Tuesday, September 19, 2017

What about the human race?

I was sitting in my car at a traffic stop the other day when a neatly dressed young woman came toward me soliciting donations for her cause. I make it a point to listen even if I decide not to donate. So when she approached me, I smiled as she said: "Would you like to make a donation to save stray dogs and cats? Any spare change would be appreciated." I responded without a moment's hesitation, "I'm more concerned about saving lost humans." Looking puzzled for a minute, she asked. "Really. What do you do?" "I'm a Christian. Do you attend a church?" I asked. "Yes, I do." she answered proudly. "Wonderful, then you should know all about saving humans." Our conversation ended there as the traffic light had turned green.

The next day, I was on my way to dinner with a friend when an older woman, dressed in a 60's throwback floral patterned skirt with matching top, approached us on the street. As we made eye contact, the woman thrust some literature in both our hands and began to lecture us about the cruel and inhuman treatment of chickens. Thrusting the sheets of paper back in her hand, I explained that my friend and I were heading to dinner, and really didn't want to spoil our appetites. Having said that, we started quickly walking away. Well, this really seemed to set her off so much that she chased after us shouting more chicken atrocities. My friend and I retreated into the safety of the restaurant. We found a quiet table and turned our attention to the menu placed before us. When the waitress came back for our order, we both ordered the chicken.
There are so many causes being promoted nowadays that clamor for our attention and support. But when I think about the human condition in the world today, I am burdened by the fact that concern for human life seems to be at an all-time low. Witness senseless killings in Niger, ethnic cleansing in places like Myanmar, ISIS backed fighters killing innocents, crazed dictators brandishing their nuclear weapons, racially motivated killings in the U.S., wars with no end in sight— women, children, the elderly being sacrificed, and for what? Where is the campaign to save the human race?

Humans need saving more than cats, dogs, chickens, tigers, whales, elephants, prairie dogs, kangaroos, rhinos, and the other 241 million species listed under a "save the" search on the Internet. I know of only one person who campaigned specifically to save human life—in fact it was His life's work—and that was Jesus. Many don't want to give Him credit, but the fact is His gospel of salvation has saved lives by the millions the world over, and is still doing it today. Jesus Christ came into the world to save humankind, not animals or ecosystems. Look around you. I bet you know at least one person—perhaps two or three— who need saving from something, The Good News is that there is something you, and they, can do about it. It's not about joining a religion; it's about having a relationship with the only one who came to save the human race. Questions are expected and welcomed. Find answers at Could your journey toward peace be any closer than today?

Sunday, June 18, 2017

How Jesus taught me to love Muslims

This was my first ever conversation with a Muslim—

It started with her asking if she could sit down next to me to say her prayers? Naturally, I said "sure" as I glanced around at all the other empty benches and wondered why here, why me? She starts to pray silently for which I am glad because I had imagined something totally different would take place. I glanced over periodically to see if I could read the prayer coming from her lips. I could not. Then a funny thing happened—I looked over again and she was talking on her phone. 
My thought was, "Muslims are no different than Christians when it comes to interrupting a conversation with God to answer their phones (I hate that about us). My lowered opinion of her piety made me not want to say anything more to her, but my curiosity got the better of me. So I began:

How often do you pray a day? Five times for the ritual prayers and some in-between times for personal needs.

Is it still Ramadan? Yes, for 10 more days. It lasts a month.
And you only eat once a day? You must get hungry. I time my meals to after sunset and before sunrise, so I actually eat two meals with a little water. I thought to myself, "That's just like us Christians always trying to bend the rules."

Then I asked her about those 100 virgins that Muslim suicide bombers claim are awaiting them in heaven. 

Her response surprised me. There are no virgins. We believe that only "virtuous" people will be in heaven. The suicide bombers are being lied to because taking even one innocent life is condemned in the Koran. They won't be in heaven.
Do you think the London fire was set by Muslim extremists? I don't think so because Muslims lived there too. And because many were awake at 1 am in the morning doing their prayers when the fire started. Muslims were able to run door-to-door to alert people of the fire. They helped save many lives. The news media won't tell you that.
Our conversation was interrupted because she had to leave. I had so many more questions I wanted to ask. As she thanked me for letting her sit with me, I had one final question—
Why did you choose this seat? Because when we pray, we have to face east. and you were sitting in the perfect spot. Imagine that?
She then added, You're such a nice person. To which I responded with a smile, "I'm a Christian" (meaning my faith says I should show everyone Christ-like love).
"As-Salaam-Alaikum," I said as we grasped hands. She responded, "Wa-Alaikum-Salaam," conferring peace on each other. If only I had had a few more minutes with her. It's true what they say about Christians— often the only bible some people will ever read is us.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

What if there were no black, brown, red, yellow or white people, only human

Racism is incredibly successful, despite having no basis at all in fact. There is only one race – the human race. —Deborah Orr

In the wake of the Charleston church massacre and police shootings of unarmed blacks, a cry has once again gone out for an end to racism in America (#ENDRACISMNOW). Americans will never rid themselves of racism until they put an end to the idea of racial groups. Without race, there would be no basis for racism. You'd have to hate me for some other reason like I dress funny or talk with food in my mouth for instance. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but not as ridiculous as this whole pretense of race.

As much as America tries to justify using race to socially stratify, identify and classify groups of people, it cannot. Clearly, I'm not black and you're not white, yellow, red or any of the other colors we've all been conditioned to paint our fellow human beings. Everything about race is a false, contrived, misleading, controlling, divisive, debasing concept meant to control some and elevate others. God created one race—the human race; and we're all equally a part of it.

The notion that human beings belong to distinctly different racial groupings is simply untrue. Anthropologists, geneticists, biologists have proven this. But for reasons previously stated, societies have been culturally programmed to believe otherwise. We've been falsely lead into believing that we have no genetic or biological antecedent. The problem is this view can't be supported by scientific evidence.
Science has proven that all living humans belong to the same species, Homo sapiens, and subspecies, Homo sapiens sapiens. There is a wide consensus that the racial categories that are common in everyday usage are socially constructed, and that racial groups cannot be biologically defined.
According to historian John Henrik Clark says race is a means of dividing and controlling groups of people:
The idea of "race" was developed as a direct response to the exploitation of other peoples, to provide both a pretext and a justification for the most unjustifiable conduct, the enslavement, murder, and degradation of millions of human beings.
and author Paul R. Spickard writes,
Race is primarily a sociopolitical construct. The sorting of people into this race or that in the modern era has generally been done by powerful groups for the purposes of maintaining and extending their own power.
The seeds of race and racism in America are traceable back to slavery. Race coding originated with light-skinned Europeans who forged a system to enslave their darker-skinned African-born captives.
The issue of race and racism has been at the center of American culture, politics and capital development since European colonialists first set foot on land they claimed as theirs.—Malik Miah
Slavery reinforced a belief of light-skinned Americans that they were somehow superior to the darker-skinned Africans under their control. They used their dominance to justify the cruel and inhuman treatment imposed upon these darker-skinned humans, and the racism that continues to this day.
Thus was created the only slave system in the world that became exclusively "racial." By limiting perpetual servitude to Africans and their descendants, colonists were proclaiming that blacks would forever be at the bottom of the social hierarchy.—Audrey Smedley
Racism is a horrible part of America's history, but it's a history that all Americans share. And when they travel to other countries, Americans import their racist thinking and behaviors to other cultures where it never before existed. The only way race and racism will ever be eradicated from American life is by the collective will of future generations. The old ways of thinking have to die out as well as those who maintain them. Quite frankly, we're not there yet. People are still dying in America—both black and white—victims of racially motivated killings. Last week, it was Charleston, 52 years ago it was Birmingham, not to mention all the other incidents in-between. At what point is the price we are paying to keep race and racism alive is too high.

Who in America has not had his or her whole life existence defined or marred in some way by race or racism? The U.S. government and many of public institutions knowingly or unknowingly encourage race coding by forcing people into racial categories on official forms —primarily, whether the applicant is white or black. It's an open invitation to use this information to discriminate, segregate, exclude from consideration or to give preferential treatment. Despite laws against it, discrimination still happens.

So what can we as individuals do about it in our everyday dealings with others of different origins? We can elect to de-institutionalize race and eliminate putting others in racial categories altogether. No more black, brown, red, yellow or white, just American, European, Asian and the like based on people origin, not colors. The new categories for Americans in the U.S. might be:
  • Native American
  • American
  • Other (Specify country of origin or citizenship if other than U.S.)
It's not a perfect solution, but it's a start toward changing attitudes about race and toward reversing the damage it has caused. Just imagine if race were a non-issue, think of how much time we'd have to explore new ways of relating to each other.
This is the list of the descendants of Adam. When God created human beings, he made them like himself. He created them male and female, blessed them, and named them “Human Beings.” —Genesis 5:1-2 GNT

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Peace of Mind: Where's the app for that

You may have seen the television commercial featuring a character by the name of "Mayhem" who goes about creating all kinds of trouble for his innocent, unsuspecting victims. After each disaster he causes, Mayhem is heard to say,
"If you had [blank] insurance you'd be protected from mayhem like me."
Most people buy insurance to protect them from the unexpected—a sudden illness, car accident, house fire, travel mishap, and even death. People live each day with the element of surprise hanging over their heads. They leave home each day, drive to work, drop the kids off at school, board buses, trains and planes to go about routine activities— all without any certainty or guarantee of how their day will end.

Like mayhem, there is a real life character who also preys upon the lives of people for no other reason than to harm or defeat us. His name is Satan. You may be familiar with his other names—the devil, the accuser, thief and the father of lies. The bible calls Satan "the god of this world" because he rules earth and is responsible for all the evil and wickedness in the world (2 Corinthians 4:4). You see his influence in people who steal, lie, cheat, quarrel, murder, bully and inflict harm on others (Romans 1:29-32). In the bible Satan is depicted as a roaring lion on the prowl looking for someone to attack (1 Peter 5:8).

Satan could care less whether you are a Christian, some other religion or no religion at all. He's an equal opportunity destroyer who hates God, and wants to destroy everything that God has created. But here's the Good News. the God of the bible provides an insurance policy against Satan's attacks backed by faith in his Son, Jesus Christ. The bible says that Jesus came into the world to destroy the power of the devil over humankind.

God's insurance policy comes with an ironclad guarantee that anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13). The only stipulation is that you accept the salvation that Jesus' death and resurrection provides. God's insurance policy is activated by saying a simple prayer like this:
Jesus, I confess that I am a sinner. I believe you died on the cross for my sins. Please forgive my sins, come into my heart and help me live the rest of my life for you.  
If you recited the prayer and meant it with all your heart, starting now whenever mayhem strikes, you'll have peace of mind knowing God's got you covered.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

God with us

In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.—Psalm 18:6 KJV

It should be a comfort, if you are a Christian, to know that God hears you. The question is—do you have faith enough to believe it? I encounter people all the time who say they are Christians but who are weak in the knees when it comes to believing God for what they need. They don't have confidence to approach God's throne of grace themselves so they ask others to do it for them— "Please pray for me." No question intercessory prayer is a powerful ally, but our personal prayers are what's needed to move God to act on our behalf. The Bible clearly states in James 5:16—
The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working].—AMP
With that kind of power right at our fingertips, prayer should be automatic in every situation we face. Nevertheless, God is gracious to answer our unspoken prayers as well as the prayers of others for us. Sometimes, when someone experiences an instant or miraculous answer to prayer, you know without a doubt that it came from God. At other times, He may delay the answer or give a partial answer so that we might labor in prayer until the answer comes.

God knows everything about us before we even open our mouths to tell him. He wouldn't be God if He didn't. He's the omniscient, omnipotent (all-knowing, all powerful) God, nothing is hidden from His sight. David wrote in Psalm 139:2—
Im an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.
You know when I leave and when I get back; I’m never out of your sight.
You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence.
So, you ask, why pray if God knows everything? One reason is because God commands us to "pray without ceasing"... because this is the way God wants those who belong to Christ Jesus to live (1 Thessalonians 5:16). The other reason is our prayers unleash God's power into the situation. Angels spring into action at God's command to rescue believing Christians who cry out to Him. That's what prayer does. Here's a simple analogy: You have a car at your disposal to take you anywhere you want to go, at anytime. You have the keys to the car. But if you don't put them in the ignition and start the car, it will never do what it's suppose to do. It's the same with prayer—it works best when you use it.

A final thought, if God is ever present in a believer's life, then the reverse must also be true—the believer is always in God's presence. Now that's reason to rejoice and pray.

Note: If you are unsure of or want a closer relationship with the God of the Bible, you'll find help at Peace with God.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Jesus' resurrection takes the fear out of dying

Death is not a blind alley that leads the human race into a state of nothingness, but an open door which leads man into life eternal.— Dr Martin Luther King Jr

Several years ago, I was talking with a friend, and just happened to mention that a famous Broadway producer we met on a cruise had died. My friend looked straight at me and said, "I'm ready." I didn't realize what she meant until a few days later when I received a call that my friend had died. As shocking as the news was, I took comfort in the fact that she didn't fear death. You might say she looked forward to it because she was a Christian.

Christians die like everybody else, and often from all the bad things in this world that kill everybody else. The difference is when Christians die, they know they won't stay dead forever. According to Christian belief, anyone who believes in Jesus Christ will never really die. This truth is rooted in God's unshakable promise of eternal life to anyone who accepts his Christ.
For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 NLT
I haven't faced the moment of death personally, but I have been present when others have. You can tell a lot about a person by how they face the moment of death. Their last words, the look on their face say a lot about the kind of life they lived. For instance, some people curse God as they are dying, others make last-minute pleas for forgiveness, which God does honor.

And then, there are the true Christians. You can tell by the radiant look on their faces, as they lay dying, that they must see heaven open up and angels descending to take them home. When my mother died from MS at age 83, she had that look. I was happy for her, and I admit a little envious because I knew without a doubt she was heading for a place where she'd be more alive than she'd ever been in life. For the believer in Christ, death is the fulfillment of this scripture:
And we are not afraid but are quite content to die, for then we will be at home with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:8 TLB
Easter marks a sacred time on the Christian calendar because it symbolizes Christ's victory over death, and by association, the victory of every believing Christian. Essentially, that's what Jesus' resurrection means in a world of believers and non-believers. Refusing to believe doesn't change or negate the reality of what Jesus accomplished. The Scriptures tell his story:
Jesus died a physical death on the cross and was raised by God's spirit from the dead. Christ's resurrection is evidenced by the empty tomb in Jerusalem, by the written testimony of his disciples in the Gospels, and by the more than 500 sightings of others who encountered  Jesus after his resurrection prior to his ascension into heaven.
What Jesus did made death merely an event, not a dead end. Christ's resurrection took the sting out of death. No wonder Christians don't view death in the same way others do. Christians see death as a home-going. Christian songwriters write songs like Soon and Very Soon and I Can Only Imagine that celebrate the certainty of an afterlife. Christians know that one day they will see this Jesus, who died not only for their sins, but also for the sins of everyone. No one needs to hold onto a fear of death because Jesus is alive.
Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.  Romans 5:1 NLT

This post is dedicated to the family and friends of the 150 people who died tragically in the Germanwings airliner crash (March, 2015), the Christians who were massacred at the Kenyan School in Kenya (April, 2015), and every innocent civilian and bystander mercilessly killed by Isis terrorists.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Persecuted Christians winning the battle against their haters

Getty Photos
Jesus said it, so that settles it. Indeed, the Bible predicts that Christians will be persecuted for their faith. Since the time of Christ, followers of Jesus have been killed or threatened with death by anti-Christian extremist groups. And that has not changed. Recent efforts by Islamic extremists, ISIS, Boko Haram and others, to eradicate Christians from places like Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Nigeria will fail like all the attempts before them. 

There are about 50 countries on Open Doors USA's World Watch List  that actively persecute Christians. Sadly, the United States government, once a staunch defender of religious freedom around the world, now sits silently by and does little to help stem the tide of religious persecution against Christians. Some suggest that this country's inaction may be fanning the flames of religious persecution abroad.

Whatever the reason, the result is that Christians are suffering and dying for their faith. Even so, Christians believe that in the end, they will win. Bible prophesy is on their side. All Christians should find strength and courage in this at a time in history when things are likely to get worse before they get better. Jesus forewarned his followers:
They’ll arrest you, hunt you down, and drag you to court and jail. It will go from bad to worse, dog-eat-dog, everyone at your throat because you carry my name. You’ll end up on the witness stand, called to testify. Make up your mind right now not to worry about it. I’ll give you the words and wisdom that will reduce all your accusers to stammers and stutters.
You’ll even be turned in by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends. Some of you will be killed. There’s no telling who will hate you because of me. Even so, every detail of your body and soul—even the hairs of your head!—is in my care; nothing of you will be lost. Staying with it—that’s what is required. Stay with it to the end. You won’t be sorry; you’ll be saved.  Luke 21:12-19 MSG
Look around, it's happening right now. And although the scenes played out in the media are gruesome and sad to see, Christians should take courage from the greater good your sacrifice will eventually bring about. Meanwhile, every Christian should protest and continue to pray for those persecuted Christians, as well as, for those who are persecuting them. After all, this is what sets Christianity apart from all other religions ---the fact that we are commanded to love our enemies. Good Christians pray for those who persecute them, just as Jesus did for those who crucified him.

Peaceful protests and prayer vigils have been staged by Christian groups in many countries around the world, including Canada, United States, Great Britain, Italy and Australia to name a few. While Christians are not silent on the issue, some Church leaders have been.
Many Christians know the stories about the early Christian martyrs being thrown to the lions in the Roman Coliseum, but today over 100,000 Christians are murdered every year for their faith, and pulpits are strangely silent. This silence, stemming from lack of awareness, or fear of criticism and reprisal, is the very intimidation that the enemies of Christ seek to impose. God has not given His Church a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. 
In a letter sent to some 300 Catholic and Protestant church leaders, U.S. Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) wrote:
Every day around the world, men and women of faith are imprisoned, beaten, detained, tortured and even killed. . . . Have we in the West ceased to be salt and light? . . . Has our comfort led to complacency?  Can the church in the West be galvanized to act?
And act we must. Christians in the U.S. and other industrialized nations must not only wield their spiritual power, but also their economic power to  put pressure directly or indirectly on those governments that persecute Christians. A well publicized and coordinated boycott by Christians can make a difference. When Christians stop buying goods produced in countries that persecute Christians, the economies of these countries will suffer. Either way, persecuted Christians have nothing to fear. In the end, we win. 
I consider that what we suffer at this present time cannot be compared at all with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18