Correcting the Record

If the celebrities and talking heads you like most taught you that religion is the source of all bigotry, you might learn to dislike religion. If TV and popular culture only pointed you toward heroic atheists and despicable Christians, you would avoid Christianity. If all you were taught of Christianity were Constantine’s rule, the crusades, the Inquisition and witch trials, you would detest it without understanding it.

The truth is, Christianity has done a lot more good in the real world than secular radicals want you to think.

In America, for example, over two centuries of religious liberty has not lead us to slavery; but away from it. Yes, it was from Christian principles and pulpits that the movement to abolish slavery first found and then sustained its steam. Our Christian heritage did not lead us to a theocracy but to democracy. It did not lead us to illiteracy but away from it. It did not lead us into primitive caves, but to progress. It did not pull us from science, but toward it. There would have been no Enlightenment without the Protestant Reformation diverting the focus of Western society away from tradition and toward Holy Scripture (calling people to read it and respond to its message in fresh and thoughtful ways). Our Christian heritage did not dilute human compassion but instead fostered countless hospitals, the Salvation Army, the YMCA, nursing homes, orphan homes, prison ministries, crisis pregnancy centers and relief organizations world-wide. And that is the tiny tip of the iceberg.

Freedom of religion is part of a priceless heritage we enjoy as Americans. It means you can express your faith out loud and in public. While others can disagree, they cannot muzzle you. Since the opponents of Christianity cannot legally silence us, they often strive instead to selectively discredit and disparage our heritage so that we may silence ourselves in false shame. Today, too many uninformed believers either have no clue regarding the rich Christian heritage we have as Americans or they loathe it because all they know of it is what the radical secularists in our media and our institutions of higher learning tell them. This is tragic.

It is actually possible to share your faith in Jesus without also feeling obligated to bash his beautiful Bride (the church). Try it some time. What good is our incredible freedom of faith if you keep it under the wraps of excessive misinformation or false shame? I am thankful for our freedom of faith in America. Let’s use it for good. Better still, I am grateful for the gospel of Jesus that gives me hope far beyond anything our beloved America can give.


Photo Credits:

Religious Liberty. Retrieved August 27, 2012.
White Steeple Retrieved August 27, 2012.


The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.

‘The New Normal’ is Not New

Some people will do anything to be considered normal. Others will do at least as much to avoid that description. Sometimes the same person will do both. Is this normal?

The dictionary defines normal as “conformity to a common standard.” But in a culture wherein few standards are shared, most anything can pass as normal. Without standards, who can discern whether “normal” is an insult or a compliment? Are you confused?

In biology, normal usually means that one is free of infections and deformities. In psychology, it describes one who is fairly well adjusted. In math, it means something most normal people can’t define (something about perpendicular lines). In chemistry, it refers to an equivalent weight of the constituent in question in one liter of a solution. In statistics, it is a distribution of probability as seen on a bell-shaped curve. In fields wherein standards still exist, “normal” actually can be defined. Not so in today’s deeply confused American culture.

America’s entertainment media, with millions of passive minds at their daily disposal (and I mean disposal), know that normal can be changed on a dime. Do the math: Subtract all standards and normal becomes anything and nothing at the same time. With uncommon ease, Hollywood sets and resets most of our social standards today and makes its values mainstream. Its most powerful weapon remains television. In my life, I have seen nearly every healthy code of morality, modesty, sexuality and respectability in sight eroded into a “new normal” over and over again by BIG entertainment.

Are deception, extramarital sex, profanity, teenage disrespect and homosexuality casual staples for normal living? They are on TV. Is frank sexual banter normative for public dialogue? It is on TV.

Now, NBC plans to release a new TV comedy show titled The New Normal. It is reportedly about an LA couple that wants a baby and gets a single waitress with an eight-year-old daughter to be a surrogate baby-maker (the word mother does not apply here) for the couple; Bryan and David. This show aims to shatter whatever moral standard related to the family that may remain in your archaic mind. A new generation is being effectively recruited into hardline homosexualism. According to the Huffington Post, the show’s creator, Ali Adler, relishes the joy of “having nothing be off-limits.” Sad to say, nothing off-limits is already the new normal.

In the late twentieth century, a U.S. President was revealed as an adulterer and liar. His Democrat defenders shouted, “Everyone lies about sex!” In other words, it is normal. But their defense was a lie. Everyone does not lie about sex. But it became normal to think so. Normalizing immorality is nothing new.

The question is not, “What is normal?” It is, “What are your standards and from where do they come?” Nothing normalizes sin like TV. Nothing stigmatizes sin like the Bible. When sin is normal, we all lose. Today, it is abnormal to spend more time with your Bible and your church than with your TV. Dare to be abnormal!


Photo Credit:

NENE LEAKES: HER NEW SHOW & CONTROVERSY: Retrieved August 20, 2012.


The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.

The Gift of Evangelism

I am currently preaching through a series titled, “What’s so Holy about the Spirit?” Thus, an old book that sat on my bookshelf, unread, for over twenty years finally found its way to my desk: The Holy Spirit (1978), by Billy Graham. It’s really good! Here are a few sparkling gems of spiritual insight:

  • “We have two natures within us, both struggling for mastery. Which one will dominate us ? It depends on which one we feed.” (p. 81)
  • “[Struggling] is an evidence that the Holy Spirit has come into your life, illuminating the darkness of sin, sensitizing your conscience to sin, awakening in you a desire to be clean and free from sin before God.” (p. 82)
  • “A transformed life is the greatest of all miracles.” (p. 166)

Billy Graham is a gifted man. His charisma blends beautifully with his humility. He wrote: “I believe God has given me the gift of evangelism, but I did not ask for it.” (p. 142). Fortunately for millions, he opened that gift and put it to good use throughout his life.

As I write, the 93-year-old evangelist is in the hospital with bronchitis, in stable condition. I pray for his recovery.

In a far less apparent way, I believe God has also entrusted me with the gift of evangelism. In his section on the evangelist’s gift, Graham correctly clarified the evangelist’s message as one that “…centers in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, His coming again, and the need for all men everywhere to repent and believe.” Graham’s understanding of the role of baptism in conversion seems slightly different from mine, but his ministry has always encouraged new believers to open and trust the Bible as an authority above that of any man. Thus, his ministry has pointed people in the right direction. I respect that (and him).

In his book on “The Holy Spirit”, Graham conveyed clearly the limitations every evangelist lives with, regardless of how famous he or she is. He wrote:

[callout2]”One can use hundreds of different methods, but it is the message that counts. Let us take note, however, of what evangelists cannot do. They cannot bring conviction of sin, righteousness, or judgment; that is the Spirit’s work. They cannot convert anyone; that is the Spirit’s work. The evangelists can invite men to receive Christ, and exhort them. But the effectual work is done by the Spirit as He works on the minds, hearts and wills of the unsaved. We are to take care of the possible and trust God for the impossible.” (pp. 143-144)

Inviting is crucial. God’s Word, from Genesis on, invites people into a covenant relationship with Him and each other. God invites us to love sacrificially and His Son shows us how. Jesus invites us to die in order to live. God’s Word is ultimately an invitation to heaven! The church carries forward the mission and message of His word. This makes her God’s personal invitation to the world to come to Him. Be a fearless inviter!

Wading into deeper waters, Graham wrote, “True evangelism speaks to the intellect and may or may not produce emotion, but its main job is to speak to the will.” (p. 142). In other words, the ‘tin-man’ and ‘scarecrow’ matter, but it’s the ‘lion’ in us that evangelism appeals to ultimately. A few centuries before Christ, a Greek philosopher named Plato also gave primacy to the will when he discussed the three parts of the soul (the reasoning, emotive, and volitional parts). The Holy Spirit works on all three, as Graham made clear in the quote above (pp. 143-144). People can be well informed about Jesus and feel deep feelings about Him, but we are not saved until we surrender to Him our will.


The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.

I Believe in You

(In Loving Memory of Dan Anders, c. 1936 – 1999)

When I first met Dan and Judy Anders in the summer of 1986, I was a stranger strung out on their bed moaning over aches and pains from head to toe. While playing a pick-up game of hoops at Pepperdine University (Malibu, California), I was stopped cold by a solid steel volleyball post fixed firmly in the gym floor. No one bothered to remove it before playing. The next thing I knew, I was on a stretcher headed for an ambulance. The temporary transformation from basketball player to basket case was instantaneous.

After some x-rays and observation, I was released from the emergency room but was in no condition to drive twenty miles to be home alone with a head injury. I ended up resting all day long under the hospital-like hospitality of two kind strangers: Dan and Judy Anders.

My physical injuries healed just in time for my girlfriend in Louisiana to terminate a relationship that I hoped would lead to marriage. My bodily collision with a steel post was like a brush with a feather compared to this blow to my heart. Instead of sprinting, this time I was soaring in the clouds and, as usual, never saw it coming. Again, Dan Anders (now my minister) was there to hold my hand and heart.

Prayer Partners

Dan and I both graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary at different times and this animated some of our early conversations. We became prayer partners, which soon turned into weeping sessions for me. I recall a letter from my ex-girlfriend which I held on to, unread, until my next prayer time with Dan. It contained painful realities that neither Dan nor I could change. Such is often the case in prayer partnerships.

Months later, while Dan and Judy were on vacation, I received a post card with a bird pictured on one side and a simple sentence on the other; “I believe in you!” Signed, “Dan.” My belief in myself was so far from my grasp that the sentence seemed uncanny. How could anyone believe in a rejected basket-case like me, at that time, rejected both in love and in my career quest to be a preacher. Still, I did not doubt Dan’s written words.

Integrity in the Pulpit

I sat under Dan’s preaching for many years. At first, I was struggling as a preacher wannabe and later, he was fighting the cancer that eventually took his life. Richard Baxter, the 17th century Puritan divine, said, “I preach as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men.” Dan did just that. There was nothing sloppy about his preaching, especially in the smooth honest way he documented his sources, a rare quality today. There were no fancy gimmicks or narcissistic tendencies in his sermons. He simply had a firm grasp on the substance and force of the biblical text. His mentoring influence on me was rich, offered in genuine humility.

Dan and the Devil

In Loving Memory of Dan
Dan preached one of my all-time favorite sermons at the Pepperdine Lectures near the end of his life. It was on the temptations of Christ by the devil in the wilderness. Dan described Jesus refusing to let Satan overhaul his mission and make it about mere bread, shortcuts or personal splendor. Putting second things first was not an option for Jesus. Thanks to Dan’s sermon, I still feel the force of what was at stake when the devil tried to sneak under Jesus’ skin in the wilderness. Dan Anders–in all his physical weakness while suffering from cancer–had Satan’s tricky number, dead to rights.

I’m not the only Christian who hits brick walls and steel posts, so to speak. I’m actually grateful for that post today since it opened the door to a friendship with Dan, who also faced major unwanted obstacles standing in his way. He could not always change them or knock them down. But he showed us all, in the midst of profound helplessness, that we can always take comfort in the immovability of Jesus Christ (as seen, for instance, in his faithfulness to God in the face of temptation). I get a special joy when I recall Dan’s skill in portraying that conniving adversary in the wilderness running into a solid steel post named Jesus.


The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.