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Archive for January, 2010

As a freshman clarinetist in the marching band (I was an aspiring jazz saxophonist and wanted to improve my clarinet chops) I saw everyone of Kurt Warner’s games his senior year at the University of Northern Iowa. It was fun watching him over his NFL career and hearing his story retold and retold (he was a former grocery bagger turned NFL MVP/Super Bowl winner).

He retired yesterday from what is probably a Hall of Fame career. Everyone that knew anything about him also knew that he is a Christian. He is not shy about his faith at all. It is part of who he is. The following paragraph from Seth Wickersham at espn.com struck me when I read it:

Thanks for the religion. Some athletes give their life to Jesus Christ as a PR move; some are ripe with hypocrisy; some just say offensive things. Warner always expressed his faith without trivializing it or us.

Kurt Warner lived his life as a follower of Jesus Christ in a way that garnered respect from others. He didn’t trivialize Jesus or people. We can communicate the things we believe most deeply in a way that others thank us. I don’t know Wickersham’s religious views, but this tells me that Kurt Warner is a man of peace. May I be one too.

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Peace-loving Truth

Tim Tebow and his mom are doing a pro-life commercial that will be aired during the Super Bow. Apparently many pro-choice groups are upset about this and want CBS to refuse to air it. There is much that can be said about the contradiction of those who are for choice, but don’t want people to hear both sides of the argument (in order to make a choice!). Zach Nielsen had some really helpful thoughts regarding this and the wider issue of “tolerance”. He writes:

Just as an aside, would you please please please join me in advocating for the complete stoppage of all the “tolerance” talk. Tolerance is not the issue and it never has been. If anyone tells you to stop being “intolerant”, or that you should be more tolerant because of a view that you hold, just suggest something like this:

“Why are you asking me to be more tolerant?  That in itself is not very tolerant.  If you were really consistent in your view of tolerance you would accept ALL views, including mine, as valuable.  But we both know that is impossible.  No one wants to be “tolerant” of Hitler and his views on the Jews. So we both know that real tolerance is an impossibility.

Let’s just get down to what really is going on here.  We both disagree about something.  I think I am right, and you think you are right.  Most likely, we both can’t be right.  Do you think we can give reasons for or against our beliefs and not kill each other?  I do.  So why don’t we cease with all the “tolerance” talk that really doesn’t get either of us anywhere and give reasons for why we believe what we believe.  That way, maybe we can find out what is really true.  Peace-loving truth is what matters here much more than tolerance.”

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How to Approach the Bible

A few years ago I taught a course on systematic theology at our church. One of the things I gave the students on the first night was a list of verses from Psalm 119 (the Zabur) that speak about our heart and attitude when we study the Bible. Since I posted about how Muslims are taught to approach the Qur’an, I thought it would be good to post this as well.

Our Heart and Attitude when We Study the Bible

Texts from Psalm 119

God’s Word Is Greater than All Wealth and Sweeter than Honey
The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces (119:72).
Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold (119:127).
I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil (119:162).
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth (119:103)!

God’s Word Should Be Our Delight
I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word (119:16).
Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors (119:24).
Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it (119:35).
If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction (119:92).
Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart.  I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end (119:111-112).

We Should Long for God’s Word
My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times (119:20).
My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word.  My eyes long for your promise; I ask, “When will you comfort me (119:81-82)?
I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments (119:131).

God’s Word Helps Keep Us from Sin
How can a young man keep his way pure?  By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!  I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you (119:9-11).
Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me (119:133).

God Revives Us through His Word
My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word (119:25).
My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word (119:28).
I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life (119:93).
I am severely afflicted; give me life, O Lord, according to your word (119:107).

God’s Word Makes Us Wise and Guides Us
Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.  I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.  I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts (119:98-100).
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (119:105).
The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple (119:130).

We Need God’s Help

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law (119:18).
Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart (119:34).
Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain (119:36).
Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared (119:38).

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This is an interesting post that gives Muslims instructions on why the Qur’an should be more central in their lives and how they are to approach it. Since the Qur’an is so central to Islam and to the lives of Muslims, it is helpful for non-Muslims to better understand it. I encourage you to read the article and get a flavor for how Muslims see their holy book. I also would encourage you to read the Qur’an itself.

Here are some quotes:

You must approach the Quraan with an open mind so to allow the Quraan to speak for itself. You cannot approach the Quraan with the mentality that you already know the truth, as this will cause you to try and twist the Quraan to meet what you want to believe.

Don’t discard half or a third of the Quraan thinking it is not relevant to you, rather take the time and look for this guidance yourself. You are holding and reading the words of Allah ta’ala himself. He did not give us this book baatila or in vain, but He gave it to us to save ourselves.

You will begin to understand more and more lessons of the Quraan when you begin to live the Quraan. On the other hand, one of the things that will take away your guidance and knowledge is the committing of sins. The more sins you commit, the less you will understand the Quraan. It is a dynamic relationship. The more you turn to Allah, the more Allah turns towards you.

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This post from Eric Johnson at the Desiring God blog is another great reminder that we actually have to interact with our neighbors if we are to obey Jesus Christ’s command to love our neighbors as ourselves. After a triple homicide at a local grocery market he says,

“A colleague and I went to the candlelight vigil the community held for these men, and I was struck with how little I really knew about these men and the thousands of East African immigrants in my community. I had passed this market dozens of times and never stopped in. Surely, at least once, I could have purchased a Coke and struck up a conversation?”

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From Peacemakers Ministries:

As God opens your eyes to see how you have sinned against others, he simultaneously offers you a way to find freedom from your past wrongs. It is called confession. Many people have never experienced this freedom because they have never learned how to confess their wrongs honestly and unconditionally. Instead, they use words like these: “I’m sorry if I hurt you.” “Let’s just forget the past.” “I suppose I could have done a better job.” “I guess it’s not all your fault.” These token statements rarely trigger genuine forgiveness and reconciliation. If you really want to make peace, ask God to help you breathe grace by humbly and thoroughly admitting your wrongs. One way to do this is to use the Seven A’s.

1. Address everyone involved (All those whom you affected)
2. Avoid if, but, and maybe (Do not try to excuse your wrongs)
3. Admit specifically (Both attitudes and actions)
4. Acknowledge the hurt (Express sorrow for hurting someone)
5. Accept the consequences (Such as making restitution)
6. Alter your behavior (Change your attitudes and actions)
7. Ask for forgiveness

See Matthew 7:3-5; 1 John 1:8-9; Proverbs 28:13.

HT: Justin Taylor

Related Posts:
Repentance
Sin Destroys Peace
More on Repentance
I Am Sorry, I Was Wrong, Will You Please Forgive Me?

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Peacemaking in Yemen

War and strife is common in Yemen. Revenge seems to be a way of life. Not only does almost everyone have a gun, most have three. So this story at Al Jazeera was really encouraging to see. Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Marwani is risking is life to bring peace to his people.

He says in the video to his colleagues, “You won’t find any act closer to God and his blessings, or more worthy of his mercy than what we are doing – spreading peace.” Later he says, “I would give my life if only the world could live in peace.”

HT: Cathrein B.

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Does God Hate Haiti

Justin Taylor posted some helpful remarks from Albert Mohler on the tragedy in Haiti. Too often people are quick to assume that massive disasters like the earthquake in Haiti is a sign of God’s displeasure or that God has nothing to do with such things. Yes, such things are a sign of judgment, but Mohler is right that Haitians are not unique in their sin to merit judgment that the rest of us don’t also deserve. Here is what he wrote:

Albert Mohler’s comments are worth quoting at length:

Does God hate Haiti? That is the conclusion reached by many, who point to the earthquake as a sign of God’s direct and observable judgment.

God does judge the nations — all of them — and God will judge the nations. His judgment is perfect and his justice is sure. He rules over all the nations and his sovereign will is demonstrated in the rising and falling of nations and empires and peoples. Every molecule of matter obeys his command, and the earthquakes reveal his reign — as do the tides of relief and assistance flowing into Haiti right now.

A faithful Christian cannot accept the claim that God is a bystander in world events. The Bible clearly claims the sovereign rule of God over all his creation, all of the time. We have no right to claim that God was surprised by the earthquake in Haiti, or to allow that God could not have prevented it from happening.

God’s rule over creation involves both direct and indirect acts, but his rule is constant. The universe, even after the consequences of the Fall, still demonstrates the character of God in all its dimensions, objects, and occurrences. And yet, we have no right to claim that we know why a disaster like the earthquake in Haiti happened at just that place and at just that moment.

The arrogance of human presumption is a real and present danger. We can trace the effects of a drunk driver to a car accident, but we cannot trace the effects of voodoo to an earthquake — at least not so directly. Will God judge Haiti for its spiritual darkness? Of course. Is the judgment of God something we can claim to understand in this sense — in the present? No, we are not given that knowledge. Jesus himself warned his disciples against this kind of presumption.

Why did no earthquake shake Nazi Germany? Why did no tsunami swallow up the killing fields of Cambodia? Why did Hurricane Katrina destroy far more evangelical churches than casinos? Why do so many murderous dictators live to old age while many missionaries die young?

Does God hate Haiti? God hates sin, and will punish both individual sinners and nations. But that means that every individual and every nation will be found guilty when measured by the standard of God’s perfect righteousness. God does hate sin, but if God merely hated Haiti, there would be no missionaries there; there would be no aid streaming to the nation; there would be no rescue efforts — there would be no hope.

The earthquake in Haiti, like every other earthly disaster, reminds us that creation groans under the weight of sin and the judgment of God. This is true for every cell in our bodies, even as it is for the crust of the earth at every point on the globe. The entire cosmos awaits the revelation of the glory of the coming Lord. Creation cries out for the hope of the New Creation.

In other words, the earthquake reminds us that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only real message of hope. The cross of Christ declares that Jesus loves Haiti — and the Haitian people are the objects of his love. Christ would have us show the Haitian nation his love, and share his Gospel. In the midst of this unspeakable tragedy, Christ would have us rush to aid the suffering people of Haiti, and rush to tell the Haitian people of his love, his cross, and salvation in his name alone.

Everything about the tragedy in Haiti points to our need for redemption. This tragedy may lead to a new openness to the Gospel among the Haitian people. That will be to the glory of God. In the meantime, Christ’s people must do everything we can to alleviate the suffering, bind up the wounded, and comfort the grieving. If Christ’s people are called to do this, how can we say that God hates Haiti?

If you have any doubts about this, take your Bible and turn to John 3:16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. That is God’s message to Haiti.

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Eboo Patel writes:

I’m not the world’s most physical guy, but I have a hero fantasy I play over and over in my head.

I’m on a plane and a guy a few rows up starts to make some suspicious moves. In some dream sequences, he’s taking out a box cutter. Other times, he’s trying to set his shoe on fire.

Everyone else is sleeping, but I’m doing my patriotic duty by staying vigilant, and I see this guy try to take us down and I’m not going to let him. I yell “TERRORIST!” just as the blade comes out or the match lights up. It startles him just for a second, buying me enough time to lunge over two rows and knock the object out of his hands.

There are going to be some new details in my hero fantasy after the failed terrorist attempt on Christmas Day bags of explosive powder taped to legs, syringes full of chemicals, Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. But one part of the sequence will remain the same: After I knock the box cutter or match or whatever out of the terrorist’s hand, I go straight for the son of a bitch’s throat. I want to crush his larynx before he can squeeze any Arabic out of it. Because not only does this guy want to take down a plane full of God’s people, he wants to take down a whole religion with it. And I want to do my part to rescue both.

Read the whole thing.

HT: Talk Islam

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One of the contentious issues Muslims deal with is the view that Islam is a religion of war and that it was spread mostly by the sword. This is a common perception among many. Whether non-Muslims agree with this perception or not, it is important that we listen to Muslims and hear what they say about it. Nauman Khan gave a lecture recently on “Common Misconceptions by Non-Muslims” and particularly addresses the issues of violence and war within Islam.

HT: Muslim Matters

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