Posts Tagged 'Christianity'

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.

The Beauty of Christianity

Christine Amanpour has a special that is airing on CNN.  It is about winning the hearts and minds of the next generation of Muslims.  In the special she asks a very interesting question that highlights the difference between Christianity and Islam.  She looks at the parent of a young Muslim being raised in Gaza and asks, “How do you teach them not to hate.”

I haven’t actually seen the program, only the advertisement which CNN International is running ad nausea.  Every time the question is asked I turn to the television and answer—I talk to the television, it relieves a lot of tension and is very fun—“It is easy, you don’t teach them not to hate, you simply don’t teach them to hate.”  This is the core difference between the violence that is being foster by Islam and the love of Christianity.

Mohammed conquered the world with an army and the sword.  Jesus has ruled His world with twelve uneducated souls and love.  When a couple of His uneducated souls wanted to call down fire from heaven Jesus refused permission—His mission was love not control.   When John reported to Jesus that others, who were not follow with the disciples, were casting out demons in Your name, Jesus’ response was simple.  It gives great insight into His thinking and the love with which He approached His mission, “He who is not against us is for us.”

Jesus’ mission was one of inclusion rather than exclusion.  He came to seek and save that which was lost.  He was not seeking to control the world, but show the world the love that God has for His greatest creation, man.

The mission of the Christian Church, Jesus’ body on this earth, is to love people without any strings attached.  Christian Churches start schools, hospitals, even programs to feed and cloth the poor for one reason—to show the lost how much God loves them.

I work with people around the world who show this love without strings.  In Cologne, Germany a Church has set up “stores” to provide the poor with good cheap clothing and furniture.  For one Euro a person can get a full hot meal with a drink.  If you don’t have a Euro, the meal is free.  The whole purpose of the outreach is to provide hope to the hopeless, to minister the love of God in a community that seldom sees love of any kind.

I work with another man in Greece who feeds the refugees coming in from Northern Africa.  They are mostly Muslims and no one, not even their own people are doing anything to reach them.  This man provides free food and fellowship to them.  What is his purpose?  He is personally showing the love of Jesus to a people who desperately need to see that love more than they need to hear about it.

This is exactly what Jesus did when He went about doing good, preaching the Gospel of the Good News to the poor.  Jesus went further than merely preaching the Good News of the Gospel to the poor, however, He also met their needs.  Their needs included healing the sick, the blind, the deaf, the lame, virtually anyone who a need that could be met by love was introduced to love through the preaching of the Gospel and the healing of the sick.

These were not acts of people coming to God, these were acts of God coming to people—meeting them where they were and then giving them hope.

So, to get back to the original thought of how do we teach the children not to hate, that is a question that is not asked in Christian circles.

Fortunately for us, the answer is not complicated.  Hate, just like love, is passed down from generation to generation.  It is not a question of teaching children not to hate—it is a question of not teaching children to hate.

It will take a change of heart.  Just like Martin Luther King, Jr.  and Gandhi, Islam must make a decision that changes comes through love and tolerance, not through continuing to pass hate and anger on from generation to generation.

That is not likely to happen you say, and you are likely right.  That is one of the reasons that Christians have the moral standing order to bring the Gospel of the Good News to the world through missions of love, hope, and compassion.

The world will not change by itself.  Hate will not disappear by itself, there are too many people making too much money nurturing the culture of hate. 

Hate will only disappear when love has come and the Good News of the Gospel is preached and lived throughout the world.

You are the best hope for destroying the legacy of hate.

Sharia Law In America?

A friend of mine just sent me this link to a Muslim gathering, outreach, festival in Dearborn, Michigan.  This is the largest Muslim population in America.  I hope this is not where we are headed, but it seems that freedom of religion and speech are not something we can look forward to under Islam.

Follow this link to see what is already happening here in America, the land of the free and the home of the brave:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEPod-hxD7g&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fislaminaction08.blogspot.com%2F2009%2F07%2Fmichiganmuslim-mob-surrounds-and.html&feature=player_embedded  

Invite all your friends to see the video, it is time we woke up and realized that we must represent freedom for everyone, even the Christians.

This is an example of the battle we are fighting in Europe regarding religious freedom when Christian faith intersects Islam.  Everyone needs to be free, but that is a two way street.

If we don’t wake up we will be going down a one way street that is not pretty.

How To Expand The Evangelical Presence In Europe

There are three simultaneous events that will expand the evangelical presence in Europe.  These are not mysterious events.  They are not secret; in fact, many people and organizations do these things in a variety of countries.  There are a number of reasons why it is important for us to expand evangelical presence in Europe that are not relevant here.  They will appear in other articles more targeted to that question.

Also, by evangelical presence I am not talking about conservative republican political evangelical presence.  I am talking about pure New Testament based evangelical churches whose presence reaches into the community through a variety of outreaches and influences.

There is currently a small presence that needs to be encouraged and strengthened where it is.  The expansion of the presence must be from within.  We do not need to export American evangelical Christianity with its political overtones to Europe.  We need to support the European Church.  That is one of the amazing things about God.  He creates a church within a location that is relevant to that location. 

We have to learn to empower others and trust them to do what is right.  This is what real parenting is all about.  It is about training a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.  It is not about control and manipulation.  True freedom involves trust and confidence.

The first event is to begin coming alongside the evangelicals, both churches and individuals, who are already working in Europe.  This means we should financially support them, pray for them, and work alongside them physically. These actions increase the strength of the presence that already exists in Europe. 

In order to do this we will need to leave behind some of our own theories of what a real church looks like.  This does not mean we must compromise the core tenants of our faith.  These core tenants are not culturally transformative; they are eternal and transcend culture.

At the same time, there are a variety of doctrines we think are eternal and they are not.  Things we grew up with that do not matter.  We have to evaluate these cross-cultural movements by sticking to the eternal questions, questions about salvation and the transformation of man rather than how our parents or grandparents did church.

The second event is to begin planting evangelical churches in Europe.  Like coming alongside local European evangelical churches, we have to be careful about how we plant churches.  We do not need to create a further outreach of American denominations in Europe.

We must create a European evangelical church that answers the moral questions of the day with answers from the true church that properly reflects the Gospel through the eyes of Europeans.  It must be a culturally relevant, doctrinally true church.

These must be churches that reach out into their communities and minister to the poor, the drug addicts, the alcoholics, and homeless, and any other outcasts within this culture.  They must be prepared to minister the Gospel to the growing Muslim community as well.  Many in this community are sensitive to spiritual matters and therefore open to the truth of the Christian message.

The best way to do this is to work with teams of church planters whose goal is to plant a first church that will inevitably be American at its core.  This church should then seek to plant a second church using leaders from the country where the church is being planted.  Thus, the support for the church might well be American, but the core of the leadership and the membership of the church is European.

The evangelical imprint remains on the church.  At the same time, the church is European and thus relevant to the local community without the ties back to the negative impressions many Europeans have regarding American Christianity.

The third event is to come alongside these evangelical outposts and protect their religious freedom.  This is where the International Human Rights Group comes into play.  This is what we do.

This means that we must fight to protect the right to share the Gospel message in public places throughout Europe.  We must fight to protect the right of parents to control the education of their children, either through a true voice in the public schools or through home schooling.  We must fight for the right of churches to exist, even in a system that requires a discriminatory registration process like most of the former Soviet Block countries.

Whatever the religious freedom cause, we have to be there support our brothers and sisters.  We must encourage them.  We must embolden them.  Trusting them to remain true to the core of the Gospel and transform their own countries.

Together these three events will see a transformation and expansion of the European evangelical presence.

Where Is Reality When You Need It?

I know, it is more fun to live in the dream world most of us create around ourselves.  It is easier than looking at the cold hard facts surrounding our lives.  The economy is struggling; the only real argument is over how bad the struggle is.  We are living in the world, the reason we have so much trouble as Christians is we have forgotten the command to live in the world, while not being of the world.

 

            We should not be feeling the gloom of those around us.  We should, however, be a solid place for people to land.  The solidity of our position should not be that we are as rich as the world around us.  The solidity of our position should be that we are not measuring our lives on what we own or how our investments are doing.  The standard by which we measure our lives has to be the commitment to the eternal principles of the Gospel message—you remember those:  love your neighbor has yourself, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

 

            The church is losing its influence in America for one reason—it is not behaving as the church.  Any organism that does not follow the laws that define its existence will not survive long.  We are still debating the depths of our opposition to abortion, we have accepted divorce as an alternative to unhappy marriages, we are wavering on homosexuality, we have accepted gluttony as if it were a normal state of being…I could go on, but you get the point.

 

            We do not need a new wave of seeker friendly ideas.  We do not need a new fad religion.  Fads are good for diets and fashion, but fad is not legitimate for religion.

 

            I am not talking about returning to a fundamentalism that demands we read only one version of the Bible.  I am not talking about the fundamentalism that suppresses women and African-Americans.  I am talking about the real fundamentals of our faith—again, a return to the teachings of Jesus that revolutionized the world in the first century AD. 

 

            This was not a weak faith.  It was a faith that was able to challenge one of the greatest military regimes in the history of the world.  And this faith won.  It was ultimately consumed by its own prosperity, but it won the initial battle.

 

            We need to see the return of that faith—not more prosperity and God wants us to be millionaires.  God does not care about our money—He cares about our living the life He called us to live.

 

            That is a reality we can live with, everyday!

Why Europe Matters To America

We live in an increasingly smaller world. Information travels at the speed of the Internet. One of the questions I am asked as I speak to people in churches around the country is why does Europe matter to us at all?  People are genuinely concerned that any attention we give to Europe keeps us from solving the problems of America.  I believe that many people in the church are guilty of seeing the pie as already made with no possibilities of a new pie or increasing the size of the pie.  We have to understand that in the spiritual world we have barely scratched the surface of our potential.  This means that we must be concerned with more than one country at a time.

 

Europe and America are tied together in a number of ways.  I want to look at our ties.

 

Patriotism is a great emotion.  It is important for us to feel good about our country.  It is important for us to bloom in the land where God has planted us.  At the same time, it is important for us to align ourselves with proper Christian principles for living.

 

There is no doubt that America plays a great role in world events.  It is even more true that America plays a great role in spiritual events.  This is why we must be vigilant in our pursuit of spiritual matters in America and around the world.

 

There are a variety of important reasons why what happens in the rest of the world, most particularly in Europe, matters to the church in America. Perhaps the primary reason that must be central to our thinking is that as Christians we have a charge to reach the world.

 

Jesus commanded us to reach the world by beginning at home.  He was not telling us to only work at home when he said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.”  (Matthew 28:19.)  Jesus made sure we understood the details of His commandment in Acts 1:19.  “You shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

 

While it is great to love our country and commit ourselves to the spiritual awakening of our country, we must look further than our own doorsteps.  We must work in the remotest part of the earth as well.

 

The late Keith Green summed it up well, “Jesus commands us to go; it should be the exception if we stay.”

 

As a group of lawyers and legally-minded lay people, we stand on the front lines against the tide of secularism that is growing stronger around the world. We fight to maintain the open doors for the proclamation of the Gospel. This fight often involves battling with government officials to keep public places open for the expression of religious belief. We can no longer afford to look at our world as only America. We live in a larger place and this larger place must include the entire world and the legal work that must be done there to protect religious liberty.

 

A simple example of why it matters is found in an exchange I had with a lawyer and local Parliamentarian in Holland in 2001.  We had just fought off the push of the same-sex marriage agenda in Hawaii and Alaska.  In both of those states the voters voted against legalizing same-sex marriage by near equal percentages in the general election—this is the most liberal and most conservative state.  As a result the battle was withdrawn from America and taken to Europe.

 

In May of 2001 I was working in Holland.  One day we were talking about the fact that Holland was going to legalizing same-sex marriage.  When we walked away from the conversation my wife turned to me and said, “Thank God we will not have to fight that fight in America.  There is no way same-sex marriage will ever be legal in America—our Christian foundation is too strong.”  We were not naïve; in fact, we had been very involved in the fight in America.

 

The most amazing fact of all is that less than two years later the fight for same-sex marriage returned to America and the results have been harmful to our culture.

 

America is a world leader in a number of fields. We must lead in the field of religious freedom. To do that, we must help train and develop a network of Christian attorneys, around the world, who are capable of standing up for repressed minorities in their own countries. If we do not do this, one day we will find that our own freedoms are shrinking further in the tide of lost religious freedom elsewhere.

 

            This principle has become truer since the Supreme Court of the United States has recently turned to the European Court of Human Rights to find the legal answers to questions of moral importance to us all.  If Christians do not fight for the same religious freedoms in Europe we will find the courts here using legal precedents that are not influenced by Christian morals to reshape our Christian foundations.

 

We live in a circular world, spiritually and legally.  What happens in America will eventually happen in other key areas of the world.  Just as true is that what happens in key areas around the globe will eventually happen in America.  We cannot simply turn our back on what happens in the courtrooms and parliamentary halls of other countries and hope that we will not be affected by the outcome of their debates over the moral and legal issues of our day.  We must be proactive around the globe, just as we are proactive in America.

 

In both the United States and in the rest of the world, the clear end goal of many political forces is a purely secular society that is based on the acceptance of all lifestyle choices, except Christianity, and the concept that science should be the determiner of the national moral structure rather than religion. These views include the belief that the government is in a better position to determine what our children learn than are parents.  Therefore we cannot wait until the change comes and hope to battle the forces of change.  We must begin to stem the tide now.

 

            Europe cannot be ignored.  We have a great relationship with the countries of the European Union and many within the Council of Europe.  To begin with, we come from similar political philosophies.  American concepts of freedom and individual responsibility were born from the Age of Enlightenment which was sweeping through Europe at the time of our founding.  Additionally, we have treaties with the countries of Europe for security purposes—NATO is the key to these treaties which bind us to the common defense of the western world.

 

            More importantly, Europe is one of our greatest trade partners.  The past few weeks have shown us that we live in an economic system that is truly global.  While we remain one of the most vibrant economies in the world, our economy is still tied to the rest of the world.  Life as we know it is determined by Europe and, to a lesser extent, the rest of the world.

 

            We owe a great debt to Europe.  Europe is the birthplace of the Evangelical Church.  It was in the 1500s that the Protestant Reformation began in Germany.  From the Reformation most of our religious traditions were birthed.

 

            Now Europe stands in need of America for spiritual awakening.  We need to see new churches planted in Europe.  We need churches that bring real change to the lives of their people; change to the countries where they minister. 

 

            Additionally, we need to bring legal change to Europe; legal change that respects the religious freedom that is guaranteed by the laws of every country in Europe.

 

            We cannot afford to be passive in our approach; that is why we are standing for religious freedom in the courts of Europe.  

Bill Maher, Hero Of My Faith

            When the new “movie” by Bill came out I just ignored it, much like I do Bill’s entertainment show from the left coast.  Today I started rethinking my position on Bill Maher.  I would like to declare that Bill is now a hero of my Christian faith.  Do not get me wrong, he is not the only one—I am declaring every Hollywood nut case who declares war on Christianity a hero of the faith.

 

            I probably need to explain this quickly before you accuse me of heretical statements.

 

            Like everyone else I struggle with my faith.  I struggle with its value in everyday life.  I struggle with it in the dark days we all stumble through.  At the end of my struggle I always land on the side of turning to my faith to get through the good days and the bad days.

 

            If there is nothing to Christianity, if Christianity is merely a crutch the weak lean on, if Christianity is the foolish dream of old ladies and the weak minded, why do some people—claiming to be smart—dedicate so much of their energy trying to discredit it?

 

            Why would Bill Maher dedicate so much of his time to ridiculing Christianity?  The first answer makes the most sense, but it is not the best answer—there has to be more.  The first answer is that he is making a lot of money ridiculing Christianity in particular and religion in general.  We all do a lot of things for money.  Some of the things we do are good and some of those things are bad.

 

            The second and, I expect, more truthful answer is that Bill Maher hates God.  I am sure that Bill would claim that he only hates those who claim to speak for God, but just the little I have seen of Bill begs to differ with him.  His rants are not anti-the-people-of-God, they are anti-anything-to-do-with-God.  Furthermore, they are very angry rants.  Bill Maher is not casually sitting around thinking bad thoughts about God—he is angrily spewing his twisted opinions on everything Christians hold dear.

 

            The more time Bill Maher spends mocking God and claiming He does not exist, the more encouraged I am in my own faith.  After all, if God does not exist, why are people like Maher spending so much time arguing with Him or about Him?

 

            If there is no God who is the fool, the person who believes in a God that does not exist, or the person who dedicates their life to fighting a God that does not exist?  I think the answer is easy.  The real fool is the person who dedicates so much of their time fighting something they do not believe exists.

 

            I do not believe in Santa Claus, but I spend no time arguing with people that he does not exist.  I do not spend time trying to discredit the people who believe.  Santa has done a lot of evil in this world.  What about the harm to the poor who find themselves virtually ignored by this benevolent giver of gifts to all?  Because Christmas is not good to the poor does that make them bad children?  I think not, but that is what the legend of Santa tells them.

 

            Bill’s ranting against Christianity based on the evil some people do in the name of God is not justified.  That is like arguing against television because there is pornography on television.  It is like arguing against anything that does a lot of good based on the abuse that is also done.

 

            The solution is not to get rid of religion and Christianity.  The solution is to tell people like Bill Maher thank you for confirming my beliefs.  Bill, you really are a hero of my faith.  If you were not so adamant to fight my beliefs I might not be forced to examine them and see that the only person who truly understands is the person who clings to the beliefs of the ancient Christian faith.

 

            Thank you, Bill Maher, you alone prove the existence of God as far as I am concerned.

 

            Rant on brother, the fact that you do not believe is proof that God exists and that His grace is sufficient for us all.  One day you too will believe, the only question that remains is whether it will be in time to save your soul.


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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