Into All the World

I learned a few days ago that an American missionary attempted to get into an isolated country off the coast of India to preach the gospel to a previously unreached people group. Sounds good right? Well, not so much. You see the people group in question had been isolated for a reason. The government of India forbade anyone from approaching the island because its inhabitants kill any intruders on sight. Very little is known about this group, but everyone else knows enough to stay away from them. However, our aspiring missionary friend felt called by God to bring the gospel to this off-limits piece of God’s real estate. I cannot fault him for this. I also cannot fault him for his use of illegal transport (via local fishermen) to get to the island. The gospel call is to preach the gospel to every creature. And there are examples of similar situations in the past (Jim Elliot), where the gospel had been brought to indigenous hostile peoples and made a huge difference in the people and its culture. Jim Elliot died bringing the gospel to the people he felt called to. His son befriended the man who killed him. See the Point of the Spear.

It would be easy to say “These are just a bunch of savages, just leave them alone.” They do represent a unique people group, and as some suggest, they possess a completely unknown language, so it would take some serious effort even to be able to say, “Hello!” Because of this, experts claim that the people ought to be left alone because if anyone interfered with them we would be destroying a unique culture with Western values, and we’ve already done that with so many other indigenous cultures. This is an argument from moral equivalence. The way they do things is just as good as any other culture’s way of doing things. Just leave them alone. Funny I don’t hear that kind of condescension taking place with the anti-vaxxers.

We may not know much about their culture, but we do know this: they murder outsiders. Anyone who is not from their small community is sentenced to death upon contact. Whether this institutional or cultural, we have no way of knowing, that is to say, whether their chief has commanded all outsiders killed or it is in their culture to kill all outsiders, it makes little difference. Murder is the worst crime you can commit upon another person, and it is their chief point of contact. Do you really think they’ve got a handle on things? Are they morally equivalent? It would be one things if they made it very clear that outsiders are not welcome and threatened this with the point of a spear. It is another to simply kill all visitors on sight.

We also know that these people aren’t savages. They aren’t evolved from apes. They are human beings. As such, they are born with the same moral law as everyone else. Killing another human being is a violation of natural law. It is usually only superseded by 1) institutional directive, or 2) personal sin. You are either ordered to kill by a government or led to murder by personal sin. I am led to believe that their directive to kill is more institutional rather than personal. If they personally wanted to kill other human beings, they would have wiped each other out by now. So they probably have a cultural affinity to protect their culture from outside influence.

And that’s what this young man saw in them, morally liable human beings who need a Savior from their sin. If Jesus had not yet been preached there, then He needs to be, right? Does Jesus have a witness in that community? At this point, we have no way of knowing. But certainly some have felt the call of God to this particular island. Surely God has already spoken to some within that culture. Very likely they have a story of the creation of the world (as MANY other indigenous peoples have) that includes a Creator God, and maybe even a Savior? Could it be that the leaders of this island nation know this, and know that if a Savior is preached, they would lose their power? Could this explain why they shoot all outsiders on sight? Certainly, but we have no way of knowing. Do we have the right to know?

We have a command from Jesus to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every nation (people-group/ language/ ethnicity). This island of isolated people represent a nation that has not yet been reached. Thus, this is a people for whom Christ died and need to hear the gospel. Should we not send in the Marines, learn their language, and give them a choice?

This is a touchy subject for missiologists. Missions have traditionally been about transplanting western culture into indigenous populations, with the frequent result of that population becoming dependent on western generosity, with no real understanding about salvation and grace. Many say the words and attend the services because free food is available. Operation Christmas Child, which our church recently participated in, sends shoeboxes full of goodies for children, and accompanies it with a gospel presentation. Do the children listen and convert for the sake of the gifts or for the gospel? Western missions almost always associates gifts and gospel, and we don’t understand that indigenous cultures may not see them separate as we do. That’s why the same people convert to Catholicism, Pentecostalism, Baptist and Christian, because they are all offering gifts and building them churches. Whoever brings food gets the ears. And then those missions have to be maintained with western funds on a continual basis. Is that how Paul and Barnabas did it? If I read my Scriptures correctly, it was the peoples of the churches they founded that sent money back to Jerusalem, not the other way around.

So it seems to me that we ought to be going even into this island nation and learning about their culture. I could think of a few ex-military guys that I know in the church that would find this a challenging opportunity. There is a way to defend yourself without being aggressive. We have a base in Cuba after all. I would think this culture knows its island well enough that anything covert would be instantly spotted. So any approach would have to be made overtly, but well-defended. Such an approach would have to be well-funded and call for extreme dedication. But I think it would be do-able.

Let me put it this way. If Jesus will no return until every people-group has heard the gospel, is it at least as important to tell this people about Him as it is to build a Temple in Jerusalem?

God Bless!

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Happy Thanksgiving

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Just a note of thanks today. Thank you to everyone who has liked the blog and followed me this year. I know it’s quirky and odd, and sometimes what I have to say comes out of left field, but you are a great group of people that made this blog part of your life. Thank you all!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone today. May you also take some time today to thank the Lord God for His blessing, even they are simply life and breath. Praise Lord wherever He may be found!

Looking for a Reason?

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Just take a look around if you are looking for a reason to thank God. God has given to you in abundance. He has given you life and health enough to read this blog today. I thank God For my wife and children, that He raised me in a good family? And gave me the privilege to raise one of my own. I know the things of this life are fleeting, and that I could lose it all in a moment, but I am grateful I have been able to enjoy God’s blessings up to this point. God has been good. I have no reason not to trust Him.

Make today another day to praise and worship Him in thankfulness. Thank you God for all your marvelous works. Praise Your Holy and Righteous Name!

Incomparable

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Who else could do the things our God can do? Who else can rightly be called “God” than the One who made the heavens and the earth by his mighty power and outstretched hand? There is no one else, and thus we have no One else to thank but Him. God is the proper object of our worship and praise today. We were made to praise Him and without Him as our object, our praise feels hollow and worthless. Praising men for their great deeds is good, but praising God is better. Praising a child is good, but praising God, Who gives us all from the liberality of His hands in abundance is far better.

Worship is a natural part of our being, whether we choose to acknowledge God. We will naturally praise someone or something. We will give our allegiance to sports teams, athletes, great thinkers and minds, family, friends, those whom we admire. And we will do it without even thinking about it, because it is an instinctual as breathing. Giving your time and attention to any object or person can be moved into the realm of worship.

We worship an invisible God, whose worship and praise must be intentional. He is made evident by the creation we see around us. We are witness to His majesty through His creative acts, and He draws us to Himself by the awe we feel in His works. Worship of God is deliberate. It is something we may fall into, but to worship a God we cannot see requires our intention and concentration. It is so much easier to worship things we can see. God forces us to engage both heart and mind in worshipping Him, our spirit and our will.

So let us engage the Lord with thankfulness for His marvelous works, His blessings innumerable, and the joys He has graced us with in this life. If you have family, be thankful for that. If you have a home, food on the table, children who say “I love you”, a wife who is still a woman worthy of the descriptor “beautiful”, a good job that pays for your needs, you already have numerous reasons to be thankful.

Celebrate and enjoy this holiday in thankfulness and worship. God bless you today.

Life Measured in Ministry

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Many measure their lives in money, family, or some other tangible asset that people can count. It’s sometimes been said that a man can be measured by his friends, or by the number of people who attend his funeral. I wonder what Paul would have had to say about all that? We don’t know if Paul had any natural children. We know he considered many of his concerts his children, and his protege Timothy was very special to him as a son in the faith.

But Paul describes here an attitude toward the self, putting aside all of one’s accomplishments and the pride that comes with them. Instead he says that he prefers to measure his life in the ministry and preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is a standard that if applied to each of us we might find ourselves wanting.

But each of us has a ministry. Whether a mom to her children, a husband to his wife, a social worker to her cases, a line to a factory employee, even a small church to a pastor. Having been in that last category, it is often a discouraging day to continue to minister in the small church, seeing the same people week upon week with no significant change. But being faithful and preaching faithfully, being a constant spiritual presence in someone’s else’s life can mean a great deal.

I want to encourage you this morning with this word from the Lord. Don’t measure your life by your accomplishments and prizes, but in the people who look to you as the anchor in the storms of life. In the people who seek you out when they need an encouraging word. Be mindful today of those people in your life. God bless you today.

Now What?

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After a person has come through the waters of baptism and become part of a church, the pressure is off, right? I mean, the whole “come to Jesus” part is the hard part, after living years “like the world” and doing what you please, I mean really, finally becoming a Christian, finally deciding to “put your faith in Jesus” surely is the end of the line, right? Not if this verse has anything to say about it. This verse goes on to say something about sanctification, the process over time that we as Christians gradually become more Christ-like. Rather than go for a static spirituality, Christians are instructed to grow in their faith, to practice their new spiritual gifts and be engaged in their Christian community: to love one another “as I have loved you.” There is no point at which you can say “I have arrived” in Christianity. There is no end-point to which you can say, “I’ve done enough” and rest on your laurels. Christians are ever-growing, ever-reaching for Christlikeness. Becoming a Christian isn’t a goalpost. It’s the kickoff.

0110 – Source Code 6 -The Call of Justice

“You shall not murder.
(Exo 20:13)

While many of the Ten Commandments seem clear-cut, surprisingly, this one has become more murky, especially as it has been interpreted. In the King James, this text reads, “thou shalt not kill.” Seems simple enough, right? But it is right to “kill” sometimes? What about Capital Punishment? Isn’t that a just “killing” by the state to execute a law-breaker?

Many years ago I got into an argument (surprised?) with a lady I worked with. Our argument was basically about Capital Punishment. To her, executing a condemned man violated this commandment. As as seen as an absolute, this is not incorrect. All life is sacred, even life which has taken the life of another, or committed treason against the state. But this is not a position I take lightly. The State is authorized, even commanded to take the life of the convicted man (or woman) who takes the life of another person. It is the very seriousness and sacredness of life that one ought not to take it from another person. God tells the family of Noah after they emerged from the ark:

And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. (Gen 9:5-6)

Because God considers life so precious (it is made in His image), He commands that anyone who takes someone else’s life ought to be killed and thus deliver him up to God for judgment. If you follow the Old Testament Law, you find that God pronounces several categories of sin, in addition to murder, that call for the killing of the perpetrator, including religious malfeasance, sexual deviance, dabbling in witchcraft and sorcery and so on. However, these later laws were only binding on the people of Israel, not the whole world. However, the law given in Genesis 9 is binding upon all men who are descendants of Noah, which is everyone.

Does this have anything to say about state-sanctioned killing, like war? This commandment comes from the same God who commanded the Israelites (as a King commanding his troops) to go to war against Canaan and retake their rightful property (according to the promises made to Abraham). Because God commanded it, it was automatically a just war. So the idea of going to war and killing your enemy in a just cause seems to be legitimate. What a Just War is or what a state is should the subject of another blog entry. The point here is that killing on behalf of a state, as a soldier or representative of that state, is also exempt from this command, “do not kill.”

So it seems obvious that Exodus 20:13 does not supersede Genesis 9:5-6. So if this command does not refer to the state-authorized killing of murderers to whom does it refer? All other taking of human life apart from the state. Thus it is translated above as “do not murder”, meaning do not take someone else’s life as an individual. But where does this impulse from from? Jesus explains it this way:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. (Mat 5:21-22)

Have you ever been angry?

Have you ever been angry with another person? What was it that made you angry? I think people get angry for one of two reasons: 1) that their own sense of right is violated, or that 2) someone else’s right has been violated.

If someone steals your car, your promotion, your place in line, you get angry. Why? Because they were not entitled to these things, you are. And your sense of justice, the oughtness of things, is violated, by which you choose to become angry, because taking back by force seems just under those circumstances.

But have you ever been angry for someone else? Someone called your wife a name. Does that make you angry? Your kid being bullied at school. Does that make you angry? Four planes were used by terrorists to hurt your country. Does that make you angry? Though these things didn’t happen directly to you, your own sense of right and justice are violated, and you can respond with anger.

But this anger comes from a judgment call. If the repo man “stole” your car because you were delinquent on payments, you may still be angry, but are you righteous in your anger? If your child was being rude and obnoxious, did he deserve to be treated in kind? You may still be angry, but is it a righteous anger? We often make these judgment calls, resulting in ANGER with insufficient information. We take action before we’ve heard all the facts. That’s why the state is authorized to execute a man, because the state takes the time to gather all the facts and make summary judgment towards the accused. It takes longer, and justice isn’t always Just, but is better than a snap judgment, and the horrible long-term consequences that emerge from it. If you remember the Hatfields and the McCoys, you know why its a bad idea for people to “take the law into their own hands” and act as “judge, jury, and executioner” because it leads to murder and destruction of whole families due to near endless feuds.

This commandment is more than trying keep us from killing each other. It is to prevent the massive internal conflicts that happen when people feel justified in killing their fellow man. It is to stem the tide of aggression and destruction when anger is not held in check.

I’ll cap this here, but I think you get the idea. Please comment below and tell me what you think . Looking forward to reading your comments. Thank you all for subscribing.