About Me

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

Friday, December 14, 2007

Not all is ever lost

I have to admit that I am a reforming political junkie.

I love to read about politics and love the campaign season (though I have to admit that starting two years before the next election is wearing thin on me), and have been somewhat following the various trials and tribulations on the trail to the White House.

What makes this year's race interesting, so far, is that there is not a clear favorite on either side, and there seems to be a bigger lament about the choices. No one is "perfect".

I know that is the case in all elections. We really do tend to have to vote for the least candidate no matter what since every candidate, being sinful humans, have dark elements in their background. Those things that are wished to remain private.

The other aspect is that there are no two people in the whole world who agree on every issue equally. It would actually be kind of scary if two did, so we have to evaluate a candidate on those issues that we view as highly important down to those we could care less about and measure a candidate on this.

One aspect is the candidates faith system, and, if they live that system in their lives. Obviously, I am going to lean to that person who agrees with my faith over one who disagrees or disregards or even is hostile to my faith. One's faith system will drive what public policies one supports or opposes.

So, of course, what one believes is important and not just a personal matter because it will drive their public policy, and we would do well to find out what they believe and how strongly.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Isolation in a time of joy

there is a problem with modern life.
It has lots of toys...cell phones, pocket computers, video games, ipods, HDTV, but they do not replace people.

God said that it is NOT good for man to be alone, but I know so many who seek aloneness through treating their relationships like they treat their toys - that relationships are all about self instead of about us.

I have someone whom I love dearly trade our relationship for a cell phone, for a cigarette, for a joint, for a way of living that even they found despicable, and it has left a hole in my heart that aches constantly.

And it makes me wonder, during this Christmas season, when even the ads trying to get you to buy a bra talk of the importance of family and friends and loving relations, how much some suffer self-imposed isolation in a time of joy, because they traded in life for a toy.

For His Glory,

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Responding Differently

I was pretty appalled at some of the Christian response to the recent situation where a schoolteacher in the Sudan was arrested and threatened with prison and lashing for allowing a child to name a Teddy Bear after the Islamic prophet Mohammed.

A pastor on You Tube named a pig that same name and even on the View there was a discussion on how Christian's would have had cows if someone had named a Teddy Bear "Jesus".

I disagree. As individuals and as a church we hold His name as holy with reverence, but no where are we told to force others to do the same.

You see, our faith is based on a personal relationship with God. We are His children and He is our Father, our Savior, our King, our Counselor, our Deliverer. He will never leave us and will always be with us.

Yes, we should defend His name when it is misused, but these should be personal actions.

The hub-bub over some company's not using "Christmas" reaches a fever pitch. Like the Christian faith hinges on whether Lowe's calls something a "Holiday Tree" or a "Christmas Tree".

Back to what makes me sad, though, is that so often we, in responding to these events, forget about grace and being gracious and kind. Naming a pig after another religion's revered leader is just plain nasty. Where did Christ or God ever tell us to act in that manner?

It is one thing to write to Kohl's and ask them why they ommited Christmas (they told me they were going to use that term closer to the day) and another to organize mass boycotts over this.
We can lose sight quickly of our main purpose, to bring the good news and become just like the world we are told not to be like.

A couple of years ago there was a boycott of Blockbusters here in our area. We have an East side of town that is very poor, high crime, and mainly ethnic minorities and a West side and suburbs that are not. When Blockbuster opened a video store, the only one, on the east side, they used the usual price to rent a video. On the west side there are a number of video outlets so Blockbuster has a lower price (in response to the competition).

A local activist Christian group organized a boycott of Blockbusters because they charged more on the east side, claiming racism (which is an odd claim for a belief system that sees only one race from Adam and Eve) and exploitation.

In furthering this boycott, they partnered with some of the competing video stores. The tragic witness of this is that those stores refused to open stores on the east side and some of them offered x-rated videos. It was a horrible witness and one that certainly did not glorify God.

My point is that we are no longer individuals but are part of the family of God and what we do, what we whine about, how we act all reflect on our Lord - the one who died on the cross for us.
I hope that we all keep that in mind the next time the line is long at the store or some unbeliever shows their ignorance.

For His Glory,

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thoughts on the News

There has been some ruffled feathers lately with comments by Kathy Griffin (said she wan NOT thankful to Jesus), Will Smith (he said that 98% of what Scientology teaches is also taught in the Bible) & a public official who equated having a difficult time with Christ's crucifixion.
In all three situations (and a few others), righteous outrage was expressed by a noted Christian leader with demands for apology.

Righteous outrage and demands for apology are not exclusive to the Christian community. Actually, this has been a fad amongst the secular world for some time. It is linked with Political Correctness. Someone says something stupid or idiotic ly offensive and the world comes crashing down on them.

My question is how should we, as Christians, respond to an inane statement or even one that is patently blasphemous by a non-Christian?

I contend we are to respond in grace, not outrage. This would involve, in some cases, a gentle response - such as correcting a misconception. In other cases, just ignoring and realizing that Pagans will be Pagans is the best response.

Our example is Christ. Time and again he corrected errors or ignored stupidity. Even at the cross, He responded directly and simply, not showing outrage.

He DID indicate outrage, though, at those who should know better - the religious leaders of the time who were adding to the Law and being self-righteous.

Showing tolerance for ignorance can be difficult, but it is the best response to glorify our Lord and show Him and His ways to the world.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Whose view?

My last entry I mentioned that it was time for America to bless God as a nation as a whole.

I know that there are many people who are striving and giving up themselves for Christ, but as a nation, as a government, as a people, we are turning from God while still expecting Him to give us something.

There has grown in this country a mentality that we are 'owed' or 'entitled' to being blessed. I think of this as having the view of God as a grandpa than as a Father. That when something 'bad' happens it is God's

When I was in high school (yes, they had them back then) I had a girlfriend.

We had been going 'steady' for two years when she suddenly. I fully expected her to be my wife one day and to live out my days with her.

One day, rather unceremoniously, she broke off our relationship (and broke my heart).

I was really upset about this because I had already planned out our lives together and now we were not going to be together.

I blamed God.

How could He do this to me? If He was so loving how could He allow me to be hurt so much? What had I done to Him for Him to do this to me?

OK, at 17 we can be pretty convoluted, but how many 30 or 40 or 60 year olds have this same attitude. That the world is spinning around and for them.

One Sunday I had the privilege of teaching the High School group.

The subject was "Giving", so I asked them to tell me what they had done for God this past week, in what way had they honored our Lord.

It was interesting to see the looks on their faces as they pondered this, and as I went around the room to hear their answers (a few honest ones actually said that they had not done a thing in this area).

Most had never really looked at their world from God's perspective

Of course, as usually happens in teaching, I had to confront this in my life as well.

How often do I fail to see my world through the eyes of our Lord?

Let us remember to open our eyes to see our lives through His eyes and in that opening to strive for His Glory and our humbleness.

For His Glory,

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Praying for Blessings

A few years as the city I live in went through a difficult time. A rash of gang killings and general crime, sent a fear into the hearts of the citizenry. A couple of major employers were either on the brink of bankruptcy or threatening to close plants, threatening thousands of jobs. Due to large budget deficites, cuts to programs loomed and services reduced. There were some scandals in the city offices as well and the city was very divided between black and white, liberal and conservative, middle class and poor. It was a very dark time for the city and it has not yet emerged from those times, but it is doing better.

At one of the bleakest moments the mayor asked for the residents to pray for the city. A number of prayer vigils and gatherings of religious leaders held. A group even went around to the various parts of the city to pray.

In many ways it is sad that we only acknowledge God in times of trouble. Where are the gatherings during the good times? Where are the neighborhood praise parades for the street being fixed? When does the mayor come out and direct people to thank God for what He has bestowed?

There is an ever asked question – “Why God allows bad things to happen?” Maybe – just maybe, because that is the only way He gets our attention.

After the horrific attack on the US of September 11, the red, white & blue came out in a flourish. Every other car sported sticker saying "God Bless America". However, America continues to refuse to bless God, to honor Him, to thank Him.

Now I am not advocating that the US was created to be a 'Christian' nation. I am not sure what that would even look like (though I would think heaven would be such a nation, one nation, under God as we bow before His Majesty).

What I am advocating here is that we believers need to recognize that God is more important than patriotism or ideology or philosophy. That our purpose for existence is to give God another conduit to show His glory, and how much more glorious is He, then when a sinner is saved through His blood! Not when a nation triumphs in a war, has a booming economy and safer streets.

In fact, we Christians should expect that matters will get worse as the world spins towards the final days, so our response to the tragedies of life need to be more than platitudes, more than prayer. We need to be expressing the hope of Christ and not just asking for the blessing of God.

For His Glory,

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Santa Claus

From a "This Day in History"
1897 - The New York Sun editorial answered a question from 8-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon: "Is there a Santa Claus?"

My first thought when I read this today was: wow, and we think Christmas sales start early when the stores start replacing the Halloween sweets with Candy Canes a week before Oct. 31.

Interstingly, though, is that this indicates people, at least Virginia and her friends, started thinking about Christmas well before the snow flies or Wal-Mart puts up the Holiday banners.

As Christians, though, everyday should remind us of Christmas. And Easter.

We define ourselves by Christ, in Christ and through Christ. Every moment should be a celebration of His birth in us and a reminder of His suffering on the Cross and the salvation we received through His resurrection.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus...but his name is Jesus.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Men and the Church

A recent article in The Christian Post on the lack of men being involved in the church was rather telling. According to this report, men do not attend (Methodist) church for three main reasons:
"a lack of interest in religion","societal emphasis on individualism/materialism" and "distrust of organized religion". The article said that the church was struggling to reach men, and was developing events and programs to reach men.

I do not attend a Methodist church, so I cannot say why this is a phenomenon in that body, but I do know from other readings that this is not exclusive to that denomination. My understanding that this is a problem in many of the mainline, ecclesiastical bodies as well.

I do attend an independent Bible church. This means that we look to the Scripture first. We see the Bible as inerrant, operating both doctrinally and practically from that perspective. Our preaching is primarily from Scripture (though we do have an occasional topical sermon). Our teaching is based on the Word and its application to modern living. We require membership to be a leader, and our pastor will go to people who have "visited" for a time to inquire about membership. We have "lost" a few people because of this, but do not have a problem with men being involved.

Perhaps the solution for these other bodies may not be in programs or events, but in what they teach, in what they ask of the members. Men want meat, not salad. Men want something to grasp onto, not concepts. Men want meaning and service, not idle chatter. We build our relationships on shared beliefs and shared actions.

This is why men have to be dragged to counseling or shopping or baby showers. We are just not much into "relational" living as women (unless we have been feminized). We want solid concepts, truth, action, meaningful ideas. We want to grow in Christ, not grow in our friendships. We want to become fully devoted followers of Jesus, not expand our social circle. We want to weep for our sins not feel good about our failures. We want the Word to be indwelled in us and for our churches to be firm on that foundation.

So, instead of an event or a progarm, consider going back to the Word, and the men will come back to the church.

For His Glory,

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Its Just A GAME

I am a big baseball fan. It is "my sport". It is the one I love to play (even though I shouldn't)(even though I don't play it well).

I am an even bigger Detroit Tigers fan. I grew up in the Detroit area and they are my hometown team.

This year, the Tigers were in first place, the team to beat, considered by many the best in all of professional baseball. Then, they played a hard fought three games with the Minnesota Twins. Though they were victorious, there was a change. The luster was gone. The spark was missing. The momentum had changed and now, as we end the season, unless something really dramatic changes (and I am hoping for that), the Tigers will not be in the playoffs and they will have to settle for looking towards the next year.

So, what does this have to do with the Christian life? With having a Christian Response?

Well, baseball is just a game. It is not permanent. A year from now, ten years from now, it will mean very little to most everyone that they had an "almost" season. 100 years from now, it won't even be a memory but just another sports statistic. This season will fade away and replaced with next seasons excitements and disappointments.

As Christians, we cannot cling to the past. Our focus is on our future, on where we are going.
We should lick our wounds, but not past the point of healing. We should be less worried about what was said about us yesterday as to what we will say tomorrow.

Our response to life is to live it for Christ. To be so blinded by His light that we cannot see any darkness. To hear his voice so loudly we cannot listen to the noise of Satan.

Our calling in Christ needs to be a life. We are here for such a time as this, to do His will. We can enjoy the sports, but lets not forget it is just a game.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Who should pay?

"Universal" health care is a hot topic this election season, warmed up by yesterday's proposal by Hillary Clinton. The debate begins and there will probably now be "bidding" wars amongst the candidate to see who can offer the best deal for the voteres.

Here's the problem. As a Christian is it right and proper for me to impose on one person the cost of taking care of another person. I cannot find this propostion anywhere in Scripture. I can find that it is my own responsibility, as God leads, to do something.

Christianity is a personal faith. It is about you and God and your relationship (and relation) to Him. It is about obeying His commands to you, personally. It is about striving to do good for His Glory. It is about giving up your self for Him, and sacrificing on His behalf.

Forcing a tax to be paid by someone else does not fit within that context.

As a citizen, my contention is that we need to do more about the cost than about the payment. We need to look at the profiteering going on in health care. We need to weed out illegal activities and fraud. We need to encourage health care providers to be good stewards.

As a Christian, it is almost as unfathomable to require someone else to pay for something that I want as it is for someone to go without needed medical care. We are, as a body and as individuals, to care for others, not force someone to do it for us.

For His Glory,

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

"S______ It Jesus"

Kathy Griffins recently won an Emmy award where she pronounced that she would not give thanks to God since she won the award, and did this in a profusely vulgar manner.

The response from the Emmy people was to cut that portion of her speech.

(See the article)

The cry rang out - censorship, censorship.

Actually, it is not censorship. Censorship would have been if the government had said that the speech could not be broadcast - such as an opening prayer announced at a high school football game. This was a case of the organization running the show to decline to air what she said. It was not censored by some evil entities but cut by some sensible editors who recognize how distateful her remarks were. That is their decision.

They could air it and so what. I don't think that this hurts the cause of Christ. Jesus was spat on, beaten, whipped, cursed at and He did not flinch from His resolve. Maybe it was my years of being a non-believer that when someone outside the faith utters a blasphemy it makes me more sad than angry - they are the ones who are lost.

It would have been nice for Ms. Griffins to be respectful to the beliefs of others, but then atheists hear the Christian disrespect every time we mention our belief that they are doomed for not repenting of their sins and receiving the gift of salvation through Christ. I suppose this was Ms. Griffin's way of getting back. So what.

I think we, as Christians, should make a little less ado about this and do a prayer for Ms. Griffin's soul and the soul of all those who are her like.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

This Spiraling World

Looking across the headlines today it would be very easing to be a little depressed: Missing 12-year old girl found dead, America prime target for attack, husband accused in murder of wife.

Going to more local, here in Saginaw we have this epidemic of teen's being shot and killed (mostly gang related), Michigan's employment looking bleak, 20 Campgrounds closed due to funding.

Finally, at the personal level, friends and family report children who are living lives filled with 'sex, drugs, rap-n-rock', divorces, terminal illnesses.

There is a very bleak picture one could paint of modern, middle-class, American lives. I am sure it is the same in all classes and cultures of people. Sorry, Wayne Dyer and Norman Vincent Peale, all does not become better just because I think it is or even want it to be.

But it is OK to be a little depressed about what is happening around us. It is sad to see sin coming to fullness. We can see the pain and destruction of this from a global to a local to a personal level - and we should wonder why we embrace sin when the results are not only apparent but felt time and time and time again.

However, in our depression, we must not forget our hope. Christians have a light at the end of the tunnel that gets us through each day.

Our response to the world around us is to cling to that hope, to grasp it fully and firmly, realizing that it is what is keeping us from despair.

Job's response to the destruction of his world as he knew it was to praise God, realizing it all came from God. But this was not a stoic praise, it was a praise that came from deep within his heart because he knew how fleeting all things are except hope in God.

Let us respond the same as Job. Weep, laugh, cry, smile, enjoy, be in pain all with the knowledge that it is the repentance of our heart and the renewing of our lives through the reception of Christ as Lord that makes each breath worth breathing.

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

How can we then understand mercy without understanding sin?

In one episode of the West Wing, a show about American government politics, the current President is meeting with an opposition Senator and the talk goes to religion. The Senator says that he was once a church-goer until his wife bought him a Bible and he read it and was shocked at the violence commanded through the punishment of death for adulterers, homosexuals, etc. and that is why he turned away from God.

I thought this was an interesting point of view.

Most agree that the punishment should be weighed with the seriousness of the offense. The more serious and offensive we find something, the more severe and harsher we want the punishment. Misdemeanors are, to society, less offensive than felonies, so fines are less costly and jail time is of shorter duration.

It seems logical then, that what is most “offensive” to God is that which would have the most serious punishments. Therefore, those sins requiring the loss of a life as punishment would be the most grievous ones to God.

The criminal, on the other hand, does not look at his own offense but rather at the punishment, often finding it too severe for the crime.

This is where our culture misses the point.

To the character on West Wing, those “sins” are minor. In modern thinking, they are private matters and should have no offense to society or to the individual because, they ask - what harm is caused by these actions. But in the mind of the Senator (writers of the show), the “sins” were not that serious to them so the punishment appears harsh. Rather than look at it from the God’s perspective, the law-giver, they were looking at it from the law-breaker’s perspective.

How often do we, like that character, ask not “Is this wrong” but, instead, demand to know “Why is this a wrong”?

We (as a culture) theoretically set laws based on the “common good”, but God sets His laws based on His Character – Who He is, perfection. This can best be explained with the concept of silence and darkness.

With noise, silence ceases to exist. With light, darkness ceases to exist. Evil is like darkness, the absence of light or silence, the absence of noise. Bring in righteousness, evil no longer exists. That which is not righteous cannot exist in the presence of pure righteousness (which is what God is). By breaking God’s law (i.e. sinning against God) we have lost our righteousness and can no longer be in God’s presence.

That is why it is wrong, these behaviors and actions violate righteousness. We, who are unrighteous, those who have sinned (who among us has not done something wrong) can no longer be in the presence of God.

That is where Christ comes in. As God in human form, perfect human form, He “took on our sin”, actually, “became sin for us” and took on the punishment. God, in a sense that is hard to conceptualize, actually separated Himself from Himself and, in doing so, brought Himself back together and now, because of what He did, we have our sins against God covered (hidden) from God and can be in His presence. He gave us mercy through His own sacrifice for our sins.

Getting back to the original statement, unless we see our sin, our need for salvation, God’s mercy does not make sense. We are as running around in darkness not realizing we are in dark until we see light and then realize we are in darkness.

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Praise Songs should glorify God, duh.

I have a strong passions regarding when it comes to the Glory of God. I have little interest or even offense when non-Christians attack or demean or belittle God. What else should we expect from those who have know personal relationship with their Creator?

Where I do have little patience is with those who profess Christ and then who proclaim Him as less than He is.

One area where this occurs regularly is in the (so-called) praise songs bandied about these days. Some of them are great and make me fall to my knees, but others are so simplistic, even pathetic in the image they portray of our Savior and Lord.

A few years ago, I critiqued in a newsletter I send out (now called Encouragement from Saginaw) a song that was used in the church I was a member as falling into the poor category. The response from the leadership was interesting - they did not argue or disagree with my critique, but the concern was that I was hurting the leader's reputation. Their concern was more how this would effect the ministry.

I apologized for any personal offense but stood firm on my assessment of the songs lyrics. After this had settled I wrote the following:

While I have strong beliefs, I try to test them through exposure to alternative or contrary viewpoints. It would be foolish for me to believe in my own perfection, even the “great” thinkers of the faith have some short-comings or area of error or personal character flaw. These should remind us of how far we are from God’s glory.

Secular humanism, on the other hand, stands man above God as more important than God. It is centered on the individual, while promoting the concept that everything is interconnected and nothing is above anything else. No wonder modern man is outraged at the killing of baby seals but celebrates the abortion of unborn human children.

Man risen, not Christ risen, is the call of humanism. Out of this line of thinking rises a number of other “isms” – naturalism, feminism, communism, socialism, egalitarianism. All centered on man and his needs, wants, and desires - that God-granted talents are best used for man’s purpose and not as God desires.

When this concept is not purged from one’s self, our worship moves from Awesome God to Magnificent Man. Worship’s focus becomes the individual’s experience rather than God’s delight in our outpouring to Him. Worship moves from a corporate statement to a singular feeling best summarized.

“Was I fed?”, “Was I ministered to?”, “Did the songs please me?” Becomes the mantra as the measurement of the value of the service (or music or sermon) - being the tickled ear and not the changed heart.

A.W. Tozer put it this way: “
I'm always suspicious when we talk too much about ourselves. Somebody pointed out that hymnody took a downward trend when we left the great objective hymns that talked about God and began to sing the gospel songs that talk about us. There was a day when men sang "Holy, Holy, Holy," and "O Worship the King," and they talked objectively about the greatness of God. Then we backslid into that gutter where we still are where everything is about "I." "I'm so happy," "I'm so blest," "I'm so nice," "I'm so good," always "I." The difference between heaven and hell is the difference between God and I. Jesus Christ, by canceling His "I" was the Christ of God, not as I will, but as Thou wilt. The devil by magnifying his "I" became the devil-when he said, "I will arise, and I will raise my throne above the throne of God."

I struggle with wanting me pleased on Sunday morning (and the rest of the week) rather than our Lord being pleased, forgetting that His pleasure brings me no greater joy. I struggle with putting my self aside for what God has ordered or ordained. I struggle with the roles He placed, or has not placed me in; with the doors He close and the personal desires left unmet.

Yet, I am learning to bring to the altar each week the leftovers of my “old man” to put them under the authority of Christ and renew my mind - but sometimes I will just not let go of who I was! Having been raised on the junk food of Humanism, filled with the fat of self-esteem, digested the lie of personal potential, and have grown obese on the philosophy that it is all about me, so much that my heart is clogged with the cholesterol of the world.

But Praise God who is a skillful surgeon, and who operates with a precise, radical surgery. He opens my chest and replaces that dead heart with one made in His perfection. He clears the blocked arteries with the medicine of the Word. He places me on the healthy diet to disdain the world’s poisoned feast, reminding me to not eat of it to my fullness but to find true bread only in Him!

Brothers and Sisters, eat of the only worthy fruit, which is Christ Crucified. Obliterate our old self through the shining light of Him. Stand firm in the Law and the Grace. May you be filled by the station He has set before you and find your satisfaction not in the mud pies of the world but in the banquet feast of the Lord.

For His Glory,

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Good and Faithful

Have you ever been going along just thinking you were doing okay. Maybe living on ‘auto-pilot’, looking at your life and saying, “ Hey, I’m doing alright”. “I’m praying, I’m reading the Bible, I’m serving, God is blessing me, I’m giving a tithe, I’m offering alms, I’m sharing the Gospel, I’m avoiding sin, I’m serving the Church and my neighbors, I’m being righteous, I’m bathing most days, I’m brushing my teeth regularly, I’m losing a little weight”.

Then the Lord strikes you through the heart with a passage. Well, not even a passage, but a verse. Actually not even a verse but a few words in a verse.

That happened to me today in Mark 11:12: “For you are not swayed by appearances but truly teach the way of God.”

My other readings of this always brought me to the conclusion that this was only about how I viewed others. Do I love (or hate or dislike or give kindness or withhold my love) to people based on their actions, circumstances, poor choice, or ethnic heritage or economic situation or even who their mother happened to be? Am I judging others with the same scale that I weigh myself? It seemed this verse was only saying – “Tom, what is your attitude towards others”. Am I seeing others through my distorted vision or through the clarity of God’s eyes?

But today these little words went a little deeper than that for me.

Christ is not ‘asking’ me anything here but making a statement, a command. We are not only ‘not to be swayed’ by where or who or how someone is, we are to ‘truly’ teach the way of God to them.

Which raises an even more critical question: “While I am living as a Christian, is my life teaching about Christ and is it doing that in a way that is true?

Here is the thing about teachers, the effective ones are those who have a great passion for the topic they are instructing. A ‘true’ teacher not only has knowledge and a great technique, but a desire for the student’s betterment. He wants others to not only learn, but to catch his passion and grasp hold of the subject.

We are not only to be good students of Christ, we are to be true teachers of Christ. We are not only to be concerned if “I” am doing good, but is that good coming of anything – does my living good teach the way of God?

It was much easier to assess my life on only how I treat others because then I could pat myself on the back and say “See, God, I am doing well”. And our hope is that he responds “my good and faithful servant”.

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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Spam and Doctrine

There are a number of church “movements” that have become popular. The ‘seeker sensitive’, the ‘emergent’ conversation, ‘purpose driven’ approach are all ways of ‘doing’ church. There is ‘love languages’, ‘boundaries’, ‘wild at heart’, and a number of other trends in improving our personal growth with God and each other.

Now, this happened to me a couple of years ago just before Thanksgiving.

I received an email announcing that my Pay-pal account needed updating. Now, Pay-pal is a very secure method for transferring funds for purchasing items over the Internet. Since I had not used the service in a few months, I clicked the link from the e-mail (I can already hear some groaning) and was taken to a site with the login boxes. I logged in and filled out the information to update the requested information, which included my debit card number and password.

Well, this turned out to be a bogus site. A couple of days later I tried to purchase some Christmas gifts using my debit and it was rejected. This was a shock because my paycheck had just been deposited a couple of days before the purchase. When I got home and checked my accounts on line, the checking account had been drained of all available funds through ATM withdrawals from some banks in Bulgaria (I live in Michigan).

I then remembered that I had updated through an email. I went and checked. The bogus website looked and acted exactly like the Paypal site. It had the same logo, the same fonts, everything. I opened both sites up and the only difference was the address.

The lesson learned – something can look true, can sound true, can even feel true, but not be true.

Doctrines can be the same way. They can look and feel the same but only appear different when checked with the ‘address’ – Scripture. Upon being compared with the Word of God, they become clearly false and the results can be even more disastrous than an empty bank account or embarrassment for being taken. Lost souls remain lost and do not know they are lost because they cling to a false belief.

That is why Scripture says we are to be Bereans (Acts 17: 10-11), checking beliefs by searching the Scriptures in order assure that our faith is true to Christ, and is aligned with God.

For His Glory (not mine),

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Capital Punishment

As a Christian, Scripture clearly tells us that human life is sacred to God. After all, He created man in His Image and set forth the Law so that a human life can only be taken in certain circumstances. He tells us to love one another, regardless of their situation, regardless of their circumstance. He even tells us to love those who are our enemies or who have wronged us. He tells us to even love the criminals in prison.

So, in light of that, I would like to propose a Christian Response to the issue of Capital Punishment.

Firstly, we need to be cognizant not of our desires, but God’s desires when an occasion happens that a life will be taken. To God, life is sacrosanct, so it was only for the most heinous of crimes (to God, not to man) that a person should lose his/her life.

In the Old Testament, God laid out the Law, and He also laid out the consequences (i.e. punishment) for violating the Law, some of which required the forfeiting of life. The consequence shows man how important the Law was to God and the seriousness of the situation.

In some cases of sin, God allowed a substitute to be used in place of the guilty one, in others the criminal must pay directly him/her self. In those cases there needed to be absolute proof that the person committed the crime. This was also at a time before there were "governments" so it was the family, loved ones, friends, etc. who were allowed to carry out the punishment.

In the New Testament, Christ, who is God, fulfilled the Law so that man was no longer the payee of the crime (Christ died for our sins) or required to carry out the punishment. I think of the response of Christ to the adulteress in John 8. In this well-known passage Christ says to the crowd: “you without sin throw the first stone (Tom’s translation) and turns to the woman and says “go and sin no more”. The Law moved from corporate to individual. It was now God who will judge and condemn not His people. It is God who is to avenge and bring about His perfect Justice.

However, when it comes to governing bodies, according to Romans, they have the right to designate those civil crimes that will be punished, including the taking of the life of the criminal. This can be done to fulfill the government’s role in administering the principles of justice and to protect those it governs. That should be the two measures used for any punishment.

Deterrence is the concept that I won’t commit a crime because I do not want to do the time. There is some truth in this, but most people who were caught committing a crime did not believe they would get caught. I don’t see Capital Punishment as a deterrent. My experience of being a parent has shown me that the possibility of punishment does not deter, it is the reality of punishment that deters.

For instance, if I say to my child, if you don’t eat your vegetables then you cannot go out and play with your friends, she will test that once. Afterwards, I only have to say it. If, on the other hand, she does not eat her vegetables and then I allow her to go outside, I have lost my credibility. The threat is only as good as the willingness to carry out the consequences, and with our judicial system, the reality of punishment is a coin-toss probability, or is at least seen that way. Doing the crime is worth the chance – so I do not see Capital Punishment as a good deterrent.

Capital Punishment does exact justice. The tricky part is to assure it is being administered justly. Man’s record on doing that is not very good. That is why in God’s Laws that were capital offenses, He required exact evidence and, if there was falsifying evidence, those who lied forfeited their lives as well - again, an example of how serious the crime is to the Lawgiver as shown by the punishment.

However, Capital Punishment is an effective way to protect society. The criminal has been removed from the possibility of committing another crime. The saga is done, the person is no longer a threat, but we have the same problem with administering it correctly.
While I see life as sacred, I can agree that Capital Punishment is allowed and supportable but only in very specific situations and with absolute proof and where there the purpose is to both administer justice and secure safety.

A Christian Response to Capital Punishment then is that it is allowed, but under these conditions:
It must bring about justice (the punishment fitting the crime)
It must bring about protection to society or to individuals
It must have been adjudicated fairly with absolute proof of guilt
It must not be done to appease the crowd or to sate our own desires

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Monday, January 08, 2007

God’s With Us.

This last Sunday, the sermon at church was on "God With Us", making the Scriptural case that God has been present with us in varying forms, but each time it was better than before.

For instance, in the Old Testament times, He was in the Pillars that led Israel in the desert and in the early New Testament He was in the Temple. Then He was Christ in human body and now He dwells in us, who repent and believe, through the Holy Spirit. In the future near He will be with us in totality, so there is this growing presence of Him with us through the ages.

That, on its own, is something to chew on and consider, but what does that mean “for the price of tea in China” (funny how we always want to bring something to us personally – like it is only worthwhile if it has meaning to us). It means that you will have a face-to-face relationship with God.

There is something about God that we need to realize and remember. He knows. He knows everything. He has the capability to see, comprehend, understand and respond to everything. Nothing happens that is a surprise to Him nor that was not allowed by Him nor done through Him.

I recently had a conversation where I knew that I was not getting the whole story from the other person. That is to be expected. No one can give the whole story because we do not know the whole story and because we do not want to tell the whole story and because we may not, at the moment, remember the whole story. Rare is the person who can give a blow-by-blow account of an event, but God knows the second-by-second of our whole life. So we cannot fool God – accidentally or on-purpose.

This means everything we do is not only seen by God, but understood by God, and judged by God, and one day we will be in His presence. That will be a humbling experience when we see the one whom we have hurt the most. Even our repentance will not remove the sorrow we will feel when we are faced with the ultimate love to us and realize that we have often given the ultimate snub to that love.

Our purpose, since it seems the fashion these days to seek out purpose, is to glorify God, and that is the standard to which we must measure each moment. Yet we don’t. We ignore God until we need Him. We focus on the daily grind, the latest fashion, this weeks cinematic release, the hottest song, the most popular show. . . entertainment, which by definition is meaningless activity, becomes most everyone’s meaning. We allow it to define us, to guide us, to control us.

And all the while God’s plan moves forward with Him coming closer to being with us each day and we will regret each moment we did not prepare for Him. Some will regret how they ignored His wrath, others will regret how they ignored His love.

Let us respond without regret, let us remember He is with us, now through His Spirit, before through Christ, in the future, before our eyes and act accordingly.

For His Glory,

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