Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

No One Gets Away with Anything

January 26, 2016

But don’t be afraid of those who threaten you.  For the time is coming when the truth will be revealed; their secret plots will become public knowledge.  Matthew 10:26

In today’s culture, anyone who is at all open about their faith gets harassed sometimes by some people, and at times it seems the bullying occurs a lot of the time by a lot of people. Bullies usually aren’t open about what they are doing.  They harass others outside of the public eye.  They gossip, lie, slander, ruin reputations, start rumors, etc.  They do anything they can to diminish their prey, and do it without looking bad themselves.  If they can take your job, your position, your good name or your peace, they will try to do it, and very slyly and secretly.   But God says, do not fear.  He will one day see that justice is done.  They will be exposed for who they are and truth will be known.  Do not be afraid. God has your back.  Nothing ever goes on without His knowledge.  He knows those who are His, and He will never let this go so far as to defeat His plans and purposes for those He loves.  Again, do not be afraid.

 

Who are the Swine?

January 19, 2016

“Don’t give holy things to depraved men.  Don’t give pearls to swine!  They will trample the pearls and turn and attack you.”  Matthew 7:6

 

What did Jesus possibly mean when He said this?  In our modern Christian culture, we believe we are to give charity to everyone without question.  We are to preach the message of hope to all.  We are to persist without fail in giving, loving, and sharing Jesus.  Sometimes we feel we must knock endlessly at doors that never open, and even at doors where the voice inside yells “go away”

All Christian charities go through times of financial struggle.  When the economy is bad, donations dwindle, yet demands increase.  Would Jesus say to be good stewards of our resources and accountable to our donors and to Him to use what we have where it seems to do the most good?  Do we want to work where we see changed lives, or where we have labored in vain, sometimes for years.

Anyone who has worked in inner city ministries has seen two things that are distressing.  In the first case are the Christmas giveaways.  In some ministries some attempt at order has been forced by the situation.  People must pre-register, and people must come at an appointed time because the ministry can’t deal with a crowd that is too big.  Some ministries make an attempt to give a little five minute talk about the “real meaning of Christmas” and perhaps offer a prayer to the group that is pawing the ground waiting to get the gifts.  And many could testify to what always happens.  Huge crowds arrive early.  There is pushing, shoving and shouting.  People arrive who never preregistered and still expect gifts.  Usually there has to be a police presence to keep order.  There is always shouting and anger, and complaints about the gifts not equalling the expectation of the recipient.  The time, money and stress that went into the program drains the ministry, its staff and its volunteers.  And at the end of the day, some wonder why the ministry does this every year.  What usually isn’t asked is:  How did this honor the name of Jesus, and was His message heard by anyone.

Another scenario is the feeding program.  A lot of gospel missions, who otherwise do good work in rehabilitating the willing addicted, also feed anyone who comes in for the meal programs.  Often they do a little sermon or prayer first.  Those who came for the food are restless and distracted, angling toward the door nearest the food line.  Few appear to listen or pray.  At the end of the week, or the year, the staff could ask themselves if anyone’s life was changed by what happened at the mealtimes.  One could ask whether this honored the name of Jesus, or if it looked like bribery in order to hear a “sales pitch”, rather like the “free meals” at hotels which require one to hear a pitch involving real estate, investments, cruises, buyers clubs or something of that nature.   Might it not be better to just feed the hungry, and perhaps have a sign saying, “Be blessed, in the name of Jesus.”  It seems like this might at least be more honoring to Him.   He did indeed tell us to feed the hungry.

But who are the swine?  There are some who are absolutely hostile to the name of Jesus and His message of grace, and are indeed hostile to God himself, even in the “one God fits all, all religions are the same” open and liberal brand of God.  Should we argue the truth of Jesus with those who are hostile?  Possibly Jesus is saying “Don’t waste your breath”, but also may be saying “Don’t expose yourself to harm in this case.”   Its interesting that Jesus himself wouldn’t work miracles on command for those who came to see a spectacle.  They weren’t interested in what He had to say, they were just curious and wanted to be amazed.  He also did not feed the crowds a second time when they followed Him only because He fed them.  Indeed, He called them on their motives.   Jesus may be protecting those who serve Him from wasted resources, from burnout, and even from unnecessary exposure to physical harm.

But who are depraved men?   Depravity is the absence of a moral code, values or ethics.  A depraved person lives by the law of the jungle–“all about me, what’s in it for me, and I don’t care who I step on”   They also engage in “deeds of darkness” according to Jesus, and He leaves it to our imagination what those deeds may be.  They could range from illicit sex to plotting murder for gain, and everything in between meant to pleasure the self and harm others.   One thing is certain: while many encounter risk to self when they go into dangerous places to share the gospel, it would seem Jesus is not calling us to go into an Islamist terrorist encampment to preach the Christian message.

A Letter to Muslims on Israeli-Arab Earth Day

March 30, 2012

I was thinking this morning about the desires of Muslims to own all of Palestine, and for Muslims to rule the world.  Suppose for a moment this happened.  Suppose there were no Jews or Christians left in Palestine.  Suppose there were no more churches or synagogues left in the world, and Muslims effectively controlled all the world governments.  You will each still die.  You will not spend eternity on this earth.  Do you know where you will spend eternity?  Will you ever know God?  Will your sins be forgiven?  Will your good deeds be enough?  Is it possible to know whether you will go to Heaven?  When you die, what possible difference will it make to you, who controlled Palestine or the world?

There are prophets who lived more than a thousand years before Mohammed.  The Quran tells the non-Muslim people of the book to read their own prophets. (Surah 5:47)  These prophets say the following things:  “Seek the Lord while He may be found.”  Isaiah 55:6    “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  Jeremiah 29:13    “It is time to seek the Lord.”  Hosea 10:12   “Seek me and live.”  Amos 5:4   “Seek the Lord, all you humble”  Zephaniah 2:3

The prophets say we will find the Lord when we seek Him with all our hearts.  That means with open minds, open hearts and openness to obey what He tells us.

May you find the Lord while there is time.

Jesus in my Purse

March 26, 2010

Crazy Love by Francis Chan is one of the most profoundly life-changing books I have ever read.  It is truly counter-culture, both in terms of American culture and Christian culture.  Ultimately it asks, “How much do you love Jesus?”  How much do we think we love Jesus?  How much do we love the real Jesus?  How much of our love is devoted to a Jesus who fits our own image of what a God should be?

I think American women really want a Jesus they can fit into their purse.  If Jesus can fit into my purse, the convenience is amazing.  He’s small enough that I can carry him wherever I go, not a big God who (God forbid) carries me!  He’s  easily hidden so he doesn’t show up and embarrass me.  I take him when I please, and leave him home if he’s too much trouble to drag around wherever I’m going.  If  he’s with me, I want him to be sort of like a small spray can.  If I’m lacking confidence, poof!  I have it.  If I’m scared, poof!  I have  courage.  If I’m feeling weak, poof!  I have the Power!!  If I need money, the right words, a parking place, I name it and poof!  I have what I need instantly.  Oh yes, I’m grateful.  I’m always saying “Thank you Jesus!”  People think I’m really religious since they hear my thanks so often.  I even try to do things for Jesus to keep him happy there in my purse.  God forbid he should jump out and quit taking care of me.

Oh wait!  I have just broken the second commandment and broken it in a huge way.  I’ve made a Jesus in my image.  This is NOT the Jesus who came to earth to teach me who HE is and what HE wants of me.  This is not the Jesus who “set his face like flint” and headed to Calvary so He could die for me and the boatload of silly, selfish, foolish users just like me who treat the Lord of Heaven and Earth like my personal assistant.  This is not the Jesus who asked me if I would take up my cross and follow him.  This is not the Jesus who told me to love God with all my heart(passion), all my soul (emotion), all my mind (faith), and all my strength (commitment), and actually commanded me to love the other person (any other person in need) as much as I love myself.  No, the real Jesus won’t ever fit in my purse, and I have to ask if He will fit in my puny life.  My life is about keeping my shoes clean, looking good and not breaking a nail.  My life is the life of a “nice” lady who is only beginning to realize the depth of her sin and the enormity of the loving grace of Jesus.

Church and Excuses 2

February 20, 2010

When asking someone to come to church with you, don’t be surprised to hear the number one excuse.  “I don’t go to church because its too full of hypocrites”.  Well, imagine that!  A hypocrite is one who upholds standards of behavior or ideals that are too high to be reached, and they often fail to live up to the standards they profess.  Consider the alternative.  I could lower my standards until I’m sure I will never have a problem living up to them.  Then instead of being a hypocrite, I will be accused of all sorts of names given to lazy, underachieving people.  Its a no-win situation.    A better answer to this excuse is:  “How can someone claim to love God whom they can’t see, if they can’t stand his followers whom they do see.”  I’m actually paraphrasing the first letter of the apostle John.

Church and Excuses

February 20, 2010

People who wouldn’t touch church with a ten foot pole say its because of the wrongdoing of religious people through history.  Now, these same people wouldn’t want to be judged solely by the behavior of their  children, but they will refuse to enter God’s house because they don’t like His children.  These same people probably wouldn’t want to cut themselves off from their billionaire uncle simply because his children’s behavior was disgraceful.

Idolatry

January 30, 2010

When we read the First Commandment and see the part about having “No Strange Gods Before Me”, most of us think of primitive societies and the dolls or statues that people make and then worship.  We think “How quaint”, and sort of skim over that commandment, imagining that modern man no longer commits that sin.  But look a little deeper–a “strange god” is anything we worship, pray to, think of as God, live for or teach that isn’t the real “God”.  To worship the real God and not a false one, we have to know who the real God is.  I have heard calls to prayer where the leader asks the group to pray to God “whoever you conceive God to be.”  There we go.  Conceiving God to be anything other than Who He is, is idolatry.  How then can we know who God is?  In the Judeo-Christian tradition, God is unknowable except through the ways He has revealed Himself.  He has revealed Himself in His creation, but its no longer a clear picture because since sin came into the world, creation has been spoiled. 

Most of us are idolators without even realizing it.  When we conceive God as someone who is fierce against those who commit the sins we hate most, yet tolerant of our sins, we are commiting idolatry.  When we conceive God as an indulgent Grandpa, or a Santa Claus, or anything other than what He has revealed Himself to be, we are commiting idolatry. 

How do we know what God has revealed about Himself?  Its written by the prophets, and Jesus Himself taught us Who God is and what He is like.  We can trust Jesus, because He claimed to be one with God, and backed up His claims with miracles and His resurrection from the dead.  We can trust the prophets because Jesus vouched for them.

Another way we commit idolatry, is to put anyone or anything ahead of God.  Its been said if we look at our calendar and our checkbook we will see what we worship.  Our god may be our hobby, a human relationship, our children, our career, a possession, or our own ego.  Those who say man is the highest authority are making themselves out to be their own god, and that is idolatry.  So, the first commandment can be and is broken by modern man every day, and we would be wise to examine ourselves and repent in our thinking.  In fact, if we think we are without sin, we ought to first think about our relationship to God and about whether we give Him the appreciation He is due, and whether we thank Him for all He has done for us.

Idolatry and Religion

September 13, 2009

Every form of idolatry is alike in that we the religious decide what our religion is going to require of us.  We like to be in control.  We like to make rules that we don’t mind keeping.  We want to be king of ourselves with no guilt.  I believe this thinking better explains why there are so many religions than any other theory I’ve heard.

The First Commandment

August 10, 2009

I am to love God with my whole heart, soul, mind and strength.  That is what I was made for, and any other loves flow from that primary relationship.  Even my love for my neighbor flows from, is directed by and empowered by God.  How many of us can say we love God with our whole anything?  We are all doubleminded, and I think that is the root cause of sin.  In fact, that IS the sin: self centeredness.  I used to think of ways I could show God how I loved Him.  That was actually self-centered.  How astounding to think it could be self-centered to imagine ways to love and serve God!  The thing is, when I imagine how I will love and serve God, it is all beginning with me.  I am determining what my God will ask of me.  How can I say God has first place in my life if my very love and service begins with me.  If God truly has first place in my life, I approach Him humbly, confessing I fall short in loving Him as He deserves, and ask Him to show me how to love and serve Him.  Then I obey what He shows me.

Grateful for Faith

August 8, 2009

I feel overwhelmed today.  I just feel so much gratitude for my Christian faith.  I remember a time when I wasn’t sure that God existed.  I didn’t know the history of Jesus, and how he rose from the dead.  I didn’t know all the proofs that he is God.  I didn’t know His promises of eternal life.  I was afraid of death.  I was afraid of bad happenings after death.  I was also afraid that death might be the end.

Humans are the only beings on earth with self awareness.  We know we exist.  We are able to wonder why we exist.  We are aware of our mortality.  We are able to wonder what happens after our death.  Our awareness would be cruel if we didn’t have any answers, or if our lives were so short and death was final.  What would be the purpose of all we learned and all the loves in our lives?  What would be the point of a love that was so great you couldn’t believe it would one day die, if that were all there was…the death of love.  But then I began to learn and discover the promises of Jesus Christ.

No other religion has the promise of the Christian faith.  With some religions the best I can hope for is some kind of melding with the eternal–a loss of my self.  With other religions, I can only hope for some eternal reward from a God who is quite unknowable, not at all personal, and quite arbitrary.  With other religions, notably atheism and agnosticism, I can hope for, well, nothing at all.  That is my best hope with atheism–that there is nothing following this life.

Christian faith offers a personal God, a God who has had our experience of human life and understands what that is like to be human.  Christian faith offers the promise of God that life can be forever.  Christian faith offers the love of God, grace, forgiveness and the promise of a future home being prepared just for us.  It is backed up by the historical evidence of Jesus life, the miracles that proved his credibility as God, and His resurrection which proves His promise of eternal life to be true.  The resurrection of Jesus is one of the best attested facts in history.  If one were to throw out His history, we would have to throw out history books completely. 

I’m grateful for the Christian faith’s promises, I am grateful for a God who loves his creatures, and I am grateful He never made it necessary for our faith in Him to be a blind faith.