Friendly fire!

There is a 5th column within the church itself which is growing ever stronger advocating the church “get on the right side of history” or become irrelevant and die.

From what were we saved and redeemed? This may sound like a rhetorical question. Light was shown on the sin of man by the giving of the laws of God. This was done in order for him to realize his need for God and the need to be cleansed from the curse of sin. It’s not as though sin is just some bad habit we should eventually be rid of, but more like some agent of death we must be rescued from lest we be destroyed in hell.

Wow, that last line makes it sound like there is some Holy God out there who will cast us into outer darkness unless we convert to His way of thinking. Yea, pretty much. But unless you come to the realization and appreciation that He loved us so much that He sacrificed His only Son in order to make it possible for that to NOT happen, it can be made to sound really intolerant and judgmental.

In 2011, Rob Bell was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine. Just a few of years earlier he was named one of the 10 most influential Christian leaders by The Church Report. For some time Rob has been leaning heavily towards the Christian Universalism tenant that there is no eternal physical punishment (i.e. hell) and more recently he has fully embraced same sex marriage.

I am only somewhat familiar with Rob Bell, but there are millions who hang on his words. So when he says ‘the Church will “continue to be even more irrelevant” if it continues to cite the Bible’s prohibitions on homosexual behavior’ referring to the Bible as some “letters from 2000 years ago”. I guess there are a goodly number of people who stand up and take notice, especially when he says it shoulder to shoulder with the Big O herself (Oprah).

And here is where it really gets twisted. In referring to the church’s battle against same sex marriage his wife states that “there are churches who are moving forward and there are churches who are almost regressing and making it more of a battle”. Rob followed with “I think we are witnessing the death of a particular subculture that doesn’t work. … You sort of die or you adapt … we have supported policies and ways of viewing the world that are actually destructive. And we’ve done it in the name of God and we need to repent.”

Rob attempts to denude God’s anointing on the writers of the New Testament to “some people wrote something” 2000 years ago.  “Those letters” were written to encourage us to repent of our destructive sinful ways, follow Christ and be saved from eternal punishment.  But that has now been flipped on it’s head and it’s now we the church who, Rob Bell claims, must repent of our commitment to that holy living and revert back to a time before “those letters” when living sinful lives was vogue – or die.  In other words, what was considered destructive and sinful living for 2000 years has all of a sudden become NOT sin, or at least not consequential as it relates to hell, and any commitment advocating the avoidance of sinful living has been turned on its head and has now become the destructive thing?

So with all the martyring of Christians around the world in Libya, Nigeria and many other countries highly populated by Muslims on almost a daily basis you may have thought your commitment to Christ might at the worst put the choice before you to convert to Islam or die with the name of Jesus on your lips. No, brothers and sisters, it’s much, much worse than that. In order to “get along” in this generation, you will have to deny over 2 thousand years of church history, deny those faded silly letters, deny the testimony of the saints, deny your own experience with God and even deny the purposeful sacrifice of Christ – or, as those heretics claim, it is you will become irrelevant and die.

Mark 9:42 & Matt. 18:16 (a couple of verses from “those letters”) – With all the people stumbling and being led astray by Rob Bell and so many others like him, I suggest there are not enough millstones in the history of mankind or deep enough oceans on the planet to satisfy the wrath of a Holy God on those who are arrogantly saying that His detailed plan of salvation, to include the painful sacrifice of His beloved Son on the cross, was a stupid waste of time since everybody gets to heaven either way.

I read it on the Internet so it must be true – right?

There are lots of places to get your news and information these days – CNN (leans left), FOX (leans right), NPR (leans intellectual), the Internet (leans – everywhere), gossip magazines (leans to the gullible & bored), the government (leans politically expedient) and then you own personal experiences which although definitely lean true, they might not be the whole truth.

Here are a couple of examples to illustrate my point.  In just the last couple of days Barbie has been told that Michelle Obama is really a man and that Barak is gay.  Follow that up with the “breaking news” there is a project in Alaska called HAARP which “they” are using to cause (among other things) the drought in California and the earthquakes in Oklahoma.  The sinister motive behind the infamous “they” is to cause everybody to move out of California and return the fertile valleys to Government lands and the earthquakes, which center around Cushing, are an effort to disrupt the oil industry and once and for all stop the Keystone Pipeline project.  It didn’t take much checking to find out that the HAARP project was scrapped in the last few years due to lack of success and funding and earlier this year the entire project was deeded over to the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.   And here is the really scary part, the people who told Barbie of these ridiculous conspiracy theories were “mature” adults (55 years+) one of whom works in education at a local university and another attends our church.  The internet was cited as the source of these stories when Barbie asked.  I did some checking (on the internet) and the Michelle/Barak story was originated by none other than the trusted investigative reporter Joan Rivers.

By the way, I am not going to discuss either these issues here (or anywhere else for that matter), but I would like to discuss the fact that just because you read it on the internet doesn’t make it so.  I have read or listened to numerous reports or rants about the proposed acceptance of Syrian refugees in recent days. They have covered the gamete from “they are part of a well planned Trojan horse” to keep out at all cost to “God is love” and because of that fact it follows we should let them all in.  Most notably have been numerous reports that there is little to no risk in letting them in and especially the widows and orphans because the vetting process is almost foolproof in weeding out all (current) jihadists.  There are likely elements of truth in all these angles.

I would like to share a story directly related to this discussion from my own personal life experience – not off the internet.  When Barbie and I first lived in Israel in the late 70’s things were drastically different from today.  It was very common for the population to tramp (hitchhike) all over the country accepting rides from whoever stopped, whether Jew or Arab.  People didn’t think twice about shopping in East Jerusalem, the Arab quarter of the Old City, Bethlehem or Gaza.  If you rented a car you could drive wherever you wanted with no concern beyond a flat tire.  Yes there were occasionally terrorist attacks, but in most cases they were carried out by jihadists who had snuck across the border from Jordan or Syria in the hours before the attack.  In other words, the vast majority of the Arab population were living and loving life in a peaceful co-existence with their Israeli occupiers.  Fast forward to the early 90’s when we lived there for a couple of months as part of YWAM (Youth With a Mission).  Imams from the surrounding Arab countries began to garner greater and greater control over the Arab population in Israel to the point there were significant security concerns at many of the traditional tourist locations such as Bethlehem, Jericho & Hebron.  And a visit to Gaza was totally out of the question.  The team we led got a pretty good feel for the deteriorating situation as we spent a lot of our time in East Jerusalem and Bethlehem.  We were strongly cautioned about taking our rental van into predominantly Arab sections of the country as ambush attacks on cars with Israeli tags were on the rise.  Barbie and I have been able to visit Israel a couple more times in the last 20 years to include a spring trip last year.  Now there are walls, fences and checkpoints everywhere, you are forbidden from taking rental cars into many areas and a population that some 30 years earlier was not radicalized has been, in just one generation, transformed into what may well be a radicalized majority who are carrying out knife, car and gun attacks (some by women and young boys) almost on a daily basis from Arabs within the country.

You see, to truly understand Islam, you must understand the huge influence the main Imams have over their “flock”.  Not too unlike prominent Christian leaders such as the Pope, Billy Graham and Joel Osteen have over trends in Christianity – some good and some not so good.  In Islam, there are a significant majority of the Imams calling for jihad.  Take note that one thing that has been missing in response to the recent terrorist attacks has been any broad scale denouncing of them by the Imams of the Islamic world.  Yes, there have been some Arabs who have denounced these acts, but what has dominated the headlines are things like what happened a couple of days after the Paris attacks when Turkish fans booed and shouted Allahu akbar during a moment of silence to honor the Paris victims before a soccer match between Turkey and Greece.

So is there risk is bringing the refugees here?  Yes, there are absolutely great risks and anybody who dismisses the cautions claiming there is little to no risk either doesn’t understand Islam, has little interest in learning or they read something on the internet to the contrary.

Having said all that, as a Christian, I must try and view this situation through God’s eyes and a heavenly perspective.  The US is not my real home, I hopefully count my life on this earth as no value for the sake of the Gospel and what if all this is part of Gods grand plan to bring those in desperate need of the Gospel right to our door step?  As one who has been involved in mission work in the Middle East, I can tell you it is very difficult if not forbidden to do mission work over there.  And this refugee challenge might just be a golden opportunity for the Church to strategize together for the sake of the Gospel.  What if Churches across this country offered to sponsor refugee families on a grand scale?  Not to cram the Gospel down their throat, but to love on them, serve them and help them get jobs and housing in a strange new country.   What if?

I love and am challenged by the story of the Moravian missionaries Dober and Nitschmann who went so far as to sell themselves into slavery in order to bring the Gospel to the West Indies in 1732.  There was of course great risk for them to do that, and although there is risk in bringing Syrian refugees to American soil we too could echo the cry heard from Dober & Nitschmann from the bow of that ship as it pulled out of that German Harbor –

“May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering!”

No easy answers – this is way above yours or my pay grade!

There is a legitimate debate going on right now in the US over Syrian refugees.  At least I am calling it legitimate.  I have been surprised at how many don’t see any legitimacy in the debate because the answer (to them) is so obvious and simple.  And I am not speaking about only one side, both sides “see” so clearly as to be dismissive, rude or accusatory to the “other” side.  Barbie and I even had someone unfriend us yesterday because we would not enter into the bombastic and inflammatory manner they were taking.  It wasn’t even that we disagreed with them but rather the rude and arrogant method of delivery.

So is this an Old Testament argument, a New Testament argument or somewhere in between.  Some have tried to reduce the debate points down to “God is always Love” or “If you don’t protect those in your own family, your are worse than and unbeliever”.  Both of those points are true but neither of them fully encompasses this debate.  Please do not reduce the compassion for refugees or the security of the US to a “one liner”.  Even between Barbie and I there are strong leanings to the different sides.  And all of this speaks to me of a few things, patience, learning, listening, respect and most of all the Holy Spirit.

I will tell you that I am not the type to quickly to cut out of my Bible those parts in the Old Testament where, because of the evil of their religious practices, God ordered entire peoples destroyed to include women and children.  But at the same time I will never discount the over arching theme in the New Testament that there is none beyond the reach of God’s love.  Some might see these themes to be in contradiction.  But because we also know that God never changes, we have to accept that in fact they are not in contradiction and we must wrestle with that reality and find the balance.  Were those people destroyed because their spiritual DNA was so far gone that it had to be wiped out so it couldn’t spread?  Could that then have been a loving thing to do to protect many future generations of God’s people from those evil influences in nearby villages.  If that same story was repeated after Jesus’ sacrifice was made would God have ordered a different outcome.  That may well be.  In the NT we see Jesus telling a woman, properly sentenced to death for adultery, to go and stop doing it after her executioners leave.  But later we witness God killing a husband and wife “just” for lying.  Are you duly confused by now as to how God does things? (Isaiah 55:8)

On accepting refugees, Republicans are leaning to a pause or a big no which challenges Christians which probably lean more towards yes.  Most Democrats along with Obama lean yes mocking Republicans as being afraid of widows and orphans.  Yet it was a woman who blew herself up this morning in France wounding 5 officers and a special on PBS last night highlighted how ISIS is training kids as young as 4 to become jihadist.  Then today in Turkey and Honduras there were 13 Syrians, with suspected ISIS ties, arrested while posing as refugees trying to get to Europe and North America.  And consider our cherished value of “’Give me your tiredyour poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” boldly inscribed on the Statue of Liberty combined with exhortations in scripture to take care of the poor and homeless (paraphrased) and you have the makings of a real dilemma.

I am not a bigot if I choose the safety of my family first and my wife is not naive if she leans towards opening our borders.  But we both would show our shallowness if we were not able to listen to each other and with prayer and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit endeavor to flesh out God’s plan.

This is great risk either way.  There is great risk if some of the refugees follow the likes of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Chechen refugee who came here as a little boy who was not radicalized and after his family began to follow the American dream he decided to bomb the Boston Marathon.  And what are the risks if we close our borders?  Perhaps that is a cost that will be felt in unknown ways other than terrorist attacks.

So if you are still determined to throw out your quippy one liners, then you really don’t understand or appreciate how complicated this discussion truly is.  And if you are given pause by this Blog then join me and countless others in praying that God will give our leaders and our military the wisdom from on high to deal mercy and justice for all concerned.

What is an extremist? Can it mean the most committed?

This word is bantered about a lot these days referring mostly to Muslims.  I suggest we take a step back and ask the question also about a different religion such as Christianity alongside Islam and compare the most conservative (or radical) views and their most common modern day expressions.  What in your mind constitutes a Christian or Muslim extremist?  (I will exclude from any discussion the Westboro Baptist Church as virtually all other Christians would quickly denounce them as wrong and an anomaly)

Jesus says love your enemies and do good to those who hurt you. Matt 5:44  & to turn the other cheek Matt. 5:39

Islam says O you who believe! Take not my enemies [the disbelievers] and your enemies as awliyaa’ [friends, allies, supporters, assistants etc.], showing affection towards them… (EMQ al-Mumtahanah, 60:1) & O you who believe! Take not for awliyaa’ [supporters, friends, allies and helpers] your fathers and your brothers if they prefer disbelief to Belief. And whoever of you does so, then he is one of the zaalimoon [wrong-doers, oppressors etc.]. (EMQ at-Tawbah, 9:23)

Are there verses in the Old Testament of the Bible which suggest a more violent approach to the enemies of God? Yes!

Do some of the earlier writings in the Koran have a milder approach in their dealings with outsiders? Yes!

Does the New Testament or later writings of the Bible suggest a change to the law of grace & mercy and a better way instituted by Jesus? Yes!

Do the later writings of Mohamed change into very narrow teachings with significant orders relating to forced conversions, violence, murder and jihad?  Yes!

I could insert countless scriptures from the Bible or verses from the Koran but suffice it to say that almost anything “can” be justified from both with enough spin and I am pointing out some of the most obvious results of the two different religions when it comes to being the most committed.

In modern Christianity we consider the most radical (and honorable) Christian to be the one who goes to the jungles of Africa to live in a mud hut in order to be a witness for Christ or to bring the gospel to an unreached people group.  The reason we believe this is because this “extreme” form of discipleship was carried out by only a handful of the New Testament believers, many of whom lost their life in efforts of love towards the lost which can even be the case today for missionaries in some parts of the world.  And it would be hard to find any church-going believer who would denounce or criticize those missionaries because they generally consider them to be more committed or extreme in their beliefs than they are.

In modern Islam, at the largest and the most reputable Muslim universities, the later teachings of Mohamed are still taught right alongside the earlier teachings and those who are considered the most ardent or faithful followers of Islam embrace those more radical or extreme tenants of Islam.  This is why you generally do not hear any broad denouncement of acts of terror against non-believers.  Is it because they secretly admire them for doing what they are unwilling to do?  Perhaps, but I think fear might play a role as well.

Do people cringe in fear when they hear an extreme Christian is headed their way?  Perhaps, but not in fear of their life.

Do people cringe in fear when they hear an extreme Muslim is headed their way?  Almost certainly and almost certainly in fear of their life.

Could any moderate pew warming Christian or even a recent convert be radicalized to become a missionary in a very short period of time?  Yes, and they might actually go to try and bring good sanitation and the gospel to those in need in some remote part of the world or they might start a soup kitchen in the inner city of America.

Could any moderate Muslim or recent convert be radicalized to become a jihadist in a very short period of time?  Yes, and there are countless documented cases of just that happening with them becoming Jihadist or martyrs.

Does modern day Christianity or the New Testament promote violence?  No.  Do most all Christians and the New Testament promote mercy and grace?  Yes.

Do Muslims promote violence?  Some do it openly and others are passive aggressive about it.  There are some who are not invested in the violence but will rarely speak out against it.  Do some Muslims promote peaceful “co-existence”?  Yes, but there are plenty of documented cases where some of the formally peaceful were radicalized and become suicide bombers.

Do some Christians “cut out” or ignore core teachings of the Bible like homosexuality, gossip or fornication or maybe even mission work.  Yes, but then they are aware of that fact or consciously try and spin it that they are not honoring what they view as some of the more restrictive or “radical” teachings in the Bible

Do some Muslims ignore or not practice the more extreme tenants of Islam such as Jihad?  Yes, and in doing so they understand they are not honoring the later, and considered by some to be the most important, teachings of Mohamed.

Is it possible for Christians to be able to live peacefully in a non-Christian country?  Yes, but I must admit it is becoming a challenge.

Is it possible for Muslims to be able to live peacefully in a non-Muslim country?  There are documented cases of this happening for short periods of time, but history tells us that peaceful success is not generally the case in the long run.

Will all Christians become missionaries? No, but some will, perhaps you own neighbor.

Will all Muslims become Jihadist or martyrs?  No, but some will, perhaps you own neighbor.

Why are Christians who become radicalized to the point of becoming missionaries not accused of hijacking the religion of Christianity?

Why are Muslims who become radicalized to the point of Jihad accused of hijacking the “peace loving” religion of Islam?

Martyrdom in Christianity means sacrificing so non-believers might live.

Martyrdom in Islam means sacrificing so non-believers will die.

Bottom line, it is possible for any Christian to become committed/radicalized to the point he might head off on peaceful missions worldwide where he might give his life in sacrifice to save others.

Bottom line, it is possible for any Muslim to become committed/radicalized to the point he joins Jihad and become a martyr as a suicide bomber attempting to take the lives of others.

As believers we must pray for Muslims and reach out to them with the gospel.

As governments, they may be required to reach out and touch radical Islam in a different way.

If only we really did have freedom of religion!

What would you call it if someone respectfully declined to participate in a different religion’s religious ceremony because it would violate your religious principals?  And what if that other religion attempted to force you to “convert” to their way of thinking and you still refused?  So then that religion went to the organization who oversees religious rulings and they handed down what I will call “a different religion tax” of $135,000 because you didn’t agree with their religion?

Freedom of or freedom from religion is the growing mantra, meme and outcry of society and special interest today.  They want to force you to accept their way of life without reserve.  And if that was all then we might be able to just move on down the road and “get along”.  But no, they insist that you actually participate in their religion.  And further still, they want you to keep your mouth shut about your personal beliefs, your convictions and the Holy Scriptures.  They want freedom to practice what they believe without any interference from the church and in fact they are pushing further and further into the realm of forcing you to agree and join with them.

Take the case of Kim Davis who was refusing to issue same sex marriage licenses.  I can perhaps understand her getting arrested for refusing a court order, but they took it to a whole new level with one official stating that she would remain in jail until she has a “change of conscience” and many calling for a huge monetary fine.  And the situation I described in the opening chapter is the final ruling, judgment and fine against the bakery in Oregon who refused to knowingly bake a cake for a same sex wedding.

I want to be perfectly clear!  Christianity is a religion and should not be forced on anybody.  But the foundation of society today is secular humanism which is also defined as a religion (as confirmed by the Oregon federal court in 2014).  Even SCOTUS referred to Humanism as a religion as far back as 1961.  So don’t be mistaken, this is not about freedom of or from religion but the replacement of Christianity by Humanism.  But in practical terms, this is entirely about vain attempts by the unchurched to hopefully assuage their collective guilty conscience from the inborn knowledge that there is a Supreme Creator and Lord whom they have rejected.  They have done this in exchange for the god of me and the religion of self worship.  They don’t want you to be quiet.  They don’t want you to keep to yourself.  They don’t really even want you to bake their cake.  What they have done is to embraced the tactic commanded in the religion of Islam.  They insist you to convert to their way of thinking, pay huge monetary fines and judgments if you don’t and ultimately they want you to die or disappear from the face of the earth altogether so as to eliminate the constant reminder of their rejection of Christ.

So in exchange for the Judaeo/Christian principles upon which our country was founded, “the state” is simply replacing one religious foundation with another.  This action is hypocrisy at the highest level as they now establish and force the state sponsored religion of Humanism down our throats all the while decrying and limiting the religious practices of Christianity.  If only we really did have freedom of religion instead of the state church of Humanism being embraced and legislated before our very eyes.  Isn’t this the very thing we were fighting against in the founding of this country?

Google and the Gospel

I wanted to tell a short story of how the Lord can use something as secular as a Google search to be a witness for the Gospel around the world.  Several months back I wrote a blog call “Love Wins, What does that even mean”.  It was basically a blog about the true and amazing Love of God as compared to the love of self and doing the things I want.

Shortly afterwards, I started noticing that every day I would get anywhere from 2-10 people from all over the world reading that particular blog (3 so far today from Indonesia, Egypt & Saudi Arabia).  In particular the audience seemed to be from Middle Eastern & 3rd world countries like Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, etc.  I kept wondering why until one day I tried something.  I Googled “what does ‘love wins’ mean” and my blog popped up 2nd or 3rd on Google.  I realized that non-western, predominately Muslim, countries were hearing the term “love wins” a lot in the media surrounding the SCOTUS ruling and they were wondering what “love wins” means and so they would search the term online.

Isn’t it fascinating that hundreds if not thousands of people in countries widely unreached with the Gospel can get a glimpse of God’s love by something as seemingly insignificant as a Google search.  Who knew ….. well, God knew.

Ben Carson & Islam comments

This will be brief and to the point.  Ben Carson was rightly quoted as having said this weekend that he would not advocate a Muslim in the White House and that the Muslim faith is inconsistent with the principals of the Constitution of the United States.  And there is “outrage” over his “racist” comments.

The 1st amendment gives us freedom of religion or freedom from religion depending on your view.  There are two houses in Islam or abodes.  One is the Abode of Islam (worldwide implementation of Sharia law) and the other is the Abode (house) of War.  The Koran requires all Muslims to maintain the Abode of War until all the people of the book (Jews and Christians) come under the Abode of Islam by means of conversion, taxation or death’.

The above primary tenant of Islam is the antithesis of freedom of any kind, much less relating to religion and therefore in direct contradiction to the founding principals of this country and the constitution of the US.  Mike drop!!!