Tuesday, September 29, 2015

These Unbaptized Muslims

General Custer was known as an Indian fighter. He died fighting. The story is told that he and his men found themselves surrounded by a large number of Indians. One of his men said, “General Custer, look at all those Indians we can kill!”

Though that attitude didn’t serve him well at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, it is the same attitude that David had when he face Goliath. “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

If not for the fact that David won his fight against Goliath, we would say, “That’s awfully foolish of him,” just as we would say it would be foolish for General Custer to be thinking about how many Indians he could kill when he was out numbered. But hasn’t our God called us to foolishness? “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise” (1 Cor. 1:27).

We’re facing our own Goliath right now in the form of Islam. To hear a lot of my friends talk, Islam is the scariest thing there ever was. We dare not let Muslim refugees into our country because they might be terrorists, plotting to blow something up. Even if they aren’t, they might be trying to force Sharia law on us. And if a kid puts a clock in a box and takes it to school, he’s to be feared.

So, let me ask you, Who are these unbaptized Muslims that they should defy the armies of the living God? If God is God, then we have no business being afraid of these guys. Why are we making decisions based on our fear? That’s what the children of Israel did. They left Egypt and looked over into the promised land, only to decide that they weren’t willing to face the giants. The Bible gives us story after story in which people were afraid instead of putting their trust in the Lord and things going badly. I don't recall one time when God blessed the spirit of fear rather than faith.

The Lord has called us to make disciples, beginning at home and going throughout the world. Not only has he told us to go, he has promised our success. We won’t reach everyone, but we will be witnesses throughout the world. He never promised the Muslims that they would be successful, and yet many people act as if he did. They fear that if Muslims come into our country that they will persuade our people to become Muslim. Should we not rather see this as an opportunity to preach the gospel to these Muslims? You can be sure that there is little opportunity for these people to hear the gospel in the countries they are fleeing. Can you imagine how difficult it would be for us to send a missionary into the areas occupied by ISIS? Just the mention of the gospel might be enough to get you killed.

Even though our freedoms are taking a hit right now, in the United States, we have freedom to share the gospel. Every Muslim that ISIS chases to our shores may be a threat, but they are also a potential convert. So, let me put it this way: If I were a government official charged with preventing terrorism, I would just as soon say that no Muslims are allowed. Of course, the Constitution wouldn’t allow me to say that, but it would make my job easier. But as a Christian, I want to say, send them by the boat load. Send them to my city. Send them to my doorstep. Send them and we’ll preach the gospel to them. Send them, so God can use us to turn these unbaptized Muslims into baptized Christian missionaries.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The President and Psalm 109:8

What do we do with Psalm 109? You may have seen posts on Facebook suggesting that we should pray for our President by praying Psalm 109:8, “Let his days be few; and let another take his office.” Of course, verse 9 gives us a clearer picture of what the psalmist means, “Let his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.” While it might seem funny to tell people that we’re praying Psalm 109:8 for our President, Psalm 109 is nothing to joke about. These are the words of a very downtrodden person, desiring the death of his enemies.

Some people, such as C.S. Lewis, have suggested that it is best to leave Psalm 109 and other similar psalms alone. That seems to be the wrong approach when you consider that Peter didn’t stay away from these psalms when he quoted the book of Psalms as saying, “Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his office let another take.” He saw it as the inspired word of God and so should we. He saw it as something to use for guidance and so should we. Even so, this is still a bitter curse against the psalmist’s enemies.

In Acts 1:20, when Peter referred to Psalm 109:8, he wasn’t praying it. Instead, he saw a similarity between it and what they had experienced with Judas. Judas was a man that they had loved and a man that Jesus loved and yet, Judas betrayed them. Peter didn’t have to pray that Judas would be judged for his actions, it had already happened and the punishment described in Psalms 109 had already been carried out. So, Peter had reason to believe that they should follow Psalm 109 a step farther and find someone to take Judas’ place.

People looking to pray Psalm 109 against people like our President have this idea that because he is doing stuff that is wrong, it is okay to curse him. Look at Psalm 109:4, 5. “For my love they are my adversaries: but I give myself unto prayer. And they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love.” It is not appropriate for us to pray like Psalm 109 if we don’t love the people we are praying for.

David loved the people he was praying for. Perhaps this was his son he was praying for. You recall that his son tried to take David’s throne by sitting around and telling people, that things would be better for them if someone other than David was king. David loved his son, but his son still fought against him. That puts Psalm 109 in a very different perspective. Instead of this being David looking for God to be the sword with which he smites his enemies, this might be something else completely.

Suppose you have a friend that you have been praying for and you have seen the Lord answer those prayers. You have seen the hand of God working in their life and there’s hedge around them like the hedge God placed around Job. But in spite of you praying for their protection, they turn against you. You plead with them, hoping to restore the relationship, but they are not moved. They lie to your other friends. They steal from you. Nothing you say convinces them. You are at the end of your rope. That is when you start praying like David in Psalm 109. “Lord, you remember how I asked you to protect my friend? Take it all back. Let Satan do whatever he wants to him. Let him lose his money. Let him lose his family. Let him lose his life.”

It is similar to what is said in 1 Corinthians 5:5. There are some people who should be delivered to Satan for destruction, in hopes that they will see the error of their ways and repent. If our desire for Barak Obama is simply to get him out of office, we have no business praying Psalm 109:8. I very much doubt the Lord will hear that prayer. But if out of our love for Barak Obama we seek to release him from the protection we’ve been asking the Lord for, that’s a different story. Our primary desire should be that Barak Obama repent of his sins and accept Jesus Christ. Of course, it makes no sense for us to pray for God’s protection to be removed if we haven’t been praying for him to be protected in the first place.

So, what do we do with Psalm 109? We follow it as the inspired Word of God, but before we start using it to pronounce curses on people, we need to do like David and love them first.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

A Double Standard

The picture shows what one of my favorite gifts of all time. It helped shape who I am today. I spent hours with this thing, running wires from one component to the next, first following the schematics in the book and then trying out different things. By the time I was working on similar project in college, I knew enough to teach some of the other students in the lab. What could I do with this thing? Well, I would make some lights turn on and off. I could make a radio. And yes, I could make a clock.

If you’ve been watching current events, you probably know where I’m going with this. A fourteen year-old kid took a prototype clock to school to show an engineering teacher, but the kid was arrested and suspended because another teacher thought it was a bomb. There have been mixed responses. Oddly enough, some of the same people who cried foul when a kid got in trouble for shaping a Pop-tart to look like a gun are saying, “It looks like a bomb to me; he should have been arrested.” Some are basing that on the fact that the boy is Muslim, but not all.

Here’s the thing. That 200 in 1 project set in the picture has enough components for a person to build a timing device for a bomb. Of course, that isn’t one of the projects in the book, because Radio Shack would’ve had to have sold it with some kind of explosive material. Of course, I never used the project set to build a bomb because bombs tend to go “Boom!” and I like having my fingers and head attached to my body.

I find it disturbing that a school would suspend a student for building a clock and bringing it to school. If we were to take 100 Electrical Engineers and we told each to make a clock, the would all have something that looked very similar to the one the kid built. All electronics projects look something like this until someone decides it needs to be refined into a product that can be sold. If we’re going to encourage students to take an interest in science and engineering, we’d better expect to see some projects that look like this.

When I was working with my 200 in 1 project set, I was fortunate to have a father who took an interest in what I was doing. But what about those students with absent fathers? Who are they going to turn to? Their teachers is who, but those teachers don’t make house calls. For the students to hear their teachers say, “Good job!” they have to take their projects to school. If that means they’re going to get arrested and suspended, that is no encouragement at all.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Will God Send People to Hell, If They've Never Heard the Gospel?

An atheist asked me, “So, the people in India, who don’t get the gospel, are doomed, because that’s part of [God’s] plan?” Though an atheist asked the question in an effort to shake my faith, it’s a question that many Christians have asked as well. What about those who have never had the opportunity to hear the gospel?

Paul seems to address it in Romans 2. In Romans 2:12 he declares, “For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law.” He goes on to say in Romans 2:13, “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” He also explains that even the Gentiles do the things contained within the law, proving that the law of God is written in their hearts.

The lie of Satan is that if a person sins without knowing it is a sin, then they shouldn’t be held accountable. We get this idea that these people in India or Africa or South America or New York City or Fort Worth, Texas, who have never had an opportunity to hear the gospel shouldn’t go to hell, because they didn’t know. When we think that way, out thinking is all messed up. First, it isn’t the fact that we haven’t heard the gospel that makes us worthy of hell, it is the fact that we’ve sinned. Second, even the person who has never seen the Ten Commandments has enough law to realize they’ve broken the law.

Imagine a little Hindu child growing up in India. Whatever beliefs this child might have, he realizes that it is wrong to kill, to steal, and to lie. He knows that he should respect his parents. He also knows that he has stolen, lied, or been disrespectful to his parents.

Even atheists have documented some laws that they believe people should follow. Christopher Hitchens includes such things as “Do not condemn people on the basis of their ethnicity or their color.” And, “Despise those who use violence or the threat of it in sexual relations.” Also, “Hide your face and weep if you dare to harm a child.” Richard Dawkins included, “Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you.” He also included, “In all things, strive to cause no harm.” And, “Never seek to censor or cut yourself off from dissent; always respect the right of others to disagree with you.”

I wonder how well they think they are doing with that. Of course, these guys have read the Bible, but I wonder if at the Great White Throne some of the books that will be opened to be used to judge these guys will be the books they wrote. “Here’s what you said people shouldn’t do. How well did you do with that?”

Whoever we are and wherever we live, we all know that we aren’t perfect. That is what will condemn people to hell, not the fact that they heard the gospel and rejected it. We’ve sometimes said, “No man deserves to hear the gospel twice until every man has heard the gospel once.” But that isn’t true. The truth is that none of us deserve to hear the gospel, at all. While it should burden us that there are people who have never heard the good news that Jesus died to pay the debt of their sins, there isn’t a single person who deserves to hear that message. We didn’t deserve to hear it either. That should cause us to share the gospel with even more people, but those who don’t hear are still without excuse, because it's the fact that they have broken God’s law that condemns them, not that they haven’t heard the gospel.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Youth Meeting With No Youth

Last week, I attended a youth meeting at which there were no youth. It was a church association meeting and the attendance was fairly good. There were elders who filled every position that the youth would’ve filled, so the meeting went so well that you wouldn’t even notice that there weren’t any youth present. I think it is worth noting that we met in a building that was once a two room school house, until the little farm schools were consolidated and the Missionary Baptists took possession of the building.

The more I think about that, the more it disturbs me. When I was a teenager, I was the president of that same youth organization, so I speak of it fondly. Since I was the only youth at our church that was the only “youth group” I had. That’s probably why local associations started having youth meetings in the first place. The association of churches could provide something for youth that a tiny church could not. Isn’t that why we have SOAR in the BMAA? No one BMAA church would put on something like that for their youth, but combined we can. For me, serving as president of the Youth in the Harvest and “giving parts” gave me experience that I cherish now. I would like to see all churches get their youth involved in something like that. But what I experienced last week highlights a problem that exists among churches.

A youth meeting is intended to minister to youth, is it not? The purpose of having officers isn’t to conduct business, but rather to give youth an opportunity to learn in an environment in which they can’t do too much damage. So, why were there officers there on a night when there were no youth present? It’s like a city bus that keeps running the route, even when there are no riders.

So often, Christians keep doing stuff because that’s the way it’s been done. If you do something enough, you can keep doing it after forgetting the original purpose. No youth will serve as president, so an adult fills the slot, then it happens with the treasurer, and then the secretary. Soon, adults are doing it all, and no one even notices that the youth didn’t show up. That isn’t far removed from what happens with meeting places. At one time, it made sense for a church building to be located near a few farms, because people had to walk to church. Now, it is a small thing for people to drive several miles to attend church.

When you think about it, the fact that churches and schools were once in the same building ought to tell us something when we consider how far children travel to school now. Those little farm schools were consolidated into schools that are in town, but there are many churches that are still trying to make a go of getting people to come to a building off on a side road somewhere. In some cases, the members are attached to the building or they are attached to the church. They’ll keep trying to make it work till the bitter end, even though they are in the same mission field as several other churches that teach similar doctrine. If we could start fresh, we would probably plant one church with one pastor near a school, rather than five churches with five pastors on rural roads.

I’m not in favor of just calling an end to something, but I do think we would be wise to consider the purpose behind some of the things we’ve been doing for a long time. It should shock us when we show up at a youth meeting and there are no youth there. The purpose is to teach youth, and there’s no reason why it can’t do that. But rather than adults filling in for the youth when they aren’t there, the absence of youth should tell the adults that they need to go find some youth. Perhaps we need five churches within a few miles of each other, but the decision should be based on the people those churches have an opportunity to reach, not on the desire to keep a building or to retain a church name.

The same goes for ministries within a church. Are we doing something just because that’s what we’ve always done or because that’s how someone taught us to do it? Or are we doing something because we can see how it is accomplishing a purpose in the lives of people. If what we do has no impact on people, something needs to change.

Friday, September 4, 2015

They Just Want Gum

Fourth grade. 1984. Wednesday. Sunshine. The day I got caught cheating. We had these desks with four legs and separate chairs. Not the kind where the books fit under the seat. I’d figured out that you could take the list of spelling words, hide it just inside the front and if you pushed back just enough, you could see the words as the teach called them out. I’d done it a couple times before, but this time I leaned back a little too far or something and she cause me looking. It really upset me when she caught me at it, because I really liked my teacher. I never cheated on a school test again.

Oddly enough, the Wednesday test was just a practice test. The real spelling test was on Friday each week. But the people who made spelled all the words right on Wednesday didn’t have to take the test on Friday and they got to chew gum in class on Friday morning. I cheated, just so I could chew gum. It seems like such a little thing now. My mother would’ve bought me gum, if I’d asked, but that wasn’t good enough. I wanted to be one of the people who got to chew gum in class, even if that meant cheating on the test.

As I look at this gay “marriage” thing, we may have a similar situation. Why did anyone have to cross paths with Kim Davis in Rowen County? There are other counties in Kentucky that were more than willing to issue marriage licenses. Why did anyone have to try to get a license in Kentucky? There were other states that had already legalized issuing licenses. But even before any state declared gay “marriage” legal, there was nothing preventing them from getting on a ship, going out into international waters and saying their vows in front of a ship’s captain. To the extent that two men or two women can get married, they would be no less married if they did that than if they received a license in Rowen County.

This has never been about “marriage.” There’s nothing that marriage gains any of these people. They’re already doing things the human body wasn’t designed to do and aside from some employment benefits that many companies had already decided to give them anyway, nothing changes. They say their vows, then go back to the same home and sleep in the same bed. But what they’re looking for is gum. Not just any gum, but gum from the teacher. What they want is official recognition, but just as I did, they’re cheating to get it.

See, there never has been such a thing as marriage between two men or two women. There never has been and there never will be. Oh, some people may call certain civil unions marriage, but “marriage” is just a word that we use to describe a concept. That concept is of a man from one family joining with a woman from another family to create a new family. It is impossible for two men or two women to have that. That knowledge makes them feel inferior. They know that they could go and find someone of the opposite gender to marry, but that’s not what they want. They want the recognition of marriage, without having to get married. Sure, they could say their vows in front of a ship’s captain, but once they came back to the United States, people would say, you aren’t really married. So, they cheat and work toward getting laws that require people to recognize their civil unions as marriage. It disturbs them that a County Clerk in Rowan County tells them that what they are doing isn’t real marriage, so they take her to court to get the judge to force her to recognize their civil unions as marriage. It shouldn’t matter to them. She’s just a clerk. She’s just a paper pusher. But it disturbs them because they know it’s true.

You can be certain that they will also be disturbed when churches continue to tell them that their civil unions are not real marriages. One of them will get saved and want to join a church. The pastor will say, “Sure, but you need to dissolve the relationship you’re in first.” So, the new convert will move out and file for divorce. The other person will be steaming mad, because the church doesn’t recognize their union as marriage. Cheating may get you what you think you want, but you’ll always end up questioning its true value.