Category Archives: Teaching

Burn a Koran Day

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel has reported that a church in Gainesville, FL is hosting a “Burn a Koran” day on September 11. The church’s senior pastor has published a book entitled Islam is of the Devil, and they have signs with the same title on the front lawn of their church property. The church is well known in Gainesville for its blunt statements and protests against unbiblical behavior.

I’m thinking these folks clearly believe that no publicity is bad publicity. I’m not mentioning the name of the church or its pastor because I do not wish to grant them any more publicity.

Christians who truly believe what the Bible teaches would have to agree that any non-Christian religion isn’t inspired by God. The claims of the Christian Bible, just like the Koran, are exclusive. They cannot both be right. Christians do not believe that Muslims believe the right thing. Muslims do not believe that Christians believe the right thing. One only has to hear a Muslim cleric praying in their normal fashion that Allah neither begets nor is he begotten to realize that Christians, who believe that Jesus is the Only Begotten Son of God, and Muslims, who believe that Allah had no son, do not believe anywhere near the same thing. For Christians, Jesus is God and is worthy of worship. The Bible is clear about that, and about his exclusive role as the only way into the presence of the Father through his obedience, suffering, death, and resurrection. Islam vigorously disagree with this.

Thus, as Christians we can agree with the basic theological premise of the Gainesville church. Christians and Muslims do not believe the same thing. Christians do not believe the Islam was inspired by God (as Muslims do not believe Christianity was inspired by Allah).

But the Bible is also clear that we need to love our neighbors as ourselves (see Matthew 22:39). We may disagree with our neighbors, but we need to love them. So we need to ask whether holding public burnings of a book our neighbors consider sacred is the best way to love them? There is a difference between incendiary behavior and behavior intended to woo people to the love of Christ. Most of us recognize that holding a “Burn a Koran Day” is incendiary in nature.

Some might object that the Gainesville church is demonstrating love by testifying clearly to the truth. However, there are many ways to testify to truth. The Apostle Paul, who lived in a culture that was far more licentious and polytheistic than ours, wrote, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6 NIV). I don’t believe that holding a “Burn a Koran” day fulfills the apostolic intention in this passage. Nor do I believe that I would want someone to hold a “Burn a Bible” day if I was the member of a minority faith in the country in which I lived. Any student of history knows that Satan has used book burnings to incite violence against minorities since books have been printed. Even today, such burnings are used as tactics of intimidation and oppression. How can we say we are loving our neighbors (or our enemies for that matter, see Matthew 5:43ff) when we are using tools and methods inextricably linked to violence and oppression?

In my closing paragraph I will be almost as blunt as the Gainesville church in its pronouncements: “Burn a Koran” day is not appropriate because it uses tools of intimidation instead of grace and peace. It will shutter Muslim ears to the Christian message as it distorts the message. It is counter-productive and hurtful, and not worthy of our high calling. I respectfully disagree with our brothers and sisters in Gainesville who are pursuing this path. I pray that the Holy Spirit show them a better path.

Nation will Rise Against Nation

For all of the supposed distance the United States has come in race relations, the news is currently filled with reports of racial animosity. Of course, this should not be a surprise to those who understand human nature. Apart from the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying power, we are a desperately fallen people who gravitate toward wickedness. While this wickedness comes out in many different ways, it easily and naturally manifests itself against those who are different than we are.

Many intercessors have been praying for a long time about the state of race relations in the United States. After a brief post-presidential election détente, we have again slipped. It feels like we are becoming more polarized rather than less. That is certainly Satan’s plan. He is always trying to light fuses that will explode into racial violence.

Jesus has raised up peacemakers to counter Satan’s plans. We certainly need to pray against flash point incidents that will spark racial violence, but we also need to continue to pray that the Lord release peacemakers who can make a difference. In Matthew 24:7 Jesus said that nation would rise against nation. The Greek word that is equivalent to our word “nation” is ethnos. That Greek word has come into our language in a way that reminds us that ethnic divisions started out as divisions between nations, and those divisions, rivalries, and tensions can easily flare up again. In fact, Jesus assures us that this will be the case as times reach their fulfillment.

So we must pray, against flash points and for peacemakers.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.

(Matthew 5:9)

44th Presidential Term

For many years the Lord has spoken to us—and many other Christians—using the number 44. In essence, he helped our congregation understand that the number represents dying-to-self in order to release the power of God. He showed us that self-sacrificial action (the epitome of true agape love) would release the promise and power of his kingdom.

He also showed us that if you do not voluntarily fall on the rock in order to be broken (dying-to-self), that rock will fall on you and you will be crushed to pieces (see Luke 20:17-18). The number 44 then, is a powerful symbol of God’s people releasing his Kingdom while they sacrificially serve him. It is also a powerful symbol of what happens when we choose not to do it God’s way.

The Lord has reiterated this message to us through the number 44 repeatedly. For that reason, even before our current president was elected, I was looking toward the term of our forty-fourth president with interest and concern. On the one hand, with the correct president—meaning one who was willing to fall on the rock—I believe there would have been great opportunity for advancement in our nation. On the other hand, with a president who would not fall on the rock, I believed our nation would go through some difficult times as rocks of humbling began to do their work of drawing our attention back to God.

I think most who are reading this blog understand which direction we have gone.

All of the above is a precursor and explanation for what I am about to write. Many prophetic people and atmospheric prognosticators have declared that we are in for a difficult hurricane season. I have been feeling the same thing. I think that Hurricane Alex has put the exclamation point on that feeling. The following is part of a report I read this evening on the Weather Underground site:*

Hurricane Alex, the strongest June hurricane in 44 years, is now Tropical Storm Alex,
thanks to passage over the rugged terrain of Mexico. Alex made landfall at 9pm CDT last
night, 110 miles south of Brownsville, Texas, as a Category 2 hurricane with 105 mph
winds. Alex was the strongest June hurricane since Hurricane Alma of 1966,
which had 125 mph winds as it skirted the west coast of Florida.

Hurricane Alex was the strongest June hurricane in 44 years. So the first hurricane of this season is the strongest in forty-four years. Hmm. I say, “Hmm,” because hurricanes make some mighty big rocks.

Keep praying for mercy and grace during this season. Even if our nation must have some rocks fall on it, members of God’s Kingdom—those who have fallen on the rock—will experience something far different as we intercede for our nation. We will see his Kingdom come.

————————————————————-

*As you read the report from Weather Underground, it is obvious that it was written on Thursday morning, July 1. I didn’t see it until this evening, and the interesting thing is, I should not have seen it today. I selected Dr. Jeff Master’s current (July 2) report. Somehow I got to the July 1 report instead, which starts out with the words above. I have not been able to reproduce the error that lead me to the July 1 report. I believe the Lord wanted me to see it because of the message it contains. He wants his people praying to turn these storms away from our areas of authority. A humbling may be coming through these storms, but that humbling does not have to happen in our areas of influence. This calls for dying-to-self and praying ardently for the safety of our coastal areas. The very message of 44.

They Oppose Themselves

A friend of mine mentioned a particular email making the rounds about President Obama. The email encourages Christians to pray an imprecatory psalm over President Obama. I have seen the email because several other friends of mine have forwarded it to me. It says something about praying for our president biblically, then it references one of the imprecatory psalms. Imprecatory psalms are those psalms that curse the psalmist’s enemies (“May their house be desolate” etc.). They were written by Old Covenant people who directed them at God’s enemies under the Old Covenant. The New Testament’s “Love your enemies” and “Pray for those who persecute you” (see Matthew 5:44) had not yet been spoken by Jesus. In the New Testament, things have changed. Because we now have the Holy Spirit, we can pray for our personal enemies. That doesn’t mean that it is wrong to ask  God to hinder the actions of evil people. However, we do not curse the people, and we pray that God will change their heart toward him and salvation—as he did for the Apostle Paul.

When I received the emails that mentioned the imprecatory psalms, I understood they were sent in jest by people who are frustrated by some of the policies and plans of our president. Since I also know the character of the individuals, I know they would never pray against our president in the sense of releasing a personal curse. They understand that they must pray for kings and all those in authority, and that they owe honor to whom honor is due. That doesn’t mean they pray that God bless all of any president’s policies. They pray instead for his personal protection, spiritual blessing and insight, and that our president have wisdom to lead our country.

My friend with whom I had the conversation about the imprecatory email, had recently had to work with someone who has a problem honoring our current president. In fact, the man obviously disrespects him. My friend was so concerned about this that he spoke with the gentleman and told him that he was only hurting himself. Anyone who understands sowing to please the sinful nature, and from that nature reaping destruction (see Galatians 6:8) understands why dishonoring our president, no matter how much we disagree with his policies, is not good for us.

The scripture my friend mentioned to to the man was 2 Timothy 2:24-25 in the KJV:

And the servant of the Lord must not strive;
but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,
In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves;
if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.

The servant of the Lord is to instruct those “who oppose themselves.” That isn’t quite how the NIV puts it, but the King James Version’s translation certainly makes you sit up and notice. When we are involved in things contrary to sound doctrine, we oppose ourselves. When we disrespect and disparage one whom God has called us to honor and intercede for, we oppose ourselves. When we gossip and tear down, we oppose ourselves. When we live contrary to whatever is biblically correct, we oppose ourselves.

There are many ways that we can do this, but I will stick with the theme at hand: honor. Let’s not oppose ourselves through tearing down our elected representatives. It is certainly appropriate to pray for the defeat of policies with which we disagree. It is appropriate to pray for the reversal of decisions and actions that we believe hurt rather than help our nation. Since we are a constitutional republic, it is very appropriate to inform others of our beliefs about bad policies, laws, actions, or decisions that our elected representatives are involved in. But it is not appropriate to pray imprecatory psalms over our elected representatives or personally deride them. Instead, let’s pray for them and for their salvation. Let’s pray for their growth in wisdom and integrity. Let’s pray that God raise them up as leaders who are a blessing for our land. In that way, we will not be opposing ourselves.

Living Above the Natural

I had a fun time yesterday sharing a message on an important application of grace in our lives. One of the things I have noted in our quest for God’s power in our lives, is the common tendency to want to offer advice to those who are seeking healing.

What that often looks like is this: Someone comes for a supernatural touch from God — they want prayer so that they might be healed. A faithful Christian will pray for them using the authority that God has given them. That should end the transaction. The person seeking healing has lived above the natural by seeking healing, and the person who is praying is living above the natural by praying for them. Both parties in this spiritually powerful transaction are living in supernatural grace, and the heavens rejoice. But then it often happens. A bit of supernatural insecurity sneaks in to the person praying.

You see, we have a problem. We can pray for someone, but we often are unable to verify the results because of the nature of the malady. Or, the malady is obvious, and we see no immediate results. Since Christians are people of compassion, and want to help in some way, we are just a bit frustrated at the lack of obvious power. We forget that every spiritual encounter has some level of benefit and power. We forget that we are being trained through every prayer encounter to pray with more authority and power the next time. We forget that perseverance in prayer is often the key to breakthrough. We forget these and myriad other truths because we are frustrated by the fact that we do not often see an immediate, miraculous response to our prayers [Fortunately, there are times that we do, thank the Lord].

We want to help, so we are tempted to go beyond the original intent of the person who is seeking the healing. As a result, without intending to do so, we divert what was supposed to be a supernatural transaction into a natural one. We take a “living above the natural moment” and bring it crashing down into the ordinary.

How? Many Christians succumb to the temptation and begin to offer advice on how to overcome the malady through diet, medication, or some other treatment.

To say that this is inappropriate is a staggering understatement. Never mind that there are well-qualified practitioners of these natural sciences readily available to the one seeking prayer. Never mind that the person seeking prayer could have easily found a nutritionist or doctor who is willing and able to help — and actually has the credentials and expertise to do so with some level of authority. Those are not the most egregious problems with this approach. The most critical problem is that a person who has decided to walk in supernatural (above the natural) faith, is brought crashing down from those heights to the natural by the very person whom they approached for supernatural intervention.

My brothers (and sisters), this should not be.

Unfortunately, I have noticed a growing trend among supernaturally-minded Christians not to entrust themselves to local churches for prayer because of this all-too-common violation. In most cases, the person seeking prayer is far more informed about the condition than the person praying. Yet they will humble themselves and approach a brother or sister in Christ asking for a supernatural touch. When the less informed brother or sister offers unsolicited (and often simplistic) advice on nutrition, medicine, or medical practitioners, the person seeking prayer feels like they have been spiritually abused. Thus, they no longer seek that spiritual touch in the local church where this abuse often occurs. Instead they seek the anonymity of conferences and healing meetings, if they even retain the faith to entrust themselves to any Christian. This unfortunate dynamic short-circuits God’s plan for the local church on many different levels.

I have asked the members of our congregation not to offer advice to the people for whom they are praying. I have done this in order to protect the unspoken, sacred contract that exists between the parties in healing prayer. I have authorized every member of the congregation as spiritual referees who are prepared to point out the provisions of this sacred contract when they hear another beginning to offer advice or correction to those seeking prayer. I have done this to protect the individual who is seeking prayer from this sort of behavior, and so that we uphold the sacred nature of the transaction in which we are involved.

I want us to live above the natural. I believe the Lord does also. I also believe, we will see much more authority released as we limit ourselves to the supernatural, and truly depend on supernatural response when we pray for people. That doesn’t mean that those for whom we pray will not seek the natural intervention of doctors, nutritionists, etc. It only means that when they come for prayer, we recognize that at that time, and at that moment, we are involved in something on a higher level. Let’s not sully it by going where we should not, and need not, go.