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

Category Archives: Gospel

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.

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.

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…

Dear whoever cares…


Yep...I root for these guys...

Please…allow me to lament for just a moment.  As I was watching Mizzou get trounced by Cincy in the first round of the tourney I thought to myself, isn’t that typical.  I mean after all why should any team that I actively root for want to go out on the floor and fight for a victory.  For that matter why should any team I root for even SNIFF a championship.  Think about this for a second.  The three major teams I pull for are Mizzou, the Chiefs, and (as much as I hate typing this) the Royals.  I know many of you who read this blog outside of Kansas City probably just spit out what ever you were drinking, or eating.  Stop laughing… It is true.  I root and pull for these perennial losing powerhouses. 

To be completely honest Mizzou does win more games than they lose.  But, and if you are a fan of Mizzou you can appreciate this, they always lose or choke away big games.  Anyone remember the Big 12 Championship game against Oklahoma?  I actually flew to San Antonio to watch that travesty under the delusion  we stood a chance.  How about Tyus Edney?  What about losing to NAVY!  Winning one road game in the Big 12 this year…really?  Not showing up in the Big 12 tourney?  Yes….I am the one dummy that actually picked them to beat Cincy.  Told you I was a homer.  I can count on Mizzou losing games that matter.  Always.

The Chiefs…what can I say about this team.  I bleed red and gold.  I can honestly say that I was at one of the last two playoff wins they had….in 1993.  This was the last real time I had any sense that we could actually win a championship…the AFC championship.  Since then…a decade of losing, blowing playoff games, and unfulfilled playoff expectations.  I have some sense of hope here…though I have been beaten into submission.  Show me some victories.

And then there is the Royals.  Anyone who knows ANYTHING about baseball knows the agony about rooting for this minor league team.  Every year we are getting one step closer to be competitive in baseball.  Unfortunately that year is always a couple of years from now when our talented minor leaguers come up.  2011 is going to be a terrible year for the Royals…but you wait for 2012 or 2013 and we will be good and competing for a championship.  Unfortunately, this logic has been used since the early 90’s.  The Royals are the best minor league team in the Major’s.  I guess that counts for something.

I thought of all of this while watching Mizzou fall all over themselves to blow that game to Cincy.  I got angry.  WHY CAN’T I ROOT FOR A WNNER?!  WHEN WILL I BE ABLE TO ROOT FOR A TEAM THAT CAN ADVANCE TO A CHAMPIONSHIP GAME AND WIN?!

After about a half an hour of pacing back and forth in my basement I came to a realization.  I am actually a part of the winningest team in the history of man.  I am part of a team that has not and never will lose.  Jesus didn’t choke when decision time came.  When He stood by Pilate to be judged, he didn’t turn to Pilate and the crowd and say, “Nah…I was just kidding.”  You want to talk about one of the all time clutch performances look at what Christ did and tell me he didn’t pull it off.  At any one moment during that whole event he could have ended it.  He could have walked away.  But when the pressure came Jesus stood and delivered!  Folks, all of us who love sports have been disappointed by a sports teams we root for.  Keep in mind though that, as a Christian, you play for the winningest team in all of humanity.  In the end…GOD wins.  He is the ultimate champion; He has an overall record of like a ba-jillion – 0.  Nothing can compare to that.

God is undefeated.  Jesus, stood and delivered, in his toughest match.  He stands and delivers every day for you.  When people talk about having victory through Christ (NOT the Kenneth Copeland victory) it isn’t metaphorical!  His victories come every day,  in big ways, and in little ways.  But Christ remains the UNDEFEATED champion of your salvation.  Nothing and I literally mean NOTHING can defeat him.  Do you want that?  Do you want to be a part of a champion?  Do you want to play for a champion?

For non-believers on the fence…you are seeing the game being played.  You are watching as the home team wins EVERYDAY!  But unlike any other sports team that you have seen, you don’t have to be athletic to join it.    If you want in…YOU ARE IN!  But…you have to want it.  YOU have to commit.  Repent!  Turn from your sins, and trust in the only undefeated Champion of all time.  That victory can be yours.  There will never be any upsets.  You don’t have to worry about being disappointed in your team (cf. Romans 10:9-11, NASB).

For Christians…I simply ask this one question.  If you are part of the team are you in the game?  If not…what are you waiting for?  GET IN THE GAME.

U2’s Bono interview about Christ


Okay….so I am always on the lookout for how celebrities describe their faith.  I find it interesting.  9 times out of 10 they end up creating a God that does not exist in the Bible.  Then along comes this excerpt from a book where Bono from U2 is being interviewed about his faith.  Actually the interview is from September 2010…but never the less it is an incredible read.  The following excerpt is from the poached egg and can be found at this link.

Christians in a rock band?

 

Bono: My understanding of the Scriptures has been made simple by the person of Christ. Christ teaches that God is love. What does that mean? What it means for me: a study of the life of Christ. Love here describes itself as a child born in straw poverty, the most vulnerable situation of all, without honor. I don’t let my religious world get too complicated. I just kind of go: Well, I think I know what God is. God is love, and as much as I respond [sighs] in allowing myself to be transformed by that love and acting in that love, that’s my religion. Where things get complicated for me, is when I try to live this love. Now that’s not so easy.

Assayas: What about the God of the Old Testament? He wasn’t so “peace and love”?

Bono: There’s nothing hippie about my picture of Christ. The Gospels paint a picture of a very demanding, sometimes divisive love, but love it is. I accept the Old Testament as more of an action movie: blood, car chases, evacuations, a lot of special effects, seas dividing, mass murder, adultery. The children of God are running amok, wayward. Maybe that’s why they’re so relatable. But the way we would see it, those of us who are trying to figure out our Christian conundrum, is that the God of the Old Testament is like the journey from stern father to friend. When you’re a child, you need clear directions and some strict rules. But with Christ, we have access in a one-to-one relationship, for, as in the Old Testament, it was more one of worship and awe, a vertical relationship. The New Testament, on the other hand, we look across at a Jesus who looks familiar, horizontal. The combination is what makes the Cross.

Assayas: Speaking of bloody action movies, we were talking about South and Central America last time. The Jesuit priests arrived there with the gospel in one hand and a rifle in the other.

Bono: I know, I know. Religion can be the enemy of God. It’s often what happens when God, like Elvis, has left the building. [laughs] A list of instructions where there was once conviction; dogma where once people just did it; a congregation led by a man where once they were led by the Holy Spirit. Discipline replacing discipleship. Why are you chuckling?

Assayas: I was wondering if you said all of that to the Pope the day you met him.

Bono: Let’s not get too hard on the Holy Roman Church here. The Church has its problems, but the older I get, the more comfort I find there. The physical experience of being in a crowd of largely humble people, heads bowed, murmuring prayers, stories told in stained-glass windows

Assayas: So you won’t be critical.

Bono: No, I can be critical, especially on the topic of contraception. But when I meet someone like Sister Benedicta and see her work with AIDS orphans in Addis Ababa, or Sister Ann doing the same in Malawi, or Father Jack Fenukan and his group Concern all over Africa, when I meet priests and nuns tending to the sick and the poor and giving up much easier lives to do so, I surrender a little easier.

Assayas: But you met the man himself. Was it a great experience?

Bono: [W]e all knew why we were there. The Pontiff was about to make an important statement about the inhumanity and injustice of poor countries spending so much of their national income paying back old loans to rich countries. Serious business. He was fighting hard against his Parkinson’s. It was clearly an act of will for him to be there. I was oddly moved by his humility, and then by the incredible speech he made, even if it was in whispers. During the preamble, he seemed to be staring at me. I wondered. Was it the fact that I was wearing my blue fly-shades? So I took them off in case I was causing some offense. When I was introduced to him, he was still staring at them. He kept looking at them in my hand, so I offered them to him as a gift in return for the rosary he had just given me.

Assayas: Didn’t he put them on?

Bono: Not only did he put them on, he smiled the wickedest grin you could ever imagine. He was a comedian. His sense of humor was completely intact. Flashbulbs popped, and I thought: “Wow! The Drop the Debt campaign will have the Pope in my glasses on the front page of every newspaper.”

Assayas: I don’t remember seeing that photograph anywhere, though.

Bono: Nor did we. It seems his courtiers did not have the same sense of humor. Fair enough. I guess they could see the T-shirts.

Later in the conversation:
Assayas: I think I am beginning to understand religion because I have started acting and thinking like a father. What do you make of that?

Bono: Yes, I think that’s normal. It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.

Assayas: I haven’t heard you talk about that.

Bono: I really believe we’ve moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.

Assayas: Well, that doesn’t make it clearer for me.

Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics; in physical laws every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.

Assayas: I’d be interested to hear that.

Bono: That’s between me and God. But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep s—. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.

Assayas: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.

Bono: But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there’s a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let’s face it, you’re not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humbled . It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.

Assayas: That’s a great idea, no denying it. Such great hope is wonderful, even though it’s close to lunacy, in my view. Christ has his rank among the world’s great thinkers. But Son of God, isn’t that farfetched?

Bono: No, it’s not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher, don’t call me teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying: “I’m the Messiah.” I’m saying: “I am God incarnate.” And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You’re a bit eccentric. We’ve had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don’t mention the “M” word! Because, you know, we’re gonna have to crucify you. And he goes: No, no. I know you’re expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he’s gonna keep saying this. So what you’re left with is: either Christ was who He said He was the Messiah or a complete nutcase. I mean, we’re talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we’ve been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had “King of the Jews” on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it. I’m not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that’s farfetched

Bono later says it all comes down to how we regard Jesus:

Bono: If only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s— and everybody else’s. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that’s the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.

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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The Nihilist, The Atheist, and The Christian


I am sure that everyone has been paying attention to the shooting in Arizona.  Jarod Loughner, went to an event hosted by Representative Giffords.  9 people died, including a 9 year old child.  There is news out now that Loughner is a nihilist.  Now I have heard of nihilism before from movies, or jokes but was never sure as to what it actually was.  Today being a snow day here in Kansas City…I figured I would take a look.

I did a Google search on the word nihilism and landed on an Encyclopedia article which talks about nihilism.  Here are a couple of excerpts:

“While nihilism is often discussed in terms of extreme skepticism and relativism, for most of the 20th century it has been associated with the belief that life is meaningless. Existential nihilism begins with the notion that the world is without meaning or purpose. Given this circumstance, existence itself–all action, suffering, and feeling–is ultimately senseless and empty.”

“In his study of meaninglessness, Donald Crosby writes that the source of modern nihilism paradoxically stems from a commitment to honest intellectual openness. “Once set in motion, the process of questioning could come to but one end, the erosion of conviction and certitude and collapse into despair” (The Specter of the Absurd, 1988).”

It would appear that nihilism is the conclusion to atheism.  Everywhere I go atheists are always talking about one thing…skepticism.  Atheists are always talking about a lack of evidence for God.  At some point they must come to a conclusion.  If they conclude that there is in fact no God, there is only one logical conclusion…life is meaningless, there is no purpose, and that it all is senseless and empty. 

If in fact this is the conclusion that one draws;  life, your actions, your family, everything has no meaning.  There are no moral rules.  Nothing to govern you or society.  Nothing that would prevent you from gunning down 9 people because there are no consequences.  If that seems a little harsh then I would advise that you think this all the way to conclusion.  The thought process for a nihilist would be as follows: “I question the existence of God.  There is not enough evidence to demonstrate that he exists (atheism).  Well if God doesn’t exist, and there is no afterlife, then what is the point.  Life is meaningless, my actions are meaningless.  Why bother with anything (nihilism).”  Here I would agree with Donald Crosby in the quote above when he says that this belief, or this thought process can only lead to depression and despair.

With all of that said…

God exists.  The primary evidence for Gods existence is his creation (Romans 1:20).  God loves you.  If you are sitting in despair or are thinking that life has no meaning…think about this, God sacrificed his son for YOU! (John 3:16).  He sacrificed his son for those who continue to deny his existence.  Who continue to deny the existence of his son.  How powerful is this love?  So powerful that God will forgive ALL of the things that you have done, and will do.  That is so important that it should be said again…  God loves you so much, that despite denying his existence, that he will forgive you for everything that you have done.  Call on God, ask for his forgiveness, accept Christ as your savior in your heart and you can inherit the Kingdom!  You should know that you are not meaningless in God’s eyes (Matthew 6:25-33).   Each one of us is precious to God.  He knows you.  I am not meaning the proverbial you as in everyone…HE KNOWS YOU! (Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:16).  This is the good news that Christian’s talk about!

Do not despair!  The God of the universe knows your name, and loves you unconditionally!

If you need prayer or are ready to give yourself to God PLEASE CONTACT US!

kcbob

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Are Facebook and Twitter a Waste of Time? (A Biblical Perspective)


We recently posted our suggestions for 2011 goals. I have a suggestion for something to help you keep momentum in these goals…

Philippians 4:8-9 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Bad company corrupts good character.”

You might say, “Okay, Kevin… that’s all well and good, but what does that have to do with the challenge you’ve issued and what does it have to do with Facebook and Twitter?” As you well know, in today’s culture Facebook and Twitter are how we frequently “keep company.”

Is the company you’re keeping via Facebook or Twitter helping you to think upon things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable? My guess is that some of it probably does, while others probably seriously hurts those efforts – Right?

Let me share with you a few things I do with my Facebook and Twitter and the issue you another quick challenge.

On Facebook I maintain a very strict “One Strike” policy… What I mean by that is that if I notice that any of my Facebook friends posts something that is morally questionable I immediately hide them from my feed.  Notice, I do not “unfriend them”… I still want to maintain the ability to contact them for various reasons and I want to retain the ability to try and have some influence on them through chat and posts (like our blog, for example)… However, this move helps me to diminish their potentially negative influence upon me.

Another thing I do with Facebook is I close it on the computer I’m using while I’m working on something and/or studying God’s word… This helps me to maintain focus and not get drawn into conversations that can suck away my productive time.  Along those same lines I block from my feed all Facebook apps in the vein of “Farmville”, “Send a Hug”, etc. These have too much potential to waste my time.

While I keep FB closed a lot, I do keep Twitter live on my desk… but I’m become more selective on who I follow… I’ve got some folks I follow strictly for a bit of humor each day, but the majority of the folks I follow (i.e. Andy Stanley, Tony Nolan, Derwin Gray, Albert Mohler, Mark Matlock, Ed Setzer, Micah Fries, Steven Furtick, Mark Driskoll, etc.) are guys that put out some amazing content in the form of links to their blogs and/or short notes which encourage me in my walk with Christ… This has been extremely helpful to me.

Let me implore you in view of the scriptures above to seriously take a look at your Facebook and Twitter patterns and make adjustments that would be honoring to God and would help you move forward in your relationship with Christ this year.

KBthejesusfreak

** Edit **

Another thing to remember in this challenge…focus on what you are putting on your facebook/twitter pages.  Remember we are called to be the salt and the light.  We are called to offer encouragement to other people.  Don’t be afraid to post scripture, or talk about the reason for your hope.  Above all, remember that your posts can have an impact on others.  Make it a positive impact.  One that will make a difference.

kcbob

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Dead Birds, Dead Fish…is there a meaning behind this?


So, if you haven’t seen the news…over the new years about 5,000 birds and 100,000 fish died in Arkansas.  The birds appeared to have died from internal injuries from a blunt force trauma, and there is no news on the fish.  The official explanation is that fireworks stunned the birds, and caused them to fall.  The unofficial explanation can span any number of theories.  Many are wondering if there are any biblical prophecies that would predict this.  Some want to tie it into the end of the world.  I however, think that is the wrong way to look at it.

*UPDATE**  Here is a map of the mass animal death’s. There are now reports of hundreds of birds dead in Texas, thousands of fish dead in Florida, and 40,000 dead crabs in England.

Sure it is a little creepy that 5,000 birds fell from the sky.  I was telling my aunt last night to imagine the shock of driving while that happened.  I thought about what my reaction would be.  I would probably just put the car into park, put the seat back and think….this is really happening.  That being said, I don’t believe that this has anything to do with the end of the world.  I could be wrong, because nobody knows, but there’s no biblical prophecy about it…  I can tell you though that there is a lesson to be learned.

Probably what is the most shocking of this story is the suddenness that all of this has happened.  Thousands of birds dead for no apparent reason…  Hundreds of thousands of fish dead…  How many times have we thought about something like this?  One moment these birds are roosting…the next dead.  One minute these fish are swimming, the next dead.

All life operates in this manner… including yours.

Take Luke 12:19-21.  In this passage Christ is teaching on the parable of the Rich Fool.  Here a Rich man had acquired all kinds of wealth.  So much that he ran out of room to store it.  He finally came to the conclusion that he needed to tear down a couple of buildings and build bigger ones where he could store more wealth.  Look at God’s response “‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ (Luke 12:20).

Also look at James 4:13-15:  Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

So what does all of this mean?  You have no idea what will happen tomorrow.  One moment you could be driving to work, the next dead.  Nothing brings God’s Word close to home better than reality.

The point of Luke 12 and James 4 is not to say “live for today” or “Just Do It”.  To the contrary, Luke 12:20-21 provides you the key to all of this: “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’   21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

Get rich with God today…. Not with just your money, but with you whole life.  Commit your life to Christ – Live for Him. It is the only way that you can be rich with God.  Tomorrow may never come.

If you need help or have questions please feel free to contact us.

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