“God doesn’t have hit men”

God Doesn't Have Gangsters or Hitmen

 

One June 11th an ISIS terrorist killed 39 people in the Pulse Night Club on Orlando, FL. The Pulse is a gay bar, frequented and filled mostly with homosexuals. The terrorist in one of his 911 calls during the attack claimed to be the arm of God’s (Allah’s) judgment. In the days that followed, a few self-proclaimed Christian “theologians” with what I call a “trailer park theology” agreed, saying that this was and is God’s judgment against homosexuals. The problem I have with that is, there is no theology to support it.

While the “god” of Islam might be a fearful, arrogant, cold, capricious, murdering and intentionally intimidating god, who authorizes “Jihad” against all non-Muslims forty times in the Quran, the God of the Bible is a god of love not hate, creation and salvation who’s done everything he can to save people lives, not wanton killing, murder, death and destruction. While God loves all people and justice and does and will judge people’s eternity based on what they believe and do in this Earthly life, heterosexual or homosexual, the God of the Bible doesn’t have hit men or gangsters to carry out his judgment on Earth. He takes care of that himself in the spirit realm.

You have to go back over 3,000 years to the book of Joshua and isolated incidents in the Old Testament, for the last time God used human agents as executioners of his judgment. And while Deuteronomy 32:35 and Romans 12:19 says, “Vengeance is mine says the Lord” in the New Testament there is not even a hint of authorization for killing anyone in the name of God. In fact Romans 12:19 also includes “do not take revenge for yourself but leave room for God’s vengeance.” In Matthew 5:14 Jesus said to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” which admittedly is very hard to do most times. Christian theologian Augustine in the fourth century came up with a solution to the problem of not being able to go to war (Jihad) in the name of God with his “Just War Doctrine” that says you declare a defensive war in the name of government not God. We are still guided by that principal to this day in America.

So who are these ISIS terrorists if not an extension of god’s judgment? In the words of Jesus they are embodiments of Satan, the enemy of humanity who has come to kill, steal and destroy people’s lives. Jesus said, “The enemy comes to kill, steal and destroy, but I have come to give life more abundantly” John 10:10. And what are the “trailer park theologians”? Would be wanna bees that never were because they don’t know the God of the Bible.

Hell might have hitlers, haters and hit men. But Heaven has helpers, healers and a savior whose name is Jesus Christ. And Christians are ambassadors of reconciliation to God through faith in Jesus Christ not the revenge of God. So know your God and do your job as a Christian. Love the unlovely and leave the judgment solely up to God because God doesn’t have hit men.

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Don’t Play It Safe

Courage-To-Challenge-The-Climb-Of-The-Cliff-1800x2880

There’s a new American Idol and it isn’t on TV. This new idol is so powerful & pervasive it dominates our decisions & determines our directions. People who are paralyzed by it see their dreams discarded, their faith diminished, their potential unreached, their strength stunted and their souls shrivel. The idol is called “Fear”. The fear of being wrong, of being hurt, of being disliked, of failure, of being politically incorrect, of being opposed, confronted or disagreed with. Fear is the greatest threat to living in the freedoms God and our Constitution intends us to live.

While certain amounts of safety; of looking before you leap or counting the costs before you buy something, makes sense, since the 90’s we’ve created the most non-risk-taking society in our history. We used to be bold, brave and courageous. We sailed across the oceans, pioneered a nation, stood up to oppressions, reached for the stars and pushed the limits and when met with resistance we unapologetically pushed back. But now, we’re the most seat-belted, knee-padded, bike-helmeted, air-bagged, private-schooled, gluten-free, hand-sanitizing, peanut-avoiding, sunscreen-lathering, massively medicated, hyper-insured, password-protected, politically corrected, security sensitive, insulated and inoculated generation in our history because we’re afraid of everything. We claim to be “the land of free & home of the brave” but our unsung anthem remains “safety first” and maybe since 911, “don’t hurt me”.

Most don’t “do this” or “that” or “dream big dreams” or “try great things” because “it might not be safe”. Most don’t share their faith, take a stand publicly, tithe regularly, give sacrificially or break old habits, take risks, build new relationships, or have adventures because “it might not be safe” And it might not be safe but when has life ever been safe, esp. for Christians?

Since the Gospels, Jesus regularly sends out Christians into the world to change people’s lives, summarizing the danger in Luke 10:3, “I am sending you out as lambs among wolves”. Counseling us to be “as wise as serpents yet as innocent as doves” Matthew10:16. And we need to be, because the world is, and can be a dangerous place.

Although the Apostles were smart, they weren’t renowned for their intellect, but for their bravery, and faith in Jesus. Similarly, the Founding Fathers of these United States although very intelligent and insightful, aren’t revered in history for their genius like intellect that wrote an eloquent Declaration of Independence and subsequent Constitution, but for their bravery of what they did. Neither the Apostles nor the Founding Fathers played it safe. Rather they were bold and brave.

What are you known for as a Christian? Playing it safe or being bold and brave? Do you take risks or are you afraid of them? Remember what God says in Isaiah 41:10, “Do not fear for I am with you. Do not anxiously look around you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, help you and hold you up with my righteous right hand.” Do you believe him and trust him?

Don’t play it safe. Be bold and brave, in Jesus’ name.

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Peace on Earth

Christmas bells

During the Civil War Henry Longfellow wrote the following poem:

 “I heard the bells on Christmas Day. Their old familiar carols play, both wild and sweet, the words repeat of peace on earth, good-will to men!

But in despair I hung my head; “There is no peace on earth” I said; For Hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then rang the bells more loud and sweet; God is not dead, nor does he sleep. The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, of peace on earth, good-will to all men.”

This could apply to Jesus’ day or our day today, with the threats of Isis and Islamic terrorists and unnecessary religious and racial tensions. Jesus was born to die for people like you & me because “All Lives Matter” to God in Eternity.

So in the darkness of night God sent us his light of love and peace and eternal life. And as the Gospel has spread it proves to all God is not dead. His spirit is here and the words are clear of Peace on Earth, good will to all men.

We might not have it in this world just yet but we can have peace with God in our lives by accepting the light, love & life of the Lord Jesus Christ. Peace ought to define the Christian and make us distinctly different in a world of intolerant hate.

So as you have received the light, you must now go and do what’s right; proclaim to everyone you meet, God is not dead nor does he sleep. Peace on Earth in Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas from the people of Victory International Fellowship.

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Better Than the Bible?

gold picture

Have you ever heard of the golden rule? It’s a moral precept promoted in one form or another by nearly every religion. In the Christian version, Jesus urges His disciples to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12). Simply put, “treat others the way you want to be treated.”  Excellent advice for how to deal well with other people.

Ever hear of the platinum rule? Dr. Tony Alessandra, a marketing professor and speaker, developed this notion as an “alternative to the golden rule.” It moves the focus from you to others: “treat others the way they want to be treated.” He regards this shift as an improvement.

For example, if you like vanilla ice cream and you follow the golden rule, you’d give everyone vanilla whether they care for it or not. However, if you go with the platinum rule, your preference doesn’t matter. You’d find out their favorite flavor and then serve them. Their choice tops yours.

Has Alessandra improved on Scripture? Is his maxim greater than what Jesus advocates?

When you encounter an idea that appears to outdo biblical teaching, don’t fear it. Instead, revisit the Word. If you do, you may discover a deeper truth, hidden beneath the surface, waiting to reveal itself.

Alessandra’s right – the platinum rule aims at the interests of others while the golden rule emphasizes you. But is that a weakness? What if that’s the point?

Recall the last time you flew in a plane. Do you remember what the flight attendants told you about the oxygen masks in case of an emergency? They always instruct you to put yours on first; then, you can assist others. You’re not being selfish; you can’t help someone if you’ve passed out! You have to get yourself ready before you can serve others people.

The key is self-awareness.

The golden rule directs your attention to yourself. And I think it leads to the ultimate question of self-awareness: “who are you?”

Treating people the way you want to be treated forces you to consider your status as a child of God. It calls you to assess your motives, values, and attitudes. How close are you to the Lord? Can you handle the responsibility of loving others? What does God want in this situation? You get to determine all this! Jesus dares you to accept this challenge of spiritual growth.

Giving people what they want is comparatively easy. You don’t have to judge or confront; you just have to deliver!

Treating others the way you as Christ’s representative want to be treated demands that your actions arise out of His character forming within you. That’s the gold in the golden rule!

Is the platinum rule better than the Bible? On the surface, perhaps, but delve deeper. Into the Word hidden in your heart. Where the real gold lies.

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Silent Speech

waves

Following Jesus has its share of challenges. The Lord may call you to give when you’re nervous about your bank account. Or, He may direct you to show kindness to a bully. You may gripe, but at least you get what He’s thinking.

But sometimes the Lord’s instructions appear paradoxical, even contradictory. How do you respond then?

For example the psalmist David advised God’s people to “be angry and do not sin; meditate in your heart on your bed and be silent” (Psalm 4:4). The word “meditate” means “speak.” It’s not a mistranslation; back in ancient Israel, people commonly read aloud and thought aloud. Have you ever tried to work through a problem by talking to yourself? If so, then you know what he’s referring to.

But David seems to recommend that you speak wordlessly. Maybe he means talk under your breath or in your head. Or perhaps he’s proposing a sequence: first, express your thoughts to yourself and to God, and when you’re done, be quiet. Makes sense.

But I noticed this idea of “silent speech” in the New Testament, too. Luke records in Acts 21 that several Christians had been warning Paul not to travel to Jerusalem. The apostle kept rebuffing their advice; he was determined to visit that city. According to verse 14, “since he would not be persuaded, we fell silent, remarking, ‘The will of the Lord be done!’”

They fell silent and remarked. You can’t do both at the same time; at best, the order is backwards! Make your final pitch and then clam up.

I suppose that Paul’s friends had merely given up arguing with him. But what if something deeper lurks here? Let me illustrate it this way.

Years ago when I lived in Los Angeles, my friend (also named Bob) visited me from Arizona. He wanted to go snorkeling (which I’d never done), so we rented some gear and headed out for the Pacific surf.

Cold and choppy! Not what I had in mind! But, what lay beneath the surface surprised me. It was beautiful: rocks, seaweed, and I think corals. It was serene. I don’t recall seeing any fish, but I distinctly remember not being very adept at snorkeling. I had trouble with the breathing routine and chilled real quickly. Staying on the surface, I started getting pounded into the rocks by the waves.

Bob saw my distress and dragged me back to shore. Dazed, scraped, and bruised (and maybe in shock, too), I just sat there for a while and tried to figure out, unsuccessfully, what went wrong.

I realize now that I’d stayed at the top too long. Rather than getting tossed around, I’d have been better off diving down and staying below for a little while. True, the water was cold, but it at least was still down there. Sometimes, it pays to go deep!

Our words resemble waves. Arguments and debates can threaten and agitate. But beneath that roiling surface, there’s a serenity to which Jesus calls us. The ocean can be simultaneously placid and turbulent; so also can we. If our hearts are peaceful in God, even silent, then we’re free to communicate properly, decently, and beneficially. For us. For others.

This is the silent speech which God advocates. Are you up for it? Then grab your snorkel and head to the beach!

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Ministry Tips From a Shirt

plaid_dribbble

About a month ago, I came across the image that you see at the top of the page. Drawn by Roman Nurik, a designer who works for Google in New York, it wasn’t his first attempt; he’d drawn two prior versions. Roman didn’t publish the first one but this is what the second one looks like:

plaid_drib_1x

It’s called a wireframe design which outlines the contours of a proposed product. The collar struck Nurik as too formal, so he redesigned the shirt. By contrast, the final icon is fuller, textured, and casual. Nice improvement!

I learned some spiritual lessons from both of these graphics.

Keep your eyes open

If Jesus could illustrate the kingdom of God with fishing, farming, parties, and money, then I figure we can learn a thing or two about ministry from pretty much anything. Why not the icon of a shirt?

Don’t make formal final

Initial sketches outline what artists imagine. They have to put things down so they can see what their ideas actually express. In the case of Nurik’s shirt drawing, he felt that the collar conveyed a “tuxedo effect.” That wasn’t what he had in mind!

So, too, in Christian ministry, don’t reduce the spiritual life to an outline of principles or stiff theological categories. They may work in your head, but real life doesn’t conform so easily. If your theology is too tight for people, it’s too tight!

Avoid overcompensation

Nurik cast the wireframe in a bold green background. Unfortunately, that color competed with the outline of the shirt and overwhelmed it.

Likewise, if you discover that your ministry lacks vibrancy, you don’t have to flood it with shocking ideas, practices, or values. Too much of a good thing detracts from achieving your goals. Attract people’s attention; don’t bowl them over!

Comfortable is familiar is good

Just about everyone appreciates flannel shirts. They’re familiar, comfortable, and a perfect fit in cold weather.

Similarly, you can present the gospel of Jesus in a manner that soothes hurting souls. Explain the truths of the Bible simply; use commonplace vocabulary. No need to alienate people with esoteric thoughts or ideas they can’t grasp. Go with the familiar and see how God honors it.

Surprise people

Nurik livened up his shirt by introducing “delightful details,” limited amounts of color on the back of the collar and on the buttons. These splashes catch your eye! Not what you’d expect in a typical flannel shirt.

If you want people to notice you, do the unconventional. If you worry that people tune you out because they’re so accustomed to what you have to say, then startle them. No matter how familiar with God’s Word people may be, there’s more to it than they imagine. Show them!

These are some spiritual lessons I picked up from the graphic image of a shirt. What has Jesus used in your life to teach you about His kingdom? What did He show you? I’d like to know.

(For Tausha Cameron, my co-worker in Christ. Your service comforts and sparkles!)

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What Advice Would You Give?

Love God and Neighbor

On Wednesday, I listened to one of my favorite podcasts, The Ray Edwards Show. Ray combines strong faith in Jesus with sound business insights and a great sense of humor, so I get a lot out of his program. In Episode #193, he presented “7 Shocking Productivity Hacks” which, when practiced, give you lots of extra time you didn’t think you could ever have.

The seventh tip came in the form of a question, specifically, a “desert island” question. You and a nine year old child find yourselves marooned on a desert island far from civilization. You know that you will never get off the island; you will die there. However, you also know that the child will get rescued. If you could distill your wisdom and experience into a single sentence, what advice would you give that child before he or she was saved?

This exercise forces you to focus on what’s most important in life. And the implication is to practice what you preach. Live out the advice you bestow.

So what would you say? What would you share with that nine year old who’s hoping to see ten? Because what you tell that child is what you’re telling yourself.

Two notions bounced around in my head; one was about the Lord and the other concerned doing what you really enjoy in life. Since the answer was supposed to be only one sentence long, I came up with, “Trust Jesus and just do what you want to do in life.”

But right after I spoke this under my breath, I realized that I was copying a dictum given centuries ago by the theologian Augustine: “Love God and do as you please.”

Trusting Jesus and loving God are pretty similar, so I’ll treat them as more or less communicating the same thing. And most Christians would agree that our relationship with the Lord should be our priority.

But what about the second part? Do whatever you want?

Augustine didn’t mean that loving Jesus grants you permission to sin up a storm. Rather, loving God affects everything we think, say, and do.

That sounds like good advice, the kind I’d give a young castaway who’s about to be rescued.

How does it work?

Love keeps you balanced. Life has so many voices which tell you what to do. You encounter numerous distractions and temptations; it’s hard to relax, concentrate, and enjoy.

Loving God by following Jesus keeps you from swaying, stumbling, and falling. You’re free to pursue what interests you because you’re not afraid of offending Him. When you know you’re accepted by God, when you realize that you’re approved in Christ, the world, your world, opens up.

God’s love frees you up to be you. Fear no longer controls your heart; you can trust Him with your desires, talents, and hopes.

“Love God and do what you please.” Not bad advice for a nine year old. How about for you?

 

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