Recently Rob Bell was quoted as saying some rather provocative things about the church, homosexuality, gay marriage, and the irrelevancy of the Bible. As has been the case for the last few years, whenever Bell speaks there is a minor firestorm that erupts. One of the unfortunate aspects of the firestorm is at some important truths often get lost in the conflagration.

In this case, Bell was making the case that it is inevitable that the church at large will come to accept gay marriage. Bell said, “I think culture is already there and the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense, when you have in front of you flesh-and-blood people who are your brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles, and co-workers and neighbors, and they love each other and just want to go through life,”

Without getting into whether or not it is inevitable that the church at large will adopt gay marriage as acceptable and without dealing with the crux of the issues regarding homosexuality, I want to focus on Bell’s statement about the Bible. In many ways it was what most set people off. I can understand that. Here is Bell, a former darling of the evangelical camp, all be it a more progressive strain of it. He was hailed as a preacher and Bible teacher for a new generation. Now here he is pointing out the irrelevance of the very scriptures he made his teaching reputation. The sense of betrayal that Christians feel when one of our own turns on the things we hold dear and believed he taught only adds to the blaze.

But let’s try to set all that aside for a moment as look at what Bell is saying from the perspective of the secular world we are trying to influence for Christ. When Bell says, “the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense” he has a point that we need to hear. If you are a follower of Christ I would hope that all you need is the truth of those letters in the Bible written 2,000 years ago. They are the eternal truth of the Word of God and they have authority in our lives, something every denomination and church from liberal to conservative has in their creeds in some fashion. But if you look at it from the perspective of the person who does not believe the Bible to be the Word of God and to have authority in our lives then yes, quoting 2,000 year old letters carries no weight, it has no influence. People are just not there. It is comparable to a Muslim quoting the Quran to a Christian. The Christian would consider it irrelevant because they do not consider the Quran to have any weight or authority. That is where many people are today and have been since antiquity.

It needs to be noted that the Apostle Paul understood this. In Acts 17 Paul is in Athens, the center of philosophical learning, debate and even academic snobbery. After spending a few days getting a handle on the culture of Athens Paul begins to speak and debate the leading thinkers of the culture. He wants them to understand the Gospel and embrace Jesus as Lord. When he speaks he starts not by quoting the Bible, in this case some things written by Moses and other prophets between 400 and 2,000 years earlier. Rather he begins by quoting a Greek philosopher named Epimenides who lived more than 600 years before Paul. What Paul does is appeal to an authority that his audience would respect and then uses what they already agree to as a bridge to get to the truth of who Jesus is. Simply quoting the Bible to his audience would have gotten Paul nowhere fast. He was not denying the Gospel. He was being wise in how he presented it in order to best communicate with his hearers.

Bells says that if we are quoting the Bible as our best defense we are going to be increasingly irrelevant. He is partly right. Ultimately the Bible is our best case for the truth of God. It is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword and will cut between bone and marrow, to quote Hebrews 4:12. But it is not our only tool and it is not always the first one we should use. For Christians to truly impact the world and people in it we need to understand what they hold as authoritative. What carries weight with them? What truths are to be found in their thinking that lead to the truth of Christ found in the Bible? Those truths are there. Paul says in Romans 1 that the knowledge of God is present within every human being but we suppress that knowledge to follow gods of our own making. That residual knowledge makes itself known in various ways, in little truths and in the yearnings in the hearts of men and women. We need to be students of the culture like Paul was in order to show people exactly why the Word of God is their best hope for finding truth and living life as it was meant to be.

Unfortunately, the reaction to Bell’s statement is typically to shout our Bible verses louder and with more anger in our attempt to prove to people that the Bible is relevant to the subject at hand. We do not need to make the Bible relevant. It is always relevant. Certainly getting angry over it doesn’t serve us or Jesus well. What we need to do is show the culture that much of what they already believe is contained within the Bible, just as Paul did in Athens. I may disagree with Rob Bell on many, many things. But we need to hear what he is saying from the perspective of a disbelieving culture so that we can better communicate the truth of God to people immersed in it.

WIthin his statement we can see what drives Bell. It is the people standing in front of him. I think he has an incredibly compassionate heart. As his famous books says, Love Wins. Bell is right that Evangelical Christians could take a few lessons in love, especially loving your neighbor who is a complete and total enemy of the things of God. Where Bell goes astray is thinking that you can have a loving God without also having a holy God, a just God, a God who gets angry over evil and injustice. We Christians are big on speaking the truth to people. But we are called by the truth of Scripture to “speak the truth in love.” Incidentally, that also applies to how we speak to and about Rob Bell.

The terroristic attacks on the French Magazine Charlie Hedbo have once again thrust a simmering conflict into the headlines. The magazine is well-known for its satirical cartoons that are equal opportunity offenders. The Pope, Christianity, Islam, the prophet Mohammed are all fair game for the magazines satire. It is clear that the attack this week on the magazine’s headquarters, which left twelve dead, was motivated by satirical cartoons of the prophet Mohammed. Even as I write this the French security forces have surrounded the two suspected gunman who are reported to have told police they are ready to die as martyrs.

In the past few days there have been numerous articles, blogs, and news reports about the violent responses that radical Islamists have made to similar affronts to Islam in recent years. In the midst of the reports and debates there have been a variety of responses to the very idea of printing images that are offensive to religious sensibilities. Many editors and cartoonists have expressed solidarity with Charlie Hedbo by posting illustrations of their own, vowing to never give up the right of free expression. On the other side a number of news agencies, CNN and AP among them have made statements that they have long had a policy of not printing such offensive images.

The problem with the CNN and AP statements is that they are mistaken at best and outright falsehoods at worst. As recently as October of 2014 CNN ran a story on shocking works of art and included a picture of the infamous exhibit of a crucified Christ in a jar of urine.  Many have pointed out the hypocrisy of news agencies that feel free to attack and offend Christians at every turn, apparently without a second thought, yet go to great lengths to avoid offending other religious groups. I don’t want to delve into that subject. Rather, I want to look at how Christians need to view and respond to such attacks on the faith and on Christ.

The message of Jesus, as it relates to being offended, attacked, ridiculed, persecuted, or even killed for one’s faith, was a radical and provocative message. It boils down to these two things: one, expect those things to happen to you and when they do, consider it a blessing and respond to your antagonists with the love of Christ. Two, if you are not the subject of such attacks then reconsider whether you are truly following Jesus or not.

Jesus said it so clearly in His most famous message, The Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew chapter 5:10-12.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Far from being the exception that rocks our faith, Jesus says that persecution and ridicule are part and parcel of following Him and should actually increase our faith. Such opposition should serve as an assurance that we are truly following Jesus and being faithful to Him. The result of such opposition is that we are in some way blessed by God. We are in a better place in life when such things happen than when they don’t. Blessing in God’s economy is not measured by your prosperity and health but according to Jesus by the push-back you get because you love and serve Him alone as Lord and King.

Of course it is possible to be ridiculed for your faith simply because you are being a jerk to people. What I am talking about is the opposition that comes because you adhere to Christ and His teachings and do all of it under the command to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. I am talking about holding to theological and moral positions that the culture finds offensive, but doing so with the grace and love of Christ.

Being ridiculed and persecuted for who He was and what He taught is what Jesus faced all the time. His response was one of strong gentleness, returning evil with good and loving and forgiving even those who drove the nails into His body and spit on and cursed Him as He died. In Matthew 10:25 He warns us that is this is how the world treats Him, the Master, then why would we the servants expect to be treated any differently?

Why would a follower of Christ become offended and indignant when attacked for their faith? If anything it should be taken as a badge of honor that we are counted worthy to suffer for His namesake. That is exactly what Paul says to the Philippians in chapter 1 verse 29.

29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake

Talk about provocative! Paul is saying that we have been granted, as a privilege, to believe in AND suffer for the sake of Christ. When he writes of his own imprisonment for the Gospel he writes of the benefits such suffering and persecution have had for the advancement of the Gospel, making the point that other followers of Christ have been emboldened to share their faith more openly as a result of Paul being persecuted. How counter-intuitive is that? Rather than run and hide out of fear or protest the injustice of his persecution, friends and colleagues of Paul shared the Gospel even more. I think it was because they saw his imprisonment, his persecution, not as a sign of something going wrong but of everything going right! Rather than be angry and lash back at the opposition, they showed the love of Christ even more boldly.

That is the Christian response to offense, ridicule, persecution, and even martyrdom. Instead of fighting back with vitriol, or anger, or even guns, the follower of Christ fights back with joy, love, grace, and forgiveness, in short, with the Gospel of Christ. For some people the answer is to destroy their enemies by way of attack. Abraham Lincoln asked the question, “If I make my enemy my friend, have I not destroyed my enemy?” That is the way of Christ. Not to make your enemy die, but to rather lay down your life for them so they are no longer your enemy. That is the way of the Cross. It is not an easy way. The easy way is to retaliate, to fight back, to punch harder and more frequently. The way of the Cross, the way of the Provocative Christian, is to respond with love by serving and sacrificing for your enemies. You do that so they may one day become followers of Christ, no longer enemies, but friends, even brothers and sisters in Him. So pray for those who persecute and ridicule you. Look for opportunities to serve them and love them in Jesus name. Refuse to attack their character or intentions. Certainly engage their ideas but as 1 Peter 3:15 urges, “do so with gentleness and respect”. And finally rejoice that you have been counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus.

Dan Lacich:

Very helpful and wise words from my friend Darryl Ford.

Originally posted on Souls With Bodies:

Gospel Gardening: Ferguson and Beyond

Gardening(1)

Something is wrong with our garden. God cares about it. We should too.

There are weeds preventing water from reaching the soil. There are plants suffering drought. There are areas where soil nutrients are being overtaxed. Recent events are a reminder that our garden in America is unhealthy and is in desperate need of maintenance; specifically when we look at the powder keg that is race in America.

A few examples: The shooting fatality of Mike Brown in Ferguson. The choking fatality of Eric Garner in Staten Island, NY. The shooting fatality of John Crawford III in a southwestern Ohio Walmart. The shooting fatality of Ezell Ford in Los Angeles.The shooting fatality of Darrien Hunt outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. All unarmed African Americans killed while being arrested or in custody.

There are also certainly huge issues within the African American…

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Sometimes I Forget….

Posted: November 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

Dan Lacich:

 

How would you respond if someone told you that you life would have been better if you had disposed of one of your children? Props to this amazing mom. You will want to cheer for her as I did when I read this blog.

Originally posted on Hand Me Downs:

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Sometimes I forget that our son has Down syndrome. It’s easy to be distracted by his two year old tantrums, his mischievous smile and go getter attitude. Gabe is kind hearted but stubborn. He immediately runs to check on sister when she is having a dramatic, I’m four and the world is over, meltdown. He will climb onto your lap randomly and stretch his little fingers up to stroke your cheek, just to say I love you.

He also destroys things. Opens drawers, pulls things out, throws them on floor. When you confront him, he ducks his head and looks up from under his eyebrows with a sort of sorry smirk. He helps pick up, sometimes, or wanders off to destroy something else. He loves music, he will start to dance the second he hears it. He absolutely cannot resist participating in a round of Itsy Bitsy, or Twinkle Twinkle…

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Here is a question I was asked recently as part of Northland Church Ask a Pastor.

Enjoy

Dan

Something is amiss among followers of Jesus these days. Rarely a day goes by when I don’t hear a message or read a blog, Facebook post, or book that proclaims a love for Jesus but a disdain for religion. Phrases like, “it’s not a religion, it’s a relationship” or “I love Jesus just not the church” or the all too familiar “I am spiritual not religious” are phrases that sound enlightened, mature and so very appealing. The problem is they are very misguided statements. Read the rest of this entry »

This is a sermon on John 13 and the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot. Betrayal is one of the most painful experiences we go through because it can only come at the hands of someone close to you. Anyone can hurt you but only someone close enough that you trust them can betray you.

Dan

If Houston Subpoenaed My Sermons

Posted: October 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

A recent news report dealt with a controversy in Houston Texas. The short version of the story is that Houston passed an ordinance that dealt with access issues for transgender people. There was an effort to overturn the law that included the gathering of thousands of signatures on petitions in order to get the issue on a ballot. The concern people have is that the law would allow a man to dress up as a woman, claim to have gender identity issues and then have the freedom to go into any womans restroom, locker room, sauna, you name it and stare at women and young girls. Read the rest of this entry »

The Last Stand

Posted: August 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

I have found that one learns a great deal about people, their strengths, fears, prejudices and virtues by reading military history that focuses on the people more than the strategies and tactics of a battle. To that end I have been reading The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull and the Battle of the Little Bighorn by Nathaniel Philbrick. Read the rest of this entry »

Here is a short video clip from a Q&A I did recently for Third Millenium Ministry. They have a goal of making Master Degree level theological education available for everyone on the planet for free. Not a bad goal. This clip answers the question, “What is realized eschatology?”

It is only a minute or so long. Hope you enjoy it.

dan3mil

Dan

Sermon: Truth Matters

Posted: July 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

Truth is increasingly becoming whatever you want it to be. Tolerance is becoming increasingly intolerant. Debate and discussion on issues in an effort to discover the truth, while respecting the other person, has been replaced with subjectivism coupled with personal attacks that shut down dialogue. In the midst of all this turmoil regarding what is truth and tolerance of everything, with the exception of people who think they are right, Christianity claims to not only stand on truth but that Jesus personified truth.

This worship service and sermon at Northland deals with the importance of truth, of us believing things the way they actually are.

The sermon begins at 35:32 but the whole service leading up to that is well worth the time.

truthmatters

Dan

“if God is a loving God then why does He let bad things happen, especially to good people?” It is a question that has been asked countless times throughout history, by devout believers and angry atheists and everyone in between. It may in fact be the question most often asked about God. Why does God let bad things happen? When someone dies at a young age, when a storm kills seemingly at random, when a job is lost, a house destroyed, cancer diagnosed, a pregnancy is miscarried, the question gets asked in the midst of pain and tears, heartache and anger. Read the rest of this entry »

The Book is Here!

Posted: July 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

The Provocative God: Radical Things God Has Said and Done, is now available. You can order from this website and get the book for $10 plus shipping. Just click the link below.

The Provocative God

Hope you enjoy!

Dan

I recently answered a series of questions for Third Millennium Ministries covering topics related to Biblical Theology. Here is the first of the videos to be posted.

It is a couple of minutes long. Hope you enjoy it and have your understanding of God expanded.

kingdomofgod

Dan

The Provocative God – Introduction

In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.

 Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.

 And one called out to another and said,

         “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts,

         The whole earth is full of His glory.”

 And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.

 Then I said,

         “Woe is me, for I am ruined!

         Because I am a man of unclean lips,

         And I live among a people of unclean lips;

         For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”

Isaiah 6:1-5 NASB

What ever happened to a God who was bigger than our wildest imaginations, more grand than our greatest accomplishments, more perplexing than our deepest scientific theories? What ever happened to the God Isaiah trembled before, certain that he would literally be undone by the very presence of such overwhelming holiness and majesty? Whatever happened to that God of mystery, of power, the God before whom we were compelled to fall on our faces and declare; I am ruined? Read the rest of this entry »