New Man’s Open Letter to Tony Campolo

5 Oct

I just read an Open Letter to Tony Campolo by Drew Dyck of New Man Magazine. In it, he questions a couple of positions that Campolo seems to hold – 1) Muslims obtaining salvation apart from belief in Christ and 2) homosexuals shouldn’t have to change who they are to be saved.

These are two topics I have discussed in previous posts [Understanding the Emerging Church and Time for a discussion in the church about Gay, Lesbian and Transgendered Issues or God’s Grace – 101]. These attitudes are rampant in post-modern thought. We are living in a world where compromise is the norm and taking a stand for truth is abnormal.

The Case For The Real JesusI have been reading Lee Strobel’s new book, The Case for the Real Jesus. Although I am still in the first few chapters of the book, one point has been sticking in my mind as I read it. Over the years, in an effort to make Christianity more appealing to non-believers, the church has watered down it’s theology. As a church, we have stopped placing an importance on the redemptive act of Jesus’ death on the cross. In an interview with Daniel B. Wallace Ph.D., Strobel was trying to understand the authenticity of the scriptures in light of recent allegations that the Bible is full of mistakes and contradictions and missing some books that teach something else. Dr. Wallace, in addressing a particular allegation said, “It’s disturbing that when it comes to the Christian faith, people don’t really want – or know how – to investigate the evidence. Christians are not being led into proper historical research by their pastors. I have been saying for some time that I don’t think the evangelical church has fifty years left of life to it until it repents.” Strobel responded, “In what way?” Wallace continued, “First, we have to quit marginalizing scripture. We can’t treat the Bible with kid gloves. We really need to wrestle with the issues, because our faith depends on it. And second, we need to quit turning Jesus into our buddy. He’s the sovereign Lord of the universe, and we need to understand and respond accordingly.”

Isn’t that the crux of the whole situation we find ourselves in right now? As a church, we don’t teach theology so when some new theory comes along, we don’t have the knowledge or tools to defend our faith. Some things might even sound good so we compromise our beliefs because we don’t have a theological foundation to stand on. Then someone else comes along with some new special knowledge and we go along with that because we are already started down the road of compromise. We have faith – but we don’t have maturity. It is my opinion that today’s church has become what Paul described when he addressed the church in Corinth.

The Corinthian believers had become aware of the need to reorient their pre-Christian attitudes and actions along Biblical lines, but at first their transformation was incomplete, and they were just “babes in Christ,” to be pitied and nurtured in their immaturity. The Greek word sarkinos implies this infant stage.

However, as the years went on, they continued in their immaturity. By this time they should have grown to Christian adulthood, themselves helping others through the infant stage, but instead they had willfully and sinfully remained in their immature state. For this Paul rebukes them.

It is imperative that we continue to grow in Christ. Everyone needs to learn to emphatically defend their faith. We need to continue to help others through the infant stage into Christian maturity so when beliefs, such as espoused by Mr. Campolo are raised in the church, they can be debated with an argument based in knowledge and not feelings.

A good place to start would be our 21st Century Christian series or any other series we have posted at Grace Learning Center. Another resource that I enjoy is the online theology course at Reclaiming The Mind.

Simple Obedience Unlocks God’s Future!

18 Sep

Jeff Leake, pastor at Allison Park Church in PA, wrote this blog entry recently,

Thoughts On God’s Will

Discovering God’s will is less about searching for it, and more about doing it!

This was the theme of this past weekend’s message. Just like a car driving in a night-fog can only see a few feet ahead, so often this is like trying to discern God’s direction. God gives us revelation for the immediate. As we do what we know, we get more light.

Simple obedience unlocks God’s future!

God’s will is so much more about who you are becoming than where you are going, who you are going with, or what you will be doing.

But at some point, a major decision will have to be reached in certain areas of life. When I am making that decision, I look for FIVE INDICATORS to align.

#1 – What Does The Bible Say? – this is the foundational question. The primary way God speaks is through His revealed Word. He will never tell us to do something against His Word. The more we learn the principles and precepts of the Bible, the easier it is to discern God’s ways.

#2 – What Does The Holy Spirit Say? – the Holy Spirit is a person and our counselor. He speaks to us through his ‘still small voice’, through inner promptings.

#3 – What Do My Spiritual Advisors Say? – parents, pastors, leaders, and spiritual friends are a great source of caution or confirmation. As we gain direction from God, we test it and improve it through their advice.

#4 – What Do My Circumstances Say? – most often God aligns his direction by and open or closed door. There are exceptions to this rule. Sometimes God says move forward in faith even though the door is closed. Sometimes an open door may be a trap from the enemy. But many times our circumstances align with the previous three indicators.

#5 – What Do I Want? – Psalm 37:4 says, ‘Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.’ This tells us two things. The more we seek to please God and enjoy His pleasure, the more God will lead us into what we want. But even beyond that, the more He will shape our desires to want the right things.

What I like most about this is the line, Discovering God’s will is less about searching for it, and more about doing it! . I think we can get so wrapped up in trying to discover God’s will for our life that we completely miss opportunities to walk in His will. I am an analyst by profession. I analyze everything (and yes – I really mean everything!). It drives my wife crazy. She often tells me that I talk myself out of something before I even try. I admit – sometimes (o.k. – most times) I have paralysis of analysis. There are times where I think I should do something, but yes, the more I analyze it, the less likely I am to follow through with my idea. This is an area that I have been trying to improve on. How many times have I missed an opportunity to serve God because I talked myself out of it? Wouldn’t it be easier to just obey God? As Jeff says, “As we do what we know, we get more light.”

What is your Holy Discontent?

13 Sep

Not very long ago, I wrote a piece on wanting to discover a passion for something. I’m certain that every person who is alive and breathing has a desire to make an impact on their little part of this world. I know I do. In that post, I asked a simple question, “What keeps you up at night?

Bill Hybels - Holy DiscontentI recently was given the opportunity to review Bill Hybels book, Holy Discontent. In it, he talks about the response that he calls the Popeye response where Popeye says, That’s all I can stands, and I can’t stands no more! Here’s an excerpt from the inside cover of the book.

“Holy Discontent” can overtake you in an instant. You’re going about your business, doing life as usual, when suddenly something happens that awakens your awareness and jolts your soul. A heartbreaking personal experience, a national calamity, an infuriating injustice to someone close to you… whatever it is, you can’t take it lying down. You’ve got to do something.

It’s in that defining moment when your eyes open to something bigger than yourself that you just might hear God say, “Now you know how I feel.” That firestorm of frustration isn’t just yours, it’s his as well – and he wants you to focus its energy so that together, he and you can fix some problem that badly needs fixing.

Throughout the book, he gives examples of people who experienced their own Popeye moment, including his own. He couldn’t stand the boring lifeless church he was brought up in. Eventually, he decided that he needed to do something about it. Willow Creek is the end result. A church that has touched millions of lives. Quite a few examples in the book come from his work to end AIDS in Africa.

More than anything, this book will encourage you to search out your Holy Discontent. It will encourage you to run towards the uncomfortable instead of staying in the comfortable. It will

So, what is your Holy Discontent? What makes you say, That’s all I can stands, and I can’t stands no more!

I’d love to hear from you.

Why Should I Belong

5 Sep

About a year ago, I wrote a post entitled, The Ultimate Doctrinal Question. It was a fun look at how cerebral some churches can get. At Flatland (formerly Grace) we want to be a church who welcomes everyone. We’re beginning a new teaching series called Why Should I Belong?, where we look at reasons why someone who questions the need for organized religion might want to be part of a church, and specifically, if you are in the Omaha area, why you might want to be part of Flatland Church. You are welcome to attend our services, Sundays at 9:45am and 11:00am, to find out what is happening.

If you can’t make it in person, subscribe and listen to the podcasts! If you don’t use an RSS aggregator, you can see all of the podcasts at the website.

God’s Grace – 101

3 Sep

The other day, I was reading a book that discussed objections that some people have for not believing in God. One of the reasons was that they couldn’t (wouldn’t) believe in a God that would send good people to hell. It’s hard to think about good people possibly ending up in hell. We all know people who, while they don’t especially believe in Jesus, they are good people. They do good things. This objection also comes up in discussions about “alternate” ways to heaven. Lately, a lot of people have been espousing ideas that although we have chosen Jesus as our way to God, they believe that there are other ways to come to God. The argument goes, who are we to know the mind of God? Could a Buddhist, or Muslim who is devout still go to hell?

Stacks 1On the first day teaching his class of 250 college freshmen, R. C. Sproul carefully explained the assignment of three term papers. Each paper was due on the last day of September, October, and November. Sproul clearly stated there would be no extensions (except for medical reasons). At the end of September, some 225 students dutifully turned in their papers, while 25 remorseful students quaked in fear. “We’re so sorry,” they said. “We didn’t make the proper adjustments from high school to college, but we promise to do better next time.” He bowed to their pleas for mercy, gave them an extension, but warned them not to be late next month.

The end of October rolled around, and about 200 students turned in their papers, while 50 students showed up empty-handed. “Oh, please,” they begged, “it was homecoming weekend, and we ran out of time.” Sproul relented once more but warned them, “This is it. No excuses next time. You will get an F.”

The end of November came, and only 100 students turned in their papers. The rest told Sproul, “We’ll get it in soon.”

“Sorry,” Sproul replied. “It’s too late now. You get an F.”

The students howled in protest, “That’s not fair!”

“Okay,” Sproul replied, “you want justice, do you? Here’s what’s just: you’ll get an F for all three papers that were late. That was the rule, right?”

“The students had quickly taken my mercy for granted,” Sproul later reflected. “They assumed it. When justice suddenly fell, they were unprepared for it. It came as a shock, and they were outraged.”

Like the teacher, God has given us the assignment ahead of time. Jesus said that He is the only way to the father. No one comes to the father except through Him. God is gracious. He demonstrated his grace by sending his son, Jesus to pay for our sins. If we ignore that grace and decide that there are other ways to God, then we decide (either consciously or unconsciously) to face His judgement.

Related posts:

Religion Can Go to Hell
Understanding The Emerging Church
Pimping Jesus

No Excuses – Part 2

23 Aug

I posted yesterday that I have adopted a new life motto, No Excuses! In every aspect of my life, I am determined to live life without making any excuses. I was then sent a link to this video clip from the movie, Facing The Giants. Many of you have already seen the movie. I haven’t but it is on my list to rent. Today, it just moved up to the top of my list.

Never give up. Give it all you’ve got. It’s all heart from here. Work through the pain. Give it your best.

Whew! Are you as tired watching this as I was? Doesn’t it pump you up?!

I watched this earlier today and then tonight I decided to go for my run. It was raining but I told myself, “no excuses”. I started running. There’s a long and fairly steep hill that goes 1/4 to 1/2 mile. I usually walk briskly up that hill. Tonight I told myself – no excuses. As much as it hurt, I ran all the way to the top. Once I got to the top, I wanted to stop and walk but I told myself – no excuses. I ran around the park – up and down more hills, (no excuses). I ran down the big hill and instead of turning to home, I kept going (no excuses). I ran and I ran – through pain, through the rain, through the mud. (no excuses) I finally reached my house – 1 1/2 hours later. I didn’t stop once. I ran all that time – no excuses.

It’s all about attitude. If you tell yourself that you can’t do it, you won’t. If you stop as soon as you start feeling that pain, you will never get stronger. But, if you tell yourself that you can do it, and you stay persistent, you will eventually finish. If you push through the pain and continue on, you will get stronger.

The best thing about living life with no excuses is that if affects every part of your life. Want to spend more time with your kids – then do it (no excuses). Want your spouse to love you more? Then make a committment to enhance your relationship! (no excuses) Want to get closer to God? Then dedicate more time to improve your relationship with Him. (no excuses). Feel foolish talking about God with your friends? Do it anyway (no excuses).

OK – you get the idea. Now go out and live life! No Excuses!

The Art of Being Humble

16 Aug

Most everyone has heard of John D. Rockefeller. He revolutionized the petroleum industry and defined the structure of modern philanthropy. Rockefeller had always believed since he was a child that his purpose in life was to make as much money as possible, and then use it wisely to improve the lot of mankind.

I have been reading a book that he wrote called, “Random Reminiscences of Men and Events” via the DailyLit [an awesome way to read a book by the way] Every day, during my reading, I am struck by how wise this man was. I can cull bits of business advice out of the most innocuous of his memories. Today, I was struck by how this man stayed humble even with all his success.

When he died in 1937, he was worth over 192 billion dollars, yet, he didn’t let it get to his head. Early on, as his business started making money, he would go to bed telling himself, “Now a little success, soon you will fall down, soon you will be overthrown. Because you have got a start, you think you are quite a merchant; look out, or you will lose your head–go steady.” He explained it this way. These intimate conversations with myself, I am sure, had a great influence on my life. I was afraid I could not stand my prosperity, and tried to teach myself not to get puffed up with any foolish notions.

Here is arguably the richest man in the world in his time, telling himself not to get too puffed up. Even with all his success, he was humble and it showed. He gave away billions and established a legacy of philanthropy that continues to this day.

So, I don’t have billions but it got me thinking about being humble.

  1. Honor those who serve you. You can tell a lot about people by who they honor.
  2. Utilize your talents to serve others.
  3. Model humility. If you need an example – think Mother Teresa.
  4. Become an example to others. If you model humility, others who look up to you will follow.
  5. Learn. If you are consistently learning, you are consistently growing.
  6. Enjoy life! Take time to notice your surroundings. You might be surprised at what you see!

But then again, I am reminded of an old country tune…

“Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way!”