I have installed IntenseDebate to enable the use of CommentLuv on Blogger, but anyone can leave a comment, and please do! I have also removed the nofollow tags to make this a Christian DOFOLLOW blog. If you have a Christian or family oriented blog and would like to exchange links in the blog roll, just leave a comment and ask!

Friday, December 24, 2010

What's Your Most Memorable Christmas Gift?

Nothing spiritual or theological in this post. God's gift of Jesus is the Greatest Gift of all eternity, but let's just have a discussion of our most memorable material Christmas gifts. I lived in Key West in the late 70s when my dad was stationed there in the navy. We lived in base housing and had a seperate storage unit in a building located elsewhere in the housing area. Christmas morning I emptied my stocking and found the key to the storage unit. I was totally bewildered as to why I had this key in my stocking. My dad drove me over there to have a look. I opened the door and there stood my first 10-speed bicycle. We didn't have all these mountain bikes and 15- and 18-speed bikes like we do now, so a 10-speed was pretty special for a kid back then. I was 10 years old and still remember it quite well all these (cough)%&(cough) some-odd years later. Post a reply and share your most memorable Christmas gift.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Can You Pass Heaven's Entrance Exam?

Why do you call Me good? No one is
good but One, that is, God.
- Matthew 19:17, Mark 10:18, Luke 18:19

There are many people who hope they’ll be good enough to get into heaven when they die. It should scare them to death (no pun intended) to have to go through life “hoping” they’ll go to heaven instead of “knowing,” considering what the alternative is. But, then again, many who “hope” to go to heaven don’t believe there is a hell, so it doesn’t really bother them. Well, seems to me that, if you “hope” to go to heaven, then you must believe you have an eternal soul that goes somewhere after you die. “Hoping” to go to heaven, then, must also mean there is an alternative place you’ll go if you don’t get into heaven. “But I’ve never missed church!” “I’ve put lots of money in the offering plate!” “I’ve done a lot of charity work!” “But, I’ve been a pretty good person. I mean, I’ve never killed anybody. I kept the 10 commandments!” All of these are reasons people have for thinking they’re going to heaven. Every one of them is wrong and can be refuted with scripture, but I won’t go into that here. That would make this post way too long. All of these things, however, are dependent upon what the person does or doesn’t do. The simple truth is, THERE IS NOTHING WE CAN DO TO EARN OUR WAY INTO HEAVEN! It’s a heart issue, as I wrote about a few months ago in my post Have You Had a Heart Transplant? In the words of Jesus above, He plainly pointed out that the only one that can be considered “good” is God. Anything less is less than good. How can we possibly think that anything we can do can stand up to God’s goodness?

But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses
are like filthy rags.
- Isaiah 64:6

Compared to God’s righteousness, all of our good deeds are like filthy rags. Is that what we want to bring Him to get into heaven? And it applies across the board; rich or poor, white or black, Protestant or Catholic, American or Chinese, drug addict or preacher. We are all in the same boat because none of us are “good enough.”

There is none righteous, no, not one.
- Romans 3:10

Did you know there is an entrance exam to get into heaven? Have you studied for it? No, you don’t need to know the bible inside out. You don’t need to be a master of every point of doctrine. You don’t even have to be able to quote scripture like a biblical scholar. The exam is only one question God is concerned with: did you trust my Son? It’s that simple, but so many people miss it because “people” make it complicated. God made it simple, and He did all the work for us. All He wants us to do is trust that Jesus has it all covered for us. He died on the cross as God’s perfect sacrifice to conquer death for us, to pay a debt for sin that He did not owe, because we could never pay the debt ourselves. That was the whole mission of the baby whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, as I wrote about in my post Born to Die.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
- John 3:16

This is perhaps the most widely quoted scripture of the entire bible. But look what it says. It says that God gave His Son. When you give something, it is a gift to simply be received. If you’ve been trusting in your own ability to get to heaven, won’t you take a moment to consider this and honestly ask yourself if you deserve to get into heaven, or if you’re just bringing Him filthy rags? Be completely honest with yourself, lay aside your pride, and make the decision to simply TRUST Jesus and not yourself to get to heaven. That’s all there is to it, and you too can pass heaven’s entrance exam with flying colors!

I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father
except through Me.
- John 14:6

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Walking in Mary's Shoes

Carefully consider the words to Mary Did You Know, and take a moment to put yourself in Mary’s shoes. If you’re a woman, and an angel had told you that you were going to have a son, but you were still a virgin, how much faith and courage do you think it would take to tell your fiancé? If you’re a man, and your betrothed came to you with this, would you believe her? Just the simple act of telling Joseph put her very life at risk because she could have been stoned to death according to the Law. Mary stepped forward on faith that God had given her a special child for a special purpose. Could she have possibly comprehended just what that purpose was? Could she have ever got her head around the concept that her child was fully man, yet fully God? That He was, indeed, God in the flesh? Sure, she saw him growing up, teaching in the temple at a young age, amazing the temple leadership with his knowledge and understanding of the Scripture He Himself spoke into being. She saw the miracles He performed. She saw Him turn water into wine, restore sight to the blind, heal the lame, cure lepers, raise the dead back to life; but did she know her Son would have to give His own life? Did she understand that He was God’s perfect sacrificial Lamb? Many Jews believed the Messiah would be a military ruler that would defeat the Romans and liberate them from their human bondage. Little did they understand that Messiah was coming to deliver them from the spiritual bondage of sin. Can you imagine what must have been going through Mary’s mind as she saw her Son beaten, tortured, humiliated, and finally executed on a cross? Was she waiting for a miracle, like an army of angels or something, to stop this from happening? How could God let this happen to her promised Son? Imagine her anguish as she saw her Son, beaten to a bloody pulp, laid to rest in a borrowed tomb. For three days she grieved, until she saw her Son resurrected from the grave. Was it not until then that she understood that the Son she delivered came to deliver her? Was it then, after enduring unimaginable grief, that she finally knew it was all part of God’s plan? Truly, Mary was blessed among women. Moses got but a glimpse of God, but Mary was entrusted to give birth to His earthly form, raise Him as her child, hold Him, nurse Him, and love on Him. Any mother will kiss her baby, but did she know just how privileged she was to literally kiss the face of God? Unlike any other, God found favor with her, indeed.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Creative Nativity Story with a Modern Twist

This a very creative telling of the Nativity story with a uniquely modern twist. It's too cute and very much worth the viewing. There is no embed code to put it on here with a preview in a player, so please click on the link. It's on a site called GodVine.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Jesus: Wine-guzzling Vagrant and Socialist?

Was Jesus a “wine-guzzling vagrant and socialist?” That’s the assertion made in a book by Barbara Ehrenreich titled “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America.” It is about her efforts as an “undercover journalist” to make a living working minimum wage jobs in Minnesota, Maine, and Florida. I never would have heard of this book if I had not read a news article concerning it and the controversy it has caused. It is required reading for a personal finance class at Bedford High School in New Hampshire. The book is supposed to be a supportive argument in favor of a higher minimum wage, but it goes beyond that by using foul language and being offensively critical of Jesus and Christianity. An excerpt from the book, in which the author describes a Christian church service she attended in Maine, reads,

 "It would be nice if someone would read this sad-eyed crowd the Sermon on the Mount, accompanied by a rousing commentary on income inequality and the need for a hike in the minimum wage. But Jesus makes his appearance here only as a corpse; the living man, the wine-guzzling vagrant and precocious socialist, is never once mentioned, nor anything he ever had to say. Christ
crucified rules, and it may be that the true business of modern Christianity is
to crucify him again and again so that he can never get a word out of his mouth."

In the book's Frequently Asked Questions section of the author’s website, the question is posed, “Why did you go out of your way to insult Jesus as a “wine-guzzling vagrant?” The author’s reply states:

"I didn’t! In fact, Nickel and Dimed received a Christopher Award, which is given by a Catholic group in recognition of books "which affirm the highest values of the human spirit." In the section at issue, I observed that the social teachings of Jesus went utterly unmentioned at the tent revival I attended. The revival preachers clearly preferred the dead and risen Christ to the living Jesus -- who did indeed drink wine and could even make it out of water. As for the vagrancy charge: that’s what he was, a homeless, itinerant preacher."

Despite what some fundamental legalists might say, I would agree that, yes, Jesus did make actual wine at the wedding feast of Cana, and I’m sure He likely drank some of it, as well, but He was certainly no drunkard as the author seems to imply. Wine was, and still is, a very common part of the culture of the region in which Jesus lived His earthly life. I would compare it to sweet tea in the southern US. As for homeless, I suppose that technically, yes, He was homeless. Jesus Himself said,

Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man
has nowhere to lay His head.” - Matthew 8:20

However, I fail to see how mention of this is even necessary in a book about the struggles of minimum wage workers. Even so, this could easily have been worded much differently and still make whatever point the author intended. It seems to me that it was purposely worded to sound inflammatory and create controversy, perhaps for the advancement of the author’s recognition and career.

Based on the above excerpt and the authors FAQ response, it seems pretty clear to me that the author is completely lacking in biblical understanding in a few key points. As for the “dead and risen Christ,” absolutely that must be preached! If Jesus had not died, been buried, and arisen to sit at the right hand of the Father, there would be no redemption for mankind. There would be no atonement for our sins. Christianity would be just another “religious morality system,” and Jesus would have been just another great teacher. But the fact that He rose from the dead, just as He said He would, proved who He is and provided the way for us to gain eternal life; by what He did and not by anything we do or don’t do. Yes, His recorded earthly ministry taught us a lot about the character of God and how He would like us to live, but everything hangs on the resurrection.

Nowhere in the Sermon on the Mount does Jesus address “income inequality.” He addressed a lot of other things, such as those seeking to follow Him and living to please God will have great reward in Heaven, sin begins with our thoughts and attitudes, marriage is sacred, keep your word, go the extra mile for people even if they’re doing you wrong, love your enemies and pray for them, don’t pray or do good deeds for public recognition, but to please God, forgive others, do things for the good of God’s kingdom rather than personal material gain, don’t try to serve God and money, trust God to provide what you need to survive, don’t judge others but rather examine yourself first, earnestly seek to reflect the character of God, and keep Christ at the center of your life and He will sustain you. Hmmm… that pretty well sums up the Sermon on the Mount, and I see nothing close to “income inequality” or any other type of social or economic justice. He did, however, teach a lot about not worrying about your economic status but trust that God will provide for your needs.

As for the statement “Christ crucified rules,” I would beg to differ. In the words of Jesus, again from the Sermon on the Mount,

Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets.
I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you,
till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no
means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” – Matthew 5:17-18

In His own words, He did not do away with “rules.” His sacrificial atonement was because we are unable to “follow the rules” completely enough to match His perfect righteousness. It is by His grace that HIS righteousness is imputed to us that we may stand before a holy and righteous God and be worthy to enter His kingdom. A little later in the Sermon Jesus said,

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust
destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves
treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where
thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is,
there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19-21

It is by “following these rules” that we lay up our treasures in heaven; seeking to please God, loving and forgiving others, keeping a check on our thoughts and attitudes, and doing good for others by putting them ahead of ourselves out of unselfish love, even our enemies. In no way do I mean to say that we have to earn our salvation by being “good enough.” Eternal life by His work on the cross is an absolutely FREE GIFT that we cannot earn but only receive. There are, however, rewards in heaven that we earn in this earthly life by what we do after we receive His greatest gift that can ever be given. If we are too worried about how much money we have, how big our house is, what our job title is, what kind of car we drive, etc, it gets in the way or our relationship with Jesus and takes our focus off of Him. I’ve been going through some things in my own life lately that have really been driving that point home. Our identity should not be in our material possessions, but in Christ, and Him alone. Again from the Sermon on the Mount,

Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we
drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles
seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these
things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day
is its own trouble.” – Matthew 6:31-34

Jesus did talk a lot about money, but He never said it was wrong for some to not have money and some to have it. An often misused and misquoted passage is from 1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” It is not the money itself, but the love of money and putting it before God that is wrong. Jesus praised the poor widow in the temple who gave what little she had out of a pure heart, but didn’t question why she was poor and didn’t have as much as others. He said it was easier for a rich man to go through the eye of a needle than to enter heaven because, as I said above, it gets in the way of our relationship with Him because we get too concerned with it. He told the rich young ruler to sell all he had, give it to the poor, and follow Him. He didn’t want to give up his money so he didn’t follow Jesus, and Jesus didn’t force him.

When the woman in Bethany used expensive perfume to anoint Jesus’ head, the disciples got upset and said the perfume could have been sold and the money used to feed the poor. Jesus responded with,

Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always.” – Mark 14:6-7

Jesus acknowledged that there would always be the poor. He never said they were entitled to any certain standard of living. Nor did He say the rich should not have their money. If He said the rich had to give their money to the poor so everyone would be on the same level, then that would be Socialism. He gave us free will and allows us to decide what to do with our money, good or bad, for His glory, or not for His glory, so Jesus was certainly no Socialist. The “social teachings” of Jesus, such as can be seen in the Sermon on the Mount, can largely be summed up with “love your neighbor as yourself.” I don’t know what Christ the author is referring to, but it’s certainly not the Christ of the Gospel.

There are many reasons people are poor. Often it is because of their own actions and decisions. Sometimes they’re just too lazy to work and just want a handout they feel “entitled” to. Sometimes it is because of an illness or some other circumstance beyond their control. The bible says in several places, basically, “you don’t work, you don’t eat.” Those with more should, indeed, help out those less fortunate voluntarily out of love and compassion, and many do, but those of lower economic status should help themselves, as well. People need to take responsibility for themselves and their situation and do what they have to in order to improve their economic status, but it should always be done with an eye toward pleasing God and always trusting that He will provide. America has long been called the “Land of Opportunity,” and there is story after story of people working their way from janitor to CEO, from welfare to millionaire, seizing opportunities and making the most of their situation. I don’t mind giving someone a hand up in a time of need when they are putting forth effort to better themselves and their situation, but I don’t believe it’s right for my tax dollars to be used to give hand outs, sometimes for generation after generation.

I am completely bewildered as to why this book is required reading in any public school in the US. Students get in trouble for having bibles in school. Prayer has been taken out of schools. A student in New York was suspended for wearing a rosary. Yet this book, which contains offensive remarks toward Christianity, is "required reading." This book also contains language that is illegal to use on television, so we'll require our kids to read the words, instead. The parents of 16 year-old Jordan Henderson pulled him out of the school and began home-schooling him over this issue. They voiced their concerns to the principal, but three weeks later, a review committee determined that, despite its issues, "the book provided valuable insight into the circumstances of the working poor and an opportunity for students to demonstrate mastery of the 'Financial Impact' competency," Now, I wonder, what if it was a book that referred to Islam’s prophet Mohammed as a pedophile? Well, he did marry one of his wives, Sahih Bukhari Aisha, when she was 6 and consummated the marriage when she was 9, so technically, yes; he was a pedophile, in the same manner in which the author justifies calling Jesus a vagrant. Would a book with a mention of that be allowed in the school, even if it “provided valuable insight?” Somehow I doubt it.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Extreme Guitar Hero Christmas Lights

I came across this video of a kid combining Guitar Hero with Christmas lights. I thought it was pretty creative and would be something cool to share.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Born to Die

It’s often said that we all have some purpose in life, something we were “born for.” Some seem to find their clear-cut purpose and pursue it’s fulfillment with great vigor and enthusiasm. Many are still searching, and sadly, some seem to go through life floundering about with no sense or purpose whatsoever. There is one thing that each and every one of us was born to do, but all too many don’t, and that is simply to worship God. There are all kinds of excuses thrown around, like “I tried religion and it’s not for me,” or “it’s all a myth,” or just simply choosing not to believe. Even believers make excuses when they backslide, don’t try to live a Godly lifestyle, or take a contrary view on something God is very clear about. I’ve been just as guilty as the next person. We try to rationalize things in our humanness, but worshipping God is a spiritual act, not a humanly one. If we are to fulfill our purpose of worshipping God, then we must surrender our will to God and seek to please Him instead of, or in spite of, ourselves. This is the essence of Romans 12:1-2.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. – Romans 12:1-2

Every December we celebrate the birth of Jesus, but do we stop to reflect on what His purpose was, what He was “born to do?” We’ve fashioned some hallmark-esque feel-good image of the Nativity with a neat little manger bed, shepherds watching in wonder, angels singing, and the Three Wise Men bringing gifts, though they really didn’t show up until Jesus was already two or three years old. The reality is that Jesus was born in a barn, basically. He was born in a nasty, smelly place where the animals were housed and fed. His bed was a manger, which is an animal feeding trough. I’m sure that was a real clean, sterile place to put a newborn baby. The King of Kings left His throne and came to dwell among us, arriving is such a lowly manner, born for one purpose. He was born to die. Jesus, being God With Us, knew this was his mission and told his disciples so.

But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor. “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” - John 12:23-28

Though Jesus is fully God, He was fully human, as well. Sometimes we may feel overwhelmed by the pressures of work deadlines, meeting our family’s needs, or fulfilling our ministerial commitments. How often do we say something like, “I’m only human and I can only do so much?” Jesus quite literally had the weight of the world on Him. In His humanness He felt every emotion, endured every pain, and dealt with the ups and downs of life just as we do. He was even tempted just as we are, but the difference is that He didn’t sin. Can you even begin to imagine the incredible pressure He was under knowing the physical torture that would be inflicted on Him, the intense public humiliation He would have to endure, and the agonizing death He was destined to suffer? Can you imagine having the spiritual fate of all humanity resting on your shoulders? Yes, Jesus the God-man felt the pressure, as evidenced by the events that transpired in the Garden of Gethsemane before His arrest. He was literally sweating blood as He prayed. He knew it was the Father’s plan from before the foundation of the world. He loves us so much that He gave over His human will to the Father’s will, and endured it all to be our atonement to bring us back into right standing with God, and all He wants us to do is trust Him, that He did everything that was necessary because there is nothing we could ever do ourselves to bridge the gap between man and God.

And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw,
and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will,
take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”
- Luke 22:41-42

As we celebrate this Christmas season, let’s not be distracted by all the shopping, decorations, food, family, travel, and all the stuff that comes with this time of year. Be sure to keep Christ in Christmas, as the old cliché goes. Remember that the King came into the world in a very lowly way as a Servant to all, as we should be servants to each other, as well. Remember that this innocent little child whose birth we celebrate, was God’s perfect, innocent lamb, born to die for you.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Time to be a Nike Christian and JUST DO IT!!!

I apologize to all those who follow my blog for my prolonged absence and lack of updates. This post will be a confession of sorts, I suppose; or a testimony, depending on how you look at it, but either way, this will be a long post, and I’m pretty much just pouring my heart out here and laying it all bare. The events of the last couple of months have been a real challenge and have drained me emotionally, spiritually, physically, and financially. Actually, things really started heading south about a year and a half ago. That was when, after six years living with his mother, my son came back to live with me. That, in and of itself, wasn’t necessarily such a bad thing, but some of the baggage that came with that, and some of the events that followed as a result, in addition to a series of unrelated events, were far beyond my expectations, and certainly did not play into the scenario I had envisioned with his change of living situation. He had been on long-term medication for emotional and behavioral issues for many years. The small amount of child support I receive didn’t even cover the costs of his medication, let alone the added every-day expenses of simply having a growing teenager in my home. Suddenly having him back in my home was an expense I never expected to incur again. He has recently been taken off of his meds and is actually showing some improvement. That's one of the few good things I can point to as of late.
He came to live with us at the same time my wife and I were planning our wedding, placing deposits and paying for related expenses. One month before the wedding, my wife hydroplaned and wrecked my truck on her way to work, so we incurred the expense of the $1000 insurance deductible. Praise God she was not injured, but the timing of this unexpected expense couldn’t have been much worse. That started the day off bad enough, but it quickly got a lot worse, as later that very same day I was informed that I was being sued for child support for a 15 year-old child overseas in Guam that I never knew I had from my days in the navy. That caused me to have to come up with the money to retain an attorney at a time when I was already under significant financial pressure. However, it was not the mother suing me, but the welfare department of Guam since the mother is on public assistance. Otherwise I would still be clueless about having fathered this child. A DNA test has proven that it is, in fact, my child. Thankfully my wife has actually been taking this better than I have, but if it were a one or two year-old child, that would be a completely different story. During the time the lawsuit was still pending, I had a few other stressful situations occur. Last fall an uncle I was very close to was called home by the Lord, so I incurred the costs of travel and time off of work without pay to be a pall bearer at his funeral.
My uncle, by the way, was an American hero, being a highly decorated army combat veteran, and is buried in the West Tennessee Veteran’s Cemetery, but most importantly of all, I know he had a heart for Jesus. Another “taxing” situation (pun intended) was having to deal with the IRS. I ended up owing them quite a bit of money because of having too little taxes withheld after losing deductions I was previously able to claim. I had to make a payment arrangement with them, which will last for several years, to get them to clear a levy on my checking account. The IRS levy caused two payments for two bills to bounce, and I’m sure many of you know what a headache that can cause. Perhaps the most emotionally stressful event occurred the day before our wedding when my son did something very thoughtless and stupid, for which the police were called and he was charged. So, in addition to my own legal issues, I had to deal with the juvenile justice system with my son. He was given strict probation and ordered to undergo psychological therapy. The therapy has to go through my medical insurance, and of course, none of the therapists the court system works with are in my network, so I’ve been forced to pay the much higher out-of-network deductibles. Most youths the Juvenile Justice System deals with come from low income families or they have been removed from the home by the state, so they have all their care provided by the state. I, unfortunately, fall into the middle category where I make too much money to receive any kind of assistance, but not enough to where it is not a financial burden on me. Sometimes it feels as though you are penalized in this country for actually working and trying to make a living rather than living on the government dole and getting tax refunds of tax money you never paid to start with, but that can be a different subject altogether. Well, the child support case was finally concluded about two months ago. I have now been ordered to pay child support to the government of Guam, since the mother has signed away any right to receive child support, for a child that I still have not seen so much as a picture of to this day. It simply takes from my children here that I have been raising and gives to the government of Guam. It doesn’t even go to directly support the child! It makes no difference whatsoever in the child’s life, but has a huge negative impact on the lives of my children here. I was financially stressed enough as it was, but this has pushed me over the edge into bankruptcy. Some may say bankruptcy is no big deal, but it is when you hold a security clearance for your job. That means this threatens the very job I’m depending on in order to pay the child support and keep myself out of jail. As if I didn’t have enough to deal with lately, we have been going through some major upheaval and change at my workplace. I have been seeking part-time secondary employment, but with the economy as it is, the pizza joints aren’t even hiring drivers.

Four years ago I went through what is perhaps one of the most traumatic experiences a person can go through. At the age of 38 I became a widower when my wife died of a sudden massive cardiac arrest. This occurred at a time in my life when I was heavily involved in ministry. After many years of being a “nominal Christian” at Christmas and Easter, I finally “got it.” I had finally opened myself up to Jesus and was learning what it means to follow him and be Jesus to the world. I was at a point where I was learning to walk humbly in the Spirit, submit myself to Christ, and respond to the call to righteous and holy living IN HIM the best that I could, allowing Him to mold me a little more each day. For a while after my wife died I leaned on Jesus for my strength and held onto my faith the best I could. After a while I began to get angry with God and question why He would allow me to go through this. I began attending church less and less; using the excuse that it “just wasn’t the same without her.” Eventually I quit attending altogether. It didn’t take long for the “old man” to rise up within me again. I went for a season living for myself, conforming to the world, not being transformed by renewing my mind in Christ. It was a time of plenty. I came and went as I pleased with hardly a care in the world. Through it all, Jesus was in the back of my mind, but that’s where I kept Him. I was squandering my inheritance as a child of God by willfully and knowingly living a sinful lifestyle. I even bought a shiny new sports car to chase women. I’m one of those guys who name their cars, and this one I named Mindy. In my pursuit of women, it happened one day that I caught one! When my wife and I first started dating I even made sure she was Christian, lest I become “unequally yoked.” She now drives that sports car after giving it a sex-change and renaming it Mark. Despite all the worldly pleasures I was pursuing, I still had the Holy Spirit working on my desire to get back to a right relationship with Christ. It’s something that’s much easier said than done. We don’t have to try to live a sinful, worldly lifestyle; it comes naturally for us. Burying the “old man” and living for Christ as a “new man” is a real struggle because our spirit is completely at odds with our flesh. Our flesh is corrupt and can never be redeemed. It is indeed, as Joyce Meyer wrote, a battlefield of the mind. We must change our mind to be in agreement with God, which should then drive us to change our will into desiring to seek His will for us, which we must then turn into a change of action, evidenced by seeking to live according to His Word and not according to how the world says we should live. There is a reason we are told to take every thought captive, and to renew our mind, and put on the mind of Christ. When we receive the free gift He offered and call upon His name, He sends the Holy Spirit to live in us. That is why we are called the Temple of the Holy Spirit. God desires that we walk in that Spirit and utilize the power of the name of Jesus that we have been given, but He doesn’t force us. We tend to jump back and forth between the Spirit man and the flesh being. Satan, our adversary, probes for our weaknesses, and when he finds them, exploits them in an effort to keep us operating in the flesh and render us ineffective for the Kingdom. When we walk in the flesh he uses our weaknesses to distract us and draw the old man out more and more. When we allow that to happen we give him legal authority to oppress us. That’s oppress, NOT possess. If we belong to Christ, then Satan or his henchmen cannot possess us because that denotes ownership, but he can oppress, or harass us because we allow him to when we don’t walk in the Spirit and exercise the authority over him that we have been given as the Priesthood of Believers. It doesn’t seem to take long for us to find ourselves in a spiritual desert, feeling lost and disconnected from God, letting our circumstances dictate our attitudes and actions rather than the truth of God’s Word. That, however, is exactly what I have done. I stepped out of the Spirit man and into the flesh and let Satan draw me farther and farther down the wrong path. Nearly a year ago my spiritual mentor, or discipler, of several years called me to the church he is now pastoring to return to ministry and teaching. There were several factors that came together that told me it was absolutely a calling from God, so I decided it was time to answer that calling and return to that relationship I knew my spirit desired so deeply. Once I went about stepping out of the flesh and back into the Spirit to walk with Christ again, the spiritual attacks came on hot and heavy. Matthew 12 and Luke 11 speak of an evil spirit returning to a person who has been "swept clean and put in order" and bringing seven others with it. Well, that seems to be what I'm facing, and I opened the door and let them right on in by my own actions and inactions. The culmination of things over the last couple of months finally got me to the point I was ready to give up and started slacking off, stepping back into the flesh. I’m sure I could be clinically diagnosed as depressed, and probably have been for years, but my God is greater, and it is He that gives me strength to go on when I seek Him with all my heart. This Thanksgiving time has caused me to think on all the things I have to be thankful for. God is still providing my needs, just as He promised, but not necessarily all my wants. Sometimes it is very difficult for us to distinguish between the two, but I’ve done a lot of reflection lately to see what my true needs are and what my wants are that may not necessarily be in agreement with what God wants for me. I’ve come to a revelation that God is allowing me to be broken down so that He can build me back up. I have to turn everything over to Him and simply trust Him that He’s got me covered, which is what I should have continued to do in the first place instead of trying to do it all on my own. There’s a lot of truth to the words Casting Crowns sings, “I will praise Him in the storm.” When Peter took his eyes off Jesus and noticed the storm around him is when he started to sink. I took my eyes off Jesus and let the storms of life around me dictate my responses and attitudes, which were all in the flesh, and I started sinking. I’ve got to let go and let God, because He never lets go. I’m completely dependent on Him because I’ve made such a mess of things trying to do it on my own. It won’t be easy, but it’s time for me to quit hopping back and forth between the Spirit and the flesh. God has put a calling on my life and I’ve allowed the Evil One to win too many battles. I must step into that calling, trusting and walking with Jesus, and I declare this day to buck up, be like Nike, and just do it!

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Bible is like the Health Care Bill

For though by this time you ought to be teachers,
you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God;
 and you have come to need milk and not solid food.
For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness,
for he is a babe.
But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is,
those who by reason of use have their senses exercised 
to discern both good and evil.
– Hebrews 5:12-14 (NKJV)

The Apostle Paul used the terms “milk” and “solid food” (“strong meat” in the KJV) a few times to describe spiritual growth and the study and understanding of scripture. The phrase “partakes only of milk” is descriptive of how babies only have milk, or formula, for their first few months of life. During this time they are totally dependent on the parents to feed them. Eventually the baby will start eating cereal and baby food, progressively moving to more solid food as they mature and their teeth develop. They eventually reach a point where they are feeding themselves, quite sloppily at first, but better with time. My daughter’s dog’s puppies, which I posted a picture of when they were newborn puppies, have shown me a prime example of this over the last six weeks. They've gone from mama’s milk, to soft, canned food, to canned food mixed with dry puppy food. They are weaned and mama is getting fixed this week, so no more milk!

This is very much like the spiritual journey of a new believer in Christ. How often have you heard someone described as a “babe in Christ?” Paul even alludes to that in this passage. As babes, new believers are dependent on others to point them in the right direction, teaching them and guiding them in the doctrines of the Christian faith. They start with the basic, simple stuff; the “milk.” Often a new believer will get “on fire for the Lord” for a while. Depending on the environment of the church they are attending, that fire may quickly fade, or hopefully, it will be stoked hotter and hotter and be encouraged to grow by others in the church. As the new believer grows in knowledge and understanding, they should have a desire to get deeper in the Word of God, biting off a chunk and chewing on it, savoring the flavor, getting all they can out of it.

Sadly, though, even some long-time Christians are content to keep sucking on milk and being spoon-fed baby food every Sunday morning. If this is something wide-spread, and new believers aren’t being encouraged to grow spiritually, then we are failing as a church body. I encourage you, my brothers and sisters, move beyond the milk. Think of your bible as a thick, juicy, never-ending steak. Every time you take a bite, squeeze all the flavor out of it you can, always seeking to chew your way deeper and deeper. Don’t be afraid of it, rather let the Holy Spirit open your eyes of understanding. You may ask, “Why bother if I’m saved anyway?” I’ll give you two commonly quoted, self-explanatory scriptures to tell you why:

Study to shew thyself approved unto God,
a workman that needeth not to be ashamed,
 rightly dividing the word of truth. – 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts:
and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you
a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear – 1 Peter 3:15 (KJV)

Oh, about the health care bill thing, that should be obvious by now. Nancy Pelosi said “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.” Well, if we are to say the bible is the Word of God on which we build our faith, then shouldn’t Christians read it and study it so they know what’s in it?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Real Eyes, to Realize, Where the Real Lies

Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
And prudent in their own sight!
– Isaiah 5:21

Michael McInerney is often quoted as having said, “Jesus gives us real eyes, so we can realize, where the real lies.” Beyond just being a cute little play on words, there is some really profound truth in that statement. We rely so much on our sight to let us know what’s going on around us, what’s in our way, what our perceived “reality” is. How often have you used or heard the phrase, “I’ll believe it when I see it?” In the spiritual realm, seeing isn’t always believing, nor does believing always come from seeing, at least not with our natural eyes. The Pharisees saw with their own eyes the miracles Jesus performed, but yet did not believe. Their spiritual eyes were closed so they were blind to the fact that He was their promised Messiah. Which eyes are you looking through, your own, or the ones Jesus gave you?

that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,
the eyes of your understanding being enlightened;
that you may know what is the hope of His calling,
what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints
– Ephesians 1:17-18

When we receive the gift of life that Jesus offers and allow the Holy Spirit to work in us, He opens our spiritual eyes to some stark realities about ourselves and the world. This is when we see just what our sin has done to us, what it is doing to the world, how it has separated us all from God, and our need for a Savior to bridge that gap. This is the greatest realization anyone can come to, because it is the only one with eternal consequences. Once our eyes are truly opened to this, we can’t help but look to nowhere else but Jesus.

So Jesus had compassion and touched their eyes.
And immediately their eyes received sight,
and they followed Him. – Matthew 20:34

While we’re looking to Jesus for our salvation, are we ignoring the rest of the world, or are we now seeing them as Jesus does? Are we looking to the lost with compassion and a desire to show them the love of God, or are we looking at them with disgust and condemnation for their sin? The reality is that the lost and dying world needs Jesus too, and it is our job to point them toward Him that their eyes may also be opened. Once your eyes have been opened to the real destruction of sin, don’t go back to sleep and pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist. Use your real eyes, to realize, where the real lies.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Attacking Christians - OK, Burning Bibles - OK, Burning Korans - NO WAY!!!

By now everyone has heard of the cancelled plans of pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida to burn Korans on September 11th. If you haven't heard about it, then I would have to ask, "what rock have you been hiding under?" The pastor of a tiny church of maybe 50 members sparked a worldwide outcry over his protest of Islam because it was deemed offensive to Muslims. As a Christian I would have to say, as I wrote about previously in my blog, that he was going about things the wrong way and surely was not showing the love of Jesus. All of the uproar over this begs the question, though, "why does there seem to be such a huge double standard when if comes to offending a religion?"

All around the world, mostly in majority Muslim countries, Christians are attacked, beaten, hacked to death, burned alive, and have their homes and churches burned to the ground on a daily basis simply because of their faith. Often times these events don't make the mainstream news, but occasionally they do. But, let anybody even just say something anti-Islam and the news media is all over it.

The same kind of double standard is seen in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel is continually heavily criticized simply for defending themselves. How long are they supposed to let Hamas fire rockets into Israel and kill Israeli citizens without doing anything about it? What if it were a Mexican drug cartel firing rockets into Houston or San Antonio? How long would the American people stand for it if our government did nothing about it? Historically, every time Israel has made concessions to the Palestinians for a peace agreement, usually by giving up land, it doesn't last long. It's never enough for the Palestinians. They always want more. Hamas, the PLO, Hezbollah, Iran, and others will not be satisfied with anything short of the complete and total destruction of Israel, and have stated so on numerous occasions. There will not be peace in Israel until Jesus comes to establish His reign on earth.

It was recently reported on Fox News that a Christian worshipper was stabbed in the stomach as he was going to prayers in the field at his church. His pastor was then beaten in the head with a board as she tried to give him assistance. They are praying in the field because the local "extremist" group, the Islamic Defenders Front, convinced authorities to shut down and board up their church. The group is trying to get Sharia law enforced in their area and other parts of Indonesia. They are also known to attack transvestites, destroy bars, and attack anyone else they deem to be "blasphemous." The group's members that commit these crimes are hardly ever questioned by police, let alone even punished for their crimes.

There have been numerous other reports of Christians being attacked, usually by Muslims, such as in Iraq in July of 2009 when there were 7 Iraqi churches bombed within 48 hours. Or how about Bartilla, Iraq, where Muslims attacked the Christian town on Christmas morning of all times! They even started a shootout at St. Mary Church, wounding 4 Christian worshippers. Then there is the case in Ethiopia recently where a prominent church leader was attacked by two Muslim men with a wood club to the head and was beaten and kicked in the chest and stomach. We hear about roadside bombings and suicided bombers in crowded markets from the mainstream media, but all too often we don't hear about this kind of stuff. If they do report on it, it's certainly not front page news. A very good source for Christian persecution news that you won't usually find in the mainstream media is The Voice of the Martyrs.

How about looking a little closer to home? In Dearborn, Michigan, home of the largest mosque in America, four Christians were arrested outside the Dearborn Arab International Festival simply for handing out copies of the Gospel of John which were printed in Arabic and English. They videotaped their activity prior to the arrest which shows no indication of the "disorderly conduct" with which they were charged. They were simply exercising their Constitutionally guaranteed rights of freedom speech and religion. Apparently the Constitution doesn't apply in Dearborn. It makes me wonder though, is Sharia law beginning to be enforced in Dearborn? If so, where does it stop?

Our President and Commander in Chief, Barack Obama, was very much against the plans of pastor Terry Jones to burn the Korans, and I certainly agree with the President in this regard. However, our same Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces, who are sworn to "protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic," (I took that oath myself) is not allowing our troops to freely exercise their own right of freedom of religion, one of the very rights they are sworn to protect! Christian military chaplains are being told they cannot pray "in Jesus' name," and being disciplined for doing so. Our military has chaplains from all major world faiths, so they are supposed to represent their particular faith, and this is restricting them, even punishing them, for not only following their faith, but simply doing their job!

In yet another example of the political correctness that has crept into our military, to the detriment of combat readiness, I might add, the US Army in Afghanistan confiscated and ordered the burning of bibles sent to a US Soldier that were printed in the local Pashto and Dari languages! YES! The Army ordered the bibles to be burned in the trash because they were afraid they would be given to local residents! I wonder, though, if they were Korans printed in English, would they have still been burned with the trash at the end of the day as base regulations required? Where is the outrage? Why were there no world leaders, movie stars, or major religious leaders speaking out against this? There were certainly no Christians protesting in the streets. Could it be that the sociopolitical establishment is literally afraid to admit the truth that Islam is not the religion of peace they want us to believe, for fear of being marked for death as Salmon Rushdie was when he published Satanic Verses?

There was even a case of bible burning in Canton, North Carolina, but this time by Christians at their church. HUH? You read that right! Pastor Marc Grizzard and his congregation at Amazing Grace Baptist Church decided to celebrate Halloween 2009 by burning bibles that weren't the King James Version! (GASP!) They also burned some books, music, and other things that Mr. Grizzard determined to be of satanic influence. This time, however, Christians did respond. A group of about 20 people, mainly seminary students, showed up to protest. Were they rioting in the streets? Were they setting fires? Were they chanting "death to the bible burners?" No. They were peacefully holding signs with positive, timeless truths from the bible that exposed the error of the ways of Mr. Grizzard and his congregants he was leading astray. After the church had finished their "ceremony," the protesters formed a football team-like huddle and prayed. They petitioned God for forgiveness for the bible burners, just as Jesus said, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do" as He was being crucified. They also gave the glory to God and thanked Him for their opportunity to express the truth of God's love in a Christian way in opposition to distorted message being presented that cold, rainy Halloween night.

It's been a full week now since Terry Jones cancelled his plans to burn Korans. Undetered, however, thousands and thousands of Muslims are still holding angry protests in Iran. Why is it that Muslims get so incensed over someone even saying they're going to burn a Koran, or anything else anti-Islam for that matter, but you don't even hear a peep out of Christians when bibles are burned? The media attention is pretty lopsided, too. Well, the thing is, Christians don't worship a book. They worship the Author of the book. Burning a bible does not destroy the truth of God's word. All it does is burn some paper. The Word of God, by the way, is not the bible. Now that you've gone back and read that sentence again to be sure you read it right, here's why I said that. The Word of God is Jesus. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." - John 1:1. Burning a book doesn't change that. Do the Muslims worship a book, the Koran? Do they worship the author of the Koran, Mohammed? Either way it's not God.

Yes, there is a glaring double standard in the world. No, it's not right. Even so, as Christians, we know that we were told these times were coming. The world is turning farther and farther away from God. It certainly seems to be becoming "as in the days of Noah." What is good is being called evil, and what is evil is being called good. Even when the whole world is against us, we still have a calling to be the light of Christ to this dying world. We must continue to pray for those who persecute us and not return an evil for an evil. So yeah, it's OK, bring it on. For those in Christ, to die is gain. Jesus Himself was rejected and killed. Who are we to expect to have it any better than the Master?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sunday Fishing Lesson

Fishermen have always been known to spin a yarn or two about "the big one that got away." I've got a few of them myself. Jesus called four fishermen to follow him and be disciples, Simon, Andrew, James, and John. I'm sure they had their share of fish stories to tell, too. In this picture you see a couple of family heirlooms of mine that my grandfather had hanging on the wall in his house until he sold it to move out of the city to a small town near my dad. They now hang proudly on my wall, and I never pass up the chance to tell about them. The fish on the left is the first crappie (speckled perch) I caught when I was 6 or 7 years old. The fish on the right is a 6-3/4 pound largemouth bass that jumped in the boat with us. YES! Jumped in the boat and landed at my feet! And that, my friend, is no fish story! It's the absolute truth, just like the story I'm about to relate to you here. This true story is a humorous lesson in faith, integrity, and keeping one's word.

As a young child in the early 70's I lived with my grandparents in Tennessee. My dad was a single parent in the navy and had to deploy at sea a few times in a place called Vietnam. Every spring my grandparents would take a week's vacation and go fishing at Ross Barnett Reservoir in Mississippi with another couple with whom they were very dear friends. They would head home on Saturday so they could attend church on Sunday morning. I was with them this one particular time when they decided to stay and fish on Sunday. Now, my grandmother couldn't swim, but as long as she had a life jacket on, and the fish were biting, she'd head out in the boat. It was shortly after we'd eaten lunch, as I recall, when the sky started getting dark in a hurry. We'd been caught in rain showers before, but this day things would be a little different. The wind started picking up very quickly, and the water started getting pretty rough. We tried to head back in to the boat ramp but it was too far, and the weather was worsening too quickly. We saw a highway bridge over a side creek and headed toward it to try to get some shelter from the storm. The other couple was in a little bit smaller and lighter boat than we were, so my grandpa was leading the way, trying to smooth it out for them a little. The swells were so high we kept completely losing sight of them behind us. I remember seeing lightning hit the water maybe 150 to 200 yards from us. It was a very scary ride, for sure. We finally got up under the bridge and tied off to wait it out. My grandma was a very faithful, God-fearing, Christian woman. Her father and grandfather were both Southern Baptist preachers. I owe her a tremendous debt of gratitude for much of the foundation of my faith. In the midst of this storm she prayed to Jesus. She told Him that if He got her out of this alive then she would never go fishing on Sunday again! Well, I'm here telling the story, so we obviously got out of it ok. Now I know God's not in the exactly in the deal-making business, but He does make promises. God always keeps His promises, though we tend not to, no matter how well intentioned. God did make the ultimate deal (promise) though. He sacrificed His only Son on a cross 2000 years ago, that if we only trust Him that He conquered death for us, then we can have eternal life with Him. My grandma kept her focus on Jesus in the middle of the storm, just like Peter did when he walked on the water to Jesus. He didn't sink until he took his focus off of Jesus and let the storm around him overtake him. As for my grandmother, she kept her side of the "deal" she made with God that day, all the way till the day Jesus took her home some 20 years later. There was no way she was going to go fishing on Sunday again. The Bible says to let your "yes" be yes and your "no" be no. My grandma was indeed a woman of integrity, and she kept her word to God to the very end.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Burning Question in Florida

By: Carl Holland

There has been much debate and media coverage over the Gainesville, Florida pastor, Terry Jones, who plans to burn copies of the Quran (or Koran) on 9/11. The overwhelming opinion seems to be that he is in the wrong, and that this action does nothing but show hatred. I would agree with that, but let’s see what God has to say.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor
and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, l
ove your enemies, bless those who curse you,
do good to those who hate you,
and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,
that you may be sons of your Father in heaven;
for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good,
and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?
Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only,
what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?
Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
– Matthew 5:43-48

These are red letters in my Bible. Jesus Himself said to “love your enemies.” Somehow I don’t think burning Qurans is showing love to your enemies. Yes, Muslims can be considered “enemies” because the Quran does teach that non-Muslims should be converted or killed (Quran Sura 009.005). There is, however, an exception for Jews and Christians, whom the Quran calls “People of the Book.” They can pay a poll tax to the Muslim authorities (Quran Sura 009.029) and be allowed to continue to practice their faith. Regardless of their view toward Christians, we are still to treat them with love, even to the point of death. In Acts 7:60 we see Stephen, the first Christian martyr, call out to God saying, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin” as he was being stoned to death. Jesus Himself, as he hung on the cross being murdered, called out, “forgive them, Father, for they do not know what they do.” Considering the words Jesus left us with, and the example he set for us, what gives any of us the right to say we have a better way to deal with our “enemies?”

When people think of book burning, the first thing many think of is Nazi Germany in the 1930s, but it has a long, sordid history elsewhere too, including the United States of America. On May 10, 1933, Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Propaganda Minister, gave a rousing speech to university students inflaming anti-Semitism and calling for all literature with “un-German” ideas to be burned in a massive bonfire. Of course, we know, this was just a stepping stone leading down the path to World War Two and the Holocaust, which many Muslim leaders, such as Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have denied ever even happened.

Long before that, the Catholic Church had a history of censuring books by burning beginning in the Middle Ages. Initially the censorship was intended to remove writings containing doctrinal errors and those of superstitious works. The Church began maintaining the Index of Prohibited Books which catalogued works which were reviewed and found to be “unfit.” With the invention of the printing press came the widespread dissemination of books on any subject imaginable. Books deemed to be contrary to Catholic doctrine, containing immoral material, or even reprints of the Bible itself began to be rounded up and burned. This, in part, helped lead to the Protestant Reformation. The Church finally ceased publication of the Index in 1966 under Pope Paul VI.

In the US in 1866, Anthony Comstock began an organization called the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. In 1873 he convinced Congress to pass the Act of the Suppression of Trade in, and Circulation of, Obscene Literature and Articles of Immoral Use, commonly known as the Comstock Act. He was made a Special Agent of the Post Office by an act of Congress which gave him the power to arrest distributors of material he deemed to be lewd or immoral. He claimed to have burned 160 tons of obscene material and arrested around 3600 distributors of said material. More recently in the US, in 2003 pastors T. D. Turner Sr. and T. D. Turner Jr. burned a Harry Potter book outside their church. The younger Turner even admitted to not having read the book, but that he could tell by its cover that it promoted sorcery. The crowd of around 50 spectators was so inflamed (pardon the pun) that they also burned a Book of Mormon and even a Bible that, Heaven forbid, was not the King James Version!

Even more memorably in recent history because of its widespread news coverage was the 1988 publication of Salmon Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. After its release Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against Rushdie calling for his execution. The book itself was not directly critical of Islam or Mohammed. The portions which caused such uproar were concerning dreams a fictional character who was suffering some form of psychosis was having. Muslim groups in Britain held protests and book burning events. Then there was the February 2006 publication of a cartoon caricature of Mohammed with a bomb in his turban that sparked protests, violence, and death threats by Muslims worldwide. It seems that anything critical of or offensive to Islam is met with violence.

The top NATO commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, has stated, "Were the actual burning to take place, the safety of our soldiers and civilians would be put in jeopardy and accomplishment of the mission would be made more difficult." Images of the church members burning Qurans will be used to fuel anti-American sentiment and to incite violence against Americans, very similar to what was done with the photos of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib detention center a few years ago. Florida Governor Charlie Crist chimed in on the issue with, "In addition to being offensive, the Gainesville protest puts at risk those brave Americans who are fighting abroad for the freedoms and values that we believe in as Americans." Mr. Jones’ plan to burn the Quran has received so much attention that protests are already beginning over it. Muslim cleric Mohammad Mukhtar, a candidate for the Afghan parliament stated, "It is the duty of Muslims to react." He went on to say, “When their holy book Quran gets burned in public, then there is nothing left. If this happens, I think the first and most important reaction will be that wherever Americans are seen, they will be killed. No matter where they will be in the world they will be killed." If Mr. Jones goes through with his plans to burn the Quran, reprisals are certain to come against American troops in the Middle East, which quite simply makes it an act of sedition, or perhaps even treason.

Mr. Jones, I must ask, just what do you hope to accomplish by doing this? Do you want to make yourself a target like what happened to Salmon Rushdie? Do you have a death wish to die as a “martyr?” That is a very real possibility. Or is it your intent to gain some sort of notoriety and bring attention to your church, good or bad, like some sort of free advertising? At the very least, you are casting a bad light on Christianity, much like people who bomb abortion clinics “in the name of Jesus.” How many people will you drive away from Christ by misrepresenting Him and reinforcing the mistaken impression that Christians are a bunch of “narrow-minded, bigoted, hypocrites” rather than pointing them to Him by reflecting His character? Though you are well within your constitutional rights to conduct your Quran burning, after all, we can legally burn the American flag as “free speech,” there are a few passages of scripture I think you’ve overlooked.

All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful;
all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.
Let no one seek his own, but each one
the other’s well-being. – 1 Corinthians 10:23-24

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do,
do all to the glory of God.
Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks
or to the church of God,
just as I also please all men in all things,
not seeking my own profit,
but the profit of many,
that they may be saved. – 1 Corinthians 10:31-33

We give no offense in anything,
that our ministry may not be blamed.
But in all things we commend ourselves
as ministers of God. – 2 Corinthians 6:3-4

Though I may agree with you that Islam is a false religion, I believe your method of delivering that message is severely flawed. I do not see the love of Jesus anywhere in what you plan to do. Is there anything at all that can possibly be called helpful or edifying in any of this? It certainly does seem to give a lot of offense. I urge you, sir, to reconsider your plans and honestly ask yourself, “am I serving myself, or Christ?” Are you prepared to have the blood of innocent Americans on your hands? You have been quoted as saying, “We are not convinced that backing down is the right thing.” Don’t let your own selfish pride or ambition get in the way of doing the right thing.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Jesus Calls Peter by Joshua Harris

Found this cartoon on Mikes Sumondong' blog Your Daily Word
I liked it so much I thought I'd share it. God has a sense of humor!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Which Sea Are You?

By: Carl Holland
Carl's Words of Inspiration

 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said,
out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. 
– John 7:38

In Israel there is a peculiar geographic phenomenon. Despite its small size, Israel is home to two landlocked seas. One was often a central focal point during Jesus’ earthly ministry, the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee is alive, teeming with life that has provided a living for many generations of fishermen. Its waters flow south via the Jordan River into Israel’s other sea, the Dead Sea.

For as the body without the spirit is dead,
so faith without works is dead also. – James 2:26

The Dead Sea is extremely salty and devoid of life. Its shoreline also happens to be the lowest point on the earth not covered by water at about 1360 feet below sea level, and getting lower. Despite its steady infusion of “living water” from the Sea of Galilee, it can never support life, and actually evaporates off more water than it takes in. The Dead Sea is dead, and dying.

So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot,
I will vomit you out of My mouth. –Revelation 3:16

Jesus laid down His life as THE Living Water to flow life into us as we were dead in our sins. If you were to be completely honest with yourself, which sea do you resemble? Are you the kind of Christian who is alive in the Spirit, breathing life into others, pouring out living water? Are the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) evidenced in your life? Or do you more resemble the Dead Sea? Do you do your Christian “duty” and sit in church every Sunday getting fed by the preacher? Do you then let it “evaporate” later, not even considering Christ the other six days of the week?

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. – James 1:22

There’s an old expression that goes something like “sitting in church makes you a Christian as much as sitting in a garage makes you a car.” Take heart! We worship a God of second chances! He is always willing to forgive. He will draw closer to you if you ask him and seek him with all your heart in spirit and truth. Don’t let the Word go in one ear and out the other. Take what you’ve learned and apply it to your life. DO the Word and be a blessing to others!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Three U.S. Christian Aid Workers Killed in Pakistan, source

Three U.S. Christian Aid Workers Killed in Pakistan, source

Why is it stories like this so often don't make the main stream media? This takes "biting the hand that feeds you" to a whole new level. Let a Christian do something really bad and they jump all over it. We hear of things like this once in a while and think it happens once in a blue moon and it's always "over there." Well, it happens all too often all around the world, like every day, and guess what? It's coming to America before long.

Sunday's Coming! Hallelujah!!!

This is a short sermon given by the Dr. S. M. Lockridge. It is a very powerful, moving sermon. It's simple, to the point, and sums up the crucifixion in the form of a poem. This version has scenes from The Passion of the Christ laced through it that fit the sermon perfectly. He went home to be with Jesus in 2000, four years before the movie. It's very much worth it to listen to, and feel free to pass it around.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Are We Throwing Rocks at Jesus?

By: Carl Holland
Carl's Words of Inspiration

I came across this picture while I was surfing around today. As soon as I saw it, it struck a very deep chord in me. It's a simple, yet very powerful picture that speaks volumes. Most people with even a rudimentary knowledge of the Bible are at least familiar with the passage of John 8:7, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her," but look at the words on the stones; restore, forgive, love, reconcile. These are all attributes we are supposed to be applying to our lives. Consider the following scripture verses. Galatians 6:1, "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted." Matthew 6:14-15, "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Ephesians 5:2, "And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma." Matthew 5:23-24, "Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." WOW! Look how much of that is red letters, spoken by Jesus. How often do we thoughtlessly throw stones at people for their mistakes, their habits, their lifestyle? Have we stopped to pull out that huge board sticking out of our own eye before worrying about the splinter in someone else's? Have we made ourselves their judge and condemned them, placing ourselves in the position of God? If we're not walking in love and forgiveness, seeking to restore and reconcile, are we throwing rocks at Jesus?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Louie Giglio Talking About Laminin - WOW!

This is one of those videos that makes you just stop and go "WOW!" It's just a little long but watch it all the way through. It's well worth it! This video brings to mind a passage from Romans that I'm surprised Lou didn't bring up. If this video has touched you or moved you in some way, feel free to comment. Give the glory to God!

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen,
being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead,
so that they are without excuse, 
because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God,
nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts,
and their foolish hearts were darkened. - Romans1:20-21

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Leap from the Lion’s Head

…and as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan,
and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water…
that the waters which came down from upstream stood still…
Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD
stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan;
and all Israel crossed over on dry ground –Joshua 3:15-17

Do you remember the scene in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Indy was faced with having to cross a deep crevice to find the Cup of Christ to save his father’s life? His book of clues collected over the years told him “only in the leap from the lion’s head will he prove his worth.” From his position he could not see the bridge across the gap because it was so well camouflaged with the background of the rocky walls on the other side. Everything his senses took in around him told him he couldn’t get across, and it took a step of faith beyond what he could see, but his father was depending on him. He takes that step into seemingly thin air, but finds firm footing. The camera then pans to the side and we can now see the bridge across the divide.

And when Peter had come down out of the boat,
he walked on the water to go to Jesus.
 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid;
and beginning to sink he cried out,
saying, “Lord, save me!” –Matthew 14:29-30

When the Israelites entered Canaan the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant went in first. The Ark was the dwelling place of God on Earth, so they were literally putting God first as they went in to occupy the Promised Land. It wasn’t until the priests actually stepped into the Jordan River that the waters parted. It was quite literally their step of faith that made the way for the Israelites to claim the promise of God. Peter, too, took a step of faith and walked on the water. It wasn’t until he took his focus off of Jesus that he began to sink. Everything else around him told him he couldn’t do this, kind of like Indy seeing nothing but a huge gap he couldn’t jump over. We may have storms all around us, seemingly insurmountable problems, and we may not even know which way to turn when we look at our circumstances, but we have to take a step of faith. “Be still and know that I am God” does not mean sit and do nothing! We may not know what direction to go, but we need to step in faith with our focus on Jesus, and when we do, God promises to guide us and uphold us. Are you stuck in neutral, spinning your wheels, don’t know where to go? Is God calling you to trust by faith His Son, the Lion of Judah, to bridge the gap between you and Him? Walking with God requires taking steps, so get out of your boat, keep your eyes on Jesus, and start stepping, and He will lead you to the Promised Land He has in store for you!
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