Holidays (Other)

The Blessing of Freedom

Originally published April 10, 2008

Have you ever thought about what it’s like to be a Christian in other parts of the world?

Indonesia, Nigeria- Christians are slaughtered for not conforming to Islamic law. In Nigeria, since the year 2000, thousands have been put to death.

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, North Africa, Mauritania, Iran, the Comorros Islands, Sudan- Direct persecution by the state is written into the legal code. Any non-Islamic or dissident Islamic religious expression is forbidden. Any Saudi who seeks to leave Islam faces the strong possibility of execution.

Egypt- The Coptic Church (which is somewhat similar to Catholicism in its roots and practices) has been the target of church burnings and local massacres.

Pakistan- In 1997, the Christian town of Shantinagar, was effectively leveled.

China, Vietnam, Laos, Belarus, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan- Generally, there is freedom to worship in state-controlled religious bodies, but any religious expression outside of these bodies is strenuously controlled or suppressed.

The Roman Catholic Church is outlawed because it accepts the authority of the Pope, who is from outside the country. Priests and bishops have been imprisoned. Hundreds of Protestant leaders of the underground church have been arrested and sentenced to jail and labor camps.

North Korea- Nearly every free exercise of religion is viciously repressed, and thousands of people have been sent labor camps for practicing their faith.

Burma- An organization called the State Law and Order Restoration Council brutally oppresses tribal minorities, which, in large part, are comprised of Christians. Their tactics include: massacre, rape, forced labor, and the use of children to clear minefields.

(Information from: “Insights on Law and Society: A Magazine for Teachers of Civics, Government, History & Law”, Vol. 7.3 (Spring 2007); Published by the American Bar Association)

United States-
Christianity is protected under the Constitution and is the majority religion in this country. We even have the right to legal redress if our religious liberties are infringed upon.

We can worship publicly with no fear of government, military, or other attacks.

We do not have civil rights (such as the right to vote, work, or own property) taken away from us simply because we embrace Christianity.

We have the right to proselytize (as long as we’re not harassing anyone), advertise and spread our religion.

Persecution is usually limited to people hurting our feelings when we witness to them, and social issues that offend our sensibilities.

We have beautiful, comfortable churches (as well as Christian schools, organizations and stores), complete with heat and air conditioning; comfortable pews; nurseries; indoor plumbing; Bibles, music, and materials in our own language; musical instruments; technology; and paid, and frequently seminary-trained, pastors and staff.

So what are we doing with all these blessings? Have we gotten so used to freedom and opportunity that we consider them a birthright rather than a precious gift from God that He has the prerogative to revoke if He chooses? He did it with the Israelites time and time again in the Old Testament: They obeyed God. He blessed them. After a while, they got comfortable with all the blessings and became lazy. They strayed away from God. He gave them over to oppressive rulers. They cried out in repentance. He delivered them and blessed them, and the cycle started all over again.

What will it take to shake us out of our complacency, humble us in gratitude for the opportunities God has given us, and motivate us to use the freedom with which He has blessed us to build His kingdom?

From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.

Luke 12:48b
Basic Training, Bible

Throwback Thursday ~ Basic Training: The Bible Is Our Authority

Originally published February 17, 2017

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.bible-authority

The Bible. Scripture. The Good Book. It used to be so blatantly self-evident that God’s written Word was the foundation and standard for the Christian faith that it was assumed. A given. You learned, “I stand alone on the word of God- the B-I-B-L-E,” when you were three or four years old, you believed it, and you moved on.

But take a look at the Westernized version of Christianity these days. The fruit of abandoning the authority of Scripture is chilling. From the demonic tremoring and barking antics of New Apostolic Reformation “churches” to the rebellion of female “pastors” to the “gay Christian” movement to “Christian” abortion doctors, it’s clear that an astounding number of self-professed Christians and churches don’t submit to Scripture’s mandates for their beliefs and practices.

“Whew,” you might be thinking, “my church and I must be OK. We call homosexuality sin. We’re pro-life. Our pastor is male. And the wildest our congregation gets is when Brother Joe bellows a good, hearty ‘Amen!’ during the sermon.”

Those are all good, biblical things and I don’t want to minimize them. But is it good enough? Are there other, more subtle ways you or your church aren’t submitting to the authority of Scripture? And what does it mean that the Bible is our authority, anyway?

Have you ever played Monopoly? If you have, you know that you’re supposed to use a Monopoly board, two dice, the and the game pieces and Chance and Community Chest cards that come with the game. You also know that there is a standard set of Monopoly rules that are supposed to be followed.

monopoly-1356307_640Suppose a friend invited you to play Monopoly but wanted to use a checker board instead of a Monopoly board. Or wanted to create a new rule that you would get $500 for passing Go instead of $200. Or that you could get out of jail without rolling doubles.

Monopoly was created in 1903 by a lady named Elizabeth J. Magie Phillips. Magie created the game to teach people the consequences of having large or valuable tracts of land controlled by private monopolies¹. Each piece of the game and each rule was created with that teaching goal in mind. To alter the rules of the game is to, at best, be out of alignment with Magie’s intentions and purposes, and, at worst, to not be playing Monopoly at all. If you want to truly play Monopoly, learn the fullest extent of the lesson Magie was trying to teach, and respect Magie as the creator of the game, you’ve got to play by her rules. All of them. Even the ones you don’t like or particularly understand.

Many of the same principles apply to Christianity. God set Christianity up a certain way with His own intentions and purposes. If we alter His rules, we’re, at best, not lined up with those intentions and purposes, and, at worst, not practicing Christianity at all. If we really want to honor God, grow in Christ to the greatest extent and truly be practicing biblical Christianity, we’ve got to play by His rules. All of them. Even the ones we don’t particularly like or understand.

But what many Christians are doing today is taking their “Monopoly game” of Christianity and assuming it’s for their own entertainment, better quality of life, or positive feelings. And because they’re largely ignorant of the Creator of the “game” and His purposes and intentions behind said game, the players start tossing out His rules whenever those rules don’t fit the purposes and intentions of the players.

God created you and me and the world and Christianity and the church for His glory. He gets to make the rules. We follow the rule book (the Bible), not because those rules will make us personally happy or successful, but – simply and ultimately – because they are given by God and glorify Him. What He says goes, and we honor Him by our obedience. We need to remember that our role in the game is player, not Creator. Players submit to the authority of the Creator.

When the Creator says…
I created the world in six literal days and here’s how I did it, we don’t dishonor His word by trying to cram evolution in there and make it fit. We believe Him, and we teach what His word says.

When the Creator says…
Ladies, I don’t want you to preach, teach Scripture to men, or hold authority over men in the church, we don’t search for loopholes. We search for ways we can humble ourselves and serve God in ways that please Him, not ourselves.

When the Creator says…
Here’s how I want you to pray, we repent of using unbiblical prayer methods such as private prayer languages and contemplative prayer, and we pray the way God wants us to pray.

When the Creator says…
Pastor, I want you to preach the Word, that means pastors preach rightly handled, in context Scripture- not a stand up comedy routine, not the storyline of the latest blockbuster movie, not a half hour of jokes and personal anecdotes, not their own opinions and self-styled doctrines.

When the Creator says…
I want you to stay away from people who teach false doctrine, it doesn’t matter how much we like that teacher, how good she makes us feel, how much we think she’s helping us in our walk with the Lord, or that we’d rather “chew up the meat and spit out the bones.” We reject her, and her teaching, and listen to those who teach sound biblical doctrine instead.

We bow the knee to what God’s word says. Period.

Ladies, if you don’t want to cripple your growth in Christ, one of the worst phrases you can utter about Christian beliefs and practices is, “Well, I just think…” followed by your own personal feelings or opinions. You don’t write the rules.

The Bible says:

You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. 
1 Corinthians 6:19b-20a

…you…have become slaves of God…
Romans 6:22

If you’re a genuinely regenerated believer, you are the slave of Christ. That means you don’t get to hold, or live by, your own feelings or opinions any more. That’s what lost people do. You are only entitled to God’s opinions as set down in His written Word. Your opinions don’t matter.

mozart

When it comes to Christian beliefs and practices, your experiences don’t matter either. It doesn’t matter what kind of so-called supernatural experience you had where you babbled incoherently or “heard God speak” or saw a “vision” or whatever. If your interpretation of your experience conflicts with the written word of God, your interpretation of your experience is wrong. Something may have happened, but it wasn’t God. (And if something supernatural happened and the Bible says God doesn’t work that way, there’s only one other option.)

When you decide what you’re going to believe and do based on your own opinions, feelings, and subjective personal experiences rather than the written word of God, what you’re doing is saying, “I know better than the almighty, all-knowing God of the universe.” You’re setting yourself up as judge over Scripture. You’re in charge, not God. Doesn’t sound much like a slave, does it?

That’s because Scripture says those who truly belong to Christ will have a heart to keep His word. We will stumble and fall along the way. We will sometimes mistakenly believe things we shouldn’t. But one of the hallmarks of a Christian is that she loves and strives to obey God’s word. Because, as Christians, the Bible is our authority.

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Additional Resources

What does it mean that the Bible should be our sole authority for faith and practice? at Got Questions

For the Authority of Scripture by Dr. John MacArthur

Divine Authorship and Authority at Ligonier

The Authority of the Bible by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Bad Fruit, Diseased Trees, and the Authority of God’s Word


¹Monopoly (game), Early History, Wikipedia, February 16, 2017
²Amadeus photo and quote courtesy of Orion Pictures, Amadeus1984.

Apologetics

Throwback Thursday ~ There’s No Such Thing as an Atheist ~ The Final Chapter

Originally published March 20, 2009

There’s No Such Thing as an Atheist  Part 1  Part 2

So, if our minds know God exists, and our hearts know God exists, where does that leave the so-called atheist or agnostic?

Well, like I said before, there’s no such thing as an atheist, only a rebellious human being.

If a person knows God exists, as we all do, and yet refuses to acknowledge Him or submit to His authority, he is by definition, rebelling against God. The Bible describes it this way:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness…….For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened…….For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. Romans 1:18, 21, 25

This refusal to acknowledge the truth about God will not last forever, though. As my husband puts it, everyone is either a member of the “Believers club” or the “future believers club”.

so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:10-11

The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God ” Psalm 14:1a

Considering that we know God exists and that we will all have to acknowledge that one day anyway, atheism and agnosticism are foolish belief systems.

Apologetics

Throwback Thursday ~ There’s No Such Thing as an Atheist~ Part 2: The Tell-Tale Heart

Originally published March 17, 2009

There’s No Such Thing as an Atheist Part 1  Part 3

 

Another way that we instinctively know God exists is the pre-programming of our hearts. Just as some computers are sold with certain software already installed, we come with the software of God’s law already installed in our hearts:

For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, Romans 2:14-15

It’s called a conscience, and we’re all born with one, whether we’re raised in any particular religion or not. We know when we’ve messed up. How do we know? We feel guilty or ashamed.

Somehow, guilt has gotten a bad rap these days. Don’t believe the hype. Guilt is good; a gift of God, even. Not long ago, I heard a popular television preacher telling the thousands of people in his church that, “God doesn’t want us to feel guilty.” While it’s true that a Christian need not be plagued by feelings of guilt over things for which he has already asked and received God’s forgiveness, initially, when we do wrong, we most certainly should feel guilty.

God has lovingly designed us with a sense of guilt and shame in order to draw us to Him. Guilt is to our relationship with Christ what a toothache is to our relationship with the dentist. The toothache tells us something is wrong with a tooth, it needs to be fixed, and we’d better get to the person that is qualified to fix it right now. If no one ever felt guilty, no one would ever see his need for salvation and turn to Christ in repentance, without which, salvation does not take place.

So, how do we make the connection between our conscience and the God who created it? How does our having a conscience prove that God exists? Well, it does require some introspection, but for anyone who will take a few minutes to sit down and think about why he feels guilty over his wrongdoing, the answer will become apparent.

We know that feelings of guilt and shame do not stem only from participating in criminal activities. Most of us are law-abiding citizens, and yet we have still felt guilt over wrongdoing which may have been perfectly legal. Ironically, by the time someone commits an actual crime, he may have suppressed his conscience so many times that it has become seared and he does not experience feelings of guilt for what he has done.

Alright, if we’re not breaking the law and still feel guilty over some particular behavior, could it be that we feel guilty because we’re hurting someone? Well, generally speaking, we certainly should feel guilty if we hurt someone’s feelings or reputation, or if we disappoint or betray them. But, how would that explain our feelings of guilt over things that have no apparent effect on others, or that no one knows about? What about that piece of gum you stole from the store as a kid? How about that test you cheated on in college?

“Wait,” you may say, “the kid stealing the candy and the student cheating on the test aren’t feeling guilty, they’re feeling afraid that they’ll be caught and will have to suffer the consequences.” True, guilt and fear of being caught usually go hand in hand, but they are definitely two separate feelings. We know this because we can feel fearful of consequences for performing actions we know to be right. Ask any good Samaritan who helps someone despite the fact he knows he might be sued later, or a missionary who knows he may be harmed if he shares the gospel, or a German who hid Jews from the Nazis during World War II. Fear of getting caught and guilt over wrongdoing are two different things.

So what other explanation could there be for the guilt we feel over our wrongdoing which is not breaking the law, not hurting anyone, and which no one else will ever know about?

because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. Romans 1:19

Our hearts know, even if we don’t want it to be true, that there is a God.

Apologetics

Throwback Thursday ~ There’s No Such Thing as an Atheist Part 1: The Battlefield of the Mind

Originally published March 12, 2009

There’s No Such Thing as an Atheist Part 2  Part 3

There’s no such thing as an atheist. Or even an agnostic, for that matter.

An atheist is someone who says there is no God. An agnostic is someone who says we don’t or can’t know whether or not there is a God.

I recently heard someone say that there are no atheists, only rebellious people. The more I think about that statement, the truer it rings. Why? Because it is impossible not to know there is a God.

It first enters our consciousness that there is a God when we simply look around at our surroundings. The Bible says:

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. Romans 1:20

All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. John 1:3

It’s as simple as looking around and saying, “Wow. Look at all this stuff. How’d it all get here?”

The other day, I was involved in a discussion with a non-Christian who was wondering how anyone could possibly disbelieve evolution. Laying aside all the details, I believe the thing that most bothers many Christians about the philosophy behind the theory of evolution as well as the Big Bang theory is that, in many cases, these theories are not an attempt to describe how God might have created the universe, but how the universe might have come into being without God.

It couldn’t have. There’s no way.

We know this, not only through the attributes of the things we’re observing – that the botany, biology, chemistry, astronomy, physics, etc., of Earth work too well together and are too intricate and complex to have happened by mere accident or coincidence – but also in the way we think about the things we’re observing.

Have you ever looked at anything – your car, your dishwasher, your computer, your favorite painting – wondered about its origins, and come to the conclusion that it simply materialized of its own volition out of thin air? Of course, you haven’t. We don’t think that way because that goes against every iota of life experience we’ve ever had. If we see an object, we know someone made it. Our experience feeds the logical way we think about this relationship between an object and its maker.

In addition to the overwhelming scientific evidence and intricacies, and our life experience which God has provided to show us that He made this place, Romans 1:20 (above) tells us that the design of our brains is pre-programmed to make the connection between creation and Creator. We could not be “without excuse” if we were intellectually incapable of comprehending the relationship between the two, nor if we had not been created to think logically and rationally, deducing conclusions from the evidence available to us.

Our minds bear witness to the existence of God, in that:

  • since there is such an intricately detailed, well designed creation, it must have been made by an intelligent, powerful Being.
  • all of our life experiences lead us to the conclusion that if something exists, someone made it.
  • our minds think logically and deduce conclusions from the evidence we observe.
  • we have intelligence and are able to comprehend the relationship between a creation and its creator.