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Archive for January 2011

So What's your Gripe?

This week at Gathering we’ll look at a clip from the Four Horseman that will help us onto the subject of the New Atheists. Here’s Harris’ clearest dig at God-believers.

“There’s this phenomenon of someone like Francis Collins …who obviously has enough of the facts on board, you know, enough of a scientific education to know better, and still does not know better or professes not to know better, and there I think we have a cultural problem where. And this was actually brought home to me at one talk I gave. A physics professor came up to me at the end of the talk and told me that he had brought one of his graduate students, who was a devout Christian, and who was quite shaken by my talk, and all I got from this report was that this was the first time his faith had ever really been explicitly challenged.

And so it’s true to say that you can go through the curriculum of becoming a scientist and never have your faith explicitly challenged, because it’s taboo to do so, and now we have engineers who can build nuclear bombs in the Muslim world, who still think it’s plausible metaphysics that you can get to paradise and get seventy two virgins, and we have people like Francis Collins who think that on Sunday you can kneel down in the dewy grass and give yourself to Jesus, because you are in the presence of a frozen waterfall, and on Monday you can be a physical geneticist.”

Sam Harris is irate that people like Geneticist Francis Collins actually believe in God in spite of the fact that they should know better! The New Atheist agenda is not merely agnostic on the question of God. It’s downright angered that any educated, thinking person could display technical, scientific intelligence on the level of understanding the human genome while at the same time hold to a rational belief in God. The New Atheism would love to eradicate from education such dangerous people who might just as well employ their genius to building and detonating nuclear weapons.

Wow, Sam. We’ve got a lot to talk about!

Three Years

I happen to spend some time reflecting on Paul’s address to the Ephesian Elders in Acts 20:17 – 35 this week. What stood out to me was the manner in which Paul had invested in this group of leaders in the Ephesian church. For three years he taught them in the midst of difficult and threatening circumstances. He ministered boldly in public and house to house and without discrimination whether they are Jewish or Gentile. Paul was motivated to do these things by following the leading of the Spirit, a strong desire to finish well and giving his life away in love. All of it was very impacting and honoring to God. But I was quite stunned when I began to ponder my completion of this statement,

“At the end of three years from today, I would like to have accomplished the following:”

I began to do the math on how old I will be that I’d have two kids in college and other “depressing”, er “opportunities” I’d be facing in three years. I also began to presume that if I wasn’t careful, the passage of three years could go by unnoticed like a warm gentle breeze. Reflecting on this welled in me a desire to make the next three years be marked by intentional investing in the things that will leave a lasting impact in the lives of people for God.

Let me ask you, how you would want to finish the statement: “At the end of three years from today, I would like to have accomplished the following:”

Taking time to thoughtfully complete a Personal Growth Plan for this year will only help keep you focused on living intentionally. If you haven’t already started, today is a good day. Visit this page to get a copy of the Personal Growth Plan. http://www.cccomaha.org/

Let's Start at the Beginning

So what’s an atheist anyway? Let’s start really slow.

An atheist is a person who does not believe in the existence of God. There are several ways to qualify that definition. Some religions have no concept of a personal God – what do we do with those? We need to define the kind of God we don’t believe in for one thing. Consulting my handy dictionary of apologetics gives me these two brief definitions:

theism. The view that God, understood as one infinite, all-powerful, all-knowing, completely good person, exists and has created the universe. Equivalent to monotheism. Evans, C. Stephen: Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion. Downers Grove, Ill. : InterVarsity Press, 2002, S. 114

atheism. The philosophical position that denies the reality of the God of theism or other divine beings. Evans, C. Stephen: Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion. Downers Grove, Ill. : InterVarsity Press, 2002, S. 13

So the idea of God rejected by Atheists fits best the Christian definition of a personal, all-powerful creator God. Gotta know what you’re up against if you’re going to take on belief in God. This will become extremely important in our discussions of Atheism this month at Gathering. I’ll be posting some information and posing questions we’ll try to tackle in the coming days. Keep reading the blog and jump in if you want to add to the discussion. Better yet….

Come on out this weekend to Gathering as we take a look at The God Haters – the New Atheists, who are they and why should we hear them out?

Here’s a little more background that will help us climb into the topic:

Atheism is the view that holds that God does not exist. The term is used conventionally to indicate lack of belief in the God of the Judaeo-Christian tradition. Various arguments have been advanced for atheism, including arguments from the lack of evidence for God’s existence, or from the manifest occurrence of certain phenomena (e.g. pain and suffering) allegedly inconsistent with the existence of God. Alternatively atheism has been argued for on the grounds of logical simplicity and economy: in Lessing’s famous phrase it is alleged that there is no need for the hypothesis that God exists, since everything that exists can be explained in terms of scientific laws or human decisions. It is this naturalism which is characteristic of the atheism of modern humanism and secularism.

Ferguson, Sinclair B. ; Packer, J.I.: New Dictionary of Theology. electronic ed. Downers Grove, IL : InterVarsity Press, 2000, c1988, S. 53

Know Any God Haters?

Sounds like a pretty tactless way to put the question, Tim! It’s a bit inaccurate to brand atheists as God haters – we all know most high-profile atheists railing against the very idea of God are more upset at people who actually believe in God than God himself. If in fact God doesn’t exist, according to atheism, why go out of your way to hate Him?

Four prominent atheistic thinkers are the subject of our next Gathering series that launches Jan 30th at Christ Community. Together with many others they are the chief architects of what is referred to as The New Atheism. Here’s the line-up and a sample of what each has written:

  • Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins – The God Delusion
  • Author and journalist Christopher Hitchens – God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
  • PhD in neuroscience and author Sam Harris – The End of Faith
  • Philosopher and cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett – Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon

Well begin our series with an introduction to Atheism. What is Atheism? How is it different than Agnosticism? Why are there people who vehemently deny the very existence of God? How do people wind up believing atheism?

In the following weeks we’ll tune into these four bad boys and listen to where they are coming from. What is the essential challenge to God each presents and how can we begin to address each one?

We’ll take a look at clips from the video project called the Four Horsemen hosted by Richard Dawkins. Come join the discussion each week.

We’ll conclude our four week series with a conversation that backs away from the arguments and tension to look at the practical implications of life with or without God. My fellow Gathering director Tim Anstead will give us some insight on the pathway from skepticism to belief and why our conversations with non-believers are so important.

Let's Roll

Last Saturday, Ron Brown visited Christ Community Church to begin spreading the word about the Freedmen Nebraska event March 26 in Lincoln. On short notice, 40 men and their sons were inspired by Ron message of Christian men being used by God to transform the state. Check out Ron’s brief video clip tagged below and plan to attend this year’s event. Christ Community will have tickets and transportation options at the atrium booth in February.

Do Muslims Change their Beliefs to Christianity?

Now that’s a pretty loaded question. Several conversations I’ve had lately have revolved around Islam and whether or not it’s possible for Muslims to truly convert to Christianity. Most of us don’t think twice about a Chinese person coming to faith in Christ. People in China are converting to Christianity faster than anywhere else on earth! But what about Muslims? Why do we see so few conversions?

Once I was speaking with a Muslim friend of mine about this and he challenged me by saying “Why do we see so many of your American Christians converting to Islam, but I know of no one converting from Islam to Christianity.” It’s a question that takes you off guard, at first. I mentioned to my friend that there are people who convert from Islam to Christianity – but because of the threat of intense persecution from family, conversions are seldom published! Christians tend not to track down those who seem to defect from the faith and try to have them reprogrammed. Muslims have a track record of doing just that.

In addition the event at Brookside this weekend Kamal Saleem: Story of a former Jihadist whose life was transformed by friendship, I’d recommend a very uplifting read pictured here. In The Costly Call, you’ll read story after story of Muslims who meet Jesus and become Christians in the most unusual ways.

In an increasingly pluralistic setting like ours today, the seduction of universalism has never been more prevalent. People are almost outraged when reminded that NO, not all religions are the same nor do they share a common destiny for their adherents. As long as people of every ethnic group are meeting Jesus and finding their identity in him, we have absolutely no need to harmonize world religions. Jesus is sufficient! Let the likes of Kamal and these 20 individuals convince you of it!

Ashley Baer off to Peru

The following is from Ashley Baer, a young lady from CCC who on January 5th left to serve in Peru for 1 year. Ashley is working with children who live and work at a local garbage dump.

Beloved friends and family,

I am safe and sound in Trujillo, Peru. My flights were all wonderful. I was a bit nervous coming up to the day before my travel plans but on the morning of I felt great and had no stress or worries at the thought of flying.

Inside the church that is located at the garbage dump

I arrived in Lima at 10:30pm Wednesday but didn’t get to the hotel until 2:00am due to meeting others that were flying in at later times. The next day the group of us took the 10 hour bus ride from Lima to Trujillo. The bus was nice, not at all like the “Romancing the Stone” bus ride. I imagine it was a lot like Greyhound in the States – except I’ve never gone Greyhound before.

Cultural: The people are wonderfully welcoming and loving. The children love the attention us Americans give them. I’m still getting used to the food. They eat pretty heavy here: like potatoes, rice, and beans all in one meal. The climate is very dry here. I thought it would be more tropical like Florida or Costa Rica, instead the ground is mostly sandy and not much grows.

Spiritual: I’ve started memorizing Isa 43: 1-5. It’s a passage I re-discovered recently that really means a lot to me. I want to memorize new scripture every month I’m down here. Just being here has so many spiritual elements: trusting God that you told the taxi the correct place to go in an unfamiliar language, stepping out of our comfort zone to meet new people, and not caring about filth when hugging and playing with the children in the garbage dump.

the garbage dump where both adults and children work

the Church located in the garbage dump

Vote for Josiah

So my 11-year-old son Josiah is in this dance contest on the internet. He has worked really hard do do this high-energy dance routine. Very cool!

Would you take a minute (literally one minute) to watch this video and vote for him? http://godancechallenge.54321go.org/contest_entries/show/29

Our hope is found in God

Many in Omaha are still reeling from the events of yesterday. A student walked into Millard South with a gun and shot the assistant principal, Dr. Vicki Kaspar – who later died, and the principal, Dr. Curtis Case – who is in stable condition. Dr. Case attends Christ Community Church along with his wife Amy and his three kids – Keelee, Keegan and Kapri.

In the wake of such a tragedy, we are left with significant questions about spiritual matters. Many students will go back to school Friday and ask “Am I safe? Should I be afraid?”

Many people live in Southwest Omaha and attend Millard Schools with the illusion that this could happen in other parts of the city but not in Millard. That bubble was burst yesterday. One person demonstrated just how fragile life is. Three thousand years ago David was on the run from evil men and asked some similar questions. Here was what he wrote to God in Psalm 27:1-3.

The LORD is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?

The LORD is the stronghold of my life: of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me to threaten my body,

It will be my enemies and foes who stumble and fall

Though an army encamp against me, my heart will not be afraid

Though war arise against me, I will still be confident.

Note that David looked to God first and foremost. His confidence was only in God – nowhere else. This just makes sense: God is the only unshakable thing in this world, God is the only unchanging thing and God is the only thing that transcends life and death. There is nowhere else to find hope and stability.

In moments like this, it becomes increasingly clear that hope is only found in God. Listen to news reports and press conferences – there is nothing said that is truly comforting. In this world everything will fade away. Everything dies, fades, rusts and is destroyed. Only God transcends the temporal. Only God brings true and clear hope.

The truth is there are no assurances that we are safe from gunmen. We are not safe from invading armies, terrorists or disease. Any of them might strike at any moment. Our confidence, hope and assurance is only in the heart of a God who is unchanging, sovereign and good. When we find comfort in God, we are able to bring comfort to others. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 points out this very fact. Comfort comes from God and flows through His people to those around them. Knowing the source of comfort makes you the ultimate comforter.

At this time, people also ask “What if it were me? What if I were shot by the gunman? What if I would walk into school, work or the mall tomorrow and the gunman were aiming at me?”

Death is a terrible tragedy. For the follower of Jesus, it is simply a doorway that allows us to walk into His arms. You can beat death. Jesus proved it by beating death Himself. When He was unjustly killed, it was not for His own wrongdoing but for mine and yours and, on a cosmic scale, the sins of the world. His death was the only payment big enough for this heap of sin, and three days later He beat death. Jesus won! Death and sin could not hold Him down.

Jesus’ resurrection validates the hope we have in our resurrection. Jesus said it this way, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live even though he dies” (John 11:25). We do not need to fear death. When you don’t fear death, you can walk through life with utter confidence, because you win and God wins in the end.

So approach this day with confidence because of the security we have in God. In addition, continue in prayer for Dr. Case’s healing as well as for his family, the families of Dr. Kaspar and Robert Butler Jr. Pray for their comfort and strength. Pray also for our city and our connection with God in this time. Pray He will redeem this tragedy for His purposes, bringing good out of evil. Pray He will draw close to those who are grieving.

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” –Psalm 34:18

Ron Brown Speaking Saturday

Hey Christ Community Men and Young Men (10 & up)

In light of the tragic event at Millard South High School yesterday, there has never been a greater time for men who follow Christ to make a difference in our community. An upcoming event in 2011 to unite and empower the Christian men of Nebraska is FreedMen Conquest.

PLEASE JOIN Men’s Ministry Pastor Reid Brown and the men’s ministry leaders Saturday, January 8th at 11:00 a.m.-Noon at Christ Community Church Old Mill Campus to hear Husker Football Coach RON BROWN cast the vision for this year’s FreedMen Conquest on Saturday March 26th from 10:00 a.m.-5 p.m. at Lincoln’s Pershing Auditorium. www.freedmennebraska.org (please click on link and watch video) come and join us this Saturday in the Chapel (enter through Main Doors and head left).

See you Saturday, for questions- please email Mike Bliss at michael.bliss@medtronic.com or 680-8990.