Lose the naivete, Christian!

On a state or secular college campus, the atheistic professor has complete freedom to spout religious views and opinions without protest from the students or interference from the dean. However, let a Christian instructor relate his personal story to inform the students of his worldview so they can better understand where he’s coming from, and he’s harassed and soon out of a job.

At a convocation of students on the average secular campus, freedom of speech and the First Amendment are championed. However, let a student stand and own up to being a follower of Jesus Christ who attempts to live by the Bible, and he/she is hooted down.

Ironic, isn’t it, the hostility those of a secular bent have toward belief in Jesus Christ. And they call themselves open-minded champions of free speech.

It’s more than just a prejudice, however. It’s a full-blown hatred.

That hatred is born of a fear of Jesus.

If in reading the gospels you have wondered how in the world things in that remote day came to the point where reasonably-minded people moved to arrest and crucify the Lord Jesus Christ, He who never lifted a finger against a human on the planet, the Prince of Peace, then take a look around you.

Human nature has not changed in the last 2,000 years.

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Jericho’s blind beggar: Responding to the Bible’s critics

Critics of the Scriptures want to have it both ways.

If they find an inconsistency in Scriptures–the numbers seem not to agree, or a story is told in two or more different ways–it proves the Bible is man-made, filled with errors, and not to be trusted.  If however they could find no inconsistencies this would prove the church authorities in the distant past conspired to remove all the troublesome aspects of the Bible in order to claim it to be inspired of God.

Either it is or it is not.

When one is determined not to believe a thing, nothing gets in his way. He can always find a reason not to believe.

Take the matter of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar of Jericho.  His account is told in three of the gospels, but he is named in only one (Mark 10:46).

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The last lesson of Ravi Zacharias

By this deed, you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme….  (2 Samuel 12:14).

I loved the writings and messages of the late Ravi Zacharias.  In 2009, when I discovered that a longtime friend, whose wife had at one time been my secretary, was working for Dr. Zacharias, I contacted him and we had a great phone visit.  Since I had none of the books RZ had written, my friend sent me several.  I loved them and quoted from them often.

Ravi Zacharias was a powerful voice for theism, a effective apologist for the Christian faith, and a comfort to believers everywhere.  He was, that is, until he wasn’t.

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God loves you everlastingly

“The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying, ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

What part of ‘everlasting’ do we not get?

These days, we are learning through science a little of what unending and infinite look like. Space seems to be continuous, going on and on.  The lineup of galaxies across the heavens staggers our imaginations, considering their size, makeup, and number.

The Psalmist who said “The heavens declare the glory of the Lord” had no clue just how much they say about the majesty and might of our Creator. That’s not to imply we do, only that we have far more information on the complexities and delights of the universe which the Father has wrought with His own hands than biblical writers ever imagined.

“From everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God.” (Psalm 90:2)

From everlasting in the past to everlasting in the future, God is God.  There never was a time when God did not exist; there will never be a time when God does not reign.

I cannot get my mind around that. To my puny intellect, infinity of any kind is fearful.  To think of being snuffed out upon death, that after our last breath, we are extinguished forever, is frightening and painful beyond belief.  I think of loved ones whose passing took with them a huge hunk of my heart and soul. The thought that I would never see them again strikes me with a sadness that is incalculable.

But infinity of the other kind–living forever and ever, world without end–is just as mind-boggling. How could that work? How could we exist knowing that nothing would ever end?

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A beef I have with some preachers

You’ve heard them, I’m sure. Some well-intentioned but thoughtless man of God stands before a gathering of the Lord’s people and in urging us to evangelize our communities will overstate the case.

“Jesus told us to become fishers of men! He did not tell us to be keepers of the aquarium!”

Invariably, especially if the audience is made up almost exclusively of preachers, the statement will be met with a chorus of ‘amen’s.’

The only problem with that is while it sounds good, it is not so.

Jesus did not send His disciples just to reach lost sheep–He certainly did that–but commanded that we are to “feed my sheep.” In John 20, He gave that command to Simon Peter three times.

In Acts 20:28, Paul tells the pastors of Ephesus that they are to “shepherd the church of God which he purchased with his own blood.”

And here’s another one, the one that set me off this morning.

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Is it possible to manipulate people into the kingdom?

“…and make disciples of all the nations….” (Matthew 28:18-20)

From where I sat as pastor, the deacon appeared to be brow-beating people into praying the sinner’s prayer with him, then accompanying him to church the following Sunday to make public this “commitment” and be baptized.  The whipped look on their faces told all one would ever need to know.

So, one Sunday I asked his most recent trophy, a sad-looking lady, “Do you really want to do this?  You know, you don’t have to be baptized if you don’t want to.”  She said quietly that this was her choice. So, we baptized her and never saw her again.

In time, we changed the way we received church members to make certain we were not simply baptizing someone’s converts but were actually making disciples of the Lord Jesus.

Jesus did not send us to make converts or church members.  He did not command anyone to make decisions or pray a nice little prayer.  He did not commission us to talk people into walking an aisle or undergoing baptism or getting religious.

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Man is basically good. (Try saying that with a straight face.)

Checking into a company’s website, a pastor friend noticed their statement of values:  “We believe in the basic goodness of all people.”

He came away wondering what a person would have to do to convince himself of that misguided philosophy.

True, there is something inside us that wants to believe in the basic goodness of people. I suspect that’s part of our sinful nature, believing against all evidence to the contrary that we are all right and not in need of forgiveness or salvation. It’s a major strain in our sinful system to hold that all we need to do is release everyone from restraints and for preachers to quit laying guilt trips on us and all will be well.  “Imagine there’s no religion,” said John Lennon.  As though that were the problem.

Have you seen the news this morning? How many people were killed in your city last night by people who were resisting restraints and determining to have their own way?

Our Lord said, “If you being evil know how to give good gifts to your children….” (Luke 11:13).  You are evil, but you still get some things right.  That’s what He said.

We are a mixture.  Rat poison, they say, is 98 percent corn meal.  But that 2 percent changes everything.

Insights on this subject popped up in two unlikely places:  a western novel and a biography of a longshoreman philosophy from over a half-century ago.

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Your story might make a great parable

This is for pastors.  The rest of you may listen in.

We have all had defining stories occur in our families and our personal lives that would make great teaching parables. Interesting stories in themselves, they also serve as vehicles to convey spiritual truths to our people.

I have three samples for you.  Whether you use them as parables–microcosms of spiritual lessons–or simply as sermon illustrations will be up to you.

First Parable:  Eugene Peterson, in his book “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction” gives one of his parables.

Dr. Peterson was in a hospital room, recovering from minor surgery on his nose which had been broken years earlier in a basketball game. The pain was great and he was in no mood for fellowship.

However, the young man in the next bed wanted to chat. Peterson brushed him off–his name was Kelly–but overheard him telling his visitors that evening that “the fellow in the next bed is a prizefighter. He got his nose broken in a championship fight.” Kelly proceeded to embellish it beyond that.

Later, after the company had left, Peterson told him what had actually happened and they got acquainted. When Kelly found out that Peterson was a pastor, he wanted nothing more to do with him and turned away.

The next morning, Kelly shook Peterson awake. His tonsillectomy was about to take place and he was panicking. “I want you to pray for me!” He did, and they wheeled him to surgery.

After he returned from surgery, Kelly kept ringing for the nurse. “I hurt. I can’t stand it. I’m going to die.”

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The ongoing, ever-living Christmas

I sat in the congregation listening to the Christmas sermon.  Something was missing and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

The minister had selected one aspect of the Christmas story and read a text supporting it, then brought his sermon on that subject.  His points were properly related to the text and no doubt most people left the worship center satisfied they had been spiritually fed.  It was only later that something occurred to me, what was the missing ingredient in that morning’s service.

The worship leader and musicians and the pastor all drew our attention back to that night in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago, and they did a fair job of opening the text, explaining its message, and praising the Lord. But they omitted one major element as far as I could tell.

They forgot to give us the “so what” of the Christmas message.

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Let’s say you are considering becoming a Christian

You almost persuade me to become a Christian.  –Acts 26:28

Let’s say that’s you.

You’ve been seriously considering inviting Jesus Christ to become Lord of your life. It’s a big step and you’re taking your own good time dealing with it.

You know some things about Jesus and you find yourself drawn to Him.

You wonder what to do now, where to start.

Here are some suggestions…

One. Go to the primary source, not a secondary one.    A primary source is one that is close to the subject, that is the basis for what we know and believe. A secondary source is one written about the primary source.

Two.  In other words, read the Bible and not just books about the Bible. Start by reading the Four Gospels–Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  These are the opening “books” of the New Testament, and give us all we know about His earthly life and ministry.  I suggest you read them again and again.  — You will find a lot of similarities.  Mark’s was the first one written, according to some of the earliest believers, at the dictation of the Apostle Peter.  But each gospel is different in interesting ways.  Read them several times.

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