Contend Earnestly: June 2010

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Muslim Writes on Islamic and American Hypocrisy

'Pandemic of hypocrisy' dominating Muslim faith and American life


Yes, we Muslims are hypocritical. We demand equality under the law wherever we live as minorities and practice systematic inequality wherever we are in power. In most Muslim societies men and women, Muslims and non-Muslims, are treated unequally by law. Sometimes culture and sometimes religion is used as cover to privilege the rights of Muslim men over all others. Even in societies where there is no democracy and absence of rights is a chronic condition, Muslim men still suffer less than others.

We thought we could get away with it. But, unfortunately, the age of globalization and its pervasive media has exposed us. In the West, we say Islam is a religion of equality, but in the Muslim lands, we say equality is not justice. Justice is to give (or withhold) rights to others as determined by God. So, in Egypt, Baha'is are denied their religious identity. In Malaysia, men can divorce but women cannot. In Pakistan, Muslims can preach but others cannot. In Saudi Arabia -- the Mecca of Islam -- no one except Muslims can publicly worship.

Today, we are engaged in a battle to define Islam. Islamophobes are trying to paint it as a creed of intolerance and hatred and as an ideology of terror. Muslim extremists are defining it as an exclusivist and narrow ethos that has no tolerance for difference and no appetite for self-criticism. But even in this battle, we are hypocritical.

We talk of rights when we speak for Palestinians, we indeed scream in agony for justice for Gaza, but we are relatively silent -- as if our consciences are dead -- when the houses of worship of Ahmediyas (a Muslim sect) are blown up. We hear of Muslim youth going from New Jersey to Israel to struggle for Gaza, from Virginia to Pakistan to fight against the Americans, from Minnesota to Somalia to fight against God knows who, but no one ever goes to fight against al-Qaeda.

When we talk of Islam, we are quick to assert that God made Muslims the best of communities for the rest of the world (See Quran 3:110). But we live our lives as if we are a community against the rest of the world.
So, that is that. We Muslims are hypocrites, but what about Americans? What about the city on the hill?

Buses in New York City today are carrying hateful advertisements promising to help Muslims who leave Islam. Six hundred residents of Rutherford County in Tennessee came out to object to the proposed construction of a mosque. They want no mosques in their state. A woman in Oklahoma places a yard sign opposing a Muslim neighbor she never met. GOP congressional candidate Lou Ann Zelenik sees Muslim places of worship as a threat to Tennessee's moral and political fiber. Sen. Jeff Sessions displayed his latent Islamophobia on the Senate floor while criticizing candidate for the Supreme Court, Elena Kagan as a Sharia sympathizer. And the state of Oklahoma, where Muslims are less than 1 percent of the population, wants to pass a law forbidding the implementation of Sharia.

This is just a sample of the Islamophobia manifest in the past two weeks in America as Muslims increasingly become targets of rising prejudice in American society.

When Muslims object to mockery of Islamic symbols, we scream freedom of speech. We call it an important institution of our culture and of democracy itself. But when Helen Thomas expresses her opinion, we destroy her career and her legacy.

We preach to Muslims the virtue of democracy and peaceful opposition. But when the Muslim students of the University of California try it by demonstrating at a speech of the Israeli Ambassador, they are promptly punished.

We take pride in our democracy. We are especially proud of our protection of freedom of religion. But when it comes to living up to our values with regards to Muslims, we are falling woefully short.

If we cannot practice our values when Muslims are involved, then we also do not have the moral ground to lecture them. We wage wars abroad to defend "American values" and wage campaigns at home to eviscerate them.

Today, Muslims and Americans stand united as victims of this pandemic of hypocrisy.
Muslims are inheritors of one of the greatest value systems of human civilization, Islam, but we are losing it by not practicing what we preach. Americans have developed one of the greatest systems of governance, democracy, and now we are jeopardizing it by allowing our prejudice to overwhelm our decency.

I would rather we compete in realizing our values in real life than racing to become the champion of hypocrisy.

Dr. Muqtedar Khan is Associate Professor in the department of political science at the University of Delaware and a Fellow of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

You Know What Amazes Me Most?

What amazes me most is how many people are willing to speak out against Islam and they have zero Muslim friends. This is a recipe for straw man arguments and a desire to spread false information that usually breads hatred and racism.

When I look to the Scriptures, it seems as though Jesus befriended people all the time and knew them personally. As he sat with them, that is when he called out their wrong thinking or just plain sin.

I propose that before you write, blog or hand out tracts or Bibles to about 1.5 Billion might want to get to know one first. I say, instead of leading with rhetoric, we lead with a hand of help, a hand of fellowship, a hand of friendship. This is what it means to love your neighbor, to love someone else, before they love you. This is what God did for us. This is how we can follow Christ more fully and exemplify Him to the world, especially Muslims.

I know that is crazy talk...but I figured I might as well go over the edge since some consider me a heretic anyways.

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The Great God of Balance

The more and more I live this life of trying to follow Jesus and do what he calls us from the Scriptures the more I hear "balance" screamed from the pages that give us a glimpse into the mind of God. Have you seen this in your own sanctification? It seems to always come up. Think of it. God seems to always give us some basic rules for our joy, but rarely says, "don't do this or that" but instead asks us to look into our own heart and rely on the Spirit. Sure, he gives us things such as:

Do not hate
Do not murder
Do not lust
Do not commit adultery
Do not be greedy
Do not be drunk
etc., etc., etc.

But, what God doesn't tell us clearly is when my hatred of sin turns into woeful and selfish anger. What God doesn't tell us is when you have turned to merely drinking wine and turning into being drunk. What God doesn't tell us is what lust exactly is, what we can or cannot look at and when we should merely turn our heads. Although leaning on the conservative side of these will most likely be the best, we should be careful to both not judge others or refrain from confronting others when engaging these topics.

It seems as though these carry on to everyday aspects of our lives.

To drink or not to drink?
To make a lot of money or be a pauper?
To give too much, to give too little?
To be an Arminian or a hyper-Calvinist?
To engage culture or to withdrawal from culture?
To live the gospel, or to preach the gospel?

We can go on for days, but the it seems as though the answer never seems to be "always do such and such" in any of these cases. It seems as though there is always a balance. You don't want to become a Pharisee (following laws to such an extent where you rely on your work to gain salvation instead of Jesus'), but you also don't want to become a Nadab and Abihu (ignoring God's laws and doing what you deem to be okay). Like I stated above, there are definitely some things that are just wrong because God says it is. But there are so many gray areas in life it begs the question of "why?" Why doesn't God just lay out for us how we should appropriately follow what he has laid out for us in the Scriptures?

I believe it comes down to the fact that if he did, we would become self-righteous and depend on our own will and our own work of following God perfectly. Instead we are told,

So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.
Romans 9:16

I believe if God were to give us everything so clearly, then where would faith come in? Where would prayer come in? Where would dependence on the Spirit of God come in? Where would dependence on the body of Christ come in? Where would the hope of a new Kingdom come in? You see, because we don't have all the answers it causes complete humility (or at least it should), and reliance on the Spirit of God. If I already had all the answers I wouldn't need to continually rely on God, His Spirit, or His people.

What I have noticed though, the more and more I work and the more I study, is that God is a God of balance. Usually, it isn't one radical thing over another radical thing, but rather, a balance that involves both sides to come to the middle.

So, it looks like this in a nutshell:

It's not abstinence of alcohol or being drunk, but it's understanding when and how much to drink while relying on the Spirit

It's not abstinence of making money or making as much money as possible, but a balance of making money and understanding how to live sacrificially with it

It's not abstaining from the culture or so immersing in the culture that the gospel is lost, but it is taking the good news to the culture and redeeming it, yet without sin.

It's not drawing up straw men against other religions or becoming syncretic, but it is befriending other people in other religions and engaging in helpful conversations about our differences and similarities for the sake of the Gospel and the glory of God. Will both people of each religion desire the other to "convert" to the other...possibly...but I don't want anyone to convert to Christianity, but desire everyone to follow Jesus instead.

God desires our worship and our devotion. He desires our hearts to be completely His. To do this, we cannot merely make assumptions about others and draw up debates for the sake of winning, or rules for all to follow for all time in all cultures unless they are explicitly made in Scripture. We need to be as balanced as God is and know that we are sinners with a finite understanding. Understanding this will have us pang for the Kingdom of God instead of desiring to make everyone disciples of US, and will in turn have us desire for everyone to be disciples of the only King, the only salvation, the only Son of Man, the only hope...Jesus Christ.

Understanding the great gospel of balance makes me rely on Jesus instead of my own intellect and that is always a good thing.

The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?
Jeremiah 17:9

He who trusts in his own heart is a fool,
But he who walks wisely will be delivered.
Proverbs 28:26

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Friday, June 25, 2010

My Business Model

If you're curious how I invest, Tom Bradley from TD Ameritrade (whom I use), gives a great explanation of why the way I do business is far superior to how I used to do business when I was with UBS/PaineWebber. Anyways...this has nothing to do with "Contending Earnestly" but figured some might be interested...

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Liberal Christians Are Far Superior to Us in Loving Muslims

One of the hardest things I have to deal with, along with my close friends who have Muslim friends, is the backlash we receive from the conservative Christian community. You would not believe what sorts of emails we receive, lies that are spread and just plain ignorance that is put forth in Christian circles about our Muslim friends and our friendships and dialogues that we have with them. What saddens me is that there are almost no voices from the conservative Christian (speaking conservative in theological terms) crowd who are seeking to establish relationships with Muslim communities. What we DO see is many relationships being formed between Muslims and liberal Christianity, whether it be from someone like Brian McLaren, or local Unitarian churches in our area. But, when you think of it, how can our Muslim friends have any idea what the Bible really teaches about Jesus if those they are able to interact with and befriend have very little faith in the words that are spoken in the Bible? What we do see is that because we are conservative in our theology and "run in those circles" we get smashed for even thinking of walking in a Mosque to make friendships with our Muslim neighbors.
People, speaking local leaders/pastors love to throw stones at us from their ivory towers but won't even think about actually meeting with Muslims themselves to reach out in the name of loving our neighbors for the sake of Christ. Why? I really don't understand this. I don't understand why people don't want to reach out to seek reconciliation with those many conceive to be our enemies (which I do not believe...every Muslim I have met has turned into a friend). These same people preach week in and week out, yet show nothing but hatred for their enemies/neighbors. Now, what they do like to say is they are speaking the truth in love. But, just because you say that is what you are doing, doesn't make it true. How does drawing up straw men and spreading fear and lies about another count as love?
What is even more amazing is that if you talk to Muslims, they desire to speak to those who love and follow Jesus and have hard lines about their faiths. They are growing tired of just meeting up with those who don't believe in the virgin birth, the atonement of Jesus and the word of God. They want to meet with people who actually believe that they are correct, but are willing to discuss. I'm getting tired of this kind of Christianity. The attacking of another's belief system for the sake of word play and headlines. One of my favorite pastors recently called Muhammad a "pedophile" just for the sake of saying it. Honestly, what the hell was that for? How does this help? Especially when it isn't true both historically and culturally. Why don't these pastors actually get off their asses and start engaging those they "speak the truth in love about" instead of reaching for local headlines? What if I were to call their next door neighbor out by name a whore, just for the headlines, because I heard something from someone else about them? That would be unloving and unnecessary, but when you say it about Muhammad you are a hero and "standing for the faith." Give me a break.
Let me give you some food for thought: Sometimes, pagans don't hate you because of your holiness, they hate you because you hate them and you have only shown hatred. This post came about because of watching this video below and realizing, again, that most of the time Muslims can only quote liberal Christians, because frankly, those are the only ones who are actually following Jesus in understanding how to love your neighbor. Sad. Those of us who are conservative in theology and trying to live out this understanding only get yelled at from our brothers for doing so. Again, sad.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Giving to the Poor is Cross and Christ Centered

I was listening to a sermon by Tim Keller called, Blueprint for Survival: Social Concern, and he quoted the great Scottish pastor, Robert Murray McCheyne on giving to the poor and the needy. It is quite Christ and cross centered and I thought I would share it here.

Dear Christians:

Some of you pray night and day to be branches of the true vine; you pray to be made all over in the image of Christ

If so, you must be like him in giving. Though he was rich yet for our sakes he became poor.

Objection: My money is my own.

Answer: Hmmm, well, Christ might have said: My blood is my own, my life is my own. Then where should you have been?

Objection: The poor are undeserving

Answer: Well, Christ might have said these are wicked rebels, shall I lay down my life for these? I will give to the good angels, the deserving poor. But no, he left the 99 and came after the lost; he gave his blood for the undeserving.

Objection: Well, but, If I give my charity the poor may abuse it!

Answer: Christ might have said the same thing, yea, with far greater truth. Christ knew that thousands would trample his blood under their feet, that most would despise it, that many would make it an excuse for sinning more and yet he gave his own blood.

My dear Christians, if you would be like Christ: give much, give often, give freely to the vile and the poor, the thankless and the undeserving. Christ is glorious and happy and so will you be. It is not your money I want, but your happiness. Remember his own word; it’s more happy, it’s more blessed to give than to receive.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Does John 10:15 Prove Limited Atonement?: Christ Lays Down His Life For His Sheep

This post is taken from Calvin and Calvinism by David Ponter. David has helped me to understand further the atonement of Jesus. This site is legit. You really need to do some research here on the history of God's love, desire and extent of the atonement here. He has an amazing blog which shows the history of these debates. I want all to understand that this post is not to say we don't believe that the atonement was especially for the elect, but it is to show that it wasn't only for the elect of Christ. We believe in both unlimited and limited atonement. Namely, that Christ died for all, especially his sheep.

Christ Lays His Life Down for His Sheep (John 10:15): An Argument for Limited Atonement
By David Ponter

Part 1: The Critique

This argument for limited atonement works like this in a syllogism:

Major premise:

Christ lays down his life for the Sheep (John 10:15)

Minor premise:

The pharisees are not Christ’s sheep (John 10:26)


Therefore, Christ did not lay his life down for the Pharisees.

Stated without the prefix comments:

Christ lays down his life for the Sheep
The pharisees are not Christ’s sheep
Therefore, Christ did not lay his life down for the Pharisees

The problem is that its formally invalid.

Lets use an analogy which follows the same form, yet clearly demonstrates the invalidity of the form of the argument.

John loves his children.
Sally is not a child of John.
Therefore, John does not love Sally.

This is an invalid argument. Sally could be John’s wife and mother to his children, and so another person whom John truly and rightly loves.

You can swap out any terms, and the result will be same.

What’s happened, is that the negative inference has been smuggled in, something like this.

The simple positive:

John loves his children

is converted into a simple negative

John only loves his children.

Then the syllogism is followed out:

John only loves his children.
Sally is not a child of John
Therefore, John does not love Sally.

That is now is a valid form of an argument.

And if we bring this back to John 10:15, the syllogism now looks like this with the smuggled in negation:

Christ lays down his life only for the Sheep
The pharisees are not Christ’s sheep
Therefore, Christ did not lay his life down for the Pharisees

Either consciously or unconsciously, many readers have converted “Christ lays down his life for the Sheep” as being identical or as entailing, “Christ lays down his life only for the Sheep.” However, this is is an invalid negative inference.

The problem is, the conversion of the simple positive to a universal negative. This is the negative inference fallacy that Dabney references:

In proof of the general correctness of this theory of the extent of the Atonement, we should attach but partial force to some of the arguments advanced by Symington and others, or even by Turrettin, e.g. that Christ says, He died “for His sheep,” for “His Church,” for “His friends,” is not of itself conclusive. The proof of a proposition does not disprove its converse. All the force which we could properly attach to this class of passages is the probability arising from the frequent and emphatic repetition of this affirmative statement as to a definite object.
Dabney, Lectures, p., 521.

There have been a few attempts by limited atonement advocates to claim that the negative inference fallacy does not apply in this case. These attempts are quite astounding. Imagine a Romanist saying that the proposition, “Justified by faith alone” does not apply here, such that we can make a converse positive inference, that we can be justified by faith and works. We cannot be arbitrary when it comes to enforcing the universal and standard rules of logical inference.

And it should be straightforward that one should never seek to establish a positive argument based on invalid inferences. Such attempts will always and everywhere be invalid. Even repeating the invalid inference ad infinitum will never make it valid.

What is more, with that aside, Scripture declares emphatically,

1 Corinthians 4:6 Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.

No matter how tempting it is, no matter how important it is to one’s system, it is wrong to insert a negation into a verse where it was was originally present. This problematic is further exacerbated if after smuggling in the extra-textual negation, one then tries to sustain the case for limited atonement. This then becomes grounds for a circular argument.

Lastly, one should also keep in mind that readers of John’s Gospel should not jump to the hasty conclusion that because of what Jesus says in John 10, that the Pharisees are goats (in other words, reprobate). Rather, one cannot preclude the possibility that they are rebellious and wayward sheep:

Isaiah 53:6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.

Here Isaiah speaks to the apostate house of Israel, as much as he does to the faithful, who have been, themselves wayward sheep. If this is correct, then the contrast would be between obedient sheep versus disobedient sheep (the Pharisees), but not between the elect and the non-elect.

Part 2: The Affirmation

Whats actually going on in John 10 is more like this:

John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.
John 10:12 “He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.
John 10:13 “He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep.
John 10:14 “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me,
John 10:15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.
John 10:16: “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.

The point is not about the extent of Christ’s death at all, but the faithfulness, the loyalty of Christ to the sheep. The pharisees are the hirelings who abandon the sheep. Jesus is saying to them something like this, “I am not like you, who run away, rather I will lay my life down for the sheep, defending them to the end….”

Thus, the real emphasis and attention should be on this verse:

John 10:16 “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.

In this verse alone we have election, Christ’s intent, and the effectual call.

When we put together v15 and v16, we see in the mind of Christ a special intention to gather and faithfully lay his life down for his sheep so that they may be saved to the uttermost. He came to earth, not as a hireling coming to a field, but to gather those given to him. This is the direction we should move in, not in pressing the limited extent of the expiation.

When rightly understood, then, the verse speaks to a special intent of the satisfaction, not to the extent of the satisfaction.

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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Spiritual Gift of Criticism, Not Discernment

I was having coffee with a friend the other day and we were speaking about life and what's going on with our walks with Jesus, etc. He brought up the fact that he, and another one of my friends, had a meeting with someone who disagreed with them highly on how they are serving Jesus in a particular area. This guy started off like this...first thing out of his mouth:

I have the spiritual gift of discernment

My buddy said..."I knew it was going to be a long meeting after that first remark." When my friend was speaking to his pastor about this, his pastor remarked, "This guy doesn't have the spiritual gift of discernment, but the spiritual gift of criticism." I thought that was actually a very good observation and figured I would put out some thoughts on those people who believe they have some magical gift of discernment.

1. You Are Not the Holy Spirit's Bat Phone

The first thing is the fact, unless I am overlooking a verse in the bible, that there is no such thing a special gift given to some for discernment. It is actually given to all believers and Hebrews speaks to those who are "mature" in the faith.

For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
Hebrews 5:13-14

We are all called to discern. It is not only given to those who have some special gift, so the Holy Spirit can use you to be the bat phone to the world to spew forth what is good and what is evil. It is for all believers, because all believers have the Spirit. Look what Paul says to all the believers in Philippi:

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:9-11

One of the marks of an elder is to make sure that he is mature in the faith, so that he can discern and defend the truth (Titus 1:9; 1 Timothy 3:6-7), but this doesn't mean that they are the only ones with this understanding of discernment. Maybe you should realize that you are God's gift to the world, but the Holy Spirit actually does guide and direct other saints within the fold on how to serve their culture for the glory of God. You might want to get over yourself, and submit yourself to God's wisdom and glory.

2. Discernment is Grace Filled, Not Spiteful

The one thing that has been blatantly obvious to me with every single person who says that they have this "gift" or are a part of discernment "ministries" is that they all come across very angry and spiteful. Know that when you tell someone you don't agree with how they are living their life, it is always going to be difficult to do, but it shouldn't be with the spirit of hatred. Actually, because of the spirit of hate that comes across with these "ministries", it just shows how much they aren't filled with the Spirit, but with something else.

Discernment should be used in accordance with the idea that Paul brings across in the term "admonishment." This term doesn't mean to yell at people and tell them that they are simply wrong. The term means to walk alongside someone and show them the truth within relationship, not by yelling or provoking someone from afar. The term is closely related to the term "exhort" which literally means to "summons to one's side." Here is how the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament puts it:

His (Paul's) pastoral work in a congregation is retrospectively presented as a special, inwardly motivated cure of souls by means of indefatigable exhortation with a view to correction and amendment (Ac. 20:31). His sharp criticism in letters is simply the corrective word of a father to his children (1 C. 4:14 f.). Similarly a congregation admonishes or corrects whether by its pastors (1 Th. 5:12: τοὺς … νουθετοῦντας ὑμᾶς) or by the reciprocal brotherly ministry of the members exercising pastoral oversight with a sense of congregational obligation (1 Th. 5:14; R. 15:14;16 Col. 3:16).
Kittel, Gerhard (Hrsg.) ; Bromiley, Geoffrey William (Hrsg.) ; Friedrich, Gerhard (Hrsg.): Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. electronic ed. Grand Rapids, MI : Eerdmans, 1964-c1976, S. 4:1022

Paul shows this clearly when he is about to correct the Corinthians. This church in Corinth is jacked, yet look at his opening remarks to this exudes love and grace:

Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Corinthians 1:1-9

This is how discernment should be love and grace, not hatred. If you desire to just tear down brothers and sisters in Christ...then you don't have the gift of discernment, but of criticism.

3. The Gospel is What We Are FOR, Not What We Are Against

What defines you? Do more people know what you are for or what you are against? I still remember when a friend was teaching about the dangers of the "Purpose Driven" movement and he started with this:

When in heaven and you are sitting down and speaking to Paul and Rick Warren, you don't want it to go like this:

Paul starts to speak about his ministry to the Gentiles and the ways that he gave up some of his freedoms for their sake, how he journeyed all over for their salvation, and how he was serving the church. He then looks to Rick Warren and asks him to share. Pastor Warren speaks about the different ways he was desiring to see people saved and bringing them in to hear the word of God, how he was trying to take the AIDS epidemic head on and his work overseas and also in his own culture. Then Paul looks to you and asks for you to share how you were desiring to call people to follow Jesus. You simply point at Rick Warren and say, "My ministry was to fight against him."

The Gospel is good news to be given in both word and deed. Followers of Jesus are called followers because this is an action. It is something we do, He is someone we are for...fully. We need to be more about who we follow, not what we disagree on. If you read the New Testament, especially Paul's writings, you'll notice that most of his epistles start with everything he is for and it is mostly about Jesus and his death and resurrection. This should be what defines us, not what we are against. So called "discernment ministries" are defined by what they hate and are against...this is not the Spirit of God, but something totally different. We are told to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9) and have the spirit of unity ...I am not sure how any of these discernment ministries defend their actions with these teachings in mind.

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:1-3

Notice, what the fruit of the Spirit is:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.

Galatians 5:22-26

I would hope that when we look to correct each other, we do it with the understanding of how Paul corrected. Let us truly show the gift of discerning what is good and evil and how to come along side each other to show them the truth. Let us trust in the Spirit and the sovereignty of God and not become mere critics, but true family who cares for one another. Also, if you read these discernment websites or ministry newsletters, start to truly discern yourself whether or not they have the Spirit of God, or another of hate. Do not give them an ear, but ask that God would unify all of us and that He would make us peacemakers of the truth, instead of divisive.

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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The Holy Spirit Calls God...Allah

Yeah...I know I know...back to my old tricks again. But, check this out. I was emailed this thought and it very much intrigued me. This is in no way to say that followers of Jesus and Muslims have no differences, but what this is an attempt to do is to get rid of basic misunderstandings in regards to each other. The name "Allah" invokes a lot of weird emotions within Western Christians. Most of the time, people speak out of ignorance on basic linguistics. This following thought was sent to me yesterday and I found it very helpful. Wondering what my readers' thoughts are on this.

Question posed:

This is for all of ourcritics who say using the word Allah for God of the Bible is blasphemy or wrong. at Pentecost in Acts, when the apostles and disciples are given the Holy Spirit and are speaking in the native tongues of everyone, the last language is Arabic. So, when these Arabic speaking Jews (or Jewish converts) are hearing Arabic, what words for God and Jesus do they hear?

At this point, one of my friends, who has been a linguist for 25 years added this to this question:

Arabic speaking believers at the time of Pentecost were using the term Allah, which is related to Aramaic Eloi, Jesus' term for God, which originally came from Abraham's use of the Canninite work Il, for pagan god. Of course our English "God" is from a Norse term for their pagan God, so I guess we are all blasphemers.

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, "Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? "And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? "Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God." And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, "What does this mean?"
Acts 2:1-12

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Monday, June 07, 2010

The Church is Who We Are, Not What We Do

I asked last week how people would define the term "church." The reason is that I have completely questioned what I thought the church to be in the past year. It continued to be questioned, as I have read books from people in other parts of the world where what they do looks a lot different than what we do here in America. If you were to ask me what the church is a couple of years ago, most of what I would say would focus on the functions of the church instead of the identity of the church. I would have focused in on the invisible, visible distinction. I would have focused in on the preaching of the word, the sacraments and discipline. I would have focused in on evangelism or missions and I would have definitely even put forth that how we do it in the West is more of the correct way, instead of a cultural way. Wow, what a difference a year makes. Since attending Harambee, and consequently Harambee and Soma joining forces, my identity, and my community of believers' identity, has been grippingly clear on this huge distinction.

We need to focus in on our identity as the church, those who have been called out. What is desperately shown is that most people focus in on the church's functions instead of their identity.

But, why is this so important? What do I mean by identity?

First, when I say "identity" it means what makes one part of the church and takes that to understand what exactly the church is. Our identity actually is not what we do, but who we are. This is quite important. Our identity as a church isn't found in missions, it isn't found in Sunday School, it isn't found in what day we meet on, how we take communion and whether we take it weekly or monthly, whether we baptize infants or whether we only dunk believers, what kind of building we meet in, what we wear, how long the sermon is, how many songs we sing, etc. etc. etc. While these things might comprise what the church does, it does not make one a church or part of a church.

Our identity is found in Christ and his work, not in the corporate gathering and its' work. We have to understand this. If we don't, we miss a huge point in understanding what the church is and then we will try to take the functions of the church and demand other cultures and other ages to do it as we believe it to be fitting. Let's see why this is important to truly understand. Why is it so important to focus in on the church's identity?

1. Identity is Cross Cultural and For All Ages

When discussing what the church is, we should know that our identity is most important because this focuses in on the impact of God's people for all time. There is no discussion on whether one is part of the church because they decide to function differently than we do. If we focus in on our identity we can allow ourselves to meet on a Sunday morning in a public meeting space, while allowing followers of Christ in another country to meet on a Friday in a home. It can allow ourselves to preach behind a pulpit while others preach while sitting down and having discussion throughout the sermon. It can allow us to baptize in a public place while others decide to baptize privately. If our identity as "church" isn't found in what we do, but who we are, we can easily allow the gospel and the church to function in the area, culture, and age God has brought them forth in and believe that the Spirit is working. It can allow the fact that the Westminster Confession is great for those who wrote it for their time, but doesn't necessarily dictate how we are going to function in our culture in the 21st Century.

2. Identity Allows Contextualization

I hit on this in the last point, but if the church allows itself to be defined by identity instead of function, it allows for full contextualization. It allows for other cultures to look like their culture and infuse the gospel within their culture. It allows for Muslim followers of Jesus to look like Muslims and their culture, it allows American followers of Jesus to look like Americans and their culture, Buddhist followers of Jesus to look like Buddhists and their culture. We in the West, love to tell people how they are allowed to contextualize, instead of focus in on trusting the Spirit and allowing HIM to work in the cultures he is in. Know that when I mention Muslim or Buddhist followers of Jesus I am speaking about those who fully embrace Jesus and who he is, but still identify with the CULTURE of Muslims and Buddhists, not belief system. We love to sit over here in our comfortable pulpits and yell at those in other countries and cultures and tell them how it should be done. But, if we truly know that those who have been called out by Jesus have the Spirit living within them, we should allow the Spirit to work out their salvation and trust in God's sovereignty and not our ignorance. But, if we focus in on functions as determinate of a church, we'll always have issues with those people who look different than we do as a church.

3. Identity Will Produce Functions

Because we have been identified as the church because of Christ, we will desire to have functions. But, because we are already the church because of who Christ is, and not what we do, we will work out functions differently depending on where God has called us. While preaching, learning, missions, family, servanthood, baptism, communion and discipline will be a part of any church, it might look very different depending on the culture and the people group. We have to allow this! We have to allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through people and we have to be careful, especially in the West, to not make people do it like we do it. This is why the Regulative Principle of Worship baffles me. It takes away from culture to allow it to live out how God wants them to live out the gospel and throws it into some Western style. Do people really think that how they're regulative principle looks is exactly how the church performed it's functions for all time in all cultures? If our identity is found in Christ and God has given, not only each of us a personality, but our whole culture a personality, why wouldn't he desire for us to live this out and use it in a redeeming way?

When we focus in on the identity of the church, these functions will look quite different. Baptism might be done in a bathtub privately, preaching might happen for only 20 minutes sitting on the floor of a living room, communion might be done over a complete meal, instead of a wafer and a shot glass of grape juice or wine, servanthood might be helping a local mosque build a new building. Who knows? If our identity is found in Christ, as a church, we can allow our functions to truly penetrate the cultures we live in.

If not, then our functions will be our identities instead of Christ. We will continually put forth our ideals on other churches to tell them how to be identified as a church. If we believe in Solus Christus in salvation, we must believe this in the church as well. Again, certain overarching functions will be the same in all churches, but they might look far different depending on the culture and the age they are found in.

If we refuse to allow this, we become a lot like Pharisees. We will be like those Pharisees who believed that if you do "this" then God loves you. We will be like a people who believe your salvation depends on what you do, instead of what has been done for you. If our individual salvation is found in our identity in Christ, then so should our gathered peoples called the church. When we start to focus too much on the function of church, and what that looks like, it is like focusing on the works of someone and becoming a Pharisee. Just as preaching to someone grace and showing how their identity is found in Christ produces fruit, so does preaching identity to the church. When the church's identity is found only in Christ, the fruit will come because the Spirit will be at work and be given all glory.

And when this happens, Jesus words are so powerful:

“I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
Matthew 16:18

I am afraid that if we focus too much on the functions of the church then this is what we find:

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:...I have this against you, that you have left your first love."
Revelation 2:1,4

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Thursday, June 03, 2010

How Would You Define the Term "Church"?

For the past year, I have really been asking this question. And the question might be also stated as "Who is the church?" not "What is the church?" Yesterday, I grabbed lunch with one of my pastors at Harambee and we were discussing this very topic. The answer to this question, actually has very large implications. I just wanted to throw out the question to anyone out there, Christian or not.

When you hear the term "church", how would you define it?

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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Why We Need Forgiveness: Just ask Jim Joyce and Armando Galarraga

This is brutal. Bottom of the 9th, 2 outs. There have only been 20 perfect games in baseball history.

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Pranav Mistry: The thrilling potential of SixthSense technology

This is simply amazing where this is headed.

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Cry Out Fundraiser

(Click picture to enlarge) Let me know if you want to come. Email me at smcbee at mcbeeadvisors dot com. Should be a great time.

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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Why I love my Muslim neighbors - Part One

"25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”"
Luke 10:25-34

Now we all understand that Jesus basically raises the bar on what it means to be ones neighbor. I want to look at the second part of the Great commandment in verse 27. Jesus said:

  • "Love your neighbor" - I have thousands of neighbors in my city that are American citizens, international students or refugees. They also happen to be Muslims. They pay taxes (even international students pay sales tax when they buy good and services in America), take the bus, work normal jobs, drive cars, have families, and watch television...just to name a few every day things. The same types of things I do on a regular basis. They are my neighbors. Just like the retired couples that live on my street, my coworkers, the grocery store clerk, and the waitress at my favorite restaurant. Muslims are my neighbors. And because they are my neighbors, Jesus commands me to love them.
  • "As yourself" - This is the part that gets me every time. I definitely love myself, no doubts about that. That comes natural. I wake up every morning, wash myself for the day, eat a good breakfast, drive my comfortable car to my wonderful job, make sure I eat a good lunch, come home to have dinner with my family, spend time throwing my son on the couch and tickling him, and stay up with my wife after we put him to name a few things I do on a regular basis. Basically, most of these things I mentioned are natural ways I love myself. So Jesus commands that I have this same type of love for my neighbors (including my Muslim neighbors). So this would mean, I actually care for their natural well being. I care about whether or not my neighbor has something to eat or not. Can he/she get to work. Are they happy in general and can I add to that happiness in any way, shape or form. Etc. Etc. Great examples of being a neighbor are my neighbors John and Lois (who are normal, homegrown, Caucasian Americans). John is a delivery driver and drives all day long. We have been their neighbors for about a year now. Every once in a while, John stops by our house with some extra goodies to fill our fridge...things like juice, cheese, tortillas, etc. We are never out of extras in our fridge because of John. One day before winter, John came and dropped off wood for our fireplace. We never asked him to do this, he just did it. He did it because the last winter was rough here in the Seattle area, so John wanted to make sure me, my wife and our young son would have a warm home. WOW! This is one of the very few ways John and Lois has loved us just like they love themselves.

So, before I elaborate on why a specific, focused love for my Muslim neighbors, let me ask you:

1) Who are your neighbors? Focus on a few for the sake of these questions.
2) Are you going out of your way to love them as you love yourself?
3) Why is this so unnatural for us, especially if Jesus commanded it?
4) Who/what can give you the power and ability to accomplish this task?
5) What next steps can you take to love your specific neighbors as yourself?

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