Sunday, October 29, 2006

Paper or Plastic?

I was on the checkout line at a local supermarket yesterday when I overheard the checkout lady ask the customer in front of me “if she was a born again believer in Jesus Christ?” I was so pleasantly surprised to hear the question (as it is a very rare thing to hear in the routine of day to day living – at least in my life), but ironically, my first thought was not one of “what is the answer going to be?” My first thought sorry to say was, “I wonder if she is allowed to say that?” How sad! In my preoccupation with the sick legalism of our modern American society, I thoroughly missed the answer of the shopper in front of me! Wasn’t I more interested also whether here before me was another believer in Jesus Christ? As it turned out, I never did focus on the lady’s answer, because before I knew it, I was having my two pieces of groceries checked out by this very blessed young cashier (she could not have been more than 22 years old). As she completed the total for my groceries, the cashier remarked to the young man bagging for her that “she couldn’t wait for the end of her shift; and that the two hour wait would be like waiting for the end of the world!” Smiling, I remarked to her… “with someone like you based on what you just asked the previous customer, the end of the world is probably a great thing!” Smiling, both her and her even younger male bag checker both laughed, and agreed with me enthusiastically!

I could not have been on that checkout line longer than 5 minutes, but in that time, what a pleasant experience in the Name of Christ! Here were two very young people in the midst of our secular and toxic generation both enjoying their jobs and each other’s company, and smiling at the thought of heaven.

May God bless and keep them both all the days of their lives, and continue to use them to bring His glory into the routine of their everyday lives!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

God Returns to Europe?

In my reading this morning I happen to come across an article called "Breeding for God". It makes a case for the inevitable demise of secular (non-religious) societies bit incorrectly uses among other reasons, the rise of Muslim and other so-called religious populations and their devote religiosity for part of the reason of such demise.

To be certain, there is no mention in the Bible of the tenets of the Muslim religion as being a part of the spreading of God’s teaching. This is simply one of many errors in this article. However, the article is absolutely correct in forecasting the demise of the secular societies of Western Europe (as well as those elsewhere in the world), due among many things to simple population redistribution. For one thing, secular societies directly or indirectly promote behavior that suppresses population growth. Abortions do not increase populations - it suppresses them. Gay lifestyles do not produce children - it tangibly reduces the opportunity for human creation. Liberal lifestyles do not promote people producing families - in it's most extreme form, it scoffs at that quaint notion. All told, secularization is a culturally suicidal lifestyle that slowly erodes and exterminates cultures. This extermination however can continue unabated over decades, because it does not happen overnight. It isn’t tangible enough to get people's attention as a news headline.

The article however suggests that as a result of the inevitable decline of secularization, its opposite effect will be a rise in Godly culturalization. The headline reads “God Returns to Europe”. How typically erroneous on the part of today’s social “thinkers”. God never left Europe. Europe left God. As such God is not the one that needs to return to Europe. It is in fact the other way around. This is so typical of a man-centered outlook on life. However man is NOT the center of life; God is! Look at how God referred to another group of people who left Him in much the same way: For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, "They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways." So I declared on oath in my anger, "They shall never enter my rest." (Psalm 95:10-11 NIV) In our fallen world, it is man’s ultimate responsibility to return to God…and a failure to do so equals certain death. Spiritual death (which is secular man’s current state), physical death (which is every man’s future state) and eternal death (which is secular man’s guaranteed permanent state). God’s position has never changed. He never moved. We did! Europe did!

You can be certain, that the increase in more “devout” cultures such as Muslims or the rise of more “traditional” religious lifestyles as emblematic by an increase in church-going does not equal a more Godly citizenry. Predictably, as I read through all of the articles, the answer as required by the God of the Bible was glaringly absent. There was virtually no mention of man's need for Jesus Christ! Listen to the words of Jesus about how to produce true Godly behavior: Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. (John 15:4-6 NLT). How can the people of Europe or anywhere else for that matter live truly Godly lives without Jesus? You cannot "remain in Him" if you are never "in Him" to begin with.

So you have arguments suggesting a “return of God”, yet none talks about the only way of such a return. These kinds of discussions only lend itself to continually deluding people into a lost future. They may go from a lifestyle of being totally removed from God, to one that promotes a false sense of connection to him. We have many in our societies today who are secure in this lukewarm state. They firmly profess a belief in God, but rarely pray to him publicly, are unwilling take a stand against patently godless behavior or are unforfortable uttering the Name of Jesus in regular conversation. When you read Jesus’ words in the Gospels, you realize that he does not waste words. He says what He means and means what He says. To those who may find themselves in this lukewarm state, listen to Jesus' words and take heed: “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act…Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. (Matthew 7:15-16; 20-21 truncated NLT)

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Oprah: “Jesus not the only Way”

Never let it be said that the devil is unaware of how to “make friends and influence people”. Take the case of Oprah Winfrey (who I am not calling "the devil"). I will say that I know little about her life, except to say that it appears that at one point, prior to her current mega financial success story, she was a young woman from apparently humble beginnings (by the world's standards) who was once exposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Since then, she has worked her way up the media ladder to the lofty position she now holds. However the “power” that comes with her current position along with the compromises about Christ that must be made in order to maintain a celebrated relationship with the entertainment industry, leads to the inevitable presentation that is captured from her show in the following clip:

"Jesus not the only way" - Oprah Winfrey

In this clip Oprah indirectly suggests that Jesus was a liar when He said the following in John 14:6 - Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

The Bible is very accurate about the human condition in all respects. The essence of this video clip is captured plainly by the following scripture: Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!" It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Mark 10:23, 25 NIV) Undestand here however, that Christ is not saying blanketly that rich people cannot be saved!

One final point: as to the question about how do people in remote parts of the world hear about "this Jesus"? The Bible puts it very plainly: Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: "I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me? (Jeremiah 32:26 NIV)

Friday, October 13, 2006

Bono and Abstinence

I am sitting here watching Bono and Bobby Shriver on TV talking about a new initiative called (Red) which is aimed at using the color and the association to Bono arguably the most popular singer of the most popular rock band in the world, to galvanize people to purchase products and services associated with his Red promotion in an effort to raise funds to fight the spread of AIDS. I must say that as far back as 1982 when I first became a fan of Bono’s band U2, he has always come across as a genuine humanitarian, a rock star (though he wasn’t as big back then) who was very concerned about his fellow man. I applaud him mightily and I hope that his new venture succeeds in a big way.

Unfortunately however, as I have written about previously, AIDS is emblematic of the human weakness of man combined with the human efforts of man, to attempt to fix a problem that only has a biblically directed solution: that being abstinence from sex when it’s circumstances are inappropriate and “morally” wrong. No amount of preventative drugs will stop the spread of a disease that is by and large propagated by rampant sexual activity, an activity that is consistently condemned by God: (1 Corinthians 5:11) But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat; (1 Corinthians 6:18) Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body; (Hebrews 13:4) Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

God’s directive against sexual immorality is definitely a hard (some may say impossible) message in today’s loose and free-wheeling society. However, can any reader of this blog argue that if most who have contracted AIDS had “simply” refrained from the sexual activity that caused it, that they would not currently have the disease? In order to stay alive, it is impossible not to breathe, it is impossible not to eat, but is it impossible not to abstain from promiscuous sex or sex that is deemed immoral by God (the creator of the air you breathe and the food that you eat)? To be sure, there are those who are more or less bystanders who happen to have contracted the disease indirectly (while having nothing to do with sexual promiscuity) – those who contracted it via blood transfusions or children born to parents who had the disease etc. However, even these unfortunate souls are victims indirectly of those who were likely sexually promiscuous.

None of this diminishes the efforts of many like Bono and Bobby Shriver who are living selfless lives in the interests of others. However I have to wonder, what type of impact would an AIDS fighting effort of abstinence have if a Bono was a champion for that message?

All scrpture courtesy of the NIV Bible

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Christ-like Faith of the Amish

What a blessing it is to see the dignity, humility and true representation of Christian living displayed by the Amish people this week, in the face of the horrible violence inflicted upon them by a suicidal man fighting the demons of the secular world which drove him to kill five innocent Amish girls in the name of so-called “revenge”.

The Amish lifestyle is probably looked on strangely by the rest of society given their rejection of most things modern including electricity and other things industrial. Their quiet lifestyle however is an aspect of living out their life following true Christian principles, oftentimes far more so than the rest of their Christian brothers and sisters (myself included). Their lives reflect true biblical principles such as: Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others. (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 NLT)

An article about the Amish found at this link, revealed a very appropriate scripture that they tend to live by:

One scripture often quoted in Amish worship services is: "Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." (Romans 12:2) They are admonished to live a life that is separate from the world."
It is interesting how God allowed the recently crazed behavior of gun-toting maniacs to also inflict harm on the Amish people, perhaps to draw the stark parallel between how the modern world reacts to such violence versus how true Christians are supposed to react when faced with similar circumstances. In such circumstances, the Bible says: And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 NLT)

Instead of reacting with feelings of revengeful rage combined with inconsolable despair (as the rest of us generally do), the Amish’s response to the murders were deferential to the will of God, inward unity among their culture and almost instantaneous offering of forgiveness for the murderer, as well as support for the gunman’s family who themselves are also victims in this tragic affair. Listen to the incredible words of an Amish midwife who was present at the birth of two of the slain girls:

Midwife Rhita Rhoads was present for the births of two of the five girls who were killed and also speaks of forgiving the gunman. "If you have Jesus in your heart and he has forgiven you … [how] can you not forgive other people?" Rhoads said. (
What a witness for Christ to the rest of the secular and Christian world! As Christians, we are many times, not a whole lot better than our secular counterparts in our inability or more accurately our unwillingness to forgive others. This unfortunate episode allows the Amish to teach us about ourselves and about the love and teachings of Christ in a real life circumstance…not simply from the reciting of a passage of scripture during a 2-hour church service on Sunday. The Amish attempt to live out what Christ teaches 7-days per week. Do we as Christians in the secular market-place do the same?

Though the Amish by and large seclude themselves from the rest of the world, in this incident, their lives and the working of God speaks out loudly and broadly to both the non-believing and complacent Christian society about how to reflect the glory of Christ in your practical daily life…even in the midst of monstrous tragedy. May God bless and continue to keep these simple humble people.

A God who sends people to Hell?