Violence Begets Violence–Grace Breaks the Chain

Whatever you sow you will reap.  It is a biblical principle—something even non-Christians understand.  Much of the world refers to this principle as karma.  Many Christians believe that karma is a bad thing—evil as it is associated with eastern religion.  On this matter, I think that Bono, lead singer of U2, has best summed it up when he talks about karma, being broken by grace.  It is grace that breaks the chain of karma. 

We are all born in sin.  Our sin is ultimately what we sow and the wages of sin is death.  That is sowing and reaping, that is karma.  The only thing that changes that is grace.  Through grace we find the actions of Jesus that lead to our salvation.  Grace said that even though we deserved death and hell, Jesus would make the ultimate sacrifice and halt the effects of karma.  Thus, grace gives eternal life. 

So, what does this mean as to how we interact with the world?  Simply we have to find a better way to respond to crisis in the world around us.  It is not enough for us to respond to violence with violence.  We cannot respond to judgment with judgment.  We cannot respond to anger with anger.  We, as children of the most high God, have to break the chain of sowing and reaping.  We have to meet violence with nonviolence.  We have to meet judgment with understanding.  We have to meet anger with love.  We have to lead others the way Jesus lead. 

One of the most amazing things about the life of Jesus is how he responded to those around him.  When he met the women caught in adultery he did not condemn her.  He did not tell her she was evil.  He did not judge her sin.  And he did not excuse it. 

Instead, Jesus told her that as no one was there to condemn her neither would he condemn her.  He did not reinforce the nature of her sin.  Instead, he told her to leave and stop sinning.  He made it plain that she needed to live a better life, but he did it with love and support. 

Where are the followers of Jesus who can respond so well?  I want to be one.

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The Difference Between Political Liberalism And The Gospel

            I was talking with my son earlier today and was trying to explain why some people are political liberals.  We started with the understanding that many people are liberal because it feels good, and it is good when we help others.  I went on to explain that liberals become conservatives when we personalize the questions.  Brad Pitt is against the death penalty when it comes to using the death penalty to punish criminals who have actually killed other people intentionally.  Yet, recently he has said that he would rethink his position when it comes to dealing with BP.  How absurd that we would be willing to use the death penalty to kill humans who have harmed the earth, but would not use it to punish those who have brutally murdered others.  Can you say hypocrite?  It is actually pronounce, Brad Pitt.  Political liberals want you and me to be better, but they do not have to pay the price—insert any liberal politician here and see how it works in the real world.

            As Christians we are called to be liberals.  To do that we have to understand what it really means.  You see there is a simple difference between political and spiritual liberalism.  Political liberals believe in helping others using the money of others.  They also believe in helping others and, at the same time, creating a dependence that feeds the problem rather than changing their lives so they can become productive people—reuniting with their family and their culture.

            Spiritual liberals believe that we should invest ourselves and our money to help others.  Spiritual liberals, something we are all called to be, means using our money and our time to feed the hungry, help the helpless, and any number of other good deeds such as made up the life of Jesus.

            Jesus did so much good that his leaders killed him for it.  Are you on anyone’s death list?  If not, maybe you are not liberal enough—spiritually speaking of course.

South Africa 2010 Final Report

South Africa 2010 Final Report 

David and I met with leaders in April.  Then, we continued to work with leaders during the actual outreach at the World Cup to monitor the situation and step in to help should the situation require our attention.  Fortunately, we were able to monitor only and did not need to intercede directly wtit legal action.
Thank you for your prayers and support!  Because of your faithfulness we were able to be there for these missionaries who were able in turn to share the Gospel message with literally tens of thousands of soccer fans from around the world.
This is some of the important work we are doing at the IHRG.    We helped with copyright and royalty issues.  We helped TUG, the outreach overseers, to protect themselves from liability.  We helped everyone understand the South African law on gatherings in public places and the number restrictions requiring permits.  We helped with the general rules for outreach and public presentations of the Gospel.
Now, we are turning our attention back to Europe and the Middle East.  I am going on a short trip into Lebanon and Syria in October to see what we can do to help believers there.  We have an appeals court hearing in Europe coming up as well.
I will keep you informed.  In the meantime, pleasecontinue to pray for us!

Without your prayers and support we could not have been in South Africa standing with the missionaries who were ministering in public places everyday!  Thank you!  We will have an update on our upcoming work soon.
 

 

 

Pray for the missionaries headed to the World Cup

            We are two weeks from the start of the most watched sporting event in the world.  In addition to being the most watched sporting event there is a huge mission movement that shows up at these major sporting events to share the Gospel on the streets.

            The International Human Rights Group works with these missionaries to make sure their legal rights are protected and they are able to participate in the outreach without threat of arrest.  I have done my work, there is a possibility that I will return to South Africa during the World Cup to monitor the outreach, but most likely, from here on out I will watch from home like you.

            I have met with the Ultimate Goal Committee.  I have answered their questions, helped them with legal documents, and provided whatever legal help I could.  Now, we must pray.  Pray that God will give wisdom to the missionaries who will be using the World Cup to create a divine moment for a lot of people.

            The World Cup starts on 11 June and continues until 11 July.  It will be help in ten cities.  So, now, let’s get down to the business of praying for protection and success.

First, Lasting Impressions of South Africa

We just arrived a few days ago, after a 15 hour flight from Atlanta.  From the minute we sat down on the plane I knew this trip would be different.  Sitting between David and me was a South African man.  As we began talking he knew everybody we were meeting with in South Africa.  Imagine, three hundred or so people on the plane and God puts the one person who is connected with our work here in South Africa next to us.

             The country is beautiful; the people are friendly and open.  One of the most unusual things about this trip for me is that we are staying in the same hotel every night.  In Europe we are always in four or five cities and move from hotel to hotel; often a new hotel every night.   When we arrived at the bed and breakfast where we are staying we found the doors locked.  We rang the bell and no one answered.  After about two or three minutes a man popped his head through the curtain that covered the locked metal gate that provides security.

             We identified ourselves and he found our name on the registry.  “I am a guest here, too.”  Come around and I will let you in.  We followed him in and waited on the owner to arrive.  As we talked to this man we learned that, like us, he had chosen this hotel at “random.”  We sat out on the patio, under a thatched hut and spent the next hour talking with him.

             We followed that up with breakfast the next morning.  During breakfast we learned that our new friend, Enock, was a young Christian from Zimbabwe.  He is working on developing a foundation to help young people learn the value of getting an education and working hard.

             By the time breakfast was over I felt like I had known Enock my whole life.  He gave us a tour of the neighborhood where we are staying.  The Lord used us to encourage him in matters of developing your vision into a viable business or ministry.

             Over the next few days we spent more and more time with Enock.  Talking about ministry and how to develop a foundation to help young people in Africa get more involved in the daily life of their country.  His concern was how to motivate young people to take control of their own lives, gain a vision for the future, and even get involved in the political process by voting and working to influence policy at the local level.

             Enock really helped us get into the local culture; we went for a ride using the Soweto taxi system.  This taxi system is a series of vans with five rows of seats in them.  You flag down the taxi with a series of hand signals that let the driver know where you are going.  If it is the right taxi he pulls over and you get in.  The cost is about a dollar.  Through a series of transfers we made it to Nelson Mandela Square where there is a huge statute of Mandela overseeing the entrance to a brand new upscale shopping mall in the most exclusive section of Johannesburg.  Near the Mandela statute is a serious of eight foot soccer balls set up to honor the World Cup and other championships of World Football.

             From there it was off to another series of Soweto taxis so that we could go to the Rosebank African Market.  Stall after stall of native Africa crafts.  A huge sign hung from the roof.  “This is Africa—We bargain.”  And the games began. The crafts were awesome; the prices were fluid.  David was enjoying himself, I was a little nervous because I am not big on the bargaining.

             The next day we headed out to meet the Ultimate Goal Committee so that I could give them legal advice on outreach during the World Cup.  Here was a room full of brothers and sisters from South Africa and around the world.  They were working together with one common goal—how to turn the World Cup Soccer Tournament into a valuable outreach for the Kingdom and the Church.

             I have worked with some of these folks since the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece in 2004.  They are becoming old friends.  They always inspire me as they are working hard to finish strong.  They are giving up their homes to come to a foreign land and see the Kingdom built.  What a great calling!

             We left these two days of meetings with a mandate for preparing information for the Committee—something I am doing now that we are back.

             The greatest news of all, however, is what happened after these meetings.  David and I were spending a few more days before heading home.  On Thursday we were resting at the guesthouse when the owner told us that we had a couple of friends here to see us.

             Earlier in the week David had shared the Gospel with an African man named Josiah.  He left the first meeting telling us that he wanted to talk more about God and asking if he could come back on Thursday.  In the excitement we had forgotten.

             Here was Josiah, with his cousin Tich, looking to hear more about the Gospel message.  David sat down with them while I showered.  I was locked in our room as David took the key with him promising to return in fifteen minutes.  Over an hour later I was in a panic, not knowing if something had happened to David. 

             When I finally got out of the room by calling the owner on his cell, using my computer, I found David circled up under our thatch hut, holding hands with these two African men as he prayed for their salvation.

             Josiah told us that after he prayed he “felt like ice cream!”

             That was a fitting end to our time in South Africa.  Now we are preparing to make sure that all the missionaries and evangelists who show up for the World Cup are protected as they share their faith with others like Josiah and Tich.

             Thank you for your prayers and your support of our work!

South Africa and the World Cup, IHRG is getting ready

            We are getting ready to head to Johannesburg, South Africa to meet with some of the ministry leaders who are preparing for a huge outreach during the World Cup Soccer Tournament this June and July.

            Since the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta we have been providing religious freedom legal help at many of the major sporting events around the world.  This year we are personally working with ministry leaders and FIFA officials to make sure that the free speech and religious freedom rights of the missionaries who will come from around the world are respected by local and tournament officials.

            At the same time, I am working, even now, to establish meetings with other ministry leaders in South Africa and local Christian attorneys.  These meetings will allow us to have an even greater effect during our time in South Africa.

            There is a lot of preparation that goes into these meetings.  We have to do all the normal travel arrangements, determine where is the most strategic location to set up as our camp in Johannesburg.  We have to prepare legal documents and then we have to get those legal documents to the key mission people and the key people with FIFA and the local law enforcement.  We have to make sure they understand their rights and this involves some training before and during the tournament.

            Our job is to make sure everyone understands the protected speech rights.  Our job is to make sure that police officials do not overstep their bounds during the tournament.  Our job is to make sure the missionaries do not get too aggressive on their part as well.

            So, we are preparing to leave in just over two weeks for our first on the ground meetings in Johannesburg, South Africa.  Please continue to pray for our team.  We have a lot of work in the next few months, and a lot of travel as well.

Whatever Happened To America’s Moral Center?

            I believe we are in the midst of a crisis of conscience in this country.  What was once considered normal is suddenly considered abnormal.  What was once considered abnormal is suddenly considered normal.  It truly is a world turned upside down.  Matters that seemed unthinkable only a decade ago are suddenly becoming the standard by which we are measured in public.

            The biggest change we have experienced is a loss of our moral center.  Our founding fathers understood the moral center that comes from a biblical world view—even the founding fathers who were not Christians understood this value.  Our grandparents and our parents understood the value of the Ten Commandments.

            Benjamin Franklin summed it up when he said, “I believe in one God, creator of the universe; that He governs it by his providence, that He ought to be worshipped,…As to Jesus of Nazareth,…[I] have some doubts regarding Jesus’ divinity.”

            My point is this; Christianity was so prominent in our founding that even those who did not believe felt that there was a great value in the system of Christianity that allowed the governance through democracy in a republic form of government.

            We no longer have that moral center.  Now, we find ourselves in a culture that not only does not believe, but actually mocks belief in one God.  We have gone from the place where it is okay to make fun of belief in God in limited cases, like a Hollywood movie or a book.  At the same time, it was not okay to make fun of the core beliefs that surrounded the belief in God.

            Now we do not have the mockery limited to Hollywood, it is the core of how our average citizen thinks.  We cannot offer any type of spiritual help to struggling youth because we have no place for God in our schools.  We have nothing to base our moral core on because we suddenly do not believe in moral absolutes.

            Then we wonder out loud why it seems that evil is so much more present in our society.  Why is there a problem with drugs?  Why do we have an increase in out of wedlock pregnancy?  Why are we in a seeming downward spiral?

            I believe it is all tied into the fact that we no longer value the things that God values because we no longer really believe in God.  He was good for our ancestors.  He was okay for children, but we are enlightened and have no need for God.

            Where once we started with the understanding that Christian morals were valuable in the here and now because they were principles that permitted us to get along in society, we now believe that no man or deity has the right to set absolute standards that govern this world.

            Without the eternal value of life that Christianity embraces we find ourselves giving our moral core to meaningless things.  We are more concerned with protecting animals than we are with protecting human live.  We give our life to living “green” and ignore the devaluing of human life at every turn.

            What is the solution?  We, those who still believe in the value of God and His system of morals, must take a greater stand for the issues that matter here and now and the matters that are important for eternity. 

            We must be the leaders in cultural change.  We must be the ones who value individual rights.  It is the Christian who must fight for the right of the nonbeliever to not belief.  After all, who are we to condemn a right that God gave to us.  He has chosen to let us decide for ourselves—I will do no less.

            The church has to regain its moral center and return to doing His work, His way.  We have to be the standard bearers.  It is easy to point out sin.  The challenge is to offer real life solutions to the world’s real life problems—that is what we must be doing.

            While doing that I will also demand more of myself and those around me. I will demand more from a moral standpoint and more for the betterment of the world.

            It is a disgrace that those who have no faith offer more to the betterment of this world than those of us who know the key to understanding and living in eternity.


Books Worth Reading

C.S. LEWIS--Mere Christianity; CLAIRE BERLINSKI--Menace in Europe: Why the Continent's Crisis is America's Crisis, Too; BRUCE BAWER--While Europe Slept: How Radical islam is Destroying the West from Within; DAVID LEVERING LEWIS--God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215; THOMAS SCHIRRMACHER--The Persecution of Christians Concerns Us All; PHILIP JENKINS--God's Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe's Religious Crisis

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