Archive for August, 2008

Daniel and Babylon; America and Me

Daniel served both God and the king.  He did not step out of the kingdom of the world when he served in the kingdom of God; he merely kept the heart of his religion while serving a godless, pagan king.  Unlike most of Israel, Daniel kept the law and stood up for God in the face of a king who demanded that he be worshipped like God.

 

To do this Daniel put everything on the line.  At several points in his career men of great power were seeking to have the king put Daniel to death because of Daniel’s obedience to God.  God shut the mouths of lions to protect Daniel.

 

Daniel’s obedience to God is important and in fact, all of us who have been to church or synagogue have heard great inspiring oratory regarding the faithfulness of Daniel—including how we should strive to be just like him.

 

What we seldom hear is great inspiring oratory regarding Daniel’s equal faithfulness to the king.  Daniel helped build the kingdom of Babylon.  Nebuchadnezzar made Daniel ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon.  Daniel was at the king’s court.

 

It is not hard to understand why we seldom hear much about this side of Daniel’s faithfulness.  Here is Daniel, the faithful servant of Jehovah, ruling over one of the most godless kingdoms in the history of the world.  The great whore Babylon, a kingdom that in modern times was headed by the late Saddam Hussein—this is a claim Hussein made himself on numerous occasions.

 

I am sure there are theologians who will insist that I am missing the point of Daniel’s great life.  I will not argue with them.

 

My point is simple.  There are those in the Christian community who say we should not be involved in the current elections and political systems because our choices are not godly men.  Daniel did not have any godly choices—except to defy the king and worship God publicly.  He was then promoted.

 

In his promotion Daniel served the godless king of Babylon—still considered a part of the anti-Christ system by many—and lead the king to a confrontation with God.

 

I am sure there are those who will not vote for Obama because he is a democrat or a black man.  I am sure there are those who will not vote for McCain because he has a woman on his ticket and they know that a woman’s place is in the home.

 

To all of those I say that we must serve the king of the universe in the kingdom of this world.  It is not an option; it is a requirement at the very core of Christianity’s nature.  The first century church did not have the luxury of serving in a peaceful environment.  They served in a religious community that used the local government to put them to death, but they served publicly.

 

Jesus told us to render to Caesar what was Caesar’s and to God what was God’s.  He did not tell us to step out of the world.  He expected his followers to change the world, by being in the world but not of the world.  This means that we are to work within the world systems without becoming immoral like the world systems.  We are not to withdraw to the mountains and hide; we are to be on the front row, taking risks, showing the way to real change.

 

Obama is right, we do need change.  Where he is wrong is that we do not need change we can believe in, we need to believe in change that matters.  The only change that really matters is change that is eternal and permanent—change that redirects a man or a woman’s life from hopeless to hopeful, on an eternal basis.  Anything less is folly.

 

It is not change to continue murdering babies in the name of convenience.  It is not change to continue to deny people the right to acknowledge God in public places and at government events.  It is not change that matters to continue to reinforce a world system that denies access to faith based organizations.

 

Regardless of whether you are a believer in any religion or not you have to admit, like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, that true religion, when practiced by real believers is a positive thing for a person and a people.

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The Moral Authority Of Bill Clinton

AFter a review of the facts, Bill Clinton has no moral authority.  Therefore, I have exhausted the positive points and will stop.

Appeal Filed In Norway

This week the IHRG filed an appeal in the case of Oslo v. Keffer in Norway.  Larry Keffer was arrested this summer in Oslo for failing to leave when the police ordered him to stop sharing his faith in a public place.  We represented Larry at trial in Oslo and have now filed his appeal.  We are asking the Appeals Court to overturn the conviction and remove the fines against Larry.  If he does not pay the fines he will be required to spend 21 days in jail.

 

This is a critical case for free speech in Europe and we will fight it until the end.  Larry went to Norway for the purpose of sharing his faith in public places with his friend and fellow evangelist, Petar Keseljevic.  They were both arrested and both found guilty at trial. 

 

Petar was arrested last year on the same charge and we are currently representing him at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

 

Arresting evangelist for free speech is rather rare in Europe currently.  If we do not fight this new trend I believe we will see more arrests in the near future.

 

That is why we do what we do at the IHRG.  If we lose the right to share our faith in Europe I believe it will come to America eventually.

 

So we fight in the courts of Europe!

Fighting The Wrong Fight

Sometimes it seems that we just fight for the sake of fighting.  It feels good and we are, after all, the do it if it feels good nation.  There is a bully in front of us, so we fight.  There is a moral dilemma in front of us, so we fight it.  There is sin in front of us, so we confront it.

 

Unfortunately when we are in the fight we often lose sight of the reasons we fight or the desired outcome.  The other problem is when we fight the outside problems of the world and its sin we often fail to fight or even recognize the inner sin that each of us carries with us.

 

If we look closely at the life and words of Jesus we will find that he seemed much more concerned with the inner issues each man and woman faces than he was with the outer problems that we want to spend so much time trying to correct.  Jesus was not concerned with the cleanliness of the outer man—he told the Pharisees that it was what was in a man’s heart that makes all of the difference.

 

When Jesus was confronted with the woman caught in adultery he responded in a way much different from our modern Christian mindset.  It is ironic that we are considered to be the people who represent Jesus to the world and we cannot repeat his compassion or passion properly.  At any rate, Jesus looked at this woman who was condemned by the law—condemned to death.  He did not condemn her.  He did not require her to repeat a prayer.  He did not give her a tongue lashing.  He did not give her penance to do.  He did not tell her that her freedom would be found in hanging out with some other people who said they were believers.

 

He drove away her accusers and then said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go your way.  From now on sin no more.”  That seems a rather simple approach to sin and the sinner.  This woman was an adulterer.  She deserved death according to the law and Jesus was unwilling to bring her to death.  She deserved shame for committing such an awful sin and Jesus was unwilling to condemn her and shame her.

 

Instead, he showed her love and sent her on her way confident that love was enough to change a heart and a life.

 

What a refreshing moment!  If only we could do the same, but we must fight sinners and tell them they are sinners and going to hell.  We must force them to change the rules they live by and live by our rules.

 

If only we, the saints believed in Jesus instead of our rules and regulations.

Lord Protect Me From Your Followers?

On Facebook today I saw a friend whose religious views were listed as “The Church of Lord Protect Me From Your Followers.”  Now, I do not know how strongly this friend feels this statement but there is a lot said with it.  This statement embodies much of what is wrong with the church today.

 

This statement raises the question, if we are the only Jesus some people will see, will some people ever see Jesus.  The biggest problem we have as a church is that Jesus left us in charge of his kingdom and we have to present his kingdom in an honest way that maintains the integrity of the message—something we seem to have trouble doing.

 

The news is full of pastors and church members who are having the same problems as the rest of the world—even though we claim to be different.  Our communities are full of neighborhoods where the only Jesus some people ever see is a Jesus lacking in compassion, filled with the sins of the world, looking for more—more money, more food, more cars, more women, more of everything except spiritual maturity and compassion.

 

I long for the day when I can live the life Jesus called me to live.  I long for the day when the church is the church, living for eternity and not for the power of this world.

 

Eternity is so huge we fail to believe in it.  Eternity will own us all soon enough—we should start preparing for it now.

A Jesus We Can Live With

There are many things we will never understand.  Some of them we readily know and admit to, others we never realize what the problem is.  I think who Jesus was historically is one of those things we can no longer understand.  We have too much information, developed from sources other than the historical texts of the Bible and the historical understanding of people.  Then we have too much personally riding on what we believe about Jesus. 

 

This means that, try as we might, we just cannot filter through what are the traditions of man and what are the traditions of God.  Jesus lived in a simpler time.  He was a man of his times, even though he has also become a man of our times.  The mistake we make is in lifting Jesus out of the first century and dropping him into the twenty-first century.  Then we try to understand the life he lived based on the way we view the world.

 

The problem with this type of analysis is that we have two thousand years of church history and church doctrine that form the basis of what we believe.  Then, because Jesus is such a personal approach to God, we personalize it more to fit our own images of what life is really about.

 

It is impossible to get outside of our own world.

 

So, what do we do then, we create a Jesus we can live with.  Some aspects of what we see in Jesus are based on the truth and some are based on our personal versions of the truth.  It is human nature to do this.  That is why there are wars and dissention around the world.  What I think is best for living is not what you think is best for living and those differences create a conflict that is usually not violent—even though those differences are unrelenting.

 

Sometimes those differences in worldview lead to wars and violence.

 

We have to get to a place where we can honestly evaluate Jesus in the present through the lens of history and truth.  It means that we will have to set aside a lot of preconceived notions about who Jesus is and what his purposes were.

 

We have to set aside the teachings of our denomination to determine this.  I am not saying that we should dump the denominations or that we should disregard their teachings, I am talking about getting to a place of intellectual and spiritual honesty where the view we have of Jesus is in keeping with who he really claims to be.

 

If we do not do this we will all be very surprised when we cross the threshold of heaven and find the man meeting us is not the man we were hoping to meet.  Even more importantly, if we do not do this we will never truly create an atmosphere for bringing the pure reality of Jesus down to earth.

 

The crux of the ministry of Jesus is that he came to bring the kingdom of God to earth.  “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  You see, it is not about building bigger and better churches.  It is not about selling our version of the Gospel or our books or our CDs.  It is about bringing the kingdom of God to earth—as it is in heaven.

 

What we have become guilty of is bringing the kingdom of earth to heaven.  We have remade heaven into the worldly image of what it has to be for us to enjoy it.  God is not a being who is capable of being remade.  He is the remaker not the remakee.  It is we who must change.  It is our beliefs that must align with His.  It is the kingdom of heaven that is important because in the kingdom of heaven is perfect love, perfect peace, perfect grace, the true forgiveness for sin.

 

We can try everything we know and not duplicate heaven here.  Only God can duplicate heaven on the earth—yet He chooses to use us to bring this to pass.

 

What set Jesus apart from the rest of us, other than the fact that he was God and he was man?  He was set apart by the fact that he was not influenced by his culture.  He was not influenced by the kingdom of earth that was trying to duplicate the kingdom of heaven without permitting real change in the hearts of man. 

 

Jesus knew that the only way to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth as it is in heaven was to bring change in the hearts of man.  That means that he knew how valueless it was to make us change our clothes, or our hair styles, or any of the outside things.  He knew that the only way to bring the kingdom of heaven was to change the inside, the hearts of men and women.  Change them with the revolutionary vibrancy of heaven entering into the hearts of men and women.

 

We must bring change that is not based on what you say, but on what you do.  You see the main change Jesus was seeking to bring was in our worldview.  He knew that change could only come in the heart that lived in close communion with God.

 

It is this kind of approach to life that leaves us able to go into the Garden of Gethsemane looking to convince God that our way is better and still walk away having surrendered our foolishness to the wisdom of God—even when the wisdom of God is not in our best interest.

 

We have got to find a place where the Gospel we preach is the Gospel he preached.  We have to find a place where we truly speak for Jesus.  That means we have to die for ourselves and come alive to him—even when life in him costs us too much.  Like Jesus, struggling with the struggles of a young man in the Garden, we have to come to the place where no matter the cost we are willing to accept the kingdom of Heaven coming to earth without being changed as it comes through the atmosphere.

 

Anything else is a false Gospel that was not born in heaven but was born on earth.  And that is no fulfillment of the calling we have from heaven.

 

We have too many people who have created a Jesus they can live with teaching us that we can find a Jesus we can live with.  It is time for us to let Jesus create a person he can live with us in our own lives and stop recasting him into our mold.


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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