The Fantasy Of “We Report, You Decide”

Americans will get the President they deserve. Like children, most Americans expect someone else to take care of them. They expect entities such as government, political parties, insurance companies or financial institutions to provide them prosperity, security, physical safety, comfort and convenience in an environment conducive to unfettered playtime.

Americans have become too immature, unaccountable and irresponsible to understand that the pursuit of happiness is about meaning, not pleasure; that freedom entails responsibility, not license. No government in history was ever established to ensure that everyone may do whatever they please. But this fantasy persists in the psyches of many Americans, who expect to be taken care of and let alone — for a price.

That price is not just measured in dollars. It also includes permitting your thinking and decision-making to be manipulated by various powerful institutions. During the presidential election cycle, the two main political parties in conjunction with the media lead Americans by the nose to elect the President most beneficial to them (the institutions, not the people).

The Democrat Party, the Republican Party and the media spend a lot of money to carefully craft public opinion. They are powerful, not because they spend a lot of money, but because most people allow themselves to be manipulated by them. They don’t know how to think for themselves, so they have learned to respond to the “choices” presented to them. And those choices have been carefully screened to ensure that the parties continue to maintain their power and influence.

Americans don’t think for themselves. They look to others to see what the “majority” is saying because they are afraid of being “outside the mainstream”. It used to be called conformism. Rather than taking a stand on principles, most people just want to conform. And where Americans miss the boat is that American constitutional government was founded to conform to principles of individual responsibility and accountability to Biblical principles. Our Constitution holds government responsible to allow all citizens the freedom to work out those principles themselves, not to do it for them.

In his article, They Asked And He Answered, Bradlee Dean quoted John Adams, second President of the United States. In his diary on February 22, 1756 he wrote, “Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love and reverence toward Almighty God…What a Utopia, what a Paradise would this region be.”

Conversely, when the people of a nation no longer regulate their own conduct (conduct means what you do, how you live), but rather depend on institutions of politics, government or the economy to regulate them, then there is no reason to expect society to reflect virtues Adams ascribed to a Utopia or Paradise. Instead, society will continue to reflect oppression and tyranny.

Beware the danger of groupthink.

Posted in Politics, American Culture | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Who Is Your God? Part 3

Craziness

The weakness of pure democracy is seen when the majority is wrong or unwise. Why do lemmings run off cliffs to their deaths? I imagine if they could think and speak they would tell you they are convinced it is for the greater good, after all, everyone’s doing it. This is the mentality of most popular public opinions.

There is a saying, “The lunatics are running the asylum”. It paints a word picture of crazy people running things. Their craziness is being forced on everyone as policy, and the public is required to see the world their crazy way and conform to it. Mobs scream at you. There is no rational thought — no debate — just the press of the crowd.

The politically correct statement that Islam is the religion of peace is one such craziness. It flies in the face of reality — not just today’s reality, but the reality of the violent history of Islam, worldwide. If you doubt that, see the 45 minute video by Dr. Bill Warner at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_Qpy0mXg8Y&feature=player_embedded. In his introduction he points out the overwhelming majority response to learning the truth about Islam is fear, hatred and anger.

That should tell you something. People prefer to hold onto the safe fantasy that Islam is just another religion, rather than face the reality Islam poses as the most violent of all religions world-wide. Many people are content to equate Muslim violence with other religious violence. The Crusades are pointed to as being proof that it’s the Christians, not Muslims, who have been historically violent. The fact that the Crusades were Europe’s response to Muslim assaults is conveniently overlooked. And that is the difficulty: facts are simply overlooked. There is simply no comparable threat from any religion today to the violence of Islam.

The media continually stirs the pot of public conversation about Islam, using various misleading talking points. We are told that Muslims are good people who want the same things we all want, so we should be tolerant and respectful of their religion. We are reminded that the Constitution gives us freedom of religion in America. This contrasts with the reality that in nations run by Islamic theocracies, there is no such thing as religious freedom. That is because under Islamic rule (which is more a political system than a religious system) there is only one approved religion — Islam. All other religions are only allowed to be practiced under the most repressive regulations. Freedom of religion is anathema to Islam. But the crazies refuse to accept that reality.

The argument that terrorism at the hands of Islamic extremists is a product of hate, not religion, flies in the face of the essential teachings of Islam. Throughout the Koran we find the message of fighting. The goal of the Koran is that as a result of this fighting, everyone will become a Muslim. This fighting is called jihad. As a warrior, Muhammad is the model par excellence for how Muslims are to conduct jihad. Passages in the Koran and Hadith that openly promote violence against non-Muslims are documented here: http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/pages/quran/violence.aspx.

The concept of jihad contrasts with the Biblical teaching to “fight the good fight”, which is spreading the gospel and “speaking the truth in love”. When non-believers do not want to hear our message, we aren’t to fight them. We are to pray for them. Christians respect free will as well as free speech. Everyone has the right to accept or reject the truth according to the dictates of their own heart. In the end, the question of who accepts Christ and who rejects Christ isn’t up to us. It’s up to each individual. Neither is it our business to dispatch those who reject Christ. God says, “Revenge is mine, I will repay” (Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30).

For Islam, the Shahada says it all: “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger”. If this is true, then a true believer must accept what Muhammad wrote in the Koran and what he said in the Hadith as the truth about God. There can be no other reputable messengers. We must rely on Muhammad alone. That means teachings about God from the Bible are not authoritative, not dependable, not accurate. In short, if the Shahada is true, then the Bible is not. If Allah is God, then the God of the Bible is not.

This is the craziness. You will never discern the path to reality by asking crazy people for directions. The single most important question that needs to be settled is, “Who is God?” Only when that question is answered can we hope to address spiritual reality in a sane and sober way.

“We are all the same.”

Sometimes it seems impossible for me as a Christian to talk to Muslims about God. We have different God concepts and different world views, not to mention the barriers of hatred, ignorance and prejudice (or as Dr. Warner put it, fear, hatred and anger). When people say, “We all worship the same God,” I wonder how they can be so certain, considering they are hardly even able to communicate what they believe to one another.

I do not question that all people everywhere seek the same Creator God and desire to know the same Redeemer God. Blaise Pascal, 1623-1662, wrote,

What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself. – Blaise Pascal, Pensées VII(425)

This “infinite abyss” that can only be filled by God himself has been called “a God-shaped hole” or vacuum. The universal human response is to want to fill that void, and so we all try to do that in our own ways. But that doesn’t mean we all worship the same God. Obviously not everyone fills the hole with the same God. Such a presumption only makes sense if you do not believe it is possible to really know God. It goes back to the premise that if truth cannot be known, then all possibilities are valid.

So, allow me to say some things about the infinite and immutable God who fills me, then compare him to what you have used to fill your own God-shaped void, and decide for yourself whether you can dismiss all differences and claim we all worship the same God.

Language and Understanding

I begin with what has been revealed about God by language. My language is English. I use English words when talking about the Creator of the universe. But most of the terms I use, such as Almighty God, Father, Savior and Redeemer, are translations from the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek languages of Scripture.

Jesus Christ (or Jesus, the Christ) is the English rendering of the Hebrew, Yeshua HaMashiach. Jesus (Yeshua) is his personal name. Christ (Mashiach) is his title. The word Christ is an English word, derived from the Greek.  It has the same meaning as the English word Messiah, which is derived from the Hebrew.  It literally means the anointed one. Christians believe the Messiah to be God.

The messianic passage in Isaiah 9:6-7 shows that several names and descriptions of “God” add up to give this God a significance that goes beyond a simple generic title that can mean whatever you want.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

Christians see this passage as pointing to the deity of Jesus Christ. A child who is born and “given” is called by different titles, ascribing to him the full complement of the Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Muslims misunderstand and mischaracterize the doctrine of the Trinity. They are not three gods. I don’t wish to argue this point here, but there are ample resources available for anyone open to learn about this basic Christian doctrine.

The passage from Isaiah is one of many where the three persons of the one true God are mentioned. Jesus often spoke of God as the Father and taught us to pray to “Our Father who is in heaven”. John 1:12 tells us that those who received Jesus (who believed in his name), to them he gave the right to become children of God. One name for the Holy Spirit is the Counsellor. In John 14:26 Jesus said of him, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” So, the triune nature of the God of Christianity is evident in this passage.

Similar to the mystery that God is in three persons is another mystery that while we are in Jesus, his Holy Spirit is in us. We are in God and God is in us. Jesus said, “Abide in me and I in you” (John 15:4). This reciprocal idea is further developed in these excerpted verses from Jesus’ prayer in John 17:

And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. (vs. 5) All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. (vs. 10) I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. (vs. 14) that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (vs. 21) I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (vs. 23) I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them. (vs. 26)

Notable in this prayer is the preeminent importance of God’s love in the Christian faith, and the unity of believers in that love. Also, great emphasis is given here to the mysteries that God is in us while we are in God and that the Father, Son and Spirit together are the one true God. For the Christian, the key to understanding who God is, is knowing Jesus.

Central to Islam is the Shahada, their basic testimonial or creed. It says, “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger.” Written in Arabic, it literally says “There is no god but God”. At first glance you might assume that this simply is a declaration of monotheism, consistent with the Biblical narrative. But if the Shahada is true, one must adhere closely to the message that Muhammad left (the Koran and Hadith), and only to that message. All else (including the Bible) is subject to Muhammad’s message.

Contrast this to what God spoke to ancient Israel in Exodus 20:1-3: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” Essentially, God already had established a relationship with Israel. Because he had chosen to make them a nation for himself, he declared to them that they must not simply “believe” in him (“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” James 2:19) but they are to love him. The Shema from Deuteronomy 6, begins in verses 4 and 5, saying, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might”.

This goes well beyond a declaration of monotheism, and is in fact a direct communication from God to Man, expressing God’s desire for us to have a personal relationship with him. The one thing standing in the way of that is sin. And if your read the Torah, you see that God gave Israel the religious means to deal with sin.

1 Corinthians 10:11 says, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” That is why Hebrew Scripture was preserved, so that we could learn from them. Ancient Israel’s history demonstrates to all of us, Man’s inability to deal with sin apart from God’s supernatural intervention. That is why Christ came in human form to die for all sin, for all time.

The God of Christians is the God of Israel. Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. Therefore when Christians read about “the house of David”, “the throne of David” or “the Son of David” we see Jesus Christ as the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel. When we use the english word God, it is not a casual or generic thing to us. Exodus 6:3 explains, “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty (el shaddai) but by my name the LORD (Yahweh) I did not make myself known to them.” This is the God of the Bible who revealed himself to Moses and Israel. This is who Christians refer to when we use the English word God.

In the Arabic language, Allah is the word meaning God (technically ‘the god’). According to some sources (this is not unanimous) the words El and its plural, Elohim, in Aramaic and Hebrew are cognates of Allah. This presumes that the Arabic word Allah in the Koran, and the Hebrew word Elohim in the Bible both refer to the same Almighty God.

El could be any god, but the plural form, Elohim, was used to convey the idea of Almighty God (the God of gods). El and Elohim are terms of ancient usage, and like both the English word God and the Arabic word, Allah, they were generic terms for God in their respective religions and cultures. What differentiates the Christian God of the Bible from the Islamic Allah of the koran, are the qualities ascribed to them by their chroniclers. In the Bible, that consists of many different authors over a long period of time from a variety of places. But, as the Shahada says, Muhammad is Islam’s only messenger.

So, for Christians, when we use the word God, we specifically are referring to the God of the Bible. We are not referring to a generic title that can be mean different things to different people. Christians believe God can be known and that he has revealed himself to Man. Through the Old Testament, the term, Jehovah (Yahweh, YHWH) was used increasingly to clarify exactly who this God was. The God of the Bible is the God of Israel, who sent the Messiah, the Son of David to be Savior of all mankind, making his believers God’s children.

This YHWH identified himself, first to Abraham (Genesis 12:1). In Genesis 21:12 he told Abraham his offspring would be reckoned through Isaac, rather than Ishmael. In Genesis 22:2, 12 & 16 God refers to Isaac as Abraham’s only son. In Genesis 26:3 God passed the promise he made to Abraham on to Isaac. That same promise was then given to Isaac’s son Jacob in Genesis 28:13. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel. His sons became the twelve tribes of Israel. God used Jacob’s son Joseph to bring them to Egypt. Some 400 years later, God used Moses to lead Israel — now a nation, out of bondage — into the Promised Land.

Galatians 4:5 says, “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:16 says, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God”. The God of the Bible is the God whose forgiveness in Christ offers us eternal fellowship, relationship and love. This is not the distant, ineffable god, Allah. This is the God of truth, grace, love and forgiveness.

It’s all about Jesus. If you want to know God, find out about Jesus. When you know Jesus, you will know that Allah is not God.

Posted in Belief in God, God, Islam, Messiah, Religion, The God of the Bible | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Who Is Your God? Part 2

James McConnell, a 78-year-old pastor in Belfast, was arrested and is being tried for making “grossly offensive” remarks against Islam, in violation of the UK’s 2003 Communications Act. Pastor McConnell preached in a sermon, “Islam is heathen. Islam is satanic”. Describing the god of Islam, he said, “The Muslim god is a heathen deity. Allah is a cruel deity. Allah is a demon deity.” A video of his sermon may be viewed at http://www.nowtheendbegins.com/preacher-james-mcconnell-jailed-for-preaching-against-islam/

[Update: On January 15th a verdict of not guilty on all counts was announced. Pastor McConnell “re-iterated his intention was not to offend individual Muslims but to preach against the doctrines of that religion, and he thanked all those who had supported him during these months.” http://www.jamesmcconnell.org/blog/a-victory-for-free-speech-and-the-gospel/]

In my previous article I did not agree with the statement that Allah is Satan. However, I do agree with Pastor McConnell that Islam is satanic and that Allah is a demon deity. It is remarkable to me that making such a statement has become a crime, even in western nations steeped in traditions of freedom of expression. The Bible and the Christian faith are both foundational to Western Civilization and ubiquitous in its development. But now in some countries, the public proclamation of Biblical truth claims is a crime because it is offensive to Muslims. And in Islamic nations this type of offense can rise to the level of blasphemy, which is punishable by death under Sharia law.

Muslims are offended by Christianity and Christians are offended by Islam. But while Christians seek to win (voluntary) believers by spreading the gospel (“make disciples of every nation”), Muslims seek to win a holy war (jihad) for a world “peace” in which all believers are Muslim (whether voluntarily or by force). Considering each claims to represent the truth, It is inevitable that adherents to one belief system will be offended by the other. But remaining and living in that offended state of mind only perpetuates destructive emotions, taking people from offense to anger to antipathy to hatred and finally to violence. This is exactly what a “holy war” is.

Moderate Muslims will tell you they have no desire to force their beliefs on anyone, and if that is the case, I applaud them. But the holy books of Islam tell a different story. Equally, some will point out historical examples of Christians forcing various peoples to convert. But such coercion is not justified by Biblical authority. The bottom line is that the only rational way to compare Christianity to Islam is by looking at how their theologies differ, according to their respective holy books.

So, what I want to do here is to briefly compare two belief systems, two theologies, two traditions. Rather than getting into military and political considerations, such as Islamic terrorism, refugees from the middle east and issues of religious freedom, for now, let’s just look at theological differences. There is a gulf of ignorance separating Christians from Muslims. Understanding can help bridge that gulf.

Theology is the study of God. The central issue of theology is defining the essence of God’s identity. What is he like? What is his nature? What is his character? In other words, “Who is God?”

Christian theologians and Islamic theologians come up with different answers to these questions, based on their conflicting source materials. The primary source for Christian theologians, are the holy Scriptures, commonly called the Bible, while the primary source for Islamic theologians are the writings and sayings of Muhammad — the Koran and the Hadith. Comparing these source materials is critical to understanding the theological differences between Christian and Islamic God concepts.

The Bible consists of 66 “books” assembled from different times and places, originally recorded in three different languages: Ancient Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. Some books began in the oral tradition — passages spoken by memory and passed from one generation to the next — while other books began as written documents from the hands of a variety of writers over a period of about 1,500 years, culminating in the New Testament, written in the first century AD.

A Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament or Tanakh) was done in the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC (Septuagint). and a translation of both Old and New testaments into Latin was done in the fourth century AD (Vulgate). But the most reliable modern translations today, rendered into almost every human language, are produced by the scholarly study and comparison of tens of thousands of ancient manuscripts in the original languages.

John Warwick Montgomery says that “to be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament books is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as the New Testament,” (page 40 of Evidence That Demands A Verdict by Josh McDowell). Compare this attitude toward documents of classical antiquity with a quote from Robert Spenser’s The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (And the Crusades): “Muslims call the age before any country adopted Islam the time of jahiliyya, or ignorance. Naipaul explains that ‘the time before Islam is a time of blackness: that is part of Muslim theology. History has to serve theology.’”

Bible believers consider the holy Scriptures (the Bible) to be God’s inspired revelation to man — words breathed to us from the mouth of God, recorded by men, and painstakingly preserved, rendering them still accurate and reliable today. We believe the Bible history, that Israel was chosen to be God’s people, and that he directly established the ancient Jewish religion through Moses. But Islam teaches that the Hebrew Bible, in which the history of Israel is recorded, is “corrupted” and unreliable, and that all the patriarchs from Abraham on were actually Muslims.

This is why, despite the fact that Islam was founded 600 years after Christianity and some 2,000 years after Judaism, Muslims disregard the history of those religions, choosing not only to believe their own revisionist version, but destroying ancient artifacts and closing off archeological sites from scientific study. They simply declare all pre-Islamic history as ignorant, and destroy all evidence to the contrary.

The primary source material for Islamic theologians comes almost exclusively from Muhammad who lived from 570 to 632 AD. His title is, “the messenger of God” (not “a” messenger of God), meaning it is not shared with any others. The Koran was written by him and the Hadith is a record of things he said. There is some violent disagreement between sects (most notably the Sunnis and Shiites) as to which is the correct collection of sayings that make up the Hadith. But their differences are primarily political, stemming from disagreements about Muhammad, rather than the nature of Allah.

While the Christian gospel has been taught throughout the world and understood in many different languages and in many different cultures, it is significant that Islam maintains an almost universal reliance upon pronouncements of Imams in the context of the Arabic language and culture for the “proper” understanding of the Koran and Hadith. On balance, these texts are more closely tied to Arabic culture than the biblical text is tied to its ancient semitic cultures.

The biblical message is more direct, more universal and more culturally diverse. While Bible believers point with confidence to Scripture, believing it is the revelation of God’s truth that can be understood by anyone who seeks it, Islamic dogma is more dependent upon the approved interpretations of Muslim religious leaders, than on the actual texts of the Koran or Hadith. A prominent example is that despite the fact that the holy book of Islam repeatedly urges the faithful to “kill the infidel”, Muslim apologists insist it doesn’t say that or mean that. More on that later.

There are some similarities in the Roman Catholic Church, where “sacred church tradition” is accorded authority in addition to that of Scripture. There is also the liberal position in some churches today that Scripture is not literally authoritative, but that it only gives us “guidelines”. Self-identifying Christians who adhere to this position very likely aren’t concerned over differences between YHWH of the Bible and Islam’s Allah because they consider them no more significant than variations in religious guidelines. Those who do not view Scripture as authoritative are comfortable making the assumption that we really don’t know for sure who God is, so anyone’s guess is acceptable. They would say, “We all are trying to follow the same God”.

The non-authoritative view of Scripture considers “fundamentalists” to be wrong in claiming the verbal plenary inerrancy of Scripture. In other words, there are two views of Scripture. I come from the position that what is written in the Bible is the absolute and sufficient truth about God, which he has revealed to us. But those who do not hold to the inerrancy of Scripture paint theology as something less dependent on what is written and more a product of their own suppositions.

In Acts 17:11, the Berean Jews are memorialized as being “more noble” because upon hearing Paul and Silas preach, they “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” They didn’t simply believe what Paul and Silas said. They compared their message to what was written in the Hebrew Scriptures, which they knew to be true. This position on Biblical truth is a threat to the Muslim faith, and therefore offends them.

The Christian idea of tolerance has helped to keep relationships civil between different schools of doctrine from one denomination to another. Christians are encouraged to question, write, teach and discuss matters of faith — even on controversial issues. We believe in learning and openly discussing faith issues in “the marketplace of ideas” because it stimulates spiritual growth and makes us more productive believers. But in Islam, questioning the authority of religious teachers can be considered heresy or even blasphemy.

There are liberals (moderates) and fundamentalists (radicals) in both Christianity and Islam. Liberal Christians are soft on the Bible. Their main religious concern is “doing good” and “being nice” according to their own standards, and staying politically correct. But biblical Christians believe that God speaks directly and personally to them through his word, so they specifically try to obey God. Most Muslims are more prone to accept what their Imams say as authoritative. Radical Muslims take the Koran seriously when it says to kill the infidel.

Bottom line, everyone needs to ask what their religion’s authority is. Is it some human authority or is it God’s authority? I certainly see no reason to believe in a religion whose highest authority is human wisdom. But if God himself is our authority, then what has he revealed? How has he revealed it? To whom has he revealed it? To a chosen few or to everyone? Does God’s revelation require a middle man or an interpreter? Can God’s message to one conflict with his message to another? How do we examine the authority for what we believe about God?

In John 17:17 Jesus, praying to the Father, said, “Your word is truth”. When Jesus was taken before Pilate (John 18:37) he said, “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate dismissed him rhetorically, saying, “What is truth?”, leaving without waiting for an answer.

The truth of Christian theology is pivotal. Either Jesus Christ is who he said he is, or one religious description of God is as good as any other. The gospel of salvation in Christ is either the truth or it’s not. There cannot be more than one truth. The relativity of many truths is equal to no absolute truth at all. The message of Islam is totally incompatible with the gospel of salvation in Christ. These two opposed messages cannot come from one and the same God.

1 Corinthians 1:18 tells us, “…the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” And a few verses later (verse 23) it adds, “but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to gentiles.” The gospel is foolish to unbelievers and a particular stumbling block to the Jews, through whom God’s gift of salvation was given. The truth of Christianity is also offensive to them.

The ways various societies choose to deal with this “offensiveness” can be quite irrational. Remember, we are talking about how people deal with theological differences. Historically, in the West we have relied on freedom of speech, allowing everyone to express their religious beliefs openly, with the idea that everyone has the opportunity and responsibility to weigh the options and decide for themselves what to believe. The history of Islam is not just filled with, and characterized by the violent oppression of those who do not accept Islamic theology, but their so-called “holy books” actually instruct them to deal cruelly and ruthlessly with infidels.

While you may find historical events in which Christians were similarly cruel and ruthless, no such instructions were given to them from the holy Scriptures. They were acting on their own, not according to God’s word. But all of the brutal attacks done by Islamic terrorists find their basis in and can be traced to instructions in the Koran and Hadith http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/Quran/023-violence.htm. In short, while Christians fight with the word of truth, Muslims fight with the sword.

We now live in a time when expressing what we believe — even if it is the truth — may be considered a crime. This has a crushing effect on the free exchange of information, specifically on the instructions of Jesus for Christians to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). We believe that sharing the gospel is a good thing: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:15). But we don’t force our faith on others. Becoming a believer requires the free, willful act of receiving Jesus.

In Christianity we are taught that Christ has given us both free will and freedom (Romans 10:13; Galatians 5:1). That freedom means we can be honest and authentic as we live our lives in faith. The Christian faith is not one of strict religious performance, but of living in real and loving relationships with God and man. God says, “Come now, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). He knows us because he made us (Psalm 139:13). And because he loves us (Colossians 3:12) he wants us to know him (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

It is exactly this loving relationship, based on the mercy of God, that allows us the freedom to honestly question the things of God without rebelling against him. That is why Philippians 2:12-13 says, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” This freedom of religion is not comprehended by Islam, which wields its authority with an iron hand. Muslims must totally submit to their religious authorities.

Their legalistic attitude is substantially different from the Biblical concept of submitting to authorities in Romans 13, in which those in authority have an accountability before God. If they abuse their authority, those under them have no obligation to submit to them. It will be remembered that the history of ancient Israel is full of examples of the people being punished for the evil policies of their kings.

Human authority has no right to compel anyone to adhere to immoral, unrighteous or otherwise sinful standards of behavior. Because God ordains government, the government must be constrained to rule according to God’s standards. In the Biblical world view, that means the government is obliged to protect the right of a preacher to say Allah is not the God of the Bible.

But in the Islamic world view, preaching anything against Allah or Muhammad is blasphemy, punishable by death. I find it particularly fascinating that some people refuse to acknowledge the fact that the choice between Jesus and Allah is a life or death proposition. This is the illegal message Pastor James McConnell preached — a message the enemy does not want heard because it is truth.

In the next installment I will examine how our understanding is dependent upon our language.

Posted in Allah and the Qur'an, Belief in God, Bible, Christian Faith, Islam | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Who Is Your God?

This will be the first of a series of articles examining the differences between the God of the Bible and Allah of the Koran. It is my hope that rather than appealing to emotions, it engage the reader’s intellect. Much is said in common parlance of “blind faith”, separating faith from reason. But few stop to think of what that really means.

By definition, faith is blind. Christians walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). But that doesn’t mean we aren’t to use our reason. Are blind people mentally deficient? Of course not. God invites us, “Come now, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). The greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37) includes loving God with all our mind. How do we do that, if not by using the intelligence God has given us? That is what I attempt to do here.

 

Psalm 24:8 asks the question, “Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle!” And again, in verse 10, “Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory!” Who is this King of glory? Who is your God?

The sermon title on a church marquee read, “Jesus is God, Allah is Satan, Joshua 24:15”. To understand the context of this verse, read the whole chapter. Joshua is addressing the leaders of Israel. Verse 14 is the “set up” for the “pitch” of verse 15: “Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.”  “LORD” here means God, not just any god, but the one, true God. And the implication here is that all other gods are false.

When we read “LORD” in all capital letters in English language Bibles, it specifically refers to the Tetragrammaton, the four Hebrew letters used to denote the name of God. In English, these letters are translated YHWH or JHWH, from which we get Yahweh and Jehovah, by inserting the vowels found in the word Adonai (Hebrew for Lord) between those consonants. The ancient Jews purposely did not render God’s name to be spoken aloud. They considered it too holy. To this day, devout Jews do not even write the word God. Out of reverence for “The Name” (HaShem) which is the Tetragrammaton, they write “G-d”.

This is the “God” referred to in the passage cited from Joshua. Joshua was reminding Israel that Abraham’s family had left Ur of the Chaldeans, on their way to the land of Canaan, settling in Haran (Genesis 11:31). This was before God changed his name from Abram to Abraham. God called Abram out of Haran to go to “the land I will show you”, as he put it. Verse 5 tells us he took his people to Canaan. Even though verse 7 tells us God would give that land to Abram’s offspring, they did not stay long, but continued journeying south (verse 9) and ended up sojourning in Egypt because of a famine (verse 10).

The record of these events is very important because they are what Joshua was referring to in the passage cited in that church marquee. The point Joshua was making was that in all those places (Chaldea, Canaan, Egypt and all points between) people served false gods. But Israel was to serve the one and only true God, and no other. That is why it is of utmost importance to properly identify who this God is. And throughout the Hebrew Bible we see him so identified. Perhaps the most well-known passages are the first of the ten commandments and the first two verses of the Shema:

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” — Exodus 20:2-3; Deuteronomy 5:6-7

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” — Deuteronomy 6:4-5

Even considering this brief Biblical explanation, Christians need to understand that while Muslims may claim to believe in chosen portions of the Bible (the Torah, the writings of David, the Psalms and the Gospel) they actually believe in their own (unbiblical) reinterpretations of them. They claim those portions of Scripture were true and accurate in their original form, but that the text of the Bible we have today is “corrupted”, meaning it does not reveal God’s truth and is therefore not reliable or authoritative in presenting that truth. Christian scholars consider this presumption completely refuted by the historical evidence.

So, when Muslims claim to believe the gospel and revere Jesus, it is not the gospel we read in our Bibles that they are referring to. The so-called “reverence” Muslims have for the Bible or Christianity is based on misrepresentations of what they are. In other words, they believe in a lie. The Jesus they revere is not the Jesus of the Bible, not the Savior of mankind, not God the Son, whose sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins makes it possible for believers to become children of God, no longer separated from him by sin, but knowing and loving God in an intimate relationship. This relationship, taught in Christianity is essentially different from what we might call “religion”, and so is often misunderstood by non-Christians.

Returning to that church marquee, I have touched on two of its three points: 1) that Jesus is God, a belief held by Christians, according to Scriptural authority; and 2) that Joshua was reemphasizing to Israel’s leaders that they were to serve the God of the Bible, and no other gods.

The third and glaring point on the marquee, that Allah is Satan, must be dealt with soberly. As someone who has seen mobs of chanting Muslims on TV screaming, “Death to America” and calling us “the Great Satan”, the only message I heard is that they hate us. I didn’t hear a theological issue that drew me to ponder the validity of their statement. I was simply struck by the fact that they hated America and Americans.

So, I wonder how I would feel if I were a Muslim and saw that a Christian pastor was preaching that my god was Satan. Quite possibly I would assume that all Christians hate Muslims. And that might even cause me to feel some justification for violent jihad against Christians.

Satan is the archenemy of God, once the most highly regarded angel, who rebelled against God, taking many fallen angels with him and becoming the god of this world, working and fighting against God, ever since enticing Adam and Eve into our original sin. Saying Satan is Allah narrows him down to something smaller than what he is. Remember, God said to have no other gods before him. That’s because worshipping any false god will lead us to destruction. And there are many, many false gods, each one drawing people away from God. And while that pleases Satan, it doesn’t justify calling a false god Satan.

But, using the reasoning on that church marquee, any false god can be Satan. You could say Hindus worship Satan. And since Buddha statues are called idols, even though he was a person, and not a god, you could say that Buddhists believe in Satan. Then there are the atheists. They don’t believe in the existence of any god. But, using the same reasoning, you could say that atheists actually worship Satan because they are their own gods. My point is, there is a difference between pointing out the errors of Islamic theology and telling Muslims they worship Satan. A false god doesn’t have to be Satan to lead people to hell. For this reason, I consider the statement, “Allah is Satan” to be an unnecessary overstatement. It is enough to say Allah is a false god.

An additional point: There are many churches that claim to be Christian or claim to believe in the Bible. Some of the more well-known of these “Christian Cults”, or churches outside the historical doctrinal mainstream of Christianity, are groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Christian Science and Unity. The errors in the theology of all these groups lies in their teachings regarding the identity and work of Jesus Christ. Their doctrinal errors, as in the doctrinal errors of Islam, cause them to worship contrary to the teachings of the Bible, which in the reasoning of the church marquee, means that their god, the God of the Bible, must also be Satan.

The church marquee didn’t say anything about the God of Christian cults being Satan, even though their error and destination is no different from the error and destination of Islam. The “goats” of Matthew 25:33’s “sheep to the right, goats to the left” will be made up of all who do not follow the Son, not that they worship Satan. Being deceived by Satan isn’t the same as worshipping him. You don’t have to worship Satan to go to hell. All you need to do is reject Christ, who said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

John 8:44 records Jesus as saying to a group of Jews, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” These were fellow Jews he was speaking to — men who ostensibly believed in the same God preached by Jesus. But notice what Jesus did not say. He did not say, “Your god is the devil”. Christian apologists need to get this right. When we say that Muslims are going to hell, we need to remember that everyone is going to hell, until they receive Christ and enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Muslims are no different from anyone else. They aren’t perishing because they seek to worship Satan. They are perishing because they haven’t yet received the truth. If we are concerned about the truth and accuracy of our doctrines, we need to clearly teach and preach what we believe, so that those who have ears may hear, those who have eyes may see, and those who have minds may understand and turn to the LORD (repent). Christians believe that Scripture reveals that truth. And it is that truth — not just a religious opinion — that should be reflected in our theology.

Posted in Allah and the Qur'an, Belief in God, Christian Faith, Islam, The God of the Bible | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Do You Trust God?

Read this as a devotional. Take the time you need.

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8).

As you read it and think about it, do nothing else — no other thoughts; no concerns about other things you need or hope to do; no “sandwiching in” between other things you have scheduled; no multi-tasking allowed. Do this devotional in your “prayer closet”, that is, wherever you can control what you do — without interruption. If you can be interrupted, then you are not devoting yourself to this time.

1. Consider your strengths.

This requires self-awareness. Often, we are not aware of our own strengths if we rely on them. They are too close to who we see ourselves as being, especially if we see ourselves in terms of  accomplishment or performance — the things we do. Strengths can be many things. They can be abilities to conceptualize, prioritize, plan, organize, manage & execute projects. They can be abilities to endure, sympathize, encourage, communicate, command or follow. Strengths can be almost anything. Each one of us is some unique combination of strengths, as well as weaknesses. Our strengths give us confidence and are tied closely to who we are. Picture and name your strengths.

2. Consider how you use your strengths.

As Christians, it is normal to want to do our best to please the LORD. We love to use our strengths to do things for God. Many Christians discipline themselves to constantly be occupied, in order to avoid the pitfall of idleness. Is the way in which you use your strengths a product of the Spirit’s leading or are you simply caught up in a religious routine or lifestyle of “doing”?

3. Consider how God wants you to use your strengths.

In order to do this, you must acknowledge the spiritual essence of living as a Christian. Christianity is not just religion as a way to think or a way to live. It is an essential relationship with God, manifested in our changed nature. As believers, we have entered the kingdom of heaven. And as Dorothy said, “We’re not in Kansas any more.” 1 Corinthians 6:19 tells us we are not our own.

In John 4:34 Jesus — our example — said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” In other words, what nourished him — what gave him life and strength — was doing the will of God the Father. Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

So, even though we are flesh and blood beings, Acts 17:28 tells us, “In him we live and move and have our being.” This mysterious spiritual relationship is of critical importance. In John 15 Jesus tells us to abide in him and that, “the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine”. It is not the strength of the branch that produces anything for the LORD, but the strength of the vine. Another analogy pictures us as a body nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, growing with a growth that is from God (if we are holding fast to the Head). See Colossians 2:19.

We humans can find this mysterious relationship hard to adapt to. We really are strangers in a strange land (Exodus 2:22). We “instinctively” look to our own strengths to control our lives or environments. But God specifically tells us not to. From the book of wisdom, Proverbs 3:5-6, we are instructed, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Our own understanding is one of our strengths. When we rely on it, we are choosing not to abide in the vine. We are not holding fast to the Head.

Jesus said if we want to follow him we must deny ourselves. When we deny ourselves, we are not living in our own strengths. We are relying on God to be our strength. Ephesians 6:10 encourages us, “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” This is not our strength. It is in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

Here is where it can get tricky. 1 Corinthians 2:14 explains, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” So, we must look at things of faith from a spiritual mind-set. God told Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” And Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

4. So, as we live our lives in Christ, what role do our own strengths play?

Romans 12:1 talks about presenting our bodies as living sacrifices. This idea contrasts with the idea of a blood sacrifice, in which life is taken, and thereby ended. But a living sacrifice is that which is given by how life is lived daily. This principle doesn’t simply apply to our bodies. It equally applies to the rest of our being. And this should be obvious because the greatest commandment, according to Jesus is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Jesus also told us, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

So, take all your strengths, all your gifts and talents and abilities and dreams, motivations, loves, needs — everything that makes up your life, who you are, your totality — and leave them at the foot of the cross. These are your sacrifice. God can use them…in you. But let him do that. First of all, you need to surrender everything to him. He has never left you or forsaken you, nor will he ever (Deuteronomy 31:8; Hebrews 13:5).

We do not, nor cannot know why “bad things happen to good people”. But like Job, we all must revere the sovereignty of God more than our own autonomy. The LORD is not answerable to us. We are answerable to him. Our total surrender to him brings glory to God in the name of Jesus. In Job 13:15, Job said, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.” But since, “we have an advocate with the Father–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1) there is no longer any need for us to argue with God. If we abide in him, we are in him. He is in us. We are not separate from him.

1 Peter 4:12 says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” God has not betrayed you. Just as life in the Spirit does not consist of what we eat or drink or the clothes we wear or what possessions we have (Luke 12:15; 22), neither does life in the Spirit consist of the injuries or diseases our bodies are prone to. Whatever comes our way, Jesus came that we might have life more abundantly. This is a spiritual reality. We can rejoice in that.

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” –Romans 5:3-9

 

Do you trust God?  Then be doers of the word.

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Compassion With Wisdom

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. — James 3:17

It is a righteous, good, loving and Christ-like thing to have compassion, to do what I can to help the victims of tragedy, to pray for them and their loved ones, that the LORD will comfort them, bring healing and peace to their lives, and most of all, that his presence in their lives would touch them in spite of their circumstances, and that they would ultimately be drawn to receive eternal salvation in Christ.

Yet there are other aspects to the murderous terrorist attacks in Paris. I believe the individuals who carried out these attacks — especially those who planned and organized them, and those who funded them — are enemies of God. I believe they hate God and hate the truth. If they loved the truth, they would be focused on proclaiming it. They would desire to spread the truth by winning over people’s minds, by showing them how the truth applies to everyone’s life in a very personal and real way.

But that is not the case with Islamic terrorists. They do not see their victims as innocents. They are actually following the Koran and Hadiths when they slaughter “infidels”. Those who refuse to acknowledge Allah and are not willing to live in subjection to Islamic law are considered lower than filthy vermin, deserving nothing less than extermination. And that is exactly what we see them doing, whether they are cutting off the heads of Christians, gunning down concert-goers or blowing up cafe patrons.

So, how should we as Christians respond to this threat? The reality is that right now, today, Christians are being oppressed, plundered, raped, tortured and killed by Islamic terrorists, simply because they refuse to recant their faith. Scripture teaches us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. And also that our war is not against flesh and blood but against cosmic powers. So, is the proper Christian response supposed to be non-involvement or non-violent? Are we to humble ourselves before our enemies as lambs to the slaughter?

Because Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was sufficient for all (2 Corinthians 5:15; 1 Peter 3:18), Romans 12:1 urges, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Our lives are to be our sacrifice, not our deaths. That is not to say that Christians are automatically protected from the hands of murderers, but it specifies that our sacrifice is living our life as an act of worship. We don’t have to be murdered in order for that to be the case. Martyrs are not living sacrifices.

The fact that we love our enemies and even pray for them (and have compassion on them, in light of the jeopardy they are in, as enemies of God), does not change the fact that they are still our enemies, and we still have to defend against them. Neither does the fact that Christians aren’t at war with flesh and blood mean that flesh and blood wars aren’t visited upon us. The reality is that people and nations do conduct wars against flesh and blood, and the armies involved do include many Christians.

The sixth commandment is, “Thou shalt not murder.” I do not believe that killing in combat is murder, nor that war is immoral. I disagree with those who claim that the sixth commandment means, “Thou shalt not kill,” or that war is by definition immoral. However, I respect the conviction of conscientious objectors who cannot in good conscience participate in combat. That said, I believe a Christian’s participation in or support of the military, while not a duty to his faith, is a duty to his nation. I believe that is an honorable duty, included under the heading of “Things rendered unto Caesar”.

To repeat my original point, yes, compassion is our proper response. But another element was introduced by the Presidential directive to fly the U.S. flag at half-staff at all federal government locations. That means our nation (not the Church, per se) stands in solidarity with France, that we not only share in their suffering and loss (indeed, there were Americans killed) but we stand with them against the forces responsible for those attacks. Lowering our flag says, “We are your allies. We are with you in this fight.”

So, as a Christian, Scripture directs me to have compassion on the victims, pray for them, and even pray for the salvation of the perpetrators. But as Americans, our nation is directed to support the military overthrow of Islamic terrorists. And I believe that to the best of our ability, Christians are to do both. Related to this is the mass exodus of Syrians trying to escape the carnage of the Islamic State. While Christians and other non-Muslims suffer the most from ISIS and other extremists*, there are huge waves of Muslim refugees seeking asylum in Europe.

*(There is a reason for this. Verse 29 of the 48th chapter of the Koran begins, “Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves…”)

Obama has stated it is “un-American” and “shameful” to give Christian refugees special consideration to be brought to the United States. This despite a growing number of European countries who are adopting such a policy, not to mention American governors who have said their States are eager to welcome Christian refugees but are concerned about the danger of terrorists among Muslim refugees.

Those who bother to look at a map of the Middle East can’t help but notice that Syria is surrounded by a plethora of Islamic or Islam-friendly nations. Why are the Muslim refugees not seeking asylum in those countries, hmm? Where’s that compassion we read about in Koran 48:29? In addition to being compassionate and gentle as doves, Christians are also supposed to be wise a serpents. This situation definitely calls for wisdom.

The President of France has declared that his country will attack the terrorists without mercy. Indeed, the history of Islamic extremists reveals that the only way to stop them is to totally crush them. This statement is not made out of hatred. It simply is a truth of history. They will not stop until they are utterly defeated. This is a military view, and a historical view. It is not because we are Christians that justifies fighting some kind of holy war. It is the simple fact that if non-Muslim nations hope to survive with their freedoms of religion and expression intact, they must defeat the Islamic militants whose goal is to kill, oppress and control us.

So, what should Christians do? We certainly should not be silent. We have a message to share with the world. That message is the truth of the gospel that needs to be proclaimed to an unbelieving world — most especially to Muslims, whose religion is leading them to death and darkness, hopelessness and hatred. But as Americans, we also need to recognize that unless we destroy those purveyors of death, they will destroy us. We can do that and remain compassionate. We don’t need to hate in order to fight our enemies. We just need the conviction to do that which is right and just.

 

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Do You Need A “Plan B”?

A long-time Christian friend sent out a concerned e-mail regarding the deadly geo-political situation in the Middle East, America’s complicit role in spreading moral depravity around the world,  Cycles of War, looming climate change and coming drastic food shortages.  He asked, “What is YOUR PLAN B?”

I am so glad he concluded, “God is in control.  Follow his lead.”  I need to remind myself of that fact when I become troubled by the outrageously lousy job our government is doing.  They major on the minors.  They make big plans and throw huge wads of financed debt at programs designed to save us from the sky that is supposedly falling, while increasingly assuming greater authority over every aspect of our personal lives.  In fact, the more socialist our government becomes, the more they play the role of God.

Where the original bottom line, as it is written in the Constitution, is that every State and citizen has the freedom to rely on God and live as he sees fit, now it’s the federal government that forces us to rely on it, and to live as they see fit.  After seeing how little an effect my efforts have made on the growth of big, central government, I’ve decided the best thing I can do now is trust God.

For anyone who is worried about the current state of the world, especially if they feel they must come up with a “plan B” to deal with any of the various doomsday scenarios, I offer this short Bible study that highlights where our hearts, heads and spirits should be.  The whole point of turning to Scripture is that it is from the very mouth of God.  If you are a professing Christian, yet question 2 Timothy 3:16, then you need to take a serious look at the genuineness of your faith.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

There is no need for a “plan B”. God’s plan is his will. Whatever that is, I want to be in it because I know it will not fail. In the big picture, which God sees, even if I don’t, I simply need to trust God.

Yes, we are to be good stewards of what God has given us. And in this evil world we are to be as wise as serpents. But steps we take regarding the physical aspect of our lives have a limited value.

1 Timothy 4:8 says, “for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” The same principle is seen in other physical disciplines, such as financial preparedness and self-sufficiency. However,

Luke 12:15 “…one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Luke 12:22-23 “And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”

Luke 12:25-26 “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?”

Luke 12:29-31 (also Matthew 6:31-33) “And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”

Romans 8:6 “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”

Colossians 3:1-2 “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

Remember when Peter confronted Jesus, saying he should not suffer and die at the hands of the religious leaders? Peter was concerned for the physical well-being of Jesus, unaware of the purpose of God’s plan. Jesus reacted strongly to Peter’s concern, saying (in both Matthew and Mark), “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

It seems to me that Christians need to spiritually discern our “prime directive”, if you will. Is it self-preservation or assurance of provisions, safety, well-being? Having life-sustaining needs met is certainly important. God has clearly given us the task of working for our daily bread. And we are to do that responsibly and wisely. But our LORD, in whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28) has instructed us to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow him (Matthew 16:24). Part of following Jesus means sharing in his suffering (2 Corinthians 1:5). And, we are even to rejoice at our various trials (1 Peter 4:13; James 1:2).

Where do we draw the line between practical preparedness and being so worldly-minded we are no spiritual good? Many Christians are deeply motivated by the sense that the end is near, and that’s a good thing. But we should not be overly concerned about ourselves. The “prime directive” (Great Commission) is to make disciples of all nations. We are to be sharing the gospel, leading people to the Truth, to eternal life in Christ — whatever the cost. And that cost will be dear.

Revelation 13:7 tells us God will allow a beast to make war on the saints and to conquer them. Does “plan B” mean trying to avoid that? If it is God’s will for us to be killed and imprisoned (Revelation 13:10), then that is what will happen, regardless of anyone’s plan B. Remember the lesson Job learned about God’s sovereignty? Job was blameless, upright, feared God and shunned evil, yet God allowed Satan to make him suffer greatly, despite the wealth of his possessions.

If God chooses to let us suffer, hope and pray we will find comfort in glorifying Christ. No “plan B” can do better than that.

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Politics Or Morals?

Certain “political” issues aren’t really political, as much as they are moral. Slavery was a huge issue in its day, with proponents defending their cause behind concepts such as economic need, property rights and State’s rights. But essentially, slavery is a moral issue. Does one human being have the right to “own” another, or deny another’s human rights? Even though this issue was settled a long time ago, slavery still persists, in one form or another. In Africa and Asia, household slaves are commonplace. And here in America the sexual slavery of minors, euphemistically called “human trafficking”, is a booming business. This is not generally considered a political issue, but a crime issue, because almost everyone agrees that it is morally wrong.

Political issues, by definition, are debatable. Moral issues are not. But in our lifetimes we have seen a definite change in moral attitudes. The persistent and aggressive political “gay agenda” of a very small minority (the most reliable studies show that homosexuals make up perhaps as much as 3% of the population) has influenced moral attitudes through legislation, law suits and school curricula by presenting homosexuality not as a moral aberration, as the Bible has taught for millennia, but as a legitimate, “alternate” lifestyle.

Supporters of the homosexual agenda have persuaded many, including lawmakers, that homosexuality is not a moral issue, but a political issue. Their hypocrisy of course, is that unlike other political issues, they do not consider the morality of homosexuality debatable. Whenever they hear an argument against homosexuality, based on Biblical morality, they call it hatred, bigotry, intolerance or ignorance. It is simply POLITICALLY incorrect to make a moral judgement against homosexuality, despite the fact that it is labeled an abomination in the Bible.

Another issue we have been forced to think of in terms of politics is abortion. Abortion is another euphemism. It means the murdering of pre-born human beings, and even new-born babies. The political issue is that some people demand the “choice” of not having a baby, by killing the baby they already have. But this essentially isn’t a political issue. It’s a moral issue. Does anyone have the right to kill an unwanted child?

Benjamin Franklin said, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” Today in America, not too many seem to understand what freedom really is. As increasing numbers come to believe that freedom is being able to do whatever you want, our laws increasingly reflect a licentious attitude, and those of us who hold to traditional morals are becoming increasingly enslaved by the dictates of a powerful central government. Americans cannot be a virtuous people as long as something as basic as morals cannot be agreed upon.

The political structure of our nation was derived from and developed by Biblical moral values. And the mainstay of our moral character has always been freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. The first amendment to the Constitution codifies that freedom as the “free exercise” of religion. The free exercise of religion does not simply mean the right to attend the church of your choice. It means we have the freedom to live out our lives as an expression of our faith, not just privately, but in the pubic square. Just as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of association are designed for the purpose of social behavior, freedom of religion is a public right, not merely a private right.

Now, at a point where the very moral structure of our society is falling apart, the church needs to stand for God’s moral standards, so we can avert the disaster of total moral decay. Now is the time to be BIBLICALLY correct, not politically correct. Religious freedom will only restore the morals of our nation if it motivates us to speak out. Silence in the face of moral depravity is sin. This is particularly true in the church today, as many professing Christians are tacitly accepting the idea of same-sex marriage in contravention of the word of God.

Look at the example we have in Ezekiel 3:18

If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.

Because God is just, he most definitely will punish the wicked, and they will surely die. In the Ezekiel passage above, he’s already told the wicked, “You shall surely die.” The wages of sin is a done deal. Fooling yourself into thinking a sin isn’t a sin doesn’t “unearn” your wages. Everyone will be paid. Licentiousness is not freedom, nor does it lead to freedom. It is the “way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25).

However, that’s not the end of it. Because God is loving, he also loves those wicked people. So, to those of us who are watching and see these things happening, he gives us the job of warning them, of speaking the truth of their peril so that they might be snatched from the fire (Jude 1:23). It’s our job to tell them that if they stop sinning and turn to him (something called repentance), they will live. Our job isn’t so much to point out their sin. God’s already done that. John 16:8-11 confirms,

And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

God’s done his job. But what about us? That job is to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and to stand for what is right (Ephesians 6:11). But our silence is a witness against us. In order for professing Christians to go along with immoral politics we have to deny the authority of Scripture, and that is exactly what is happening in the religion of Christianity today. We are denying the moral clarity of Scripture, while showing deference and respect to those who champion indecency.

The Supreme Court’s opinion, granting homosexuals the right to marry, created a breach in the moral ramparts that once kept our nation morally strong. That breach is allowing a flood of wickedness and injustice to inundate society and drown freedom. Christians are now being denied their right to freely exercise their religion. Courts are forcing Christians not just to accept the folly of others, but to participate in their wickedness, or go to jail and pay a fine.

There are plenty of examples in the Bible that should teach us to resist evil authorities. Bob Ellis has written an excellent article, Are Christians Commanded To Surrender To Evil? at http://www.americanclarion.com/are-christians-commanded-to-surrender-to-evil-39921 This excerpt from his article includes both Biblical and historical examples of Christians opposing government authority when those authorities stood in opposition to God:

Peter and his fellow Christians didn’t meekly knuckle under when their leaders told them to stop doing what was right. Peter was far from the only Christian who resisted tyranny.

When the Egyptian pharaoh commanded Hebrew midwives to kill all male Hebrew children, the midwives did not obey “the law of the land.” Christians who believe Kim Davis should “submit to authority”: should the midwives have “submitted to government authority”?

When the king of Jericho told Rahab to turn over the Israeli spies, she did not “submit to government authority,” but instead disobeyed and did the right thing. Christians who think Kim Davis should surrender to perpetuate the evil that the Supreme Court dictates: should Rahab have obediently turned over the Israelis?

Elijah didn’t obey the evil king Ahab. Elijah confronted evil leaders, and was actually quite snarky about it sometimes.

When Queen Jezebel was executing God’s prophets, Obadiah disobeyed “the law of the land” and hid 100 of them from government authorities. Christians who think Kim Davis should bow before the altar of sodomy: did Obadiah displease God by disobeying government authorities?

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to “obey the law of the land” when their ruler told them to bow down to evil edicts. Were their actions displeasing to God?

Neither did Daniel when his ruler told him not to do what is right. Was God angry with Daniel’s civil disobedience?

Stephen didn’t meekly comply when his rulers hammered him for standing up for what is right. Was Jesus upset that Stephen didn’t obey the rulers? (Somehow, I don’t think so.)

The Apostle Paul didn’t slink away in shame and shut up when evil rulers told him to. He was whipped, beaten and stoned by the authorities because he refused to obey them. In fact, Paul was known for having asserted the full legal rights he was entitled to under Roman law (should Christians do less than assert the protections afforded to us as citizens under the U.S. Constitution–especially when the assertion is not merely for personal privilege, but in defense of the rule of law itself?).

Indeed, many Christians of the New Testament era when the book of Romans was written, while the Roman Empire was trying to stamp out Christianity, refused to “obey the law of the land” and instead kept reading the Scriptures and meeting for church and worshiping God.

The Bible tells us that someday, a world leader will come onto the scene of history and demand that everyone worship him, but followers of Christ will disobey and refuse to worship him. Christians who think Kim Davis should bow before the throne of the Supreme Court and counterfeit marriage: will these Christians who will someday disobey “the law of the land” displease God by disobeying government authority?

Good people have been standing against evil edicts more recently, too.

Though slavery was legalized in many of the early United States, many Christians did not meekly comply with this evil edict from their government. They spoke out against it, and they worked against it, forming the abolitionist movement to rid our nation of that plague. They went on to form and work in the Underground Railroad, in contradiction to the “law of the land”) to get slaves into free territory and freedom. They weren’t content, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Dred Scott case that one man could be another man’s property, to meekly acquiesce to this tyranny as “the law of the land,” and neither did they cowardly say “The Supreme Court has spoken” and then stand by to allow slavery to continue unimpeded.

During World War II, many people helped European Jews to hide from and escape the Nazi terror. In doing so, they disobeyed their government. They did not submit to the governing authorities, and acted in rebellion to the government authorities which demanded that Jews be turned over to the government. Should the European Jews and those who helped shield them from the Nazi government have “submitted to authority”?

Rosa Parks decided one day that she’d had her fill of tyranny and no longer bowed her knee to immoral edicts. As Kim Davis refused to give in to immoral government edicts, so Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of the bus. Should Rosa Parks have just shut up and done as she was told?

Rosa Parks was not alone in standing up to tyranny from government in that era, either. In his “letter from the Birmingham jail,” Martin Luther King Jr. famously declared, “One has not only a legal, but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”

Perhaps we Christians need to be reminded that submission to God’s authority has preeminence over our duty to submit to our various human authorities. And now that we have been reminded, can we please get up off our rear ends, stand up and “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12)?

For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. — Luke 9:26

Posted in Christian Attitudes, Christian philosophy, Morals | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Donald Trump And Arrogance

I hear the word arrogant being used to describe Donald Trump. Theoretically, we as responsible voters should be asking ourselves, “Do I want someone who is arrogant to be the President of the United States of America?” But such commentary isn’t so much substantive as it is simple political gamesmanship. It focuses on appearance and style, while in terms of meaningful commentary, is strained, mis-focused and irrelevant.

The first thing that comes to mind is the arrogance of our current sitting President, now serving his second term. This person has not only appeared arrogant to his political foes, but has proved his arrogance time and again, both by statements he has made in the capacity of his office and by actions he has taken in the performance of that office. Obama truly is arrogant. To get an accurate reading of Trump’s supposed arrogance, it should be compared to Obama’s.

Other icons of arrogance are Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. But the fact that they both exemplify arrogance doesn’t seem to be such a newsworthy item. After all, they are Democrats. They supposedly wear the mantle of guardians of the People. And if they go a little bit too far, that’s OK. That’s not arrogance, that’s more like royalty or even sainthood. But a Republican frontrunner? The main guy in an elitist party that hates poor people and only looks to make a profit on the backs of those they oppress — he’s the arrogant one.

If you don’t get this sarcasm, let me clarify: Trump is not so arrogant. Trump exhibits strong leadership, which is so rare nowadays as to be unrecognizable when we see it. Strength in leadership is mistakenly seen as arrogance by people who are used to politically correct politicians who appear inoffensive, are willing to smile and say anything to keep people happily deceived, and yet all the while they are sneaking around stabbing people in the back. When you’re used to that kind of “leadership” you don’t know how to take it when a candidate actually stands for something and pulls no punches.

My dictionary defines arrogant as, “Overly convinced of one’s own importance; overbearingly proud, haughty.” The best leaders must be convinced of their own importance, but not overly so; proud, but not overbearingly proud. But frankly, I don’t think arrogance will be a determining factor in who is elected our next President. The main factor will be whose campaign gins up the most interest; which political machine will create the biggest draw. If you like a candidate, you will focus on their strengths; you see them as good at what they do. If you don’t like a candidate, you call them arrogant. Presidential elections are all about marketing — selling the public on the idea that one candidate offers better solutions than the others. The discussion of arrogance is simply a part of that selling process.

The American public has grown accustomed to pragmatic politicians. These are men and women who have convinced us that the solution to almost every human need is a government program. And because getting that job done is the most important thing, it doesn’t really matter how it’s done. This approach to government has done two things. It has brought us to the brink of financial ruin and it has thrown principles out the window.

Conservatives point to the Constitution as the blueprint of a government structure based on principles — principles that have largely been discarded or ignored by government, in favor of the discretion of our leaders. In essence, that is arrogance — putting personality-based pragmatism ahead of principles to which we should all be held accountable. If Donald Trump has done anything, he has forced a discussion — in both political debate and in media reporting — about the seriousness of illegal immigration. During the last Presidential election, that issue was placed on a back burner and hardly noticed. Trump has done this because he has not backed down one inch from his position after being attacked by almost everyone. That is strength of leadership, whether or not you like him or agree with him.

Illegal immigration is more than a simple political issue. Hopefully more Americans will come to see that in principle, only legal immigration to this nation is acceptable. Another principle I would like to see take hold is that our Constitution was never designed with a dominant central government in mind. With the exception of specifically enumerated powers, the Constitution confers most governing authority to the States and to the People. In principle, we are to be self-governing. The Constitution does not design the federal government to be the huge central government it has become. In principle, our very government defies the Constitution, and those in government have assumed an arrogance the constitution was designed to preclude in those who govern us.

Regardless of whether Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination or not, the real threat of arrogance won’t come from him. It will come from the fact that we have stopped discussing political concepts and have opted to discuss personalities instead. What do they look like? How do they act? What do they say? All style. No substance. I’d like to see political ideas really discussed. I’d like the national media to hold debates which include 3rd party candidates confronting the BIG TWO, to hear the principles those people really believe in. But national politics isn’t about ideas. It’s about power and money — the power of big political parties with big war chests. They want voters to be impressed with that power, so they don’t want to risk losing it by actually discussing political concepts.

In light of that power of the status quo, I respect Donald Trump for forcing them all to talk about things they would rather stay silent on.

Posted in Illegal_Immigration, Immigration, Politics | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Just For Fun

Things Undone

Perhaps you’ve noticed this. It isn’t rare. I’ve seen it in various places. A single leaf – it may be of a tree or small shrub – waving. It always catches my eye because the leaf seems to be moving by itself. The other leaves around it are still. But this leaf moves in rhythmic jerks, as if it is fluttering in a breeze intended for it alone.

When I was young I imagined an unseen spider of some unique specie tugging at the gossamer thread she had attached to the leaf, in some bizarre habit of luring prey or attracting a mate or perhaps warding off predators.

But I never actually took the time or made the effort to go as close as I could go, to see what I could see, to perhaps discover the mysterious cause of the solitary leaf movement. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was prevented by the fear of a spider. After all, curiosity killed the cat.

Then, as if avoiding a charge of cowardice, I considered alternate explanations to the spider hypothesis. Since we cannot see air currents, it is possible that some unique wind pattern may exist – some very small, lone eddy of air that remains for a time like a coin spinning on a table, only strong enough to affect a single leaf.

For the very reason that the movements of air cannot be seen, it would require technical knowledge and skills beyond my own to come up with an experiment to demonstrate such a theory. So, just as I did not go up close to see the spider, neither did I seek to prove or disprove the “tiny wind” possibility.

As my eyes have not been able to shed light on this mystery, the explanation remains unknown. Inevitably, I turn to supernatural possibilities. Almost embarrassed by its child-like qualities, my mind pictures an unseen spirit-being with nothing better to do than to stand next to some defenseless plant and incessantly flick one of its leaves with its finger.

If I don’t bother to think much about that particular explanation, it is because it seems nothing more than fantasy. It is like reading a bed-time story to children. It takes the cares of the day and sets them aside. It provides comfort and makes me smile. It allows me to close my eyes and go to sleep, so that I will grow up to be a big, strong, healthy man.

Once again, I have not sought to solve this mystery. I have simply said it may be this or it may be that.  Yet, I have left these things undone. It is too easy to justify my complacency. After all, it’s only a single leaf on a single plant in a single garden or in some insignificant woods. I imagine there are more important things. Aren’t there?

Posted in Just a thought | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment