Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Ideas matter

Dr. Everett Piper was the president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University until his retirement in May 2019. He became irate one day when one of their students complained about a chapel service. Dr. Piper writes:

This past week, I actually had a student come forward after a university chapel service and complain because he felt “victimized” by a sermon on the topic of 1 Corinthians 13. It appears this young scholar felt offended because a homily on love made him feel bad for not showing love. In his mind, the speaker was wrong for making him, and his peers, feel uncomfortable.
I’m not making this up. Our culture has actually taught our kids to be this self-absorbed and narcissistic. Any time their feelings are hurt, they are the victims. Anyone who dares challenge them and, thus, makes them “feel bad” about themselves, is a “hater,” a “bigot,” an “oppressor,” and a “victimizer.” https://www.okwu.edu/blog/2015/11/this-is-not-a-day-care-its-a-university/
Dr. Piper went on to write a book entitled Not a Day Care in which he wrote, "Ideas matter. It matters when we teach young men to view young women as nothing but objects of recreation and young women to accept this insult. It matters when we teach our children a career is more important than morality. It matters when we teach students there is no God--and treat them as if they are gods" (Dr. Everett Piper in "Not a Day Care. Regnery, 2017).

Praise God for Dr. Piper! May his tribe increase. Unfortunately, many Christian Universities today are run by administrators and faculty who are “cultural Christians,” that is, they seem to be much more concerned about staying in step with modern culture than they are with standing up for biblical values.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Self-Awareness


I recently finished reading a book, written by a pastor entitled, “Didn’t see it coming; Overcoming the 7 greatest challenges that no one expects and everyone experiences.” 

Frankly, I didn’t find it all that helpful—except for one part which was truly insightful. The author writes:

Self-aware people understand not only what their own emotions and actions are, but also how their emotions and actions affect others…the key problem I had is that I didn’t realize what it was like to be on the other side of me…Think about it. How many times have you had a bad day only to not know why you’re having a bad day? And then how many times has your mysteriously bad day had a negative impact on your spouse, your kids, and your coworkers? Far too often, right? Me too…Self-aware people refuse to let a bad day on the inside spill out to other on the outside. And even when they do allow this to happen, they realize they’re hurting others and apologize or take other steps to mitigate the damage” (199).

I’d like to dismiss this as just so much psychobabble (probably because it is way too convicting)! But the reality is that it is not so much psychobabble as it is just one aspect of Jesus’ “Golden Rule” of doing unto others as you would have others do unto you.”


Saturday, May 4, 2019

A foundation for living

This is a sermon I preached to graduating seniors in their last chapel at Crown College in 2019:

A few weeks ago I was in a Walmart that I had never been to before. I was in the back of the store and suddenly had an urgent need to use the restroom. I was deep in thought about something as I rushed to the front of the store and entered the restroom. It was one of those big ones without doors where you just kind of wind around the corners to get in. Anyway, I looked around and thought, “Well this is weird, there are no urinals in this rest…Oh NO!”

I wasn’t paying attention and entered the lady’s room by mistake. I guess I could have just self-identified as a woman but the beard and bald head may have been problematic.

You have all grown up in a world that is radically different from the one I grew up in. When I was in college everyone agreed that there were only two genders and it mattered which restroom you used. There was no controversy about this. You’re growing up in a world in which many people think there are more than 50 genders, and some people think everyone should just be able to use the restroom of their choice!

A few years before I went to college, a book was published called, Situation Ethics which said that ethics was all relative. It created a huge controversy because even most non-Christians back then believed that ethics and truth were not all relative.

In your world, it is almost taken for granted that ethics and truth are social constructs and that no one has the right to judge someone else’s truth.

When I grew up, Billy Graham would stand up before thousands of people and thunder, “the Bible says” and even most non-Christians would pay attention because most of them had respect for the Bible.

Today, many people are offended by what the Bible says. In fact, we now have to be very careful about what we say, because someone may be offended by a “micro-aggression.”

In other words, the relatively solid foundation that stood under the world of my generation, has been replaced in your generation by a foundation of culturally-constructed shifting sand.

In Matthew 7 Jesus says…  “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Building our lives on the solid foundation of Jesus and his teachings, helps to sustain us in the storms of life.

For example, John absolutely idolized his wife. He built his whole life around her. So John was devastated when she left him for someone else. He felt like his whole world had collapsed! He had trouble sleeping and could no longer cope at work. He increasingly turned to alcohol and drugs to deaden the pain and his life spiraled out of control. He eventually lost his job and ended up on the street. His wife had been like his god, and when she left, his life was destroyed like a house built on sand.

Jesus says that if we build our lives on his teachings, it is like building on solid rock. So what are those teachings? Later in the same Gospel of Matthew, Jesus himself gives a summary: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

I think Jesus is just re-stating the first of the Ten Commandments, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” In America our gods tend to be the intangible things we build our lives on. For some that may be career or financial success. For some it may be sex or entertainment. It might be marriage and family. It might be personal appearance or sports.

Whatever it is, Jesus would say that if you build your foundation on any of these things, you are building on sand. Your idols are going to disappoint you. They are going to let you down—and when they do, the aftermath may even destroy you.

You’ve probably heard stories of the Great Depression and how some millionaires supposedly jumped to their death out of tall buildings when they heard all their money was gone! I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it’s a good illustration of a life that comes crashing down when someone makes success their god.

Long before Jesus’ time the writer of Ecclesiastes sought meaning in life by pursuing success: luxury, entertainment, power and sex. He ultimately discovered that it was all emptiness; and he finally concluded, “Love God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

If you want to build your life and career on a solid foundation, you will love God—Father, Son and Spirit—literally more than you love anything else in the whole world. In fact, in Matthew 10 Jesus taught that we should love him more than we love our own father or mother, or son or daughter—or even our own life!

Some of you may be thinking, “Love Jesus even more than my own family? Seriously? That’s getting kind of fanatical, isn’t it?”

There was once a well-known seminary professor named Howard Hendricks who spoke to a group of guys about this passage. He said, husbands, you will never love your wife as Christ loved the church until Jesus is the absolute lord of your life.

You see, paradoxically, when you love Jesus more than anything else, that doesn’t mean you love others less—Your love for Jesus actually enables you to love them more, because it enables you to love them unconditionally regardless of circumstances.

In Nigeria right now there is a young girl, about your age, named Leah Sharibu who—in the midst of terrible circumstances—loves Jesus even more than she loves her own life. She was one of a bunch of girls kidnapped by an Islamic terrorist group over a year ago. Since then, some of the girls have died in captivity but over a hundred girls have been released. The terrorists, however, kept Leah specifically because she refused to renounce her faith in Christ. All she has to do to go home is to deny Jesus, but she loves Jesus even more than she loves her own life.

Not many of us will probably ever be called upon to give up our life for Jesus. So for us, what does it mean to love God with all our heart? Well, it’s not just warm, fuzzy emotional feelings or mountain top spiritual experiences. In the Gospel of John, Jesus emphasizes about a half dozen times that if you truly love him, you will keep his commandments. In other words, if you love Jesus you will love your neighbor as yourself, striving to live a life that is honest and moral, loving and forgiving, kind and compassionate. You will treat others the way you would like to be treated. Not in order to be saved, of course. But because you are saved. Because you love Jesus.

This doesn’t mean we will always obey Jesus’ teachings perfectly, of course. No one does. But the more we ignore Jesus’ teachings, the more we are building our lives on a foundation of sand.

Unfortunately, I fear that the “god” many people love, is an idol. A fiction. Some people seem to worship a god of health, wealth and prosperity—like a cosmic vending machine or Santa Claus who exists only to meet their every need and rescue them from trouble.

They arrive at this god by cherry-picking Bible verses out of context and ignoring the many passages which declare that “in this world you will have trouble,” as Jesus says in John 16. Then when the storms of life hit and the bottom falls out, they find their ”prosperity god” was an illusion and their faith may be destroyed like house built on sand.

Some people seem to have re-imagined God as some kind of an all-tolerant, all-accepting god of niceness who would never judge anyone about anything, because he understands the desires of my heart. They come to this conclusion by cherry-picking verses about God’s love and compassion—and they ignore the uncomfortable passages which talk about the wrath of a holy God who calls people to repentance!

We don’t talk much about the wrath of God anymore because that’s one of the topics we tend to ignore in our cherry-picking. After all, talk about God’s holiness and wrath—and our need to repent, might offend people and provoke their wrath.

Unfortunately, many people in our churches seem to think their job as a Christian is to be liked by everyone, so they do everything they can to avoid the world’s wrath. As a result, they build their lives on the shifting sands of contemporary culture—and then diligently search the Scriptures, cherry-picking passages out of context, to support what the culture teaches. James says that anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God!

Let me close with three quick challenges:

First, don’t cherry-pick the Bible. Continue your study of the Bible and learn it well enough to know the whole council of God—and then, if you truly love God, strive to put it into practice.

Second, have the guts to judge modern culture in light of the Bible—rather than re-interpreting the Bible in light of modern culture. And by the way, I am not suggesting that the cultural foundation when I was your age was biblical. It was based to a large extent on the idolatry of materialism and financial success. All cultures need to be critiqued by the Bible.

Finally, build your life on the solid foundation of Jesus and his teachings. If you build your life and career on the shifting sands of cultural or political correctness, the house you build will ultimately fall like a house built on sand. But if you will build your life on the solid foundation of Jesus and his teachings—loving God with all your heart, mind, and soul; and loving your neighbor as yourself—Jesus, in John 10:10, promises you an abundant life!

That does NOT mean a life of comfort; or “health, wealth and prosperity”—but it does mean a life that is fulfilling and well-worth living—one that can withstand the storms of life, because it’s built on a solid foundation. 

LET’S PRAY:
Father I pray for our seniors. I pray that they would love you with every fiber of their being. And I pray you would give them the knowledge, wisdom and courage to build their life and career on the solid foundation of your Word.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Nigeria and the New Zealand shooting

I must admit, it infuriates me!

Since February, “As many as 280 people were killed inChristian communities” by militant Muslims in Nigeria. In fact, over 1,800 Christians were murdered in Nigeria in 2018 and more than 5,000 have been slaughtered since 2015. Some are calling it genocide. According to the Christian Post, “there is a deliberate deception taking place that seeks to portray Fulani attackers simply as ‘herdsman,’ and the conflict as strictly a clash between farmers cattle herders. The truth is…that radical Islamists have taken over the Fulani, spreading jihad by deliberately slaughtering Christians andburning their churches.”

So 49 Muslims are tragically murdered in New Zealand and the story makes international news for days. Thousands of Christians are being slaughtered by radical Islamists in Nigeria and there is barely a peep by the news media. Why is that?

Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Nigeria as well as the friends and families of the New Zealand shooting victims.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Abortion and Infanticide


I just read an article from the February 7 edition of the National Review entitled, “Infanticide and the Left” by Ramesh Ponnuru. The author made the following observation: “An individual infant who was born very prematurely is less developed (often substantially so) than a fetus at term, but it is the former who has legal protection. The distinction turns entirely on location: Inside the womb the developing human organism is a fetus, and outside it is an infant.”

In other words, laws that prohibit late term abortion do so supposedly because the unborn baby is much more developed in the third trimester than in the first trimester. The problem comes, however, when a baby is aborted, let’s say after 25 weeks—and survives. Once the baby is born his or her life is then protected by law.  So the life, for example, of a 30 week old unborn baby could be terminated in the womb and many states would consider that legal, but terminating the life of a 25 week old prematurely born baby would be considered murder.

Clearly it is not the developmental status of the baby that is the real issue, but simply the location of the baby—inside the womb or outside the womb. This is about as logical as saying that if someone kills their spouse outside their home it is murder but if they kill their spouse inside their home is it OK! Recognizing the absurdity of this position, some Democrats are now basically arguing that location doesn’t matter, saying that it should be legal to kill babies (or allow them to die unattended) outside the womb as well!

Even if these new advocates of infanticide succeed, it would not solve their logical dilemmas. Take, for example, two pregnant neighbors. One goes into labor prematurely and delivers the baby at 30 weeks. Only then does she discover that her baby has some kind of deformity, but if the mother were to terminate the baby, it would be considered murder.

Her neighbor, on the other hand, discovers that her baby also has a deformity and decides to abort the baby at 30 weeks. The baby survives the abortion. If infanticide advocates have their way, she would be free to have the baby terminated. Two babies. Both born at 30 weeks. The first is protected by law as a human being. The second is apparently not considered human and allowed to be terminated. So whether the baby was considered to be human and has human rights would depend entirely on whether the child was wanted!

Clearly this contradiction could not stand for long so the next step would be to allow infanticide in all cases. And if our society is going to allow infanticide, how much time should the parents be given to make that decision? Hours? Days? Years? Or should that decision also be left between a mother and her doctor?

Perhaps we’re making a mountain out of a mole hill since this affects only a very tiny number of abortions—or so they say. According to the article, “one abortion-industry official admitted that he had “lied through [his] teeth on national television” about this. There may be as many as “12,000 abortions after week 20” every year—more than the number of people murdered with guns each year.

I agree that location shouldn’t matter. Generally speaking, deliberately killing an innocent human being should be considered murder. It is a scientific fact that unborn babies, or as the Left likes to call them, “products of conception” are human and they are certainly innocent. The infant’s location, or whether he or she is wanted, should not be allowed to take away their constitutionally guaranteed human “right to life.”

Monday, February 11, 2019

Evangelism and post-modernism

I’ve read hundreds of pages on post-modernism but I must admit that I’m still having trouble grasping it (It’s kind of like trying to grasp Jell-O)!

As I understand it, according to post-modernism there are no absolute rights or wrongs. You have your views and I have mine, and we should all respect each other’s views. To say your view is wrong is no more valid than saying your preference for the color blue is wrong.

It is this kind of thinking that led almost half of post-modern “Christians” to respond to a recent survey saying that evangelism is wrong. They don’t want to impose their views on anyone else because all views are valid (But how can evangelism be “wrong” if all views are valid?).

So if post-moderns really believe we shouldn’t judge other people’s views, why do so many post-moderns seem to have an almost irrational hatred for Donald Trump? Under post-modern thinking, don’t his views deserve to be respected or at least tolerated like anyone else’s? This is not political statement about Donald Trump—My only point is that many post-modernists seem to only want tolerance for views which are not objectionable to them! It seems to me that this inconsistency significantly undermines post-modernism.

Contrary to post-modernism, Jesus and the writers of the New Testament were very clear in affirming that there is truth and there is error. To cite just one of many examples, Paul did not tell the people of Lystra that he respected their religion and just wanted to share his views too. Referring to their religious idols, Paul said the people of Lystra should “turn from these worthless things to the living God” (Acts 14:15). Paul was convinced of the truth of his position and the error of theirs.

Proclamation of the truth of the Gospel is what the Great Commission is all about. For professing "Christians" to say that evangelism is wrong is an indication that they have been blinded by their post-modern culture.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Muhammad and the Unbelievers


On numerous occasions I’ve said that I love Muslims (the people)—but I hate Islam (the religion)! Some of my reasons for hating this religious ideology are summarized quite well in the book, Muhammad and the Unbelievers; a Political Life by Bill Warner. This short book (only 167 pages) provides a fascinating and readable story of Muhammad’s life. It summarizes the very earliest biography of Muhammad by Ibn Ishaq and weaves into the biography parts of the Muhammad’s teachings from the Koran and other early respected Islamic sources (I’ve read Ibn Ishaq’s biography of Muhammad--over 700 pages-- and the Koran so I know that Warner’s summary is accurate).

The advantage of this book over some modern biographies of Muhammad is that this book has not been filtered through the lenses of Muslim apologetics or modern Western political correctness. The story comes directly from Islam’s earliest and most sacred sources. Almost every paragraph in the book has been documented from those sources

The picture that emerges is that Muhammad was a man who was kind, hospitable, generous, loving, patient and forgiving—toward Muslims who submitted completely and unquestioningly to his rule.
Toward “Kafirs” (unbelievers), on the other hand, he was mercilessly vicious and cruel. He would threaten, intimidate, deceive, rob, rape, enslave, torture, execute and slaughter Kafirs by the hundreds! On one occasion, he sat all day long watching literally hundreds of Jews being beheaded at his command. Then he ordered their wives and children into slavery.

Muhammad ordered the executions of people for no other reason than the fact that those people had criticized Muhammad or had changed their minds and turned away from his religion. He “captured slaves, sold slaves, bought slaves, freed slaves, tortured slaves, had sex with slaves, gave slaves as gifts of pleasure, received slaves as gifts, and sued slaves for work” (164).

He allowed the black slave of his wife Aisha to be tortured in order to determine whether Aisha was faithful to him or not—and only after the torture revealed that Aisha was faithful did Muhammad receive a revelation exonerating her of any wrongdoing!

These stories do not come from “Islamophobic right wing extremists” but from Islam’s earliest and most sacred sources. These are the stories and teachings that Muhammad encouraged his followers to emulate—and which faithful Muslims in power have emulated for roughly 1,400 yeas!


As a Christian, I love Muslims—but I hate Islam!

Friday, February 1, 2019

Servant Leadership


I recently finished reading a book called “Servant Leadership in Action” (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2018) written by over three dozen contributors including leaders in business, education, ministry, military and other walks of life. The one common thread throughout the book was that servant leadership is not about the “boss” controlling everything or telling everyone else what to do. Servant leaders empower others to take ownership of their area of responsibility and to “run with it.” Of course leadership always involves vision, guidance, and some boundaries, but in a servant leadership model, people are not just cogs in a machine.

The idea of servant leadership comes from the Bible. For example, in John 13 where Jesus takes on a servant’s roll and washes the feet of his disciples. Or in Philippians 2:7 where Paul speaks of Jesus “taking on the very nature of a servant….” In First Corinthians 12:12-31 Paul also gives a great model of servant leadership when he discusses the church as the body of Christ in which each person has different gifts, talents and abilities, but all work together and everyone is important.

As a pastor, I have never seen my role analogous to that of a CEO. I see myself more like the conductor of an orchestra (Ironic, since the only instrument I play is a radio). We have many talented and godly people at our church and it is exciting to watch God work through them!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Lady Gaga's "Christianity"


According to an article in CBN News,[1] Lady Gaga recently interrupted one of her concerts to launch a strong public attack against Vice President Pence as being the worst example of Christianity (as if Gaga is a better example)! Lady Gaga reportedly said, “I am a Christian woman and what I do know about Christianity is that we bear no prejudice and everybody is welcome.”
Anyone who has ever heard Lady Gaga’s music knows—well, let’s just say she didn’t get those lyrics from the Bible! Gaga is promoting an alternative form of “Christianity.” Forget the idea of an all-powerful and all-knowing God. The “Christianity” of Lady Gaga and other modern leftists is about an all-welcoming, all-tolerant deity characterized by absolute niceness. This god would never judge anyone, anywhere, anytime about anything. This is a very popular god who allows people to unrepentantly wallow in virtually any kind of sin without shame, regret, or confession.
What Gaga is promoting is really nothing new. Two thousand years ago the book of Jude issued a blistering attack against such a view of “Christianity.” And back in the 1930’s H.Richard Niebuhr wrote that theological liberals of his time proclaimed how “a God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”[2]
So while Gaga’s “Christianity” is nothing new, it is certainly not biblical, and her god is a figment of her own imagination. But it is a god in whom an increasing number of people seem to believe.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Praying for Cancer Patients


Right now we have several people on our church cancer prayer list so I decided to read a book called “Loving your Friend Through Cancer” by Marissa Henley. In this book, the author provides an excellent list of things to pray for—though I found it interesting that she does not say to pray for healing. It is OK to pray for healing too!  

It's a very good book. I highly recommend it.  Here is my summary of her list (Since the author always uses “she” or “her” I will too but these obviously apply to men as well). 
  • Pray that she will feel closer to the Lord (Ps 62:1-2; 63:5-8; Isa 41:10)
  • Pray for wisdom for family and friends to know how to support and encourage her (James 1:5)
  • Pray for relief from her feelings of isolation (Josh 1:9; Ps 42; 56:8; Heb 13:5)
  • Pray for wisdom in medical decisions (Ps 112:7-8)
  • Pray that God will sustain and even strengthen her marriage through it all (Eph 5:22-23)
  • Pray that she would put her trust in the Lord and not in any particular outcome (Isa 43; Jer 31:3; Rom 8:38-39)
  • Pray that she would feel free to ask for help and support when she needs it (Phil 4:19)
  • Pray that she would not be anxious for the future but would feel joy and peace as she grieves the loss of her health (Lam 3:21-24; Rom 15:13; Phil 4:6-8)
  • Pray that she will be transformed and sanctified for God’s glory through suffering (Rom 8:28-29; 12:1-2)
  • Pray that God will prepare her to comfort others with the comfort she is now receiving (2 Cor 1:3-4).