Category Archives: History

Politics and Civility

eyeseeyouOkay, I get it, a bunch of Americans don’t like Obama.  You have made your point clear.  A bunch of Americans didn’t like Bush either.  In both cases, the muck-throwing has been prodigious!  Shame on us!  How fortunate we are to be citizens of a country where they don’t lock you up or knock you off for criticizing the president/prime minister/king or dictator.  If we lived in one of these nations, a bunch of people would now be behind bars or deceased.

How privileged we are to be able to vote for the president and congress (the Supreme Court is another matter).  Come the next election, we can vote-out those we disagree with and vote-in those we think better represent our values.  Historically this is a new paradigm bestowed upon the world by the Mother of Parliaments and not every nation is ready or able to live within this concept.  Yes, we are indeed fortunate to live in a nation governed by and for the people.

In a couple of years, we will be able to express our opinions of Mr. Obama and his party by voting in an election.  We can go to the polls and fire those we disagree with.  In the meantime we can make our opinions known in letters to the editor, blogs and in the various forms of social media.

Unfortunately, what I have been reading across the political spectrum is distressing.  Never have I seen such hatred and invective.  So much of it is offensive, disrespectful, divisive and downright ungodly.  Some of it is simply false.  And, to make matters worse, too much of it comes from people who call themselves Christians.

It is possible to disagree without spewing hatred.  The lengths to which some go to express their hatred is astonishing…especially from those who should be known for speaking the truth in love…whether that truth is related to the gospel or any other subject.

How would you like to live under a Roman emperor or a cruel king or governor?  Well, as a matter of history, Christ and his followers lived in such a time.  And yet, we fail to see them respond with anything but Godliness.  About the strongest language I can recall is when Jesus called Herod a “fox” (Luke 13:32)  I challenge you who claim to be Christians to re-read some pertinent passages.

John 19:10-

  • ·         Pilate’s authority (when he reminded Jesus that he had authority to crucify him) was given to him by God.

Romans 13:1-7

  • ·         All authority is from God and we are to be subject to them.  We are not to resist their authority…to do so is to oppose the ordinance of God.
  • ·         Authority is a minister of God to you for good.
  • ·         It is necessary to be in subjection for conscience’ sake.
  • ·         We are to render tax, custom, respect and honor to whom it is due.

1 Timothy 2:1-4

  • ·         We are to pray for kings and all who are in authority.
  • ·         We are to pray for them that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
  • ·         This is good and acceptable in the sight of God.

1 Peter 2:13,14

·         “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.

1 Peter 2:17

·         “Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.”

We live in a wonderful time when we can voice our opposition and act upon it in word and deed when we go to the polls.  But we must do it with honor and respect, praying for those in authority whether we agree or disagree with their policies.  It is high time we begin acting like the one we follow.

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Filed under Blogs & Blogging, Christlikeness, Comments, Current Events, Discussion, Freedom, Hatred, History, honor, Invective, Jesus Christ, Peace, Persuasion, Politics, Respect, Ridicule

Hodgepodge Evangelism

eyeseeyouI believe that one of the most beneficial changes any church could make is to correct their misunderstanding of evangelism.  We’ve made such a monster of it in our minds that very few of us do any of it at all.  We count on having user-friendly churches with seeker-sensitive assemblies featuring a great preacher, state-of-the-art equipment and methods.  We rely on doing Bible classes and assemblies so well that when people visit us to do their church shopping, we hope they’ll choose us instead of that other church down the road.  There are three things wrong with that.

·         First, it’s not evangelism it’s accumulation.

·         Secondly, people who have to be won by attractive methods and surface cosmetics will only last as long as those remain valid.

·         Third, it is a focus and emphasis unknown by Jesus, the apostles and the early church.

The church that won the Roman Empire knew nothing of “user-friendly” or “seeker-sensitive churches or spectacular methods of reaching the unconverted.  Mark Galli writes,

What it did have seems paltry: unspectacular people, with a hodgepodge of methods (so hodgepodge they can hardly be called “methods”), and rarely a gathering of more than a handful of people.  The paltry seems to have been enough, however, to make an emperor or two stop and take notice (Christian History, Issue 57, p. 8).

Without publicized campaigns or even an explicit evangelistic strategy, Christianity made its way quietly and effectively in an environment not wholly unlike that in the post-Christian West today. 

            Glenn Hinson writes, “Most churches had the same goal: evangelism.”  But it was not evangelism based on getting people into church buildings since it was nearly 300 years before the first one was built.  This was evangelism by friendship.  It was outreach through good works such as feeding the hungry and rescuing abandoned children (1 Peter 2:12).  It was the message of a moral and pure way of life (1 Peter 3:2).  It was seen in their keen pursuit of justice.  Each disciple was ready to tell their friends and associates the reason for their hope (1 Peter 3:15).

            Evangelism is the life-blood of any congregation of the church.  Only if it becomes our goal, we will truly become alive.

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Filed under "Worship Services", Advertising, Altruism, Assemblies, Christlikeness, church, Church Buildings, Churches, Community, Evangelism, Friendship, History, Jesus Christ, Kingdom Growth, Missions/Evangelism, Persuasion, Preaching/Teaching, Religion, Respect, Restoration

Edify or Amplify?

eyeseeyou

The Case for Rejecting Instruments in the Assembly

Churches of Christ (the a cappella segment) seem to be becoming very different very quickly.  Several larger congregations and a number of smaller ones (I have no idea of the actual numbers) have opted for adding mechanical (as opposed to vocal) instruments to their assemblies (I absolutely refuse to call them “worship services” as that description of assemblies of the saints is nowhere to be found in Scripture – and, when you think about it, it betrays an ignorance of the meanings of both “worship” and “service”).  For over a century, one of the distinguishing marks of churches of Christ was strong opposition to the use of instruments in assemblies.  Countless debates, articles and divisions occurred with both sides remaining unconvinced.

It will not be my purpose here to pile more verbiage on the tons of arguments by taking one side or the other.  I’m not sure it would serve any purpose except to put me in one opposing camp or another.  No, my point will be something different.  I want us to take an honest look at our motives.  WHY are we ditching our a cappella tradition?

The most common reason given is some variation on the desire to attract a younger, hipper crowd into our buildings.  One group is currently remodeling their auditorium to add a stage for the musicians.  If we build it, they reason, they will come.  Sound familiar?  Put simply, it is an attempt to increase attendance at their “worship services.”

At this point let me ask a question that seldom seems asked: what are assemblies for?  No…not what do you WANT them for but what are they REALLY for?  By that I mean what does Scripture say they are for?

·         Are they for “seekers?”  Can you show me a passage for that?

·         Are they for the entertainment of the members?  Passage?

·         Are they for the excitement of the members?  Passage?

·         Are they for the encouragement of the members?  Bingo!

·         Are they for the edification of the members?  Score!

Our purpose for assemblies and our conduct during them seems to be the focus of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians in chapters eleven and fourteen.  He deals with several subjects but his emphasis; especially in chapter fourteen is edification.  Edification has absolutely nothing to do with attracting a crowd and blowing them away with sanctified rock (make no mistake, I like to rock as much as anyone).  To edify is to instruct and improve especially in moral and religious knowledge…promoting the spiritual growth and development of character of believers, by teaching or by example.  Look it up.  Paul goes so far as to say, “…let all things be done for edification” (I Corinthians 14:26).

So.  How do we instruct and promote each other’s spiritual growth?  One of the most important and effective ways is by singing to one another (Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16).  Notice that our singing is for teaching and admonishing one another.  Sorry folks, well-choreographed and orchestrated performances accomplish nothing assembly is designed for.  In truth, they hinder the process.  Inevitably, the volume gets louder and louder.  How can we edify one another if we can’t hear the singing of the one standing next to us?  Read lips? Not likely!

Could this be the reason we are commanded to sing to one another?  Singing with thankfulness is not assisted by a groovy drummer, hot guitarist, deft keyboardist and a soloist who’s been listening to a lot of contemporary Christian radio.  Save all that for a concert.

Are there exceptions?  Of course.  Some of the new contemporary music conveys wonderful spiritual, edifying truths.  Even a cappella churches have adapted and incorporated some of these songs in our assemblies.  In my experience, however, the mechanical instruments overwhelm the potential edification as they play louder and louder.

Here is the crux of the problem as I see it: we have turned our assemblies into something they were never intended to be.  They are times of encouragement and edification.  When this is not accomplished, our assemblies are failures no matter how well choreographed they are.  When we leave behind principles and purposes taught by Scripture; when we replace them with innovations never envisioned by the Spirit; when edification and encouragement are no longer the focus of our assemblies; when synthetic externals take precedence over spiritual internals — we can expect to fail.  In the words of Hosea (8:7), we have sown the wind and are now reaping the whirlwind.

Here are a couple of articles that, while I don’t agree with everything they say, help make my point: http://churchformen.com/uncategorized/have-christians-stopped-singing/  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/afewgrownmen/2013/05/why-men-have-stopped-singing-in-church/

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Filed under "Worship Services", Assemblies, church, Church Buildings, Churches, discipleship, Edification, Ekklesia, Encouragement, History, Holy Spirit, Ignorance, Music, Restoration, Singing, Songs, Thankfulness

Peace with Ishmael

eyeseeyouAbraham is considered the father of the Arabs through Hagar, the mother of Ishmael.   Suicide bombings, honor killings, murder of innocent men, women and children…these people don’t think like we do!  We are all products of our belief system or worldview and those raised as radical Muslims are no exception.  Christian denominations debate and draw lines of fellowship but they are not shooting and bombing one another.  Sunnis hate the Shias and both of them hate us.  Why? I don’t know all the answers, but Genesis 16 predicted the nature of the progeny of Hagar (the Arabs, in whose culture Islam came to be):

“Behold, you are with child,
And you will bear a son;
And you shall call his name Ishmael,
Because the Lord has given heed to your affliction.
12 “He will be a wild donkey of a man,
His hand will be against everyone,
And everyone’s hand will be against him;
And he will live to the east of all his brothers”
(Genesis 16:11,12)

That is why our nation-building adventures in the Middle East are so misguided and ill-advised.  The Arabs and those influenced by Arab culture will never be subjugated or altered by those from Western cultures, notably Christian cultures.[i]

We have no business putting our soldiers on the ground in any Islamic country.  Read your history!  It has never worked and never will.  Iraq is a prime example and Afghanistan will soon be.  When we leave one of these hell-holes they revert back to some sort of lawless wastelands of violence they were previously.

Now we are being tempted to intervene in yet another Middle Eastern conflict in Syria.  The carnage there horrifies the West.  As the self-appointed policemen of the world, we think, “We must do something to stop this!” But now, word has it that Syrian rebels slaughtered groups of Christians until stopped by the Syrian loyalists.  If that is true, do we want to help the rebels come to power?  Will the new boss be the same (or worse than) the old boss?

I recently asked a career military man what we should do in the Middle East and he immediately began discussing weapons systems and military strategy.  It was psychologist Abraham Maslow who wisely observed, “If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”  People cannot be changed without a change in worldview.  The only way I know to change a person’s worldview is to cease hammering and introduce them to the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.  And, the only way I know to introduce people to Jesus Christ is to imitate Him.  And, the only way I know to imitate Him is to love our enemies.  And, the only way I know to love our enemies is to pray for them and do them good, not evil (Matthew 5:43-44; Luke 6:27; I Thessalonians 5:15).

If we spent as much time, resources and energy seeking to win the hearts and minds of our enemies as we have on violent “shock and awe;”…if we sent our young men and women on missions of peace instead of war, we would rob terrorists of their leverage.  I have to believe that we can overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).

Would that cost lives?  Without a doubt.  But they would be lives given in the only strategy that will ever be effective in bringing peace and stability to this dark, violent and troubled region.


[i] I am using “Christian” in the broadest sense of the term and as a social construct as much or more than a religious one.  “Us” are Christians and “them” are those under the influence of radical (violent) Islam.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Arabia, Arabs, Change Agent, Culture Wars, Current Events, History, Ishmael, Islam, Jesus Christ, Middle East, Prophecy, Religion, Scripture, Terrorism

HISTORY? WHY BOTHER?

eyeseeyouWhy do we bother to teach history if we are determined to ignore it?  Maybe you slept through your history classes (it has a lot to do with the attitude and style of the coach who taught you) or studied just enough to pass.  So, as a public service, here are some facts you may have forgotten.

  1. No outside power has been able to gain and retain power in Afghanistan.  That’s right, none.
  2. Remember the Crusades?  Every time foreign (Western) armies enter the Middle East, for good or ill, the inhabitants are reminded of those ancient incursions.  And, since they never forget, the vast majority will hate your guts.
  3. In the process of conquering the known world, the Romans spread their armies too thin.  Consequently, they were unable to defend themselves when attacked.
  • Why have we not learned the lessons from those who previously tried to occupy and control Afghanistan?
  • Why can’t we see that we cannot win the hearts and minds of the Middle East through military might?
  • Why do we continue to act like the world’s policemen and sacrifice the lives of our young women and men and maintain garrisons around the world?  Can we defend our own nation when the time comes?

The answer, my friend, is not blowin’ in the wind.  It is there, in black and white, in the history books.

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Should Christians Support Israel?

Due to all the “saber-rattling” going on recently, plus calls to “Support Israel,” I thought it might be time to run this article again.  Israel bullies and blockades the Gaza Strip and Gaza responds by firing rockets into Israel.  I can see this going on forever with great loss of life.  But what really bothers me is that evangelical Christianity seems to be blind to both the realities of the sins of both sides and yet sides with Israel because of a major misinterpretation of prophecy and fulfillment.  Let me challenge you to take another look at the facts.  If, after reading this short treatise, you still disagree, please feel free to put it into words in the comment section of this blog.  But, be nice, or I will delete your comment.

Do Israelis have a divine right to what is now called Israel?  Who does the land occupied by the modern state of Israel belong to?  Should Christians support Israel’s right to exist as a divine right?  Are the Jews still God’s separate chosen people?  Consider the following points:

  1. The promise of the land of Palestine (Canaan) to the Jews has been fulfilled (Joshua 21:43-45; 23:14; Nehemiah 9:7,8).  The Jews received what they were promised in full.  The occupation of the land by modern Israel has nothing to do with God’s promises.  It has to do with modern Israel’s alliances and the fact that the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world can’t get along with each other and get their act together.
  2. The Jews were originally deported from the land for their disobedience just as God promised (Leviticus 26:33; Nehemiah 1:8,9 and many others).
  3. Any restoration to the land was predicated upon their returning to belief and obedience (Deuteronomy 30; Ezekiel 36:22-38; Nehemiah 1:8,9).  Most of those who now occupy Palestine are not believers and are certainly not obedient.  Many, in fact, are atheists.  How can modern Israel be the fulfillment of any promise of restoration?
  4. God has not rejected His people but only those who become believers in Messiah Christ are the “Israel of God” (Galatians 3:29; 6:15-17).
  5. Only those Jews who accept Jesus as Messiah can continue in covenant relationship with Yahweh (Romans 9-12) and receive any promise.
  6. Because Christ has fulfilled the Law of Moses, there is no longer a division between Jew and Gentile…we are one in Christ and Abraham’s spiritual offspring (Ephesians 2:11-22; Galatians 3:28,29).  So, who will be restored to the land?
  7. The Old Covenant given to the Jews alone has been superseded by a new covenant (Hebrews 8:7-13) made by God with all who believe.  Since there is no separation between ethnic Jews and believing Gentiles, who will receive the alleged promises of restoration to the land?

The truth is that modern unbelieving, disobedient Israel has no more right to the land that belonged to the Palestinians than European Americans have to the land that belonged to the Native Americans.  Throughout history, one group has driven out another and occupied their land.  If we are going to restore all of earth’s lands to those who originally possessed it, absolute turmoil will result.  Let me make a few alternative suggestions:

  1. Leave the Israelis alone.  They fought for the land they have and they won.  It is not the fulfillment of prophecy; it is the work of the United Nations and the spoils of war.
  2. Palestinians and Arabs, get your act together and be nice to your neighbors.  The world will be a much better place and nobody will have to blow up themselves and others.  You think God likes what you’re doing?  Neither do I.  And, while you’re at it, do something about this madman dictator of Iran.  He’s not helping your cause at all.
  3. Israelis, quit bullying the Palestinians and give them a homeland.  One of the reasons they hate you is your mistreatment of them.  They will probably never love you, but they might learn to abide you.  One thing for sure, killing children and leveling houses will not win you any points.
  4. Christians, you’re not helping anything with your misinterpretation of prophecy.  Instead of this ridiculous “Christians United for Israel,” and “Christian Zionism” put your efforts into preaching and modeling Christ to both Jews and Arabs.  Are you doing what Jesus would do?  I don’t think so either.  Start preaching the peace that only the Prince of Peace can give.  Instead of lobbying with the Jews, preach Christ to them.  And don’t you want the Arabs to be saved?  Well, you don’t act like it.
  5. How do we win them over?  By being salt and light and letting our good works toward these very needy people bring glory to god.  Guns, bombs and missiles will never accomplish anything but death and continued hatred and division and the loss of souls to the author of all that is ungodly.

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Filed under Christlikeness, Culture Wars, Current Events, History, Ignorance, Islam, Israel, Jesus Christ, Middle East, Palestine, Peace, Prophecy, Terrorism

Who Made President Obama Boss?

In our culture, the people have a say in who governs them, but ultimately it is is up to the Almighty.  Is that His stamp of approval on their positions and policies? Check out Daniel 2:21; 4:17; John 19:11; Romans 13:1-6 (and there’s a bunch more).  God sets up rulers and deposes them…some good some bad — for reasons best known to Him.  Believers need to shut up and get on their knees and pray for President Obama and all those who govern us (1 Timothy 2:1-3).

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