Friday, February 20, 2015

Loving ISIS: Remembering Jesus' Words When I Don't Want To

As someone who scans my Twitter feed once or twice a day, I appreciate the many and varied links and headlines people share there. One of them bothered me, though, after the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya. It was from one of the more "progressive" evangelical voices, and I'm not usually a fan. He called on Christians to pray for the families of the 21 victims, and then he called on us to pray for their murderers.

My first reaction was anger--how could he equate the two? That diminished the martyrdom of these Christians! They should not be mentioned in the same sentence, breath, or prayer as the ISIS villains who killed them.

But a few seconds later (after that first wave of indignation), I realized that I was absolutely wrong, and this "tweeter" was reflecting only what Jesus would have said, and did say. He taught, "Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you," remember? If not, see Matthew 5:44. And when he was being crucified and mocked, he prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).

Yesterday, I joined with some others who were going to pray for the persecuted church, and I listened and joined in as prayers were offered for both the persecuted and the persecutors. I could agree, because I remembered my humbling reaction from a few days before.

But it became much more personal a few moments after our prayer time, when I was sent a link to a broadcast on a Christian TV station that blankets the Middle East. On a call-in show, the brother of two of the martyred Egyptian men shared his joy that his brothers had been faithful to the end. He thanked ISIS for not cutting out the audio on their broadcast so that his brothers could be heard calling out to Jesus as their Savior and Lord. When asked what his mother would do if her sons' murderer was to walk down her street, she answered that she would invite him in and ask God to open his eyes. This man then prayed for his brothers' killers, asking God to open their minds to the truth and free them from the lies that they have been taught. You can watch the video here. Or, watch it from the link on my Facebook page.

This living demonstration of faith and obedience in loving one's enemies was something that moved me powerfully. Not having these kinds of enemies, I can still find it hard to overlook slights and insults. Yet what Christ calls us to is so radical that it can and does look ridiculous to the world--and maybe to some Christians, too. 

ISIS represents evil in so many ways. I pray for their defeat. Yet, that does not mean that its adherents are beyond the saving grace and forgiveness of God. Remember, one of Christianity's chief spokesmen was complicit in the murder of Stephen. May God raise up dozens of Saul/Paul types through the martyrdom of Christians, even from among the murderers themselves.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Moving from Error to Apostasy? The Continuing Saga of Rob Bell

This may seem like simply repeating old criticisms, but new developments make me even more concerned about one man's downward journey. A while back,  I wrote about my serious concerns with Rob Bell's movements away from orthodox Christian belief as he left
Rob and Kristen Bell appeared with Oprah Winfrey on her
lastest "Super Soul Sunday" special. 
his pastoral ministry and entered into a working partnership with one of the world's most popular "spiritual" people--Oprah Winfrey. He has already taken many views with which I disagree, and which I believe are in conflict with what Christians have always believed based on the Scriptures. In this latest broadcast, Bell addresses the question of gay marriage and says that the church is moments away from embracing it (as he does). Again, this is no surprise.

But in what is the most troubling of statements in the interview, Bell says that the Church simply looks more and more irrelevant when its best defense against the arguments for gay marriage "is quoting letters written 2,000 years ago." Those "letters" are the books of the New Testament, and if his view is that they are simply outdated letters, then Bell has moved publicly away from submission to the authority of the Word. I can disagree with someone on interpretations but still admit that both of us seek to submit to Scriptural authority. But this is a dismissal of appealing to Scripture as authoritative.

I would hope that the church that ordained him would, upon hearing this, conclude that he is no longer orthodox in his view of Scripture and would revoke his ordination. I would hope that believers would realize that this makes Bell no longer a teacher of Christian faith, since that faith derives from the message of these letters (we would not know of Jesus without them).

Not only has Rob sacrificed his "evangelical credentials" (I don't think he cares about that); he has aligned himself with those who "went out from us" in 1 John 2:19 (one of those letters he now feels make the Church irrelevant when we quote them). My heart's prayer, right now, is that he will repent from the blindness that Oprah's aura seems to have stricken him with. I fear for his soul, especially as one who still has influence over other souls. He may not believe that the wrath of God is real and will still fall on those who reject God's truth, but I do.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Great words from a past master to today's teachers

Howard Hendricks was one of the great teacher/preachers of my life span so far. I just saw a link to one of his sermons on video on YouTube, and watched it. I'm glad I did. The sermon was entitled, "The Ultimate Final," and it was from 2 Timothy 2:15. He suggested three questions anyone who would be a person of influence in a broken world should ask themselves based on this passage:
1. Is the Lord well pleased? A passion for a Person.
2. Is the work well done? A passion for excellence.
3. Is the Word well used? A passion for truth.

Great and probing questions for me and for you. Another great quote: "When I try, I fail. When I trust, He succeeds."

Watch the message below.