Archive | July, 2012

One Verse

30 Jul

Over 7,000 languages are spoken in the world today, but of these, fewer than 500 have complete copies of the Bible available to them.  Over 2,000 do not have a single verse.  This leaves nearly 340,000,000 people worldwide who live daily without the knowledge that God loves them and has made a way for them to be reconciled to Him.  Sadly, 7,000 of these people die each day.

One Verse, a project of The Seed Company, is working to change this through Accelerated Bible Translation… but they need your help!  Visit their website to find more about individual Language Projects and to join as a prayer partner or to help in spreading the news about the impact that God’s Word is having upon those who have received the gift of a Bible translation.  Download the Sacrificial Giving App or track your Sacrifice online and join with others in giving up perks and conveniences like coffee, French fries, or movie tickets for the sake of ending Bible Poverty and ensuring that every language receives the Word of God.  Visit the Resources page and view a video, print a poster, or download a widget for your website.  Want to make your support known?  Why not purchase a One Verse T-Shirt or Bandana to help fund Bible translation while at the same time sharing the need with others?  However you choose to get involved, you’ll be making a difference for those who live each day waiting to hear the news that God loves them!

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Hard Core

27 Jul

Last week, we discussed the difference between “Hard Core and Hard Case” objectors to Christianity.  This week, we’ll be taking a look at the first (and rarest) of those and discussing how to handle the sometimes aggressive situations which can develop when others adamantly oppose our Christian faith.  We’ll examine what provokes such people and consider some ways to maintain a Christian witness without escalating the conflict into an all-out war.

In Matthew 7:6, Jesus says: “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”

I confess that for years I found this passage to be puzzling.  Given the Scripture’s emphasis on the importance of evangelism, it seemed odd that something so apparently anti-evangelism would have come from Christ’s mouth.  It was not until I was sitting in a restaurant, trying to blend into the booth as a very hard core anti-Christian loudly berated my faith that I began to understand.

The friend with whom I was sharing was very quick to explain that she was well-versed in the case against Christ.  She was convinced that anyone with a reasonable amount of intelligence could readily be talked out of Christianity.  Unfortunately, her conversation revealed that she hadn’t actually done her research.  She had spent a great deal of time reading books written in opposition to Jesus, but had never read the Bible or anything else written in favor of the Christian point of view.  Her case was made in complete ignorance of Biblical teaching or traditional Christian theology.  In order to cover for this, she’d change her position a thousand times during a single debate – sometimes being in favor of the very thing which she had adamantly opposed just moments earlier!  It often felt like I was speaking to a moving brick wall with built in cannonade.  Try to expose her error and “Kapow”, you were flat on your back.

It even reached a point where I began to hesitate to pick up her phone calls.  I didn’t want to spend time with her because I knew the only thing that would come of it was further attacks on my faith.  She was not sincerely interested in discussing the case for or against Christianity, but was merely seeking an argument.

It was then that my father sat down with me and had a talk about “casting pearls before swine”.  I had presented the gospel message to my friend and given her a Bible to read as well as access to other information in favor of Christianity.  To continue the pursuit, especially with her expressed disinterest in earnest discussion, was counter-productive and verging on Bible thumping.  It was wasting my time.  And it was wasting hers.

So what was I to do?  In Matthew 17:14-21, a man came to Jesus’ disciples and asked them to cast out the demon which possessed his son.  The disciples were unable to do so and when they asked Jesus why, He replied: “this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

While I don’t believe my friend was demon possessed, I’m not ready to discount the activity of demons when it comes to holding someone in such bondage that they are both unwilling and unable to have a rational, controlled conversation with someone who sees the world from a different angle.  (And yes, there are some Christians who are equally as bound.)  This is what you might call hard-core evangelism and the only way to deal with it is through intense, ongoing prayer.  No fancy arguments or acts of love will win over someone like this;  only the supernatural power of God is capable of doing that.  He must be the One to break down the barriers.

Meanwhile, keeping the conversation from exploding into a profane rant requires a bit of finesse.  Most hard-core anti-Christians have trigger points – those things which bring the Christian faith so much to the forefront that they are incapable of restraining themselves from sharing their thoughts.  In such situations, it pays to learn those trigger points and, when possible, do your best to avoid them.  If that news story about abortion or the Gay Pride parade is going to send your friend, family member, or co-worker into a tirade, have the good sense not to mention it.  If you’ve arranged to get off a bit early to attend a Christian conference, they don’t need to know.  Keep your discussion of religious issues to a minimum.  Live your faith and leave God free to work in their heart.

There will be situations in which a trigger point can’t be avoided without our falling into sin.  In such cases, you will likely have a heads-up about what’s coming.  More often than not, your best bet is to sit and listen.  Hard core anti-Christians are used to those who are Christians attempting to answer each of their questions or rebuff their statements.  These activities only fuel the flames of indignation.  By sitting quietly and hearing what those opposed to our faith have to say, we indicate that their opinion does matter to us.  And by not responding we avoid getting embroiled in a conflict that will yield neither good will nor an honest examination of the case for Christ.  Proverbs 23:9 admonishes, “Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of your words.”  Remember that even our Master kept silent at times.  (Isaiah 53:7; Matthew 26:59-64)

Next week, we’ll be taking a look at “Hard Cases” – those who object to Christianity for genuine moral, ethical, theological, or intellectual reasons.  Meanwhile, feel free to share your own accounts of “Hard Core” evangelism in the comment box below!

“Iffy”

25 Jul

Read: 2 Timothy 3:10-17

“Now behold, today I am going the way of all the earth, and you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one word of all the good words which the LORD your God spoke concerning you has failed; all have been fulfilled for you, not one of them has failed.” – Joshua 23:14

 “Iffy” was a gift to us from our Senate IT guy.  Our fax and copier were dying and the contract would soon run out, so he did some research and purchased us a marvelous all-in-one, multi-function printer.

I freely admit that Iffy and I were enemies from the very beginning.  While the marvelous new machine did everything short of blowing up party balloons, it did not do anything very well.  It had a state of the art speed dial system which might have been useful had it not taken seven steps to use.  It took more time to register print commands than a snail crossing a highway against the wind and when it did register a command, it rarely printed from the paper tray I had told it to.  “Iffy” could collate a document with ease, but did not possess the ability to separate multiple copies of that same document from another.  Most of the parts were made of plastic and the keypad was too small to use with anything short of a needle.  In short, “Iffy’s” functionality was… well, iffy.

I’m willing to admit that “Iffy” did have one particularly useful feature:  it automatically displayed instructions on how to fix whatever its latest malfunction was.  (This was a nice alternative to digging through the abysmal maintenance and usage manual.)  In the end, however, “Iffy” proved himself hardly capable of handling the workload of a small business, much less a U. S. Senate office.

The truth is, some “multi-function” tools just don’t function properly.  Fortunately, God’s Word is an exception.  The Apostle Paul states that, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.”  (2 Timothy 3:16)  And, unlike “Iffy”, we can be guaranteed that not one word of those Scriptures will ever fail!

Thought for the Day:  Are you relying on God’s Word to help you “get the job done”, or does your faith lie elsewhere?

Justice Fellowship

23 Jul

In Exodus 21:23-25 God commands, “But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.”  Surrounded by cultures which thrived on revenge and the escalation of conflict, it was a phenomenal judicial concept – that one who had harmed another was to suffer no more for his crime than its equivalent and that the one who had been harmed should be provided with adequate compensation for their loss.  Yet today, our judicial system frequently fails to provide adequate care and protection both for those whom it incarcerates (many of whom become victims of violence and discrimination while in prison) and those whose lives have been affected by crime.

Justice Fellowship, in association with Prison Fellowship, is committed to advocating for criminal justice reform, helping victims of crime to heal as well as ensuring that those who are incarcerated for their crimes receive care and protection behind bars.   Through their website, you can access information on Criminal Justice in the States, join the fight to ensure that those who are guilty of assaulting and harming fellow prisoners are held accountable for their actions, become an Advocate for Religious Freedom for those who are imprisoned, and provide help and support to those who have become Victims of Crime.  Visit their website to discover even more ways that you can be a voice!

Hard Core or Hard Case?

20 Jul

I looked awkwardly around the restaurant, pleased that it was mostly deserted.  The few customers who were there were staring at our table and I had to admit that I couldn’t blame them: I’d be doing the same if the shoe were on the other foot.  My friend had risen from her seat and in a voice that was far from conversational, was letting me (and everyone within a city block) know exactly how she felt about my Christian faith.

At some point during your evangelism adventures, you’re likely to encounter an adversarial situation.  The person may get angry and start yelling or calling names (as my friend did) or they may simply listen to you and then disdainfully walk away.  They may present you with rapid fire questions and allow you no opportunity to answer any of them or, if they do, may show an unwillingness to actually listen to the answers that you give.  Such people may be hard core anti-Christians (those who are unwilling to examine any evidence in favor of the faith and who are committed to its extermination) or they may simply be hard cases (those whose opposition is rooted in genuine questions and concerns about the faith).  While both may express themselves through similar words and actions, each must be approached differently.  For the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at what it means to be “hard core” or simply a “hard case” and discuss a few methods for defusing conflicts with both.

Before I begin, however, I need to take a moment to differentiate between “hard core” and “hard case”.  It is important to realize that true “hard core” anti-Christians are a rarity, despite their unique ability to attract the attention of the media.  These are people who really mean exactly what they’ve said against the faith and if Jesus Christ, Himself appeared before them, they’d spit in His face.  They may or may not have done their research, but they’re certain that nothing will cause them to ever become a Christian and their aggression towards those who are is truly genuine.  They view Christianity as a threat to a well-ordered and tolerant society or a truly religious society, depending upon which part of the world they hail from.  This doesn’t mean that it’s a waste of time to share the Gospel with them, just that the techniques you use will be a little different.  Our God is big enough to convert even the most adamant of His opposition – just look at the Apostle Paul!

The more common of the two, however, is the “hard case”.  Such people often have sincere intellectual or moral questions about Christianity.  Their belief that these questions cannot be answered may lead to very adamant and direct statements such as, “Even if you could prove to me that it’s true, I will never become a Christian”.  What is usually meant by this is that they genuinely don’t believe that you can provide them with any serious evidence to that end that Christianity is true, not that they actually would reject the faith if such evidence were provided.  Many times, these are the true intellectuals among the “opposition” – they try to think things through and they aren’t going to bite unless a substantial case is made in favor of a given position.

It is also likely that their objections run deeper than what they’re expressing.  They may have had some unpleasant encounters with Christians in the past (face it, some who claim the name of Christ are a bit aggressive, themselves) and may feel awkward around those who appear to have proven themselves incapable of living peaceably with anyone who disagrees with their world view.   “Hard cases” may have grown up in a professing Christian home that failed to live up to the Biblical vision or have “done time” in a church seemed to do more harm than good.  It’s also quite possible that their understanding of Christianity is limited to what they’ve seen on PBS and the evening news – two generally reliable sources.  (It is important to note that such people aren’t getting their information from conspiracy websites.  “Hard cases” are not a part of the lunatic fringe and should never be treated as though they are!)

Taking the time to determine whether your friend, co-worker, or family member is simply “spouting off” or is quite sincere in what they’re expressing is the key to determining whether a person is “hard core” or a “hard case”.  It requires a delicate touch, a loving heart, and an immense amount of prayer!  Next week, we’ll begin taking a look at how to handle “hard core” situations and I’ll be sharing the rest of the story with which this article opened, but for now, feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below!

The Security System

18 Jul

Read: Psalm 20:1-9

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5,6

The excitement in the neighboring office was palpable.  After years in an unsecured building, they were installing a state of the art security system with all of the alarms, bells, and whistles that every government office truly needs.  There was the deadbolt on the glass door (I suppose that they were expecting any would be criminals to think twice before breaking the glass and unlocking the deadbolt) and a film on the windows which would prevent them from shattering if a madman attacked the office with a machine gun.  (I was a little concerned that a bullet could still pass through the window and into the body of someone inside of the office, but at least all would rest in peace in the knowledge that the windows would be fine.)

The crowning jewel, however, was the communications system.  Placed beside the glass door, a com box allowed the Staff Assistant (whose desk was directly behind the glass door) to observe all potential visitors through a video camera which was directly linked to his computer.  (Did I mention that the door was glass… transparent glass?) Not only that, but while looking at the constituent in the monitor behind his desk, rather than through the glass door in front of it, he could pick up the phone attached to the monitor and speak to the person on the other side of the glass door.

I have to confess that there wasn’t anyone in any of our offices who didn’t see the humor in the situation and the Senator’s Staff Assistant was more than willing to admit that he didn’t feel any more secure after the system had been put in place than he had felt before its installation.

Sadly, many people do go through life seeking security in all the wrong places only to find that the measures they’ve taken don’t provide any real defense against the dangers, trials, and frustrations which life inherently holds.  While it may be tempting to cling to only those things which we can see (family, friends, a retirement account, or a good job), Scripture is clear: only the God who loved us enough to die for us is capable of providing us with true security!

Thought for the Day: In what have you placed your trust?

Institute for Creation Research

16 Jul

The book of Genesis forms the foundation for the Christian faith declaring unequivocally that, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”.  God saw that all that He created was “good” and it is into this good creation that God placed man “created in His own image” with all of the faculties of a rational, thinking being.  Scripture also tells us that this good creation did not last for long.  In disobedience, man sinned, bringing death into the world.  It is here, that death (both physically and spiritually) becomes the enemy over which we can triumph only through the blood of Christ.  If this story falls, so does our faith, for it is upon this story that man’s need for atonement is based.

It should come as no surprise then, that one of the most frequently posited questions today is whether science really does support the Biblical account.  While many would argue that it doesn’t, the scientists at the Institute for Creation Research have found more than a few reasons to believe that it does and are actively sharing that evidence through their website.  Here, you can explore the evidence of nature and science, find out more about the Impact that current scientific theories upon the Christian faith, and keep abreast of current research projects through the technical papers which explain their findings.  Stay up to date through Daily Science Updates, subscribe to the free publication “Acts and Facts”, or download free episodes of the ICR radio program.  Then, learn to more effectively share the evidence both for God’s existence and His role as Creator through resources designed especially for students, pastors, leaders, teachers, and fellow scientists.  And don’t forget to visit the store, either:  whatever your interest, you’re sure to find something to meet your needs!

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