Wednesday, July 23, 2014

People Are Thinking

   My recent post on the immigrant children now ranks as one of the most responded to of all my blog posts.  So many good Christian people have responded, mostly on Facebook, but some personally.  It seems my own personal journey regarding this immigration crisis has turned out to be the same journey many of you are making.  It seems we are all struggling with the battle between our politics and our Christian responsibility.
 
    When you stop and think about it, this is not an isolated circumstance at all.  There is always an on-going battle between our personal politics and our spiritual duty.  The Bible repeatedly warns us that life will be a constant struggle between our own desires and the will of God.  Finding and doing the will of God is still our foremost priority in life, if we are disciples of Christ.  Doing His will is always the best way to be more like the Master.  The issue is not so much trying to be more like Jesus, but the issue is to seek, find, and do His will, and in so doing we will find ourselves becoming more like Jesus.
   If you are looking for a study for your small group, this would be a good one.  “How do I know what is God’s will and what is my own desire?”  A study like that must begin with each person sincerely desiring to know and be committed to do God’s will.  My own experience is that finding God’s will is very closely associated with prayer.  It seems to me a study like the one proposed above would include a large segment of time for ardent prayer.  The first principle is to ask God to know His will.  When you ask you will be confronted with God’s question, “If I show you my will, will you do it?”  Knowing God’s will and doing it are two entirely different aspects of a disciple’s walk with Jesus.
   I am convinced there are many Christian people today who are asking to know God’s will regarding these immigrant children.  Even though we have now been told that more than half these children have at least one parent already here in the USA, and that they have been told the process will turn them loose in return for their promise to return for a court hearing, which a majority simply ignore, there are still thousands who will remain in custody in various places.  These are the children we must minister to the name of Jesus.  Politics aside, how must we respond to their needs.  Do we just let the government take care of them?  I say, “No, we cannot.”  We must seek to intervene in the name of Jesus.
   Because I know my own struggle with this issue, I am sympathetic to all who are themselves struggling with it.  Some of my friends likely disagree with me.  Some may not disagree, but they do not necessarily agree.  But, I know that every one of them wants what I want, to know and do God’s will..

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Evil On Display In Acts Of War

   Research reveals that it was William Tecumseh Sherman who first said, “War is hell.”  If he could see how modern warfare is played out, he might add, “And it is pure evil.”  Two events this week have shown the proof of that sentiment. 
 
   Russian-trained and armed Ukrainian rebels fired a missile that took down an airliner carrying 298 innocent people.  Every one of these 298 people was an innocent, including 80 children and 108 scientists who were heading to Australia for an AIDS conference.  This was an overtly evil act of war, perpetrated by those who have no thought for the effect of their deeds on innocent people.  That is evil personified.  The blame for this tragic event will forever lay at the feet of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose reckless actions regarding a sovereign nation on his country’s border were an international incident just waiting to happen.  Well, it happened.  World wars have begun on less provocation.
   The second evil event this week was about Israel’s decision to finally respond to the evil, warring group known as Hamas.  Hamas has one goal in mind, and that is the annihilation of Israel.  Hamas, like Iran, does not want Israel to exist.  They have dedicated themselves to its demise.  Of course, this is a battle that goes back 4,000 years.  It started when Israel followed God’s instructions and entered what He called the promised land, land west of the Jordan River, inhabited by tribes of people whose common ancestor was Abraham’s illegitimate son, Ishmael.  Even today Arabs are known as Sons of Ishmael.  This whole Middle East war is an extension of the battle between Abraham’s two sons, Isaac and Ishmael.   When Abraham sent Ishmael and his mother, Hagar, out of the camp to fend for themselves in the wild, it started the whole enmity thing between Jews and Arabs, or the Isaacites vs. the Ishmaelites.
   The battle going on in Israel has now come to this:   Arabs, called Hamas, have fired thousands of missiles into Israel, without the ability to direct them to a specific target.  This means that if those missiles were successfully exploded on the ground in Israel’s cities, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of innocents would be killed.  It just so happens that Israel has a defense against these  missiles and has managed to shoot most of them down.  However, the evil intent of bringing innocent civilians into the war, instead of bravely facing Israel’s army, is what is evil.  This kind of warfare is cowardly and evil.  It is made even more so when they drive their missile launchers (mostly on the backs of trucks) into Palestinian neighborhoods, near schools, hospitals, or any other place where innocents would be injured by an Israeli response, and indiscriminately fire those missiles into Israel right from those neighborhoods.  Israel, seeking to respond to the exact spot from which the  missiles were launched, send artillery to that spot, and innocents are affected.
   Hamas, fearing to fight Israel on a field of battle, continue their warfare on the innocent by sending thousands of missiles, as well as suicide bombers into the marketplace of Israel’s cities.  That is pure evil, and can be labeled nothing else.
   Now, what does this kind of evil warfare have to do with a blog dedicated to choosing to go to heaven?  Just this.  This evil, and all its kindred deeds, are the work on one entity, the devil—Satan.  I know our culture does not accept the actual existence of the devil and laughs at those of us who talk about it, but it is nevertheless the truth, which all who doubt ad laugh will one day discover.  The devil—even his name embodies evil—is described in the Bible as being like a lion, roaming about the earth, seeking whom he may devour is at the bottom of all evil deeds, including like those who perpetrated such this week.
   The Bible teaches us that people who do evil are not disciples of Jesus and that makes them fodder for Satan.  He cannot devour those in whom the Holy Spirit of Jesus lives.  Oh, he can still influence them, but he cannot have them to do his evil bidding.
   I continue to pray for a world-wide revival that will bring millions to Jesus.  That is the only hope we have against the evil that pervades our culture. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Christian View Of The Border Crisis

   After pondering a lot about how I as a Christian should respond to the border crisis in our country, I finally had that “Eureka” moment.  I am compelled to share it with you, my readers.  That moment came in a clear word from God for me.  God may lead you differently, but I wish you would let me know if He does.
 
   First of all, I came to recognize that my thinking about the border was strongly influenced by my political views, which tend to be towards the right of the political spectrum.  Second, I came to realize that my political views came into direct conflict with my spiritual leanings.  Thirdly, I came to understand that serving God in this instance trumps my political leanings.  That means it is not about whether or not we need to send these people back to their country of origin, but it is about ministering to their human needs in the name of our Lord.
   When the president came to Dallas he asked to visit with faith leaders to discuss the issue of caring for this flood of children who have come across the border into the USA.  Among those leaders was Dr. Chris Liebrum of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.  Why Dr. Liebrum instead of someone from the Christian Life Commission?  Because Chris is in a position to direct ministry to immigrants, while the CLC speaks to the political issues surrounding the flood of immigrant children.  CLC basically gives us the rationale for ministry, while the response in terms of actual ministry comes from those involved in disaster relief, which Chris Liebrum oversees from the BGCT organization.  So, while Chris met the president and shared the BGCT perspective on this crisis, I suspect thousands of Texas Baptists will be involved in ministry to these immigrants.
   More than fifty years ago Texas Baptist answered the call to needs on the border and River Ministry was born. What we are looking at now is a new kind of River Ministry.
   The bottom line is that Christians need to separate their politics from their heart for ministry to the poor and needy.  Ask yourself, “What would Jesus do with all these children who have come to America?”   Instead, too many of us are asking “Why did they come to America?”  That is a problem for others to answer and that answer is likely a political answer.  We Christians are not responsible for the political answer to the issue, but  are responsible for ministering in the name of Jesus to the human needs of these people.  Jesus would have us love these children, help feed them, house  them, and care for them while they are in the USA or until they are cared for by others, such as adoptive parents, child care homes, etc.
   My plea is for Christians to look at this problem as a ministry opportunity.  Do not view it politically, but view it as a way to show Jesus at His best.  Get over your politics and serve the Master.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Here’s Where Every Christian Falls Short

     Our church’s entire Sunday school (except Pre-school and children) is studying the Baptist Way material and this summer it is a topical study called “14 Habits Of Highly Successful Disciples.”  In the past six weeks we have looked at these habits: Bible Study, confession, faith, fasting, fellowship, and love.   The latest lesson is, in my opinion, the habit most of us have had the most difficulty practicing in our own lives—obedience.  It is my belief that obedience is where we all fall far short of the standard our Lord gave us. 
 
   When we think of obedience, most people’s minds run immediately to the Ten Commandments, and like that young man Jesus once met, we are all prone to say, “These things I have kept from my youth.”  But, as Jesus said to that young man, (paraphrase alert) “there is so much more than these.”  For those of us who are His modern day disciples, there is so much more that we often let slip through the cracks.  If you read this blog very often you know that I am a died-in-the-wool conservative.  I do not have to defend my conservative credentials to anyone.
   However, many of my conservative friends have missed the boat when it comes to doing the things Jesus talked about.  What some of my brethren think is obedience is not obedience at all.  Where did Jesus say we should march for our “Christian” right to bear arms?  Or, where did Jesus say we should block the entrances to abortion clinics?  Where did Jesus say we should get our guns and keep people from crossing our borders into our country illegally?  Rather, it seems to me Jesus would prefer that we act like He would act towards those people who come into our country illegally and those would seek the services of an abortion clinic.  How would Jesus have loved these people?  Obedient disciples will do the same thing.  Leave the politics out of it and minister to those in need the way Jesus would.
   I need to say that there is nothing wrong with joining groups who do things like those mentioned above.  Just do not consider it a Christian duty.  These are NOT the activities of someone seeking to be more Christ-like.  Can we at least agree that it is (or should be) the goal of every Christian to be more like the Christ we are named for?  In the context of becoming more Christ-like, I believe it is the Christian’s major responsibility to his culture to minister to the poor and down and out.  Evangelism will be an on-going by-product of lost people seeing Christian people acting like Jesus.
   Not only that, but Jesus also had a lot to say about how we act towards one another in the Christian faith.  It’s not about being Baptist or Methodist or Presbyterian or Lutheran, or Episcopalian, etc.  It is about respecting one another’s faith experience, even if it is different from ours, so long as we can agree that we all serve the Lord Jesus—and we are all His disciples.  As His disciples, we have a responsibility to be obedient to His commands.  We have not been authorized to dream up new commands, such as becoming an activist for a cause, no matter how righteous that cause may be.
   The reason our nation and our world is in the shape it is in is because the people of God have too often not acted like they were the people of God.  We have abandoned the pursuit of holiness and commitment.  We have given up on being more like Jesus and have sought to become something altogether different.  That is disobedience in the highest degree.  Sadly, we all miss the mark on that score.

 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Politics Holds No Hope

   The one thing about which there is bipartisan agreement is that America is in trouble.  Every recent poll has about 60% of the population believing the country is headed in the wrong direction.  Our economy is threatening to become the SECOND most robust and effective economy on the planet.  China is poised to become number ONE, and this, friends, is a Communist country.  Our congress functions with what most pollsters say is the worst approval rating in history.  The same is true of our president.  More than half the people polled say they believe the president does not know how to govern and the Supreme Court has overruled  this former constitutional teacher, as he likes to call himself, 13 times with 9-0 rulings.  By any measure, that is an atrocious record. 
 
   As time goes by and more and more states are told their anti-same-sex marriage laws are unconstitutional,  the gay and lesbian community becomes more and more mainstream, the same way they did in Sodom and Gomorrah, and we know what happened to them.  Do we really believe God has changed his mind about this gross sin? 
   More and more we see injustice being practiced against the poor.  Jesus Himself told us to take care of the poor and God’s consistent complaint against Israel was that they oppressed the poor.  Do we really think God has changed His mind about that?
   More and more we see the atheist community using the courts to stamp out Christian symbols, Jewish symbols, anything that has anything to do with God.  That is tantamount to worshiping idols, as Israel did after they conquered atheistic groups.  The even brought their idols into the temple, where good kings sought to get rid of them in order to please God.  Prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, etc. preached for centuries against the kind of neglect towards God that Israel demonstrated.  Do we really believe God has changed His mind about that?
   With America repeating the same obvious sin that Israel committed, do we really believe God will change His mind about that?
   The question is this: Is there any hope for America?  The answer is a resounding, YES!  There definitely is hope.  But, that hope is NOT in politics.  That hope is NOT in politicians.  That hope is NOT in presidents, whomever they may be and from whichever party.  The president I am looking for is the one who will tell the nation the truth about hope.  He will tell them hope is to be found only in God and His Son.  He will tell them that unless the people of God repent and turn back to their God, there is NO hope.
   Now, I am not hopeful that we would ever elect a president who would lean that much on God and not his own understanding.  A candidate with a Jesus kind of humility would likely never get elected.  But, woujldn’t it be great to see a candidate like that run?
   Our only hope is to turn back to God.  Repent, repeal laws that God forsakes, and seek to get some semblance of sanity back in the courts of justice.  Politics will not save us.
  
    

Sunday, July 6, 2014

BGCT Making A Comeback

   To suggest the BGCT is making a comeback is suggesting that it has been somewhere.  It has.  For the first decade of this century, the BGCT had lost its way, lost hundreds of churches to a rival convention, and lost thousands of dollars in revenue.  This lostness was due largely, at least in my humble opinion, to poor executive leadership.  That has, thankfully, been corrected.
 
   When Bill Pinson retired from the BGCT in 2000, the convention was strong.  It had great relationships with most of her churches and her associations.  Due to some poor hiring decisions, some even poorer placement of staff, and a really poor decision to hire and rely on an organizational consultant who had no idea what or who the BGCT was and what her purpose was in the grand scheme of kingdom business.  Listening to that consultant or dictating someone’s notions to that consultant brought near ruin to the once great convention.
   Add to that the changing of ideas in many churches. Churches who thought they could do it better elsewhere left the convention—some to go independent and others to join a rival convention.  Blend into the mix the current thinking that denominationalism is no longer relevant, and you have a situation that makes it difficult to remain relevant.  And that is in spite of the fact that some of those who are opposed to denominations are using that thinking to band with other likeminded churches and, viola, you have the makings of another denomination.  Churches that start new churches, groups like Acts 29, will one day have so many new churches that they will become a defacto denomination.  Same for Life Church congregations.  It’s just a matter of time.  So, denominations are not irrelevant, just changing from growth by like-mindedness to growth by reproduction.
   But, this is a post about the BGCT.  Today the BGCT staff numbers about one half what it was in 1999, when I retired.  For that and other reasons they have sold their office building to Baylor University and are currently seeking direction on the future.  As I have written before, this is a good thing.  What an opportunity the convention has to take a giant leap forward to a structure that better fits their needs.  From everything I read about the BGCT, I believe they have a great opportunity to regain relevance and become once again the primary resource for their 6,000 churches.
   There is no doubt in my mind that current leadership at the BGCT has it going on.  I am convinced that they are on the verge of once again becoming the premier state body in the Southern Baptist Convention.  I believe Texas Baptists will once again lead the way in innovations the way they did in the Pinson years.  Texas Baptists uncorked a revolution in the starting of new churches that was unequaled in Baptist life.  At one point a new church was being started every day.  Innovation s in Bible Study, evangelism, Church Ministries, etc. also led the way in the SBC.  Many Texas ministries became the programs of the old Home Mission and Sunday School Boards.  Years ago Texas Baptists held the first Evangelism Conferences. 
   I believe they are on the way to new innovations, and are finding their way back to the days of their great leadership in Baptist life.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

America Already Under God’s Judgment

   Several times I have written about the judgment of God on our country as we stray farther and farther away from His teaching and directive.  Kentucky is the most recent state where same-sex marriage has been made legal.  State by state federal judges are overturning the one man-one woman laws that described what marriage is.  It just made me aware that our God is a God who will not be trifled with and he will let us suffer the consequences of our poor choices.
 
   There is absolutely no doubt that God made marriage an event between one man and one woman.  To ignore this is to bring upon ourselves His judgment.  As I have said before, God sometimes just says, “O.K.  have it your own way” and then lets us stew in what we wreak on ourselves.  I believe that is what is happening today in America.  God is allowing us to strew in our own juices of misery and malfeasance.  We have become a nation that no longer believes God when He speaks of homosexuality as an abomination.  We are told, “God made me this way.  If He didn’t intend us to be attracted to a same-sex partner, why did He make us this way?”
   That is a specious argument, foolish on the surface and even more foolish at its depths.  Here is the truth:  God made all of us the way we are and we are all born in sin, were conceived in sin, and were given a free moral choice mechanism with which to combat sin.  All of us were born in sin because it was bred into the human race.  Only one Person ever lived in this earth without sinning and we crucified Him.  Every human being is born with a bent toward sinning, or to put it another way, none of us measures up to God’s expectations.  But, in His wonderful grace, He loved us anyway.   
   I can no more resist sin than any person who cannot resist a person of the same sex.  So, now we have that out of the way.  God made us all alike, with a tendency to sin.  The big question is, “How do we handle our sinning?”
   Don’t tell me God made you that way, because I already know it.  He made me as a sinner also.  That sin is exactly why Jesus came and died for us, so that our sins would be paid in full.  That includes homosexual sin, lying sin, adultery sin, and all other kinds of sin.  God made us all with the sin temptations and gave us a way out of that mire.  His Son is the way.
   We live in a nation that has turned its back on the Son of God.  We have outlawed praying, etc., and generally run God out of the public places.  What is happening to our land and what will happen further, is the consequence of those actions.
   But, there is hope.  For more than sixty years I have been preaching that hope.  I have been urging people to come to Christ, bring Him their sins, and ask forgiveness.  “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive them”, says the Bible.  That is hope for every individual.
   As for our nation, what happens to us is up to the people of God, the church.  If we do not have a revival of repentance in the church, there is every reason to believe God will allow this nation to fall.  Our grandchildren and/or great grandchildren might be speaking Chinese, or Russian, or even Arabic.  Its not that God likes those nations better than He does us, it’s just that He sometimes allows the Godless nations to overrun so-called Godly nations to make a point that He is not to be mocked. 
   If the Christian people would repent and turn back fully to God, we might be able to save America.  That is one thing I know for certain.  America’s fate is in the hands of the people of God.