Monday, July 29, 2013
treacherous man" (Proverbs 22:12 NASB). God will not allow evil to win. This
is seen in the many failed attempts to destroy and discredit the Bible.
Since at least the time of the prophet Jeremiah, men have tried to destroy
the Word of God. Even so, more manuscripts of the Bible have been found than
of any other ancient text and it remains a Best Seller today. This proverb,
however, is really talking about us. Knowledge begins with fearing God
(Proverbs 1:7). If we know and follow the ways of God, the same God who has
preserved His Word will preserve us. Those who do not will not be allowed to
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
poor" (Proverbs 22:9 NASB). The giving of ourselves and of our resources
seems like it would detract from our lives, but it is one of the greatest
pathways of blessings open to us. Often, we are too focused on ourselves. We
want that new phone, that new TV, that new car or whatever to bring
enjoyment into our lives. The problem we find, however, is they never bring
lasting blessings into our lives. If we will put our own interests aside and
help others, though, we will find meaning and purpose in our lives. We will
have made an impact and we will be blessed. As Jesus taught: "It is more
blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).
Thursday, July 18, 2013
Our family recently returned from an 18-day mission trip to Romania. While there, we worshiped with two congregations. The first is in Iasi, with a population of around 350,000. We met with the Christians and the parents of one of the Christians. Among the parents, the father is a Romanian Orthodox; the mother is a Protestant. We, of course, are members of the church of Christ. Which of the apostles was an Orthodox? Which was a Protestant?
The second congregation, where we evangelized for two weeks, is in Cluj, population 309,000. The Sunday we worshiped there, we had a 7th-Day Adventist in the audience, an Orthodox, and another man who slipped out before I had a chance to visit with him.
Certainly, we all believe that Jesus is the Son of God and our Savior. What we disagree about is how to respond to Jesus. That is the essence of the restoration plea. The man who slipped out of the assembly in Cluj did tell one of the Christians that it did not matter in what order we do the "plan of salvation", just as long as we get it done. Really? Is it okay to be baptized first and then believe? Into what, then, are you baptized? Why be baptized if you have no faith in anything?
Furthermore, Jesus said clearly that faith comes first: "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved" (Mark 16:16). Observe, too, that Jesus puts "baptism" before "salvation." Does it matter how we respond to Jesus? Twisting His words leads to destruction (2 Peter 3:16).
The restoration plea is simply the recognition that man gets off track sometimes and has to get back on track. The restoration plea is simply repentance on a larger scale. We see this embodied in the command of Christ to the church in Ephesus which was not on the right track:
"Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent" (Revelation 2:5).
The restoration plea, then, has three components to it: 1.) Remember the pattern or standard which has been handed down to us. That pattern, of course, is found in the New Testament (2 Timothy 1:13). We absolutely must recognize that there is a pattern for Christian worship and work and we must follow that pattern (Galatians 1:8-9). 2.) Repent. Stop doing those things that are not in or according to the pattern. 3.) Do the works that are in and according to the pattern.
That's the restoration plea. It is still valid because it would obliterate and annihilate all the denominational schisms in the world. It would unite all believers into the one body of Christ on earth. It would be a powerful testimony to all the Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, and agnostics in the world that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. It would recognize the authority of Jesus to tell us what to do and how to worship.
"There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call-- one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all" (Ephesians 4:4-6).
Friday, July 12, 2013
I believe in helping the poor. Many of these families or individuals are elderly and/or retired, live on a fixed income, and need help making the ends meet. If those individuals had been allowed to invest their FICA tax in private business since the 1930s (instead of an imaginary "lock-box" that has been raided by politicians too many times to count) they would probably be millionaires by now. They would not need to get a box from us.
I am more concerned and disappointed in the young men and women who come to the food pantry. These are young, healthy and otherwise capable who are unemployed. The longer they are unemployed, the older their skills become and the more out-of-touch with the current trends they become. They are discouraged and disheartened. They don't want hand-outs but most of them have no choice.
God wants us to be concerned about the poor. Early in the Law of Moses (Exodus 22 & 23), the Lord tells the Israelites to treat the poor fairly. The apostle Paul said helping the poor was something he was "eager to do" (Galatians 2:10). We have a legitimate debate in our country today about how to help the poor. One thing the current administration has done for me is stirred an interest in economics. Economics is not as hard to understand as you might think.
The reason why government spending does not create jobs for the poor is not hard to understand. Paris just had our Martin Luther King Jr. Bypass widened to four lanes. This was "stimulus spending." I do not know how much a worker was paid to build the road. But, let us suppose it was $40,000 each year for the two-years it took. Where did the government get that $40,000 to pay that worker? The only source the government has for money is basically taxes. So, in order to pay that worker $40,000 to build the road, the government has to tax $40,000 out of the economy to pay him. Can you see, now, how simple it is that government spending does not create jobs? It only shifts the money from one sector to another. It took $40,000 (in taxes) out of the –say medical industry – to give $40,000 (in stimulus spending) to the transportation sector. But ultimately, no new job was created.
But the problem is actually worse. The government cannot tax $1 out of the economy and put exactly $1 back in to the economy through "stimulus spending." The reason is because the government always has to pay itself. It has its own buildings and utilities and salaries (many of them six-figure salaries) to pay and all that has to come out of the money it takes through taxes. You can easily see how the government has to tax far more than $40,000 out of the economy just to pay that one person his $40,000 to build that road.
The taxes that are imposed are imposed on those people and businesses who would otherwise have given a job to someone "on the margin" of society – the people who come to the food pantry. President Obama – or even Governor Beshear for that matter – could lower my tax burden to absolutely zero. Obviously, I am a member of the middle class but I still could not give someone a job. I could not pay someone enough money with my tax savings to support his/her family.
The fact of the matter is that it takes someone wealthy – making $150,000 or $200,000 or more – who can give a job to the people who come to our food pantry. But if these people are being taxed to pay for six-figure salaries and buildings and SUVs in Washington, D.C., they can't give anyone a job in Paris, KY.
When a person works and produces, he/she feels important. They are contributing to their own mental health, taking care of their own families, as well as contributing to the gross domestic product. Marriage is also one step that helps lift women and children out of poverty.
Any parent knows that if you consistently do everything for your child, he or she will grow up dependent and ego-centric. The same natural result occurs when you give an adult everything. They appreciate what they have more when they work for it. To work, they need business men and women who can hire them.
In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, President Obama has suggested that the Tsarnaev brothers were "self-radicalized." He is not the only one who is promoting this idea. The New York Times does as well, particularly in the May 6th edition.
Several so-called experts have suggested that these terrorists homegrown terrorists have decided within themselves to be terrorists without any external influence. On the other hand, the experts suggest, these terrorists have much in common with "anti-government extremism" read "Tea Party" between the lines.
These homegrown terrorists are not part of a group; they are not jihadists, for example. They may listen to imams on the internet or study bomb-making on-line but they are not part of an overall effort. The most notorious homegrown terrorists in recent years are: Timothy McVeigh, Major Nidal Hasan, Faisal Shahzad, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
But what do these men have in common? Islam. Sure, McVeigh was recruited by the Ku Klux Klan but he fell in cohorts with Terry Nichols who spent time in the Philippines among "radical" Muslims. The other three are better known for their contacts with Islam.
President Obama and others are trying to detach these men from their religious ideology. That's why they are all promoting an idea of "self-radicalization." The idea that Islam can be inherently violent does not fit with the multiculturalist idea that all cultures are equal. Having read the Koran twice and a dozen books, most of which were written by Muslims on Islam, I believe it is a fair assessment to say that Islam can promote violence even it does not require violence.
But no one influences himself to do evil or to do good. Jesus clearly taught that we are influenced by one of two sources. "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other" (Matthew 6:24). Paul teaches the same principle in Romans 616: "Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?"
We are either slaves of sin or slaves of obedience. It depends on which Master we serve. If we want to stop suicide bombers, we've got to preach and teach the Gospel of Peace.
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