Come on VA, Think

March 28, 2014

The Virginia State Legislature this month passed a joint resolution Commending the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center on the 30th anniversary of its founding. This is the mosque that the Treasury Department’s Enforcement Communications System (TECS) says is “operating as a front for Hamas operatives in U.S.” and “is associated with Islamic extremists.”
It adds that Dar Al-Hijrah has been investigated numerous times for “financing and proving aid and comfort” to jihad organizations and has been “linked to numerous individuals linked to terrorism financing.” Has the Virginia State Legislature gone mad?
The resolution praises Dar Al-Hijrah for “30 years of serving and uplifting members of the Northern Virginia Muslim community and conducting outreach to the region in 2013.” It says that the mosque “works to strengthen the Muslim faith in the region through seminars, sermons, lectures, social activities, and clear operational hours for the observance of daily prayer.” The reoslution also states that it is “encouraging the members of the Muslim community to become productive members of society.”
As if all that weren’t enough, the resolution says that “the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center promotes cooperation, tolerance, and mutual understanding among different faiths,” and “conducts outreach in the community, offering educational classes and making charitable donations to those in need.” It expresses the legislators’ “admiration for the center’s commitment to serving the Northern Virginia Muslim community and peoples of all faiths.”
Amid all this boilerplate bloviating, the resolution also notes that “the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center is affiliated with the Muslim American Society,” which it describes as “a national religious, educational, cultural, and charitable organization.”
These legislators no doubt have no idea of what the Chicago Tribune reported in 2004: that the Muslim American Society is the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S.
In recent years, the U.S. Brotherhood operated under the name Muslim American Society, according to documents and interviews. One of the nation’s major Islamic groups, it was incorporated in Illinois in 1993 after a contentious debate among Brotherhood members.
Confirming this is Ikhwanweb, the Muslim Brotherhood’s English website, which now carries that article. Shaker Elsayed, the mosque’s imam from 2005 to the present, was Secretary General of the Muslim American Society.
Why does it matter that the MAS is the Brotherhood? Because according to a captured internal Brotherhood document, the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S. is engaged in a “grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and Allah’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.”
There is much more that should make the Virginia state legislators ashamed of their commendation. The late jihad leader Anwar al-Awlaki was the imam at Dar al-Hijrah. He is said to have been a “spiritual adviser” to three of the hijackers who attacked America on September 11, 2001. Al-Awlaki was also in regular contact with Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab, the Christmas underwear bomber who tried to blow up a passenger jet over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.
The former Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, who murdered thirteen Americans in a jihad massacre at Fort Hood in Texas, worshiped at Dar al-Hijrah when he lived in the area and was in touch with al-Awlaki shortly before he carried out his attack.
The Saudi-backed North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, bought the mosque’s grounds in 1983. Mohammed al-Hanooti, the mosque’s imam from 1995 to 1999, was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Ahmed Omar Abu Ali taught Islamic studies and was a camp counselor at the mosque; he is now in prison for plotting to assassinate President George W. Bush. Abdelhaleem Hasan Abdelraziq Ashqar, a member of the mosque’s Executive Committee, was convicted in November 2007 of contempt and obstruction of justice for refusing to testify regarding Hamas and received an eleven-year prison sentence.
Yet despite all this, this is not the first time the Virginia legislature has behaved as if this mosque were just another house of worship. In 2010, the Virginia General Assembly had Dar al-Hijrah’s Johari Abdul-Malik open the legislative session with a devout Islamic prayer. Abdul-Malik once defended Abdulrahman Alamoudi, who is in prison for financing al-Qaeda.
Pamela Geller

World Vision

March 27, 2014

World Magazine broke the news earlier this afternoon that the U.S. board of World Vision released a statement reversing their decision to allow Christian employees to engage in homosexual intercourse as long as they are in a legally recognized same-sex marriage. The letter reads as follows:

Dear Friends,

Today, the World Vision U.S. board publicly reversed its recent decision to change our employment conduct policy. The board acknowledged they made a mistake and chose to revert to our longstanding conduct policy requiring sexual abstinence for all single employees and faithfulness within the Biblical covenant of marriage between a man and a woman.

We are writing to you our trusted partners and Christian leaders who have come to us in the spirit of Matthew 18 to express your concern in love and conviction. You share our desire to come together in the Body of Christ around our mission to serve the poorest of the poor. We have listened to you and want to say thank you and to humbly ask for your forgiveness.

In our board’s effort to unite around the church’s shared mission to serve the poor in the name of Christ, we failed to be consistent with World Vision U.S.’s commitment to the traditional understanding of Biblical marriage and our own Statement of Faith, which says, “We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.” And we also failed to seek enough counsel from our own Christian partners. As a result, we made a change to our conduct policy that was not consistent with our Statement of Faith and our commitment to the sanctity of marriage.

We are brokenhearted over the pain and confusion we have caused many of our friends, who saw this decision as a reversal of our strong commitment to Biblical authority. We ask that you understand that this was never the board’s intent. We are asking for your continued support. We commit to you that we will continue to listen to the wise counsel of Christian brothers and sisters, and we will reach out to key partners in the weeks ahead.

While World Vision U.S. stands firmly on the biblical view of marriage, we strongly affirm that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, are created by God and are to be loved and treated with dignity and respect.

Please know that World Vision continues to serve all people in our ministry around the world. We pray that you will continue to join with us in our mission to be “an international partnership of Christians whose mission is to follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in working with the poor and oppressed to promote human transformation, seek justice, and bear witness to the good news of the Kingdom of God.”

Sincerely in Christ,

Richard Stearns, President
Jim Beré, Chairman of the World Vision U.S. Board

Christianity Today has been reporting on developments to this story.

Darrell Bock, who had some hard but necessary words to say about World Vision earlier in the day, has now posted the following—which seems like the right way to respond to and to process this news:

The board of World Vision is to be thanked for its prayerful reconsideration of its earlier decision. Reflecting and turning back is a very biblical concept. The move shows the heart intent of the organization as we live in a complex world full of ethical tension and their ultimate desire to represent Christ well. The criticism that came was because many Christians so love what World Vision stands for and what it seeks to represent in its care for those in need. This is true of the engagement on the entire topic. It is love that motivates critique, not hate. That is what good friends do. They challenge because they seek to love well. And friends also take such critique seriously. So again, thanks for listening to those who spoke out.

Russell Moore, in a series of tweets, offered the following:

World Vision’s right decision, as articulated in their board letter, conveys a spirit of Christlikeness and humility in tone and content.

World Vision has done the right thing. Now, let’s all work for a holistic gospel presence, addressing both temporal and eternal needs.

It’s the older brother who questions motives in repentance. Don’t be like that. The father’s house rejoices, receives.

Matt Smethurst added:

Answered prayer is never an excuse to gloat. It’s an occasion to praise.

Matthew Lee Anderson posted a series of insightful tweets seeking to put this in wider perspective:

The @worldvision situation suggests we need to think a lot more about the problem of moral complicity.

I think @WorldvisionUSA and others deeply misjudged the depth of the evangelical commitment to ending poverty.

That sounds counterintuitive given the popular narrative. But hang with me. . . .

For many evangelicals, WV functions as something more than a poverty-relief/development agency. They have a symbolic status.

What IJM is to young evangelicals, @worldvisionusa is to traditional evangelicals. They bring together poverty-relief and evangelism.

And they did it in a way that conservative evangelicals could be proud of and point to as . . . well, as their own, in a sense.

Evangelicals cared really deeply about @worldvisionusa’s identity as a Christian organization—which meant both poverty-relief and doctrine.

The depth of that sense of identification and ownership, along with the depth of the commitment to those joint goods, prompted the backlash.

That evangelicals were construed as not caring about children or poverty—even by their own children—was heartbreaking . . . and false.

Conservative evangelicals helped build @worldvisionusa for years before I was born. WV is what WV is today because of their sacrifice.

In one sense, everything young evangelicals have touted about merging faith and practice . . . conservative evangelicals have done through WV.

The most shocking part of this is how badly @worldvisionusa judged their own support base and the depth of their commitment to that merger.

Has @worldvisionusa damaged its status and created mistrust with evangelicals? Sure. Will that last? No. Why not? Because . . .

Contrary to popular perception, evangelicals are a forgiving lot. Look how we are with the politicians we support, for goodness sake.

None of this entails that conservative Christians have been perfect or trained themselves well to respond to today’s ethical challenges.

My first book critiqued evangelicals for their instruction on marriage as undermining their resources to respond well to today’s questions.

And I think that evangelicals need to think hard and carefully about what is required for institutional identity, in hiring and otherwise.

But as has often been said, truth is the first casualty in the culture war and misrepresentation the mode of an uncharitable people

The manner in which we argue among ourselves is as much a part of the witness to the world as the conclusions that we come to.

The depths to which we feel the church’s divisions, and the earnest sorrow we meet those we fear have left it—these too must mark us.

Justin Taylor

Obumacareless

March 27, 2014

By Washington Free Beacon Staff

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said the fault of struggling to sign up on the Obamacare exchanges didn’t lie with the faulty website, but with the people who weren’t “educated on how to use the Internet.”

Explaining the reasoning behind the latest Obamacare delay, Reid said too many people just didn’t know to use their computer properly and needed more time. Apparently, it had nothing to do with the well-documented failings of the website that have embarrassed the White House for months.

“We have hundreds of thousands of people who tried to sign up who didn’t get through,” he said. “There are some people who are not like my grandchildren who can handle everything so easily on the Internet, and these people need a little extra time. It’s not — the example they gave us is a 63-year-old woman came into the store and said, ‘I almost got it. Every time I just about got there, it would cut me off.’ We have a lot of people just like this through no fault of the Internet, but because people are not educated on how to use the Internet.”

Huh?

March 25, 2014

I’m more concerned about our narrow-minded and destructive prez.

‘”Russia’s actions are a problem. They don’t pose the number one national security threat to the United States. I continue to be much more concerned when it comes to our security with the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan,” said Obama.’

What, The, What ?!?!

March 24, 2014

The remains of more than 15,000 babies were incinerated as ‘clinical waste’ by hospitals in Britain with some used in ‘waste to energy’ plants

The bodies of thousands of aborted and miscarried babies were incinerated as clinical waste, with some even used to heat hospitals, an investigation has found.

Ten NHS trusts have admitted burning foetal remains alongside other rubbish while two others used the bodies in ‘waste-to-energy’ plants which generate power for heat.

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Last night the Department of Health issued an instant ban on the practice which health minister Dr Dan Poulter branded ‘totally unacceptable.’

At least 15,500 foetal remains were incinerated by 27 NHS trusts over the last two years alone, Channel 4’s Dispatches discovered.

The programme, which will air tonight, found that parents who lose children in early pregnancy were often treated without compassion and were not consulted about what they wanted to happen to the remains.

One of the country’s leading hospitals, Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge, incinerated 797 babies below 13 weeks gestation at their own ‘waste to energy’ plant. The mothers were told the remains had been ‘cremated.’

Another ‘waste to energy’ facility at Ipswich Hospital, operated by a private contractor, incinerated 1,101 foetal remains between 2011 and 2013.

They were brought in from another hospital before being burned, generating energy for the hospital site. Ipswich Hospital itself disposes of remains by cremation.

“This practice is totally unacceptable,” said Dr Poulter.

“While the vast majority of hospitals are acting in the appropriate way, that must be the case for all hospitals and the Human Tissue Authority has now been asked to ensure that it acts on this issue without delay.”

Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS Medical Director, has written to all NHS trusts to tell them the practice must stop.

The Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, has also written to the Human Tissue Authority to ask them make sure that guidance is clear.

And the Care Quality Commission said it would investigate the programme’s findings.

Prof Sir Mike Richards, Chief Inspector of Hospitals, said: “I am disappointed trusts may not be informing or consulting women and their families.

“This breaches our standard on respecting and involving people who use services and I’m keen for Dispatches to share their evidence with us.

“We scrutinise information of concern and can inspect unannounced, if required.”

A total of one in seven pregnancies ends in a miscarriage, while NHS figures show there are around 4,000 stillbirths each year in the UK, or 11 each day.

Ipswich Hospital Trust said it was concerned to discover that foetal remains from another hospital had been incinerated on its site.

A spokeswoman said: “The Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust does not incinerate foetal remains.”

She added that the trust “takes great care over foetal remains”

A spokesman for the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said that trained health professionals discuss the options with parents ‘both verbally and in writing.’

“The parents are given exactly the same choice on the disposal of foetal remains as for a stillborn child and their personal wishes are respected,” they added.

Pray for Hobby Lobby

March 24, 2014

In 1 Timothy 2:1, Paul instructed Timothy

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,

We are asking you pray on behalf of our friends at HobbyLobby, the craft chain giant that is well known for operating according to the Christian principles of its owners, Jackie and Steve Green.

On Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. ET, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two very important cases involving religious liberty and the freedom of conscience. Before the Court are Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius.

We are inviting you to join other organizations and churches to encourage people to pray for the Hobby Lobby Case on Tuesday. You can help us spread the word by changing the avatar on your social media accounts and posting with the hashtag #PrayForHobbyLobby.

The owners of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties believe their religious liberty has been infringed due to the federal government’s “HHS Mandate,” a provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires all businesses to provide their employees with access to insurance plans that include contraception, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization.

These requirements conflict with the religious beliefs of many business and organizations, whether for-profit or non-profit, such that they feel they cannot—in good conscience—comply with government law. What’s really at stake is whether an individual can run his or her business according to the principles of their faith.

As Christians who live all of life under the lordship of Jesus Christ, we are compelled to bring our vocations under the direction of our faith. The owners of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga are making their complaint under the umbrella of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a bipartisan law designed to provide extra layers of protection for citizens who believe their religious liberty has been infringed.

This is a supremely important case, and will likely set a precedent for how religious liberty is thought of and prioritized for decades to come. Because religious liberty is a bedrock constitutional principle found in the First Amendment, the integrity of this “first freedom” isn’t limited just to Christians, but to Americans of all faiths.

For that reason, Christians should pray that the outcome of these cases would result favorably toward those who wish to exercise their constitutional right to religious liberty. How should Christians pray? Here is a sample prayer guide:

God wants people to be free to seek him and to serve him (Acts 17:24-28). Pray for a favorable outcome. The cherished principle of religious freedom should receive the strongest constitutional protection it deserves.
God is Lord of the conscience, not government (Acts 5:29). Pray that the justices of the Supreme Court will understand the importance of the separation of the state from the church.
God can give understanding to make sound decisions (Prov. 2:6-8). Pray for those who disagree with us, that God would help them understand and respect the consciences of people of faith.
God can turn the hearts and minds of the justices to do his will (Prov. 21:1). Pray for the Supreme Court justices, that they would be receptive to the arguments being made passionately before them.
God can guide the mind and speech (Exod. 4:11-12). Pray for lead attorney, Paul Clement, who will be arguing on behalf of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood. Ask God to give him clarity and wisdom, for his arguments to be persuasiveness, and for God to give him favor before the justices.
– See more at: http://erlc.com/article/pray-for-hobby-lobby#sthash.sMqVgtIe.dpuf

Save the Family

March 23, 2014

Can Christian Theology Save the Family?
My wife and I recently returned to the restaurant where we spent our final Saturday evening before our wedding. As we settled in, our eyes focused across the room to the table where we sat 16 months ago, sharing plans of travel, butchering the pronunciations of French dishes, and preparing to create a family.

We recollected how a middle-aged couple at the bar overheard our conversation that night and turned to offer their experienced input. “Just wonderful, you two look so in love,” chimed the tipsy husband. “Go large with the wedding,” the wife interjected, “everything goes downhill from there.” Her cynical tone and disillusioned eyes undermined her husband’s every word.

Evil Hits Close to Home

It didn’t take long after our wedding for us to discover that the opportunities to wreck a family are legion. “An entire army of evils besieges the life of the family,” wrote the Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck (1854-1921) in his timeless work, The Christian Family. Bavinck listed just a handful of evils that threaten the well-being of the home:

the infidelity of the husband, the stubbornness of the wife, the disobedience of the child; both the worship and the denigration of the woman, tyranny as well as slavery, the seduction and the hatred of men, both idolizing and killing children; sexual immorality, human trafficking, concubinage, bigamy, polygamy, polyandry, adultery, divorce, incest; unnatural sins whereby men commit scandalous acts with men, women with women . . . the stimulation of lust by impure thoughts, words, images . . . glorifying nudity and elevating even the passions of the flesh in the service of deity.

When “marriage loses its delight,” Bavinck observed, “it turns into unbearable drudgery.” The couple at the bar knew this grim reality all too intimately. The truth is that no family evades the consequences of evil.

Is the Family a Failed Project?

“There has never been a time when the family faced so severe a crisis as the time in which we are now living,” Bavinck declared. During his age, scientists attempted to reduce the origin and nature of the family to naturalistic explanations. Monogamy, fidelity, and nurture had no legitimate moral or sacred foundation. Science determined the utility of the family, rendering it too flawed for modern people. Intellectuals suggested replacing marriage with free love, familial bonds with social compacts, and parenting with scientific nurturing methods.

Bavinck found that shifts in artistic expression subverted the family as well:

Today, now that realism has taken over in art . . . people take pleasure in describing life after the wedding and in marriage, presenting it as one huge disappointment, as an intolerable cohabitation, as a desperate situation of misery and duress. Poetry is then introduced into this situation by means of sinful passion, forbidden affection, unnatural lust; these are glorified and smothered with glitter at the cost of love and fidelity in marriage.

There never has been an ideal age for the family—and we certainly aren’t in one today. From music award ceremonies to Woody Allen films, popular culture has not smiled kindly on the family. Even more, the hunger for financial success has brought injury to many existing families and diminished the appeal to create new ones.

According to Time magazine’s Top 10 Things We Learned About Marriage in 2013, “our in-laws have an evolutionary reason to hate us,” “low drama divorce is possible,” and “same-sex marriage keeps winning.” Number one on the list concludes: “a person could get dizzy trying to pin down the definition of a family.” Dizzying indeed.

Does the problem lie in the institution of the family itself? Would the world be better off if we abandoned the family altogether?

Call for a Theology of the Family

Bavinck believed that Christian theology alone could offer hope for the family in his day and ours. He wrote, “Christians may not permit their conduct to be determined by the spirit of the age, but must focus on the requirement of God’s commandment,” showing “in word and deed what an inestimable blessing God has granted to humanity” with the gift of family. The following points—deduced from Bavinck’s work—provide a helpful foundation toward developing a theology of the family.

God created the family beautiful and good. God is the most committed advocate for the family. “The history of the human race begins with a wedding,” and God himself officiated it. He created a compatible partner for Adam as a gift, blessed the couple, and commanded them to bear his image, multiply families, and subdue the earth (Genesis 1:28). As Bavinck said, “God’s artistic work comes into existence bearing the name of home and family.” God created humans to reflect the relational love within the Trinity, and he appointed the family as the supreme instrument toward this end.

Sin has ravaged the family. When Adam and Eve first disobeyed God, they “sinned not only as individuals” but “also as husband and wife, as father and mother.” Sin delivered a devastating blow to the home. It introduced “disunity between Adam and Eve,” filled “Cain with hatred against Abel and incited him to fratricide,” and it “led Lamech into polygamy.” Sin poisons the health of our relationships—first with God and consequently with spouse, parent, child, sibling, and neighbor.

Christ offers the family hope. God did not leave the family in defeat. In fact, he still had big plans for it. After the fall, God promised Eve that her offspring would conquer evil (Genesis 3:15). As Bavinck writes, “In the Son born from her, the woman and the man once again attain to their calling.” Jesus Christ is the only human being to never sin against his Father in heaven and his family on earth. His death for our sins offers hope for forgiveness and reconciliation not only with our earthly families but also with God our Father. Although earthly marriages remain imperfect, they represent the love between Christ and his people more than anything else in creation. Bavinck concludes his book with these hope-filled words: “The history of the human race” also “ends with a wedding, the wedding of Christ and his church, of the heavenly Lord with his earthly Bride.” In Christ, the family finds significance, purpose, and hope.

Ryan Hoselton

Make Time

March 23, 2014

Life can change in an instant. During the last year and a half, four significant people in my life passed away. Those losses changed my life.

Those losses largely kept me from writing my PoliceOne column in support of police officers and their families who must deal with catastropic loss — line-of-duty injuries that have ended the career they love.

I want to share with you what I learned so you can benefit from my hard-learned lessons.

1.) People matter. Stuff does not. The relationships you make during your lifetime matters. The hearts you touch during your lifetime matters. The size of your flat screen TV doesn’t matter. The kind of car or truck you drive doesn’t matter.

2.) Make good memories. Spend your time and money making good, fun, happy memories with the people you love. Those memories will sustain your loved ones long after you are gone and help them heal from the grief of losing you.

Good memories last, don’t have an expiration date, and can’t be lost in a fire or flood.

3.) Eliminate regrets. If you died today, what would you regret? Fix those regrets now. Don’t carry regrets to your grave. Deal with them while you are alive. Leaving regrets behind only complicates the grief and pain of those who will mourn your passing.

4.) Show people you love what they mean to you. Go beyond telling people that you love them — show them. Demonstrate it. Show people while you are alive, while you can, how much they mean to you.

This can be hard for law enforcement families because of the demands on your time and the unpredictability of the job. Many officers miss their children’s recitals, plays, and ball games because of work. Take advantage of the times when you can be there and really be there. Leave work at work. Turn off the cell phone. Make those you love know they are important to you. Make quality time with your loved ones, family, and friends. Make good memories.

5.) Think about where you invest your time. None of the loved ones I lost died wishing they had spent more time at work, watching TV, cleaning the house, or buying stuff. They regretted what they hadn’t done or said.

In my calendar book, I keep a page torn from a magazine containing an excerpt from the book, Live and Let Love to remind me what is important in life. In the article, Lee Woodruff, wife of ABC news correspondent Bob Woodruff who sustained a traumatic brain injury while covering the military in Iraq, states, “If I could do it over, I would leave more dishes in the sink. I would worry less about the to-do list and keeping the kitchen perfect for the next day. I’d spend more time sitting on my husband’s lap.”

There are no do overs in life — you have the opportunity now to decide how you spend your time. Next time you put chores before making memories, think again.

When was the last time you spent time in the arms of your loved one, or held them in yours, just because you can?

Invest your time wisely, because of lesson #6.

6.) You are dying. We all are dying. We have been since the day we were born. No one knows how many moments they have on the planet. Live like you are dying.

Ask yourself: what would you do and what would be important to you, if you had six months to live? Then go do those things. Don’t put them off. Work on your bucket list now. Live now. Live today.

7.) Health is fragile. More officers die from physical and mental health issues than in the line of duty. Take care of yourself emotionally and physically. You only have one chance maintaining that body of yours. Don’t screw it up. There are no do overs.

8.) Happiness is a choice. Happiness doesn’t fall into your lap. Happiness is a choice and an attitude that comes from within. Each day you have the opportunity to live happy. Choose happiness and share the gift.

9.) All who love you live with fear. Through this column on PoliceOne, I’ve had the privilege to meet and hear from many officers who have sustained disabling injuries in the line of duty. I have heard from their families, caregivers, and children.

Not one was prepared for what happened to them, prepared for the changes in their lives, or the impact to their family members.

In law enforcement, all who love you live with the fear, the dread, that something could happen in the course of your workday.

Do you tell those who mean so much to you exactly what they mean to you?

Do your children know that you think they are wonderful, cool, incredible individuals? Have you told them that?

Does your spouse know that he or she is the reason you breathe? Have you told him or her that? Repeatedly? Every day.

Don’t wait until you have that “whew that was close” moment. Don’t wait until you are diagnosed with cancer or heart disease.

Implement my lessons learned today.

In an instant, life can change.

About the author
Barbara A. Schwartz retired after 30 years with NASA in Houston where she worked in Mission Control and Astronaut Training. She is a former reserve officer serving in patrol and investigations. She has been writing about law enforcement officers since 1972 and has been a contributing feature writer for American Police Beat for the past 10 years. Her articles and book reviews have also appeared in Command, The Tactical Edge, Crisis Negotiator Journal, The Badge & Gun, The Harris County Star, The Blues, and The Police News.

Who Knows You?

March 19, 2014

I want you to consider two questions with me today:

How many people do you know?
How many people know you?
If I were scroll through the contacts on my phone or search through my Facebook friends or look at the people I follow on Twitter, I could come up with a fairly long list of people I know. I could tell you where they lived, what they did for work, who they were married to, what their kids were doing, and even a few personal preferences or hobbies.

The opposite would also be true – there’s a fairly long list of people who would know where I live, what I do, who my wife and kids are, and a few things that I enjoy in my free time. But here’s the real question – how many people do I actually know, and how many people really know me?

I’m afraid that, in the body of Christ, we settle for terminally casual relationships all the time. Sure, we have acquired some superficial data on people we call friends, but we don’t actually know them. We participate in weekly or monthly “church fellowship” but there’s actually very little fellowship going on.

BIBLICAL DESIGN

Before we go anywhere, we need to start with God (that’s always a good place to start!) Think about this amazing fact – God himself is community. The Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – are three equal and different members of the Godhead. They don’t just live in community with each other; they are a perfectly functioning community.

Everything Jesus does is in full concert and absolute agreement with the Father and the Spirit (and vice-versa). The three members of the Holy Trinity move, act, live, and speak as One. So naturally, when God made human beings in His image, He designed us to be community beings. We were created as social people.

Here’s what that means: you will never properly be who you were designed to be and do what you were designed to do without living in intimate, personal, intentional community with others. To live a full life – right here, right now – God has called you to participate in humble, open, honest, consistent, committed, and dependent relationships with those in the body of Christ.

WHO KNOWS YOU?

As with all things, sin has ruined God’s original design intent. We have become masters at casual conversations and non-answers. We have honed our skills at deflecting questions and staying hidden. Ignore your long list of contacts, Facebook friends, and Twitter followers: how many people actually know you, and how many people do you actually know?

Here are a few questions that get past the public persona:

How many people know the specific places where you are susceptible to temptation?
How many people know the responsibilities that tend to overwhelm you?
How many people know the idols that war on the turf of your heart?
How many people know the secrets of your past that still haunt you?
How many people know the places where you try to find substitute identities?
How many people know the reasons why you might doubt the goodness and power of God?
Of course, the opposite would be true – how many of those questions could you answer about someone you call a friend? You see, your life was meant to be a community project. You were never meant to live in isolation. You simply weren’t meant to do life on your own.

TWO THINGS

I’m deeply persuaded that if you begin to believe in spiritual community and true fellowship, your life will begin to be shaped by two character qualities. First, you will be shaped by the COURAGE OF LOVING HONESTY. You will want relationships where truth can be spoken, where honesty lives, and where candor thrives. Truth should be spoken in love (Ephesians 4:15), but you won’t be afraid of what will be revealed about your heart and life.

Second, your life will be shaped by the HUMILITY OF APPROACHABILITY. When sins and weaknesses and failures are revealed about you, you won’t rise to your own defense. You won’t summon your inner defense lawyer and try to argue for your own righteousness. You will admit your need for help and run to where help can be found – Jesus Christ and the promise of a new heart.

Here’s the Gospel – Jesus went to the Cross with your name. He knew in advance that you would be a messy person, and that your life of faith would be marked by sin and doubt and weakness – but He still went! There is nothing that could be exposed about you that Jesus hasn’t already taken care of, and if you are child adopted by the God of the universe, you have every reason to live with courage, honesty, humility, and approachability.

Tripp

Appointments

March 18, 2014

“Pray that God would set up divine appointments this week. Ask Him to interrupt your life and use you to talk with someone about Jesus.”

That was my final encouragement during Sunday’s message from Romans 10.

Sure enough, right after the service a young man was in our parking lot looking for someone to help him get his life on track. And sure enough there we were with four screaming kiddos in the mini-van and plans for the afternoon.

It’s moments like those that tempt me to change my prayer from “Lord, use me” to “Lord, use me when I’ve got some free time.”

Gospel ministry can be lots of things, but convenient is usually not the best way to describe it. The very fact that our interruptions are divine appointments ensures that they probably won’t fit neatly into our schedule.

So if the Spirit is willing to set up divine appointments, how should we prepare to respond—even when our schedule is full? There are no magic answers, but here are a few things to prayerfully consider:

1. Pray for divine appointments.

God is sovereignly working out His purposes in history. He places people where He wants them (Acts 17:26) and amazingly arranges circumstances to draw people to Himself (Acts 8:26-40). As His followers, we are to be ready, willing, and desirous to be a part of introducing people to Him (Isa. 6:8; Mt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; 2 Cor. 5:20).

Pray for God to use you. Pray for Him to use your church. Regularly pray for Him to interrupt your schedule and arrange circumstances so that you will have opportunity to speak to others about Him. Ask Him to open doors for the Word to go forth (Acts 14:27; 1 Cor. 16:9; Col. 4:2; Rev. 3:8) and for Him to open your eyes to see the appointments He is arranging.

2. Plan for divine answers.

When we pray, we should expect that God will answer. We serve a God who delights in finding and using available people (2 Chron. 16:9). That means that when we awake each morning, we should fully expect that the Lord of heaven will use us on earth that day for His glory. Some days this will be more obvious than others, but we should always be expectant.

My wife has long said, “every brief encounter is from the Lord.” Since there is no such thing as luck or chance, we should always remember that when we encounter the people in our family, neighbor, workplace, and at the check out counter (get off your phone) it happens because God has arranged it to happen that way.

Are you seeking open doors in conversations? Are you asking people questions about their life? Are you asking people how you can pray for them? Are you pushing on doors in relationships to see if the Lord makes one swing open? I would encourage you to be planning for the Lord to use you. Be watchful and expectant.

I know an elder and his wife who would make a crockpot meal almost every Sunday morning so they could invite people they met at church home for lunch. I’ve heard testimonies of people who sat in front of them at church and then got the invite to join them for lunch. That elder’s family was ready to be used by the Lord!

Another practical way to plan for divine answers is to stockpile resources you can give to people who might be interested in hearing more. I have copies of the Scriptures and a Gospel tract called 2 Ways to Live in my backpack when I travel, in my car, in my home office, and at the church. I also have a reading plan to give someone who shows interest in starting to read the Bible. You may not use these resources all the time, but they’re nice to have around in case the conversation gets that far.

3. Pray to know when you should walk away from a possible Gospel opportunity.

Jesus never lacked for opportunities to minister. But Jesus didn’t minister to every person who came to Him. There were times He said “no” to opportunities that were before Him because He had other business from the Father to attend to (Mk. 1:36-38).

Jesus did have an advantage, being omniscient and all, but the reality is that He gives us His Spirit to guide us (Jn. 16:33; Acts 8:29, 10:19, 13:2) and wisdom as we ask for it (Matt. 7:7-11; James 1:5). There are times we just aren’t able to share with people because we have other things the Lord would have us do.

For instance, we didn’t stick around and share the Gospel with the young man who was in the parking lot on Sunday after church. It just wasn’t the right time. We exchanged emails and I introduced him to a few of our other members, but it was best for me to keep the commitment I had with my family on that day. On other days, we may have invited him to lunch or I may have told the family to head home and I’d stay back to talk.

Pray for the Lord to help you walk in wisdom, and rest in the fact that Jesus is the Savior, not you.

4. Pray to know when your plans are getting in the way of God’s plans.

There are times when the good things we are doing are in the way of the greater things the Lord wants us to do. In Luke 9:57-62 Jesus encounters three would-be followers who when asked to follow him gave what seem like good excuses. I mean, ensuring shelter, burying a dying parent, and saying farewell to your family seem like better reasons to delay following Jesus than I usually come up with.

This passage should serve as a humbling reminder that we must not “lean on our own understanding” (Prov. 3:5-6) and prayerfully ensure that we are choosing the “better portion” (Lk. 10:38-42). We need grace to see things in our schedule that might be able to go in order to free up available time. We should be prayerful that God would cultivate a sensitive heart in us like young Samuel had (1 Sam. 3:1-11) so that if we ever sense Him calling us to do something, we will step out with expectant faith.

This is where being in loving, intentional, truth-speaking community with other believers is essential. I need people in my life to help me think through my priorities. I am not above allowing comfort and personal plans to creep in and cloud my ability to see what the Lord has set before me. Let’s help each other be attentive to divine appointments and create a culture in our churches where we are surrendered to the Lord’s call to make His name known.

5. Rest in God’s grace if you miss an opportunity.

We will all miss divine appointments. We are sinners who, for many reasons, are prone to have deaf ears, hardened hearts, and dulled senses. I still have instances that haunt me where I missed what appeared to be a divinely ordained opportunity to point someone towards Christ. And while we must always learn and repent when appropriate, we must also rest in the fact that God’s grace covers all our failures.

The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus died and rose for sinners, including those who miss divine appointments. So if you’ve been too busy to notice, or too fearful to speak, cast yourself upon the Lord’s matchless mercy—and get ready for the next opportunity He lays before you.

The Spirit is willing to use us, so draw near to the Lord and ask Him to do so. Nothing is better than having the message of God’s grace and a schedule full of divine appointments to share it with. Lord, use us!