Thursday, September 30, 2010

Atheist just don't get it

Dave Silverman the president of American Atheist, inc. posted an article on called, "It's No Surprise That Atheists Know More About Religion Than Most Americans." In his article he points to the article that I blogged about yesterday. The study from the Pew forum that showed atheist knew more about religion in general then the people who are actually part of the different religions in America. What is surprising to me is the same old rhetoric that gets trotted out by these guys. Silverman says:
The simple truth is this; the more someone knows about religion, the more likely they will reject it as mythology.
He then goes on to point out books like Leviticus, Job or Revelation as examples of books that are filled with barbaric rules, ruthless torture, and threats from a petty and bloodthirsty God.

Atheist like Silverman have just enough exposure to religion and faith to inoculate them from the truth behind it.

  • Leviticus is where God gives to His people the guidelines for the sacrificial system. That system points the Israelites and those who joined them to the ultimate sacrifice that was completed in Jesus Christ. The people of Israel made these sacrifices for sins on a regular basis because the sacrifices of men were not sufficient to cover their sins. They looked forward in faith to the sufficient sacrifice that is found through faith in Christ. We are the ones that sinned and rebelled against God. That rebellion deserved death. The book of Leviticus shows us a God who is pointing His people to have faith in a reconciliation that is coming in Christ Jesus.
  • Job is one of my favorite books because of what we see Job declaring in the end (Job 42:2-6). After all that he went through (and it was a lot) Job points out essentially that it was all worth it. Why? Because he has seen things too wonderful for him. Things that he did not understand. He had heard of God before but now His eye had seen Him. You see everything that he went through in his mind paled in comparison to the greatness of what he learned about God. Is this a God bent on torture? or a God bent on doing whatever it takes to bring His people into a greater relationship with Himself. I think Job would join me in declaring the later.
  • Revelation is God declaring that His Son will return and put down the rebellious fallen kingdom. He declares that He will establish a kingdom of peace and joy for His people. I guess Silverman and the other atheist would not like this book because they stand squarely on the rebellious losing side.
You see the truth of the matter is that the more one knows about the God of the Bible the more one sees God's grace being poured out in abundance. I would argue with Silverman against the other religions. Why? Because none of them is filled with the grace of God that comes through Jesus Christ. The problem in the pulpits today is very real but its not an attempt to keep people in the dark. It is more an attempt to address people's felt needs. As long as we continue to support ministers that teach in a man centered way then we will continue on this spiritual decline. I would encourage you to read your Bible. If you need some help getting focused get my book, "The God Focused Life." It is geared at helping you identify and sweep away cultural barriers to loving and pursuing a passionate relationship with God.

Silverman is missing the one important part that He needs (John 14:16-17). Silverman needs a real relationship with God brought about by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Pray for Dave Silverman (John 10:25-29). He may be an atheist but if God has set His love on Him he won't be one for long (John 6:37).

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What we don't know might kill us

There is an AP article posted on Yahoo news today that caught my eye. It's titled, "Survey: Americans don't know much about religion." There is a video on CNN covering the some article here. It is interesting to note that overall atheist and agnostics have the greatest general knowledge about religions. In the video the the CNN anchor asked if we are taking faith on faith. It is a good question when Christians score lower than atheist.

The greatest problem that this article implies but does not analyze is that Biblical illiteracy cannot be good for a persons relationship with God. Christianity has been so co-opted by our culture, that church services have become very oriented around the perceived needs of the people in the audience. We cater to addressing "how" questions rather than "why" questions.
  • How can I be a better neighbor?
  • How can I have a better marriage?
  • How can I be a better parent?
  • How can I apply God's word to my life?
What is wrong with this is that these questions and others like them may make us feel like we are making headway. In reality they are focusing on us and the world around us. These questions are similar to the questions being addressed by secular psychologist every day (except the God's word question). When I come to meet with other believers my goal should be to worship God, and I am not just talking about singing here. Worship is an outward focus on God with the goal of glorifying Him and knowing Him better. It would be healthier for the church body if we were intent on seeking out answers to the why questions.
  • Why has God made me a neighbor and given me neighbors? 
  • Why did God create marriage?
  • Why did God create children and by extension parents?
  • Why did God give us this explicit verbal revelation of Himself that we call the Bible?
  • Was it simply to help me live a better life or was there something higher and greater?
In a general sense we could answer most of these questions with a simple phrase, "For the sake of His glory". But the impact of a why question is far reaching because it leads us to more questions. These additional questions have a real Kingdom of God focus.
  • If God made me a neighbor and gave me neighbors for the sake of His glory. Then how is He being glorified by me in the neighborhood?
  • If God created marriage for the sake of His glory. Then how am I doing at bringing glory to Him in my marriage?
  • If children and parenting was God's idea. Then how am I doing at bringing glory to God through my parenting and in the lives of the children that He has given to us?
  • If the Bible is God's explicit revelation of Himself for the sake of His glory. Then how am I doing at seeking knowing Him in the midst of reading it?
  • Ultimately am I going to a church meeting for me or so that I might know God better and glorify Him more?
Biblical illiteracy has its roots in bankrupt teaching and preaching (Proverbs 29:18). It also exist because we have stopped reading our Bibles and seeking to really know God. You can't come to really know God if you do not know His Word. The Bible is God's self revelation without it we are lost. Without it, relationship with God degenerates into religious ritual that holds less and less meaning for each generation that follows. Without it faith will ultimately die. Just look at Europe as an example. What we don't know will ultimately kill our faith and our relationship with God.

If there is no really good preaching and teaching in your area then open your Bible and begin to seek to know God in it. Perhaps you can be an agent of change in your church by encouraging your pastor to really preach and teach a God centered Jesus focused message. This will change the Biblical illiteracy factor. This is what our souls need more than anything else (Psalm 34:8).

Monday, September 27, 2010

When it comes to the next generation...

We could use a little less talk and a lot more action.

There seems to be a lot of talk about how to reach the next generation. There are a lot of different ideas out there. Many are good steps in the right direction. But in the middle of it all there is one thing that keeps getting tagged on almost as an afterthought. That these kids don't have a real commitment to their faith. Perhaps the faith is more the faith of their parents.

In case you have not noticed a lot of kids are growing up, leaving the church and never returning. We can lay the blame for this result at lots of feet with lots of different reasons. But at the end of the day lets face it, they are mostly lost kids who never really came to know Jesus. What the next generation needs is for this generation to get serious about living out their faith. If our kids never see us approaching our faith like it is a desperate life or death struggle for our very souls then they are never going to see this as something worth living for much less dying for...if it should come to that.

Fundamentally we need to have a passionate pursuit of God as a characteristic of our lives (John 4:23-24). If our kids don't see us living life bent on pursuing God how can we ever expect them to do that? So join me in pursuing living a God focused life for the next generation.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Not seeing the big point because of all the little points

There is a great article by Steven Crowder on about, "Why NOT Having Sex Might be Good for You". I really like the article. He makes some great points. But (and for me this is a really big but) he misses the main reason why not having sex before marriage is good for you. Are you ready...its because that is the way that God designed it to work. God is not a cosmic killjoy (as many believe). After all He is the one who created sex in the first place. It was His idea. It was such an awesome thing that He designed the best way for it to be used so that it would be beneficial in multiple ways to both men and women. When we deviate from God's plan we are saying that we know better than the creator of these things what it is for and how to use it. Newsflash...the designer of something knows more about it than most users. In this case God gave us guidelines for the best use of sex and that best and proper use of sex within the sanctity of marriage should cause us to truly marvel at the greatness of our Lord Jesus the creator of all things (1 Corinthians 10:31). A proper perspective on all of God's creation will continually drive us to live a more God focused life.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Guarding Against the State god of Evangelism

I want to clarify up front that I do believe that street preaching done right with a real gospel message can be effective. However, we have a group of people that show up in our town to street preach that are marked by their condemnation. They seek to condemn almost anyone that walks past them and I have yet to hear them speak of the marvelous grace that is ours in Jesus. There is something these street preachers do that is a form of idolatry. They use video cameras for legal protection, and they make sure to mention that they are free to preach, because of the the free speech protections provided by the constitution.

Lets think about this for a moment in the light of scripture. Paul was a roman citizen (Acts 16:37, 22:25). By law he had the right to not be arrested and beaten. He may have had protected freedom of speech. We never see Paul exercise his Roman rights when he is out preaching to the masses. Paul only brings up his rights when he is in close contact with his Roman guards. Why? Well it seems pretty clear that the gospel does not need the protection of man. We should not depend upon the state to be our guardian before the world. The gospel and the gospel alone should be presented. To present the gospel along with a message that we bow the knee to the state in order to preach the gospel is confusing. What marks effective street evangelism?

First the world needs to know that the thing that drives us is care and concern for their eternal destiny. This love for them is driven by the unmerited love we have received from God (1 John 4:10).

Second they need to understand that there is a sin problem that separates them from God and eternal life (Romans 3:23, 6:23).

Third they need to know that grace is available to all of those who will repent of their sin and accept Jesus as Lord and God (2 Corinthians 12:9).

This is the core of the gospel. It starts in the love we have received from God and ends in the love that can be received by any repentant sinner. To add anything man made like freedoms or rights to this gospel message just confuses it, muddies it and weighs it down. So keep your eyes focused on the King of our future Kingdom when you step out into the kingdoms of this world. If we are aliens and strangers with God focused minds and hearts then we will return bearing God focused sheaves with us (Ephesians 2:17-19, Hebrews 11:13-16).

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Where are you?

Tonight we read through a passage with our kids where Adam and Eve sinned and God came calling to them. I love the part where God comes calling (Genesis 3:8-9). Adam and Eve attempt to hide but of course no one can hide from God (Psalm 139:7). God knows all things (John 16:30). He knew they had sinned and eaten of the tree. He knew where they were. God shows us a remarkable and important aspect of Himself. He could have come in judgment only and squashed the beginnings of the rebellion. No! God comes calling not accusing. Where are you? What kind of a question is that? It is a question loaded with acceptance where Adam probably expected condemnation. Our all knowing all powerful God came to Adam and Eve in their rebellion and extended the call. Where are you? Implied in a call like this is an expected response. Over here hiding because I'm ashamed of what I have become. God knew what Adam had become but He came calling anyway. He came calling because that is what God does to those that He has set His love upon. He comes calling. How do we respond. Like Adam -- accusing God of giving him a wife that led him astray. Or more like Peter -- going to God walking on water when Jesus calls him. Instead of making accusations he calls out Lord save me (Matthew 14:28-30). What do we do when God comes calling? Strive to live a God focused life because God is always there calling us to step forward and meet Him.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Hitch in the day

Today is Monday and it is the official pray for Christopher Hitchens day. I would encourage anyone to pray for Christopher Hitchens. I personally hope that the Lord convicts him of his sin and changes his heart on his deathbed just before he dies.

I don't want other Christians to know if Christopher Hitchens came to Christ in the end. Why? Because too many of us cannot be trusted with that information. There would be smear campaigns geared at discrediting his books and his atheistic thinking. Far too much time would be spent on discussions of Mr. Hitchens deathbed conversion. No instead we should be taking the time that we would spend on something like that and spend it on sharing the gospel with other atheist and unbelievers that need to know Jesus.

The other reason I don't want us to know if he ultimately comes to know Jesus is that his logic is already faulty. In an article on today's prayer vigil for Christopher called, "Atheist Christopher Hitchens to Skip Prayer Day in His Honor" there are several quotes that point to the reality of what is missing from his base arguments. The article says:

As for his work, Hitchens says he would be happy to be recalled simply as one of those "who are attempting to uphold reason and science against superstition."
Where his logic breaks down is that I too would like to uphold reason as well as logic against superstition. You see we both look at each others belief as superstition. He would denigrate my belief in God. I would point to his belief in evolution and faith in the infallibility of science and say that that belief is faulty.

As late as the 16th and 17th century spontaneous generation of living things from non living things was believed by all scientist of any merit. One scientist even published directions for creating mice from dirty underwear and wheat in 21 days. This idea of spontaneous generation of life from non living matter had been in existence from the time of Aristotle. Oh yea I almost forgot Evolutionist still believe this one. I guess I need to find another superstition that they no longer hold to.

While this might bring a chuckle from some and groans from others the point is that this is what Hitchens and others like him do. They set Christians up to look superstitious or like nut cases and then they lampoon them in the name of science. What I am wanting you all to see here is that they think that they are doing the world a service. The reality is that they are living out what Paul said in Romans 1. They suppress the truth and become futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts are darkened (Romans 1:18, 21). We must have grace toward them just like God had toward us when we were like them.

Right now Christopher Hitchens is moving very rapidly into an eternity of bearing the wrath of God. This is something that I do not wish on anyone. Even if you missed praying for Hitchens on the official prayer day, pray for him now. We have an irresistible almighty God who can overcome and save even the hardest of hearts. Keep your eyes on Jesus and trust Him because He can save Christopher from the wrath to come.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Moral code is like bedrock

Yaron Brook and Onkar Ghate have published an article on called, "Our moral code is out of date". This is one of the first times that I have seen someone propose a basis of morality that is not ultimately rooted in the Bible and Christianity.

The article begins by pointing out that modern science has changed our world. Interestingly the authors point to 4 scientist as some of the great minds that ushered in our modern world. Apparently our authors do not know their history. They applaud Galileo, Sir Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur and Charles Darwin. Sir Isaac Newton and Louis Pasteur were both committed Christians. It could be rightly argued that Charles Darwin's hypothesis of evolution has yet to be formally proven and was the engine upon which the genocides of Hitler were built. It could be argued that modern science would not exist if it were not for Christians who were influenced to explore their world so that they might discover more about it and thus know their God better. A great list of these Christians in science can be found on the, "Christian influences in Science" page.

The second thing they point out in the article is that the "rights of men" was the next great development. They point to the industrialist and all the commercial advancements that they have made that have revolutionized our lives. Arguably none of us would want to live without cars, refrigeration, air conditioning, etc..

Then the authors make an irrational leap. They say:
"But as far as we've come because of these two ideas, human progress demands implementation of a third idea to complete the scientific and political revolutions. We're still beholden to the past in ethics."
They argue that we turn to the Bible, the Quran or secular copies of these as authorities on morality. I would argue that we turn to the Bible predominantly. They argue that seeing the Bible as a moral authority distorts our conception of moral ideals. They go on to argue that instead of seeing Jesus Christ or Mother Teresa as moral heros we should extol the virtues of Galileo, Darwin, Thomas Edison or John D. Rockefeller. They declare that we should strive to be like these guys not the Mother Teresa's of the world.

Why is this an irrational leap? First science is always changing based on discoveries. Second the rights of men which are in flux based on whose political philosophy is controlling the country or region where one lives. But science and the rights of men does not imply by extension that moralities basis needs to change. It is an irrational inference because the one does not imply the other. Quite the opposite. I would argue that the morality falls in the category of transcendent universals that are at their core the same around the world. Other transcendent universals are logic and mathematics. Rather than being in flux they are more of a reference point we use to establish a basis for argument, commerce and from morality comes law.

To get back to what they say. We see them point out that the world applauds Bill Gates and Warren Buffet when they give their money away but that they should be applauding them for making it to begin with. Continuing they say that, "...morality should be about the pursuit of our own success and happiness". They then follow that, " money away to strangers is, in comparison not a morally significant act." These writers see the pursuit of our own happiness as the highest ethical goal. The problem with this should be speak for itself.

The reason that the world applauds Bill Gates and Warren Buffet when they give their money away is that it resonates with the moral code of God that is written on the hearts of men. It is completely irrational to suppose that we can construct a new moral code and dispense with the Bible. The government can make laws against adultery but they cannot keep a person from lusting. They can make you swear to tell the truth but they cannot keep you from lying. All governments and societies can do is enforce external actions. The only way to truly deal with the corruption in a man's heart is to introduce them to Jesus. In doing this we turn to what is essentially as solid and unmovable as bedrock, the moral law of God.

The irony here is that they see the pursuit of our own happiness as the highest goal. Generally the happiest people I have ever met in my life have been those who have come to know and worship Jesus Christ as their Lord. The rejoinders in the Bible that speak to the joy we can have in Jesus are throughout  God's word. David finds God's law as sweeter than honey and more precious than gold (Psalm 19:10). Paul charges the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord always (Phil. 3:1, 4:4).

These guys have not borrowed from the Christian faith in order to make their moral claims. They have instead postulated the antithesis of the servanthood held up in scripture, that we should pursue our own benefit in everything. I can't begin to imagine a world where everyones highest value is their own advancement. This ends up being close to if it feels good do it. That would ultimately be a cut-throat and evil environment to live in. No, I will continue to pursue living a God focused life. It brings true joy to my heart. It seeks to care for the fatherless and the widows. It seeks to be a servant to those it encounters. This creates an environment where peace prospers and God is glorified.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sad reminders of the worlds need for Jesus Christ

There was an article online about a child prostitution ring that was being sentenced yesterday in England. What was interesting is that while all of their names seemed to be Islamic there was no mention of their nationality in most of the articles. I finally tracked down an article titled, "Iranian Traffickers Sold Underage ‘Virgin’ Prostitutes to Rich Arabs Visiting UK". Apparently the perpetrators were all from Iran. The article went on to say:

The facts and evidence are incontrovertible – although we will inevitably be subjected to the tired, misdirected accusations of ‘racism’ and ‘Islamophobia’ for reporting them – Islam places a special focus and value on sex with children.
From the ‘Bacha Bazi’ boys of Afghanistan to the underage brides of Pakistan, Nigeria and Malyasia and elsewhere. From the sexual grooming of non-Muslim underage girls in Northern England, to the the ‘virginity repair’ and FGM surgery industry that is seemingly being allowed to take root even in developed countries; case after case has emerged of the wholesale abuse of non-Muslim and Muslim children by Muslim men and their apparent obsession with sex with virgins.
Not all Muslim men indulge in this disgusting practice, of course, but there can be no denying – even from the most fervent leftist Useful Idiots – that these practices are intrinsic to and supported by the religious scriptures and jurisprudence of Islam.
Even worse, they are effectively facilitated and enabled by the blind eyes turned by the ‘laissez-faire’ multiculturalist movement and liberal western politicians, with keen eyes on the Muslim vote and their addiction to Saudi petrodollars – particularly galling considering their tendency to proclaim the rights of children at every given opportunity.
It’s time for some very long sentences indeed and/or some swift deportations. It’s time to stop the dilution of Western values and the importation of criminals.
The article is incredibly sad because the harm that is done to young girls and boys by perverse men. What is the answer? Jesus Christ. Without Him all we can do is pass laws that change actions. But for men to stop engaging in perverse acts they need changed hearts. The only way that their hearts will be really changed is by Jesus Christ. It should be patently clear that Islam has not changed the hearts of men. It is Christ alone that brings true transformation. So what should we do? A member of our church said to me the other day that she has only shared her faith with probably 20 people this summer so how can that make a difference. It makes a difference for the 20 who heard and just think what a difference could be made in the hearts of people across our nation if every Christian could say that they have effectively shared their faith with 20 people in the last 3 or 4 months. What kind of change would that bring? The kind of change that will only happen when we begin to live a God focused life.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Getting priorities straight

I read an article on by Phyllis Chesler called, "Where's the Outrage?". In the article she highlights how the muslim community gets up in arms over a proposed burning of the Koran. She then contrast this with the Muslim world's complete silence when it comes to the treatment of women. She talks about a woman who is scheduled for stoning and has been imprisoned in Iran for adultery since 2006. According to Phyllis the accusation of adultery can mean,
"...anything from she was raped or dared report it, or that she dared to leave a husband against his will."
The Christian community is often classified as pro-life and when we study scripture we see that God is against those who harm the fatherless and the widow (Isaiah 10:1-3). This is essentially a pro-life position. When the woman caught in adultery was brought to Jesus, He confounded the Pharisees accusation and granted her grace (John 8:3-11). Once again the position is pro-life. The main thing that stands out to me here is that our news media has been almost completely silent about this woman in comparison to the uproar over the proposed Koran burning. What is ultimately more important: The life of the woman or the Koran? For the Christian would you have felt differently about the proposed Koran burning if it was being done to push Iran to release the woman accused of adultery? I would venture to guess that the vast majority of Christians are more plugged in and concerned about the politics of what is happening this November then the woman in Iran. Yet if we look at this from the perspective of what a God focused life demands we should value, I think it changes what is important. When potentially injustice against children and women are before us what are we willing to do?

Monday, September 13, 2010

The glorious reminders of aches and pains

An amazing thing happens when you reach forty. Your body begins to lose some of its ability to bounce back. What this means is that pulled muscles seem to happen easier and last longer. Yesterday afternoon I was kicking a soccer ball with my boys and well today I am still pondering that soccer ball as a muscle in my hip protest with every step I take. There are a couple of things this can do for me. It can drive me to distraction or it can remind me of my mortality. As I ponder my mortality I am inevitably drawn to think about my Lord Jesus and the home that He is preparing for me (John 14:2-3). In that home He will wipe away all pain (Revelation 21:4). My heart looks forward with greater longing to the day when I will see Him, all because of some little aches and pains. On reflection I can truly thank God for blessing me with these aches and pains. May God bless you with a focus on Him that allows you too to rejoice in ALL the gifts that He gives us.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Confronting our brother

This is probably one of the most-ignored tenets of Scripture because obeying it forces us out of our comfort zone. As Americans, we naturally gravitate toward the easy path whether it’s diet gimmicks which promise weight loss without exercise and healthy eating, get-rich-quick schemes or sexual “freedom” without acknowledging the consequences.

While the mandate to confront a brother seems pretty clear, I have managed to come up with all kinds of creative excuses not to obey this command. Usually the thought process goes something like this: well, I’m not really sure he did such-and-such, or, it’s really too vague to know if what he did was specifically unscriptural, or, it’s just going to turn him off if I confront him—all convenient excuses which ignore God’s intent. The reason for this disobedience stems from same reason as any other sin: we decide that we’re the ultimate arbiters of truth and redefine God’s law to fit our desires.

I recently had to confront a Christian brother. In my case, this person owed my wife money for a business service she provided, and he failed to pay after numerous reminders. I was aware of what Matthew 18 says about confronting a brother and brought another person with me as I he had not responded after my one-on-one confrontation. When I decided to review the Matthew 18 passage prior to the meeting, I noticed something I had not considered before. The second part of Matthew 18:15 states, “If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” While I wanted justice, God wanted me to gain a brother.

A selfish outlook on life looks out for our own interests, but a God focused life, like Elijah, is jealous for God’s glory and therefore doesn’t focus on our individual reputation or comfort level. If our deepest desire is God’s glory, then we will not only be willing to confront our brother, but we’ll do it for the right reason.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The power of God focused words

Yesterday I called a ministry that we have supported for many years. Unfortunately we had to stop our monthly support at the beginning of this year due to my being laid off. I called them because I know that they have regular prayer meetings and I wanted to let them know that we are still looking for work. I really take God seriously when He calls us to pray, and so I look for partners who will pray with us just as I partner to pray for others.

If we are not on your prayer list please add us and keep us before the throne of grace. The leader of this ministry spent some time on the phone with me and then he prayed with me. During his prayer he talked to God about how David in the Psalms says, "I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread" (Psalm 37:25). Wow! What an incredible promise from God through David. These simple words were such an encouragement. Why? Because they put my mind and heart and hope where it needs to be, on my Lord. If you are going through a tough time. Remember there is no better place to be than resting in the arms of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The religion of the non-religious

There is an article on today that is well worth reading. It is by a columnist named Steven Crowder and it is titled, "Think Religious Extremists Are Scary -- How About Secular Extremists?" In the article Crowder talks about the marks of religious extremism. He then compares those marks of extremism with the Discovery channel hostage situation created by James Lee and his commitment to save the planet. You see Lee was really a religious extremist too. His religion was the planet earth. He sacrificed his life to make a statement about the earth. The problem is not really extremism itself. The problem is the focus of our extremism. Crowder rightly points out that people try and fill the void in their lives with something.

Paul talked about this in his letter to the Romans. He said that, "they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator" (Romans 1:25). Man was created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. When that component of our lives was removed at Adams fall it took a huge part of mans reason for living away. Since we are now rebels against God we will embrace anything other than God in order to try to fill that part of us that was made for glory. Anytime anyone's focus of their faith (no matter what that faith is in) is horizontal in nature (i.e. focused on the people and world around us) there is a tendency toward abuses. The only time that extremism is good is when it is focused on the God of the Bible. Why? Because that God focused life is one that is shaped by the love and grace of God. I don't think anyone will ever object to an extreme pouring out of love and grace. The secular and the sacred worshipper can't give a grace they have never experienced. May God grant you the grace to pursue Him in the extreme so that you too might be an agent of His love and grace.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Are we burning the Koran or the Cross?

The news media has been heating up over a proposed Koran burning. It is planned to be held on 9/11 at the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fl. In a article published on August 19th Pastor Terry Jones talked about the threats they have received and the reasons that they continue to move forward with the event. He cites things "like 9/11, Fort Hood, and the honor killings" as a reason for them to continue with their plans. The following is a quote from the article:
"We have thought about it, about the danger in holding the controversial event, and we realize that whenever we made this step, that this kind of thing could happen," he said. "But we feel it's that important, and the times call for some kind of radical measure in standing up."
New York Mayor Bloomberg made a statement today defending the right of the church to hold the burning. His reasoning is based on the first amendment right to freedom of speech. He compares this to the freedom of the Muslim community to build a mosque near ground zero. He said:
If you want to be able to say what you want to say when the time comes that you want to say it, you have to defend others, no matter how, how much you disagree with them.
While on the one hand I agree with the freedom of speech position, I must look at this from the perspective of how someone leading a God focused life should look at this. To begin with Pastor Terry's position strikes me as being clearly focused on making a stand. But a stand for what? The kingdom of God or the kingdoms of this world. Jesus told Pilate that His Kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36). That if His kingdom was of this world His servants would fight for Him. Should we fight for anything? You could make the case that we should be the defender of the defenseless and the helper of the helpless. But is the church called to be the defender of freedom of speech or personal rights? This seems to be the God given responsibility of the state, not the church (Rom. 13:1-4).

We should ask ourselves this question:

  • Will this action cause Muslims to be more open to the gospel?
If it does not advance the kingdom of God in the hearts and minds of other people is it really an activity we should pursue or support? I think not. In reality Jesus said to love your enemies and pray for your persecutors (Matt. 5:43-44). How is Dove World Outreach Center doing this? Looking at another interview posted on Pastor Jones seems intent on pointing out the wrongs that he would like to see righted. While I think we all would like to see Muslim women treated better, it seems a far cry from the calling of the church, to demand Christian actions from Non-Christians. Jesus told his followers to deny themselves take up their cross and follow Him (Mark 8:34). Jesus essentially told us to forget about our personal rights.
“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” Mark 8:35-36
Is the existence of the Koran a real threat to the gospel? NO! The very gates of hell cannot prevail against the rock of the church (Matt. 16:18). What will make the biggest difference in the life of muslims around the world is grace filled God focused lives. When Muslims see Christians really embracing and living the love of God and demonstrating God's grace toward them then we will see hearts change. When we burn Koran's are we really burning our Christian witness to the grace we have received? Are we laying down the cross in that fire and picking up our rights instead? If we would see Muslim women treated better it must begin with changed hearts and that begins with a gospel presentation, given by a grace filled vessel.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Presumed Guilty

That very phrase rubs us the wrong way—especially since our legal system assumes that a person is “presumed innocent until proven guilty.” That assumption is appropriate in man’s court of law. No doubt most people you meet on the street wouldn’t happy with the assumption of guilt. After all, isn’t it wrong to “judge” another person? I would have to agree, and I take my cue from the apostle Paul who stated, “. . . it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself.” (I Corinthians 4:3) So there you have it: judging another human being is wrong. In fact, God is a God of love and sent Jesus to express His love to us. The most famous verse in all of the Bible confirms God’s love for the world and is followed by a verse with Jesus telling Nicodemus that he didn’t come to condemn the world. What a comforting thought. It just confirms how wrong so many Christians are for being so judgmental and almost makes me want to go watch a Joel Osteen sermon to be reminded again that I really am a special person and was created to live a victorious life.

But alas, there’s bad news in all of this—really bad. Jesus continued talking. The bad news surfaces when He explains why He didn’t come to condemn the world. It’s because—ready for this?—we’re already condemned. Uh oh. Now I’m offended. You see, I have the same problem every other human being has. I like making my own rules (e.g., I want to be my own god) and therefore, I’m not going to allow anyone else to “condemn” or “judge” me. After all, aren’t I a good person by nature? The last thing I need is to be sent on a guilt trip.

Herein lies the problem. Despite our determination to play by our own rules, we all have different rules. Don Richardson explains in his book, Peace Child, that the cannibalistic Sawi people of Irian Jaya esteemed deception to be virtuous. It goes without saying that our western economy wouldn’t work real well under that kind of system. Like it or not, someone has to be the final authority and make the rules, and according to God’s rules, we’re condemned if we don’t believe in the name of the only Son of God.

This notion of condemnation (or, as Charles Spurgeon explained, damnation is a more accurate term) doesn’t jive with the popular view of God as a loving God. Or does it? When you read the Bible, you come to find out just how great God’s love is for us, and the price He chose to pay to remove our condemnation was the condemnation of His own Son. Chris Tomlin correctly wrote,

I’m forgiven because you were forsaken
I’m accepted; you were condemned

As it turns out, the bad news that I’m condemned turns out to be good news if I believe in the Son of God, because God not only placed my condemnation on Him; He gives me His righteousness. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (II Corinthians 5:21)

So, the next time someone tells you not to judge, simply agree with them. After all, they’re already condemned and don’t need you to pile it on. Just make sure to follow it up with the good news that they can stand justified from all condemnation if they play by the right rules.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Man can't even understand himself

Sometimes I file articles away and stew on them for a while. In the middle of July CNN posted an article titled, "How can a smart species be so dumb?". Richard Galant reflects on a couple of questions asked by Laurie Santos in Oxford, England.
Was last year's financial crisis a chance event? Or was it the product of 35 million years of evolution?
These questions are posed in an either or type of presentation. Yet the answer to both of these questions from the perspective of a Christian would be decidedly different from the author of the article. First of all, "Was last year's financial crisis a chance event?" No, it was brought about by God for the sake of His glory.

Was it the product of 35 million years of evolution? No, it was part of God's plan and we have yet to see how it will play out entirely. You see man makes bad decisions because man has a fallen nature. He is prone to do evil (Genesis 6:5). Secondly there is no 35 million years of evolution Genesis 1:1 clearly tells us that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. We serve a God who has the entire world in His hands. He has made plans that will bring about the establishment of His kingdom and the glorification of Jesus. Because these plans are certain, the things leading up to these plans are orchestrated and certain as well. The financial crisis should not shake a God fearing God focused Christian. Why? Because the God focused Christian will see the financial crisis as a means of depending on God more and as one more step toward the final revealing of Jesus Christ. For the questions raised by CNN there really ought to be one more, "Was last years financial crisis an act of God?" If they asked this they might be getting a little closer to the truth.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Why followers of God know peace

In Philippians 4:11-13 Paul bears witness to the fact that God has given him the grace to be content in any situation. What is the key to that contentment? A clear focus and dependence upon God. Paul faced times of plenty and abundance and realized that they were a gift to him from God. Paul faced hunger and need and realized that these too were a gift from God. How can hunger and need be a gift from God? Hunger and need are a gift to the believer who like Paul has a clear focus and dependence on God. Hunger and need are blessed reminders of how much we truly need God to sustain us. By thrusting us into the barren desert of need God helps us to let go of our dependence on things of this earth. We are put in a place where we truly must depend on God. When Paul says, "that he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him" he is talking about being able to walk through adversity as well as plenty.

Paul's admonition earlier in the same chapter rings with greater force when we understand his personal heartbeat that follows it (Philippians 4:4-7). Paul started that earlier section with a call to rejoice in the Lord always. The only way you can rejoice ALWAYS is if you see everything that is coming to you as a gift. These are all gifts given to us by God for our own benefit. Paul continues with a call to be gentle with everyone. Even those who are not good to us? In a word yes! Why? Because the Lord is at hand.

He tells us not to worry. What should we do with the things that come our way? We communicate everything to God by prayer and supplication with one unusual thing thrown in - Thanksgiving. Paul wants us to make our request but in the midst of making them to be thankful for these same things because they are truly a gift from God. When your heart is tuned to being thankful and rejoicing in all the things that come our way we will gain something that is astounding. Peace! Not just any peace but the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.

  1. Rejoice always - because you see everything coming to you as a gift
  2. Be gentle with everyone - because the Lord is at hand and He will make things right
  3. Don't worry - take everything to God by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
Do these things and rivet your eyes on the Lord Jesus and an amazing peace from God that passes understanding will fill our hearts. Not only that but He will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. As we rejoice in Him He will secure our hearts so that they can continue to rejoice in Him. This is why the true followers of Jesus in the midst of persecution and a life devoid of external peace will exhibit a heart filled with supernatural peace that cannot be taken away. Join me as I try to follow Paul's plan for living a life completely focused on God.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Why no peace for followers of God

There is an article on titled, "Obama Condemns 'Senseless Slaughter' of Israelis, Vows to Sustain Peace Talks". There have been almost countless attempts at peace in the middle east. Go back to the Romans in the time of Christ for the first versions, or perhaps we need to go back earlier then that. But the fact remains that there is no peace in the middle east. Why? Fundamentally the issue is spiritual in nature. The Jews claim a divine right to the land that they believe was granted to them by God. There is language that supports this view in the Old Testament. But even Jeremiah talked about how there would be no peace (Jeremiah 8:11). There will not be peace in this world until the Prince of Peace finally sets up His Kingdom here on Earth.

I bring this issue up because tonight while out street witnessing we encountered some opposition. Some people did not want to hear the truth about the pending judgment we all face if we do not know and accept Jesus as our Lord. Jesus knew that when we took a stand in the public square for Him we would no doubt face opposition (Matthew 5:11). The unsaved man has no interest in spiritual things because he is spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-3). We all were before we were made alive in Christ. If we realize what a great gift we have been given in Christ then we will begin to see the dilemma that faces all of those who do not know Jesus. This eternal damnation that awaits them should burden our hearts for them. We must realize that the utter terribleness of a never ending eternity suffering God's wrath is what awaits all unbelievers. Do we care? Is there a burden in our hearts for their salvation. If there is you will soon begin to see the persecution and reviling that comes to those who stand for Christ and reach out in love to the lost and dying world. May God grant us all a clearer vision of that which is coming so that we will be more diligent to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:9-10).