Darryl's thoughts on the Christian Faith, Facts, and World Events
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This meme came through my Facebook newsfeed last night. Due to time zone differences I decided not to get into a debate over this meme but rather to address it here.
The meme says that God "fails" to prevent injuries and "refuses" to heal them. Despite the intentionally blasphemous words and tone of the meme it does raise an important question: Why doesn't God choose to prevent all injuries and why doesn't God choose to heal all injuries?
Where do sicknesses and injuries come from?
Romans 5:12 gives us an important clue. "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all mankind, because all sinned—"
Genesis 1:21 also gives us an important clue. "And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day."
It is logical to assume that there were no injuries, sickness, or death, before Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. This is why God could call it "very good." Therefore, injuries, sickness, and death are consequences of humans' sins. God does not prevent all injuries, sicknesses, and death because they are part of His divine justice.
Romans 6:23 says, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gracious gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
In heaven, Revelation 21:4 promises, "and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be anymourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
Why doesn't God choose to heal all diseases and injuries now?
James 2:1-4 provides a clue. "Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
From this passage we learn that suffering in various forms including sickness and injuries can have a positive result on our spiritual development.
2 Corinthians 12:7-9 confirms this, "or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me."
God, who knows all things, may choose not to heal our injuries and sicknesses because they may produce a greater development in our spiritual life and character. This progress may result in eternal rewards in heaven. Even though we may not like our present suffering, we can trust that God will do what is best in our lives.
Also, God has created humans with the capacity to develop science and with it various treatments and cures for diseases and injures. We should give thanks to God for His blessings the come to us through science because if God did not exist, science would be impossible in a random universe.
I recently had the following Facebook conversation with an agnostic/atheist regarding the above meme while getting my car repaired. When dealing with agnostics and atheists I find that it is more effective to ask questions than give evidence because they usually will disregard the evidence and turn and "tear you to pieces." (Matthew 7:6).
In this conversation A: is for agnostic/atheist and D: is for Darryl
A: God's mind is not the product of intelligent design. How can we give credence to it whatsoever?
D: If God is eternal (no beginning or end) how could his mind be intelligently designed? Why would an eternal mind need to be intelligently designed to be trusted? I am confused.
A: Is there anything at all that you would trust without being able to test that you can trust it first? I can't think of anything at all that I trust without having direct observation of and experience with the thing that I trust. Since we cannot know anything at all about God's mind, how can we possibly know that we can trust it? How can we know that it is perfect if it had no designer? How could it be perfect if it had no designer?
D: It seems that you trust your own mind. Do you believe that your mind had a designer?
A: The issue here is if we can trust God's mind not mine. If anyone can show how we know that we can trust God's mind, please go right ahead.
D: So if God was intelligently designed, would you trust his undesigned designer?
A: It isn't possible to know if there is a designer or not. If there is, we can't know that we can't trust him.
D: So if God was intelligently designed, would you trust his undesigned designer?
A: It's impossible to know such things.
D: How do you know it’s impossible, unless you know everything?
A: Because we cannot know what have no access to.
D: How do you know that we have no access? Maybe others have access that you don’t.
A: They would be world famous and the whole world would know about it. Or are they keeping it a secret?
D: There are a multitude of believers. They are not keeping it a secret. Maybe you should ask them.
A: They merely claim to have access to God. Anyone who actually has access to God would be world famous.
D: How do you know they only claim it? Have you investigated all of them?
A: So you're saying that there are people who have two way communication with God?
D: Can you prove that no one who has ever lived anywhere has ever had two way communication with God?
A: No and neither can anyone prove that they have. That leaves us with nothing.
D: Do you admit that you don’t know everything?
A: No, I don't because not knowing everything is not something that should be "admitted to" rather it just is.
D: So you don’t know everything.
No further replies from the agnostic/atheist.
The agnostic/atheist may have stopped replying because he realized that he had cornered himself. My next questions would have been: "Why do you trust your own mind, which is not intelligently designed and does not know everything but not God's?" "Why do you hold God's mind to a different standard than your own mind?"
The purpose of questions is to plant seeds of doubt in the agostics'/atheists' worldview so that they will open their mind and consider the possibility that they don't know everything and therefore God really could exist in the part that they don't know.
Christian unity is very important to me. That is why more than a decade ago I wrote a book in Cambodia with an English title: Discerning Essential Doctrines and Preserving Unity. In the process of researching for that book. I came to the realization from Scripture that genuine unity must be balanced with discernment and be built on a foundation of truth, particularly the truth of God's Word.
In my work as an apologist/missionary in Cambodia, I use and value a wide variety of translations. However, I cannot trust or use Brian Simmons' The Passion Translation (TPT). Brian Simmons is a charismatic and the TPT reflects some of that background. I myself am not anti-charismatic. I actually teach apologetics at an Assembly of God Bible school in Cambodia (and at a Presbyterian seminary).
"My dear friends, many false prophets have gone out into the world. So do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are from God." 1 John 4:1 NCV
Brian Simmons makes many claims. Some of the claims can be tested and some cannot because there are no witnesses. I believe that it is Biblically appropriate to test his testable statements and see if they are truthful and then we can decide whether or not we should take his untestable claims at face value or not.
"I will come to you for the third time. “Every case must be proved by two or three witnesses.” 2 Corinthians 13:1-2 NCV
I also believe that in order to be fair to Brian Simmons, he should be allowed to speak for himself as much as possible. This is why I prefer video quotations so I can be more certain that he is not being taken out of context etc. Pastor/Apologist Mike Winger did a great job of interviewing Bible scholars with experience in Bible translation on his YouTube channel. Here are some videos on the subject that you can watch on your own. www.youtube.com/results?search_query=mike+winger+passion+translation
The only downside of Mike Winger's videos is that most of them are long so the average person may not be willing to devote the time to watch them. For this reason, I have distilled my thoughts based on his videos into this blog article.
2. Simmons claims to be a linguist. Don Pederson and Jerry McDaniels of New Tribes Mission/Ethnos 360 say this is false.
3. Simmons claims to have been directly engaged in the translation the indigenous language Paya Kuna translation. NTM (multiple witnesses) says this is false, he was a church planter.
4. Simmons claims to have completed the Paya Kuna translation in the late 1980s. Moody Bible Institute says it was not completed until 1995 after Simmons left the organization (Don Pederson).
Witnesses for Claims 2-4:
5. Simmons and his publisher claim that The Passion Translation is a translation. Multiple witnesses say this is false, it is at best a paraphrase. Multiple witnesses, Bible scholars, say that it is misleading and goes beyond the original meaning in places when compared to original languages.
7:39 Brian Simmons’ wild claims about TPT
Since TPT is almost completely based on the credibility of Brian Simmons it is on a sandy foundation. Even if it were based on a team of qualified translators, which it isn’t, I still would not accept it because of its false claims about the Aramaic and being a "translation".
If people get attached to TPT they will also get attached to Brian Simmons. What if he is exposed as Ravi Zacharias was? People may lose their confidence in the Word of God.
You have heard from Brian Simmons. You have heard from the witnesses. Who do you believe?
As for me, as an apologist, I cannot trust or use TPT. I also strongly discourage anyone else from using it, especially in Bible teaching or sermons.
In various countries around the world, in the past and present, there have been many people who have claimed to be Jesus Christ who was either reborn or reincarnated. Is this correct according to the Bible? Or, are these people false Christs? By studying the Bible we can find the answer to these questions.
Acts 1:9:11 says, “After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
This passage says that Jesus Christ will return to earth in physical form in the sky. None of the people who claim to be Jesus Christ today came to earth this way.
Revelation 1:7 says, ““Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”So shall it be! Amen.”
So, not only will Jesus Christ return in the sky but everyone will see him. The people who claim to be Jesus Christ have neither returned in the sky nor are known and recognized by everyone.
Jesus Christ warned us that false Messiahs or Christs and false prophets would arise in the future.
Matthew 24:23-24 says. “At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time.”
Therefore, these people who claim to be Jesus Christ are false Christs and we should not believe them. False Christs may even have the power to perform signs and wonders that look like miracles from God but we should still not believe them. True miracles come from God but fake signs and wonders are either deceptive magic tricks or they may be empowered by Satan or demons.
Another warning about false Christs comes form Matthew 24:26-27. “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”
Many times the followers of false Christs try to convince people to go and see the false Christ in some special place but the Bible says not to do this. When the true Jesus Christ returns He will be visible to everyone and everyone will know who He is. There will be no need to go to the wilderness or a special room to see him.
Sometimes false teachers do not claim to be Jesus Christ themselves but still teach things about Jesus Christ and the Gospel that are not correct according to the Bible.
Galatians 1:8 says, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!”
False Christs also always teach a Gospel that is different from the true Gospel in the Bible.
For example, John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
However, false Christs and false teachers might teach that you must perform special tasks or pay money in order to receive salvation, even though the Bible says that salvation is a free gift. False Christs and false teachers offer false salvation which can distract us away from the true salvation offered in the Bible.
It is important to study the Bible carefully for ourselves so that we are not deceived and so that we are able to warn others so that they will come to know the true Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
This issue is so emotionally and politically charged that people are unable to even have a reasonable conversation about it. My goal here is to handle this topic in a peaceful manner that will help the readers think about and discuss this topic in a way that does not compromise the Biblical teaching on the subject. I freely admit that my interpretation of the Bible could be wrong, but the Bible itself is still the correct authority on this question.
I came across a version of this question on Facebook and it took me a while to formulate a response to it. Here is a paraphrase of the question:
If God created us as we are, why would it not be wrong (or a sin) to get braces for crooked teeth (change your hair or eye color etc.) but it would be wrong to have a sex change surgery?
I asked this question in the bravest apologetics Facebook group that I know, and the administrators have not yet allowed it to be posted so I feel like I must try address it on my own.
In order to answer this question, we need to break it down into smaller, more manageable questions.
1. Did God create us as we are? The answer to this question is "Yes, God created us." and "No, not as were are now." According to the Bible, God created the first humans, Adam and Eve and said that his creation was "very good" (Genesis 1:31). However, after Adam and Eve sinned and suffering and death came into the world (Genesis 3 and Romans 5:12).
So, humans now are not the same as God created us to be before Adam and Eve sinned. We have suffering, sickness, deformity, and death. Even though Psalms 139 says that God knits us together in our mother's wombs it does not say that our bodies are "very good" as they were at creation (Genesis 1:31). Romans 8:22 says, "For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now."
2. Are braces and other corrective surgeries wrong? I myself had braces for crooked teeth as a teenager and I had surgery that changed the shape of my nose as a young adult so that I could breathe better. From my understanding of Scripture, these are not wrong because they are just human efforts to reverse the curse for sin (Genesis 3). During Jesus Christ's ministry on earth, He healed many kinds of diseases (blind, lepers, paralytics, and more). There are many instances of healing recorded in the Bible so I believe that this encourages medical procedures in our times.
3. Are cosmetic changes wrong?
From my understanding of Scripture, changing one's appearance for the better is also allowed by Scripture. For example, in the book of Esther, Queen Esther went through cosmetic treatments (Esther 2). I personally doubt that Adam and Eve before the fall had any need for cosmetic changes of any kind because they were personally created by God and were "very good." However, after sin, humans have degraded so cosmetics may also be a way to "reverse the curse."
4. Is our sex part of the curse?
Based on everything I have seen in Scripture, I do not believe that our sex, being male or female, is a curse in itself.
Matthew 19: 3-6 says, "Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no person is to separate.”
Furthermore, on studying the miracles of the Bible in general and specifically the miracles performed by Jesus, I can find no example of God changing someone's sex miraculously. If the Bible taught that sex was part of the Genesis 1:31 curse (Adam and Eve were male and female before sin) and there was a miraculous sex change, I would support sexual reassignment surgeries. However, it doesn't, so I can't.
So what now?
Even though I do not support sexual reassignment surgeries, those who are either considering them or have had them still have the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) as any other human. God loves them and Christ died for them the same as for me (John 3:16 etc.).
I hope that Christian churches will develop ministries to those who either are considering or have had sexual reassignment surgery which follow the model of pre and post abortion ministries. This is a new mission field.
Recently, there has been a lot of confusion about Jesus Christ's physical appearance caused by people who have a political agenda. Before we can answer this question we need to break it down into two questions: 1. What did Jesus Christ probably look like before the ascension (Acts 1: 6-11)? 2. How does the Bible describe Jesus Christ's appearance after the ascension?
Before the Ascension:
The Bible does not give much detail about Jesus appearance during Jesus' life on earth before the ascension. Here are some clues.
1. Jesus was Jewish and therefore it is reasonable to assume that Jesus looked like a Jewish man of his time. At his crucifixion he was known as the "King of the Jews." (Mark 15 and John 19)
2. Judas had to identify Jesus from among the disciples with a kiss (Matthew 26). If Jesus were 10 feet tall with green hair and purple skin, then this would not have been necessary. But, if Jesus looked like the rest of the disciples (Jewish men of a similar age range), then a simple description would not be possible.
3. Jesus was mistaken for a gardener after the resurrection but before the ascension. (John 20). This further indicates that he was not remarkable in appearance one way or another.
For more information on #2 and #3 see www.blueletterbible.org/faq/don_stewart/don_stewart_197.cfm
4. Jesus probably had a beard because that was the custom of the day but we can't be completely sure. For more information see opentheword.org/2014/10/07/did-jesus-have-a-beard/
After the Ascension:
The greatest source of confusion about Jesus' appearance comes from people who attempt to apply the Bible's descriptions of Jesus after the ascension to Jesus before the ascension.
The main description of Jesus after the resurrection comes from Revelations 1:12-17 (NKJV). I will underline the key descriptive points.
12 Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. 14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; 15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; 16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. 17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid;I am the First and the Last.
Another description of Jesus comes from Revelation 19: 12-16
11 Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. 12 His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. 13 He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. 15 Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16 And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:
KING OF KINGS AND
LORD OF LORDS.
Unlike the descriptions of Jesus before the ascension, these descriptions of Jesus after the ascension are VERY remarkable. Do you think that if Jesus were to run around Israel for 33 years with "head and hair...white like wool," "eyes like a flame of fire," "feet like fine brass," a "voice as the sound of many waters", "in His right hand seven stars," and "out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword" that Judas would need to pick him out of a crowd? Do you think that children would come to him? When John saw Jesus in this form, he "fell at His feet as dead."
So, is there any reason to take the descriptions of Jesus having "hair white like wool" (describes color but does not mention texture) or "feet like fine brass," out of context, and attempt to apply them to the physical appearance of Jesus before the ascension? If so, why not also mention the two-edged sword coming out of his mouth?
The most important thing to focus on is not Jesus' appearance, but the fact that Jesus Christ is the "The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" John 1:29.
Unity is a major buzzword right now. About a decade ago I authored a book for Cambodia with the title: Christianity: Discerning Essential Doctrines and Preserving Unity. The lessons that I learned from writing that book are still with me today.
Biblical unity does not require uniformity or conformity with other people. Instead, Biblical Unity only occurs when each person willingly aligns themselves with Christ, the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:19-22). Jesus Christ is the only perfect standard and therefore is the only point upon which genuine Biblical unity can occur. True unity through Christ is a great testimony for Christ. John 17:23 says, "I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me."
Worldly unity requires uniformity and conformity with the world and its rulers. Romans 12:2 warns us against this kind of unity. "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." James 4:4 says, "Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."
While it may sound appealing when the leaders of the world call for "unity" or "working together," we need to be aware of the difference between Biblical Unity and Worldly Unity. We should only "unite" with the world's leaders in so far as they have aligned themselves with Christ, and no further. The more that they have aligned themselves with Christ, the greater unity we can have with them. For example, we may be able to support their efforts to end poverty but we must still oppose their policies on abortion or religious freedom etc..
Consider the following:
>Someone you detest could tell you the truth while someone you admire could tell you a lie.
>An uneducated person could be correct while a professor could be wrong.
>A YouTuber etc. could be honest while a network news anchor could be dishonest.
>A person with mental illness could speak words of wisdom while a psychiatrist could speak foolishness.
>A message scribbled in the dust could be accurate while a textbook could be inaccurate.
>An unpopular opinion could be correct while a popular opinion could be incorrect.
AND VICE VERSA
>Truth is still truth even if no human believes it. Lies are still lies even if every human believes them.
As an apologist, I see that there are many people who believe in evolution etc. not because of the strength of the evidence for evidence itself but because they heard about it from a professor or teacher that they trust, they read about in an expensive textbook, or they watched a professionally produced documentary on television. In other words, they believe it because of the packaging and they rarely take time to really examine the truthfulness of the claims themselves on their own merits.
From a political science perspective, I also see that many people are blinded by their reliance on "trusted" sources so that they create their own personal echo chambers. They automatically reject information from any other perspective because it came from a source that does not fit their preferences. For example, they may unquestioningly accept information from a large news provider with a billion dollar studio, but while they would automatically reject the exact same information from YouTubers recording in their bedrooms as a conspiracy theory. But, we need to remember that truth is not determined by money, studios, or high quality video production. The Wright brothers were able to harness the truths of aerodynamics to build an airplane in their bicycle workshop while now airplanes are built in multi-billion dollar factories. But the same truths apply. Likewise, the YouTuber of today, may be the Walter Cronkite of tomorrow. We should not despise humble beginnings. The computers that we are using today were invented in garages.
Whether dealing with Apologetics, Political Science, media, culture, or any other field, we need to remember that truth cannot be created by the credibility of the presenter. It also cannot be destroyed by the lack of credibility of the presenter. In my own life, I have heard great foolishness come from the mouths of PhDs and I have also heard great wisdom come from the mouths of the homeless.
You may ask, "If humans cannot create (nor destroy) truth, where does it come from?" Truth comes from God the Creator. Truth is whatever corresponds to reality. The ultimate reality is God and His character. For example, God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18). John 14:6 says, "Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." Jesus Christ claimed to be the truth and He confirmed it through the resurrection. Romans 3:4 says, "Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: “That You may be justified in Your words, And may overcome when You are judged.”
Here are some guidelines that help me find truth in the modern world and avoid being deceived.
1. We should not judge by the outward appearance.
The Bible teaches us to look beyond the surface to see truth as God sees truth. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, "But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Therefore, we should not judge the truthfulness of the information by the "outward appearance" but look deeper at the heart of it. For example, a simple 25 cent tract that accurately teaches God's truth about salvation is more valuable than a $75 beautifully illustrated textbook that teaches that there is no God.
2. We should not trust the rich more than the poor.
James 2 also warns against showing favoritism to the rich over the poor. Likewise, it is equally wrong to show favoritism to the poor over the rich. This reminds me not to give any more or less respect or skepticism to the information provided by YouTubers etc. recording on their $50 secondhand smartphones than I would to the network news anchor with a $100 million net worth. All sources of information should be judged equally regardless of their economic status.
3. We should not just listen to one side.
We live in a time where people are pressured to "take sides." As a result, we often wrongly take a side before all the information is known. This is unbiblical. Proverbs 18:17 says, "The first one to plead his cause seems right, Until his neighbor comes and examines him." For example, many people cannot accurately describe the policy positions of the opposing political party (or possibly even their own). Instead, they only have a strawman view of the opposing viewpoint. As a result, they cannot vote accurately or consistently but are tossed around on waves of random slogans and talking points. Instead, we should read and listen to the policy position statements from the political parties from the source, not spoon fed from our favorite commentator. Likewise, we should not just listen to sources of information that we agree with but we should also listen to those that come from different perspectives as well.
I grew up in rural Missouri with almost little personal contact with people outside of my own race. My uncle fought the Japanese in World War 2 and between that family history and things I saw in the media I developed a fear of and prejudice against Japanese people. Now, I have been happily married to my Japanese wife (Kayo) since 2004, we have one beloved son. We deal with racial and cultural differences every day, but we are able to overcome them because we both allow the Bible to guide our thoughts actions and words. We also have historical tensions between our people groups. For example, Kayo's grandmother was burned and nearly was killed as a young girl by the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. Also, two of her grandmother's brothers were kamikaze pilots in WW2. Still, by living Biblical principles in our daily lives, we have been able to find peace with each other and even between our relatives in the USA and Japan, both Christian and non-Christian. God has blessed us in many other ways as well.
The Bible has also helped me to overcome my fear of and prejudices against many other people groups and has allowed me to develop really blessed relationships with so many wonderful people from so many national, ethnic, religious, and racial backgrounds. I could go on and on with testimonies but it is more important to point people to the Bible rather than my own opinions and feelings on the subject because God is our Creator and the Bible is His instruction book for our lives.
And He (God) has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;
For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.
1 John 4:18
Where God’s love is, there is no fear, because God’s perfect love drives out fear. It is punishment that makes a person fear, so love is not made perfect in the person who fears.
1 Corinthians 13:4-5
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.
There are many other passages in the Bible that I could list but these are the first ones to come to mind. During these troubled times, I am only able to keep myself peaceful by focusing on the Word of God. I hope that these verses get you started in developing a Biblical perspective on overcoming your own racial fears and prejudices. Satan (an angel of light 2 Corinthians 11:14) and the world are offering many solutions to racial fear and prejudice that appear to be right but in the end they only lead to death and destruction. The Biblical path to racial reconciliation does not pass through revenge but repentance.
Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
Christian parents often mistakenly act as if they don’t talk about evolution with their children, that it will go away. Evolution permeates all secular children’s books, videos, and education. Even if your child goes to a Christian school that teaches creation, the books in the library or the videos that they watch from the earliest ages will all have a secular evolutionary worldview, unless they come from explicitly Christian sources. It is good that some youth ministries are beginning to deal with apologetics issues related to evolution however, even this is not sufficient by itself. It may be a case of too little, too late. Churches only have the opportunity to teach children and youth for only a fraction of the time of schools, peers, and media. The church cannot be expected to counter-act the entire onslaught of the evolution theory let alone the entire secular worldview.
I focus on the theory of evolution because unless our children develop a robust Biblical worldview related to creation, they cannot be expected to maintain a Christian perspective on other issues (abortion or LGBTQ+ issues etc.) in the face of even greater social, political, and even economic pressure in the future. The book of Genesis is foundational to the Christian worldview in these and many other areas. If Genesis is just a fictional story, then it has no authority to shape our worldview. Evolution is often the spearhead or the camel’s nose in the tent that will undermine our children’s entire Christian worldview, if they are left unvaccinated against it.
Here are some practical steps that can help us vaccinate our children against the theory of evolution and establish a foundation for dealing with other controversial topics from a Biblical worldview.
These are just a few hints to get us started. It is never too early to talk about these issues, in an age appropriate way. Before coming under conviction and believing in Christ at the age of five, my mother had been teaching me to memorize Bible verses since three. If you have any questions or need recommendations of additional resources feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org .
Christians, much less Christian leaders (pastors, missionaries, etc.), do not just wake up one morning, and out of the blue, decide to fall (apostatize/leave Christianity, sexual sin, financial sin, or suicide etc.). Instead, for Christian leaders, many of whom have dedicated their lives and livelihoods to serving Christ, the path to a fall can begin with a single discouragement, disappointment, unanswered prayer, uncomforted pain, or unmet need etc..
The Apostle Paul talked about, a "thorn in the flesh," a "messenger of Satan" (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)." As one who has been in some kind of formal Christian leadership role for most of the time since 1999, I have experienced and continue to experience various "thorns in the flesh" or "messengers of Satan" that if left untreated, could lead to serious spiritual and emotional infections. As a son of, a brother of, and a friend of many pastors and missionaries, (some of whom have fallen to various degrees), in retrospect, I can see that their "falls" started with something small but no one noticed until one day, one straw broke the camel's back.
If we see "falls" by Christian leaders not as one huge, and therefore impossible to solve problem, but as a bunch of small problems (or "straws"), that are not only possible to prevent, but even to reverse, this is the most crucial step. Then we can take a breath, roll our sleeves up, and help prevent Christian leaders from falling and help those, who are willing to be restored, to rise again in some form. Of course to do this, we must not be afraid to "get our hands dirty." Jesus got his hands dirty too, when he touched the lepers and healed others, we must become like Him.
The Good Samaritan also is a good example because he was not restrained by his schedule, business interests, or even ceremonial cleanliness. He picked up the wounded traveler and probably got his clothes stained with the stranger's blood. The priest and the levite stayed clean, kept their schedules, and went on their merry way, but they missed God's best for that day. This is a choice we must make. If a Christian leaders is drowning in discouragement, we cannot just stay on the safety of the shore and shout, "Swim!". Instead, lifeguards always are willing to get wet, regardless of the weather.
Here are a few practical things we can say and do for your Christian leaders that will help us (them) not to fall.
1. Remind us that we are humans and that we can have pains and weaknesses etc. too.
2. Don't put us on a pedestal instead keep your arms around us to show us love and help us not to stumble.
3. Be a safe person that we can share our discouragements, doubts, fears, and temptations with without fear of judgement or rejection.
4. Don't let us get away with saying that we are "fine" all the time. Ask us how we really are doing.
5. If we need help, then do what you can to help us personally. But, if the need is too great don't feel paralyzed. Just do what you can safely, and possibly team up with others to help us move our heavy loads. If that still isn't enough then tear a hole in the ceiling to get us to Jesus (Luke 5).
Observing Police Officers Can Teach Us Not To Allow Atheists to Steal Our God-Given Moral Authority ("Guns") and Use It to Destroy Minds and Hearts
I have had the privilege of knowing several Christian police officers. One beloved brother in Christ is Pastor/Deputy Rafer Owens. Pastor Owens is the Pastor of Faith Inspirational Missionary Church in Compton, CA. God is doing some exciting things through Pastor Owens and this church. Pastor Owens is also a Deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. You can see him in action as both a police officer and a pastor in the videos below. Keeping him in mind will help us to better understand the rest of this article.
In 2018, in the USA 144 police officers were killed in the line of duty. Also, according to USA today, "four officers were fatally shot by their own weapons after being disarmed."www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/12/27/police-deaths-144-killed-line-duty-2018/2423797002/
For this sad reason, police officers around the world must have situational awareness, training, techniques, and the proper equipment to keep themselves and others safe. However, none of these things would keep them safe if they just stood there and allowed criminals to steal their handguns without any resistance. Police officers would never allow a criminal to steal their handcuffs and then bind them with their own handcuffs and so on. However, we Christians (myself included) have allowed atheists to steal a lot of powerful "weapons" (spiritual, moral, and intellectual) and then use them attack and attempt to destroy the faith of ourselves and others.
The Bible, Police Officers, and Weapons
Rather than allowing our feelings, statistics, cultures or anything else to be the foundation and ultimate authority, we must submit all of these things to the Bible. The Bible is the ultimate law-book. Laws are merely suggestions unless there are police etc. to enforce them. The Bible has authority because it is backed up by the true and living God who will enforce it. The atheists that I have dealt with, as an Apologist, usually have some vague and false notion of God as some "man in the sky." They reject this false "god." I reject this false God too. However, there is a true and living God that we can only comprehend as far as He has chosen to reveal Himself to humanity.
For more on this read: https://www.internationalfishers.com/blog/why-i-do-not-believe-in-the-mischaracterized-version-of-god-which-most-atheists-rejectbut-i-do-believe-in-the-god-of-the-bible
The Bible says, "For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil." (Romans 13:3-4 NASB).
Notice that it says "sword". It does not say pillow, feather duster, or even whip. It says sword. A sword is a weapon of death that can be carried on the belt. The modern equivalent of a sword is a firearm, especially a handgun. which can be carried on the belt. Sometimes people think that weapons (swords or guns etc.) themselves are inherently evil. But, weapons themselves have no will or capacity to make decisions according to what is right or wrong. Therefore they are just a neutral as any other tool. A hammer can be used to build a house or murder someone. The evil is the heart of the murderer, not in metal of the hammer or the weapon.
I am also reminded that weapons were not on the earth until after sin. Genesis 3:24 says, "So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life." Without sin, weapons like swords would have been completely unnecessary but humans may have eventually developed knives for cutting open fruit and vegetables for food. This verse shows me that Adam and Eve may have learned about the very concept of a weapon, especially a sword by observing the flaming sword of the angel. It is possible, that they passed this knowledge down to their descendants and eventually someone figured out how to make a sword and now we have Glocks etc.
Christians Are Not Just Called To Be Spiritual Soldiers But Also Spiritual Police Officers
Christians usually think about "the whole armor of God" and the "sword of the spirit" Ephesians 6:10-17, and they think only of soldiers. However, in the Roman Empire and even in the Old Testament, police duties carried out by soldiers. In modern times we think of police and military as separate things. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Police#Ancient_policing
In order for someone to become a police officer, they must be commissioned by a higher authority. Sadly some Christians are not even aware that the Great Commission is a command for all Christians to take part in obeying.
Here is part of the ,"Police Commission," of believers. 2 Corinthians 10: 4-6 says, " for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete."
An atheist reading this article might say, "You are claiming that Christians are the "Morality Police!" Who are you to impose your morality on others?" I would answer, "If there is no God etc., why would imposing my morality on others be wrong? Ultimately, as I will demonstrate later, your atheist "morality" is strictly based on your personal feelings, so if there is no God etc., why would your feelings be superior to mine? Furthermore, why are you trying to impose your morality on me that it is wrong for me to impose my morality on others?"
Obviously, as Christians, we must first police ourselves by "taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ in our own lives, so that we don't disqualify ourselves and bring shame to the Body of Christ giving a foothold who constantly seek and invent reasons to call Christians, "Hypocrites." If atheists call us hypocrites because we have not yet understood the Bible fully enough to be in 100% compliance with the Bible, we should not deny or try to justify or defend our personal reputations, feelings, or pride. If we do that, we are allowing them to steal morality, which belongs to God but that He has given to His followers and use it to attack God? Instead, we should simply, humbly, and calmly ask and challenge them to justify their own authority to make such accusations in the first place. We just need to ask, "If God etc. does not exist, why would hypocrisy be wrong?" If we keep challenging their authority they will eventually be silenced.
The main goal here is not to humiliate them as people that Jesus loves but to deflate their arrogance and confidence in the deceptions of their atheistic world view. People will not call the fire fighters until they know that their house is on fire. They will not take medicine until the know that they are sick. By challenging their worldview, they may begin to notice that they on shaky ground and start looking for the Rock. The second goal is so that bystanders who see/read confrontation will respect Christianity more and atheism less instead of the reverse.
You see, the authority of police officers does not come from some magical power of the badge, the uniform, or even the gun. If an actor or security guard may put on all of the outward appearance of a police officer and people will treat them with respect on the street. However, if they encounter genuine police officers and try to exercise the authority of police officers in front of them, they will quickly be unmasked and arrested for the crime of impersonating a police officer. Likewise, we Christians, must stop allowing atheists to pretend to be "spiritual/moral" police officers.
Police Officers Do Not Persuade Criminals, They Exercise Authority Over Them
I wanted to be a lawyer so I studied political science. I really enjoy and am blessed by studying evidence for the truth of Christianity. For me, the evidence of design and irreducible complexity etc. lead me to worship God, first starting with my mind and spreading to my heart and soul. This even overflows to encourage me to love my neighbor as myself and so on. Because of this, I earned an MA in Christian Apologetics and became an apologist/missionary in Cambodia. Here, when I share the evidence with Christians at the Bible schools and churches, they are blessed and encouraged in their faith. When I share the evidence with open minded non-Christians, "seekers or something", they are also attracted to the Gospel and their doubts about God's existence and goodness are diminished. However, when I attempted to use evidence to defend Christianity from the attacks and mockery of atheists on social media they would reject them without any consideration at all and then blaspheme God even more. I realized that I was "casting" the precious "pearls" of truth, logic, morality, and evidence before "swine" and that they were not only attacking me but that because I was trying to feed pearls to pigs, that I was actually causing them to sin against God even more and pile up greater condemnation on themselves (Matthew 7:6).
Recently, I have realized that the reason I was getting "trampled" was because by giving the atheists evidence, I was giving them an authority over me, and even to judge God, that they had no right to have. By giving them evidence, I was putting the criminals in the place of the prosecutor, giving them the robes of the judge and place of the jury. I was putting God in the place of the criminal. Meanwhile I was trying to be a good defense attorney. However, you cannot get a fair trial in a corrupt court. Now, I have realized that God is the judge and the jury and the prosecutor. The criminals are in the place where criminals should be, and they have no defense attorney because who can defend anyone against the justice of an all knowing, all powerful, etc. etc. God?
You see, the police officers do not provide evidence to the criminals because they already know whether they are guilty or not. In the case of the atheists who mock God, they already know that they are guilty, that is why they are so angry at and hate God etc. www.internationalfishers.com/blog/why-do-atheists-hate-god
Once the criminals are in custody, police officers may share some of the evidence with the criminals in order to persuade them to confess. The government may release some of the evidence from the trial to the general public, not because the public's opinion of the evidence has any bearing on the outcome of the trial but so that the public will maintain good-will, trust, and respect toward the government. The evidence and conviction of the criminal may also serve as a deterrent to others who may be tempted to commit the same crimes.
Jesus provided evidence of miracles to the open-hearted those who had doubts, Mark 9:23-24 says, "And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” Jesus also gave concrete evidence to Thomas by allowing him to touch his wounds (John 20:24-29).
Jesus did not perform a miracle for Herod. "Now Herod was very glad when he saw Jesus; for he had wanted to see Him for a long time, because he had been hearing about Him and was hoping to see some sign performed by Him. And he questioned Him at some length; but He answered him nothing (Luke 23:8-9)."
Police Officers Avoid Losing Their Authority By Asking Questions Of Criminals
In the USA, when police officers pull you over for speeding, they usually ask you, "Do you know how fast you were going?" If you answer yes, then you are admitting guilt for speeding. If you answer no, then you have given up any foundation from which to argue against the number given by their radar gun and you are either lying or your speedometer is broken.
This is why Jesus often asked questions of those who challenged him. I could give multiple examples of this but this article is getting long.
There is one final passage I want to share. John 19:8-11 says, "Therefore when Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid; and he entered into the Praetorium again and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?” Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”
The reason why I completely reject any moral authority of atheists to make any moral judgments whatsoever about anything is that the source of all authority ultimately comes from ABOVE. Atheists, by definition deny the very existence of ABOVE. Therefore, they have no authority to judge or condemn others according to the authority and standards of their own worldview. Therefore, I will not allow them to steal the authority and standards of other worldviews, especially Christianity, so that they can use the power of those authorities to destroy the worldviews which they reject in the first place.
Real World Example:
Here is a streamlined summary of a recent interaction on social media in which I took the role of the police officer toward an atheist who attempted to use morality to attack and publicly mock Christianity, instead of the role of a defense attorney. You can probably find the whole exchange at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJx0bvu9OdI&lc=z235sjj5hujwxv1e2acdp430dxi2gud0q4u5f1g0rghw03c010c.1568424863249318.
You will need to look for the comment from International Fishers and see the replies.
Darryl: Short statement supporting religious freedom of Jews to circumcise and Christians to pray.
Atheist: Opposes religious freedom and mocks prayer as, "mumbling to yourself."
Darryl: Religious freedom connects to freedom of speech.
Atheist: Religion harms people.
Darryl: If God etc., does not exist, why would harming people be wrong?
Atheist: Emotional appeals and harming the bodily integrity of defenseless people is wrong.
Darryl: If humans are only stardust, why would one cluster of stardust harming the bodily integrity of defenseless people be wrong?
Atheist: Because the Golden Rule* is found in many religions.
Darryl: If there is no God etc. to enforce Golden Rule, why should I obey it?\
Atheist: Attempts to insult Darryl by calling him a "savage."
Darryl: Long statement sharing truth.
*Notice here that the atheist was trying to use the Sword of the Spirit the Bible against me. The Golden Rule has power because it is Jesus' words. However, the atheist has no authority to use this weapon against me because they deny the source of the authority and power of the Golden Rule.
What Is The Biblical Basis For The Existence Of Morality In People Who Accept And Reject God's Authority?
I will explain more of my discoveries on this topic later. The short answer is that all humans have been pre-programed with morality from the Creator God. Because of sin, their moral compasses have been corrupted so they can't be trusted as a reliable authority. However, once people accept the authority of God and his Word, their consciences can be realigned.
Romans 2:14-16 says, "For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.
Mention the "I"-Word (immigration) and many people on all sides immediately get triggered and polarized. I have attempted to stay silent on this issue but it is so divisive that Christians are getting divided over it. I also have noticed that a lot of Bible verses get misused in support of one position or another, so I feel compelled to attempt to help correct some of these issues.
I have observed that the less people know about immigration and immigrants the more emotionally charged and less rational their perspective on this issue--on all sides. Here are some reasons why I am not super freaked out about this issue, in any direction. I have lived as an immigrant in Cambodia, Japan, and short-term in in other countries most of the time since 2000 so I know how stressful, expensive, and time consuming obeying immigration laws can be. My wife and I have also been through the stress and expense of obtaining and keeping her US Green Card since 2004. I have taught, ministered to, and been friends with many immigrants (both legal and illegal) for many years as well. Even though I am neither a theologian nor a lawyer I happen to know something about both--degrees in political science and Christian apologetics. So, I ask that you take a deep breath, calm down, and consider what I write seriously instead of just calling me names like "xenophobe", "anti-immigrant", "racist" or "bleeding-heart liberal" etc. If you still disagree, that is fine with me. I just hope that you will do your own Biblical research, allow the Bible to guide your thinking on this issue and not allow your feelings or political affiliation to be your final authority.
1. The Bible Commands Immigration:
The main reason why I am an immigrant is because as a missionary, I am commanded to emigrate for the sake of the Gospel. Not everyone is called or commanded to emigrate but the Great Commission commands all Christians to either directly go as missionaries themselves or "go" indirectly by supporting missionaries in various ways. Let's take a look at the Great Commission itself for further insights.
Matthew 18: 18-20, "Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Notice the phrase, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given me." This phrase is the reasoning behind Acts 5:27-29, "The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!"
Because Jesus has ALL authority in heaven and on earth, the Great Commission is supersedes national level immigration laws because it is based on God's higher law. Therefore, it is Biblically acceptable to violate immigration laws for the purpose of fulfilling the Great Commission. This may be done directly and personally in various ways or indirectly through media. This decision should not be taken lightly, done without prayer, Bible study, and wise counsel. Violators must be willing and able to gladly accept whatever penalties may come as the result of their actions.
For this reason, as an American, I must oppose all proposals and movements to shut off all avenues of legal immigration because in one hundred years missionaries from Cambodia may be called to go to the USA in order to evangelize Americans who have forgotten the Gospel. I don't want them to be forced to violate any laws in order to obey God's higher law.
However, as I will discuss later, I don't believe that Christians have the Biblical freedom to violate immigration or any other laws for the purposes of getting a better job, a more comfortable life, or other lower level reasons.
2. Give To Caesar...
Every year I file my USA taxes because my money and the tax forms all have the "image of Caesar" (US government's name and/or seal on them). I don't like obeying the tax laws. I would change them if I could. But I obey the tax laws because of Matthew 22:17-21 which says, "Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?” But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied." Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
I obtain and renew my driver's license because of Cambodia's and the USA's image on them. In order to be a legal immigrant in Cambodia, my family and I must spend hundreds of dollars on passports from two countries. We must also spend around $600 yearly for Cambodia work permits and $900 annually for Cambodia visas. There is also the expense every 10 years of renewing Kayo's USA Green Card. All of these documents have "Caesar's image" on them. All of the fees that are charged are actually taxes that the Bible gives the government the right to take. Failing to pay your taxes is a form of theft. Therefore entering a country without the proper documentation is a form of theft against the government of that country. Obtaining false or stolen identification documents are also a form of theft, just as entering a movie theater or concert without a ticket, with a stolen ticket, or with a fake ticket. So unless you are entering a country illegally in order to obey God's law, that is a sin against God.
Even if you are obeying God's law, God has still given the government the right and power to make and enforce their own laws. Check out Romans 13 and 1 Peter 3:13-14 & 21-22 which says, "Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”"...Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him." Don't complain if you get caught, are punished, or get deported. God will still take care of you. There are several examples of people disobeying immoral laws (Daniel prayed and spent the night in the lions' den etc.) in the Bible which are worth studying. However, the default setting should always be to obey the law and support the effective, efficient, equal, fair, and just etc. enforcement of laws because the Bible also speaks against lawlessness. www.openbible.info/topics/lawlessness
The Bible also encourages us to go to great lengths in order to repeal or modify laws which are not good for various reasons. The book of Esther is a great example of this process. Esther even risked her own life by violating a law in order to fight a law which violated God's law.
3. The Bible Condemns Racism Of All Kinds
In the Old Testament, God's people were commanded not to interact with people of other nations but that was only because of their sinful activities (idol worship, child sacrifice etc.) and not because of their skin color or nationality. God did not want His people to become corrupted. Ezekiel 20:32 says, "You say, “We want to be like the nations, like the peoples of the world, who serve wood and stone.” But what you have in mind will never happen." This is the same message behind 1 Corinthians 15:33, which says, "Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”
Leviticus 19:33-34 says, “‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God." The key term is "residing". Residing means that one has legal residence status. It does not indicate that they are in violation of the "render to Ceasar" laws mentioned above.
For example, my family and I are renting an apartment. We are all residents of this apartment. This means that we all have a legal right to live in this apartment. According to our lease agreement, we have the legal right to reside in apartment #501. However, we do not have the right to live in #502 without making arrangements with the owner. If #502 is vacant (or not) and we go there, pick the lock, kick open the door, or even if the door is unlocked and we go move over there, we are not legal residents. Without getting permission and paying the rent for #502, we would be stealing from the landlord. Therefore the landlord would be perfectly justified in having the police to remove us from #502. If I buy computer A from the computer store it would be stealing for me to go to the store and take computer B (which I like better because it has a bigger screen etc.) without 1. paying for it and/or 2. getting permission from the owner of computer B to exchange computer A for computer B. Therefore, legal immigrants should be treated no better or worse than native-born citizens before the law, which they should obey in the same way that the native-born obey.
The New Testament further condemns racism. One example among many is, Galatians 3:28 which says, "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." This and other verses command us to treat all people fairly regardless of skin tone or national origin.
However, I have also noticed that a much more subtle form of racism or racial condescension is rampant in those who believe that people of certain skin tones are national origins are incapable of or exempt from obeying immigration laws BECAUSE OF their skin tone or national origin.
Based on my study of the Bible, I don't really believe in the concept of "race" because all people came from Adam and Eve. Acts 17:26-27, says, "From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us." Instead, I believe in people groups, cultures, and nations. The concept of "races" really assumes that evolution is true and I reject evolution for many reasons.
Notice also that it was God who set the boundaries (borders) of nations, "so that they would seek Him." National boundaries or borders are not against God's will but are instead part of God's plan for salvation! Remember that the languages were separated at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11) as a judgement against the sinful pride of the people and also to restrain evil. Genesis 11: 6-7 says, "The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
If God had not separated the languages, think of how much earlier in history weapons of mass destruction would have been developed and how many more people would have died in wars. In a one-language world it would have been much easier for evil people like Hitler to gain global control. Where would the refugees flee to, if evil rulers could control the whole world?
Back to my point about the racism of low expectations and condescension that subtly infects the thoughts of those who believe that certain people or groups of people are incapable of obeying immigration laws because of their skin tone, language, or national origin, I completely reject that as well. As I mentioned earlier, I have many people of different "races" who are close to me (my wife and many close personal friends) from around the globe. These people, both Christian and non-Christian all possess just as much of the Image of God (Genesis 1:26) as I do. Christ died for them and loves them just as much as me. They are every bit as intelligent, responsible, strong, diligent, and hard-working as me if not more. The idea that they are incapable of obeying immigration laws because of their skin tone, language, or national origin is in itself an insulting, arrogant, and condescending form of racism, which I completely reject!
Don't believe me? Answer this question. Which of the following sentences is racist?
1. X is incapable of obeying traffic laws because of their skin tone or national origin etc.
2. X is incapable of obeying standard grammar rules because of their skin tone or national origin etc.
3. X is incapable of obeying tax laws because of their skin tone or national origin etc.
4. X is incapable of obeying workplace policies because of their skin tone or national origin etc.
5. X is incapable of obeying immigration laws because of their skin tone or national origin etc.
The correct answer is ALL OF THE ABOVE! Condescension is not love, even if it means that people of one skin tone are given special privileges over another. Treating people with different skin tones or national origins as "pets" or "helpless victims" who need some "savior" disrespects, devalues, insults, and ultimately dehumanizes them (us). James 2:1 says, "My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism." The passage goes on to give the common example of the rich being favored over the poor. But, wouldn't it be just as unbiblical to favor the poor over the rich? Or one race over another in any direction? Favoritism in any direction is a form of injustice. Injustice leads to hatred and violence. Racial favoritism in any direction will ultimately lead to and encourage full blown racism.
Christ commanded us to "love our neighbors as ourselves." Therefore, we should expect others to obey immigration laws equally regardless of their skin tone or national origin. If the immigration laws are unjust or inefficient, then we should do what we can to make them better. However, we cannot just encourage law breaking out of a misguided sense of "compassion" or "social justice" etc.
4. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus Probably WERE NOT Illegal Immigrants
A common abuse of Scripture in this debate is the idea that Joseph, Mary, and Joseph were definitely illegal immigrants when they went to Egypt therefore, Christians must support unlimited illegal immigration for any reason such as economics or comfort (not for a higher purpose-see above).
Matthew 2:13-15 says, "When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
Here are some obvious observations that I make about this passage with just a minimal of historical research:
1. Jesus may have been what the United Nations calls, an "internally displaced person." At the time of Jesus' birth Egypt was a province of the Roman Empire. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egypt_(Roman_province)
Israel was also a province of the Roman Empire. Therefore, Jesus' family may have been doing nothing more than moving from one state or province to another to avoid death. In most countries around the world throughout history immigration laws rarely have any bearing or prohibition on someone moving from one state/province to another because immigration is by definition the moving form one nation to another nation.
2. Jesus may have been a refugee. If immigration laws did apply to Jesus' family's move from Israel to Egypt in order to save Jesus' from being murdered by a king who was violating God's law against murdering innocent babies (remember Exodus 1), then avoiding murder (God's law) would have superseded Egypt's immigration laws. Mark 3:4 says, "Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent."
For this reason, genuine refugees (those who are actually fleeing for their lives or safety--not just pretending to be refugees to game the system) are perfectly justified in violating or ignoring standard immigration laws (for as little time as possible) because their lives are in danger.
3. If immigration laws applied, it is highly likely that Joseph would have obeyed them by "giving to Caesar" because of Joseph's character. "This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly."
If Joseph was "faithful to the law" when it came to his marriage to Mary, and did not change his plans until an angel from God told him to that it was okay, then it seems highly unlikely that Joseph would suddenly break Egypt's immigration law without a good reason--God's command.
4. Even if Joseph led the family to violate the immigration law of Egypt, it was only because God specifically commanded him to do so. God's commands are superior to human laws. However, I have never heard of an illegal immigrant violating immigration laws because an angel from God appeared to them and told them to do so. Even if an angel did appear to them, it still would not prevent the nation from enforcing its laws and punishing/deporting them.
So, I hope that this discussion will help you to use the Bible to guide your thinking on controversial topics instead of your emotions, political ideology, popularity, or other influences. Ultimately God's Word is the authority. I encourage you to be a Berean and do your own research. I could be completely wrong, but the Bible is always right because it comes from a perfect God.
I recently came to the realization that I have been consciously and instinctively navigating the political landscape (mainly in the USA but also in interactions with Cambodian, Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino etc. etc. Christians) based on some of the Biblical principles, that I will share below, for many years. Finally, my thoughts on this subject have crystalized enough so that I can write them down for my own benefit and possible to encourage other Christians to allow the Bible to guide their own political activities more than emotions or following the crowd. The purpose of this post is not to tell you what issues to support or oppose or which candidates to vote for but to give you an example my thinking on this topic so that you can allow the Bible to shape your political worldview on your own. Don't take my word for it, be a Berean for yourself. God is the God of every aspect of life-- including politics.
Before we get started, here are a couple of verses to provide some foundation to our thinking.
Here are my top priorities:
In a perfect world, we would be able to choose between multiple candidates who fully support all of the Biblical priorities perfectly and many more. If that were the case, we would then be able to see which one had the most Biblically admirable personal life. If that were the case, we might be able to see which candidate's life most closely matched 1 Timothy 3 and vote accordingly. However, the world is not perfect, and politicians are not pastors, elders, or deacons, so few or any of them live up to the standards of 1 Timothy 3.
The question then becomes, how do we choose between candidates whose personal lives are less than admirable? Personally, I prioritize the candidates' likelihood to govern according to the Biblical priorities that I have listed above, over the state of their personal lives. I do take it into consideration and it is important to me, but if I must choose, then I will go with the Biblical priorities. You are welcome to disagree with me, but first allow me explain why I have come to this conclusion. It is based on my study of Scripture and not some arbitrary or convenient standard.
1. In Scripture, God led many Biblical characters to cooperate with governmental leaders who cooperated with God's purposes but whose personal lives were probably unsavory. For example, in Genesis, Joseph worked with Pharaoh, who was likely an idol worshipper and was probably quite sexually immoral by Biblical standards (harem etc.). The same is true for Daniel's and Nehemiah's relationship and cooperation with various pagan kings.
2. King David was an adulterer, murderer, and more yet he was used powerfully by God despite his many sins, not to mention all of the brokenness in his family.
I believe that politicians are the employees of the citizens. By voting, we help hire them to do a job--be good stewards of the powers and resources of the government. In our lives we must hire many people to perform various functions in our lives: employees, grocers, drivers, doctors, teachers, pilots, auto mechanics and more. For me, if the skill level is equal, I prefer to hire a strong Christian auto mechanic with a good personal life to repair my car. But, sometimes mechanics fitting that standard are not available. I cannot just walk around for months or years while my car is broken, because I cannot find the perfect mechanic, who not only has the capacity to fix my car and also who has a perfect personal life. So, in the end I have to have my car repaired by a mechanic who may or may not have a good personal life. I wish we lived in a perfect world, but we as Christians cannot allow ourselves to be cornered, trapped, or paralyzed by perfectionism.
The good thing is that God uses imperfect people, like you and me, to accomplish his perfect will. We may not be perfect, our politicians and policies may not be perfect, but God and His Word are still the only perfect guide for any aspect of our lives.
Recently I have been seeing a lot of "Hoax Alerts" in my Facebook feed. I also have seen a lot of "news" reports that are based completely on anonymous sources (gossip). As an apologist, it is part of my job to evaluate sources of information for credibility. The Bible is my ultimate filter of truth. Some people refuse to use the Bible as their filter of truth but my many years of research into the truth claims of the Bible have confirmed for me that the Bible is worthy of my complete confidence. Here are just a few passages and principles that help me to filter out "fake news" and hoaxes that I come across on a daily basis. I hope that you will find these helpful as well.
1. Be a Berean
Acts 17:11-12 says, "Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men."
The Bereans were commended because they did not just take Paul's word for it, even though he had the authority and high position of an apostle, instead they checked Paul's sources to see if he was telling the truth or not. Two common sources of fake news and hoaxes is 1. the Argument from Authority Fallacy and 2. the Appeal to Popularity Fallacy. Sometimes these two fallacies are combined.
Statements like these can seem convincing (and intimidating) at first glance but on deeper analysis they can be misleading. Just because a famous person (or even a lot of famous people) says something does not automatically make it true. Here are some questions to ask and answer for ourselves to help us be better Bereans.
1. Is the statement outside of their area of expertise?
2. If it is in their area of expertise, is it just their opinion of what the data says instead of what the data actually says? It is important to check the data for ourselves.
3. Has the data itself been corrupted? When I was a political science student, I was taught a lot of ways that opinion polls etc. can be corrupted by personal prejudices. Presuppositions and assumptions can corrupt scientific data.
4. Have the interpretations, conclusions, and proposals based on the data been influenced by their own worldview and prejudices (not to mention financial, social, or political pressures)?
5. Does the popularity of the statement prove its truthfulness? Truth is not based popularity. What is popular is not always right and what is right is not always popular.
Remember, the purpose of fake news and hoaxes is to get you to unquestioningly (and rapidly) accept an idea as true and the take some action or form an opinion before you have time to think it through. In other words, it is an attempt to mentally bully you into a desired mindset. Unethical salespeople use similar techniques to try to get you to make "impulse purchases" before you have time to really think it through. By forcing ourselves to calm down, take a breath, and ask (and answer) good questions for yourselves, we can overcome our impulses and think more clearly. Ultimately truth is truth no matter who says it and truth is truth even if no one has the courage to say it.
2. Reject Gossip
Here is a basic definition of gossip that I found on Google: "casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details which are not confirmed as true."
The Bible has lots of verses condemning gossip. For example: www.biblestudytools.com/topical-verses/bible-verses-about-gossip/
Proverbs 26:20 says, "Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down."
The Biblical standard for the establishment of facts is two or three witnesses. bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Three-Witnesses In the Bible, witnesses were never allowed to be "anonymous" they always had to go public. It is impossible for the accused to cross examine or refute the statements of "anonymous sources." Ultimately, there is no way to distinguish between an "anonymous source" and an "imaginary source (the reporter just makes up a lie and attributes it to some anonymous person to avoid responsibility)." Therefore, I believe that we should treat all reports from anonymous or "unnamed" sources as gossip.
3. Listen to All Sides
Proverbs 18:17 says, "In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines."
It is easy jump to conclusions when we hear just one side of an argument but it is not the right way to go about discovering the truth for ourselves. Instead, we need to research the various ideas, claims, and evidences presented by all sides of a debate (not just both sides, sometimes there are valuable insights to be gained from lesser known participants.)
4. Satan is the Accuser
Revelation 12: 9-10 says "The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down."
Ad Hominem (fallacy) attacks are common ingredients of fake news and hoaxes. Accusations of racism, sexism, bigotry, homophobia, islamophobia, transphobia, fascism, etc. are leveled at opponents to discredit their ideas before they even have an opportunity to speak for themselves. Many of these accusations are made without evidence and are therefore nothing more than lies, insults, and innuendos meant to cause prejudice and hostility. As Christians, we should be wary of false accusations because they prevent us from #3. bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/False-Accusations
Jesus Christ himself was falsely accused of cooperating with Satan. Matthew 12:24 says, "But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”
I myself have been falsely accused of racism, bigotry, and fascism completely contrary to reality, without any evidence, by people who have never even met me in real life (on social media) just because they could not logically refute my ideas. If it can happen to me, it can happen to you too.
Now, when I hear accusations against others I do not believe them unless I can see sufficient credible evidence to convince me of the truth of those accusations.
For example if I hear that someone is accused of being a racist, here is what questions I ask and answer for myself before I believe the accusation.
1. Are there multiple pieces of recent evidence (accurate quotations/recordings of multiple clearly (that I personally can agree are racist on face value--not "dog-whistle" nonsense) racist statements. If there is only 1 statement or it is not absolutely clear, it could just be that the person is confused or said something racist by mistake. If the evidence is not recent, then it might indicate that the person was a racist but they may not be a racist anymore. By God's grace people change.
2. Has the person stood behind/refused to apologize for or clarify those statements?
3. Even if the person is actually racist, does the charge of racism have any relevance to their statements/ideas on other topics? For example, Hitler was a racist. Racism is false/bad. I reject racism in all its forms. Hitler believed the 2+2=4. Does that mean that 2+2=4 is bad/racist? Should I reject 2+2-4? Hitler loved his pet dog. Does that mean owning a pet dog is racist? Should I reject pet dog ownership?
Ultimately, the Bible helps us to have discernment whether we are dealing with news reports or in church. I hope that this article will help you to engage with media with more discernment, logic, and a systematic thought process which will help you to avoid being deceived or distracted by fake news and hoaxes.
Here are a couple of more passages to consider:
1 John 4: 1-3 says, "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world."
2 Corinthians 10:4-5 says, "The weapons we fight withare not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
I started memorizing Bible verses when I was 3 years old. I remember my family's passion while listening to the election results on the radio when I was 4 years old. I became a Christian when I was 5 year old. Growing up, when other kids were enthralled with thoughts of professional sports teams, my thoughts were frequently on Democrats and Republicans. I went on to earn a B.A. in political science and an M.A. in Christian Apologetics.
Even though I have given up all my dreams and plans to be involved in politics professionally because I am a missionary/Christian apologist in Cambodia, I still pay attention to politics both as a hobby and from the perspective of an apologist because many of today's most divisive political issues such as religious freedom, abortion, euthanasia, climate change, LGBT+ issues, war, and much more, frequently overlap with Christian apologetics, whether we want them to or not. In the past, "separation of church and state" was an uneasy truce between Christians and politics but that wall has been broken down. It wasn't the church that broke down the wall and tried to take over the state--it was the reverse.
Christians have no choice but to engage in politics because EVERYTHING IS POLITICAL NOW! This is probably going to get worse before it gets better. So, how can we be faithful "ambassadors for Christ" in the world that we live in? Politics is much more than political issues and proposals, it involves people. How can we, as Christians (of any nation) relate to government leader Biblically?
1. Government Leaders Are Our Neighbors
Matthew 22:36-40 New Century Version (NCV) “Teacher, which command in the law is the most important?” Jesus answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and most important command. And the second command is like the first: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ All the law and the writings of the prophets depend on these two commands.”
Think of any government leader. Did you think them as your neighbor? Do you love them as you love yourself? Do you realize that Jesus Christ loves them just as much as He loves you?
2. Government Leaders Are People Who Need Prayer, Just Like You
1 Timothy 2:2 New Century Version (NCV) "Pray for rulers and for all who have authority so that we can have quiet and peaceful lives full of worship and respect for God."
When government leaders are faced with important decisions, did you pray for them? When you are happy with their words and actions, do you pray for them? When you are angry about their words and actions do you pray for them?
3. Government Leaders Are Humans, With The Image of God, And Should Be Treated With Respect
The Bible is full of examples of God's people relating Biblically to Government leaders and other religious leaders with legal authority. None of these leaders were perfect. Some were better than others. Some were easier to love/like than others. I believe that after studying these Biblical "case-studies" you will be thankful for the government leaders we have today. Here are some examples:
Case Study #1: Joseph and Pharaoh (Genesis 39)
Case Study #2: Joseph and Pharaoh (Genesis 41+)
Case Study #3: Midwives and Pharaoh (Exodus 1) (civil disobedience)
Case Study #4: Moses and Pharaoh (Exodus 3-15) (confrontation)
Case Study #5: Samuel and Saul (1 Samuel 9+)
Case Study #6: David and Saul (1 Samuel 17+)
Case Study #7: Nathan and David (2 Samuel 12)
Case Study #8: Elijah and Ahab (1 Kings 17+)
Case Study #9: Nehemiah
Case Stud #10: Esther
Case Study #11: Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar and Darius
Case Study#12: Jesus and King Herod and Pilate
Case Study #13: Peter and Religious Leaders (Acts 5)
Case Study #14: Paul and Various Government Leaders
When I reflect on these case studies, there are some themes that emerge.
I hope that these thoughts will help you to engage in politics (which you must because you can't avoid it) with more confidence, peace, joy, and most of all LOVE. I encourage you to take a moment and pray for your government leaders and also pray that God will help you to love them not because they are perfect, but because Christ loves them and died on the cross for them.
In my last post, www.internationalfishers.com/blog/build-the-wall, I wrote that most Christians are standing on the sidelines when it came to the Great Commission. According to Barna research group, only 17% of churchgoers have even heard of the Great Commission and knows what it means. Fifty-one percent have not even heard of the Great Commission. In this post, I will discuss some of the reasons why so few churchgoers understand, much less are actively engaged in, the Great Commission.
1. Christians are not being equipped for the work of ministry.
"For the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ," Ephesians 4:12
In too many churches, many people attend church to be "fed"=encouraged, helped, inspired, comforted, and/or entertained. As a result many people who attend churches are merely consumers. They contribute nothing beyond possibly contributing some finances (like tipping an entertainer). These people do not encourage, help, inspire, or comfort others. Church leaders who minister to these people have to be careful that they do not become performers/entertainers. Instead, according to Ephesians 4:12, church leaders should be coaches. For more on this see www.internationalfishers.com/blog/church-services-should-be-a-lot-like-locker-roomsbut-without-the-bad-smell.
2. Christians mistakenly see the Great Commission as for other countries only.
"And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I amwith you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen." Matthew 28: 18-20. Whenever the Great Commission is (too rarely) mentioned, it is often accompanied by flags and maps of other countries. As a result, people see the Great Commission as irrelevant or foreign. Perhaps we should also hang up (at least in our minds) a tablecloth from our kitchen table and a map of our own neighborhood too because the Great Commission's "all nations" or "all the world" begins with those around our kitchen table, our neighborhood, schools, and workplaces and then extends to the ends of the earth as well. There is no option given in Scripture to either reach your local community or the ends of the earth (as far as you can reach). The requirement to go to "all nations" means both here and there. Traditional missionaries go, adapt to, and minister to places where others cannot go. They are your representatives. For more on this see www.internationalfishers.com/eternal-impact/i-went-so-that-you-could-stay-you-stay-so-that-i-can-go .
3. Christians mistakenly see the Great Commission as an optional/extra credit assignment. This is result of a combination of #1 and #2 above. Christians often think that the Great Commission is only the responsibility of the missionaries and perhaps the pastors and mission agencies. They fail realize that just as without fuel pilots are only pedestrians, missionaries cannot go to the ends of the earth and make disciples cross-culturally without sufficient financial, prayer, spiritual, emotional, and practical partnership/support before they go, during their mission terms, and during their times in their home countries. Returning missionaries also need partnership too so that they can re-integrate into the church and "regular" life smoothly. For more on the hearts and ministries of those who stay behind please visit www.internationalfishers.com/eternal-impact/we-stayed-so-that-others-could-go-a-missionarys-tribute-to-those-who-stay-behind .
The truth is that the Great Commission is a commandment for every Christian whether they are vocational Christian workers or not. Every Christian is called to be a missionary to their own family, friends, school, workplace, and community. Every Christian is in some way, called to be involved in world missions whether as a missionary or as senders (financially, prayerfully, emotionally, and/or practically). Missionaries are not "holy homeless" or "Bible beggars". Instead, they (we) are Great Commission Business Partners with you. We go so that you can stay. When we can no longer be missionaries, God may call you to switch places with us on the front lines of the mission field.
Build the Wall In Front of Your House: A Biblical Guide to Problem Solving
As a missionary in Cambodia since 2000, walls have been a part of my daily life for many years. When I first moved to Cambodia, I shared a mission-team house with other missionaries which was surrounded by a wall. When the 8-foot tall concrete and steel spike wall was no longer sufficient to prevent spiderman-like burglars from coming in to the property two nights in a row, the landlord added another 18 inches of coiled razor wire on top of that. My churches, Bible schools, and son's Christian school have all been surrounded by walls, gates, and guards. In developing countries, walls are not for decorative purposes but for defensive purposes. Israel at the time of Nehemiah was a developing country at the time and so the wall around Jerusalem necessary for the common defense.
I was reminded of how Nehemiah reorganized the people of Jerusalem to rebuild certain sections of the wall. I was also reminded of the phrase, "In front of their houses."
Nehemiah 3:23, "Next to them, Benjamin and Hasshub made repairs in front of their own house. Next to them, Azariah son of Maaseiah, the son of Ananiah, made repairs beside his own house."
Problems Are Often Too Big For Us To Solve Alone.
Americans, like myself, are usually programmed by our culture to be individualists. Therefore, we usually to try to solve all of our problems by ourselves and we expect others to do the same. This is a great tactic when the problems are small, because we can solve them quickly and individually. However when problems are too big for to solve individually, we often end up being frustrated with ourselves or others for being unable to acheive the impossible. The result is paralysis.
Other cultures are much more community-oriented. Therefore, they usually try to find community-based solutions to problems. This process is slower and can be less efficient than individualism when dealing with smaller or urgent problems but it really shines when dealing with large and long term problems. Maybe this is why the "Great Wall" was built in China.
I believe that the Biblical model is somewhere in the middle between Individualism and Community-Orientation and so it can have the best of both and avoids the weakenesses of both too.
When Problems Are Too Big To Solve Individually, Work Together As Group.
Some problems, like rebuilding a city wall, is too big for the individual to ever complete in a timely manner. Therefore, a group is needed.
Even If We Can't Solve The Whole Problem Alone, We Should Each Do Our Part, No Matter How Small.
The fear of being overwhelmed by the needs or the size of the problem often paralyzes us into doing nothing. For example, when we see a homeless person, we usually avoid eye contact because we know that we cannot solve ALL of their problems by ourselves. However, if we have the ability to help them either temporarily or permanently resolve ONE of their problems (even a cup of water), then I believe that we should do what we can to help, no matter how small.
Once I was walking down the street in downtown Los Angeles. I met a homeless man and started talking to him. I tried to witness to him, but he said, "Unless God gives me food right now, I won't believe!" Within, seconds, a man walking down the street past us put a sandwich into the homeless man's hands. Within a minute after that, a car pulled up to the curb, honked and a woman held out a bottle of water for the homeless man to take. Convicted and amazed, I took the man to McDonald, bought him lunch, and witnessed to him. When I left, the homeless man, was still homeless, but because that man and woman obeyed the guidance of the Holy Spirit at that exact moment (I don't know their spiritual backgrounds but they did the exact right thing in that momemt) the homeless man's problems were partially solved. 1. He got lunch. 2. He got dinner. 3. Most importantly, He had an opportunity to hear the Gospel.
Now, I am a missionary, unfortunately many people regard my family and I as, "Holy Homeless," because we live on donations. People get nervous, awkward, and distant when we mention our financial needs. The truth is that we are really Great Commission representatives. We go to the mission field in other's places, so that other Christians can stay behind and be senders.
Many Christians also wrongly think that the Great Commission is an optional extra credit project--it isn't. Instead the Great Commission is required of all Christians. "Go into all the world," starts by spreading the Gospel across your own kitchen table to your family, across the street to your neighborhood, across the city, nation, and world. Missionaries go to the ends of the earth so that you don't have to. When I can no longer be a missionary to Cambodia, God may call you to replace me as a missionary. Then I will be the sender for you.
The Great Commission (in the missionary sense) is the main defense (a wall if you will) against the localized extinction of Christianity in areas where persecution is strongest. Unless Christianity keeps growing, it will eventually be crushed by persecution at least in certain locations.
The Great Commission, as a problem/challenge/wall that needs to be rebuilt most Christians stay on the sidelines because they know that the needs are so great that they are overwhelming. However, the truth is that the needs are so great and overwhelming because most Christians are still on the sidelines! Instead of a few Christians doing and sacrificing too much, it would be much better, more enjoyable, and more sustainable if all Christians each did and sacrificed a little.
Here are a few real-life examples. You don't need to sacrifice your home to become a powerful Great Commission Wall Builder. Instead, you could just host some missionaries for a few days when they are on home-assignment. The costs for you will be minimal and the missionaries will save hundreds of dollars in motel fees (and missionaries usually have some interesting/funny stories so count it as entertainment). You don't have to give up your extra car to be an important part of the Great Commission. Instead, you could loan it to missionaries on home assignment for a few days. This will save missionaries hundreds of dollars in car rental or ride-sharing expenses. Even though missionaries need to raise thousands of dollars monthly in order to stay on the field and engage in meaningful ministries, (cheerfully given, sustainable, faithful, regular etc.) monthly donations from $10 to $50 (maybe cut back on the Starbucks and cable TV) are what they (we) need more than huge one-time donations (we welcome those too but we cannot really make plans).
The Great Commission, Homelessness, and other problems are too big for us to solve as individuals. However, if we work together as the Body of Christ and each one is faithful to our own responsibilities, many problems can be resolved or at least minimized. If you see a need, don't be afraid to do what you can and give what you have. Trust that God will supply the rest either through other people or if necessary, He can even rain manna from heaven. But it is more likely to be a sandwich and a bottle of water from strangers.
Matthew 25: 35-36,
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’" Each of these things listed is reasonably inexpensive. The homeless and missionaries both need everything listed here.
I also recommend that you read my other blog article, "What is in Your Hand?" www.internationalfishers.com/blog/what-is-in-your-hand
Exodus 4:1-4 New Century Version (NCV)Proof for Moses4 Then Moses answered, “What if the people of Israel do not believe me or listen to me? What if they say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?”
2 The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?”
Moses answered, “It is my walking stick.”
3 The Lord said, “Throw it on the ground.”
So Moses threw it on the ground, and it became a snake. Moses ran from the snake, 4 but the Lord said to him, “Reach out and grab the snake by its tail.” When Moses reached out and took hold of the snake, it again became a stick in his hand.
What is in your hand?
Is it a computer, device, or a phone? Are you using it for God's best purposes?
What else is in your hand? What do you own? What do you control? What areas of life do you have influence? Are you a leader?
Are you using everything you are, own, control, influence, and lead for God's best purposes?
These are the questions I am beginning to ask myself. What is in my hand? Am I using those things for God's best purposes?
Notice that God did not give Moses a new, extra, spare, modified, or upgraded staff. Instead, God took the same old staff that Moses had been using for years and used it in a miraculous way. God may not give us more or new resources, but He will use the common things that we already have in a amazing ways, if we are willing to throw them on the ground when God calls us to.
Throwing them on the ground means that we relinquish our own control over them and allow God to do whatever He wants to with them. The results may even be scary at times. Moses ran from the snake.
I have come to believe that one of the biggest hinderances for us (and others through us) experiencing all that God has for us all is that we look at the problems and they look too big when compared to our limited resources. We know that we and our resources cannot solve the problem or meet the need. Moses knew that his staff was nothing compared to Pharaoh's army. So, instead of doing everything we CAN with what we already HAVE, we end up doing NOTHING. Often, when we do nothing, others follow our lead and do NOTHING as well. The end result is that NOTHING gets done, no problems get solved (not even small ones which you (I) could have solved), and no one gets helped. If we live like this when we are strong, what kind of help can we expect when we are weak?
"The one who moves mountains begins by carrying away many small stones." Confucius
There are times when God wants us to speak to the mountains (problems/challenges) and they will move.
Matthew 17:20 New Century Version (NCV)
20 Jesus answered, “Because your faith is too small. I tell you the truth, if your faith is as big as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. All things will be possible for you.
But many times, God wants us to use the staff and other tools that He has already given us to take small steps. Also remember that God often does not expect us to solve big problems all alone. If we are Christians, then we are part of the Body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:12 New Century Version (NCV) The Body of Christ Works Together
12 A person’s body is one thing, but it has many parts. Though there are many parts to a body, all those parts make only one body. Christ is like that also.
Each Christian should think of ourselves as a single cell in a much larger body. If each one of us is willing to use what God has placed in our hands to the maximum God can use that power and multiply it miraculously.
On the other hand, we can say, I only have this old stick. God can't use it for anything. I am not going to do anything with it. I will just hold on to it. Of course, this attitude is the same attitude that the one who buried the talent had in Matthew 24:14-30. This passage should serve as a challenge and a warning to us.
What is in your hand?
My friend, a pastor in Cambodia from the Philippines, posted the following on Facebook. Rather than answer in a comment, I am answering the objections/questions/misconceptions that the late Rachel Evans raised in a blog post, which I will share with my friend.
When I write Christian I mean genuine, born again (John 3:7), sheep (Matthew 25) Christians. I do not mean cultural Christians etc.
1. Christians can vote Democrat: I personally have voted Democrat, especially in local elections. However, Christians don't usually prefer the Democrat Party because they do not make us feel welcome. The DNC pro-abortion position is a turn-off, and recently, the DNC has not be a strong advocate for religious freedom.
2. Christians can believe in micro-evolution but macro-evolution undermines Scripture: I personally believe that God created males and females of many kinds of animals. For example, from the male and female "dog-kind" we get everything from wolves to poodles. Genesis teaches that humans, animals and plants will reproduce, "after their own kind." Darwin's finches with big and small beaks, are all examples of reproducing after their own kind also known as "micro-evolution." Macro-evolution (aka evolution) means the change from one kind (a rose) into another kind (a cat) or a cat to a spider. I reject macro-evolution.
3. Christians can have same sex attraction: Currently in Cambodia there are support groups for Christians who have unwanted same-sex attraction. Romans 1 and other Scriptures indicate that homosexual activities themselves are prohibited as sins in the same way that adultery, fornication, and lust are prohibited for heterosexuals.
4. Christians should promote religious freedom for all religions: However, tolerance means tolerance, it does not mean agreement, approval, or applause. I support religious freedom for all religions. I also support the religious freedom to evangelize, convert, debate, and leave, one religion for another. As a Christian, I want others to become Christians as well. Everything must be done peacefully and lovingly.
5. Christians should have questions or doubts about the Bible: As an apologist, my entire ministry since 2000 has been to answer my own questions (doubts) and the questions of others about the Bible.
6. Christians can support equal rights and working conditions for women.
7. Christians can drink and smoke, but it isn't always the best thing they could be doing with their money, time, health, and reputation: 1 Corinthians 10:23 "“We are allowed to do all things,” but not all things are good for us to do. “We are allowed to do all things,” but not all things help others grow stronger."
8. Christians can read the New York Times: They should just be Acts 17 Bereans about everything they read, watch, or hear from any secular or religious source.
9. Christians can support equal application of human rights for LGBTQ+ people: They can do this without approving of, agreeing with, or applauding actions which they sincerely believe violate Scripture. Of course LGBTQ+ people also should support religious freedom.
10. Mature, faithful, solid Christians including pastors and missionaries, can experience depression or any other mental/physical illness/disorder/trauma: 2 Corinthians 12:9, "But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you. When you are weak, my power is made perfect in you.” So I am very happy to brag about my weaknesses. Then Christ’s power can live in me."
If you have any additional questions please comment below or e-mail email@example.com.
The above video about Pol Pot reminded me of three verses.
1. James 4:2 "You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God."
Pol Pot, an atheist, convinced some Cambodians that they were victims of other Cambodians and that they should covet their wealth and social class. When the "victims" gained power, they felt justified in victimizing those that they believed were their oppressors. In the end, everyone in Cambodia became poor and fearful that others would attack them. Before the Khmer Rouge's rule from 1975-1979, Cambodia rivaled Singapore, it still has not recovered completely as of 2019.
2. Acts 17:26-27, "From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us."
Many people mistakenly believe that this world is all that there is and so they will do anything (no matter how evil) to obtain wealth, luxuries, and a high social status. But, the truth is that this life is only a test to determine where we will spend our eternal life (either in heaven or hell). Even though we may not feel comfortable in our earthly circumstances, we need to understand that God placed us in those circumstances so that we, "would seek him..." It is good to do our best to improve our own (and other's) economic, social, and even political circumstances. But, these are only temporary gains when compared to eternity.
3. Mark 8:36, "What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?"
Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:7-8).
What is sin?
"Sin is lawlessness, breaking the law of God. Sin consists of not only missing the mark, but hitting the wrong thing. All of us have sinned." www.blueletterbible.org/faq/don_stewart/don_stewart_560.cfm
As modern cultures have turned away from the knowledge of and respect for God and the Bible, the concepts of love and sin have become distorted as well. In this distorted view the only way a person can be considered "loving" is to applaud popular sins. Of course, it is still acceptable to condemn unpopular sins...until they become popular again. In this post, I will refrain from giving examples of popular and unpopular sins because many people have become so emotionally attached to certain sins that they will not listen to any negative comments related to their pet sins but they will also heap condemnation on the sins of others. Also, the popular sins of today may fade out of popularity to be replaced by new popular sins in a future generation. Just think about the popular sins of past centuries, which we now condemn. Someday, future generations will condemn us as well. But, it is likely that they too will have their own popular/pet sins as well, which they will excuse.
We cannot allow our current culture to determine what is right and wrong, merely because of what is popular. Human sacrifice, genocide, and slavery have all been considered, "good" and "popular" at various times. Instead, we must firmly anchor ourselves in the Truth of God's Word to determine what is right and wrong. Cultural norms are constantly changing but the Bible does not change because God does not change.
Here are some Bible verses on this topic:
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." Hebrews 13:8
"God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?" Numbers 23:19
"The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever" Isaiah 40:8
"Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens." Psalms 119:89
If I Love Myself, I Will Not Excuse My Own Sins.
We are commanded to love God and our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). If we love ourselves, we will see the value that God has given us with His image and Christ's blood. Therefore, we will want to avoid or stop doing any activity that will cause harm to our lives. Sin is anything which violates God's original design for our lives. For example, if you own a car, you have the freedom to do anything you want with your car, even if it is destructive. You can put oil in the gas tank and gasoline in the radiator if you want but it will damage the car because it violates the manufacturer's original design. Likewise, with our lives and bodies, which God has given us, we have freedom to sin. However, we do not have the freedom from the consequences of our actions: our cars and lives will be severely damaged or destroyed. This is why I do my best to take good care of my car, by following the manufactures instructions and design so that I will not have to pay for expensive, unnecessary repairs, due to my own foolish choices. Likewise, I also do my best to avoid damaging my life by following God, the Creator's original design for my life. Just as cars come with an instruction book or owner's manual, which helps us to avoid damaging our cars unnecessarily, God has also provided us with an instruction book for our lives, the Bible.
If I Love My Neighbors As Myself, I Will Not Applaud Their Sins.
If I saw my neighbors putting oil in the gasoline tanks and gasoline in the radiators of their cars, if I loved them, I would not applaud their destructive actions. If my enemies were doing something bad to their cars, I might be tempted to either applaud their mistakes or keep quiet, but this would not be the loving thing to do. Instead, a loving neighbor, would warn them of the dangers of their actions, point out the proper instructions in the instruction book, and help them reverse their mistakes before any further damage can be done to their cars. Likewise, if we see our neighbors sinning, we should, if we truly love them, gently and respectfully warn them of the dangers, show them the proper way to live according to the Bible, and help them make the necessary changes to their lives in order to avoid any further consequences.
We also need to remember that the Bible calls us first to correct sins in our own lives before trying to correct others. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." (Matthew 7:3-5)
We've all seen the organizational chart that is shaped like a pyramid. The leaders are at the top and the followers are at the bottom. In those diagrams it seems like the followers (or employees, or church members) exist to serve the interests of the leader. While this may be true for secular corporations, I am not so sure that it is a good model for Christian churches and organizations. I know, that we often hear people say, "we should run the church like a business." While this statement may be well-intentioned in terms of promoting efficiency and the wise use of resources, I am not sure that secular corporate culture should be allowed to overtake Christian culture, especially in light of Matthew 20:25-28. In corporate-churches etc. there is a tendency for leaders to, "lord it over" the followers instead of acting as shepherds who, lay down their lives for the sheep (John 10:15)
Instead, I like to think of Christian leadership, whether it be in a family, a local church, or an organization as a tree, instead of a pyramid. Every healthy tree must have roots that grow as deeply as possible into the soil. In this case the soil represents God's will and God's Word. For this reason, Christian leaders must prioritize spiritual and personal maturity so that they will be rooted deeply enough to keep their organizations well anchored when the storms come and the strong winds blow.
In addition, this model also reminds me of the importance of leaders to not only grow deeply into the soil themselves but to pass on as much of the experience and wisdom which they have gained from God to their followers to help them to grow as well. There is a synergy of growth in trees between the nutrients which come from the soil via the roots (leaders) and from the sunlight in the leaves in a process called photosynthesis. Just as you cannot have a healthy tree without roots, you also cannot have a healthy tree without other parts like leaves and branches. In this model both the most mature Christian leaders and then newest believers are all valuable parts of the tree which must work together in order for the tree to grow deeper into the soil and higher.
In the pyramid model, the goal is to make that one single pyramid bigger and bigger. However, in the tree model, the goal for Christian families, churches, and organizations is not just to make one tree bigger but for the tree to produce seeds, which in turn, can become more and more trees which will eventually lead to forests. In a Christian family, one goal should be to evangelize your children and equip your children so that they will be prepared to evangelize and train your grandchildren and others around them for generations to come. In a church, one goal should be to plant other churches in the neighborhood and to promote mission work around the world. In this way, the forests will grow everywhere.
Sports Teams Do Not Stay In Their Locker Rooms. They Get Equipped, Get Instructed, and Get Inspired In Them Before Heading To The Field. For Churches, The Real "Game" Is Not Inside The Church Building But In The World Outside.
The good is the enemy of the best, as the saying goes. People often go to church for ,"good" reasons but in doing so they miss out on the best reasons. Some examples of, "good" reasons to attend church are: to learn more about the Bible, to grow in your faith, or to be encouraged to overcome sin etc.. However if these are the only reason why we go to church services then something very important is missing.
Let's take a look at Ephesians 4:11-16 (Emphasis Mine) So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
One of the best reasons to have and attend church services is, "to equip his people for works of service."
Are you getting equipped for works of service at your church? I hope so. If not, it could be because the people in your church see the church leaders mentioned in Ephesians 4:11 as the players or performers and the church people as audience or fans. Instead, this passage shows us that the pastor and other church leaders should be more like coaches, trainers, and even medics. Obviously all of the coaching staff for any sports team should be good players in their own lives but their main responsibility as coaches is to equip the players to go out on the playing field and win the game.
What is your playing field as a Christian? Your family members who are unsaved need to hear the gospel in a clear and convincing manner. They are more likely to listen to you than your pastor. Other family members who are new Christians need to be encouraged and equipped as well. They also are more likely to listen to you than your pastor. The same is true for your classmates, coworkers, community members, nation, and beyond. A well equipped Christian has a very broad field that extends well beyond the walls of the church building, if your church even has a building.
Of course it is nice to have a beautiful and comfortable locker room, but it is not necessary for victory on the playing field. What really matters is that the players in the locker room are well equipped, trained, and motivated so that they can play their best on the playing field. Likewise, it is nice to have a stylish church building, but it is not essential for success. What really matters is the relationships among the people of the church, both the leaders and the regular members, who encourage, equip, train, challenge, and encourage each other so that we all become effective ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20) to a lost world around us.
With this model, church growth becomes unlimited, because the pastors and church leaders no longer have to do all the work of ministry because the church members are already doing it. As the church members, including the pastors and leaders, actively evangelize and disciple those around them in their daily lives in their families, schools, workplaces, and communities, then the church will grow as those new believers are brought into the church to also be equipped as ambassadors for Christ to their own families and communities, and so on.
This model also switches churches from inward-focused to outward-focused and this will also help shift resources into areas where they are most needed. For example, if the main priority, is equipping the saints for the work of ministry, then the funds will probably be spent toward that end instead of just for decorating the, "locker room."
Obviously this is just one piece of many pieces of the puzzle, but if we keep this passage from Ephesians 4 in mind, it will help us to come away from church services better prepared to meet our week.
A Christian Apologist, Author, Missionary, Husband, and Father. Darryl has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University (CA), an MA in TESOL from Azusa Pacific University (CA), and a BA in Political Science from Truman State University (MO).