No Apologizing

Christian Apologetic, and Social Commentary in a world gone mad

Tag Archives: faith

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.

Faith, Reason or both?

Below is my submission to the field exam for my PhD application.  It is unaltered and unedited.  What you are about to read was produced in 2 hours and 20 minutes. All total it was 12 pages of content.  I will say up front if you have an ocd for grammar or punctuation…you may want to turn away as this is not my strength.  I tend to focus very heavily on content rather than grammar.  That is what editors are for…

What is the relationship between human knowledge gained through research in the social sciences (reason) and those truths gained through the study of the Word of God (Faith)?


The debate between the integration of faith and reason has been going on for hundreds of years. By and large there existed a harmony between the two until the 19th and 20th century. During recent history a large divide has now separated both faith and reason and their individual pursuit of truth. This paper will take a look at the relationship between faith and reason. This includes a brief survey of the current positions, the author’s position on the relationship and the impact on ministry that integration of faith and reason would have.

Current Positions

In order to fully understand the relationship between faith and reason a brief survey will be conducted of the current positions. It should be noted that this specific topic has been discussed or debated for some significant time and most positions have not changed historically. Mankind has always struggled with the boundaries between faith and reason and the ability to strike a balance of sorts. The three dominant current positions can be defined as follows: faith and reason are compatible (compatiblism), faith and reason are incompatible (incompatiblism), and faith corrupts reason (post-modernistic incompatiblism).


Compatiblism could be said to have its roots with Augustine. This view point has been slightly modified over time, and has had one or two deviations from its fundamental premise. The premise of compatiblism is that faith and reason are compatible. Compatiblism believes that there is a unique relationship between faith and reason that allows one to work with the other.

In this line of thought all truth is from God. Therefore, any truth that is discovered is of God whether it is discovered by science, or by faith. This also extends to the notion that an unbeliever, who seeks to discover a truth through reason and without faith, can indeed discover that truth. John Calvin stated “they are superstitious who dare not borrow anything from profane writers. For since all truth is from God, if anything has been aptly or truly said by those who have not piety, it ought not to be repudiated.”1 This view holds the position that man, though flawed is able to ascertain truth through human reason. However, that truth that he obtains is from and of God.

There are some fundamental assumptions with the position of compatiblism. Those who believe in compatiblism believe that there is an absolute truth that has been given by God. As a result, the search for that truth either through faith or reason will ultimately point to God. Thus, faith becomes a sounding board for reason.


The second position to be discussed is the position that faith and reason are simply incompatible. This line of thought can be dated back to Tertullian and can be seen as recently at Van Til. The premise behind incompatiblism is that man is fallen, and through a corrupt mind they are unable to reason truth for themselves. As a result, faith is required to be able to discover the truth.

In this sense the authority of scripture is more than enough and reason must be submitted to scripture, not vice versa. Van Til states “We cannot subject the authoritative pronouncement of scripture about reality to the scrutiny of reason because it is reason itself that learns of its proper function from Scripture.”2 This position views a humans ability to reason through the eyes of scripture only and that human knowledge cannot be obtained without the Bible.

The basic assumptions of this position are very similar to that of compatiblism. Incompatiblism believes that there is an absolute truth that has been delivered by God. However, incompatiblism places a heavy emphasis on the fact that man has a fallen mind and is thus unable to reason and discover God’s truth. This position no doubt comes from scripture similar to John 16 that states that Gods will lead us to all truth, and that His ways are beyond our ways.

Post-Modernistic Incompatiblism

The final position this paper will look at is the position where faith has corrupted reason. This can more adequately be described as a post-modernistic view of faith. This position holds that faith is a lack of, and requires no intellectual authority. As a result faith in anything is meaningless. They view faith as an impediment to discovering truth through the means a reason or human knowledge.

Richard Dawkins, a well-known critic of the Christian faith described faith as “the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.”3 This clearly demonstrates a combative view of faith from a humanistic stand point. In this sense there is only one side to the ability to discover truth, and that is the human’s ability to reason.

The assumptions for the post-modernistic incompatiblist are that God simply doesn’t exist. They come to this conclusion based under the assumption that science has already proven that God does not exist. Therefore, they are able to draw a conclusion that faith in a God, that doesn’t exist, is a waste of time.

Faith and Reason

Prior to looking at the relationship between reason and faith it is important to set the appropriate definitions for each. The definition of faith can be found in Hebrews 11:1 where the author states “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”4 This definition matches and perhaps is more refined than definitions that can be offered by secular scholars and dictionaries. Reason, can be defined as the discovery of truth through human means. Reason can be best described as a process to ascertain truth, with the conclusion being the discovery of irrefutable truth. Aquinas defines faith and reason as being two truths, “one to which the inquiry of reason can reach, the other surpasses the whole ability of human reason.”5 This notes the clear difference between the two from a basic definition perspective. Wilhoit comments on this further by stating that truth is “a question of origins – with faith representing the sphere of understanding as revealed by God in His Word, and learning representing the sphere of understanding as discovered and recorded by man.”6

There is a clear distinction between faith and reason in that one is obtained through human understanding, and the other is revealed by God.

Faith and reason most certainly have a relationship. The post modernistic view fails on the simple point that no matter what their own faith is, people will continue to have faith. The position of this paper is that faith and reason have three primary relationships: first, faith is dependent on reason; second, reason is not dependent on faith; and finally, faith can only exist in the absence of reason.

Faith is Dependent on Reason

When one looks at the very nature of faith it is belief in something that has not been seen. That being said there is a point in time where all faith will be revealed as either truth or not truth. In this sense we see that reason will ultimately provide a validation or invalidation of faith. Reason can serve in judgment of faith as long as the truth discovered by reason is absolute and without flaw.

John Locke concluded “reason is given the task of determining whether an alleged revelation is genuinely from God. Though it is certain that whatever God has revealed is true, reason must judge whether any particular revelation comes from God and a revelation should only be accepted if it has the backing of reason in this way.”7 This conclusion, while taken to an extreme can produce negative consequences, illustrates the point that reason will ultimately, in one day sit in judgment of faith. This is an unavoidable reality that ends with the second coming of Christ which at that point all will be revealed.

Faith can only exist without reason

This second point illustrates the reality that if a verifiable truth has been gained through reason, then there is no need for faith. To illustrate this point one need only look at the advancements in biblical archaeology and history. History now demonstrates to us that there was in fact a man named Jesus who walked around during the early first century. This requires no faith because human knowledge and reason has demonstrated this to be irrefutably true. This required an amount of faith on the part of those who lived in the 17th century (and others). In the 21st century it requires no faith to know that Jesus existed. However, it still requires faith that Jesus was the son of God, and that he arose from the grave 3 days after his crucifixion.

In this sense the need for faith will and always has been continuing to diminish as more and more truth is revealed by God. In Romans 1:18-23 Paul notes that God has made it clear to all so that none are without excuse. Aquinas stated in Questiones Disputatae de Veritate that truth discovered by both faith and reason are superfluous.8The truth of God has been available for us to find since creation. As we continue to find it through reason, it diminishes the need for faith and faith is replaced by God’s truth being revealed.

Reason is not dependent on faith

Scripture provides a clear picture that we all contain the faculty to reason and discover truth, and that it is not reliant on our faith in Jesus Christ. Looking at Matthew 16 we see Jesus talking to Pharisees about the red sky at night. The Pharisees are looking for a sign, and Jesus points out that their ability to reason is intact and working. They know that red sky at night is a sailors delight and that red sky at morning is a sailors warning. Jesus is able to rebuke them because they have the ability to reason and discern the truth, even without faith, yet they choose not to.

Those who argue that non-believers are unable to discover truth through reason are in denial as it contradicts the history of humanity. Mankind was given the ability to reason from God. Thus truth can, and has been discovered independently of faith. This demonstrates the nature of origins for the discovery of truth and the reliance of faith on reason for verification of that truth. Reason has the unique position of being able to validate faith, or theory. Faith is a belief that something is true, and reason is the process to ascertain the truth that one has faith in. As a result we see that reason is not dependent on faith, faith is dependent on reason and that faith can only exist in the absence of reason.

Fundamental Premise of Impact on Ministry

The integration of faith and reason is critical to the impact of ministry. It is important to note the author’s fundamental premise and presuppositions before discussing the impact on ministry.

The church should never lose sight of the fact that all truth is God’s truth, and that all truth that has been discovered whether through faith or reason will ultimately point to God. Holmes stated “if all truth is God’s truth and truth is one, then God does not contradict himself and in the final analysis there will be no conflict between the truth taught in scripture and truth available from other sources.”9 Additionally, one should take note that truth revealed by special revelation can only be attained by faith, and not through human reason. In this sense there are two truths, one discoverable by faith, and one discoverable through human knowledge.

Impact on Ministry

In reviewing the impact of the integration of faith and reason into ministry the author read through proposed methods to integrate faith and reason into ministry from Robert Harris. Harris concludes that in order to integrate the two we would need to bounce new knowledge off of the old verified knowledge. This would be to validate both faith against faith and reason against faith and reason. Harris also noted that it is important that truth and knowledge must transfer from one area to another. This is important in that there is one truth and that truth should be transferred from one area to another.

These two approaches offered by Harris provide a brief way to integrate both faith and reason in a way that will allow faith to be reasonably validated by reason and in a way that will trust that all truth that has been discovered will ultimately point to God and give Him glory.


The debate over faith and reason has heated up as of late with the New – Atheist movement. Their argument being that faith is a ridiculous notion that can never be compatible with reason. Hitchens stated “all attempts to reconcile faith with science and reason are consigned to failure and ridicule.”10 This author believes that Hitchens, and Dawkins statements must be taken with some validity and explored.

How does one draw a conclusion that so belittles the notion of faith? The author believes that it is because more times than not, these men have seen Christians express blind faith rather that reasonable faith. In fact, one could more than likely draw a comparison to Post-Modernism and New-Atheism to the downfall of intellectual Christianity. Atheists are able to draw the conclusions that Hitchens or Dawkins draw due to the fact that when challenged a number of Christians cannot express their faith from the perspective of reason, rather “you just gotta have a faith”.

Additionally, with tele-evangislm and a heavy emphasis placed on faith and spiritual revelation most Christians today do not feel the need to understand the historical background of Philippians or the arguments for law of first beginnings. This has lead to a dumbing down of Christianity and has validated the response from Atheists when Christians follow blindly.

Faith and reason do inevitably have a relationship that is organic and fluid. However both are dependent upon the one truth that has been delivered by God. This truth then should be extrapolated and applied where useful to benefit His kingdom. John 16 tells us that He will lead us to all truth. He will lead us with through special revelation or through His general revelation.

Reference List

Alexander Miller, Faith and Learning: Christian Faith and Higher Education in Twentieth Century America (Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1977), p. 195 quoting John Calvin’s Commentary on Titus, Opera III

Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Contra Gentiles (Translated by Anton C Pegis) New York: Hanover House 1955-1957 (Book 1 Chapter 4)

________________ Questiones Disputatae de Veritate (Translated by James V. McGlynn, S.J. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1953.

Barth, Karl, The knowledge of God and the Service of God According to the Teaching of the Reformation. New York: Charles Schribers Sons, 1939.

Dawkins, Richard.  Untitled Lecture, Edinburgh Science Festival (1992)

_________________ The God Delusion, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company 2006 p. 346

Evans, C. Stephen Faith Beyond Reason Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998.

Harris, Sam, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2005 p. 65

Harris, Robert J. Defining the integration of faith and learning. Virtual Salt 9/20/2003

Hitchens, Christopher. God is not Great, New York: Hachette Book Group, 2007.

Holmes, Arthur The Idea of a Christian College Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1975

______________ All Truth is God’s Truth (Downers Grove:

InterVarsity Press, 1977), pp. 53, 8, 14.

Jensen, Steven. 2009. “Faith integration and the irreducible metaphors of disciplinary discourse.” Christian Scholar’s Review39, no. 1: 37-55. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed February 14, 2013).

Locke, John. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding er. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975 Book IV.

Paul II, John. “Encyclical Letter Fides Et Ratio”, 1998.

Sproul, R. C. Defending your Faith an Introduction to Apologetics. Wheaton: Illinois, 2003.

Wilhoit, Mel. “Faith and Learning Reconsidered, the Unity of Truth.”

Stott, John. Your Mind Matters. Leicester, England Intervarsity Press.

Van Til, Corenelius, The Defense of the Faith. Phillipsburg, New Jersey, Presbyterian and reformed publishing CO, 1955

1 Alexander Miller, Faith and Learning: Christian Faith and Higher Education in Twentieth Century America (Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1977), p. 195 quoting John Calvin’s Commentary on Titus, Opera III

2 Van Til, Corenelius. The Defense of the Faith. Phillipsburg, 212. New Jersey, Presbyterian and reformed publishing CO, 1955.

3 Dawkins, Richard.  Untitled Lecture, Edinburgh Science Festival (1992)

4 All scripture quoted in the paper will be from the ESV version.

5 Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Contra Gentiles (Translated by Anton C Pegis) New York: Hanover House 1955-1957 (Book 1 Chapter 4)

6 Mel Wilhoit. “Faith and Learning Reconsidered, the Unity of Truth.”

7 Locke, John. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding er. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975 Book IV.

8 Thomas Aquinas. Questiones Disputatae de Veritate (Translated by James V. McGlynn, S.J. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1953.

9 Holmes, Arthur The Idea of a Christian College Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1975

10 Hitchens, Christopher. God is not Great, 64. New York: Hachette Book Group, 2007.

Host a Bible Study Group….GO TO JAIL!

That guy must be hosting a small group

That guy must be hosting a small group…

I just stumbled across this story today.  I have to say I am just sitting here shaking my head.  Here is the simple breakdown:

–          Family hosts small group at home on a regular basis of about 15 to 20 people.

–          City deems this to be a church numerous fire hazards due to meeting at home.

–          Family builds 2000 sqft building for meetings.

–          City raids the building and home, arrests the father.

–          Father will go to jail for about 60 days.


Here is a link to the story:

So I read this story and see two things.

  1. I am mildly upset at the perception of silly business on behalf of the pastor that was arrested.  This appears to be a big gotcha and perhaps a thumbing of the nose to the city of Phoenix by the associate pastor.  The city does have city ordinances that must be followed on the construction of the new buildings, and he clearly did not follow them.  That being said…
  2. The city has no reason/defense against what they have done.  My family and I host small groups fairly regularly.  We have on any given small group night as many as 18 men, women and children in my tiny abode.  We could be affected by this.  In order for the City of Phoenix to demonstrate that the application of the law is not specific to small groups (Christians in other words) they would have to target groups of guys who get together to watch Monday Night Football on every Monday night at someone house.  How about any regular get together with families?

I fully believe that the officials involved with this from the city of Phoenix are targeting this man and his family because he is a “religious zealot” (this is what atheist’s and liberals like to call committed Christians).  The one that really gets me is having the police called on them, BY THE FIRE DEPARTMENT, while eating a meal in the back yard with their friends.  This is a clear indication of some sort of persecution.  However, this pastor should have gone out of his way to either continue to have the meeting in his home, backyard or following the city code with the construction of the new building.


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?


God?  How long do I have to cry out for help?  Why aren’t you listening!?  Why is it that when I see violence you don’t save those people?  Why do I have to watch injustice?  How can you tolerate these bad things?  Destruction, murder, war, etc… are all around us.  The rule of law never prevails!  It seems like good people are always being abused by bad people!  Justice today is perverted!

Have you thought these things?  I know I have…many a time.  I am pretty sure that all of us at one time has asked this basic question…”God…WHERE ARE YOU?!”

The first paragraph of this post is based on a little known (or used) book of Habakkuk.  That’s right…there is actually a book in the Bible called Habakkuk.  If you read 1:2-4 you will see what I am talking about.  Now, Habakkuk was written around… 605 – 587 BC.  If you want to debate the dates…you are on your own.  Think about this.  Habakkuk wrote the words I wrote above about 2,600 years ago.  While there is no doubt that things have changed since his writing’s…this shows that people…do not.  Now Habakkuk was writing about the people of Judah.  He was begging God to answer him.  God does, but not in a way that made him happy.  Again…something we should all be familiar with.  Basically God tells Habakkuk that he will answer his prayers by sending the Babylonians to take the people of Judah captive.  This had to be a moment where Habakkuk stopped everything and said “Hold up…God I am not sure I heard you right.  Did you say the Babylonians?!  They are worse than we are!” (Habakkuk 1:13).  To put this into a modern context…It would be like God sending North Korea to deliver judgment on America.  It was that bad.  God’s response…the most used quote of the Old Testament in the New Testament…the righteous will live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4).  Translation…I am sending the Babylonians as my judgment…you will have to live on faith that I know what I am doing. 

Are you living on faith that God knows what he is doing?  This Thanksgiving be thankful for a God that is faithful to you.  While you may have a thousand pending questions…just know this…the righteous will live by faith.

That’s it….I QUIT!

My wife was perusing the internet tonight and found an interesting article.  Anne Rice has quit her religion, and is moving on, on her own.  To quote the LA times article… “she announced she had quit Christianity “in the name of Christ” because she’d seen too much hypocrisy”.  The article goes on to talk about religion in a  generic sense, and how people are leaving church because they have become disillusioned with the religion in general.  Now, if you know me…you know that I am not a big fan of the LA Times, but I have to admit, with this article…they have hit the nail on the head.  There are a number of great points to take from this article.

25% of people between the ages of 18-29 do not associate with any particular faith. 

This is a startling statistic.  Having seen firsthand the impact of what a secular college can do to a kid with a mind full of mush…I would have thought this number to be much higher.  And perhaps, in reality, it is.  Especially taking into consideration the second point…

Every day, the church is becoming more like the world it allegedly seeks to change.

It is hard being a Christian, isn’t it?  You have to stand out in the crowd, you are an alien in this world, and as a result an outcast.  Just for believing in Christ.  Now take this into combination with the fact that everyone has a natural desire to be liked (well not me, but I love being the alien) and you have a recipe for disaster.  It is easier to blend in, to follow the crowd, and to do what feels good than it is to be ridiculed for your actions, and mocked for your faith.  So what do people do who are not grounded in their faith… go with the flow.  Which leads me to the more controversial point…

Many people who call themselves Christian don’t really believe, deep down, in the tenets of their faith. In other words, their actions reveal their true beliefs.

This I believe is closer to the truth.  It gets to a really tough question…can a Christian truly backslide…or are they (were they) ever truly a Christian?  I do have a personal example to draw from in this sense.  Someone I know, attended church until the age of 18.  Went to college, and began to live a life that was contrary to the Word of God.  So the question becomes… was this person ever a Christian?  This topic alone deserves it’s own post, and possibly it’s own debate.  What is clear is that all three of these points are a call for concern to church leadership from all denominations.

The primary question for me…are we preparing our youth to enter a world bent on getting them to deviate from the Word of God?  The statistics will tell you no!  The world will tell you no, and the actions of these “Christian” youths will tell you no! 

I have decided to throw my hat into the ring of education by helping out with the Sunday School at my church.  I am not sure if I can make a difference with these kids, but if I can help prevent one or two kids from following this path….wouldn’t it be worth it? (BTW…my wife hates this cliché)  I think so.  So then the question becomes…what are you doing to help?

It’s Okay… Don’t give up!!!

Today I want to put out a word of encouragement to all my friends and readers… I’ve seen some discouragement and that makes my heart heavy… DON’T GIVE UP!!!

God, Himself, encourages us to, “Not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6)

I’ve had some conversations with people who have tried to take the G90X challenge with me and/or who have committed to reading through the Bible in 2010, but have fallen behind in their goals… They were bold enough to try and start something that will help them grow in their walk with Jesus, but have not been able to completely follow through with their original goal…

And do you know what?  THAT’S OKAY!!! Seriously! We all fall short sometimes… There is nothing magic about ANY spiritual discipline in and of itself! Christianity is about a relationship with the God who created the universe, NOT about trying to work at doing better things or striving to be a good person!

Let me remind you of what Greg said in his original G90X post:

By the way, let’s not be legalistic with this. G90X is just an intensive spiritual workout to jumpstart our spiritual disciplines. Remember that those who choose to do it with me are not necessarily more spiritual than those who don’t. You can do all the disciplines in the world and if you are not controlled by the Spirit and fueled through God’s power in your motives it is all wood, hay and stubble… If you are choosing not to do it (which is totally fine) I challenge you to, at the least, amp up your spiritual disciplines.

Let me come at this from a different angle… Think about a person with whom you have a solid relationship… Got it? Okay… Now, how is it that you maintain that relationship? Love, right? And that Love is expressed by T-I-M-E… but that time isn’t spent in a ritualistic ridged manner is it? Relationships are fluid and we spend time with our friends and family in different ways… The same should be for our relationship with (worship of) God!! The point is to spend time with Him!!

Struggling reading so much of the Bible at one clip? That’s okay!!! Keep at it – Get back on the proverbial horse… but don’t beat yourself up over it… But realize also, that this isn’t the only way God wants us to spend time with Him… He wants us to prayHe wants us to sing to Him… He wants us to talk about Him to others… He wants us to spend time with other believers (at church AND other places)…

Do you get it? GOD wants to have a relationship with you!!!  But He wants a REAL relationship not something manufactured or fake. If you struggle with some aspect of spending time with God be sure that you are supplementing it with other ways… but don’t grow weary of trying to make the weaker aspects of your walk better… If you don’t get a hold of a friend on the phone, what do you do? You call back, right? If that doesn’t work you txt or you swing by their house or maybe you try to get a hold of one of their friends/family to tell them you’re looking for them. God is trying to get a hold of you… He’s not hard to reach…

Go spend some time with Him today in a variety of ways!!  You won’t regret it.

BOY, it’s HOT!!!!

The heat wave that is sweeping the nation is definitely brutal… My A/C is having a VERY hard time keeping up… When Robert and I spoke earlier today he mentioned to me that this reminded him of how urgent we ought to be about the souls of our friends, family and neighbors… He said: “If you think it’s hot now… Imagine how bad it’s gonna be in Hell, where the heat never lets up!” What a sobering reminder…

Revelation 20:12-15 says, “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Later on we’re reminded elsewhere (Rev. 14:11 and 20:10) that this torment is forever and ever… OUCH… Let’s take a cue from my friend and let this oppressive heat help remind us that we are called to the ministry of reconciliation (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20)… Let’s get to it… Let’s show them how to get permanent/eternal A/C!!

Unhappy with the Government?

I’m going to be out of pocket tomorrow, so I’m doing my G90X update a little early this week… Thought I’d take the Holiday as a good opportunity to remind us of a passage that isn’t always very comfortable. 1 Peter 2:13-17:

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. 16 Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. 17 Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.

Of course, in America we have no king… but we do have a Congress and a President and a Supreme Court… Regardless of your political leanings there are probably several men or women in Washington that you are not a big fan of… In posting this passage, I’ve got another confession to make… I need to do a much better job of praying for the men and women in our government… I spend a whole lot of time complaining about them (not always out loud, but often in my heart), and only a fraction of that time praying for them… which I think, is probably the best way to honor and submit to them.

When we are dissatisfied with certain things that our government is doing or not doing how should we respond? Robert touched on this in a previous post after he was very upset over the passing of the Health Care bill. I think 1 Peter 2:15 sheds a lot of light on what we can and should do… It’s easy to complain (believe me I know from 1st hand experience), but I think that our first obligation is to stop and pray and silence useless/foolish talk…

What do I mean by that? Here’s a question… What can actually (legally) be done to change the government? Vote them out, right? Of course you can write your elected officials and let them know how you feel about certain issues and how you will vote based on those issues… If you are dissatisfied with what they are doing/not doing – go to it… but the opportunity to actually make a change (by voting) only comes around every couple of years, right?! And there’s no guarantees that someone more worthy will be running against them. Our complaints in the meantime are futile and do more to rile us up and make us discontent and take our focus off what’s more important (i.e. the Kingdom of God, lost souls and hurting people around us)…

If our complaints are largely futile could they then be considered “ignorant talk of foolish men” in light of verse 15 and Ephesians 4:29, which says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen”? Not convinced? Check it out in context (Ephesians 4:25-32).

Thanks to the sacrifice of countless men and women throughout America’s history we have the freedom of speech… We have the freedom to complain… But 1 Peter 2:16 reminds us, “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.” Do our complaints build others up… do they mark us as servants of God? Am I saying folks on Fox or MSNBC are evil in being political pundants? Not really… However, as Christians we should think about how WE need to respond to our discontentment on a daily basis.

So what can be done DAILY to change the government? The Answer is Prayer.

God has the ability to change hearts and minds… I truly trust in His power and sovereignty… If He has that power and ability, then let us lean on Him to do so… Let’s pray for our government officials that God would give them supernatural wisdom and that they would make God-honoring choices… Let us “cast all our anxiety upon Him because He cares for [us]” (1 Peter 5:7) – It can make a difference in our nation, in our lives and our attitudes… I certainly want to do the will of God and definitely do not want to be considered by Him to be a fool who’s engaging in “ignorant talk.”

Maybe I should pray more…

Have you been Eclipsed? A Quick Commentary on the Twilight Series

Much has been said or written about the Twilight series that is sweeping the nation, both in book form and also on the big screen… The latest movie installment, Eclipse, released earlier this week.  So, I know that what I have to say about this phenomenon is probably not earth-shattering or anything close to that, but I feel it’s important to weigh in a little from a Christian perspective, but even more specifically from a youth minister’s perspective, a father’s perspective and a former romantic’s perspective…

To be fair, let me disclose my familiarity with the series… My wife and I have read the first 2 books and watched the first 2 movies and are in the process of reading the 3rd book… I say this not neither to endorse the works – nor really to blast them… but instead to offer some cautions for anyone thinking about engaging with Stephanie Myers’ works…

First of all, the books are very well written… Ms. Myers is a masterful story teller… the books are an easy read and the story is compelling… the books and the movies are entertaining… no doubt about that.

However, it is in this mastery that the first caution needs to be raised… I have observed in many that these characters and the story are all so compelling that one can lose themselves in the story… quite literally… this is especially true for young ladies (teens and tweens) – it’s as if their own life becomes “Eclipsed” by the Twilight stories and characters.

This leads to the second caution… While many Christian writers have focused on the elements of the movies and books that at least border on the occult, these, to me, are FAR less dangerous than the portrait of “love” that is painted by the series… and girls are buying it hook, line and sinker. The relationships between Edward and Bella and Jacob are dysfunctional, at best… they are not a true picture of biblical love or a healthy dating/marriage relationship, but could and should be labeled as obsessive and co-dependent.  This is particularly dangerous because the destructive way to approach romantic relationships presented in the books, especially New Moon, is shaping the expectations of young women as their bodies and minds and emotions are going through their own sort of Breaking Dawn (i.e. puberty)… Teenagers (both boys and girls) need no help in forming unhealthy ideas of “love”) – but these movies and books pushes them strongly in that direction. I shudder to think of how many multi-month long catatonic–like depressed funks that young ladies are going to slide into when their first (or second, or third…) puppy love breaks their heart? What’s more scary is I wonder how much that destructive behavior may be applauded by their friends…  Then, to what extremes will they take this display of broken-heartedness (keep in mind that Edward attempted suicide in New Moon after he thought that he had lost Bella)? The logical conclusion to this is nothing short of horrifying.

Consider what God has to say in Philippians 4:6-9: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 Finally, brothers, 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.

Is this the world view presented by the Twilight series?

As a father, I want my daughter and my sons to experience God’s best in their relationships – for them to be healthy, focused on Him, selfless, edifying… I want them to find their identity in Jesus, not in a fallible human being who will undoubtedly let them down (frequently)…

As a Youth minister, I want the same for the young men and women that are affected by the ministry God has graciously given me… I don’t want to have to see them hurt and holding on to hurts that have been at least partially caused by unrealistic expectations… I don’t want to see them obsess over anything other than their relationship with the Lord…. My message to the young ladies in my youth group (and others) would be very similar to an open letter Nikki from the WayFM’s morning show wrote to some of her female friends:

“I was thinking about you this weekend. It was while I was watching a movie. It was probably the most anticipated movie of 2009. Females all over the country, possibly the world, chose a team, put on the t-shirt, and maybe even camped out overnight in exhilarated excitement to take in the next chapter of this supposedly timeless love story. I was a little late in getting around to it, but as I finally sat down to watch New Moon, you were on my mind. And here’s why: ITS RIDICULOUS.

 Look, I know it’s just a movie, and it’s meant for entertainment. I am a movie buff myself, and I love escaping into another place and time and diving into a world of imagined intrigue. It’s awesome. But with this one, I couldn’t even take that journey because it was just so RIDICULOUS.

 Bella’s pain, relentless agony, and perpetual longing may seem romantic on a big screen, but please know this is NOT what love looks like. Please know it is NOT normal or healthy to be this obsessed with a guy, to feel as if life is over or not worth living because he isn’t a part of it anymore. Or to think this other guy might do the trick if guy number one leaves. Please know your whole life and self-worth will never be wrapped up in any man. God completes you. End of story. I know this because I’ve let myself buy into that way of thinking before. I thought there would be no life for me if it didn’t work out. And guess what? I’m still here. And God is still awesome, and life is still rolling.

 Sure, I get it. It’s a movie and it’s fun. Go ahead, watch, enjoy, be entertained. But it’s just a story. Please don’t get too caught up in the picture of love Edward and Bella paint for you. Please don’t buy into it, or you may miss out on how big and life-changing love can really be. I was thinking about you as I watched this, and I just had to tell you.”

Yes, these are “just movies/books”, and some people can probably approach them this way… If you can, great… however, we have seen in the craze that has swept the nation, that this is often not the case… people are taking this series much more seriously than that… I also want to gravely caution parents that MOST young people are not mature enough to make those types of determinations (like whether they can refrain from getting sucked into the hype or not) on their own… and I would encourage you if you are going to allow your sons and daughters watch and read Twilight stuff that you watch and/or read it with them and have some very open discussions about the themes and messages in the books… For more help with this and for a more comprehensive review of the series, CLICK HERE.  It is the best analysis I’ve seen on the Twilight series BY FAR.

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