I could be wrong!

In fact there is a good part of me that hopes I am wrong.  Let me back up a little, in fact to really be thorough, honest and academic we will need to back up at least 100 years (if not a couple thousand).  What I am talking about is a subtle agenda being pushed to the fore by many very talented and gifted communicators in various forms to include TV, media, books and movies.  I’m speaking about universal salvation as well as several other beliefs which seem to be commonly tacked on to the coat tails of universal salvation.

In short, universal salvation, or Christian universalism, is “a school of Christian theology focused around the doctrine of universal reconciliation – the view that all human beings will ultimately be restored to a right relationship with God” (Wikipedia).  Naturally and closely associated with Christian universalism is the belief that there is no eternal physical punishment (a burning hell).  There are numerous other practices or beliefs which follow closely behind these 2 schools of thought such as acceptance of gay lifestyles in the church, a de-emphasis on chastity as well as embracing a philosophy of never judge and always include.  But for the most part I will only offer some thoughts on Christian universalism and hell.

Let me first say, as I hinted at earlier, I completely understand the appeal of Universal Salvation and the absence of a physical and eternal hell.  I have many family members and friends who do not profess Christ and who would benefit from an eternity lacking a permanent physical punishment and the opportunity to be reconciled to the Father beyond the grave.  That would be wonderful on so many levels even if mildly disconcerting to me and my, before the grave, efforts to embrace the cross and commands of Christ.  However, the above views are not what I see in scripture, but if I’m wrong it’s still a win win for everybody.  Yes I, and many like me, may have endeavored to live more circumspectly in this life to no real avail, but in the end, that end being eternity, there would be no real down side to having been wrong and having lived a life of discipleship and devotion to Jesus.

Here is my concern and caution with the increasing evolution of some mainstream Christian beliefs and the direction in which they are moving.  These beliefs, theologies and practices did not follow 50 – 100 years of respected Christian theologians from the most respected Christian seminaries beginning to question and debate the possibility that we may have been wrong about salvation and hell.  In fact the opposite has happened.  Secular philosophies of “if it feels good – do it” and other related beliefs which were introduced in the 60’s ultimately carried influence into the walls of an insecure church desperate to “stay relevant”.  This was closely followed by accusations of intolerance and hate towards anyone or any church/denomination which dared to hold onto traditional beliefs instead of getting on the “right side of history”.  Barbie and I have even had very dear friends with whom we have discussed some of these issues pull back from relationship, cut off relationship or “unfriend” us because we are the ones perceived as narrow and intolerant – I trust you see the sad irony there.

So, in what I believe to be a misguided effort, many churches in recent decades have embraced the all inclusive universal salvation position complete with setting aside significant moral prohibitions in what can best be described as a “land for peace” deal with secular society.  I will be the first to admit that it appears compassionate and inclusive to promote universal acceptance of varying cultural practices.  This is especially effective when combined with the elimination of hell as a place of punishment.  And perhaps if I had sat under different teachers in my life I might easily go there as well.

As I said earlier, if I am wrong there is no real downside to me or anybody else to having held fast to traditional beliefs of what it means to be like Christ and to hold traditional views of salvation and hell.  However, and this could be the costliest however in the history of the church, if these highly influential teachers, church leaders, movie makers and book writers are the ones who are wrong then 100’s of millions of lives could be forever separated from the Father.  That is a down side none of us should consider as an acceptable risk.

http://babylonbee.com/news/progressive-criticizes-jesus-not-christlike/

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Off “Message” – Biblical principles and social media – Eugene Petersen test case

Many are aware that about a week ago Eugene Petersen was “put on the spot” by the question of whether he would perform a same sex marriage.  Eugene answered in the affirmative and thus ensued 24 hours of social media backlash against this oft revered pastor.  So, as is so often the case these days with politicians, reporters, entertainment or sports figures, Eugene walked back his comments saying “on further reflection and prayer, I would like to retract that”.  The fact that Eugene “saw the error of his ways” garners little respect from me since it took an almost overwhelming flood of reaction to cause his eyes to be open to what is already clearly pronounced in “The Message” (with full double meaning!)

This, unfortunately, is just another example of how social pressure is dictating church policy and practice in a modern world controlled by the click of a mouse or the posting of a poignant mem.  The church is losing respect and participants in droves today and it’s not for the reasons one might think.  Society is not impressed when Christians “get on the right side of history” by acquiescing to rapidly changing social practices any more then ISIS is impressed with efforts to appease their message of hate.  Giving in like this makes us (the church) look like spineless milquetoast minions with no guiding principles – and who wants to be a part of that?

I believe principled people who practice their beliefs with grace and kindness will be the ones looked to for guidance and wisdom for the seismic challenges in the years to come as well as being pleasing to the Lord  – if that even matters anymore!

https://www.eternitynews.com.au/opinion/eugene-petersen-affirms-traditional-marriage/

Restoring the fallen!?

I, more than most, understand and appreciate the forgiveness of the Lord and the tremendous grace that has been poured out in my direction.  I am a sinner saved by grace and a repeat offender who has experienced the unmerited gift of forgiveness in my life where I continue to falter on the road to sanctification.

I also understand that scripture gives us standards and expectations for spiritual roles in the church.  The roles of elder and deacon have similar high standards and it would follow that these requirements, if not even higher ones, would be true for any role of shepherd or pastor as well.

There have been seasons in my life when I would not have met the minimum requirements for elder/deacon as not all my children were following the Lord.  That did not affect my salvation, but I believe it did disqualify me for certain roles in the church.  I also believe that sins which occurred prior to a salvation experience, in some cases, should not count as disqualifiers.  For example if someone had committed adultery or been divorced prior to salvation they might still aspire to the role of elder or deacon.  But let’s be clear, I do not see someone’s current character as some magic formula that guarantees Godly character in the future based on their past “performance”, but there is a reason such high standards were given as a threshold for leadership in the church.

And it is for good reason those highest standards have been set.  You need look no further than the highest office in our land, the presidency, to see how a lack of moral character there affects and changes the moral landscape for millions in the upcoming generations.  How much more influential would the person in the role of elder, deacon or pastor be in modeling character, or the lack thereof, for you and your children.

So if I consider a few of the qualifications in 1 Tim. 3:  vs12 “husband of one wife” (which I interpret to be only one ever and not one at a time), vs11 “trustworthy in every way”, vs13 “excellent reputation”.  I would not consider someone who has had an affair or committed adultery as fulfilling those requirements. And it was with that interpretation of scripture I read with quite some confusion recently an article entitled “The Elephant in the Church”.  It was an article about a conference attended by over 50 pastors, among them Ed Gungor, Ted Haggard, Ruth Graham and others who have similar stories of moral failings in their marriages while holding church leadership positions.  The main point of the article covered the complaining as to how strict or limited the pathway to restoration was for them.  And by restoration, they meant restoration to the same position of leadership they held before adultery and affairs.  Keep in mind, many of these 50 pastors rejected the discipline their church elders gave them and went off and did their own thing anyway which for most resulted in significant monetary windfalls – and they are the ones complaining???  It would be like a bunch of college students who chose to get some degree that doesn’t serve them well in the real world and then sitting around complaining about having to pay the price of their burdensome school debt.

I want to be crystal clear here.  I am an absolute believer in full forgiveness and restoration of all sinners.  But my understanding of that restoration is a spiritual position in Christ and not necessarily restoration to some physical position of leadership at the top levels in the church.  Where there is full forgiveness for sin, there are also consequences for sin. And for a pastor/elder/deacon to betray the trust put in them by a congregation by choosing some significant moral sin, I believe scripture is clear that one of those consequences is a disqualification to hold those positions in the church.  Is it so radical that I want the upcoming generations to walk in such an awareness of the Holiness of God that they would have the Holy Spirit whispering in their ear (and if need be yelling) “there are consequences for sin”.

I look at it like this.  Say you are a trusted public bus driver and you choose to get drunk and are involved in a serious accident. It doesn’t mean you are any less of a person, but you should NEVER again be allowed to hold that trusted position of public bus driver.  It sends a terribly wrong message to other drivers not to mention the potential danger it would mean for those in your care.  I see significant moral failing in the highest positions of leadership in the church the same way.  It doesn’t mean you can’t be a SS teacher, missionary or evangelist.  But you have forfeited that most honored role because of the huge mixed message it sends to everyone that holiness and excellent moral character is “only mostly” important.

Are we that lacking of people with stellar moral character to fill these crucial roles?  Do we really want to send the message to our young people that character in leadership in the church is viewed the same way as in the secular society i.e. “wink wink, nod nod”?  In reference to the article mentioned above, I basically agree with main premise of the entire article and the need for the church to learn how to be advocates for each other in the restoration process.  But that agreement stops short of the part where restoration includes regaining the pastoral/elder leadership role once held.  The article speaks about the fear they experienced surrounding the exposing of sin.  Doesn’t this put the focus all on them and the struggles they are having?  I suggest the removal of the adulterer from the pulpit places the focus on the fear of God, where it should and creates an atmosphere of sobriety for the next person who might aspire to one of the highest offices in the church of Jesus Christ.

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/elephant-church

The Babylon Affect

Genesis 11:6 – The LORD said, “They are one people with one language. This is only the beginning of what they will do! Now nothing they plan to do will be too difficult for them.

God saw all the amazing things the “globalized” people of the earth were accomplishing and He saw it as a negative.  Why would great advancements, huge building programs and international cooperation be seen as a negative?  Because God knew that along with “nothing they plan to do will be too difficult” would also come an arrogant practice of anything goes.

So it has taken several thousands of years for the world to be “globalized” again to the point where language differences are of little consequence when all you have to do is hit “translate page” on Google or upload a comparable app on your smart phone for instant, real time translation.  Just yesterday I saw and advertisement for an ear insert that instantly translates a language.  There is again no language barrier in the world.  As a result, truly amazing things are taking place in the advancement of the world in technology, medicine, farming, science, construction, manufacturing as well as equally negative, anything goes, factors of relativism, pride and debauchery.

An amazing amount of these “advancements” have taken place in my lifetime.  I was visiting with my father a few months back and we were discussing the decline of the church’s influence in America in particular.  He made the point that WWII was a significant factor in the beginning of the globalization of the world.  Prior to WWII, the vast majority of people were born, grew up and died all within a few miles while all the time going to the same church, generally knowing the same people as well as being subject to the same peer influence and pressure for most social and character life issues.  The effect of WWII on that localized influence was monumental.  With the advancement and reduced cost of both local and international travel, it was no longer assumed that you would live and die in your “home town”.  Troops from across the globe, in addition to fighting a war, were exposed to vastly different and exciting new states, countries and cultures.  Combine this shrinking of the world via travel with the ease of international communication and collaboration and what was once the local village ultimately became the World Wide Web breaking down all remaining barriers.

Don’t get me wrong, I see it as a good thing when somebody in South Africa comes up with a piece of some medical puzzle and he is able to instantly collaborate with someone or even several someones in other countries to affect a breakthrough in medicine.  That is not the problem God saw with common tongue and communication.  It’s when some guy with a foot fetish, (or substitute some other fringe activity) who because of social media and the ability to search the whole world in an instant for others with the same interest, no longer feels alone and the need to hide or curtail his vice.  He now feels validated and accepted practicing what would have otherwise been viewed as weird and perhaps even deviant to his local community.  Don’t believe me.  Oh you doubters, there are now foot worship fetish parties all over the world.

http://www.footnight.com/la.html

When it comes to appreciating nice looking feet, perhaps there is little concern for the decline of worldwide morality.  There are, however, other incredibly destructive things which have come “out of the closet” in my lifetime.  And I’m not just talking about homosexuality.  In the big scheme of things, homosexuality may be one of the lesser evils which have found validation in today’s society as a result of the shrinking world.  By far the most destructive things to emerge “triumphant” in modern society are areas in which the church has capitulated to “right side of history” and culturally correct or expedient practices.  The reason falling standards in the church bears so much consideration is because, lest we forget, “judgment begins in the house of God” 1Peter 4:17.

I am going to be as blunt and honest as I can here because the future ability of the church to regain its effectiveness, influence and reputation in the world is at stake.  Just a short biblical lesson shouldn’t be too tedious for those who already know and it will be helpful for those who don’t (of which there are apparently multitudes).  From the very beginning of the establishment of the Jewish nation, leadership was admonished to not collect a big salary (multiply gold for themselves), to follow God’s eternal laws and to serve the people.  Most of them unfortunately failed to do this causing countless reoccurring problems.  Jesus however, as our most perfect shepherd/leader, did in fact model these eternal values by living a life of servant hood and sacrifice paired with an extremely modest lifestyle.  How is it then that today there are so many “pastors” who insult God’s commands and the very essence of who Jesus is by embracing living standards more closely resembling the “lifestyles of the rich and famous”?  It’s because they can go on line and find other pastors “succeeding” who have equally inflated opinions of themselves who live in million dollar homes and who collect 6 or 7 figure salaries.

It is primarily a modern day phenomenon in which a person can feel “called” into the ministry and service of Christ and have the prospect or expectation of being greatly enriched by doing so.  And if we are going to be completely honest, even the un-churched are often all too aware of the commands in scripture for a modest lifestyle among Christians and these affluent and greedy mega-church practices, which more closely resemble those in the corporate world, have them dismissing and tuning out entirely because of the blatant hypocrisy.

I’m going to sound a bit liberal here for a moment (please forgive me) but how do so many churches justify cushy couches, fancy coffee bars and worship leader spot lights combined with a multitude of projector screens, mood lighting and the latest internet technology while we still have the destitute, lost and desperate right outside our church doors.  I suggest it is our priorities which need remodeling – not our “out dated” facilities.  And here is the kicker, those “bigger, better, more” accoutrements are the very reason we are not drawing in or retaining our young people as they see these things as a shallow mimic of their entertainment world.  They are longing and searching for something very different than their most recent secular concert experience when it comes to engaging and worshiping a holy God – or was it for naught that God said “My ways are not your ways”?  And in Romans 12 when God exhorts us “Don’t become like the people of this world.  Instead change the way you think.”  What follows is a list of activities of servant hood, giving, teaching, showing mercy etc.  Conspicuously lacking is any mention of fancy buildings or big salaries.  This is not to say that functionally appropriate facilities are not necessary, but they cannot take precedence over the work of the ministry.

There are many more factors which have led to the church growing in its irrelevance.  In order to maintain those high salaries, fancy coffee bar lobbies and environmental sanctuaries, which by the way are resulting in ever increasing budgets, many churches have rolled over on many eternal biblical standards.  They simply can’t risk losing those tithe dollars so in order not to offend the offenders, long standing Biblical laws are massaged and equivocated on to include a hate for divorce that mirrors God’s (Malachi 2:16), an intolerance for adultery, teen sex, gossip, greed, homosexuality and more.  Pro-active mentoring and accountability for Godly character has become a fading and lost art.  I offer one glaring example from Malachi 2:13 & 14 where God plainly informs His people that the reason He no longer pays attention to their prayers and sacrifices is because of the high divorce rate.  Could it be stated any more plainly?  And here we are today with divorce rates in the church approaching the same level as in secular society.

I hope you are able to track with me on this as to the negatives of the church being “plugged in” to the progressive globalized world.  To possibly help illustrate this I will offer an example.  Most of us Christians, as well as non-Christians, view the Amish and similar communities as old fashion, behind the times and maybe even a bit weird.  But let’s give the benefit of the doubt for a minute and consider this quote from an article on the Amish Studies website.

“Why would God frown on a telephone? What sense does it make to keep a tractor at the barn but not take it to the field? Is it not inconsistent, if not outright hypocritical, to hire non-Amish drivers but refuse to own cars? And what could be the difference between 12-volt electricity from batteries and 110-volt current from public utility lines? These distinctions may look silly to outsiders, but within the context of Amish history they are important cultural adaptations that have helped to slow the pace of social change and keep worldliness at bay”.

Obviously the rejection of many types of technology hasn’t been a catch-all for the Amish, but in their close knit and tight communities the influence or validation of Biblically fringe practices have had little opportunity to foment and grow.  Not too unlike it might have been 100 years ago in a smaller community where if some guy in your church is abusing his wife and the other men in the church find out, they would have taken that guy out and given him a good talking to or more depending on the level of abuse.  Or if the guy with some other fetish or deviant inclination was unable to find others like himself in their town he might truly have understood that this was a lifestyle or way of thinking which he shouldn’t entertain.  But today, it almost doesn’t matter what fringe or deviant interest you might have, you are sure to find a few hundred if not several thousands of people “just like you” amongst the billions of people in the world for the simple reason you were able to search it on Google or some other social media and even go the their annual conference.

And on a more broad note, how is it that so many young people today feel the freedom to be dismissive and rude to their parents, teachers and other community “elders”?  Because they see it modeled every day on the latest TV sitcom, late night comedy “news” or selfie video on social media.  And if all those other young people are doing it then it must be ok and all those grey headed people are just stupid and out of touch by trying to hold onto those outdated practices of honor, character, respect, morality and hard work.  Even among many Christian youth it hardly even enters into their minds that the first commandment with a promise was to honor those “older” people in your life (parents).  They have been brainwashed into believing they know better after finding validation for their attitudes with the latest trending YouTube video and they do not even hesitate to inform you of their new found enlightenment and your “old and busted” views.

How unfortunate that the globalization and shrinking of our world through the ease of communication, and the internet in particular, has spawned 2 very different results.  One being the almost limitless capacity of our world to accomplish things formerly thought impossible as well as the ability for anti-God practices to gain an increasing foothold in the church because “everybody is doing it” and I can prove it because I read it somewhere on the internet today.

As much as it pains me (and the Lord) to say this, I don’t see things changing for the better in the church in general.  So many have fallen hook line and sinker for the Joel Osteen, Rob Bell and Carl Lentz types who embrace feel good wealth fantasies, no worries about eternal punishment and an unwillingness to call blatant sexual sin – sin.  I am feeling more and more that Jesus was not speaking metaphorically when He said that the path to eternal life is narrow and few will find it.  I am challenged everyday to watch my attitudes, anger, impatience, un-forgiveness as well as my devotion to the principals of scripture and how it compares to the life of Jesus and the fruits of the Spirit.  I have a long way to go, but I cannot turn aside  from that narrow path to run across the median to that wide and inviting road shouting to the rest of humanity, and so many who call themselves Christians, “wait for me, I’ll catch up”.  This is not about being on the right side of history.  This is about being hidden in Christ and Him alone.  And the promise is that if we do so we will be despised on this earth.

PS  As I was writing this over the past few weeks, I felt strongly that it was a prophetic word for the church.  I was praying the past few days for the Lord to confirm this word in my heart before I sent it out and this morning a good friend posted an excerpt from a short letter written by Derek Prince probably 25 years ago.  That letter parallels this blog in several ways and I felt it was a confirming encouragement to go forward.  Thanks Richard!  Link below

http://www.derekprince.org/publisher/file.aspx?id=1000021473

I have never asked this, but if this blog speaks to your spirit, pray about sharing it.

Monumental Selfishness

I write my blogs as an outlet, sometime as an outlet for passion, sometimes for a prophetic word and sometimes in disgust and anger.  This is one of those disgust and anger times (with likely prophetic overtones).  I have to be careful as my much more mercy oriented wife exhorted me to be cautious about what I might say, but I am getting closer and closer to “taking numbers and naming names” when it comes to some of the bile I see “Christians” spewing.  This will be short but goes to the core of Jesus, the Gospel, the Love of the Father and asking “just where is YOUR home?”

This blog is simply posing the question “what are the really important things in your ‘Christian’ life”?  And yes, I put Christian in quotes a second time as I suspect there are many out there who are just playing church because it’s the cool thing to do but who have little willingness to actually embrace the heart of the Father. 2 Peter 3:9

Is prayer in school important to you?  What about tax deductions for donations to the church? Are the Ten Commandments carved in stone and place in your town square important to you?  Is the preservation of your earthly home and your earthly country your focus? Are Easter bunnies and Christmas lights on your list of top ten things you must have to enjoy “your” Christianity? Then it’s just that, “your Christianity”, and not the one that I read about in the Bible which places our citizenship in an eternal heaven and not some fading home on this earth to try and fight for and preserve for “just us Christians”.

I am not saying that those things are bad, not at all.  But I am saying that if devotion to things like the ones mentioned above take priority over opportunities to lovingly rub shoulders with those who don’t know Christ then you yourself have not experienced the fullness of the love of Christ in your own life.  And this is why I call it monumental selfishness because you are choosing temporal things over the call to share eternal joy with someone who isn’t “like you”!

christian-hypocrcy

What is a Christian?

It was in Antioch where in Acts 11:26 it says that the believers in Jesus were first called Christians.  The term Christian comes from two Greek words.  The first one is referring to Christ or the anointed one and the second indicating a following or adherence to (the subject) which in this case is Jesus (Christ).  It is usually understood to identify a “follower of Jesus” or more specifically, someone who is “like Jesus” or Christ like.

The term Christian does not identify someone’s parents, nationality, church attendance, race, gender, political persuasion or club membership.  It was intended to singularly and uniquely identify someone who follows and takes on the attributes, attitudes and characteristics of Jesus.  This was important in the early church formation as to be a follower of Christ was a significant departure from the status quo of religious leaders and zealots who were joined in a corrupt hierarchical system of money, manipulation and control.  So to reflect the character of Jesus was distinct enough to garner its own descriptive term.

This is vitally important for us to understand today as the practices of Jesus (and subsequently His followers) were highlighted by humility, modest lifestyles, serving others, outreach to non-believers, modest dress, knowledge of Scripture, holiness, repentance, fellowship with other believers, spreading the Gospel, spiritual accountability, correction and discipleship.

Hopefully, for most of my readers, what I have written so far will be considered somewhat academic in nature and shouldn’t come as any shock or cause controversy.  But perhaps this next part will change that.

Identifying fellow believers in Christ was important in the early church since they were few and far between.  So when Jesus says in Matthew 7 “Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions” He is giving advice on distinguishing between false believers or wolves and true “Christians”.  The early church incorporated Jesus’ exhortations and used them to advise on issues of fellowship and church discipline.

Fast forward to today where the label “Christian” has come to be associated with almost a third of the world’s population, to include many top athletes, performers, politicians, motivational TV personalities and church “leaders”.  But purely from a practical standpoint, the attributes of Christ are often far removed from many of these high profile figures as well as the not so high profile.  I/we, of course, cannot judge hearts, but we are instructed on ways to judge actions, fruit, character and attitudes.

Christ is in the business of transforming and changing lives from the corruptible to the incorruptible, from unholy to holy and from earthly focused to a focus on eternity.  It is not some small and insignificant power by which Christ influences lives towards sanctification.  It is the unlimited power of the creator of the universe which courses through the lives of those who have accepted the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins.

I can’t say for certain why so many today, who have little or nothing to do with Christ and His character, identify themselves as Christians but I can speculate.  First off, they simply do not understand what it means to be a Christian.  Take Trump for example; I think we are all aware of his interview where he was asked if he had repented and ask God for forgiveness and he didn’t even really know how to answer the question.  This is not intended to be a slam to Trump but rather highlighting his understanding of Christianity as being one of the most common out there.  Many simply don’t have much of a clue as to what it really means – the extent of their knowledge is that their parents were Christians or they were “raised” in church.  Then there are those who may have a pretty good understanding of what it means to be a Christian but they have little interest in actually living a Godly life but they understand that to identify as a Christian affords them some particular status or image as an impression in other people’s minds.  Sort of like if I tell people that I am a skydiver they will automatically put me in the category of crazy, extreme sport or daredevil even if I have never actually jumped out of a plane.  There are those who don’t want to disappoint family or friends and continue to pose as a Christian simply to keep up appearances out of a sense of obligation.  There are those who do it for financial gain.  And then there are those who do it because it is some trending thing to wear a cross or thump your chest and point to the sky.

Bottom line, in my opinion, the days are such that we can no longer warm up to or tolerate posers as representing Christ and the church.  In the same way we would unanimously reject the Westboro group as not representing Christian values, I believe we must distance ourselves from an increasing number of what I will call “wanna be” Christians who for reasons of financial, political or social gain preach, chest bump or bow at the altar of a pop-culture religion that has little to do with the life and lifestyle exampled by Christ.  I submit that these types are eminently more dangerous than the Westboro crowd as they are far more socially acceptable yet blur the focus and distinction of the cross of Christ to those around them and in some cases to the nation and the world.  The line of difference must be as clear and distinct as the character and nature of Christ or, honestly, there is no difference.

Matt. 7:14 How narrow is the gate and how constricted is the road that leads to life, and there aren’t many people who find it!

1 Cor. 5:12 After all, do I have any business judging those who are outside [the Christian faith]? Isn’t it your business to judge those who claim they are inside?

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!”