Tag Archives: spirituality

Yet another reason to like Tim Tebow

He even does prison ministry, including talking one-on-one to literally hundreds of death row inmates.

A funny bit via Doctors Recommended that Tim Tebow Be Aborted – Blog – Eternal Perspective Ministries.

He started the season as the third-stringer, and everyone freaked out. Then he got a start and won, and everyone freaked out. Then in his second start, he played horribly and got crushed, and everyone freaked out. Then he went on a winning streak, and everyone freaked out. Then he went on a losing streak, and everyone freaked out. Then he won a playoff game, and everyone freaked out.

Victim count: football scouts, football media, Tebow haters, Tebow supporters, John Fox, John Elway, his teammates, me, you. At some point along the way, he’s made everyone look stupid…

Brett Favre used to be the go-to name for members of the sports media in need of a column or segment topic. But he went away, and the collective football media panicked. Fortunately, in stepped Tebow. This alone could turn thousands of grateful sports media members to religion. And I’m as guilty as anyone else. In the past two months, I’ve written approximately 127 Tebow columns. But I’ve also started tithing. Thanks Tim!

…Will a wholesome, handsome ex-football star who can draw the religious vote and appeal to the tens of millions of Oprah-loving pop psychologists win 51 percent of the vote in the 2024 presidential election? No, he will win 91 percent of the vote in the 2024 presidential election. The 9 percent who don’t vote for him will just be hard-core Raiders, Chargers, Chiefs, Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Ron Paul fans.

…He can’t be stopped. He can’t be killed. He just keeps coming for you. Coming for us all. He doesn’t want to kill you. He doesn’t want to eat your flesh. He just wants to win. He’s the world’s first wholesome, positive zombie. The only screams you’ll hear are his … celebrating another touchdown.

Pro-choicers tend to hate Tebow because of his faith and because his life shows one of the many errors of their philosophy.  His mother was encouraged to abort him because he might have medical problems — as if we would kill human beings outside the womb for those reasons!

Having said that, it is creepy when some Christians seem to worship him.  He’s a great guy and an amazing role model, but still not Jesus.  Yes, God is sovereign, but it isn’t like He is going to make sure that Tebow completes every pass he throws.  I’m glad that they are rooting for Tebow, but I hope they use his example to get out and impact the lives around them for Christ.

It is sadly ironic that pro-choice women would oppose him.  Why wouldn’t they want to hold him up as a role model?  He wouldn’t try to have sex with them outside of marriage and take their innocence and purity.  He wouldn’t use them for his pleasure and not commit to them.  He wouldn’t encourage them to have an abortion if they got pregnant.  And on and on.

I’ve been a Steelers fan for 40 years and rooted for them last Sunday, but I have to admit that I was by far the least disappointed I’ve ever been at one of their losses.

Grudges

John MacArthur noted in a Podcast this morning how we are most like God when we forgive.  Someone once said that unforgiveness is like taking a little poison every day and hoping that it hurts your enemy.

I once held a grudge against my boss’s boss, who I felt had done some serious wrongs to a good friend (among other things).  He was like the pig character in the comic strip and I was like the rat.  He was also a bully to nearly everyone in various meetings, including my team.  I knew how to stand up to him, but others didn’t.  Then one day I realized that I had to let the personal stuff go and just forgive him.  That was liberating.

But with respect to how he treated my team I realized I had a different obligation.  I let him know that his bullying, swearing and yelling were counter-productive to the results we both wanted to achieve because they were stifling discussions.  People were afraid to speak up and solve problems because of his shoot-the-messenger approach. The appeal to his self-interest worked, and he made a surprisingly rapid change in his approach.  And I didn’t get fired!  (I wasn’t a Kamikaze; I let Human Resources and my boss know ahead of time that I was going to confront him.)

Things don’t always work out that well but parsing the issue into the personal (forgive and let it go!) and the professional/ethical (turning the other cheek on behalf of those getting injured isn’t noble) made a huge difference.  God’s approach really works.  Go figure.

This is a sobering passage about unforgiveness:

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

Matthew 18: 21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. 23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servantfell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers,until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

The longer you live the more things you’ll have to forgive.  If you hold grudges you’ll just become more and more weighed down with bitterness.  Really, let it go.

As MacArthur noted, the sins of others offend God way more than they offend you — just as your sins offend God way more than they offend others.  Let him deal with it.  You’ll love the freedom that comes with forgiving others, and your relationships will improve.

Two of my favorite role models

Last week I wrote about the importance of retirement plans — not the financial part, but the activity part.  We should never retire from Christian activities, though they may change over time.  We should finish strong, just like Moses, Joshua, Paul and so many others.  Don’t succumb to temptations.  Don’t destroy what you’ve worked so hard for.  Don’t sit back in self-indulgence.

Then on Saturday I was reminded of two of my favorite ministry role models.  I was doing a monthly visit as part of Kairos Prison Ministry and got to see Mike and Vic (pictures below).

You might think that white guys in their 80’s wouldn’t be able to connect with much younger guys (roughly 50% black, 25% Hispanic, 25% white), but you’d be wrong.  The prisoners seem to instantly bond with them and develop meaningful relationships over the course of the weekend and the follow-up sessions.  They have an authenticity and a genuine love that you just can’t miss.

They are as humble as can be, even though they are the most popular volunteers in the unit.  The prisoners go nuts whenever either one is introduced.

Neither are in perfect health, so they could just stay home on Saturday morning.  But month after month they get up early to come out and serve.  And when they work the Kairos weekends they work very long days, often getting to the prison at 6:30 a.m. and not leaving until 8:30 p.m.  But they do it with a smile and never complain.

They are both quick-witted and fun to listen to, having lived full and exciting lives.  Mike has been married for over 60 years (to the same woman, as he likes to add!), and I think Vic has been as well. I’ve seen Vic’s wife working on the outside teams during the weekends, and I’ve seen Mike’s wife come to the closing ceremonies.

These men never fail to encourage me.  If they can keep marriages intact for 60+ years and still love and serve in the name of Christ into their 80’s, so can I (God willing!).   This is how it is supposed to work.

Mike & Vic, I pray that God blesses you with the strength to serve many more years!


The original Bible texts turned out exactly as God and the writers desired

The arguments about biblical inerrancy, infallibility and inspiration can get very detailed, so I like to summarize the basic Christian — and biblical — claim as I did in the title.

Many Christians (the confused kind) and “Christians” (the fake kind) think the Bible is partly inspired — that is, that some of what God wanted ended up there but at least some of it was man-made and contrary to what God wanted.  Consider the claims that Paul was a misogynistic “homophobe,” for example, and that he was wrong about women and homosexual behavior.

But think about who is making the bigger claim.  It may appear that those claiming complete inspiration for the Bible have a greater burden.  But when you carefully consider the theologically Liberal claims, it becomes clear that their view is much more difficult to support.  They need to show which of the 31,173 verses are inspired and which are not.  That requires a verse-by-verse case for what does and does not belong.  That is a wildly bold claim, much more so than mine.

And it is no small matter when it comes to theology.  After all, if Paul was so wrong about basic human sexuality, how can you be sure he got the saved-by-grace part right?

Obviously, the original texts contained what the writers wanted to write, but those who don’t think they all turned out as God desired have to demonstrate how they know what God “really” wanted and where.  But they have no standard but their worldly views.  They make themselves god in trying to adapt what He said to fit their belief system.  Bad idea.

Those who don’t believe the title display some form of Dalmatian Theology, where they claim that the Bible is only inspired in spots and that they are inspired to spot the spots, or Advanced Dalmatian Theology, where God is also changing spots and adding/removing spots, and, oddly enough, He is only telling theological liberals and progressives.

Again, the original texts of the Bible turned out exactly as God and the writers desired.  Now go read and enjoy the timeless truths God gave to you in his word!

P.S. The claim is for the original writings and not the translations.  The translation process was very robust and defensible, but not inerrant.  Also note that the case for Christianity does not rest on the inerrancy of scripture.  Even if the Gospels had minor errors from the witnesses (they don’t, but work with me here), it wouldn’t mean Jesus didn’t rise from the dead.  The evidence strongly points to that truth.  We can defend inerrancy, but I don’t think we have to do that before sharing the Gospel.

What Jesus didn’t say?

I’ve been hearing the “Jesus didn’t say anything about homosexual behavior, so it must be OK” argument a lot lately — and as usual, it is from people who should know better.  It is used to rationalize abortion to the child’s first breath as well.

Here’s an overview, though I encourage you to read it all.  Feel free to copy or link all you like.

  • Arguing from silence is a logical fallacy
  • Jesus is God, so He inspired all scripture — not just the “red letters” (the direct quotes of Jesus in the New Testament)
  • He supported the Old Testament to the last letter
  • The “red letters” weren’t silent on these topics in the sense that they reiterated what marriage and murder were
  • He emphasized many other important issues that these liberal theologians completely ignore (Hell, his divinity, his exclusivity, etc.)
  • He was a devout Jew and upholder of the law, so the burden is on the pro-gay theology side: Where is that verse when Jesus condones homosexuality?
  • He was equally “silent” on issues that these folks treat as having the utmost importance (capital punishment, war, welfare, universal health care, etc.)
  • Abortion and homosexual behavior simply weren’t hot topics for 1st century Jews
  • He did mention Sodom and Gomorrah

For self-proclaimed Christians to (mis)quote the red letters and to commit the logical fallacy of arguing from silence is negligent and foolish.  They are distorting the Bible and hurting the church and its witness.

—–

cross3.jpgLifeSite News reported that Dr. Bob Edgar, former general secretary of the National Council of Churches, said “Jesus never said one word about homosexuality, never said one word about civil marriage or abortion.” He said this to CBS News at a gathering of liberal Christian leaders in Washington.

Sadly, this is a common sound bite from people who should know better. Their reasoning goes like this:

  • Whatever Jesus did not specifically condemn in the Bible is morally permissible or unimportant.
  • In the Bible, Jesus did not specifically condemn abortion or homosexual behavior.
  • Therefore, abortion and homosexual behavior are morally permissible or unimportant.

There are many problems with this reasoning.

1. As you may have noticed, their logic goes off track in the first bullet.  Direct quotes of Jesus also didn’t specifically mention gay-bashing, slavery, drunk driving, child sacrifice, and many other sins, but they are still sins.  They are arguing from silence, and that is a logical fallacy.

Some insist that since Jesus didn’t specifically condemn oxymoronic “same sex marriages” that they must be permissible.  Jesus also never talked about square circles, partly because they don’t exist either.

2. Jesus is God (and anyone such as Edgar should know that), so He authored all the moral laws in the Bible – including the crystal-clear ones against homosexual behavior and murder. And He created the institution of marriage and desribed what parents should do, of which 100% of the verses refer to the ideal as a one man/one woman union.

3. Many of the “red letters” (direct quotes of Jesus) referred to the “black letters” (the rest of the Bible).  Jesus noted in Matthew 5:17-19 that He supported all the law.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

4. He may not have specifically mentioned abortion and homosexual behavior because they weren’t hot topics for his primarily Jewish audience.  Homosexuals were a tiny minority then just as they are now (less than 3% of the U.S. population) and the Jews had strict laws against such behavior.  Regarding abortion, Jews actually saw children as a blessing and not a curse, so they had no desire to destroy them.  I am not aware of any Jewish movements at the time advancing these behaviors as not being sinful.  Under no circumstances were these issues dividing the followers as they are today.

Having said that, Jesus was not silent on oxymoronic “same sex marriage.” He clearly stated what marriage was in Mark 10:6-9 and elsewhere, to the exclusion of other scenarios:

But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.

He describes exactly what the plan was, and doesn’t even hint at other possibilities. He didn’t say you couldn’t marry animals either, but I don’t see anyone saying bestiality must be acceptable because He didn’t specifically prohibit it.  So there was no silence.

Regarding abortion, He reiterated that we shouldn’t murder and noted that the real meaning of the command was deeper than the physical act.

Think about this: It took almost 2,000 years and a several decades long perverted sexual revolution that repeatedly denies and mocks the Biblical worldview of human sexuality plus a massive, well funded pro-gay public relations campaign to convince some liberals that oxymoronic “same sex marriages” should have government recognition and that abortion should be legal.  Yet liberal theologians think that it is something Jesus should have addressed in more detail back then?  Even the pagan Hippocratic oath had prohibitions against abortions until just recently.

Most people would concede that U.S.-style slavery was a moral evil, but since it is now illegal you won’t hear about it as a campaign issue in the presidential election.  But does that mean it isn’t important?  Does that mean the candidates wouldn’t address it if large parts of the population were seeking to legalize it?  Of course not.

Simply put, they were non-issues for the Jews.

5. If these liberal theologians are so keen on the direct quotes of Jesus and assume that they trump the rest of the Bible, why don’t they take them all as seriously as they do their pet verses or arguments from silence?

Jesus claimed to be the only way to salvation, but they not only ignore that but they teach the opposite.  He claimed to be God, but they tend to ignore that.  He spoke with a physically resurrected body but they often deny that.  He said his primary purpose was to save lost sinners and He taught about Hell a lot.  When was the last time you heard them preach on that truth?  And so on.

6. Those who use these arguments from silence don’t apply them to the rest of their pet topics.  Jesus said nothing about universal health care, for example.  Jesus advocated caring for the poor, but he never brought government into it (apparently Jesus’ alleged silence only counts when it comes to abortion and homosexuality.  Jesus also never said not to stone gays.  Of course, those who know the Bible realize that was a law just for the Israelites, but if you want to use the argument from silence rationale, you’d have to support that for this culture.

7. He was a devout Jew and upholder of the law, so the burden is on the pro-gay theology side: Where is that verse when Jesus condones homosexuality?

So to summarize: Arguing from silence is a logical fallacy, Jesus inspired all scripture, He supported the Old Testament law to the last letter, the “red letters” weren’t silent on these topics in the sense that they reiterated what marriage and murder were, He emphasized many other important issues that these liberal theologians completely ignore (Hell, his divinity, his exclusivity, etc.), He was equally “silent” on issues that these folks treat as having the utmost importance (capital punishment, war, welfare, universal health care, etc.), abortion and homosexual behavior simply weren’t hot topics for 1st century Jews, He was a devout Jew who upheld the Law so the pro-gay theology people have the burden to show where he condones homosexual behavior and He did mention Sodom and Gomorrah.  Oh, and Jesus never said anything about the “sin” of criticizing homosexual behavior, so it must be OK!

For leaders like this to (mis)quote the red letters and to commit the logical fallacy of arguing from silence is negligent and foolish.  They are distorting the Bible and hurting the church and its witness.

Free jpg to use as you like!

silence

If you are going to read a book about Heaven, make it “In Light of Eternity”

A friend of mine and I will be teaching In Light of Eternity: Perspectives on Heaven by Randy Alcorn to the High School youth over the next few weeks as part of a study called “Heaven and Hell.  Mostly Heaven.”  I highly recommend this book.  It is very easy to read, chock-full of Bible verses (in context!) and it is likely to change your view of Heaven for the good — and towards a more accurate assessment of it.  He addresses myths that even some Christians hold, such as that Heaven will be boring.

In the mean time, read Randy’s article about some other books on Heaven that appear to be less accurate: “Heaven Is for Real”, “90 Minutes in Heaven”, and other books about visits to Heaven or Hell.

Everyone spends eternity somewhere.  If you are a Christian, you should spend time thinking about your eternal home.  If you aren’t a Christian, you should give this some serious thought.  What could be more important?

Addressing the “Christians are anti-science” falsehood

I enjoy reminding pro-legalized abortionists that I’m too pro-science to be pro-choice.  When I mention that I often get comments like this one:

You’re “too pro science to be pro choice.” Well, sure. Science agrees with you on that topic. Funny how science goes out the window on others, though.

But I am consistent with both. I dispute one sub-branch of one of the dozens of branches of science, and I do so because of the lack of evidence in favor of it, the great evidence against it, and the institutionalized bad philosophy and suppression of academic freedom propping up the pathetically bad worldview.

I follow the facts and logic where they lead. And there are many facts besides those “proved” by science.  As useful as science is you can’t prove with science that we should only accept scientific truths (even if you ignore how often those “truths” change and are politically motivated).

And unless you create all your own test equipment from scratch and replicate every single experiment you rely on then you have to use history, trust eyewitness testimony and summaries made by others even when making scientific claims.

Again, there are dozens of branches of science.  I simply disagree with one part of one branch, and they generally concede that they deliberately ignore non-material alternatives.  I’ve come across many quotes like this one from Professor Richard Lewontin, a geneticist and one of the world’s leaders in evolutionary biology:

Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.

Question-begging “science only” views like that speak volumes.  Also consider those whose philosophy-masquerading-as-science leads them to conclude that something can come from nothing.  And they call that science and have the nerve to attack us for our views?  Pathetic.

They have to make an astounding assumptions on the key question outside their field, which is, “How did the materials get here?”  And even when staying within their field, they can’t answer this important question: “How did life arise from non-life?”  They have struggled mightily to find a way but all they do in both cases is to fall back on is their blind faith, aka the “science of the gaps.”

They act like that Darwinian evolution is foundational to all biology, as if we can’t understand photosynthesis or that life begins at conception without their nothingness-to-molecules-to-life-to-Angelina-Jolie worldview.

Darwinists are also at odds with the branch of geology, and in a much more extensive way than we are with biology, so that more than evens the score right there.

And then there’s the systematic and cowardly Expelled!-type restrictions on academic freedom perpetrated by the alleged pro-science crowd.

They pretend the Bible is a science textbook and then attack that straw man, quibbling about things like references to “sunrise” and “sunset.”  Do they call up the Weather Channel each day to tell them how anti-science they are?

And why don’t they ever seem to bring up the mystery of how the Bible boldly proclaims in the first verse that the universe came into being at a point in time?  Just a lucky coin flip, eh?  Or how Genesis describes how vast the number of stars are, even akin to the number of grains of sand in the sea, at a time where most thought there were only 1,100 stars or so.  Or the uncanny way the author of Job knew about very unique properties of Pleides and Orion?  (See Job 38:31).  More luck, I suppose.

Back to biology, they mainly ignore an irrefutable fact of biology when addressing the most important moral issue of our time: Abortion.  They prattle on about how important science is to improve the human condition (which, if used properly, can do a great deal) but they exhibit a heaping dose of FAIL when applying a most basic, well attested, high degree of consensus scientific fact: A new human being is created at conception.  If they can’t apply that scientific fact to improve the human condition (i.e., don’t crush and dismember innocent human beings), then why blindly trust them to apply whatever they learn to other moral issues?  (I’m ignoring for the moment that their worldview can’t ground universal morality anyway.)

Finally, there is the fraud one would expect in any field that involves money, power, reputations and careers.  As a biblical worldview would predict, people will sometimes do unethical things to hold onto all those things.  You need to have an inherent skepticism when analyzing their truth claims and evidence.

So, once again, I am too pro-science to be pro-choice.  And the naysayers are the ones who are wildly inconsistent with their alleged pro-science position.  They abandon it on the most crucial moral issue of our time.

Evaluating different religions: 5 reasons to start your spiritual search with Christianity

pluralism.jpgI just listened to a Stand to Reason Podcast (7/12/10) where Craig Hazen outlined some provocative things to share with people who are exploring different religions.  Not only will they get people thinking, they help refute some false doctrines that Christians hold and address common objections to Christianity.  Hazen wrote a novel called Five Sacred Crossings that incorporates these themes (I’ll read it as soon as it comes out on the Kindle!).

Here are some notes from the Podcast with a few of my thoughts thrown in.  They are simple ways to encourage people to think carefully about Christianity.

1. Christianity is testable – It is open to being falsifiable.  You can research the truth claims yourself.  Christianity involves knowledge, truth claims and faith in evidence.  Many people think religions are just a matter of opinion or are the result of “blind faith,” but that is the opposite of Christianity.  Consider this passage that shows how Christianity “hangs by a thread” – i.e., if Jesus didn’t physically rise from the dead, then Christianity is wrong and you should search elsewhere:

1 Corinthians 15:12–19 (ESV)  Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

You can point them to all sorts of apologetics works (see the links to the right of this blog) or even simple things like the minimal facts approach, where nearly 100% of historical scholars from 1975 – present agree with the following statements and 75% of the same scholars agree that the tomb was empty:

  • Jesus really lived and was killed on a Roman cross.
  • Jesus’ disciples believed He appeared to them.
  • Jesus’ brother, James, went from being a pre-crucifixion skeptic to a post-crucifixion church leader.
  • The Apostle Paul believed Jesus appeared to him and he wrote most of the books attributed to him, including Romans, I & II Corinthians, Philemon and others.  He converted from persecuting Christians to being the greatest evangelist ever, despite nearly constant challenges, persecution and ultimately dying for his faith.

The Christian view that the physical resurrection of Jesus best accounts for these facts is highly supportable and logical.

2. Salvation is free – as C.S. Lewis noted, grace is the main distinction between Christianity and all other religions / cults.  They require works to (possibly) be made right with God, but Christianity says salvation is a free gift from God.  People like free things, and it conveys a supremely important spiritual truth in an easy to understand way.  Don’t be shy about reminding people about this.

3. The Christian worldview offers a perspective that fits the way the world really is.  Look at facts of the world and see how they line of with Christianity.  Consider the issue of evil and suffering, which Eastern religions (e.g., Hinduism and Buddhism) and New Agers treat as an illusion and which atheism cannot ground (if we are nothing but chemicals in motion then there is no true universal morality, just opinions and power).

If a Holocaust survivor described how her loved ones were brutally killed, does the typical audience shrug it off as being an illusion?  Of course not.  Deep down we know there is real right and wrong and real evil.  Christianity has an explanation for that but many major worldviews do not.

Consider how Eastern philosophies like The Secret would have you tell the woman who her problem is that she didn’t ask the universe for the right things, didn’t feel the right things or wasn’t open to receiving them.

The “problem of evil” is one of the most common objections to Christianity, but it is an even larger philosophical liability for other religions and atheism.  Christianity doesn’t try to side-step evil, it thoroughly addresses it.

4. In Christianity you get to live a non-compartmentalized / holistic life – We not only get to use our minds in worshiping and interacting with God (Acts 17:11 and more), we are told to do so.  Some religions consider reasoning to be an impediment to faith.

5. Christianity has Jesus at the center – That may sound like circular logic, but consider how universally Jesus is revered – however misinterpreted – in Islam and other religions.  Buddhism and Hinduism have plenty of room for a great teacher like Jesus.  Islam specifically refers to him and claims to believe the Bible (though they believe in error that it has been seriously mistranslated).  If nearly everyone wants to make room for Jesus and He has such a dramatic impact on the world (even to the point of our calendar being based on his birth), why not start with the religion that puts him front and center?

I would add a sixth: Since Christianity claims that there is one God and after we die we face one eternal judgment (Hebrews 9:27) you should consider it first, at least over atheism and any religion with either a concept of reincarnation or with no concept of judgment.  If atheism isn’t true, then nothing eternal matters.  If “second chance” religions like Hinduism and Buddhism are true then the worst case scenario is that you lose a little ground going into your next life.

But if Christianity is true and you don’t trust in Jesus and accept God’s free gift of salvation, then you spend an eternity paying for your sins.  

Consider matters of eternity very carefully, because eternity matters.

Kairos prison ministry weekend reflections

kairosjesusbehindbars.jpg

The Kairos prison ministry weekend went really well.  As always, it was exhausting and amazing.  This is probably my favorite ministry.  I’ve never seen anything that has such broad and dramatic impacts on so many lives.  I’ll share a little background, then a few observations.  If you want more background on the ministry there is additional information at the bottom.

Overview of the ministry: It is an opportunity to share the Gospel with those who aren’t believers (No one is pressured, though).  Many of the participants are already Christians, so it is a great opportunity to fellowship with and encourage them.  And it is just an all-around way to share God’s love with people who are often depressed and forgotten.  It is educational in laying out Christian principles for living and creating a Christian community wherever they are.  It helps teach them how to love and forgive others (and themselves). It has a dramatic impact on recidivism, which means less victims and lower costs for society.

Kairos doesn’t advocate for either the prisoners or for the criminal justice system. A transaction took place between the state and the prisoner. The prisoners did the crime and are now doing the time, so we don’t get in the middle of that. We just reach out with Christian love to all and with Christian fellowship to believers.  We try to show that they aren’t forgotten.

There is also a Kairos Outside program for the moms / wives / daughters of the prisoners.  It is completely free, including transportation to the event and childcare if necessary.

Observations from the weekend (other volunteers are welcome to leave their own in the comments section)

  • The speaker at the closing ceremony was a former Kairos participant who was paroled against great odds.  He noted how he continually and aggressively resisted the Gospel for decades.  Bibles brought in by new cell mates were thrown out of the cell or ripped to shreds and then thrown out of the cell.  But eventually he converted.  One lesson: Keep sowing seeds in people’s lives, but don’t cast pearls before swine.  Leave the results and timing to God.
  • I loved a quote passed along by one of the guys at my table (he was quoting Oswald Chambers, but I can’t find the original).  It was something like, “If you aren’t about your Father’s business where you are, what makes you think you’ll be about it where you will be?”  In other words, don’t tell yourself that when such-and-such happens you’ll be more generous, helpful, etc. if you aren’t doing those things now.  That fit in well with the talk I gave and with the general theme of the weekend to point them to have their own Christian community right where they are.
  • A prisoner at the closing ceremony told everyone to go home and tell and show your kids that you love them.  A few of the inmates came from solid homes, but most did not.
  • Another interesting moment at the closing ceremony: One guy asked how many people were raised going to church.  Lots of hands went up.  Then he asked how many were taught the Bible at home.  Most hands went down.  See Ephesians 6:4, Christians!  We need to teach this to our kids ourselves.  What they learn at church is just a bonus.
  • One guy noted how he thought love was just something in books and movies, and that he never experienced it until this weekend.
  • The birthday cakes and cards brought a lot of tears, especially by some who never had them growing up.
  • Our leader, Mark, did a great job of keeping us focused.  He noted that if all the offenders left the weekend just thinking about how nice we were to come then we would have failed.  The purpose is to get them plugged into their own Christian community and accountability relationships.
  • We took in literally thousands of cookies and other good food, which they really enjoy, but surprisingly they talked the most about the pleasures of having fresh fruit.
  • The forgiveness exercises were powerful, as usual.  There were many public apologies for wrongs done.  One offender noted how harboring unforgiveness makes it hard to pray.
  • There were lots of opportunities to coach and encourage them on what to do when they get out: Finding a good church, ensuring they have people to hold them accountable, etc.
  • Several ex-offenders were on the volunteer team as well.  It was great to have them and a tremendous example to those on the inside that success is possible.
  • I eat more cookies on one of these weekends than I do the rest of the year.  Seriously.
  • I never get tired of seeing lives transformed by the Holy Spirit.

I saw this song on my younger daughter’s Facebook page one day and thought it fit in well with the ministry theme of Kairos: Listen-listen-love-love.  Love people for who they are, not for what they have done or what they’ll become.

Here’s a previous post with more background information

Matthew 25:36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

This is a follow up to the Off to prison (ministry) post.  The Kairos prison ministry weekend went really well as did the follow up session the next Saturday.  We were at the Carol Vance unit in Sugarland, Texas, a medium security unit (though it seemed more like medium-light to me).

I am looking forward to the monthly follow-ups.  We’ll go see the prisoners for a couple hours one Saturday morning per month.  If we just met them once on the Kairos weekend that would have been good, but it is more meaningful if we can visit them repeatedly.  I’ll probably do one of the weekend events each year from now on.

There are so many things to like about this ministry. It is an opportunity to share the Gospel with those who aren’t believers (No one is pressured, though.  One guy at my table was a Muslim but he really soaked it all in and was very appreciative).  [2009 update: The Muslim gentleman ended up converting to Christianity!] Many of the participants are already Christians, so it is a great opportunity to fellowship with and encourage them.  And it is just an all-around way to share God’s love with people who are often depressed and forgotten.  It is educational in laying out Christian principles for living.  It helps teach them how to love and forgive others (and themselves).

But even without all that, the proven reduction in recidivism would make the preparation, the weekend and the follow up worthwhile.  Based on statistics from larger sample sizes, 33 of the 42 participants would have returned to jail within 5 years if they hadn’t gone through this program.  Going through the weekend program cuts that down to 15, and it goes down to 5 if they all participate in the follow up program.

So roughly speaking, that will be 18-28 less people returning to prison once they are released.  That’s a tremendous cost savings, but more importantly it means a lot less victims and a lot less pain and heartache for the prisoners and their loved ones.

Kairos doesn’t advocate for either the prisoners or for the criminal justice system. A transaction took place between the state and the prisoner. The prisoners did the crime and are now doing the time, so we don’t get in the middle of that. We just reach out with Christian love to all and with Christian fellowship to believers.  We try to show that they aren’t forgotten.

There is also a Kairos Outside program for the moms / wives / girlfriends of the prisoners.  It is completely free, including transportation to the event and childcare if necessary.

Random highlights and observations

I never get tired of watching lives transformed by Christ.

All of the presenters prayed with an inmate who had already gone through the Kairos program.  Before my talk I got to pray with a man who was 14 yrs. into a 17 yr. sentence.  We had lots of talks at the tables, but I appreciated the one-on-one discussions the most.

Lots of time was spent educating them on how to conduct their own “Prayer and Share” accountability groups.  These are vital to keep them supporting one another and growing in their faith.

Several of the outside volunteers were was inmates themselves.  Their presence and message lets the inmates know that change is possible.

Watching otherwise reticent prisoners really light up during the songs.  I was playing guitar so I got to see their reactions.

You could really see the pain and regret in eyes of many of them.  They are haunted by not being there for their families.

There are a lot of good programs available for them to improve their chances of success when released – mentoring, Bible studies, Toastmasters, and more.

We make it a point not to ask why they are there or how long until they will get out (if ever), but they sometimes offer it up during discussions.  Most of the infractions were from violence and/or drugs.

Each prisoner got a bag of hand-written letters from everyone on the team plus others.  Some prisoners got more mail in one sitting than they had received their whole lives. We left the room when they got the letters. The leader said the reactions were strong – ranging from stunned to weeping to being like kids at Christmas. It made writing the 42 personalized letters worthwhile.  One older gentleman was still talking about the letters the next Saturday.  He was going to keep them forever and re-read them.

There was a rather large former gang member who, in his words, laid down his flag and accepted Christ over the weekend. He got choked up at the closing ceremony and was joined by one brother, then two, then three, then about fifteen surrounding him and supporting him. Then he came over to his ~80 yr. old table leader who was standing in front of me. The former gang member gave him a big hug and affectionately said, “Hey Old School.”

Some guys commented on how they not only felt the love but learned how to love and how to forgive. During testimonials and discussions we learned that many didn’t have dads or had dads who were unloving and lousy role models. The other prisoners were their family.

One of the key exercises involved “forgiveness cookies.”  Volunteers make many thousands of homemade cookies for the weekend.  There is a continuous pile at each table, and the prisoners get a bag every night to take back with them.  On Saturday night they are given an extra bag and told to give them to the person they need to forgive the most.  The next morning we heard many touching stories of what people did with the cookies.

Many participants were already Christians and knew the Bible better than we did.

Other than our presentations, we didn’t have to say much.  We mainly got them talking.  The theme for the team is listen-listen-love-love.

Most of the serving (food and otherwise) was done by prisoners who had already participated in a Kairos weekend.  I was impressed with their servants’ hearts and how much they cared for their fellow prisoners.

Most things in prisons are viewed from the perspective of “inside” or “outside” the prison walls. But as I pointed out to several prisoners, God looks at the world as those who are inside his kingdom vs. those who are outside.   From an eternal perspective there are just people with forgiveness of sins and eternal life and people without them.

Doing something new typically takes you outside your comfort zone. Being in the prison wasn’t that stressful for me, though. What was more challenging was just meeting and interacting with dozens of new people from morning until evening (I’m somewhat of an introvert, so I find that exhausting).

It was a joy to serve with friends from church and to make some new friends from other churches.  My good friend Steve did a fantastic job leading the weekend.  We were thoroughly prepared and everything went smoothly.

As Steve would say, “It’s official: I have now hugged more men in my life than women.”

Carol Vance Prison visitation tip: Don’t wear all white unless you want to stay permanently.

If you have any interest in this or other prison ministry programs, I encourage you to check them out.  They may not be for everyone, but you won’t know for sure until you try.  There are roles inside and outside the prison.  God is doing great things through this powerful ministry.

More links

Kairos of Texas

Prison Fellowship

To find ministries in your area, check out the links below (or just call your local prison – they may have other ministries going as well)

Kairos locations in Texas

Kairos national ministry map

Prison Fellowship Field Offices