Tuesday, May 22, 2007

High School Brothel

Emily and I are having to begin thinking about how and where we will educate Emeline. If we lived in Boulder, CO the choice would be easy. Find out why. A guest speaker encouraged high school students to "have sex, and do drugs" because since students are "going to do it anyway...as a psychologist and health educator, it is more important to educate you in a direction you might actually stick to...I encourage you to all have healthy, sexual behavior."

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Is the Bible Pornographic?

Apparently authorities in Hong Kong think so. Citizens of the Chinese city are calling for an "indecent" label for the Bible because of its sexual (rape and incest) and violent content. If labeled indecent only people 18 and older would be able to purchase the Bible and it would have a warning label wrapped around it. Read the full story here.

The next time you visit your local bookstore imagine the absurdity of finding the Scriptures next to Playboy. Of course, this could be a blessing in disguise as my pastor said today. Tell those kids in Hong Kong that they can't read the Bible and you just might find sneaking away to read the Bible rather than Hugh Heffner's latest edition.

Taliban Threat

Christians in Charsadda, Pakistan received letters this week from pro-Taliban militants in northern Pakistan that if they didn't recant their Christian faith and convert to Islam by today they would become the target of "bomb explosions". There have been complaints by some of the community that the police are not taking the threat seriously. Read the full article here. And as you read pray for the safety of these Christians. However, if their blood must be spilled, may their death be the seeds of a great harvest in Pakistan.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Wisdom from my Wife

This past Saturday I was the minister at the wedding of Barry and Lauren Carpenter

(Lauren pictured here with Emeline who was a flower girl). It was a beautiful wedding, and I say this with all humility, it was very God-centered and worshipful. Jesus was on center-stage! As Emily and I were talking on the way home I shared with her that I really found pleasure in serving in such a pastoral role but wondered if that is a sign of calling (pastoral calling) or pride (wanting to serve in this capacity more and more because I like leading people into Jesus presence in this way). Not much was said in the moment but the next day Emily said, "I think it's calling when you find joy in doing in even when no one notices or gives your acclaim for your leadership." This seems to me to be wise counsel. For those who serves as pastors - whether it be senior pastors or associate pastors - why do you do what you do? Is your service, planning and preparation motivated by the critical acclaim and kind-hearted compliments for the way you lead? Or do you serve simply out of a desire to honor Jesus, and do so with no regard for whether or not people "like" how you've led?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Tug of War

This is an intriguing article in the latest edition of World Magazine about the fight for the heart and allegiance of moderate Muslims in the West. At the center of this firestorm is the Muslim population in the Minneapolis - St. Paul area (home of roughly 150,000 Muslims). There is a political polarization taking place within our culture regarding religion. While more and more policies and legislation is being introduced advocating the exclusion of any expression of Christianity in the public sector, there is also an alarming capitulation toward Islam in political, educational and social circles. Institutions and businesses are making alarming concessions to Muslim employees and students that they would never make for Christian employees and students. And there are some moderate voices within the Muslim community that believe there is a sinister agenda within the Muslim campaign in the Twin Cities. The goal is "just one front in a national movement to advance Shariah (Quran-based) law under cover of civil-right's protections". The ultimate end-game: to create a world of Muslims versus Christians (to understand this you must accept the fact that many Muslims believe the West to be "Christian" even though Western Christians recognize that there is very little that is "Christian" about America today). Check out the article and share your thoughts.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

People Hate You

"Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!" (Luke 6:22)

America is a fantasy land. An unfathomable percentage of Americans profess to know and love Jesus. I believe scores of them will depart from Jesus' presence with great sorrow and anguish on the day that he says, "I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness" (Matthew 7:23). We've forgotten that the world hates Jesus (John 7:7) because Americans - even the non-religious but spiritually sensitive ones - don't hate Jesus. Human secularists don't hate Jesus because He's their homeboy. He's as much as part of pop-culture as Coca-Cola and blue jeans. They think Jesus is a safe, kind, feminine, passivist hippie who wants the world to give peace a chance. No one in America hates Jesus because very few people in America love Jesus enough to tell Americans that "their works are evil" (John 7:7). We love comfort and culture so much that we are willing to sacrifice the truth of Scripture for a privatized religion that sees all expressions of faith - Islam, Buddhism, Christianity and more - as equally valid and true expressions of faith.

It's interesting that in almost nowhere else in the world except America do people believe that all religions are equal. Non-westernized Muslims certainly don't believe this. One of the five young men that brutally murdered Ugur Yuskel, Tilman Geske, and Necati Aydin said, "We did this for our country (Turkey). They are attacking our religion." They savagely martyred these three Jesus lovers in a country where Turkish law guarantees that freedom of religious evangelism and expression as long as it does not contain proven political motives. Another of the murderers said, "We didn't do this for ourselves. We did this for our religion. Let this be a lesson to the enemies of religion."

Make no mistake. If you love Jesus people hate you. Yuskel, Geske and Aydin were considered "evil" on account of Jesus' name and they paid the ultimate price. What their murderers did to them can only be motivated by hatred. We know nothing of this in America. We live in a land of false prophets, wolves dressed in sheep's clothing with bright, white smiles (yes, Joel Osteen's message is contrary to the gosel and this makes him a false teacher), where the harvest of wheat is growing among wild and flourishing weeds where most people can't tell the difference between the two because American Christians can't seem to make a discerning distinction between really following Jesus and really loving the safety and security of American borders and prosperity. No one hates us inside our cozy borders because no one can tell the difference between American Christians and the non-religious secularists except that we have different destinations for two hours on Sunday morning.

These men hated Yuskel, Geske and Aydin because they loved these Muslim men enough to tell them that Jesus is the only way to know the Father. They hated these men because Jesus would tell all Muslims that if they do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, then they have not seen and do not know the Father. Jesus would proclaim their works, and any act of violence or non-violence that defends Islam or Allah "evil", because in denying Jesus' claim at deity, they deny Jesus. They did more than spurn, revile and exclude these Christian saints. In their hatred of Jesus they spilled their blood, to their own shame, but to Yuskel, Geske, and Aydin's glory. And the Sovereign Lord will avenge their blood.

"When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, 'O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?' Then they were each given a whtie robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellows servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been" (Revelation 6:9-11).

What I fear is that the West will hear this story, and instead of being moved to tears by our apathy, indifference and lack of zeal for Jesus, it will rather fuel our fear of man - particularly of Muslim extremists. Instead of saying, "Jesus, help me to love you and your Gospel so much I'd lay down my life, even for those who would butcher me in the name of a false god", most people will harden their heart towards Muslims or any individual or religion that might put our safety and comfort at risk to tell them of Jesus.

I pray that God would use the witness of these three brothers to invigorate my stale faith and embolden my witness rather than fan my fears. And until God avenges their blood, and who knows, maybe one day mine, rest well, our brothers. Rest well.