Friday, September 25, 2009

Presenting the Gospel

In an earlier post, I said that apathy and preaching a watered-down Gospel are two of the biggest problems we have in this country. How should be Gospel be presented in today’s politically correct, “mustn’t ‘offend’ anybody” atmosphere?

First, let me say how it shouldn’t be presented. The in-your-face “You’re going to burn in hell!” approach isn’t very effective, and is quite obnoxious. Just look at how Jesus interacted with people, and you’ve got the best model possible.

“But,” you may say, “Jesus called the Pharisees white-washed tombs and hypocrites. He was in-your-face with them!” Yes he was, to the holier-than-thou Pharisees, but not to the ordinary people. The Pharisees were the fundamentalists of the day who were legalistic, hypocritical, lacking in grace, and prideful. So Jesus was criticizing the religious leaders, but was gentle with the ordinary people he came in contact with.

So how do we present to Gospel? Speak the truth in love. Meet people where they are. Don’t talk down to them. Show respect to them even when their opinions are way off base. Give a good example so that your life is a powerful testimony of your faith – people can spot a hypocrite a mile away. Exude the joy of the Lord in your demeanor and attitude. Point out what the Bible says, not what you believe. What you believe in immaterial – what the Bible says is all-important.

We must present the whole Gospel, not just the warm and fuzzy parts we like. As we progress with someone and gain their trust, we must introduce them to those aspects of the Gospel that some folks might find objectionable but are critical to understanding the role of Jesus as Lord and Savior. For example, the thought of a place like hell is distasteful to them, yet without hell we don’t need Jesus.

Prepare the way with prayer, and let God’s Holy Spirit guide you. Remember that many modern Americans haven’t been brought up in a Christian culture, but in a politically correct atmosphere. They have been brainwashed with PC, humanism, and relativism so that they believe all religions are pretty much alike, all roads lead to God, religion is a crutch for the weak, there is not such thing as absolute truth, and we shouldn’t “offend” anybody by sharing our religious beliefs with them. We have some big hurdles to overcome!

The person may not make a decision, but you have planted the seed. Someone else will water that seed, and then another person may harvest the crop. Don’t be so eager to “close the deal” that you lose the prospect. It’s up to God and it’s in God’s timing, not yours. Remember, you’re God’s instrument of his grace and it’s all about Him, not you.

May God bless you as you are obedient to his call to spread the Good News by word, deed and example.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Watered-Down Gospel

A footnote to my last post: The evening before this Muslim event (Thursday evening), the National Day of Prayer Task Force (NDP), along with Lou Engle, Tony Perkins and other Christian leaders, will hold a national conference call to pray for America. The call is scheduled for 7:30 to 9 p.m. ET.

In that earlier post about the Muslim prayer rally on Capitol Hill, I wrote that apathy is the biggest enemy of Christianity, not Islam or atheists. I want to expand upon that thought in this post. Apathy is our biggest problem by far, but another problem is a watered-down Gospel. Let me briefly explore each one.

Apathy

As I mentioned in my earlier post, apathy has resulted in lower church attendance, people not bringing up their children in the faith, and a widespread ignorance of the Bible. When the people don’t have a solid moral foundation and believe that this life is all there is, then you end up with a society that is self-centered and ultimately without hope. What we need is a Third Great Awakening – in other words, REVIVAL! I think that’s our only hope in the long run, and we should be praying every day for it to come.

In addition, we as Christians must follow biblical directives when it comes to practicing our faith and doing evangelism. Every Christian has a role to play in building up he Kingdom of God on earth. It’s not a matter of when you have time, when you feel like it, or if there’s nothing else going on. That’s the wrong attitude. God comes first, then everything else. Any other attitude is wrong and insults God.

Watered-Down Gospel

Too many churches and preachers water down the Gospel to make it more attractive to modern politically correct ears. Do you want to be politically correct or theologically correct? You don’t get to heaven because of your theology, but you do get to heaven based on your faith in Jesus as your Savior. If that isn’t being preached in your church, run, don’t walk, to the nearest exit and don’t look back.

Because of the politically correct liberal theology being taught in seminaries, graduates come out more confused than when they went in. Jesus is downplayed, and good works (especially in the area of “social justice”) are emphasized. When I was in seminary, I had to take a course on missions. The whole emphasis was on helping the less fortunate and nothing was said about telling them about salvation through Jesus. When I brought up the subject, the professor said something like “Of, we should do that too” and that was it. So much for Jesus.

A good example of watered-down Gospel is the very popular Joel Osteen. He is more like Doctor Phil than Billy Graham, but people love him. Why? I guess it’s because he gives helpful advice and maybe that’s all people want. But there’s much more to life than good advice. We need to learn biblical principles, not pop psychology. We need to hear about Jesus, not that all paths lead to God. We need to know that Jesus loves us and wants us for his own, not that we must earn our way into God’s good graces. We need to learn that we are saved by faith, not by works.
I encourage you to not be apathetic about your faith, and to seek out solid biblical teachings. You may have to visit quite a few churches, but it’s worth the effort. You’ll be blessed and the eternal rewards are fantastic!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Muslims Gather in Washington

Something that so far has not been widely reported in the mainstream press is that on September 25, there will be a gathering of Muslims on Capitol Hill. The scene of presidential inaugurations, Promise Keeper events, the annual March for Life, and various other activities will be the site for 50,000 or more Muslims to gather for prayer. This prayer gathering is being organized by a mosque in Elizabeth, NJ, and is supposedly not a political or “Islamic Pride” rally, but a spiritual event.

Event organizer Hassen Abdella said, “There are a lot of people who are Muslims who feel that the image of Islam has been portrayed very derogatorily. We believe that it's very important that the other side of Islam, the real reason people become Muslim, is portrayed as opposed to what people believe in the politics of Islam.

“We’re trying to illustrate the spiritual component. Because there’s too much emphasis on other things in Islam, and that's the problem. Too much emphasis on the politics as opposed to the spirituality. You're not getting to heaven for your politics. The politics will get you in hell; spirituality will get you salvation.” said Abdellah, who is African-American.
(quoted from Churchwatch: Craig von Buseck)

I’m sure there will be some negative reactions by some because of this Islamic prayer rally at the Capitol, but before you react, let me point out a few things for your consideration:

(1) The First Amendment guarantees freedom to practice your religion. Therefore, Muslims have just as much of a right to gather in Washington, DC, as any other religious group, provided they get the proper permits and obey the law. Militant atheists have been trying to suppress religious expression by Christians, and we have been fighting these attempts to trample the Constitution. Should we Christians now turn around and try to prohibit another religious group from gathering for prayer? That would be hypocritical and unchristian.

(2) This will certainly feed the fringe groups who believe Obama is a Muslim. The permit for such a gathering comes from the City of Washington, DC, government, not from the President of the United States. I suspect Obama had nothing to do with this, so don’t let this event fuel the persistent belief that he is a Muslim.

(3) Although this country is diverse religiously, the majority of people are Christian in some form or another. What we as Christians need to do is build up our own faith, reach out to the nominal Christians (the unchurched), and practice our faith as God calls us to do. This country is deteriorating spiritually, not because of Muslims or militant atheists, but because of our own apathy. We’ve raised a generation of young people that don’t know what the inside of a church looks like, and then wonder why they misbehave, don’t respect authority, and have no moral or ethical code to speak of. A strong Christian foundation is the best defense against our enemies.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Why I Write What I Write

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll see I write on a wide variety of subjects. Even though I often write on “political” topics, my goal is not political. Underlying just about every post is a moral, ethical, or justice issue. My goal is to give you something to think about, pray about, and act upon. I try to give a viewpoint that you won’t find in the mainstream media.

If you’re familiar with the Bible, morality, ethics, fairness and justice are important. We are encouraged to care for the widow and orphan, for the poor, for the marginalized. What I attempt to do in my posts is to apply these biblical principles to today’s issues, whether it is health care reform or religious freedom. I don’t believe I’m partisan – I go after both the Democrats and the Republicans, and try to call it as I see it. I hope what I’ve been writing has given you some insight and perhaps a different slant on current events. Feel free to email me if you would like me to write on any particular topic or have a question you think I might be able to answer.

It is critical that we the voters stay well-informed, and have multiple sources of information so we can intelligently sift through the various competing viewpoints. Benjamin Franklin said:
“A nation of well-informed [people] who have been taught to know and prize the rights which God has given them cannot be enslaved. It is in the region of ignorance that tyranny begins.”

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Joe Wilson’s War

The British are probably wondering what all the fuss is about. A congressman shouts out something during the president’s speech. So what? Have you ever seen a House of Commons session on TV? Now that’s a spectacle.

However, Congress is trying to maintain a level of decorum and civility, at least on the surface. So given our tradition, what Rep. Wilson did was out of order, rude, and uncalled for. There are other ways he can express himself other than shouting out during the president’s speech. Having said that, I believe this hoopla about his outburst has gone on too far. Let it go.

Speaking of Congress, the decorum is only on the surface. Washington has become so polarized it’s amazing anything gets done (and very little of substance does get done). Write your congressman and senator, and tell him or her to not be so political and get the people’s work done. We have too many important issues that must be dealt with.

Republicans, be the loyal opposition, and make your opinions heard, even though you have become close to irrelevant because of your lack of accomplishments when you held a majority in both houses. You still have a meaningful (but non-political) role to play. But then be willing to compromise, and don’t be controlled by ideology or the desire to “bring Obama down.” Shame on you for looking at health care reform as a way to bring him down. That’s politics at its worst.

Democrats, don’t get cocky. I hope you learned something when we threw out the Republicans and voted you in. It wasn’t because we especially liked you, but it was because we were hoping you’d get the message and get the job done. So far you’ve been a disappointment. Listen to the people and the loyal opposition, and put aside agendas, special interests, and ideology. We voted you in, and we can vote you out! Remember that.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Racism and Obama

There’s been talk in the media that protests against President Obama and the health care reform proposals are driving by the fact that he is African-American. I find such comments objectionable. What these media commentators are saying that those who protest against the President are ipso facto racist. Is it now wrong to exercise our constitutionally guaranteed rights? I believe this may be a tactic by the Left to try to silence the Right. If so, then they are trampling on the constitution.

I’m not na├»ve enough to believe there aren’t any racists out there, and I know there are some who persist in believing Obama is really a Muslim. Nevertheless, to label most of those protesting against proposed government policies racists is wrong. Our biased media is once again distorting the news, and gullible individuals such as former President Jimmy Carter are buying into these lies. The constitution guarantees us the freedom to protest government policies, and limits the government’s ability to stifle such dissent. However, this freedom of the press is being abused by the mainstream media by putting forth such lies.

Let me also say shame on those who are against Obama simply because he’s African-American. Read your Bible and learn how we are to treat one another. We can certainly criticize his policies and his proposals, but we should never go after him because he’s black. Doing so is ridiculous given the fact that he’s probably smarter than any one of us.

As I’ve said before, pray for our country and pray for our elected officials. They need all the help they can get.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Wal Mart Mentality

Unfortunately this country has developed what I call a Wal Mart mentality, meaning that we want inexpensive goods. Nobody wants to pay more than you have to, but there is a point at which you truly get what you pay for.

This summer I went into a big box store to buy a light fixture for the ceiling of a storage space. It was one of those bare bulb simple pull-chain fixtures that used to be made out of white ceramic but is now made out of plastic. I installed the thing, and two or three weeks later, this fine product of China no longer worked. Yes, it was inexpensive, but is that really economy? I don’t think so.

What are the results of our Wal Mart mentality?

(1) Cheaply made goods wear out faster, so you aren’t really saving any money.

(2) American workers are put out of work because everything is made in China. This result is less income for Americans, with the result that more of us must look for inexpensive goods, thus perpetuating the syndrome.

(3) Because we import so much, we have a huge unfavorable balance of trade. China temporarily returns some of the money to us in the form of loans, but eventually they must be paid off. Where are we going to get the money?

My advice is to pay a little more for American-made goods (if you can find any). You’ll probably save both money and aggravation in the long run, and maybe save a few American jobs as well.

Health Care Debate – Part 2

Supposedly the health care proposals are looking to accomplish “health insurance reform.” By that they mean eliminating some of the unfair practices of the private insurers. These include insurance companies refusing coverage for preexisting conditions and dropping people who are “too sick.” Also included is the “government option” for people not covered by their employer’s health insurance. However, care must be taken to prevent companies from dropping their coverage and going with the government option.
Another issue is the cost of health care. For the past 20-30 years is has been growing at a rate that is higher than the rate of inflation. Health care is ridiculously expensive, and something must be done. Already Medicare and Medicaid are costing the government much more than the budget can afford, and that’s with doctors being reimbursed well below what they get from private patients. How in the world do Obama and Congress think they will save money? It’s a pipe dream. No savings will happen without tort reform, and that isn’t even being discussed. See my earlier post on tort reform.
Concrete actions must be taken to reduce costs. I don’t know what they are, but if effective cost-reducing actions aren’t included in the bill that ultimately comes out of all this, it will be a disaster. Pray for all those involved in putting together this health care reform package, that they will be given wisdom to do what needs to be done. They will need the wisdom of Solomon and them some.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Health Care Debate – Part 1

I’ve been watching with interest this health care debate, which seems to have the whole nation in an uproar. One positive aspect of all this is that the people are engaged. Health care hits close to home – everybody is affected by it. For the first time in a long time, people are actively participating in the political process.

Emotions are running high, and there seems to be a deep mistrust of the government in general, and Obama in particular. Why? I think there are several possibilities:

(1) People mistrust what government tells us because government has lied to us and let us down. Bush led us into war in Iraq because there were, we were assured, WMDs in Iraq. Went in, and guess what? No WMDs. The government spent billions to bail out banks, assuring us it was the only way to stave off financial collapse and get the economy going again. Yet the banks did not use much of the money in ways that helped the economy, making us wonder if the billions were wasted.

The people are not convinced that any government agency can do anything particularly well. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, government agencies, helped precipitate the financial crisis. Medicare and Medicaid are rife with fraud and corruption. VA hospitals are not well maintained. Why should we trust the government with our health care?

(2) We’ve all seen the unintended and unanticipated consequences that result from government programs. Health care is too important for us to suffer such consequences, especially when government (meaning Congress) is usually very slow to fix these problems.

(3) We know about the problems with the universal health care programs in other countries. Canada had severe problems, and I wonder how many people died there. I believe their system is doing pretty well now. Of course the system we come up with will be uniquely American, something a lot of people forget.

(4) Regarding mistrust of Obama, he came into office with ridiculously high expectations that no human being could meet. Many voted for him because of the Republicans’ failure to govern properly. Bush was an idiot, while Obama seemed like a breath of fresh air. The Republican-dominated Congress did little, so why not give the Democrats a chance?

Everybody knows that Obama is a liberal, but many moderates voted for him for the reasons mentioned above. Now that he has a chance to implement a liberal agenda onto health care, a lot of people who voted for him are getting nervous. Liberal rhetoric sounds good, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty, many tend to back off. Liberal plans are usually utopian and full of unintended consequences.

It appears that many of the proposals floating around Washington are trying to build on what we already have, providing a “government option” for the uninsured. That sounds good, but what if companies drop coverage to their employees, dumping millions of people into the “government option.” The next thing you know, we have a “single payer” system run by the government. That’s what a lot of people are afraid of.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Too Much Time on Your Hands

In my last post I said I gained a sermon illustration from the experience of my computer becoming infected with a virus. See my earlier post “My Worst Nightmare” for a description of what happened.

What kind of a person writes these vicious little programs called viruses and worms? Intelligent but evil people with entirely too much time on their hands. Since my sermon that Sunday was on David and Bathsheba, this fit in perfectly.

The story of King David and his hanky-panky with Bathsheba starts out with this statement (paraphrased): “It was spring, the time when kings go off to war. But David sent his general Joab out with the troops to fight the Ammonites and David stayed home.”

Kings led the troops in those days, yet David chose the comforts of his new palace and the luxuries of the royal court to camping out in the fields. This gave him entirely too much time on his hands, and when he spotted the lovely Bathsheba from the palace roof, he gave in to temptation and had her brought to him. This resulted in a series of events that weren’t good. Read 2 Samuel 11 and 12.

The lessons for us are:
(1) Stay close to God so as to be able to better resist temptation. I suspect David had gotten caught up in worldly things and and drifted away from God.

(2) Keep busy and don’t give yourself too much free time, because too much time on your hands can result in sin.

(3) Don’t put yourself in a position where you can be easily tempted. Just don’t go to those places.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

My Worst Nightmare

Last Thursday I experienced my worst nightmare as a computer user. Despite firewalls and constantly updated anti-virus software, my computer became infected and was rendered inoperable. I have no idea how it happened because I don’t go to questionable websites, don’t open email attachments if I don’t know the sender, and do a complete scan every week.
Yet technical support said that based on the error message I was receiving, it was an infection from a new virus. What was the damage? I lost all my emails and my address book, and I lost all my files since my last backup in June (including this Sunday’s sermon). I’ve since ordered an external hard drive and will now do mirroring, plus the occasional additional backup to a stick drive. I’ll also make sure I back up my Outlook Express® address book, because it’ll take months to reconstruct it.

Is there any upside to this fiasco? There are a few benefits that came out of this.

First, it provided me with an opportunity to warn you of the possibilities of an infection or a hard disk crash (they do wear out and fail, you know). Do disk mirroring, backup your address book, and don’t go to questionable websites. I was careful and it happened to me. If it happened to me, it can happen to you.

Second, my thanks to Dell Tech Support. The rep spent hours on the phone with me reformatting my hard drive, reinstalling Windows XP®, reinstalling drivers and utilities, and giving me advice. Working with this guy was a positive experience and I appreciate all the time Vinay spent with me.

Third, by clearing out my hard drive, I got rid of 4-5 years of accumulated junk. My computer is now lean and mean, as fast as it’s ever been. It’s like having a new machine! It runs faster, boots up faster, and shuts down quicker. I’ve been told by experts that every few years you should do a complete backup and then do what I was forced to do. Of course you must also have all your program CDs, and it involves getting all the updates and Microsoft service packs since you purchased the software. That takes some time, and then you must configure the applications to the way you like them.

Fourth, I learned the value of frequent back-ups and backing up those things I don’t usually think of, such as my address book. I won’t make those mistakes again.

Fifth, I got a sermon illustration out of this experience, which I’ll relate in my next post.
Yes, most of Thursday and Friday were spent on this disaster, but there were some benefits. I just thank God I had my original CDs of most of my programs. I didn’t have my Word for Windows® CD (which was an old version anyway), so I downloaded the free suite from OpenOffice.org®, and they are working fine.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

California Prisoner Release

California recently announced that it is considering releasing 27,000 inmates from its state prisons to save money during its fiscal crisis. Of all the ways to save money, that is the worst I’ve ever seen. All you’re doing is moving the expenditures from the prison system to the police and probation departments, and of course to the general public. The public is put at risk to save a few dollars. How short-sighted!

There is such a thing a restorative justice in which convicted criminals are rehabilitated as part of their incarceration. This doesn’t happen in the U.S. very much, so most inmates come out of prison worse than when they went in. Rather than rehabilitate prisoners, our system is a training ground for them. The recidivism rate is this country is pitiful, something like 70%. We should remember that the pervert who abducted the 11 year old girl in 1991 who was just discovered was out on early parole.

There is a proven way to reduce the recidivism rate and rehabilitate prisoners, but it is often rejected by our short-sighted officials. Prison ministries such as Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship and Kairos introduce prisoners to Jesus Christ, and Jesus can change lives. The Prison Fellowship track record is impressive. No prisoner is forced to participate in any of these ministries, but those that do are often transformed.

Rather than sending unrehabilitated prisoners back into the streets, why aren’t our state officials more enlightened? Why not let these proven and reputable ministries operate in the prisons? Ultimately the state will save money, the public will be safer, and these former inmates will become productive members of society.