Monthly Archives: April 2013

“Why Do You Believe That the Bible is True?”

trueIt’s THE question that I get asked more often than any other. And believe me, I get asked all sorts of questions. But in one form or another, I so often get asked some incarnation of the question, “Why do you believe that the Bible is true?”

A perfectly fair question, if you think about it. I mean, the Bible is an ancient book, written from a place and about a place far, far away, and written so long, long ago. It is filled with funny sounding names. Weird stuff (at least what appears weird to us) takes place within its pages. And yet, we are asked to live our lives and to gamble our eternities on the teachings of its ancient texts.

So comes the question: Why do you believe that the Bible is true?

Ironically, I always find it tremendously challenging to answer that question. NOT because of too little information, but because of TMI — too much information. It’s like, Where do I begin? It’s like when you walk into a banquet room and walk up to a beautiful, bountiful table overflowing with rich and widely different delicacies, each of which is designed to make your mouth water. Where do you begin? That is my challenge whenever I am asked the question: Why do you believe that the Bible is true?

Consider this latest PODCAST — our latest in our Jesus in HD series — my humble attempt to answer that question. Just please keep in mind that it is only a small part of a much bigger answer. Just one of the entrees that graces our banquet table. The kind of an answer that stands on fact. Undeniable, irrefutable fact. A compelling and convincing answer. So compelling and convincing that maybe, just maybe you won’t ever doubt the Bible again.

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The Boston Bombing — How ONE Photo Says All That There is to Say…

I’ve been agonizing over what to blog about Boston. Three times I’ve put my complex and conflicting thoughts/emotions/questions/ confusions/hopefulness/despair to paper, and each time ended up deleting what I had written because my words were woefully inadequate to capture the mood of the moment.

And then I saw this. One photo that so simply says EVERYTHING there is to say about the mayhem at the marathon. 

o-MARTIN-RICHARD-DEAD-BOSTON-MARATHON-570

A photo of… You guessed it… I type this with tears in my eyes… Martin Richard, the 8 year old boy who was so senselessly slain while cheering for family friends as they crossed the finish line.

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RIP Matthew Warren

Matt WarrenRick Warren’s youngest son, Matthew, went to Heaven on Friday night — tragically killed by his own hand.

Twitter and Facebook exploded with the news. And prayers around the world — including my own — are being lifted Heavenward on behalf of this precious and grieving family, even as we speak.

Given the sky-high visibility of Matt’s dad — Rick Warren is the author of the 30 million copies-sold The Purpose Driven Life; as well as the founder and pastor of the Saddleback mega-Church in Southern CA — no doubt a much-needed and long-overdue national discussion will now take place concerning the controversial topic of mental illness. (Though, for the life of me, I do not know why the adjective “controversial” is so-often attached to mental illness. Where is the controversy? Mental illness is, quite obviously, and non-controversially, an illness of the mind, as opposed to an illness of the body. But I digress.)

To look at Rick Warren, as recently as 48 hours ago (I am writing this on Sunday afternoon, less than two days after Matthew’s passing), you would never have known that he and his dear wife and family were living in a world of hurt.

Here’s a guy who gets up in front of 20 thousand people, Sunday after Sunday, week after week, and does a pretty doggone good job of offering them some much-needed encouragement from God’s Word. “Pastor Rick” exudes warmth, compassion, humility, a robust sense of humor, and is a master at making complex biblical/theological topics understandable and relatable to the masses. 

From a worldly point of view, he has it all. Or at least he appeared to have it all (which goes right to my point as you’ll read in a minute) — worldwide fame, fortune, a loving family, a successful church, the favor of God upon his life. I would imagine that there are many a-pastor who, in their darker moments, looked upon Rick Warren with a serious temptation towards envy.

Yet all the while — a while that lasted 27 years — Rick Warren has been dying inside, tormented daily, if not hourly or minutely, by the irony that having helped multiplied millions of people to discover their God-given purpose, he was utterly powerless to help his own son.

And now, his son is gone.

Which ought to be a wake-up call to all of us. Are you ready? Hear this. PLEASE hear this. Every single one of us carries enormous pain.

Every single one of us carries enormous pain.

I do. And you do.

We each crave a community of committed Christ-followers who understand this. And who are willing to share this with one another. And to share their pain without fear of rejection, criticism, gossip, or a finger-wagging and verse-spewing judgmental spirit. 

It hurts enough just to hurt, without having fellow Christ-followers heap upon our hurts even more hurts because they somehow live in denial of this raw reality of life: WE.ARE.HURTING.

Every single one of us carries enormous pain.

Could this undeniable reality be the reason that Paul wrote this to his beloved little church in Philippi: “Always be gentle with others” (Philippians 4:5 CEV)? 

“Always be gentle with others.”

Why is that so easy to say, and yet so hard to do? Especially in so many — far too many — of our churches? Where, as the all-too-common, and far-too-cynical cliché would suggest, church is the place where wounded people go to get shot. Mortally wounded by not-so-friendly “friendly fire.” Creamed by the committed. (You can suggest your own slogan. There are plenty of them to go around. Understandably so, sorry to say.) And yes, you have my permission to read into that uncharacteristically harsh-sounding statement something of my own wounds that are just now beginning to heal. Beginning to heal, BTW, because God has recently blessed me with the kind of a loving, accepting, affirming, healing community that I mentioned a moment ago. Shout out to The Safe Haven.

“Always be gentle with others.”

Here’s the facts of life, coming from a guy who has enough miles on my odometer to be able to say this with some measure of credibility: People are fragile.

I am fragile; and you are fragile.

Matthew Warren was fragile.

The thing of it is, we have no idea just how fragile each other really is. I would hope that if we did indeed know how fragile each of the people around us really are, we would most certainly treat him or her with gobs of gentleness. Transforming each of our relationships into that which builds up, rather than that which tears down; that which encourages, rather than that which discourages; that which gives life; rather than that which brings death; that which creates, rather than that which destroys; that which heals the wounded, rather than that which shoots our wounded.

So here’s my question? Why can’t we then simply recognize the undeniable fact that every person with whom you and I interact today is in fact fragile? That every single one of us carries enormous pain.

And recognizing that, can we please, please, PLEASE, “always be gentle with others?” 

Please?

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A Whole New Blue

dodgers-whole-new-blue-kemp

OK, let me start with the disclaimer. I am not a Los Angeles Dodgers fan; I am passionately a Vin Scully fan — the Hall of Fame play-by-play announcer for the Dodgers, now into his 64th season at the ripe young age of 85.

There is a reason for this: I owe my ministry to Vin Scully, and his immeasurable influence on me as a communicator. But that is another story for another time.

All you need to know at this time is that I listen to Dodger games online every night or day that they play.

So with that out of the way, let me make this intriguing observation. In the off-season, the new owners of the Dodgers spent a cool $240 million to rebuild their faltering franchise into a bona fide World Series contender. Yes, they bought a team.

The slogan going into the 2013 season is, A Whole New Blue, blue referring to Dodger blue, the official team color. Now that is quite an audacious claim to fame. 

The only problem is this: after their first three games — I know, I know; it’s only 3 games of a 162 game season — Nevertheless, they are 1-2, with a team batting average of only a buck 76; and a combined home-run total to date of exactly 1. BTW, that one home-run was hit on opening day by their starting pitcher. They are just 2 hits out of 27 at-bats with runners in scoring position. And to add insult to injury, in just three games they have already committed four errors. A whole new Blue. Are you catching my drift here?

So I’ve read with much amusement the fan comments at the bottom of the daily sports reports about this team. And there is a common thread that ties most of those comments together, a thought voiced by so many that I could not ignore it. One that none of us should ignore. Think of it as a little window into the thinking of many, many people.

One person in particular said it so well. He wrote, “Well, they may say it’s a whole new blue, but it sure looks like the same old blue to me.”

Think about that. Think about that as I repeat that cynical sentiment to you. “Well, they may say it’s a whole new blue, but it sure looks like the same old blue to me.”

Now why did that statement strike me so forcefully? Because — trust me on this — the disappointment, the frustration, the feelings of being set up only to be let down transcend the game of baseball. In fact, they go right to the heart of who we are and how we impact our world as Christ-followers.

No, that’s not a stretch. Not by any stretch of the imagination. That is a blunt reality. Let me explain.  

The Bible makes it abundantly clear that as committed Christ-followers, our lifestyles — the choices we make, the graciousness with which we treat others, the attitudes we place on daily display at school, or at work, or in our homes, or in our neighborhoods — ought to be distinctly different from those who do not love Jesus.

So dramatic, measurable, and observable ought to be this difference that when someone chooses to become a Christ-follower, he or she is said to be — in the words of Jesus — born all over again.

Paul made this pretty clear when he wrote this to the church in the city of Corinth, “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

Forget about A Whole New Blue. We’re talking here a whole new YOU. A whole new you and a whole new me. An audacious claim to fame, indeed. One that has nothing to do with batting averages or home-run totals. But one that has everything to do with how we live our lives. More specifically, how we interact with people every minute of every day.

Because the facts of life are these: Once we hang that claim around our necks that we are Christians (I prefer to refer to us a Christ-followers), people do watch us. And they watch us with an expectation that we will be different.

The world out there has every right to expect from us a different experience when dealing with Christ-followers in comparison to their dealings with those who do not claim to love or follower Him. 

No, they are not looking for perfection. I don’t really believe that people expect us to be perfect. There was only one person who ever walked this planet’s sorry sod who was indeed perfect. And they killed Him. So no, we’re not talking perfection here. But we are talking about a few simple social graces.

People expect us — rightly so — to be a wee bit more sensitive to their needs and feelings than other people are. They expect us to care, sincerely care, about them. They expect us to be a little more patient, a little more understanding, a little more gracious, a little more accepting of others. A little more pleasant to be around. A little more respectful. To work a little harder, with a little less complaining and backstabbing, than their co-workers. 

Jesus described His followers as the “salt of the earth.” A seasoning that adds spice and zest to those around us, just like literal salt adds spice and zest to food.

And when we fail to live up to our billing — as we will frequently do, sorry to say — people expect to see in us a measure of contrition, and to receive from us a sincere apology, an acknowledgement that we are not perfect, an authenticity and touch of humility. The kind of humility that, when we do color outside of the lines of gracious behavior, we will do all we can to right the wrong.

Is that too much for them to ask of a whole new you? And a whole new me? I think not.

Because you know what? Whenever someone formulates a thought that sounds anything like this: “Well, they may say it’s a whole new you, but it sure looks like the same old you to me,” there is embedded within that statement an understandable disappointment, a frustration, and feelings of being set up only to be let down.

Forgive the cliché, but when it comes to Christian living, this is where the rubber meets the road, my friends. 

So if we can learn a life-lesson from the great American pastime called baseball — and there are, frankly, many such life-lessons that we can learn — let’s learn this one today: 

If it is indeed true (and we know that it is, because the Bible says that it is) that “anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” let’s purpose in our hearts to live that way.

A whole new you. A whole new me.

A whole new gracious, loving, patient, giving, forgiving, gentle, spicy and zesty, whole new you. 

Will you join me in this today?

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THIS could happen at YOUR church, school, or camp…

And as a certified Walk Thru the Old Testament Live Event Instructor, I would LOVE to help make this happen!

Interested? If so, PLEASE email me: duilio.bertolini@comcast.net

old-testament

 

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Jesus in the Passover

Passover seder plateIn this PODCAST, you are about to see Jesus in a way that you have never seen Him before, embedded within the Passover Seder! A celebration observed by our many Jewish friends, a festival that has been taking place every year for more than 3500 years! 

They have done so ever since that defining moment in the book of Exodus when God commanded His chosen people to commemorate their miraculous deliverance from their 400 years of bondage in Egypt.

This podcast will connect so many of the dots that we have talked about these many weeks that we have been together, studying together Jesus in HD. AND your respect for, compassion for, and love for the Jewish people will increase exponentially as you listen.

As we noted several weeks ago, Jesus celebrated this holy day every year of His life. And even during this past week, millions of Jewish people the world over gathered in their homes, with their families and friends, to celebrate this festival of Passover.

In this podcast, we are about to discover in a way that you will never forget that God wove into the very fabric of the ancient Passover story a far larger and greater story of redemption that encompasses every one of our Jewish friends, as well as the entire world, including you and me.

As we do, please keep in mind the overriding significance of Passover as beautifully summed up by Morris Joseph in his book, Judaism as Creed and Life: “Passover has a message for the conscience and heart of all mankind… It is Israel’s, nay God’s, protest against unrighteousness. Wrong, it declares, may triumph for a time. But even though it be perpetrated by the strong against the weak, it will meet with its inevitable retribution at last.”

You can hear this podcast by clicking HERE

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