Archive for September 2010
Believe it or not, I actually went to college. What now seems like a long time ago, I studied Bible and missions at what was then Columbia Bible College and what is now Columbia International University. One advantage to having attended a college that specializes in training missionaries is that I have the privilege of knowing a number of people who serve God around the world. I find their perspective on what God is doing in their corner of the world, as well as their outsider’s perspective on Christianity in America, very enlightening.
So, after having a number of conversations this month about the influence of Muslims around the world and the way that influence is being perceived as a threat by many Americans, including American Christians and those claiming to be Christians, I asked for some outside perspective. I contacted Keith Martyn, a missionary who is working with Muslims in another country, to give me his perspective on the recent displays of fear and anger toward Muslims here in America. This is part of his reply:
I am encouraged to hear your heart and your concern about so many aspects on this issue. There is definitely a deep misunderstanding and many differences between the people who claim to follow each of these respective religions. This, in turn, produces many not-so-helpful responses on both sides. There are many aspects to this. Cultural, social, economic, ideological, spiritual, etc. I don't know if I can offer anything new but here are a couple of thoughts that come to mind:
God is LORD over all and loves His people with their good in mind (Romans 8:28) therefore we need not fear (should not) but rather we must believe that God will ultimately glorify Himself through even the most tragic of events. Those who have a relationship with the Almighty God of the universe need not be characterized by fear.
Satan will use everything he possibly can to create enmity and deceive so as to kill, steal and destroy. He uses Islam to blind and hold in bondage over a billion people with the damnable intention of keeping souls from salvation in Christ and facilitating their eternal torment. Therefore, as true followers of Christ (not as followers of a mere religion) we must stand against Satan with the spiritual weapons God commands us to wield, standing firm against the real enemy while, as Christ's Body, responding with love and truth to those he holds in darkness. We must educate ourselves about Islam and its adherents, being careful not to see them as the enemy but rather as lost souls from whom God is calling many. Rather than taking a confrontational approach and debate with Muslims, we ought to focus on Christ and His teachings, miracles, sacrifice and resurrection. Share Christ with both Christians and Muslims.
Muslim extremists have followed their interpretation of the teaching of the Khuran and murdered many people. Human beings are naturally outraged by this and rightly so but we ought to allow our God-ordained/authorized government to respond to protect the citizens under its care while corporately uniting in prayer and demonstrating our love to Muslims. Most Muslims themselves condemn and distance themselves from extreme forms of Islam and we should acknowledge that distinction through understanding.
One of the things God has done is to being many people from the Muslim world to America that, right or wrong, still has the reputation of being one of the strongest Christians nations in the world. This presents an amazing opportunity for Christians to show the grace, truth, and love of Jesus to Muslim neighbors and co-workers. However, this opportunity is being undermined by the fear and/or apathy that is spreading among Christians in America.
I especially appreciated Keith’s points that:
- Those who have a relationship with the Almighty God of the universe need not be characterized by fear.
- We must educate ourselves about Islam and its adherents, being careful not to see them as the enemy but rather as lost souls from whom God is calling many.
This is a good reminder that Christians are called to respond to all people, even those who see themselves as our enemies, in love. A love the displays God’s heart for the lost. A love that does the work to understand people who are different from us and applies the wisdom to God to know what we can accept, what we can adapt, and what we must avoid in our relationships with them. In short, a love that is shaped by the Gospel. I am praying that God will give us this kind of love for our Muslim neighbors and coworkers so we can have the privilege of being a part of His plan for the Muslims He has placed around us.
One of the great stirring truths of the Bible is that the man who looks for justice from others is a fool. In moral and spiritual life if a man has a sense of injustice, he ceases to be of use to his fellowmen. Never waste your time looking for justice; if you do you will soon put yourself in bandages and give way to self-pity. Our business is to see that no one suffers from our injustice.
Oswald Chambers, Shade of His Hand, pg. 48
C.S. Lewis on being careful rather than loving.
“Of all arguments against love none makes so strong an appeal to my nature as ‘Careful! This might lead you to suffering.’
… When I respond to that appeal I seem to myself to be a thousand miles away from Christ. If I am sure of anything I am sure that His teaching was never meant to confirm my congenital preference for safe investments and limited liabilities.…
There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.
The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”
CS Lewis The Four Loves
I added a few things to my schedule last week. I added a corporate prayer time at church once a month and Small Group once a week.
Like everyone else’s, my schedule is such that adding anything requires that I take something away. In each instance I felt a pang of regret to lose the time I had given to other things in order to add these to my schedule. Yet after each, I was so glad I did.
There is an interesting life giving dynamic to corporate prayer and fellowship. I can’t think of a time when no matter how tired I felt at the beginning of corporate prayer, that I didn’t leave that time energized and encouraged. Similarly, spending time with a Small Group in a corporate sharing of what Jesus is doing in each of our lives, gives me a broader and deeper perspective on the loving actions of God that energizes and encourages me. The blessings I receive from making time for corporate prayer and Small Group far outweigh the sacrifices I make to add them.
I am thankful that even though I can forget how good these are, being a part of our church keeps me involved in things that multiply the blessings of God in my life.
I wonder how many times the disciples were asked that question as they told their friends where Jesus was taking them. I wonder how many times they asked that question among themselves when Jesus was vague about their destination. I wonder how many times each disciple thought to himself; “What am I doing?” as he followed Jesus.
I hope it was a lot because I certainly ask those questions a lot, and the implications of my journey with Jesus has not been nearly as risky as the followers of Jesus in the New Testament. The experiences of the New Testament followers of Jesus were adventuresome to say the least. Mine are once again taking that form.
A lot has happened in the 5 years since I became the Sr. Pastor of a church. Much of it has been turbulent. Yet, through all the turmoil Jesus, the builder of the Church, has been putting together an unlikely band of surprisingly adventuresome people and He is leading us deeper into the adventure of following Him.
The Bible shows us is that when a group of people join the adventure of following Jesus at least three things happen.
- They gain a deeper and more personal relationship with God because getting in over their heads makes them more dependent on God, more focused on God, and therefore more aware of the personal presence of God.
- They experience the joy that comes from being personally involved in the things that God says are most important.
- They grow closer together because in looking to what is bigger than all of them, they look past the things that divide them.
As C.S. Lewis wrote in The Four Loves:
“Friendship must be about something… Those who have nothing can share nothing, those who are going nowhere can have no fellow travelers.
It is my hope that this blog will serve as a travel log where we can record and remember our experiences as fellow travelers on the adventure that God has set before us.