Thursday, January 30, 2014

Atheist Farmer revisited

I wrote a blog a while back about the oxymoron of an atheist farmer, because a farmer knows dependence on God more than anyone. Living in the middle of the mid-west, I've known a lot of farmers and they all believed in God. I received several notes from individuals claiming to be atheist farmers. I have no evidence they are farmers, they might be. What I don't believe is they are atheists. I don't believe in atheists. I believe in angry people who have convinced themselves they are atheists. Let me explain before you flame me with hate comments.

We are wired to believe in God. Little kids believe naturally, you'll never meet a kid who doesn't believe unless they have been conditioned to not believe. Let to their own, kids believe in heroes, superpowers, higher authorities and God. As we age and grow, we get hurt and jaded and bitter and angry. At some point, people have hurt and are treated poorly, they experience loss and pain and they blame God. They look to logic and science and find reasons to trust something other than God. We can't get revenge on God, so our anger and hurt and bitterness becomes disbelief. We try to hurt God by denying His existence. This is our revenge, to attack God.

Some atheists have become bitter by association. An angry professor, a jaded parent, a hurt friend has convinced them there is no God. Someone has pushed out faith and replaced it with skepticism.  Either way the nature of people to believe in God is repressed and usually replaced by a negative emotion.

Many atheists are angry with God and decide to take it out on the people who do believe in God. They lobby to have God removed from any area of public life. Many people don't believe in Santa, but don't try to remove him. Santa is a being who sees you and watches you, judges your behavior and rewards you with gifts or punishes you with lumps of coal. Santa has less grace than Jesus, yet those who don't believe do not try to remove Santa from schools and public life, yet they find Jesus offensive. Why? Simple, they are angry and want to punish God. They attack by saying there is no God, yet are angry with Him. Anger replaces belief.

Now I am sure there are many atheists who will tell me I'm wrong, that they are just educated and logical. They will claim it's all myth and fairy tails, but the anger that comes with them has a root. The anger than many atheists feel when they read an article like this one is the same anger that causes the atheism itself. It's hard to to admit for the atheist that they are not an atheist, they are just angry, hurt and jaded. I pray for healing in the heart of the angry atheist.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What's It To You?

I often think about how much I am like pre-Pentecost Peter. After Jesus rose from the dead, He had a conversation with Peter. Peter was worried about something else. Why was Jesus focused on him? What about the other guys? What about John?  What is he gonna do? Peter didn't want to be the only guy doing the work.

I fee like that sometimes. I see people at work and complain about what they aren't doing. I see them slacking off and get upset. I look around to see what people are doing, or not doing. Sometimes we are like that in the church. We look at others and focus on all the things they are not doing. We get upset that they aren't doing what we think they should. They are not carrying the weight, and we look at Jesus and say "what about them Lord"?

Peter asked in John 21:21, "what about this man"? Jesus replied to Peter and to you and to me. Jesus looked at Peter and said "if I will that he remains till I come, what's it to you? You follow me" (vs 22). When I see people who I think are not working hard enough, not my issue. People in the church not working to my standard? Not my issue, it's God will take care of them. My job is to do what I am suppose to do. I work at work, I work at church and I do what Jesus is called me to do. Just follow Jesus.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Getting the Most from your Bible Reading

Have you ever felt like reading the Bible is a waste of time? You read through genealogy, rules and laws, prophets and kings in a far away land a long, long time ago. Do you ever feel like "what's the point"? Don't worry, I hear from people sometimes that they think the Old Testament is pointless and the Bible as a whole doesn't make sense and doesn't apply. Truth is, the entire Bible is God's word and every word has value. I want to help you find the value from your reading.

The first key is what is known as exegesis. This may take you some time and it might help to invest in some resources. There are some great ones online at places like or The goal of an exegesis is to find the original intent from the author to the original audience in it's original context. Sometimes this is easy, like when the Israelites were told to march around Jericho. The original message was "walk around the city". Other times we struggle to find the meaning and message, just read the first chapter of Ezekiel. Hard to figure out what is going on there. In any book, passage or verse, there is something written with a meaning in mind. The prophets wrote with meaning, the apostles wrote with meaning. We have to dig to discover the meaning, which is where commentaries help. Remember, this is not "what does this say to me" but instead, "what is the author trying to communicate to the reader".

Once you have done an exegesis and understand more about the passage, it's time to dig in. Every passage has a principle, a foundational key, a truth or doctrine to discover. For example, when God commanded the Israelites to kill everyone in Jericho, what was the principle? We find a couple, first that God will judge communities when they have sinned so deeply and so completely that it infects everyone. God has no tolerance for this iniquity which we find invaded every part of Canaanite life. God may not use an invading army to destroy a city, and sometimes cities are destroyed because of the chaos in the world, and not sin. I don't believe every tornado, hurricane, tsunami or flood is evidence of God's wrath. The timeless idea is that God brings justice on sin, and God works through His people. He uses His people to bring restoration.

Once you find the timeless principle, it's time to apply it to your life.  Let's continue with our example of Jericho. The Israelites were told to walk around the walls for seven days and then when the walls fall, kill everyone. We are not suppose to find a city and kill everyone. What we apply is that corruption and sin and depravity spreads and infects and then brings pain. God will bless His people with good things, like a city or land in the OT, blessing and joy and peace. Those who turn their back on God and embrace the things of this world and the flesh will find destruction.

Every passage you find will have a timeless principle you can directly apply. You can check out Rick Warrens book on Bible Study Methods to discover more ways to get the most out of your Bible reading. I hope it will be a great blessing for you.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

For the Love of a Great Burger

So I'm going to depart from the spiritual for a minute and talk about something near and dear to my heart, which is ironic.  Burgers.  I love a good burger, and I miss having In & Out.  In Sioux City, we had a 5 Guys Burgers until they up and left.  We have some other good places, but I have become a Burger King fan lately.  Today I tried the Big King, which is pretty much a big fat slap in the face to McDonalds.  It was a "we can do it and make it better" sort of statement.  Know what, it's pretty good.  It does have a Big Mac taste with the flame broiled thing, onions you can actually taste, and it's pretty filling.  When I opened it, it was tall like the picture of a Big Mac, but we both know the Big Mac never actually looks like that.  All in all, I say good job BK on sticking it too the clown.  I'd eat it again.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Do We Need a Church?

So here is a question for you, do you have to be in church to be a Christian?  This question is asked a lot, it's said often and I hear it a lot.  You don't have to attend a church to be a Christian and worship God, right?  To really answer this question, we have to take a big step back and define a few things.  First off, what is a church, or more correctly, the church.  Often when we think about church, we think about a building we go to on Sunday mornings for about an hour or two, where a Pastor or Priest or Minister speaks for a while after we sing some songs, give some offerings, maybe participate in Communion.  When we think of church, we think of going to Church.  Is this the correct view of church, is this what Jesus had in mind?  Lets look at three passages from the New Testament to see what it says about church.

When Jesus and His disciples were in Caesarea Philippi, He asked who they say He is in Matthew 16.  After Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ, Jesus tells Peter that He would build His church on that rock.  Jesus used the word ecclessia which means "called out ones", which was a popular term for those who are being called together for a distinct purpose.  Jesus was beginning the church with these twelve rag-tag guys.  Ephesians 2:20 tells us the church is built on the foundation of the Apostles and prophets with Jesus as the Chief Cornerstone.  Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2:4  that we are living stones.  The church is all made of people, the called out ones built together into a living temple.

So, do we need be in church to be a Christian?  As a Christian, we are part of the church, it is what Jesus does when we get saved, as we become His we are living stones being built into the church.  We are part of the church, of His church and without being in community we are missing the key elements of what Salvation really is.  We are saved and adopted and brought into a family, adopted as sons and daughters of God.  To really be part of what God is doing, we must be in community with other believers as part of this living, breathing structure we call church.

This doesn't mean you have to be in a building at 11 am on Sunday Morning.  While that is the most common place manifestation of Church, this isn't what it looked like for early believers.  They met in homes or in common places, they were often together daily.  They were in smaller groups, reading the word and praying.  This is what is necessary, a group of believers coming together to worship, pray and for mutual encouragement.  This experience is definitely key to the life of any Christian.

Monday, January 13, 2014

An Open Reply to Dr. Thom Rainer

Dr. Rainer has written a heartfelt letter to all Southern Baptists that I encourage you to read at:
Letter for Dr Rainer

Dr. Rainer,

I wanted to write a letter to you expressing my thoughts on this subject that you have very eloquently addressed.  Have Southern Baptists and Evangelical Christians forgotten their first love?  I would say yes, they have less love for Christ and more love for self.  I want to unpack this for a minute, and explain why I think we are in the peril we are in.

I think the church in America today has placed WAY too much emphasis on the individual.  We talk often about our "personal relationship with Christ" in a way that begins to isolate the individual.  We make "personal decisions" and we focus on the individual void of the community.  We use the word "I" too often in our worship and praise songs, and we focus so much on personal responsibility, we have forgotten the bigger picture.  Christianity is a group thing.  We are called into a following, a gathering, we are the Church, which literally means called out ones.  Jesus is the team captain, and He picked His team, He called us by name to be on His team, and we have forgotten that we are in this together.  Our relationship with Christ is a relationship as part of the body, part of the bride, part of the church.  We need unity.  We need to focus on Christ AND each other.  As we build community, we will be much more interested in adding too and building community, which includes outreach and evangelism.

Second, we have made salvation a small thing.  We say things like "simply pray this prayer".  That is at best bad theology.  Being born again is not about saying a prayer, it's about understanding the depths of your sin and despair, being convicted by the Holy Spirit.  It's about seeing and experiencing unmatched grace and forgiveness and crying out to God in confession and repentance.  It means making Christ your Lord and Master and living for Him.  We preach a message, a person comes forward, says a short prayer, then we congratulate them on making a great decision and give them a pat on the back for being so smart.  God is so often not a part of what happens in our alter calls, but we are shocked when this person who said the short prayer is unchanged and they leave the church when things get hard.  We have made it all about the person praying, all about the glory of the preaching, the pastor, the person and nothing about God.  We have made salvation a drive-thru experience and people are not being converted.

Lastly, we are all about our comfort and happiness.  We want church to play music we enjoy, a message that feeds us, people who are nice to us and we want it in an hour once a week.  We want it to be nice, fair, happy, cheap and helpful.  We want to feel good about it, we want to be happy and fulfilled by church, we want someone else to do the work and we just want to sit back and enjoy.  We want bigger, better, brighter and high tech.  We love the experience, we love the enjoyment factor.  We don't want to add people to the group who would change that.  We have so many church folks who get upset about a change in the music, adding another service, changing a program of moving resources to reaching the lost.  Doing outreach is fine and dandy, as long as it don't interfere with the comfort and satisfaction of the pew sitters.

In short, we are selfish and lazy because our love for self is greater than our love for Christ.  We love ourselves with all our heart, soul and mind, love Christ with what is left and we love our neighbor if they love us.  We have slipped so far that it has become hard for us to see what we have and what we are becoming.  Blame it on the seeker-sensitive movement, blame it on the Emergent church, blame it on the young people, or the increase in technology and social media, it comes down to one thing.  It's the same thing that Israel struggled with, the early church struggled with, we are struggling and we are losing.  Sin has caused us to turn inward, become selfish and as a result, we have substituted feeling good for being holy.  We have done what is right in our eye, and what is right by us.  I pray that God will convict us of our selfish tendencies and call us back to our first love, giving the Lordship back to Christ.

Thank you Dr. Rainer for your letter and your honesty, I am thankful for you and what you do.

In Christ,
Dan Barnes

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

2014 Theme

Well it's a new year and with it a new theme.  My theme last year was "Don't Lose Sleep Over It".  I had some back luck in 2013, something happened I wouldn't wish on anyone.   My entire life changed, so in 2013 I had decided to not worry and not to live a life I would regret.  Well, it happened again in 2013, I was laid off from my new job and had to start over.  I didn't have to rethink my entire life this time, just had to find a new source of income.  I ended up working a rotating schedule that really sent things for a loop.  No more Sundays off, I now had to work every other Sunday.  I work longer hours, but it's a great job and I work with great supportive people.

Now it's 2014 and things are much different.  My goals and dreams since I had when I was 15 are gone, pretty smashed at this point.  My life and career have taken a major turn and it looks like I'm going back to school soon to peruse a new Master's Degree.  I am making a goal to read 52 books this year, I hope to continue to write and write more.  I have some things I'm working on for publication, which isn't anything new.  All in all, this is going to be a year different from any other for a lot of reasons.

So, with that being said, my theme for 2014 is "Learn Some New Tricks".  Some in books, some from school, some from my new job and some I hope to pick up along the way.  Here is to 2014, hope it's a great one.