US Government Restricts Free Speech and Expression of Religion

The “separation of church and state,” such as it is, should keep the government from imposing a religion upon the people of this country.

But regulations that squelch the speech of pastors? Can the US Government tell pastors what they can and cannot talk about?

There is no law that I’m aware of that restricts the speech of pastors, but IRS regulations in place for over 50 years threaten to withdraw the tax-exempt status of churches that speak on politics. I am convinced this is a contributing factor to the decline of morality in the USA. The churches are the center of what we consider moral in the country, and if the pulpits are silent, immorality blossoms.

Some pastors have begun specifically defying this regulation by specifically mentioning candidates by name. Their goal is to overturn the IRS regulation through the court system. Listen: all rules and regulations in this country should follow the US Constitution, right? Here’s the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution –

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

That tells me that the government can’t pass any laws on what churches can and cannot say, anymore than they can tell newspapers what they can and cannot print. Read that amendment and explain to me how it could be interpreted otherwise.

If you’d like to read more, the Alliance Defense Fund is spearheading this project.

“Pastors have a right to speak about Biblical truths from the pulpit without fear of punishment. No one should be able to use the government to intimidate pastors into giving up their constitutional rights,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley.

It’s a government restriction on the freedom of speech and the expression of religion. I cant see how anyone could interpret the Constitution any other way.

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PBS and the Separation of Church and State

When the US Government funds anything remotely Christian in nature, all sorts of “separation of church and state” groups get upset. The ACLU files a lawsuit and the “offensive” Christian material is removed.

So why is it ok for US tax dollars to be used to oppose Christianity? Shouldn’t the same standard be used? PBS, a government funded liberal and atheist propoganda tool (not that I’m opinionated on the subject) is funded by the US government and is producing a show that attacks the underlying tenets of the bible.

Among other things, this show says –

  • Abraham, Sarah and their offspring didn’t exist.
  • There is no archaeological evidence of the Exodus.
  • Monotheism was a process that took hundreds of years.
  • The Israelites were actually Canaanites.
  • The Israelites believed that God had a wife.

For me as a Christian, it’s bad enough when free speech is exercised to attack my beliefs; my right to free speech also belongs to others to say the opposite. Will my tax dollars also be used to fund a show friendly to my beliefs? Probably not; the ACLU will sue to prevent the use of tax dollars for Christian-friendly projects. So why is the government allowed to fund an attack on Christianity?

Tower of Babel

Even though lunch today is at Fajita Flats, I brought along a suggestion from a restaurant I was recently visiting called La Place in Hengelo, The Netherlands. Here’s also a list of today’s specials; I can highly recommend the voorgerecht.

(Other handouts go here: the complete menu, shopping flyers, German newspaper, Dutch newspaper, French airport guide. If you’re reading this online, you’re out of luck.)

One of the toughest things about traveling is the language barrier between us and the country. It’s rewarding and exciting to travel outside of the touristy areas, but the further you get away, the more language becomes a problem.

About a year and a half ago, Diane accompanied me on a business trip to Europe, and one of the places we stayed at was a little French town of Honfluer in lower Normandy. It was quaint, a little fishing village of about 8000 people. Diane and I had just arrived in France earlier that day and driven in from Paris and were sitting down to our first meal. We chose a little outdoor café where we could watch the sights and the people and enjoy the sunshine. The waitress came by to drop off some menus and I asked, “English menus?” and she shook her head no. Diane and I stared at the words in French.

So, like a gentleman, I offered to order for Diane. When the waitress came back, I pointed at Diane and said, “She’ll have” and then pointed at the menu, “this, this, and this.” Then I pointed at me and said, “I’ll have that, that, and that.” The waitress wrote it down, smiled, and walked off.

Diane asked me what I had ordered. “For you, I ordered this this and this. For me, that that and that. Pay attention.” I had little idea what I had ordered. I recognized a few words from previous trips, so I was fairly certain I had ordered some sort of chicken with potatoes, but I may have ordered snails with motor oil.

Communication is very difficult when there is a language barrier. You know, I’ve discovered that, even when we all speak English, communication is difficult. We say one thing, our spouse hears another. Our spouse says one thing, we hear something else. Why is communication so difficult? Let’s turn to Genesis 11 and study the chapter on scrambled communication, The Tower of Babel. Genesis 11:1-9:

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel — because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

I had to look up the pronunciation since I’ve heard it pronounced “babble” and “BAY-bell.” Turns out the correct pronunciation is “buh-BELL.”

Verse 1, “Now the whole world had one language and a common speech.” When did this take place? Some scholars look back a chapter at Genesis 10 verse 5, 20, and 31 which tell us that Noah’s offspring had their own language. For instance, in Genesis 10:5 it says, “From these the maritime peoples spread out into their territories by their clans within their nations, each with its own language.” So it seems reasonable that the building of the tower took place soon after the flood and before Noah’s offspring had completely left to populate the earth. This makes sense; in Genesis 9:7 as God was placing His rainbow in the sky, God told Noah, “As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.” And Genesis 10 tells us that Noah had a son named Ham who had a son named Cush who had a son named Nimrod and that Nimrod was a mighty hunter before the LORD, and Genesis 10:10 says Nimrod founded Babylon in the plain of Shinar. Instead of these sons of Noah spreading out and populating the earth, though, men thought they knew better than God. Instead of spreading out, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. Huh. Direct disobedience to what God told them to do. Of course, *we* would never do that, would we?

Genesis 11:3-4 says,

They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

Where’s God in this decision? Let us make bricks, let us build ourselves a city, so that *we may make a name for ourselves* and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth. We see man deciding that he knows better than God. When we go against God’s instruction, it is always evil. It is always sin. It is the same sort of sin that has tempted man since the Garden of Eden. We know better than God what we need. We know better than God what’s important. So here we see Godly men, mighty hunters before the LORD, giving way to their own desires again.

The evil in this case is in numbers; the safety in numbers is a flawed concept when compared to being in the safety of God, but these men wanted to make a name for themselves. Perhaps with the flood still fresh in their minds, they wanted to build a tower of safety. Instead of trusting God’s rainbow, they will trust themselves. This is the beginning of secular humanism, thousands of years before we gave it a name. Safety in numbers does not provide safety in the world. Safety in the world is obtained by trusting in God. Correct worship of God is in trust and obedience in Him.

This secular humanism, trusting man instead of God, continues today. While we can blame our secular society for teaching to trust in man, in separation of church and state, it continues inside each and every one of us. We give lip service to trusting in God, but when we find some instruction from God in God’s Word that we don’t like, we trust ourselves first. Oh, I’m not going to do that, certainly God can’t mean that. Or, I know that God says that, but he doesn’t understand our difficult that is, so I’m going to do it my way. This secular humanism, this trusting in ourselves, leads to pride. If we’re going to trust ourselves, then we must promote ourselves until we are on equal footing with God. Or we must bring God down to our level so that we seem better than we are. These descendents of Nimrod are saying, “let us build a tower so that we may make a name for ourselves.” Trust in ourselves leads us to inflate our own egos. Let us not be fooled; we are not God. Making a name for ourselves is not God’s plan. Fellowship with our Lord and giving praise to God’s name is His plan.

Is God pleased by pride? Genesis 11:5-7,

But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

While men believed they were building a tower that reached to the heavens as a monument to themselves, from God’s perspective, this was a puny little project. Whatever they were trying to build for themselves, these people had no claim to greatness. When people begin to rely on people and we inflate our own egos and we begin to act like we are gods, nothing seems impossible. But look at our track record as people independent from God. Have we ended war? Have we ended poverty? Have we ended hunger? Have we ended sickness or disease or global warming or pollution or overpopulation or illegal immigration or child abuse or murder or stealing or anything else? Is there anything man has accomplished apart from God?

This puny tower did not threaten God’s sovereignty. This puny tower was only huge in the eyes of the people that created it. I don’t believe God took the building of the tower as a threat, but God did take the sin of pride that led to the building of the tower seriously. God’s plan was for man to spread out and populate the earth, and instead, man has staked a spot in the desert and is building a monument to himself. This is a step along the path to disobedience and the resulting consequences. Whenever we attempt to be our own God, God will confuse our plans. God already has a plan and doesn’t want us to make our own plans independent from Him. The common language of the people led to achievement, which led to prideful disobedience. They substituted their own purposes for God’s purposes.

Discussion questions –
If we believe we can accomplish anything, is that right or wrong? Why?
What things do people do today that show they trust themselves more than they trust God?

I think of how powerful and omniscient and holy God is, looking down at this pitiful little tower and seeing man placing their faith in their own accomplishments. How little it takes for us to develop pride in ourselves. Apart from Him, we can do nothing, but often we think we can do anything we want without repercussions. God could have easily toppled the tower, just given it a little tap and knocked it over. But I think we’d be like some sort of human ant colony, we’d start scurrying around and swarming and rebuilding the monument to ourselves. Instead of using brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar, we’d delude ourselves by upgrading the building material. We’d build towers out of steel and glass, skyscrapers reaching to the sky to demonstrate the power of man. It’s still all self-delusional accomplishments. It pales next to the creations of God.

God does something more amazing than knocking over an anthill; He confuses their language. While Nimrod and the people have this wonderful idea to band together to worship themselves, God effortlessly stops them. Nimrod’s idea to unite the world in one religion of secular humanity depended on effective communication. With the inability to communicate effectively disabled, Nimrod’s idea still gave birth to alternative worship, alternative man-made gods, that we still are dealing with today. Nimrod may have failed at creating a single unified counterfeit religion, but he still created the basic idea of a counterfeit religion. Even now, man’s belief in his own superiority leads to confusion, conflict, wars, and often based on counterfeit, man-made religion. All because man attempted to create a plan independent of God.

The sin of pride in man’s own accomplishment no doubt led to the first of God’s Ten Commandments, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” God acts here to prevent man from establishing a counterfeit, uniform worship that would disrupt God’s plan of redemption. By confusing their language, man could no longer find adequate safety in numbers. With communication problems, now they become suspicious of each other, sometimes angry at each other when communication is impossible. They had tried to band together to show they could unite in rebellion against God, but now, effortlessly, God made that impossible.

Lastly, in Genesis 11:8-9,

So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel — because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

It’s ironic; they find themselves doing God’s will, whether they want to or not. They wanted to proclaim themselves free of God, able to do their own will, but God scattered them all over the face of the earth. Where they once had freedom to go where they wanted to and fulfill the Lord’s command to populate the earth, now the Lord simply scattered them. In search of their own freedom, they now find themselves in slavery to their sin. The Lord is always in control and His will is always done. We can have the freedom to do it His way, or He will accomplish His will without us. God works out His plan through people who resist Him as well as people who obey Him. Nimrod and his followers discovered God’s control through His judgment. Ultimately, every human who rebels against the Lord also discovers the same thing. God is and always has been and always will be in control. We have the freedom to be in His will, but we do not have to freedom to override His will.

More discussion:
Why do people, even believers, sometimes resist God’s will and directions?
How does God accomplish His will anyway even if people resist Him?

So “bay-bell” or “babble” or “buh-bell” in the ancient Hebrew means “to confuse by mixing.” Where is the tower of Babel today? The plain of Shinar is today’s modern day Iraq, and Babel eventually became Babylon. Today, it’s an area of ruins about 60 miles south of Baghdad. It’s amazing that the defiance of God and the source of much of the world’s continuing confusion still emanates from the same place after all these centuries.

Is it God’s will that we cannot communicate with each other? No, God’s will here at the Tower of Babel ended man’s ability to unite together in defiance of God. Man is still in defiance of God, but there are dozens and dozens of man-made religions and are no longer united against the Lord. God’s will is that we are able to communicate His purpose. In Acts 2 as the Holy Spirit came upon men, it says “we heard them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” When we unite behind God’s purpose, God can facilitate our communication. The first thing, though, before we communicate with each other, is to communicate with God. We read God’s Word so He speaks to us; we go to the Lord in prayer so we can speak to Him. How can we possibly know God’s will if we’re not in communication with Him? We should choose to talk to God and cooperate with Him first. I believe we’ll find our communication with each other is far, far better if we’re in communication with our heavenly father first.

As humanity spreads out across the earth, we see a small remnant that worships the one true God, and the rest of humanity abandoning God and worshiping itself or other false religions. And we can begin to see how God is going to take this mess that humanity makes and offer us a true relationship with Him. From Adam and Eve who sought to become their own gods and know right from wrong, God’s justice banned them from the Garden of Evil and the Tree of Life. We saw through Cain and Abel as humanity’s ability to sin further separated us from God as Cain killed Abel. The true worship of our Lord continued through Seth, the son of Adam, but by the time of Noah, the true worship of God was only alive in one man, and through the story of the ark, God’s grace was extended to Noah and his family and the human race was spared. And even with the flood, we see that man’s ability to try to make himself his own God continuing as Nimrod’s people attempt to build a tower, a monument, to their own secular power.

At the end of Genesis 11 in verse 10, we see a genealogy emerge. We know from Genesis 10 that Noah had 3 sons to continue the true worship of the Lord; Ham, Shem and Japheth. Ham fathered Cush, Cush fathered Nimrod. The apostasy of Nimrod led to the rise of the pride in humanity and the consequences of the Tower of Babel. But in another line from Noah, God’s true name is worshipped. Two years after the flood, Shem became the father of Asphaxad who fathered Shelah. Shelah fathered Eber who fathered Peleg. Peleg fathered Reu who fathered Serug. Serug fathered Nahor who fathered Terah who became the father of Abram. And in Abram the worship of God is being preserved.

We see a repeat of Noah; Abram alone is worshipping the one true God while the rest of the world, now a confusion of many languages. Will God repeat the flood? No, He made a covenant with Noah and sealed it with His rainbow. No, God will not destroy humanity with another flood. God has a new plan of redemption that He will establish, beginning with Abram. While Nimrod said, “Let us build a city,” through Abram God promises, “I will make of thee a great nation.” The nation that God will create through Abram shall identify the one true God to a world that has turned from Him. Nimrod, the mighty hunter whose name means “rebellion,” sought to make a city, a tower for themselves. God’s plan was to make a nation unto Him.

Our communication problem, even when we’re all speaking English, is a result of man’s pride so many centuries ago. God did not create us to create little monuments to ourselves. God created us to show His glory in a world that continually turns its back on Him. While His perfect judgment led to our multitude of languages, His Holy Spirit unifies us and gives us a singular purpose. We become one in the body with each other when we are in communication with He who created us. Let us seek Him and communicate with Him through prayer and worship and obedience, and we will find that we can communicate with each other far better than if we try to do it without Him.

Praying for Rain

I first saw the news yesterday that governor of Georgia was going to lead a prayer for rain. I only briefly glanced over it; if I thought of it at all, it was to remark to myself that it’s probably only a photo op to appease his votors, or if he’s sincere, a passing wonder if an answered prayer for rain was within God’s will.

But today, the news is different. The mere act of praying, now, violates the imaginary separation of church and state. The protestor is disgruntled because the governor is praying “in the name of Georgia.” Bah. There’s a lunatice so concerned he might accidentally receive a blessing from God that he’s going to protest that somebody is praying for rain.

Do me a favor today, would you? Pray for rain for the devout people of Georgia. Pray that the rain will show the mighty hand of our Lord at work in our world. And if you’re a government employee, please make sure to pray in the name of the local, state, or U.S. government agency that you work for. (There’s probably a government form for rain prayers somewhere but I don’t have time to look it up.)

Take Part in Missions

Sometimes we bite off more than we can chew. I remember my grandfather saying to me that my “eyes were bigger than my stomach”. He was referring to the way I’d heap food on my plate and then be unable to eat everything. My eyes were bigger than my stomach.

Home remodeling projects can easily be underestimated. Diane and I shared last month about our plumbing issues. I thought we had a little leak, an air conditioning pan with a plugged drain. All we have to do is clean out the drain, right? And by the time it was raining in the master bathroom, wallpaper soaking and sagging, sheetrock being torn off the walls, ripping out old galvanized pipe to replace it with copper tubing, and three large sweaty men carrying old water heaters out of the attic… at some point I realized I had seriously underestimated the project.

I’ve discovered that following Christ is a lot like underestimating a home remodeling project. When Christ says, “yoke is easy and His burden is light” (Matthew 11:30), He means it. Picking up the yoke is easy. But as we give more of ourselves to the Spirit, we find that the home remodeling requires a lot more work than we first thought. Turning away from our surface sins, sins we could easily see, was easy. Turns out there was wood rot underneath that we didn’t know about, with termites happily munching away. Learning to lean on Christ, loving our enemies, turning from pride and materialism… that requires more time and energy.

I think about those South Korean missionaries in Afghanistan from time to time; they didn’t get a lot of media coverage, probably because Taliban fundamentalists executing peaceful Christians wasn’t a topic the news media found interesting. The missionaries certainly found the task far more than they expected. They were beaten and threatened by gunpoint to convert to Islam or die. The pastor, Bae Hyung-kyu, was executed first, and his last words to the remaining missionaries were, “Overcome with faith.” Later, they executed another man, Shim Sung-min. They remaining 21 hostages, 18 of them women, were later freed, but only after the South Korean government agreed to ban further missionary work in Afghanistan.

You know who my compassion goes out to most? Not the pastor Bae Hyung-kyu or the missionaries; their eternal destination with the Lord awaits, where there is no pain or tears. My compassion goes out to the Afghan children that will now be raised by barbarian murderers instead of being exposed to the love and peace of Christ Jesus.

Q: What are Christian missions and who are missionaries?

Our lesson begins today at Matthew 9:35-38, and Jesus tells us why followers of Christ should spread the Good News.

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Jesus, of course, sets an example for us; Jesus is on the very first “mission” trip to spread the word that the Son of Man has come. Notice that Jesus went through all the towns and villages. It requires effort to spread the word; you’ve got to get up off the sofa. Jesus does three things here –

– He teaches; what do the scriptures say? How shall we live?
– He preaches; this is different than teaching; the word can also be translated “heralding.” It’s an announcement of something important.
– And he heals. Taking care of the sick and wounded shows compassion on those who need it most.

The crowds were like sheep without a shepherd; those that have not heard the good news, that we can enter heaven without being perfect, that Jesus paid the price for us, are lost. Sometimes they know they’re lost; most of the time they don’t. I know I didn’t. I only know that now I’m found.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” I mentioned Afghanistan earlier, but there are many, many places where the good news hasn’t been heard, or if it has been heard, the word is confused or distorted. When we went to Kenya a couple of year ago, one thing that struck me was the lack of bibles. A teacher from one of the other classes donated enough money to buy hundreds of Swahili bibles; they were almost devoured hungrily when we gave them away, people that had given their lives to Christ but were now left without knowing what Christ wanted from them. There are so few missionaries with so few resources, and the need is so great. Things haven’t changed much in 2000 years; the size of the harvest is still huge, billions of people, yet so few people sharing the Word. Who owns the harvest, who is the Lord of the Harvest? And who are the workers in His field?

We are the workers. Fred and Joanna are on their way to Damascus in a couple of weeks; Michael & Aura are just back from Honduras; care to share what you saw there?

Once upon a time in our lives, we were called by Christ to follow Him. We experience the love and forgiveness and the peace and joy that comes with giving our lives to Christ. We grow, we become sanctified through Him, we become greater by becoming less. Then what? Think about this – somebody went out of their way to share the joy of Christ with you at some point in your life. Your parents, a friend, an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, a stranger. Isn’t about time you returned the favor and shared that joy with the lost? You are one of the workers in the field. You know the phrase, “they pay isn’t much, but the retirement benefits are out of this world.”

Matthew 10 begins with Jesus’ instructions to his twelve disciples. Not all of this is entirely applicable to us today; for instance, in verse 5 Jesus tells his disciples not to go among the Gentiles or in Samaria. Verse 6 tells them to stay among the lost sheep of Israel. Why the unusual instructions? Part of it was that the experience of the disciples here was limited; perhaps Jesus felt they were not yet equipped to witness among the Gentiles, especially since Jews and Gentiles didn’t get along all that great. Also, time was limited here; Jesus had a mission that would end on Calvary, and in order to use his resources efficiently, Jesus limited this mission to Israel. Also, the Jews were God’s chosen; it only made sense for God to reach out to His chosen people first. I think we can learn from Jesus’ instructions to use time and resources wisely. It’s also worth noting that it was only this first mission that was limited to Israel; later, Jesus himself went into Samaria and Jesus healed among the Gentiles. The Great Commission tells us to go to all nations.

In The Message, Matthew 10:5-8 says,

Don’t begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.

We think of missions sometimes as going off to some far off land; but sometimes the most rewarding mission is right here in our own back yard.

What sort of response can we expect when we’re on a mission? Matthew 10:16-23 –

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. Everyone will hate you because of me, but those who stand firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. “

Apparently, sharing the gospel is hard. The instructions from Jesus now have more concrete instructions to us today. What do you think the phrase “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” means?

Matthew 10:24-33 –

“Students are not above their teacher, nor servants above their master. It is enough for students to be like their teacher, and servants like their master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!

“So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

“Whoever publicly acknowledges me I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever publicly disowns me I will disown before my Father in heaven.”

If sharing the gospel is hard, Jesus tells us why we should be reassured and comforted. Jesus warns us that we can expect persecution and danger when we proclaim from the roofs that Jesus Christ is Lord. Satan, after all, “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8). When you are spreading the gospel, when you are witnessing, you are walking into the lion’s den. It’s dangerous.

But do not be afraid. In Afghanistan, the pastor Bae Hyung-kyu discovered that Satan can destroy the body… but Satan has no power over the soul. Evil men can destroy the body… but evil men have no power over the soul. Only God has power over the soul.

As a Christian, remember this: you are a new creation. When you give your life to Christ, you are already dead. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” Our earthly lives have been given up, and we have already begun our eternal lives. From an earthly perspective, we’re confused; we think we’re alive, and when we die, we go to heaven. That’s wrong. From a heavenly perspective, we’re dead. When we’re born again, then we go to heaven. We can’t live until we die.

One of my favorite songs on the radio is really, really odd, but I like really, really odd. I think it’s all about missions. The Newsboys in their song, “Wherever We Go,” sing –

Hands up, Holler back here
Let’s throw this party in gear
We brought the welcome mat
Wherever we go, that’s where the party’s at.

Yeah I know, they ended the sentence with a preposition. You know the song?

Hands up, holler back now
We don’t claim any know-how
We’re giving God all that
Wherever we go, that’s where the party’s at.

Wherever we go, the dumb get wise
And the crime rates drop and the markets rise
It’s a curious thing
But it’s just our thing

Bullies make nice, crooks repent
And the ozone layer shows improvement
It’s a curious thing
And it’s humbling

Wherever we’re led, all the Living Dead
Wanna leave their Zombie Mob
It’s a touching scene when they all come clean
God help us, we just love our job

It’s a great song, and it illustrates, I think, our lesson today. It’s shrewd and innocent, certainly, and says we’re being led among the living dead, and once they hear the gospel, they want to leave their zombie mob, too. Just like us.

Once we realize that this life is temporary and real life is eternal, then Satan has no power over us. All he can do is kill us, but we’re already dead. We live for Christ now. Why? Because He died so that we may live. God loves us so much that he gave us His son. So do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Our soul is worth more than many sparrows and the hairs on our head are numbered.

Is this scary? Does this make us afraid? To risk our earthly life, our material comforts? Recognize what’s at stake – those around us without the love of Christ are dead. By risking our lives for them, we’re following the example Jesus set for us. He, too, gave His life for us. Is it too much to ask that now our salvation is secure that we risk our temporary life so that others, too, may live? Somebody did it for us or we wouldn’t be here today. The fear is understandable, but remember; the opposite of fear is faith. Faith is not believing that God can. Faith is knowing that God will.

It sounds from our lesson so far that we are called to share the gospel in unwelcome places, but Jesus tells us that He wants us to share our faith publicly. “Whoever publicly acknowledges me I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever publicly disowns me I will disown before my Father in heaven.” But what about things we’ve all been taught about respect, about peace and love and harmony and getting along and diversity and separation of church and state? If Jesus is always love and peace, then we should only share the gospel only when we’re asked, right? If they don’t want to hear it, as peaceful loving Christians we should keep our mouths shut so that we can all get along, right?

That’s not what Jesus says. Remember, when we’re sharing the Gospel among those who don’t want to hear it, we’re bringing the Living Water to those who are dead. We are to love our enemies; sharing the word of God can sometimes make enemies. If we have to choose between Jesus and peace, what do we choose? If we have to choose between Jesus and anything, what do we choose? Look at Matthew 10:34-39 –

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn

” ‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
your enemies will be the members of your own household.’

“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves a son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

Jesus is quoting prophecy about the Messiah in Micah 7:6 which goes on to say

But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD,
I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.

Does this sound like the opposite impression of Jesus that our culture teaches us? That Jesus loves peace, he’s passive and never raises a fuss? Jesus own words tell us differently. Jesus is indeed the king of peace, but it is His peace. People are to love people, but they are to love Him more. Sometimes that separates people. I’ve seen first hand, as I’m sure you have too, that talking about Jesus can drive people apart.

God does want us to have a good life, and God does want us to be happy, but he wants us to have goodness and happiness from an eternal perspective. Obedience to God brings goodness and happiness from an eternal perspective, but it may mean risking our comfort in this life. Is this risk worth it? Let’s see what Jesus says in Matthew 10:40-42 –

“He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.”

Picking up your cross and following Jesus may mean a lot of hardship, may mean loss of comfort, may mean a loss of life. Does this mean we lose our joy? Now, we are joyous because we love Him who first loved us. Is it scary? Yes, certainly, but perfect love drives out fear. If we don’t risk our lives, do we risk our salvation? No, we are still children of God. But if we want to be disciples of Jesus and grow in the Spirit, we must learn to set aside our fear and our comfort. To love our neighbor is to want to have them in heaven with us, and the only way for them to know the love of Jesus and His perfect sacrifice is for somebody to tell them.

I think that somebody is you and me.


Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know I haven’t posted much. Been really, really busy.

I still owe Jennifer my answers to The Eight. I’ll get to it, soon, I hope.

I wanted to blog about how the Democrats are findng religion. Apparently it’s ok with The Media if the Democrats talk about their faith, but if the Republicans talk about their faith, they’re religious nutjobs not respecting the so-called separation of church and state. Bah. They’re not fooling me, their faith is shallow and pretentious, done solely for political reasons. (So is the faith of the Republicans sometimes, but that’s another story.)
Democrats Got Religion

I wanted to blog about Mike Piazza, All-Star catcher with the Oakland A’s. I love it when sports players openly proclaim their faith. His answer on why he doesn’t pray for victory is exemplary.

I spent the weekend at Bro’s playing with his animules and shoping at the Spring Ho arts art crafts. It was sort of like shopping at Wal-Mart without air-conditioning. Had a great time, Bro, thanks for inviting us.

This week, I have to update the Christian Carnival stuff tomorrow, buy some Astros baseball tickets, and prepare for bible study this weekend (Zachariah 4-6 in case you want to read ahead). I should be at the PIP Machinery conference tomorrow if something doesn’t upset that applecart. Looks like there’s some business travel coming up, too.

Sigh. If you have any spare time, email it to me.

Update: Jennifer suggests I link to and I couldn’t come up with a reason not to. :)

Barack Hussein Obama: Self-Described Christian

Barack Obama: Self-Described Christian Barrack Hussein Obama describes himself as a Christian and the New York Times is almost besides itself with glee. Notice the picture and how holy Obama appears.

I like Christians, I really do. I happen to be one. But those people that routinely exhibit their Christian faith are routinely trashed by the New York Times. George W. Bush, for instance, would never get a glowing NY Times article abut his faith. Instead, we get scare stories about upcoming theocracies and how important the separation of church and state is. So why does Obama get special treatment for his faith? If the New York Times trashes most Christians but praises Obama, then it’s likely Obama is not like the other Christians. My hackles of suspicion are raised.

I repeat my repetition: liberals are going to try to split the conservative Christian vote by portraying themselves as Christian. Conservative Christianity is bad (separation of church and state! we don’t want a theocracy!) while liberal Christianity is good (wow, Obama is practically a saint!) according to liberal media.

“Be strong and have courage, for I am with you wherever you go,” Mr. Obama said in paraphrasing God’s message to Joshua.

Now, I’m all in favor of liberals quoting scripture. In fact, I’m all in favor of liberals quoting the entire bible. I think liberals (and conservatives, for that matter) that selectively quote scripture to support their position ought to be challenged by scripture the candidate doesn’t like.

As a presidential candidate, Mr. Obama is reaching out to both liberal skeptics and committed Christians. In many speeches or discussions, he never mentions religion. When Mr. Obama, a former constitutional law professor, does speak of faith, he tends to add a footnote about keeping church and state separate.

What I’ve seen in the news recently is more than just a challenge to church and state; it’s a downright hostility to any public policy that mirrors faith. The recent decision by the Supreme Court to uphold partial birth abortion – a decision Obama “strongly disagrees” with – was decided 5-4 justices. All the justices that upheld the ban had Catholic upbringing; those that voted against it did not. This same New York Times that praises the most holy Barack Obama also decries the influence of Catholics in the partial-birth abortion ban. As if any belief that a Christian might hold is automatically suspect, and Christians are OK only if they actively vote against Christian principle in order to demonstrate their progressiveness.

Color me unimpressed with the New York Times hypocrisy.