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Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Hunger Games and Maryrdom: What Would You Do

I, Eric, am standing in an arena, with eleven other kids, whom I'm expected to kill.

The countdown clock is running down to the start of the Games and my mind is toying with the questions I've been asking myself ever since my name was chosen in the Reaping:

Can I even do this?

Should I do this?

If I refuse to "play" the Games or try to be a hero, the Peacekeepers will kill my parents and five siblings, at the behest of the President.

However, If I choose to be a "willing" participant in the Games, it means I must turn myself into a stone-cold killer.

Is that even fathomable?

My heart seared and scabbed by murder and my hands, dripping with innocent blood.

But what is the alternative?

If I don't, Death will come to me and my loved ones, anyway...


These are just some of the moral conundrums that the teens in Suzanne Collin's book, the "Hunger Games",  have to face when they are forced to participate in an annual killing-fest created by their fascist government.  

In my opinion, the best SciFi and fantasy books are those where you can see yourself in the position of the characters.

How would I, as a Christian, react to being forced into a situation where I must either kill or be killed?

How would the Church react to such an edict, following the crushing put-down of a rebellion against the fascist Captiol regime?

While the story's backdrop is a futuristic post-apocalyptic North America, the book makes no mention of the Church.

If you'll excuse my speculation, this makes perfect sense to me, considering the true Church of Christ would probably have been forced underground in the rebellion against the tyrannical forces, which led to the Caption/District system and ultimately the Hunger Games, itself.

In keeping with that thought, let's suppose, for imaginative purposes, that there is an underground Church and that you and I are a part of it.

The time comes for the Reaping and our names our picked.

What do you do?

Assuming there is no escape, do you enter the Games and refuse to fight, which would appear to be the biblical option, even though you and your family will be killed anyaway?

Perhaps you will fight, pick up a bow, a spear, a hook, a knife, or an axe, and take the life of a another person, not much different in age than you, in order to save yourself and your family

Would you do that to me?

From the outside looking in, I think one viable option for me would be the "path of least bloodshed":

To not attack unless attacked, and fighting to kill only if deadly force is being used against you.

Nonetheless, something tells me that if I was actually in the Games, I probably would just sit down in the grass and wait for the inevitable... 

Now I know that the Hunger Game's is fiction and I think we're safe to say that the situations that the characters in the book are presented with we will never have to face.

However, from the time of Jesus to today, March 22, 2012, there are those who are faced with the choice to deny the Lord of Glory or suffer the consequences.

If they deny Him, their lives may be spared, but if they choose to stand in their commitment to Christ, they, their families, and friends may be put in grave danger.

Do you know what you would do if you had to choose either Jesus, or your life and the life of your family?

While I may not be able to map out a sure-fire plan of what I would do in either situation or in the many trials I will face on earth, I know that because of the Spirit of Christ within me, I need not be afraid, for He, who reigns over all, has overcome the world.

And I know that if time ever came where I must either deny Christ or live, He would give me the strength to say, I do believe.   

---Leave me a comment and tell me what you would do if you were in the Hunger Games or faced with a "Life or Jesus" situation ---

Monday, March 19, 2012

If the Whole Church Played Bible Bowl

For those of you who don't know, there is a coalition of kids from around the country who memorize pre-selected book(s) of the Bible and compete over their respective knowledge of the biblical text on the regional level, at summer college tournaments, and at an annual National Tournament.

We call it Bible Bowl.

When I joined the Bible Bowl family in '08, I was not new to competitive Bible memory ( think AWANA) and I was excited for the chance to again learn God's Word, in such a format, with people of like mind.

Historically speaking, Bible Bowl is a product of the Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ and was started at a college of their affiliation, Lincoln Christian University.

Going into Bible Bowl, with my naiveté in hand, I assumed that we were all on the same page, theologically, more or less, and *Stone-Campbell sympathizers of varying stripes. (*the Stone-Campbell movement gave birth to the I
ndependent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ)

Yeah, I was wrong.

I'm ashamed to admit that it took me 3 years and a Facebook account to realize that the Bible Bowl community is made up of all kinds of theological viewpoints.

We have Pentecostals, Calvinists, theological liberals, theological conservatives, and, Restorationists.

You would think in a gathering of Christians with such diverse theological views, and no one being asked to compromise or accept any certain creed, that chaos and strife would ensue.



Bible Bowlers come together and fellowship much like a family: we laugh, play around, compete, debate, pray, reflect, and, most importantly, we love each other.

But, how is this possible?

Bible Bowlers recognize that what unites us more important than what divides us: a mutual love and respect for the game of Bible Bowl and an even stronger love and respect for our Savior Jesus Christ.

So, what if the whole Church played Bible Bowl?

If everybody was involved in this awesome game in some way, couldn't we unite the Church?

Of course there would be some odd balls who'd go against the grain, but wouldn't most people jump at the chance to be a part of such an awesome group of loving people?

I hope that you, like me, realize that no matter how much I love Bible Bowl, this is neither a practical or possible idea.

Bible Bowl is a man-made creation and, as such, is not capable of uniting Christ's Church.

In fact, there is no convention, denomination, group, activity, creed or creation of man that is capable of uniting Believers.

If it is up to us, by our own abilities, talents, and resources to construct a medium for Church unity, I promise you that we will
NEVER succeed.

But, thanks be to God we don't have to invent some scheme or plan for church unity, because He himself has already given us the basis for uniting His people.

For as Jesus is in the Father and the Father in Christ, we are to be in God.

And while the whole Church cannot play Bible Bowl, we have an even better basis for unity: our shared relationship with the God of Heaven, Creator of the Universe and Lover of Our Souls.

It is in our relationship with Jesus that true unity is found and, somehow, that seems very fitting.

John 17:20-23

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,
21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Reaching Homosexuals with Christ: Two Problems

I'm adopted.

In being adopted into a family whose race is different than my own, I have had some very unique experiences and challenges that only those who have also been in interracially adopted, in similar circumstances can understand.

In the same way, I have no doubt that there are certain things about you and your life that only those who've had similar experiences can understand and relate too.

When friends or family who have not been through what we have try to commiserate with us or give us advice concerning our experiences, they may mean well, but they ultimately fall short because of an empathy gap.

However, when we receive comfort or counsel from a godly man or woman who has been in our shoes it makes such a difference and serves as a great encouragement.

Switch gears to the issue of non-believers with same-sex attraction (SSA) .

Can you see, given my example, how a person with SSA would rebuff someone who tries to give them godly exhortations because of a lack of common ground?

Any attempt at evangelism seems shallow and is viewed with suspicion because of a lack of common ground.

This "empathy gap" between Christians without SSA and non-Christians with SSA is the first problem.

The second problem is also the solution.

Sound confusing?

Let me explain:

I think it is painstakingly clear that the best avenue by which to reach homosexuals with the gospel message and explain to them a Christian outlook on sexuality is by Christians who themselves have SSA and are living out the Christian life, either in chastity or in committed heterosexual relationships, by the grace and power of God.

They understand the hurts and the trials that those with SSA face and the freedom and liberty that Christ can bring to those who are enslaved by the homosexual lifestyle.

This, I think, is not a novel idea.

The problem is that the local body of believers, young and old, especially in the more conservative sectors of Christendom, (of which I love and am a part) have not made the local Body a safe place to tell their stories and "come out" as Christians with SSA.

Strange, insensitive, and often incorrect ideas regarding the precise nature of Christians who have SSA have created an environment that many with SSA in our churches find hostile and unwelcoming.

You can see the problem: what non-believing persons with SSA need (like everyone else) is the gospel, and those who are the most qualified to bring it to them are afraid to come out in our churches for fear of being treated like freaks or looked down upon or even cast out of our ranks.

Earlier, I said that the problem is also the solution:

When our preachers, elders, deacons, and "laity" make a conscious decision that their local churches will be places where our brother and sisters with SSA can thrive, grow, and contribute in areas related and unrelated to their attractions we can begin the process of reaping the harvest of unconverted homosexuals in our communities AND giving hope to young Christians with SSA who feel hopeless and are confused about their feelings

Essentially, when the Church begins acting like the Church we will see people coming to Christ as a result.

I'm thinking of doing another blog post on how we can begin to effect a positive change in this area, but in the meantime search your own heart and see what you should be doing better in order to to reach out to those in your church who may be struggling with SSA.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What Justice?

I first heard about the man Joseph Kony while watching "Law and Order: SVU" two years ago.

The episode, titled "Hell", did a great job of painting Kony and his "Lord's Resistance Army" as the terrors that they are and it moved me to educate myself about this man and his "army".

I'm glad I did.

Recently, a video put out by the humanitarian group "Invisible Children" details some of the atrocities committed at the direction of Kony and what exactly must be done to capture him and end the madness caused by this wretched warlord.

I'm not tech savvy, but from a lay perspective, the video seemed very well done and I think all Christians would agree that we have a duty to assist our African brothers and sisters in helping their communities protect themselves from Kony's forces.

However, as I watched the video, I became uncomfortable at the secular humanism and utopianism sprinkled throughout the video.

The idea behind the whole project is that man working by himself, apart from God, can create a world of peace and justice on human merit alone.

In other words: "thanks but no thanks, God, we can rebuild our world without your help".

An idea that is as old as the Tower of Babel.

What is worse is that Christians are buying this idea without a second thought!

Excuse me, but when did social justice become an end, itself, rather than the means to an end, namely, men and women in the fold of God?

Do we really believe it's possible for man to create a world of peace and justice devoid of God?

How deep is that kind of "peace"?

And how valuable is that kind of "justice"?

The world needs to know that not only is not in fallen man's capability to right every wrong and cure all societal ills, but that ultimately when our social justice endeavors are divorced from the gospel they mean nothing.

I'm not saying they are damaged or that they hold only little value.

I mean nothing.

What does it profit a Ugandan child to be rescued from the the LRA, live a long, happy life and die and go to hell because he saw that man didn't need God to "make the world a better place"?

Or what is gained when the Church plays footsie with worldly philosophies that put man on par with God and eclipse the gospel?

When we make social justice an end and fool ourselves into believing we can effect that end apart from God, we are working against the truth of the gospel and souls will suffer as a result.

When we divorce justice from God, we are left with a form of godliness with absolutely no power.

Let me say clearly, I don't believe that Christians abstain from secular social justice endeavors.

What I'm saying is that the Body must not fall into the trap of thinking that social justice can be effectively separated from the Just One himself or that man, apart from, God can transcend his human nature and make a perfect world of peace and love.

Only in the superficial realm can man make progress, so if you want real change you'd better be preaching Christ crucified and working by his power.

Whenever we help others we need to do so in the name of the One who's name is Hope and Justice.

In the name of Jesus will the nations put their hope and then and only then will we experience the whole of Peace and Justice ~

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you

But to do justly,

To love mercy,

And to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8