Friday, December 29, 2006

Christmas Cards

One of the pleasant cultural events of Christmas is receiving Christmas cards. We read the short notes of many friends and relatives. The cards are colorful. For years, we used them as a special part of our Christmas decorations. We would hang them on the wall on a string near the ceiling that circled our living room.

Each year we receive fewer cards. I assume it if for several reasons.

1. The sender has died or has become too old to bother.
2. The sender has not heard from us.
3. The sender has replaced the card with a Xeroxed family letter (good, but not as colorful).
4. The sender has replaced the card with an e-mail Christmas letter. Good!
5. Postage is too expensive, so are the cards.
6. This is great! The sender sends full color pictures of his family.

However, I have another point. Collectively, the cards are colorful. Individually (except for the personal note) many are awful, banal, or just plain wrong.

I have in front of me two Christmas cards. One of them has three wise men following the star which is over Bethlehem. Between them and Bethlehem is a river with two sail boats on it. There is no river in the 6 miles between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The western style sailboats are also incongruous. The wise men are wearing turbans. This particular Bethlehem has three minarets and five mosques. The other card is a picture of the shepherds gazing at a blinding light. Bethlehem is in the near distance. You can tell it is Bethlehem because of the buildings. It looks like two minarets and two mosques. These are not Santa Claus Christmas cards. They are cards for Christians, for believers.

“Minaret: a slender, lofty tower attached to a mosque and surrounded by one or more projecting balconies from which the summons to prayer is cried by the muezzin.” This is Muslim architecture and practice. The Muezzin gives this call to prayer five times a day. Jesus was born 600 years before Islam was founded. Very likely, there are minarets in Bethlehem today because it is in the Palestinian West Bank. However, there were no mosques or minarets in Bethlehem when Jesus was born as there were no church buildings. I have been looking at these kinds of Christmas cards for well over sixty years. If anyone made a picture of Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth with pictures of white painted steepled churches or of gothic cathedrals there would be all kinds of objections.

There could well have been a synagogue.

“Turban: a headdress worn chiefly in countries of the eastern Mediterranean and southern Asia especially by Muslims and made of a cap which is wound by a long cloth.”

Our “Christian” Christmas cards imply, or allow an inferance that Islam was the dominant religion at the time of Jesus’ birth. See Roots from Dec. 12, 2006 on the Koran and the Bible.

I have no objection if this Roots gets a wide distribution.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Contempt for Kindness

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? (Romans 2:4 NIV)

Here we see a funny confrontation: contempt for kindness. The requirement of God that man should repent is seldom regarded by man as an act of kindness of God. Yet it is! The next sentence tells us that “your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart” are the means of “storing up wrath against yourself.”

In ministering the Good News with love and kindness, occasionally we run into contempt and stubbornness.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Love and Obedience

The Bible speaks of the church as the Bride of Christ. We in the church, both male and female, are part of the Bride of Christ. The church is feminine; Christ is masculine. A bride’s love for her husband is a responsive love. The love of a man for a woman is an originating love. She loves because he first loved her. The more he loves her, the more she loves him. The less he loves, the less she loves.
Let’s look at 1 John 4:19 (KJV):

We love Him, because He first loved us.

Make a study from the Bible on how much God loved, and how much He loved and loves us. Keep this study going. You will find your love for Him growing. You will find obedience growing too.

God’s love for us is sacrificial. Our responsive love for Him is obedience.

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. (Ephesians 5:22-24 NIV)

These are unconditional imperatives to wives and husbands. We could get hung up on the imperatives. If so, we miss the model, the example.

The examples are 1) “as the church submits to Christ,” and 2) “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleaning her by the washing with water through the word and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”

This love the bride responds to.

Dwell on it.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Impatience

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1, 2 NIV)

Living a life of love would mean knowing what love is and knowing how Jesus expressed that love. Let me point to one aspect of this love. It is a small but important part of love.
Love is patient… (1 Corinthians 13:4 NIV)

Patience is the first mentioned characteristic of love. We are told to be imitators of God. Then Jesus must be an example of patience, for we imitate examples.
But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:16 NIV)

Love is kind… (1 Corinthians 13:4 NIV)

Kindness is the second characteristic of love.
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. (Titus 3:4 NIV)

Unlimited patience and kindness both result in mercy. They are seen together in Romans 2:4:

Do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? (NIV)

If we are impatient with wives or husbands, children, fellow workers and even to the unconverted, we are not living a life of love.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Loving God

Recently I received a letter asking for help with getting rid of bitterness. The correspondent was so bitter that he admitted that he could not do the will of God. I answered the letter with the help he needed and wanted. However, there was something else in the letter that was a contradiction. He said that he believed in and loved Jesus. I am sure he thought so, but he did not love Jesus by Jesus’ definition.

If you love me, you will obey what I command. (John 14:15 NIV)

Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” (John 14:23, 24 NIV)

If he loved Jesus he would have obeyed Jesus. He said that he could not do the will of God.

If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:20, 21 NIV)

If he loved God he would love his brother. But he is bitter! He does not love God for two reasons:

1. He does not obey God.
2. He does not love his brother.

We should spend more time singing “Jesus Loves Me” and less time singing “O How I Love Jesus.”

Let us think, talk, sing and act biblically.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

One Another

...serve one another in love. (Galatians 5:13 NIV)

One another—that means both ways. I serve you in love, and you serve me in love. It is a two-way give, not a one-way take. Two verses later, Paul tells us that there is another kind of two-way practice:

If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. (Galatians 5:15 NIV)

Have you ever seen two people “bite and devour” each other? They might even be married. They destroy each other! Immediately after this in the chapter is the awful description of the works of the flesh and the lovely description of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-25). Then we find another two-way teaching:

Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Galatians 5:26 NIV)
And in chapter 6, verse 2 there is a strong command:

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2 NIV)

Here, then, are the choices:

1. You bite and devour me and I bite and devour you. You provoke and envy me and I provoke and envy you, or
2. I serve you in love and you serve me in love. I carry your burdens and you carry mine.

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:19, 20 NIV)

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Unselfish Love

On the surface there seems to be some difference in the following texts on love.

1. “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15-17 NIV)

2. “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5 NIV)

3. “But I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” (Matthew 5:44-46 NIV)

4. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 NIV)

Why and what is the difference? The first two texts are selfish, and the last two are like God—unselfish.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Love and Discernment

"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ." Philippians 1:9,10

In 1 Corinthians 8 Paul writes of knowledge without love. Here it is suggested that it is possible to have love without knowledge. Paul here assumes that love is normal in the believers. He prays that this love might abound more and more. He also prays that this love be accompanied with knowledge and all discernment.

There seems to be two reasons for this discerning love: 1)so that we may approve what is excellent. If we have love without discernment, we may end up approving things we should not approve; and 2)so that we may be pure and blameless. These two reasons may be close together. If we approve what we should not approve, we will not be blameless.

One of the reasons that love sometimes occurs without discernment is because love does not have a precise, sharp definition in the minds of those doing the loving. Discernment might mean seeing things which are not pleasant nor approved. Discernment might mean disapproving. "Love" to many people does not allow for disapproving. Love becomes gooey and sweet and consequently, sticky and messy.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian, by Jim Wilson)

Monday, December 18, 2006

Holy Spirit and the Quality of Life

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” Galatians 5:22-24

The Holy Spirit gives us a new character. It is just like the character of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Love Your Enemies

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” John 14:15

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:27-36

Are there commands in verses 27-31 and 35?

Have you obeyed them?

If not, confess the disobedience.

Obey them.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Turn Away

“Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” 2 Timothy 2:19

These two statements seem super obvious. Of course, God knows those who belong to Him, and these same people, who belong to Him, must turn away from wickedness.

These are basic truths.

This is God’s foundation, immovable, and these two sentences are inscribed on, and seal that foundation.

The first sentence is an indicative statement. It is just so. The second sentence is an imperative statement that is laid on those who confess His name.

Much of my life is made up of those who confess the Name but who do not turn away from wickedness.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Read the New Testament in 67 Days

There are many Christians who read the Scriptures sporadically in time and place. In other words, they read the Scriptures “now and then” and “here and there.” They gravitate to their favorite chapters. If asked the last time they had read the New Testament through, they would not be sure they had ever had read it through. Consequently there is an appalling ignorance of God’s Word in the body of Christ, and a consequent lack of obedience. Listening to the best Bible teachers in the world will not make up for the personal ignorance of the individual.

First, the genealogies in the New Testament take up less than two chapters total in Matthew and Luke. If they are a problem to you, skip them. Then go back over then separately; it will only take five minutes. They are important or they would not be there. However, they are not intended to stop you from reading the rest of the New Testament.

Second, when you read, do not stop for hard to understand passages; keep reading. They will make more sense because you kept reading. They will make even more sense the second time through.

Third, if you think the Bible is dull reading, start with exciting parts like Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.

Fourth, if you are a slow reader (150 words a minute), the whole Bible would take only 80 hours of reading. The reason it takes so long is the days, weeks, or months you do not read from it at all. You can get the whole Bible read out loud on 48 tapes.

Fifth, a schedule may help some of you. If you read four chapters each day, only Matthew and Acts would take a week to read. All of the rest (25 books) would take less than a week, and of those, 17 have from one to six chapters each, so you would finish reading each in a maximum of one and a half days.

The object is to know God and obey Him more and more. The object is not to finish so you can say, “I finish.” You cannot say that you know what God wants from you without knowing all His revelation and knowing His revelation will.

The New Testament—Four Chapters a Day

Name of Book No. of Chapters No. of Days

Matthew 28 7
Mark 16 4
Luke 24 6
John 21 5
Acts 28 7
Romans 16 4
1 Corinthians 16 4
2 Corinthians 13 3
Galatians 6 1.5
Ephesians 6 1.5
Philippians 4 1
Colossians 4 1
1 Thessalonians 5 1
2 Thessalonians 3 1
1 Timothy 6 1.5
2 Timothy 4 1
Titus 3 1
Philemon 1 1
Hebrews 13 3
James 5 1
1 Peter 5 1
2 Peter 3 1
1 John 5 1
2 John 1 1
3 John 1 1
Jude 1 1
Revelation 22 5.5

Total Days to finish New Testament 67

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Koran and the Bible

There is a more important difference between Christians and Radical Islamists than peace and Jihad.

The difference centers around Jesus, who He is and why He came to this earth.

Jesus lived about 33 years. The four Gospels record about 45 different days of those years. In the 89 chapters of the Gospels that record these forty-five days, 40 of those chapters are on the last six days of His life and another five days that cover His resurrection, appearances, and His ascension into Heaven. Almost half of the four biographies cover the week of His death and resurrection.

In the 230 remaining chapters of the New Testament, every single chapter speaks of or assumes Jesus’ deity, His death, and resurrection.

In other words, the New Testament is about nothing else.

The Koran speaks of the Injil, the New Testament as an inspired book. However, Muslims think that it has been changed by the Christians who added these verses of His deity, death, resurrection, and forgiveness because of this expression of love for sinners.

Here are a few verses from the New Testament.

“If you are the Christ," they said, "tell us." Jesus answered, "If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer. But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God." They all asked, "Are you then the Son of God?" He replied, "You are right in saying I am.” Luke 22:67-70

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:6

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

“He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” Romans 4:25

“He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Luke 24:46, 47

Muslims think that the New Testament contains some of the original Injil but the original has been lost. Mohammed memorized what is now the Koran in the 7th century A.D. It was later written down. Here are statements from the Koran. I have them in Arabic form if you would like to see them.

“The Jews call ‘Uzair a son of Allah, and the Christians Call Christ the Son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouth; (In this) they but imitate What the Unbelievers of old Used to say. Allah’s curse Be on them: how they are deluded By Allah and His Messenger, Nor acknowledge the Religion Of Truth, from among The People of the Book, Until they pay the Jizya With willing submission, And feel themselves subdued.” Surah 9:30

“They disbelieved indeed Those that say That Allah is Christ The son of Mary Say: “Who then Hath the least power Against Allah, if His will Were to destroy Christ The son of Mary, his mother, And all-every one That is on the earth? For to Allah belongeth The dominion of the heavens And the earth, and all That is between. He createth What He pleaseth. For Allah Hath power over all things.” Surah 5:17

“Christ the son of Mary Was no more than A Messenger; many were The Messengers that passed away Before him. His mother Was a woman of truth. They had both to eat Their (daily) food. See how Allah doth make His Signs clear to them; Yet see in what ways They are deluded Away from the truth!” Surah 5:75

“That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus The son of Mary, The Messenger of Allah”:--But they killed him not, Nor crucified him. Only a likeness of that Was shown to them. And those who differ Therein are full of doubts, With no (certain) knowledge. But only conjecture to follow, For of a surety They killed him not:” Surah 4:157

The Jesus of the Bible is not the Jesus of the Koran. They cannot both be true. If the Koran is not true then Mohammed is a false prophet and all Muslims are followers of a false prophet.

If you have not read the New Testament there will be a guide on the next Roots by the River to help and encourage you.

How to Read the New Testament in 67 days.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

More Gray Eyes

In the last week I have encountered more gray eyes, all in fiction. You may think that all I do is read fiction. The truth is gray eyes are everywhere. Here they are. This is the best one from an O. Henry short story.

“Had a poet been inspired to pen just similes concerning her favor, he would have likened her full, clear eyes, with their white encircled, gray irises, to moonflowers.”

The next best.

“Under the dark brim her hair, face and eyes were of a uniform grayish tint” Patricia Wentworth, murder mystery. The same eyes in the next two pages were “The light colorless eyes stared back straining” and “She fixed her light wild eyes on…”

The next is from a western by BM Bower “A little ginger-whiskered man with cold gray-eyes.”

Authors must be reading each other’s books to be encouraged to find things which are not real.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Don't Rock the Boat

Hardly a week goes by when I hear or read something on/in the “News” that sounds like this.

“___________ will not be allowed in this school or park, because “this minority has taken offense” or “we think that someone might be offended.”

Just the anticipation that someone might be offended immobilizes any action be taken that otherwise might be taken.

People have figured out that if they yell or complain they will get their own way.

It is a means of blackmail by threat.

A few years ago a Christian Publishing house was being sued by a church. I talked with the leaders of the local church that they should not do this based upon 1 Corinthians 6:4-8.

“Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother goes to law against another—and this in front of unbelievers! The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers.” 1 Corinthians 6:4-8

Not only would they continue their suit but they would sue the publishing house in every city and town in the country. As I understood it the publishing house settled out of court because they could not afford to defend against that many lawsuits.

This kind of pressure and threat is a temptation for Christians to be quiet, anemic, beige “don’t rock the boat”, too polite, and compromising.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Politeness

Politeness, Political Correctness and Relational Communication have something positive in common. They are surface attempts with words to be friendly, not to cause offense to be taken, and to avoid confrontation. Aren’t these good traits? Yes, I said that they were positive. I also said that they were surface attempts. They are mechanics. Teaching the little boy to say, “Thank you” is not the same as teaching thankfulness to the little boy. Certainly, things are more pleasant in a polite society.

I was taught politeness as a little boy. Then I was really taught it when I was a midshipman at the Naval Academy. I was being trained to be an officer and a gentleman. I found out that politeness worked, standing when ladies came into the room, opening car doors for the ladies, etc.

I found these positive mechanics were not the outward expression of the heart. They did not express kindness, love or patience. In many cases they hid or covered up unkindness, unlove and impatience.

Isn’t that better than expressing unkindness? My temptation is to say, “Yes.” But it is a temptation from the enemy. Why must I choose the lesser of two evils when I have a clear command?

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

Friday, December 01, 2006

Jesus Was Not Polite

Many years ago, after an eight week course of practical Christianity, three hours a day, five days a week I suspected that one of the students had not learned much of practical Christianity. She had come from a Christian home, grew up in good churches, Christian education including a degree from a famous Christian College. For years I had listened to people’s awful stories. I thought and they thought that I could not give a Biblical solution unless I understood all of the awful mess. One day I realized that I was giving the same solution regardless of what the story was. I did not need to listen to the stories. I also narrowed down to two of the causes that were common in all of these stories.

1. It had been a long time since the person had read all of the New Testament.
2. The person had one awful, distorted or truncated view of God, very different from the right catechism answer. They had Satan’s caricature of God. It was one awful lie.

I began to ask for the person’s gut view of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I could write a book of the awful answers I have gotten to these questions. In summary, Jesus normally ends up with as much character as the Father.

Well, I asked this young woman these questions.

How long has it been since you have read all of the New Testament?

Her answer was, “All of it?”

Then I asked her of her gut view of God, the Father.

She gave a surprisingly good answer. When I asked her of her gut view of Jesus her answer was something like this, “Jesus was supposed to have died for our sins, but I don’t think He was very polite.”

I did not know why the answer shook me, because I already knew He was not very polite. Why did it bother me? It bothered me because she thought that politeness was the highest virtue. If Jesus was not polite then He was not sinless and could not have died for our sins. Politeness to her was more important than anything else.

Since that event more than twenty years ago I have seen and sensed that belief in many Christians. It colors all of their communication. The gospel is avoided or sanctified so that there is no chance of anyone taking offense. And these Christians think it is a virtue. It really is the enemy of truth.

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:15

Notice that we are to speak the truth in love. It does not say “speak the truth in politeness.” They are not the same for three reasons.

1. politeness is not a synonym for truth
2. politeness almost always leaves out the truth
3. sometimes politeness inserts a lie