Is Jesus The Good News Islam Is Looking For?

A couple of weeks ago at church I told Paul I would go to a Perspectives class. He had been trying to get me to check out a class for several years but this time it was different. Something was stirring in my heart about the Perspectives class and I did not know why. He said that the next class was on Wednesday and the subject was Christian evangelism of Muslim people. Coincidentally later that day I read a Donald Sensing post, Who says there’s no good news about Islam? In that post he referenced an article he had recently seen, Islam is the FASTEST DYING RELIGION in the world, which said:

According to Shaykh Ahmed Katani, in Africa, 6 million Muslims convert to Christianity every year:

Islam used to represent, as you previously mentioned, Africa’s main religion and there were 30 African languages that used to be written in Arabic script. The number of Muslims in Africa [a land of 1 billion] has diminished to 316 million, half of whom are Arabs in North Africa…In every hour, 667 Muslims convert to Christianity. Everyday, 16,000 Muslims convert to Christianity. Ever year, 6 million Muslims convert to Christianity. These numbers are very large indeed. …

I must admit that I was surprised. I thought it was a fatal mistake for a Muslim to convert to another religion. I was intrigued. Why were Muslims in Africa converting to Christianity?

The answer was found early in the Perspectives class. Muslims can study the story of Jesus because it is part of the Qur’an and they seemed to have little problem with the Christian concept of the trinity, the Father(God), the Son(Jesus) and the Holy Spirit. I found out that as they learned about Jesus it was a remarkably easy transition from a Muslim curious about Jesus, to a practicing Muslim who believed in Jesus, and finally to a Christian. The farther they are away from Mecca and Wahhabism, the easier the transition. I think Muslims have always been open to a God that loved them and through Jesus they found the door.

The real interesting question is whether the violence associated with Islamic terrorists is working against Islam. It is one thing for Dr. Craig to make the philosophical argument that “Islam has a morally deficient concept of God” and quite another to see Muslims turn their back on Islam because religious violence is so much harder to control than cultural violence. There is no room for peace with religious violence. Islam needs a Jesus story to make the concept of a moderate Muslim and peaceful coexistence a reality. Jesus is the good news Islam was looking for.

Would Pope Francis Ever Pray That The Middle Class Be More Prosperous?

There is nothing that tells me a politician or a pope does not care about the problems facing the middle class than when they start talking about climate change or income inequality. That got me to thinking what would Pope Francis say to Dave Ramsey or the author of Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments for Making Money, Rabbi Lampin. So while Pope Francis’s stinging criticism of capitalism might be appropriate for the world’s dysfunctional child, Argentina, the middle class in America is facing adult problems like getting good paying jobs, saving enough money for retirement, and overcoming the increasingly dysfunctional government attempts at wealth re-distribution. In my world Mr. Ramsey or Mr. Lampin are probably better suited for financial and moral advice. This reminds me of Luke 12:48 which says,

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Much has been given to the United States and regardless of how you parse the poverty numbers the poor in the United States are better off than most of the world. If Pope Francis cares for both the poor and the middle class then a prayer for prosperity is an inclusive way for him to recognize that he is not in Argentina any more and that the stinging criticism of capitalism was not the best way to fill the church pews in a country that is pretty proud of their accomplishments for the poor.

What Would Paul Do?

Since I believe that the attack on Phil Robertson was primarily about the media’s distaste for Paul’s message about sin in 1st Corinthians I asked the rhetorical question, What would Paul Do? Discussing homosexuality is a tough subject but I doubt Paul would shy from the task at hand. He died as a martyr for his faith. I believe that Paul sensed that there were some “homosexual offender problems” in the church of Corinth because the NIV and NKJV translations say so in pretty definite terms. Churches seek out the broken and those overwhelmed with guilt so why is anyone surprised if a church seems to get more than its fair share of adulterers, prostitutes, drug addicts, drunkards, and people with homosexual issues. The Message and Voice interpretations of this chapter focus more on sin and less on naming names. In the context of that time in history I don’t know what homosexual offender means.  Although we are probably more tolerant to homosexual lifestyles than at any time in history, we still have homosexual problems that need to be addressed. Some of the problems are pretty complicated and uncomfortable. Was Ted Haggard a heterosexual with a homosexual obsession? On the other hand New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s wife is complicated and comfortable with her past. She is a former lesbian who is happily married. There is probably something a church leader can learn from her.

Phil Robertson and 1st Corinthians

Everybody is talking about what Phil Robertson said in the GQ interview, What the Duck? Various newscasters have described his comments as crude, rude, and flat out wrong. Their comments sounded so politically correct, I had to look for myself. Our newscasters are pretty low on my integrity list ever since they looked the other way when Martin Bashir suggested that Sarah Palin “truly qualified for a dose of discipline from Thomas Thistlewood”. Martin Bashir made this now infamous defecation in her mouth remark in response to her comments about our current federal debt policies. If we look at Martin’s comments in its entirety he used most of his words to attack Sarah Palin as “America’s resident dunce” rather than to substantiate his position of why he thinks her statements on federal debt are wrong or dumb. His use of an anecdotal story of slavery in 1756 is not much of an argument for or against current federal debt policies in 2013. Under the guise of journalism he deliberately wandered off the subject to make a malicious personal attack. If Martin Bashir gets lax treatment from his peers for his remarks then Phil must of said something really vile.

So with the journalism bar set so low, what did Phil say in the GQ interview? Here is the Corinthians related quote from the GQ interview that got me speed reading Corinthians on Friday night.

“Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong,” he says. “Sin becomes fine.”

What, in your mind, is sinful?

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers””they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

During Phil’s darkest days, in the early 1970s, he had to flee the state of Arkansas after he badly beat up a bar owner and the guy’s wife. Kay Robertson persuaded the bar owner not to press charges in exchange for most of the Robertsons’ life savings. (“A hefty price,” he notes in his memoir.) I ask Phil if he ever repented for that, as he wants America to repent””if he ever tracked down the bar owner and his wife to apologize for the assault. He shakes his head.

“I didn’t dredge anything back up. I just put it behind me.”

These quotes sound very familiar to the argument that the Apostle Paul was making to the Corinthians. From the introduction to 1st Corinthians in the NIV Study Bible, we can see that the purpose of Paul’s visit was that “some of those who had come had brought disturbing information concerning moral irregularities in the church”. So Paul writes a letter to the Corinthians to help get them back on track with God. In chapter 6 he argues that the arbitrary judging of others was doing serious harm to the fledgling church and reminds them that judging others is God’s job. Then Paul gives them a laundry list of sinful behavior in which neither “the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God”. He follows this up with the reminder that although “Everything is permissible for me but not everything is beneficial”. This sounds like pretty good practical advice to a group of people struggling with at least eight morality issues. When we look at what Phil and Drew said in the article, you have to say that their comments are very close to what the Apostle Paul told the Corinthians. Unlike the comments made by Martin Bashir, Drew and Phil’s comments were neither personal or malicious attacks on some person or group and were on target with Paul’s message. When you read the story about Phil’s darkest days in the early 1970s, they chose to highlight the difficulty Phil had with seeking repentance. To me this part of the interview sounded like a mini sermon on the challenges of applying Paul’s message to a real world situation. So when did Paul’s hopeful message to the Corinthians of God’s grace and repentance get transformed by our media into a homophobic rant? If Phil is just the messenger then the ire of our newscasters is actually a thinly veiled, theological criticism of Paul’s message. This group that quickly criticized Phil is the same group that struggled mightily to condemn Martin Bashir’s journalism as slander. As Phil said, “Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong.” If Paul was still alive, what would Paul do?

Changing of the Guard

We have a new senior pastor at church so it is time to reflect on servant evangelism again. It has been our thing for the last twenty years. So as we embark on this journey of saying we are changing but not really changing, here are some words from Donald Sensing to keep in mind as we try to reinvigorate our passion for servant evangelism. If Jesus is King then is servant evangelism the crown prince?

Jesus was selfish (?)

By Donald Sensing

But the trick is discerning what it is that actually helps the poor. Too often we wind up treating them like pets rather than people who are, and should be related to, as responsible moral agents on their own.

And unfortunately, churches are frequently targets of what I call the "professional poor," people who make most of their actual living in scamming charitable givers. In fact, the actual majority (by far) of the supplicants who come to my church are that category.

It’s no wonder that many people are tapped out and suffer from compassion fatigue.

In the biblical model of helping the poor, the primary responsibility always rested with blood kin, then with the clan, then with the synagogue (later, church), but was never seen as the responsibility of the government. We have utterly reversed that today so that most people see primary responsibility for assistance resting with faceless government agencies.

But whenever someone wants to lower government spending to leave more money in the hands of private citizens, with which they could then increase personal assistance to the needy, well then then we are told we hate the poor and have no compassion.

So Colbert’s cute quote wears a little thin. Paying taxes does not equal Christian compassion.

Beyond a reasonable doubt: Why George Zimmerman will go free

Having served on a jury trial I was curious about the phrase, “Beyond the shadow of a doubt”.  Here is what Wikipedia says about the phrase.

Beyond the shadow of a doubt is not the standard of proof in criminal cases (beyond a reasonable doubt is the standard in common law jurisdictions).

Unless there is some incriminating evidence we do not know about, it looks like the prosecution’s case is weak but it still must proceed to start the healing. There is nothing the prosecutors can do that will bring Trayvon Martin back to life and nothing they do to George Zimmerman to make things right. In hindsight Trayvon should have just kept walking and George should have covered up and taken a beating. Both George and Trayvon would likely have survived their fight battered, bruised, and maybe a bit wiser. Now we are left with the situation where Trayvon will never see his next birthday and George probably dreads the thought of carrying the burden of being Trayvon’s murderer for the rest of his life. For Trayvon’s family and friends revenge is a sour wine that does nothing to sooth their loss. Trayvon is gone. My sympathy and condolences go out to both Trayvon’s family and friends and George Zimmerman’s family and friends. Once again we are reminded that there are no “do overs” in the game of life.

Learning from Rafiki

My son is a rising junior at Virginia Tech and pulled a real bone-head trick last spring. Last week we found out that his scholarship was suspended again. His scholarship was suspended last spring when the Army pulled his scholarship because he failed a physical test. He says he was sick that day and missed the qualifying run time by few seconds. He did not know the impact of the failed test until the spring. When he showed up for classes in the spring, he found out that his scholarship was yanked. He got a loan to cover his tuition but it is obvious that this mini-crisis left him severely depressed. Eventually he stopped going to class and skipped most of his exams. You can guess what his spring semester grade point average was. Last week the Army told him his scholarship was suspended for the fall. He did not tell his mom or me until he had to. Naturally we reacted to the news differently. She can barely talk to him without making some kind of threat. He lied to her and her vision of his future is shattered. She is hurt and she wants her pound of flesh. I am disappointed but I know we have a short window in which we can partially fix the problem and develop a new career plan. The first part of the plan is to change majors. The job opportunities with this new plan are less but my son thinks he will be happier. Fixing his attitude is a bigger challenge. Maybe in a few years he can laugh at his actions. Here is what that wise old sage, Rafiki, said about living with the pain of bad decisions.

Adult Simba: I know what I have to do. But going back will mean facing my past. I’ve been running from it for so long.
[Rafiki hits Simba on the head with his stick]
Adult Simba: Ow! Jeez, what was that for?
Rafiki: It doesn’t matter. It’s in the past.
Adult Simba: Yeah, but it still hurts.
Rafiki: Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or… learn from it.
[swings his stick at Simba again who ducks out of the way]
Rafiki: Ha. You See? So what are you going to do?
Adult Simba: First, I’m gonna take your stick.
[Simba snatches Rafiki’s stick and throws it and Rafiki runs to grab it]
Rafiki: No, not the stick! Hey, where you going?
Adult Simba: I’m going back!
Rafiki: Good! Go on! Get out of here!
[Rafiki begins laughing and screeching loudly]

Rafiki (Character) – Quotes

2 Corinthians 11 KJV –

YouVersion is celebrating the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible by creating an event where to read this version in 400 seconds. With the help of a lot of volunteers starting at the same time it will be done. My part is 2 Corinthians Chapter 11.

1 Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me.2 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.4 For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him. 5 For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.6 But though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge; but we have been throughly made manifest among you in all things.7 Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely?8 I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.9 And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaia.11 Wherefore? because I love you not? God knoweth.12 But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we.13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

16 I say again, Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little.17 That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting.18 Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also.19 For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.20 For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face.21 I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also.22 Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I.23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.31 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not.32 In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me:33 And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.

2 Corinthians 11 KJV –