Monday, September 18, 2006

More on the Pope and Islam

You can find the latest article on the ongoing saga between the Pope and Islam here. Here are some of the quotes that I find disturbing:
We shall break the cross and spill the wine ... God will (help) Muslims to conquer Rome ... (May) God enable us to slit their throats, and make their money and descendants the bounty of the mujahideen. let me get this straight. The Pope criticizes Islam because he sees elements in it that lead to radical violence, and they protest by asking their god to give them the ability to "slit their throats."

Further, the comments made by the Pope pale in comparision to the ridicule of the Muslim reaction. They want to "break the cross" and "spill the wine," besides the fact that they want our stuff for their own.

Remember, the Pope claims to be a direct successor to Peter the Apostle. Now, when Peter or Paul or an early disciple stirred up a pagan crowd, did they immediately begin to apologize that they had offended the sensibilities of the worshippers of false gods? Did they call their religion respectable and worthy in any way? This capitulation to the demands of Muslims is saddening. If Islam were a respectable religion, then they could take the heat of criticism without resorting to murdering nuns and dreaming of slitting the throats of their critics.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Pope, Angry Muslims, and the Age of Terror

I shook my head in disbelief yesterday when I read this article on Yahoo News. I was in disbelief because the title of the story did not prepare me for its content. (I was wondering how the Pope mangaed to unite the Iraqis!) Secondly, I was surprised at the seeming ignorance of Muslims over the fundamental differences between Islam and Christianity.

This quote in particular had me shaking my head:
The pope and Vatican proved to be Zionists and that they are far from Christianity, which does not differ from Islam. Both religions call for forgiveness, love and brotherhood.

This stunning statement was delivered courtesy of Shiite cleric Sheik Abdul-Kareem al-Ghazi. Now, the normal ranting about how Muhammed had been slandered and how such insolence will not be tolerated did not surprise me. The first surprise comes from the first line of the quote. That is, the cleric declared that the Pope and the Vatican are far from Christianity. Now, as a good Baptist, I might even shout, "Here! Here!" to such a statement. However, I am a Christian, and it would seem to me that I may have a little space to criticize other Christians if I think we are moving beyond the rim of orthodoxy. But are Muslims now dictating to the Vatican what it means to be a "Christian"? How absurd is that? And then to even attempt to maintain the slanderous accusation that Islam does not differ from Christianity? I can't believe that angry mobs of Christians haven't already stormed some Muslim embassy somewhere and set it on fire <----insert sarcasm here.

Then, I read this. I was in for my second shock in two days. It firmly entrenched my suspicion that I am living in the weirdest day in the history of the world. Here I quote the Pope's representative:
the pope "sincerely regrets that certain passages of his address could have sounded offensive to the sensitivities of the Muslim faithful...
Actually, I was in the midst of quoting the most absurd statement found in the article, and it disappeared from the story. Wow. Shock number 3, I suppose. The quote said something to the effect that the Vatican esteemed Muslims because they worship the one glorious God. The latter part of the statement was left out. Maybe the reporter got that part wrong, I certainly hope so. Muslims do not worship the one glorious God, and the Emperor that the Pope quoted was right that the teachings of Muhammed are "evil and inhumane" and he ought not to apologize for that. He should clarify what exactly is evil and inhumane about Islam, not apologize and pretend like the problems don't exist. The last thought that I want to leave with you is this: Perhaps the Muslims are dictating to Christians what a the Christian faith ought to be, and the real terror that the West has, besides being blown up by sensitive Muslims, is that they will offend someone. What say you?

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Lesson of the Lord's Supper

What does it mean when we partake of the Lord's Supper? To most, I believe it is only a visible reminder that Jesus Christ suffered and died for sin. While not incorrect, and certainly not the least thing that happens at the Lord's Table, this is not the sum total of the remembrance of Jesus Christ during the Eucharist. There are other implications to be considered beyond the sacrificial death of our Lord, namely, what led up to this sacrifice and what that sacrifice means to us beyond our personal sins being atoned for.

I will begin with a simple reminder of what it means to remember someone. At the institution of the Lord's Supper, Jesus said, "Do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19). Meditate on that for a moment. Christ our Lord commanded us to remember Him during the Lord's Supper. Do you think that He meant only that we ought to remember how He died for us, or should we also call to remembrance how He lived for us as well?

Think of it this way, does the cross of Jesus Christ mean anything detached from His life leading up to calvary? If we do not know His background, His teachings, His examples, and even His miracles, Jesus of Nazareth becomes another person executed for sedition against Rome. To an ignorant passerby, Jesus would have appeared no more significant on the cross than the two thieves. It is the person and life of Jesus Christ that makes the crucifixion so outrageous and horrifying.

If you know that Jesus died because of His absolute devotion to goodness, to wicked persons, to truth, and ulitmately for His love of the Father, then you know why it is a horror for Him to die on the cross. If you further know that He groans there for your sake, then the grief is personal. That He died for you has extreme personal implications in how you ought to live, and to learn how to live you must remember how He lived and what He taught.

For example, do you remember during the Lord's Supper that Jesus taught His disciples to love as He loved? Jesus said, "A new commandment I give to you , that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another" (John 13:34). The implications of this are staggering. As you chew the flesh of Christ, remember that His love for you put Him on the cross. If you are commanded to have a similar love for me, or the person in the pew next to you, or your fellow Sunday school member, then you must realize that by partaking you are committing yourself to die for your neighbor. You are committing yourself to give up all your worldly possessions and claims in order to benefit the body of Jesus Christ. If that makes the Supper tough to swallow, then you are beginning to be a real disciple.

Without the generous gift of God's Holy Spirit, such a life would be impossible. This Sunday, as I lifted the cup of Christ's blood to drink it, I had in mind the 100+ beloved children of God that the Father has entrusted to my care. The question entered my mind, "Would you lay down your life for these sheep?" The answer: By God's grace. The next question is harder, "Are you laying down your life for these sheep?" The answer: God knows.

These are only a few things that the suffering and teaching of our Lord should bring to mind as we partake of the Lord's Supper. I have only skimmed the surface in hopes that this will get your mind moving in the right direction this Monday morning. Live the gospel today, and make good your confession of faith. Lay down your life for your brothers and sisters today, for the sake of the gospel, and for the sake of those rebels who by God's grace will see the light through your testimony. Live the life by dying today to self. Do this in remembrance of Him.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Recommended Dead Brothers

I recently received a wonderful email asking me to recommend some of the works by the "dead guys" I get so excited about. How wonderful! Here is my response to that wonderful seeker of wisdom. May God grant them grace to persevere when it gets a little dry. Please feel free to pan or praise my picks, and to add some you find helpful as well. But tell us why you like them or don't bother, that way we'll know you actually read them and didn't steal them from another list.

You've asked a hard question. It's sort of like asking someone what their favorite food is; the answer often depends on the mood. That is, do you want dessert, main course, appetizer, or midnight snack? But since you've asked such a great question, I'll do my best to get you started.

As with any great meal, you should always begin with an excellent appetizer. To that end, I would recommend two most excellent books. They aren't theologically dense, and yet they are profoundly Biblical and encouraging. These aren't necessarily in order of greatness:

1. The Autobiography of George Muller. You can pick this one up in paperback for a song. George Muller was a man of the early 19th century, born in 1805 I believe. His heart was burdened for the orphaned children of his country, which was epidemic at the time. He had no money, and he never asked for any. Yet, through the power of prayer God granted him the ability to care for thousands of orphaned children. His autobiography is a testimony to God's faithfulness to him. What a book!

2. The Life of God in the Soul of Man, Henry Scougal. Henry Scougal was a man of God who passed away at twenty-eight, but by that time, he was already a pastor and a professor at King's College in Aberdeen. He lived from 1650-1678. This book is absolutely wonderful. Buy it even if you have to sell your car to have it. (You won't, I believe you can pick it up at Amazon for around $12.00). This little devotional was instrumental in leading George Whitefield to saving faith.

Those two will get you started. What comes next is much more difficult, and I have a recommendation to make to you: find someone else who wants to read good, deep, theological books. In fact, I'd start a "Dead Theologians Society" or something to help. Some of these are difficult to read, but if you mine in rock, you may strike gold!

1. Martin Luther's Three Treatises. I always recommend Luther early and often. One, he isn't boring. Two, why not read the man whom God used to begin the Reformation? Start with the Treatise on "The Bondage of the Will." It will change your life. (Be careful in your book search, they sell "The Bondage of the Will" seperately. What you want is the Three Treatises. You can get all three cheaper than buying one at a time.)

2. Samuel Bolton, The True Bounds of Christian Freedom. Find a friend to help you through this treatise on the work of God's law in the life of the believer. Great thought-provoking read. You may never mow your yard on Sunday again.

3. Jonathan Edwards, The End for Which God Created the World. If your friends made it through Bolton's work, recruit them for this one. Be sure an get the version that John Piper edited. He basically put cliff notes in this to help folks understand Edwards, who can be rather...dry. But the payload at the end is worth the trouble. The one you want is God's Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards.

4. Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed. Written for the Christian who has known the pain of suffering and depression. This is a good read, and it has been a balm to many "burn-out" souls over the last 400 years.

If you have made it through any of these four main dishes, then you are ready for dessert. I have a perfect one in mind, and it will introduce you to yet another fine author.

John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress. John Bunyan was a Baptist pastor who spent many years in prison for his faith. During that time he wrote this wonderful little allegory call The Pilgrim's Progress. You won't need your friends to help you with this one. Read this to your children. If you don't have any, read it to your neighbor's children.

God bless with these! Hopefully some wise person will add to this already wonderful list.