Archive for the ‘ The Christian Spirit ’ Category

Teaching in Puerto Rico

My Lodgings at YWAM

My Lodgings at YWAM

I am in Puerto Rico this week, teaching church history at the Youth with a Mission (YWAM) base in Juncos. I have been coming here for the last six years, teaching primarily in the School of the Bible. Besides church history, I also offer a week-long series on Biblical worldview and another on American history.

Being here is always a highlight for me. The students are eager to learn and devoted to developing into what the Lord wants them to be. The base also has a passion for evangelism, primarily in China.

One of my goals the past few years has been to learn as much Spanish as possible. I seem to make advances, only to have my schedule reverse my achievements. Finding the time to learn another language when you are a fulltime professor, trying to write another book, and blogging in your spare time, is not easy. Someday . . .

Principle: Property–Christian Communism? (Part II)

Some Biblical interpreters note a particular incident in the early church that, they say, indicates God is in favor of communism. They refer to the Ananias and Sapphira story.

As believers were voluntarily selling property and giving the proceeds to the apostles to help the needy (see the previous post for a fuller explanation of this), one couple, Ananias and Sapphira, came up with a little scheme. They sold some property and brought part of the profit to the Apostle Peter, declaring that this was the entire profit, even though they had kept back a portion for themselves. The Biblical account tells us that God struck them dead for this deed.

Ananias Struck Down by the Lord for His Hypocrisy

Ananias Struck Down by the Lord for His Hypocrisy

“See,” we are told, “God judged them for continuing to hold private property. They were struck down because they kept some for themselves.” Not exactly.

If we look at the text, we are told precisely why they were judged, and it has nothing to do with owning property.

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.

It is obvious from this passage that Peter is not condemning Ananias for owning land. He makes it clear that it belonged to Ananias, and that he could have done whatever he wished with the profit–it was his to dispose of as he chose. Peter also points to the real sin here: lying/hypocrisy. Ananias and Sapphira were attempting to appear they were giving all the proceeds of the sale to the church, while secretly holding back. They wanted people to think they were doing a wonderful thing, when in fact they were not.

So, bottom line: they were judged for being liars and hypocrites. They could have used that money for anything they wished; instead, they deliberately decided to deceive. There is nothing in this passage that mandates communism for Christians.

Christian communism? An oxymoron.

Principle: Property–The Intangibles

Mention property, and nearly everyone will focus on material possessions. We naturally think in terms of money, land, homes, etc., as being the essence of property. Yet those are merely the external forms of property–the things we can see or touch. There are other properties that are more significant, and which form the basis for the external properties.

God has given us internal properties: a mind with which to think; emotions with which we can interact with the world and others; a will that determines our actions; a conscience that informs us of right and wrong; a spirit, which is the eternal part of us (although it will be joined to a resurrection body as well).

How we handle these properties–mind, emotions, will, conscience–will make all the difference as to where that eternal spirit will reside. Our thoughts need to be taken captive to the love of God; our emotions must be directed by our thoughts; our will must be submitted to God’s will; our conscience will let us know which path to follow, and when we have failed to follow the right one.

The conscience is delicate. The apostle Paul talks about a “seared conscience.” What does that mean?

Look at it this way. If you violate your conscience once (this can apply to any particular sin), you feel remorse for doing so. But if you resist that feeling, and never repent of the sin, the next time you do it, you won’t feel quite as bad as the first time. The more often you repeat the sin, the less your conscience is going to bother you. Finally, you can commit that sin without feeling any remorse or regret. It doesn’t make the sin any less sinful, but you no longer respond to the conscience God gave you.

Each of those internal properties are gifts from God. They need to be appreciated as gifts, and we must be good stewards of them. When we misuse them, we suffer what Paul calls a shipwrecked faith. When those who claim the name of Christ violate their consciences, we contribute to the spiritual devastation in the world.

This does not have to be the norm. We can obey God. We can be the examples He wants us to be. We can bring His principles to bear on the world. We can make a difference!

Still Thankful?

After this last election, is it possible to still be thankful? Do we really have blessings? Actually, we have more than we realize. Personally, I have:

  • A God who continues to work in my life and through it, who loves unconditionally even while He demands that I learn a deeper concept of obedience.
  • A wife who has stood by me for 36 years, and for whom I have a greater love now than at any time in our marriage–it has matured, even as I have.
  • A daughter and a son who are married and moving on in the life God has given them. This week, my daughter’s family is with us. What a joy to have three grandsons with whom I can spend time, get to know better, and hopefully have some impact on their lives as well.
  • A job that is not simply a job, but rather a ministry, where I have the liberty to teach history relying on Biblical principles for analysis.
  • Material blessings in a way that we have not had for most of our lives. Yes, such things can change, but I am learning, over time, that the Lord is our real security anyway.

As a nation, in spite of the problems and the philosophy of the incoming administration, we are not a spent force. The promise remains: if My people, who are called by My name, will seek My face, repent, etc. . . . Restoration can occur, and if not, He will never leave us or forsake us.

When the Pilgrims held their Thanksgiving celebration (not to give thanks to the Indians, by the way), they had suffered terribly along the way. Back in England they had been persecuted, in Holland they really didn’t fit into the culture and their children were being lured away from the faith, and in the New World half of them had died the first winter. Yet they had persevered and their faith remained strong. They continued to believe that God would honor their faithfulness.

That is still true. If we are faithful, God’s blessings will follow. We never have to wonder about His faithfulness; the real issue is ours. He wants to bless. Will we allow Him to do so?

An Appeal to My African-American Brothers & Sisters

I am of the opinion that, Biblically, there is only one race, and that it is called “human.” Man is the one who has invented the idea of different races. In fact, we are all beings made in the image of God. Externals such as skin color are not that important. Yet we make them important to our detriment.

If we are Christians, that is our primary identity. Everything else is secondary to that. The real division in the world is not racial; instead, it is between those who are part of the kingdom of God and those who are not. As the Apostle Paul noted:

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:26-28)

For too long in America, white Christians were not following the truth of the Word in this respect. It has taken a long time to remedy this; unfortunately, it has also resulted in much bitterness. Now, there are black Christians who apparently, in reaction to past treatment, are making race into the determining factor in politics. To be black in America in 2008 almost reflexively meant voting for Barack Obama. My brothers and sisters, this should not be so.

If I vote for someone because he is white, I am elevating externals over the truth of the Gospel. If my African-American brothers and sisters do the same by voting for a black candidate primarily because he is black, how is that any different? In both cases, we would be wrong.

We must vote based on whether or not the candidate advances Biblical principles in our society. That is precisely why I could not vote for Obama. It had nothing to do with race.

Interestingly, in California, the proposition on the ballot that defined marriage as only between a man and a woman (and which narrowly passed) was supported by 70% of African-Americans. They helped lead it to victory. Yet, those same voters turned around and voted for Obama by over 90%. He is no friend to the Biblical definition of marriage. How can those two votes be reconciled?

We must be consistent.

God calls us to always vote based on His principles. Those principles tell us to treat everyone impartially, and to show no favoritism. By no means should we allow race to be the deciding factor in our vote. I urge all my brothers and sisters in the faith–whether white, black, Latino, Asian, or whatever–to recognize this truth and act accordingly. Let’s work together for the kingdom of God.

Conservative Snobbery–Part II

No pictures this time. Just some ponderings.

I mentioned at the end of my last post that politically conservative Christians need to beware of falling into the snobbery trap. I have witnessed some classic examples, but will name no names.

There is the temptation, once a person has achieved a certain status either within the conservative movement or within government itself to let that achievement change his/her character. The perks of notoriety or position are hard to resist. Everyone needs to wait upon you and do whatever you say. It feels good to, in essence, snap your fingers and watch people move. After a while, if one is not careful, the attitude becomes that of entitlement: I deserve to have all my needs met by my underlings.

When this happens, one no longer is a witness for Christ. The world now revolves around this “special” person who is God’s mighty instrument of the hour. Pride dominates, and God becomes a means to a particular end–the advancement of the “special” person.

Watching this happen made me rather cynical for a short period. Even while I was teaching students for the purpose of placing them in public policy positions, I began to doubt the wisdom of doing so. Would they change? Would they become self-important and lose the vision that God had originally given them? I shook off this feeling eventually when the Lord reminded me that not everyone succumbs to the temptation, and that much good can be done through those who keep their motives right.

We all need to remember these words of wisdom:

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him. (I Cor. 1:26-29)

What the Political Pundits Don't Know

I read political commentary every day. This election season, naturally, brings out every pundit, and they try to win you over with their wisdom. Sometimes, they succeed, but even when they provide good insights, there is usually one insight–the most significant insight–omitted.

Reagan's "Evil Empire" Speech

Reagan's "Evil Empire" Speech

Ronald Reagan understood. Speaking to the National Association of Evangelicals in 1983, he zeroed in on that most significant insight. His topic was the threat of the Soviet Union, but the insight applies to every threat that the United States faces. Reagan commented:

While America’s military strength is important, let me add here that I’ve always maintained that the struggle now going on for the world will never be decided by bombs or rockets, by armies or military might. The real crisis we face today is a spiritual one; at root, it is a test of moral will and faith.

Reagan also believed that the U.S. was up to facing the crisis because he believed in a God who would provide what was needed. He continued:

I believe we shall rise to the challenge. I believe that communism is another sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages even now are being written. I believe this because the source of our strength in the quest for human freedom is not material, but spiritual. And because it knows no limitation, it must terrify and ultimately triumph over those who would enslave their fellow man. For in the words of Isaiah: “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increased strength. . . . But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary. . . .”

Today, we face other crises. While people talk about what is to be done with the economy and terrorism, we omit the most serious crisis of all–the loss of Christian faith. It is the decline of real Christian faith–the muscular kind that stands up to evil–that has led us to the brink of disaster.

I don’t want to sound too melodramatic, but I honestly believe that this presidential election, along with the congressional elections, could be a point of no return for the country. It seems that we are about to turn the control of the government over to the most ideologically driven man and party in our history. They hold to an ideology that denies the sanctity of human life, that is poised to redefine marriage, that wants to revive the decaying corpse of materialistic Marxism, and that has little or no understanding of the evil of Islamic terrorism.

We are at the precipice. What will keep us from plunging to our death culturally, socially, and politically?

We must grasp the nature of the enemy and then see clearly the only One who can reverse this plunge. We must realize that the enemy is not flesh and blood, but behind that perceived enemy is the real one–the enemy who rebelled against God long before this world was made. We do not fight against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces.

Most pundits laugh at such an analysis, but if you really do believe in God, you need to believe that a spiritual enemy exists as well. What will overcome his schemes? Faith in God revealed in our prayers. We need a lot of earnest praying between now and election day. I urge all who think I am right about this to rededicate yourself to that task over the next 10 days. We ARE on the precipice.

This video link is an excellent short summary. index.php