UTC, Evangelism, Free Speech and Stupid

UTC, Evangelism, Free Speech and Stupid

I don’t often do “current events” stype commentary here, but a local event has triggered a lot of very strong reactions. Many of my friends at UTC (some of whom are not believers) have asked me questions about this situation, and, as the answer is universally applicable, I thought it would be a good idea to address it here.

Chattanooga, TN – On November 15, Cole Montalvo, a UTC student was arrested to disorderly conduct. That’s not so unusal, right? A college student making a little ruckus is not really newsworthy. What made this topic leap to the front page, though, was the reason he was being “disorderly” in the first place.

A female “Christian Evangelist” has been… preaching, I guess???, on the campus of UTC for a while. Reports are that she has been “haranguing students at the University of Tennesse at Chattanooga.” Due to incidents that occurred during previous visits, the University erected a perimeter of orange cones around the “evangelist.”

There are two things that make this story sensational: 1) A 3:58-minute video of the arrest was released on YouTube, apparently shot with a cell phone, titled “Police brutality on UTC campus” (be careful. This video has LOTS of NSFW language and is horribly shot – for a different perspective, you can see the “evangelist’s” video here. For the relevant bits, skip to 7:15) and 2) the lengths to which campus saftey officers had to go to restrain Montalvo.

Now, there is no question that it required a lot of force to take down Montalvo. There’s also no question that Montalvo was beligerent and refused to comply with the directions given to him. But that’s not my topic today.

Nor is my topic the frighteningly ignorant petition on begun by students at UTC. Not because I agree with them, but because Susan Kruth has already addressed the issue wonderfully. (Though it is concerning that so many students don’t view what they are doing as a willful reliquishing of their own rights)

It’s not even my intent to discuss free speech and the difficulty in being an American Citizen. (Even though it means I don’t get to use my very favorite Aaron Sorkin quote of all time.)

My topic isn’t even Angela Cummings’ remarkably flawed theology (some of which can be viewed here.)

No, my topic here is the “evangelist” Angela Cummings herself.

(James… seriously, what’s with all the quotes around the word evangelist? It’s getting annoying.)

Let me explain.

In her “sermons” (sorry), Cummings often says things like “sinners are going to hell” and “you’re all fornicators and fornicators will have their place in Hell.”

All of this is true – and this is a topic for other posts – but this “evangelist” is no evangelist. I read last night (I haven’t found a ton of evidence to support this, but it isn’t vital to the point) that she is part of a group that goes to public places, becomes a nuisance, people respond, her rights get infringed and then the group sues (much like those fine folks at Westboro Baptist). You see, it’s not the things that she is saying that are wrong, but, quite literally, how she is saying them.

The word “evangelist” is from a compund Greek word euagelion. The word “eu” means “good, well, normal; happy, or pleasing.” It’s always used as a prefix. The word “agelion” means, “messenger” or “message.” So, literally this word means Good Message.

So, what message does Cummings preach? She preaches a Hell for sinners and then – again, much like her WBC counterparts – exudes a happiness that sinners are going there. The good news is not that sinners are going to Hell.

There is a good message: Jesus died so that we could be made right with God. 

The Apostle Paul said that we can have the gift of prophecy, and even understand all mysteries (one would infer that we could also evangelize on street corners every day until Jesus comes), but if we don’t have love we are nothing. Without love, we serve no better function than a “clanging cymbal.” (Or, perhaps, imagine a toddler banging on pots and pans.) One need only listen to this woman one time to know that there is no love in her message.

I absolutely defend her right to speak. But, please, UTC students, faculty, staff, news media bloggers, countrymen… don’t call her a Christian Evangelist.

She is nothing of the sort.

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Posted by on November 22, 2013 in Article


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Pentecost (or “They Were In What Now?”)

Pentecost (or “They Were In What Now?”)

As I contemplate tomorrow’s celebration of Pentecost, my brain keeps coming back to one thing: Dairy Queen Snickers Blizzards.  You see, I was sitting in the outdoor seating of a local DQ one warm summer night with a couple of college friends.  We were discussing random theological things and the topic drifted toward the work of the Holy Spirit.

“Well, the greatest thing the Holy Spirit does, in my opinion,” says the scholar on my right, “is to bring unity to the body of Christ.”

That’s when it happened.  I did a kind of snort/spit take and a piece of snickers (from the aforementioned blizzard) got stuck in a place in my sinuses that was… well, unpleasant.

Once things got back in order, I asked “Why do you say that the Holy Spirit brings unity?”

“Because in Acts chapter 2,” says he, “it says that the Holy Spirit brought unity to the people in the upper room.”

I’ve been thinking about that statement a lot today.  Because, as you probably know, that isn’t quite what the Bible says at all.  Acts 2 opens with this statement:

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

The word translated “accord” in that verse is the Greek word ὁμοθυμαδόν (homothumadon) and it means… well… that’s tricky. See, in the NIV, CEV (my personal favorite), NASB, Message and others, it says that they were “together” in one place. That is a perfectly fine translation.  However…

Homothumadon is a combination of two words. The general meaning of this compound word is to “rushalong” “in unison”.  The image it paints is one of harmony. In other places in the New Testament, the word is translated as “unity” or “one mind.”  And these are fine translations as well. However…

Let’s go back to this compound word thing.  The two root words independently are homou which means “assembled together” and thumos which means, among other things, “passion,” “heat,” and “ardour.”  So what does Acts 2 say?

The people assembled in the upper room had come together with passion and ardour, earnestly seeking the promise Jesus had said would come. There was a burning heat of unity in them already when the Holy Spirit showed up and did an amazing thing in them and then through them.

So, as we approach Pentecost this year, I pray that – as much as we rely on the Holy Spirit to be our Comforter, our Guide and all of the the other roles the Holy Spirit is here to fulfill and be – we will recall, reaffirm and then recreate the passionate unity that was present in the upper room. Then, let the Holy Spirit come and do amazing things in and through us.

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Posted by on May 18, 2013 in Uncategorized


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A Quick Announcement

A Quick Announcement

Happy birthday, Rebecca Christine! I can’t wait to see you again.

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Posted by on April 20, 2013 in Article



Yes, Penelope, There Is A Judge

Yes, Penelope, There Is A Judge

It may be one of my favorite pictures of all time. It’s certainly the most honest.

Let me clarify…

Penelope Soto was in court on drug possession charges. You can tell from the video (posted below) that she is taking her appearance in court anything but seriously. When asked how much money she makes, she replies “about 200 bucks a week.” When asked if she has anything of legitimate value (e.g., a house, car, jewelry), inexplicably, she says “yes.” When asked to clarify she says she “own[s] a lot of jewelry, all right.” When the judge asks for clarification regarding her jewelry’s worth, she says “it’s worth a lot of money… like Rick Rolls.” (Now, either this girl has no idea what a “rick roll” is, or there is an entire generation of clubbidiots who have appropriated the name of one of the greatest bait-and-switch jokes in internet history as their new slang for “a lot of money.”)

The Public Defender, to his credit, offers to take the girl on, but the judge sagely points out that, if she has all of this expensive jewelry, she can sell it and hire her own defender. She is initially fined $5,000. She coyly bids the judge “adios”, and, with a smile on her face, turns to leave. As she’s walking away, the judge laughs… but then calls her back. What happens next is just… I have…. “no words… they should have sent a poet.”

The judge takes back the paper and changes the fine for Count 1 (there were multiple counts) to $10,000. And then… this… glorious thing happened.


Yes, Penelope… There are consequences for your actions.

Just look at her face! She pleads with the judge, as innocently as she can, “Are you serious?”

And that awesome arbiter of justice responded, “I am serious. Adios!”

In a world where teenagers weren’t habitually spoiled and coddled from the ramifications of their words and actions, this would be the end of this story. But, luckily for all of us, it isn’t.

Penelope, turns to leave, gives the judge the finger and says something that contained the f-bomb. And, like a boss, he calls her back. The courtroom expresses it’s shock as she begins to lose her playful demeanor.

The judge, channeling his inner “Tony Montana” asks for clarification as to what exactly she just said. He then finds her in direct criminal contempt, and sentences her to the fine PLUS thirty days in county.

And, in case you’re interested, here’s the full video.

Why am I talking about this HERE?

Well, partly, because I can. Partly because I love justice. Partly because we need to pray for Penelope Soto and Miami-Dade County Circuit Judge Jorge Rodriguez-Chomat.

But mostly to say this: We must remember that our actions, even just the words we speak, have consequences.  In Number 32:23b we read:

…you may be sure that your sin will find you out.

The point here is that sin always, always, ALWAYS has consequences, and there is no escaping that. More importantly, sin is progressive. Look at what happened with Penelope. She was in court on charges of drug possession. Xanax Bars, they’re called. In the great scheme of things, probably not that big a deal (that is not an endorsement of drugs, ok,? Don’t start. I’m talking BIG PICTURE.). But she had allowed her involvement in that culture to affect her thinking and decision making processes.

What was, initially, a slap on the wrist, became a huge financial burden accompanied by a prison sentence.

Yes, there are consequences. And, ultimately, there are eternal consequences.

Our great blessing is that there is One who bore our eternal consequences for us.

Yes, that screen cap is a great picture. It makes me smile. The video made me laugh.

But it also makes me terribly sad. There are so many who are so hopelessly lost.

for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? – Romans 10:13-14

We are the ones sent to them. Quick, do an exercise… Find a map of your city. Put a pushpin on your house. Find the legend. Draw a circle around your house that has an equivalent 5 mile radius. That’s your mission field.


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Posted by on February 6, 2013 in Article


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A Personal Revolution

A Personal Revolution

Every now and again, I’m invited to churches, small groups, and retreats to speak on the general topic of marriage. I’m always nervous when this happens.  Not because I don’t like talking about marriage, but because I think it’s so very important that husbands and wives rightly understand marriage and relationship issues. My prep is always the same. If I’m speaking on a familiar topic, then I spend the week prior in review and prayer.  Is there something that I have in my notes and/or outlines that isn’t correct or that I have come to have a different better understanding of, or is there a new way to explain this point or that point?

Additionally, I spend quiet time every night in the week prior and the entire morning/day of the event listening to one album. An album written and recorded in 1990 and released in 1991. This album:


That, friends and neighbors is, arguably, my favorite album of all time. (You can buy your own copy of Love Life here.) At the very least, as I mentioned, it’s my “go to” album when I’m in a “let’s think about marriage and relationships” kind of a mood. I mean, look at the tracks:

Track 1: After Lovin’ You – A great feel good track to open this album of love songs.

Girl, we’ve been together for a long, long time,
I don’t see that changing, at least not in my mind,
So if we fuss and fight, don’t dream that love is through,
I could never love another after…after loving you.

Track 2: What’s It Like In Your World? – A good song about the need for openness and honesty.

You don’t have to ever pretend when you’re in my company,
You’ve got to know I will not turn and run from you if you practice honesty.

Track 3: Forgiveness – This is one of the tracks that still resonate with me. It’s as fresh and true today as it was the first time I heard it.

Well, I want things to be right,
Can’t stand the tension between you and me,
Every dream, every longing, takes a backseat to this,
Only one thing gonna set me free.
Oh, I believe there is one thing we need more than to be understood or be known,
It’s our need; a true, undeniable need,
For me and for you, this is our need: it’s forgiveness.

Track 4: …. We’ll get back to this one…

Track 5: Another Woman In Tears – Read the description for “Forgiveness.” Ditto.

A woman needs your time not just your touch if you want her to feel safe and sound,
Anything less and you can count on this: trouble’s gonna come around,
A woman’s more than flesh in a dress, more than a happy bride who’s been heaven sent,
One day you’ll come home to the kiss of indifference and wonder where your happy bride went.

Read that again… Best opening verse ever. EVER!

Track 6: In The Light – This is probably the song you know from this album thanks to DC Talk’s cover from their album Jesus Freak.

Oh, what’s going on inside of me? I despise my own behavior
This only serves to confirm my suspicions that I’m still a man in need of a Saviour

Track 7: There Was Love – This is just… so good.

There have been days when I thought that I was through,
And when I cried, I know love cried too,
Love as I know it has always existed, even when I foolishly resisted.

Track 8: I Would Go Crazy – This is my wife’s favorite track. Probably because it has that hot Spanish flavor.

I remain inventive with you as my incentive, in the midst of all this foolishness and craziness, and such,
I taste of the essence as I practice the presence of you in my life,
In a world known for turning glory into shame, I am so grateful love knows my name.

Track 9: Kiss Me Like A Woman – This is the track that sold me. The story goes like this: In early 1992, I developed a friendship with a girl who worked in a Christian Music store. I was just discovering the world of CCM and was kind of… what’s the word?… underwhelmed with the quality. I asked her why it all sounded the same, and “can’t any of it be… I don’t know, funky?” This is the track she played for me and… just…

Hello, baby, this is your lover speaking,
Just as I promised you I’ve been saving my affections for the beauty of one,
One more time, show me how love is done,
Before we set the house on fire let’s take the time to build desire.

Kiss me like a woman, baby, and I’ll love you, love you like a man,
Love is a language we were made to understand.

We can lie naked and unashamed, made one by divine connection,
It’s good to know there’s a sacred trust when you give away your affections.
It’s a beautiful place to be when you can trust each other completely.

Kiss me like a woman, baby, and I’ll love you, love you like a man,
Love is a language we were made to understand.

I want my children to know what is pure, what is lovely, what is right,
That the intimate moment is beautiful in God’s sight (that’s right)
Well, it’s a good and right thing for a man to say…

If I had to sum up this album in one song… yeah… that one…

Track 10: When I Stand With You – A perfect song to close this love fest, by acknowledging where love comes from and what I life blessed by God’s love will ultimately lead to.

When I stand with you, Lord, I will not be alone,
Together with the multitude, I’ll stand before your throne,
And when I stand with you, Lord, perfect I will be,
When I stand with you, Lord, in glory.

The point (for this section anyway), is this… BUY THIS ALBUM (and any other Charlie Peacock work you can get your hands on. Oh… You may have heard of a little band called The Civil Wars.  Yeah, he’s their producer.)

Track 4… also know as “The Point”

Track four of the album is a song called “Personal Revolution.”  Yes, I’ve heard it before. A few times. I like it. But today, I heard it for the first time.

Freedom from the past didn’t last through time,
Things don’t change, because I pretend they’re fine,
Do I flip a switch to give myself a happy life; to be a happy man, in a happy home with a happy wife?

Jesus, if you came to give life abundantly, then how do you respond to all the pretense that you see?
Do I break your heart by all the faking that I do?
There are so many places I haven’t let you into.

I’m so tired of all these easy solutions,
I can’t stand it; they’re nothing but denial,
I think I need a personal revolution,
How can I expect the heart to sing when I don’t let the soul ever feel anything?

I share this with you today to publicly declare that this is my plea and my pledge.

Paul wrote about this.  In Romans 12:2, Paul encouraged believers to “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  I like how the CEV puts it:

Don’t be like the people of this world, but let God change the way you think. Then you will know how to do everything that is good and pleasing to him.

We have to be transformed from our past, our old life, our corrupt way of thinking. The revolution happens when we give up control of ourselves and put ourselves in the transforming hands of our Heavenly Father. When the change begins, our old self dies and, like the phoenix of legend, we rise from the ashes of our past and live the life of the new creation.

Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new. – 2 Corinthians 5:17

God, create a revolution in me. No more pretense. No more faking. God help me take the mask off and keep it off. Make me comfortable being open, honest and as completely transparent as I can be with anyone, anywhere, anytime, not for my benefit, but for your glory.

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Posted by on February 5, 2013 in Article


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2013: Let’s Do This

2013: Let’s Do This

We are officially a week into the new year.  My colleagues in the blogosphere have already hit the ground running. Michael Hyatt released a great podcast on “How To Develop More Discipline“, Cliff Ravenscraft released “Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That – Goals Vs Resolutions And More!“, Jeff Jones sets up an interesting challenge in “How to Have the Year You’ve Always Wanted“, Dan Miller even decided to engage his readers with a contest. Churches in my area have started a Daniel Fast, and various Bible reading initiatives, some reading through the entire Bible in a year, some covering just the gospels in the same time and some reading through the entire Bible live in the sanctuary in less than ten days!

The approaching new year has always caused me frustration. Resolutions, failure, rinse, repeat. 11 months later, repeat again. The approaching twelve months always seemed so huge… so overwhelming… so much bigger than me. The annus novus was my enemy. No… my nemesis.

But then something changed. I can’t pin down when it happened, but in the course of 2012 I discovered the power of the word “in.”

For years, I’ve had faith “in” Christ. I put my trust “in” His salvation. I believe “in” the promises found in Scripture.

But something was still off…

Then I read Colossians 1:26-27 like it was the first time:

For ages and ages this message was kept secret from everyone, but now it has been explained to God’s people. God did this because he wanted you Gentiles to understand his wonderful and glorious mystery. And the mystery is that Christ lives in you…

I realized that the important was “in” me. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives inside me. It almost sounds like children’s Sunday School, but that is a HUGE deal.

Since I’ve begun to embrace this reality, I have been confirmed in my calling, my father in the ministry has blessed me and broken chains off of me that I didn’t even know were there, and the doors have begun opening up for me in a way I have hardly dreamed.

I’m kicking off 2013 a little differently than I ever have before. I’ve made no resolutions. I have started doing some things that are resolution-like, but they are not built into resolutions. I have instead set particular and specific goals for the year. I’ve never done that before. The New Year isn’t the overwhelming thing it once was.  The months, weeks, days, hours and minutes that lay ahead are not the enemy; they are the canvas upon which I am called to paint this scene of His Masterpiece.

Another year? Gladly.


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Posted by on January 9, 2013 in Article


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Book Review: The Fantasy Fallacy by Shannon Ethridge

Book Review: The Fantasy Fallacy by Shannon Ethridge

SEX! There, I said it.  Now let’s move on.

In all seriousness, the intimate moment is one that many in the church are afraid of discussing.  That’s one of the things that makes The Fantasy Fallacy so important. To many people, believers and unbelievers alike, the subject of sex, nevermind sexual fantasy, is a topic so taboo that the discussion of it is relegated to hushed whispers and secret book reading.

Not so this new work by Shannon Etheridge (incidentally the author of another great work on this subject, The Sexually Confident Wife: Connecting with Your Husband Mind Body Heart Spirit). In her work, The Fantasy Fallacy, has not pandered to titillation or indiscrete arousal. Instead, she seeks to help the reader “connect [our] own dots and make sense of [their] own sexual thoughts.”  Etheridge is refreshingly forthcoming and honest, yet maintains a sincerely compassionate approach. The book’s artwork (as well as the time of release) tends to make the reader connect to the insanely popular “Fifty Shades of Grey” novels.  I have written my thoughts on that series, but Stephen Arterburn, author of Every Man’s Battle: Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time, takes time and care to point out that Etheridge’s purpose is not to bash E.L. James story, but instead to “help women and men — both married and single — to take a second look at the fantasy world they may be creating through romance novels, pornography, or their own imaginations. It will also help them get out of that fantasy world and back to building real, healthy relationships.”

Etheridge divides all chapters into two sections.  The first part is the basic information covering the chapters topic, while part two “Behind The Curtain” takes all of that information and presents a real-life, rubber-meets-the-road application.  It is this approach that was most practical for this reviewer.  Too often authors give good information but leave the reader in the position of figuring out a way to apply the lesson on their own.

This book is one to read alone, with your spouse, and then read again.  The content of the chapters is excellent, but this book also gives some incredible content in the appendices. Long story short? Get this book NOW!

My Rating

Just Get It

The Fantasy Fallacy: Exposing the Deeper Meaning Behind Sexual Thoughts
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (October 16, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0849964695
ISBN-13: 978-0849964695
Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches

Buy the Print Version or the Kindle Version


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Posted by on January 8, 2013 in Article, Book Review


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