Page 8 of 10

Meredith Grady

Making Sense About Saving the Earth

I made a collage for a boyfriend once. Silly, I know. I spent hours pinning little bows, buttons, kissy-pictures and other embarrassing items on a large piece of misshapen cardboard. It was Valentine's Day or some anniversary (or a Tuesday), and I thought a creative, thoughtful expression to be thoroughly appropriate.

After adding paint, song lyrics, and probably more kissy-pictures, I presented my work of art to him with enthusiasm. He seemed appreciative enough at first, spouting phrases like, "Oh, I love that picture" and "Excellent color scheme!" I assumed this meant he was going to take care of my masterpiece forever and ever.

How surprising it was, then, to find it on his floor months later, next to CDs and socks. No amount of initial marveling could make up for mistreatment later. His casual disregard of my efforts felt more like direct disrespect toward me.

I've heard Christians blabber on about how beautiful mountains and oceans are, about how much they enjoy nature - yet they make no real effort to actually take care of it.  (And does hunting really qualify as nature-appreciation?) The problem with pollution and deforestation isn't just that it hurts creation, but that it disrespects the Creator. How you treat the creation reflects how you feel about the Creator.

This is why the aforementioned boyfriend and I eventually broke up. (It wasn't only because of his misplacement of my arts and crafts project, but you get the idea.) There were some serious respect issues between us, and they influenced the relationship's demise. Now, God isn't going to "break up" with the Church over the environment. I think it's safe to say, though, there are respect issues that could hinder the relationship.

Many Christians presume "going green" means you have to start voting Democrat and dressing entirely in hemp - that somehow being an environmentalist means putting humans second, as if it really were a choice between hating trees or hating babies. This is pretty idiotic, because last time I checked, people live on Earth. When we protect the environment, we're protecting people. Oil spills and over-farming won't just hurt sea  otters and soil. They will hurt us.

Going green is about loving and respecting the Creator and our neighbors. (This was the idea behind that "Greatest Commandment" in Mark 12:29-31.) So, do some research. Recycle. Raise awareness. Conserve water and electricity. Carpool. Buy organic. Trendy, leftist activities they may be, they can also be acts of worship - steps that prevent the Earth from becoming a dump (and possibly prevent God from wanting to dump us).

 

Meredith Grady is a senior at Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, Georgia. She is also (surprise!) the daughter of Charisma editor J. Lee Grady. read more

Chad Thompson

Love Homosexuals as Jesus Would

In September 2005, the Lord sent a team of ministers, led by Jesse Engle, to San Francisco, California. Their calling was to "cry for mercy on behalf of San Francisco and for deliverance of the homosexuality community." The Justice House of Prayer in San Francisco (JHOPSF) has been fulfilling this call for three years now. However, the passing of Proposition 8 has significantly heightened the amount of hostility they must face as they attempt to share the love of Jesus with the gay community in Northern California.

Last November, while ministering in the Castro District of San Francisco, Jesse's group experienced persecution so intense that it took about 20 police officers to control the mob of approximately 200 angry homosexuals attempting to harm them. For those who haven't heard, Proposition 8 was a ballot that recently passed in California, changing the state's Constitution to define marriage as being only between a man and woman. read more

Fine Line Book

New Study Shows Greater Ambivalence to Christianity

Although twice as many Americans say they have no faith compared to 1990 there's a new hope on the horizon.

Are Americans becoming disillusioned by religion?

According to a new study, detailed in the new American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), released last week, traditional religion is playing less of a role in American life. More people are opting for non-religious weddings and funerals (30 and 27 percent respectively).

In just 18 years, the swing is significant, revealing that despite nearly 50 million adults added to the U.S. population by growth and immigration, almost all religious denominations have lost ground since the first ARIS survey in 1990.

Most significant-the percentage of Christians in the nation has declined, more than 11 percent in a generation. According to Cathy Lynn Grossman of USA TODAY, "the faithful have scattered out of their traditional bases: the Bible Belt is less Baptist ... the Rust Belt is less Catholic ... and everywhere, more people are exploring spiritual frontiers - or falling off the faith map completely."

In fact, the number of people who say they have "no religion" has nearly doubled in the same time (8.2 percent in 1990 to 15 percent today).

This dilemma largely stems from how people perceive Christianity in the U.S. Unfortunately most people are only exposed to two types of Christians-Separatists and Conformists and neither option is very compelling.

In The Fine Line, published by Zondervan, I address these recent trends by exposing the two irrelevant camps of Christians fueling this disillusionment.

The first camp-the Separatists-are anti-everybody, anti-everything, and they retreat from culture. Their excessive rules are an attempt to escape the world. Those who lean toward the Separatist camp are guilty of certain characteristics. Three of the most common are that they allow: rules to replace relationships, microscopes to replace mirrors, and performance to replace passion.

Rules and Relationships: Rules give them the illusion of control. They allow Separatists to hide their hearts safely behind their lists of do's and don'ts. By embracing ritualistic rules they inevitably forfeit a vibrant relationship with God. 

Microscopes and Mirrors: Microscopes magnify the image of small objects. When used to examine cells in the science lab, this is a good thing. But microscopes shouldn't be used to examine everything. Jesus warned, "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" (Matt. 7:3). Unfortunately Separatists not only disregard this Scripture, but also their fellow Christians.

Performance and Passion: Separatists replace an inner passion for God with an outward performance for people. They fixate on out-doing others.

The second camp-the Conformists-are hypocrites, biblically shallow and consumers of culture. Their excessive desire for trendiness results in merely mimicking culture.

Those who lean toward the Conformist camp are guilty of certain characteristics. Three of the most common are that they allow: media to replace meditation, liberty to replace love, and tolerance to replace truth.

Media and Meditation: Conformists rarely take the time to get quiet before God.  The average American is exposed to over 3,000 ads every single day. As a result, keeping our minds biblically and theologically sound is difficult to do. Conformists fall into the pattern of being amused-not even recognizing the meaning of the word or its impact on their lives. Amuse means "to not think." Conformists might benefit by thinking a little bit more about why they don't think.

Liberty and Love: No one likes to be restricted, especially Conformists. It's easy to flaunt our freedom without considering how it affects others. Many Conformists have a personal vendetta against Separatists because they barely escaped their grip of control. As a result, Conformists enjoy their freedom and vow never to be subjugated to any individual or organization again. But many times they go too far and their freedoms quickly end up enslaving them. What started as a social drink here and there rapidly evolved into a love affair with hard liquor in order to cope with the stress of life.  And what began as watching films that incorporated risqué images somehow transitioned into a steady diet of porn movies.

Truth and Tolerance: For Conformists truth is only true when it's convenient. Besides who wants to come off as someone else's judge? Conformists certainly don't. Separatists are too narrow and so Conformists instead prefer a generous orthodoxy that incorporates anything and everything. In the process, their orthodoxy (meaning ‘right belief') becomes anydoxy.

Thankfully there is an alternative.

Enter stage right the Transformists, a new breed of Christ followers who are in the world but not of it and more clearly mirror New Testament Christianity. Transformists embody the Scripture, which exhorts Christians to neither separate from culture nor conform to it, but rather to be "transformed by the renewing of their minds" (Romans 12:2).

The back-story of Transformists is quite convincing. For starters, they don't need to have everything figured out, for that would mean they're Separatists. They don't need to say anything goes, for that would mean they're Conformists. They neither add to God's Word nor do they ignore it. Instead, they obey it.

They're not perfect, but they're seekers. They long to have a pure relationship with the Creator of the Universe. They desire to know the "why" behind the "what" and the purpose behind the principle. Of course there will be mistakes along the way, but this is what sets them apart. They have a little more grace and patience with each other, because they know what they've been saved from.

The movement is beginning. The gathering has united. They come from a variety of backgrounds, but share a common purpose. Above all else, they passionately love God and people. They don't fear culture because they're called to shape it. They don't fear Christianity because they're called to embody it. They are the Relevant. They are the Transformists.

Although initially the trend of ambivalence toward Christianity might seem disturbing, true followers of Jesus have an epic opportunity in these tough times to change the unconvincing stereotypes of Christianity set forth by Separatists and Conformists.

Despite nearly 2.8 million people identifying with dozens of new religious movements, calling themselves Wiccans, pagans or "Spiritualists"-such people are forced to re-evaluate their faith when they interface with Transformists and the undeniable grace and truth which defines them.

By integrating their faith with their culture Transformists are a breath of fresh air to both the world and the church. And because this remnant is walking the fine line of being in the world and not of it, there's hope on the horizon once again.

 

(Excerpt from The Fine Line: Re-envisioning the Gap between Christ and Culture.  Used with permission from Zondervan Publishing. ISBN: 0310285453)

Kary Oberbrunner, MDiv, DMin, is a self-proclaimed "Recovering Pharisee" and founder of Redeem the Day Ministries. The author of The Fine Line, Called, and The Journey toward Relevance, he serves as the Pastor of Discipleship and Leadership Development at Grace Church in Powell, Ohio. Kary and his soul-mate, Kelly, are blessed parents of Keegan and Isabel. Contact him at www.KaryOberbrunner.com.

 

  read more

Not Thinking Too Deeply

"You should stop using the criminal justice system as an analogy for your God. As you have pointed out many times, it is entirely unjust for someone else to pay the punishment for the crimes you are guilty of." --Lurker

As far as I know, you are the only one who has ever said to me that it is entirely unjust for someone else to pay for crimes of which another is guilty. I have to conclude that you made this statement rashly, and without too much thought. There is nothing at all unjust about any father stepping in and paying a speeding fine for his son. It happens all the time, and the judge has no concerns of where the payment comes from, as long as it is lawfully paid.

How would you react if you were guilty of violating civil law, and your dad loved you so much that he sold his house and spent all of his hard–earned savings to pay the massive fine, so that you could get out of prison? Would you point at your father and accuse him of some sort of crime? How perverse would that be? If you did that, you would not only be despising his incredible sacrifice, but you would also reveal something horrible about your own character.

That’s what you are doing when you accuse almighty God of being unjust. He became a man in Jesus of Nazareth to take the punishment for the sin of the world, so that we could live forever. If you or I accuse Him of being unjust, it reveals something horrible about our character. We need to humble ourselves, get on our knees and thank God for giving us life in the first place, and then for offering wicked humanity such an unspeakable gift.


Ray Comfort has sold over one million copies of The Atheist Test, debated atheists on ABC's Nightline, and has written a number of books on the subject of atheism, including his latest, Nothing Created Everything (with a special cover condemnation by Richard Dawkins). He has debated atheistic evolution on the BBC, and been a platform speaker at the 27th National Convention of American Atheists, Inc. in 2001. He also produces a syndicated weekly radio program on atheism and evolution for Moody Radio. Known as the man who is "Internationally hated by atheists," he daily blogs at "Atheist Central" to hundreds of atheists. He is a best-selling author and co-host (with actor Kirk Cameron) of an award-winning TV program. Kirk and Ray send out a free weekly email ipdate to help equip Christians to share their faith--available at livingwaters.com read more

ray-comfort

The Smell of Sin

A look at the parallels between sinners and smokers.

No one stinks like a smoker does. It’s true, and what’s more, they don’t realize how bad they smell. The reason they smell so poorly is that they have deadened the sensitivity of their nose. They literally can’t smell the stench that a non-smoker can smell.

The conscience is like a nose. It sniffs out the stench of sin. Someone who has deadened the sensitivity of his conscience literally can’t detect how morally bad he is. That’s why we need God’s Law. It stirs the conscience so that it can detect sin. When the conscience does its bloodhound duty, it shows us that we don’t smell like a rose, but that even our very best deeds stink (for want of a better word) to high Heaven. Check out Isaiah 64:6 and Romans 3:10-20 to sniff out more details. read more

A Most Common Mistake

"If the Bible is always right and never needs up dating, why is there a New Testament? Why don't boys have to be circumcised now? Why can you eat pork? Why can you work on a Saturday? Why don't you have to batter people's skulls in with stones who worship 'false gods'?" Andy Duchemin

One of the most common mistakes people make with the Bible, is to confuse the issues of Law and grace. The Scriptures make the difference when they say "The Law came by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." The Law of Moses is categorized into three parts: the Moral Law (the 10 Commandments), the Civil Law (the Law for Israel's court system) and the Ceremonial Law (the Law for ceremonial worship). The whole Law had 613 precepts (its do's and don'ts ).

Male circumcision was part of the ceremonial Law given to Israel to set them apart from other nations, as was not eating pork and Sabbath worship. Capital punishment under the Law--for murder, adultery, idolatry, blasphemy was part of the civil Law of Israel, so why should we as a nation live under the standards of justice given to a nation three thousand years ago? We are under no obligation to keep any of the dietary, civil, or ceremonial Laws of Israel.

However, we are under obligation to keep the Moral Law. It was given to Israel but its purpose is to "leave the whole world guilty before God" (see Romans 3:19-20). And it certainly does. When we study its holy precepts and understand that we violate the Seventh by our lust, it shows us we need the grace (mercy) of God.

The reason the Moral Law leaves us guilty before God is that its precepts are written on our hearts, via the conscience. We intuitively know that its wrong to lie, to steal, to lust, to hate, to murder, to commit adultery, etc.

It was one night way back in 1972 that the Law showed me that I was guilty, heading for Hell, and it sent me to the Savior where I found mercy. The Law came by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. As the hymn-writer wrote 200 years ago:

"By God's grace at last my sin I learned, then I trembled at the Law I spurned, till my guilty soul imploring turned, to Calvary." read more

Who's the Real God?

How do you know God is of the Christian variety? Equally devout Muslims disagree.

"Hi Ray, I have a sincere question: How do you know God is of the Christian variety? Equally devout Muslims disagree. If I'm on the fence, I need a better answer than 'I just KNOW. God has revealed himself to me.'"



Good question. The thing that makes Christianity utterly unique is the cross. For it to make sense you have to back up from Jesus to Moses. He was the one who received the Ten Commandments from the hand of God. The Law of Moses was given to reveal God's standard of "righteousness."



Now zoom forward about 1500 years to the time of Jesus. He was God in human form who came to earth to "magnify the Law and make it honorable." You can see Him do that in the famous Sermon on the Mount (see Matt. 5-7). During that sermon He quotes the seventh commandment (about adultery) and then says, "But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart (v. 28). " So let's think about that one commandment for a moment. If God is going to judge us on judgment day by that (very high) standard, who of us would be guiltless and avoid hell?



So humanity has a problem. All of us have violated God's Law. He is a perfect judge, and we are guilty criminals, heading for a just and terrible punishment for our "multitude" of crimes against His law. So my prayers, my fasting, my helping others in that context aren't "good" works. If we offer the Judge anything as "payment" for our crimes, the Bible says it's an abomination to Him, because it is a detestable attempt to bribe Him, and He will not be bribed. Not for a millisecond. So the religion of doing things to merit God's favor is fruitless, in the truest sense of the word.



So how can we be saved from His wrath? Only by the mercy of the Judge. God Himself became a person in Jesus Christ, suffered on a cruel cross, and then rose again on the third day. That cross was the complete payment for our crimes against God and His law. We broke the Law of Moses, but Jesus paid our fine. That means that the Judge can (upon our repentance and faith in Jesus) completely dismiss our case. Everlasting life is the free gift of God (see Ephesians 2:8-9). It can't be earned by "religious" works, and therein is the uniqueness of Christianity. Take it or leave it, but do so at your own eternal peril. See John 8:31-32 and John 14:21 for more details: "Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him," (Heb. 5:8-9).


Ray Comfort has sold over one million copies of The Atheist Test, debated atheists on ABC's Nightline, and has written a number of books on the subject of atheism, including his latest, Nothing Created Everything (with a special cover condemnation by Richard Dawkins). He has debated atheistic evolution on the BBC, and been a platform speaker at the 27th National Convention of American Atheists, Inc. in 2001. He also produces a syndicated weekly radio program on atheism and evolution for Moody Radio. Known as the man who is "Internationally hated by atheists," he daily blogs at "Atheist Central" to hundreds of atheists. He is a best-selling author and co-host (with actor Kirk Cameron) of an award-winning TV program. Kirk and Ray send out a free weekly email ipdate to help equip Christians to share their faith--available at livingwaters.com read more

Christian Leaders Are Becoming Atheists?

After seven seasons as host of Canada's “most listened to spiritual talk show,” Drew Marshall announced to his listeners that he is no longer convinced there's a God. ABC News recently reported that a Southern Baptist pastor has become a closet atheist, and an evangelical Bible Belt pastor said that he had been living a lie and confessed, "I live out my life as if there is no God."

The doubting talk show host said that he became a follower of Christ in 1981. But it wasn’t until recently that he verbalized that he wasn’t convinced that God existed, saying “I feel pretty close to walking away from my faith.” read more

Ray Comfort

The Circus Comes to Town

The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution is the title of atheist Richard Dawkin’s latest book which released in the United States on Sept. 22. Coincidentally, that is the same release day as bestselling author Ray Comfort’s new book, Nothing Created Everything: the scientific impossibility of atheistic evolution.

Comfort said, “I am amazed that the two publications came out on the same day. We sure didn't plan it that way, but I must say that professor Dawkins has appropriately named his book this time. Evolution is the supreme circus. There’s nothing else like it on earth. Dawkins is the main act, and he is able to do his incredible high-wire act without the safety net of science. It really is amazing to watch from the sidelines of common sense and basic reason. All evolution has, is bumps on whale bones and bacterial mutations, and yet he dazzles the awestruck crowd. There is no evidence for species to species transitional forms in the fossil record or in creation. That’s what was missing in Darwin’s day, and it’s still missing today, something that doesn’t seem to bother the professor in the slightest. He sure has nerves of steel.”

Comfort said that his new book exposes the embarrassment of what is widely believed among evolutionists—the nothing created everything. “When they are confronted with that, they almost always backslide into agnosticism” the author and television co-host added. “This is because nothing cannot create anything. It is a scientific impossibility. To believe that is an embarrassment. Yet it’s what the learned professor believes."

Dawkins said in his book The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution, "The fact that life evolved out of nearly nothing, some 10 billion years after the universe evolved literally out of nothing--is a fact so staggering that I would be mad to attempt words to do it justice.”

Comfort said that he doesn’t dislike the professor. “I not only offered him $20,000 to debate me (which he turned down), but I used his special condemnation of me on the cover of Nothing Created Everything, and even dedicated the book to him.” This November, Ray Comfort plans to give away 100,000 copies of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species (with a special Introduction) at 100 of the country’s leading universities. This is to mark the 150th celebration of publication of the book. Details at www.livingwaters.com. read more

World at War

In this season of seeing and gaining new vision, the eyes of the church must be cleansed and focused. We cannot "see" through the traditions of our past or the fears of our future. We must restore a true vision of the one who liberated us to represent Him in sharing the Good News of the kingdom and take dominion in our generation. This rearrangement of vision is causing leaders for a new generation to see beyond the world's filters. These conforming screens have caused us to lose the same boldness and transformational change that Jesus of Nazareth displayed. He represented the Father and resisted the opposition of a supernatural foe that longs to mold us into an image denying the power of the King of all Kings.

A new governmental order will arise. The key to the civil government war will be the restored government of God regaining power to legislate the heavens. Binding and loosing, forbidding and permitting will be transferred to the hands of the apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists of the future. The government of God will lose the political spirit of Judas, align itself with heaven and represent the order of God. This means that these gifts-leaders in the church must be restored from territory to territory and nation to nation. The voice of God in His leaders must be restored and heard, just as Moses represented the Lord before Pharaoh, and as Jesus represented His Father before the Sanhedrin. We must do likewise! read more

Subcategories

Use Desktop Layout
Charisma Magazine — Empowering believers for life in the Spirit
button
button

Newsletters from Charisma

Stay in touch with the news, bloggers and articles that you enjoy.