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Category Archives: Evangelism

Who is the radical after all?

I read a commentary recently regarding ISIS, the recent attacks in Paris, and San Bernardino, CA. The author drew a moral equivalent between what he referred to as radical Muslims and radical Christians, referencing the KKK and abortion clinic bombers as radical Christians along side the likes of the jihadists. Though he condemned acts of violence from both parties, I think he, like many, misunderstand and misapply the terms they use in respect to religion.

There are many labels being thrown around these days, creating much confusion about who is, and who is not, a radical as well as who is, and who is not, a moderate when it comes to the practice of these particular religious ideologies, and the confusion is not helpful as we try to combat the hate and violence that we are seeing with frightening frequency and intensity.

What does the term radical mean? Well, it can mean quite a variety of things depending upon the subject matter and the presupposition of the user of the term. One could say, for instance, that Jesus was a radical in terms of bringing a teaching that seemed contrary to the socio-religious climate of His day, yet I imagine that we would never categorize His commands to “love God” or “love your neighbor”1 as radical thoughts. Radical can mean extreme, fanatical, even militant, in a negative sense, or thorough, rigorous, and complete, in a positive sense.

While many scholars have sought to understand Muslim practice by deciphering the Qur’an, I think an examination of the actions of Mohammed and the origins of Islam, might be a better place to begin, just as an examination of Jesus’ life and early church practice helps to understand authentic christianity. In the study of these, we will find what is, and is not, truly radical in the positive sense of the word.

While it is true that Mohammed was a peaceful man in his early (Meccan period) years, preaching a peaceful message of tolerance, even advocating for orphans and widows, that cannot be said of his latter years. After moving to Medina in 622, the peaceful “prophet” became a warmongering murderer, inciting violence wherever he and his (now political) followers went.2 When we examine the historical record, we find that his most ardent followers, have in turn, created terror throughout the civilized world.3 These are not then radical in the negative sense of the word, but authentic Muslims -so radical, in the best sense of the word.

By contrast, when one examines the teachings and practice of Jesus and the first century Apostles, you find the highest teaching on love,4 morality,5 and sacrifice 6 that the world has ever know. The message of the gospel of Jesus is certainly an aggressive one, but it is one where love and reason are the methods of recruitment, rather than Mohammedan tactic of terror and coercion. You simply will not find, in the historical record, anything but the message of love, inspired by Jesus’ early followers. So, radical Christians, are individuals who strictly follow the examples and doctrines of Jesus and the Apostles, -they are radical lovers.

Some of the confusion is exacerbated by a misunderstanding of what it actually means to be a Christian. Many people in America self-identify as Christians, yet would not hold to many of the teachings of Jesus or the early church. For example, Jesus taught that to actually be a follower of His, one needed to be reborn spiritually,7 not simply claim His name.8  There are a great number of cultural Christians -individuals who identify as Christians, even attend church services, yet do not hold to many of the beliefs that Jesus taught. They may not be Christians at all, even though that is how they identify themselves.

The same is true with Islam. With an estimated 1.6 billion adherents,10 many of them are cultural muslims, who may practice some tenants of the faith, but live vastly different lives, and have much more secular views than the author of their tradition. These moderates are in fact, the Muslims that ISIS and it’s so-called radical counterparts have no problem killing as infidels. As one former Muslim, Brother Rachid, has testified in a statement directed at President Obama,”they consider them infidels and not Muslims.”11

Our secular society values impotent religion over what it considers fanatical religion. I believe that is a major contributing factor to what has become a confusion of terms. Many would like Christians to simply be nice people and be quiet about their faith, that is the politically correct and acceptable form of religious expression, and so they would like the same for practitioners of Islam. This is the false hope of President Obama, and many of the talking heads, but it is just that –a false hope. Neither authentic religious expression will be killed off. One will continue to kill, conquer, and subjugate, the other will, love, help, and give –until Messiah returns.

 

Footnotes:

1. Matthew 22:36-40
2. “The Historical Muhammad:
The Good, the Bad, and the Downright Ugly” / David Wood, 4truth.net
3. “Jihad vs Crusades” / Bill Warner. PhD.
4.John 13:34; John 15:9 / Jesus Christ ; 1 Corinthians 13, Romans 5:8 / Paul the Apostle ; 1 Peter 4:8 / Peter the Apostle ; 1 John 4:7-15 / John the Apostle …the author could perhaps cite an endless amount of New Testament references.
5. Matthew 5
6. John 10:17;John 15:13; Romans 12
7. John 3:1-21
8. Matthew 7:21-23
9. Matthew 10:6;
10. Pew Research Center, April 2015
11. “A Message To President Obama From A Former Muslim”@6:12 / Brother Rachid

 

 

 

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530 Slide -1 Year Later

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Father Tim Sauer & Pastor Jim Jacobson (photo by Stephen Brashear)

Recently, I was invited to attend the Long Term Recovery Group for the Carleton Complex Fires of 2014.* That meeting was very difficult, as our friends on the East side have not had a fraction of the media exposure or financial assistance that poured into the Stilly Valley after the March 22nd tragedy. The main difference of course was that there was not the overwhelming loss of life.

One of the things that I shared at that meeting, was that as a man of faith, I looked at the 530 slide through that lens, and have always sought to see what good thing God was going to do in our community. I think it’s always good to view even the worst of circumstances that way. We need to believe that God is at work in every situation. It’s my belief that He is especially active in times of brokenness.

As we remember those in our community who have suffered, and continue to mourn the loss of friends and family, I’d like to point out some good things that are happening, and continue to happen.

At the top of my list would be the outpouring of support from around the world. Volunteers and donations poured in from all over the world as people were moved by the heartache and loss of others. This truly was, and continues to be, a great source of encouragement.
Our small church gave, and also received donations from other churches near and far. That money was all spent to assist those in need.
It was a great privilege to be the conduit of assistance. If you gave, thank you!
As co-chair of the 530 Slide Long Term Recovery Group, we are continuing to provide assistance as needs are brought to us… that difficult and important work is ongoing.

Next, and perhaps in a more personally moving way, I have seen the community come together like no other time that I have experienced.
The faith community, in spite of differences in theology and praxis, has enjoyed a wonderful year of cooperation, to love the community -from Arlington to Darrington. While we generally held no malice of one another prior to the community disaster, the relief effort has brought many individuals and groups together, who prior, simply had no occasion to work together. In this last year, I have often considered Jesus’ prayer for unity (John 17:11-23) and Paul’s repeated admonition of the same (Ephesians 4:3).

As a Christian of nearly 30 years, and over two decades of pastoral practice, I believe that I have grown more in love and tolerance in the last year, than the previous 20. I have seen personal prejudice and spiritual pride give way to love and true christian unity in my own heart.
I have learned, and am continuing to learn, that the church of Jesus is made up of many tribes, as it were, and that my own is not necessarily His only, or best intention.

Though there remain non-negotiable theological beliefs and practices, there is unity in our belief in Jesus as Lord, and salvation by faith alone in Him alone. My personal relationships with those of Catholic, Free Methodist, Foursquare, and other individuals has been a great blessing over the last year. In particular, my relationship with Father Tim Sauer, who pastors the Catholic churches in both Arlington and Darrington has been a remarkable surprise… to him as well. Recently, he and I were featured in an article for NW Catholic Magazine. (see page 20)

There remains much opportunity for the gospel to impact our community. In the days, weeks, and months, ahead, I look forward to continuing to look for ways to bring the good news, and the transformative love of Christ to the community, –and at times doing that arm in arm with my brothers and sisters from different groups!

This Friday, March 20th, many pastors and churches will be coming together to worship the Lord and pray for our community. Please consider joining us. The Gathering Together In Hope event will be at 7PM at the Darrington Community Center Gymnasium (570 Sauk Ave)

God is at work in the Stilly Valley. Come and see.

* The financial need of those impacted in Eastern Washington State remains overwhelming, with nearly 250 primary residences destroyed and little resource and infrastructure to rebuild. Please consider making a donation to those in need. Call (509) 433-7260 for more information.

 

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Christian Myths: Who Is And Who Is Not A Christian

One of the common misconceptions regarding the identity of “who is a Christian” is the belief that being Christian is about what you do.
Many people believe that select good works outweigh bad behavior, and that God is looking for those good works to consider one worthy for heaven, or His favor.

It’s true that the bible is full of instructions about behavior. There are hundreds of rules in Old Testament law relating to Israel specifically and many more in the New Testament, relating to Christian behavior. However, none of these prescribed behaviors was intended to bring an individual into a right relationship with God. Rather, they were given as a model of behavior for those already in a right relationship with God.

Here is what Jesus said about the subject, and mind you, He spoke this to one of the nations top religious leaders… someone we might consider a very “good” man:

Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” -John 3:3
This was part of a conversation with Nicodemus, it would be good to read the entire conversation in John 3 to get an idea of all that Jesus said. Repeatedly in the conversation Jesus pointed to this concept of having a spiritual transformation from within, which He referred to as being “born again.” He actually made it clear that short of that, one could not “see the kingdom of God” nor could they “enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).

Since Jesus is the Christ, the source of our Christian faith, it is important to understand what He Himself said on the matter of who is and is not Christian. He went on, in John chapter 3, to direct Nicodemus to the one thing he needed to do, to unlock, as it were, this idea of rebirth:
“…so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” –John 3:15-16*
The Apostle Paul confirmed this teaching, explaining that salvation is by faith in Jesus: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  -Romans 5:1*

To be a Christian, one must believe in the person and work of Jesus Christ, relying on Him and Him alone for salvation. Good works are just that, good works, but they cannot cause you to be born again.
Billy Graham has a great video out that clarifies some of these points. You can watch it online here: https://myhopewithbillygraham.org/program/heaven/

* all scripture is NASB and emphasis is mine

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2015 in Doctrine, Evangelism

 

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The Life Saving Station

On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur stood a lifesaving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea and with no thought for themselves went out day and night tirelessly searching for the lost. Many of those who were rescued and also others from the surrounding area wished to become associated with the station and to give their time, money, and effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought and new crews trained. The lifesaving station grew.
In time some of the crew became concerned that the station was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt that a more commodious place should be provided as the first refuge of those snatched from the sea. The emergency cots were replaced with beds, and better furniture was purchased for the enlarged building. The station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they decorated it beautifully and furnished it exquisitely. Fewer members were now interested in leaving the plush station to go to sea on lifesaving missions. So they hired surrogates to do that work. However, they retained the lifesaving motif in the club’s decorations, and a ceremonial lifeboat lay in the room where club initiations were held.
One dark stormy night a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boatloads of cold, wet, half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick and obviously from distant shores. The station was in chaos. The event was so traumatic that the people contracted for outbuildings to be constructed so future shipwrecks could be processed with less disruption.
Eventually a rift developed in the station. Most of the members wanted to discontinue the station’s lifesaving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to their normal social life. Some insisted, however, that rescue was their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a lifesaving station. But the latter were ignored and told that if they wanted to keep lifesaving as their primary purpose, they could begin their own station down the coast, which they did. Over time those individuals fell prey to the same temptations as the first group, coming to care more about comforting one another than rescuing the perishing. After a while a few, remembering their real purpose, split off to establish yet another lifesaving station. And on and on it went. Today if you visit that seacoast, you will find a number of impressive lifesaving stations along the shore. Sadly, shipwrecks still occur in those waters, but most people are lost.

-R. Kent Hughes (Adapted from “The Life Saving Station by Theodore Wedel)

 

Rejection: On What Grounds?

For a brief moment, the world remembers the risen Savior. Perhaps you went to church, but it had no impact on you. Perhaps at an Easter celebration, a family member said something. You may have had a thought, a recollection, of what the Easter message really is.
Did you believe?
I came across this plea from M. Lloyd-Jones this morning. The question cannot be asked any more directly than this:

What can you reasonably say against the person of the Lord Jesus Christ? What have you got against Him? Look at that young man working as a carpenter in Palestine. Look at Him at the age of 30, beginning to preach. Follow Him along, look into His eyes, come near Him as the people did -what is your objection to Him? What is lacking in Him? What is wrong with Him? Did He come into the world to blast it and destroy it? He spent all this time healing people, talking to the outcasts, sitting down and eating and drinking with the tax collectors and sinners. Look at Him; read the record. Tell me in the name of reason, what have you got against Him? Look at this unique personality who still dominates the whole world. Even the world that rejects Him cannot get rid of Him. Look at Him-what possible objection can there be to the Lord Jesus Christ? I would like to know on the grounds of reason what that objection is.

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2013 in Evangelism

 

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“Why God, Why?”

The tragic murders at Sandy Hook Elementary have spawned a lot of questions. Reading through tweets and Facebook posts, you see a variety of responses. I’ve answered some questions privately, and tried to make some comments on friends posts, but I wanted to give what I think is a biblical perspective, answering as best I can, the “why” question.

The real answer to these things will either make sense to you or not, but it likely depends on your faith, and the philosophy you hold to regarding the nature of man. Most likely, your beliefs about the nature of man will, in turn, be dependent upon your beliefs about the nature of God.

The bible makes both the nature of man, and the nature of God clear. Man, in his fallen state is utterly sinful.
The prophet Jeremiah wrote: “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? –Jer 17:9 Of course, the bible is filled with verses that say this same thing, over and over.
Yet, most people, even people of christian background, believe that most people are basically good.
The scripture knows nothing of that reasoning, quite the contrary, we are all sinners.

Correspondingly, the bible declares God good. Well, not just good, but the very essence of love, truth, and goodness. Thousands of years ago, God spoke to Moses and declared Himself the following way:  “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” –Ex 34:6-7

It’s the sin of man that we see rear it’s head in naked full force with events like Sandy Hook, or the Clackamas, Oregon shooting. It’s a sickness of heart that caused a young man to arm himself and open fire on movie goers in Colorado. It’s the same sickness that we see in the images of terror attacks like 911, or the holocaust.
We can either ignore this fact and treat symptoms, or we can put our man pants on and address it like men.
Whatever you philosophy, bear with me.

It was not guns, video games, bullying, or any other symptom that caused any of these tragedies.
Men use their hands, knives, guns, poison, and even airplanes to accomplish evil.
…it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. –Gen 4:8
Cain likely accomplished his murder with a club or stone, and he needed no motive other than jealousy.
It’s been that way since the beginning of time. What Cain needed, and what all men need, is a remedy for sin, something to actually address the wickedness of our hearts.

I remember the day that I realized that I was a sinner, not just a “bad boy” but I was the devil that I feared.
With a motive of stealing some drugs, a buddy and I were in the process of breaking into an apartment of a known drug dealer. We pried open a bedroom window, and he lifted me up to crawl in… I’ll never forget the instant I locked eyes on the toddler who’s bed I was suspended above. It broke my heart, realizing that I was the bad guy that as a little kid I often imagined was at my bedroom window.

Later, I came to realize that there is a vast gulf fixed between sinful man and righteous God. He is willing to forgive the sin of man, but He has given us a prescribed way that that sin needs to be dealt with. The problem is, if you reject the idea of your own sinfulness, or the biblical nature of man, you will never submit yourself to the purpose of God. And, you will never arrive at the answer to the question, “why?”

In His sovereignty God allows sinful man to choose his own path, and his own future, including his final destination. When men choose to reject God to the degree and finality that some do, the consequences are tragic. Sin, left unchecked, always brings about death.

Friend, I hope that you understand these things. I hope that you have put your faith in Christ and asked Him to forgive you for your sins. This is the plan of God, to redeem man, by the sacrifice of His Son Jesus.
Through this act of turning to God in faith, you can have your nature changed from within. The scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit comes to reside within the believer. This is truly the only hope of mankind, –a spiritual transformation from within. The Apostle Paul put it this way: “if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.  –Romans 8:13-14

Unfortunately, as we live in a world that is spiritually at war with God, we will continue to see tragic events like what has happened recently in our country, until the Prince Of Peace comes to rule on earth.
Until then, it’s our job as believers, to help transform the world, bringing the good news of God’s love and forgiveness in Christ to every human on the planet. But, it has to start with you.

I welcome your comments and questions.

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2012 in Culture, Evangelism, Real Life

 

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Reaping

Sad Ending of a Life that Might have been Otherwise.

I remember a few years ago I felt very anxious for a man who was present at a meeting like this. At the close of the meeting I asked all to rise, and he rose among the others. I took him aside and said, “Now you are going to become a Christian–you will come out for the Lord now?” He said he was wanting to very much. The man was trembling from head to foot, and I thought surely he was going to accept Him. I spoke to him in his hesitating condition, and found out what was standing between him and Christ. He was afraid of his companions. Nearly every day and night news came to me that some of these employers and clerks make light of these meetings, and make fun of all who attend them, and so many give the same reason that this man did. I said to him: “If heaven is what we are led to believe it is, I would be willing to accept it and bear their fun.” I talked with him, but he wouldn’t accept it. He went off, but for weeks he came every night, and went away as he came, without accepting it.

One day I received a message to come and see him. He was sick, and I went to his chamber. He wanted to know if there was hope for him in the eleventh hour? I spoke to him, and gave him every hope I could. Day after day I visited him, and, contrary to all expectation, I saw him gradually recovering. When he got pretty well he was sitting on the front porch, and I sat down by him and said: “You will be going now to confess Christ; you’ll be going to take your stand for him now?” “Well,” said he, “Mr. Moody, I promised God on my sick bed that I would; but I will wait a little. I am going over to Michigan, where I am going to buy a farm and settle down, and then I’ll become a Christian.” “If God cannot make you a Christian here he cannot do it there,” I replied. I tried to get him to make an unconditional surrender, but he wouldn’t; he would put it off till the next spring. “Why,” I said, “you may not live till next spring.” “Don’t you see I am getting quite well?” “But are you willing to take the risk till next spring?” “Oh, yes, I’ll take it; Mr. Moody, you needn’t trouble yourself any more about my soul; I’ll risk it; you can just attend to your business, and I will to mine, and if I lose my soul, no one will be to blame but myself–certainly not you, for you’ve done all you could.” I went away from that house then with a heavy heart.

I well remember the day of the week, Thursday, about noon, just one week from that very day, when his wife sent for me. When I went to their home I found her in great trouble, and learned that he had had a relapse. I asked if he had expressed a desire to see me. She said “No; he is always saying ‘there is no hope,’ and I cannot bear to have him die in that condition.” I went into the room. He did not speak to me, but I went around to the foot of the bed and looked in his face and said, “Won’t you speak to me?” and at last he fixed that terrible deathly look upon me and said, “Mr. Moody, you need not talk to me any more. It is too late; there is no hope for me now. Go talk to my wife and children; pray for them; but my heart is as hard as the iron in that stove there. When I was sick He came to the door of my heart, and I promised to serve Him, but I broke that promise, and now I must die without Him.” I got down to pray. “You needn’t pray for me,” he said. I prayed, but it seemed as if my prayer went no higher than my head. He lingered till that night, repeating, “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and I am not saved.” There he lay in agony, every few minutes this lamentation breaking from him. Just as the sun was going down behind those Western prairies, his wife leaned over him, and in an almost inaudible voice, he whispered, “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and I am not saved,” and he died.

He had lived a Christless life, he died a Christless death, he was wrapped in a Christless shroud, and he was buried in a Christless grave. Oh, how dark and sad! Dear friends, the harvest is passing; the summer will soon be ended; won’t you let Him redeem you?

– D.L. Moody

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2012 in Evangelism

 

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