported in July 2012, but later returned to the U.S.

The members of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office mourn the untimely death of Sgt. Dwayne Polk, a 16 year veteran of the HCSO and a dedicated public servant.

The HCSO deals with on a daily basis the tragedy that happens in our community. Our deputies are trained to handle these situations and do what we can to help our citizens move forward when they have been touched by tragedy. Today, it reminds us that although we wear badges and guns, we too are human and our hearts hurt and are heavy as anyone else who has dealt with the loss of a son, a brother, a dedicated colleague, a caring friend and a proud father. Our prayers are with Sgt. Polk’s family and those who knew him best.

Sgt. Polk’s death reminds us that we must stop these senseless actions at the hands of irresponsible individuals who insist on ignoring the law and common sense, and get behind the wheel after having too much to drink!

As we move forward, Sgt. Polk’s death will not be in vain. We will continue to put behind bars those who run the risk of devastating other families, as the Polk family has been. It was eerily ironic that on the morning of June 18th I was with Mothers Against Drunk Driving as they held the annual “Walk Like MADD”.

Let’s remind ourselves that these deaths can be prevented either by personal responsibility or by handcuffs, but we will not stop in our efforts to save lives on our roadways!

Jay Leno

May 23, 2013

Funny, but true.

The National Aquarium in Washington is going to close. But don’t worry. If you’re in D.C. and you still want to smell something fishy, stop by the White House. They’ve gone from “Change you can believe in” to “Changing the story until you believe it.”

One of the oldest monasteries in the world is Saint Catherine’s. Built by Emperor Justinian to protect the monks in the region, St. Catherine’s sits at the foot of Mount Sinai in Egypt. The walls are made of granite and are between 8 and 35 meters tall.

Up until last century, there was only one way into the monastery: a tiny door more than thirty feet above the ground. People entered the monastery through a system of pulleys and ropes. The monastery itself contains ancient icons and many treasures. But up until recently, it was largely inaccessible to the outside world.

Our churches naturally drift toward becoming like St. Catherine’s monastery: a fortified, doorless organization that focuses upon its own preservation rather than its specific mission.

Our hearts drift toward tribalism, the tendency to gather with people just like us and to reflect ourselves rather than the missionary heart of God. We’re always putting up mirrors around the light of the gospel when we should be putting up windows.

Kingdom Colony or Country Club

The church is intended to be a colony of heaven, living according to the gospel announcement. But too often we turn the kingdom colony into a country club. Our focus becomes the comfort and preservation of our tribe rather than the mission that accompanies the gospel announcement.

Battleship or Cruise Ship

I’ve heard it said that the people of God either have the mentality of a battleship or a cruise ship. Both may sail, but they have very different purposes. The battleship exists for others. It is on a rescue mission, set to penetrate the enemy’s territory and do battle for the commander. The cruise ship exists for the comfort of its passengers. Luxury and comfort are the core values, and everyone seeks to make the journey comfortable and memorable.

When we adopt a cruise ship mentality, the cross and resurrection of Christ will is reduced to a message of personal comfort. The core value of our worship services is to be memorable and entertaining. Our theological debates become about upholding doctrine for doctrine’s sake, rather than seeing theological reflection as an aid to fulfilling our mission. Instead of seeing our gatherings as a base from which individual Christians scatter into the world as salt and light, we wall ourselves off from the outside world and neglect the prophetic nature of our gospel announcement.

Missional or Tribal

Tullian Tchividjian explains the difference between a missional and a tribal people:

“The highest value of a community with a tribal mindset is self-preservation. A tribal community exists solely for itself, and those within it keep asking, “How can we protect ourselves from those who are different from us?

“A tribal mindset is marked by an unbalanced patriotism. It typically elevates personal and cultural preferences to absolute principles: If everybody were more like us, this world would be a better place.

“But in a missional minded community, the highest value isn’t self-preservation but self-sacrifice. A missional community exists not primarily for itself but for others. It’s a community that’s willing to be inconvenienced and discomforted, willing to expend itself for others on God’s behalf.”

This blog post is adapted from Counterfeit Gospels, 142-144.

Trevin Wax