Chik-fil-A, Free Speech & King Nebuchadnezzar

The media, modern society and the secular culture of the West are making it increasingly challenging to exercise the freedom of speech that our societies are built upon.

When anyone expresses a belief or value that is contrary to the one they hold so dear the person or organization that has dared to speak or write is immediately branded intolerant, bigoted, backwards, and in many cases evil.

The greatest hot-button issue being dealt with at the current time seems to be marriage rights for homosexuals. The issue is greatly debated in the media and public arena by politicians, celebrities, activists, scientists and people of various faiths. In many states here in the U.S. as well as in other nations the issue has been voted upon.

America has gone through a little bit of a fire storm this week after Chik-fil-A fast food restaurant CEO Dan Cathy expressed his views on gay marriage, stating clearly that he supports the biblical definition of the family unit. As you can imagine this has caused politicians and activists on the right and left to vehemently defend their own beliefs, putting a fried chicken restaurant at the center of the controversy.

Those who agree with Mr. Cathy are praising his courage and his values. Those who disagree with Mr. Cathy are expressing themselves as well, some of them quite angrily.

The Freedom of Speech is still guaranteed in the United States of America by the First Amendment of the Constitution.  Those who hold a biblical worldview and those who do not hold a biblical worldview are both guaranteed this freedom.  However, if you want to be politically or socially crucified and are a high profile personality, politician or public figure all you need to do is exercise your Freedom of Speech in a way that those who do not agree with you do not like.  Here are a few of the subjects that can get you into trouble in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave:

 

  • Right and Wrong
  • True and False
  • Good and Evil
  • God and the Devil

 

This situation reminds me of a story from the Bible:

But some of the astrologers went to the king and informed on the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “Long live the king! You issued a decree requiring all the people to bow down and worship the gold statue when they hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and other musical instruments. That decree also states that those who refuse to obey must be thrown into a blazing furnace. But there are some Jews—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—whom you have put in charge of the province of Babylon. They pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They refuse to serve your gods and do not worship the gold statue you have set up.”

Then Nebuchadnezzar flew into a rage and ordered that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought before him. When they were brought in, Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you refuse to serve my gods or to worship the gold statue I have set up? I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments. But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?”

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” (Daniel 3:8-18 NLT)

As a believer I want to be like the three Hebrews and not like King Nebuchadnezzar.  Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego I won’t relent or recant on what I believe and will be willing to face the consequences of the system of this fallen world.  I do not want to be like King Nebuchadnezzar setting myself up as judge, jury and executioner of all those who disagree with me or all those who fail to pay proper homage to the beliefs I hold.

As followers of Jesus there are always more people who disagree with us than there are that agree with us.  These disagreements may be theological, moral, social or even political.  We are always going to face disagreements from those who do not believe the same as we do, just as we disagree in like manner.

Disagreement should not lead to merely a denouncement of the other party and their views but in a free society disagreements should lead to dialogue and discussion over what is disagreed upon.  Even when we strongly disagree with someone we must speak and act with the love of Christ.  Our goal is not judgment of the other person but repentance and redemption. Truth never changes and love never fails.  These two must remain united in our hearts and lives.

Frequently those who disagree with gay marriage are accused of “hatred” or “intolerance” and are cast in the same light as those who supported segregation or Apartheid.  It is sadly true that there are elements within the “Christian” community who are actually guilty of hate and bigotry. However, disagreeing with someone’s values, beliefs or viewpoints is far from hate or bigotry; in many ways it is the essence of democracy and the right to decide for yourself is the foundation of our free will.

Those who live their lives contrary to the teaching of the Bible have the right to do so and those who believe the Bible have the right to do so as well.  God does not force faith in Christ and obedience to the teachings of scripture upon people.  He loves everyone, regardless of his or her beliefs and regardless of their sins.  It is for this reason that Jesus Christ died upon the cross.  Jesus Christ bore the penalty for all of our sins so that all who would answer His invitation to salvation could do so.

 

Conclusion

We must carefully wage war in our culture for the right to speak our beliefs. We must be willing to hear the words of those who we disagree with and who disagree with us and we must be bold enough to declare that which we believe regardless of the opposition. We must find ourselves speaking the truth in love with the goal of winning the hearts of people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must not find ourselves championing a cause for the sake of the cause.

God’s Word is forever settled in heaven (Psalm 119:89). It does not need defense for the sake of itself. The truth of God’s Word is shared and defended because of the right that every person has to hear and respond to the free gift of His grace through Jesus Christ.

Number Six

Depending on where you live you may or may not have already heard about the tragic shootings that took place in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater on July 20, 2012.

A twenty-four year old man entered the movie theater dressed in body armor and armed with multiple weapons and began shooting people. As of the writing of the article, twelve people have died and another fifty-eight people were injured in the attack.

No one can offer fitting condolences to the victims and to their families. Our hearts grieve with them. We are shocked by the violence that took place. We extend our sympathy and compassion knowing that we cannot fathom the loss they are feeling. I ask that you would pray for the victims, their families and the community of Aurora, Colorado during this time of tragedy, loss and grief.

Events like this bring the reality of evil and of man’s depravity to the forefront of discussion. People ask the question “why?” and there are no satisfactory answers. People ask the question “How could someone do this?” and are answered only by the platitudes of pundits and the moralizing of philosophers.

There are those who are already spinning the story in an attempt to gain political leverage in their for their own cause. There will be religious leaders who erroneously attribute the actions taken by the man with the gun as divine judgment upon our nation, society and culture. People will despicably use the suffering of others to further their own agendas in the media. The reality of the situation is stark. People were murdered in cold blood by someone whom they did not know.

People will attribute these murders to psychosis, to a chemical imbalance in the brain, to stress and to many other things. Some will attribute these murders to sin, to evil and even to demonic power.

What is the answer?

I am definitely not qualified to provide that answer. My goal in sharing this message is to remind each of us of the value and sacredness of human life. I do not want to oversimplify the issue or seem trite during this time of tragedy but people matter; all of them.

In the book of Exodus we find the record of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments from God upon Mount Sinai. The sixth commandment simply declares:

“You must not murder” (Exodus 20:13 NLT)

This seems like such a simple statement. There are those who will not agree with this statement based on their worldview, however most people (regardless of their faith or lack of faith) will agree that murder is wrong.

God simply declares, “Thou shalt not murder.” The natural response to that statement is, “Why not?”

The simple Biblical answer to that question can be found in the Book of Genesis:

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27 NIV)

 

Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person. (Genesis 2:7 NLT)

The Lord Jesus Christ declared it this way:

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40 NLT)

The Apostle John further clarifies the issue:

This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another. We must not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because Cain had been doing what was evil, and his brother had been doing what was righteous. So don’t be surprised, dear brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.

If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead. Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them.

We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? (1 John 3:11-17 NLT)

Conclusion:

  1. We are each created in the image of God. Our lives are sacred and hold infinite and eternal value.
  2. We are called to love one another in the same way that we love ourselves.
  3. Murder is the willful destruction of the life that God has created.
  4. Harboring hatred in our hearts is equivalent to murder.

We are called to seek the best in this life for each other. We are called to care for one another and to love one another. Jesus came to give us the newness and fullness of life. It is the work of sin and of Satan that seeks the destruction of life.

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows). (John 10:10 AMP)

Poverty, Wealth, Greed & Occupy Wall Street Protests

Rarely do I share concerning politics but this message will out of necessity seem political even though my goal is to simply share that which the Bible has to say.

Over the last several weeks protests across the United States and many other countries have been held in what has been called the “Occupy” movement. Men, women and students have gathered to demonstrate their disapproval and dissatisfaction with “corporate greed” and are rallying for “reform” and “equality”.

How can any follower of Christ not want an end to come to corruption and greed? There is no way to skirt the issue; many corporations and governments operate with a degree of corruption and greed. Corporations and governments are not evil, greedy or corrupt. The people who lead and comprise these entities are those who make the decisions that are corrupt.

The answer to the problems that plague our culture is found in a familiar statement, “the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart.” We cannot expect men and women who have not been changed by the Holy Spirit through the power of redemption to manifest the fruit of the Spirit in all they do.

I am writing this message because the so-called “capitalists” nations of the west are beginning to flirt more and more with socialist and even Marxist ideals and many of those who are doing so are “Christians”.

The concepts of redistributed wealth and financial equality mandated through legislative reform are some of the greatest disasters of the 20th Century. The youth of the 21st Century seem to be ready to embrace these concepts as a wave of peaceful demonstrations and protests move through our cities and nations. This is a season in our nations that must be navigated extremely carefully.

The economy has been challenging for many people over the last several years. This has left millions with a lower standard of living, causing them to feel frustrated, despondent and angry over their personal financial forecast. The central complaint of protesters seems to be centered on the wealth of the top 1% of earners in the world. The top 1% of the American population controls about 40% of the total wealth of the nation and the top 20% of workers earn about 80% of the household income in the United States.

It is a mathematical probability that you are in the bottom 80% of income earners in the United States. You and I will have to work hard, earn a living, plan for retirement and believe that God will honor His covenant with us.

Protest those things that your heart convicts you is sin but above all things obey the Word of God. What does the Bible have to say concerning our work, our income and our financial prospects on life?

And now, dear brothers and sisters, we give you this command in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Stay away from all believers who live idle lives and don’t follow the tradition they received from us. For you know that you ought to imitate us. We were not idle when we were with you. We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so we would not be a burden to any of you. We certainly had the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to give you an example to follow. Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.”

Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business. We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living. As for the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good. (2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 NLT)

As followers of Jesus Christ all those who able to work are to do so; earning a living so that they can provide for themselves, their families, the work of the ministry and those who are in need. Christians should be working, making a positive impact in society, leading the way in all areas of life. We are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. All that we do is a reflection of Jesus Christ.

We are the servants who when given 5 pounds work to double our Master’s deposit so that we may return to Him 10 pounds (Luke 19:11-27).

We are the followers of Christ who believe Deuteronomy 8:18, “And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”

We are not working to produce wealth to heap treasures and luxuries upon ourselves. We work to produce wealth so that we may see the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached throughout the world. We work to produce wealth so that the hungry may be fed, so that orphans may be cared for and so that the needs of the helpless and hopeless may be met.

But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” (Romans 10:14-15 NLT)

 

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27 NKJV)

It is never a popular message but it is true to say that faith comes by hearing and money comes by working. We will all earn at different levels because we perform different functions and solve different problems. Mike Murdock says, “The size of your paycheck is determined by the size of the problems you solve.” I earn more money than some people because the work that I do is of greater value and solves greater problems. I earn less money than many other people because the work that they do is of greater value and solves greater problems.

As followers of Christ we cannot let jealousy, envy, covetousness and greed overtake our hearts because we do not earn the salary of a Fortune 500 Chief Executive Officer. This also does not mean we need condone unethical or immoral practices committed in the name of profit. The Apostle Paul gives this advice:

Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others. (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 NLT)

John Avanzini said, “Money is neither good nor evil, it merely takes on the personality of the one who possesses it.” Money is a tool in our hands, earned by our labor, to accomplish good things in and through our lives.

There is great frustration in the world over the oppression of the poor and the greed of the wealthy. People have constantly argued and fought over money and they will continue to do so. As followers of Christ we must have a biblical worldview; our perspective on money and wealth must come from heaven.

Here is the promise of Jesus Christ:

Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” (Luke 6:38 NLT)

God desires that we become a redistribution center for His kingdom. He wants to develop our lives into a continuous spring of abundance from which he can feed hungry people, clothe naked people, visit prisoners, mend broken hearts and send His great salvation message to every corner of the earth.

So… If you are frustrated with Wall Street and failed government policies I understand. However, I wrote this message to remind you that as a follower of Christ you belong to a different Kingdom and in this Kingdom we work to glorify Jesus Christ and not ourselves.

And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. (Colossians 3:17 NLT)

Ten Years Ago Today

9/11/2001

Nineteen Islamic terrorists hijacked four commercial passenger planes killing themselves and 2,977 others in a coordinated attack on New York City and Washington, DC. American Airlines flight 11 was crashed into the World Trade Center’s North Tower. United Airlines flight 175 was crashed into the World Trade Center’s South Tower. American Airlines Flight 77 was crashed into the Pentagon. United Airlines Flight 93 crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania after passengers onboard became aware of the other attacks and fought back against the hijackers.

Each of us remembers where we were, what we were doing, who we called and how we felt when we received the news concerning the attacks on 9/11/2001. For some reading this it goes much deeper than a memory of an event but, a memory of a person or persons that were lost on the planes, in the buildings or in the rescue effort that followed.

I was sitting at a table outside our home in Garden Grove, California when we received a phone call from a family member in Baltimore, Maryland that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City. My wife had already left for work; I was dressed and ready to go while my daughters were eating breakfast getting ready to go to school. We turned on the television and watched as the events unfolded before the eyes of the world.

No one knew what to say. No one knew how far reaching the attacks would be. What was happening?

Churches were filled that day with prayer meetings all across the nation. What had happened to our nation? How many people had been lost? Was there anything that could be done? What would happen now?

Emotions were strong. Tempers were hot. There was a deep sense of loss for those who had died and a great demand for justice and revenge against those who were responsible. All of our pretense had been stripped away. We were people; we were Americans. For that moment in time politics, ideology and even religious beliefs had no bearing on how we felt. We needed to rescue all that were still alive and we needed answers to what had happened.

I did not know anyone on the planes, nor did I know anyone in the buildings. In fact, I did not know anyone who lived in either city; yet the emotions I felt were as if family or friends had fallen. People were murdered. Men and women who were on their way home or on their way to a business meeting in an airplane were used as weapons. Men and women sitting at their desks; performing the tasks of their jobs were murdered. Public servants who responded to the attack gave their lives as they worked to rescue those who had been attacked.

We were reminded with severity that evil was real. We were victims and witnesses to the power of hatred. We were also witnesses to extraordinary acts of bravery, courage and heroism. In the midst of the greatest attack to befall our nation men and women displayed unwavering courage and love for their fellow man.

That was ten years ago. Many things have happened over the last decade. Our nation has waged two wars; thousands of our military personnel are still deployed. We have new leadership that is leading our nation in a significantly different direction. Our economy has gone through growth and recession. We are all ten years older. What has changed for you?

Three years ago my family and I were able to make our first trip to New York City. Having grown-up in a small town in Florida and having lived most of my life in the suburbs, New York City was quite an experience. We walked for miles with our heads tilted back, staring up at the buildings that seemed to stretch as far as the eye could see. On a Sunday, we took the subway to Battery Park and then the ferry to Liberty and Ellis Islands. Once we arrived back at Battery Park we walked down Wall Street – we took a picture with the Merrill Lynch Bull and then we saw Ground Zero.

The coverage provided by news outlets did not create a proper perspective on how large an area Ground Zero is. We were able to walk up to a construction fence and stare in. At the time, new construction and clean-up were happening concurrently. The destruction that had happened was enormous. Words cannot describe what had taken place there. We circled the entire complex and spent about an hour just looking – trying to take it all in.

As we walked away from Ground Zero we saw the Cross that was made from I-beams next to a church adjacent from the World Trade Center. It had been moved from the site so that construction could take place. Here are two pictures that I was able to take –the second one zoomed in upon the message written upon the cross.

I don’t want to spiritualize or Christianize 9/11/2001. There has been more than enough prognosticating, armchair-quarterbacking and conspiracy theorizing to drive you crazy concerning 9/11.

What I do want to share with you on this 10th anniversary of the attack is that the cross is still a sign of comfort and hope for all people. Everyone is invited to lay their burdens down at the cross of Jesus Christ. Lasting hope will not be found in presidents, economic or political reform or even advancements in technology. Hope is found in Jesus Christ.

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23 NLT)

Politics and Religion

These are the two words that seem to cause the most conflict in the earth today. On this Independence Day (for Americans) I thought I would share on these two subjects.

Here in the U.S. the Presidential political season is beginning to warm up.  Republicans, Democrats and everyone else are unveiling their, “How I would do it better” proposals to voters across the nation.  Rhetoric, clichés and grandiose promises fill the airwaves, the internet and every other form of media. Some choose to lead with messages of change for a brighter future while others choose to lead with fear of a dismal future. All sides seem to make valid points at some point in their speech and all sides also seem to say things that cause your eyebrows to rise in disbelief.  There are many issues that candidates and parties choose to champion or oppose; some of them with clear biblical guidelines and others coming in the form of preferred style and form of government.

Is there a candidate, cause or set of issues that we as followers of Christ should be behind? Should our faith in Christ be the key influencer of our selections in the ballot box? Can we separate moral, social, financial and political agendas to justify our selection and support?  Is there guidance from scripture concerning our participation in the civil arena?

Let’s try to break this down into a few different sections and then pull it all together at the end. I want to look at the moral side of politics; i.e., the issues that will appear on the ballot and the key moral issues that candidates pledge their support or opposition for. I want to look at taxes, governmental size and style.  I also want to look at our obligation as Christians to be involved in the affairs of our society.  As always, I will use scripture to illustrate the points that I make.

Before we move any further I think it is important to say that the God of the Bible is not a member of a political party.  The God of the Bible does not have an earthly nationality. The God of the Bible’s rule supersedes the governments of our nations (Psalm 24:1). As followers of Christ we have been called from every nation on earth (Revelation 5:9).  We are the church; the Ecclesia – and our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20).

Our call as followers of Jesus Christ is to establish the Kingdom of God here on the earth through the preaching of the Gospel.  We are not call to build a nation but a nation within the nations.  Our movement is not a movement of people in the political arena but a movement of people towards God.

Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36)

The Bible predicts that Christ will establish a theocratic government at His second advent (Revelation 19). The New Testament does not speak of a Christian nation or a Christian government prior to this event.  The governmental systems of our nations can never establish the church nor can they further the cause of Christ.  As believers we cannot look to elected officials or propositions on a ballot to bring men and women to belief in Christ. Conversely the governments of our nations have the ability to create freedom to preach the gospel without persecution or prosecution or they have the ability to impede or outlaw the free exercise of our faith.  It is to this goal that we as followers of Christ must work civilly and prayerfully to either maintain or secure; to ensure that the gospel of Jesus Christ may be freely preached in our nation.

Moral & Social Issues

Morality is a term that is often overused or misused in public discourse today.  There is no end of debate on what is right and wrong or even if there is a right or wrong. There are causes for and against multiple issues that scripture provides clear direction on.  It is these types of scenarios that we as followers of Christ must find ourselves agreeing with the Word of God when we stand in the ballot box to cast our votes.

One of the most relevant scriptures on this subject is found in Second John:

If anyone comes to your meeting and does not teach the truth about Christ, don’t invite that person into your home or give any kind of encouragement. Anyone who encourages such people becomes a partner in their evil work. (2 John 10-11)

As followers of Christ we cannot support candidates, propositions or policies that violate the truth of God’s word and declare that which the Bible teaches to be sin to be OK.

Governmental Issues

There are no political candidates who represent a complete biblical worldview and far too often we are forced to elect the lesser of two evils. It is in these times that we must still stand for what is righteous, what is good and what is true. There will never be a political savior in your nation who will solve all of the problems you face and there will never be a government that is pure. We have been redeemed from this world’s system for a reason and we must remain conscious that even though we live in this world we are no longer of this world. (John 15:19). We must preach, pray, live and work to further the message of Christ at every level of society but must also remain cognizant of the fact that the system of the world is opposed to what we are doing. We cannot change the system; we preach Christ so that people’s hearts can be changed.

The Christian Right

Hot button issues in many nations are items like Abortion, Homosexual Marriage and Doctor Assisted Suicide. The curriculums of elementary schools, secondary schools and universities are also frequent battlegrounds for Christians in politics. There is also great debate over social welfare programs, immigration, healthcare and taxation. Each of these issues affects the lives of people; regardless of their faith. They are important for our culture, our economies as well as the fabric and future of our societies.

As a Bible believing follower of the Lord Jesus Christ I cannot support any can political party, candidate or proposition that disagrees with God and His Word. As an American I believe that our political and social landscape has significantly deteriorated to the point where our nation will no longer be able to maintain its status of prosperity and leadership in the affairs of the world unless there are significant changes. There are far too many men and women who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ in our nation to expect that the policies of our nation will be righteous and congruent with biblical teaching.

This does not mean that we should abandon hope but it does mean that the need for a genuine move of the Holy Spirit in our nations has never been greater. Political change will not provide the necessary catalyst for changing the heart of a nation. A true revival of divine origin is required to change the heart of our nations. It is only then that we will elect a representative who can change our governments to reflect the demands of its people.

The message of Christ should be the first thing that comes to the minds of unbelievers when they hear the term Christian. Politicians, preachers and lobbyist have turned the first thoughts of many into biblical stances on Abortion, Homosexuality and other Moral/Social issues when speaking of Christianity. This has done our cause a great disservice. Arguing political, moral and social stances without the cross turns our faith into a political doctrine. As followers of Christ our first priority is to share the message of Jesus. As people receive Christ and grow in their faith the Holy Spirit renews their mind, their worldview changes and consequently so does their political, social and moral stances. We cannot reverse the equation. We must love God and love people.

Biblical Christianity

Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

If we are going to be the Christian Right – our right place is foremost one of repentance and prayer for our nations. If we ever expect any true change to come to our nations, the change must first come in our hearts. Revival in our nations will begin when the church “gets right”. We cannot expect the world to embrace the doctrines of life and righteousness unless the church is living in the fruit of the Spirit and moving in the power of the Spirit. Cultural and political change of divine origin begins at the house of God.

You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.

You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. (Matthew 5:13-15)

These verses were spoken to believers. It is our mandate to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.  The message of Christ follows the life of those who follow Christ.  It is the life we live and the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives that creates authentic hunger and thirst for the message of the cross. Why are we different? Where does the love, joy, peace, etc. come from in our lives? What is the source of integrity? What motivates our compassion?

Obligations of Believers

There are two primary passages of scripture that provide guidance and direction for followers of Christ in relationship to their government in the New Testament.

Pray

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Obey the Law

Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.  So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.

Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority. (Romans 13:1-7)

Conclusion

This is a challenging subject to write about from a completely biblical perspective and I am sure this is a challenging subject to read about from a completely biblical perspective. Each of us has political beliefs and opinions and there is a high probability that we agree on some things and disagree on others. As followers of Christ we must work diligently to maintain focus on the core of who we are. Our identity in Christ is the most important aspect of our lives and if it is not then we are truly not followers of Christ.

Our faith influences every aspect of our lives, including our political views and stances. The relationship between faith and politics can be looked at in a similar way to the relationship between faith and good works. Good works are not performed in an effort to earn or attain salvation; good works are the result of a regenerated heart that has already received the free gift of God’s salvation. Upholding biblical political views is not the pulpit from which the message of the gospel is to be preached. Those who have received the message of the gospel naturally hold biblical political views as a result of the change that Christ has made in their hearts.

So, here are the bullet points for this message:

  1. Stand for what is right; regardless of the opinions of men
  2. Focus on sharing the gospel and converting men and women to Christ instead of propagating a political doctrine
  3. Pray for your leaders and the direction of your nation
  4. Participate in government (i.e., voting)and obey the laws
  5. Live the Christian life and fulfill the great commission

The kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ (Revelation 11:15). Until that time our calling remains the same:

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Memorial Day

Today (5/30/2011) is Memorial Day here in the U.S. It is a day where we honor the men and women who have served and sacrificed to establish and defend the freedom that we enjoy as citizens of the United States.

The most appropriate response to sacrifice is gratitude. True gratitude extends far beyond the lip service of a simple “thank you” and causes a change in attitude, lifestyle and actions. The greatest Memorial we can make to those who have served and sacrificed to provide and protect that which we enjoy is to live lives of vigilant gratitude.

Why did they serve? What did they fight to protect us from? Who did they fight to liberate? What did they fight to keep us from losing? Let us remember, be thankful and remain vigilant.

The words of the Lord Jesus are the greatest testimony we can give on any Memorial Day.

This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:12-13)

Called and Qualified

Ministry; we are all called to serve. We are all called to share the gospel. We are all called to help build the church. Each of us is a member of the body of Christ and is vital to the health of the whole. Your life matters. Your ministry matters. The church needs you. The world needs you. God has a plan for your life that is specific to you.

There are those among us who God is calling or has already called into a leadership position within the church. The Bible says that this is a noble and important work and it also lays out some specific qualifications for those who lead the church. In this message I want to take a look at these qualifications and share what the Bible has to say. Let’s take a look at the scripture:

Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap. (1 Timothy 3:1-7)

 

The church does not call believers into ministry, God does. The person who is called into ministry must answer the call of God and have their calling confirmed by the Word of God and the church. The church should not endorse a person into ministry merely because they have a desire to be in ministry or the education, vision, burden, vision or call. For believers who want to lead the church of God in a ministry office as a pastor, evangelist, prophet, teacher, apostle or missionary they need to be tested by other believers according to the Word of God (not church tradition). As believers we do not have the right to diminish the call of God upon someone’s life nor do we have the right to diminish the standards declared in scripture that a leader in the body of Christ should meet. These are standards and principles that God through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit has established in His Word. Just as John 3:16 stands as an absolute we should follow these principles to protect the name of the Lord, His Kingdom as well as the honor and credibility of leadership positions within the church.

What are the qualifications?


Morality and Spirituality


As you read through 1 Timothy 3:1-7, the standards that are listed for those in ministry are primarily moral and spiritual. The established and proven character of a person who is leading the church is far more important than their personality, their ability to preach or teach, the spiritual gifts they possess, their administrative acumen or their academic accomplishments. The bible teaches us the focus of the qualifications of those who lead the church should be upon godly behavior, demonstrable wisdom and a history of right choices.

The spiritual history of the person who wants to fill a ministry office needs to be proven.

They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. (1 Timothy 3:10)

 

Scripture teaches us that the person who desires to lead within the church should be a believer who steadfastly follows the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word. The leader needs to be a role model of faithfulness, truth, honesty and chastity. Simply stated, their character should reflect the teaching of the Lord Jesus.

 

Model Believers


A Christian leader first and foremost should be a great Christian.

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)

 

A leader’s Christian life and faith should be able to be set before the church as an example of how a Christian should live. Pastors must truly manifest a high level of faithfulness, godliness, purity, loyalty and love towards the Lord Jesus and the gospel.

Believers in Christ should learn Christian ethics and Christ-likeness not only from studying the Bible but also from the examples that pastors and church leaders demonstrate. A pastor’s life is an illustration of the Christian faith for their congregation to follow. If we grow relaxed in requiring that those who lead us provide an example of true Christianity for the church to follow we are ignoring the mandate of scripture.

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)

 

Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. (Philippians 3:17)

 

You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 1:6)

 

Christian Family


A leader in the church is first a leader in their home. The scriptures teach that a person’s leadership in their home, marriage and family relationships are highly important.

An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. (Titus 1:6)

 

He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) (1 Timothy 3:4-5)

 

Leaders within the church are to be examples to the family of God, especially in their faithfulness to their spouse and children. 1 Timothy 3:2 declares that a leader must be, “the husband of one wife”. There is a lot of debate in the church concerning this verse and the subject of divorce. Let’s deal with this in a couple of different ways.

  1. At the time of this writing polygamy was common so we may definitely rule out having more than one wife in that sense.
  2. Moral faithfulness to your spouse is the most commonly applicable meaning to this verse.

The literal translation of the Greek (mias gunaikos) is “a one-woman man”. A Christian leader should be a faithful husband to his wife.

Some sects within the church teach that if a person has ever been divorced (pre or post salvation) that they are disqualified from leadership. Some teach as long as the divorce took place prior to being born again it is irrelevant because of grace. Some teach that as long as the divorce was not between two born again believers that it is irrelevant. I personally agree with the last statement.

The main point is that a person who desires to be in ministry should be a person is faithful in this all-important area. Persevering in moral faithfulness to your wife and family is a biblical requirement to be a leader and an example in the church.

 

Moral Failure


People within the church who have committed serious sin or moral transgressions after becoming believers have biblically disqualified themselves from the office of pastor or any other significant leadership position within the church. All sin can be abundantly pardoned by the grace of God but believers who fail in this area lose their ability to serve as models of perseverance in faith, love and purity.

Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16)

 

“Now the overseer is to be above reproach” (1 Timothy 3:2).

 

What happens if they fail?

1 Timothy 3:2,7 established a principle that any leader in the church who discards their loyalty to God, His Word and his faithfulness to his wife and family should be removed from leadership within the church.

 

What about grace?


Failure by leaders in the church does not mean that God or believers will not forgive them. God will forgive any sin listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-3 if the person is repentant for that sin. The leader who fails in this way can be forgiven and restored in their relationship to God and the church. However, the scripture teaches that there are some sins when committed by a believer that disqualify a person from leading in the church because of the disgrace and shame that are attached to the sin, even after forgiveness for the rest of a person’s life.

The church today tends to overlook the scriptural qualifications for leadership. If we as believers want to see New Testament Christianity demonstrated through our lives and through our churches we must not turn away from the righteous requirements for leaders that God has established in His Word.

Leaders are to maintain the highest standards of holiness, persevere in faithfulness to God, His Word and they are to lead a godly life. Leaders should be earnestly and faithfully prayed for by those whom they lead. They should be encouraged and supported in the work that they do.

If you are a leader I pray that your life would reflect the Lord Jesus in such a way that we could live after your example. As a believer I pray that you will only follow Christian leaders whose lives provide a biblical example of Christianity.

When the world looks at us may they see Jesus manifested in every area of our lives.

Provoked by the dream

Today (1/17/2011) we celebrated what would have been the 81st birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. There have been parades, celebrations and even some protesting. Video and audio clips of Dr. King’s most famous speeches have played on radio and television stations. It is import to remember where we have come from, what the journey has cost so many and most importantly how far we still have to travel.

I want to take a look at a portion of Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech for this message:

“We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.”  (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., August 28, 1963. Washington, D.C.)

Here are a few passages of scriptures that automatically come to mind for me when I read this quote:

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)

As Christians we are engaged in the greatest struggle; bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations. We would do well to heed the words of Dr. King.

  1. We are not fighting people; we are fighting the ideologies that are contrary to the gospel and spirits of the kingdom of darkness.
  2. We must not allow our message to become one of protest, violence or isolationism. We must maintain the purity of the gospel message.
  3. We cannot do this alone. We are part of the body of Christ and we need one another; most importantly we need the Holy Spirit.

“And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., August 28, 1963. Washington, D.C.)

If the church will preach the gospel with the same determination and fervency as Dr. King and those who stood with him during the Civil Rights movement I believe that we will reach the nations with the love of God in powerful way.

We cannot relent. We cannot be satisfied. We cannot turn back or slow down until we leave this earth or Jesus returns to this earth.  I encourage us all and challenge us all to embrace the calling of the Great Commission on our lives with the same passion and fervency that Dr. King pursued racial equality and civil rights for all people.

Happy Thanksgiving

For those of us in the U.S. we are celebrating Thanksgiving Day this Thursday, November 25, 2010.  Thanksgiving for us is a day of family, friends, food and football (the kind with helmets and shoulder pads).  We travel and we often eat more than we should, but it is a time of love, celebration and reflection. As Christians we should be constantly thankful.  We have received the ultimate gift – Jesus Christ.  Our debt to the Lord is so gigantic and we are incapable of repaying it.  Our response to God’s gift must be lives of gratitude and thankfulness.

Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 TMB)

As you gather for Thanksgiving please actually be thankful and express your gratitude to our Lord and to those in your life (even if you are still sitting at the kids’ table again this year). Be a peacemaker. Be a living epistle.  Share the love of Christ and demonstrate the love of Christ.  Be thankful for what you have and for what you do not have.  Be thankful for what has happened and for what has not happened. Be thankful for those in your life and for those who are not in your life. Thanksgiving is about celebrating the life that God has given to you.

Here are some quotes concerning thankfulness and Thanksgiving to edify you.

A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues. (Marcus Tullius Cicero)

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough. (Oprah Winfrey)

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. (John F. Kennedy)

To the generous mind the heaviest debt is that of gratitude, when it is not in our power to repay it. (Benjamin Franklin)

Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse. (Henry Van Dyke)

The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts.  No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.  (H.U. Westermayer)

Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds.  (Theodore Roosevelt)

On Thanksgiving Day we acknowledge our dependence.  (William Jennings Bryan)

It must be an odd feeling to be thankful to nobody in particular. Christians in public institutions often see this odd thing happening on Thanksgiving Day. Everyone in the institution seems to be thankful ‘in general.’ It’s very strange. It’s a little like being married in general. (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.)

I pray that this Thanksgiving Day will be a special time for you and your family.  May God be glorified in and through you and may He use you to touch, reach and bless those around you.

Burning Books

It has been quite the media firestorm this week concerning Rev. Terry Jones’, “International Burn a Quran Day” that was (or maybe still is) scheduled for September 11, 2010.  It is amazing how sensitized the media and the government are to the subject of Islam that this pastor of a 50 member church in Gainesville, Florida was propelled to the center of an international news, public relations and propaganda frenzy.  Had the story been ignored no one outside of Gainesville, Florida would have known and many people  even in Gainesville would not have know the event had taken place.  Such is the power of the media and the Internet.  We love to take the radical and obscure and place it on center stage and make it larger than it actually is.

The Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the President of the United States and even Angelina Jolie have urged Rev. Jones not to burn the books.

At least two dozen Christian churches, Jewish temples and Muslim organizations in the city had mobilized to plan inclusive events, including Quran readings at services, as a counterpoint to Jones’ protest.

On Saturday (9/4/2010), thousands of Indonesian Muslims rallied outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta and in five other cities to protest the Rev. Jones’ plans. On Monday (9/6/2010), several hundred Afghans rallied outside a Kabul mosque, burning American flags and an effigy of Rev. Jones while chanting “Death to America.”

The position of the U.S. government is clear.  They do not want to purposefully antagonize Muslims and provoke them to commit violent acts against Americans around the world.  We have thousands of service men and women stationed in Islamic countries who would feel the brunt of any violent reaction.  President Obama has America trying to build a bridge of friendship and understanding to the Islamic world.

Biblical Christianity wants to build a different type of bridge to the Islamic world; we want to build a bridge of salvation and deliverance.  Those of us who believe in Jesus are compelled to share our faith with anyone who does not believe the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We believe that anyone who does not worship Jesus Christ and Lord and Savior is lost and will spend eternity separated from God in the Lake of Fire.  There it is.   These are the words that always cause problems and they always will.

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

This is where the ecumenical or nominal “Christian”, the secular humanist, the atheist, the agnostic, the Muslim, the Hindu, the Buddhist, the Universalist and many others differ from the biblical Christian.  This is the awesome gift of free will given to us by God.  We are not mindless slaves of an overbearing divine dictator.  We are free to live and worship as we choose to.  We have all been invited by God to accept the free gift of His salvation through faith in His Son; the Lord Jesus Christ.  As Christians, we urge men and women to accept God’s free gift.

Should we burn the books of other religions in an act of protest?

You can find Old Testament examples where things like this happened.

  • Gideon destroyed the altar of Baal and cut down the grove of Ashtoreth (Judges 6:25-32)
    • The worshippers of Baal and Ashtoreth wanted to kill Gideon for this act.

“But Joash shouted to the mob that confronted him, “Why are you defending Baal? Will you argue his case? Whoever pleads his case will be put to death by morning! If Baal truly is a god, let him defend himself and destroy the one who broke down his altar!” From then on Gideon was called Jerub-baal, which means “Let Baal defend himself,” because he broke down Baal’s altar. (Judges 6:31-32)

I cannot find New Testament examples of Christians destroying temples, sacred texts, etc. of those who worshipped other gods.  You can, however, find numerous examples of Christians preaching in an effort to convert unbelievers and followers of other religions to faith to the Lord Jesus Christ.  They were extremely successful and Christianity expanded rapidly throughout the ancient world.

There is one example of converted believers burning their own books in the New Testament:

Many who became believers confessed their sinful practices. A number of them who had been practicing sorcery brought their incantation books and burned them at a public bonfire. The value of the books was several million dollars. So the message about the Lord spread widely and had a powerful effect. (Acts 19:18-20)

There was a reaction of the unconverted to the conversion of these men and women from the worship of false gods in New Testament times much like there is in modern times when anything is said contrary concerning Islam.

At this their anger boiled, and they began shouting, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Soon the whole city was filled with confusion. Everyone rushed to the amphitheater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, who were Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia. Paul wanted to go in, too, but the believers wouldn’t let him. Some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, also sent a message to him, begging him not to risk his life by entering the amphitheater.

Inside, the people were all shouting, some one thing and some another. Everything was in confusion. In fact, most of them didn’t even know why they were there. The Jews in the crowd pushed Alexander forward and told him to explain the situation. He motioned for silence and tried to speak. But when the crowd realized he was a Jew, they started shouting again and kept it up for two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians! Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” (Acts 19:28-34)

We shouldn’t be burning people’s books for them.  If converted Muslims want to burn their old Quran’s now that they have come to faith in Christ they should be allowed to do so as a statement of victory and deliverance.  Destroying literature or anything else is not the key to fulfilling the Great Commission; nor will it diminish Islam in any way.

Christians should be declaring the truth of the gospel and living the truth of the gospel while engaged in fulfilling the Great Commission.  The greatest weapon against the Quran is not a match or lighter.  The greatest weapon against the Quran is the power of the Holy Spirit manifested in the life of a believer who loves God and loves the people Christ died to save.

And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)

Here is a list of 49 countries where 50% or more of the citizens follow Islam and worship Allah:

Chad Iran Tunisia
Zambia Azerbaijan Comoros
Iraq Morocco Niger
Qatar Turkey Saudi Arabia
Pakistan Uzbekistan Senegal
Egypt Kosovo Tajikistan
Libya Indonesia Bahrain
Mali Oman Albania
Syria Kyrgyzstan Palestinian territories
Bangladesh Guinea United Arab Emirates
Mauritania Nigeria Maldives
Kuwait Kazakhstan Burkina Faso
Nigeria Sudan Sierra Leone
Brunei Yemen Western Sahara
Malaysia Jordan Turkmenistan
Somalia Djibouti Afghanistan
Lebanon

A little more than 1 out of 5 humans on the planet are associated with Islam.  More than 1 billion people worshipping a different god, believing things about Jesus Christ that are contrary to the Bible.  If we have anything to be provoked concerning it should be that we are tasked with taking the gospel to these people.

We may abhor the acts of 9/11 and share anger and grief with the families who lost loved ones in the attacks but we cannot write a billion people off as unlovable and irredeemable.  Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead so that Muslims could be born again too.

If there is a fire needed it is not to set a book on fire; I would say it is needed to set our hearts on fire.

Mosque at Ground Zero

There are no mild-mannered opinions on this subject, nor should there be. 

The U.S. government and the administration of President Barak Obama have voiced support for this mosque’s right to exist under the First Amendment.  New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is standing behind the building of this mosque.  Politicians from both sides of the aisle have weighed with their opinion on the matter.  Jewish rights groups have voiced their support of the building of the mosque.  Citizens of Manhattan and the rest of the U.S. do not seem to echo the same sentiment of tolerance and inclusion as the public face the political machine of our country seems to portray to the nation and world.  A recent poll shows that 72% of Americans oppose this.  This is a hot button issue that sparks passionate debate both inside and outside of the church.

Most Americans are not offended that there are Muslims in America.  Most Americans support freedom of religion and freedom of worship.  At our core we do not want to live in a nation whose laws will regulate what we can say, who or what we can worship or in what manner we may do so.  We support Islam’s right to exist in the United States even if as Christians we wholeheartedly disagree with the tenets of their faith.  We want to be able to openly live and believe that which beats within our hearts and in order to do so we must accept that those who disagree with us must also have the same rights.

Most Americans believe that it is definitely in wrong to build a mosque so close to the site where several thousand men and women died at the hand of Muslim terrorists.  It is seen as a desecration of the site.  If our leaders want to make Muslims feel OK in the U.S.  this is definitely not the way to have the rest of us feel OK about having them in the U.S.  It is a definite political, social and cultural victory for Islam to build this mosque.  It is a veritable securing of a beachhead in the United States.  It is another inroad for Islam.

Christians must realize that Muslims have a command to bring Islam to the world from the Koran in the same way that Christians were given the Great Commission by the risen Christ.  It should be no surprise to us that Muslims want to establish a mosque in every city, have Islam accepted in the media and government and its cultural influences to permeate our nation.  They want Muslim elected and appointed to governmental offices and to hold influential positions in every area of industry.  Islam’s ultimate goal would have us all as worshippers of Allah being ruled by Sharia law.

 Christians have this same goal, but with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We want to influence our culture and government.  We want to see every soul upon the planet born again and filled with the Holy Ghost.  We want to see every sin forgiven, every demon cast out and every life lived in the righteousness, peace and joy that comes from the Holy Ghost. 

So….   What should be the “Christian” response to a mosque being built so close to Ground Zero?

  1. If you disagree you should practice democracy and write, call and email your elected officials in protest.
  2. We should repent of our laziness and apathy.  The church is to blame that there are enough Muslims in New York to build this mosque.
  3. We should pray for the souls of all who worship Allah; that they may come to salvation through Jesus Christ.
  4. We should share the gospel with anyone and everyone who does not believe.

This mosque should be a wake-up call to American Christians.  Islam has landed in a big way in the United States and is fighting for the soul of our nation.  Muslims have been here for decades, but since the beginning of the “War of Terror” there has been a rapid increase in the number of Muslims in this country.

Muslims are men and women that Christ died to save.  There is no salvation in Allah just as there is no salvation in Buddha or any of the gods of India.  Jesus remains the one and only hope of salvation.  He is God and there is none other beside Him.

There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

There can be no negotiation at the table of the adversary on this one.  People have a right to believe and worship as they choose to and we have a right and a duty to share Christ with them.  We must not surrender our will to bring the Gospel to every living soul.  We must wholly disregard national political correctness so that those who Christ died to redeem will have the opportunity to be born again.

I challenge you as a Christian.  If you are disturbed that Muslims want to build a mosque what are you going to do about it?

  • Will you pray?
  • Will you fast?
  • Will you give?
  • Will you witness?
  • Will you love?

Protests, political speeches, zoning commissions or the First Amendment cannot solve this issue.  The Great Commission being fulfilled by men and women of God is the only answer to Islam in America.  The greatest weapon against false religion and error is the truth of the gospel being proclaimed and lived.

May each of our lives show forth the love, life, truth and power of the gospel so that the world may know through us that Jesus is alive.

Proposition 8 Takes a Punch

It seems the biggest news in California this week is the overturning of Proposition 8 by U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker.  Proposition 8 is a voter approved gay marriage ban.  It should be no surprise that homosexual lobbyists, activists and the other usual suspects funded the legal battle to overturn the will of the majority of the citizens of our state.

The ruling has already been sent to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and we will see if they will uphold the will of the people or the will of an activist judge.  The last hope of legal relief would be a case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.  The outcome of that decision is yet to be seen.  Please pray that righteousness will be upheld in the courts of our nation.

What is the Christian response to this decision?  What should we be doing? 

  1. We should continue to love and share the gospel with all those who are lost
  2. We should pray for the salvation of the judges, attorneys and other government officials involved in this process
  3. We should write letters, send emails and make phone calls to our local, state and federal representatives voicing our opposition to this ruling
    1. These letters should come from Christian voters who are rational and passionate not from angry and hateful people using the Bible to further condemn those who are already lost
  4. We should cut off our financial support of politicians, entertainers and businesses that supported the overturn of this ruling.
    1. A simple “Dear Mr. President” letter informing a company that their values are not aligned with your values and therefore you must take your business someplace else is a powerful way to communicate.

Christianity in America is unfortunately becoming like Christianity in Europe.  We are becoming a minority that is considered to be on the radical fringe by our government and culture.  Our nations’ doctrines of tolerance and inclusion do not allow for our voice of salvation by Christ alone to be relevant in society.  We are truly becoming a counter-culture; the Jesus culture.

There will be opportunities for you to have discussions with believers and unbelievers on the subject of gay marriage.  There will be pressure to conform to the prevailing opinion of the group.  My prayer for you is that you will clearly and compassionately declare the truth of the Word of God.  The outcome may be that those you are speaking with will accept the truth and believe the gospel.  The outcome may also be that you are shunned as a narrow-minded fundamentalist.  The key factor is that we must be willing to stand for the truth of the Bible. The key to your discussion should be the cross and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately we will see photos and videos on the news of “Christian” protestors with signs, banners and speaking words about how God “hates homosexuals”.  The people they portray will be wild-eyed and crazy for sure.  They will be angry to the point of scary.  They will provide terrible testimony to the Jesus of the Bible.  It is a rare thing for the media to cite or source an actual believer in Jesus Christ; our opinions and views are things they do not want to have to deal with.  It is much easier to feature the crazies and relegate the “Christian” opinion to the fringe.

Is it true?  Does God hate homosexuals?  Is there something about a marriage certificate for these men and women that infuriates Him even more?

I frequently hear this verse from people:

God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day. (Psalm 7:11)

Does your sin make God angry?  Does my sin make Him mad?

The Apostle Paul said it this way:

Well then, should we conclude that we Jews are better than others? No, not at all, for we have already shown that all people, whether Jews or Gentiles, are under the power of sin. As the Scriptures say,

“No one is righteous— not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.”
“Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave. Their tongues are filled with lies.”
“Snake venom drips from their lips.”
“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
“They rush to commit murder. Destruction and misery always follow them. They don’t know where to find peace.”
“They have no fear of God at all.”

Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.

But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.

Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.

After all, is God the God of the Jews only? Isn’t he also the God of the Gentiles? Of course he is. There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles.  Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law. (Romans 3:9-31)

Our sin was so bad that God had to sacrifice Jesus Christ in our place so that we would not have to receive the punishment and divine justice that the righteousness of God demanded. 

Jesus died and rose again so that every person on planet earth could be redeemed from the curse of sin.  We can be changed and delivered.  We can be set free from addictions and sins that bind us.  This is what the bible calls being “born again”.

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:16-21)

You cannot practice homosexuality and be a biblical Christian.  You cannot go to heaven without being a biblical Christian.  Therefore you cannot practice homosexuality and go to heaven.  Jesus Christ died for the sins of the homosexual, the heterosexual and every other kind of sexual out there. 

God is no longer judging humanity based on the sins that they commit only upon their willingness or unwillingness to accept the gift of grace given to them by Jesus Christ.

Every person was born into a world filled with sin and in need of redemption.  Your sin and my sin separated us from God and there is nothing we can do to change that.  God paid the price to change it for us and now asks that we believe and receive His gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

  • Do you have to stop being a homosexual in order to come to Jesus?
  • Do you have to stop being a heterosexual in order to come to Jesus?
  • Do you have to stop being a liar in order to come to Jesus?
  • Do you have to stop being a drunk in order to come to Jesus?
  • Do you have to stop sinning in order to come to Jesus?

You have to be willing to call sin “sin” in order to come to Jesus.  You have to be willing to accept that you are lost and in need of a Savior in order to come to Jesus.  You must be willing to allow the grace of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to change you into another person.  You need to be born again.

Never try to take on a challenge of changing your heart and your habits when only God Himself can make you new.  We must surrender to His mercy and grace; declaring our need and dependence upon Jesus.

Conclusion:

It is truly alarming and disconcerting that a judge has the power to overturn the will of the majority of the people.  It is a sign that we as Christians must become more active and vocal in the civil and political arenas. 

The homosexual agenda is not going away in the United States or any other country in the world.  Jesus Christ died so that homosexuals could be born again and forgiven of their sins.  It is the responsibility of the Christian church to forcefully oppose that which is contrary to the word of God and it is our responsibility to love, pray for and minister to all of those for whom Jesus died.

Proposition 8 may have taken a serious punch but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  Gay marriage may stay outlawed after the appeals process or it may become a reality.  The word of God will remain the same and the solution for every sin will always be repent and believe the gospel.

Preaching or Protesting

There are many differences between the world as it appears on television and the world as it is.  The people and lifestyles portrayed on our screens many times live very different lives than we do.  The amazing thing is that the shows that seem the most removed from reality are Reality television shows.   Most of us believe that we are normal (to a certain degree) and many times we are left wondering if we are abnormal.  Normal must be defined in a different way for the Christian than it is for the non-Christian.  It is normal for Christians to live as the Bible says they should and abnormal when they do not.  It is also normal for those who are not Christians to behave like the culture they live in.

It seems like every niche in our cultures is constantly propagating their definition of “normal” onto other segments of society.  One of the greatest vehicles or mediums to do this through is art and entertainment.  It is no secret that music, video, books, magazines, etc have the ability to captivate our time like nothing else.  It is amazing how we can be drawn into a fictional story, begin to care about the characters and even discuss plotlines with other viewers.  Quotes and phrases from books, songs and movies work their way into everyday language and slowly become a part of our culture (even if briefly).  There is an amazing ability to influence people through these mediums.

A significant challenge for the Christian is to be in world but not of the world (John 15:19).  There is no other way to live.  We were born again out of the culture we were raised in and are now called to bring Christ back into that culture without allowing that culture to influence or corrupt our view of Christ. 

The world in its many forms is going to constantly push itself onto the church.  Sin is more boldly displayed in the public lives of many to the point where it has gained a position of normalcy.  When we as Christians speak of the sinfulness of fornication, abortion, homosexuality, adultery, etc. many times we are looked upon as holdover relics from the distant past whose time has come and gone.  Does this mean that our doctrines, beliefs and values need to change to become more acceptable for the unbelieving world?  No.  It does mean that we must be more radical in our living than we are in our proclaiming of standards and truth.  Everyone and anyone can disagree or protest something they do not like.  The real power comes when the protest is led by actions that prove what you are saying is true.

I have found that the easiest words for many people to speak or write are those in criticism of something they don’t agree with.  I have no problem with anyone protesting or criticizing something they do not believe in or feel is right.  It is the heart of who we are as humans; to be able to express what lives inside of us.  Far too often the church falls into a protesting rut.  We constantly speak out against the sins and evils of our society in judgment; condemning the words, actions and lifestyles of those who are already lost without Christ.  The evils of the world and of sin are no longer the key factors in the separation of those who are lost from God.  Before you stone me as a heretic let’s read the famous verses:

For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants. (John 3:16-21)

The reason anyone who is lost is lost at this moment is because they do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ.   

  • We can protest that homosexuals want to be homosexuals and be granted equal rights with heterosexuals.
  • We can protest that women with unwanted pregnancies want to have abortions.
  • We can protest that there is too much violence and sex on television.
  • We can protest the lyrics and stage antics of musicians.
  • We can protest that pornography is rampant and easily accessible to children and adults alike
  • We can protest that public education teaches evolution as fact and relegates belief in the Genesis of the Bible as myth or fairy tale.
  • We can protest, we can protest, we can protest

Before we undertake any endeavor, spiritual or natural we should be asking ourselves, “What is the goal?” Our goal must be to bring men and women to Christ. 

Would I like to see a constitutional amendment in the U.S. defining marriage as the union of one man to one woman?  Yes.  Would I like to see the Supreme Court overturn Roe vs. Wade?  Yes.  Would these legislative actions turn people to Jesus?  Probably not.

Many argue that people will find a way to do what they want to do; whether it is legal or not.  Would changing the laws of the land deter a portion of people considering some of these activities from doing them?  Sure, but it would not change their hearts.  We must remember that Christianity is not the outward conformity of our lives to the standards of the law of God, but the recreation of our dead human spirit by the power of the Spirit of God.  We are not restricting activity in observance of a religious code; we are being born again, receiving a new nature that changes the way we operate.

What is our goal in protest? 

If it is to draw attention to a situation where people are being mistreated and asking our governments to correct injustices we have a duty to protest. 

  • Chinese human rights violations need attention drawn to them. 
  • The persecution of Christians in Darfur needs attention drawn to it. 
  • The millions who live malnourished need attention drawn to them.

If our goal is to condemn sinners for their sinful activities we may be taking the wrong approach.  Those who spend eternity separated from God in a place called hell will do so because they refused redemption from their sins, not because of any specific sin they committed.

I know I am rambling a bit in this message, but I want to make a few points before I close.

The goal of Christianity is not to stop people from sinning; it is to bring people into a relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.  The natural byproduct of that relationship should be that we stop sinning and begin to live like Christ.

Our ability and willingness to speak the truth on any subject should never be compromised.  We must maintain vigilance of spirit and purity of heart in our daily lives.  We must, however, learn to speak to the heart of the matter and not get stuck in dealing with the manifestations of the heart.  In other words, sinful words and behavior are the manifestation of a heart that needs Jesus.  The real issue is not the specific sin being committed but the need to be redeemed from sin.  The heart must change before our actions can change and the only one who is qualified to change hearts is Jesus.

We cannot let the voice of the church be relegated to only speaking on hot button political issues in the public forum.  We cannot merely be seen as those who protest that which the Bible says is wrong.  We must change our voice to those who proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ as the answer for the ills of our cultures and societies.  Speaking against a certain issue without the message of the gospel marginalizes the role of God and humanizes the church. 

I’m all for morality, but not for morality’s sake.  There are many people with good morals separated from God because they do not have a relationship with Christ.  We must stop trying to moralize the world and return to evangelizing the world.  The solution to the problems of our culture is found in Jesus Christ.

Protest injustice, cruelty, human rights violations, etc., but remember they are no substitute for the preaching of the gospel.  Let’s stay focused on the main thing:  taking as many people to heaven with us as we can.

Disinvited by the Pentagon

April 23, 2010 – Pentagon disinvites Franklin Graham from the Pentagon’s National Day of Prayer service.

The US Army has withdrawn an invitation to an evangelist to take part in a Pentagon prayer service, amid concern over his remarks condemning the Islamic faith.

The Council on American Islamic Relations is celebrating this as a victory.

  • How should the church react to this?
  • Does this mean anything to the body of Christ?
  • Is this another step away from God for the Unites States or merely an indicator of where we already are?

Is it important to note that the agenda of the United States government and military are many times very different from that of heaven.  The U.S. military and the government do not want to offend the muslim nations or communities.  We are at war in the Middle East.  We have Muslim soldiers in our military.  We are occupying two Muslim countries, trying to implant democracy while attempting to deter Muslim insurgents.  They have to be at peace with the Muslim community or the effort they are putting forth have no hope of succeeding.

It has truly been a very long time since these United States were truly “One Nation Under God.”  There is a nominal belief in the God of the Bible in this nation, but a seemingly widespread choice to ignore or disbelieve that what He said is true.  American Christians cannot expect the American government to establish this Kingdom of God on this earth.  Only the church establishes the kingdom of God on this earth.  Our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20) and there is only one church on the planet.

“For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6)

“You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it. For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.  And you have caused them to become a Kingdom of priests for our God.  And they will reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10)

Our faith is not determined or dictated by the legislation of this nation or any other.  The Christian is governed by the God of heaven and the Bible.  I do not expect the government of this nation of fortify my faith in Christ (it would be nice); all we ask for is the opportunity to believe, preach and practice Christianity in an unrestricted manner (our constitution provides this same guarantee to Muslims and Buddhists).  The U.S. government is not the protector of Christian freedom, biblical standards or anything else that we in the church would like to see implemented.  It is the mission of the church to bring people to Christ, to disciple them in the things of God, to influence politics, education and culture through our lives, our prayers, our art, our preaching and our votes. The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Christianity and America have a long and glorious history.  The realities of the past are not the realities of the present.  The church of Jesus Christ must proclaim the truth even when the politics of the present would rather we didn’t.  The guarantee of America is that Congress cannot pass a law making our faith illegal.

Regardless of your politics or opinion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan the question of how to deal with the differences between Islam, the Quran, Muslims, Christianity, the Bible and Christians remains a matter of Scripture.  If you are a Christian; the answer must be found in the Bible.  From the verses that I read, the Bible expresses God’s strong desire that all people on the planet come to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

“This is good and pleases God our Savior,  who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.  For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus.  He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.”  (1 Timothy 2:3-6)

As with reaching any group of people who believe something that contradicts the truth of the Bible we as Christians must establish a dialogue and relationship with Muslim people that is based on the love of Jesus Christ.  Even though Muslims deny the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ; God loves them.  The blood of Christ was shed for Muslims (even if they don’t accept it or believe it).  Muslims fall into the same category you and I did prior to being born again.  We are sinners, separated from God, who need salvation through Jesus Christ

“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.  Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good.  But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”  (Romans 5:6-8)

“Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called “uncircumcised heathens” by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts.  In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope.  But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.”  (Ephesians 2:11-13)

We cannot categorize Muslims any differently as believers in Christ than any other person or people group who have yet to accept and believe the gospel.  Muslims are our mission field.  They will be converted as the truth is proclaimed in love and the power of God is demonstrated.  It is extremely important to recognize that we as Christians should be converting Muslims to Christ, not turning them into Americans.  It is also extremely important that your life lived before Muslims be the salt and light of Matthew 5.  A Spirit-filled believer walking in the truth of the word, the fruit of the Spirit and the power of the Spirit should be a living testimony to Jesus Christ.  We should be making people thirsty for what we have.

The secular press is demonizing Franklin Graham for his comments concerning Islam.  Just like anyone offering sound bites instead of full context things are easily read into what people have said, but here are the comments that they are criticizing him for:

“I don’t agree with the teachings of Islam and I find it to be a very violent religion.”

“I believe it is a very evil and wicked religion.”

“When you look at Islam, I love the people of Islam, but the religion, I do not agree with the religion at all, “

“When you look at what the religion does to women and women alone, it is just horrid. So I speak out for women, I speak out for people who live under Islam who are enslaved under Islam and want them to know that they can be free.”

These type of comments are not going to make Mr. Graham the most popular person in Washington, D.C., Iran, Iraq or Saudi Arabia.

Ecumenical movements, Islamic lobbyist and secular humanists do not like it when we as Christians proclaim Jesus Christ as the only true God and way to salvation.  It always riles them up and they work very hard to get our voices silenced everywhere they can.

Christians cannot agree with Islam as a valid set of doctrine or beliefs if they believe the Bible.  You cannot be saved through faith in Allah or by obeying the teaching of the Quran.  The bible teaches that Jesus Christ is the only way to receive salvation.  No other religion, prophet or teachings that disagree with or are opposed to the teaching of Jesus Christ can offer man salvation.

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  (John 14:6)

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

Islam is an issue that Christians cannot whitewash or side-step.  There are almost 1 billion people on the planet who believe and practice its doctrines.  It is the greatest threat to the kingdom of God and to democracy on the face of the planet.  Yep, I said it.  The Quran and Bible are not compatible with one another.  They proclaim two different ways of salvation, they speak of two different Jesus and they speak of God in two very different ways.  The Quran claims to be the final revelation of Allah.  The bible in the Old and New Testaments claim to be the only inspired revelation of God.  One of them must be wrong.

Is Islam evil?

Anything that teaches that Jesus Christ is not the Son of God and the Savior of the world is evil and this is one of Islam’s teachings.  It is the same level of evil as the science professor teaching evolution as fact in the high school or university.  It is the same level of evil as the atheist who denies the existence of God.  It is the same level of evil as those who believe salvation can be earned.  It is the same level of evil as any doctrine that denies the truth of the Bible.

“Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you. I say again what we have said before: If anyone preaches any other Good News than the one you welcomed, let that person be cursed.  Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” (Galatians 1:8-10)

  • It’s not popular to say that Islam and Christianity do not worship the same God.
  • It’s not popular to say that Muslims must accept Jesus Christ and be born again if they wish to go to heaven.
  • It has never been popular to say there is only one way.

The greatest challenge of the modern era is to proclaim the truth in love.  We must strike the delicate balance of holding to the pure doctrine of Christ and displaying love to the Muslim people.

Speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) is always the challenge.

Truth is offensive to the person whose life is in opposition to the truth; regardless of whether that person is Muslim, Buddhist, atheist or just plain old lost.  Proclaim the truth of the Gospel and live the truth of the Gospel.  This is and will always be God’s way to reach the lost.

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Gay Christians???

Gay Christians????  Is there such a thing?  Can there be such a thing?

One of my favorite “Christian” singers from the 1990’s announced to the world the week she is a lesbian. (4/16/2010)   It is a terrible thing to see any believer who was used by the Lord to minister backslide into a life that violates the Word of God.  Even more tragic is the fact that she claims her “sexual preference” and Christianity are compatible.  It may jive with the church and secular society, but I can’t find any scripture to support it.

Over the last several years we have seen several high-profile ministries come out of the closet or have had the closet door opened for them.  For centuries churches have had musicians, singers and preachers who have lived as homosexuals; most behind closed doors and a few out for everyone to see.  The Pope is going through a justified public relations nightmare right now because of the Catholic Church’s whitewashing of the pedophilia, homosexuality and other sexual crimes and misconduct that seems to be rampant among its priests.  I am sure this extends beyond the Catholics into the Mainline Protestant Denominations, the Non-Denominational Churches and the Spirit-filled Churches.  There are denominations in America & Europe that openly ordain homosexuals for the ministry.  There truly has been a rapid progression of homosexuality within the people groups that call themselves “Christians”.

The secular world seems completely fascinated with homosexuals and their rights.  Many of our elected official want homosexual partners to have equal rights for medical care, to be able to live an openly gay lifestyle and be in the military as well as have the right to marry.  The philosophy that says homosexuality is a natural and normal lifestyle is promoted at all levels in our society.  Media outlets, entertainers and educators seem to be the greatest proponents of this agenda into our culture.  Words like “tolerance” and “acceptance” are frequently mentioned as if we are adopting a mandated protocol in dealing with people in this country.  Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are encouraged in relation to the promotion of homosexuality as a norm, but discouraged for those who disagree with words like “homophobia” and “bigotry.”

In a society that has founded itself on these words:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  (First Amendment, Bill of Right, Constitution of the United States of America)

There is pressure on the person who does not agree that homosexuality is a natural and normal lifestyle to not speak.  He is made to seem ignorant, biased and backwards in this modern era.  Many are socially and professionally ostracised for simply stating what they think and believe.

There are double standards in the United States and homosexuality seems to be one of the topics that illustrates our hypocrisy the most vividly.  We are free to speak and believe, we are just encouraged not to if we have a different opinion.

Some reading this little blog will get all fired up about this subject.  Some will call me an insensitive homophobic bigot who wants to see the social clock turned backwards.  Some will say I am too soft and have not been forceful enough in my dealing with the subject.  My hope is to present a Christ-centered, New Testament view-point of homosexuals and homosexuality.

“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”

God makes no distinction between “lifestyles” that need salvation through Jesus Christ.  The New Testament does not classify sinners or stratify sins.  ” Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  (John 3:3)  All people (regardless of their favorite preferred form of sexual gratification) are lost without Christ.  All people (straight one, gay ones, big ones, little ones, Muslim ones, Catholic ones, Buddhist ones, Republican ones, Democrat ones, etc., etc., etc.)  regardless of their birth, their life, their sin, their parents, their religion, their education, their sex or lack thereof find equality at the foot of the cross of Christ.  There is no sin that we commit here on earth that places us on God’s hit list.  We were born separated from Him.  We were born in sin.  We were born qualified for hell in need of salvation.

“But the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God’s promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 3:22)

The hypocrisy of the church becomes evident in the way that homosexuality is treated as a separate class of sin.  Homosexuals have traditionally be treated very harshly by the church.  In the modern era the only other group of people who receive similar treatment at the hands of the church are women who have had abortions (we’ll save that for another time).  This violates basic human decency and one cannot find scriptural basis to support such actions.  It’s always amazing how we can rally against a sin that doesn’t plague our own life so much more easily than the ones that do.  Jesus said it this way:

And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”  (Matthew 7:3-5).

As someone who was lost in this world without Christ, incapable of earning their way into heaven; how do you sit in judgment of anyone else’s violation of the same commandments you were unable to keep.  “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10).

Let’s break it down:

1.  Homosexuality is a sin.

“Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin.” (Leviticus 18:22)

2.  Sin separates people from God.

“It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.”  (Isaiah 59:2)

3.  Jesus Christ died to set people free from sin.

“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.”  (Romans 5:6)

4.  Our sins are forgiven when we place our faith in Jesus Christ.

“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”  (1 John 1:9)

5.  God’s Spirit comes to live inside of us and make us new, erasing our past sins.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”  (2 Corinthians 5:17)

So…

  1. If you are a homosexual who has not placed your faith in Christ for forgiveness of and deliverance from sin then you are lost and on your way to hell (just like everyone else).
  2. If you have placed your faith in Christ and have been born again and are living as a homosexual than you have backslidden and are now living as someone who has not been born again.
  3. If you have placed your faith in Christ and are struggling with homosexual temptation you need to be open and honest with yourself and God (He already knows).  You need to renew your mind with the Word of God.  You need to pray, praise and give thanks.  You need to “submit yourself to God and resist the devil” (James 4:7).  All temptation is dealt with the same way.  We have to crucify our flesh and feed our spirit.

Were there homosexuals at the time of Christ?  Did the first century church deal with gay people?  Were there converts to Christianity by homosexuals?

The answer is yes to all three.  Roman and Greek society was very permissive towards homosexuality.  The Apostles would have had contact with homosexual men and women at every stage and station of life.  The Old Testament strictly condemns the homosexual to death.  The New Testament offers all sinners (including the homosexual) forgiveness of sin, a new nature and salvation through Jesus Christ.  Read what Paul had to say about the members of the church at Corinth:

“Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.  Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

The simple answer to the question, “Can there be Gay Christians?” is, “No.”  You cannot have sex with someone of the same-sex and declare it to be the will, plan or purpose of God.  You cannot claim that God understands and allows it because you were born this way.  The simple fact is if you are born again, the old you is dead.  It is no different from the heterosexual who converts to Christianity.  Sexual relationships for the Christian are allowable between a husband and wife who are married to one another.  That’s it.

There is no sin that God looks at and says its OK for a Christian to commit.  The church is filled with fornicators and adulterers; both heterosexual and homosexual.  It still violates the word of God.  God wants us to be holy and a big part of that is has to do with your sex life.

“God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin.  Then each of you will control his own body and live in holiness and honor –  not in lustful passion like the pagans who do not know God and his ways.  Never harm or cheat a Christian brother in this matter by violating his wife, for the Lord avenges all such sins, as we have solemnly warned you before. God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives.  Therefore, anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.”  (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8)

Opinions come and go.  Men and women justify their sins through scripture or by explaining away scripture, but do so in an act of self-deception.  You cannot live a life (any life) that contradicts the commands of the word of God on a continuous basis and truly believe that you are a Christian.

“This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.  But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.” (1 John 1:5-10).

The homosexual without Christ is just as lost as the heterosexual without Christ.  There is no difference.  Christ died on the cross so that all may come to the Father through Him.  We need not change prior to coming to Him; we only must be willing to admit our sinfulness, submit our will to His and allow His Word and His Spirit to make the change inside of us.

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”  (Romans 12:1-2)

In conclusion:

  • Jesus Christ loves the homosexual and the heterosexual equally.  His death on the cross paid the price for salvation for all.
  • Homosexuality and Christ are not compatible in a post born-again believer.  You cannot be a gay Christian if you define Christianity using the Bible.
  • Sin does not send you to hell; a refusal to accept Christ’s payment for your sin will.

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”  (1 Timothy 1:15)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”  (John 3:16-19)

Tired of waiting for someone else to do the right thing…

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.  For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

This prophetic utterance from the pen of Paul was not written to describe the downturn or decline of civilization.  The Holy Spirit prophesied through Paul concerning the apostasy that would affect the church.  As a result of the infiltration of the church Christianity would become a religion of society, of form and of name.  The gestation of such apostasy would produce false teachers who would rise in the name of Christianity and declare their opposition or indifference to the truth of the Gospel and  be believed as “men of God”.

“For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with diverse lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  (2 Timothy 3:6-7).

What is Paul speaking about?

We have those who profess to be Christian (60% of Americans do) and appear to be religious, yet do not manifest the power of God that can save them from sin, selfishness and immorality.  He speaks of people who tolerate immorality within the church (those who say they are saved and love Jesus) and teach that it is OK if people have an habitual sinful lifestyle; that these people will still inherit the Kingdom of God and salvation.

The church has become so focused on becoming relevant in the modern (post-post modern) era.  We have focused on technology, communication, new interior design, updating  & creating programs for as many segments of the congregation/society as we can that we have in many cases ended up looking like a political party rather than the Kingdom of God.

It is easy to see how this crept into the church.  It comes from poor (false) interpretations of verses like, “Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.”  (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)

The apostle make clear distinction between adopting culture and preaching the gospel.  There are many, many cultures.  The differences can range from across a variety of subjects (food, clothing, greetings, politics, music, architecture, methods of education, transitions from youth to adulthood and the list could go on).  Paul spoke of his willingness to blend into the culture of those to whom he was ministering so that he could preach the Gospel.  Verse 21 he states, ” I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ.”

The gospel is for everyone, the church is for the Christian. 

The reason so many of our churches being dead or impotent is that we have replaced bringing people to the cross with bringing people to the church.  The church cannot save the sinner, only Christ can save the sinner.

“Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.”  Billy Sunday

In our effort to be inoffensive and attractive to the lost we have focused on the production quality of our services and events, the universality of our messages and the positivity we want people to take away from our meetings (excuse me while I regurgitate). 

Churches with lights, camera and action tend to believe they are radical because of the lights, camera, action.  Churches with study or support groups for every segment you can think of tend to believe they are radical because of their groups.  Churches with no groups and no lights, camera, action tend to believe they are radical because of their purity to the old ways.  We measure success by the standards of the world far more often than the standards of heaven.  Crowds do not equal success any more than empty pews equal success.  The success of ministry and churches cannot be measured by attendance, offerings, album or books sales or any other measure than:

“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen”  (Matthew 28:18-20).

Far too often we forget that our purpose as a Christian is #1 to be like Christ and #2 to bring others to Him.  The church has reversed the equation and instead of converting men with the gospel has ended up converting the gospel into something palatable to men.  The end result is a church in the United States of America that is dying.  It is dying because the love and life of God does not fill its members, the Word of God is not preached from its pulpits, the power of God is not demonstrated in its services and in an effort to revive itself it has turned to the ways of the world instead of the throne of God.

  • “Mere heathen morality, and not Jesus Christ, is preached in most of our churches.”  (George Whitefield)
  • “That world outside there is not waiting for a new definition of Christianity, it’s waiting for a new demonstration of Christianity.”  (Leonard Ravenhill)
  • “In answer to your inquiry, I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.”  (William Booth)
  • “I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.”  (John Wesley)
  • “The world will never believe in a religion in which there is no power.  A rationalized faith, a socialized church and a moralised gospel may gain you applause but they awaken no conviction and win no converts.”  (Samuel Chadwick)
  • “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3)
  • “The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life. ”  (Theodore Roosevelt)

 

I could write for years on the plague of false doctrine and/or no doctrine that has invaded our churches.  We could drone on and on about the quenching of the Holy Spirit.  We could blast the pulpit and the pew for failure to speak the truth concerning:

  • the blood
  • the resurrection
  • the cross
  • hell
  • the rapture
  • heterosexual fornication
  • divorce
  • the baptism in the Holy Ghost
  • the Great Commission
  • Missions
  • feeding the hungry
  • etc., etc., etc. 

 

The only ones who would amen are the ones who are still reading the article after that introduction.  The dead and the lukewarm do not search the internet for sermons.

Exposing the lost, the dead and the lukewarm to the truth is our calling.  Your life will be measured by the fruit you have produced that remains. 

  • Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.”  (John 15:16).
  • “And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”  (Luke 12:15)
  • “There can be no higher enjoyment found in this world than is found in pulling souls out of the fire and bringing them to Christ”  (Charles Finney)
  • “There is a dying world and a risen Savior, and you and I are the miracle link between the two.”  (Rod Parsley)

 

The power of reformation and revival must always begin with prayer and a shaking of the heavens.  It truly begins on earth, when we cease to attack that which is incorrect and begin preaching, teaching, demonstrating and living that which is true.

It is much easier to pull down that which we are opposed to than to give birth to and raise that which we believe in. 

To demolish an existing structure is easier than building a new structure.  Harder still is to reconstruct a defective structure while trying to preserve the original.  This is the task that faces the church.

There are many things wrong in the body of Christ today, but what is right in the body of Christ is capable of cleansing and curing the wrong.

Your life gains meaning through its eternal impact on the lives of others.  That impact is best spent building the Kingdom of God into their lives.

“You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.” (2 Timothy 2:2)

  • Revival and reformation begins with you. 
  • Do not wait for God to correct your pastor, denomination, or cell group leader. 
  • Begin in your closet of prayer.
  • Maximize your impact by beginning in your circle of influence. 
  • Fulfill the call of God on your life.
  • The church in which you function will either begin to change with you  or you will find they invite you to join another church

 

The purpose is love:  Love of God, Love of His Word and Love for His People. “But speaking the truth in love…” (Ephesians 4:15)

True love is recognized by God:

If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” (John 14:15-17)

The love of God has been shed abroad in your heart by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).  We speak truth to the church and the world because God loves them and we do to.

Only from a posture and attitude of love should the gospel be preached; for it is then that God can truly use the words that are spoken.

 Speak the truth in love and expect God to confirm His word.

“And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen”  (Mark 16:20)

Are you as confused about health care as I am?

With the advent of universal (socialized) health care on the horizon of the United States I feel a little hopeless; yet excited for the uninsured. The greatest dichotomy of my mind on this is care for those who truly need it, but cannot afford it and the inevitable raising of my taxes for something that I am already paying for through private health insurance.

The Christian in me rejoices to see the poor cared for (what quality of health care they will actually receive escapes me). The Republican (borderline Libertarian) in me dreads our rapid erosion of free enterprise.

So, I have a divided heart today. I love helping the hurting and extending opportunity where there is none, but I hate having my tax dollars do it. I want to have a choice.

The logic may be flawed, but the feeling is real. I simply cannot fathom the Federal government managing another facet of our lives.

I will rant on further, but that is all I have time for on my lunch break.

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