Monday, November 30, 2009

"Toto, We Aren't in Kansas Anymore."

Part 2 in this story series ...

It really is like entering the land of Oz, this realm of Christian debate with atheists. None of the rules to which you are accustomed apply. In one instant, you become Dorothy, swept away to a place where questions swirl like the tornado that brought you there.

This is especially true when you're dealing with a category of atheists who I deem, "The Enemies."

What's the difference between an atheist who is a "Friendly" and that who is "Enemy?"

This actually crystallized for me a little more this morning, when one atheist "Friendly" named Jason sent me a short description, taken from Hey Jason, you were right on the money when you assumed this is what I was referring to!

Here's what Jason wrote:

"Austin Cane of has written a little on this. He says, "Atheism is simply the absence of belief in gods; anti-theism is a conscious and deliberate opposition to theism. People who are indifferent to the existence of alleged gods are atheists because they don't believe in the existence of any gods, but at the same time this indifference prevents them from being anti-theists as well. To a degree, this describes many if not most atheists because there are plenty of alleged gods they simply don't care about and, therefore, also don't care enough to attack belief in such gods. Anti-theism requires a couple of specific and additional beliefs: first, that theism is harmful to the believer, harmful to society, harmful to politics, harmful, to culture, etc.; second, that theism can and should be countered in order to reduce the harm it causes. If a person believes these things, then they will likely be anti-theists who work against theism by arguing that it be abandoned, promoting alternatives, or perhaps even supporting measures to suppress it."

So ... what are some real-life examples I can give you? Here's a comparison, based on my short time with them on Twitter and via email:

Atheist Friendlies will ask if you are willing to debate them. They are courteous and polite. They don't pull any punches. They wait for you to state what you believe, then follow up each of your statements with questions, asking you to qualify each explanation in more detail. Some will hear you and then disengage immediately. Others will ask for a continuation of the debate.

They also are interested in you as a person. At heart, we're all people, all seeking out new friendships and relationships that will also boost our businesses or allow us to chat about other matters, like parenting, schools, political views.

What's the best way to deal with an "Atheist Friendly?" Put on your friendship hat. Be a friend first. Jesus was a friend to those who didn't believe in Him before He tried to convince them of His love: Nicodemus. The Samaritan Woman. Even the disciple Peter.

Give them that courtesy. You will be surprised at the richness of the relationship that follows.

Atheist Enemies are on the complete opposite side of the spectrum. These are people who become easily offended by anything you say. Recently I engaged in a four-day chat marathon with someone who would fall into this category. He was very angry at one point in the discussion. So to demonstrate that I wasn't deliberately trying to anger him, I asked if he liked cheese cake.

That's a pretty innocuous question, don't you think?

This person ignored the question or the attempt to humanize the discussion in any way. In fact, when I checked out his Twitter timeline later, where you can view discussions between him and other atheists, I found that he was referring to me as "it" and was advising the others not to engage me on a personal level, because, "don't forget it is not human." The exchanges reminded me of a Nazi film I saw in high school, referring to Jewish people as rats.

Atheist Enemies will also espouse Biblical villains as their own heroes. This same person has a tagline on his Twitter home page that announces he is "a King Herod appreciator." For those of you who don't know, King Herod was the one who tried to kill the infant Jesus by slaughtering all boys ages newborn to 2 years in Bethlehem.

And of course, during their discussion with you, Atheist Enemies use various tactics to throw you off course. They will twist your verbiage, take your thoughts out of context, reapply Scripture in the way that suits them most, infer that your motives are not pure ... and in extreme cases, they will ridicule you, call you names, publicly make fun of you to others and may directly threaten you and your family with bodily harm.

So, at Priscilla's & Aquila's Place, what is our response supposed to be to both the Friendlies and the Enemies? Tune in tomorrow, and we'll discuss!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Why I Like Atheists

Part one in this series ...

Do you ever pray about the types of people God would like you to reach for Him?

I do.

And recently, I have been really amazed at the love He has put in my heart for one particular group of people: atheists.

I'm a C.S. Lewis fan, through and through. One of my favorite books by Lewis is "Surprised by Joy," an autobiography that outlines the life circumstances that led Lewis to atheism and how and why his heart changed -- not only to embrace the concept that God exists but also to accept Jesus as his friend and savior.

If you've ever read this book, you'll agree that when you talk to people of other faiths -- or those who don't believe in anything at all -- they all have very valid reasons for their points of view. Like Lewis, life circumstances or the way in which they have been treated by others sets them up for a lifetime of struggle with believing in Jesus's Divinity and what He did.

This is especially true of many atheists I've met on Twitter in the past two to three weeks.

I've been reflecting about reasons I like atheists. Truly, I like them. I thought it might be helpful for other Christians at "Priscilla's & Aquila's Place" to gain some understanding and perspective on atheists they may encounter.

So to start, here are some things that spark my interest, fascination and general admiration of the atheist mindset:

1. They are ruled by logic. They are quick to point out that logically, the Bible doesn't have a lot of merit. They dissect each and every argument for God's existence with the precision of a surgeon's knife. My 20-year career has been in journalism. As a journalist, I have a strong appreciation for someone who painstakingly examines a concept or topic from all angles.

2. They easily figure out who is genuine.
If you have an ounce of hypocrisy in your soul, don't wrestle with an atheist. I would be lying if I said I'm not hypocritical on some issues. The atheists I've met have quickly pointed out these areas in my arguments to them. They've actually done me a huge favor by doing so, because on some levels, I wasn't even aware of the depth of my hypocrisy. I was able to confess those areas to God and apologize to the atheists in question. A wonderful gift, if you're willing to allow your character to be examined under a spotlight.

3. They are extremely (extremely!) intelligent. Many atheists I've met are either involved in the sciences or engineering fields ... or they are students who brighten at the prospect of a match of wits. They love to investigate the whys and the hows. Cleverness is a universal trait among them.

4. They're funny. Their sense of humor is highly developed. They trade barbs with each other and, once they accept you as a worthy "adversary," they are friendly with sharing their jokes with you. I also find that those atheists who are genuinely nice people censor themselves when talking to a Christian they respect. This level of courteousness is touching to me. Of course, there is another "category" of atheist not as "nice," but that's for the next blog entry. :-)

5. Those who are genuinely seeking answers in life have been hurt in the past. When we read the story about Jesus seeing the masses and having compassion on them, it's a great picture of how He feels about atheists. Those who have opened up to me are really very sweet and have extremely good reasons for their lack of faith. Usually, those reasons are based in either traumatic or horribly hurtful things that have been said or done to them. When I hear these stories, my heart just aches to the point where I cry for mercy over them. Jesus tells us, "To whom much is given, much is required." I understand this statement fully now, as I was given much in the way of unconditional love as a child. This fully made it easier for me to believe in an unconditionally-loving God. Many atheists have not had that advantage. They were not given much. They are deeply in need of His love.

So is there a group of people that God has tapped you to reach? Tune in tomorrow for the next part of my story in reaching atheists, when we'll chat about the different types of atheists: who I call "The Friendlies" and "The Enemies."

See you then!

Friday, November 20, 2009

"Talking Points for Christians-"What God Thinks of You"

This is from the book, "Truefaced." Bruce Koenig, a Facebook friend, sent this out, and I thought it was so great, as it provides a great foundation for sharing your faith with others.

Comments welcome, team.

Thanks, Bruce!

Ever wondered what God thinks about you?

Do you know I knew you even before you were born? You can’t imagine the wonderful plans I have for your life. I don’t want you to fear me. What if I take away any element of condemnation, judgment or rejection? What if I tell you I love you and will always love you? That I can’t love you more than I love you now, no matter what you’ve done. That I love you as much as I love my only Son. That there’s nothing you can do to make My love go away. What if I told you that you could stop beating yourselves up? That you could stop being so formal, uncomfortable and jumpy around Me. What if I told you I am crazy about you? What if I told you even if you run to the ends of the earth and did the most unthinkable, horrible things, that when you came back, I’ll receive you with open arms and a party? What if I told you that I hate religion as much as you do? What if I told you it’s not about religion, it’s about a relationship? What if you found out that it isn’t possible for you to clean up your act enough for me to love you? What if you found out that my Son died on the cross for you? What if I told you that if you humble yourself and accept my Son, Jesus, as your Savior, you are going to heaven no matter what – it’s a done deal? What if I told you that you don’t have to “act like a Christian” but that accepting Jesus into your heart fills you with the Holy Spirit, and that the Holy Spirit will take all the fun out of sinning. That you will have your DNA re-written. That you will be fundamentally changed and rebuilt in His image. What if I told you that I’d then actually live in you? What if I told you that you didn’t have to put on a mask? That it’s ok to be who you are at this moment, with all your junk and not pretend about how close we are, how much you pray or don’t, how much you do or don’t read the Bible, or promises you’ve made to Me and didn’t keep. What if I told you that the record containing your past offenses would be erased…forever? What if you knew I will never, ever use the word punish in relation to you? What if you knew when you mess up, I’d never “get back at you?” What if you were convinced bad circumstances aren’t My way of getting even for taking advantage of Me? What if you knew the basis of our friendship isn’t how little you sin, but rather how much you let Me love you? What if you had permission to stop trying to impress Me in any way? What if you knew good deeds alone won’t get you into heaven? What if I told you that you could hurt My heart, but I’d try never to hurt yours? What if I told you I like Clapton’s music too? That the Thee’s and Thou’s have always bugged Me? What if I told you that you can open your eyes when you pray and still go to Heaven? What if I told you there was no secret agenda, no trap door? If I told you it wasn’t about your self-effort, but allowing Me to live My life through you? What if you knew? Would it change how you think of Me? I won’t force you…it’s your choice.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Why I Picked a Fight With Atheists on Twitter

If you follow me on Twitter, you already know about this little drama that unfolded this week. I've received several messages and emails from people, concerned about ramifications -- both for my personal safety but most importantly for how Jesus is represented.

So let's address it here at Priscilla's & Aquila's Place, the blog for Christians to vent with each other and pray for each other. I'm open to your constructive criticism, observations and, most importantly, would appreciate your prayer for wisdom.

What went down?

My presence on Twitter is strong. I use it as a launching pad for conversations with non-believers and to promote my other blog, Kingdom Treasures.

Now some background for you non-Twitterers:

Twitter has a little tool called, "hashtag." You get people to comment on a particular subject by writing a phrase and putting a # sign in front of it. This is what is called, "a hashtag campaign." People look up that phrase and then send out Tweets on the topic.

So on Monday, I saw a hashtag campaign begin with the phrase, "You might be an atheist." (#youmightbeanatheist) Atheists followed this phrase with derogatory comments about Christianity. That was fine with me. I see that all of the time on Twitter.

But then something else happened. Some of the hashtag Tweets started attacking Jesus. And these weren't just casual phrases like, "You might be an atheist if you don't believe in Jesus." These were an all-out blasphemous assault. I then clicked on some of the Tweeters' home pages to read what else they were saying about Jesus.

It turned my blood into ice.


I decided to do something about it.

I decided to send out my own hashtags on "You might be an atheist."

In short, I dished it right back at them. I sent so many out that I flooded their hashtag stream. And these weren't innocuous, either. I decided that to get my point across, I would speak their own language.

I taunted them.


We're talking ... 5th-grade-on-the-playground-bully-you-into-hysterical-anger taunting.

Some of my atheist friends on Twitter -- those who engage with me positively and email me occasionally -- expressed concern. They understood why I was doing it, but, rightly so, pointed out that I might be goading people who would take their anger a step further.

They were right. I started receiving anonymous messages on Kingdom Treasures, which included my home address and direct threats to rape and kill me.

I know we're supposed to turn the other cheek. I know this.

When do we stand up for Jesus's Name, though? And in what method?

This story isn't over, though.

My incredible leader from Bible study called me in the middle of this drama. After listening to my rant on the phone, she wisely suggested I do one thing: Pray before I send out each and every Tweet.

So I did.

And of course, you know what happened next, if you're a strong prayer.

Some of those following the hashtag campaign started sending me private messages.

I now am constructively engaging in email conversations with five of those who were originally hostile. I discovered they are really hurting people. They have anger against God for reasons they don't understand.

And their hearts are searching.

I no longer saw them as "Enemy," but as those who were POWs in the Enemy's camp.

Their hashtags were in fact calls for help.


How do you mix it up with unbelievers? Do you? What are your approaches? What are your struggles?

And you can tell me flat out what I should've done differently. We're all in this together. We're all on the same team.

Will you pray for me?

How can I pray for you?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Making Time for Discarded People

Conclusion of this story series ...

So what does it all mean? What does the tale of Jesus's appointment with the Discarded Woman in Samaria have to do with a Christian Safe house?

Just this: We have all been discarded at one time or another. We all know the feelings of rejection, grief, disappointment. We know the type of people we were before we met Jesus and the type of people He has transformed us into being.

So do we share this hope with others?

Do we make time in our busy days and lives for other discarded people?

Yesterday I heard some women chatting about this very challenge. One said she struggled with the cashiers at Wal-Mart, who want to chat about their lives while bagging her groceries. All she cares about is car pooling the kids from school on time. She feels impatient. She doesn't want to listen.

Another said she struggles when people come to her door, asking if they can rake the leaves in her yard for money. Sometimes she wants to ignore the doorbell. She doesn't want to deal with the person or the interruption to her household activities. She doesn't want to think about the fact that maybe they lost their job and really need that money from raking her leaves.

We listened to each other and nodded, agreeing that interruptions in our routines are not pleasant. We want to be cocooned, dwelling on our children, our lives, our responsibilities. In our culture, we don't have time for others.

What if Jesus, on that hot day at noon, had decided He was too tired to talk to the Discarded Woman? He had every right to turn his back, or to just nod a greeting, then walk a few steps away while she drew her water. They may not have even spoken a word to each other.

But that's not what happened.

He allowed her into His world. He saw her hurt. He understood her pain. He cared about touching her life and healing her soul.

So give it some thought ... how much would the world change if you made time for discarded people? We all know them by sight. We hear the tremor in their voices that they try to control. We see the averted eyes and the nervous smiles. We know them, because He makes their plights plain to us.

If we know Him, then we love as He loves.

If we know Him, then we bring discarded people into His arms.

If we know Him, then we do everything we can to make sure they know: He wants to re-claim them as His own.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Discarded Woman is Re-claimed as Daughter

Part 4 of this story series ...

His Presence.

She didn’t know how much time had passed since He first asked her for a drink of water, because she had been utterly consumed with His Presence.

He took her off guard, first by speaking to her, then by drawing her in, not as a sexual conquest but as a beloved child.

And it all came down to His Presence.

His Essence.

His life-giving Spirit, as plentiful, as nourishing, as refreshing as the cold water from the depths of that well.

It deluged her in the scorching heat of that noonday sun, wiping out all memory of the burn of her shame, the loneliness of her life.

It poured down her parched throat, this Living Water … this Gift … this Presence.

He was all around her, speaking comfort to her, knowing her, understanding her … loving her. He was the Water. The Water was Him.

He had been willing to make His appointment – to put aside all to which He was entitled – peace, rest, quiet, solitude – to be with her.

But it was more than that.

He had been willing to relinquish His throne, His regal place, His honor, His might … to meet her on this day, in this moment, at this well.

He had been willing to come so that she could taste the Living Water, so that she could drink Him in and be satisfied.

As she plunged into the fountain of His wisdom, kindness, compassion and love, something miraculous happened.

The Discarded Woman was transformed into a Re-claimed Daughter.

And in that transformation, in that overwhelming and joyous reunion of Parent and child, she suddenly became willing to put aside all of her preferences, all of her rights, all of her pride, all of her reticence.

She was so excited to meet Him, to learn of Him, to know Him, to love Him … that she wanted to share Him with others.

She wanted other discarded children to drink of the Water, too.

So she dropped everything. She ran back to the village. She told everyone who would hear – “Come see Him! Could this be the Messiah?”

And they came.

They came in droves … dozens and dozens, all with needs, all with hurts, all with emptiness, all with fatigue and feelings of abandonment.

They came because she was willing to share.

They came because He came for them first.

He had an appointment, you see …. an appointment with an entire village of discarded people.

What does this have to do with a Christian Safehouse? Tune in for the conclusion of this tale …

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Inconvenient Meeting with the Discarded Woman

Part 3 of this story series …

If he had been fully human, he would have easily been annoyed.

He was resting from a long journey, his feet gritty dry with dust, his muscles tired and achy, the back of his neck itchy and scorched with sunburn.

His buddies had left him sitting at Jacob’s well, a landmark dating before Israel’s history. Although the water was there for the taking, he had nothing with which to draw it.

And it was hot. So hot. The noonday sun beat into his skin as sweat unrelentingly covered his face and back. There was no relief from it.

In this human body, in this human place, far from His celestial home, he was in physical misery.

It was an inconvenient time to meet with her.

He was within his right to suffer in silence as he spied her coming over the crest of a hill.

Any man sitting by a well alone, seeing a woman coming to draw water at the hottest time of the day, knew one thing about that woman: She was an outcast. She was probably a prostitute. She was most likely open to any proposition.

Men with a place in rabbinical society, however, were expected to ignore her, shun her. If he were fully human, he would have withdrawn immediately from the side of the well and walked a few paces away, to avoid being seen talking to her. Otherwise, what would become of his reputation?

And yet.

She was the reason he was here.

He knew before he ever set foot on this journey that he would be meeting her.

He knew before she woke to the dawn that this would be the day to change her life.

He knew before she was even born … that she belonged to Him and that He had come to this earth for her and those like her.

As she approached the well, somewhat hesitantly at the surprise sight of him, his heart welled with compassion and love. He saw everything she had done. He saw everything that had been done to her. He saw every hurt she had experienced. He knew precisely how many tear drops she had shed and how many nights she had cried so hard that her head ached.

He knew.

And He loved.

Despite the inconvenient timing, despite his tiredness, despite his physical discomfort, despite his human desire to be left alone … He spoke to her.

That’s when everything changed for her – in that one moment when He said, “Will you give me a drink?”

She was about to learn that He instead was the giver of water.

What does this have to do with a Christian Safehouse? Tune in for the next part of the story …