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Tolerance Has No Clothes

Emperors-New-Clothes-2

In 1837 Hans Christian Andersen published a Danish fairy tale called The Emperor’s New Clothes (originally known as Keiserens Nye Klaeder). Here’s how the story goes (retold in my words)…

A long time ago there lived an emperor who really loved showing off his impeccable taste for great clothing. Think of him as a modern day male fashionista. Two guys approached the emperor one day saying, “Your highness, sir emperor, we notice you appreciate the nicer things of life. We just happen to be purveyors of the finest custom line of men’s clothing.”

The two men convince the fashionista emperor to create a new wardrobe from the most rare materials. Fine clothing usually comes with some unique qualifications. High quality raw denim pants, for example, can be worn for months without needing to be washed. If you wash them every week you may not be worthy taking care of such quality. So what was the qualification to the emperor? Well, the clothing is only worthy to be seen by the non-stupid. If you are a stupid person the clothing will not be visible. Only the most worthy intelligentsia can behold the beauty of the clothing.

The clothiers took his measurements and went to their studio to get started. The emperor wanted to make sure everything was legitimate. He sent two of his most trusted men to check on the progress. Neither admitted they couldn’t see the clothing. They each thought of themselves as non-stupid progressive citizens. So they told the emperor the clothing was as beautiful as promised.

The day came for the emperors new clothes to be unveiled for all to see. Correction, for all of the non-stupid to see. The emperor paraded down the street “wearing” his new high-quality fashion to the applause of everyone. Everyone, of course, was too afraid to admit they were stupid.

Finally, a small child saw the emperor and exclaimed, “But he has nothing on!” The crowd began whispering. “Do you see any clothes?” “No, do you?” Word quietly spread through the crowd until everyone in the crowd shouted that the emperor was indeed naked. The two men had duped the entire empire. Everyone, including the emperor, went along with the masses because they were afraid to be the only stupid person.

A little child was unafraid to state the obvious. The obvious had become hidden underneath apparent niceties and self-convincing behavior.

I have started to wonder if there is another type of parade going on in America today. A parade where it seems stupid people are blind to the beauty of the new clothing. I have started to wonder if the emperor in the new parade is actually naked. The emperor dancing through the streets of America and dancing through the media outlets bears the name “Tolerance.”

Are his clothes beautiful? Is he naked? Am I too stupid to see the clothes? Let’s look at just two examples consuming our non-stop news coverage.

“Tolerance” has become the Emperor with New Clothes
Exhibit #1: Donald Sterling

I was in middle school in the 1980’s when political correctness swept our country. Yes, there are many wonderful aspects to the idea. Yes, there were many things in American needing to become more politically correct. I received all the training under the direction of our school board and then received a lot more politically correct training when I worked for a Fortune 500 company. I resisted none of what I was taught, I thought it made a lot of sense.

The last few weeks in America, however, have made me uneasy. It all started with L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling making private comments to a woman about his dislike for black people. All of us, hopefully, will admit Sterling’s comments were terrible. Why would someone who has devoted so much of his life to the NBA make such an asinine statement? Racism is a wickedness within humanity.

I was a bit uneasy, however, with the backlash toward Donald Sterling. A secret recording within his own home from a lady who appears to be of at least questionable character led to severe rhetoric against Sterling. Almost no one tried to give Sterling the benefit of the doubt. No one withheld judgement until understanding his side. No one tried to see it from his perspective. No one wondered if he needed to receive additional human resources training with the hope he would come to see the error of his way. All of the previously mentioned perspectives I was clearly taught were healthy for a tolerant politically correct future.

It wouldn’t have surprised me during the backlash against Sterling if someone would have yelled, “Get a rope. Let’s string him up” (joking…kind of). The NBA then acted swiftly. Sterling must sell the team. Sterling is never allowed again to own an NBA team. The commissioner then went one step further, Sterling is not allowed to attend an NBA game for the rest of his life. The last statement is the one that made me uneasy. What if Sterling would come to be enlightened? What if he truly repented and truly apologized? Convicted felons who have served their time are allowed to go to NBA games. Sterling officially did not even commit a crime. Would he still never be allowed to buy tickets for a game even in the cheap seats?

To go back to the fairy tale. Can stupid people go to an NBA game? If you can’t see the emperor’s new clothes can you not attend an NBA game? Will people need to undergo racism and perhaps homophobic evaluations before being allowed to go to an NBA game? Will people failing the test be marked for life as outsiders unable to ever attend events designed for the enjoyment of the non-stupid?
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Unashamed to be a Non-Profit Like Twitter

twitter-iconAre you a chronic tweeter? Do you find yourself thinking in increments of 140 characters or less? Did you know Twitter is a non-profit? Well, they’re not, but please stick with me and I think this will make sense.

I initially resisted joining Twitter thinking, “Why would I join another social thing? I already use Facebook.” The more I heard about Twitter the more I resisted using it. I kept thinking it sounded way too intrusive into my life. Something changed, eventually, where I decided to give it a shot and sign up as a casual user of the site (@pastortimk).

I wouldn’t say I’m now addicted to Twitter but I have tweeted more than 10 times this week. I’ll probably also tweet once I post this on the blog. I then might tweet how people are responding and then tweet again about how I feel about how people are responding. Ok, I’m drinking the Twitter cool-aid. Maybe I should tweet about that?

I was surprised earlier this year as I was listening to NPR (@NPR) on my way home from Credo House (@credohouse) to hear that Twitter never had a profitable quarter until the fourth quarter of 2013. WHAT? The company started in 2006 and for 7 years never once turned a profit. How in the world is that even possible? I started to wonder. How can a company like that survive? WHY should a company survive for seven years without a profit? Shouldn’t they have just let that thing die? Why did they keep it alive for so long?

It then became clear to me that I would have never joined Twitter if it would have cost me $4.99/month to sign up. No one would have. Even as a totally free service it still took me a few years hearing from my “early adopter” friends talking about Twitter before I decided to give it a try.

Did the employees of Twitter get paid every 2 weeks for 6 years? Absolutely. Even if you have a great long-term idea mortgages still need to be paid and kids still need to eat (not in that order of course). Twitter undoubtedly had outside help to survive. Twitter had a combination of banks and private investors who understood the value and vision. They knew there would be no way to expect Twitter to start off with enough subscription payments and enough advertising revenue to pay all their bills from day one. In order for Twitter to exist it took a unique way to look at business.

match4Even six years into Twitter it was very clear the vision was working. With 600 million users they were not profitable but it didn’t really concern their investors because they knew it was working for the long-term. In order to accomplish something no one had accomplished, people approached the problem in a totally different way.

I feel like the Credo House is a lot like Twitter (in the most humble way). The vision of Credo House is working. It’s even working at the level that our coffee shop is profitable. We create curriculum that the most “early adopters” know they need but millions of other people don’t know they need yet. So we provide tons of free training and spend a lot of money waiting and being ready for when people realize they really need the Credo House and its training. We can’t wait until everyone is ready to then start the ministry and get it off the ground. We lay the groundwork now so when they know they need the Credo House we are right there in their neighborhood to help equip them as Ambassadors for Christ to our postmodern world.

Amazingly, the Credo House has grown to an organization with more than a dozen employees and reaching more than a million people a year and we have never taken an operational loan. Our private investors (donors) are those who share our vision. They see the potential positive influence if Credo Houses existed on University campuses throughout our country.

We strongly believe Credo House will get to the place where donations may not be necessary for survival (we will always remain a non-profit). We strongly believe that day could come in the next year or two where donations are only spent on new locations. Our online church memberships alone could be the thing that makes donations no longer a necessity. Today, however, we are still in the zone where the Credo House is very much working but is also very much dependent on kingdom-oriented investors.

When the Credo House has a solid financial foundation it can build an organization that needs to exist long-term and not one that necessarily produces the greatest short-term profit margins. Twitter would have never become what it did if it didn’t have those 6 years of long-term sustained focus.

Would you consider being one of those long-term investors helping us to fully become something that is already showing amazing success? We would be most grateful.

You can join the movement by giving here.

Quotes from the Valley of the Shadow of Death:
John Calvin (1509-1564)

calvinThe first post in this series consisted of quotes from Charles Spurgeon. The second from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. John Calvin probably did more (outside of God and His Word) to help drag me through the Valley of the Shadow of Death than any other person.

Calvin lived 500 years ago but God saw fit to have me read his majestic Institutes of the Christian Religion throughout 2013. I know, the Institutes sounds incredibly boring, but it is the most devotional work I have ever read. Spending time with Calvin is like spending time close to someone burning white hot for Jesus. I’ve written about the life of John Calvin here if you’d like to learn more about him.

Calvin spends Book 3 Chapter 8 and Chapter 9 focused primarily on the subject of living through painful circumstances. These words have been water to a thirsty soul on many occasions. I pray the Lord would allow you to get through these dense selected sentences and drink deeply of the goodness of Jesus in the midst of the valley:

But it behooves the godly mind to climb still higher, to the height to which Christ calls his disciples: that each must bear his own cross [Matt. 16:24]. For whomever the Lord has adopted and deemed worthy of his fellowship ought to prepare themselves for a hard, toilsome, and unquiet life, crammed with very many and various kinds of evil. It is the Heavenly Father’s will thus to exercise them so as to put his own children to a definite test. Beginning with Christ, his first-born, he follows this plan with all his children. For even though that Son was beloved above the rest, and in him the Father’s mind was well pleased [Matt. 3:17], yet we see that far from being treated indulgently or softly, to speak the truth, while he dwelt on earth he was not only tried by a perpetual cross but his whole life was nothing but a sort of perpetual cross. The apostle notes the reason: that it behooved him to “learn obedience through what he suffered” [Heb. 5:8]

Therefore, he afflicts us either with disgrace or poverty, or bereavement, or disease, or other calamities. Utterly unequal to bearing these, in so far as they touch us, we soon succumb to them. Thus humbled, we learn to call upon his power which alone makes us stand fast under the weight of afflictions. But even the most holy persons, however much they may recognize that they stand not through their own strength but through God’s grace, are too sure of their own fortitude and constancy unless by the testing of the cross he bring them into a deeper knowledge of himself.

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Quotes from the Valley of the Shadow of Death:
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)

bonhoefferThe first post in this series consisted of quotes from Charles Spurgeon. The second person who helped, in profound ways, get my family through an especially terrible year is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He has been on the radar of many Christians since the popular biography by Eric Metaxes hit the shelves three years ago.

Two years ago The Collected Sermons of Dietrich Bonhoeffer came out through Fortress Press. I absorbed these sermons through every pore while suffering in the valley of the shadow of death.

The following sermon moved me most deeply and was a sermon I returned to time and again throughout 2013. Whenever I return to this sermon it feels like I am returning to a wise friend sure to strengthen my resolve in our Jesus. Bonhoeffer scholar Isabel Best states of his preaching:

“Bonhoeffer understood his sermons both as a way of confessing faith and as a prophetic means to call his church and his students to withstand the ideological spirit of the times…when read in the immediate historical context of when they were preached they gain an added power and depth, for only then can we begin to understand how Dietrich Bonhoeffer was actively engaging the issues of his times and his church through his preaching.”

Following is Bonhoeffer’s brilliant sermon entitled Overcoming Fear. It was preached a mere 15 days before Hitler came to power. His church was struggling with intense fear. I pray Bonhoeffer’s sermon to his small church will make a big difference in your life today as fear and anxiety may seek to destroy you (emphasis added is mine):

Matthew 8:23-27 : And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”

The overcoming of fear—that is what we are proclaiming here. The Bible, the gospel, Christ, the church, the faith—all are one great battle cry against fear in the lives of human beings. Fear is, somehow or other, the archen­emy itself. It crouches in people’s hearts. It hollows out their insides, until their resistance and strength are spent and they suddenly break down. Fear secretly gnaws and eats away at all the ties that bind a person to God and to others, and when in a time of need that person reaches for those ties and clings to them, they break and the individual sinks back into himself or herself, helpless and despairing, while hell rejoices.

Now fear leers that person in the face, saying: Here we are all by our­selves, you and I, now I’m showing you my true face. And anyone who has seen naked fear revealed, who has been its victim in terrifying loneliness— fear of an important decision; fear of a heavy stroke of fate, losing one’s job, an illness; fear of a vice that one can no longer resist, to which one is enslaved; fear of disgrace; fear of another person; fear of dying—that per­son knows that fear is only one of the faces of evil itself, one form by which the world, at enmity with God, grasps for someone. Nothing can make a human being so conscious of the reality of powers opposed to God in our lives as this loneliness, this helplessness, this fog spreading over everything, this sense that there is no way out, and this raving impulse to get oneself out of this hell of hopelessness.

Have you ever seen someone in the grip of fear? It’s dreadful in a child, but even more dreadful in an adult: the staring eyes, the shivering like an animal, the pleading attempt to defend oneself. Fear takes away a person’s humanity. This is not what the creature made by God looks like—this per­son belongs to the devil, this enslaved, broken-down, sick creature.

But the human being doesn’t have to be afraid; we should not be afraid! That is what makes humans different from all other creatures. In the midst of every situation where there is no way out, where nothing is clear, where it is our fault, we know that there is hope, and this hope is called: Thy will be done, yes, thy will is being done. “This world must fall, God stands above all, his thoughts unswayed, his Word unstayed, his will forever our ground and hope.” Do you ask: How do you know? Then we name the name of the One who makes the evil inside us recoil, who makes fear and anxiety themselves tremble with fear and puts them to flight. We name the One who overcame fear and led it captive in the victory proces­sion, who nailed it to the cross and committed it to oblivion; we name the One who is the shout of victory of humankind redeemed from the fear of death—Jesus Christ, the Crucified and Living One. He alone is Lord over fear; it knows him as its master; it gives way to him alone. So look to Christ when you are afraid, think of Christ, keep him before your eyes, call upon Christ and pray to him, believe that he is with you now, helping you…Then fear will grow pale and fade away, and you will be free, through your faith in our strong and living Savior, Jesus Christ.

Let’s say there is a ship on the high sea, having a fierce struggle with the waves. The storm wind is blowing harder by the minute. The boat is small, tossed about like a toy; the sky is dark; the sailors’ strength is failing. Then one of them is gripped by…whom? what?…he cannot tell him­self. But someone is there in the boat who wasn’t there before. Someone comes close to him and lays cold hands on his arms as he pulls wildly on his oar. He feels his muscles freeze, feels the strength go out of them. Then the unknown one reaches into his heart and mind and magically brings forth the strangest pictures. He sees his family, his children crying. What will become of them if he is no more? Then he seems to be back where he once was when he followed evil ways, in long years of bondage to evil, and he sees the faces of his companions in that bondage. He sees a neighbor whom he wounded, only yesterday, with an angry word. Suddenly he can no longer see or hear anything, can no longer row, a wave overwhelms him, and in final desperation he shrieks: Stranger in this boat, who are you? And the other answers, I am Fear. Now the cry goes up from the whole crew; Fear is in the boat; all arms are frozen and drop their oars; all hope is lost, Fear is in the boat.
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Film Review: Fight Church

fight-church-3A new documentary about Christianity and MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighting premieres tonight at the Independent Film Festival of Boston. The film is called: Fight Church and was directed by Academy Award Winner Daniel Junge and Bryan Storkel. These two men were also behind the interesting film called Holy Rollers, the story about Christian pastors who were also professional poker players.

Fight Church explores the niche world where MMA fighting and Christianity combine. The film proclaims an estimated 700 churches in America have MMA ministries.

The film is excellent in three areas. First, the production quality is superb. Junge, Storkel and the Producers know what they are doing and are skilled in their craft. Second, the film is excellent for presenting the world of Fight Church in a balanced way. They allow those in favor of MMA Christians and those opposed to each be seen in a legitimate light. Third, the film is simply enjoyable. As I struggled wondering if I am for or against these people I found myself cringing, laughing, disagreeing and pulling for these people throughout the film.

One of the seminal quotes in the film was from a man who was considering leaving the MMA world due to a belief that it may not honor God. He said, “Can you love your neighbor as yourself, and then at the same time knee him in the face as hard as you can?

Some of the biblical exegesis by one of the pastors left a bit to be desired. Watching a 12-year old kid say he was going to, “Rip this kid’s head off” was unsettling. A pastor encouraging a woman with blood covering her face that she didn’t tap out with the statement, “Jesus didn’t tap out either” was very strange. Watching a pastor pull out a pistol after his sermon to show a church member was bizarre. There are many bizarre moments in this film.

This film is certainly a case where truth is stranger than fiction. People would only believe some of the details of this film as a documentary. It would be too outlandish to be a fictional movie.

I do recommend you watch this film. Try to be neutral and enter into the Fight Church world. Is it really that different from someone in the NFL? Are they faithful to the Bible? Are they rediscovering manliness in the Christian church? The film may ask more questions than it answers but I think you’ll enjoy the journey. If you can handle a little blood of course. If not then watch Frozen again with your kids for the 1,000th time.

Here’s the Fight Church trailer:

Quotes from the Valley of the Shadow of Death:
Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)

spurgeonMy wife and I went through an especially intense period of suffering in 2013. I’m planning to pull back the curtain of our story, Lord willing, and turn it into a book with the hope it will help others to survive unsurvivable seasons. I am surprised, as I look back at that tough year, that we survived. How did we survive? I’m not sure.

I do know we did not suffer alone. The Lord raised up many verses, people, places, ideas and hopes to drag us through that ragged season. There are a few dead people whom God used in a very powerful way to give me a clear path to crawl on during that season.

This post will kick-off a small series of quotes from these folks used most powerfully in my life throughout 2013. Quotes from the Valley of the Shadow of Death. My hope is if you find yourself in a season of crushing this series will give you hope, strength and patient endurance. As long as Jesus is alive there is always hope.

Charles Spurgeon would probably win the “most popular preacher of all time” award if you only allowed pastors from the last 150 years to do the voting. He is known as the prince of preachers and before microphones existed would regularly preach to more than 5,000 people at a time. Spurgeon published more than 150 books and was able to speak about Jesus more eloquently than most people.

Spurgeon was a full-time preacher for more than 40 years but his health was incredibly poor and he suffered greatly from depression. Spurgeon, on average, missed 1 out of every 3 Sundays. Can you believe that? Over the course of 40 years there was consistently a 30% chance your pastor wouldn’t be able to get out of bed on any given Sunday. He spent a lot of time walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Here are just a few of Spurgeon’s quotes from the Valley (statements in bold were especially moving to me):

The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy. There maybe here and there men of iron, to whom wear and tear work no perceptible detriment, but surely the rust frets even these; and as for ordinary men, the Lord knows, and makes them to know, that they are but dust. Knowing by most painful experience what deep depression of spirit means, being visited therewith at seasons by no means few or far between, I thought it might be consolatory to some of my brethren if I gave my thoughts thereon, that younger men might not fancy that some strange thing had happened to them when they became for a season possessed by melancholy; and that sadder men might know that one upon whom the sun has shone right joyously did not always walk in the light.”

My witness is, that those who are honoured of their Lord in public, have usually to endure a secret chastening, or to carry a peculiar cross, lest by any means they exalt themselves, and fall into the snare of the devil. How constantly the Lord calls Ezekiel “Son of man”! Amid his soarings into the superlative splendours, just when with eye undimmed he is strengthened to gaze into the excellent glory, the word “Son of man” falls on his ears, sobering the heart which else might have been intoxicated with the honour conferred upon it. Such humbling but salutary messages our depressions whisper in our ears; they tell us in a manner not to be mistaken that we are but men, frail, feeble, apt to faint.”

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The Intolerance of Tolerance

toleranceIn Ecclesiastes 12:12 we read, “Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” The more I am around the publishing world I realize the truthfulness of these words.

I read a lot. Just last night my wife, who fully supports my reading disease, asked me to put the book down and walk away. It’s my fantasy to have many uninterrupted hours of reading. Yes, it’s a disease.

Even if you have the reading disease worse than me, it is still impossible to read every worthwhile book. Just devoting yourself to reading the works of: Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Owen, Barth, Machen, Solzhenitsyn, Lewis, Chesterton, Kierkegaard, MacDonald and Bunyan would take many years. If you read the works of all those dead people you would only see the tip of the iceberg of all the dead people you should read.

While you may be devoting your time to be “well read” among the gigantic list of dead people there is, in addition, at least one book coming out every week that you really should read. I occasionally have a desire to give up. Throw my arms up in the air and simply transfer all my hard fought reading time over to Netflix. To stop reading and start binging on endless seasons of Netflix offerings. My disease, however, prevents me from giving up. I find I’m a better father, husband, friend and leader when I keep my nose consistently in good books.

Harry S. Truman is known for saying, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” Why all this focus on reading? Well, in an age of non-stop book releases it is more challenging than ever to know what books to read. You can devote 8 hours a day to reading worthless books and you will never run out.

This post could become a post about how to know what to read, perhaps that post will come one day. For the time being, however, I want to direct your attention to just one book. If you didn’t notice D.A. Carson’s book The Intolerance of Tolerance when it first came out a couple years ago I want to bring it to your attention.

I think the book is a pivotal work to make sure you are aware of the massive shift that has happened in Western culture around the topic of tolerance. Here’s just one paragraph to give you a taste:

This shift from “accepting the existence of different views” to “acceptance of different views,” from recognizing other people’s right to have different beliefs or practices to accepting the differing views of other people, is subtle in form, but massive in substance. To accept that a different or opposing position exists and deserves the right to exist is one thing; to accept the position itself means that one is no longer opposing it. The new tolerance suggests that actually accepting another’s position means believing that position to be true, or at least as true as your own.

That paragraph should take your breath away. We have experienced a massive cultural shift. As Ambassador’s of Christ (2 Cor. 5:20) it is important for us to understand our culture so we can best communicate Jesus to our culture. Paul knew the currents of Athenian thought in order to share Jesus to the elites on Mars Hill.

Reading at least the first half of Carson’s book is, in my 2-cent opinion, worth the time, effort and money.

Theology Unplugged: Church (Part 6) – Mega Churches

Join Michael Patton, Tim Kimberley and Sam Storms as they continue their new series on the Church. This is a topic hotly debated today. What really does it take to be a church? Can three people meet at a coffee shop and call themselves a church? Do churches need to have elders? What about an online church?

There are so many questions being asked today about the Church in the 21st century. This series seeks to dive into the prominent issues of Ecclesiology (the study of the Church).

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