Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Tolerance of British Airways

A few years ago in England there was an object lesson on the perversion with which some people have come to view Christianity and Christ in the enlightened world of the 21st Century. The case surrounded the issue of global airline British Airways (BA) who had recently suspended one of their check-in workers Nadia Eweida, from wearing her cross around her neck because it is too visible to the traveling public and is therefore offensive to others. All this while at the same time, British Airways as a matter of policy allows other “religious” adornment such as turbans and veils to be worn by employees because in doing so they demonstrate the “tolerance” that should be the hallmark of a sophisticated society. In the words of BA CEO Willie Walsh “…I am proud to lead an airline that has a track record on diversity and inclusion which is second to none.”

There is that diversity word again. In the interest of diversity, various religious symbols and creeds ought to be encouraged in our multi-cultural society, however for the most part symbols of Christianity should be hidden, because according to BA, and many other mainline institutions such as the ACLU in the United States, Christian symbolism is offensive. So this begs the question: why is Christianity offensive to our society while other religions are viewed as examples of inclusion and tolerance? And who finds it offensive? Besides the intellectual and corporate elites such as Mr. Walsh at British Airways, can these institutions point to a segment of society who shares their opinion? And if they can, given that such a group will represent only a portion of society, why then should these opinions be given a mandate such that it is imposed on everyone else? In doing so, by definition, you are not being inclusive. You are in fact being exclusive. The clear message is that those who worship Jesus Christ are excluded from the inclusive society. Ironically, British Airways would find agreement in this distinction with Christ himself. For the Bible says this about us dreaded Christians: And so from this one man (Abraham), and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. (Hebrews 11:12-14 parenthesis mine)

Unfortunately however for Mr. Walsh and his global airline, the followers of Jesus Christ did not go quietly into the night. The ridiculous attack on Ms. Eweida did nothing except to create a firestorm of reprisals from the British public, and a few courageous souls still remaining in the British government. Jack Straw, the House of Commons leader in England publicly derided BA’s decision as “inexplicable”. Dr Rowan Williams the Archbishop of Canterbury, (one of the leading Christian figures in England) said on the issue: “If BA is really saying or implying that the wearing of a cross in public is a source of offense, then I regard that as deeply offensive.” Many travelers have decided that they will not travel with British Airways until this offense is corrected. So much then for the merits of inclusion (or is it exclusion?) In light of the realities of the true commercial god whom they worship, British Airways is now deciding to “review its policy over uniforms”.

On the issue of Christian symbols being offensive, here is the prophetic word written in scripture thousands of years before Willie Walsh was given his first breath by the God his airline finds so offensive: This is what the LORD Almighty says…To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the LORD is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it…Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them," says the LORD. (Jeremiah 6:9,10,15 NIV truncated)

For more on this news item please visit Christian Today's website.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Christ - Forces Your Hand

"He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters. (Luke 11:23 NIV)

With this very brief but eloquent statement, our Lord Jesus Christ plainly lays before all mankind the essence of every person’s destiny. According to Jesus, either you are with Him or you are against Him. No gray area. Your life demonstrates your choice. This does beg a question therefore: how do know if your life is with Christ or against him? If you give Jesus Christ any kind of credibility in your thought process, then it stands to reason that this question must be answered in your mind and heart. You can’t sit on the sidelines. Christ does not permit it. I love this simplistic black or white theology. You don’t need a Phd to figure it out. Every one with a functioning mind automatically participates. Few (if any) have an out!

I can guarantee you that most who may happen to read this post feel in their heart that they are certainly “not against Christ”. Sure there are a few proudly independent Atheists who relish the idea, but for the most part, few “regular” people would raise their hand to acknowledge that they are “proudly against Jesus”. Yet, by Christ’s own words, they are in fact “against me”. When I was unsaved (through age 33), I will tell you that I lived my life clearly willing to acknowledge that I was certainly “not against Christ”. No, I didn’t pray much (if at all), I never uttered the word Jesus more than a handful of times, I certainly had no desire to go to church to “hang out with the hypocrites” and I certainly viewed the Bible as no more than one of many bookshelf ornaments in my home. Yet plain as day…in my humdrum day-to-day existence, there I was actively living in opposition to Christ. That I didn’t clearly know it made it no less true.

The modern world in which we live abhors simplistic distinctions. To many, this notion is so very old fashioned and unenlightened. They say the world and its complexity are too sophisticated to be broken down into simple yes-no, good-bad distinctions. You must understand and engage in nuances where necessary. Their quandary however is that in the midst of this sophistication comes the simple message of scripture as the Bible says: This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life… (Deuteronomy 30:19-20 NIV) The Lord’s simple message here is you have a choice: life or death! Eternal life or eternal death! You will have one or the other…no gray area! In this scripture, the Lord points out one way how that choice can be made: “…love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life”.

Before I willingly and knowingly accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and therefore accepted Him as the substitute for my sins, I knew of Him, but I didn’t really know about Him. It was not possible for me to “listen to His voice; to hold fast to Him”. It was not really possible for me to be in His camp, in other words to be “with Him”. No…the cold hard truth was that I “was against Him”. In the choice of “life or death, blessing or curses”, I was choosing death and curses! So are you if you are reading this post and you have not given your life over to serving Christ. Sure, you can reject this notion and scoff at it as simply being my opinion and a bad one at that. However you will no longer be able to say that you didn’t know. After reading this post…now you know. However it is also instructive to understand God’s process in waiting on us to make permanent our choices: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. (2 Peter 3:9-10 NIV) For every person who died yesterday, how many of them knew where they were on the Lord’s time-clock of patience. What about those who will be dying today? God’s patience with them is over. How about your time-clock?

Here is a quick and simple way for you to make the Life choice, just say the following and believe it: “Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, I believe that you died for me. I accept your sacrifice. Thank you for dying for me. Thank you for giving me eternal Life. Thank you for accepting my prayer. Amen” – If you just prayed this prayer. Congratulations! Here is Jesus’ word to you: "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. (John 5:24 NIV)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Criss Angel - Mind Deception

There is this incredibly annoying commercial that appears frequently on TV advertising a reality show by illusionist Criss Angel. It shows this young man predictably dressed in gothic black performing all kind of "apparent miracles" while an incredulous public looks on in amazement and wonderment. One of the scenes shows the dark Mr. Angel (pun intended) walking on water. As I watched the commercial recently, the below passage of scripture came to my mind which I think fittingly captures the lure and presumed success of Mr. Angel's presentations:

Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for (that day will not come) until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God; For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; 7-12 NIV)**
Mr. Angel is simply the latest in a long line of "illusionists" who wow the masses with their feats of miracles, signs and wonders. However, befitting the modern day dive into evil and darkness, Mr. Angel makes no pretension about his imagery and presentation. Gone are the days of light hearted illusions of the David Copperfields of the world. Instead, Mr. Angel is presented brashly and boldly as a character of insolence and darkness...all the while not worrying much about offending or turning off his public. If anything, the creators of his realty show embrace the dark persona and imagery, knowing full well that it will (in this day and age), draw more adoring spectators.

For those who care enough to have read this far into this post, I urge you to avoid Criss Angel and others like him. There are many out there, and the devil's puppets in the media are only to willing to bring you more and more as they are manipulated by the secret power of lawlessness already at work in our society.

**I highly recommend reading 2 Thessalonians Chapter 2 for some insights to where our society is now and also where it is heading.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Our Christian Legacy

I just read a very revealing report done by The Barna Group on the shifting moral attitudes when comparing self-professed Christians over the age of 40 versus those below the age of 40. The general conclusion of a survey of these two groups showed a significantly looser attitude towards Biblical Christianity and how it should be manifested in everyday living among the younger crowd. There is a certain predictability to such results, given that young people especially those who are single and without children are usually far more liberally minded due to less appreciation for the negative consequences of their behaviors on themselves and others.

There is however some pause that must be given to this study as the Barna report rightfully points out, because the society in which our 21st century young people are living in has become far more perverse and insidious in championing the devil’s agenda. As a result, the embracing of or minimal resistant against the popular culture by today’s Christian young adults threatens to instill such toxic philosophies and mindsets, that it may very well threaten their ability to turn away from it’s satanic influences in the long run.

There is a certain prophetic quality to this kind of story when you put it in the context of end-times scriptures such as: As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"… At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other…because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold… (Matthew 24:3,10,12 NIV truncated passages) Here Jesus was explaining to the disciples signs that will occur during the last days on earth. Among them, was a turning away from the faith, an increase in wickedness and coldness to brotherly love for each other. Compare that to this passage from the Barna Report:

But on a deeper level, the new rules of morality affect how young adults interact with others, creating less civility, respect, or patience. Busters were twice as likely as their parents’ generation to use profanity in public, to say mean things about others behind their back, to tell something to another person that was not true, to do something to get back at someone who hurt or offended them, to take something that didn’t belong to them, and to physically fight or abuse someone. "A New Generation of Adults Bends Moral and Sexual Rules to Their Liking" -
All Christians young, old and in-between should take heed to the truths and implications of the findings of this report. Parents need to be diligent in preaching the unchanging Gospel of Jesus Christ to their children and young acquaintances. Church leaders need to ensure that young adults are actively engaged in the life of the church. Appealing to young people using the standards and benchmarks of this world is a tricky strategy that can in fact have the opposite effect than what is intended. Paul did say: Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23 NIV) So trying to reach young people “where they live” has biblical tenets, but the danger occurs when such strategies cause one to ultimately compromise the Word of God in the process. That is what I believe may be happening as some of our younger Christians are evangelized. We can’t avoid trying to sound “too preachy” for fear of turning them off while in the process tacitly approving of behavior that God rejects. Young Christians need to know flat out that “cursing is wrong” - God says so: With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be… (James 3:9-10 NIV); They need to know that God draws a clear line defining sexually immoral conduct: But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people (Ephesians 5:3 NIV); They need to know that God says gossiping about and slandering others is wrong: Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Peter 2:1-3 NIV). If young people are going to reject God's directives, let them at least reject the tangible Word, rather than not hearing it as it is written in the first place.

Though young Christians need to have such everyday behavior consistently and unabashedly defined clearly in light of God’s Word, perhaps their biggest hindrance to living out their lives fully embracing God’s values is the lack of an example that us, the older Christian portray to them. I suspect that a major reason for any “weaknesses” on the part of younger Christians is the fact that we set a poor example of true Christian living before them. How many Christian divorces have these younger ones seen as they were growing up? How many Christian abortions have they been aware of? How many fancy cars, fancy homes, fancy things did we as Christians “have to have” as we set examples of pure materialism before them? How many “R” rated movies (or worse) have we brought into Christian households as they looked on? How many times did we turn our Christian homes upside down in rage and brawls with our spouses? Hard questions to be sure, but violations of God’s Word all!

By no means am I suggesting that all younger Christians can and should be placed into a singular grouping. As with all groups of believers throughout biblical history, God always reserves for Himself a remnant. A distinct subgroup of true believers who are steadfast in their allegiance to Him and His Word nevermind the prevailing attitudes of their contemporaries. Within our younger Christians, make no mistake, God has His remnant clearly identified and ready to work on his behalf. I pray that my own children are part of this group. However, this Barna Report is a wake-up call of sorts to Christians everywhere. We should all examine ourselves within it’s lines and see how we must change to help turn around the potential implication of it’s conclusions.

Friday, November 03, 2006

When You Are Tempted

The intensely sad and extremely disappointing specter of another Christian leader failing in the public spotlight is on display currently with the recent revelation that the Rev. Ted Haggard (President of the National Association of Evangelicals) has admitted to buying drugs and receiving inappropriate touching from a gay acquaintance. This admission by Mr. Haggard came amid charges by the acquaintance that Mr. Haggard has been involved in a three-year sexual relationship with the man - charges that Mr. Haggard denies.

Whenever Christian leaders fall victim to such sin the damage to fellow Christians (especially those over whom they lead) is devastating. Though these leaders are fallible human beings like all men, the Bible clearly calls them to a higher standard of conduct befitting the symbolic position of headship afforded by their position: Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach; He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap. (1 Timothy 3:1-2; 7 NIV) When the leader falls into “the devil’s trap” (as the Bible puts it), weak Christians become disillusioned by what it means to live a life in service to Christ; wavering Christians tend to see such behavior as license for them to give in to similar temptations that they too may be facing; non-Christians are left to point fingers at the "hypocrisy" of the entire faith.

As Christians we need to ask ourselves a serious question in the face of such a public failing on the part of a Christian leader: how diligent are we in praying for this man or any other leader of God's people? The Bible says: Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective (James 5:13-16 NIV) The Lord warns us repeatedly about the need to pray against the attacks of the devil. But do we pray consistently? Do you? Do you pray for the leaders in your church or the leaders on TV or in the public square who helps you to grow in your Christian walk? Believe me, I'm asking this same question of myself.

Here is our Lord Jesus Christ's example to us of how and why we should pray to God the Father consistently for each other: I (Jesus) have given them (the disciples) your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:14-2 NIV parenthesis mine)

The devil's goal is to bring down every Christian leader and individual that he can, as the Bible warns us: Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8 NIV) The secular non-Christian world are pawns in the devil's hand. He has no shortage of unwitting accomplices to assist in his plan to destroy all human beings. He already has those who do not believe in Jesus Christ in his camp of death, as evidence by this verse of scripture: Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. (Ephesians 2:1-3 NLT). Remember, the devil's plan is for death to all living beings, however he does not have Christians unless they walk away from Jesus Christ. Here is how Jesus says it in John 15:6 - If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

As a Christian if you are tempted to judge Mr. Haggard, please resist and instead pray for him, his family and the church over which he was a leader. Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. (Galatians 6:1 NIV)

A God who sends people to Hell?