Thursday, August 28, 2014

Know The Heretics, by Justin Holcomb

What a wonderful short book about the main Heresies that arose in the early times of the developing Christian Church. I have read many different books on this subject over the years but found that this was one that I could quickly devour and then recommend to the many students and congregation members that I know would love to learn about this subject.

I think the "Know" series of books is a great way for small groups to go through a topic together and learn. After having read through this I'm going to get 10 copies for our small group and we are going to make this as our first study this fall. Some of the heresies that he writes about are well known and some not so much. But what is interesting is that all of these heresies started long ago but if you start to understand them you can see that they are still present in our culture today. Many people are being swayed away from the Bible and the true Gospel Message because they at times feel God is harsh. They just don't fully understand His nature.

But when you think God is harsh or cruel or mean then you have a tendency to try and soften the message or the text of scripture and that leads to false teaching and leading people astray.

If you have never read anything about the Heretics that confused the early church members then this wonderful little book is perfect for your primer on the topic.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Christianophobia by Rupert Shortt

Those of us who are curious about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and other non-Western countries will find this book helpful in documenting what is going on.  Rupert Shortt gives us information regarding the following countries: Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, Nigeria, Indonesia, India, Burma, China, Vietnam, North Korea, and the Holy Land.

Each chapter gives a history of the issues in that country and then documents many of the attacks against Christians and their churches, businesses, homes and schools.

With the atrocities of ISIS prevalent on the nightly news many Westerners are wondering what they can do or what is the cause of much of this violence and rage that is being poured out on the non-Muslim populations in the Middle East.  Shortt will give you some background and help you to clarify what has been happening not just recently but for many centuries.

The Western Church needs to read a work like this to get a better grasp on the issues facing God's people throughout the world. This book is not for the faint of heart as it will give you the details as to what is happening and the cruelty being inflicted on many innocent people, Christian as well as Muslim.

You will not find an answer to the problem within these pages, but you will find a good description of what the problem is.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

2 Timothy 4:1-8 --- Preach the Word

In this section of scripture Paul is exhorting his young disciple Timothy to diligently follow the exhortation that he is giving, that exhortation is;

            Preach the Word
            Be ready in season and out of season (to give an answer)
            Reprove, Rebuke and Exhort with complete patience and teaching
            Be sober-minded
            Endure suffering
            Do the work of an Evangelist
            Fulfill your ministry

Timothy had a calling/ministry to fulfill and Paul was encouraging him to stand by that calling and run the good race and finish that race, just as Paul has done.

These words are also meant for each of us today. Do you know what calling God has placed on your life? Are you striving to fulfill that calling? Are you willing to suffer the possible consequence of persecution for following your calling?

I think that we in the United States have become very complacent in our faith.  We have become comfortable in the face of lack of persecution. We have become quiet because we don’t want to be politically incorrect or be viewed as intolerant.

The time to stop this lethargic Christian lifestyle is now. We may not be facing persecution in America for being religious/Christian, but our lethargic attitude towards sharing the Gospel will bring eventual judgment on us from the Lord.

The day is coming when we will be persecuted even here in America for our faith, are you ready to stand tall and give an answer for the hope you have in Christ?

I am presently reading a book called, “Christianophobia: A Faith Under Attack.” It is mainly exploring the persecution of the Christian Faith in countries other than America.  I picked the book up because of the crisis of ISIS in the Middle East.  I want to understand more of what is going on.  When I finish the book I will post a review here on this Blog.

In the meantime I ask you, the reader, to memorize 2 Timothy 4:1-8 and ask yourself, “Am I fighting the good fight, or am I comfortably ignoring God’s call on my life?”

Write and let me know what you think and feel free to send prayer requests as I would love to pray for you.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Obadiah -- God's judgment on Edom

The minor prophets continue to be the least looked at books in the Bible. So, is it any wonder that maybe Obadiah is the least looked at of the minor prophets since it is so short? Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament but that doesn't mean that it doesn't hold solid truth's about the Lord.

The book is God's declaration regarding the people of Edom. The Edomites turned against the Israelites by helping catch fleeing Israelites from the Babylonians. They also gave aid and comfort to the Babylonians. God was not happy with the Edomites so this is His declaration of what will happen to them.

This new Commentary Series does a great job of addressing the background, the history, the culture, etc. of the people that the prophecy is about. Daniel Block does a very effective job of writing and making the concepts understandable for laypeople as well as Pastors.

The layout is good, the explanation of the original languages is good and the outlining and structure are very well done.

I think that Laypeople will enjoy this series, but it has enough solid intellectual material that even Pastors and Bible teachers will be happy with the text.


The God of second chances! Thoughts on Jonah Chapter Three

We are all familiar with the story of Jonah and how he became what we like to term, ‘The Reluctant Prophet.’  In chapter 1 we read, “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah.”  This phrase is the opening of the story.  God had a message for Nineveh and Jonah was the prophet he selected to deliver that message.

But Jonah ran away from the task and God had to capture his attention through the storm at sea and then the adventure in the belly of a great fish. Jonah comes to his senses and cries out to God while in the belly of the fish (see chapter 2).  The first vomits Jonah out onto dry land.

Now for chapter 3.  It starts out with, “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time.”  What I find most interesting is that God allows Jonah a second chance. God extends mercy to Jonah, not just for Jonah’s sake but also for the sake of all the people of Nineveh.

Jonah takes heed of the word of the Lord this time and goes to Nineveh.  Now, granted, he still didn’t have the best of attitudes, but he did go. The result, much to Jonah’s surprise, is that the whole city of Nineveh repents and turns from their evil ways.

So, why am I intrigued by this aspect of the story?

1.     God will go to great lengths to have His message delivered to a sinful people
2.     God gives mercy to Jonah and spares his life and gives him a second chance. How often have you needed a second chance with God?
3.     God knows our hearts, but still He desires to allow us to be his spokesperson.
4.     God is the God of judgment as well as the God of mercy.  All we have to do is repent (like Jonah did in the fish) and God will be quick to hear and respond.

In our culture today people are sinners and need to hear the word of God.  Our cities are no better than that of Nineveh.  How it must break God’s heart to see us act the way we do. Our sin and corruption know no bounds.

BUT, God is merciful and willing to receive us back into His fellowship if we will just repent. So, how do we get people, to repent?  Well, we don’t, God does. It is God’s work to bring sinful people to a point of brokenness and repentance.

BUT, God needs helpers.  He needs people to be his voice. Jesus told the disciples that the harvest was plentiful, but the workers were few. Then the apostle Paul gave us this question to ponder in Romans 10:14-17;

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. [1]

So, the question is, do you need a second chance to share the Gospel with someone? Do you need God’s mercy in your life because you have not followed Him? Are you willing to confess your sins and turn from your evil ways and go where God directs you?

Let me know your answers to those questions.

God bless.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Ro 10:14–17). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

More Thoughts on Ferguson, MO -- Also, Reflections on a Young Hero -- Kevin Easter

As I have been thinking about the Michael Brown death here in Ferguson Missouri I have been brought back to some memories that are not the most pleasant. I was a volunteer Police Chaplain with the Wichita Police Department and the Sedgwick Country Sheriff’s office in Kansas.  I loved the work and was honored to meet and serve with many fine young men and women.

One young man I served with was Jeff Easter.  He was a SCAT officer with the Wichita Police Department.  He and his partner, Terry Fettke, became my friends.  They allowed me to ride along with them on many shifts and they taught me so much about what it means to be a police officer.  I respect both of these men very much.

On the night of January 8, 1996 I received a phone call, one that is dreaded by any Police Chaplain or officer.  Deputy Kevin Easter of the Sedgwick County Sheriff Department had been shot and killed in the line of duty.  Kevin is the younger brother of Jeff Easter.

My heart sank and I was at a loss for words.  I went and spent time with officers at the station.  I eventually spent time with Jeff as he grieved with friends.  I was present at the funeral where I ended up comforting Terry Fettke as he tried to deal with the tragedy.

SO, what does this have to do with the Ferguson shooting of Michael Brown?  Well, an officer in the turmoil of a stop shot and killed Michael Brown.  The officer felt threatened.

This has lead to a huge amount of civil unrest and many accusations against police officers.  All police officers end up lumped into the category of killers.

So, after a 14-year-old gang kid shot and killed Deputy Easter what happened.  No civil unrest.  No calls for an investigation into the young teen and why he had a gun and shot the officer (although he did stand trial and is in prison).

If we are going to mourn Michael Brown and have civil unrest because his life was taken from him when he was way to young, then why was there no civil unrest to protest the killing of a twenty-four year old Deputy.

Kevin Easter is a hero.  He served his county well.  He had actually cuffed and arrested another teen before running after his killer.  Did he have to do what he did?  No, he could have waited for others and let the kid run off.  But, he was there to protect and serve the community and a young angry man with a gun was on the loose, so he took action.

Kevin left a newlywed bride.  He left a family of dedicated law enforcement officers.  He left friends, co-workers and fellow officers.

There is a special bond built when you are faced with death while serving with the Police.  BUT, that doesn’t prepare you for the devastation of loosing a fellow officer.

Most Police show great restraint.  I believe that the officers who knew Kevin Easter wanted revenge.  They wanted to inflict harm on those who caused his death.  But they are professionals and withheld that violence and allowed the court system to do its work.

Friends, let’s let the court system do it’s due diligence with Officer Wilson and watch as they thoroughly investigate what happened with Michael Brown.  Let’s stop the violence.  Let’s stop the civil unrest.  Let’s have the courage to allow the system to do what it does best, dig for the truth.

Now for the end of the story.  Deputy Kevin Easter has been gone 18 years, but his legacy lives on.  His brother Jeff Easter is now the Sheriff for Sedgwick County.  This after having served 23 years with the Wichita Police Force.  Jeff now serves as the leader of the department his brother served when he died.

Thank you Kevin Easter for your life and service.  Thank you Sheriff Jeff Easter for your dedication to serving the Wichita Community. Your lives and work will never be forgotten.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Thoughts on Michael Brown's upcoming funeral & the Rev. Al Sharpton

Religious Service or Political Positioning?

That is the question I have to ask myself when I hear that the Rev. Al Sharpton is scheduled to give the Eulogy for Michael Brown on Monday at his funeral.  I’m sorry, but usually the Eulogy is given by someone who knows the deceased and wants to share with the world their thoughts on who the person was and what they leave behind.

The Rev. Al Sharpton didn’t know Michael Brown.  He probably didn’t even know where Ferguson Missouri was until the terrible shooting that took place.  So, why would a Reverend of the Gospel of Christ think it is a good idea to give the Eulogy for a young man he didn’t know?

The only answer I can come up with is, “This is the correct Political thing to do if you want to draw attention to yourself.”  I say this because the Rev. Sharpton has yet to draw people to see Jesus Christ and to give honor and glory to the Lord’s name.  Instead he is playing to the crowds and positioning himself for political gain.

This is the type of Shepherd that Jesus came to speak against.  Sharpton is a Pharisee of Pharisee’s and Jesus reminded these men that they were not serving the role of Shepherd and caring for the flock.

When Jesus said, I came to heal the brokenhearted and bind up the wounds of the hurt he was referring to the fact that he had to take over the task of Shepherding because the Rabbi’s were not doing their job.

Dare I say that Rev. Al Sharpton is not doing his job?  If he is a Pastor then he is called to Shepherd the people, not push his own political agenda and draw attention to himself.

Let Michael Brown’s Pastor give the eulogy.  Let those who know the character of the young man stand up and give the eulogy.  Let our community tend to their own instead of bringing in a grandstander from the outside who only wants to get his name in the Media cycle for the evening so that people hear about him.

Sorry, but Rev. Al Sharpton I call on you to STAY HOME and tend to the flock that the Lord has put into your care.