Month: July 2013

What is the Cure for Racism?

English: No racism Lietuvių: Ne rasizmui

Racism is defined as a “belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.”

The definition of racism itself is controversial since there is no scientific or biological evidence that there are different races or classes of human beings. It’s important to recognize that there is only one race–the human race. Africans, Caucasians, Hispanics, and Asians all come from the same human family. Rather, they may have different ethnic identities that place them within a particular cultural group’s customs, beliefs, and languages, but there is nothing inherently different among us.

History reveals the evil of one race enforcing their superiority over another. It was the driving force behind the transatlantic slave trade. Europeans would buy African Americans who were captured in endemic warfare. Even the African people made a business of capturing other tribal clans and selling them into the slave trade.

In the 20th century, the Nazi’s considered the Jews, Gypsies, and anyone else who was not part of the Aryan race as sub-human. Heinrich Himmler, the leading military commander of the Nazi army said these disastrous words: “What happens to the Russians, what happens to the Czechs, is a matter of utter indifference to me… Whether the other peoples live in comfort or perish of hunger interests me only in so far as we need them as slaves for our culture; apart from that it does not interest me.”

Why are human beings so cruel towards each other? What is the cure for intolerance and racism? Is it social reform? Education? Multicultural awareness? I believe these are necessary steps to alleviate the problem, but its much deeper and resides in the heart of man. I believe the only cure is the gospel, the good news that God saves sinners, even the most rebellious and heinous.

The word gospel literally means good news, but to understand how good it is, one must first understand the bad news. When man fell in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:6) by their willful disobedience towards God, they were separated and every part of man, including his mind, will, emotions, and flesh were corrupted by sin. Man is now hostile towards God (Rom. 8:7) and their every desire is to love evil rather than good, resulting in man being eternally condemned in Hell. It is in Hell that man pays the penalty of sin against a holy God. Without any solution to this problem, there would be no hope for humanity. However, God in His mercy and grace, provided a solution, a substitute for our sins, Jesus Christ. He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we might become righteous. He paid the penalty for our sins so that we could restore our fellowship back with God.

Because God has made a way for sinners, He calls all of us to repent (turn, have a change of mind), of our sins and trust in the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8).  Those who believe in Christ (Rom. 10:8) are not only saved from hell but also given a new nature, a changed heart, and a new desire and attitude to worship and give glory to Almighty God (2 Cor. 5:17). When we receive this new heart, we not only have a desire to love God, but we also have a desire to love our neighbor. The cure, then, for racism, is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Fatherless Generation: Where are the Heroes?

Superheroes

Superheroes (Photo credit: Theen …)

I was fortunate to be raised in a wonderful, supportive family. Growing up, my parents never missed my sporting events, birthdays, prom nights, college orientation week, graduations, wedding, birth of my son, and everything in between. I will always remember when my father was the coach for our Baseball youth league. He built a Baseball diamond, a Field of Dreams, in our front yard. His mission was to provide other teams the option to practice on this field for free so more parents would get involved and the kids would have a positive environment to learn life skills. He was successful at this mission and was a hero for the community. Of course my parents were not perfect, but I know they did their best.

Where are the heroes today? John Sowers, author of the book Fatherless Generation: Redeeming Story discusses the negative impact of growing up without a father. He states: “What happens when our givers of life give us a lifetime of tears?” Instead of being heroes, some fathers have become villains, ravaging their families through violence, incarceration, drugs, or running away from their responsibilities to take care of their children. Here are sober statistics that reveal the destructive consequences when a father is absent in the home.

Statistics

  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (US Dept. Of Health/Census) – 5 times the average.
  • 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes – 32 times the average.
  • 85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. (Center for Disease Control)
  • 80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes –14 times the average. (Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26)
  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average. (National Principals Association Report)

Martin Luther King Jr. said it best: “A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan.”

Men, it’s time to step up and take action for our future generation. We can be heroes to our own families by loving, supporting, and leading them, but don’t get discouraged because all of us will fail and make mistakes. That’s why we must rely on the strength of our heavenly Father, the ultimate SuperHero of the story of life. He is our strong fortress (Prov. 18:10), rock (2 Sam. 22:2), refuge (Ps.61:3), and never grows tired or weary (Isa. 40:28). He is like a reservoir where we can collect His infinite wisdom, strength, and love to distribute in the lives of our family and communities. Men, let’s be courageous!

Practical Steps to Fatherhood 

1. Find time every day to ask your children, “What did you do today?” or “How was your day?” Just a few minutes of interaction and building that relationship is worth more than gold.

2. As men, we are tempted to either work too much and create an idol or work too little and breed laziness. It’s important to find a balance so you can support your family while also working around your hectic schedule for “family time.” I suggest literally writing “family time meeting” in your schedule and take it more seriously than your work meetings. You know that if you didn’t show up, you would get fired. You may not get fired from your family, but don’t take advantage of the grace given to you.

3. Start up community projects that will make an impact for the next generation. My father had a dream to build a baseball field and he did. Are there any ideas that you have that will make a positive influence for your city?

The way of Truth

Christians praying in Goma, DR of Congo.

“Teach me, O Lord, your way of truth, and from it I will not depart; that I may steadfastly obey, give me an understanding heart. In your commandments make me walk, for in your law my joy shall be; give me a heart that loves your will, from discontent and envy free. Turn now my eyes from vanity, and cause me in your ways to tread; O let your servant prove your Word and thus to godly fear be led. Turn away my reproach and fear; your righteous judgments I confess; To know your precepts I desire; revive me in your righteousness.” The Psalter, (Ps. 119:33-40)

This hymn captures the sovereignty of God. It is He who teaches the way of truth (John 14:6). When we submit to Him, we will not depart from the way of righteousness. By following His commandments (Ex. 23:25; Lev.26:3; Deut. 11:13), we will have true peace and a joy that surpasses all understanding. As we turn our eyes from the vanity of the world, let’s look to the cross where the incarnate Son of God bled and died for us (Jn. 3:16).

While reading the Psalms, I want to encourage you to make it personal. For example, If you don’t know what to pray about in your personal time with God, the best thing to do is open the Psalms. During my prayers, I often get side-tracked and forget what I was originally praying for. If you have a psalm there to guide your prayers, its easier not to forget. I hope this helps.

Everything is Nothing without Love

T2i - Red Heart

It is certain that all of us will die someday. It is a sober reality that plagues the human heart and often people don’t want to discuss this reality. Solomon said in Ecclesiastes that it is better to go to a house of mourning than a house of feasting since death is the destiny of everyone. So, When you die, what would you want people to remember you by? Would it be your intelligence? Humor? Athletic ability? Trustworthiness? All of these are good things, but I believe the most important character anyone can be remembered for is their love. The two greatest commandments in Scripture are to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus said that all the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.

When writing to the Corinthian church, Paul knew what others used to remember him by before his conversion. He may have been smart, passionate, and religious, but he knew that all of these gifts profited him nothing without love. Now, he sees the folly of the Corinthian believers. They are having inner conflicts, disputes, sexual immorality, and yet are arguing over which of the spiritual gifts are superior. I believe this is why Paul wrote one of the most poetic messages of the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 13: to remind the Corinthians that no matter what spiritual gifts they possessed, whether it’s eloquence, knowledge, faith, or sacrifice, its nothing without love.

Let’s read what Paul wrote through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 13, starting with verse 1. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

In verses 1-3, Paul is expressing that love is imperative and superior to all other gifts. Without love as the motive for our eloquence, knowledge, faith, and sacrifice, we are nothing. In verses 4-7, Paul is illustrating the shape of love, what it is and isn’t, and the difference between authentic love and selfish love. Finally, in verses 8-13, he states that love is eternal. There is a total continuity between the love that is expressed here and forever in heaven and its the only gift mentioned that never ends. For our purposes, we will be focusing on verses 1-3 and answer the statement why everything is nothing without love.  

The first point Paul addresses is that eloquence without love is annoying. Look at verse 1. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” Paul here uses intentional exaggeration to say that even if He knew all the languages of the world and could speak as eloquent as an angel, but was not motivated by love, then he would be as empty, unharmonious, and useless as a noisy gong or clanging cymbal.  As you know, cymbals only sound good in the context of a musical piece along with many other instruments. In the same way, if someone speaks eloquently, but they have not love, it sounds terrible.

A couple years ago a friend and I started an apologetics outreach at the University of Louisville. Our desire was to convince Atheist intellectuals that the Christian worldview was historically accurate, scientifically defendable, and philosophically compelling. For 8 weeks, we blasted them with arguments for the existence of God: the cosmological argument, the moral argument, teleological argument, and ontological argument (briefly explain).

One night, we were having a heated debate and a skeptical student got very angry with us. He was a linguistics major and the most intelligent college student that I had ever met. He looked at the Christians in the room, had tears in his eyes, and made this statement: “If you truly believe that I am lost, that I will burn in a fiery hell forever, then don’t just win me over by arguments as if I am some competition, but act in love like your Jesus and then I might believe.” I was shocked for two reasons. First, the most intellectual atheist didn’t care about the arguments as much as how we treated him. Second, I realized that my supposed zeal to reach the lost, to fulfill the great commission, wasn’t because I wanted Jesus to be magnified but so that others would see how smart I was.

The saddest part about this story is that a few weeks later my friend wrapped up his last discussion defending the existence of God and whispered to me afterwards: “Man, we demolished their worldview.” Fortunately, God gave me grace to see my own blindness, repent, and recognize the truth to this famous saying: Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care!

Christian, what is the motive of your heart? This is what the Lord looks at. Are you memorizing the Bible so that you can look good in front of others or because you love to learn God’s Word. Are you motivated to learn evangelism skills to argue or because you desire to persuade people to believe in the gospel? Are you coming to church so that you will be approved by others or are you coming to church because your Savior is being worshipped here? I trust that the latter is true in all these cases!

The second point Paul addresses is that spiritual insight without love is nothing. Look at verse 2. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. The gift of prophecy here is the ability to know mysteries and to gain knowledge. In the Bible, a mystery is a truth which is at least partially revealed, but not fully understood. According to Paul, the meaning of marriage was a mystery. Now we know the truth about Christ’s union with His church is illustrated by Christian marriage (Eph. 5:22-23). In Genesis 3, God promised to crush the head of the serpent. Now we see that this is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, who defeated Satan at the cross. The union of Jews and Gentiles in the church was a mystery in the Old Testament. Now, Gentiles are adopted into the covenant through the blood of Jesus Christ. Paul says that if he had all this knowledge plus faith to remove mountains, but had not love, He would be nothing. I find it hard to believe that someone can have all this knowledge and still stay humble enough to have faith that can remove mountains. Paul is using these extreme examples to show us the utter importance of love.

William Booth was a British Methodist preacher who founded The Salvation army in 1865. Booth was known for preaching repentance and salvation to the poorest and most needy, including alcoholics, criminals, and prostitutes. He had a large organization and began sending missionaries around the country. On one occasion, a group of women missionaries were sharing the gospel, informing unbelievers about the death, burial, and resurrection. They were explaining the Bible from the beginning to the end. The women missionaries became frustrated because these people did not get converted. They were praying diligently and teaching the Bible the best they could. Out of frustration, they sent a letter to William Booth and asked him what they should do next. William Booth responded to the letter and sent it right away to the women missionaries. When they opened up the letter, they only saw two words: “Try tears.”

Christian, let me ask you. Are you weeping over your family members, coworkers, and friends who are lost? Do you desire to see them here with us today, rejoicing that Christ has paid the penalty for their pride, lust, and anger? In Romans 9:3, the Apostle Paul had such a heavy heart for the lost that he said: “For I wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people.” This is a powerful statement that can only be produced by the Spirit of God, who grieves for the lost world. I pray that every time we pick up the bible, attend a Sunday service, volunteer at VBS, or read a theologically heavy book that our heart’s desire would be to love God and our neighbors with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.

The third and final point that Paul addresses is that Sacrifice without love gains nothing. Look at verse 3. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Here, Paul is not addressing a specific spiritual gift but he is demonstrating to his audience that even great personal sacrifice without love gains nothing. It may be assumed that the ultimate sacrifice is made, either by giving up all of one’s possessions for the sake of the poor or giving up one’s life on the mission field as a martyr.

Paul, however, does not grant this assumption as proof for great love. People can give away possessions for any number of reasons, and some of those can be self-serving rather than sacrificial. I can give away money to charity so that I receive a better tax return or give all my possessions away so that others will think I am a great person and esteem me. Not only does Paul say that giving all possessions without love is worthless, but even if one dies as a martyr, if its not motivated by love, they gain nothing.

A martyr is one who dies for their religious beliefs. It originally meant “witness” because the early Christian witnesses were often persecuted or killed for their faith in Jesus. Now, God is not calling for believers to purposely seek out death. Jesus even told his disciples: “When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another.” However, we must be willing if necessary to lose our lives for His sake. If someone joins the military, they train to be prepared to die in the service for their country, but that doesn’t mean they will be put in a situation where they will die. In the same way, Christians are in a spiritual battle and are to be prepared to die for the Lord, but they shouldn’t actively seek for it. If they do, they will be tempting God, motivated by self-interest rather than a love for God’s glory.

Christian, let me ask you. Are you sacrificing your tithes and offerings to the church out of guilt rather than with joy and thanksgiving? Are you sacrificing your time, energy, and money to your kids out of obligation or because you love them? When you go on a mission trip and put your life in danger, are you doing it for your own pleasure or because you desire to see Christ glorified among the nations? God isn’t concerned as much about our outward behavior, but the inward motive of our hearts.

You may be asking, how then can we possibly possess this type of love? You can’t. That is why we need the gospel. The gospel is the good news that God saves sinners. See, man is by nature sinful and separated from God without any hope, but God, rich in His mercy and grace, provided the means of man’s salvation in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The word gospel literally means good news, but to understand how good it is, one must first understand the bad news. When man fell in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:6) by their willful disobedience towards God, they were separated and every part of man, including his mind, will, emotions, and flesh were corrupted by sin. Man is now hostile towards God (Rom. 8:7) and their every desire is to love evil rather than good, resulting in man being eternally condemned in Hell. It is in Hell that man pays the penalty of sin against a holy God. Without any solution to this problem, there would be no hope for humanity. However, God in His mercy and grace, provided a solution, a substitute for our sins, Jesus Christ. He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we might become righteous. He paid the penalty for our sins so that we could restore our fellowship back with God. Because God has made a way for sinners, He calls all of us to repent (turn, have a change of mind), of our sins and trust in the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8).  Those who believe in Christ (Rom. 10:8) are not only saved from hell but also given a new nature, a changed heart, and a new desire and attitude to worship and give glory to Almighty God (2 Cor. 5:17). It is God who regenerates us from death to life by giving us His Holy Spirit. When a believer repents and believes in the gospel, they will produce the fruits of the spirit and be known for their love.

Jason Tuskes was a seventeen year old high school honor student and was close to his mother, disabled father, and younger brother. Jason was also an expert swimmer and enjoyed to scuba dive in his free time. One day he left home to explore a spring and underwater cave near his home in Florida. His plan was to be home to celebrate his mother’s birthday. However, Jason became lost in the cave. In his panic, he got wedged into a narrow passageway. When he realized that he was trapped, he shed his yellow metal air tank and unsheathed his diver’s knife. With the tank as a tablet and the knife as a pen, he wrote one last message to his family: I love you Mom, Dad, and Christian. Then he ran out of air and drowned. A dying message–something communicated in the last few seconds of life is something we can’t ignore. God’s final words to us are etched on a Roman cross. They are blood red. They scream to be heard. They too, say, “I love you, and this love from God should be the foundation of our love too.”

On Mission for the Great Commission

arrows

What is a mission statement? Both Christians and non-Christians talk about this concept. Businesses think through missions.The Coca-Cola mission statement is to refresh the world, inspire moments of optimism, and to make a value and difference in the world. Armies strategize their missions to protect and serve their country. Ordinary people may say their mission in life is to get a good job to support their family.

What about Christian missions? What is our goal? I believe our mission is found in the words of Jesus Christ to his disciples in Matthew 28:16-20, often referred to as the Great Commission. After Jesus rose from the dead, he met his disciples on the mountain in Galilee. This is what he told the disciples what the mission is: “ Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 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.”

Based on this passage, I believe Jesus had three components when referring to Christian missions: To obey, share, and disciple others for Jesus Christ.

The first part of the mission is to obey Christ. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Who is Jesus Christ? He is the God-Man, the creator of the universe, the beginning and the end. Colossians 1:16 says that Jesus is the invisible God, the ruler over every principality, power, throne, and ruler. Since He is the supreme authority, we should obey him. What comes to your mind when I say obedience? Obey your parents, church, teachers, boss. By the time we reach adulthood, obedience has been a negative term.

When I was a child, in the summer I would go to the public pool everyday. The way for people to find out if I was there would be if they heard the whistle blow. What do I mean? Well, I would run to the diving boards and the lifeguard would blow the whistle and give me a warning. I would dive in the shallow end and the lifeguard would blow the whistle and tell me to sit next to her for five minutes. I really didn’t like this lady, but was she blowing the whistle because she didn’t like me or because she wanted to protect me?

If I ran and fell, I could break my leg. If I jumped in the shallow end, I could break my neck. I needed to obey her to be safe. God has done the same. In the Old Testament, God told Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil so they wouldn’t feel guilt, God told them to obey the 10 commandments to thrive in society, in the book of Judges not to follow false gods, and in the New Testament, he tells us not to be angry, lust after women, or hate our enemies. Christ doesn’t have these rules without a purpose, but he wants us to trust in Him so that we can experience the fruits of the spirit and his love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness. He is a loving Father that cares for our well-being. Christians, are you obeying God out of duty or because you desire a relationship with Him? He knows the motives of our hearts.

The second mission for Christians is to share the good news with others. Verse 19 says to Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Here, Jesus calls the disciples to share their faith with the world The word for “go” is an active verb, and it means that as you live your life, you need to be examples and light to the world. In Mark’s account, Jesus states to Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. What is this good news? Imagine with me that you were on trial for committing a crime and the verdict agreed: Guilty. The judge states the punishment: Death. As you are on your way to become executed, some innocent person, full of mercy and compassion, says to the judge: I will stand in the place of this man. This is exactly what happened to us. We are all guilty and deserve to be punished, but Jesus Christ, the innocent God-Man, stepped in our place and died for our sins. You may then ask, who is the world?

Not only are we called to go in diverse places like Rwanda, but we are also called to share the gospel with our friends, relatives, drunkards, and the self-righteous. How do we do this? Well, you can do this through words and through actions. By words, I mean make it natural. You are talking to your friend and she says, Today is a beautiful day. Will you say, “Yes,  it is so nice outside.” Or will you say, “yes it is nice outside. God really does love us.” That person may not ask about God the first time, but try to make opportunities in your conversation naturally. By works, you can go to your friend or neighbor in need, help them move, take groceries over, or provide a meal for their family,  and simply say: We were thinking about you and wanted to share Christ’s love in a practical way. Also, think about the needs of your community. How can you serve your city and let outsiders know that you don’t just come to church every Sunday to worship out of tradition, but seek to bring them into your community.

The third and final mission is not only to obey and share the gospel, but make disciples. What does it mean to make disciples? When someone shares the gospel, the person becomes convicted and desires to repent of their sins. Jesus said “repent, for the kingdom is at hand.” Then, we are told as believers to baptize these new believers. Last week, we have witnessed many baptisms and God be the glory. Baptism is the recognition that one has died to self, been buried with Christ, and is raised to new life. Then that mature believer is called to teach the new believer to obey everything that the Lord has commanded. If you are a mature believer, find out ways that you can help new believers: Maybe read a book of the Bible together and discuss it, pray with one another, if you enjoy knitting socks, maybe rather than hanging out with your friends, find someone who is a new believer with the same interests.

Coca-Cola has a mission, and they have been to virtually every country on this planet. They are ambitious, but what is their product? It’s just sugar and water. The Christian church has a mission, to share the gospel where God dies on the cross for the sins of the world to heal the broken-hearted and strengthen community. Isn’t this infinitely better than sugar water? Let’s be the light of the world and share this good news to others.