Co-author Stan Jantz talks about Christianity 101

What's the Christianity 101 book series all about? Listen to what co-author Stan Jantz has to say.


Where Has All the Water Gone?

Now that the fires in California are all but extinguished, there's a new weather topic to talk about: drought. We've actually been living with drought in the West for a couple of years now, but our situation is manageable when compared with the South. In Georgia, the lack of rain is so severe that the state is expected to run out of water by January. I didn't know a state could run out of water.

Of course, if I knew my history better, I would know that running out of water is not only possible, but actually happened in the fabled Dust Bowl in the 1930s. A prolonged drought in the Southern Plains forced 2.5 million people to abandon their homes and livelihood and seek greener pastures in the West. It was the largest migration in U.S. history and one of the reasons my home town of Fresno in the Central Valley of California has so many families with roots in places like Oklahoma and Texas (it also explains their Southwestern accents).

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Tags | Global

Somewhere Between Blind and Absolute

Not long ago i was talking with a women about her faith. In the interest of full disclosure, I wasn't "witnessing" to this woman. I know her husband, who is someone I consider to be maturing in his faith. That's why I was surprised when his wife told me that for her, faith wasn't something you could know, but had to accept in your heart. "You mean like blind faith?" I asked her. "Exactly," she answered.

Actually, the idea that faith is blind, or a leap in the dark, isn't new. It's been around for centuries, and these days it's quite pervasive in our so-called Christian culture. In all fairness to the woman I was talking with, I don't think she has decided to deliberately remove any objectivity from her faith journey. In my opinion, she just doesn't know any better. Call it a case of "biblical illiteracy." She certainly has never read what the apostle John wrote at the end of his biography of Jesus: "This is the disciple who saw these events and recorded them here. And we all know that his account of these things is accurate" (John 21:24). And she probably isn't aware that in one of his brief letters to Christians in the first century, John also wrote: "I write this to you who believe in the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life" (1 John 5:13).

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Crazy sports fans

I watched a Green Bay Packers football game last night with a bunch of very enthusiastic Packers fans. These faithful followers were from several different families, all with roots in Green Bay. Even though we were in a home, thousands of miles from the "frozen tundra" of Lambeau Field, every one of these faithful fans was wearing Packers jerseys (even the little kids), and they were yelling and screaming as if they were right there in the stands. It was a sea of green and gold, only with lots of noise.

I loved it, because there's nothing like getting into the spirit of a great football game, especially when the fans are good friends. And in the case of the Packers, there's always lots of drama. As I've come to learn, Packers fans are die hards. Through thick and thin. They've had their share of thick, but thin has also been part of the history. I've known these families for a while, so over the years I've noticed that even though they love their Packers with a passion, they get frustrated with their team from time to time. When a bad play is called, or someone on the team does something dumb and causes a penalty, they moan and yell at the players and/or coaches. They'll even hedge their bets sometimes, especially if the game isn't going their way. ("Well, this just isn't their year" is a good hedge.)

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Back into Praise Music

When it comes to praise music, I'm old school. I grew up on Maranatha! praise music (you can tell I know my stuff because I put an exclamation mark after Maranatha!--there, I did it again), but then lost interest during the whole Integrity/HillSong era, which featured some decent songs, but got a little soft for me. I like my praise music with a little more umph. Besides, my wife and I joined a Presbyterian church, and the only praise music they knew was the old stuff, mainly Maranatha! and Integrity songs.

That's the way it was until we got a new music director in our church, and he began introducing some of the newer praise music, in particular the songs of Chris Tomlin. I started perking up my ears on such songs as "Indescribable" and "How Great Is Our God." Then I found out that Tomlin was part of the Passion Conferences, and that impressed me. So I decided to purchase both of his worship CDs on iTunes, and that's all I've been listening to lately. The music is great, and the lyrics are very God-centered.

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Tags | Music

When Tragedy Strikes Home

Just as the fires in California were being extinguished, a horrible tragedy took place in North Carolina. Seven college students were killed when a fire raced through the beach house they were staying in over the weekend. The loss of life is about equal to the number of people killed in California as a direct result of the fires that burned more than half a million acres, but the North Carolina devastation is much more personal. There are faces to this freak accident. These were young friends in the prime of their lives.

As I read about the North Carolina fire, I thought about the families and the unspeakable grief they must be experiencing. Then I glanced at some of the comments posted next to the article, a feature in today's social media world. Most were warmly supportive, offering prayers and condolences. But there was one that stood out, and I couldn't help but read it. I wish I had not.

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Tags | Belief

Do Fires Teach Us?

The recent fires in Southern California gripped the nation as the horrific images of houses and forests being consumed indiscriminately appeared on television and on the Web. Half a million people fled their homes (including two of my friends who were evacuated from their senior residential communities in San Diego), about 2,000 homes were lost, and a half dozen people lost their lives. Even though tragedies like this hit this region every few years, you just never get used to it. And, it seems, you're never prepared for the devastation.

Some people say these fires are the price we pay for living where we do. This part of the world is hot and dry (and getting hotter and drier), and they keep building more and more houses in places where the fires thrive if given a chance. I don't really have an opinion on that, because you could probably apply that argument to just about every region of the country. If you shouldn't live where wildfires are a reality, then you shouldn't build houses in hurricane zones. You shouldn't live where earthquakes are imminent. You shouldn't live where men still have mullets. The list could go on.

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