Dr. Bill Giovannetti is a professor at A.W. Tozer Theological Seminary and the senior pastor of Neighborhood Church of Redding. A native Chicagoan transplanted to California, Bill speaks to the mind in ways that ignite the heart. This is Bill’s second book.
Visit the author’s website.
From seasoned professor and pastor, Bill Giovannetti, Four Letter Words shines a fresh light on the Bible’s most troubling topics. Whether you’re a pastor, layperson, student, parent or grandparent, this book is equips you to defend your faith in an increasingly intolerant culture. You’ll know WHAT you believe. You’ll know WHY you believe. And you’ll know what to say when you don’t know what to say. The book’s message is specially important for younger Christians in (or going into) college. A discussion/study guide (included) makes Four Letter Words especially helpful for small groups and personal reflection. A companion website offers even more resources.
1 – FOUR LETTER WORDS
When angry, count four. When very angry, swear.
If many of our friends had their way, Christ’s followers would be walking around with a bar of soap stuck in their mouths. When a graduation prayer becomes a federal case, and major department stores censor a festive “Merry Christmas,” you might suspect new standards for verbal vulgarity.
The core beliefs of the Christian faith have become today’s four letter words. Annoyed by the Christ-follower’s “narrow-mindedness,” our politically correct culture enforces a highly selective tolerance: fist-bumping any philosophical fad and moral deviation as long as it’s not in harmony with Grandma’s leather Bible.
Endorsing her old-fashioned religion might get you sent to your room without any supper.
Take, for example, my recent unwitting obscenity against a friend. I didn’t mean to be a jerk, and I certainly didn’t plan to get on her nerves. But my friend rolled her eyes and our conversation dropped off a cliff. My only crime was to say that I belonged to God because I had Jesus. “Jesus” got me the dreaded eye-roll. My friend didn’t object to my belief as much as to my confidence.
To her, it smelled like arrogance.
Our conversation turned testy. We changed subjects. I still tiptoe around God when she’s around.
When did Jesus-talk become dirty? If I had cursed my friend like Blackbeard’s parrot, she would have been less offended. Talking about faith in general might be cool, but in many quarters, to express that faith in terms of traditional Christian values—concerning sex, truth, hell, and salvation—is to smash a cultural taboo.
Talk like that too much and you’ll get your mouth washed out with soap.
This book is about struggle. Not between good and evil or right and wrong. Not the clash of religions. Not some kind of cosmic warfare between God and Satan. It is about the very personal struggle each of us faces as we grapple with faith, reality, sexuality, life, and death.
I’m not trying to win any wars with this book. I’m just offering my confession of how I wrestled with my inner contradictions and arrived at a certain level of peace.
In 2008, Christians cheered when American Idol contestants performed the worship song, “Shout to the Lord.” Many viewers didn’t notice that they sang the song two days in a row and not the same way each time.
The first performance dropped the name of Jesus, singing, “My Shepherd, my Savior, Lord there is none like you…” Perhaps due to an avalanche of complaints, or perhaps due to a change of conscience—the producers haven’t explained why—the second performance reverted to the original lyrics: “My Jesus, My Savior, Lord there is none like you…” [click to view the first performance]
“Shout to the Lord” was one of the great worship songs of its generation. I was happy to see it performed. But the way Christians over-responded was a bit embarrassing. Churches celebrated, bloggers gushed, and Christians lit up the FOX switchboards in appreciation. You would have thought we had just won the Superbowl—all because Jesus got a mention on the secular media.
I’m all for that, but… aren’t we behaving like the team’s scrawny benchwarmer—giddy to take the field for the last minute, even though game is just about over? Do we now imagine that the rest of the team respects us because we got sixty seconds of playing time?
It’s The End of the World As We Know It
Some experts suggest we’re living at the tail end of Christendom—the period when Christianity captained the cultural team. We live in a “post-Christian era,” they say. The Bible-centered worldview that shaped Western civilization since the Magna Carta (1215) has fizzled in the face of an ultra-tolerant diversity that remains perpetually ticked off at Christians.
“Shout to the Lord” on American Idol has as much meaning as “Amazing Grace” at a drug-dealer’s funeral.
Yes, we’re glad when Jesus is honored. But we recognize that authentic Christ-followers are a shrinking minority among neighbors who might grab onto Jesus in an emergency, but otherwise don’t want him “crammed down their throats.”
There has never been a culture more desperate for answers to life’s big questions, and never a culture more convinced no answers exist.
This makes following Jesus really tough, especially for younger Christians. It’s painful to watch our culture, and many of our friends, first value, then ignore, and finally turn against a Christian worldview.
Thou shalt tolerate every opinion… except the Christian’s. Today’s postmodern “prime directive” leaves many followers of Jesus tongue-tied. In the global village, isn’t it unreasonable—and even dangerous—to suggest that the Bible has a monopoly on truth?
The church needs a new breed of Christ-follower. We need Christ-followers who are alert to today’s touchy ideas—the truths that fire up more heat than light. We need Christ-followers who can make a clear case for the Bible’s worldview; who are ready to help our friends think through their beliefs; who can recognize inconsistencies and challenge them; and who can do all of this with humility, confidence, humor, and love.
What if the only reason Christ’s message offends is that it wounds our misplaced pride in ourselves?
And what if it’s exactly that wound that launches our quest for healing?
No religion has ever offered as plausible or beautiful a worldview as historic, biblical Christianity. Let’s say so.
Four Letter Words shows how. I wrote it to teach Christ’s followers to cuss boldly—to speak faith’s four letter words—without backing down, yet without coming across as a religious inquisitor either. I want to help you talk about your faith. And I want to strengthen that faith and convince you deep inside that Jesus is a treasure worth sharing.
When Jesus spotlighted himself as ultimate truth, the Religious Establishment painted a bullseye on his back.
When he highlighted their hypocrisy, they picked up stones to kill him.
When he stood silent, showing up the insanity of their rage, they nailed him to the cross.
When he prayed, “Father forgive them,” they played games with his shredded robe, making it a hideous souvenir.
There was nothing Jesus could say or do—short of redefining himself to suit their preconceptions—to make everybody like him. So he stood strong, kept the faith, spoke the truth, loved the world, and let God handle the outcomes.
Such a life was interpreted by most as a long string of four letter words. It always will be.
But one man, standing at the foot of the cross, heard it differently. He was a Roman centurion, part of the squad that crucified Jesus.
He said, “Truly, this man was the Son of God” (Mark 13:39).
He was only the first of countless seekers who saw the cross, not as a lunatic’s curse, but as heaven’s blessing.
May your life story speak forth that blessing for countless seekers more.
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