Yeah, I started doing stand-up comedy in March 2007. Got a lot of weird reactions.

  • Most people think it takes guts, but I think it takes guts to leave the house every morning. I’d rather be onstage and not get a laugh for every single joke than be anonymous… I just have too much to say 🙂
  • A bunch of people thought I was the last person to be a comedian. Either too quiet, or too serious, or they’d just never seen my funny side.

And it’s weird as a Christian, because I think most people either think clean comedy isn’t funny, or they don’t know it exists. I admit not everything I said in the beginning was clean- I saw how easy it was to get a laugh by being unholy. But my conscience brought me back to clean comedy.

Humor is honest, and sometimes sarcastic, and I’m not sure that’s the kind of speech the Bible tells us to use- I think there’s a verse about not engaging in silly talk… lol- so I haven’t got that all figured out yet. But I have to say, my feeling about my fellow Christians in general is that we’re not really honest with each other. It’s hard to be, I suppose, when we try to be holy and don’t want to encourage any sinful thinking in one another. But I think the honesty that’s funny can be liberating and then allow us to deal with who we really are, what our thinking really is. If we avoid the honesty step, we’re all hiding. That’s just my opinion. You can keep all your sin to yourself and pray about it, I suppose, but I prefer honest fellowship.

Anyhow, here are a couple new ideas for jokes/routines I had in the last 24 hours:

I work and live inside. I’m outside for probably 15 minutes a day.

At work, I get weather updates on my computer, which is important, cuz then I know exactly what weather I am not experiencing, and exactly what weather I will not be experiencing tomorrow. But, they’re often wrong about what weather is coming tomorrow- and I get pretty agitated when I’m not experiencing the weather they said I should not be experiencing. In fact I usually end up going outside and experiencing it indignantly… I guess if God wants me to get out more, He’ll have to keep the meteorologists from getting any better at their jobs.

Yeah, weather jokes, they’re hilarious. Here’s one about Hell:

There are a whole bunch of dumb phrases people say- here’s one: “well, it could be worse.”

Um, isn’t that always true?

Even if something horrible happened like you drove your car off the bridge and broke your back, your friend in the other car seat could say, “well it could be worse.”

How could it be worse? you’d ask, incredulous.

“Well, you could have a hatchet stuck in your forehead.”

Yeah, you’re right, that would be worse.

Your whole family could be in a plane crash and your helpful friend would say, “well, it could be worse.”

My whole family’s dead! How could it be worse?

“Well, they could all have hatchets in their foreheads. And then it would be closed casket.”

They died in a plane crash. It’s already going to be closed casket.

“Oh yeah. Well, you could find out that the whole plane except for your family was filled with people who had AIDS, and after the crash before they died, everyone’s blood mixed and your whole family got AIDS.”

…ok, yeah that would be worse… Man you’re messed up. Why are we friends?

If you had a friend like that, it would pretty much always be worse-able. Unless you were dead and in Hell. You could complain about Hell all you wanted and if he said “well it could be worse,” you’d be like,

Dude, we’re in Hell- how could it get any worse?

And he’d be like, “yeah, I guess you’re right- it can’t get any worse than this. Hell is the worst. By definition.” And he’d look forlorn.
For him, not being able to say it could be worse would be the worst – that would be Hell for him. You might get some temporary satisfaction out of that, considering he said your family had AIDS, but Hell is eternal and ultimately you’d be sad your friend wasn’t able to fulfill his ability to think of something worse- you always loved that about him, and that now that’s gone- that’s Hell for both of you.

Ok, so there’s no punchline at the end, but I think there are some laughs in the middle. And no, I don’t know what the point is- yet.

Posted by: Brian Carter | December 29, 2007

Man vs. Wild, Man with Christ vs. Culture Without

I’m an outdoorsman. Sometimes. Other days I’d rather stay inside, drink coffee, read, play guitar and sleep. But I’ve mountaineered up 12,000 and 14,000 foot peaks, I’ve rock climbing, hiked overnight, run through canyons, blah blah blah.

I like survival shows. Survivorman. Man vs. Wild.

It was easy to like Survivorman’s Les Stroud- he’s a somewhat pudgy Canadian who did his own filming (“He remains the only producer in the history of television to produce an internationally broadcast series entirely written, videotaped and hosted alone.”- Les Stroud Online). He likes sunset shots and didgeridoo soundtracks.

Man vs. Wild’s star, Bear Grylls, is a dynamic, fit ex-special-forces Brit who relies on a big support crew and, in the spirit of Matthew McConaughey, finds a reason in every episode to take off his shirt. Bear seemed like the kind of guy who’s a lot more likely to charm and steal your woman. So I didn’t watch too many of his shows, until recently.

Not only was I happy to find that he didn’t find a need to take off his shirt in every episode, but he revealed (in the Patagonia episode, I believe) that he was a born again Christian. Les Stroud frequently emphasizes that a big part of survival is positive mental attitude- you can’t give up. And what’s better to sustain you when cold and hungry, to ward off despair, than Faith? That’s what keeps Bear going in those difficult times.

So now I like him. I admire him for purposefully throwing that into one of his episodes, as well as his blog. Here’s something from his blog about his faith:

The final part of the equation is my Christian faith…I look at this as the thread that binds all these other elements together. I pray daily for my family and we also have little quiet times together, and I pray hard when out filming for safety, good judgement and for protection in all the dangers.”

Check out Bear Grylls’ Blog here. And he’s on Jimmy Kimmel here.

Anyhow, what was the point? I’ve talked a lot with my parents from time to time about what a Christian is called to do…

  • Are we all supposed to go out like missionaries from Acts?
  • Or is it really ok to be a Christian in whatever job you have, and then how actively should you witness to coworkers?

One thing is for sure, whatever job you’re in, you can’t hide being a Christian. But it’s easy to do. I’ve done it. Even if you restrain yourself from engaging in gossip or cursing and taking part in or validating sinful activities (talking about pornography, commenting on hot women that walk by, etc.), that’s great and essential, but I don’t call that witnessing. It may be part of it, but it’s not enough. When someone finds out you’re a Christian, does that mean your “life has been a witness” to them? I don’t think so- I think that ‘my life is my witness’ idea is a cop out, because it’s no substitute for stating your beliefs clearly, and because witnessing takes guts, and because a lot of we Christians take the east way out in this cushy luxury society.

Even if people find out you’re a Christian, they may not assume you believe everything the Bible says. There’s so much of the buffet approach to faith amongst Christians (“I’ll take some of this and some of that but… ooh, I don’t like that stuff.”) that I don’t think nonbelievers will assume you believe everything in the Bible, especially the controversial things. More importantly, they may not really know Christian theology. It’s not that we just choose to believe and then try to be good. A lot of people, believers and nonbelievers, believe in certain things and try to be good people. The unique thing about Christianity is that we grasp our own sin, we know we are not good, we know we cannot fix it, we believe Jesus fixed it, we have faith in that, we receive the power of the Holy Spirit as a result, and then we try to be good and obedient not in our own power but in that power of the Holy Spirit.

But it’s a fine line- should we walk around the office and tell everyone unbidden the articles of our faith? I don’t know… I think we need tact and wisdom. We should approach people as individuals, have friendships that we “work out” prayerfully with as much concern as we have for our own salvation. Everyone we come into contact with has different hang-ups, needs and styles- some are more open than others- we can’t know with each person (and I’m not as gifted as some people at individualizing my approach to people) exactly what they need to see or hear from you before they’ll care what your beliefs are.

People certainly won’t listen to a hypocrite, but no one’s perfect, not even a Christian- some people are so stuck on this that they can’t listen. Most are more open if they know that you don’t personally condemn them, that you care, that you’re smart and not blindly rigid. But I don’t have all the answers. Every Christian is a work in progress and everyone we befriend is different. We must pray and rely on God’s wisdom and timing. Fortunately, we have examples from Acts and in Paul of people who didn’t prepare speeches ahead of time but spoke in the Spirit. Know your audience, be humble and prayerful, and I believe the right words will come to you.

One caveat- unless you talk with a lot of unbelievers, you won’t know what their concerns or objections are. I confess to having been stumped on the spot at times- it’s one thing to read a book by an expert about the historicity and authenticity of the books of the Bible and nod your head knowingly while reading, but quite another to answer and educate a nonbeliever who is loudly proclaims his confidence in the unreliability of our most holy book. Maybe you forgot the details of the evidence that made you so confident while reading. Maybe you’re just emotionally thrown by the fact that they’re so confident in ignorant opinions. Next time you’ll be more prepared. So you have to go fall down some. Practice. A novice witness is like a novice anything- not very good.

Posted by: Brian Carter | December 29, 2007

Awesome Intercessory and Holy Spirit Experiences

I’m certain that I’ve had more spiritual experiences than I remember.

That’s not just a commentary on my memory.

I believe it wise advice when preachers suggest keeping a prayer journal. Sometimes we don’t even realize our prayers have been answered. That makes sense if we are more likely to get what we pray for if we expect to get it- that predisposes us to take it for granted when we do get it. Is it the Holy Spirit, or the habit of consciousness about the results of prayer that allows us to see that we have indeed received blessings from our merciful Father?

Fortunately, I’ve had enough experiences since conversion and remember enough of those to know that prayer works and that the Holy Spirit does act powerfully in my life. The most obvious times are when I’m praying the most. Whether it’s just greater consciousness, or I receive more because I ask more, I don’t know- not to mention that I am more likely to ask rightly because I am in prayer more of the time and in sync with God’s will- prayer inspires conscience and conscience makes it clearer what is merely fleshly self-will and what is motivated from the spirit. I’m talking about the times where I wrote and Bible-studied and prayed for an hour or more a day.

But even when I just pray on my knees for 5-10 minutes at the beginning and end of the day, it makes a huge difference. I believe that the difference between zero minutes of prayer a day and 5 minutes of prayer a day is much greater than the difference between 5 minutes and 30 minutes. To have the daily habit of prayer is a major step forward in your spiritual life. If you don’t have it, pray for it. Ironic, isn’t it? It works though. I believe God honors any heart that hungers after Him, and will even answer a prayer that He make you more hungry- prayer in the right direction yields spiritual momentum.

Enough principle and generality- to the concrete illustration:

  • In my first year of Christianity, a good friend of mine was spiritual, but not Christian. He still walks the edge where a number of his friends and family are Christian, but he lives in sin. Lord help me to remember to pray for him more often! I don’t think, in this first year, I was too vocal, too “annoying for Christ”, but I know it doesn’t take much for an unbeliever to think you’re obsessed with it- the tolerance for Christ amongst many unbelievers is zero- any Christ is too much- the gospel is an offense- so he thought it was funny and that I needed to know there was a website that made it possible for you to dress up Jesus like one of those old paper cutout dress-up dolls. I was so holy or so new and Christ, especially on the cross, so sacred to me that the dress up Jesus idea struck me as not just blasphemous in spirit but as painful and sad. About an hour later, I was overcome by a spiritual experience- for whatever reason, while thinking about this and praying, I became to feel weighted down- I bent over, and I saw quite vividly Christ on the cross after he had died- it was in 3D, it was raining, and there was a lightning flash to show me Christ’s face- it had a weight to it that wasn’t exactly emotional but was definitely spiritual- the experience really renewed the reality and weight of Christ on the cross for me- it wiped away the dress up Jesus- it made that seem so superficial, whimsical, pointless, foolish, unreal next to the awesome reality of Christ dead on the cross. I feel this was a gift from the Holy Spirit to me to restore for me the holiness of that central event in Christianity- and I think it was very important to me as a new Christian that it stay holy.
  • Even earlier in my Christian life, I was avidly reading about intercession and learned some great ways to pray for believers and non-believers. For whatever reason, I have great faith in prayer. One night I awoke to flashing lights. I looked outside and there was an ambulance and paramedics wheeling a neighbor man from his house- I immediately began to pray for him. I prayed for his health and his soul. I didn’t know him personally, and in fact forgot about it until Lynda and I were moving. He came out and said he was sad to see us go because we’d been good neighbors. I mentioned that night to him and he said it was the strangest thing, they had almost accidentally killed him at the hospital, but anyway he had gotten saved and gone back to his Christian faith in a way that he’d never experienced before. I told him about my prayer. I can’t know for sure, but I believe that intercessory prayer makes a difference where God wants it to, and I felt I had participated in his salvation somehow. Not everyone I’ve prayed for has gotten saved- yet- and I don’t mean I think they all will- but a few people I’ve worked with have gotten saved, and I feel honored and blessed to have been there- it also makes me feel like I’ve done the right thing. Nothing eats away at my soul more than the vague feeling that I’m not doing what a Christian should- things like feeding the poor, witnessing (or at least not hiding your faith), interceding, tithing, attending church- those things should bother the conscience of a real Christian if they never do them.
Posted by: Brian Carter | December 29, 2007

Evangelical Beliefs, Essential Convictions

When I was considering calling this blog evangelical, I checked out its definition, as opposed to Christian or other descriptors. Wikipedia has a great article on evangelicalism– it places it next to less fun terms like fundamentalism, unitarianism, pentacostalism, and others. Just scanning through the definition of fundamentalism and finding its emphasis on dispensationalism and then reading technical details about that underscores the fact that I’m not the theological expert. I’m not uneducated, but I’m no seminarian either.

(Though there is a really cool chart on the branches of Christianity you should check out.)

My interest in the seven years since I committed myself to Christ has been in The Bible, secondary books like The Imitation of Christ, Practicing the Presence of God, and commentaries by Matthew Henry and (a well known commentator I can’t remember I’ll have to look at when I get home!). I’ve also enjoyed Spurgeon’s writings and more recently Calvin’s Sermons on the Beatitudes.

(What a nerd I am! Who reads Calvin?  But he was way more inspiring than I expected.  Check him out.)

Back to Evangelicalism- there are four essential evangelical beliefs or convictions:

  1. Being born again – this always makes me think of Nicodemus and Jesus, as well as William James’ idea of the once and twice born– he said some people were essentially psychologically the same at age 16 as age 50- others are somehow incomplete and need a psychic rearrangement- I am the latter, I had St. Augustine’s God-shaped hole and ultimately needed the Jesus of the cross to complete me.
  2. The Bible as the prime and inerrant authority of our Faith. I’m amazed at any Christian who disagrees with this. First, the historical integrity and reliability of the Bible is much stronger than most people know (see The Case for Christ for a lawyer’s strict examination of the evidence). Second, from a logical perspective, if we will only accept some parts of the Bible and not others, then we elevate our judgment over God’s- that is not the spirit of surrender or obedience- and how can you tell if you belong to Him? You obey Him. Hmmm. Sounds like the argumentative Bible-doubter can’t be one of His sheep.
  3. Missionary work– both abroad and local personal relationship- great commission
  4. Centrality of the cross– salvation is crucial, literally- Christ’s sacrifice on the cross- as Paul said, we preach Christ crucified – This is definitely impossible to grasp except experientially, and that comes from deep conviction of personal sin, which comes from the Holy Spirit. Paul says preachers merely reap the harvest that Christ has already sown- then perhaps preaching Christ crucified is the central scythe in our harvest.
Posted by: Brian Carter | December 28, 2007

Evangelical Blogger and Hugh Hewitt

This blog owes its birth to Hugh Hewitt.

My mom gave me his book In, But Not Of: A Guide to Christian Ambition for Christmas, and I’ve been consuming it rapidly. It’s one of the best written books I’ve read in years. It makes me think he’s read William Zinsser’s On Writing Well.

I knew Hugh was into blogging, but I laughed when after a hundred injunctions of weight, depth and cosmic import, I turned the page to find an entire chapter called “Start a Weblog.” I’m not saying I disagree about blogging’s important – it’s just that it’s still such a new movement in human history, compared to reading and understanding the history of Western Civilization or joining your local church and helping to save souls, seeing blogging put front and center was surprising- but again, not wrong.

Hugh said that no front running Evangelical blogger has emerged, and if there were one that could talk about the modern world and real life as a Christian with humor and insight, well that would be a big deal.

I thought, why not me?

I’ve already started a dozen blogs and kept writing in at least four of them. I’m a deep guy. I’m a funny guy. I’m a Christian. I think a lot and struggle daily to work out my salvation with fear and trembling… why not me?

So you’ve inspired me Mr. Hewitt. Here we go.

– Brian Carter