No Apologizing

"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15

Are Christians Sociopaths?


Are Christians, particularly Christians in America, sociopathic?

What started as an off the cuff remark I made during a recent sermon at my Church (Legacy Church, in Kansas City, MO) has begun to legitimately haunt me (you can hear the sermon here)…

Christian… Sociopath… These are two words that on the surface seem completely incompatible.  Acts 11:26 tells us that the term “Christian” was first used of disciples in the Antioch church.  This was initially used as an insult in that people were saying they were “little Christs”.  In other words, they were just like Jesus, who because of His great love for people, voluntarily died to pay for the sins of the world. On the other hand – the dictionary defines sociopath as “a person with a psychopathic personality whose behavior is antisocial, often criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.” Another says that “Sociopaths are interested only in their personal needs and desires, without concern for the effects of their behavior on others.”

How can someone who is living a life that is reminiscent of a man whose critics admit was at least a good person and moral teacher exhibit behavior or attitudes that are patently selfish and apathetic to others? However, in spite of the apparent contradiction, I think if we are truly honest with ourselves, the answer is closer to “yes” than any of us who call ourselves a Christian would like to admit… And it tears me up inside… Let me allow this clip from Atheist Magician and Comedian Penn Jillette to begin to explain what I mean:

“How much do you have to hate someone to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” There is the rub… Way too many “Christians” fall in a daily routine and are comfortable to coast through life without a broken heart for their friends and family who, if what we believe is really true, are destined for an eternity without God… Well… to be honest that is the essence of selfishly living life “without concern for the effects of their behavior [or lack thereof] on others”, isn’t it???

We certainly shouldn’t be comfortable with it… But sadly I think that may just be the problem… our comfort.  Because we are relatively comfortable, especially in comparison to most of the rest of the world, we just get into auto pilot and unintentionally slip into apathy.  It’s not a conscious thing, but it occurs anyway… and it’s tragic.

Penn said “There comes a point where I tackle you… and this is more important than that.” Because people’s eternities are so important, our “social conscience” should remind us that we have a “moral responsibility” to love those around us enough to take the risk of offending them or losing a friendship to in a sense “tackle” them by sharing the truth about Jesus

Let’s pray to God for forgiveness for our sociopathic tendencies and begin to live a life that actually reflects our name-sake, Jesus… and refuse to scoot through life uncaring and unaffected by the many people we know who do not yet have a relationship with Him.

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Beginning a Legacy…


“This is the story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside down…” This is probably the only time you’ll ever see “The Fresh Prince” (a.k.a. Will Smith) quoted in this blog, but a little over 3 ½ years ago that’s exactly what happened. Robert has written in the blog about this event on several occasions – it was the time he and I were both laid-off from our long-standing jobs in downtown Kansas City. That time was one of those defining moments in both of our lives… For Robert, it marked the beginning of a time of unprecedented spiritual growth in his life – and he’s still growing. For me, it was God indicating that it was time for me to dive in to full-time pastoral ministry and He very quickly blessed me with a wonderful ministry as the youth pastor at Heaston Church in El Reno, Oklahoma… Looking back, I remember thinking, “Wow! This is an amazing journey that God is taking Robert on”, but thinking that He had sent me to a destination rather than on a journey. I was SO wrong!

I loved Heaston Church, El Reno, and pretty much the whole state of Oklahoma; I still do… Being called to Heaston was such a blessing and very much a homecoming to me and I believed with all my heart that it was very likely we’d be there until I retired. You see, the senior pastor there was planning on retiring in a few years and I thought that it would be awesome to prove myself to the elder board and the pastor as the youth pastor, finish my seminary and then be named as the successor. My wife and kids LOVED El Reno… Andrea had a job she cherished and was running the local MOPS ministry. Church was great. Sure, there were some ministry ups and downs, but there always are. We were settled – comfortable. But I’ve come to realize that God HATES comfortable and He couldn’t let us stay that way… He was about to turn up the heat.

I’m not sure how to describe the transformation that started to take place in my heart… and it’s difficult to pinpoint a specific catalyst because there were several… I guess the first spark was that I started realizing that while I knew I’ve been called to pastoral ministry for the rest of my life, I definitely wasn’t called to be a youth pastor for the same duration! My seminary classes were also stirring in me a passion for seeing God’s Kingdom built, but also stoking dissatisfaction with how this is only marginally attempted by many churches.

All this caused me to start asking the question: “what’s next”… I posed that question to one of my mentors, Michael Porter, who suggested we face to face the next time I was back in Kansas City so that we could talk through it. So, when I was back in KC for Christmas 2010, Andrea and I had breakfast with him and his wife. I expected a lot of back and forth and some kind of fatherly advice from him… I got no such thing… Michael had founded Fellowship of Grace in the Kansas City Northland in 2006 – and he is PASSIONATE about church planting. So instead of the types of advice I was expecting, all I got was the gentle suggestion that I should consider church planting when I decided God was done with me in youth ministry.

I don’t remember if I laughed in his face out loud or not… but I definitely did at least on the inside! Andrea just looked at him dumbfounded and said: “There are already so many churches… why would we need another one?” That is absolutely the wrong question to ask Michael if you are hoping for a short or easy-going conversation with him. He shared with us the fact that there were so many people who do not know Jesus in the KC Northland and that the population keeps skyrocketing, but the number of churches has remained stagnant and church attendance in many faltering… In other words, we are losing the battle for God’s Kingdom… But that more people come to Christ exponentially quicker through new churches than they do through established ones. I could tell he was broken hearted over it – something had changed in my heart too… In retrospect, I believe that I walked away from that breakfast knowing deep down that someday I was going to be involved in a church plant, somehow, someway… but not yet (or so I thought).

From that day I began thinking and praying about church planting consistently… in actuality it became a full-time obsession for me… I thought about it several times a day, every day, for hours at a time. The classes I was taking in seminary only fueled the fire more and more! I became massively discontented with how many established churches naturally become more and more inwardly focused, lose their passion to reach people who are far from God and therefore become less and less effective at fulfilling the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) – don’t get me wrong… this is not a blanket statement saying ALL established churches are poor at reaching people for Jesus, but if they are going to be successful at it, they will have to fight the natural tendency to focus inwardly. I knew that I didn’t want to spin my wheels trying to fight to get a church to bust out of a rut that had been established for who knows how long – that kind of change tends to step on a lot of toes and I don’t naturally gravitate toward the type of confrontation that would require… I realized God shaped me more to begin something new. We kept praying and keeping in touch with Michael, who did a lot of listening and questioning without pushing…

God was working on Andrea too… and by mid-summer we were both on the same page – God was definitely calling us to plant a church… sometime… somewhere… but we didn’t have a clue where or when. We weren’t sure if He wanted me to first pastor somewhere at an established church to “get my feet wet”… All along I was getting more and more restless about getting going on what I sensed deeply God had called me to… But where and how? We knew nothing about planting a new church. Michael said that when we decided to make the move he’d love to help us in any way he could – including allowing me to serve in his church as a church planting intern so that he could take me under his wing and show me the ropes.

About that same time, I started getting more and more home-sick for Kansas City. We had had several opportunities to visit back there and each time it still felt homey… Remember, we still LOVED Oklahoma, but there was definitely a tugging in our hearts over Kansas City. However, we couldn’t imagine going there to plant a new work because we didn’t want to “compete” with Glenwood or Fellowship of Grace. I expressed this to Michael and he chuckled a little… He said that we ARE in a competition, not with any other church, but with everything that distracts people from connecting with God in the fellowship of a local church. Furthermore, he said he wouldn’t care if I planted a church right across the street from his church because he knew that there are people our church would reach that he wouldn’t be able to and vice versa.

It was settled… we were going to KC and we were going to intern with Michael, but we still believed that would be a few years down the road. Then, around September of 2011, Michael dropped a bomb on us… He said that he was planning on leading his church to begin being a church that planted other churches and trained pastors to be planters and… he would very much like it if God would see fit for us to be the first couple that they trained, and by the way… they’d like to get started January 1, 2012!

That rocked our world and started us in a praying frenzy… My ministry was going really well… Andrea loved her job… the kids were doing awesome in school and we had really close friends in El Reno that we didn’t want to leave… The housing market stank and the job market in Kansas City was horrible (I know several folk who have been out of work for years)… If it was going to be it was going to have to be God.

In early October, we communicated to Burge, Heaston’s pastor, that this was what God was calling us to and he was overwhelmingly supportive assuring us that the church would allow us to search for work and housing in KC while maintaining our ministries at Heaston – it didn’t take long for God to move. I found a job within a couple of weeks of looking (I actually had a choice between two jobs) and we sold our house without ever putting it on the market. We also found new housing in KC where the mortgage was over $200/month less than we were paying in Oklahoma! Also, Heaston (and several families therein) caught the vision for the need for a new church plant in Kansas City and are helping support us as domestic missionaries as we lay the ground work for a new church and get it up and running.

All of the Barnes family relocated from Oklahoma to Kansas City and attended Fellowship of Grace for the first time on January 1, 2012. We have been interning with Michael since then laying the practical and philosophical ground work necessary for the plant to be a success… But now the time has come where we are ready to go public. We are trusting God to help us establish a new church in the Kansas City Northland that focuses on ministering to families.

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To that end, we are actively seeking partners to participate in our launch in one of 4 ways: 1) Prayer support; 2) Financial support; 3) Joining the Launch Team; 4) Joining as a short-term missionary… Please check us out at www.LegacyChurchKC.org and contact us at https://www.facebook.com/#!/legacychurchkc to hear our vision for reaching Kansas City for Jesus!

Mourning the Death of Osama Bin Laden…


If you’ve read this blog at all you know that we are not fans of any religion or worldview that sets itself up against the God of the Bible. Nor do we back down from honest and straightforward debate with proponents of those worldviews.  I’m also not a fan of heinous acts perpetrated against our great nation and her people.  So it will probably surprise you that I have been grieved over the last few days by the death of Osama Bin Laden and I have been doubly heart-broken over the reaction the majority of our nation has had over this news.  Before you even think it, let me say that doesn’t make me a Muslim sympathizer and it makes me no less patriotic.

Look, let me explain:  I’m not saying that justice wasn’t served… because it was.  Nor am I claiming that he didn’t bring it upon himself… because he did.  And I’m definitely not saying that he shouldn’t have been stopped and dealt with… because he absolutely 100% needed to be.

What’s got my heart hurting is the fact that there is one more soul whose fate is sealed to be eternally separated from the loving God of this universe in a horrible place called Hell and people are rejoicing over it.  Regardless of what people may claim or wish or pretend, or what Rob Bell may imply, Hell is very real… it is very bad… and it is eternal.  So much so, I’d not wish it on my worst enemy – Even Osama Bin Laden… Even Hitler… Even the people who have directly, personally and deeply wounded me (both intentionally and unintentionally).

Again, please don’t misunderstand me here…  I am NOT a fan of Bin Laden… I detest and denounce what he has done… He was evil to the core and I realize the chances of him ever accepting Christ were slim to none… Well, given recent events, Slim is permanently out of town, so the chances are obviously zero now. But we have condemned Osama for his blatant disregard for the value on human life, but yet, by rejoicing his death aren’t we doing the same?

Some of you may call me a hypocrite because I am a proponent of capital punishment… And I definitely believe that Bin Laden should have been put to death (and unlike Mendenhall I do believe we have all the info we need to condemn Bin Laden’s actions and he would have undoubtedly been convicted had he made it to court)…. What I’m saying is that we need not rejoice over it.  There are often things that NEED to be done, but which should give us no pleasure in the doing of them… Burying the dead, disciplining your children, complicated and painful (but life-saving) surgery, chemo-therapy, etc. are all examples of things that have to be done that no sane person should rejoice over.  In fact, that last one may be the best example… Killing Bin Laden was chemo-therapy – it eliminated a cancer that needed to be dealt with, but is it cause for jubilant celebration? I submit to you no, it is not.

Consider this… 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.”  That “everyone” includes people we’d rather not have existed… Hitler… Stalin… Bin Laden… child abusers… rapists… your ex… EVERYONE.  Further food for thought is Ezekiel 33:11 which says, “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’”

Does that mean everyone will believe and or that everyone will enter into Heaven? By no means, (God speaks about punishing the wicked in the Ezekiel verse – sorry Rob Bell, both God’s Love AND His Justice wins) but it does mean that we should value human life and desire, like God does that everyone come to know him… It means that we need to tell people about the good news of Jesus Christ… and it means we should grieve when people die without Him – even people as evil as Osama Bin Laden.  We need to love and pray for people as long as we and they are alive and let the Lord sort it out when we’re all dead (cf. Romans 12:19)… In fact Jesus Himself said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:43-45).

Getting to that place is hard… and it will require a revolution in thinking… but let me ask you this:  Can you bring yourself to care more about the Kingdom of God than the good ol’, US of A?  That’s where I believe God is leading me… How about you?

So yes, I grieve for Osama Bin Laden… as well as all who die without knowing Jesus. Do you?

Is the Bible Relevant for Today?


On Sunday I had the opportunity to preach in the senior pastor’s absence (to hear the sermon CLICK HERE).  The topic God laid on my heart to speak on was His Word.  I didn’t produce a manuscript of this sermon, and I’m going to mostly give you the basic bullet points with some explanatory material, but I encourage you to study this out for yourself and see what God reveals to you about the importance of His Word.

As Christians, we need to come to grips with the fact that the Word of God is Amazingly Wonderful and a Priceless Gift.  It is worthy of our time, study, reverence and effort to defend it.  Many people would like to dismiss the Bible as culturally irrelevant or antiquated… they’d like you to believe that there are errors or unresolvable difficulties or perceived contradictions.  But our view of Scripture is a pretty good indication of our spiritual health… You see there are a few truths about God’s Word that we need to let sink in… Understanding and believing these truths is fairly essential to the Christian life.

  • Scripture is The Word of God and because Jesus is called the Word in John 1 it can be thought of as synonymous with God.  In other Words, you cannot separate God from His Word or His Word from God… It is the primary method He has chosen to reveal His character to us (as well as all the truth we know about Him). – John 1
  • It is Beneficial and Useful to us to show us how to live life correctly. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
  • The Word of God is Trustworthy and Permanent – Psalm 119:89, 160
  • The Word of God brings Blessing, Joy, Peace and Fellowship with God – Psalm 119:1-8, 165

You see, God’s word is SO wonderful it cannot be summed up by calling it just a good book nor can we describe it with just one analogy.  In fact the Bible uses at least 14 different metaphors to describe Itself and each one of these tells us a little more about its benefits and uses in our lives.  Let’s briefly look at each of these… As you do, ask God to open your heart and mind to just how awesome His Word is and to reveal to you how you might better let it revolutionize your life!

The Word of God is Like:

  • A Lamp and a Light – It leads us to Christ (Rom. 10:17; 2 Tim 3:15); It reveals God’s will (Romans 12:2); It directs us in the way we should go (Psalm 119:105).
  • Bedrock – It is solid ground upon which to build our lives (Psalm 19:9, 119:98-102; Luke 6:46-48)
  • Water – It refreshes us (Psalm 19:7); It cleanses us (Eph 5:25-27); It helps us grow (Psalm 1:1-3)
  • A Warning – It reveals the consequences of sin and benefits of obedience (Psalm 19:11)
  • A Fire – It refines us by burning away unnecessary impurities (Psalm 119:9-11, 36-37; Jeremiah 23:29; 1 Peter 1:22)
  • A Hammer – It breaks the hardness of our hearts and shapes our lives (Psalm 119:75; Jeremiah 23:29)… I don’t think that it’s any coincidence that the metaphors of fire and a hammer are used in the same verse.  Think of a Blacksmith here and how he would heat up metal and then beat it into shape so that it will be more useful and valuable… God often uses affliction to do that to us, but in the end we are much shinier and more useful, are we not?
  • A Sword – It convicts us and frees us of sin  (Psalm 19:13, 119:45, 133; Hebrews 4:12); It is mighty in spiritual warfare and defending the faith (2 Corinthians 10:4; Ephesians 6:17).
  • A Mirror – It reveals the things in our lives that are incompatible with God’s Holiness (Psalm 19:12, 119:59; James 1:22-25)… Nobody looks in an actual mirror and sees that they are a terrible mess (hair, clothes, teeth, make-up, etc.) and then just goes on as if everything is fine!  Instead they fix what’s messed up before going to out or to work or school.
  • A Shield – It is a refuge in times of trouble that protects our lives and integrity… About 25% of the verses in Psalm 119 have to do w/ affliction and/or persecution. In fact, throughout the Bible we are told that following God will result in persecution and other troubles (cf. Rev. 1:9, 6:9, 20:4)… But where we turn for help and refuge in times of trouble reveals a lot about our character… Psalm 119:114 tells us that God (and His Word) should be our refuge and shield; and we should put our hope in His Word. (see also Psalm 119:39, 67, 71)
  • A Companion/Counselor – It gives comfort in times of need and provides wisdom, training and understanding, training (Psalm 19:7, 119:24, 92, 156; 2 Timothy 3:16-17)
  • A Song – It permeates our hearts and minds with Joy (Psalm 119:54)… Have you ever had a great song stuck in your head and it just made your day???  This is the idea here – Get God’s Word stuck in your head!
  • Honey – It is so sweet we begin to crave it and it makes sin repugnant and bitter by comparison (Psalm 19:10, 119:103-104)
  • A Heritage – It is a valuable sign of son-ship and it is worthy to be passed on (Psalm 119:111; 2 Timothy 3:14-17)
  • A Treasure/Gold – People chase after money and what it provides with extreme intensity… In comparing His Word favorably against money, treasure, plunder and Gold, God is saying it is to be pursued and valued over everything else (Psalm 19:10, 119:72, 127, 162)

Psalm 119 is the central and longest chapter in the Bible… and it is appropriate that it is dedicated to God’s word… Perhaps this is a little symbolic of the fact that it should take a central role in our lives as well… Indeed, the Psalmist loved God’s Word so much that he took the painstaking effort to write a poem dedicated to God’s Word where he took all 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet and wrote eight line sections for each where each line started with that section’s letter… Okay, so, how do we know we really treasure God’s Word like the Psalmist did? By getting a tight 5-Finger grasp on it:

  • Finger 1:  Hear It – Psalm 122:1; Romans 10:17; James 1:22
  • Finger 2:  Reading and Studying It – Psalm 119:82; Acts 17:11
  • Finger 3:  Memorizing and Meditating upon It – Psalm 119:11, 15, 97-99, 148
  • Finger 4:  Obeying, Sharing and Defending It – Psalm 19:11-14, 119:13, 139; Romans 10:14-15; James 1:22; 1 Peter 3:15
  • Thumb:  Desiring it and Delighting in It – Psalm 19:8, 119… As we put fingers 1-4 into practice then the thumb should naturally follow.

So, you don’t have a 5-finger grasp on God’s Word?  Maybe you don’t desire and delight in it as much as you’d like… Well, Psalm 119 may be informative on this as well.  See, this is amazing poem is not just a pneumonic device for learning stuff about God’s Word – it is a prayer for a deeper love and appreciation of Scripture, and it’s a prayer we could all stand to pray on a more regular basis.

Does Mere Christianity really represent Christianity?


Mere Christianity or Mere bunk?

In our 2011 Challenge we encouraged our readers to try their hand at reading and digesting a Christian book.  I recently read and reviewed C. S Lewis’  Mere Christianity (San Francisco:  Harper Collins, 1952, 1980. Pp. 227) for a class I took at Luther Rice Seminary and thought I’d share my thoughts with you here:

Sociologists have observed that the United States has lagged behind, or followed, the socio-political and cultural trends of Europe.  At times, in terms of things like fashion, for example, the lag-time is rather short, whereas in more foundational issues such as cultural and political trends, the time gap between progressive Europe and the more conservative America is quite broad.  This helps explain why a book that was written from radio-broadcasts given in Great Brittan during the 1940’s is still relevant in America today.  C. S. Lewis agreed to give the radio-talks, which were later edited and compiled as the book Mere Christianity (Click Here for a link to this book on Amazon.com), to explain and defend the Christian faith to a war-torn country “which had come to consider itself part of a ‘post-Christian’ world” (p. XIX).  Following that European trend, America is becoming increasingly post-Christian as well.  Mere Christianity has become a foundational classic in the field of apologetics. It has helped shape the way both apologists and Christians in general think and speak and set the standard for defending Christianity to a “post-Modern” or “post-Christian” world.  It is oft quoted by other apologists in their works; it has been used by others as a tool for thoughtful dialog with atheists and has served to strengthen the faith of Christians who have been confronted with their own doubts or by questions raised by atheistic family, friends and acquaintances.  Though it is not without its imperfections and some of the language, examples and illustrations given by Lewis are a bit out-dated, it is still useful for these purposes today.

C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) taught at Oxford then later at Cambridge, where he was the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance English.  He was a prolific writer, credited with authoring more than thirty books including:  The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screw-tape Letters, and works such as Reflections on the Psalms.  Lewis’ understanding of literature, language and popular culture, as well as his high intellect and background as a staunch atheist, uniquely qualify him to produce this pioneering work.  He wanted to tell his country “in basic terms what the religion [Christianity] was all about” (p. XIX) not to “convert anyone to [his] own position” (p. VIII) but to help them understand Christianity’s reasonableness over other belief systems, including atheism.  Indeed, because he was formerly an atheist, Lewis was able to articulate and answer many of their common objections to Christianity in a gentle, respectful and convincing manner.  Additionally, Lewis felt being a layman helped him to better relay the basic tenants of Christianity to unbelievers in a more commonly understood way than a highly trained theologian (who may be tempted to expound upon issues that divide various Christian sects).

Lewis originally organized this book into three parts that reflected the formatting of the radio broadcasts.  In fact, the original work included contractions and italics designed to reproduce the conversational feel of the radio programs as much as possible.  The current revised and amplified edition still tries to maintain a “‘popular’ or ‘familiar’ tone” (p. VII) which allows Lewis’ logical case to shine through without the cumbrance of highly technical language. 

The book is now arranged into four sections that progressively take the reader on a journey of faith opening with the contention that there is such a thing as an absolute Moral Law that must originate from something outside this universe.  Lewis goes on to make the case that it is most reasonable to identify the origin of that Moral Law as the Trinitarian God of the Bible.  He used this foundation to demonstrate the need for man’s redemption to God through Jesus Christ.  Building off these notions, Lewis explains morality from a Christian perspective in the next “book”, and concludes that section with a description of what it means to truly have faith.  Lewis closes with a theological section that attempts to describe “what God is and what He has done” (p. 187) and how Christians should respond to that by becoming new creatures – something Lewis describes as being beyond human. The progression of his arguments throughout is logical and convincing and probably to the truly open inquirer, quite convicting.  It is likely that God has used this work to bring a great multitude of souls into His kingdom. 

This work is first and foremost an apologetic treatise.  Even though the final “book” seems more designed for one who has already made a decision to believe, the entire work contains a good amount of apologetic material.  It seems as though Lewis was doing his best to gently and respectfully walk people through a journey from ignorant unbelief to a reasoned understanding of Christianity that culminates in one placing their faith in Jesus and then living for Him – to put it in his terms, he is hoping that people will move from Bios (Biological life) to Zoe (Spiritual life) (p. 159, 177).  He goes about this by presenting a progressive, comprehensive and “common” view of Christianity.

In the preface Lewis stated that he wished “to explain and defend the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times” (p. VIII), but he strays from that goal as there are a few ideas that are expressly stated and others that are merely alluded to which many evangelicals would say at least partially depart from orthodox evangelical Christianity.  Some of these departures are perhaps caused by Lewis’ desire to present a universal or non-sectarian picture of Christianity while others are undoubtedly due to Lewis’ personal convictions. Either way, however, these notions that may even be viewed by some as heresy certainly do not represent the “common” Christian faith Lewis professed to be aiming to present.

One area where Lewis deviates from traditional-orthodox Christianity is that he betrays a belief in Darwinian evolution throughout.  Because Darwin proposed his theories in the 1800’s that cannot be a view held by Christians “at all times” (p. VIII).  Additionally, this view of creation undercuts a trust in biblical inerrancy, which is a core value shared by conservative-evangelical Christians.  It also seems that Lewis alludes to the doctrine of purgatory when he speaks of an “inconceivable purification… after death” (p. 202). This doctrine, of course, has been rejected by most protestant denominations and is a key point in one’s soteriology.  Lewis also seems to err in his soteriology by implying that one must clean themselves up prior to coming to faith in Christ when he said, “it is impossible for Him to show Himself to a man whose whole mind and character are in the wrong direction” (p164).  The final doctrinal error Lewis apparently held to is that he seemed to be at least partially an inclusionist. He said, “There are people in other religions who… belong to Christ without knowing it” (p. 209) – This is untenable from a “common” Christian perspective.

In spite of the teachings that are not common to all Christianity and/or are incompatible with traditional orthodoxy, there are several subjects where Lewis’ arguments are matchless.  Possibly the most useful of these from an apologetic sense is Lewis’ defense of Jesus’ deity (either He is a liar, a lunatic or Lord) (p. 52).  This is followed closely in importance by his convincing argument that our common sense of morality is strong evidence for the existence of the God revealed in the Bible.  Mere Christianity also begins a good preliminary discussion on the problem of evil (as Lewis presents the similarities between Christianity and classic dualism), and it contains an excellent response to atheistic objections that are rooted in the perceived hypocrisy of Christians.  These philosophical gems make wading through the theological problems and the difficulties created by the difference in time and culture well worth the effort.

The brilliance and impact of Mere Christianity cannot be denied; it is indeed a classic which has helped shape the standard for apologetics to post-Modern non-Christians, particularly with the issues listed above.  However, this work is far from the inerrant and inspired Word of God.  In fact, there are several significant topics in which Lewis does not hold to conservative evangelical Christianity.  If one just scans the table of contents they may be tempted to rely upon this book as a layman’s systematic theological handbook, but because of these issues, those wishing to fully understand orthodox Christianity should avoid employing Mere Christianity for that purpose.  Instead, one should learn to utilize the theologically sound arguments contained in this work as part of a more comprehensive apologetics repertoire, so that they may gently and respectfully “give an answer to everyone who asks [them] to give the reason for the hope that [they] have” (1 Peter 3:15).

TGIF?


Today was the day...

This is a post we wrote on Good Friday Last year… Thought you may enjoy reading it again and reflecting upon just exactly what Jesus did for you… If there is any significance in the shape of Laminin, this event is the reason why.  More Easter-themed posts will be up tomorrow and Sunday.

Thank God it’s Friday? Not for these guys… Not today.  This day held more anguish, pain, panic and despair than all the days from the beginning of time combined…  Today was so indescribably bad because it was such a stark contrast with the highs they had experienced over the last 3 ½ years – especially this last week – even earlier last evening had been intimate, festive, warm and safe!

Not now… Now He was gone and they were scattered – scurrying like roaches when the lights come on, because… HE… was… DEAD… And Hope was no more.

Let me explain by backing up a bit. For centuries their people had been waiting – waiting for a man sent from God who would make everything right… A man who would restore all things to the way they should be – one who would rebuild the bridge to God that we had broken so long ago… one who would bring Freedom to the captive… Hope to the desperate… and Love to all.

This waiting wasn’t just wishful thinking. Scriptures spoke about Him over and over and over… on every line of every page.

Now He was here! They were absolutely 100% sure of it! He was born into the right family, in the right town at the right time… He was there when they most needed Him and He was doing all the things Scripture said He would! They said He would be a prophet, and He boldly taught about God’s Kingdom and fearlessly spoke of the future. The prophets said He would be a healer, and they had seen Him give sight to the blind, restore strength to the cripple, open the ears of the deaf… even raise 3 people from the dead!

But He wasn’t just any prophet… and He wasn’t a typical physician, nor was He a magician. This one had a power and air of authority they could not explain.  For goodness sakes, evil spirits and even the elements obeyed His voice!

Earlier that week, as they entered the city for the festival, people flooded the winding road that lead down the hill through a garden full of olive trees. They screamed out His name! They just knew NOW was the time He would set the wheels in motion to take His rightful place – to become King! But they didn’t understand that on this day when families across the nation would choose their sacrificial lamb, HE, the Promised One, was presenting Himself as the only sacrifice that would be needed… EVER!

That night, they retired to an adjacent town to spend time with friends – It was an exciting day and a restful and refreshing evening. The next day as they made their way into the city He cursed a tree for having no fruit… this was just a precursor to the events later that day… Oh, how encouraged they were as they watched Him enter the religious center of the nation and clean house… He drove out the corrupt merchants who were using the people’s religious hopes as an excuse to turn an unfair profit… and then He healed the sick there… The people were amazed, grateful and sang out His praises, but the leaders were enraged… His followers could scarcely contain their joy – the revolution MUST be beginning!

After another wonderful evening with their gracious hosts, they returned to the city to find the cursed tree was dead – What power! What a King! That day, they spent quite a while with Him on a special mountain overlooking the metropolis. He spoke about the coming destruction of the city – Could it mean that He was planning on mounting a rebellion against their oppressors? Could it be now?! They could only assume they would play central roles in the coming new order… They knew it was coming because they were confident in His right to rule and His power and authority to make it happen! They also knew that they, His chosen few, would get the privilege to eat with Him at a very special occasion tomorrow!

They did share that meal with Him… but before that He washed their feet – to them, it was like being knighted – What an honor and pleasure to be so favored by this soon to be crowned King. During dinner He prayed for them and made them new promises of how God would see and relate to them. They were confident in Him and His promise, but there was an air of sorrow in His voice and a look of grief in His eyes.

After the meal, they went back to the olive grove where He had spoken of the city’s destruction the day before – this time they went to pray. Then, one of their own, one they had hardly noticed had left during supper, showed up with a troupe of men armed with weapons and torches. As their friend greeted Him with a kiss, the guards seized their Lord!

What could be happening?!?! Chaos and panic set in… One of His followers drew a sword and cut off a guard’s ear. But the Master demanded they stop, and He even healed the man – Why was He letting this happen? The group of soldiers moved to arrest them all, but everyone but Him ran… one only escaped by slipping out of his clothing!

They could not understand; their heads were spinning! Through the fog of adrenaline and fear each of them did their best to lay low while keeping tabs on what was happening to Him – He had to be okay… How could they go on without Him?

He was put through trials by several religious and political figures. A few of the trials were illegal… all of them were rigged – they were shams. None of the inquisitions showed a shred of evidence proving Him guilty of ANY wrong doing – Yet, through it all He was punished and tortured and beaten to the point one could no longer tell He was even human. Then, the people who earlier had cried out His name in triumph shouted for His execution!

They marched Him naked through the streets forcing Him to carry His own instrument of death. But, as they were slowly killing Him, He begged God to pardon them. As He breathed His last, the sky darkened, the earth shook, the temple was damaged and the hearts of His followers melted and their hopes evaporated into mist… Sorrow reigned.

The next day’s headlines would not sing to the world the news they had hoped: A NEW REIGN AND RENEWED FREEDOM. Instead, they would be replaced by an obituary:

At the age of 33. Jesus Christ, of Nazareth, King of the Jews, has passed. He died outside Jerusalem on Golgotha by crucifixion – Executed by the Romans at the request of the Sanhedrin for treason against Caesar and spreading subversion throughout the land. Death was confirmed by spear thrust through the heart. He was born in Bethlehem during the reign of Herod the Great. He spent His early life as a carpenter, but gained fame in recent years as an itinerant rabbi. The body is being held in the tomb of a friend, under Roman guard. Funeral services and body preparation are scheduled for after the Sabbath. He leaves behind a grieving mother, Mary; a Father, God… and many followers whose dreams were shattered, whose expectations were crushed and whose optimism was gone…

All because He… was… DEAD…

Forget the Technicolor Dream Coat… What do we REALLY learn from Joseph?


If you’ve ever been to Sunday school or if you’re an Andrew Lloyd Weber fan, you are probably familiar with the Old Testament story of Joseph… You know, the favorite

Just a musical? Think again

son of Jacob, who at age 17 flaunted that he’d dreamed that his family would bow down to him one day. The one with the awesome (Technicolor) tunic… The one who had brothers that wanted to kill, but sold him into slavery to Egypt instead.  And when he got to Egypt, his master found out that he was quite a good administrator (because he was favored by God)… BUT he was thrown into prison because he rejected his master’s wife’s “advances” and she lied about who assaulted who… Then in prison, his administrative skills shine through again and he is placed in charge of the whole facility and then, one day, interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s baker and butler (one with good news – the other with bad), only to be forgotten by his new-found “friend”.  But when Pharaoh dreamed a couple of “funky” dreams, Joseph is called upon to interpret them… The news:  That the region was going to have 7 years of plenty followed by 7 years of devastating famine and that Pharaoh needed to get ready… Well, Pharaoh did get ready by placing Joseph in charge of the preparations and making him second in command over all of Egypt.  When the famine hit they were able to sustain the lives of everyone around including the treacherous brothers who came calling for food, but didn’t recognize their dear bro, Joe… Well, after a series of tests Joseph reveals himself to his family, reunites with them (including dear old dad) and sets them up for prosperity for the foreseeable future, by getting them jobs and homes in the lushest part of the land…

If you are unfamiliar with the story, let me encourage you to watch the musical (one of my personal favorites), or better yet read all about it in Genesis 37, 39-50.

But simply recounting the story isn’t my goal here (nor was it my goal when I preached on this yesterday).  Instead, let’s briefly look at what can be learned from this amazing story.

The way I (and others before me) see it, there are three basic over-arching lessons we can learn from the life of Joseph… Depending on their particular theological bent (Calvinist or Arminian), most protestants will find themselves gravitating toward either the first or the third of these lessons… But I believe that the truth lies somewhere between these two extreme positions and it is the second lesson that brings balance to the issue… I think it’s so cool how God has chosen to demonstrate this truth at the very beginning of the Bible – I wish more of us would recognize that and bring more balance to our theological grids and be more gracious and loving and cooperative with each other (but that, perhaps, is an argument for another day).

The first lesson we see in Joseph’s life is that God is in Control – at ALL Times & in ALL Circumstances (cf. Genesis 45:5 and 50:20). This is true even when things make little to no sense to us… When you’re brothers beat you up and sell you into slavery… When you’re boss’ wife makes passes at you and then cries “rape” when you reject her advances… When you are forgotten and rejected by the one to whom you did that huge favor… When you don’t know how you’re going to take care of your family… When you’re company down sizes… When you have to tolerate a boss that is unreasonable… When you unexpectedly lose a loved one… When disease strikes your family… When the national and global economy seems to be swirling down the drain… When you’re surfing and get your left arm bitten off by a shark!!! 100% of the time God is in control, He is sovereign. His ultimate plans will not be overthrown – He already is the victor over sin, death, Satan and demons and anything else that would dare to rebel against Him.  What’s awesome about this is that if we are His child then we too have been made more than conquerors with Him!

Why are we able to share in His victory and rest in His sovereignty?  Because of the second and most pivotal lesson:  He really does Love us – and always will no matter what it looks like (cf. John 3:16, 1 John 3:1 and Romans 8:37-39).  God cares for us not only as friends, but as His children… and He is NOT a dead-beat dad or disengaged father! He loves us immeasurably and perfectly and wants what’s best for us (even if that creates a great amount of pain and anguish for a season).  He wants to see us grow and He wants us to reflect His glory and share in His Kingdom, but to do that, we’ve got to be with Him in the fight!

That brings us to our third lesson: Our Choices Matter – Because God wants to use us (cf. Joshua 24:15; Romans 12:1-2). Because of the personal cost, many don’t want to join with God or be a part of His family, others who are on His team try to stay on the side-lines as much as they can… They’d rather bop along doing their own thing while giving deference and “worship” to Him once a week (or less) and the rest of their lives they act as if there is no God… This is much the same as was the case with Joseph’s family and this path has devastating consequences.  I told my church yesterday that because of God’s love and faithfulness, He was going to get Joseph (or someone else) down to Egypt to preserve the family (so that He could keep His promise to Abraham), but because of the horrible choices on everybody’s part (Joseph’s early arrogance, the brother’s jealousy and deceitfulness, Jacob’s favoritism, Potiphar’s wife’s lust, Potiphar’s indiscretion and lack of justice, etc.) Joseph was forced to travel just about the most painful road possible to save many lives and preserve God’s promise.  There are several points in the story where Joseph’s suffering could have been short-circuited had someone made a better choice, but they never did until the end.

You might be thinking, well, that stinks for Joseph, and those are nice lessons, but how do I apply them today?  First and foremost, we must Love Him and Trust Him with our whole lives (Past, Present and Future – Heart, Mind,  Body, Soul) (cf. Mark 12:30 and Proverbs 3:5-6)! Much like Bethany Hamilton did when faced with horrific tragedy (her wonderful story of faith and purpose is retold in the new movie Soul Surfer).

We then demonstrate our Love for Him through making right choices (unlike much of Joseph’s family and “friends”).  Of course, the first right choice, after we have trusted Jesus with our lives, is to choose to obey Him (cf. 1 John 5:2-4)! The next choice is also a matter of obedience to Him and that is to love other people (even the ones who are hard to love) (cf. Mark 12:29-31 & 1 John 4:7-8, 20-21)… and part of loving them is to forgive them when they fail you (even if that has massively painful consequences for you – cf. Colossians 3:13) – We see this played out beautifully in Joseph’s life when he forgave his brothers and chose to continue to walk in that forgiveness even after their father had died… I know that is no easy task.  In fact, CS Lewis once said “There is no use in talking as if forgiveness were easy… For we find that the work of forgiveness has to be done over and over again. We forgive, we mortify our resentment; a week later some chain of thought carries us back to the original offense and we discover the old resentment blazing away as if nothing had been done about it at all. We need to forgive our brother seventy times seven not only for 490 offenses but for one.

It’s never easy, but desperately needed because when we get on board with God’s program things far more amazing than a Technicolor Dream Coat happen!  Like, He will work out all circumstances for our good and for His Glory (cf. Romans 8:28)! Also, our hearts will start to change from unfulfilling selfishness to a life that overflows with our hearts’ desires… IF what we most love is Him and what we most desire is what He loves and desires (cf. 1 John 3:21-24)!

So, I guess what both stories (Joseph and Bethany Hamilton) boil down to is this: Because of His sovereignty and love, God is worthy of our trust and our Praise and our adoration, even when things don’t make any sense, and we get to choose to give it to Him!

The Mark of a Champion: Turning Disappointment into Victory


I recently wrote a post about the so called “problem of evil” and how Christians should view it.  Well, as a youth pastor I get to see this played out in varying degrees in my ministry.  Sometimes people respond to challenges well, sometimes they don’t.  Today, I thought I’d try to encourage you by telling you a quick story of a young man in my youth group who is handling some adversity remarkably well.  Now, this adversity isn’t like facing cancer or the death of a loved one or anything like that, but it is still a big deal for him at this time in his life.

This student comes from a family of VERY talented wrestlers (one cousin was a 3 time state champ and another one was 4 time state champ… His daddy was also a great wrestler and is now one of the coaches in our area).  So, safe to say, wrestling is in his blood… It’s been his long-time dream to be a 4 time state champ as well – a dream that not only seemed possible, but quite likely as at the beginning of the season the main newspaper in our state picked him as a favorite for his weight class…  All that changed one tournament at the very beginning of the season when he was severely injured by an illegal move.

Of course, his parents sought out the best medical care they could find, but he kept getting mixed messages from the doctors – the reality was they couldn’t be sure how quick he could recover from the injury and as the season progressed it became more and more doubtful that he would be able to get in enough mat time to seriously challenge for state (if he got to wrestle this season at all). 

Did God want him to suffer this injury?  Was He using the evil of the blatantly illegal move and the injury that resulted to produce some greater good in this young man’s life? As we’ve seen from previous discussions, God does not cause evil in our lives to serve His purposes (God is Holy and thus wholly innocent of all evil)… However, He is also sovereign and thus any random and pointless evil/adversity that affects our lives is ultimately allowed by Him… James 1 and Romans 5 both tell us to rejoice or glory in suffering and trials – Why??? Because trials offer us an opportunity to “test our faith.”  They reveal what we really believe about God and ourselves… There are 2 basic choices every time we face difficulties: Become Better OR Become Bitter. 

We Become Better when we rely upon God to sustain and comfort us – He then can take the lemon-ness of the bad circumstances and help us turn it into something resembling lemonade (though the lemonade may still be fairly sour) – He does this by helping us grow in our perseverance (James 1), by giving us an opportunity to know and trust Him more and increase our Hope (Romans 5), and by opening the door to be a comfort and witness to those around us (2 Corinthians 1).

We Become Bitter when we allow ourselves to wallow in self-pity… when we let a natural sense of anger against the situation (and maybe even God) cause us to hold a grudge against Him… when we focus on the circumstance and/or its adverse affects and try to lay blame on everyone and everything else because of them.

Though there was much discouraging news and times of deep disappointment this freshman strove to keep pressing on and, even more so, to keep his mind focused on the right perspective:  Through the encouragement of his mom, he kept asking, “What can I learn from all this? What do I NEED to learn?”  He petitioned the elders of our church to pray over him (cf. James 5:13-16) – but not just for healing, but that he would maintain a righteous example for those around him – It was a very powerful time and no one left the room untouched by the Spirit of God.

Well, the healing didn’t come as quick as anyone would have hoped for… He still struggled through therapy and rehab and wasn’t released for even light work-outs until just a couple of weeks ago… Then, he was allowed to wrestle with the JV and took 2nd in his only JV tournament just last week – which is a major disappointment for someone who was previously picked to win state, especially since it was so close to the tournament he has to place in to qualify for state… Still, though, he has been relying upon God and striving to keep a positive outlook and a live as a solid example of faith.

Tomorrow this upstanding teenager is going to wrestle in regionals (the qualifying tournament for state) in his first varsity action since the injury… and He is going into it hoping to display aspects of Zechariah 4:6-7:  To compete – Not by might nor by power, but by the Spirit of the LORD Almighty… He will attempt to level a very large mountain for the Glory of God.

In my humble opinion it doesn’t matter if he loses every match tomorrow… This is because in light of how he continues to handle himself, he is already a champ in God’s eyes… and mine!

The Challenger 25 Years Later: Responding to Tragedy


I was reminded that the Challenger exploded 25 years ago today… That means that 25 years ago I was a naïve and immature 10 year old trying to deal with the shock and awe of the tragedy by sitting around cracking stupid and insensitive “Challenger Jokes” in Mrs. Hoblitzel’s 5th grade class (no I won’t be repeating them here). It’s sobering and frankly quite embarrassing to think of how I behaved back then… but as is usual for me; “current” events have gotten me thinking theologically. Specifically today I’ve been thinking about how I’ve progressed throughout the years in responding to catastrophe.

Here’s the progression I’ve observed in myself – and I by no means want to claim I’ve cornered the market on how to appropriately respond to all tragedies – However, I’m hoping that as you read how I have in the past and am now currently responding to troublesome or “evil” events it will cause you to pause and consider what IS the proper response in light of who God is and our relationship to Him (throughout history, currently and in the future).  So, here goes (please keep in mind I’m not at all proud of these responses, but I think they will be helpful to our discussion):

Like I said above, when I was a kid I would respond to tragic events (and really pretty much most adversity I experienced) by either lashing out in anger and/or trying to defuse the impact by making light or making fun of the situation and/or the people involved.  So what if the nation was rocked by an unexpected and seemingly needless loss of life??? I was gonna have my laugh and try to get others to join along… The problem with this is that it was incredibly insensitive – it didn’t acknowledge the genuine pain people felt over the situation and it in no way considered God (and how HE felt about what happened).

As I grew into adolescence and young adulthood I slipped into a very jaded indifference… Sure, I’d put on a mask of concern and maybe even feign a little contrived and controlled outrage and sometimes I’d even revert back to the joke making… but inside, I really didn’t care. The two biggest examples I remember responding in this way were the Oklahoma City bombing and the OJ trial… Now, again, I have grown to deeply care about what happened in these (especially the OKC bombing), but back then my heart was very hard toward God and that translated in it being hard toward what He most cares about: people… My heart breaks in sorrow in how I used to think and feel, and now I am particularly grieved over the loss of life, especially when that life is one or more people who have not placed their faith and trust in Jesus.

As God got a hold of my attention and my heart I quickly transitioned into another and radically different response to personal, national and even global tragedy – I wanted to discover (and then proclaim) some “greater good” had and/or would come from it all. I was quick to fire out Romans 8:28 “All things work together for the good…” in an attempt to make sense of it all and out of a sincere motivation to comfort and build up those affected by various tragedies.

This is a view and a practice I’ve held to until just very recently… The three basic problems with this: 1) Verses such as Genesis 50:20, Job 1:21 and Romans 8:28 seem to be blanket statements promising some greater good, but when looked at carefully they are NOT actually blanket promises (we don’t have time to go into all the hermeneutics here, but read them for yourself in context and I think you will find me to be right); 2) If there is a “greater good” for a very visible tragedy for things to balance out wouldn’t the good also need to be visible and noticeably better than the evil event? (What is the visible “greater good” for the holocaust, the tsunami a few years back, Katrina, children being raped and brutally murdered, the OKC bombing, and 9/11?)  3) If God NEEDS these evil events in order for some greater scheme of His to come about, would that not make God guilty of and/or dependent upon evil? (I cannot in good conscience and will not charge God with evil – that is a theologically indefensible position and it would be plainly sinful (cf. Job 1:22 & 2:10).

So, how do I respond now? Well, first, I recognize that we live in a broken world – one that has been broken since Adam and Eve sinned. Because this world (including nature and culture) is broken and people’s relationships with one another, with themselves and with God are all broken bad stuff is bound to happen… This brokenness is the REASON for all the garbage that goes on, however, there doesn’t HAVE to be a PURPOSE for the evil (i.e. a “greater good” to be made out of it). Sometimes, out of His goodness, God will take a bad situation and make it better and/or bring some sort of good out of it – but He is under no obligation to do that 100% of the time (and He doesn’t) – sometimes, often even, bad stuff just happens and that’s it, period – no greater good occurs.

The second thing that I recognize is that sin and the evil it produces and has produced grieves God greatly.  The Bible tells us in no uncertain terms that we are to Cast all our anxiety on him because he cares for us (1 Peter  5:7). He sympathizes with us in our pain and He ready willing and able to comfort us in our sorrow and affliction. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 1: “our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”

The last thing that I remember (and this personally brings me the most comfort) is that we know with 100% certainty that God will one day make all things right – The curse will be reversed:  Evil and agents of evil will be dealt with, the perfection of the Garden of Eden will be restored, those who have accepted Him through faith will be able to have continual fellowship with God in His presence, the world will be made new, our bodies will be glorified, there will be no sickness, no sorrow, no pain, no death and no tears. He has already taken steps to make this future reality possible.  The story of how He has done that and is continuing to do so is the central theme of the Bible.

So, I guess what I’m driving at is the next time something shockingly bad (like Challenger, 9/11, the tsunami, OKC bombing, or something more personal) occurs, don’t joke about it, don’t blow it off as insignificant and don’t try to placate people with promises of some greater good… Instead, I would challenge you to point them to Christ, who wants to have a relationship with them, will one day make all things right and who can comfort them beyond measure with peace that passes understanding (cf. Philippians 4:5-9) in the here and now.

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First Amendment vs. Faith?


The newly elected Governor of Alabama, Robert Bentley, is coming under fire for some comments he made regarding his faith in the former church of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For context here’s what he said:

”I was elected as a Republican candidate. But once I became governor … I became theYou're not my brother.... governor of all the people. I intend to live up to that. I am color blind… There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit, but if you have been adopted in God’s family like I have, and like you have if you’re a Christian and if you’re saved, and the Holy Spirit lives within you just like the Holy Spirit lives within me, then you know what that makes? It makes you and me brothers. And it makes you and me brother and sister.  Now I will have to say that, if we don’t have the same daddy, we’re not brothers and sisters. So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister, and I want to be your brother.”

People are claiming that this alienates non-Christians… maybe it does…  After all, the scripture says, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18) and Galatians 5 calls the cross offensive… Jesus said that because the world hated Him they certainly would hate those who follow Him…

In Gov. Bentley’s defense, he made these comments in a church! And the comments themselves were very inclusive and loving. You may say they seem very much the opposite, but consider this: Noted atheist Penn Gillette pointed out in his video blog that he doesn’t respect Christians who will not try to evangelize… Because if they truly believe that there is a Hell why would they not want to spare someone from it… He himself said that if he urged someone to get out of the way of a bus they didn’t believe was bearing down on them there would come a time when he’d just push them out of the way… and if Heaven and Hell are real, the Christian message is much more important… (Click Here for this Vlog entry).

I respect Gov. Bentley for telling the truth and for saying it in an open, honest, and loving way (“I want to be your brother”).  As we’ve said before in this blog, we believe that your faith must permeate your whole life – Jesus doesn’t call us to compartmentalize our existence, He’s to be the center and purpose of everything. Bravo to Robert Bentley for following through with this regardless of the firestorm it started!

Will this affect his ability to govern well? Absolutely! However, I actually have much more confidence that he will be able to govern as he should now that he’s made these remarks than I would have had he not… Why? Because this same Jesus he boldly proclaimed in this speech as well as in his inaugural speech died out of love for all people… A man patterning his life after Christ’s example and seeking to be lead by the Holy Spirit will certainly be a good leader. I believe that Gov. Bentley is seeking just that… Here’s some other things he said on Monday:

“I am the governor of all of Alabama — Democrat, Republican and independent, young and old, black and white, rich and poor. My job is to make all of our lives better together.”

“You have heard me make this promise: I will not accept a paycheck until we reach a level of defined full employment… I challenge every elected official to join me in pledging to be a true public servant — a servant leader — for the people of our state… Jesus showed his disciples by example, that in order to be a great leader, you must first be a servant. And he demonstrated this, with the lowly act of washing the disciples’ feet. As public officials, now is not the time to be self-serving. It’s not the time to remain silent, inactive or apathetic. Now is the time for us to come together, take on the challenges we face and make life better for the people of our state.”

“The challenges are great, but as Mordecai told Esther as she placed her life in jeopardy to save our Jewish brethren, how do we know that we have not been placed here today for a time such as this?”

I hope and pray that Bentley will keep this type of humility and focus on Christ… it will make him a better leader… I also hope and pray, as a church leader, I will do the same… Follow Christ’s example, exude servant-leadership, love and work for others without being self serving and be bold about the Gospel… Lord, help more leaders rise up to do the same.

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