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Saginaw, Michigan, United States
A sinner who may come before God because of Christ

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Death of an Evil Man

Saddam Hussein was hanged just before dawn in his country. There was no doubt that he had done some horrendous and terrible things to others. He ruled with a tight fist, he exploited his people, he was ruthless to his enemies, and he showed no mercy.

He professed Islam, but there are reports that he did not believe in God. Perhaps he saw that faith as a sound political decision rather than something that was heartfelt. The reports indicated he was carrying a Koran when he died, perhaps in the final days, his faith became more important to him.

His death is a happy day for those who were oppressed by him, but it is also a sad day for those who love humanity because he passed onto an eternal fate that no one wishes on another. Saddam Hussein was not saved by the blood of Christ.

For some reason, we Christians have become squeamish about making just such a statement about someone else. It yields cries of “judgmental” or “intolerant” or even “how presumptuous”. I think we are afraid to face that truth because it means we need to do react to that reality.

Is my neighbor saved? I don’t know but I might offend him if I tell him of the gospel and ruin a perfectly good relationship (hey, I might need to borrow his step-ladder some day).

But we should be questioning the salvation of others by constantly conveying the gospel. We should be breathing the words of salvation. We should be preaching to the choir. I should be asking you and you asking me.

A few years ago I was talking with one of the men ushering at church. He was a neat guy. He was known for his generosity, his kindness, his love for others. He passed out candy to the kids coming into church. He volunteered on the menial tasks. He was the kind of guy you just wanted to hug when you saw him. He had even developed the habit of writing the names of people in his Bible to remind him to pray for that person. My name was in there, as were the names of many others. I felt a great assurance by this.

During our conversation, he looked at me and his brow furled. He said he was reading the Bible the other day and was not sure he was saved.

You could have knocked me over with a feather. His statement left me dumbfounded. At first I stuttered something to the effect of “of course you are” – thinking of his position and long-standing membership in the church – he is an usher. He had been an elder. He prayed for the people whose names he had written in his Bible!

He retorted that he was just not sure.

I asked him if he had ever repented of his sins and accepted Christ as Lord and Savior. He said he had. Then I told him to be assured about his salvation - on that day an evil man had died and a child of God had been born.

He chuckled and smiled, his countenance changed and he seemed assured by this. No opportunity to discuss this issue further happened because soon after our conversation he passed away from an illness.
Was he “saved”? I believe he was because of his profession and his life.

I will take the criticism that I am being judgmental and intolerant and even presumptuous, because the reality is that all evil men will someday die – either in the flesh, like Saddam Hussein, or in the spirit, like the usher at church.

For His Glory,
Tom Peck

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Sin Is The Reason for the Season

Sin Is The Reason for the Season

My work place has an annual Christmas (or, as they now say, Holiday) contest. This year it was decorating trees, and each department decorated by a theme. The winning department gets a pizza lunch.

Some of the trees were pretty ornate, some were very clever (the cleverest was the contracts department which had an undecorated tree and in the middle was the toner from a copy machine – the theme – “a cartridge in a bare tree”).

Oops I digress. It is pretty easy to get all wound up in the Season. Even atheists like the season and who doesn’t like to get gifts. It is also a big time of year for boosting the economy. When I lived in a rural community, the local Chamber of Commerce reported that most retail businesses did almost 70-80% of their annual sales during the Christmas Season.

Anyway, one department put up a board with a Tree outline on it and some markers. There was a sign inviting anyone to draw on a decoration or write in a comment. Scattered about were sketches of ornaments and “Merry Christmas”. There was one thought-provoking statement: someone wrote “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” and then, in a different hand writing, had crossed out Jesus and written next to it “Pagans”. Hence, “Pagans are the Reason for the Season”.

I thought about that for a moment or two.

What IS the reason for the Season?

Actually, sin is the reason for the Season. It is why Christ was born, to redeem His creation. If there had not been any sin, there would not have been any need for Him to come, be crucified, and resurrected.

It is man’s sin that makes His birth and His death and His resurrection logical. Otherwise, Christianity is just another good self-improvement program.

True, the attributes we are to take on are laudable: truthfulness, honesty, loving, caring, joyfulness, peacefulness, selfless, and forgiving. There are many religions and faiths and philosophies that recognize these as worthwhile and even the ultimate behaviors we, as humans, should strive to attain. Many are built around these traits, many profess that to exhibit them will get you rewards (a better life now, a better life next time, making God like you more, etc.).

The Bible, however, teaches that we should desire to put these traits on not for what we will gain from them, but because of something else we have already gotten – Christ’s payment for our sins. He took on our sins, even becoming sin for us, so that we would not have to face His perfect Justice, which requires punishment for our sins.

And this gift is so pure and perfect that it requires nothing more than our accepting the reality that we are despicable creatures because of our sins and that He took them on for us and is our Savior.

Thus, sin IS the reason for the season. This is not a rejoicing that we sin, it a heart filled joy because Christ did what we could not do, overcome our own short comings, our own bad decisions, our own pains that we have cause, our own selfish desires.

Even though December 25 is a questionable date for Christ’s birth; even though this “Holiday” came from a pagan event; even though Scripture does not ordain us to honor His birth, I will enjoy this Christmas because my sins are forgiven. I am the recipient of of the most wonderful gift I have received - salvation through Christ.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

News From Saginaw 12-10-06

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The cold wind of this week turned warm and the temperature turned “balmy” (in winter that means above freezing), enough to melt the thin layer of snow and dampen the sidewalks.

This unexpected thaw, while not typical, is not unexpected. Around this time of year in Michigan it seems the weather bounces back and forth between freezing cold to damp cold. My arthritis is not sure which is worse, but it has truly become a two anti-inflammatory pills season for me.

These aches were not unexpected, though I had hoped they would stay away until I reached sixty, but fifty-three is better than forty-two. As we look forward into the future we hope for the best but have knowledge that only the worst will come until the Lord calls us home. Someone will disappoint us. Someone will get very ill. Someone will die. Someone will achieve something we had only dreamed about.

I am not being maudlin here, just realistic. This world holds nothing for us but the hope of the return of Christ. This was the subject of the sermon today at Immanuel – Jesus Christ is returning. He will be back.

This is not our hope, but our reality. It is, as the sermon indicated, a very practical doctrine for those of us waiting on His return. It should be the guiding principal of our every breath since in the next He could be here, and it is something we need to be consciously considering always.

Forget the 244 things every Christian should do, just remember that He will be here in the next eye blink or the next finger snap or the next swallow. In an instant, not unexpected, but anticipated.

I never thought too deeply about this reality. It is like Christmas coming. We don’t really get that ‘season’s spirit’ until after Thanksgiving (ok, unless you are a retailer then it starts in October). We don’t really get excited about it until December comes and we suddenly realize that we have gifts to buy and decorations to put up and cookies to bake and cards to send. It is the busyness of preparing that elevates the excitement and anticipation of the event.

How I desire that I dealt with the coming King like the coming holiday. How I need to be busy in preparing for the return of Christ. How I must see it as immanent and take care of the last minute details. If the King comes in the next moment will I have the gifts wrapped, the decorations up, the food ready?

There are sins within that I must face and hard-heartedness that needs to be addressed. There are those I have wronged whom I never sought forgiveness. There are others who I have never told the good news of repentance and salvation.

My hope is that you are ready to rise up to meet our Savior when He comes on the trumpet sound, and that He will greet you as a good and faithful servant. Remember that we are not of this world, but we will be going home sooner than we think, and I pray that we all will be ready.

For His Glory,

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Out of the Mainstream

In the last few days I have been reading blogs and listening to some of the speeches from people who describe themselves as “liberal” or “progressives”. They are vehemently anti-Biblical Christian, filled with hate and venom for the “enemy” (i.e. those who oppose their beliefs), and care very little about the facts. Of course, if you read the “right-wing” or “conservative” blogs you will get the same thing. The interesting thing is that most people consider themselves “mainstream” – they want to believe that most everyone, the majority, believes as they do.

I remember once I was late taking my son to school. I drove like a maniac through the streets and as I pulled up to the entrance, there was a long line of cars. “Ahhh” I consoled myself, “I’m not the only one late”, and this brought me some comfort, and maybe some sense of redemption or forgiveness because I was not the only arriving after the bell. We are not naturally drawn to being alone, to being the outsider. We prefer to be part of the crowd.

Yet, as Christians, we should know that we are not in the mainstream. In fact, we should be a puzzle to the world around us. We should be opposing and at the same time supporting. We should be speaking at the same time listening. We should be convicting at the same time comforting. We should be responding from our faith and not from our ideology.

Putting this into action, then, can become messy. We may have to wash the sores of the man dying from AIDS while admitting to him that God says his sexual desires are a sin. We may have to love someone who wronged us terribly. We may have to befriend someone who smells. We may have to endure the venomous words of others while still praying that they be blessed by God through salvation of their soul, even if our hearts are secretly delighted with the thought of them burning in hell.

As a Christian who labels himself Evangelical, we should not place our trust in this world, yet we are still a part of this world. God did not call us to create Eden in America or in the world, only to do as He would have us do.

This nation is terribly divided politically. We are in the midst of a war, both hot, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and cold, in the secret cadres of Jhadists, but there is a greater war being waged in the spiritual realm, and in our hearts.

We need to cling to the fact that God is sovereign and we are here to serve Him, and not some ideology, political party, or even a nation (though we can serve Him through those). Do not get wrapped up in the storm.

Let us remember that God is both Just and Merciful. Lord, help us to be the same.

For His Glory,

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Monday, November 06, 2006

When one of us fails.

For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
Romans 3:22b-25

‘Ted Haggard, former president of the National Association of Evangelicals and former pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, has been in seclusion today as the evangelical Christian community reels from news of his admission that he lied to conceal his "sexual immorality."’
-Agape Press, Nov. 6, 2006.

This startling, sad, shocking, stunning news came out a few days ago. One of the rising stars of American Christianity had not only failed, but fell, no, plummeted into a sin that many see as one of the worst sins, one that is described as an abomination (Lev 18:22). That sin is engaging in sexual relations with someone of the same sex.

So, what should our response be to this?

On a personal level, we need to be in prayer not only for brother Haggard, but also his family, his friends, his church, anyone who is associated with him. We need to flood this whole issue in prayer, because it is so public and can so easily be used by the enemy, the evil one, to further besmirch the name of Christ.

On a congregational level, we need to assure our pastors and church leaders to be more open about their struggles. There seems to be tremendous pressure on church staff to perform, that failure is measured in dollars or numbers or performance. We need to take some of this pressure off so they can feel free to humble themselves and be strengthened in their weaknesses.

On a worldly level, we need to show the love of Christ to Mr. Haggard, but even more so, to the homosexual ‘community’. We need to show them that because they are imprisoned by their sin, their sexual desires, that this does not mean they are beyond the grace of God. Ray Comfort is right, we should not get in debates about specifics of sins but let the mirror of Scripture convict and convert.

This is actually a wonderful door that has opened. The world will be looking to how the Evangelical community responds to this. My hope is that they see an unbelievable response like the world saw from the Amish community when their daughters were senselessly killed and they put out their arms in love to the killer’s family.

Let us stand firm in His truth, but remember that we are not placed here to enforce God’s Law upon mankind. We are here to show God’s grace and mercy which came from Christ on the Cross and His Resurrection.

We all fall short. We all fail. Let us approach others with moral superiority but as co-conspirators, freed from our own transgressions, because of Christ.

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