How to make zero progress this year

Leave a comment

How to Make Zero Progress This Year
With the dawning of a new year comes a deluge of resolutions, reminders, and exhortations. They all follow similar how-to themes—how to increase your efficiency, how to make every moment count, how to lose weight, how to invest your time wisely and productively.
Well, just for fun, I’d like to take the opposite tack. I’m going to tell you how to make zero progress this year. That’s right, if you follow this advice, 2017 will be a huge waste of time. Let’s get started!
First, worry a lot. Start worrying earlier in the morning and intensify your anxiety energy as the day passes. Short on a supply of things to worry about? Check the evening news on television or the Internet. You’ll have enough bad news, doomsday reports, human tragedies, foul weather, and late-breaking calamities to keep your heart and mind churning all through the night.
Something I have found helpful in my own worry world is to do a lot of reflecting on my failures and mistakes. If you’re a parent, think long and hard about what you should or could have done for your children. That will give guilt the flashing green light it’s been waiting for. To add a touch of variety, you might also call to mind some things you should not have done. Regret fuels worry in many creative ways.
Do you need a few other categories to camp on? How about all the things you don’t like about your spouse, your job, or your church. Hanging around negative people is another secret you won’t want to forget this New Year. They spread worry like germs. If you plan all this just right, believe me, you’ll be loaded with a full pack of worries long before February comes. Start now! Those potential ulcers need fresh acid.
Second, make hard-and-fast plans with unbending and unrealistic expectations. Hey, why not? All of 2017 lies in front of you. Your date book is empty and ready to be filled with detailed plans. Of course, you’ll need to ignore that little throwaway line in the book of James,
Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. (James 4:13–14 NLT, emphasis added)
Forget this verse, and chisel your expectations in stone, convinced that things will turn out exactly like you plan.
Third, fix your attention on getting rich quick. This is a great one. With this mind-set, you’ll fit right in with the flimflam that’s gushing out of most self-help seminars and conferences. Make certain to get your ideas about money from the secular bookshelves, and definitely don’t pay attention to men like Solomon, who wrote:
Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich. Be wise enough to know when to quit. In the blink of an eye wealth disappears, for it will sprout wings and fly away like an eagle. (Proverbs 23:4–5 NLT)
I mean, what does Solomon know about money and contentment and consequences . . . and wisdom?
Fourth (and this is a great one), compare yourself with others. Another surefire time-waster for 2017. Not only will you ricochet between the extremes of arrogance and discouragement, you will spend another year not knowing who you are.
If external beauty happens to be your thing, comparing yourself to the latest Hollywood hunks ought to help you men . . . and those gorgeous models plastered on the covers of checkout-counter magazines will do nicely for you ladies. The next twelve months will be a humdinger so long as you keep your gaze on the horizontal. A quick tip: have the Zoloft ready.
Fifth, lengthen your list of enemies. Playing the blame game will keep your wheels spinning during 2017 more than any other activity. Your skill at this game should improve with age because the longer you live the more ammunition you will have. With a full arsenal of suspicion, paranoia, and resentment, you can waste endless evenings rehearsing your feelings of resentment as you stew over those family and friends who have made your life miserable.
Okay, so there you have it! Five proven time-wasters. Put these suggestions into motion, and your new year could set records in wasting valuable time.
But on the other hand, who wants to do that?
No one aims to make zero progress—it just happens. So, let’s get started in the right direction.
Beware of the time-wasters! Instead, pray more than worry. Be flexible. Give more. Be content with the way God made you. And let the oil of forgiveness loosen your grip on those grudges. In other words, make this year your most productive ever.

 

17 in 2017

Leave a comment

Recently, a friend of mine posed a question on social media. They asked, “How do you spend your quiet time with the Lord?” As I read the responses to this question, I was bothered. The responses included things like, when I run, in my car, in the shower, and while doing dishes. Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with using any of these times to talk to the Lord. However, these sorts of times should be secondary and not our primary means of connecting with God.
The danger in not making focused, uninterrupted time for our Lord is that it will lead to a shallow, immature faith. The fact is, we make time for those things that are important. If we believe that God should be honored and that He is worthy of praise, then we ought to reserve some quality time for Him. If we only give God what time is left over, or if we simply work Him in around our existing schedule, we are not showing Him the honor due His name.
With the New Year just around the corner, may I be so bold as to issue a challenge and give a suggestion all at the same time. The challenge is this: set aside some quality time each day to spend with our Lord. This means no phone, no T.V.,  and no split focus with other activities that need to be done. Just quality time for you and God.
The suggestion is this: find a good Bible reading plan to follow and purchase a journal. Bible reading plans abound. You can find them online, within Bible apps, or even find Bibles to purchase that are split up into daily readings. Find a plan that is manageable for you. It takes 15to 20 minutes a day to read the entire Bible in one year. Whether it’s the entire bible or a paragraph, have a plan to spend consistent time in the word of God on a daily basis.
You can purchase a good journal for about $7. You can keep prayer lists, thoughts, and even journal your entire prayer if you would like. This will help you to stay focused, creates a record of what has been prayed for, and allows you to go back and celebrate answered prayers. A journal will also allow you to jot down what God is speaking to your heart so you do not forget it.
If you will make a 20-30 minute a day commitment to time with the Lord in this upcoming year, you will grow in your walk with Him like never before. This is one investment that you can be sure will pay off. I promise that you will not feel that it is a failed venture. If you have not set aside time for God in the past, make 2017 the year.

Leave a comment

IMG_1217

As many of you know Bev and I are celebrating our 40th anniversary with a trip to the Orient. We are presently on the little island called Koh Sumui. It’s about an hour and half ferry ride off the mainland of Thailand. It was quite the adventure getting here with me doing the driving. They drive on the wrong side of the road (British side) and from the wrong side of the car. But it was breathtakingly beautiful!

 

Yesterday we went sightseeing and saw the “golden Buddha in a place called Bo Phut. It is a popular Buddhist and tourist destination. There were the usual donation boxes everywhere with people carrying their lotus flowers clasped in their palms. People kneeled and put their clasped hands and to their chins and rocked gently back and forth. You could faintly hear their prayers and smell the incense burning as they believe they reach heaven better with their prayers with the smoke arising too their god.

 

I was reminded of Isaiah 42:17-19, “They shall be turned back, they shall be greatly ashamed, that trust in graven images, that say to the molten images, Ye are our gods. Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see. Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, as my messenger that I sent? who is blind as he that is perfect, and blind as the LORD’S servant?

 

As you know, the people of Israel continually displayed this tendency of idol worship in Old Testament times.   You don’t even have to leave the book of Exodus before these people—newly freed from Egyptian bondage, by the God who loves them—have made a golden calf and begun to substitute it—worship it as their god. In fact at the very moment that Moses was on the mountain with God receiving His ten(der) laws, these people were making this idol. Exodus 32:4 records Aaron pointing to this gold bovine and crying, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.”

 

And then—all through the history of the children of Israel you will find that they continued to have a problem keeping this very Commandment. Following the idolatrous practices of neighboring nations, King Jeroboam set up golden calves in Dan and also in Beersheba.

Even the brazen serpent that God provided in the wilderness to deliver the people from snake bites was later made into a graven object of worship by the Israelites. I could cite many examples, but the sad fact is that only when the people of Israel were carried into captivity were they finally cured of this problem of idolatry.

 

But the Jews weren’t the only ones with this tendency. You may remember that the book of Acts records that Paul was bewildered by the “many gods” that filled the city of Athens. His account tells us there must have been an idol of some kind on every block.  And of course—idolatry continues in our world even to this day.

 

A few years ago I read a story about a certain tribe that lives in the Bismarck Mountains of central Papua New Guinea and I learned that these people like BIG EARS—a lot. As a matter of fact, this tribe worshiped former President Lyndon Johnson because he had big ears. According to Dr. Ulrich Ritterfeldt of the University of Utrecht in Holland, the people of this tribe had this famous photo of President Johnson pulling on the big ears of his beagles. They hung this photo in a cave and flowers were offered to it. You know, looking at my own ears, tells me I could do pretty well in the Bismarck Mountains of Central Papua New Guinea!

 

Now—we in the United States hear stories like this and we think that, since idolatry is all about worshiping weird things — like big ears and golden cows—and since we don’t do that kind of silly stuff here—well we feel that this law is no longer relevant to us—that obeying this commandment is a snap. We can move on to commandment 3.But the reality is that idolatry in our culture is very widespread. It’s just more subtle. For example: in our culture we worship the gods of materialism, sexual indulgence, and personal power—and their messages don’t just line the streets as they did in Athens in Paul’s day.  No—here they fill the very airwaves! The images and their deceptive offers go across the nation by satellite, cable, Internet, and slick four-color printing.  I mean, in our country we are surrounded by more false images than ever before in the history of mankind. They leer at us from billboards and magazine covers. They call to us in powerful visual impressions on television and pop-up ads on our notebooks and smart phones.  And, as every good advertising or network executive knows, the objective of these ads is to “capture” as many people as possible.  These guys want their ads to capture our attention—our interest—our money—our time—our commitment.  Of course, there is nothing wrong with money or a new car or wanting to wear attractive clothes or wanting to succeed in business. It’s just that these things and a hundred others can become idols to us as they begin to control our thoughts and desires.

 

Another American idol” these days are celebrities. There is a real sense in which we worship them, looking to them for guidance in life on everything from health, to sexuality, and politics.

 

But you know, I think the most-worshiped false god in our society is SELF. We make books on the subject bestsellers by purchasing them by the millions. We make every effort to “look out for number one.”  Let’s face it–ours is an age of gross SELFishness. This is the “ME” era. I agree with Dr. Laura Schlessinger who writes, “One could read the Second Commandment as follows: ‘Do not make your SELF an idol.” And our society does exactly that. We idolize our individual FEELINGS—basing major decisions on how we FEEL rather than on what God says. We worship happiness and self-esteem at all costs. We care more about personal rights than God-given responsibilities. We worship how we look which is why we will spend $335 for a pair of “True Religion Jeans” showing the true object of our “religion!” We especially bow down to our careers.  In fact it is often not until the first heart attack that men realize that they work to live not live to work. Well, whenever any of these things or people—when anything other than God—becomes the absolute focus of our attentions and activities—that is idolatry. Nothing in our lives—especially not SELF—should make God take a back seat.

Now before we go any further—think about it—why would God give us this law? Why would idolatry be such a big deal to Him?

 

And the Bible shows that it IS a big deal to God. Did you know more than 50 of the laws in the first five books of the Bible are directed against idolatry? Did you know that in all Judaism it is one of only four sins to which the death penalty is attached? Why?  Why did God think this law was necessary?

 

Well—I think one reason He did was because, as I said, God knew how easy it would be for us to slip into idolatrous acts—as history shows we have done.

 

And here’s why.  God is unseen—a spirit and a power invisible to the eyes of men. It is very hard for simple people like you and I to remember and to think about and to worship an UNSEEN God. We prefer to have something we can see, and touch—something we can relate to.

 

It’s like the story of a man named Jack who was walking along a steep cliff one day when he accidentally got too close to the edge and fell. On the way down he grabbed a branch, which temporarily stopped his fall. He looked down and to his horror saw that the canyon fell straight down for more than a thousand feet. He couldn’t hang on to the branch forever and there was no way for him to climb up the steep wall of the cliff. So Jack began yelling for help, hoping that someone passing by would hear him and lower a rope or something, “Help!  Help!  Is there anyone up there? Help!” He yelled for hours but no one heard him. He was about to give up when he heard a voice. “Jack, Jack, can you hear me?” “Yes, yes!  I can hear you!  I’m down here!” “I can see you Jack.  Are you alright?” “Yes, but—who are you and where are you?”

“I am the Lord, Jack.  I’m everywhere.” “THE Lord? You mean, GOD?” “That’s Me.” “God please help me. I promise if You will get me down from here I will stop sinning.  I’ll be a really good person.  I’ll serve you for the rest of my life.” “Easy on the promises Jack. Just let Me get you down from there and then we can talk. Now, here’s what I want you to do. Listen carefully.” “I’ll do anything Lord.  Just tell me what to do.” “Okay.  Let go of the branch.” “What?” “I said, let go of the branch.  Just trust Me.  Let go.” There was a long silence. Finally Jack yelled, “Is anyone ELSE up there?!”

 

Like Jack, when the rubber meets the road in life, we want a god we can reach out and touch. That’s why we have this tendency to worship things we can see and feel. God of course knows that we are like this. He knew that this would be a very real temptation for us so He gave us this second foundational law.  Like His other laws God gave us this one to protect us and disobeying this particular law can indeed cause us great harm in many ways.

So why is idolatry so harmful? There are a multitude of reasons but let me zero into one that may have never considered. Listen to the words of Psalm 135, “The idols of the nations are but silver and gold, the work of man’s hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; they have eyes, but they do not see; they have ears, but they do not hear; nor is there any breath at all in their mouths. Those who make them will be like them.” We become like what we worship! Jeremiah 2:5 says, “They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves.”  

 

Listen! We become just like any false image we pursue in life.

  • If we worship self, we become selfish.
  • If we idolize wealth, then like Scrooge we tend to value it above anything else—even our loved ones.
  • If we bow down at the altar of physical beauty, we become shallow people. Our own beauty as individuals becomes only skin deep.

 

And the sad thing is God wants us to become like Him—not the false, empty images we pursue. In Romans 8:29 Paul says that God’s desire is that all His followers be “conformed to the likeness or IMAGE of His Son.” In 1 John 3:2 it proclaims the hope that when Jesus returns “we shall be LIKE Him.” So, as Ron Mehl writes, “Why in the world should I waste my time chasing shadows, substitutes, desert mirages, and house-of-mirrors reflections?  Why should I serve other lords who aren’t lords at all, care nothing for me and never will?”

 

Indeed why? Why place something other than God at the center of our lives when doing so hurts us in so many ways?

  • Idolatry promises us everything and gives us nothing. It steels our freedom.
  • It hurts our children and our grandchildren and our great grandchildren.
  • It changes us so that we become like those empty things we worship.

 

Substituting God for anything else is such a wasteful thing to do. No wonder God has lovingly given us this second commandment! But you know the most amazing thing about this law is that not only does disobeying it hurt us. There is a sense in which it hurts God Himself!

Tribulation Chart

Leave a comment

Scan001-62

Here is the chart from Wednesday night bible study on the Tribulation.

“What about the Gray Areas?”

Leave a comment

“What about the Gray Areas?”
1 Corinthians 8:1-13

I’ve got a ten question quiz for you. These questions are black and white—not difficult at all. Ready?

1) How long did the Hundred Years War last?
• Answer: 116 years, from 1337 to 1453

2) Which country makes Panama hats?
• Answer: Ecuador

3) Catgut comes from what animal?
• Answer: From sheep and horses

4) In which month do Russians celebrate the October Revolution?
• Answer: November. The Russian calendar was 13 days behind ours

5) What is a camel’s-hair brush made of?
• Answer: Squirrel fur

6) The Canary Islands in the Pacific are named after what animal?
• Answer: The Latin name was Insularia Canaria—Island of the Dogs

7) What was King George VI’s first name?
• Answer: Albert. When he came to the throne in 1936, he respected the wish of Queen Victoria that no future king should ever be called Albert.

8) What color is a purple finch?
• Answer: Raspberry red

9) Where are Chinese gooseberries found?
• Answer: New Zealand

10) How long did the Thirty Years War last?
• Answer: Thirty years, of course. From 1618 to 1648
You know what? Some things just aren’t as black and white as they seem.
The difficult things about the Christian life are the gray areas of Christian living. Is this okay? Should I as a Christian participate in this? Can I do that? Is it okay to listen to this? Can I watch that? Go here? Stay there? Be with them?
We are called to hold the middle ground between being holy and different and set apart on the one hand and salty and relevant on the other. Don’t you feel this tension? If you don’t then you’ve probably gone to one of the extremes, either you’ve withdrawn and have no salty influence whatsoever or you’ve gone to the other end and you’ve blended Christianity and your own belief system.
How can we live out this calling to be God’s people in God’s world? I want to provide a biblically based strategy for faithfully accomplishing this assignment, one that is transferable to any culture or around the world. There are biblical principles that are true anywhere, anytime, and under any circumstances that will help us communicate and “live out” the gospel more clearly.
A great place to discover this strategy is found in 1 Corinthians.
The Church at Corinth was a church gone crazy, a church in a battle in terms of its moral and ethical decision-making. They were struggling, and struggling mightily, both inside and outside their community, and they had the awesome task of being the radically secular, immoral, non-Christian context. Maintaining a clear gospel witness was difficult and problematic. Therefore, Paul wrote this letter in order to instruct the Corinthians in how to live out a “gospel-centered ethic.” Within 1 Corinthians 6:12-13:13, he sets forth a number of universal principles that would enable them to engage the culture with integrity while staying true to the gospel of Jesus Christ both in what they said and how they lived. The wonderful thing about these principles are that they work for those in the 1st century, but also those of us who are living in the 21st century. These principles will be the focus of our attention in the following study.
TEN PRINCIPLES FOR MORAL DECISION-MAKING
Paul provides helpful guidelines for navigating what could be called “the gray areas” of the Christian life.
1) WILL THIS ACTION BE HELPFUL TO ME?
“Everything is permissible for me,” but not everything is helpful. “Everything is permissible for me,” but I will not be brought under the control of anything. – 1 Cor. 6:12
“Everything is permissible,” but not everything is helpful. “Everything is permissible,” but not everything builds up. – 1 Cor. 10:23
Certain actions are not helpful for believers. They don’t build you up or make you better for Jesus. They accomplish little or nothing.
2) WILL THIS ACTION POTENTIALLY ENSLAVE ME?
“Everything is permissible for me,” but not everything is helpful. “Everything is permissible for me,” but I will not be brought under the control of anything. – 1 Cor. 6:12
Paul is confident that he is a slave to only one master. His name is Jesus. No one or no thing is to “be master” (NIV) over us other than Him. Later, in 1 Corinthians 10:14-22, Paul will point out that living near the edge of sin can even make one vulnerable to demonic attack and influence.
One boasts: “I have liberty in Christ” and “I am free under grace” can become something of a moral rationalization that is more likely a personal idol erected for satisfying sensual pleasure. What you convince yourself will hurt no one will lead you yourself into a world of slavery and bondage to the cruelest taskmaster of all: yourself and your own carnal desires. True spiritual freedom is not the right to do what you want, it is the supernatural enablement of Christ to do what you ought and enjoy doing so! Gordon Fee says, “There is a kind of self-deception that inflated spirituality promotes, which suggests to oneself that he/she is acting with freedom and authority, but which in fact is an enslavement of the worst kind–to the very freedom one thinks one has.” Christians must consistently guard themselves against any action that will potentially enslave them. I believe this is a tremendous word of wisdom as it relates to issues like drugs, alcohol, tobacco and pornography just to note a few of the more common destroyers of lives and families in our day.
3) WILL THIS ACTION ENCOURAGE MY BROTHER OR SISTER IN CHRIST?
Therefore, if food causes my brother to fall, I will never again eat meat, so that I won’t cause my brother to fall. – 1 Cor. 8:13
No one should seek his own good, but the good of the other person. – 1 Cor. 10:24
Give no offense to the Jews or the Greeks or the church of God… – 1 Cor. 10:32
Paul, for the sake of others, was willing to adjust his life that they might not be hurt or harmed. His brother or sister in Christ mattered more to him than his rights or liberties. This principle is grounded in the “mind of Christ” text of Phil. 2:3-5. For the sake of the body of Christ, your community of faith, “consider others as more important than yourselves.” Paul drives ethics to the gospel and to the cross. The gospel demands that the needs of others outweigh selfish desires. When it comes to wise decision making, a believer in Christ should always have an eye toward a potential weaker brother. John McArthur says, “Right or wrong is not the issue, but offending someone is. This principle was an important guide for me as a father. Being blessed by God with four daughters, I did not want to do anything that could hurt them, harm them, mislead them or lead them astray. I wanted to live before them, as best I could, in a way that would encourage them to take the high road ethically and morally, and to avoid the “danger zones” that could lead to sorrow and even destruction.”
4) WILL THIS ACTION HELP OR HINDER MY GOSPEL WITNESS?
If others share this authority over you, don’t we even more? However, we have not used this authority; instead we endure everything so that we will not hinder the gospel of Christ. – 1 Cor. 9:12
For although I am free from all people, I have made myself a slave to all, in order to win more people. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win Jews; to those under the law, like one under the law—though I myself am not under the law—to win those under the law. To those who are outside the law, like one outside the law—not being outside God’s law, but under the law of Christ—to win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I may by all means save some. Now I do all this because of the gospel, that I may become a partner in its benefits. – 1 Cor. 9:19-23
Give no offense to the Jews or the Greeks or the church of God, just as I also try to please all people in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. – 1 Cor. 10:32-33
This principle is so crucial Paul repeats it at least three different times. He makes it very clear that his ethics are to help his missions and evangelistic endeavors. He did not allow anything to hinder the gospel from going forth and being heard in the most effective way possible.
Today that expression, “all things to all men,” is often used as a form of derision. He (or she) has no backbone, we say; he is two-faced; he is “all things to all men.” But Paul wears the label as a witness to his evangelistic commitment. Even so, he could not do this if he did not know who he was as a Christian. The person who lives by endless rules and who forms his or her self-identity by conforming to them simply cannot flex at all. By contrast, the person without roots, heritage, self-identity, and nonnegotiable values is not really flexing, but is simply being driven hither and yon by the vagaries of every whimsical opinion that passes by. Such people may “fit in,” but they cannot win anyone. The bottom-line: nothing must hinder or obscure the gospel! Nothing! Absolutely nothing!
5) IS THIS ACTION CONSISTENT WITH MY NEW LIFE IN CHRIST? I COR. 6:9-11, 19
Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: no sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, revilers, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom. Some of you were like this; but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. – 1 Cor. 6:9-11
Do you not know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own… – 1 Cor. 6:19
Followers of Jesus are brand new creatures. We are now temples of the Holy Spirit corporately (1 Cor. 3:16) and individually (1 Cor. 6:19). One aspect of this “newness” is that we honor God and bring Him glory in our bodies (1Cor. 6:20). This is Paul’s way of saying glorify God all the time in every way with all that you are. Body, mind, will, and emotions are all to be brought under His Lordship and control. Unfortunately, we sometimes forget this and tragic consequences follow. Christ is hidden rather than displayed in our lives.
Tim Keller wisely informs us, “All of our personal problems and church problems come because we don’t come continually back to the gospel to work it out and live it out….Christians are enormously bold to tell the truth, but without a shred of superiority, because you are sinners saved by grace. The balance of boldness and utter humility, truth and love-is not somewhere in the middle between legalistic fundamentalism and relativistic liberalism. It is actually off the charts.” (Tim Keller, “Being the Church in Our Culture.”) When considering how to live for Christ in the 21st century, our new life demands that we proclaim and live the message with great boldness, holiness and humility. We are to live a life that is in harmony with who we are as new creations in Christ. – 2 Cor. 5:17
6) WILL THIS ACTION VIOLATE MY CONSCIENCE?
Eat everything that is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience’ sake, for the earth is the Lord’s, and all that is in it. If one of the unbelievers invites you over and you want to go, eat everything that is set before you, without raising questions of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This is food offered to an idol,” do not eat it, out of consideration for the one who told you, and for conscience’ sake. I do not mean your own conscience, but the other person’s. For why is my freedom judged by another person’s conscience? – 1 Cor. 10:25-29
It is risky, even dangerous, to ignore the inner voice of conscience. It is God-given and under redemptive-reconstruction through the Spirit, Word and fellowship of the Christian community. A well-informed, Scripture-saturated, Spirit-sensitive conscience will be an asset in warning us of things that are sinful, evil, and unwise.
Now, I do not think Paul would say, “Let your conscience be your guide,” as if conscience by itself is a sufficient umpire or arbitrator when it comes to good decision-making. Rather he would say, “Let your conscience guided by Scripture and controlled by love be your guide.” The internal voice of a believer’s conscience can be a great aid when guided by Scripture and controlled by love. It can give you peace in what you are doing and joy in the doing. Romans 14:23 reminds us, “Whatever is not from faith is sin.” Living with a clear conscience before Christ and others is a worthy goal for all of us to pursue.
7) WILL THIS ACTION FOLLOW THE PATTERN OF THE LIFE OF JESUS?
Be imitators of me, as I also am of Christ. – 1 Cor. 11:1
To be like Jesus should be the goal of every Christian’s life. By God’s grace someday we will be (Rom. 8: 28-30; 1 John 3:1-3). However, until that day arrives, we should strive to imitate Him in all things with a holy passion and blazing zeal.
A while back I was listening to a lecture by N.T. Wright. As he raised the issue of Christian ethics he noted that a number of his British friends had poked fun at and dismissed the silly, shallow American phenomena of the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelet. However, he then went on to note that several of his children were now making their pilgrimage through the teenage years. Suddenly, he did not find WWJD concept to be a silly and shallow consideration at all. In fact, he rather hoped his children might adopt such an ethic in this post-modern, anything and everything goes culture of the West. Of course, it is essential to KWJD (Know What Jesus Did) if asking WWJD is going to be of any benefit. In other words, this gospel-centered, Christ-centered ethic requires an immersion in the Scriptures. To live like Jesus you must know Jesus! To live like Jesus you must love Jesus.
8) WILL THIS ACTION SHOW LOVE TO OTHERS?
If I speak the languages of men and of angels, but do not have love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so that I can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I donate all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but do not have love, I gain nothing. – 1 Cor. 13:1-3
Love is a magnet that draws others to Christ. If our actions are not grounded in love, it does not matter what we say, how much we know or even what we do. Love cannot be prostituted! D. A. Carson is helpful in assessing this balancing act: Strong Christians may be right on a theological issue, but unless they voluntarily abandon what is in fact their right they will do damage to the church and thus “sin against Christ” (8:12). To stand on your rights may thus involve you in sin after all-not the sin connected with your rights (there, after all, you are right!), but the sin of lovelessness, the sin of being unwilling to forgo your rights for the spiritual and eternal good of others. (Carson, The Cross and the Christian Ministry, 125).
9) WILL THIS ACTION HONOR MY BODY WHICH BELONGS TO GOD?
Do you not know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body. – 1 Cor. 6:19-20. In these verses Paul declares that we are not our own and have been bought with a price. Therefore, we should honor God in all we do with our bodies. Chuck Swindoll says our bodies are: 1) a physical extension of Christ, 2) a moral illustration of the Lord, and 3) a spiritual habitation of God. Use your body in ways that will show that God is more satisfying, more precious, more to be desired, more glorious than anything the body craves” (John Piper, “You Were Bought with a Price”). I don’t know about you, but I like this. Use my body to show how satisfying God is? Now that’s a life in the body worth living!
10) WILL THIS ACTION GLORIFY GOD?
Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory. – 1 Cor. 10:31
This climatic and over-arching principle has been called “the joyful duty of man.” It is right in its God-focus for He is the most beautiful and valuable person in the entire universe. It is right in its human perspective for it makes clear why we are here: to live for God’s glory. John Piper is right: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him!” (John Piper, Desiring God, 9). No part of life is exempt from this principle. It is comprehensive and it is satisfying! So, seek His glory, and do it with passion!
PUTTING OUR TEN PRINCIPLES INTO PRACTICE
When making ethical choices, world Christians will not wed their cultural and personal preferences to the gospel of Jesus Christ. They will vigorously keep them separate and distinct. They will not insist on their rights or their special interest that could cloud the beauty and purity of the gospel. How can a devoted Christ follower stand beneath the cross of their Savior and insist on their rights? To give up our rights for the spiritual and eternal blessing of others will be a joy and not a burden. It is our calling in Christ (Mark 10:35-45).
How will this influence the way we live as Christians? We are all an example to someone. We all influence someone. So the loving thing is always to esteem others better than yourself, it is to look out for their interest, not just your own. “Liberty in Christ regulated by love” for Him and others is the ethic that guides the man or woman in Christ. Is it more loving to insist on my freedom or to sacrifice for another? Because I love you and would never want to lead you astray by my example, I will choose to say no to that which can enslave, intoxicate and addict. It’s just the loving thing to do.

Pray for your Pastor

Leave a comment

In our adult small groups we have recently taught on praying for our spiritual leaders in our church. I read several articles and I thought I’d share one from David Chancey.

How do you pray for your pastor? Let’s use the acrostic P-A-S-T-O-R.
P ¬ Pray for your pastor’s purity. Pastors are human just like everybody else and they are subject to great temptation. One of the greatest downfalls affecting pastors and other ministers these days is Internet pornography. Pray that your pastor will not put himself into a position to be tempted, and that when temptation comes, he’ll have the strength to resist.
Pray also for your pastor’s perseverance. Discouragement comes easily when the work seems to be moving too slowly or when a congregation is underachieving. Burnout among ministers is common because they give and give, and don’t always receive. Fatigue is common. Contrary to belief in some circles, ministers work more than just one day a week.
I heard about one minister who could be found at the train station every day at 3 p.m. One church member finally asked him why he was spending so much time at the train station. He replied, “I come down here to watch the train come in. It’s so refreshing. It’s the one thing I see moving that I don’t have to push.”
A ¬ Pray for your pastor’s anointing. Pastors need a fresh touch from God so they’ll have a fresh word for the people. They need God’s power in their life. They need God’s power in the pulpit. Pray that your pastor will not serve in his own strength, but will serve in the power of God.
S ¬ Pray for your pastor’s study time. Pray that he will keep his own spiritual life nourished and fresh. As he prepares Sunday’s message, pray that he’ll have plenty of time that is uninterrupted in which he can discover “a word from the Lord.” Pray that he’ll stay up-to-date and will continue growing personally and spiritually. Be sure that he is taking time away now and then to attend conferences and continuing education events that will recharge his spiritual batteries.
T ¬ Pray for your pastor’s time management. A lot pulls at a pastor’s time. His work is never completed. There is always someone else he should have seen, another prospect to visit or another call he needed to make. And in between a myriad of duties, Sunday is still coming whether his sermon is ready or not.
O ¬ Pray for your pastor’s obedience. Pray for God to help your pastor to know and do God’s will.
R ¬ Pray for your pastor’s relationships. Pray for his family and pray that their time together will be rich. Pray for his work with the other ministers on staff. Pray for his relationships with church leaders and with other people in the community. Pray for harmony and a sense of teamwork.

What Jesus Would Say to a Muslim?

1 Comment

What Jesus Would Say to a Muslim John 14:6-14:6

1. I’d like you to picture hundreds of Muslims bowing to the ground in prayer. What kinds of feelings well up within you? Now imagine an image of some angry followers of Islam. How does that affect your emotions? Do you feel afraid or do you get angry yourself?

*** In a recent Christianity Editorial (October 2010) called, “Mosques in Middle America,” the editors write this: “Debate over the so-called Ground Zero mosque has stirred an excess of angst over the Muslim presence in America.” Is there reason to be angry and afraid?

* Muslim cleric Anjem Choudary, appearing on an ABC News town hall meeting, said this: “We do believe as Muslims the East and the West will be governed by Sharia. Indeed, we believe that one day the flag of Islam will fly over the White House.”

* According to the Washington Post, the attempted Times Square bomber, who just received life in prison, told the judge: “We are only Muslims…but if you call us terrorists, we are proud terrorists, and we will keep on terrorizing you…the defeat of the U.S. is imminent.”

* And the group behind the failed Christmas Day bombing has released the second installment of its new magazine, “Inspire,” featuring a man from North Carolina who says he is “proud to be a traitor to America.” Samir Khan, now believed to be in Yemen, says: “We pledge to wage jihad for the rest of our lives until either we implant Islam all over the world or meet our Lord as bearers of Islam.”

* The United States issued an extraordinary global travel warning to Americans Friday about the threat of an al-Qaida attack and closed down 21 embassies and consulates across the Muslim world for the weekend.

The alert was the first of its kind since an announcement preceding the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This one comes with the scars still fresh from last year’s deadly Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, and with the Obama administration and Congress determined to prevent any similar breach of an American Embassy or consulate.

“There is a significant threat stream and we’re reacting to it,” said Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He told ABC News in an interview to be aired Sunday that the threat was “more specific” than previous ones and the “intent is to attack Western, not just U.S. interests.”

The State Department warning urged American travelers to take extra precautions overseas, citing potential dangers involved with public transportation systems and other prime sites for tourists and noting that previous terrorist attacks have centered on subway and rail networks as well as airplanes and boats. It suggested travelers sign up for State Department alerts and register with U.S. consulates in the countries they visit.

The statement said that al-Qaida or its allies might target either U.S. government or private American interests. The alert expires on Aug. 31.

2. What should be our response to the fastest growing religion in the world? Did you know that there are over 1.2 billion Muslims across the globe today, making up over 20% of the world population? In America, there are approximately 5 million Muslims, meaning there are twice as many Muslims than Episcopalians in our country. In 2001, there were 19 mosques in TN. alone, and there are over 1,400 in the U.S. today. Islam is a missionary religion, meaning that they are committed to spread their faith and way of life all around the world. This came home to me in a chilling way when I was listening to a Muslim podcast in which the speaker referred to those who are not practicing Islam as the “not-yet Muslims.”

3. While I’m certainly no expert on Islam, I have studied it in Bible College and seminary and these past couple weeks have read a number of books, listened to many different podcasts, some by Muslims themselves, and I’ve read large sections of the Quran for myself. I’ve also contacted four different people who live and minister among Muslims and will share some of their insights a bit later. My aim is to take a missional, not a militant approach.

4. Parents and grandparents, this is really important for us to learn because our children and grandchildren are growing up in a totally tolerant and accepting atmosphere, with no regard for what is true and what is false. In fact, we could say that our culture is tolerant of everything except for the exclusive truth claims of Christianity. Our children must hear biblical truth from home. It’s a much more diverse and politically correct world than what most of us were raised in. One example of this nationally took place on a newscast I watched earlier this month. When reporting about Christianity, a well-known commentator referred to “The Bible” with disdain in his voice and on his face. And then, in the very next sentence, with obvious reverence and a nod to political correctness, he referred to “The Holy Quran.”

5. While two-thirds of Protestant pastors believe Islam is a dangerous religion according to Lifeway Research, my purpose today is not to spread fear but to grow our faith by equipping us so that we can connect people to Christ (this is part of our mission statement). We also want to help Christ-followers see the truthfulness of Christianity and to establish each of us in our faith more deeply and more securely.

6. I should say that it seems a bit presumptuous for me to know exactly what Jesus would say to these different groups of people. My aim is to not guess what He would say but to rely on and relay what Jesus has said specifically in the gospels and in the rest of the Bible, because the Living Word has revealed Himself in the written Word.

7. My outline in these messages will be simple. I will first give a synopsis of each of these worldviews so that we will know what they believe. Then we’ll allow the Word to speak so that we’ll be equipped to know how to behave in order to reach them with the life-changing message of the gospel. My aim is not to be politically correct, but biblically correct.

I. Core Beliefs of Islam

Islam, which means “surrender or submission,” began about 600 years after Christ was born. Adherents to Islam are called Muslims. The key figure in this faith is Muhammad, who Muslims believe to be the final prophet. As a merchant living in Arabia he purportedly had a number of visions over a period of 23 years. These visions became the Quran, which is the holy book of the Muslims. There are six core beliefs of Islam that are held by Muslims from all nationalities (much of this information comes from “Breaking the Islam Code” by J.D. Greear).

A. The basics of Islam:
(1) Allah is unique, all powerful and all merciful to all Muslims (those who surrender to His will)
a. There is but one Allah –
(2) There are good angels and evil spirits
(3) There are many sacred or “Revealed Books” but the four greatest are the Law of Moses , the Psalms, the Gospel of Jesus and the Quran of Muhammad.
(4) There were many prophets – including Moses and Jesus, but Muhammad was the last.
(5) Islam teaches both a resurrection and what we would refer to as hell
The basic Muslim practices are
(1) The “witness” “there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah”
(2) Ritual prayers (six times a day)
(3) The paying of alms (offerings)
(4) The fast of Ramadan
(5) At least one pilgrimage to Mecca in one’s lifetime.
(6) And Jihad – (individual efforts to serve Allah or engage in war against the enemies of Islam)
Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world today (there’s over 1.2 billion Muslims in the world) In fact over 100 million Muslims live in India alone where they co-exist with the majority Hindu population..
Islam is the second largest religion in Europe and has challenged Judaism as the second largest religion in America.
There are Muslim missionaries around the world and tens of millions of dollars are spent every year supporting missionaries and building mosques around the world.
A Muslim leader has been asked in the past to inaugurate a session of the US Senate praying in the name of Allah.
There are also different types or groups within Islam.
Sunni Muslims – consider themselves the orthodox Muslims
Shiite Muslims define their basic teachings differently than the orthodox
Sufi Muslims gather themselves in brotherhoods and emphasis more matters of emotion and the heart.
The Nation of Islam in America is actually a mixture of Islam/Judaism/Christianity as well as the occult and racial teachings.

B. Allah.

This is an Arabic term meaning, “the deity.” In the midst of rampant polytheism in Muhammad’s day, the message of Islam is that there is only one God. The unforgivable sin in Islam is shirk, which is to worship Jesus as God. The “Allah” of Islam is in direct contrast to the God of the Bible. Let me be clear that they are not identical. Those who say they are the same have to sidestep many Scriptures, including 1 John 2:23: “No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.”

C. The prophets.

Muslims believe that there are 25 primary prophets, beginning with Adam as number one and Jesus as number 24. Muhammad is number 25 and the final prophet. This is important to understand because while Muslims honor Jesus, because Muhammad came after him, what Muhammad says trumps Jesus.

D. Angels and Demons.

Muslims engage in a whole series of rituals designed to avoid the curses of demons and invite the blessings of angels.

E. Holy Books.

While Muslims give credence to sections of the Bible (the Torah, the writings of David, and the gospels), they believe that they have been corrupted and that the Quran has corrected them. Technically speaking, since they believe the Quran was given by the angel Gabriel in Arabic, translations into other languages are not authoritative. Interestingly, they believe that the Arabic words of the Quran have supernatural power whether the hearer understands them or not. Just as they believe that Muhammad is more important than Jesus, so too, they believe that since the Quran came after the Bible, it is the final revelation.

That sounds good but is in direct violation of Rev 22:18: “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.” Gal 1:8 adds: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!”

The Quran is divided into 114 chapters, known as “suras.” It’s not arranged in any chronological or narrative order, which makes it very confusing to read. The only thing I was able to observe is that the beginning chapters are excruciatingly long, while the final chapters are extremely brief. It’s filled with rules and warnings and laws, with no narratives or plot. I found it to be a downer to read and couldn’t wait to pick up my Bible again! Another book that is followed is called the Hadith, which is a collection of the sayings and examples of Muhammad himself, which has become the standard for how Muslims should live. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear Muslims quote both the Quran and the Hadith as authoritative for their lives.

F. The final judgment.

Images of paradise, especially for men, are very prominent. Muslims also believe in hell. Even with all their devotion, a Muslim can never be sure of where he or she will spend eternity because one’s ultimate destiny is subject solely to the capricious will of Allah. According to surah 3:157, the only way to know for sure that you will spend eternity in paradise is to die in jihad.

G. Predestination.

Muslims believe that Allah has decreed everything that will happen and testify to this with a frequent phrase, inshallah, which means, “If God wills.”

H. The 5 Pillars of Islam

Along with established beliefs, a Muslim is also governed by expected behavior, known as the five pillars of Islam.

1. The Confession. Muslims continuously recite a simple statement that is also quite comprehensive in scope. It goes like this: “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” To become a Muslim, you must simply repeat this confession three times.

2. The Prayers. Practicing Muslims face Mecca five times a day for prayer. These prayers are very important as a way of earning merit. If they can pray in a mosque, that’s even better because these prayers are worth 25 times as much as prayers said at home or out in the market.

3. Fasting During Ramadan. This is the name of the ninth month on the Islamic calendar and Muslims are not allowed to touch food or water from sunup to sundown.

4. The Giving of Alms. Muslims are expected to give 2.5% of their overall estate to the poor each year.

5. The Pilgrimage to Mecca. Every Muslim is expected to take a pilgrimage to their holy city once in his life, with many saving all their lives in order to have this experience. A trip to Mecca counts the same as 50,000 prayers in a mosque.

II. What Jesus Has Said

1. There is so much that Jesus would say to a Muslim that I’ve decided to focus primarily on what is recorded in the Gospel of John. This gospel reveals its purpose right near the end in John 20:31: “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

2. To make it easier to follow along, let’s start in the beginning and just work our way through a number of passages. I’m not going to make any comments and won’t take many breaths because I want us to hear what Jesus said about Himself and how what He has said should mess with a Muslim. Incidentally, Jesus is mentioned 25 times in the Quran and Muslims give special recognition to the Gospels.

John 1:1-5: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”

John 1:10-14: “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 3:3: “In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

John 3:16-18: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

John 3:36: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”

John 5:18: “For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”

John 5:24: “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

John 5:43: “I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him.”

John 5:46: “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.”

John 6:29: “Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’”

John 6:40: “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

John 8:19: “You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”

John 8:58: “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”

John 10:30: “I and the Father are one.”

John 11:25: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

John 14:6: “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”

John 17:3: “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

What would Jesus say to a Muslim: “If Jesus were to talk to these people, he would explain that they could never pay enough or do enough good to receive a pardoning for their sin. Only his blood could set them free, and only a perfect substitute could remove their guilt and punishment …I think that Jesus would remind them that there really will be a day of judgment, and that they need to get ready. He would also tell them that He loves them and wants to have a relationship with them every day on this earth as well as for eternity.”

A. Law of Non-Contradiction

*** In a podcast debate between a Christian and a Graduate from Bradley University who is a Muslim. This Muslim, who has his PhD in Religious Studies, admitted that Islam and Christianity are mutually exclusive. And yet, many Christians want to believe that it doesn’t really matter what you believe. But friends, the law of non-contradiction says that two contradictory propositions cannot both be true.

*** This was backed up by an article I read from Douglas Groothius of Denver Seminary in which he said: “Neither Christianity nor Islam can logically endorse the other religion’s distinctive claims and practices without denying its own.”

B. How then can we reach a Muslim with the gospel?

1. Your number one resource is the Bible. I was listening to another podcast this past week in the car that featured an expert in evangelism to Muslims. It was very helpful. At the end of the interview, he was asked for a list of resources. I got my pen out and searched for some paper to write down what he was going to say (I had to steer with my knees so this wasn’t easy). As I was poised with my pen, he said something that took me back a bit. I thought he was going to list some books or websites or other podcasts. Here’s what he said: “The number one resource is the Bible. It’s imperative for Christians to get grounded in the Bible and in theology.”

We must read it and study it and know it and then encourage followers of Islam to read it for themselves. When Muslims read the Bible, they become intrigued and are especially attracted to Jesus. I love what Martin Luther once said, “The Bible when attacked should be treated like a lion in its cage. Rather than attempting to defend it, unleash it!” Since Muslims believe Jesus to be a prophet, one idea is to point out that prophets have to tell the truth. You could then go back to the list of verses from the Gospel of John to show what Jesus said about Himself and the way to salvation. Some other ideas from the Old Testament is to use the idea of the scapegoat, the bull offering and the cities of refuge as jumping off places to talk about Jesus.

By the way, when handling your Bible, be sure to use a copy that you have not written in for that would be offensive to a follower of Islam. Also be sure to not let it drop below your waist, and if you stack it with other books, make sure you put it on the top. To fail to do those things is a sign of disrespect in their eyes (www.godwardthoughts.com).

2. Make sure that you love Muslims. Do you have any hatred in your heart toward Muslims? In my research for this message, I listened to a Muslim message called, “Dealing With Extreme Christian Evangelicals.” He argued that the great source of anger toward Islam is coming from evangelicals as they spew out “lava of hatred.” Friends, followers of Islam are made in the image of God and Muslims matter to Him. It’s time for us to converse and not quarrel, to treat them with respect not contempt. Check out 1 Peter 3:15: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

*** A Missionary reported: “People are not convinced by knowledge, debate, or hostile action (like the pastor in Florida who wanted to burn holy books). Instead it is godly living and love that makes a personal impact. When I was a child, we lived in such an area. SIM had a hospital there. A religious leader came for treatment. As he was waiting, he saw one of my parents’ colleagues who was also waiting, give his chair to a poor family with a sick child. The leader was amazed that such an educated person would do something like this and continued to watch how my parents’ colleagues responded to different situations. As a patient he sometimes deliberately made things difficult for the doctor and nurses, yet they continued to be gracious. During the daily chapel services he would stop his ears so that he wouldn’t hear. One day a persistent fly would not leave. As he tried to shoo it away, he heard a verse of Scripture quoted. As he closed his ears again, that verse continued in his thoughts. With time and much thought he decided to follow the way of the Bible. Years later he was one of the strongest evangelists in the region.”

*** One hundred years ago, the missionary Samuel Zwemer was known as the Apostle to Islam. His whole approach could be summarized with this phrase: “A ministry of friendship.” He once said that you can say anything to a Muslim provided you say it in love and with a smile. *** Apparently the sun and the wind were having an argument. “You have no power,” said the wind, “you are just stuck up there in the sky, bound by the forces of gravity, impotent and immobile.” Just then a man with a coat walked past. The sun said to the wind, “If you are so strong and mobile, see if you can blow the coat off the man’s back.” The wind blew furiously, but the man just pulled the coat all the more tightly around himself. “Stand back,” said the sun, “and let me see what I can do.” The sun poured out its warm rays upon the man who soon became uncomfortable and duly removed his coat.

If we desire to see Muslims remove their opposition to the Gospel and shed their beliefs and start following Christ, we too will only succeed when they feel the warm rays of Christian love and compassion rather than the cold winds of arrogance and point-seeking confrontation.

3. Tell Muslims about Jesus. Brothers and sisters, we don’t have to make Jesus more palatable to people. In fact, 1 Cor 1:18 says that the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. Jesus is truth and can stand up to thorough investigation. Our job is to tell others about Him. By the way, the exclusive truth claims of Jesus do not mean that we should demonstrate an arrogant spirit. Ravi Zacharias captures this well when he writes: “Without the undergirding of love, the possessor of any conviction becomes obnoxious, and the dogma believed becomes repulsive to the one who disagrees with it” (“Deliver Us From Evil,” p. 83).

*** Roy Oksnevad, director of the Institute of Muslim Studies at Wheaton College said this in an interview in Christianity Today (3/1/2000): “One former Muslim has said Islam had the rules and discipline she wanted in her life, but lacked the power to live the life the rules stipulated: ‘As a system of personal discipline, Islam has few equals. As a means of earning God’s favor, it’s a spiritual treadmill.’”

*** One idea is to reference Luke 8:40-48 where Jesus heals a bleeding woman. To the Muslim, cleanliness is the path to touching God but Jesus showed that touching Him is the path to cleanliness. When the unholy touches the holy, the unholy does not defile the holy; the holy purifies the unholy.

*** For Muslims, Allah is a force but not a friend. He’s far away, unpredictable, and impossible to please. There is no statement in the Quran that says “Allah is love.” It does say that “Allah loves” two times but his love is conditioned on whether an individual keeps his laws and standards. One author points out that to the Muslim, Allah is the distant one, the cold judge and the hater of infidels. Most feel disconnected from their deity, they know they need purification, they live with a sense of shame that they’re not doing enough and they seek an intercessor. We could say it like this: Islam is the ultimate religion of works-righteousness while Christianity is all about gift-righteousness. In Islam, people obey and hope to be accepted. In Christianity, I am accepted, therefore I obey. But remember this, you and I cannot argue a Muslim into the kingdom because, according to J.D. Greear, “The roots of Muslim beliefs are not found in their minds, but in their hearts.”

*** Philip Roberts of Midwestern Baptist Seminary developed a plan for witnessing to Muslims that rests on three realizations:

* Muslims rarely hear a truthful presentation of the gospel

* Few Christians understand Islam

* Evangelistic efforts should be defined in terms of relationships, not transactions

4. Live your life for Jesus. Because Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, those of us who know Him should have our lives shaped by Him. Are you living for Him right now? Do you need to come back if you’ve been drifting?

*** Many Muslims say the number one thing that keeps them from Christ is the lifestyle of Christians. One Christian who lives among Muslims said this: “They are contemptuous of Christians because they think they are worldly…” J.D. Greear says that according to Muslims, “Christians are morally loose and do not show respect for God.”

Some in the media talk about the need for Christians to apologize to Muslims. I’m not quite sure what they’re referring to but if we’re going to apologize, the real apology we should make is that we have not been living according to the standards of Scripture. I don’t know what you think about the Ground Zero mosque controversy but the true “Ground Zero” for Christians is that we be grounded and growing in our faith.

III. Momentum Among Muslims

*** One Christian scholar has identified three primary misunderstandings related to Muslims.

* They’re all terrorists. They make up only a very small percentage.

* They’re all theologians. Most do not follow the 5 Pillars and many follow “Folk Islam”

* They’re unreachable. Many exciting things are happening in this regard.

*** One friend who lives in a country where the dominant religion is Islam sent me an email recently in which he said this: “Well as far as trying to reach a Muslim…it’s hard, but not impossible. One of the best things going for us is that a devout Muslim wants to have a relationship with God.”

*** Another friend, who lives in another part of the world, gives six reasons why a Muslim is more open than is commonly believed.

* He privately doubts his own standing with God because no one can fulfill all of Islam’s requirements.

* He lives in fear because Islam offers no assurance of salvation.

* Although he prays a lot, he doesn’t have any personal relationship with God and doesn’t expect God to meet his needs.

* His faith is fragile because it has never been challenged or tested.

* He doesn’t really understand his own religion and therefore has a hard time explaining it and defending it.

* He is very open to spiritual conversations.

Far too many of us think a Muslim can never come to Christ. But, it’s happening all around the world, and I believe it will speed up as the return of Christ nears. Matt 24:14 says: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Some believe the greatest harvest in history is already starting to happen.

*** Here’s a report I read just this past Thursday from the Christian Post: “Iran may be ‘closed land politically,’ one ministry leader told the Lausanne Congress, but it is also ‘the most open nation to the Gospel in the entire world. Betrayed by the government, disillusioned with the religion, depressed by the prospects of the future, Iranians when they come to know the Lord Jesus Christ are completely transformed.’”

According to those I’ve talked to, it seems like God is using four ways to point people to the only Way.

*** How It’s Happening

1. Dreams, visions and miraculous interventions. In Acts 2:17 Peter is preaching and quotes from the Book of Joel: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” We know that God used dreams with Abraham and Joseph in the Old Testament and Joseph and Peter in the New Testament. A survey of over 600 ex-Muslims reports that over 25% had dreams or visions that played a vital role in their conversion. Among African Muslims, over 40% report that they came to Christ through “visions, dreams, angelic appearances or hearing God’s voice.” We get a bit uncomfortable with this in the west but for the Muslim, they give great credence to dreams (to learn more, see morethandreams.org).

“One in my mentoring group…came from the country with the largest number of adherents. She grew up in a family very devoted to their faith. Her father died when she was young. As a university student when she received news that her mother had become a follower of “Issa”[Jesus] she was very angry and refused to go home in order not to associate with an infidel. She sought to be more devoted in practicing her faith. One night she had a dream. A very kind-looking man told her, “I am the way, truth, and the life.” She awoke and wondered what that dream could have meant. Sometime later she received a New Testament. While reading the Gospel of John she came across the same passage. Then she knew whom she had seen in the dream. At that point she decided to become a Christ follower.”

2. The Back to Jerusalem Movement. Chinese house churches are planning to send at least 100,000 evangelists from China through many predominately Muslim nations all the way back to Jerusalem.

3. The explosion of technology. The world is indeed flat, isn’t it? Using radio, satellite television, DVDs, CDs, thumb drives, the Internet and smart phones, the gospel is racing around the world.

4. Faithful messengers. Did you know that only 6% of the western Christian missionary force is working with Muslims? We need to do what we can to change this, and we are.

*** I came across a study of 650 believers from a Muslim background. This study involved people from 40 different countries and 58 different ethnic groups. Do you know what the number one reason was that they listed for why they had come to faith in Jesus? It was because of the lifestyle of Christ-followers.

*** Related to this, one person who has a heart for Muslim missions has said, “It’s not strange for a Muslim to hear the gospel more than fifty times before it starts to make sense for him.” I love how one paraphrase captures the meaning of 1 Thess. 1:8: “The word has gotten around. Your lives are echoing the Master’s Word, not only in the provinces but all over the place. The news of your faith in God is out. We don’t even have to say anything anymore — you’re the message!”

*** Can you imagine what it’s going to be like when men and women from all over the world will be bowing before the Messiah on the throne in heaven? Close your eyes as I read from Rev. 5:6-14: “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.’ Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!’ Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever!’ The four living creatures said, ‘Amen,’ and the elders fell down and worshiped.”

Older Entries