Wednesday, December 11, 2013


A new movie entitled Lone Survivor is set to open within the next month.  The film is based on SEAL Team 10's failed mission: Operation Red Wings on June 28, 2005, to capture or kill a notorious Taliban leader during the War in Afghanistan (Wikipedia).  Actor Mark Wahlberg plays real life lone survivor SO2 Marcus Luttrell. 

Lone Survivor tells the incredible tale of four Navy SEALs on a covert mission to neutralize a high-level al-Qaeda operative who are ambushed by the enemy in the mountains of Afghanistan. Faced with an impossible moral decision, the small band is isolated from help and surrounded by a much larger force of Taliban ready for war. As they confront unthinkable odds together, the four men find reserves of strength and resilience as they stay in the fight to the finish.

CBS's interview with Luttrell and his Vice Admiral is below:

"Marcus Luttrell's three SEAL team mates weren't the only American casualties in the battle. A chopper with 16 other Special Operations forces that had rushed to help Luttrell and his team was shot out of the sky. Everyone on board was killed.

At the time, in June 2005, it was the largest loss of life in one day for Naval Special Warfare since World War II. A former commander of Marcus Luttrell's, retired Vice Admiral Joe Maguire, told us no SEAL will ever forget that terrible day.

Anderson Cooper: Was that the toughest day for you as a Special Forces commander?

Joe Maguire: Yes. You know, most people of my generation, they ask the question, you know, do you remember when Kennedy was shot? Well I remember that as well, but a much more moving day for me and one that's more defining is the 28th of June, 2005, when that helicopter was shot down and three of my men were killed on the ground.

Nineteen men lost their lives. Vice Admiral Joe Maguire was head of SEAL training at the time.

Joe Maguire: You would have to go back to World War II to have had one day where we experienced that many casualties at one time."

In one of the more moving parts of the interview, Luttrell stated he was a coward because he put his gun down in a fight and covered his ears because he could not stand anymore to listen to his best friend die.  Luttrell stated the only way to break a Seal was to kill them but at that point in time he had reached his breaking point.

Luttrell was right in his interview when he stated that it is said every man has his breaking point.  In physical and even spiritual battles, we are only human.  Many times our best efforts are in vain.  But there is One that came down on our behalf to make up for our failures.  And this individual could bend without breaking because he was more than man.  This man was Jesus but this man was also God.  The enemy did everything possible to Him, hung Him on a cross with all of our sins attached, yet He did not break.  He endured the cross for us, his joy.  The grave couldn't hold Him and death couldn't defeat Him.  You can't kill what won't die.  When death looked Him in the eye, He responded like Clint Eastwood, "make my day."  For our sake, he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  

Friday, December 6, 2013

Disciples or Drones?

Last week, CBS's 60 Minutes produced an intriguing piece on the future of the company Amazon by interviewing its founder Jeff Bezos:   Innovative technology stood at the forefront of the interview with one idea standing heads and shoulders above the rest:  Autonomous drones or octacopters (8 blades) with "amazon prime air" written on them that fly out of fulfillment or distribution centers that will fly to GPS locations (your home or your front porch) dropping off packages (up to 5 pounds) that you order in 30 minute delivery times.  The drones would operate within a 10 mile radius from their fulfillment centers. 

There are many parallels here that can be made to The Church.

The church has likewise been given a gospel message to deliver that is much weightier than 5 lbs.  The church is autonomous.  The church is like a distribution and a fulfillment center in that it distributes the good news or the gospel and provides people fulfillment found in Christ alone.  The church can use GPS to locate people within a 10 mile radius to share the gospel with.

However, there is one major difference between Amazon's new technology and The Church.  The Church will never have the luxury to rely solely on drones to deliver the good news.  That's because the gospel was never meant just to be handed out.  It was meant first and foremost to be lived out.  Robots can go but robots can never live.  Only casual Christianity would call for a robot to do what we were commanded to be.  We were never called to solely deliver good news.  We were called to be Disciple Makers.   If all we had to do was get the message out, using drones would be a great route to take.  But we have been called to so much more.

Another impressive technology (also on the video) found in Amazon is their Amazon Web Services (AWS).  To keep track of its massive online orders, Amazon created a large and sophisticated computing infrastructure called AWS.  Amzaon then found out it could expand the infrastructure for hundreds of thousands of companies (Netflix for one) and government agencies (the CIA, etc.) in what is known as "The Cloud."  Perhaps you have heard this expression in your company that some pertinent information was lost in the clouds (referring to internet space) and later you may get the good news that the information was found.    

I find "The Cloud" to be a fascinating concept.  Daniel went through his own cloud like experience (Read Daniel 10).  Sometimes our prayers are just floating up there and God's answer hasn't gotten to us yet. We can't see the heavenly realm but spiritual warfare is taking place.  The thing we must remember is God's answers to us are always in His time and they are always on time.   

Jeff Bezos also noted Amazon's big ideas to be customer centricity and invention which he said included going down the dark alley to see what's on the other side.  In contrast to Jeff's company, I believe some of the big ideas in God's Church leading to personal and corporate revival include Christocentric preaching (emphasis is on Christ compared to the consumer) and consistently incorporating the spiritual disciplines in our life (what we should heavily do when we find ourselves in those dark night of the soul moments) which lead us into approaching God and His holiness.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Political Transformation?

Last night, I listened to the new President of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission speak at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s event called Casual Conversations.  His position is basically one that gives a public address for stances that Southern Baptists take concerning moral and religious issues.  There are many issues and topics on the table now that include same-sex marriage, gender identity, and contraception laws, human trafficking, cloning, and the affordable care act among others. 

We need more Christian leaders and church members who will answer God’s call to have a voice in American politics.  I would like to take a moment to briefly discuss the grave injustice that has taken place in our country and the solution to the problem.  Much of my information will be drawn from Wayne Grudem’s book Politics According to the Bible (ch. 5) and the website  I strongly encourage for every believer to read pages 124-154 in Grudem’s book and to regularly visit Pastor Rit Varriale’s website. 

In short, the Supreme Court has gradually discovered they could have unlimited power in our country and has thus become the most powerful group in the nation.  Rather than interpreting the original intent of the constitution, these justices go beyond the law now making new laws based on what it thinks is best for the nation.  At present, there are 4 liberal “activist” justices and 4 conservative “originalist” justices.  The swing vote is a justice by the name of Anthony Kennedy who often sides with the “originalist” justices.  In essence, this one justice has more power than the President of the United States.  Together, these 9 justices are unelected by the people (they are appointed for life by the President), are unaccountable to the people, and decide nearly all the important laws of our land. 

This idea goes against the original idea of our Forefathers and the original intent of the constitution and the original intent of the Supreme Court.  Judges were to have absolutely no role in the process of making laws or in the difficult process of amending the Constitution.  They were to judge according to a standard of laws outside of themselves.  Now they themselves have become the standard.  The result is they have determined national laws concerning abortion, homosexuality, and the removal of religion from public events and public places.  And this goes against what the majority of American citizens would vote for given the chance. 
As a country, we have drifted far away from our true founding.  In the documentary Monumental, Professor David Barton states that beginning in 1782 Congress printed and issued out 10,000 Bibles to be used in the America's school houses and that in 1798 signers of the declaration and of the constitution were funding family Bibles.

In the name of constitutionality and human rights, the courts have dominated Western society by stripping the majority of their right to live out their faith in the public square.  Our government today is no longer of the people, by the people, and for the people.  It is a government of the courts, by the secularists, and for the minority.  In essence, 2% of people decide for what 98% of people are against.    

So what do we do?  We need to remember the power of one.  The gospel doesn’t begin with societal transformation.  It begins with personal redemption in that as the gospel works its way out in individuals, societal structures will automatically be transformed.  The African slave trade is a great example.  In its day, it was a grave injustice that still has ramifications today.  However, in an optimal world, where the gospel is front and center, slavery would be obsolete.  Today, we find ourselves enslaved to the laws made by the Supreme Court.  The gospel answer is love, not hate.  When the hearts of people and communities are transformed by the gospel, there will be hope that the Supreme Court can be transformed as well!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Charlie Brown had it right!

On  December 9, 1965, CBS launched "A Charlie Brown Christmas."  I always enjoyed watching the short 30 minute cartoon as child so I thought I would re-watch the episode on ABC last night.  ABC took over the television rights beginning in 2001.  Although the show is nearly 50 years old, it would do people of all ages a service to watch it for the first time or to watch it again. 

Despite our postmodernity, this cartoon remains applicable in our time --- in ways, I must admit that I did not even realize until watching the replay.  So let me take some time to break down this show and relate it to where and how we are living today.  Charlie Brown is suffering from a mental illness, depression.  He can't figure out why he cannot enjoy Christmas and pays Lucy 5 cents for psychiatric help at the local booth.  It surprised me to see that the word "psychiatric" appeared in this 1965 show.

Though mental illnesses have rapidly increased and are now experienced by 1 out of every 5 Americans, they were not nonexistent in 1965.  Doctor Lucy mentions all kinds of phobias that Charlie Brown may be experiencing and at last mentions that maybe he just has a fear of everything.  Though Charlie Brown payed the doctor for his visit, he left unsatisfied (sound familiar). 

Charlie finds his free answer to his struggles when his friend Linus tells Charlie at play practice what the true meaning of Christmas is all about.  You can watch the 2 minute video here:  Linus actually quotes Luke 2:8-14.  Charlie Brown had it right.  Christmas isn't about secularization, commercialism, or materialism.  It's about the simple gospel answer that was provided to us in swaddling cloths. 

Perhaps you know some individuals who are depressed and can't enjoy the Christmas season.  Will you be like Linus, a true friend, and share the real reason for the season.  The show ends with a Charlie Brown greeting and a hymn that all the kids sing together, "Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Glory to the Newborn King." 

Children and Adults used to get out more and sing hymns like this to the community during the Christmas season.  Yes, times have changed and door to door visits do not take place like they did 30 years ago due to safety concerns, etc.  But maybe we should look into the mirror and call a spade a spade.  Maybe rather than saying times have changed, we should say our hearts have changed.  Are you compelled out of God's love for you to tell the world what He has done for you?  If so, and especially in a free country like the one we live in, a door won't seem like such a big obstacle.