Saturday, March 29, 2014

When One Member Suffers

Throughout the ages there unfortunately has been a history of religious persecution.  Today, in the Middle East Islamic extremism and complacent politicians in places like Egypt, Pakistan and Nigeria lead to the persecution, suffering and death of literally tens of thousands of Christians every year.

While there has been progress in many places in the advancement of human rights including religious freedom, some of the historical centers of Christianity in the Middle East are facing the most significant surge of persecution of all time.  These persecutions likely well surpass even the Roman Empire's persecution of the Christians in the first centuries up until the time of Constantine the Great according to John O’Sullivan of the National Review (April 4, 2013)

The Islamic terrorist network Boko Haram in Nigeria has been targeting Christians since 2009.  Daily Nigerian Christians face Church bombings, drive-by shootings and armed raids on their villages.

An Islamic jihadi group connected to the infamous Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt offered bounties to anyone that would execute any Christian.   Most of these Christians are Coptic, a part of the Orthodox Church headquartered in Alexandria, Egypt, one of the ancient centers of Christianity.   Coptic men are easily identifiable for would be assassins due to their practice of having a small cross tattooed on their wrists

What I find just as troubling however is the lack of concern and even the outright ridicule and scorn that some Christians receive from other Christians.   Jesus prayed for unity in the Church “so that the world would believe” (John 17:23) and the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth: "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment," (1 Cor. 1:10).

When one group of Christians mistakenly center their faith on denominational creeds, traditions, or the teaching and practices of their local congregation rather than the essential and foundational beliefs of the Church its very easy to find identifiable targets within the broader Christian Church.   Earnest and passionate but misguided, these Christians launch out using modern technology and press conferences and even host conferences regarding their disdain for other members of the Body of Christ.

We have always had our differences but when we air our differences in public the rest of the unbelieving world gets to see how self-centered, divided and even hateful we can become.  These unbelievers are the very people that should be the intended object of our affection and our evangelism efforts but they have now tasted a very bitter Christianity.

The Apostle Paul does a great job of encouraging the church to be one and unified in the 12th chapter of his epistle to the Corinthians.     He compares the Body of Christ to a human body and demonstrates the unity as well as the diversity of an actual body.  He says that all the various parts are still members and all still significant.   He then goes on to mention that we should not be divided but have ‘equal concern’ for one another.   In verse 26 of the same chapter he states, “if one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad."

Our brothers and sisters in places like Egypt, Pakistan and Nigeria are suffering at the hands of Islamic extremists.  Pray for them.  Our brothers and sisters in our local towns and cities across America are suffering as well when we shout and write and attack based on denominational and sectarian doctrines.  

Let’s major on the majors, embrace the essentials of the faith and find a way to honor each other.



Saturday, March 08, 2014

Godfidence

From time to time, new words are introduced into the English Language.  English is a ‘living language’ and it adapts and changes.  

If we study the Bible, we often have to go back to Biblical Hebrew or Classic Greek to see what the original words said because English is constantly changing.   I can understand that, sometimes, we need a word….something that is a little unique to be able to remind us that there is something different.

For example….. Here are some of the new words in the English Language
  • man cave n (introduced around 1992).  Many guys know exactly what a man cave is.  Big oversize leather chairs, a huge entertainment center, refreshments, everything a man needs.  In can be in the basement, perhaps the entire basement, an extra bedroom or study.    We have downsized our home and as a result I don’t have a man cave, I have a man basket.  It’s conveniently located near our front door and a great place for me to store my wallet, keys, some spare change and sun glasses. 
  • Another new word in the English language is bucket list n (introduced 2006) The movie Bucket List immediately created the word and it refers to the things that people want to do before they “kick the bucket”.


The word I hope to see entered into the English dictionary for everyone’s benefit  is the word Godfidence.

It is the best word I have found to express what we most need to achieve what God wants us to achieve.  You may have thought at first that the word I said is ‘confidence’, and of course Godfidence is closely related to confidence.  

Confidence is defined by Dictionary.com as belief in oneself and one's powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance.

The big problem however with confidence is that it fosters pride and promotes a reliance on our own strengths and abilities.  The reality is that we all have doubts; we all have times when fear even becomes the primary motivator for action or inaction.

The bible however encourages us to have faith, not fear.

The Bible says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Philippians 4:13

Godfidence is the reliance and trust not in our own ability but in God’s ability.  It is the faith that enables us to achieve far beyond that which we can accomplish without God.   Surprisingly, it is most needed and actually only available when we realize that in our own power and strength we cannot possibly achieve the goal.  It is the trust that God is able when we know we are not.

This type of confidence is not blind faith or hope beyond hope but it is literally the ‘substance of things hoped for’.  The evidence is retold every day in our ministries, our businesses, our churches and in our families.   It does not require the absence of doubt or fear but actually overcomes our doubts and fears by not looking at those things that are seen but visioning those things that are not seen.

If you are still struggling with the difference between Confidence and Godfidence, here is a simple comparison:

Confidence                                       Godfidence
My ability                                           God’s ability          
Embraces learned behavior               Embraces God’s character
Assurance on the outcome                Assurance on God’s power
Results in self-promotion                    Results in humility and reliance
Elevates self                                       Elevates God

Here are some other scripture verses that help in understanding Godfidence:

2 Timothy 1:7 ESV says, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.:

Ephesians 2:10 ESV says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Philippians 1:6 ESV says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

If God has called you do anything.....don't have confidence but have Godfidence! 


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