Friday, August 31, 2012


I have felt so at peace the last couple days. Nothing in my life has changed really. We still have financial issues. I still don't have any real direction in my job search. My bathroom ceiling still looks like it is one good rain from falling on my head. (I can only hope this is NOT in the midst of anyone actually using the facilities!)The issues that have always been there are still there.

But I feel buffered from the worries of life.

I wish I could tell you that I suddenly arrived spiritually, or that I had some Divine visitation. But I didn't. The answer is much more simple.

Before I share this answer, I have to go back to the beginning (as any good storyteller will share, you have to start at the beginning).

This past Sunday we had an guest speaker - an evangelist - at our church. His name was John Groves. He was southern. Have you ever noticed that a vast majority of the really good preachers are southern? My theory is there is just something about a southern accent that makes people sound more genuine and trustworthy.

Anyway, he preached about Abraham. In Genesis 12, God gives a promise to Abraham where God tells Abe, he is going to be the father of a great nation. Tucked into the first three verses that comprise this promise are the words, "Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father's house."

Before you get all excited, I am NOT going to tell you peace comes when you get away from your relatives! lol The thing is, as you read further down, you find out that Abraham didn't listen to God. He took Lot, his nephew, with him.

Most people remember Lot from the Sodom and Gomorrah story, but Lot caused trouble before then. Anyway, Groves pointed out that the next time Abraham tried to hear from God, instead of the 73 words at the beginning of chapter 12, he only got eight - basically, remember what I told you.

Then there is silence. Even though Abraham seeks to hear from God again, God is silent. So, Abraham returns to where he heard God speak the 73 word promise - still nothing.

This is when Pastor Groves asked the question, the question that showed me why I was not having much peace. He asked "What 'Lot' are you dragging around with you?"

Almost immediately God pointed out to me, I have been dragging my right to be right around with me like a worn out blankie. It's false comfort has robbed me of real peace and real joy.

Over the past couple years, we have had one thing after another happen to us - through no fault of our own. I would get angry, then forgive and then something else would happen. It all culminated this summer, when I was promised a job; then strung along all summer, only to have the place change their minds with no word of explanation.

This left us in a terrible bind financially. We had counted on the income from that job. Not only that, but I had not applied for my substitute teaching license and by the time I found out about I wouldn't have a job, if I did apply for my sub license, I'd be so far down the list, the chances of getting called were pretty slim (especially based on my previous record!).

I was angry. I felt I had been wronged. To be honest, my faith in people was shaken. Again. It was a bitter pill to swallow on top of everything else.

While I consoled myself with the fact that God had a reason for this happening - such as maybe it wasn't such a great idea for my husband and I to be getting our paycheck from the same place, I still burned with the injustice of it all.

I was hanging on rather tightly to my right to be right. I was dragging it around with me like the proverbial anchor around my neck. It was weighing me down and robbing me of peace and joy.

During that church service, when Pastor Groves asked what "Lot" I was dragging around, God beamed a spotlight on the chain dragging me down. Was I willing to drop my right to be right?

Once I decided to do that, it seemed like things changed. Well, at least I changed. I felt safe, peaceful and not anxious at all.

My circumstances have not changed. The same issues and problems still face us, but I am content in knowing that God has a plan. He has promised to meet our needs. He has promised not to ever leave me.

As the old song goes, God said it; I believe it; and that's good enough for me!
~ Blessings, Bronte

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


I mean that quite literally too. Brock broke his nose yesterday and bit nearly through his bottom lip. My dear husband spent most of the night and into the wee morning hours at the ER with Brock.

It wasn't exactly the way I wanted to start a new school year. In fact, I planned to write a blog yesterday replete with nostalgia since my oldest is entering high school and my youngest (gasp and grab a hanky) is entering middle school. I can't really believe they are 11 and 14 years old when it seems just yesterday we were hip deep in sippy cups and I thought if I had to listen to Dora the Explorer babble in Spanish one more time, I might just throw something at the television.

Now, we are dealing with acne, puberty and what being a real man is all about. Swiper and Dora are really the least of my worries anymore (does anyone know why she has such a ginormous head anyway?)

But, I got a little sidetracked on my trip down memory lane. Instead, we had an evening that revolved around ice and an ER visit.

It's always a shock to realize that life can change in the blink of an eye. Fortunately, Brock is fine. He doesn't even look that banged up, if you can believe it!

We were at the school cleaning since the cleaner decided he didn't want that job sort of at the last minute. I can't say my idea of a great evening was vacuuming, but hey, at least I wasn't the one who had to clean the toilets! ;)

Brock came jogging out of a room, forgot the floor had been mopped and the next thing he knew he did a face plant on the hard floor.

It could have been so much worse. While his poor mouth and nose took the brunt of the fall, he could have hit his head really hard and had a concussion. He could have lost teeth or broken his nose more severely or dislocated it.

I'm so thankful he is all right.

And while there are days I miss the sticky kisses and chubby arms wrapped around my neck, I wouldn't go back. Because if I spend all my time looking back, sighing sadly that my boys aren't my babies anymore, I'll miss that they are turning into men - men I can be proud of, too! The truth is I don't want them to stay babies. I WANT them to be men and be independent. I suppose that is part of the pain of childbirth that Genesis talks about. Being a mom is bittersweet. The whole point is that your children become separate people - no longer dependent on you.

I pray this school year stretches their minds, matures their emotions and strengthens their bodies. I pray that whatever happens - good or bad - will only draw them into deeper relationship with the God that loves them even more than I do.

Hey, at least this year started out with a bang and things can only get better from here!

~ Blessings, Bronte

Friday, August 24, 2012


I know this has been a rather heavy series of blog posts, but I found the research in the book UnChristian so compelling that I had to share it.

It has challenged me and made me take a much closer look at how I portray Jesus to a lost and dying world. The words in this book made me uncomfortable. They made me squirm. They made me hang my head in shame at times.

I wish I could put my head in the sand and ignore what I've read -to act like there isn't a problem. But I would be lying to myself, and worse, I would be perpetuating a false representation of what a Christian is supposed to be in this world - salt and light.

It is tempting to try to write a long treatise on what we should and shouldn't be doing but I'm just going to list the suggestions by the author and leave you with a passage of Scripture. I hope you'll take the time to read this book or at least re-read this series of blog posts that review the main points of the book. Then, I hope you will pray about what part God wants you to play in reshaping the outside world's perspective of who Christians are and what Christianity is.

* Respond with the right perspective. The response to these criticisms shouldn't be how we can better spin the image of Christianity in the public sector. Jesus was often criticized. He didn't dismiss it, but He responded in a variety of ways, depending on what the situation called for. Sometimes, He spoke up, sometimes He remained silent. Sometimes, He threw out questions that made people stop and think. Jesus was not willing to be defined by His enemies, and He considered the behind the scenes motives, distinguishing between true hostility and hurt. We need to look at all criticism thoughtfully. It may be invalid, but there could also be seeds of truth that we need to really be open to.

Connect with people. Jesus spent time with his 12 disciples. He lived life with them and invested in them. Jesus really saw the people He came in contact with - they were not just their sin or affliction. They were individuals. Nobody who came in contact with Jesus left the same - except the Pharisees and many of the religious leaders. Some people will be hostile to you and me just because we are Christians, and that's okay. The Bible never promises believers they will be popular.

Be creative. Jesus was an awesome communicator. He found various ways to speak to people right where they were at using language, stories and parables that resonated with His listeners. We need to lose the cliches that make so much sense to us, but confuse people outside the church culture. We need to be able to give a clear and effective expression of what it means to be a Christ follower and not expect outsiders to decode our Christianese many of us speak without even realizing it.

Serve people.
What Kinnaman wrote really hit me and I think sums up this point the best, "The research brought me to this conclusion: to look more like Christ followers, we must cultivate deep concern and sensitivity to outsiders... Currently, Christianity is known for being unlike Jesus; one of the best ways to shift that perception would be to esteem and serve outsiders."

Live a lifestyle of compassion.
The following passage in Isaiah gives us this truth - "in order to rebuild lives and restore our nation, we have to recover love and concern for others. Part of the reason Christians are known as unChristian is because the church has lost its ability and willingness to love and accept people who are not part of the insider club. This failure is draining the vigor from our faith. We say we love outsiders, but in many cases we show love only if it is on our terms, if they are interested in coming to our church, or if they respect our way of life." (emphasis mine)

Isaiah 58:1-12

"Cry loudly, do not hold back; Raise your voice like a trumpet. And declare to My people their transgression. And to the house of Jacob their sins.

Yet, they seek Me day by day and delight to know My ways as a nation that has done righteousness and has not forsaken the ordinance of their God. They ask Me for just decisions. They delight in the nearness of God.

Why have we fasted and You do not see? Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?' Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire, and drive hard all your workers.

Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist. You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high.

Is it a fast like this which I choose, a day for a man to humble himself? Is it for bowing one's head like a reed and for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed? Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the Lord?

Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free And break every yoke?

Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; and your righteousness will go before you; The glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; You will cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.' If you remove the yoke from your midst, The [fn]pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness,

And if you give yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday.

And the LORD will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not [fn]fail.

Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; You will raise up the age-old foundations; And you will be called the repairer of the breach, The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.

~ Blessings, Bronte

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


The final criticism from the book UnChristian by Brian Kinnaman is that Christians are judgmental. This is probably not surprising to most people, in and outside the church.

One of the things we are called to do is recognize sin, but somehow in doing that, we've lost our love for the people doing the sinning.

Kinnaman defines "being judgmental" as, "to point out something that is wrong in someone else's life, making the person feel put down, excluded and marginalized. It is fueled by self-righteousness, the misguided inner motivation to make our own life look better by comparing it to the lives of others."

Lisa, a woman Kinnaman interviewed said, "Christians like to hear themselves talk. They are arrogant about their beliefs, but they never bother figuring out what other people actually think. They don't seem to be very compassionate, especially when they feel strongly about something."

While this may not be true of all Christians, this perception is pretty widespread. Nine out of ten young outsiders or 87% said that "judgmental" describes present day Christianity.

This isn't just outside the church either. A majority of young Christians said that our faith was too focused in finding fault with people.

Mosaics and Busters are savvy to sniffing out judgmental attitudes and self-righteousness and it makes them wary. They also are not interested in simplistic moral pronouncements. With this younger generation, how we communicate is just as important as what we communicate.

Only one in five outsiders view church as a loving place. How did we get here? How did a group that was supposed to be distinguished by our love for each other and the outside world come to be known as hateful, unloving and fault-finding?

One of the reasons is that sometimes, we are playing to the wrong audience. Instead of wanting to please God, we worry what other believers think of us. Are we towing the line in disapproving certain behaviors and groups of people because we think that will make us somehow look more spiritual?

Another reason is that we stereotype people rather than investing in their lives and loving them. We make a value judgment on appearance or some other superficial marker, but we don't actually listen and get to know the individual. These kinds of value judgments can be very subtle, and we might not even be aware of how they have crept into our worldviews.

It is also easy to come across not just as the old saying goes - hating the sin and loving the sinner - but appearing to hate the sinner as well.

In one interview in the book with a 25-year-old named Jeff, he stated, "Christians talk about hating the sin and loving sinners, but the way they go about things, they might as well call it what it is. They hate the sin and the sinner."

The thing is while we need to recognize sin, it's not our job to fix it. That would fall under God's job description. We can't expect radically different behavior without an equally radical inward transformation. We can't force an inward transformation by bullying people into acting a certain way. Jesus is the life-changer - not us!

And don't think the unbelieving world isn't watching how we treat each other. Jesus said we would be known by our love for each other. Satan has done a real number on this marker of the Christian faith because many outsiders describe us as, "eating our own."

We all mess up. Just because one person's mess up is more visible than another's doesn't mean that one is more worthy of forgiveness and restoration than another. This is an area that needs a lot of work and attention by believers.

Finally, we need to be aware of our own arrogance and pride. Pride is mentioned numerous times in the Bible as a sin God hates, but we have turned a blind eye to it in our churches. I, for one, struggle with pride. It's something I pray that God opens my eyes to because it is so sneaky and can creep into my life almost without my being aware of it.

We will get a lot further with unbelievers if we come to them out of sincere love and concern, with humility.

I'm going to list the six suggestions from outsiders themselves in changing this perception of judgmental Christians.

* Listen
* Don't label
* Don't thing you know it all
* Put yourself in the other person's place
* Be genuine
* Be a friend without a hidden agenda

We are products of grace - every believer out there. Yet, we are not known to the world as gracious people. I have to wonder if this is because we have not truly accepted that grace for ourselves. Are we still trying to earn God's love and approval? Are we still trying to fake it till we make it with a white knuckle grip? We can't truly show God's love and grace toward others until we absorb it for ourselves.

~ Blessings, Bronte

Monday, August 20, 2012


I'll be completely honest and say, when I started to read Brian Kinnaman's chapter on the fifth criticism about Christians being too political in his book UnChristian, I bristled.

I thought, "Why can't Christians be involved in politics? I have just as much right as anyone else to vote and be involved!"

The research shows, though, it's not that outsiders think Christians don't have every right to get involved politically. Their issues had more to do with our methods and attitudes.

A young man named Brandon that Kinnaman interviewed said the following: "Sometimes it is hard for me to reconcile the 'Christian movement' with the people I knew from my own days in the church. Today, whenever I experience the activities of American Christians as an organized group - and frequently when I interact with them in politics - it is almost always in terms of them trying to use political force to entice people to behave a certain way. Do Christians have every right to go and vote as he or she believes? Absolutely. But twenty years ago, when I was looking at evangelical Christianity from the inside, it seemed like a movement bursting with energy to spread good news to people. Looking at it from the outside today, this message seems to have been lost in exchange for an aggressive political strategy that demonizes segments of society. I believe American Christians have become tools of the Republican election machine - at the expense of their own image and message."

What makes this more compelling is while Brandon is an avowed agnostic, he's also an active member of the Republican party.

While I believe that as Christians, we have not just a patriotic duty but a moral duty to make clearly thought out voting decisions, it also has become clear after reading the research in this book that how Christians conduct themselves in the political arena is turning off the younger generation from Jesus.

There are several reasons for this. First, while moral laws do provide boundaries for society's behavior, we can't force spiritual transformation on people through legislation or politic maneuvering. I am a big supporter of laws that limit access to abortion, but while voting and being involved in politics to get that done is important, far more important is actually investing in the lives of young women who are at risk of having an abortion. I think sometimes, Christians get caught up in the idea that the only solution is a political solution. We put our faith in the next election rather than God Himself.

The second issue is we tend to stereotype people into political parties and then gage their spirituality based on those parties. Every Republican is not a Christian nor prioritizes the same issues, and every Democrat is not morally bankrupt or a socialist. It's always a mistake to see people's labels rather than their individuality. For example, I am a Republican, but I am very concerned about environmental issues. That doesn't make me a "bad" Republican.

We need to be very careful about judging people's spirituality based on who they vote for - it's not a black and white issue. There are a lot of complexities that go into political involvement. For instance, some believers feel the Republican party is not focused enough on the poor, the needy or the AIDs epidemic. Those issues are important to them, so they vote accordingly.

The third issue is we need to learn the art of disagreeing respectfully. That means listening to people's views without the agenda of changing their minds. I have my beliefs and opinions because I believe they are right. I need to remember to give other people the same respect for their beliefs and opinions. Just because they are different than my own doesn't mean they spent any less time thinking them through. It also doesn't mean that I am somehow more godly than they are either.

We also need to be careful how we talk about elected leaders we don't agree with. Let's not confuse someone's political stands with their moral character. Nowhere in the Bible does it say, if the other party's candidate is elected, it's okay to tear him/her down and be disrespectful. Even if you feel the leader is an "enemy", we are still instructed to pray for that person.

Part of this goes back to the mistaken belief that the answer to our problems is who is put into office. The Bible says that God holds the hearts of kings in His hands. I think some of the vitriol over political issues comes from fear and a lack of trust in God.

Finally, as believers we need to not sacrifice people's souls just to prove ourselves right. Have you ever met someone who just will not let up until you agree with them? How much do you want to hang around them and what kind of weight do you give their opinions? When all someone does is carp about what is wrong and never offers any solutions, how important are their opinions to you?

I should never leave someone with the impression that I was more interested in being right and/or winning a political argument than I was concerned about them as a person. That's called winning the battle but losing the war.

A case in point from the book. A young man had been developing a relationship with his neighbor over the course of several years. During an election year, the neighbor was incensed when someone told his 10 year old daughter to tell her dad not to vote for John Kerry because he was a baby killer because he was pro-abortion. The neighbor didn't even want his 10 year old to know what abortion was, never mind talking politics with an elementary student. Those words did a lot of damage to that young man's efforts to share his faith with that neighbor.

Politics and our thoughtful, prayerful involvement in them is important - I would dare to say even biblical. However, politics aren't the ultimate answer. God is the answer, and He is less concerned if your bumper sticker has a donkey or an elephant on it, than He is on how you treat people - even those that vehemently disagree with you.

~ Blessings, Bronte

Friday, August 17, 2012


Today, I'm tackling the fourth criticism outsiders have of Christians. It's that we are too sheltered. Interestingly, I also just read the final chapter in the book What Women Fear by Angie Smith. It made the issue of being too sheltered crystal clear in my mind. I hope I can convey what God showed me clearly here.

Busters and Mosaics (remember we are talking about those ages 16 - 29, although these two groups encompass more than that - for instance, I am 39 and a Buster), are very conversant and even comfortable with the subtleties and inconsistencies of life. They are not impressed with a faith that ignores or isolates itself from the complexities of life.

Kinnaman writes, "A faith that does not effectively address convoluted and thorny issues seems out of tune with a generation asking big questions and expressing candid doubts. Spirituality that is merely focused on "do's and don'ts" rings hollow."

This is truly sad because this particular generation needs help. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in people ages 15 to 24. In a 2005 study, 1 in 6 high school students contemplated suicide and 1 in 12 actually tried it.

Despite being tuned in and plugged in to a vast network of friends, they are often lonely and feel unfulfilled.

BUT, for this group, Christianity isn't the answer. Even though, we HAVE the answer, this age group is dismissing our faith as irrelevant and ineffective. According to Kinnaman, "A new generation thinks of Christianity as devoid of spiritual vibrancy, parochial, small-minded, and ignorant."

Would you turn to that as the answer to your problems?

The author of UnChristian is not suggesting we start frequenting strip clubs and "R" rated movies so we can be more relevant, but he is suggesting that our tendency to huddle together against life's messy and uncomfortable situations and people, is turning the younger generation off.

This isn't a new problem. Remember the Tower of Babel and the early church that wouldn't leave Jerusalem? Believers tendency to huddle together like sheep is nothing new, but it isn't any more pleasing to God than it was back then.

I read this chapter last night before bed, and then I got up this morning and read the last chapter in Angie Smith's book and the puzzle clicked into place for me.

We, as believers, do not fear God. In our own arrogance and pride, we have made Him small and manageable - able to fit in the box labeled faith that sits next to our other boxes labeled career, finances and plans. We have, in a word, made God tame, and Christianity, as a result, seems stale and unappealing - just a set of rules that makes no real difference in the lives it promises to change. As some of the people in Kinnaman's book described it - a spiritual social club.

Numerous verses in the Bible tell us the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. In fact, I'm guilty of saying that phrase flippantly myself because it is so familiar. I am guilty of being too at ease and comfortable with God, of blowing up my own importance and forgetting how big my God really is.

God forgive me.

Fear, in this case, really means fear. It doesn't just mean awe or reverence. It means, fall-on-your face, knees-trembling fear before a big, holy, all-powerful God. I am but a speck. I am not in charge.

God loves me, but He loves me too much to leave me in control of my life. Angie Smith writes that, "the greatest tragedies of life come when we turn from Him and rely on ourselves. It is an amazing gift to be able to fear the God who truly has the ability to change our circumstances."

Because we do not fear God, we think we are in control and need to fix things. This leads to ineffectual Christian lives that show no real answers to a hurting world. No wonder - in our own pride, we've decided we are in charge and we expect God to come along for the ride if He wants to. We've exchanged true obedience for spiritual sounding formulas and busyness because then we can still be in charge but appear "holy."

There is no power in a life where I am in charge. No wonder outsiders dismiss us.

There is a direct link between fearing God and truly obeying Him. The result of obedience is wisdom which in turn leads to peace and healing - in other words, REAL change because of our faith, not just surface changes that don't impress a new generation, but instead, strike them only as more slick advertising for something that doesn't really work.

I will leave you with a quote from Mike Yaconelli:

"I would like to suggest that the Church become a place of terror again; a place where God continually has to tell us, 'Fear not'; a place where our relationship with God is not a simple belief or doctrine or theology; it is God's burning presence in our lives. I am suggesting that the tame God of relevance be replaced by the God whose very presence shatters our egos into dust, burns our sins into ashes, and strips us naked to reveal the real person within. The Church needs to become a gloriously dangerous place where nothing is safe in God's presence except us. Nothing - not our plans, our agendas, our priorities, our politics, our money, our security, our comfort, our possessions, our needs... Our world is tired of a people whose God is tame. It is longing to see people whose God is big and holy and frightening and gentle and tender...and ours; a God whose love frightens us into His strong and powerful arms where He longs to whisper those terrifying words, 'I love you'."

Let's stop showing outsiders a God who is small and tame. Instead, let's show them who God really is!

"Who is this King of Glory? He is the Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory!" Psalms 24:10

~ Blessings, Bronte

Sunday, August 12, 2012


I love my dog. Yes, I know my blog posts for the last couple weeks, have been more serious - even a little heavy, but tonight, my post is going to be about my dog, Kipper.

Since I was a little kid, I've always wanted a dog. My mom saved the note that used this sentence to try to close the deal on my parents getting me a dog: "if you say yes, I'll have a heart attack, and if you say no, I'll have a hernia." Even then, I was striving for alliteration.

I never got a dog, but being the huge animal lover that I was, my mom made the concession of allowing me a parade of small animals, starting with Chippy the hamster (who died of old age, but not until AFTER he bit part of my brother's finger off requiring a trip to the ER). I had a series of hamsters: Chippy, Ginger, and Cinnamon. Then I got a guinea pig which died of pneumonia and a gerbil that ended up having 8 babies. Both of the those events happened when my Granny and I were the only ones home.

After I married, we had a series of cats, but quite honestly, we are the Bates' Hotel for cats - I don't believe in jinxes but, well....

Finally, at the ripe age of 34 years old after a few false starts, I finally got my puppy - a rough collie we named Kipper. (this was after much debate - we almost named him Booker but besides the plethora of "b" names in the house, when Brody said Booker it sounded way too much like Booger).

Kipper has been a great dog since day one. Yes, we went through a few months of him being Kipper the Nipper (or shark puppy as we also called him), but once he grew out of the teething stage, he was the easiest dog ever.

He's also the handsomest dog ever, and even though I'm somewhat bias, I'm not the only one that thinks so! I often have people stop their cars while I'm walking him to tell me how awesome my dog is! Of course, for every "You have a beautiful dog," I get, there are also the fun folks (usually under the age of 10) that ask me why he has such a long nose. I think one boy the other day told me he looked like an anteater. So much for that Westminster win! lol

The thing is, Kipper does look a whole lot like Lassie (who was really a boy dog, btw), and strangely, he sort of acts like Lassie, too. I like to say he has "Timmy in the well syndrome" - particularly when it pertains to children.

He gets nervous and will start whining at me if he sees a child where he doesn't think they should be. That could be climbing a fence or standing near a drop off by the creek.

The other night, I was watching old Remington Steele episodes, and I felt a cold nose on my toes. I looked and there was Kipper staring at me. I thought he might need to go outside to the bathroom, but when I asked him (and yes, he does answer - if he needs to go, he'll trot to the back door but if he doesn't, he'll look away), he turned and went into the boys' room. It was storming outside and Kipper was worried about the boys.

I never had to teach Kipper to like children. He's loved them since he was a puppy. I remember walking him when he was only 3 months old. A little girl, maybe 18 months, wanted to pet him but was afraid. Without my asking, Kipper laid down and crept over to her, being as unthreatening as possible. You just can't teach that kind of thing.

Kipper will be 5 years old on August 12. He is my walking buddy - we've probably walked over 1500 miles in our daily walks over those 5 years. He's also my protector. Kip is the sweetest dog and very friendly, but he's shown me that he's got my back when it counts. That goes for the kids and Bruce, too. We are his pack, and I feel pretty confident that he would lay down his life for any one of us.

He's also a bit, um, air-headed. Ssshhhh - don't tell him I said that! While Kipper learned commands and tricks fairly easily, he's not always the sharpest knife in the drawer. For instance, he'll never make a search and rescue dog. We do a game where he waits and the kids hide. Then they call him and when he finds them he gets a treat. (and Kipper LOVES his treats!) Well, no matter where the kids hide, he always, always looks in the last place they were at. They can be calling him from the other side of the house, but he will still go back to the last place he found them.

BUT, he's also my friend. I know that sounds weird because he's, well, an animal, but he's tuned into me more than most people are. One day I was all upset, so I was sitting in another room crying quietly. The next thing I knew, Kipper who had been sound asleep on the other side of the house, was sitting in front of me, his long nose on my lap, looking soulfully into my face.

I call him my satellite dog because he's always orbiting around me and tuned in. He's not clingy, but he's never far away either. It's like he wants me to know, "Hey, if you need me, just hollar."

I know he's "just a dog," but he's MY dog. He's my best buddy, and I am so thankful to have him in my life because it would be emptier without him. There would be some joy missing in the midst of the day to day.

To be honest, I dread the day when I walk in the door and there is no tail swishing and doggy grin to greet me. Nobody is ever happier to see me than Kipper. It doesn't matter if I was gone 2 hours or 2 minutes - he's still so excited that I. Came. Back. It's like it's a miracle every time I walk in the door and who doesn't like that feeling? It's a really nice feeling to be the sun in someone's solar system, even if that someone has four legs and a tail!

Now go hug your pet!
~ Blessings, Bronte

Saturday, August 11, 2012


To be completely honest, I've sort of been putting off this post. The next section the book UnChristian talks about is the church's views on homosexuality. Yeah - that's kind of like a hand grenade thrown into the middle of a birthday party isn't it?

Like many Christians, sometimes I just want to hide my head in the sand and completely ignore this particular topic - like maybe if I ignore it, the whole thing will go away because it is messy. Like many believers, messy makes me tired. As a body of believers, though, we need to figure this out because, quite frankly, we are NOT getting this right. At all. Instead, we are driving away not just homosexuals but their friends and family, as well.

The problem with this issue is that people tend to come firmly down on the side of either just love or just truth. Reaching out to people who identify themselves as homosexual is a fine balancing act - the one that balances love and truth.

Truth without love can be harsh and alienating, but love without truth is like a river that has no banks - overflowing but destructive. So, what is the answer? I don't pretend to know the definitive answer to this. I don't have three steps to the church ministering to homosexuals. However, I have been prayerfully considering this topic and how GOD wants ME to respond for a while now. I am torn between my love for the person and the truth that God's Word says this lifestyle is sin.

While I have read this chapter, this post is made up of my own thoughts I've been formulating on this topic for a while. As I said, this is something I've been prayerfully looking at because what we as believers and the church as a whole are doing now is not working. In fact, it is alienating people instead of pointing them to Christ. Worse, it is alienating the younger generation in the church who either have close friends or family who are homosexual. We aren't giving them any direction on how to deal with this in a loving, yet truth-filled way.

One of the things I think believers are mixing up in this debate is that how an unbeliever lives their life is much different than a believer. Unbelievers cannot be held to the same standard of behavior as believers - they have totally different world views.

Jesus died for everyone. He did not expect people to clean themselves up or meet Him halfway. He went to where they were at. For example, the woman caught in adultery (don't you always wonder where the guy was in that story -I digress). He had compassion on her. He knew what was in the men's hearts that set that up. His mercy and compassion had nothing to do with condoning HER sin - but He did use that instance to expose those men's sin (who thought they were all that spiritually but whose hearts were dark). However, He DID tell her to go and sin no more.

Once a person becomes a believer and claims Christ in as their Savior, they are held to a higher standard. After all, you can't expect dead people to change their behavior right? And the Bible tells us that before Christ, we are ALL dead in our sins. Not one believer among us somehow managed to bring ourselves into new life.

There is quite a bit in the Bible about how believers who are living a lifestyle of sexual immorality without repentance are to be dealt with - this includes a wide gamut of sexual sins besides homosexuality. I would hazard a guess that there are more men caught in the web in pornography than those caught up in the homosexual lifestyle in the church. One sexual sin isn't better/worse than another. In fact, sexual sin in general is the only category of sins about which God says that you aren't just sinning against God but against your own body. In other words, while all sin separates us from God, sexual sin are especially self-destructive.

The whole goal of confronting people about those sins is always reconciliation with Christ and with the body. It isn't about being punitive. All discipline - whether through the church or directly from God - is about our good and to bring us back into fellowship with God. It's not about being holier than thou or giving someone "what they deserve" since we ALL deserve hell without Christ.

So, all that to say, I would welcome a homosexual into my church that is seeking God. If God led a homosexual into my life, I would befriend them and care about them as a person. Jesus always saw people as individuals and not just as their sin or affliction, kwim. I would talk to them about Christ but because they didn't know Him, not just because they were a homosexual. I would want to share Christ with them because I care about them, not because I believe their sins were somehow worse than my own.

Because there is a very definite gay agenda and that agenda tends to color anyone who doesn't agree as hateful and a bigot (and let's face it - nobody I know enjoys being called hateful or bigoted), as Christians sometimes I believe it is really easy for us to fall into an "us against them" mentality.

People who are homosexual are NOT the enemy. I believe that the gay lifestyle is morally wrong according to Scripture; however, that does NOT mean I believe that gay people are my enemy or are horrible people just because they are gay.

I believe they are lost and in need of a Savior. I can truly care and love someone and not put my stamp of approval on their behavior. Truly loving them means pointing them to God and letting Him take it from there. I believe if you are truly saved, then the HOly Spirit begins to work in your life, changing you from the inside out. Last time I checked, I wasn't the Holy Spirit.

As far as marriage goes, marriage is a covenant before God between one man and one woman. It is a picture of Christ and the church, so it is sacred stuff. Are civil unions somehow okay because they are not done in church and before God? Is that just using semantics to cop out of the question of "gay marriage"? To be perfectly honest, I don't know the answer to that question. While I don't see any kind of same-sex union given a green light in Scripture, because it is a "legal" union does that somehow make it okay? I lean toward no, but it's something I'm praying over.

The bottom line is I want God's response to this whole issue be my response. It's not an easy topic. As a believer, I will stumble and mess this up, I'm sure, but I hope at the end of the day that any unbeliever will see Jesus clearly shining through me and that light won't be tainted by my own agendas or biases.

~ Blessings, Bronte

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Let's hit another topic unChristian tackles when looking at the Mosaic's and Buster's view of Christianity: Christians are insincere and concerned only with converting others. Remember, by Mosaics and Busters, the authors are referring to those aged 16-29.

One thing that is important to remember is that this younger generation has been the target of mass media marketing since the womb practically. This makes them very cynical and skeptical of anyone they see trying to "sell" them something.

According to Brian Kinnaman's research, the gap between how Christians perceive their efforts to share their faith and how this generation perceives those same actions is huge. While 64% of Christians thought they came across as caring and sincere, only 34% of Mosaic and Buster unbelievers feel Christians genuinely care about them.

This group feels evangelism efforts are more like spiritual headhunting than anything else. Mass evangelism efforts like street witnessing or covering an area with tracts or fliers not only doesn't work, but it may do more harm than good.

In the Barna group's research there were no favorable comments about steet witnessing (where believers canvass an area and approach unknown people to share the Gospel). Often these measures create about five times more negative responses than positive ones.

One girl was quoted as saying, "It's the con of conversion. Christians want you to pay attention to their message about Jesus, yet somehow I don't think Jesus would be happy about being turned into a gimmick."

Mass efforts at evangelism also aren't effective with the younger generation. Only one half of 1% said they made a decision for Christ as a result of a radio broadcast, a television show or a tract. On the flip side, 71% listed an individual as being most responsible for their decision for Christ.

It's pretty clear from the research, that one on one relationships where faith is shared in a natural way is much more effective than throwing the Gospel at people in whom we've made no investment.

Another interesting, yet disturbing finding from the research is that many nonbelievers have heard the message about Christ and faith numerous times in many settings. Over 80% of those who claim outsider status have gone to a Christian church for at least three months. An amazing 65% had conversations with a Christian friend about their faith views in the past year.

Yet, they walk away.

Kinnaman wrote, "The sobering finding is that the vast majority of outsiders in this country, particularly among the younger generations, are actually de-churched individuals."

In the 18-41 year old age bracket Kinnaman found more disturbing facts: 65% made a personal commitment to Jesus that is still important to them and 29% say they are absolutely committed to the Christian faith.

However, only 3% of those ages 18 to 41 years old and only 9% of those 42 or older claim a Biblical worldview. A Biblical worldview is described as interpreting and responding to experiences and reality in light of the Bible's principles. A Biblical worldview also means the person believs that Christ lived a sinless life; God is the all powerful and all knowing Creator and still rules today; salvation is a gift you can't earn; satan is real; we have a responsibility to share faith; the Bible is accurate; unchanging moral truth exists; and moral truth is defined by the Bible.

Research has found that people who embrace these 8 components live a very different lifestyle than those who don't. So, if 65% of the younger generation has made a commitment to Christ, but does not believe or live by a Biblical worldview and in fact, leaves the church all together, what does this tell us?

It tells us our emphasis on say this prayer and your saved has led us and this generation astray. It tells us that the Christian faith is more than a one time prayer with no lifestyle change.

Kinnaman states, "The research shows we have let discipleship languish in far too many lives. Our enthusiasm for evangelism is not matched by our passion for and patience with discipleship and faith formation."

This was a disheartening chapter to read. I want to share my faith, but if young people perceive it as a gimmick so I can add them to the conversion notches on my Bible, how do I do that? Better yet, how do I teach my oldest son Brock - who has a huge heart to share his faith with the lost - to evangelize in an effective, meaningful way?

The answer lies in the mindset of Busters and Mosaics - they are intensely loyal to their tribe (their network of friends) and savvy to insincerity or hypocrisy. I need to invest in individuals' lives, while showing them love, God's grace and His power in my own life.

We can't "fake it till we make it" with this generation. Instead, we have to get real.

~ Blessings, Bronte

Saturday, August 4, 2012


The overwhelming perception of Mosaics and Busters (those aged 16-29) is that Christians are hypocrites.

Mosaics and Busters define hypocrisy as saying one thing but seeming to do another. Add to this that this age group is skeptical by nature, and they aren't impressed with what they see in the Christians around them - and a lot of them have been in churches or "tried the Jesus thing."

Interestingly, according to Kinnaman (co-author of the book unChristian) 84% of this age groups personally knows a Christian but only 15% see an actual lifestyle difference.

Another really interesting thing the research showed up was that this age group are not all that bothered by hypocrisy. Since they expect everyone to be working the system to make themselves look good, they don't see Christians any differently. Four out of five in the 18-29 year old age bracket name wealth and personal fame as their top priorities. They see Christians through the same make yourself look good lens - out to promote their own image.

Kinnaman wrote, "Christians are not known for transparency, or for digging in and solving deep-seated problems, but for trying to project a picture of having it all together. They see us as employing the same tactics as everyone else to preserve an appearance of strength."

However, we all know that perceptions and reality are sometimes very different. And it's true that some people use "all Christians are hypocrites" as an excuse. The question is - is this younger generation right about us?

Kinnaman and the Barna Group did more research, this time with born again Christians. They defined born-agains as, "a person who says he has made a personal commitment to Jesus that is still important, and that person believes he will go to heaven upon death because he confessed his sin and accepted Christ."

While there were distinct differences in religious variables such as born-agains owned more Bibles, attended church more frequently and donated more money to non-profit religous groups, the differences in actual lifestyle were almost non-existent.

In one study when Kinnaman compared nonbelievers and believers (based on the definition of given of a born-again Christian) behavior in the past 30 days, believers were just as likely to have bet or gambled; visited a porn site; taken something that didn't belong to them; consumed enough alcohol to be considered legally drunk; lied; used illegal drugs; gotten back at someone; or talked meanly about someone behind their back.

Based on lifestyle alone, you couldn't tell the Christians from the non-Christians. It gets worse though. It's not just that we don't live any differently than nonbelievers, but we also (according to the study Kinnaman did) say that our top priority of our faith is our lifestyle - as in being good, doing the right thing and not sinning.

Kinnaman sums it up when he wrote, "Given the pervasive perception that Christians are hypocritical, it is telling that 'being good' is the primary way we define what being a Christian is all about. That gives the temptation to give a false pretense of holiness."

In other words, Christians themselves say that how they live (being good; not sinning) is the primary priority of being a Christian, but then we don't live any differently than those around us.

It's also interesting that only 1% of born again Christians place family faith - discipling our children and shaping the family's faith - as a priority. Only 30% place a priority on discipleship in general - learning about Christ and studying the Bible.

Instead, four out of five Christians agreed that the Christian life is well defined as "trying hard to do what God commands." Two-thirds list strict rules and standards as important parts of their church's teachings. Another three out of five Christians feel they don't measure up to God's standards, and a quarter serve God, not from love, joy and gratitude, but from guilt and obligation. These types of phrases were used in the study done by Kinnaman.

Obviously, the Bible has a lot to say about our fruit as Christians. The fruit of our lives is supposed to be an outward sign of our salvation, but we have gotten this whole concept on its head. Our outward behavior does not effect an inward transformation. It's the exact opposite - a growing, dynamic relationship with Christ changes us on the inside and then produces outward changes.

Kinnaman suggests that transparency about our flaws and focus on Jesus' power to transform us despite our weaknesses would change this perspective outsiders have that Christians are hypocrites. It would make us real.

The Greek word for hypocrite is the same word used for wearing a mask. The problem is, Mosaics and Busters are savvy enough to see our mask.

The younger generation is seeking people who are real and authentic. They want to find people who they can trust, but often those people are outside the church because we, as Christians, are trying to "fake it until we make it."

In Matthew 23:4, Jesus said this about hypocrites, "They crush people with impossible religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden."

Does my life point people to Christ because it is full of the joy of freedom, restoration, purity and authenticity? Or am I too busy trying to look good and seem like I have it all together? Am I placing an impossible list of rules and expectations on behavior on non-believers instead of point them to the grace and power of Christ which is the only real way to transform behavior.

The big deal about grace is that I don't deserve it, can never deserve it, but God gave it to me anyway. John the Baptist had a good handle on the whole hypocrisy thing because his focus was the correct one and a humble one. He said I must decrease and He (meaning Jesus) must increase.

May my life be transparent enough - warts and all - to allow Christ's glory, grace and love to shine through to the people around me!

~ Blessings, Bronte

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


I'll start out by saying, I am not really the type of person who likes to cause controversy just for the sake of stirring up trouble. Yes, I am honest. Yes, sometimes I feel compelled to speak truth in the face of untruth, but if you know me in real life, you know that I don't go searching out conflict.

So, it was with some trepidation that I picked up the book Unchristian by David Kinnaman and Gave Lyons. In fact, I picked it up once at the library, looked it over and then promptly sat it back on the shelf. It didn't seem like good beach reading to me!

However, when I went to the library the other day, there it still was - like it was waiting for me. I knew the Spirit was nudging me to pick it up and read it. That He had something for me to learn - even if it might be sting to hear it.

Now, what is the book UnChristian about, you might ask. I'm glad you did because that is what this blog post and the next several blogs posts are going to be about. Over the past few months, I have been grappling with the idea of love and truth, and how those two things should co-exist in a Christian's life.

Jesus loved people. He cared about them. Yet, He didn't close His eyes to sin or injustice either. Of course, He was the Son of God, so it goes without saying, He got it 100% right. However, in my humanity and in our relativistic culture, I have a hard time, sometimes, finding the balance between what is spiritual discernment and what is being judgmental - what is loving the sinner and what slides over the line to condoning the sin? That line sometimes gets blurry, doesn't it?

The book UnChristian is about how nonbelievers view Christians and their faith. David Kinnaman co-owns and works with Barna Group which is basically a research company. That's their stock in trade - research. This book is compilation of three years of research among nonbelievers, particularly those in the 16-29 year age group (called Mosaics and Busters) - which make up 24 million or 40% of the U.S. population.

As Kinnaman said in his book, just because they believe it doesn't necessarily make it true, but it's important to know how the younger generation views Christianity and our faith even if their view may be skewed sometimes.

For instance, it's important to know that 49% of nonbelievers or outsiders (as Kinnaman calls them - as in they are outside the church and Christian faith)have a very negative view of evangelicals and/or born-again Christians. Only 3% have a good view. Those are some pretty sobering statistics don't you think? Sadly, the statistics of young Christians IN the church are not much different. They are frustrated by many of the same thing their non-believing friends are.

One person quoted in the book describes Christians in this way: "Christianity has become bloated with blind followers who would rather repeat slogans than actually feel true compassion and care. Christianity has become marketed and streamlined into a juggernaut of fearmongering that has lost its own heart."

Kinnamen gives four reasons why we should care what this next generation believes is true about Christians. We should also be interested in WHY they think this way. It means a long, hard look in the mirror for me even if I don't like what I see.

The first reason we should care is that what people think about Christianity influences how they respond to us and more importantly, how they respond to Christ.

Second, what people think of Christians should help us be objective. It's important for our lives to reflect what we believe - non believers certainly notice when it doesn't!

Third, their view of Christianity can change. A little over a decade ago, in 1996, a research poll found nonbelievers view of Christianity was much more positive than it is today. Our actions can change the current disheartening statistics. We can still reach this generation.

Fourth, what people think of Christians reflects their personal stories or experiences with the Christians and churches they've come in contact with. A very high percentage of this young generation has "tried church" and rejected it for a variety of reasons. That's very telling.

There were six broad categories the book looked at that reflected the most common points of skepticism and objections raised by nonbelievers. They were the following - hypocritical; too focused on getting converts; antihomosexual; sheltered; too political; and judgmental.

So, if you are a believer, do you feel defensive yet? I want to encourage you to take a deep breath. I am not asking anyone to change their beliefs. In fact, I want to quote a couple paragraphs found in chapter 2 in the book because I think the author explains this way better than I can.

"As we work to change negative perceptions of outsiders, we need to avoid an opposite and equally dangerous extreme. Some Christians respond to outsiders' negativity by promoting a less offensive faith. The unpopular parts of Christian teaching are omitted or de-emphasized They hijack the image of Jesus by portraying Him as an open-minded, big-hearted and never-offended-anyone moral teacher. This is an entirely wrong idea of Jesus. He taught remarkably tough truths about human beings and about sin." (pg. 30-31)

"Keep in mind that part of the reason Christians possess a bad reputation is because our faith perspectives grate against a morally relativistic culture. Mosaics and Busters (that 16-29 year age group) find that Christian perspectives run counter to their anything-goes mindset. Although outsiders don't always understand us, we have to be very careful about not tossing aside the Biblical motivations that contribute to these perceptions. For instance, Christians are known as judgmental because we address sin and its consequences. Christians should be involved in politics because faith weaves into every aspect of our lives. Christians should identify homosexual behavior as morally unacceptable because that is what Scripture teaches. Christians should be pursuing conversations and opportunities that point people to Christ because we are representatives of life's most important message. And Christians should stive for purity and integrity even if that makes us appear sheltered.

"As Christ's representatives, we have to articulate the reality that there is a holy Creator who holds us to a standard that exists beyond our finite, cracked lives. Our awareness as transcendent beings should alter who we are and how we think.

"However, before you dismiss the unChristian perception as "just Christians doing their duty," realize that the challenge runs much deeper. The real problem comes when we recognize God's holiness but fail to articulate the other side of his character: grace. Jesus represents truth plus grace. Embracing truth without holding grace in tension leads to harsh legalism, just as grace without truth devolves into compromise." (pg. 34)

The most convicting thing I have read so far in this book was one girl sharing that what bothered her most about Christians is that they seemed more interested in being right and winning the argument than they were in caring about her as an individual.

I don't know about you, but I don't think that is what Christ had in mind when He asked us to follow Him. I hope that as we look at the six areas that Kinnaman highlights as areas nonbelievers have the most criticisms about Christians, we can learn something that will make us better representatives of Christ.

We are supposed to be living in a way that causes people to want to know about Christ - not reject Him. I hope you will prayerfully come along with me on this journey of a deeper understanding of how to be in the world but not of it.