Archive for the 'Christianity' Category

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.
 

 

 

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.

A Church Defined By What It Is or Getting Away From Check List Christianity

            I am tired of hearing Christians define themselves by what they are not or by what they are against.  It has always interested me to see how quickly people are willing to start conversations with the negative points.  I believe it is a mistake to allow ones’ self to be defined by negative moments or negative beliefs.

            Jesus did not spend a lot of time dealing with the things God hates.  He was constantly confronted with people who were sinners and yet, except when He was dealing with the religious leaders who were corrupting the Temple, Jesus always showed mercy to those separated from God.  We never see Jesus on the corner preaching the good news that God is angry with you and you are therefore going to hell.

            Do not get me wrong—I certainly believe in heaven AND hell.  I certainly believe that only those who believe in Jesus are going to be admitted into heaven.  Paul talked about becoming all things to all men.  He was looking at what he knew of the life of Jesus.  Jesus met those who were trapped in their sins by setting them free.  He did not need to spend time telling them what they had done wrong—they certainly knew what their sin was.

            We have been tricked into believing that sinners no longer know they are sinners.  Part of the reason for this is that modern man is so big at flaunting their sin and acting as if God is dead.  What we fail to realize is that man has always been that way.

            God convicts man of his sin.  He speaks in the heart of all men.  We have to remember that God has placed eternity in every man’s heart.  We do not need to convince man of the hole, we have to convince man that only God will fill it.

            We have spent our time being against abortion.  I am not against abortion, we are for life.  We are against homosexuality.  I am not against homosexuality, I am for heterosexual relationships.  We are against Islam.  I am not against Islam, I am for Jesus.  I am not against sickness, I am for health.

            Jesus is not anti-darkness—He is light!  Jesus is not anti-wickedness, he is righteousness!

            I think the reason Jesus never spoke on the issue of homosexuality is that He knew that if men would come into right relationship with God they would not behave in improper ways.  In the presence of God sin flees, not because someone is screaming against sin, but because sin does not exist in the same space as God.

            I think our approach to sin and dwelling on what we are not is the main reason we have a check list Christian culture.  We do not drink, unless we are in Europe where it is acceptable.  We have to wear the right clothes. We have to read the right version.  We have to attend the right services.

            In other words, check list Christianity does not worry so much about what we are as it does about what we look like.  I have known pastors who were adamant that they believed drinking was a sin—at least until we arrived in France and everybody, including the Christians was drinking.

            I am not arguing the finer points of Baptist theology here.  There are many reasons not to drink—but I daresay that no one at the wedding in Canaan was arguing about those finer points.

Separating Culture and Church

            We live in a culture that sees a benefit in the individual over the group—at least it has been true until recently.  We seem to be going through a cultural shift that wants us to give up our individual approach to life and live for the group.

            We are also a nation that seems to believe that the Age of Enlightenment was a Christian movement.  The Declaration of Independence, that great American founding document, reeks of Enlightenment, yet it is most often used as proof of our Christian founding. 

            Therein lays the problem I see us facing today.  No where does the Bible declare that we have a right to life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness.  In fact, the opposite is true.  The calling of the Christian is to “lay down your life and follow me.”  One down.  Early Christians found themselves in prison, often with a death sentence over them.  Two down.

            As to the pursuit of happiness, that has never been considered a Christian principle—at least not before we got to this modern me first Christian generation.

            Not willing to stop here, I must look deeper into this “Christian” document.  The declaration does talk about ideas such as endowed by our Creator, giving the illusion of a Christian foundation.  Unfortunately, it later clears up the misunderstanding by naming that Creator as “the laws of nature and of Nature’s God.”  This sounds a lot like something more mystical than the God of the Christian Church.

            While we are busy tipping over sacred cows, let’s look at the concept that America has a special place in God’s heart and is inherently good.  This, to me, is the core of what is wrong with the American church.  We are looking to convert the lost to an American understanding of everything, including God.  Yet, God exists outside of time and space.  He is not a citizen of any one country.  He did not design the world on a model of America—in fact, America is late to the game, both our language and our culture.

            It is always a mistake to take our culture and try to fit the Gospel into it.  Our job is to take the Gospel and fit our culture into it.  Anything that does not fit must be discarded as not part of the true Gospel.

            We are not God’s special children, except that all men and women are created in the image of God and that makes us all special.  We are not immune from the problems of the world system—the last year has shown that to be true.  We are in need of God’s grace and love, before and after our conversion to Christianity.

            The only way we will become what we were created and called to be is to move away from the American approach to life and begin to live a truly Jesus centered approach to life.  I am not claiming to be there, I am merely looking at what seems to be obvious to me.  We are not living in a way that Jesus would be approve when we are living for ourselves without a thought to the world around us.

            We are also not living like Jesus would have when we are more loyal to our country than to our God.

The Gospel According To Harley Davidson

            You might not have been taught the price our Founding Fathers paid to be free.  You might not remember the price paid by the first century church to set the body of Christ into motion in a manner in keeping with the calling God had placed on the body.  That might be because you have been listening to the new Gospel with its new pricing program.

We suddenly live in a place where we do not want to pay a price for anything.  We want it and we want it now.  It would be okay if this were an indictment against the secular side of America.  Unfortunately, it is also an indictment against the spiritual side of America.

            If we were founding America it would look more like Disney World than the country we love—one price gets you into everything, except the food is specially priced just to make sure we got you one more time.

            How do we move forward?  What can stop the slid into meaninglessness?

            There is really only one way—we have to get back to the basics.  We have to realize that we are not special; we are merely some of those called by God to a higher life, a life of giving and sacrifice instead of a life of taking and no pain.

            This also means that we have to quit talking the talk and start walking the walk.  We must find a way to live in the same manner as the Apostle Paul.  He counted all as loss.  The only thing that matter to Paul was the furtherance of the Gospel.  He could live in wealth and he could live in poverty—the moment does not matter, only eternity.

            We have to get past the pettiness of our culture and get back to real life.  That is one of the problems I see with the spiritual state of our world and especially our country.  We spend our time catering to the pettiness, how do we get more people to show up in the Church.  We spend our time trying to figure out how to get more people to raise their hand while nobody is looking. 

            In college we rewrote the lyrics to a famous hymn:  “Raise your hand, raise your hand for Jesus, put it down before anyone looks.  Praise God now you’re saved, your name is in the book.”  That sums up the current Gospel message.

            God wants you to have a Harley; He must because he gave me one.  No, wait, I am more special.

            We need to get back to living our life remembering that one day we will stand in front of God and give account for everything.  God might be love, but love is not syrup on your French Toast; love is justice.  Love is demanding of those to whom it is given.

            That might be a good thing to keep in mind the next time we are in the Harley shop thinking about living the good life.


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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