Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Truth and Consequences

What a world! For centuries Christians have presented Truth to the world in the person of Jesus Christ. For centuries non Christians have acquiesced in a general way to that Truth as it applied to morals and values. Little by little however, non Christians in growing numbers and in growing power / confidence have claimed that they didn’t need anyone else telling them how to behave in order to have their own set of good values and morals. When asked, "Are you a good person?" a response of, "Well, I haven’t killed anyone," seems to be the base-line.

For a long time, non Christians have claimed that they could find their own truth, a truth that was equal to or better than anything some Christian could ‘ram down their throats.’ That experiment I think, is pretty well over. After a hundred or so years of trying to develop and promote their own version of truth, non Christians have come to the only conclusion possible - Apart from the Truth as presented in the person of Jesus the Christ, "There is no truth," or, "Truth is whatever you want it to be."

Rather than adapt to the reality of their Creator who has set out perfect guidelines that would do nothing but bring peace to planet earth (in our selves, our marriages, our communities and our countries), non Christians have decided that we’d be better off if we just do what is right in our own eyes.

God of the Old Testament says - "Love the Lord your God with all your hearth, soul and mind."
Non Christians say - There is no God, or if there is a God I’ll decide what s/he is like.
Jesus says - "I Am the God of the Old Testament."
Non Christians say - Say that again and we’ll kill you.

God says - "Remember the Sabbath day and keep it Holy."
Non Christians say - Who needs rest? Let’s make money every day of the week.
Jesus says - "If you put me first in your life, I’ll make sure that you will always have everything that you need."
Non Christians say - I don’t want you in my life at all, let alone in first place. I’ll take care of myself thank you very much.

God says - "Honour your father and your mother."
Non Christians say - I’ll show honour and respect only those who honour and respect me first. Bart Simpson is my role model.
Jesus says - "The most important person in my eyes is the one who acts like the least important."
Non Christians say - That’ll be the day.

God says - "Don’t kill other people."
Non Christians say - Depends on circumstances.
Jesus says - "If you maintain a position of anger toward someone, I consider you guilty of murder."
Non Christians say - Anger is healthy.

God says - "Don’t screw around with anyone. Remain faithful to your wife / husband."
Non Christians say - I’ll have sex with who ever I want, when I want and where I want.
Jesus says - "Don’t spend time fantasising about screwing other people."
Non Christians say - You idiot! We’ll make an industry out of fantasising about, listening to music about, watching and reading about anything and everything that has to do with sex. Being sexually disoriented will become a sign of health and freedom. And when our children somehow succumb to all this pressure and get an STD or have to kill their baby because they got pregnant, we’ll blame Christians for being too uptight about sex.

God says - "Don’t take what doesn’t belong to you."
Non Christians say - I won’t if I think that I’ll get caught.
Jesus says - "Be content with what you have."
Non Christians say - I’ll be content when I have just a little bit more.

God says - "Don’t tell lies, especially about someone else."
Non Christians say - I will if it suits the situation. And if I’m an average person it’ll be five lies per day.
Jesus says - "Be honest in all your dealings."
Non Christians say - I will if it suits the situation.

God says - "Don’t want what others have."
Non Christians say - Are you kidding? Our economy is based on wanting what we don’t have.
Jesus says - "Real life and real living are not based on what you have."
Non Christians say - Real life and real living are based on getting more than I have. My personal value is directly tied to what I own.

God says - "Love your neighbour as yourself."
Non Christians say - Ya well, I’ll start with loving myself and see where it goes from there.
Jesus says - "You will be blessed if you come to Me because you have admitted that you are spiritually needy."
Non Christians say - I don’t need a spirituality based on any relationship with you.

Jesus says - "You will be blessed if you mourn and grieve over your sinfulness."
Non Christians say - I’m not sinful; at least not as sinful as other people.

Jesus says - "You will be blessed if you are meek and gentle and kind and humble."
Non Christians say - "I’ll get ahead if I am proud and assertive and sell myself."

Jesus says - "You will be blessed if you hunger and thirst for a righteousness that comes from me."
Non Christians say - Thinking that I’m not righteous already is bad for my self-esteem. I’d rather stand in hell and sing, ‘I did it my way.’

Jesus says - "You will be blessed if you are merciful."
Non Christians say - "If I’m merciful all the time they’ll never learn to change."

Jesus says - "You will be blessed if you are pure in heart."
Non Christians say - Being pure in heart is boring.

Jesus says - "You will be blessed if you work for peace."
Non Christians say - I’m all for peace as long as they treat me right in the first place.

The arrogance of claiming ‘Because I can’t find truth, I declare that there isn’t any truth’ seems lost on these clouded minds. And sadly, as has always been the case, Christians themselves are overwhelmed and overpowered by the world’s influence and are themselves sliding, sliding, sliding towards the logical consequences of living by faulty human reasoning. We now have a world of increasing hate for others, increasing self-absorption and destruction of the very earth upon which we live.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Proselytism and Evangelism - Just Stop It!

I’ve been perusing a few "Jewish" sites and am somewhat amazed at the level of anger regarding the behaviours of some Christians re: Proselytism and Evangelism. While I don’t expect non Christians to care one whit about a Christian’s "internal need" to tell others about Jesus, I’m convinced that their irritation does in fact arise from two things:
1) Ignorance 2) An uncomfortable truth that hits home with the force of a cannon ball.

The thing is, all of us proselytize and evangelise. While some people get paid huge bucks to sway people’s opinion from one product to another, all of us want to convert other people to our way of thinking on numerous issues. Atheists want to dissuade people of faith and they make a concerted effort when presenting their case. People who are concerned about the looming disaster of global warming are desperate to let others know about the need for all of us to change our ways. If the topic of concern is of critical importance to you, if what you believe or what you’ve discovered has, in your mind, ultimate value not just to yourself but to others, it's just human nature to tell others about that discovery. That, I think, is where Christianity separates from all other religions.

People who have opened their hearts to Jesus, and I’m talking from experience, have found the greatest news on earth. You see, Christians have already been where non Christians are; living apart from and in rebellion to the idea of Jesus as Saviour. Non Christians have not yet been where we are. To tell us that we don’t have anything special is like someone else telling me whether my orange tastes bitter or sweet. I’ve had a taste of the non Christian or nominal christian fruit. They haven’t had a taste of mine. When Christians watch how other people, religious or not, cope with life, we recognise ourselves in our pre Christian days. We see a profound need for change and we know Who can make the needed change in those lives. No one knows there is a need for change until Jesus confronts them with the facts. It's like, most people don't know they have heart disease until they're slammed by a heart attack or stroke. They don't get the message until the messenger arrives. Jesus has asked His followers to be His messengers to a really sick world. In fact it's the recognition of our own sickness that has brought us to Jesus in the first place.

People in a forgiven relationship with Jesus have found a treasure beyond description. Something wonderful beyond compare has happened in their lives. There is a gospel or good news that needs telling. A healed, forgiven, and intimate relationship with Jesus is so good that to keep it to oneself is practically impossible. Besides the whole aspect of where you'll spend eternity, to discover the source of joy and peace and strength that sustains in the face of death, severe or chronic illness or tremendous loss etc. is a treasure that makes it irresponsible to NOT share with others. This peace inspite of circumstance just doesn’t seem to be the present with people of other religions or those with no faith. Sure they have joy when life is good, but let a child die, the lay-off notice come, or the spot on the lung show up on the xray and then watch what happens. I digress.

Regardless of the political aspirations of Islam, I believe that other religions don’t evangelise because there really isn’t any gospel to tell. There isn’t any good news worth sharing. Every religion except the one based on a relationship with Jesus is just the same-old, same-old. Far eastern religions (Buddhism, Hinduism etc.) self-describe their spiritual journey as an "endless cycle of rebirth and suffering." Actually it’s not quite endless. One Hindu mathematician has calculated the trip to paradise as taking approximately 6,800,000 reincarnations. Other religions, while making one feel quite spiritual, require endless repetitions of washing, dipping, fasting, good deeds, ritual prayers, rule keeping, working, working and working some more to please some god or thousands of gods.

Christianity is based on a relationship with Jesus the Christ who said that salvation requires only one thing - the acceptance of His grace. Jesus said that all we need to do, in fact all that we CAN do, to please God and receive His salvation is to accept His love and forgiveness.

No one would invent this kind of belief system because our arrogance and pride demands that WE be responsible for our salvation. We want to take ownership of our salvation. We want to do away with the necessity of God even while acquiescing to His existence. Even in religions where we believe in the same God (Judaism) and the same Word of God, there is a huge difference in interpretation. Judaism believes that one adheres to the ‘rules’ of cleanliness, festivals, Sabbaths etc. to please God. Christians believe that God gave the rules, in large part, to show that we cannot please Him by keeping the rules precisely because we don’t keep them. We cannot save ourselves. That’s why Jesus said that all of the Older Testament, the Pentateuch, the Law and the Prophets pointed to Him. The Law simply shows our desperate need for a Saviour.

Look at it this way. Let’s say you and a friend were living on the street. You barely had enough to eat. You’re malnourished and hungry all day every day. And let’s say you discovered a place just down the street where every day there was a free banquet. Would you tell your buddy? Surely it would be repugnant to not tell your friend. Of course if all you found was half a bite-size piece of donut you might as well keep it to yourself. But what if you found this huge amount of food that was free for the taking? Well, evangelism or proselytism is simply one beggar telling another beggar where to find a mother-load of food. This is doubly the case when the beggar who has found food believes the other beggar is about to starve to death. You may disagree with me about your spiritual condition, but if I believe that what Jesus said about life, death and eternity is true, and I and other Christians do believe that what Jesus said is true, then we MUST try to tell others.

Now, if other beggars absolutely believe that the life they have is as good as it gets and don’t want to hear about a free banquet down the street, or they don't believe that free food exists, then of course those beggars should be left to survive or die in any way they choose. But surely we must at least tell them. Especially since the fact is that some beggars aren’t content with the life they have. Some beggars are in fact open to hearing about alternatives. And telling a starving person about a banquet that’s being held down the street is not coercion. And it shouldn’t be seen as offensive. Telling someone the good news about Jesus’ love and forgiveness shouldn’t be seen as coercive or offensive either.

You have a right to talk to me about something that is really important to you (be it atheism, how many kids to have, what car is environmentally correct, or even which party to vote for etc.) and I have a right to agree or disagree as I choose.

Proselytism and Evangelism - we all do it. Let’s just live and let live and stop trying to force others to quit doing what comes naturally to all of us.

No body is so good that they don’t need forgiveness from God. No body is so bad that they cannot receive forgiveness from God upon repentance.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

All Christians Are Hypocrites, therefore I'd never become a Christian

I would never become a Christian because they’re all hypocrites.

People who say that all we Christians are hypocrites couldn’t be more correct. Every man woman and child who is a Christian is a hypocrite. On the other hand so is everyone else in the whole wide world. There are literally billions of hypocrites walking and talking on planet earth. Do you get my point? All people on earth are hypocrites and bigots and liars and adulterers and gossips and sexually immoral. Every person on earth is selfish and self-centred and greedy and all of us at one time or another wants what doesn’t belong to us.

The only thing about our desperately wicked hearts that’s debatable is the degree to which we indulge in our particular vices. That my friends is why Jesus came to earth in the first place. To save us from ourselves. "For all have sinned and fall short of God’s glorious expectations" Romans 3:23. The thing is, what irritates us about others are the very things that are present in our own personalities. Hypocrites, and you and I meet a lot of them because they aren’t just in church, are like a mirror to us.

"You therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgement do the same things. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath when His righteous judgment will be revealed. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honour and immortality, He will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger from God. Romans 2:1-5,7.
"So then each of us will give an account of himself to God." Romans 14:12.

What the Bible is saying is that those who focus on the hypocrisy of Christians would be a lot better off just focusing on getting the hypocritical log out of their own eyes. You see, we as Christians are already working on ours. That’s why we became Christians in the first place; because we became aware of how desperately wicked we are. As C. S. Lewis said, "No one knows how bad he is until he tries really hard to be good. A thoroughly bad man thinks he is OK."

No body is so good that they don’t need forgiveness from God. No body is so bad that they cannot receive forgiveness from God upon repentance.

Friday, January 26, 2007

I Could Never Become A Christian Because It's Simply Too Hard

I remember thinking that. I couldn’t stand all the rules; all the stuff that I wouldn’t be able to do if I became a Christian. Then I realised that all the stuff that God said I shouldn’t do was the very stuff that was ruining my life. While being a Christian might appear to be hard, not following Jesus is way, way harder. I have a post from 2006 called "Christianity is all about what you can’t do. It takes away all your freedom," that talks about it in more detail. Bottom line > the "do this and don’t do that" stuff in the Bible is there to bring us peace and freedom, not hardship.

Because He loves us, Jesus said, "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on life, relationships and all that? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." Matthew 11:28-30.

It is so very good to not have to make life destroying mistakes any more. Obeying Jesus / God brings wonderful, glorious freedom to life. 1st John 5:4,5 says, "The proof that we love God comes when we keep his commandments and they are not at all troublesome or burdensome. The conquering power that brings the world to its knees is our faith. The person who wins out over the world's ways is simply the one who believes Jesus is the Son of God. (The Message).

Did you get that? While being a follower of Jesus will certainly bring more challenges to your life than you ever dreamed possible, being a Christian isn’t nearly as hard as NOT being a Christian. Psalm 19 says in part, The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward." The person who wrote those words was speaking from experience, and I can attest to the truth of those words also. There is nothing onerous about giving one’s life completely to Jesus.

No body is so good that they don’t need forgiveness from God. No body is so bad that they cannot receive forgiveness from God upon repentance.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I've been screwed over by Christians so there is no way that I could ever become a Christian.

I could never become a Christian because I know a Christian who treated me badly.

Actually this is a pretty common reason for people to quit many things. A baseball player is convicted of a hit-and-run so you stop going to any more sporting events. A doctor is convicted of sexual assault so you rant and rave about the evil that's endemic in the medical profession. Woody Allen has sex with and then marries one of his children so you stop going to the movies. A friend breaks a promise so you tell people how all friendships are rooted in hypocrisy. Your child butchers a piece by Mozart on the piano so you claim that Mozart was a fraud. Oh wait! You actually don’t do that. In fact, that kind of reaction is reserved only for excusing your rejection of Jesus the Christ. Ever wonder why there's that kind of inconsistency in your life?

Look, the Bible tells us that "the heart is desperately wicked." Not just my heart but yours as well. While becoming a Christian should, and in the vast majority of case does change our behaviour for the better, we are and will remain consistently drawn to selfish, self-centred, unloving behaviours toward those who are closest to us. But that isn’t Jesus' fault. The number of lives that He has radically changed for the better are legion and indisputable. Jesus can do that for you. Don’t blame the composer for the student’s poor performance.
Jeremiah 2:5 This is what the Lord says: "What fault did your fathers find in Me, that they strayed so far from me?"

No body is so good that they don’t need forgiveness from God. No body is so bad that they cannot receive forgiveness from God upon repentance.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

I've been a sinner for too many years, therefore I could never become a Christian

I could never become a Christian because I've been sinning for way too long.
Have you ever felt that way? God could never forgive me. Look at all the stuff I’ve done. I’ve had lots of opportunity to turn my life to Jesus and I’ve put it off and put it off for decades.

That was my story. I deliberately turned away from Jesus for the first thirty years of my life. But Jesus loved me until I couldn’t run any more. In fact, Jesus says that he won’t turn away anyone who wants to come to Him even if it’s at the last possible second.

On the down-side, experience shows that for most people our ability to make a decision for Jesus ends abruptly. Heart attacks, strokes, overdose, violent storms and accidents etc. see to it that making a decision for Jesus should never be put off.

History records that Jesus died with two other criminals. Eyewitness accounts record that the final hours of Jesus’ life contained this drama -
One of the criminals hanging alongside cursed him: "Some Messiah you are! You can’t even save yourself!"
But the other one made him shut up: "Have you no fear of God? We deserve this, but not him——he did nothing to deserve this." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom."
Jesus said, "Don't worry, I will. Today you will join me in paradise."

Isn’t that amazing? This guy had done nothing to deserve acceptance into paradise. He had no time to make amends for the life that he’d led. By his own account he deserved to be crucified. Yet all he needed, and all anyone needs in order to receive the love and mercy and grace and freedom from guilt that Jesus has to offer is to humble himself and ask for forgiveness.

No body is so good that they don’t need forgiveness from God. No body is so bad that they cannot receive forgiveness from God upon repentance.

Monday, January 15, 2007

I'm Lost And Hopeless, Therefore I Could Never Become A Christian

I’m Lost And Hopeless, therefore I could never become a Christian.
Imagine this! You’ve been in the forest for five days. You’ve been there for five days because you’re lost. No food. No water. Covered in bug bites.
Voice: "You should come home to get something to eat and drink and to get those sores looked after."
You: "I can’t. I have no idea how to find my home. It’s hopeless!"
Voice: "There is Someone right over there who knows how to get you home. You should ask Him for help."
You: There’s no point in asking for help. I’m lost."

Stupid right? It’s like saying, "I could never become a Christian because I desperately need to become a Christian."
Luke 19:10 - Jesus said, "For the Son of man (Jesus) came to seek and to save those who are lost."

No one is so good that they don’t need forgiveness from God. No one is so bad that they cannot receive forgiveness from God upon repentance.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

I'm Too Great A Sinner, therefore I could never become a Christian

I Could Never Become A Christian because I’m too great a sinner:
I remember believing, mistakenly as it turns out, that I couldn’t approach God until I had become a good person; or at least a better person. Fortunately for all of us, it doesn’t work that way. Jesus came to earth on a rescue mission precisely because we are not good. In fact, the worse we are the more compassion He seems to have on us because our degree of "badness" is simply a symptom of how badly we need rescuing. About the worst we can become is thinking that we're actually pretty good; that we're better than others.
1st Timothy 1:15,16 - "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life."
This was said by a guy had people tortured to death because they were followers of Jesus. Yet Jesus forgave Him and transformed his life as He has transformed the lives of millions of others.
Romans 5:6 - "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly."
Even before we wanted anything to do with God and before we knew that we needed help, Jesus provided a way for us to begin a new life, free from guilt and free from slavery to our old nature.
Matthew 9:12 & 13 - Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

There are no people that are so good that they don’t need forgiveness from God. There are no people so bad that they cannot receive forgiveness from God upon repentance.

Friday, January 12, 2007

I Could Never Love The God Of The Old Testament

There seem to be comments on blogs, a lot of them actually, that go something like, "Jesus was all about love. That’s cool. I could follow that. But I could never worship the Old Testament God." There are also many, many blogs that address this line of strained thinking. So why add another? Umm, well, I can’t resist.
What the other blogs point out and what I reiterate is this. Jesus IS the God of the older testaments. Jesus said that He was and is eternal God. He said, "If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father." He said, "If you do not believe that I Am God, you will die in your sins." He is ‘the Word that came in human form’. The Word that Jesus claimed to be, is the revealed Word of the Old Testament. Enough about that.
The real issue that I want to look at is this. The reason that people take exception to the "violence" directed toward other nations, as depicted in the set of older testaments is our present-day tolerance for evil. Not only do we have a high tolerance for evil, we revel in it. It excites us. It makes us feel powerful and free; at least at first. We enjoy evil even though we are dimly aware that when it manifests itself in others it makes our communities worse places in which to live.
Yet evil is something for which a perfectly Holy God has zero tolerance. Some people can’t recognise evil until it crashes into a couple towers full of office workers. God recognises it in calling someone a fool, or in not repaying a debt, or in not loving one’s enemy, or in not respecting one’s parents, or in separating sex from a loving monogamous, committed relationship. Jesus tried to show how little tolerance God has for evil when he equated anger with murder and lust with adultery. And for what it’s worth, because Jesus is about love (His love for us), He preached far more about hell than He did about Heaven. He spoke about hell to warn those He loves about their tolerance for evil. Regardless, Jesus / God said in the older testaments that society could not survive if there was even a hint of corruption that was tolerated. If God comes across as angry in parts of the older testaments it’s because He was. He was furious that the paradise that He created for the objects of His love had been deliberately destroyed by those very objects ie. us. It’s like the anger we might feel toward a cancer that is killing our child. We want what is killing our loved one to be destroyed. Same with our Creator.
Look at it this way. Have you ever noticed that there is something really, really wrong with our world? When children kill other children, teachers and parents, when there’s been murder and war since the dawn of civilization, when it’s ok for a powerful segment of society to kill off a powerless segment because that segment is considered inconvenient or embarassing, when homeless people are beaten to death for recreational purposes, don’t you think that maybe there is something wrong with us? When tens of thousands of children are allowed to starve to death EVERY DAY, when millions of children are allowed to be sold into sexual slavery, when individuals who are emotionally stunted, sexually disoriented, morally bankrupt, relationally retarded and spiritually deluded are adored and followed with interest simply because they are beautiful and rich, when religious people kill other religious people in the name of ?, when we turn on those whom we have promised to love, don’t you think that means that something is wrong with us? When those who speak out against the lack of love in our society are called intolerant bigots and those who protest wars are labelled unpatriotic, don’t you think there is something terribly wrong?
Well, God / Jesus says there is something terribly wrong. He said that what’s terribly wrong is passed on from generation to generation like a genetic code. And He said that behaviours that do not begin in love and end in a society where all are protected should not be tolerated. In the Old Testament, Jesus / God, said that societies that were evil as a whole should be wiped off the map. Now, I can see how some might think that wiping out every living thing is over doing it. But just step back for a second or two. Do you know what kind of societies He was talking about? These were societies where child sacrifice was the accepted norm, no, the promoted norm. These were societies where individuals were so "spiritual" that offering their children as burnt sacrifices to their gods was ok. Think about that! What kind of society must it be where child sacrifice is not condemned? Can you imagine how corrupt and evil the rest of societal behaviours must have been for child sacrifice to be accepted behaviour? The amount of violence toward our neighbours that we tolerate and / or perpetrate today is nothing compared to what would have been accepted back then. Or is it?
In our Global Village, genocide is watched on the news with a ‘ho hum that shouldn’t happen. So what’s for lunch?’ kind of attitude. We do that because, "hey, I’ve got my own problems to worry about." In rural India unwanted babies are left by the side of the road for wild animals to eat. And that’s ok because, well, that’s their business. Warning our children about AID’s while pummelling them with messages that do nothing but encourage them to take part in behaviours that practically guarantee an STD is just business as usual. Sacrificing our children to the god of our corrupted self-love as we drag them through one sick relationship after another is promoted because ‘freedom to do what I want, think and say’ is the highest good in the land.

The point is, no matter what you think about behaviours and attitudes that are destructive to self and others, God thinks they’re an abomination.

The word love is used almost four hundred times in the Bible with almost 375 times being used to describe God’s love for us. (Interestingly the word love isn’t used even once in the Koran to describe God). Nevertheless, those 375 references to love are talking about the Old Testament God’s love for us. If you’ve missed it when reading the Bible, 1st Corinthians 1:18 and 2nd Corinthians 4:3 and 4 will tell you why. Any how, when you consider God’s willingness to die for us even while we are still hating Him, rebelling against Him and denying His existence, one cannot successfully argue that God doesn’t love us. But His love goes beyond His enormous sacrifice. His love extends to providing guidelines for behaviours. These guidelines are intended to show the importance of putting away behaviours that don’t originate in respect and love and protection for others, particularly for the weakest members of society. The ‘rules’ of the Old Testament God were meant to show that for society to survive there must be zero tolerance for behaviours that are destructive to self and to others. It would take too much room to explain why most of those rules don’t apply to us and our society.
Bottom line is, The Old Testament God came to earth in the form of Jesus because we were then and are now powerless to resist the temptation toward acts of evil. In fact we are drawn to them like a moth to a light bulb. We know what Jesus wants from us regarding loving our neighbour, but we don’t do it. We don’t do it because we’re not ok. Because we’re not ok, our families are not ok. Our communities are not ok. Our countries are not ok and our world is not ok. Sadly, we accept that we’re not ok and we even celebrate and reward the very things about us that are not ok.
I believe that some day we’re going to be called to account for this tolerance of sin in our own lives. This day of reckoning is coming because Jesus, the God of both the older and the newer testaments takes His Creation very, very seriously. He takes it seriously because the God of the Old Testament loves you more than you ever imagined or could ever wish to be loved.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Part One - Will The Real Bigot Please Stand Up!

Part One
Have you ever wondered why you choose to focus on the absolutely absurd statement, "Churches shouldn’t always be asking for money!"? Have you ever taken even thirty seconds to think about that statement? Do you think maybe the power company should donate the power? Do you think the gas company should donate the heat? Should the furniture manufacturers donate the pews? Should publishers donate the hymn books and teaching materials? Should the contractors and labourers donate the building? Do you think the Pastor should support his family by going on Welfare? Who do you think pays for and runs the Orphanages, Emergency shelters, Treatment centres, Schools, Home building projects, Emergency food programs, Treatment centres for leprosy, AID’s shelters, Relief programs, Hospitals and Seniors homes, Drop-in centres, Clothing depots, and all the Missions programs that Churches build, furnish and staff all over the world? Do you actually think there is some way to make all of this magically appear at no cost to anyone?
Have you ever wondered why it is that you continue to focus on the five or six televangelists who have publically stumbled, all the while ignoring the millions of Pastors and Churches around the world that are fiscally responsible? Have you ever wondered why, when making a decision about religion you refuse to consider the majority of Pastors who work for wages so low, hours so long and work with cases so desperate that you and I would never accept the job? Have you ever wondered why you are like that?
Have you ever wondered what it is about you that causes you to focus on those who struggle in their faith, those just like you who wear one face in public and another in private? Have you ever wondered why you focus on those people, while purposely overlooking the many, many more people in Church who are honest day in and day out, who don’t break the law, who love and respect their families, who have stable, long term marriages, who are women and men of integrity, who experience love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control on a level that you never have and perhaps never will experience? Have you ever wondered why you try to not think about these people when vilifying Christians? Have you ever wondered why your only response to these quality people is to ridicule them, and discount what they say without understanding what they say?
And so the question remains, Have you ever wondered why you choose to scorn Christianity based on the poorest human example that you can find? Have you ever wondered why you refuse to judge the merits of Christianity based on the character and teachings of Jesus the Christ?
Have you ever noticed how you dismiss twenty good points in a Christian and focus on the two flaws that they can find? It’s like the only thing you’ll allow in a Christian is perfection. Have you ever wondered what kind of a person you are that considers it acceptable and even sophisticated to think that way?
Have you ever wondered why you will think back to some Church couple who divorced, or someone in the Church who drinks too much, or a Christian employer who treated someone badly, and you store these incidents in their memory bank for decades? You’ll refer to those examples again and again down through the years, all the while ignoring and pushing out of your mind the great multitude of people in the Church who donate their time to run weekly groups for kids, perhaps even for your kids?
Isn’t it odd how you don’t have one single worry about holding that kind of a bigoted attitude? Do you ever wonder why you don’t allow yourself to consider the fact of how Christians are unbelievably, incredibly, fantastically under-represented in the country’s psychiatric wards, detox and treatment centres, prison system and local jails, impaired driving programs, divorce courts, social welfare system, family courts, barroom fights, etc.? Do you ever wonder why you mock and malign those who follow Christ Jesus?
And isn’t it weird how you will focus on a war, or famine or school shooting and demand an answer from God as to why He allowed these things to happen. And you’ll say something like, "How can He be a God of love when, blah, blah, blah!" You sound sooo enthralled with your logic.
It’s even more weird how you never demand an answer from God as to why He gave you hands that work perfectly, picking up, turning things off and on, fixing, adjusting, caressing, creating and exploring with exquisite dexterity. It’s mind-boggling to watch how you don’t demand an answer from God as to why He gave you a mouth with the ability to sound out words, taste foods, sense temperature and texture with extraordinary sensitivity; a mouth that can moan, cry and sing. You never seem to consider the contradiction in how you don’t demand an answer from God as to why He gave you eyes that can communicate emotion and explore the majestic beauty of creation. You use the word creation without ever considering the Creator. Don’t you wonder why you don’t demand an answer from God as to why He has allowed you to be born in an unimaginably huge and hostile universe on this little jewel of a planet? Do you ever wonder why you don’t demand an answer from God as to why He continues to allow you to take for granted the fact that you have more food than you can eat; as much money as you need, and a health care system that the majority of humanity cannot even conceive of? Do you ever wonder what kind of a person would take all of these gifts and still curse the God who gave it all to you? Do you ever wonder why you don’t demand an answer from God as to why He is so good to you even when you hate Him, ignore Him, reject Him and hate those who love Him? Of course if a conversation goes in this direction, you will immediately yell "Evolution" or "There is no God," since it doesn’t work so well to let God exist only when you want to blame Him for something.

Part Two - Will The Real Bigot Please Stand Up!

Part Two
Are you are person who accuses those who go to Church of belonging to a cult? A cult leader demands allegiance to him/her. A Christian Pastor is a servant of God and directs his parishioners to Jesus. A cult excludes the person from his/her family. A Christian Church welcomes anyone to come and go as they please. A cult demands that a person give up his/her wealth and give it to the cult. A Christian Church promotes Biblical tithing. A cult deprives a person of proper rest and proper nutrition. A Christian Church encourages a person to take as good care of one’s body as possible. A cult uses mind control techniques to deprive the person of the ability to think for her/himself. A Christian Church encourages the congregation to read, study, and know their Bibles so that they cannot be deceived by the Pastor or anyone else. The glaring differences go on and on but that doesn’t seem to make any difference to people who are looking for a reason to be their own god.
Have you noticed how some people will focus on the small group who do something their Church denomination frowns on, right away these people yell "Hypocrite!" You seem completely ignorant of the following points:
1) The Bible clearly teaches that sin is doing what God explicitly states is wrong, or what is against the character of God. It's not what a particular denomination frowns on. When you and other bigots see someone from Church going to the bar for a steak, or going to a dance, do you think that what the people from Church are doing is wrong? NO? Well, if what the people from Church are doing isn’t wrong in God’s eyes, and if it isn’t wrong in their eyes, and if it isn’t wrong in your eyes, why do you stand in judgment of the Christians? It’s simple! It’s because you’re at your most contented and most at peace with yourself when you’re criticising others.
2) When you focus on those people who struggle in their walk of faith, you conveniently forget to consider the majority of Christians who are able to stand against popular opinion and who are able to stand firm in their faith. It just makes a person wonder why you refuse to look at those people of integrity when judging the merits of Church, Religion or Christianity? Why? What is the matter with you?
3) When you see a Christian doing something he/she knows isn’t right, what you’re seeing is the incredible power of sin. One of the greatest men of faith in the Bible once wrote in Romans 7:15, 18, 19 - "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do. But what I hate to do, I do anyway. I know that nothing good lives in my sinful nature for I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. What I do, is not the good that I want to do; and the evil I do not want to do - this I do anyway."
As C.S. Lewis wrote, "No one knows how bad he is until he tries really hard to be good." Let the bigots try to go a month without gossip, or go a week without lying. Let them see if they can stop swearing, or go a couple days without judging someone about anything. Try it!
4) Finally, not everyone who goes to Church is a Christian. And some of those who are Christians are very new in their faith, so a lot of the old life still clings to them. Also, those who go to Church, who aren’t Christians, go for many different reasons. Some go because they like to be seen in Church. Some go for the kids. Some go because it makes them feel good. But the reason Christians go to Church is:
(a) To worship their Creator for providing a salvation which they recognise they can not provide for themselves, and
(b) They know that they are not good and that they need help to change who they are.
A step toward Christianity is one’s recognition that I am not better than others. When people accuse Christians of thinking they are better than others, that’s simply the bigot’s projection. It’s not the Christian’s thought.
It seems as though some people have never wondered whether they are making any sense when they accuse Christians of being self-righteous? Have you taken any time at all to think that one through? The word "Righteous" means to be free from guilt or sin, acting in accordance with a divine or moral law. The word "Self-righteous" means to be convinced of one’s own righteousness. It’s you the bigot who believes that you are good enough. I’ve already said that we who claim the name of Christ know and believe that we have no righteousness apart from faith in Jesus. We are counted as righteous in God’s eyes, but that has nothing to do with who we are, or what we have done. It is based completely on what Jesus has done for us and our faith in that work. The Bible teaches: "Unless you are born again you can never get into the kingdom of heaven. There is no eternal doom awaiting those who trust Jesus to save them. But those who don’t trust Him have already been tried and condemned for not believing in the only Son of God" (John 3:3, 18). Jesus said, "I say emphatically that anyone who listens to my message and believes in God who sent Me has eternal life and will never be damned for his sins. For unless you believe that I am the Son of God, the Messiah, you will die in your sins" (John 5:24; John 8:24). "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and can be made right with God freely by His grace because of Jesus’ death on the cross which paid the penalty we’ve got coming" (Romans 3:22-24).
It is we Christians who know and believe that there is nothing in us that can make ourselves good enough to warrant eternal life in Heaven. It’s people like Jesus’ critics who think that they, in their own power and might and effort can make their selves good enough. It’s they who perfectly fit the description of being self-righteous.
The sinful nature that is in every single one of us roams through our lives searching for a place to take root. When you see something seriously and chronically wrong in a person who goes to Church, even if it’s a Pastor or Priest, that does not mean that Jesus or even religion is wrong. What you’ve found is a corrupt person who is using religion to serve him or herself. Let me explain.
Your hatred, bigotry and hypocrisy has found free-rein in you, and that allows you to denigrate and malign all religious people, the vast majority of whom do not deserve these vicious attacks. You’ve become a predator, harming innocent people. You feel free in making the comments you do because you say them in safe places with like-minded bigots.

Conclusion - Will The Real Bigot Please Stand Up!

To conclude, do you ever wonder how some people get to be such bitter, miserable, angry, vengeful, unforgiving individuals who live their lives around a distorted list of facts? I can tell you why. There is a very accurate saying that goes, "A person doesn’t become a bigot because she/he misinterprets the facts. A person misinterprets the facts because he/she is already a bigot."
Have you ever wondered what it is about your soul that makes you laugh at and ridicule the verses in the Bible that you don’t understand? You say "Look at that! You can’t expect me to take that literally." And based on your feeble reasoning you go on to choose to disregard those most important verses about salvation that are so crystal clear and so easy to understand that a child can get the message.
There’s a reason for your kind of reaction. Bible scholar D. L. Moody once said, ‘Reading the Bible without the Holy Spirit is like reading a sun dial by moonlight." What he meant was described in the Bible this way. 1st Corinthians 2:14 says, "The people not of the Spirt do not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God. For they are foolishness to them and they cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned." 2nd Corinthians 4:3 says, "Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. satan, the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."
These are sobering words that should make our legs buckle beneath us. They are saying that secular bigots have got a very short time to radically change their beliefs. You can either do it now and be saved, or you’ll be forced to change later yet still be lost forever. "In the end, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord"(Romans 14:11). In you present condition you are on the verge of being eternally and completely separated from God. But it doesn’t have to be this way. God has so much love, even for those who hate His followers, that He came in bodily form to die, in order to pay the penalty for your sins and for my sins, and to lead us home? Don’t you ever wonder about the kind of love that would make Him do all this for everyone, even for those who hate Him and His followers?
Some people have accused Christians of having a blind faith. That couldn’t be further from the truth. An example of blind faith is when people go to a funeral of someone, perhaps a good person, but not a Christian and they say, "I just have to believe that she/he’s in a better place." You just have to believe that!!! Or you might be one of those who says, "This is it. There’s nothing after death." Based upon what facts do you make that comment? None! It’s those comments, that are the perfect example of blind faith.
The Christian’s faith is built upon a real person who lived in real time in real space, who died and rose again from the dead in real time and in real space, and He did all this in such a way that no one could prove that it didn’t happen. He did this in such a way that those followers of His who were gutless cowards before His death, were unstoppable spokesmen and women after His resurrection.
Jesus said, "Come to ME all of you who are weary and carrying a heavy burden, and I will give you rest for your soul. . ." Some people don’t want to take every verse in the Bible literally, but Jesus literally died to give us the opportunity for salvation. If secular bigots think that He isn’t going to take seriously their continued rejection of why He was tortured to death for them, you need to think again. He may be a loving God but He is also just and fair. We can either let Him pay the penalty for our sin, or we will pay the penalty later. We need to seek out and focus on Jesus who is the giver and sustainer of life. He’s waiting for us with open arms to help us be rid of our hatred and anger and the bigoted attitude, so that we do not need to pass it on to our children